A prisoner is given a deal he can’t refuse in an excerpt from S.J. Morden’s sci-fi novel One Way

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Science fiction as a genre has long been obsessed with the possibility of reaching Mars, for both expeditions, such as Andy Weir’s novel The Martian, and colonizations, like in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy. A new novel, One Way, by S.J. Morden, falls in the middle: we’ve reached Mars, but now, we need to figure out how to build a civilization.

In Morden’s future, that monumental task is placed upon humanity, and governments have contracted companies to begin building the colonies for eventual habitation. While machines will do part of the work, some are willing to cut corners by sending a team of prisoners to help, putting their unused skills to work. Frank Kittridge is a convicted murderer and one of the eight sent to Mars. Each…

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Congress Hasn’t Given up on Nuclear Power

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Two Congressional acts focused on nuclear power seem poised to land on the president’s desk sometime soon, potentially jump-starting an industry that has of late struggled in the United States and around the world.

The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA), which passed in the Senate on March 7, will provide private companies the license to work with national laboratories on new nuclear reactor designs. Because a similar bill has already passed in the House, MIT Technology Review estimates it won’t be long before this bill moves to the White House.

“NEICA will help the U.S. get the most out of our world-class R&D infrastructure and our talented pool of innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Josh Freed, Vice President of the Clean Energy Program at think Tank Third Way, in a statement. “We need the private and public sectors working together if we are to bring these important low-carbon technologies to market. This bill will move us a big step closer.”

During the same week, the Senate energy committee also passed Advanced Nuclear Energy Technologies Act, which directs the Secretary of Energy to coordinate at least four demonstration projects for advanced nuclear reactors over the next decade. This bill still needs to pass the full Senate.

Before the bills are fully implemented, they both must be approved by the House and signed by the president. Yet if they are, the U.S. could take a very different direction in clean energy policy than the rest of the world.

In the aftermath of nuclear accidents like that at Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011, nuclear power has continued to fall in favor. According to the Energy Information Association, the U.S. currently has 61 nuclear power plants in operation, though plants are closing up shop all over the country.

These Are The Worst Nuclear Disasters in History (Infographic)
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Nuclear has become wildly unpopular in Japan over the last seven years, despite previous plans for the country to lean heavily on nuclear to reduce its emissions. In Europe, Vox reports that Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland are all shuttering their facilities; however, Sweden has found it difficult to do the same in the face of difficulties meeting their energy needs with wind and solar power.

Indeed, though there are still huge questions remaining about the high costs and safety risks of nuclear energy, the fact remains that nuclear is one of the few proven emissions-free sources of power that run rain or shine, wind or no wind. Bills like NEICA could be invaluable in compelling research on how to use nuclear power more safely, exploring smaller plants and technology like molten salt reactors that run on alternatives to uranium.

In the face of global climate change, there’s no question that clean energy is the future. While solar and wind power are growing fast, it may behoove us to revisit all of our options.

The post Congress Hasn’t Given up on Nuclear Power appeared first on Futurism.

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Las Vegas among US cities given grant by Smart Cities Council

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The names of the 2018 Readiness Challenge Grants winners are finally declared by the Smart Cities Council – Birmingham, Alabama; Cary, North Carolina; Las Vegas, Nevada; Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky; and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The victorious cities will get 365-day expert, vendor-neutral mentoring as well as free customised products and services from organisations including Qualcomm, Battelle, SYNEXXUS, CompTIA and IES. In addition, on-site Readiness Workshop will be carried out as part of the council’s initiative to receive information from each workshop and work towards the development of a shareable Readiness Roadmap which offers guidance for the community’s smart city programme implementation.

Using the Smart Cities Council’s Readiness Roadmap, Birmingham will provide a collaborative framework for many ongoing smart city projects including Open Data portal, smart street lighting and community Wi-Fi.  On the other hand, Cary will utilise the Readiness Roadmap to take forward several of its smart city projects including "One Cary” – a move to have a 360-degree view of the entire city via the creation of a single core platform.

With the help of the training and assistance received from the Council, Las Vegas will work towards its goal of becoming a fully connected smart city by 2025. Louisville/Jefferson County and the Council will work together to utilise smart technologies to overcome challenges related to transportation, telecommunications and public safety. With its Readiness Roadmap, the Council will support Virginia in creating the foundation for various initiatives including the establishment of a cybersecurity and privacy plan as well as the creation of sustainable funding for smart city projects.

