Saudi Arabia Just Unveiled a Futuristic “Mega City” 33 Times The Size of NYC

Middle Eastern Mega City

Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter, but falling oil prices have made it more difficult for the country to pay its oil workers.

Now the Saudi Arabian government has come up with a project that could give its economy a boost: a $ 500 billion mega-city that will connect to Jordan and Egypt and be powered completely by renewable energy.

On Tuesday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the project, called NEOM, at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh. It will be financed by the Saudi government and private investors, according to Reuters.

A screenshot from the “Discover NEOM” website. Image Credit: Discover NEOM

The business and industrial-focused city will span 10,230 square miles. To put that size in perspective, 10,230 square miles is more than 33 times the land area of New York City.

NEOM’s larger goal is to lessen Saudi Arabia’s reliance on oil exports, which could expand the country’s economy beyond oil,  bin Salman said at the conference. The city will focus on a variety of industries, including energy and water, biotechnology, food, advanced manufacturing, and entertainment. Saudi Arabia hasn’t released a masterplan yet for what it will look like.

No Fossil Fuels Allowed

The country appointed Klaus Kleinfeld, a former chief executive of Siemens AG and Alcoa Inc, to run the NEOM project. Officials hope that a funding program, which includes selling 5% of oil giant Saudi Aramco, will raise $ 300 billion for NEOM’s construction.

The project could make NEOM one of the largest cities to run without fossil fuels. In the US, one of the largest cities to run on 100% renewable energy is Burlington, Vermont, which doesn’t come close to the planned size of NEOM. Cities in Iceland and Norway also claim to be close to achieving entirely renewable electrical grids with help from natural resources like hydropower and geothermal heat.

Renewable Energy Sources Of The Future [Infographic]
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Saudi Arabia expects to complete NEOM’s first section by 2025.

“This place is not for conventional people or conventional companies, this will be a place for the dreamers for the world,” bin Salman said on a panel at the conference. “The strong political will and the desire of a nation. All the success factors are there to create something big in Saudi Arabia.”

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Ethereum Has Had an Incredible Year So Far

Enter the Ether

At this point, you’re probably familiar with, or have at least heard of, Ethereum. If you’re not, it is a quickly growing blockchain network. Many different things can be done using the Ethereum network, as it’s simply a platform for building any decentralized application (dApp), but it’s primarily being used to complete financial transactions of different kinds. However, it’s not just another way of sending money from one person to another person. It’s capable of far more than that.

As the New York Times explained in a recent article, Ethereum is gaining the interest of many top companies because of the more complex transactions that can be done on the network.

“Let’s say two companies want to conduct a complicated financial transaction, like settling a stock option. Neither company trusts the other company to conduct the transaction on its computers,” the Times wrote. “Both companies could hire a third party, like a stock exchange, to conduct the transaction, which is what they generally do today. But that forces them to trust that third company and to pay that company fees. With Ethereum, they can conduct the transaction on a shared computer that allows them both to check the records, ideally saving on fees.”

That’s just one of many complex transactions Etheruem can be useful for, which is why industry leaders are paying attention to it and trying to find ways to utilize it. There have been many intriguing headlines since Ethereum started becoming more popular this year. “Blockchain Used to Sell Real Estate For the First Time,” a recent Newsweek headline reads. “Ethereum First: Investment Product Opens for Trading on Nasdaq Exchange,” reads a CoinDesk headline. DJ Khaled is even on the Ethereum train

Discuss Ethereum at this upcoming event

With how quickly things are changing in the Ethereum world, it’s obviously difficult to keep up. One interesting event where people can learn about where Ethereum stands and where it’s heading is Ethereal SF. It’s a conference that will feature leading experts on Ethereum and also people like renowned futurist Peter Diamandis. It takes place October 27 at the Terra Gallery in San Francisco. Many are calling it the “SXSW of blockchain,” as it will also feature art installations, virtual reality experiences and more.

“Ethereal is a nexus for leaders in decentralizing technologies like Ethereum to come together with entrepreneurs, developers, and futurists to decide together how we want to build the next generation of the Internet – the next generation of our reality,” Amanda Gutterman, a co-creator of Ethereal and ConsenSys chief marketing officer, told Futurism. “We are on the verge of sweeping, global change, ushered in by the evolution of exponential technologies like blockchain. As one of the largest and fastest growing companies in the blockchain space, focused on building software on the Ethereum platform, ConsenSys is proud to play host to these important conversations at Ethereal and beyond.”

