Self-driving automobiles could be offered in Ireland within 5 years but AA cautions we are not ready for the new innovation

Self-driving cars could be on Irish roads within the next five years – but we need to be ready for the new technology, the AA has said.

The association’s director of consumer affairs Conor Faughnan warned the country could miss out if we don’t start preparing for the new technology.

Autonomous and connected vehicles have the potential to make our roads safer, but authorities here have not yet begun to plan for them.

Mr Faughnan told the Irish Sunday Mirror: “It’s going to be a strange new world for people.

“It will take some getting used to but long-term the prospects are fascinating.

“We are living in one of the most exciting times in the history of motoring. As a technology it hasn’t really changed from the time of Henry Ford – until now.

“We simply are not ready. We haven’t done enough preparation or given it enough thought. We’re going to see non-driving cars become the norm very quickly.

“That holds great promise for the environment and for safety, but there are a whole range of issues that have to be dealt with.”


Woman using smart phone in self driving vehicle.

The AA is hosting a major conference on the social impact of new car technology in Dublin in October and among the speakers will be Transport Minister Shane Ross.

The forum will explore the issue of insurance and liability for self-driving vehicles and the infrastructure network needed to support electric and connected cars.

Mr Faughnan said: “We need to look at questions such as who is at fault if a self-driving car is involved in a crash.

“And we need to answer these questions now if Ireland is to avoid falling behind the rest of the world.

“There are fears and concerns for sure. Computers do make errors, but not because of a lack of concentration, and human beings make many more.

“There is no need to be scared of the new technology, but there’s lots to be figured out before we start using it.


Smart car (HUD) and Autonomous self-driving mode vehicle on metro city road with graphic sensor signal.

New laws proposed to crack down on insurance fraud cases with calls for a new Garda Insurance Fraud unit

“The future generation will probably think of getting into driverless cars as being as regular or normal as going to an ATM machine.

“As of now we’re not ready either socially or in terms of legislation. Other countries are starting to think about it, and so should we. There are already cars on the road here where you could drive from Dublin to Cork and once you get on the motorway you can fold your arms, read a book, have a nap.

“It’s far more than cruise control, we’re witnessing a remarkable leap in technology. We can’t pretend this isn’t happening because it is.”

The new generation of autonomous vehicles vary from assisted driving to complete self-navigating cars that need no human input while moving.

Self-driving models would allow those with diminished or no driving ability to safely and legally use a car, which could result in drivers’ licences being done away with. Manufacturers have said they will be affordable and not just for the wealthy – and industry chiefs are hopeful they could result in cheaper insurance.


Self-driving cars.

Mr Faughnan said: “We can’t be specific but in the broadest sense these technologies are strongly likely to improve road safety rather than worsen it.

“So that could be good news for insurance premiums.”

The US, Singapore, Germany, Belgium and the UK have all cleared the way for operating and testing driverless vehicles on the roads.

The Japanese government wants to have autonomous cars providing transport for senior citizens and others with limited access to transport by 2020.

Source

https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/self-driving-cars-could-available-12997710

Kigali to Host Andela’s New Technology Hub for African Software Developers

Rwanda’scapitalKigali will quickly host Africa’s most significant talents in software application advancement at the brand-new Pan-African technology center which will be introduced by American technology training company Andela in December 2018.

Andela is partnering with the Rwanda Development Board to develop a pan-African workforce and support the development of African skill who will be the continent’s future technology leaders.According to a declaration

, Kigali was chosen due to its” strong existing infrastructure and ease of access for designers across the continent”. The co-founder and CEO of Andela, Jeremy Johnson said they partnered with the Rwandan federal government due to the fact that they share in the same mission.Andela VP, Global Operations, Seni Sulyman stated Kigali is fast becoming one of East< a href=https://howafrica.com/category/art-culture/ > Africa’s crucial tech centers as the initially completely 4G African city continues to push towards ICT quality.

“Connecting skill with opportunity on a worldwide scale is Andela’s principles, and with the opening of our Kigali center, we expect to extend opportunities to thousands more software application engineers from throughout the continent who will make their mark on the international tech scene by means of Kigali,” Sulyman adds.Andela launched its operations in Nigeria in 2014 and has over 700 workers based in Lagos, Nairobi and Kampala. They collectively assist power the technology teams of more than 150 international companies, consisting of Viacom, Pluralsight and GitHub.Mainly funded by the

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Andela was founded in the United States to train software application developers in Africa and offer employment opportunities for young, skilled Africans.Applications will open in August for the software development training and the Andela Knowing Neighborhood (ALC )which provides free resources and mentorship to aspiring technologists in Rwanda and Tanzania. Filling …

Source

https://howafrica.com/kigali-to-host-andelas-new-technology-hub-for-african-software-developers/

New EPA Chief Faces First Call For Ethics Probe After Less Than A Month

Andrew Wheeler, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is facing his first call for an ethics probe less than three weeks after taking over in the wake of scandal-plagued former Administrator Scott Pruitt’s abrupt resignation.

