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Arctic ice melt could trigger uncontrollable climate change at global level

Scientists warn increasingly rapid melting could trigger polar tipping points with catastrophic consequences felt as far away as the Indian Ocean

Arctic scientists have warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap risks triggering 19 tipping points in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe.

The Arctic Resilience Report found that the effects of Arctic warming could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean, in a stark warning that changes in the region could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level.

Temperatures in the Arctic are currently about 20C above what would be expected for the time of year, which scientists describe as off the charts. Sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year.

The warning signals are getting louder, said Marcus Carson of the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the lead authors of the report. [These developments] also make the potential for triggering [tipping points] and feedback loops much larger.

Arctic sea ice extent graph

Climate tipping points occur when a natural system, such as the polar ice cap, undergoes sudden or overwhelming change that has a profound effect on surrounding ecosystems, often irreversible.

No ones an exception: toll of climate change, from US to the Marshall Islands video
150 years of global warming in a minute-long symphony

Joel Clement, co-chair of the project and director of the office of policy analysis at the US Department of the Interior, said: This groundbreaking report is an unprecedented effort to gain insight from what is happening on the ground. The findings are foundational to a more informed, coordinated response to building resilience across the region.

 

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/25/arctic-ice-melt-trigger-uncontrollable-climate-change-global-level

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Relax, artificial intelligence isnt coming for your job

There is a pervasive underlying fear from generations raised on dystopian science fiction that artificial intelligence and robotics will be the undoing of humankind. Eventually, the conventional thinking goes even the likes of Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking are on board here artificial intelligence will become smarter than the organic variety and terrible things will happen as machines take over the planet.

In reality, however, its much more likely AI isnt going to destroy us or even take ourjobs. In fact, its very likely going to help us do our jobs better. Think about that for a moment. The idea that AI could help us work smarter is not nearly as sexy as the notion of robot overlords taking over Earth but it is a much more realistic view of artificial intelligence technology in 2016. Its worth noting, thats as true for the line worker at a factory as it is for a salesperson or knowledge worker.

While it may seem like every software engineer in Silicon Valley is trying to create the perfect algorithm to replace human workers, many are simply trying to find ways to make you a better employeeby combining the power of the computer with your creative working brains.

Augmenting humans

Paul Daugherty, CTO at Accenture, says in his companys viewpoint, artificial intelligence will be about enhancing humans, not replacing them and driving tremendous economic growth in the process. While SciFi-fear mongering might make good headlines, its not what his company is focused on when it comes to artificial intelligence.

Our goal with AI is not to make super humans, its to make humans super. While that might be a clever marketing turn of phrase, he insists the company is focusing on solving real business problems with AI finding ways to simplify the complex.

The idea that AI could help us work smarter is not nearly as sexy as the notion of robot overlords taking over Earth but it is a much more realistic view of artificial intelligence technology in 2016.

To that end, Accenture is looking at three concrete approaches to artificial intelligence: It wants to transform business processes by making them more intelligent, provide a more effective way for humans to interact with machines to allow us to take maximum advantage of the machinesdata processing capabilities (possibly using smart glasses as an interface), and finally, it wants to help surface unstructured data, a problem business has been working on for decades.

Lest you think this is all about improving the lives of knowledge workers, Daughertysays that AI willreach down to the factory floor. Hetells of a manufacturing client his company has beenworking with who combined AI with an augmented reality headset to teach low-skilled workers new jobs. The workers are fed very specific instructions through the headset and they learn much more quickly this way. They found employeesloved this approach, as did employers because they could distribute workers across a variety of tasks without a lot of costly training.

Building a better salesperson

When one looks at AI, one of the places we are startingto see it emerge in a big way this year, has been in sales tools from Salesforce, Oracle, SugarCRM, Base and others. The thinking is that sales teams cant possibly keep track of all the factors out there that could be having impact on an individual sale and thats where the machine can help.

