Game of Thrones Might Be a Parable of Today’s Global Warming Warnings

game of thrones characters

There’s a stark resemblance when Jon Snow speaks of White Walkers as the biggest threat to humankind and the way scientists and advocates talk global warming. Both of these parties are seen as mad persons. No matter how many pieces of evidence there are, the world is still following its old routine with their political, social, and professional problems. Nonetheless, there are other clues that promote Game of Thrones as the perfect display of today’s climate crisis.

Jon Snow as Well as Environmentalists Have to Figure out How to Convince People of the Existence of an Unseen Enemy

The popular TV show based on George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ managed to strike a chord with environmentalists last week. The third episode of the seventh season showed how Jon Snow is attempting to convince the mother of dragons of the threat of White Walkers. However, he feels how Khaleesi is looking at him with doubtful eyes. Therefore, he asks Tyrion Lannister:

“How do I convince people who don’t know me that an enemy they don’t believe in is coming to kill them all?”

That’s the same feeling that environmentalists experience when they are trying to convince the world of the threat of global warming. However, Jon Snow in the fictional world of the Seven Kingdoms refers to White Walkers.

Nonetheless, they are described as undead bodies that freeze entire cities in ice. Therefore, they can be easily seen as the personification of a side effect of global warming, which is a life-threatening winter. On top of that, Jon Snow delivers a message that has a not so subtle climatic edge, ‘Winter is coming!’

No Leader (Fictional or Real) Is Willing to Prioritize Global Warming over All the Other Matters of the State

Another similarity between these two situations reaches leaders’ world. While the only habitable planet is on the brink of irreversible destruction, world leaders continue to place this threat on lower levels of priority. Some of them are even denying the existence of such climate changes altogether.

Tyrion Lannister is a fine savvy of the human nature. He tells Jon that people usually don’t have the capacity to deal with such an overwhelmingly large issue. Therefore, they would rather stick with their old issues such as politics or personal problems than trying to solve a seemingly impossible situation.

These very words also apply in the context of our reality as well. People continue to carry on with their familiar issues instead of seeing what they can do about a distant danger that might one day wipe out humanity.

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Survey Analyzes The Public Perception On The Use Of Gene Editing

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A new survey looked to determine the public perception of the use of CRISPR and gene editing.

In January, researchers part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted a survey to learn about the public perception towards the use of gene editing. This is becoming increasingly relevant as gene editing technology is taking leaps and bounds. Scientists in Oregon announced in early August that they had successfully corrected a genetic defect in human embryos. A separate announcement this week revealed the birth of 37 pigs that have been genetically modified to provide organ transplants for humans. These feats of genetic engineering come after the development of CRISPR/Cas9, a gene editing tool derived from bacterial immune systems.

Public Perception Towards Gene Editing

Dietram Scheufele, the leader of the Wisconson-Madison study, told media sources that, “There’s probably much more optimism than pessimism about this technology overall.”

This new survey involved 1,600 participants. While three-quarters of the questioned people disapproved of using gene editing to make inheritable aesthetic changes, such as altering the eye color or height, the majority of participants (two-thirds) approved of using the technology to eliminate diseases.

Also, the researchers noted that people might appear more or less accepting of the use of gene editing depending on how the survey questions are presented. For example, there is a lower approval rating when the word “embryos” is used. CRISPR/Cas9 technology typically does involve editing organisms at the embryonic stage, a fact that many in the general public may not be aware of.

The ability to edit the genomes of individuals is no longer a figment of science fiction. While this technology has the potential to eliminate horrible genetic diseases, it comes with a set of challenging ethical questions. Scientists and lawmakers feel that it is important to understand the public perception regarding gene editing technology to make moral decisions about its use. No doubt the topic will generate much controversy and debate in the years to come.

The survey results were made available in a paper in the journal Science. 

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Scientists Discovered 100 Year Old Fruitcake In Antarctica

Researchers working with the Antarctic Heritage Trust recently discovered a fruitcake in Antarctica’s oldest hut in Cape Adare. The fruitcake was still wrapped in paper and encased in a badly damaged tin.

The Artifact is Still Edible

According to the researchers from the Antarctic Heritage Trust, the fruitcake was made by Huntley & Palmers and it was likely brought to Antarctica by British Explorer Robert Falcon Scott. The expedition took place from 1910 to 1913 and the party of explorers must have sought shelter into the hut. The hut itself was built in 1899. Unfortunately, all the members of the party died on their way back to the base.

