22.09.2022
HUMAN remains can be used as compost in 2027 under new California law to tackle climate change

California will begin offering the option of human composting after death thanks to a bill recently signed into law that aims to tackle climate change.

Human composting, also known as natural organic reduction (NOR), would be an option for residents who don’t want to be buried or cremated upon their death – starting in 2027.

The process involves placing the body inside a reusable container along with wood chips and aerating it to allow microbes and bacteria to do their thing.

Approximately one month later, the remains will fully decompose and be turned into soil.

Advocates for the bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday, have said that NOR is a more climate-friendly option.

Cremation in the U.S. alone emits about 360,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to National Geographic.

The bill bans the combining of various peoples’ remains unless they are related.

But it does not make it illegal to sell the soil that results from the process or use it to grow food for human consumption.

‘AB 351 will provide an additional option for California residents that is more environmentally-friendly and gives them another choice for burial,’ Democratic Assembly member Cristina Garcia, the author of the bill, said in a statement.

‘With climate change and sea-level rise as very real threats to our environment, this is an alternative method of final disposition that won’t contribute emissions into our atmosphere.

‘I look forward to continuing my legacy to fight for clean air by using my reduced remains to plant a tree,’ she wrote, adding that she herself may choose the method when she passes away.

The Catholic Church in the state is against the process.

‘NOR uses essentially the same process as a home gardening composting system,’ the executive director of the California Catholic Conference, Kathleen Domingo, said in a statement to SFGATE.

She added that the process was developed for livestock, not humans.

‘These methods of disposal were used to lessen the possibility of disease being transmitted by the dead carcass,’ Domingo said.

‘Using these same methods for the “transformation” of human remains can create an unfortunate spiritual, emotional and psychological distancing from the deceased.’

Washington, Colorado and Oregon have all legalized the process of composting human remains. However, Colorado does not allow the soil to be sold or used to grow food for human consumption.

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  • 2 часа, 5 минут назад 04.10.2022Science
    European Space Agency’s planetary rover destined for the moon or Mars is tested at quarry

    A planetary rover that could be blasted into space for missions on the moon and Mars is being tested at a quarry in Milton Keynes.

    The Sample Fetch Rover (SFR), affectionately known as Anon, was intended to collect sample tubes left on the surface of Mars by NASA’s rover Perseverance.

    But, earlier this year, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) announced the rover would no longer be needed for this work.

    This is because Perseverance – which landed on the red planet in February 2021 – is able to pick up its sample tubes and transport them by itself.

    However, Airbus engineers who have been working on the SFR since 2018 are still putting the machine through its paces in case it is needed for another mission.

    Ben Dobke, project manager at Airbus, said: ‘Even though the mission may have faded away, the core technology is still ready and able to go and this is the kind of the final step in proving that it works.’

    Quarries provide a unique, dynamic terrain that are used for preparing planetary rovers for the Martian landscape.

    The site in Milton Keynes is used because a similar landscape cannot be replicated within the Mars Yard test facility at Stevenage.

    SFR’s drive about the quarry marks the first time all its systems are being tested simultaneously.

    Airbus is looking to ensure its surface mobility capability is maintained for the UK space sector, particularly with NASA’s approaching Artemis lunar mission.

    Artemis is a moon exploration program to send people, including the first woman and first person of colour, to the moon by 2025, which the UK is contributing to.

    Mr Dobke said: ‘With the Artemis programme happening at the end of the decade, the focus has started shifting towards the moon.

    ‘So any rovers or autonomous vehicles on the moon, this software can certainly be applied to that in the future.’

    Further work is required to ensure SFR is able to function in the extreme temperatures and scant atmosphere of the lunar surface if it is to make it to the moon.

    Engineers also have to find a way to power up the rover after spending 14 nights essentially in sleep mode because of the cold temperatures when it is in darkness.

    The four-wheeled rover is designed to operate six times faster than the ESA’s other Mars rover ExoMars, however this will involve greatly enhanced autonomous navigation capability.

    This ability to perceive its environment while not being operated is what is being tested in the outdoor environment at Milton Keynes.

    Despite these challenges, the Airbus team are still optimistic about SFR’s future proespects, which could include helping to build habitats on the moon.

    Mr Dobke said: ‘There’s various avenues of investigation so it could be scientific, going into places where there’s lunar ice.