On Thursday afternoon, E&E News reported that Wheeler, who a year ago worked as a coal and mining lobbyist, met with former clients at least three times since he was sworn in as deputy EPA administrator on April 20. The meetings appear to violate the Trump administration’s ethics pledge and break explicit promises Wheeler made to avoid conflicts of interest.

In a statement to HuffPost on Thursday evening, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) ― the No. 2 Democrat on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the ranking member of its subcommittee on oversight ― said the Office of Government Ethics should open a review.

“As a former coal lobbyist, and as the successor to scandal-tarred Scott Pruitt, Andrew Wheeler should know better than to break his ethics pledge,” he said. “If these reports are true, he did so repeatedly. This is a matter which the Office of Government Ethics should examine.”

Late last month, the day before telling Bloomberg News he didn’t “think it’s appropriate for me to participate” in meetings with clients for whom he’d lobbied, Wheeler participated in a “stakeholder meeting” with Darling Ingredients, a biodiesel producer and his second-largest former client after coal giant Murray Energy.

Wheeler also met with Archer Daniel Midland Co., an agribusiness that spent more than $5,000 for Wheeler’s “strategic advice and consulting,” and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, a Southern California regulatory agency that paid Wheeler’s former firm at least $600,000 for lobbying between 2010 and 2012.

The EPA did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on Thursday night. But the agency told E&E News that the meetings did not violate the ethics agreement because the groups Wheeler met with were not among the eight former clients he’d pledged to avoid for at least two years.

Yet Wheeler also attended two events with the head of the paper giant International Paper Co., one of the former clients with which he’d recused himself from associating. The EPA defended Wheeler’s attendance, stating: “The meetings were not in fact one-on-one meetings with International Paper as a specific party.”

Beyer led congressional investigations of Pruitt, who resigned in disgrace earlier this month amid more than a dozen federal probes, including reviews from the Office of Government Ethics.

Wheeler has faced other challenges, though most have been left over from Pruitt.

On July 13, Democrats demanded that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issue a subpoena forcing the EPA to turn over documents related to Pruitt’s efforts to delay the release of public records. The call came in response to newly released congressional testimony that showed that EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson seemed to be slow-walking Freedom of Information Act requests deemed “politically charged” or sensitive by passing them off to political appointees.

Two days earlier, Wheeler appointed Henry Darwin, the EPA’s chief of operations, as acting deputy administrator, making him the agency’s new No. 2 official. The promotion drew criticism after emails cited by ABC News showed Darwin helped his wife, Veronica Darwin, get a job at the agency as part of his salary negotiation for his previous position last year. Pruitt’s use of his office to obtain work for his wife, Marlyn Pruitt, was one of his final high-profile personal scandals before his departure.

Last Thursday, 16 state attorneys general sued the EPA over its decision to allow semitruck manufacturers to keep producing “super-polluting” glider trucks ― new truck bodies and cabs with salvaged engines and chassis. Pruitt granted the loophole in his final hours before leaving the agency.

In a reversal, the EPA withdrew the glider truck rule late Thursday night. 

 

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/andrew-wheeler-ethics-probe_us_5b5a7deae4b0fd5c73cd874c

The Surprising Origins Of What Could Be The Medicare For All Of Climate Change

The man who popularized the phrase that left-leaning Democrats now use to describe a vision for a radical government spending plan to combat climate change is a self-described centrist “free-market guy” with a New York Times column.

It was Thomas Friedman who in 2007 started calling for a “Green New Deal” to end fossil fuel subsidies, tax carbon dioxide emissions and create lasting incentives for wind and solar energy. At the dawn of the global financial crisis, the “New Deal” concept that Franklin D. Roosevelt coined 76 years earlier to describe the labor reforms and historic spending on infrastructure and armaments that pulled the United States out of the Great Depression proved attractive.

Friedman’s ideas made it into the mainstream the following year when presidential candidate Barack Obama added a Green New Deal to his platform. In 2009, the United Nations drafted a report calling for a Global Green New Deal to focus government stimulus on renewable energy projects. A month later, Democrats’ landmark cap-and-trade bill ― meant to set up a market where companies could buy and sell pollution permits and take a conservative first step toward limiting carbon dioxide emissions ― passed in the House with the promise of spurring $150 billion in clean energy investments and creating 1.7 million good-paying jobs.

But, by 2010, austerity politics hit. The cap-and-trade bill, known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act, died in the Senate. In Britain, the Labour Party, acting on a proposal that a team of economists calling themselves the Green New Deal Group drafted, established a government-run green investment bank to bolster renewable energy ― only for the conservative Tories to sweep into office months later and begin the process of privatizing the nascent institution. Balanced budgets and deficit hysteria became the dogma of governments across the developed world. Talk of a Green New Deal withered on the vine.

