Sci/Tech en Wed Jul 14 10:38:43 IST 2021 india-s-first-manned-ocean-mission--samudrayan--launched <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>India's first manned ocean mission 'Samudrayan' was launched in Chennai on Friday by Union Minister Jitendra Singh and with this the nation joined an elite club of nations having such underwater vehicles for carrying out subsea activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The nation has made huge progress in science and technology and when an Indian goes up into space as part of the Gaganyaan programme, another would dive deep into the ocean, the Minister said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Minister tweeted,"Launched India's First&nbsp; Manned Ocean Mission #Samudrayan at #Chennai. India joins elite club of select nations USA, Russia, Japan, France &amp; China having such underwater vehicles.A new chapter opens to explore ocean resources for drinking water, clean energy &amp;&nbsp; blue economy."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In his launch address at the National Institute of Ocean Technology here, Singh said the mission does not only increase the scientific capacity but also gives the nation a sense of esteem that "we are doing something which is no less than any other country of the world."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"What we are actually contributing is not only confined to the realms of scientific work, it is actually contributing to building of India's national esteem," he said at the event that also coincided with the institution's foundation day celebrations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Very soon, may be in a year or two, we have a man going deep into the ocean, and I was telling the other day to some of the scientists from ISRO that it was a strange coincidence because Gaganyaan has got delayed."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"It was to be launched somewhere by the end of this year or before the next Independence day. I said it was God's will, now we have one man going up in space and one in the ocean simultaneously. The delay in Gaganyaan has virtually timed it with your deep sea mission. So when an Indian goes up into the space, same time, an Indian will go deep into the ocean. See what a huge progress," the Minister said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An official release said the Matsya 6000 under Samudrayan initiative is capable of carrying three human beings in titanium alloy personnel sphere of 2.1 metre diameter enclosed space with an endurance of 12 hours and an additional 96 hours in case of emergency situation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The niche technology facilitates carrying out deep ocean exploration of non-living resources such as polymetallic manganese nodules, gas hydrates, hydro-thermal sulphides and cobalt crusts, the NIOT said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Matsya 6000, the deep sea vehicle, will be ready for qualification trials by December 2024, according to an NIOT official.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"The manned submersible can take three scientists to ocean depths to explore oceans and to survey the ocean bed and collect the data and samples," the official said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By the end of 2022 or 2023, the shallow water (500 metres) phase is expected to happen which would be followed by more deeper initiatives, he added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Indigenous efforts are underway at NIOT towards design of the vehicle and some of the subsystems are realized from Indian as well as from global market towards its special usage in high pressure deep sea environment," the release said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; The NIOT had developed a 'personnel sphere' made of mild steel with local industry for an operational capability of 500 metres and tested for its usage as per the International Classification and Certification Agency for man rated operation during this month sea trial using Ocean Research Vessel Sagar Nidhi in Bay of Bengal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The deep sea vehicle shall be maneuvered at deep sea floor with six degree freedom using battery powered propulsion system for 4 hours at 6000 metre depth, according to the release.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Basically this vehicle is a platform to carry any devices, sensors etc to deep sea for doing experiments/observations in the presence of a human being."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This programme shall augment India's capability with infrastructure facility such as high thickness welding facility and deep ocean simulator.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the course of the programme new skill sets are being added under the capacity building which would pave the way for industry development within the country under 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' in the 75th Year of India' Independence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>System design, concept of operation, subcomponents functionality and integrity, emergency rescue, failure mode analysis are reviewed and certified as per the rules of International Association of Classification and Certification Society for man-rated usage of manned submersible at a depth of 6000 metres, the release added.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Oct 30 13:41:24 IST 2021 jupiter-s-monster-storm-not-just-wide-but-surprisingly-deep <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> Sat Oct 30 13:19:06 IST 2021 schools-debate--gifted-and-talented--or-racist-and-elitist- <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Communities across the United States are reconsidering their approach to gifted and talented programmes in schools as vocal parents blame such elite programmes for worsening racial segregation and inequities in the country's education system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A plan announced by New York City's mayor to phase out elementary school gifted and talented programmes in the country's largest school district if it proceeds would be among the most significant developments yet in a push that extends from Boston to Seattle and that has stoked passions and pain over race, inequality, and access to a decent education.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From the start, gifted and talented school programmes drew worries they would produce an educational caste system in US public schools. Many of the exclusive programmes trace their origins to efforts to stanch white flight from public schools, particularly in diversifying urban areas, by providing high-caliber educational programmes that could compete with private or parochial schools.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Increasingly, parents and school boards are grappling with difficult questions over equity, as they discuss how to accommodate the educational aspirations of advanced learners while nurturing other students so they can equally thrive. It's a quandary that is driving the debate over whether to expand gifted and talented programs or abolish them altogether.