Horrified researchers want out of “infomercial” for shady stem-cell clinics


This post is by Beth Mole from Ars Technica


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A man in surgical garb inspects a cutting-edge computer display.

Enlarge / Cheesy graphic from stem-cell documentary “The Healthcare Revolution.” (credit: Healthcare Revolution)

Around a dozen prominent stem-cell experts said this week that they have been duped into appearing in a documentary series some described as an infomercial for the unproven and dangerous stem-cell treatments peddled by clinics now facing federal charges.

The researchers said they had originally agreed to do interviews for the project believing it was for a sober, educational documentary on legitimate stem-cell research—which holds medical potential but is still largely unproven to benefit patients. Just days before the documentary’s intended release of June 17, however, researchers say they were horrified to learn that the 10-part series, titled The Healthcare Revolution, hypes dubious stem-cell treatments as miracle cures and gives false hope to desperate patients. The revelation was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The researchers soon after discovered that the series was

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Ars on your lunch break: the fate we might be making for ourselves


This post is by Ars Staff from Ars Technica


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Suck it, Skynet.

Enlarge / Suck it, Skynet.

Today we’re presenting the second installment of my conversation with Naval Ravikant about existential risks. Naval is one of tech’s most successful angel investors, and the founder of multiple startups—including seed-stage investment platform AngelList. Part one of our conversation ran yesterday. If you missed it, click right here. Otherwise, you can press play on the embedded audio player or pull up the transcript—both of which are below.

This interview first appeared in March, as two back-to-back episodes of the After On Podcast (which offers a 50-episode archive of unhurried conversations with world-class thinkers, founders, and scientists). As I mentioned in yesterday’s article, my conversation with Naval led to a last-minute invite to give a related talk at April’s TED conference. TED posted that talk to their site this morning, and if you

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In the not-so-distant future, “synbio” could lead to global catastrophe—maybe


This post is by Ars Staff from Ars Technica


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Artist's impression of a post-superbug world.

Enlarge / Artist’s impression of a post-superbug world. (credit: John Cayea / Doubleday)

We’re running a series of companion posts this week to accompany our special edition Ars Lunch Break podcast. This is the first of three guest posts centered around Rob’s TED talk below. Tomorrow we’ll have a post continuing the discussion from geneticist George Church, and Thusday we’ll have one from microbiologist Andrew Hessel.

The H5N1 flu strain makes SARS and swine flu look almost cuddly. But though it kills higher percentages of infected patients than even Ebola, this ghastly flu variant claimed just five human lives over the past three years. Happily, it’s barely contagious amongst humans.

In 2011, two separate research teams—one in Holland, the other in Wisconsin—set out to repair this “defect” in H5N1. By carefully manipulating the bug’s genome, they soon had something just as lethal as the classic edition, but also wildly contagious.

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Are Russian space satellites failing? It’s now harder to find out


This post is by Eric Berger from Ars Technica


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Roscosmos Head Dmitry Rogozin before Russian-Chinese talks at the Moscow Kremlin in June.

Enlarge / Roscosmos Head Dmitry Rogozin before Russian-Chinese talks at the Moscow Kremlin in June. (credit: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images)

One of the key themes of HBO’s new Chernobyl miniseries is the Soviet Union’s control of information. As the television series shows, the state’s warping of reality had very real consequences in terms of lives lost.

The control of information has continued into the modern Russian era, as the nation’s state television network is now planning its own series to recount the Chernobyl incident. Reportedly, a central theme of the series to be shown to Russian viewers is that American operatives infiltrated the nuclear facility and orchestrated the disaster. (There appears to be no credible evidence that this actually happened.)

This predisposition to avoid or obfuscate information that could be embarrassing to the Russian state also evidently applies to the aerospace industry, with fresh reports from the

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We may have inadvertently selected for muscles on dogs’ faces


This post is by John Timmer from Ars Technica


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Two images of a dog showing different facial expressions.

Enlarge / A muscle flex raises the inner portions of the eyebrow at right. (credit: Waller et al.)

Humans domesticated dogs about 30,000 years ago. Since then, we’ve worked with them, hunted with them, played with them, and come to rely on them for companionship. And, in the process, we’ve bred them for everything from general cuteness to the ability to guard and fight for us. Figuring out who’s manipulating whom and who’s getting more out of the relationship is a hopeless task.

But that doesn’t mean that some aspects of the changes dogs have undergone aren’t amenable to study. After studying the facial muscles of dogs and wolves, a US-UK team of researchers has now found that dogs have two muscles that wolves mostly lack. These muscles control the movements of the face near the eyes, and the researchers suspect that the muscles’ presence helps the dogs make

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Ars on your lunch break: Let’s talk about the extinction of humanity


This post is by Ars Staff from Ars Technica


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It looks so peaceful up there.