Lizzie Meek, the conservation manager for the artifacts, notes that the fruitcake was a favorite item of the English society at the beginning of the 20th century. She added:

It’s an ideal high-energy food for Antarctic conditions, and is still a favorite item on modern trips to the Ice.

In addition, the Antarctic Heritage Trust wrote in their statement that the fruitcake looks and smells edible.

The trust’s conservation program in the Antarctic region ended in July. The team managed to conserve 1,500 artifacts by removing rust and preserving the metals. This is all in an effort to drive tourism in Antarctica which is already highly in demand. Scientists reconditioned several other huts in order to tell the entire story of the age of exploration.

The Antarctic region itself is currently in danger over warnings regarding climate change. The recent calving of the Larsen C ice shelf resulted in a massive iceberg the size of Delaware which now floats into the ocean. Scientists detected the crack in the ice shelf decades ago but it seemed to have accelerated during recent years. Scientists are still debating whether this was indeed due to climate change.

China Ready To Set A Mars Simulation Base Here On Earth

mars simulation base illustration

China is planning on setting up a Mars simulation base right here, on Earth.

Deep in the deserts of northwest China, a new project is beginning that will act as a Mars Simulation base. The state media has reported that a deal is signed to build this “Mars Village” as both a tourist attraction and a scientific experiment at Haixi prefecture in Qinghai province. This simulation will provide a unique cultural and educational opportunity for everyone who visits. Not to mention its role as a scientific and research opportunity. One placed in a region not that dissimilar from the terrain on Mars.

Even the Sand Beneath the Mars Simulation Base is Red

NASA has done multiple experiments of this nature, simulating both the journey to and the stay on Mars. Other nations have done it as well, including the European Space Agency and Russia. Still, theirs weren’t as much geared directly towards being a tourist attraction. Liu Xiaoqun, an official with the Chinese Academy of Sciences space exploration program, said this “Mars Community” or “Mars Camp” would be a boost to the local tourism industry. That, in turn, could build more public support for the potential cost of such missions.

The property itself is in the Qinghai desert, which is mostly devoid of vegetation. It spreads over 95,000 square kilometers, and even the sand and rocks have a similar formation and coloring to the Martian surface.

China has a greater plan for future space exploration, and a lot of that seems to be looking at the Red Planet. This Mars simulation base is just the first step on several announced missions. In 2020, they will be launching their first Mars probe. They also have shows plans for a rover which will eventually join the other NASA rovers already on the planet.

The Chinese ambition to be involved in space seems very serious. They also have plans for missions to the moon and a potential Chinese space station.

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Thanks To Google Street View, You Can Now Drift Aboard The ISS

google street view aboard the iss

Google Street View is moving into space, or more exactly, aboard the ISS.

The latest update from Google Street View will allow anyone interested in taking a stroll or more likely drifting aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Thanks to this latest update, they will be able to access and explore the space laboratory just as they would any other place here on Earth, available in the system.

Astronauts have been continuously living, working, and studying aboard the ISS for 16 years now. Depending on future funding rounds, they will also continue doing so up until 2024. The space station is scheduled for decommission at that time.

Google Street View Cast an Eye Out in Space

Now, those wishing to take a closer look inside the ISS, but without leaving the comforts of Earth, or without the chance to do so in person can now turn to Google Street View.

This is the first time Street View leaves the planet. On board of the station, it will let viewers take a look at everything from the astronauts’ sleeping quarters to where they store their space suits. This is an even more detailed view of the station, which can already be explored thanks to several other services, games, and movies.

The ISS Street View also comes with an additional feature, as users will note little dots. These should be quite handy as clicking on them will launch notes. In turn, these will be offering explanations as to what everything does.

The information in these notes will vary. For example, one may point out the locations in which astronauts conduct scientific experiments. Or another will show what kind of food they like to eat. It even points out where they work, as staying fit is very important.

The ISS is constructed out of 15 connected modules. All of them are now more easily accessible thanks to Google Street View. This will also be offering a panoramic, 360 degrees view imagery.

Google collaborated with the Marshall Space Centre and NASA on developing a new technology which could create such data. This led to the appearance of the “gravity-free method”. It uses DSLR camera and equipment already on board the ISS to collect the needed images.

“We did a lot of troubleshooting before collecting the final imagery that you see today in Street View,” wrote Thomas Pesquet, an ESA astronaut aboard the ISS which helped with the development.

Pesquet first collected the photos in space and then sent them back to Earth. Here, they were stitched together and helped create the panorama.

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Bluetooth Is Offering An Upgrade To Mesh Networking

bluetooth mesh networking logo

Bluetooth is working on enabling its users to create and access mesh networking.