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I get the burn-it-down and tear-it-down mentality, but what do we replace it with? asked Marcia Gentry, a professor of education and the director of the Gifted Education Research and Resource Institute at Purdue University.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gentry coauthored a study two years ago that used federal data to catalogue the stark racial disparities in gifted and talented programmes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It noted that US schools identified 3.3 million students as gifted and talented but that an additional 3.6 million should have been similarly designated. The additional students missing from those rolls, her study said, were disproportionately Black, Latino, and Indigenous students.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nationwide, 8.1% of white children in public schools are considered gifted, compared with 4.5% of Black students, according to an Associated Press analysis of the most recent federal data.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gifted and talented programmes aim to provide outlets for students who feel intellectually constrained by the instruction offered to their peers. Critics of the push to eliminate them say it punishes high achievers and cuts off a prized opportunity for advancement, particularly for low-income families without access to private enrichment programmes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Seattle, a schools superintendent who left her job in May sought to do away with the district's Highly Capable Cohort programme, as the district's gifted and talented programme is called, blaming it for causing de facto segregation. In its own recent analysis, Seattle public schools found only 0.9% of Black children had been identified as gifted, compared with 12.6% of its white students.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The school board has approved changes that will do away with eligibility testing and make all grade-schoolers automatically eligible for consideration for advanced instruction. In addition to grades, the selection committee will consider testimonials from teachers, family and community members.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The changes don't go far enough for critics like Rita Green, the education chair of the Seattle Chapter of the NAACP. She has called for more work to build environments that nurture the intellectual development of all the district's 50,000 schoolchildren.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We want the programme just abolished. Period. The Highly Capable Cohort program is fundamentally flawed, and it's inherently racist, Green said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Debates over the criteria for admission to advanced courses and elite schools predate the latest national discussion about racial inequities, but have intensified since&nbsp; the killing of George Floyd.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Boston, the school committee voted this summer to expand eligibility to its exclusive exam schools and guarantee spots to high-achieving students from poor and disadvantaged neighbourhoods.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Latino students account for roughly 42% of Boston's 53,000 public school students—about twice the number as whites—but are vastly underrepresented in advanced courses. By the district's account, fewer than 20% of the fourth graders invited to participate in advanced work classes were Latino, while 43% of those invited were white.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many children are overlooked because of language and cultural barriers, said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, the executive director of Boston's Lawyers for Civil Rights. Subconscious bias among teachers who nominate students for the programme also play a role, he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Elsewhere, the renowned Lowell High School in San Francisco in February scrapped admissions exams in favour of a lottery system. In Fairfax County, Virginia, parents recently lost a legal bid to undo their school district's decision to do away with testing for admissions to a campus catering to high achievers in science and technology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most gifted and talented programs have relied on tests to determine eligibility, with some families spending thousands of dollars on tutoring and expensive specialised programmes to boost scores and increase their children's chances of getting a coveted spot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Controversy over admissions into advanced education programmes has simmered in other cities, including Los Angeles and Chicago. But nowhere has the debate been as intense as in New York, where Mayor Bill de Blasio said last month that he would begin to dismantle the programme in elementary schools, calling it exclusive and exclusionary.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some parents, including Rose Zhu, have called on the city to expand the programme, not do away with it. She joined dozens of other parents outside the city's Department of Education building this month to protest de Blasio's proposal, bringing along her 21-month-old daughter, who Zhu hopes will follow two older siblings into the city's gifted and talented programme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I live in Queens, and our traditional schools in our districts aren't really good, she said. So the G and T programme is the best school I can put them in.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>De Blasio's likely successor, fellow Democrat Eric Adams, has said he does not support eliminating the programme, which would put him at odds with some of his Black constituents. Adams himself is African American.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One such constituent, Zakiyah Ansari, the New York City director for the Alliance for Quality Education, wants Adams to follow through with de Blasio's pledge.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"We believe every child is a gifted child, every child is a talented child, Ansari said. We have to have people as angry about taking away one programme that impacts a few people and be more upset about the Black and brown kids who haven't had access to excellent education.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Gentry, the director of the Gifted Education Research and Resource Institute, agreed that it was time for a revolution to fix the problem that's been long-standing in terms of equity" in access to gifted and talented instruction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She urged parents and school administrators to do the hard work of finding a compromise.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I worry that the easy solution is to stop doing it, she said. I know inequities exist. But the thing is, there's a huge distinction between overhauling or eliminating.