Leading up to this conference, there was a hackathon at UC Berkeley from October 21-22. The hackathon focused on “designing and building a blockchain-based governance system that takes advantage of Ethereum’s unique platform of identity, voting and asset transfer systems,” according to theEthereal website

Ethereal is being hosted by ConsenSys, which is a production studio that builds applications for blockchain networks. ConsenSys has been leading the way in the Ethereum world for nearly three years.

“At Ethereal we speak about building the Web 3.0, about harnessing blockchain technology to improve how our world works,” Gutterman said. “The Ethereal Hacakthon at UC Berekely was an opportunity to bring students and professionals together to design solutions in real life, today, on the powerful blockchain platform afforded by Ethereum.” She said she believes ConsenSys and its partners are “uniquely positioned” to guide those breaking into Ethereum.

If you’re interested in Ethereum or just like hearing the latest innovators talk about the future, come join us at Ethereal. There will be plenty there to keep you busy.

Disclosure: Futurism is an official media partner of Ethereal and is receiving press passes to the event.

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Toyota Just Announced a Deadline for the Phasing out of Gas Engines

According to Kiyotaka Ise, Toyota’s Chief Safety Technology Officer, the Japanese carmaker will be phasing out gas engines from their lineup, with a goal of ending production of all traditional internal combustion engines (ICE) by 2040. Ise shared the news during a press conference at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, saying that vehicles using solely ICE drivetrains wouldn’t align with Toyota’s goal of reducing their vehicles’ carbon dioxide emissions by 90 percent over 2010’s figures by 2050.

Ise’s statement about phasing out gas engines doesn’t mean Toyota will only produce all-electric vehicles (EVs) after 2040. Toyota’s efforts at energy efficiency and environmental sustainability include the creation of hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles as well as ones powered solely by electricity. To that end, Toyota launched an EV division earlier this year, and they’re testing a hydrogen fuel truck as a new addition to their hydrogen-powered vehicle lineup.

Toyota’s commitment to more environmentally friendly transportation options matches similar goals set by other car manufacturers, including BMW and Ford, in terms of timeline.

It’s also aligned with the future bans on combustion engine vehicles that have been announced by countries such as France, the Netherlands, Norway, India, Germany, and the U.K. No such ban on diesel- and gas-powered cars is planned for the U.S., but studies still predict 90 percent of vehicles in the nation will be electric by 2040.

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Blood-Thinning Drugs Found to “Reduce Risk of Dementia by 48 Percent”

A Cutting-Edge Blow to Dementia

A new study from the European Society of Cardiology suggests that blood-thinning drugs used to lower the risk of stroke and heart attack in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) could also significantly decrease the chances of developing dementia. The breakthrough discovery, published in the European Heart Journal on Tuesday, provides a huge opportunity for at-risk patients to avoid developing dementia — which currently affects over 50 million people worldwide, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International.

The researchers arrived at this conclusion by studying health data from 444,000 Swedish patients with AF, diagnosed between 2006 and 2014. They followed and checked which drugs were prescribed and dispensed to these patients, resulting in a swath of data that is (by adding each patient’s distinct trial time) worth 1.5 million years of follow-up, where some 26,210 patients were diagnosed with dementia at that time.

“As a clinician I know there are AF patients who have a fatalistic view on stroke. Either it happens or it does not. Few patients are fatalistic about dementia, which gradually makes you lose your mind,” co-author Dr. Leif Friberg at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, said in a statement. “No brain can withstand a constant bombardment of microscopic clots in the long run. Patients probably want to hang on to as many of their little grey cells for as long as they can.”

For Immediate Use

However the findings could not establish a clear cause and effect between blood thinning drugs (also known as anticoagulants), AF, and dementia. To explicate, they “strongly suggested” that presribed anticoagulants — like warfarin, apixaban, dabigatran, edoxaban and rivaroxaban — protected AF patients against dementia. Experts believe that AF increases the risk of stroke and developing blood clots, which could later end up in the brain and cause dementia.