Good sales people have an innate talent forcommunicating with their customers and knowing how to push and prod them to the final sale. What they often lack, no matter how good they are, is an understanding all of the underlying issues that could have a negative impact on a possible sale, says Rich Green, chief product officer at SugarCRM.

Thats where AI can come in providing informationabout how the current deal relates to other deals, whats happening in the news that could have an impact on a deal, what the tone suggests in the latest email exchanges, and so forth. A machine and good CRM software can process all of this external information, provide insight to the sales team, and let humans worry about the social interactions that are needed to close the sale.

Its certainly a point Salesforce was pushing earlier this year when it launched Einstein, its artificial intelligence platform and its something you can expect to see inall kinds of software in the coming years.

AI is here to stay

Regardless of how you feel about it, AI is going to be built into most software moving forward. Its just the natural course of software evolution. If you can build smarter software, why wouldnt you? Daugherty believes that, because of this, we will see a much more rapid adoption curve for AI than we did with cloud computing.

Thats partly because, with the cloud, a company had to make a deliberate decision to switch from on-prem to an entirely new model, and it has taken some time for that idea to catch on. AI will simply be part of the fabric of much of the software being built from this point on. Its also a technology that has been in development for years, waiting for the right moment. We now have the compute power and data to make it work in real business scenarios.

As Amit Zavery, senior VP forthe Oracle cloud platform told me, its not as though in the future, you can have the software with AI or you can save a few bucks and get the software without it. Its simply going to be built in. When Zavery talks to customers, they ultimately dont care about the underlying technology. They want some sort of business value and if its AI delivering it, so much the better.

That said, all of the major vendors Google, Microsoft, AWS, Oracle, IBM or any platform vendor are also exposing artificial intelligence programming tools in the form of APIs, putting this kind of technology within reach of every company.We dont know how long it will take for organizations to start building more intelligent applications internally, but it would seem if they build theAPIs, the developerswill come.

While things oftentend to move more slowly in technology than many of us think, AIis a trend that should progressmuch morerapidly as the software vendors push itdeeper and deeper into the software they develop. As this happens, its important to keep in mind, the goals of this approach are designed to help you work more efficiently and intelligently not to remove you from the equation.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2016/11/27/relax-artificial-intelligence-isnt-coming-for-your-job/

State Department reopens internal probe of Clinton emails

The State Department is re-opening an internal investigation into whether Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her top aides mishandled classified information, Fox News confirmed late Thursday.

The investigation, which was first reported by the Associated Press, focuses on how classified emails to and from Clinton’s private server were categorized at the time they were sent.

The State Department started its review in January after declaring 22 emails from Clinton’s private server to be “top secret.” The investigation was halted after the FBI began investigating Clinton’s so-called “homebrew” email setup last April. On Wednesday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said there would be no indictments resulting from the FBI probe.

“Given the Department of Justice has now made its announcement, the State Department intends to conduct its internal review,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “Our goal will be to be as transparent as possible about our results, while complying with our various legal obligations.”

Kirby set no deadline for the investigation’s completion.

Clinton was secretary of state until early 2013. Most of her top advisers left shortly thereafter.

Kirby said earlier this week that former officials can still face “administrative sanctions.” The most serious of those penalties is loss of security clearances, which could complicate Clinton’s naming of a national security team if she becomes president.

Beyond the Democratic front-runner, the probe is most likely examining confidants Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan and Huma Abedin,¬†who wrote many of the emails to their boss that the various investigations have focused on. Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department, has been viewed as a possibility for the same job in the White House. There is speculation that Sullivan, Clinton’s former policy chief, could be national security adviser.

The State Department says it won’t identify former officials that still hold security clearances. But in an email Fox News made public in February, the department described Mills as still holding a valid clearance.

Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/07/07/state-department-reopens-internal-probe-clinton-emails.html

Space tech meets aviation: The hypersonic revolution

Take a look at this story. Won’t this be awesome?