Today the phrase is making a comeback among the ranks of Democratic insurgents running on left-leaning platforms in 2018 primaries across the country. Far from serving as shorthand for middle-of-the-road climate policies, the decade-old slogan is being reborn as the kind of progressive platform that increasingly looks like the only policy approach capable of slowing the nation’s output of planet-warming gases and adapting to a hotter world.

Sean Zanni via Getty Images
Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman started calling for a “Green New Deal” in 2007.

Progressive activists have long complained that there is no climate change version of a “Medicare for all” bill ― legislation that serves both as a vehicle for sweeping reform and a litmus test for how far a Democratic candidate is willing to go on an issue. Yet the Green New Deal seems to be filling that three-word void.

Defining A ‘Green New Deal’

From the beginning, there were competing definitions of what “Green New Deal” meant.

Friedman’s version focused on policies that compelled the “big players to do the right thing for the wrong reasons.” He liked a lot of what Obama enacted ― including $51 billion in “green stimulus” and a $2.3 billion tax credit to clean energy manufacturing ― even after the administration shelved the Green New Deal rhetoric after the midterm election.

Sure, big-ticket policies like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system and sunsetting the $20 billion in subsidies to oil, gas and coal each year never came to fruition. Even the regulations the administration did achieve ― like tightening fuel economy standards and incentivizing utilities to produce more renewable energy ― disintegrated as soon as the Trump administration took over.

Subsidies for wind, solar and battery technology managed to survive proposed cuts in the tax bill Congress passed last year because Republicans in states that have come to rely on those burgeoning industries saved them. For Friedman, that is proof that lasting climate policies are ones that make private renewable energy companies powerful enough to sway politics.

“The more the market does on its own, the more sustainable it is,” he said. Even as the Trump administration dismantles Obama’s climate legacy, Friedman feels the battle shouldn’t be for more aggressive government intervention to wean the economy off fossil fuels, but on messaging that focuses on the patriotic, nation-building aspects of greening the economy.

“We are the true patriots on this,” said Friedman. “We’re talking about American economic power, American moral power, American geopolitical power. Green is geostrategic, geoeconomic, patriotic, capitalistic.”  

There’s so many jobs out there that the private sector won’t create that would literally help protect our planet and save us from impending climate doom. Hawaii state Rep. Kaniela Ing

But then there’s Richard Murphy, a British tax scholar who also claims to have coined the phrase “Green New Deal” around the same time as Friedman. “I don’t even know who Tom Friedman is. If he used the term, it’s complete coincidence,” he says.

In 2007, Murphy, a political economy professor and founder of the London-based Tax Justice Network, started meeting with a cadre of newspaper editors, economists and environmentalists to discuss the coming financial crisis and how any fiscal stimulus issued in response could be used to tackle the ecological crisis already underway.

This “two-birds-one-stone” approach proposed an aggressive spending plan that called for investing public funds in renewable energy, building a zero-emission transportation infrastructure, insulating homes to conserve energy and establishing training programs to educate a national corps of workers to carry out the jobs.

Murphy’s cadre, which named itself the Green New Deal Group, was more ambiguous on how to fund all this green development. He said they supported “straightforward deficit spending” ― meaning government money that’s borrowed rather than already raised through taxes ― as well as quantitative easing, a strategy in which the government buys bonds to inject money straight into the economy. Rather than buying bank bonds to prop up private financial institutions, Murphy suggested instead establishing a green infrastructure bank that would issue bonds the government could then buy back ― a policy with enough leftist bona fides to be nicknamed the “people’s quantitative easing.” He also proposed closing tax loopholes.

The ideas caught on, and in 2010 the ruling Labour Party established a green infrastructure bank. But later that year the conservative Tories swept into office, sold the bank and scaled back renewable and energy-efficiency subsidies.

“The austerity narrative took over,” Murphy said by phone. “This is the polar opposite of the austerity narrative.”

Revival Of An Idea

Talk of a Green New Deal went quiet for years in the U.S. and Britain. But a new wave of progressive candidates, spurred by the organizing that went into Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Democratic presidential bid, began reviving the term in the past year.

It could be a winning strategy. Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly support efforts to reduce climate pollution and increase renewable energy capacity, even if it comes with a cost. Sixty-one percent of Americans who voted for Obama in 2012 and then for Trump in 2016 supported requiring a minimum amount of renewable fuels even if it increased electricity prices, according to Cooperative Congressional Election Study’s 2016 survey results analyzed for HuffPost by Data for Progress, a left-leaning think tank. That increased to 76 percent among voters who picked Obama in 2012 but sat out the 2016 race, and it surged to 85 percent among those who voted for both Obama and, in 2016, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton

The data showed similar support for strengthening enforcement of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, even if it cost U.S. jobs. Fifty percent of Obama-Trump voters said they would support such regulations, increasing to 77 percent among voters who picked Obama then sat out the 2016 election, and 83 percent for Obama-and-Clinton voters.