Elsewhere, the Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port by cargo tonnage, is getting ready for a digital transformation with IBM’s cloud-based IoT technologies. The preparation starts with the development of a centralised dashboard application which collects and processes real-time information related to water, weather and communications.

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Apple reportedly still hasn’t given up on its 100% fullscreen iPhone dream

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A new report out of Korea suggests that Apple’s next iPhone X update will feature a smaller TrueDepth camera resulting in a smaller notch, too, with 2019 models potentially removing the notch entirely…. Read the rest of this post here


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Study Finds People Given Basic Income Are Likely to Keep Working

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a social concept in which every person within a system receive a regular, standard, basic income regardless of employment, background or other external factors. Some criticize UBI, saying that people would stop working with a basic income. However, a recent study demonstrated that people receiving UBI would likely keep their jobs and even take on more part-time work.

The study examines the impact of the Alaska Permanent Fund, a $ 61-billion communal resource backed by oil, which has been running for more than 35 years. It is currently the closest thing to a UBI in the U.S. Researchers at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy analyzed the economic effect of the annual cash payments made to Alaskan residents, which have recently totaled around $ 2,000 per person.

The researchers found that not only did employment not decrease, but the number of people in part-time work actually increased by a significant 17 percent. And, while overall employment was reduced in fields like manufacturing and oil, it remained steady in fields like construction, education, and healthcare.

The researchers concluded in a working paper published in February in the National Bureau of Economic Research that “Our results suggest that a universal and permanent cash transfer does not significantly decrease aggregate employment.” 

Universal Basic Income: UBI Pilot Programs Around the World
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As automation increasingly threatens human-held occupations, politicians and experts alike are exploring how realistic a solution UBI could be to this job loss. Not all agree that UBI is the right fix for automation-linked job loss, but this research could spark further investigation to see if it could be a good fit for the U.S.

Once it is further reviewed, this data could potentially convince those on the fence that UBI is, at the very least, worth investigating with small, U.S.-based trials. It at least opens up the discussion by suggesting that, even when people receive supplemental income from the government, their drive to work doesn’t simply dissipate. Instead, the fact that people have more money to spend could actually create jobs.

However, Alaska’s program is not a perfect representation of UBI. $ 2,000 a year couldn’t be viewed as an income replacement, even a part-time income replacement. So, while this study demonstrates that employment trends might not be what some projected, it is difficult to know exactly what to expect because larger payments might cause people to respond differently.

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20 VR and AR projects given up to £20,000 each by CreativeXR

20 VR and AR projects given up to £20,000 each by CreativeXR

Twenty virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) projects have been given up to £20,000 of funding by CreativeXR, a programme developed by not-for-profit Digital Catapult and Arts Council England, with support from government-backed innovation agency Innovate UK.

CreativeXR is aimed at enabling the UK’s arts and cultural sector to lead the field in immersive content creation and digital innovation. Those behind the programme want to encourage applicants to focus on R&D and develop riskier, content-driven projects that contribute to developing new skills, tools and business opportunities.

In an open call for ideas, CreativeXR received over 1,000 registrations of interest and over 250 applications, but only 20 applicants were successful and have each been offered up to £20,000 of funding to develop their prototype. They will be able to work with industry leaders in workshops to help them with concept development, and they will also have access to Digital Catapult Immersive Labs in London, Brighton, North East Tees Valley and Belfast.

Read more: Digital Catapult selects start-ups to join Machine Intelligence Garage

Creating immersive experiences

Successful applicants include a team working on an immersive experience that explores beauty from autistic perspectives; a team working on a VR experience that allows an audience to physically step into history; a group working on a VR crime thriller solving cold cases throughout British history; and a mixed reality experience that promises to enhance the UK Coastline through story, myth, fantasy and heritage.

One team, called the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, is working on ‘theatrical reality’, which is described as “a magic mirror to unchain theatrical barriers using augmented reality technologies”. Another idea, dubbed Traitor, involves a two-player interactive high stakes thriller, combining VR with live action.

“We want to make it easier for content commissioners to take more risks and explore new forms of storytelling with immersive content,” said Aurelien Simon, head of immersive at Digital Catapult.

“That’s why we’re giving the 20 teams selected the space and funding they need to experiment with their projects, as well as the chance to present their creations to content commissioners at the end of the programme,” he added.

