'Hi-tech robot' at Russia forum turns out to be man in suit

A “hi-tech robot” shown on Russian state television has turned out to be a man in a suit.

Russia-24 praised the ersatz android during coverage of a youth forum dedicated to robotics, boasting that “Robot Boris has already learned to dance and he’s not that bad”.

But sharp-eyed bloggers were dubious. The Russian website TJournal listed questions about the robot’s performance: Where were Boris’s external sensors? Why did the robot make so many “unnecessary movements” while dancing?

And why did the robot look like a person would fit perfectly inside of it?

Later, photographs of the “robot” posted on social media showed the very visible neckline of the person in the suit.

Boris turned out to be an “Alyosha the Robot” costume made by a company called Show Robots.

An actor in the robot suit.Photo purporting to show an actor in the robot suit. Photograph: MBKh Media

The £3,000 costume, equipped with microphone and tablet display, creates the “near total illusion that before you stands a real robot”.

A photograph published by MBKh Media, the news agency founded by the Vladimir Putin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky, appeared to show the actor in the robot suit ahead of the forum on Tuesday in Yaroslavl, a city about 150 miles north-east of Moscow.

The organisers of the Proyektoria technology forum, held each year for the “future intellectual leaders of Russia”, did not try to pass off the robot as real, the website reported.

But whether by mistake or design, the state television footage did just that. “It’s entirely possible one of these [students] could dedicate himself to robotics,” an anchor reported. “Especially as at the forum they have the opportunity to look at the most modern robots.”

Then, a very robotic voice rang out. “I know mathematics well but I also want to learn to draw,” Boris said, before dancing to the Little Big song Skibidi.

On Wednesday morning, the television report briefly disappeared from Russia-24’s YouTube channel but by early afternoon it was accessible again.

The state-run Channel One was forced to apologise last week for a fake report showing a young Ukrainian man complaining about progress since the country’s revolution five years ago. The man turned out to be Belarusian, and told RFE/RL he was “totally ashamed” for taking part in the report.

'Rogue Waves': Scientist Claims He's Solved the Bermuda Triangle Mystery

The Bermuda Triangle is infamous for the large number of ships and planes that have vanished while sailing or flying across it.

Simon Boxall, a researcher at the National Oceanography Center at the University of Southampton, has pointed to massive cyclones as one possible reason for the mysterious disappearance of ships in the vast area of the North Atlantic Ocean between Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico.

According to him, such cyclones emerge when two or three separate weather formations merger, creating a “perfect storm.”

“It can happen pretty much anywhere, but the sort of places we see them include places like the tip of South America, Cape Horn, and the tip of South Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, Dr. Boxhall said in an interview with Daily Star Online.

He added that a storm can develop in the Indian Ocean, another one in the South Atlantic and still another in the Southern Ocean and the convergence of the wave systems from those storms will create a monster storm.

“These waves – rogue waves – can occur anywhere. And what happens is the crest of the two sets of waves adds up and you get a super wave. Suddenly out of the blue, you get a wave that is 30 meters (100 ft) high,” he noted.

He added that these waves suddenly appear and disappear but only during one such storm, which explains why the chance of a ship finding itself “in the wrong place at the right time” is pretty slim.

Hitting a cargo ship, such a wave can break it in two and sink it very quickly.

“If a cargo ship is unlucky enough to be hit by one of these super waves then it has probably only got a couple of minutes before it sinks. It will happen so quickly there won’t be time to send out a mayday,” the scientist said.

More than 50 ships and 20 planes are said to have mysteriously disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle, also known as the “Devil’s Triangle.”

Some ships were discovered completely abandoned for no apparent reason; others transmitted no distress signals and were never seen or heard from again.

READ MORE: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Mystery New Island Found in the Bermuda Triangle

Aircraft have been reported and then vanished, and rescue missions are said to have likewise vanished when flying in the area.

As CO2 levels climb, millions at risk of nutritional deficiencies

Rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) from human activity are making staple crops such as rice and wheat less nutritious and could result in 175 million people becoming zinc deficient and 122 million people becoming protein deficient by 2050, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study also found that more than 1 billion women and children could lose a large amount of their dietary iron intake, putting them at increased risk of anemia and other diseases.

"Our research makes it clear that decisions we are making every day -- how we heat our homes, what we eat, how we move around, what we choose to purchase -- are making our food less nutritious and imperiling the health of other populations and future generations," said Sam Myers, lead author of the study and principal research scientist at Harvard Chan School.

The study will be published online August 27, 2018 in Nature Climate Change.