Some have called for federal spending plans similar to the World War II economic mobilization to bolster renewable energy and rebuild roads and bridges to make them more resilient in extreme weather. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic Socialists of America-backed challenger who trounced Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley Tuesday night in a working-class Bronx and Queens district in New York City, outlined a similar vision. She called the Green New Deal proposed in Obama’s 2008 platform a “half measure” that “will not work.”

“The Green New Deal we are proposing will be similar in scale to the mobilization efforts seen in World War II or the Marshall Plan,” she said by email. “It will require the investment of trillions of dollars and the creation of millions of high-wage jobs. We must again invest in the development, manufacturing, deployment, and distribution of energy but this time green energy.”

Others suggested tying such a plan to a federal job guarantee, a policy that has recently gained traction among a similar cadre of candidates.

“Our infrastructure is crumbling,” said Democratic candidate Randy Bryce, a union ironworker and Army veteran running to succeed House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. “We need to reinvest in our country. I can’t think of a better way than to have that be a future that’s reliant on renewable sources.”

At the heart of this policy is a call for 100 percent renewable energy. Among this group, Kaniela Ing, a state representative running in Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District, stands out as a candidate from the only state so far to adopt a 100 percent renewable energy mandate. To him, a Green New Deal provides a mechanism for meeting that goal.

“The backbone of this proposal will be a jobs guarantee, something like what FDR proposed in the Second Bill of Rights,” he said by phone. “There’s so many jobs out there that the private sector won’t create that would literally help protect our planet and save us from impending climate doom.”

Other candidates were more vague. Kevin de Leon, the California state senator and union-backed progressive who is facing off against U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a fellow Democrat, did not identify specific proposals for federal spending policies on climate. But he hinted that he would support large-scale federal spending to bolster a renewable infrastructure push, agreeing that Republican concerns over the deficit ― the wellspring of austerity politics ― proved bogus as the GOP-controlled Congress passed a massive tax cut law last year.

Joe Raedle via Getty Images
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the Tornillo-Guadalupe port of entry gate on June 24 in Tornillo, Texas. She was part of a group protesting the separation of children from their parents under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy.

Left-leaning visions for a Green New Deal have even gained traction in state-level races. Abdul El-Sayed, the underdog progressive running in Michigan’s gubernatorial race, proposed a green infrastructure bank to start building renewable energy projects across the state, and he said he’d use his bully pulpit to push for federal action.

“We’re thinking about it at the state level, which both gives us a level of concreteness that is helpful and also allows us to be very specific about solving these challenges encapsulated under the umbrella of Green New Deal,” he said.

“We’ve watched as our infrastructure has crumbled,” he added. “We understand the responsibility to stand up against climate change, create jobs and rebuild that infrastructure ― it’s a clear, crystalline opportunity.”

Still, some climate activists see the term as trite and ineffective. Some climate organizers say it’s time to abandon the phrase “new deal” and embrace something newer and more forward-facing.

But for others, the phrase offers a helpful entry point to a policy program that would, in essence, buck with the last 40 years of neoliberal market-based solutionism and government spendthrift.

“The Green New Deal is a great framing, and I’m glad it’s catching on, but this whole thing needs to be at least as comprehensive as the New Deal,” said Ashik Siddique, who serves on the Democratic Socialists of America’s climate working group. “We are talking about the need to transform the physical infrastructure of every sector of the economy.”

“It’s very clear that something possibly even bigger scale than that is necessary now. Getting people used to thinking of it in those terms is welcome,” he said, then he laughed. “Even Tom Friedman is talking about it.”

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/green-new-deal_us_5b3146c3e4b0b5e692f0912e

Guy Gives Plant Robotic Legs So It Can Experience Animal-Like Freedom

Tianqi Sun/Vincross

It all started in 2014 when robotics engineer Tianqi Sun came across a dead sunflower:

“I went to see a sunflower exhibition, and found myself focused on a dead sunflower near a ground of blooms. The dead flower sat in a place that was always in a shadow. I had no idea how it ended up there or why it died – whether it was because of the lack of sunshine or water – but it was just there, and it was dead. I thought, if it could move a little bit, take a 30-feet walk out of the shadow to where the other sunflowers were, it would have lived healthily. But it didn’t.
 
Plants are passive. Eternally, inexplicably passive. No matter if they are being cut, bitten, burned or pulled from the earth, or when they lack sunshine, water, or are too hot or cold, they will hold still and take whatever is happening to them. They have the fewest degrees of freedom among all the creatures in nature. This is simply the default setting that nature gives to plants.
 
Each life has its own default settings, including human beings. We humans are not built to go to the depths of the ocean to explore its wonder; nor are we meant to fly to the skies to have the clouds beneath our feet. We’re not meant to land on the moon to view the blue planet. For millions of years, humans have been following their settings, and it’s not until the last century that we started to break those laws. We invented submarines, airplanes, and the Apollo Program, essentially helping us to break our default settings.
 