&nbsp;</p> <p>(AP)</p> Sat Oct 30 10:23:56 IST 2021 pollution-dominates-india-s-climate-worries--global-study-finds <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In India people increasingly worry about the damage that people cause to the planet and environmental concerns tend to be framed around worries about pollution, new worldwide climate research has found.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Glocalites, a leading research agency, and international advocacy organisation Global Citizen released the findings of one of the largest global values-based trend studies on climate action on Tuesday, ahead of the United Nations COP26 climate summit next week.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Spanning 20 countries and carried out over a six-year period, the wide-reaching research based on 247,722 interviews measured people's values around their environmental concerns and climate change and found that 78 percent of the world's population are united in their anxieties about the environment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In India, people increasingly worry about the damage that people cause to the planet. This figure has risen from 82 percent in 2014 to 87 per cent in 2021, the study finds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The world's environmental concerns have steadily increased despite the COVID-19 pandemic. In China and India environmental concerns are more framed as worries about pollution than about climate change, it reveals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study's release has been timed ahead of the G20 summit in Rome and COP26 summit in Glasgow, hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and being attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other world leaders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The world population has woken up to the urgency of the ecological crisis. Anxieties about human-made damage to planet Earth increasingly unite people from all walks of life, said Martijn Lampert, Research Director and Co-Founder of Glocalities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The time has come for courageous, fact-based, and visionary leadership to build a grand coalition for safeguarding the vitality of our planet and future generations. People in all countries want to contribute and are way ahead of many political leaders in recognising the urgency of the task at hand," he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The research notes that several G20 nations have yet to make new climate financing commitments including the G20 host Italy, where worries about damage to the planet have increased from 83 percent to 90 percent between 2014 and 2021.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The surveys were held in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK, and the US.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They revealed that anxieties about human-caused damage to the planet are now observed as a global trend across all age groups, gender, educational and socio-cultural backgrounds, with climate change the most important global environmental concern of our time, followed by air and water pollution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Michael Sheldrick, Co-Founder and Chief Policy, Impact, and Government Affairs Officer of Global Citizen, added: Four in five people around the world are worried about the damage being caused to the planet. Ahead of COP26, the G20 nations responsible for 80 percent of all emissions must respond to these widespread concerns by adopting clear measures to slash emissions by half by 2030.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And developed countries including Italy, Spain, and Australia must bring forward new financial commitments in the coming days to provide the USD 10-15 billion still needed to meet the USD 100 billion annual climate promise made to developing countries.</p> Fri Oct 29 13:20:55 IST 2021 new-ai-tool-by-mit-predicts-how-fast-any-technology-is-improving <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A team led by an Indian-origin researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed a new artificial intelligence (AI) tool that can predict how fast any technology is improving, and help organisations manage research and development (R&amp;D).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study, recently published in the journal Research Policy, demonstrates the predicted improvement rates for 1,757 technology domains covering 97.2 per cent of the US patent system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers noted that the fastest-improving technologies are predominantly software-related, especially those linked to network management, enterprise security, and media transmission.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"As technologists, we have to choose between technologies all the time. Many times few technologies end up capturing a lot of attention due to the hype around them, said study lead author Anuraag Singh from MIT.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"However, fast-improving, more promising technologies end up being ignored. We want to bring realism and objectivity to technological decision-making," Singh said in statement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers have also launched a startup called Technext to help organisations anticipate technological advances, breakthroughs, and disruptions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They also built a free, publicly accessible tool for academic readers to use the system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The study builds on about two decades of research at MIT, started by Professor Christopher L Magee, one of the co-authors of the study.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It used machine learning, patent network analytics, and empirical technology performance data to predict the future potential of any technology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers, including Giorgio Triulzi from the University of The Andes in Columbia, note that the key technical innovation in the study is the early identification of technological breakthroughs, bottlenecks, and threats.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This helps organisations avoid being obsolete, improve R&amp;amp;D effectiveness and increase revenue through new product or service development, they said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The tool can be handy in deploying the USD 2.2 trillion in annual global R&amp;amp;D funding more efficiently by helping organisations avoid low-potential over-hyped technologies and research, the researchers added.</p> Fri Oct 29 12:51:55 IST 2021 explained--cleveland-clinic-s-breast-cancer-vaccine-trial <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Cleveland Clinic researchers have started phase I trial for a vaccine aimed at eventually preventing triple-negative breast cancer, the most aggressive and lethal form of the disease.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The US Food and Drug Administration have already approved an investigational new drug application for the vaccine, which permits Cleveland Clinic and partner Anixa Biosciences, Inc. to launch the study.