Wednesday, January 27, 2021

An experimental nuclear reactor which could be coming to the Idaho National Laboratory in Boise, Idaho

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a new design known as a “versatile nuclear reactor.” The DOE said it will be used to test nuclear-energy innovations, helping to push the sector forward. The versatile nuclear reactor is cooled by liquid sodium, which is highly potent. Reactors currently in operation in the U.S. are cooled by water. The DOE estimated the project will cost between $2.6 and $5.8 billion dollars. (Public News Service)


Surgeons in Iceland have successfully performed the first-ever double-shoulder-and-arm transplant

The patient is recovering well but it is too early to say how much arm-mobility he will gain. He is an electrician, had both arms amputated after being electrocuted while working on a high-voltage power line in 1998. Planning the double transplant took years and involved some 50 medical staff. The outlook for the right arm is more positive than the one for the left, which included a complete rebuild of the shoulder, but if the man is able to actively bend one of his elbows, “that would be a life-changer,” said  the lead surgeon in the operation. “Giving a little to somebody who was missing so much, that’s already a lot,” added the surgeon. (The Guardian


Eleven miners who had been trapped underground in a Chinese mine for two weeks have been rescued

They went missing following a January 10th explosion at the Hushan gold mine in the city of Qixia in China’s eastern province of Shandong. At least ten miners died in the accident. It was unknown if they were any survivors, but on January 17th, the miners gave signs of life when they pulled a rope that had been lowered to search for them. Search and rescue teams later lowered food, medicines, and blankets to the miners. The rescue operation involved clearing a 300-feet-thick blockade. Chinese mines are notoriously dangerous. China recorded 434 mining accidents and 573 mining-related deaths in 2020. (NPR)


Makers of Sophia the robot plan mass rollout amid pandemic

Since being unveiled in 2016, Sophia, a humanoid robot, has gone viral. Now the company behind her has a new vision: to mass-produce robots by the end of the year. Hanson Robotics, based in Hong Kong, said four models, including Sophia, would start rolling out of factories in the first half of 2021, just as researchers predict the pandemic will open new opportunities for the robotics industry. Hanson believes robotic solutions to the pandemic are not limited to healthcare, but could assist customers in industries such as retail and airlines too. “Sophia and Hanson robots are unique by being so human-like,” he added. “That can be so useful during these times where people are terribly lonely and socially isolated.” Hanson Robotics aims to sell “thousands” of robots in 2021, both large and small, without providing a specific number. Hanson Robotics is launching a robot this year called Grace, developed for the healthcare sector. (Reuters)


Trump officially opens ‘Office of the Former President’

Former President Donald Trump has officially opened an office in Florida that will serve to continue his political agenda. A statement from the office Monday night said it will manage Trump’s correspondence, public statements, appearances and official activities to “advance the interest of the United States.” The office will also “carry on the agenda of the Trump Administration through advocacy, organizing, and public activism,” the statement says. The move comes less than a week after Trump left the Oval Office. Last Friday, Trump said he will make a comeback in some form, but did not specify how. (New York Post)


Woman who ‘died’ of Covid returns home 10 days later

An 85-year-old Spanish woman who was believed by her family to have died of the coronavirus returned to her care home nine days after her relatives were told she had been buried. Due to a mix-up over names, the family was told that she died of the coronavirus on January 13th and her funeral was held the next day. They were unable to attend her last rites due to coronavirus protocols. To her husband’s surprise, she arrived fit and well back at the care home in Xove, northern Spain. Her husband couldn’t believe it until she said that it was the woman whom she shared a room who had died. The San Rosendo Foundation, which runs the care home, said the error occurred when the woman and other residents who tested positive for COVID-19 were transferred to another care home on December 29th for specialized treatment. “An identification error during the process of transfer from Xove to Pereiro de Aguiar led to the death of one of them being certified on January 13th, although the identity was wrongly assigned,” according to a spokesman. The foundation expressed its regret for the “unfortunate incident.” (Arynews)


Google Maps will soon display Covid-19 vaccination sites

Google Maps will soon display locations that offer Covid-19 vaccinations, further bolstering awareness of the virus and how to avoid it. The feature is rolling out in the coming weeks, beginning in four states: Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Google announced earlier this week that searches for “vaccines near me” have increased five fold since the beginning of the year and it’s implementing this feature to ensure it’s “providing locally relevant answers.” The results, which will also be shown in search results in designated information panels, include details about whether an appointment is required, if the vaccine is only available to certain groups and if there’s a drive-thru. Google said it’s working with “authoritative sources” for the information, including local governments and retail pharmacies. Information about vaccine sites will roll out to other states and countries later. (CNN)



Fossil-hunters think they have found the lair of a giant, predatory, prehistoric worm