Starting with July 18, Bluetooth will start working on offering users the ability to turn to mesh networking when using its wireless technology.

On Tuesday, the group that oversees the Bluetooth standard, Bluetooth SIG, released the technical specifications for Bluetooth Mesh. This will allow low power Bluetooth devices to act and create a mesh network.

Usually, wireless communications go from one point to the other without passing through any other sources. For example, they offer a straight, in-line connection between a router to a PC or back. Still, the other device can be too far away. In such cases, the user will have to find a solution on their own.

Mesh Networking: A Brief Explanation

Now, mesh networking is a possible solution to such an issue, as it helps data travel over longer distances. It can do so as the communication “hops” between devices. Namely, if the signal from the router cannot readily reach the device from the first try, another device, connected to the same network, will help it reach its target.

This will take the message and re-transmit it to its intended target. In any case, this will enable the communication to travel over longer distances. It will also help it reach its goal as the retransmission can pass from one device to another more than once.

Bluetooth mesh networking will reportedly be particularly useful for smart home technologies. This is because it will allow a router to transmit data to any device in the house, not just those within close range.

Mesh devices will also be quite energy efficient. Usually, sending out a fast signal over a longer distance can require a lot of energy. However, thanks to mesh networking, this can be transmitted with lower-power signals. These will be picked up by a device and then simply retransmitted from one to another.

Bluetooth Mesh will be added to devices that can already support Bluetooth 4.0 or 5.0. As it is, new hardware will not be required for it. Nonetheless, the technology will still depend on whether or not the devices’ manufacturers will be releasing an update for it, or not.

It remains to be seen when this new Bluetooth technology will actually reach the market or when they’ll become usable.

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Could House Dust Be Influencing Weight Gain?

house dust on window

House dust and the chemicals it contains may be another factor at play in gaining weight.

Weight gain is already known to be influenced by the lack of physical activity and an improper diet. However, a newly released study claims that the dust in the house may also be a factor in this process. According to research results, common environmental pollutants known as ECDs can lead to an increase in triglycerides or fat.

Duke University scientists conducted this new study. They based their findings on data and samples gathered from 11 homes in North Carolina.

Even Small Amount of House Dust Can Contain Many ECDs

The researchers collected samples of indoor dust which contained endocrine-disrupting chemicals (ECDs). These are either human-made or naturally occurring chemicals which can interfere with the hormone production and functioning.

ECDs can be found in various common, everyday household products, for example, food packaging, cosmetics, pesticides, or household cleaning products. Flame retardants, bisphenol A, and phthalates are some of the most common such chemicals.

Previous studies indicated that the exposure in early life to some ECDs could potentially lead to weight gain later on. As such, these started being called “obesogens”. Another result was the reduced use of ECDs in some products.

Now, the latest research tested the effects of these same chemicals, gathered from house dust, on mice. Their extracts were screened in a mouse preadipocyte cell model or 3T3-L1 cells. These are commonly used to test compounds for their possible effects on triglycerides, a type of fat.

Results showed that seven out of the eleven dust samples triggered a response in the preadipocyte cells. These started developing into mature cells and also began accumulating triglycerides.

Also, extracts taken from nine of the samples determined cell division, which created a large pool of precursor fat cells. Among all the tested house dust samples, only one had no effect.

Research also tested 44 individual house dust contaminants in the same model. Among them, three were noted to have the strongest fat=producing effects. These are the pyraclostrobin pesticide, DBP, a commonly used plasticizer, and the TBPDP flame-retardant.

Based on their finds, the study team suggests that house dust exposed to chemicals may be a factor in the disruption of the metabolic health, especially in children.

Research results are available in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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New Study Links Poor Sleep To Risk of Alzheimer

man with alzheimer

Scientists detected a new, possible link between Alzheimer and poor sleep.

New research co-authored by Dr. Barbara Bendlin from the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed that poor sleep patterns increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

The researchers gathered samples of spinal fluid from 101 patients with a family history of Alzheimer’s or who had certain genes linked to the condition. Those who reported poor quality of sleep seem to present more biological markers characteristic of Alzheimer than those with regular sleep patterns.

Poor Sleep Patterns Might Lead to the Development of Brain Plaque and Alzheimer?

During the study, researchers looked for tangles. These can be formed into the nerve cells due to a damaged protein called “tau”. Tau tangles become toxic for the nervous system as they disrupt the structure of the cells. Apart from the beta-amyloid plaque which was linked to the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the tau tangles might be a step beyond.

