… Read the rest
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration announced on Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State because of concerns over health risks, ending years of uncertainty over the controversial method of natural gas extraction.
State officials concluded that fracking, as the method is known, could contaminate the air and water and pose inestimable dangers to public health.
That conclusion was delivered during a year-end cabinet meeting convened by Mr. Cuomo in Albany. It came amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.
The question of whether to allow fracking has been one of the most divisive public policy debates in New York in years, pitting environmentalists against others who saw it as a critical way to bring jobs to economically stagnant portions of upstate.
The global pushback against Uber domination continues to gain momentum. Over the past few weeks, the ride-hailing app was banned in India, Thailand and France, suspended in Spain and challenged in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and South Korea. Across the US, local governments in Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Pennsylvania and California are cracking down on the San Francisco-based behemoth, as well as its smaller rival, Lyft. Every day there are more and more articles in major news outlets documenting the growing rideshare backlash.
Uber responds to the lawsuits and rampant criticism with aplomb, holding the ship steady amid a tempest of dissent. They are always quick to fire back. When they’re not threatening journalists, they accuse city councils of subjecting them to unfair burdens. They claim their model of ridesharing is under attack by government overregulation. Since they profess to be a technology and not a transportation company, they argue they’re immune to the same laws that taxi companies must adhere to.… Read the rest
via Live Science:
SAN FRANCISCO — Here’s the perfect Christmas gift for the person who has everything: A red and green rock, ornament-sized, stuffed with 30,000 teeny-tiny diamonds.
The sparkly chunk was pulled from Russia’s huge Udachnaya diamond mine and donated to science (the diamonds’ tiny size means they’re worthless as gems). It was a lucky break for researchers, because the diamond-rich rock is a rare find in many ways, scientists reported Monday (Dec. 15) at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting.
“The exciting thing for me is there are 30,000 itty-bitty, perfect octahedrons, and not one big diamond,” said Larry Taylor, a geologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who presented the findings. “It’s like they formed instantaneously.”
You have to hand it to President Barack Obama, he’s not buying into the lame-duck presidency forecast for him in the wake of Republicans taking control of Congress. This time he’s re-opening diplomatic ties with Cuba. CNN reports on the breaking news:
… Read the rest
President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and ease economic restrictions on the nation, an historic shift he called the end of an “outdated approach” to U.S.-Cuban relations.
Obama said he’s instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations, and that the U.S. will re-open an embassy in Havana. The administration will also allow some travel and trade that had been banned under a decades-long embargo instated during the Kennedy administration.
“Neither the American nor Cuban people are well-served by a rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born,” Obama said.
Don’t be mesmerised by cool apps and flashy new gizmos – the top technology inventions of the year are ones that will have a lasting effect.
Most are advances in fields that are already changing us. Some will have immediate impact; others are portents of transformations that may take decades to complete. In this vein, and in no particular order, here are what I consider to be ten of the best technological innovations from 2014.
1. DNA nanobots injected into cockroaches
Nanotechnology is a growing research field that manipulates materials on a molecular scale. One prospect is to transform medicine by injecting nanobots into the body where they perform functions such as treating disease.
… Read the rest
Back in 1973, eternally eccentric filmmaker Woody Allen made Sleeper. Set in the year 2173, Sleeper is, to date, Allen’s sole venture into overt sci-fi. A slapstick comedy, Sleeper pokes fun at other sci-fi classics, notable amongst them Fahrenheit 451 and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The political and social aspects of the film are thinly veiled 1970s sentiment, set in a dystopic inept police state.
What is truly interesting is Sleeper’s perspective on the progress of technology, 200 years from its production. While Woody Allen did not predict technological miniaturization, he did get a lot of things right. Was Woody Allen a tech prophet? Here’s a list of technologies predicted in Sleeper that already exist, 161 years ahead of schedule.
1. Sleeping Pods Not once, but twice in Sleeper are we given glimpses of long-term sleeping devices. I guess that’s appropriate, given the title.
Medical marijuana is now legal in 32 states and the District of Columbia without threat of federal prosecution, reports the Los Angeles Times:
… Read the rest
Tucked deep inside the 1,603-page federal spending measure is a provision that effectively ends the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana and signals a major shift in drug policy.
The bill’s passage over the weekend marks the first time Congress has approved nationally significant legislation backed by legalization advocates. It brings almost to a close two decades of tension between the states and Washington over medical use of marijuana.
Under the provision, states where medical pot is legal would no longer need to worry about federal drug agents raiding retail operations. Agents would be prohibited from doing so.
The Obama administration has largely followed that rule since last year as a matter of policy. But the measure approved as part of the spending bill, which President Obama plans to sign this week, will codify it as a matter of law.
The shock waves from a brutal terror attack that claimed the lives of more than 130 children in the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar are being felt around the world.
The Taliban assault, which began on Tuesday morning, has claimed the lives of at least 141 people. Across social media people expressed their horror and sympathy. From Pakistan to the UK, relatives of children attending the Army Public School were anxiously awaiting news.
The attack is being seen as one of the worst in nearly a decade of unabated violence in the country that has killed more than 55,000 Pakistanis – most of whom were civilians.
The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, has confirmed that it was responsible for the attack and said the school was hit in response to army operations that have been taking place in the tribal areas.… Read the rest
… Read the rest
After 45-year-old Adolfina Ocampos was sentenced to death for sorcery last November in the Paraguayan village of Tahenyi where they lived, she was tortured, submerged under water, and beaten. She was then led to a stake where she was shot with several arrows before being burned alive. Paraguayan authorities investigating the killing have arrested nine men in the village, all of whom have confessed to the killing and with little indication of remorse. Police have also rescued a fourteen-year-old girl who was accused of witchcraft as well.
Ocampos had been accused of being a witch after the relatives of one of the village elders became ill. She was then banished from the villiage for a month but was sentenced to death when the relative failed to improve. The inhabitants of the village located 180 miles for the Paraguayan capital of Assuncion.are members of the indigenous Mbya Guarani community. Belief in witchcraft and evil magic remains strong throughout the region.
… Read the rest
A team of physicists has provided some of the clearest evidence yet that our Universe could be just one big projection.
In 1997, theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena proposed1 that an audacious model of the Universe in which gravity arises from infinitesimally thin, vibrating strings could be reinterpreted in terms of well-established physics. The mathematically intricate world of strings, which exist in nine dimensions of space plus one of time, would be merely a hologram: the real action would play out in a simpler, flatter cosmos where there is no gravity.
Maldacena’s idea thrilled physicists because it offered a way to put the popular but still unproven theory of strings on solid footing — and because it solved apparent inconsistencies between quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of gravity. It provided physicists with a mathematical Rosetta stone, a ‘duality’, that allowed them to translate back and forth between the two languages, and solve problems in one model that seemed intractable in the other and vice versa (see ‘Collaborative physics: String theory finds a bench mate‘).