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This vaccine approach represents a potential new way to control breast cancer,” said Vincent Tuohy, the primary inventor of the vaccine and staff immunologist at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Why is it Important?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite representing only about 12-15 percent of all breast cancers, triple-negative breast cancer accounts for a disproportionately higher percentage of breast cancer deaths and has a higher rate of recurrence. This form of breast cancer is twice as likely to occur in African-American women, and approximately 70 percent to 80 percent of the breast tumors that occur in women with mutations in the BRCA1 genes are triple-negative breast cancer. So there is a great need for improved treatments for triple-negative breast cancer, which does not have biological characteristics that typically respond to hormonal or targeted therapies.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Vaccine trial: Phase 1</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The phase I trial is designed to determine the maximum tolerated dose of the vaccine in patients with early-stage triple-negative breast cancer and to characterize and optimie the body’s immune response. The new study at Cleveland Clinic will include 18 to 24 patients who have completed treatment for early-stage triple-negative breast cancer within the past three years and are currently tumor-free but at high risk for recurrence. During the course of the study, participants will receive three vaccinations, each two weeks apart and will be closely monitored for side effects and immune response. The study is estimated to be completed in September 2022.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Vaccine trial: Subsequent phase</b>s</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the subsequent trials, healthy, cancer-free women will be enrolled to evaluate whether the vaccine can prevent high-risk patients from developing this type of breast cancer. The study will be done on women who are at high risk for developing breast cancer who have decided to undergo voluntary bilateral mastectomy to lower their risk. Typically, those women carry mutations in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene and are therefore at risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer or have high familial risk for any form of breast cancer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We are hopeful that this research will lead to more advanced trials to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine against this highly aggressive type of breast cancer,” said G. Thomas Budd, of Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute and principal investigator of the study. “Long term, we are hoping that this can be a true preventive vaccine that would be administered to healthy women to prevent them from developing triple-negative breast cancer, the form of breast cancer for which we have the least effective treatments.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The long-term objective of this research is to determine if this vaccine can prevent breast cancer before it occurs, particularly the more aggressive forms of this disease that predominate in high-risk women,” said Dr. Tuohy who is as inventor on the technology, which Cleveland Clinic exclusively licensed to Anixa Biosciences, Inc. He will receive a portion of commercialization revenues received by Cleveland Clinic for this technology and also holds personal equity in the company.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The investigational vaccine targets a breast-specific lactation protein, α-lactalbumin, which is no longer found post-lactation in normal, aging tissues but is present in the majority of triple-negative breast cancers. Activating the immune system against this “retired” protein provides pre-emptive immune protection against emerging breast tumors that express α-lactalbumin. The vaccine also contains an adjuvant that activates an innate immune response that allows the immune system to mount a response against emerging tumors to prevent them from growing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Pre-clinical study</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pre-clinical research, led by Dr. Tuohy, had showed that activating the immune system against the α-lactalbumin protein was safe and effective in preventing breast tumors in mice. The research also found that a single vaccination could prevent breast tumors from occurring in mouse models, while also inhibiting the growth of already existing breast tumors. The research, originally published in Nature Medicine, was funded in part by philanthropic gifts from more than 20,000 people over the last 12 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Transforming cancer research</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This vaccine strategy has the potential to be applied to other tumor types,” added Dr. Tuohy. “Our translational research program focuses on developing vaccines that prevent diseases we confront with age, like breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers. If successful, these vaccines have the potential to transform the way we control adult-onset cancers and enhance life expectancy in a manner similar to the impact that the childhood vaccination program has had.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Oct 28 14:57:34 IST 2021 the-emperor-new-virtual-clothes-how-videogames-testify-to-promise-of-metaverse-economy <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In 2009, Valve introduced hats to&nbsp;<i>Team Fortress 2</i>. They served no practical purpose besides changing the look of your player: They could be cool; they could be funny. To get a hat, you had to complete a set of challenges or play the game long enough to receive it via a randomised “drop”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hats very quickly became prestigious to own, and Valve very quickly started allowing the player base to design and trade their own. In 2010, Valve allowed hats to be purchased with real money. The next year, Valve realised they could make more money selling hats than they ever could selling games—and decided to make&nbsp;<i>TF2</i>, then one of the most popular multiplayer games in the world, free-to-play.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By releasing their game for free, Valve gained four times its player base—and 14 times its revenue. The trade of in-game items and skins spread beyond&nbsp;<i>TF2&nbsp;</i>and turned into a lucrative market. As&nbsp;<i>Counter Strike: Global Offensive&nbsp;</i>exploded onto the eSports scene, gamblers bet on match outcomes with virtual items—exploiting a loophole in laws banning cash gambling on sports. In 2016, facing backlash, Valve moved to shut down what had become a $7.4 billion skin-gambling industry. By 2018, the market for virtual skins overall was an estimated $50 billion, according to a&nbsp;<a href="">Bloomberg report</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That there is a global thirst for virtual, seemingly intangible items, was becoming obvious. No wonder then, that Facebook plans to spend up to $10 billion setting up its metaverse in 2022. The cost of creating a global market for virtual items—catering not just to gamers but theoretically to every Facebook user on earth—pales in comparison with the revenue possibilities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One could be forgiven for thinking that spending real money on virtual clothes is a uniquely first-world addiction. Reality tells a different tale. A decade since Valve’s experiment with virtual items changed the gaming industry forever, newspaper headlines from small and big cities in India started to tell the same story again and again: Of minors, using their parents ATM cards, spending lakhs of rupees on virtual items for their characters in PUBG. In one case, a Delhi teenager spent Rs 2 lakh from his grandfather’s pension fund on these items.