Enlarge / It looks so peaceful up there. (credit: alxpin / Getty)

Welcome back to Ars on your Lunch Break! It’s been a while since we’ve done this, so I’ll start with a brief orientation. This series is built around the After On Podcast—which itself is a series of deep-dive interviews with thinkers, founders, and (above all) scientists.

Often exceeding 90 minutes, After On episodes run longer than the average busy Ars reader’s lunch break. So we carve these unhurried conversations into three to four 30-ish minute segments, and run ‘em here around lunch, Ars Daylight Time. You can access today’s segment via our embedded audio player, or by reading the accompanying transcript (both of which are below).

We’ve presented two seasons of these episodes so far and are planning a third one in the fall. As for this week’s run, it’s sort of a summer special. The impetus

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Firefly opens first Alpha rocket launch to academic and educational payloads


This post is by Eric Berger from Ars Technica


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Firefly performed a full-duration firing of its rocket's second stage in April, 2019.

Enlarge / Firefly performed a full-duration firing of its rocket’s second stage in April, 2019. (credit: Edwards Media)

One of the questions facing any company as it brings a new rocket to market is what to put on top of the booster. After all, things can sometimes go all explodey with inaugural flights. So the first flight of any rocket typically serves as demonstration missions, to prove via an actual test flight that all of a company’s modeling and ground testing were correct. SpaceX famously put Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla Roadster on the first flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket.

Despite a sometimes whimsical payload, however, first flights demonstrate a number of capabilities to potential customers. (In the case of the Falcon Heavy, the rocket’s upper stage performed a six-hour coast in space before re-firing its upper stage engine to demonstrate the ability to directly inject key satellites into

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After June fires, energy group says hydrogen is future’s fuel


This post is by Megan Geuss from Ars Technica


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Nozzle for pumping hydrogen.

Enlarge / A hydrogen filling station. (credit: Peter Gercke/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Hydrogen fuel facilities experienced two fires this month in Santa Clara, Calif., and in Norway. But despite these setbacks, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released a report on Friday saying that the fuel is an important potential part of a low-carbon future.

The first fire in Santa Clara happened on Saturday, June 1 at a hydrogen reforming facility run by Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. No one was injured, but according to the Silicon Valley Voice, multiple hydrogen tanker trucks caught fire. The fire was extinguished a little over an hour after the firefighters arrived on the scene.

After the fire was put out, Santa Clara Fire Department Battalion Chief Drew Miller told the press that “a hydrogen tanker truck was being fueled and a leak occurred,” adding, “when the shutdown of the tanker truck

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Anti-vaxxers defeated: NY bans exemptions as doctors vote to step up fight


This post is by Beth Mole from Ars Technica


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Actress Jessica Biel supporting prominent anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr in effort to protect non-medical vaccine exemptions.

Enlarge / Actress Jessica Biel supporting prominent anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr in effort to protect non-medical vaccine exemptions. (credit: Instragram)

Anti-vaccine advocates received a blow in New York Thursday as state lawmakers banned non-medical exemptions based on religious beliefs—and there may be more blows coming.

]Also on Thursday, the American Medical Association adopted a new policy to step up its fight against such non-medical exemptions. The AMA, the country’s largest physicians’ group and one of the largest spenders on lobbying, has always strongly support pediatric vaccination and opposed non-medical exemptions. But under the new policy changes, the association will now “actively advocate” for states to eliminate any laws that allow for non-medical exemptions on the books.

“As evident from the measles outbreaks currently impacting communities in several states, when individuals are not immunized as a matter of personal preference or misinformation, they put themselves and others at risk

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One dead after poop transplant gone wrong, FDA warns


This post is by Beth Mole from Ars Technica


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The Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak, Md.

Enlarge / The Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak, Md. (credit: Getty | Congressional Quarterly)

One patient has died and another became seriously ill after fecal transplants inadvertently seeded their innards with a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection, the Food and Drug Administration warned Thursday.

The cases highlight the grave risks of what some consider a relatively safe procedure. They also call attention to the mucky issues of federal oversight for the experimental transplants, which the FDA has struggled to regulate. In its warning Thursday, the agency announced new protections for trials and experimental uses of the procedure.

The FDA shared minimal details from the deadly transplants. Its warning only noted that the cases involved two patients who were immunocompromised prior to the experimental transplants and received stool from the same donor. Subsequent to the transplant, the patients developed invasive infections from an E. coli strain that was

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Study finds that a GPS outage would cost $1 billion per day


This post is by Eric Berger from Ars Technica


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The first of the Air Force's new GPS 3 satellites launches on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in December, 2018.