    ‘It could be in support of human habitats, whether it be autonomously building habitats or whether it’s supporting driving astronauts around on the surface.

    ‘So there’s a number of different applications that we could have autonomy on the moon.’

    However, a possible focus on moon missions does not mean all hope is lost for the SFR visiting Mars.

    Dr Adam Camilletti, space systems lead at the UK Space Agency, said: ‘All the technology that’s been developed for Sample Fetch Rover is still really, really useful because we’ve developed a huge amount of expertise and know-how in the UK.

    ‘And we think that can be utilised in commercial applications, for autonomous vehicles and inspecting infrastructure and down tunnels and in difficult terrains, but also we think it can be utilised in future missions, perhaps to the moon and future missions to Mars as well.’

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  • 4 часа, 5 минут назад 04.10.2022Science
    New York will join California in BANNING the sale of new gas cars by 2035

    New York is joining California in banning the sale of new gas vehicles by 2035, but how it plans to charge thousands of electric vehicles in a city that lacks private driveways and convince people to pay at least $20,000 more for a new plug-in still remains a mystery.

    There are just 677 charging stations spread across the five boroughs and although the city is set to add 10,000 curbside chargers by 2030, it may not be enough to power the thousands that will be cruising around by 2030 – 68 percent of all new cars sold this year be electric.

    Along with where people will charge their cars, comes the question of how they will afford one. Nearly 50 percent of residents are deemed middle class and 17.9 percent are low income, leaving just 35 percent of people who have a disposable income to spend thousands of dollars more on a new plug-in vehicle.

    New York, however, offers electric car buyers the Drive Clean Rebate of up to $2,000 for new car purchases or leases, but this still may not be enough to tempt consumers into swapping out a cheaper gas guzzler for a more expensive vehicle.

    The state’s governor, Kathy Hochul, made the announcement on Thursday, ordering automakers to start phasing out gas-powered vehicles to hit specific quotas.

    The ban, which will go into effect by the end of the year, follows California’s plan by setting quotas to reach the goal: 35 percent of new vehicle sales to be zero-emission vehicles in 2026, 68 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2035.

    Hochul announced the initiative last year, but had to wait for California to make the first move due to federal regulations.

    California’s action finalizing the Advanced Clean Cars II regulation last month unlocked New York’s ability to adopt the same regulation.

    And the move is New York’s big push into cutting 85 percent of its greenhouse gasses by 2050.

    The 10,000 additional curbside charging stations are the only ones that have been revealed, which would bring the total to just 10,320 five years before the ban is in effect.

    Most of the operating charging stations are found in Manhattan, but this region also has the least amount of electric vehicles.

    Brooklyn has 10,414 registered vehicles and 241 stations, while Manhattan has 3,900 electric vehicles that have access to 320 charging stations.

    Queens has the same number of zero-emission cars as Manhattan, but only provides 43 public charging stations.

    And Staten Island has 32 stations for its 1,276 electric vehicles.

    State officials could just construct tens of thousands of more chargers, but Kenneth Gillingham, economics professor at Yale School for the Environment, told Gothamist: ‘You don’t want to put in the chargers before people are going to be using them.

    ‘People don’t want to buy electric vehicles until the chargers are in.’

    California is also facing such obstacles, but it has the land and private driveways to build off from.

    The west coast state made its ban official in August, but it currently does not have enough charging stations to meet the soon-be demand.

    More than 73,000 public and shared chargers have been installed to date, with an additional 123,000 planned by 2025.

    These numbers fall short of the state’s goal of 250,000 chargers by 54,000 installations.

    Then there is the cost of purchasing a new electric vehicle, which is now averaging about $66,000 – a 13 percent year-over-year increase – compared to the $43,000 for the average gas-powered car.

    According to Kelley Blue Book, the cost of EVs is ‘well above industry average and more aligned with luxury prices versus mainstream prices.’

    During the first half of this year, electric vehicle sales accounted for about 15 percent of California’s new vehicle market.

    A major uncertainty about the policy is how quickly precious minerals, specifically lithium, will be available to produce large amounts of batteries needed to fulfill the 2035 target.

    Laurie Holmes, senior manager of government affairs for Kia, told California officials Thursday that the industry could have difficulty meeting sales targets.

    She urged the state to support incentives for consumers to buy EVs and to help build out a charging system.