However, for billions of years, plants have never experienced movement of any kind, not even the simplest movement. Their whole lives, they stick to where they were born. Do they desire to break their own settings or have a tendency towards this? If human beings always try to break the settings with technology, how about plants? I do not know the answer, but I would love to try to share some of this human tendency and technology with plants. With a robotic rover base, plants can experience mobility and interaction. I do hope that this project can bring some inspiration to the relationship between technology and natural default settings. [source]

It chases the sunshine when it needs it

It spins when it enjoys the sun to have the sunshine on all its sides

It looks for shades when it needs to cool off

It plays with humans

It plays with humans

It dances when it’s ‘happy’

It gets grumpy when it’s thirsty

HEXA is a six-legged, highly customizable and programmable robot developed by Vincross. This specific project, “Sharing Human Technology with Plants,†was created by Tianqi Sun, the CEO and Founder of Vincross; whose goal is to make robotics accessible to the masses.

For more information on HEXA and Vincross visit vincross.com.

Read more: https://twistedsifter.com/2018/07/plant-gets-robotic-legs-so-it-can-experience-animal-like-freedom/

Trump’s ALL CAPS Iran tweet is now a glorious meme


Oh no, this stuff again.
Image: Getty Images

It’s 2018 so of course Twitter would take something as terrifying as the United States president writing an all-caps threat to another world leader, leaving us (yet again) standing on the precipice of international conflict, and make it into a meme.

What a time to be alive.

People have latched on to Donald Trump’s unhinged tweet-threat to the president of Iran and decided that in the face of horror the best thing to do is laugh. So they’ve appropriated Trump’s message and inserted their own musings, sometimes in the form of song lyrics, sometimes with other fun references. 

In case you somehow missed it, here’s Trump’s original tweet.

Very presidential and VERY stable. Never mind that Twitter and Facebook have been blocked in Iran since 2009. 

If you’re now in desperate need of a laugh, here are some of best examples of Twitter making the most of another awful situation. 

Finally, what’s a meme without a Rickroll? 

And now let us lay back and welcome the ongoing disaster as it unfolds around us and meme, meme against the dying of the light. 

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/07/23/trump-iran-tweet-meme-lyrics/

Amanda Seyfried Sings Google Translated Mamma Mia Songs, And It’s Abba-solute Nonsense!

We’ll take a chance on any late night game that gets movie stars singing!

And in Jimmy Fallon‘s latest round of Google Translate Songs, he has Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again star Amanda Seyfried singing all Abba songs — only with the lyrics mutilated by technology of course…

Ch-ch-check out the hilarious vid (above)!

Read more: http://perezhilton.com/2018-07-19-amanda-seyfried-google-translate-songs-mamma-mia-tonight-show-jimmy-fallon

The new technology that may make police goes after more secure

SEATTLE– Officers say spike strips are required in authorities pursuit circumstances however harmful. There is brand-new innovation that might make chases after safer, however departments do not typically have the funds to afford it.Spike strips were successfully released by Kent authorities officer Diego Moreno before he was eliminated Sunday when he was unintentionally struck by the pursuing officer’s vehicle.Moreno’s fast actions flattened the sick of the

red truck Kent law enforcement officer were pursuing after the suspects in that automobile fired shots.”Split-second decisions are made and life and death remains in the balance and

we cannot constantly get it how we want it to be, “said Rafael Padilla, the chief of the Kent Police Department.Padilla states police isn’t cut and dry. Just recently retired King County sheriff’s Sgt. Cindi West agrees.

“I can inform you that spike strips are incredibly dangerous,”West said.She says in fast chase circumstances on city streets,” Normally you have a quick 2nd or minute to put them out.”She adds that reacting officers

continuously alter direction based upon radio interaction of where the suspect’s automobile might be when to safely deploy the spike strips.”You might have resident vehicles running so you cannot throw it out. Now you know your suspect is coming and rapidly, you have to get it out there, pull it in the ideal location so it covers the road so that

the suspect hits it then just as quickly get it out of the way so the deputy behind does not run over the spike strips, too. “West states some cops companies have actually scaled back pursuits; Snohomish County implemented a brand-new pursuit policy in 2015 that has dropped chases after considerably, others like the Seattle Cops Department do it on a case-by-case basis.New technology is being checked elsewhere in the nation, like darts fired from police automobiles in Arvado, Colorado, that enable officers to track suspect lorries utilizing GPS. The department states it costs $5,000 to set up the darts and$1,000 for each extra year.”That’s the primary goal to have something like this, to keep our officers safe and to keep the neighborhood safe, “stated Jill McGranahan with the Arvado Cops Department.There’s likewise the”Mobile Spike”created by a Renton guy. It gives officers the ability to pull along with a suspect’s automobile and with the press of a button

release the spike strip.”We have a task to obtain these bad people off the roadway, however authorities work is hazardous and there’s a great deal of dangerous crooks out there, “said West.

Source

https://q13fox.com/2018/07/23/the-new-technology-that-may-make-police-chases-safer/

Professor Brian Cox: “The Biggest Threat To Our Planet Is Human Stupidity”

In November 2009, we had no idea what Pluto looked like. We didn’t know the Higgs boson existed. And we were just starting to realize that humans may once have interbred with Neanderthals.