Scientists think they have discovered the undersea lair of a giant predatory worm that lived on the ocean floor some 20 million years ago and would pounce on unsuspecting marine creatures. Paleontologists from National Taiwan University believe the 6.5-foot-long burrow was once home to a worm-like predator that would surface from the seabed to ambush sea creatures and drag them, alive, into its lair. Experts working in northeastern Taiwan reconstructed large, L-shaped burrows dating back to up to 23 million years ago from layers of seafloor using trace fossils geological features, like track marks, burrows and plant root cavities found preserved in rocks, which experts use to draw conclusions on the behavior of ancient creatures. The bobbit worm, or sand striker (Eunice aphroditois), is an aquatic predatory bristle worm that ranges from 4 inches to 10 feet in length and lives in burrows it creates in the ocean floor. The bobbit worm takes its name from the Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt case, in which Lorena cut off her husband John Wayne’s penis with a kitchen knife. Living mainly in the Pacific Ocean, bobbit worms hide in long, narrow burrows in the seafloor and propel upward to grab unsuspecting fish, large molluscs and other worms, before dragging them, still alive, back to their dens. (Scientific Reports)


First people to enter the Americas likely did so with their dogs

The first people to settle in the Americas likely brought their own canine companions with them, according to new research which sheds more light on the origin of dogs. An international team of researchers led by an archaeologist of Durham University, United Kingdom looked at the archaeological and genetic records of ancient people and dogs. They found that the first people to cross into the Americas before 15,000 years ago, who were of northeast Asian descent, were accompanied by their dogs. The researchers say this discovery suggests that dog domestication likely took place in Siberia before 23,000 years ago. During the Last Glacial Maximum (from ~23,000-19,000 years ago) Beringia (the land and maritime area between Canada and Russia), and most of Siberia, was extremely cold, dry, and largely unglaciated. The harsh climatic conditions leading up to, and during this period may have served to bring human and wolf populations into close proximity given their attraction to the same prey. This increasing interaction, through mutual scavenging of kills from wolves drawn to human campsites, may have began a relationship between the species that eventually led to dog domestication, and a vital role in the populating of the Americas. People and their dogs then eventually travelled both west into the rest of Eurasia, and east into the Americas. The Americas were one of the last regions in the world to be settled by people. By this same time, dogs had been domesticated from their wolf ancestors and were likely playing a variety of roles within human societies. (


Adobe Flash Shutdown Halts Chinese Railroad for Over 16 Hours Before Pirated Copy Restores Ops

The railroad system in Dalian, northern China, collapsed citywide for up to 20 hours after the Adobe Flash programing software stopped running. Adobe had announced as early as 2017 that it would cease support for the multimedia software on December 30th last year. The American software company eventually ended the operation of all Flash content. The chaos arose after China Railway Shenyang failed to deactivate Flash in time, leading to a complete shutdown of its railroads in Dalian, Liaoning province. Staffers were reportedly unable to view train operation diagrams, formulate train sequencing schedules and arrange shunting plans. Authorities fixed the issue by installing a pirated version of Flash the following day. (The Drive)


Gray Whales Off Baja California Are Dying En Masse, and Scientists Don’t Know Why

An unusual mortality event of gray whales off the coast of Mexico is disturbingly persistent, according to a study. The die-off began in 2019, and the gray whale death count is currently at 384, though the actual number may be higher. Unusual mortality events describe the sudden die-offs of marine mammals; they happen too often for comfort, and are often linked with human causes, from discarded fishing lines to oil spills. The last gray whale mortality event occurred at the turn of the millennium, when more than 600 deaths were chronicled along the U.S. Pacific coast. The recent event’s cause is unknown, though researchers suggests that food scarcity in the Bering Sea, where the whales seasonally feed, may be responsible. (Gizmodo)


Reindeer in northern Sweden will soon be able to cross roads and railway lines through specially designed bridges

Droughts and wildfires linked to climate change are destroying the winter grazing lands on which reindeer depend for food. Winter snow is being replaced by rain in some areas and when rainwater turns into ice, it prevents reindeer from reaching the grass below. As a result, reindeer are being forced to search for grass, as well as lichen, which is also a key part of their diet, elsewhere. When they travel around, many of the 250,000 reindeer in Sweden have to risk their lives by crossing roads and railway lines. But twelve bridges, which have been designed in consultation with herders, will soon allow reindeer to cross thoroughfares in a safe manner while ensuring that motorways can stay open while a herd is crossing through. “I’m looking forward to us being able to cross undisturbed,” one reindeer herder, Tobias Jonsson, told a local radio station. (The Guardian)


President Biden has pledged to replace all federal vehicles with electric models

The federal government has a fleet of roughly 650,000 vehicles that includes only 3,200 electric vehicles. Biden said that the new vehicles will be manufactured in the U.S. and that he will tighten regulations to ensure that the main components of the vehicles, including the engines, are also produced in the United States. It will cost about $20B to replace all federal vehicles with electric versions. The Biden administration did not announce a timeline for the goal. President Biden also plans to use tax incentives to encourage people to buy electric cars and has vowed to build 550,000 EV charging stations by 2030. During the presidential campaign, Biden vowed to create 1 million jobs in the auto industry. (Reuters)



Wednesday Humps Off With:

  • Auschwitz Liberation Day
  • Chocolate Cake Day
  • Holocaust Memorial Day
  • International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust
  • Library Shelfie Day (4th Wednesday)
  • National Geographic Day
  • Thomas Crapper Day
  • Tu B’Shavat (sundown)
  • Viet Nam Peace Day

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