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is hard not to think of these gamers when watching Mark Zuckerberg’s presentation on Meta. And it is harder still not to envision a future where game-makers—who have years of experience crafting virtual marketplaces, could end up creating the killer app of the metaverse, rather than Facebook.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of Meta’s biggest competitors is the maker of another popular videogame, Fortnite. Epic Games makes an estimated $7 billion from this “free-to-play” game, courtesy of the sale of in-game items as well as celebrity partnerships—such as 2020’s virtual Travis Scott concert, that made $20 million in revenue for the company.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While Facebook owns one of the world’s leading virtual reality headset manufacturers, Oculus, Epic Games runs one of the largest video games on earth by concurrent player base (15.3 million players tuned into a Fortnite event at the end of 2020). And Epic Games also runs the Unreal Engine, one of the most popular tools for creators to design virtual assets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Epic has also demonstrated a willingness to challenge the “walled gardens” of Big Tech companies, taking Apple and Google to court over the commissions these platforms charge on in-game purchases. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney described his views on the metaverse to the&nbsp;<i>Washington Post</i>&nbsp;in September, expressing his belief that it would challenge the curated, advertiser-driven model of the internet as we know it today.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Think crypto</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the virtual world faces hurdles imposed by the “real world”, you can count on advocates of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology to get involved and provide an alternative.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The proof? The world’s second-biggest cryptocurrency by market cap, Ether, run on the Ethereum network. Founder Vitalik Buterin developed his drive to build a decentralised blockchain after an update to the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) he was playing,&nbsp;<i>World of Warcraft</i>, which weakened his character. Ethereum now has a market cap of over $510 billion and is the basis for much of the global NFT space.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2018, even as Valve prepared what would become a successful cease-and-desist notice to the world’s largest video games skins site, OPSkins, the platform’s founders raised a $41 million initial coin offering and launched a blockchain marketplace: The Worldwide Asset Exchange (WAX), to create a decentralised market for such virtual items as well as for non-fungible tokens (NFTs).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>NFTs have an important role to play in turning virtual items into unique collectibles. While images and videos can have a limitless number of copies, only one NFT can exist at a time, making it the tech of choice for those who want assurance of individuality. Tether co-founder William Quigley told&nbsp;<i>Bloomberg</i>&nbsp;that NFTs would become the revenue model for the metaverse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A digital copy of a handbag by luxury brand Gucci sold for $4,115 in the popular Roblox video game. In March, Gucci itself told Vogue it was only a matter of time before major fashion houses got into NFTs themselves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Facebook—now Meta—has many challenges to overcome before it set up the lucrative cash cow of a planned metaverse fashion economy. Regulators from the US to the EU are taking the platform to task for the negative effects its algorithms have had on society. The burden of moderating content will weigh ever heavier on Facebook, potentially forcing it to invest much more in keeping its platforms safe and regulated. Anti-trust moves to break up Facebook are already underway. And the crucial 18-25 demographic—that can make or break a social media platform’s odds at success—is already slipping out of Facebook’s grasp.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No wonder then that Zuckerberg chose a new name for his company, as he imagines it existing in a new world of its own creation. Even so, it remains a business decision. In the Q3 2021 earnings call Monday, Zuckerberg said, “If you're in the metaverse every day, then you'll need digital clothes, digital tools, and different experiences. Our goal is to help the metaverse reach a billion people and hundreds of billions of dollars of digital commerce this decade.&quot;</p> Sat Oct 30 13:42:48 IST 2021 facebook-froze-as-anti-vaccine-comments-swarmed-users <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In March, as claims about the dangers and ineffectiveness of coronavirus vaccines spun across social media and undermined attempts to stop the spread of the virus, some Facebook employees thought they had found a way to help.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By subtly altering how posts about vaccines are ranked in people's newsfeeds, researchers at the company realized they could curtail the misleading information individuals saw about COVID-19 vaccines and offer users posts from legitimate sources like the World Health Organization.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Given these results, I'm assuming we're hoping to launch ASAP, one Facebook employee wrote in March, responding to the internal memo about the study.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Instead, Facebook shelved some suggestions from the study. Other changes weren't made until April.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When another Facebook researcher suggested disabling comments on vaccine posts in March until the platform could do a better job of tackling anti-vaccine messages lurking in them, that proposal was ignored.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Critics say Facebook was slow to act because it worried it might impact the company's profits.