That was also the month that The Infinite Monkey Cage began, a BBC Radio 4 comedy and popular science show hosted by Professor Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince. Now almost a decade on, the show is about to celebrate its 100th episode on Wednesday, July 11, with a host of guests lined up including Neil deGrasse Tyson and Alice Roberts.

But before that milestone, we decided to catch up with Brian and Robin to get their views on the last decade of science. What are their favorite discoveries? What’s the biggest threat facing our planet right now? And would they live on Mars? Find out below.

How does it feel to have reached the 100th episode of The Infinite Monkey Cage?

Brian Cox: It feels very different. The first episode was a small studio show, the suggestion was it was going to be called Top Geek.

Robin Ince: They did try and do that, the Top Gear of science, but we were always against that idea. You did a panel show, which was going to be about the week’s news in science, you and Kevin Fong and Adam Rutherford.

Brian: Yes, and that didn’t work, partly because no one could tell us apart. The idea was just three scientists with similar voices and very similar views, in other words prioritizing reality over anything else. And so they thought well, instead of that, why don’t we try with a comedian. I didn’t really know Robin.

Robin: We’d met a couple of times and I guested on that show, and that led to the job that’s lasted 100 episodes! The first two series, there were things they wanted, we had sketches in the first series, and we had Matt Parker, a brilliant stand-up mathematician. But it took two series before they went, actually, you can just have a half-an-hour conversation about science, which doesn’t belittle it or mock the science itself.


The star-studded 100th episode features Neil deGrasse Tyson, Alice Roberts, and more as guests. BBC

What have been your top science discoveries since the start of the show in November 2009?

Brian: Well certainly the Higgs [boson].

Robin: It’s weird isn’t it. Because it almost coincides with when you became so busy on TV and radio that you weren’t at CERN anymore. Then you left, and suddenly with you out of the way, bloody hell. Sterling work wasn’t it! Now he’s gone we’ve collided the correct particles together.

Brian: If you think about it, Higgs’ paper was published before I was born. So my whole life was waiting for that moment as a particle physicist.

Robin: I do [like] the Neanderthal story. I went out and met Svante Pääbo, who did really the main piece of genetic research, they got the DNA and helped realize how much coupling there was between what became Homo sapiens and Neanderthals.

Brian: It’s a technology revolution. The fact that sequencing DNA was extremely expensive and difficult back in 2009. And now it’s basically trivial. You can do it for a few thousand dollars. And that’s why these big advances in biology arrive. Also if you think about it, recently we went to Pluto. We had no idea what Pluto was like. And Cassini was really just beginning to return science, and now we suspect the rings of Saturn are young for example. We didn’t know.

Robin: I found the images from Curiosity on Mars [when it landed in August 2012] were something that was so, that was the moment that felt startling. That ability to have such clear images of another planet. That felt like a tremendous moment of enlightenment. It was beautiful and astonishing.


This was one of Curiosity’s first color images on Mars, taken on August 8, 2012, three days after the rover landed. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

And what’s your least favorite discovery of the last decade?

Brian: I don’t think there is such a thing. You can be a theoretician and a discovery could be made that disproved your theory. But the true scientist is delighted when that happens, because they’ve learned something about the universe. So I don’t think there is such a thing as the acquisition of a piece of knowledge which is to be regretted.

Is there something you hoped would have been discovered now that hasn’t?

Brian: I think many of us at the LHC thought we would see a theory like supersymmetry, which would provide an explanation for dark matter. That is slightly surprising and intriguing that we haven’t seen that. If you’d asked me in 2009, before the LHC switched on, I would have said we’d probably find a Higgs-like object, but we may well find supersymmetry as well.

In March 2018 we said goodbye to Stephen Hawking as he sadly passed away, and Brian you went to his memorial service of course. But what has the world lost most with his passing?

Brian: Stephen was unique, he was one of the great scientists of his generation undoubtedly. But also, he made a profound contribution to public engagement. He was iconic, and that’s important, to have an icon who’s a scientist. He was still making contributions scientifically right up to the end of his career. So we lose that. But we also lose probably the most iconic scientist in the world. And that’s essentially irreplaceable.

Robin: He has an impressive IMDb page, doesn’t he? You look and go, that’s interesting, there’s a human story. And then that is a gateway into looking at the physics.

Brian: It’s an almost unique story. [Cosmologist] Carlos Frenk said he had to develop a way of thinking that was unique, because of his disability. He couldn’t write equations down, for example, so he couldn’t do mathematics in the normal way. He began to think more geometrically, which is very useful for general relativity. That gave him a tool that other physicists didn’t have. And that meant he made discoveries that other physicists may not have made for quite some time.


The duo have been dissecting and discussing science on their show for almost a decade. BBC/Richard Ansett

We recently celebrated the birthday of Henrietta Swan Leavitt, an unsung hero of cosmology who helped discover our galaxy was one of many. But who are your unsung heroes of science?