Presently, more than 2 billion people worldwide are estimated to be deficient in one or more nutrients. In general, humans tend to get a majority of key nutrients from plants: 63% of dietary protein comes from vegetal sources, as well as 81% of iron and 68% of zinc. It has been shown that higher atmospheric levels of CO2 result in less nutritious crop yields, with concentrations of protein, iron, and zinc being 3%-17% lower when crops are grown in environments where CO2concentrations are 550 parts per million (ppm) compared with crops grown under current atmospheric conditions, in which CO2 levels are just above 400 ppm.

For this new study, researchers sought to develop the most robust and accurate analysis of the global health burden of CO2-related nutrient shifts in crops in 151 countries. To do so, they created a unified set of assumptions across all nutrients and used more detailed age- and sex-specific food supply datasets to improve estimates of the impacts across 225 different foods. The study built on previous analyses by the researchers on CO2-related nutritional deficiencies, which looked at fewer foods and fewer countries.

The study showed that by the middle of this century, when atmospheric CO2 concentrations are expected to reach around 550 ppm, 1.9% of the global population -- or roughly 175 million people, based on 2050 population estimates -- could become deficient in zinc and that 1.3% of the global population, or 122 million people, could become protein deficient. Additionally, 1.4 billion women of childbearing age and children under 5 who are currently at high risk of iron deficiency could have their dietary iron intakes reduced by 4% or more.

The researchers also emphasized that billions of people currently living with nutritional deficiencies would likely see their conditions worsen as a result of less nutritious crops.

According to the study, India would bear the greatest burden, with an estimated 50 million people becoming zinc deficient, 38 million becoming protein deficient, and 502 million women and children becoming vulnerable to diseases associated with iron deficiency. Other countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East would also be significantly impacted.

"One thing this research illustrates is a core principle of the emerging field of planetary health," said Myers, who directs the Planetary Health Alliance, co-housed at Harvard Chan School and Harvard University Center for the Environment. "We cannot disrupt most of the biophysical conditions to which we have adapted over millions of years without unanticipated impacts on our own health and wellbeing."

Cuba's Biopharmaceutical Industry Develops over 400 Projects

Havana, Jul 18 (Prensa Latina) Several research projects are developed by the Cuban biopharmaceutical industry, including those aimed at preventing and treating neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, according to officials from the sector.

Characterized by its closed cycle line, from invention and development to production and marketing, the entity works on 422 projects, 393 of them are product-oriented and 29 technological, all under the aegis of the Group of Biotechnological and Pharmaceutical Industries of Cuba (BioCubafarma).

In a meeting with the press, its director Eduardo Martinez explained that one of the entity´s megaprojects is the program of therapeutic molecules for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, ataxia and multiple sclerosis.

NeuroEpo is the name of this product developed by the Molecular Immunology Center, one of the 34 companies affiliated to BioCubafarma.

Another of its leading entities, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, develops a clinical trial with a cardioprotector that reduces the size of the infarcted area by 78.9 percent.

After five years of existence, BioCubafarma has among its missions the production of high technology medicines, equipment and services.

Considered an industry with broad impact for the economy, referring to the export, the official explained that the products reach 34 nations from all latitudes, from the implementation of a business model that includes technology transfer agreements with countries like Brazil, South Africa, Iran China and Viet Nam.

  • Published in Cuba

Air pollution contributes significantly to diabetes globally

New research links outdoor air pollution -- even at levels deemed safe -- to an increased risk of diabetes globally, according to a study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Veterans Affairs (VA) St. Louis Health Care System.

The findings raise the possibility that reducing pollution may lead to a drop in diabetes cases in heavily polluted countries such as India and less polluted ones such as the United States.

Diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases, affecting more than 420 million people worldwide and 30 million Americans. The main drivers of diabetes include eating an unhealthy diet, having a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity, but the new research indicates the extent to which outdoor air pollution plays a role.

"Our research shows a significant link between air pollution and diabetes globally," said Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, the study's senior author and an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University. "We found an increased risk, even at low levels of air pollution currently considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). This is important because many industry lobbying groups argue that current levels are too stringent and should be relaxed. Evidence shows that current levels are still not sufficiently safe and need to be tightened."

The findings are published June 29 in The Lancet Planetary Health.

While growing evidence has suggested a link between air pollution and diabetes, researchers have not attempted to quantify that burden until now. "Over the past two decades, there have been bits of research about diabetes and pollution," Al-Aly said. "We wanted to thread together the pieces for a broader, more solid understanding."

To evaluate outdoor air pollution, the researchers looked at particulate matter, airborne microscopic pieces of dust, dirt, smoke, soot and liquid droplets. Previous studies have found that such particles can enter the lungs and invade the bloodstream, contributing to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and kidney disease. In diabetes, pollution is thought to reduce insulin production and trigger inflammation, preventing the body from converting blood glucose into energy that the body needs to maintain health.