    There are 17 other US states that have joined California’s movement that account for about 40 percent of all US new vehicle sales.

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  • 4 часа, 5 минут назад 04.10.2022Science
    Wild monkeys ‘are disease SUPERSPREADERS of the animal kingdom’, study finds

    Wild macaques are ‘superspreaders’ of diseases like coronaviruses and influenza in the animal kingdom, a new study has revealed.

    Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University mapped how such diseases spread among wildlife populations.

    Their results show that when wild monkeys live in large groups alongside human settlements, they can act as superspreaders.

    The researchers hope the findings could help to identify individual monkeys that are the most sociable and tend to congregate around and interact with humans the most.

    ‘Targeting these with vaccinations or other forms of medical treatment could potentially protect both macaque populations and humans in areas where they live in close proximity,’ the team said in a statement.

    In the study, the team used computer models to simulate how infectious diseases spread between monkeys and humans living in urban areas of South and South-East Asia.

    Dr Krishna Balasubramaniam, lead author of the study, said: ‘COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of understanding infectious disease transmission among wildlife populations in urban and peri-urban areas.

    ‘Population expansion has increased the contact between humans and wildlife, and these human-wildlife interfaces are widely recognised as “hotspots” for the transmission of diseases across a variety of species.’

    The researchers focused on the interactions of 10 separate groups of macaques in northern India, Malaysia, and southern India.

    Behavioural data was fed into computer models to simulate the impact of outbreaks of human diseases such as influenza, coronaviruses, and measles.

    Computer simulations were then run 100,000 times in total across the 10 groups to estimate the vulnerability of the macaque populations to disease outbreaks.

    The results revealed that the size of the outbreak was dependent on the centrality of the macaque first infected.

    For example, if the first macaque infected was better connected, it would lead to a larger outbreak.

    Meanwhile, if the first-infected macaque had great interactions with humans – for example around human-provided foods – the scale of the outbreak was greater.

    ‘Being so closely related to humans, macaques are highly vulnerable to the same diseases that infect people,’ Dr Balasubramaniam said.

    ‘Indeed, previous work by other researchers established that macaques may be infected by human gastrointestinal and respiratory pathogens.

    ‘Here we showed how respiratory pathogens in particular might spread through macaque populations, and specifically how their behaviour might influence such spreading.’

    Based on the findings, the researchers suggest that well-connected macaques could be vaccinated in the future to prevent disease outbreaks.

    ‘As well as being “superspreaders” within their species, these individuals with the most human contact also pose the highest risk for interspecies disease transmission events, either from humans into wildlife, or vice-versa,’ Dr Balasubramaniam concluded.

    ‘These would be the most effective targets for disease control strategies such as vaccination or antimicrobial treatment.’

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  • 4 часа, 5 минут назад 04.10.2022Science
    Apple’s Tim Cook: VR is ‘not a way to communicate well’ and people can’t even DEFINE the metaverse

    Apple CEO Tim Cook believes that most consumers can’t even define what the metaverse is and was dismissive of the notion that they’d spend their entire lives inside a virtual world.

    ‘I always think it’s important that people understand what something is,’ Cook told the Dutch publication Bright, according to a Google translation. ‘And I’m not really sure the average person can tell you what the metaverse is.’

    The comments come despite the longstanding rumors that Apple is developing its own augmented or virtual reality hardware.

    Cook also expressed skepticism that people will want to spend extended periods of time in VR in the future. ‘[VR is] something you can really immerse yourself in. And that can be used in a good way.’

    ‘But I don’t think you want to live your whole life that way,’ he told Bright. ‘VR is for set periods, but not a way to communicate well.’

    Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a very different take – having rebranded his entire company in a pivot towards helping to build a virtual world and already offering a number of different AR headsets that consumers can purchase.

    According to an internal company plan leaked to The Information, Meta is planning to release four new virtual reality headsets in the next two years – with one having an estimated price tag of $799.

    The California-based company has already spent a whopping $10 billion on its push into the metaverse – an amount that’s more than five times what it paid to purchase the Oculus VR business in 2014.

    The metaverse push is happening at a time when analysts have noted that Meta’s profits are decreasing as user interest in several of its core apps has also declined. In addition, the tech giant has faced an advertising downturn caused in part by Apple’s privacy changes and massive competition for younger users from TikTok.