(CNN)London to Melbourne in 90 minutes? Paris to San Francisco in under an hour?

That’s travel at 25 times the speed of sound — or barely enough time to take in an in-flight movie.
Few areas of aviation generate wilder predictions than hypersonic flight — but a team in Germany might just have cracked it.
Hypersonic means speeds of Mach 5 or over, or more than five times the speed of sound. Supersonic is Mach 1, or the speed of sound.
Since the withdrawal of the Concorde in 2003, commercial aviation has remained purely subsonic, but that could change in the coming decades.
Take new aircraft concepts like the Japanese HYTEX, capable of speeds of Mach 5, or the European Lapcat-II, expected to reach Mach 8.
Then there’s the nascent space tourism industry, with companies such as Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace hoping to take a select few on leisure trips to the edge of space.
Researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are taking their own approach.
A team has applied space technology principles to propose what is possibly the world’s most advanced hypersonic airliner concept to date.

The SpaceLiner

The result of 10 years of ongoing research by the Space Launcher Systems Analysis (SART) department at the Institute of Space Systems in Bremen, the SpaceLiner is a revolutionary hypersonic spaceplane concept capable of flying some 50 passengers across the globe at speeds of up to 25 times the speed of sound.
It’s based on a two-stage concept, not unlike the Space Shuttle, where both the booster and passenger stages start in an upright configuration.
Propelled by 11 rocket engines during launch (nine on the booster stage and two on the passenger stage) the system accelerates into the mesosphere using traditional cryogenic rocket propulsion.
Once the booster stage is empty, the smaller passenger vehicle separates from the booster stage and continues accelerating, flying autonomously, just like an aircraft — except that it does so while reaching astonishing speed of up to Mach 25.
After reaching a maximum altitude of about 80 kilometers, the passenger stage commences a gliding descent towards its destination.
Not only is the SpaceLiner concept incredibly fast, it’s also environmentally friendly.
It uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen (LOX/LH2) propellants so only water vapour is produced.
Most of the flight processes will be fully automated, but there would still be two pilots to monitor all onboard and flight procedures — and to provide reassurance to passengers.

Re-usability is key

The hypersonic flight market

Even if costs can be brought down, hypersonic flight is likely to remain a premium product, at least at the beginning.
The number of potential routes flown by the SpaceLiner would be limited to intercontinental distances of more than 9,000 kilometers, where the time-saving would be most beneficial.
Potential routes could include Australia to Europe, as well as linking destinations in the Far East, Europe, America’s West Coast and the Trans-Pacific market.
The SpaceLiner would need space ports to be strategically located close to main population centers and business hubs in order to capture business traffic, while at the same time being sufficiently removed from densely populated areas in order to minimize noise issues during take-off.
Coastal locations are the most desirable so that the starting phase can occur over water.
SART has already identified several suitable launch sites in Europe, Australia and the U.S. that meet these criteria, with the Netherlands’ north coast being a particular favorite.
How will we fly in 2050?

It will take some time to fly hypersonic

According to SART’s own estimates, SpaceLiner flights are still a few decades away, maybe as much as 30 years.
If it’s ever to become a reality, the SpaceLiner will need the involvement of the aerospace industry as well as investors with deep pockets.
Dr. Trivailo estimates that the SpaceLiner would require an initial investment of 28 to 30 billion euros ($30 to 32 billion) to make it to the prototype stage.
But there’s a lot more to the SpaceLiner than flying passengers faster across continents.
By designing a fully reusable space system for regular passenger traffic, SART researchers hope that their work will make space travel more cost-effective.
If their space hardware went into serial production, costs might be brought down and space travel would be more accessible to more people.
Don’t pack your suitcase just yet, but affordable space tourism could be that little bit closer to reality.
Hypersonic rocket engine could ‘revolutionize’ air travel

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/24/aviation/spaceliner-mach-25/index.html