Enlarge / The first of the Air Force’s new GPS 3 satellites launches on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in December, 2018. (credit: SpaceX)

Since becoming fully operational in 1995, Global Positioning System technology has become widely adopted in the United States and abroad. The concept of satellite-based navigation has become so essential that other world powers, including China, Russia, the European Union, India, and Japan, have all started building their own regional or global systems.

Now, one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject has assessed the value of this GPS technology to the US economy and examined what effect a 30-day outage would have—whether it’s due to a severe space weather event or “nefarious activity by a bad actor.” The study was sponsored by the US government’s National Institutes of Standards and Technology and performed by a North Carolina-based research organization named RTI International.

Economic effect

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Ebola spreads in Uganda, but not an international emergency, WHO says [Updated]


This post is by Beth Mole from Ars Technica


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A health worker puts on protective gear as he prepares to screen travelers at the Mpondwe Health Screening Facility in the Ugandan border town of Mpondwe as they cross over from the Democratic Republic of Congo, on June 13, 2019.

Enlarge / A health worker puts on protective gear as he prepares to screen travelers at the Mpondwe Health Screening Facility in the Ugandan border town of Mpondwe as they cross over from the Democratic Republic of Congo, on June 13, 2019. (credit: Getty | Isaac Kasamani)

UPDATE 6/14/2019, 1pm ET: The World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee met today to discuss the spread of Ebola outbreak and declared (for the third time) that the ongoing outbreak does not constitute a “public health emergency of international concern” or PHEIC. It is an emergency for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region, but does not meet the criteria for an international public health emergency, the committee concluded. Original story from 6/13/2019 follows.

Local and international health officials are scrambling to smother a flare-up of Ebola in Uganda, which spread this week from a massive, months-long outbreak in the neighboring Democratic Republic of

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Light-based computer may parallelize 10-megabit computations


This post is by Chris Lee from Ars Technica


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Image of multiple beams of light entering a device and exiting as a single beam.

Enlarge / If everything’s set up properly, you know you have a solution when the input light results in a single point of light as the output. (credit: Robert Horn/Argonne National Laboratory)

When it comes to computation, the modern approach seems to involve an enormous bucket of bits, vigorous shaking, and not a lot of explanation of how it all works. If you ever wondered how Excel became such an abomination, now you know.

We don’t seem to have a problem creating and filling enormous buckets of bits, but shaking them up is energy-intensive and slow. Modern processors, as good as they are, simply don’t cope well with some problems. A light-based, highly parallel processor may just be the (rather bulky) co-processor that we’ve been looking for to handle these tasks.

Solutions are downhill

One way to compute a solution to a problem is called annealing. I’ve written a

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Medical marijuana vs. opioid abuse: New study questions the connection


This post is by John Timmer from Ars Technica


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Legal cannabis for sale in a tobacco shop in Italy.

Enlarge / Legal cannabis for sale in a tobacco shop in Italy. (credit: Stefano Guidi | Getty Images)

In the US, federal law has severely restricted our ability to study any potential medical properties of cannabis. But, given some limited studies and a lot of anecdotal stories, a number of states have gone ahead and legalized medical marijuana. This has allowed some population-level studies of what’s going on in the states, but those have faced additional complications, like rules that differ from state to state and an ongoing legalization of recreational use confusing the picture.

Just how confusing all this can be was driven home this week by the release of a paper that suggests that one of medical marijuana’s greatest successes was illusory. A couple of early studies indicated that states that had legalized medical marijuana use saw drops in opioid-related deaths. The new research replicates those results but

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Group to fund and operate first hydrogen fuel ferry fleet in the US


This post is by Megan Geuss from Ars Technica


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On Wednesday, a plan to put hydrogen fuel cell-powered ferries in US waters moved forward as startup Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine (GGZEM) announced a partnership with Switch Maritime, an impact investment fund that will finance and operate a fleet of such vessels.

GGZEM received a $3 million grant from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) last November to build a 70-foot, 84-passenger, hydrogen fuel cell-powered boat. Named the Water-Go-Round, the vessel will be used to take passengers across the San Francisco Bay. The ferry, which is currently under construction in Alameda, Calif., is expected to be complete in September. After its completion, it will undergo three months of testing so researchers can gather data on its performance.

