NYC’s mayor has a plan to get e-bikes on city roads

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San Francisco and other cities around the US have been rolling out pedal-assisted e-bike sharing programs to help decrease street traffic and air pollution. Now New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio has directed his city's Department of Transportation…
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New NASA Plan for Mars Is Moderately-Terrifying-Sounding, Also, Completely-Awesome: Robotic. Bees.

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Mars: It’s far. Costs money to explore. And right now, we’ve got a rover just sitting there doing nothing. So NASA’s got a new plan for mapping out Mars: Robotic bees. 

Exploring potential habitats that are tens of millions of kilometers away with the use of a 3,893 kg (8,583 lb) rover is slow, unwieldy, and pricy — NASA’s estimates exhausted its funding reserves with the nearly $ 2.5 billion rover. But a team of researchers at the University of Huntsville, Alabama recently came up with an alternative that, on paper, sounds like the way we all die at the hands of SkyNet: “Marsbees.”

It’s actually not-at-all terrifying, and kind of incredible. See here:

Image Credit: C. Kang

You get the idea: Marsbees would be a swarm of “bumblebee size” flapping robots that could cover a far greater distance (with a lot less effort) than a rover could. But that doesn’t mean a rover would be left out: a rover would serve as a recharge station and main communications hub for the bees.

One of the Marsbees primary objectives would be to take air samples for the detection of methane emissions (since the Martian atmosphere is mostly made of carbon dioxide, detecting other gases like methane or carbon monoxide is potentially a sign of life, and thus, incredibly exciting). The Curiosity rover previously found extremely low levels of methane on the surface of Mars, but their presence was mostly chalked up to seasonal patterns, not biological processes.

The idea was one of 25 shortlisted proposals submitted to NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. Other proposals on the shortlist include shapeshifting robots that can roll up into a ball and roll on the surface of Titan, and balloon platforms navigating extreme terrains.

“Our preliminary numerical results suggest that a bumblebee with a cicada wing can generate sufficient lift to hover in the Martian atmosphere,” writes Chang-kwon Kang, Assistant Professor at the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering of The University of Alabama in Huntsville in a NASA blog post. Since the Mars environment is so thin (only one hundredth to one thousandth that of sea level atmospheric pressure on Earth), there’s not much air for wings to push a flapping robot along. But luckily, gravitational pull is only a third on Mars. NASA scientists are hoping to take advantage of this, and are planning to recoup wasted energy with a sophisticated energy harvesting mechanism.

The advantages of having a rover like Curiosity be swarmed by robo-bees are plenty: a swarm of mobile flapping robots would be far more flexible, and resilient — a single bee getting swept up in a dust storm, in other words, wouldn’t be a big deal. Navigating the rocky, and mountainous surface would also be easier exploring the planet by air. Multiple bees could also form a network of sensors, improving the accuracy of their findings.

The Huntsville team is proposing to link up with a Japanese team of researchers to make the Marsbee a reality, and given the fact that the Japanese team has already developed a hummingbird Micro-Air Vehicle that’s “one of only a few robotic flappers in the world that can fly on Earth,” the swarm might be a reality sooner than you think.

Which means more Mars, potentially, for us. Or at least information about it. Elsewhere, sorry, melissophobiacs: Your apocolypse is more inevitable than ever before. Enjoy that.

The post New NASA Plan for Mars Is Moderately-Terrifying-Sounding, Also, Completely-Awesome: Robotic. Bees. appeared first on Futurism.

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FCC approves SpaceX plan for satellite-provided internet

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The SpaceX plan for a global wireless internet network provided by 4,425 satellites has been approved by the FCC. The $ 10 billion Starlink proposal calls for the satellites to launch in two phases between 2019 and 2024, then fly between 714 and 823 m…
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Facebook has released a more detailed plan to fight election interference for the 2018 midterms

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More political ad oversight, less fake news.

Did Facebook unknowingly help Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. presidential election?

We’ll probably never know, but Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg are trying to avoid another instance in the future where that might even be a question.

The company published a blog post on Thursday outlining some of the steps it’s taking to prevent foreign governments from using Facebook to try and manipulate an election, like Russian actors did on Facebook during the 2016 campaign.

A lot of the steps are things Facebook has already talked about‚ like fact-checking stories that show up in News Feed and adding stricter requirements for advertisers who buy political ads on the social network.

The most notable update is that Facebook started fact-checking photos and videos this week in France, in addition to fact checking text stories that people share. “We’re starting in France with the AFP [Agence France-Presse] and will be scaling to more countries and partners soon,” the post reads.

A few other things Facebook is doing:

  • The social network is notifying people who share fake news that they shared fake news, and also wants to “warn people who try to share it going forward.”
  • Facebook is close to rolling out the new political ad dashboard that it announced last fall. The dashboard will let people see who is buying what political ads, and the company has already been testing it in Canada. It plans to roll it out in the U.S. this summer.
  • Facebook is trying to prevent bad actors from getting started at all. The company says it’s blocking “millions of fake accounts each day at the point of creation.”

Will all this work? That’s the big question.

In an interview with The New York Times this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company is expecting that foreign governments like Russia will continue to meddle if they can.

“I feel a lot better about the systems now. At the same time, I think Russia and other governments are going to get more sophisticated in what they do, too,” Zuckerberg said. “So we need to make sure that we up our game. This is a massive focus for us to make sure we’re dialed in for not only the 2018 elections in the U.S., but the Indian elections, the Brazilian elections, and a number of other elections that are going on this year that are really important.”

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This is Facebook’s self-defense plan for the 2018 midterm elections

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Facebook has a four-part plan to protect its platform from malicious attacks during the 2018 US midterm elections, company executives said today. In a conference call with reporters, representatives from Facebook’s security, product, and advertising teams laid out their strategy for preventing the kinds of problems that plagued it during the 2016 campaign. While most bad actors are motivated by profits, executives said, state-sponsored attackers continue in their efforts to manipulate public opinion using posts on Facebook.

Here’s Facebook’s plan to shore up its security over the next several months.

1. Fighting foreign interference. Executives pointed to the FBI’s creation of a task force to monitor social media as an important step to…

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Formally proposed EU tax plan could cost Apple millions

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The European Commission has proposed measures to "to ensure that all companies pay fair tax in the EU," a move that will undoubtedly affect Apple.
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Plan group trips in Skype with help from TripAdvisor and StubHub

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Bringing TripAdvisor into a group chat is pretty easy — just tap the Add to Chat button and select TripAdvisor from the list of available plug-ins. You can choose a destination, then search for restaurants, hotels and activities in the area. Sharing…
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Inside Google’s plan to build a smart neighborhood in Toronto

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On the Sidewalk Labs website is a 200-page document explaining its vision for a smart neighborhood in Toronto. It's packed with illustrations that show a warm, idyllic community full of grassy parks, modular buildings and underground tunnels with del…
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Lyft is testing a Netflix-style monthly subscription plan

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Lyft is testing monthly subscription plans for high-frequency users, a sign that the company is shifting toward a Netflix or Spotify model for transportation.

The terms of the subscription models seem to vary, but appear targeted at users who spend up to $ 450 on ride-hailing a month. One all-access pass offered up to 30 standard Lyft rides for $ 199 a month, another was priced at $ 300, and another at $ 399 for 60 rides. Individual rides up to $ 15 were covered under the all-access pass. It wasn’t immediately clear how users would be charged for rides that exceed $ 15.

Lyft CEO Logan Green mentioned these subscription plans were the future of his company during a press event Wednesday to announce…

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