Brian: Well Henrietta Swan Leavitt is a good example actually. It was a beautiful example of seeing patterns in data that nobody else had really seen, because she was working with that data every day. And so I think that essentially the basis of the distance scale in the universe constructed on her work is a quite remarkable legacy. There’s also Emmy Noether. There’s a thing called Noether’s theorem, where she’s written a deep connection between symmetry and conservation laws like momentum and energy. And that connection now is in all textbooks, and it comes from the work of Emmy Noether. You don’t really hear about it until you get to the second or third year of an undergraduate degree.

Robin: Do you know the website Trowel Blazers? It’s a great site of a bunch of women who worked broadly in the Earth sciences. And every single week you find someone and go wow, there’s only this one black and white photo left. They’ve been entirely left out of the story.

In the last 10 years we’ve seen the rise of Elon Musk, and a lot of discussion about colonizing Mars. When we spoke last time Brian you said you wouldn’t live on Mars. Have you changed your mind?

Brian: No!

Robin: You’ve got a smashing house in France.

Brian: Mars is a horrendous place to live. It will take a very special type of astronaut. It’s very different from going to the Moon or sitting on the International Space Station, where you’re always a few hours away from Earth. Psychologically, no one has been that far from Earth. And we’re talking about months, perhaps a year from Earth. And I think that’s a challenge that we don’t fully understand.

Robin: Even every one of the Apollo astronauts, having spent days on the Moon, that was enough to change their psychology quite remarkably. Whether it’s Charlie Duke, Alan Bean, or Buzz Aldrin. Being that distance away, it seemed to have a very different effect on those people. There’s a worry of a false alternative option, if you keep looking and going ‘I think we should populate another planet,’ which certainly at this point in its existence is not made for life.


Life on Mars might not be that fun, says Cox. e71lena/Shutterstock

Brian, you were involved in Asteroid Day on Saturday, June 30, discussing ways to protect our planet from asteroids. But what’s the biggest threat facing our planet?

Brian: It’s very unlikely a large asteroid will strike us. We know about most of the really big ones, if not all of them, the dinosaur-level extinction-event asteroids. But we don’t know about the city killers, the small country killers. But the biggest threat I really do think is still human stupidity, or however you want to put it. I still think the most likely way we’ll wipe ourselves out is nuclear war, either accidental or deliberate. The long-term threats yes, science can deal with them. But it’s the short-term threats, those between humans.

Robin: The popularity of zealots.

Brian: That’s a great name for a band!

Robin: Even a year ago Brian would go ‘but if you just show people the evidence’. But we are realizing now there’s got to be new ways of showing the evidence.

The Infinite Monkey Cage’s 100th episode will be broadcast in the UK on Wednesday, July 11, at 9am on BBC Radio 4 when it will also be available to watch on BBC iPlayer, and then on the BBC Red Button from Monday, July 16. If you’re in the US, you can download the podcast from a number of places including iTunes.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/professor-brian-cox-the-biggest-threat-to-our-planet-is-human-stupidity/

Trumps Own Team: He Looked Incredibly Weak Next to Putin

Donald Trumps much-anticipated meeting with Vladimir Putin on Monday offered him yet another opportunity to defy those whove criticized his coziness with the Russian leader.

But on a global stage, Trump didnt just cower; he actively cemented an image of submissiveness to his Russian counterpart.

I honestly had little to no good expectations for this, said a senior Trump political appointee who works on issues surrounding Russian disinformation efforts, adding that the event went about as well as I expected.

Trump looked incredibly weak up there. Putin looks like a champion, the official continued. Id like to say Im shocked, but this is the world in which we live now.

The presidents prominent allies on the outside werent thrilled, either. President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be correctedimmediately, Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House and an informal adviser to Trump, tweeted on Monday evening.

Trump looked incredibly weak up there. Putin looks like a champion… I'd like to say I'm shocked but this is the world in which we live now.
Senior Trump Administration official

The gathering in Helsinki demonstrated a level of obsequiousness toward Putin that was remarkable even by Trumps own standards. At a press conference following a one-on-one meeting between the two, the president refused to say whether he believed the U.S. intelligence committees assessment that Putins government illegally attempted to sway the 2016 presidential election, pushed conspiracy theories about the 2016 election, and declined attempts to get him to criticized Russias global meddling. The entire affair deeply shook much of the political establishment, which viewed the Trumps actions as an acquiescence of U.S. leadership.

But those who have worked for the president say they have come to expect these types of momentsin large part because they are rooted in two of Trumps most prominent characteristics: insecurity and stubbornness.

Trump, said one former senior White House official, is more afraid of looking illegitimate than of looking like a puppet for Putin.

Its the [fear] that its perceived as looking like he really didnt win, the official said of what was driving Trumps behavior.