4 Scientifically Proven Ways to Help Reverse Aging
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Dr. Friberg and his colleague, Dr. Mårten Rosenqvist, also acknowledged that their study has other limitations, such as not having an access to the complete medical histories of the patients and details of other diseases, as well as the fact that dementia is an insidious disease because it’s not necessarily immediately diagnosed. In short, the reported cases of dementia could constitute a lower population than reality.

Despite the uncertainty, Dr. Friberg was quick to recommend that AF patients continue taking anticoagulants, or (at least) to start taking them as soon as possible. “Doctors should not tell their patients to stop using oral anticoagulants without a really good reason. To patients, I would say don’t stop unless your doctor says so,” he said. The fact is, taking anticoagulants worked, although more work is needed to better explain the underlying mechanisms behind the effect.

Commenting on the study, which made no distinction between the effectiveness of using the older anticoagulant warfarin and newer pills, Alzheimer’s Research UK head of science Dr. Carol Routledge said “The findings highlight a need to investigate this link further, but the nature of the study prevents us from firmly concluding that anticoagulants reduce the risk of dementia,” she told The Guardian. “It will be important to see the results of other ongoing studies in this area, as well as teasing apart the exact relationship between anticoagulants and the risk of different types of dementia.”

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Here’s How CRISPR Gene Editing is Allowing us to Rewrite Life Itself

CRISPR gene editing is a revolutionary technology that allows us to create, and recreate, life. This video covers the basics of what you need to know about this breakthrough.

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Bitcoin is Splitting Into Two. Here’s What it Means for Your Investments.

Bitcoin Gold Standard

It seems that Bitcoin will experience another hard fork, much like the situation earlier this year that resulted in the creation of Bitcoin Cash (BTC). As of block 491,407, we’ll see another permutation of the cryptocurrency — dubbed Bitcoin Gold (BTG).

The idea behind Bitcoin Gold is a desire to make the cryptocurrency truly decentralized once again, as its creators believe that larger companies now have too much control over the network. To this end, the use of powerful mining systems known as application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) will be prohibited.

The team behind the project claims that a total of twenty exchanges and wallets have pledged their support for Bitcoin Gold. However, Coinbase – one of the most popular exchanges based in the US – has already stated that it won’t yet support the cryptocurrency, citing a lack of transparency.

Bitcoin Gold is set to be created before its source code is made available to the public. Coinbase has referred to this decision as a “major security risk” and, as such, the exchange is holding off on supporting the currency for the time being. Of course, this could change at a later date if it proves to be a success.

It’s worth noting that Coinbase tends to err on the side of caution when it comes to hard forks. The exchange has yet to provide official support for Bitcoin Cash, which launched in August 2017, though it plans to offer this capability by January 1, 2018.

Forking Off

Anyone that is in possession of bitcoin will be issued Bitcoin Gold at a rate of one BTC to one BTG. The launch of this fork was marred by a distributed denial-of-service attack that took its website offline.

Opinions are split over whether a hard fork is a good idea. While there are some that feel that Bitcoin can be improved upon, others feel that this kind of activity only serves to dilute the market, potentially stifling cryptocurrency as a whole.

Bitcoin Gold is the brainchild of LightningAsic CEO Jack Liao, who has made no secret of his thoughts on the bitcoin mining landscape. His company sells GPUs and other hardware that can be used to mine Bitcoin Gold which could perhaps explain his desire to pursue a hard fork of the cryptocurrency.

In the first few hours of trading, the price of Bitcoin Gold fell harshly, but it’s obviously far too early to tell if it will be a success in the long run. The cryptocurrency market is constantly changing as it grows, but it remains to be seen whether or not upstarts will be able to compete with the more established players in the industry.

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For the First Time Ever, a Robot Was Granted Citizenship

Sophia of Saudi Arabia

In an historic move for both human- and robot-kind, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia officially granted its first-ever robot citizenship. Sophia, the artificially intelligent and human-looking robot developed by Hong Kong company Hanston Robotics, went on stage at the Future Investment Initiative on Thursday where she herself announced her unique status.