Overall, the researchers estimated that pollution contributed to 3.2 million new diabetes cases globally in 2016, which represents about 14 percent of all new diabetes cases globally that year. They also estimated that 8.2 million years of healthy life were lost in 2016 due to pollution-linked diabetes, representing about 14 percent of all years of healthy life lost due to diabetes from any cause. (The measure of how many years of healthy life are lost is often referred to as "disability-adjusted life years.")

In the United States, the study attributed 150,000 new cases of diabetes per year to air pollution and 350,000 years of healthy life lost annually.

The Washington University team, in collaboration with scientists at the Veterans Affairs' Clinical Epidemiology Center, examined the relationship between particulate matter and the risk of diabetes by first analyzing data from 1.7 million U.S. veterans who were followed for a median of 8.5 years. The veterans did not have histories of diabetes. The researchers linked that patient data with the EPA's land-based air monitoring systems as well as space-borne satellites operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). They used several statistical models and tested the validity against controls such as ambient air sodium concentrations, which have no link to diabetes, and lower limb fractures, which have no link to outdoor air pollution, as well as the risk of developing diabetes, which exhibited a strong link to air pollution. This exercise helped the researchers weed out spurious associations.

Then, they sifted through all research related to diabetes and outdoor air pollution and devised a model to evaluate diabetes risk across various pollution levels.

Finally, they analyzed data from the Global Burden of Disease study, which is conducted annually with contributions from researchers worldwide. The data helped to estimate annual cases of diabetes and healthy years of life lost due to pollution.

The researchers also found that the overall risk of pollution-related diabetes is tilted more toward lower-income countries such as India that lack the resources for environmental mitigation systems and clean-air policies. For instance, poverty-stricken countries facing a higher diabetes-pollution risk include Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Guyana, while richer countries such as France, Finland and Iceland experience a lower risk. The U.S. experiences a moderate risk of pollution-related diabetes.

In the U.S., the EPA's pollution threshold is 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air, the highest level of air pollution considered safe for the public, as set by the Clean Air Act of 1990 and updated in 2012. However, using mathematical models, Al-Aly's team established an increased diabetes risk at 2.4 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Based on VA data, among a sample of veterans exposed to pollution at a level of between 5 to 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air, about 21 percent developed diabetes. When that exposure increases to 11.9 to 13.6 micrograms per cubic meter of air, about 24 percent of the group developed diabetes. A 3 percent difference appears small, but it represents an increase of 5,000 to 6,000 new diabetes cases per 100,000 people in a given year.

In October 2017, The Lancet Commission on pollution and health published a report outlining knowledge gaps on pollution's harmful health effects. One of its recommendations was to define and quantify the relationship between pollution and diabetes.

"The team in St. Louis is doing important research to firm up links between pollution and health conditions such as diabetes," said commission member Philip J. Landrigan, MD, a pediatrician and epidemiologist who is the dean for global health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and chair of its Department of Preventive Medicine. "I believe their research will have a significant global impact."

Cuba: 'Scientific Cooperation Can Overcome Climate Change'

Cuba's minister of Science, Technology and Environment spoke Friday on the importance of global scientific cooperation to build "resilient societies" to overcome climate change.

"It is impossible to advance in the adoption of adequate measures to make out societies more resilient to climate change without the support of science," Science Minister Elba Rosa Perez said.

She emphasized Cuba's will to cooperate and share scientific knowledge with its Caribbean neighbors and other countries in order to create the kind of international scientific cooperation necessary to tackle the problem.

The Caribbean, she said, faces among the highest risks from climate change of any region in the world, and so it is essential that scientific efforts are aware of the imminent risk faced and the necessity to work hard to achieve both mitigation and adaptation.

The remarks were made at the International Science School of the United Nations in Havana, a project of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco). It's a joint effort by Unesco and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment of the Republic of Cuba.

Havana's International Science School was held to "provide a space for collective learning in relation to environmental adaptation in the Caribbean," according to Unesco.

"This capacity-building event is conceived as a knowledge-brokering exercise that will bring together academics, public officials and representatives from civil society, prioritizing young participants and women."

By the End of This Century Robots Could Become Self-Aware - Futurist

Sputnik spoke with Michio Kaku, an American theoretical physicist, futurist, and popularizer of science at the 2018 International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

Sputnik: This forum is dedicated this year to technological advances, to digitalization and technology as a whole, I think, would blockchain and crypto currencies, even money being replaced by those digital things. Do you think they are bringing good things or it’s kind of a mixed thing for humanity?