If anyone expected Trump to stop being Trump precisely for those few hours of meeting with Putin, this was a wishful thinking by far, Sergei Utkin, head of strategic assessment at the Moscow-based Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations, told The Daily Beast in an email.

Privately, Trump has a different explanation, one not based on self-reflection or fear. He has toldor spunpeople that there are various benefits to forging warmer relations with Putin and Moscow. Among them, according to those who have spoken to President Trump, is a belief that he is standing in the way of others trying to start World War III.

Its the reverse of the Nixon-China play, a former Trump administration official familiar with the thinking behind the summit told The Daily Beast. Russia and China are cozying up to each other and its a lethal combination if theyre together. China by itself is a far greater danger, and the U.S. needs to head it off, he said, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

In defending his approach to Russia and other regimes, Trump has recently expressed to those around him a sympathy for Sen. Rand Pauls non-intervention streaka sentiment made all the more ironic given some of Trumps actions in Syria, for instance, have openly risked a wider, military conflict with Russia. During the joint presser with Putin, Trump even played to some of Pauls favorite rhetorical themes by stressing that his conduct was preferable to conflict and hostility, and that the world has seen the results when diplomacy is left by the wayside.

Not many others see it this way. Instead, for many watching the performance, Mondays press conference was a Rorschach test for how one feels about the Trump era itself.

The presidents critics seized on it as evidence that he was at best naive about international threats, and at worst a Russian asset, as Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth suggested in a statement on the event.

For the true Trump faithful, by contrast, the episode was hardly a moment of geopolitical shame. Instead, it was the triumph of a new global posture and a screw-you attitude of presidential proportions.

The folks that wanted [Trump] to call Putin a liar to his face would be the first to call him unpresidential if he had, insisted Barry Bennett, a senior adviser on the 2016 Trump campaign turned federal lobbyist. Its up to [special counsel Robert] Mueller to make the case now. Convict them or not.

And, as an added bonus, it owned the libs.

I watched talking heads explode after the summit, Eric Bolling, a Trump friend and former Fox News host, told The Daily Beast.

I watched talking heads explode post-comments, Eric Bolling, a Trump friend and former Fox News host, told The Daily Beast after the Trump-Putin remarks on Monday. I thought [CNN host] Anderson Cooper was going to cry. I found [President Trump] consistent.

Whether that attitude can sell beyond the Trump faithful seems dubious at best. For many, the president did not appear to be playing master diplomat during the rambling question-and-answer session that followed his hours-long meeting with Putin on Monday. Instead, he came off like a conspiracy theorist eager to air petty political grievances.

Asked about the U.S. intelligence committees assessment that Russia did, in fact, attempt to sway the outcome of the 2016 election, Trump questioned the veracity of allegations that Russian agents hacked the email servers of the Democratic National Committee. He later invoked the Pakistani former IT administrator for a number of House Democrats, who has become a fixture on conservative talk radio and primetime cable news shows over vague allegations of a foreign conspiracy against the U.S. government. Federal investigators said last year that they had found no evidence of such a plot. And, per his want, Trump spent ample time railing against former Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton and the so-called Mueller witch hunt.

Putin could have hardly scripted it better himself. And as he watched it all unfold before him, he indulged the conspiracy theorists himself, bringing up Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros, a longtime conservative bogeyman who has been targeted by right-wing governments in Europe of late over his own alleged campaigns of political meddling.

Todays press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory, said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The damage inflicted by President Trumps naivet, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was less blistering but similarly disappointed, even as he said that the president's vast foreign policy powers would be hard for Congress to check.

This event ended up being far worse than I thought it would be, rhetorically. Hopefully, no deals were made and nothing happened, Corker said in an interview. The president can do more damage in 15 minutes to that relationship than all of us working together for months can overcome. Thats the problem here.

The White House spokespeople had no immediate response to these statements when asked by The Daily Beast during Trumps flight home. But Vice President Mike Pence was characteristically ebullient in his praise of Trumps performance. What the world saw, what the American people saw, is that President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first, Pence declared.

Its the reverse of the Nixon-China play… Russia and China are cozying up to each other and its a lethal combination if theyre together. China by itself is a far greater danger.
Former Trump administration official

Democratic Party stalwarts werepredictablynot inclined to agree.

Former Clinton campaign officialsthe very people who are prone to expect the most nefarious explanations for the presidents behaviorexpressed horror at what they saw on Monday. The press conference left them grappling for a unifying theory, one that was more compelling than Putin having some sort of secret, compromising material that he was holding over Trumps head.

Honestly? said one Clinton veteran. It probably just comes down to his personal insecurities. He's terrified of his election being called illegitimate so he says whatever he has to to stop that. If Russia helped him win that makes him look bad. We already have seen evidence of collusion and that can be attributed to just being willing to say or do anything to get ahead which has always been Trump's deal. The most likely thing Putin has on Trump now is evidence they worked with Trump's team during the election.

With additional reporting by Kim Dozier and Andrew Desiderio

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/trumps-own-team-he-looked-incredibly-weak-next-to-putin