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Why would you not remove comments? Because engagement is the only thing that matters, said Imran Ahmed, the CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, an internet watchdog group. It drives attention and attention equals eyeballs and eyeballs equal ad revenue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an emailed statement, Facebook said it has made considerable progress this year with downgrading vaccine misinformation in users' feeds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Facebook's internal discussions were revealed in disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen's legal counsel. The redacted versions received by Congress were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including The Associated Press.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The trove of documents shows that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook carefully investigated how its platforms spread misinformation about life-saving vaccines. They also reveal rank-and-file employees regularly suggested solutions for countering anti-vaccine misinformation on the site, to no avail. The Wall Street Journal reported on some of Facebook's efforts to deal with antivaccine comments last month.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The inaction raises questions about whether Facebook prioritized controversy and division over the health of its users.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These people are selling fear and outrage, said Roger McNamee, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and early investor in Facebook who is now a vocal critic. It is not a fluke. It is a business model.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Typically, Facebook ranks posts by engagement the total number of likes, dislikes, comments and reshares. That ranking scheme may work well for innocuous subjects like recipes, dog photos or the latest viral singalong. But Facebook's own documents show that when it comes to divisive, contentious issues like vaccines, engagement-based ranking only emphasizes polarization, disagreement and doubt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To study ways to reduce vaccine misinformation, Facebook researchers changed how posts are ranked for more than 6,000 users in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil and the Philippines. Instead of seeing posts about vaccines that were chosen based on their engagement, these users saw posts selected for their trustworthiness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The results were striking: a nearly 12% decrease in content that made claims debunked by fact-checkers and an 8% increase in content from authoritative public health organizations such as the WHO or U.S. Centers for Disease Control.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Employees at the company reacted with exuberance, according to internal exchanges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Is there any reason we wouldn't do this? one Facebook employee wrote in response.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Facebook said it did implement many of the study's findings but not for another month, a delay that came at a pivotal stage of the global vaccine rollout.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a statement, company spokeswoman Dani Lever said the internal documents don't represent the considerable progress we have made since that time in promoting reliable information about COVID-19 and expanding our policies to remove more harmful COVID and vaccine misinformation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The company also said it took time to consider and implement the changes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet the need to act urgently couldn't have been clearer: At that time, states across the U.S. were rolling out vaccines to their most vulnerable the elderly and sick. And public health officials were worried. Only 10% of the population had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. And a third of Americans were thinking about skipping the shot entirely, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite this, Facebook employees acknowledged they had no idea just how bad anti-vaccine sentiment was in the comments sections on Facebook posts. But company research in February found that as much as 60% of the comments on vaccine posts were anti-vaccine or vaccine reluctant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even worse, company employees admitted they didn't have a handle on catching those comments, or a policy in place to take them down.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our ability to detect (vaccine hesitancy) in comments is bad in English and basically non-existent elsewhere, another internal memo posted on March 2 said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Los Angeles resident Derek Beres, an author and fitness instructor, sees anti-vaccine content thrive in the comments every time he promotes immunizations on his accounts on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. Last year, Beres began hosting a podcast after noticing conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and vaccines were swirling on the social media feeds of health and wellness influencers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier this year, when Beres posted a picture of himself receiving the COVID-19 shot, some on social media told him he would likely drop dead in six months' time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The comments section is a dumpster fire for so many people, Beres said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some Facebook employees suggesting disabling all commenting on vaccine posts while the company worked on a solution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Very interested in your proposal to remove ALL in-line comments for vaccine posts as a stopgap solution until we can sufficiently detect vaccine hesitancy in comments to refine our removal, one Facebook employee wrote on March 2.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The suggestion went nowhere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Instead, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on March 15 that the company would start labeling posts about vaccines that described them as safe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The move allowed Facebook to continue to get high engagement and ultimately profit off anti-vaccine comments, said Ahmed of the Center for Countering Digital Hate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Facebook has taken decisions which have led to people receiving misinformation which caused them to die, Ahmed said. At this point, there should be a murder investigation.&nbsp;</p> <p>AP)</p> Wed Oct 27 09:42:06 IST 2021 un-world-needs-to-almost-halve-greenhouse-gas-emissions-in-8-years <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The United Nations reported Tuesday that fresh pledges by governments to cut greenhouse gas emissions raise hopes but aren't strict enough to avoid catastrophic global warming.<br> </p> <p>A report by the UN Environment Programme found recent announcements by dozens of countries to aim for net-zero emissions by 2050 could limit a global temperature rise to 2.2 degrees Celsius (4 F) by the end of the century.