Bendlin stated that, according to prior evidence, a disrupted sleep pattern might lead to the development of the amyloid plaque. However, the study tested just how much lack of or poor sleep can affect the nerve cells. Bendlin further stated that not all of the patients with poor sleeping patterns had abnormal markers in their spinal fluid. But the study does add to the prior evidence concerning the onset of the disease.

If the effects of poor sleep can be directly linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, the opportunity for intervention might be available sooner. Thus, the number of cases might also be reduced. Bendlin added:

“If it turns out to be the case that an intervention which improves sleep also results in less amyloid being deposited in the brain, that would provide strong support for implementing interventions before people start to show cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease.”

The lead suggests that more research should be conducted. This could help pinpoint the link between sleeping patterns and the biomarkers. Currently, it seems that the two might well influence each other.

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Facebook Has Been Teaching Its AI Chatbots How To Negotiate

ai chatbots

FAIR has been teaching its AI chatbots how to negotiate as a step in developing a “personalized digital assistant”.

Artificial Intelligence or AI chatbots are one of the most discussed and hottest tech tools currently being developed. With Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon being frequent players in the area, it was Facebook’s turn to release news about its research on the matter.

Namely, the social media giant platform revealed results from its Artificial Intelligence Research (FAIR) through a series of open-source code. It also announced that its researchers have been teaching chatbots how to negotiate.

AI Chatbots can Now Compromise and Negotiate for the Best Offer, Even Lie for It

According to the report, the specialist used “supervised learning” in teaching a recurrent neural network how to “imitate” a person’s action. In doing so, they tried to make it guess what a person would say or do in that particular situation.

During the training process, the team had its AI chatbots divide a collection of objects including books and basketballs. Each item was correlated with a fixed point value, which the bots had to take into account.

Then, the AI’s goal was not only to divide the items but also negotiate via text and try to collect the most possible points. Also, the researchers programmed them so as to make it impossible for the bots to walk away empty handed, without having made a deal.

“Such dialogs [negotiations] contain both cooperative and adversarial elements, requiring agents to understand and formulate long-term plans and generate utterances to achieve their goals,” stated the team.

The bots were also tested in negotiations with actual human beings. In such cases, the chatbots seemed to accept deals less quickly.

According to the team, the bots, besides learning how to negotiate, also learned how to “lie”. Namely, they developed a strategy in which they initially feigned interest in an item with no value. But then they “compromised” by conceding it. As the team points out, this is a negotiating tactic frequently employed by people.

FAIR states that this behavior was not programmed, but came as a consequence of adapting to negotiating. Its best negotiators were seemingly on par with their human counterparts. Such AI chatbots made use of dialog rollouts and reinforcement learning to achieve their goal.

FAIR ads that this is a step forward in developing a “personalized digital assistant”. One that converse, reason, and also negotiate.

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Is Cow Milk Better Or Worse Than Its Alternatives?

glass of cow milk

A team of researchers took a look at the effects of drinking cow milk and its possible benefits.

As more and more alternatives to dairy milk appear on grocery store shelves, it can become increasingly harder to chose the best product. So a team of researchers went and took a closer look at the effects of drinking one type or another of milk.

Kids That Drank Cow Milk Noted to be Slightly Taller

Scientists at St. Michael’s Hospital in New Jersey conducted this new study. Data for it was gathered from 5,000 children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old. Researchers found that for every cup of non-cow’s milk these kids drank, they were nearly one-half of a centimeter shorter than other children at the same age.Cow’s milk has long been the drink of choice for growing children due to its protein content with 8 grams per cup. However, soy, almond, and cashew milk are starting to become just as common alternatives. Still, the study believes that cow milk might be better for small children.

It points out that this has a higher protein content when compared to the others. Only soy milk comes close with 7 grams of protein per serving. Cashew and almond milk trail at just 2 and 3 grams.Dr. Jonathon Maguire, the author of the study and pediatrician at St. Michael’s, states that the nutritional content of cow milk is regulated in the U.S. and Canada. There is no regulation for nut and soy kinds of milk, so the nutritional content is variable. He also states that parents should consider the protein and calcium content of the type of milk they are buying. This should also be taken into consideration coupled with the child’s overall diet.

Still, the study itself is not without its shortages. As other researchers pointed out, the team did not take into account the children’s diets. Or the type of non-cow milk they consumed, or why they drank it, to begin with. Nonetheless, all scientists agreed that children, especially as they are still in the early growing phases, should have a stable, nutritious diet.

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