    Cook’s comments are the latest from a string of tech CEOs to express skepticism about the metaverse.

    Snap CEO Evan Spiegel told the Guardian that the company avoids the term because it’s ‘pretty ambiguous and hypothetical’ and that if you ask a room full of people to define it, all their definitions would be ‘totally different.’

    David Limp, Amazon’s head of devices, recently said that if he asked ‘a few hundred people what they thought the metaverse was, we’d get 205 different answers’ and that there’s no ‘common definition’ of the term.

    The term metaverse originates in Neil Stevenson’s science fiction novel Snow Crash but it’s come to mean an immersive digital reality where people could live, shop, work and enjoy leisure time.

    ‘You’ll be able to hang out with friends, work, play, learn, shop, create and more,’ Meta has said. ‘It’s not necessarily about spending more time online — it’s about making the time you do spend online more meaningful.’

    Meta’s Horizon Worlds is currently a test of its grand metaverse. Currently an app, it includes in-app purchases for creators to sell virtual items and effects within their digital worlds.

    Critics, including people within the tech industry, believe there is a potential dark side to Silicon Valley’s push towards the metaverse.

    ‘It could be used to brainwash whole populations and basically put them under the control of the puppet master,’ Brian Shuster, who has 17 years experience with the metaverse and also created his own digital world called Utherverse, told DailyMail.com in reference to the metaverse.

    ‘I don’t believe Zuck or Facebook will ever come to conclusion they can sacrifice money for the benefit and longevity of humans. The money comes when people are happy or angry, [so you choose] which path you [want to] go down?’ he said.

    Raj Shah, technology analyst for Publicis Sapient, a digital consultancy firm, told the New York Times: ‘It is time for a reality check on Meta’s position for the metaverse. The metaverse is a long way from being profitable or filling the gap in ad revenue after Apple’s policy change.’

    Zuckerberg was forced to change his Horizon Worlds avatar after being widely mocked for the first version, which was panned for amateurish graphics.

    The company has also said that many of the products ultimately used for the metaverse will take 10 to 15 years to develop.

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  • 6 часов, 4 минуты назад 03.10.2022Science
    Bill Gates admits that telling people not to eat meat WON’T fix climate change despite past comments

    Bill Gates said climate change won’t be solved by telling people to make radical changes to their lifestyle, such as giving up meat, despite his previous statements saying America and other wealthy countries should move to ‘100% synthetic beef.’

    ‘Anyone who says telling people to stop eating meat or wanting to have a nice house will basically change human desires, I think, that is too difficult,’ he told Bloomberg’s Zero podcast. ‘You can make a case for it, but I don’t think it’s realistic for that to play a central role.’

    However, the Microsoft co-founder previously said the wealthiest countries of the world should switch to ‘100% synthetic beef.’

    ‘You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they’re going to make it taste even better over time. Eventually, that green premium is modest enough that you can sort of change the people or use regulation to totally shift the demand,’ Gates told MIT Technology Review in a February 2021 appearance to promote his book ‘How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.’

    Many environmentalists, including Gates, have long touted that moving towards more plant-based eating would put a dent in the climate crisis. However, the truth is different, according to organizations like the Global Food Justice Alliance (GFJA), which says it advocates for ‘nutrient dense diets that support a healthy population and ecosystem.’

    A 2017 analysis listed on GFJA’s website shows that removing all livestock from the U.S. would only lower the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2.6%. A separate examination of studies shows that meat substitutes have higher carbon footprints that beef from cattle.

    Gates has touted – and invested in – companies like Beyond Meat, Hampton Creek Foods and Nature’s Fynd. Beyond Meat, which was endorsed by Kim Kardashian in a widely mocked commercial, this year lost $100 million in revenue and seen its stock price drop 74%.

    After a spike in interest driven by fears about meat processing plants in the Covid pandemic’s first year, several Beyond Meat partnerships with brands like McDonald’s and Taco Bell flopped and the company laid off 40 employees.

    In the Bloomberg podcast, Gates discussed his involvement with pushing for the Inflation Reduction Act, which allocated almost $370 billion to help cut carbon emissions.

    ‘I am getting governments involved and this latest bill I was personally involved in a lot of what got written into it and working with key senators in the last month to get it passed,’ he said.