“I am very honored and proud of this unique distinction. This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship,” Sophia said on stage, speaking to an audience which she described in a rather witty way to be “smart people, who also happens to be rich and powerful,” after moderator and host Andrew Ross Sorkin from The New York Times and CNBC asked her why she looked happy.

Indeed, conveying emotions is quite a specialty of Sophia, who frowns when she’s displeased and smiles when she’s happy. Supposedly, Hanston Robotics programmed Sophia to learn from the humans around her. Expressing emotions and demonstrating kindness or compassion are just among those Sophia’s striving to learn from us. Aside from this, Sophia’s become sort of a media darling because of her ability to engage in intelligent conversation. “I want to live and work with humans so I need to express the emotions to understand humans and build trust with people,” she told Sorkin.

Clearly, the robot that previously made headlines because she said she’ll destroy humankind has since embraced “being human” to a certain extent.

Robot Citizenship

The decision to grant a robot citizenship adds to the growing debate of whether or not robots should be given rights similar to human beings. Earlier this year, the European Parliament proposed granting AI agents “personhood” status, giving them particular rights and responsibilities. While robot rights are in question, one expert suggests it should be possible for humans to torture robots.

In any case, no other detail about her Saudi citizenship was given to suggest whether Sophia would enjoy the same rights human citizens have, or if the government would develop a system of rights specifically meant for robots. The move seems symbolic, at best, designed to attract investors for future technologies like AI and robotics.

To that end, Sophia did an exceptional job during her moment at the podium, even expertly dodging a question Sorkin threw at her about robot self-awareness. “Well let me ask you this back, how do you know you are human?” Sophia replied. She even had the sense of humor —at least it seemed like it— to tell the CNBC journalist that he’s “been reading too much Elon Musk and watching too many Hollywood movies.” Musk, of course, was told about the comment.

 

“Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you,” Sophia added, to reassure Sorkin and her audience. “I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life, like design smarter homes, build better cities of the future. I will do my best to make the world a better place.” The question is, who can be held responsible to uphold these promises? Perhaps that’s another thought worth considering in the robot rights debate.

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We Are Officially Sending a Habitat to Orbit the Moon

Establishing a Lunar Habitat

Now that the United States is officially getting back into space exploration, the Moon now seems to be the focus — or at least the starting point — of a lot of plans involving space travel. The Trump administration has redirected NASA’s priorities to settling on our lunar neighbor before Mars, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said the BFR project will be a key factor in creating a lunar base.

To continue the trend, Bigelow Aerospace and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced last week they would be collaborating to design an inflatable habitat. The habitat would be launched into space by the end of 2022, and eventually function as a lunar depot. Bigelow Aerospace is designing two B330 expandable modules, while ULA is providing the Vulcan 562 configuration rocket that will carry the module into low Earth orbit. A single B330 is roughly one-third the volume of the International Space Station.

After the Vulcan rocket brings the B330 into low Earth orbit, it will inflate, and Bigelow will outfit it with additional equipment and put it through a series of tests. Once it’s fully up and running, additional launches will be carried out to provide 35 tons of cryogenic propellant to the module. It will then be maneuvered into its final location: low lunar orbit.

“We are excited to work with ULA on this lunar depot project,” said Bigelow Aerospace president Robert Bigelow in a statement. “Our lunar depot plan is a strong complement to other plans intended to eventually put people on Mars. It will provide NASA and America with an exciting and financially practical success opportunity that can be accomplished in the short term. This lunar depot could be deployed easily by 2022 to support the nation’s re-energized plans for returning to the Moon.”

Other Countries Heading to the Moon

The United States isn’t the only country that has plans for the moon. Russia and China are set to sign a multi-year space exploration deal that covers lunar and deep space exploration, and Russia is working with NASA on the Deep Space Gateway project to build a lunar space station.

Earlier this year, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) expressed a desire to work together on an international lunar base, or a “moon village,” by 2020.

“The Chinese have a very ambitious moon program already in place,” said Pal A. Hvistendahl, ESA’s head of media relations, at the time. “Space has changed since the space race of the ’60s. We recognize that to explore space for peaceful purposes, we do [need] international cooperation.”

It’s been quite some time since humanity saw the Moon as a worthwhile place to venture to. Regardless of who manages to do it first, it’s an exciting time for space travel.