Michio Kaku: Science is the engine of prosperity. From the steam engine of the 1800s to the electric revolution of the 1900s, to the computer revolution of today. Each time tremendous wealth and prosperity was generated. Now we are facing the fourth way of innovation – artificial intelligence, nano technology, bio technology require the digitization of society, the digitization of jobs, which is just gonna create even more prosperity. Think about it: the robotics energy could be bigger than the automobile industry of today, because your automobile will become a robot, you’ll talk to it, argue with it, it will park itself. So the automobile industry will be a part of the largest industry of artificial intelligence. That’s how big this could become.

Sputnik: Tech giants and people in the tech industry, for example Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, have totally opposite opinions on AI. Who is right? Which one of them is right in your opinion?

Michio Kaku: I think both of them are right to a degree. Zuckerberg is right that for the next several decades to come artificial intelligence will generate jobs, prosperity, economic activity, a better life for the average person. But let’s not be naive, by the end of this century robots could become self-aware. At that point they may have a different agenda than us. […] For the next coming decades I see no need for a fail-safe system, because robots do not know they are robots, they are simply servants to humanity. But by the end of the century they could be as intelligent as a monkey, in which case we may have to put fail-safe system on them. So I think Elon Musk is right in the long-term, that they are potentially dangerous, but Zuckerberg is right for many decades to come.

Reduced energy from the sun might occur by mid-century: Now scientists know by how much

The Sun might emit less radiation by mid-century, giving planet Earth a chance to warm a bit more slowly but not halt the trend of human-induced climate change.

The cooldown would be the result of what scientists call a grand minimum, a periodic event during which the Sun's magnetism diminishes, sunspots form infrequently, and less ultraviolet radiation makes it to the surface of the planet. Scientists believe that the event is triggered at irregular intervals by random fluctuations related to the Sun's magnetic field.

Scientists have used reconstructions based on geological and historical data to attribute a cold period in Europe in the mid-17th Century to such an event, named the "Maunder Minimum." Temperatures were low enough to freeze the Thames River on a regular basis and freeze the Baltic Sea to such an extent that a Swedish army was able to invade Denmark in 1658 on foot by marching across the sea ice.

A team of scientists led by research physicist Dan Lubin at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego has created for the first time an estimate of how much dimmer the Sun should be when the next minimum takes place.

There is a well-known 11-year cycle in which the Sun's ultraviolet radiation peaks and declines as a result of sunspot activity. During a grand minimum, Lubin estimates that ultraviolet radiation diminishes an additional seven percent beyond the lowest point of that cycle. His team's study, "Ultraviolet Flux Decrease Under a Grand Minimum from IUE Short-wavelength Observation of Solar Analogs," appears in the publication Astrophysical Journal Letters and was funded by the state of California.

"Now we have a benchmark from which we can perform better climate model simulations," Lubin said. "We can therefore have a better idea of how changes in solar UV radiation affect climate change."

Lubin and colleagues David Tytler and Carl Melis of UC San Diego's Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences arrived at their estimate of a grand minimum's intensity by reviewing nearly 20 years of data gathered by the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite mission. They compared radiation from stars that are analogous to the Sun and identified those that were experiencing minima.

The reduced energy from the Sun sets into motion a sequence of events on Earth beginning with a thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer. That thinning in turn changes the temperature structure of the stratosphere, which then changes the dynamics of the lower atmosphere, especially wind and weather patterns. The cooling is not uniform. While areas of Europe chilled during the Maunder Minimum, other areas such as Alaska and southern Greenland warmed correspondingly.

Lubin and other scientists predict a significant probability of a near-future grand minimum because the downward sunspot pattern in recent solar cycles resembles the run-ups to past grand minimum events.

Despite how much the Maunder Minimum might have affected Earth the last time, Lubin said that an upcoming event would not stop the current trend of planetary warming but might slow it somewhat. The cooling effect of a grand minimum is only a fraction of the warming effect caused by the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. After hundreds of thousands of years of CO2 levels never exceeding 300 parts per million in air, the concentration of the greenhouse gas is now over 400 parts per million, continuing a rise that began with the Industrial Revolution. Other researchers have used computer models to estimate what an event similar to a Maunder Minimum, if it were to occur in coming decades, might mean for our current climate, which is now rapidly warming.

One such study looked at the climate consequences of a future Maunder Minimum-type grand solar minimum, assuming a total solar irradiance reduced by 0.25 percent over a 50-year period from 2020 to 2070. The study found that after the initial decrease of solar radiation in 2020, globally averaged surface air temperature cooled by up to several tenths of a degree Celsius. By the end of the simulated grand solar minimum, however, the warming in the model with the simulated Maunder Minimum had nearly caught up to the reference simulation. Thus, a main conclusion of the study is that "a future grand solar minimum could slow down but not stop global warming."

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