    The world’s fifth-richest person, with an estimated net worth of $101 billion, said we are not innovating enough to curb climate change – and noted that the world’s wealthiest countries only account for about one-third of worldwide emissions.

    ‘Those [remaining] two-thirds of emissions are pretty basic in terms of the calories and shelter and transport and goods being used,’ Gates explained. ‘So the excesses of the rich countries…It may feel Calvinistically appropriate, but I’m looking at what the world has to do to get to zero, not using climate as a moral crusade.’

    Gates has in the past raised eyebrows with some of his investments, while drawing praise for others.

    He’s funded a start-up called Turntide, which builds energy-efficient electric motors, as well as the lithium start-up Mangrove Lithium.

    The philanthropist is also the largest private owner of agricultural land in America, after having quietly purchased at least 242,000 acres of farmland in 18 states – including thousands of acres in Nebraska, Arizona, Arkansas and Louisiana.

    ‘We’re not even trying to make breakthroughs, such as inventing an economic way of making aviation fuel, cement or steel,’ he said. ‘The existing tools only apply to areas like electricity generation and don’t apply to most of the emissions.’

    According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, transportation and industry together account for 52% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the country, with electric power making up an additional 25%.

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  • 8 часов, 5 минут назад 03.10.2022Science
    Biotech firm wants to create human embryos from stem cells and raise them in a ‘mechanical womb’

    A biotech firm wants to create human embryos from stem cells for the purpose of harvesting tissues to use in transplants after demonstrating success with mouse embryos that were kept alive in a mechanical womb for days until they developed beating hearts and flowing blood.

    The Israel-based firm, Renewal Bio, has a mission to ‘make humanity younger and healthier’ with the use of stem cell technology that could potentially be used to treat infertility, genetic disorders or extend life in other ways.

    After achieving ground-breaking success with mouse embryos, the results of which were published Monday in the Journal Cell, stem cell biologist Jacob Hanna wants the company he co-founded to replicate the technology in humans.

    In the future, embryonic stem cells could be transferred into an older person to boost their immune system or used to regenerate ovarian cells – although the company says it’s at an early stage and still learning about the technology’s possible applications.

    ‘We view the embryo as the best 3D bio printer,’ Hanna tells MIT Technology Review. ‘It’s the best entity to make organs and proper tissue.’

    Not everyone is on board with Renewal Bio’s work due to the ethical implications, which Hanna is aware of since his company’s website has the most bare-bones information.

    ‘It’s absolutely not necessary, so why would you do it?’ Nicolas Rivron, a stem-cell scientist at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna, tells MIT Technology Review. He argues that scientists should only create ‘the minimal embryonic structure necessary’ to yield cells of interest.

    Scientists are already able to grow certain simple tissues, such as cartilage or bone, but it’s much more challenging to grow complex ones.

    ‘The vision of the company is ‘Can we use these organized embryo entities that have early organs to get cells that can be used for transplantation?’ We view it as perhaps a universal starting point,’ Hanna adds.

    Hanna, who previously demonstrated that he could grow natural mouse embryos outside of a female womb for several says in a mechanical womb, was able to grow look-alike embryos from stem cells in his new work.

    ‘The embryos really look great,’ says Hanna. ‘They are really, really similar to natural embryos.’

    However, fewer than 1 in 100 attempts to mimic a mouse embryo was successful, according to MIT Technology Review, and the embryos that developed for the longest time still eventually had different abnormalities – including heart problems.

    The scientist plans to use his own blood or skin cells, along with those of some volunteers, as a starting point for making synthetic human embryos. Despite the ethical considerations about the creation of life in a test tube, Hanna does not see them as viable.

    ‘We are not trying to make human beings. That is not what we are trying to do.’ Hanna tells MIT Technology Review. ‘To call a day-40 embryo a mini-me is just not true.’

    It’s important to note that a synthetic embryo could not survive beyond the jars of the company’s mechanical womb. Since it doesn’t have a placenta or umbilical cord that’s connected to a mother, it would not survive if transplanted to a uterus.

    ‘The ability to create a synthetic embryo from cells—no egg, no sperm, no uterus—it’s really amazing,’ says Omri Amirav-Drory, who is acting as CEO of the company. ‘We think it can be a massive, transformative platform technology that can be applied to both fertility and longevity.’

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Science HUMAN remains can be used as compost in 2027 under new California law to tackle climate change