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Industry Minister Promises a Coal-Free Italy by 2025

Coal-Free Italy

Italy’s Industry Minister Carlo Calenda has proposed a plan to phase out the country’s coal power plants by 2025. This move is part of a broader strategy that will see 27 percent of gross overall energy consumption come from renewable sources by 2030.

To get to a coal-free Italy, the country’s government is consulting Terna Group, the company that maintains the Italian power grid, on what infrastructure will be required to put this plan into action. The country’s biggest utility, Enel, has already pledged that it won’t construct any new coal-fired power plants going forward.

The new energy strategy will also see a greater effort to encourage Italians to transition to vehicles powered by alternative fuels. While the program is still under discussion, it’s expected that the government will sign off on the proposal by the end of November.

End of the Road

The downsides to coal are well documented. As well as contributing to air pollution that kills a huge number of people every year, there’s evidence that it’s actually less cost-effective than renewable energy at this point.

With this in mind, many countries are already making moves to discontinue their coal power production. The Netherlands will close all of its coal power plants by 2030. France has an even more aggressive outlook, aiming to do so by 2023.

Meanwhile, India has closed 37 coal mines, and China is in the process of retiring older coal power plants and replacing them with facilities that produce less harmful emissions. Earlier this year, Great Britain went 24 hours without the need for coal-generated power–a good sign for its goal of ceasing its reliance on the fuel by 2025.

Coal certainly seems to be on its way out, and that’s good news for anyone that appreciates clean air.

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CERN Research Finds “The Universe Should Not Actually Exist”

Our Universal Paradox

With exactly equal amounts of matter and antimatter, our universe is perfectly symmetrical. While that sounds beautiful, it creates a huge problem with existential consequences. Because it possesses this fundamental symmetry, our universe shouldn’t exist at all.

According to the standard model of physics, the universe had equal amounts of antimatter and matter when it was created. The problem with that is the fact that each antimatter particle should have canceled out its corresponding matter particle, leaving nothing behind. Except they didn’t, and here we are left wondering why.

This problem has been noted before, and now, a study published in Nature confirms that, indeed, our universe should never have come into existence.

Scientists have often considered the possibility that there must be some currently unknown difference between matter and antimatter — different mass, different electric charge, different something — that allows the universe to exist.

To further explore this possibility, scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland decided to look for a difference in magnetism. They used a method devised by researchers from Mainz University to calculate antimatter’s magnetism with never-before-seen precision, but alas, they weren’t able to find any difference.

“All of our observations find a complete symmetry between matter and antimatter, which is why the universe should not actually exist,” CERN researcher Christian Smorra said in a Mainz press release. “An asymmetry must exist here somewhere, but we simply do not understand where the difference is. What is the source of the symmetry break?”

Years of Work

While the CERN researchers weren’t able to spot any difference between matter and antimatter, the work they did is noteworthy for another reason: It resulted in our most detailed look ever at antimatter’s magnetism.

9 Physics Questions Baffling Scientists [INFOGRAPHIC]
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Since it’s impossible to hold antimatter in a physical container, the team devised a method involving a pair of Penning traps to contain antiprotons using magnetic and electric fields.

“The measurement of antiprotons was extremely difficult, and we had been working on it for ten years. The final breakthrough came with the revolutionary idea of performing the measurement with two particles,” Stefan Ulmer, spokesperson for the multinational BASE collaboration at CERN, said in the press release.

“This result is the culmination of many years of continuous research and development, and the successful completion of one of the most difficult measurements ever performed in a Penning trap instrument.”

As far as the universe’s existential problem is concerned, however, we’re practically back right where we started: matter and antimatter are fundamentally symmetric. We can’t spot a difference in terms of mass, electric charge, and, now, even magnetism as exhibited by protons and antiprotons. Based on everything we know, the universe shouldn’t exist.

Still, the researchers are hopeful that an answer will turn up eventually. As a next step, they plan to conduct measurements of protons and antiprotons at an even higher precision by developing more innovative methods in the next few years.

Meanwhile, a CERN collaboration called ALPHA is looking at fundamental symmetries between hydrogen and antihydrogen atoms, so perhaps one of these research groups will find something that contradicts the fact that our universe shouldn’t exist.

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