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>That's close to the less stringent target set in the Paris climate accord of capping global warming at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) by the end of the century but far from the agreement's most ambitious goal of keeping it to 1.5 degrees Celsius C (2.7 F).&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>The United States, the European Union and dozens of other countries have set net-zero emissions targets.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>However, the Environment Programme report said the net-zero goals that many governments announced in the run-up to a UN climate summit in Glasgow next week remain vague, with much of the heavy-lifting on emissions cuts pushed beyond 2030.<br> </p> <p>Climate change is no longer a future problem. It is a now problem, the program's executive director, Inger Andersen, said.</p> <p>"To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 C, we have eight years to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions," she said, adding, "The clock is ticking loudly."</p> <p>The report is one of several recent studies to examine the gap between what countries have pledged to do to cut emissions of planet-heating gases and what scientists say is required to meet the Paris goals.<br> </p> <p>Leaders, diplomats, scientists and environmental campaigners will meet in Glasgow from Oct. 31-Nov. 12 to discuss how countries and businesses can adjust their targets to avert the more extreme climate change scenarios that would result in significant sea-level rise, more frequent wild weather and droughts.&nbsp;<br> </p> Wed Oct 27 23:40:20 IST 2021 cop26-can-india-resist-pressure-west-reduce-emissions <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The countdown to Glasgow has begun. This Scottish city will be hosting the biggest climate change <i>mela</i> in the last six years, called the Conference of Parties 26.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Held under the Untied Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the members meet every year to negotiate and take forward decisions made. Every five years, the meet is a big one, where new announcements are made. The last one was in Paris in 2015, COP 26 should have been held last year, but was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even before the meeting, the strains are already visible, with nations not in agreement with each other on how to save the earth from tipping over. There is consensus that temperatures have to be kept within 2 degrees Celsius of the prevailing global temperature in the pre-industralised world, and that global temperature has already risen by 1.16 degree. Scientists predict that a rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius will take the earth to a point from which it will be impossible for humans to reverse the change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The disagreement is on how to keep temperatures down. The developed world has come up with two new phrases—net zero and methane pledge. The first means that if carbon dioxide captured from the air equals or is more than the greenhouse gases emitted, then the net emissions will be zero. The methane pledge comes from the realisation that cattle emit methane, and that these emissions have to come down.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Net zero is not an option for India—a developing country which has only just got completely electrified. The energy need is big and rising. In developed nations, the energy requirement has already reached saturation levels. Is it fair to then ask India to reduce its emissions? Emissions come due to the burning of coal, which is the main energy provider. The west have moved on to renewables. India has made grand plans of generating 450 GW of energy through reneweables, but this will take time. Nuclear energy, too, takes decades to set up and yield adequate power. So, coal is the only option.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>How will India resist the pressures from the west will be worth watching. Given that the west is wooing India in a big way (largely to counter China's growth), how much of their understanding of India's development needs will translate into climate financing and technology transfer? Because, when it comes to parting with funds, the west has a dodgy record. Commitments are made grandly, but the funds rarely reach the table. Instead, they tweak figures, showing existing aid and even private investments as climate finance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Much before the negotiations start, however, Glasgow will be a jamboree of world leaders—Boris Johnson, Narendra Modi, Joe Biden, Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron. The world is likely to witness some sizzling chemistry, some obvious cold shouldering, too, perhaps, and a lot of big talk. Only towards the end of the two-week summit will we really learn whether anything successful emerges from the Glasgow gang.</p> Wed Oct 27 23:31:53 IST 2021 majority-in-us-concerned-about-climate--survey <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>President Joe Biden heads to a vital UN climate summit at a time when a majority of Americans regard the deteriorating climate as a problem of high importance to them, an increase from just a few years ago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>About 6 out of 10 Americans also believe that the pace of global warming is speeding up, according to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As Biden struggles to pass significant climate legislation at home ahead of next week's UN climate summit, the new AP-NORC/EPIC poll also shows that 55 percent of Americans want Congress to pass a bill to ensure that more of the nation's electricity comes from clean energy and less from climate-damaging coal and natural gas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Only 16 percent of Americans oppose such a measure for electricity from cleaner energy. A similar measure initially was one of the most important parts of climate legislation that Biden has before Congress. But Biden's proposal to reward utilities with clean energy sources and penalize those without ran into objections from a coal-state senator, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, leaving fellow Democrats scrambling to come up with other ways to slash pollution from burning fossil fuels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For some of the Americans watching, it's an exasperating delay in dealing with an urgent problem.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If you follow science, the signs are here, said Nancy Reilly, a Democrat in Missouri who's retired after 40 years as a retail manager, and worries for her children as the climate deteriorates. It's already here. And what was the first thing they start watering down to get this bill through? Climate change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It's just maddening, Reilly said. I understand why, I do I get the politics of it. I'm sick of the politics of it."