Switch Maritime (sometimes styled SW/TCH) is the new operator of the ferry, and it

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Group to fund and operate first hydrogen fuel ferry fleet in the US


This post is by Megan Geuss from Ars Technica


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




On Wednesday, a plan to put hydrogen fuel cell-powered ferries in US waters moved forward as startup Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine (GGZEM) announced a partnership with Switch Maritime, an impact investment fund that will finance and operate a fleet of such vessels.

GGZEM received a $3 million grant from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) last November to build a 70-foot, 84-passenger, hydrogen fuel cell-powered boat. Named the Water-Go-Round, the vessel will be used to take passengers across the San Francisco Bay. The ferry, which is currently under construction in Alameda, Calif., is expected to be complete in September. After its completion, it will undergo three months of testing so researchers can gather data on its performance.

Switch Maritime (sometimes styled SW/TCH) is the new operator of the ferry, and it

Continue reading “Group to fund and operate first hydrogen fuel ferry fleet in the US”

Oldest evidence of cannabis smoking found in ancient Chinese cemetery


This post is by Kiona N. Smith from Ars Technica


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Photo of skeleton and braziers in excavated tomb.

Enlarge / This is how the braziers were placed in the tomb alongside the deceased. (credit: Xinhua Wu)

The broken wooden braziers, unearthed from 2,500-year-old tombs in Western China, contained burned, blackened stones, and the interior of the wooden vessels also looked charred. To find out what had been burned in them, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences archaeologist Yemin Yang and his colleagues used gas chromatography/mass spectrometry to analyze small samples of the charred wood and the residue from the stones.

Their analysis turned up a chemical called cannabinol, or CBN—an unmistakable chemical signature of cannabis. Those ancient chemical traces offer an important clue in the history of human drug use and the domestic history of cannabis.

In around 500 BCE, the ancient Greek historian Herodotus described people near the Caspian Sea gathering in small, enclosed tents to breathe in the smoke from cannabis burned atop a bowlful of

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The long-awaited upgrade to the US weather forecast model is here


This post is by Scott K. Johnson from Ars Technica


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Forecast output from the new version of the model, which goes into service today.

Enlarge / Forecast output from the new version of the model, which goes into service today. (credit: NOAA)

Weather forecasters need a ton of knowledge and a fair bit of experience with local weather patterns to do their job well. They also need a good forecast model. These computer models take in measurements from weather stations on the ground, satellites in orbit, and balloons in between and then simulate the physics of weather forward in time a few days.

For the first time in about 40 years, the guts of the US model got swapped out for something new today. The upgrade brings us a new “Finite-Volume Cubed-Sphere” (or FV3) dynamical core, which simulates the basic atmospheric physics at the heart of this endeavor, a change that has been in the works for a while.

The new core had its origins in simulating atmospheric chemistry but ended

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Scientists found these old photographs contain metallic nanoparticles


This post is by Jennifer Ouellette from Ars Technica


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The earliest reliably dated photograph of people, taken by Louis Daguerre one spring morning in 1838.

Enlarge / The earliest reliably dated photograph of people, taken by Louis Daguerre one spring morning in 1838. (credit: Public domain)

Daguerreotypes are one of the earliest forms of photography, producing images on silver plates that look subtly different, depending on viewing angle. For instance they can appear positive or negative, or the colors can shift from bluish to brownish-red tones. Now an interdisciplinary team of scientists has discovered that these unusual optical effects are due to the presence of metallic nanoparticles in the plates. They described their findings in a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Co-author Alejandro Manjavacas—now at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque—was a postdoc at Rice University, which boasts one of the top nanophotonics research groups in the US. That’s where he met his co-author, Andrea Schlather, who ended up in the scientific research department at the Metropolitan Museum

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Massive Ebola outbreak spreads across DRC border, infected 5-year-old in Uganda


This post is by Beth Mole from Ars Technica


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Health workers carry a coffin containing a victim of Ebola virus on May 16, 2019, in Butembo, DRC, a city at the epicenter of the Ebola crisis.

Enlarge / Health workers carry a coffin containing a victim of Ebola virus on May 16, 2019, in Butembo, DRC, a city at the epicenter of the Ebola crisis. (credit: Getty | John Wessels)

Health officials in Uganda have confirmed the country’s first case of Ebola stemming from a massive outbreak that has been raging across the border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since August of 2018.

The World Health Organization reported Tuesday, June 11, that the case is in a 5-year-old boy from the DRC who traveled with his family into Uganda on June 9. The boy’s case was confirmed by the Uganda Virus Institute (UVRI), and he’s receiving care in the Ebola Treatment Unit in the western Ugandan town of Bwera, which sits at the border with DRC.

Health officials have feared the spread of the virus, which has festered in DRC’s North Kivu and Ituri

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