Read more: Upskill’s augmented reality tech makes impact at GE

Final showcase scheduled

The CreativeXR teams will get the opportunity to pitch at a final showcase and market in March 2018, which will be attended by the likes of Google, BBC, Sky, Sony and HTC Vive.

Clive Longbottom, analyst at IT advisory organization Quocirca, suggested that the likes of AR, VR and MR have seen too many false dawns.

“The technology has to move from just being ‘interesting’ to being truly useful. I applaud the idea of the project but I remain sceptical as to whether the expected benefits will be accrued,” he said.

Read more: In headsets battle, augmented reality for business to dominate, says IDC

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VW executive given the maximum prison sentence for his role in Dieselgate

The man who was in charge of Volkswagen’s US environmental and engineering office before the Dieselgate scandal has been sentenced to seven years in prison. Oliver Schmidt had previously pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act and conspiracy to defraud the US government in August for his role in Dieselgate, where VW was found to have used hidden software to hide the fact that many of its cars weren’t meeting emissions standards.

The prison term and an accompanying $ 400,000 fine were announced at a sentencing hearing today in a US District Court in Detroit. They represent the maximum penalties for those charges.

Schmidt originally faced up to 169 years in prison on 11 felony counts before he entered his guilty plea. He is the…

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A Woman Has Given Birth After a Uterus Transplant for the First Time in the U.S.

A Remarkable Transplant

In a first for the United States, a woman with a transplanted uterus has given birth. The baby was born at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas and remains safe and healthy after the event. This is the first success for Baylor’s ongoing uterus transplant clinical trial, which works with patients with absolute uterine factor infertility — meaning their uterus either doesn’t exist or doesn’t work at all.

“We’ve been preparing for this moment for a very long time,” Liza Johannesson, an ob-gyn and uterus transplant surgeon at Baylor, stated in an interview with Time. “I think everyone had tears in their eyes when the baby came out. I did for sure.”

This unique type of transplant is different and much more difficult than most, according to Giuliano Testa, the leader of the uterus transplant clinical trial and surgical chief of abdominal transplant for Baylor Annette C. and Harold C. Simmons Transplant Institute. “We do transplants all day long,” Testa said to Time. “This is not the same thing. I totally underestimated what this type of transplant does for these women. What I’ve learned emotionally, I do not have the words to describe.”

Uterus transplant infographic. Image Credit: Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas
Uterus transplant infographic. Image Credit: Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas

The uterus transplanted was donated by Taylor Siler, 36, a registered nurse in the Dallas area. She previously had children successfully and wanted to pass the gift of life on. “I just think that if we can give more people that option, that’s an awesome thing,” Syler told Time.

It takes about five hours to remove the uterus from the donor, then another five to transplant it. The clinical study uses uteruses from both living and deceased donors. So far, the hospital has completed eight out its goal of 10 transplants. And, while three have so far failed, Baylor confirmed to Time that there is another woman currently pregnant with a transplanted uterus.

The Future of Fertility

This medical feat has had a long road to success. Last year, at the Cleveland Clinic, a promising uterus transplant went awry, and the organ had to be removed. This failure was devastating, but it perhaps aided further research and fueled this year’s exciting success.

The majority of the patients participating in this study have a condition known as Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome and have lived their entire lives thinking that it was simply impossible for them to carry a child. But this type of procedure could improve the lives of patients with a multitude of conditions. It opens the door for helping those who have had hysterectomies, couples struggling with infertility, and those born without uteruses like those with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome and transgender patients.

As we see advancements in womb transplant, we are also witnessing growth in the field of external wombs. Whether they are used in cases of infertility or truly represent the future of reproduction, external development of a fetus has so far proven successful in lambs. As our understanding of human reproduction continues to expand, artificial wombs could potentially become a more viable option for humans.

Currently, the uterus transplant procedure is very expensive — up to $ 500,000. The procedure is also seen by insurance companies as elective and, therefore, is not covered. The success of the procedure and the emerging field is still new, though. It’s certainly not out of the question to think that in the coming decades, procedures like this will be more commonplace — and therefore, hopefully, more affordable.

We still need to do a lot more research and experimentation before this type of procedure becomes more widely available — let alone routine. But this latest success proves that it’s not just possible, but life-changing for the patients who experience it.

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