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, the Biden administration hoped to help negotiate major emissions cuts globally to slow the rise of temperatures. But it's unclear whether Biden will be able to get any significant climate legislation through Congress before the UN summit starts Sunday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In all, 59 percent of Americans said the Earth's warming is very or extremely important to them as an issue, up from 49 percent in 2018. Fifty-four percent of Americans cited scientists' voices as having a large amount of influence on their views about climate change, and nearly as many, 51 percent, said their views were influenced by recent extreme weather events like hurricanes, deadly heat spells, wildfires and other natural disasters around the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the last 60 years, the pollution pumped out by gasoline and diesel engines, power plants and other sources has changed the climate and warmed the Earth by 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit, making the extremes of weather more extreme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In east Tennessee's Smoky Mountains, leaf-peeper websites this year are advising fall foliage tourists that leaves are taking days longer than normal to turn from green to fiery orange and red. It's not evidence of climate change as a one-off instance, but typical of the changes Americans are seeing as the Earth heats up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Normally you get the four seasons, fall, spring, and winter, and it goes in that way. But lately, it's not been that," said Jeremy Wilson, a 42-year-old who votes independent and works the grounds at a scenic chairlift park that runs people up to the top of the Smoky Mountains. It's been either way hotter, or way colder.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Seventy-five percent of Americans believe that climate change is happening, while 10 percent believe that it is not, the poll found. Another 15 percent are unsure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among those who say it is happening, 54 percent say that it's caused mostly or entirely by human activities compared to just 14 percent who think incorrectly, scientists say that it's caused mainly by natural changes in the environment. Another 32 percent of Americans believe it's a mix of human and natural factors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And while Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say climate change is happening, majorities of both parties agree that it is. That breaks down to 89 percent of Democrats and and 57 percent of Republicans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The poll also gauged Americans' willingness to pay for the cost of cutting climate-wrecking pollution as well as mitigating its consequences.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fifty-two percent said they would support a $1 a month carbon fee on their energy bill to fight climate change, but support dwindles as the fee increases.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I would say, like 5, 10 dollars, as long as it's really being used for what it should be, said Krystal Chivington, a 46-year-old Republican in Delaware who credits her 17-year-old daughter for reviving her own passion for fighting climate change and pollution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It's not ordinary consumers who should bear the brunt of paying to stave off the worst scenarios of climate change, said Mark Sembach, a 59-year-old Montana Democrat who works in environmental remediation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"I think it needs to fall a great deal on responsible corporations that's and unfortunately ... most corporations aren't responsible," Sembach said. And I think there needs to be a lot of pushback as to who ultimately pays for that.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(AP)</p> Wed Oct 27 23:40:56 IST 2021 tesla-wants-to-keep-secret-its-response-in-autopilot-probe <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Tesla wants to keep secret its response to the U.S. government's request for information in an investigation of its Autopilot partially automated driving system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The electric vehicle maker sent a partial response by a Friday deadline to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is investigating how the system detects and responds to emergency vehicles parked on highways.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a document posted on its website Monday, the agency says it is reviewing the response and that Tesla has asked that its whole submission be treated as confidential business information.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Companies often ask that some information be kept confidential when they respond to the agency. Much of the time the documents are heavily redacted before being placed in public files.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In August the safety agency made a detailed information request to Tesla in an 11-page letter that is part of a wide-ranging investigation into how Autopilot behaves when first responder vehicles are parked while crews deal with crashes or other hazards.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The agency wants to know how Teslas detect a crash scene, including flashing lights, road flares, reflective vests worn by responders and vehicles parked on the road.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>NHTSA also wants to know how the system responds to low light conditions, what actions it takes if emergency vehicles are present, and how it warns drivers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The agency opened the investigation in August, citing 12 crashes in which Teslas on Autopilot hit parked police and fire vehicles. In the crashes under investigation, at least 17 people were hurt and one was killed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>NHTSA announced the investigation into Tesla's driver assist systems including Autopilot and or Traffic Aware Cruise Control after a series of collisions with emergency vehicles since 2018. The probe covers 765,000 vehicles from the 2014 through 2021 model years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Autopilot, which can keep vehicles in their lanes and stop for obstacles in front of them, has frequently been misused by Tesla drivers. They have been caught driving drunk or even riding in the back seat while a car rolled down a California highway.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The agency also is asking Tesla for details on how it ensures that drivers are paying attention, including instrument panel and aural warnings. NHTSA also wants all consumer complaints, lawsuits and arbitration cases involving Autopilot, and it wants to know where the system can operate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tesla has said Autopilot and its Full Self-Driving software are driver assist systems and that drivers must pay attention and be ready to intervene at any time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A message was left early Monday seeking comment from Tesla, which has disbanded its media relations department.</p> <p>(AP)</p> Tue Oct 26 23:11:25 IST 2021