Russian scientists find WW2 Nazi weather station

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❝ A secret Nazi base in the Arctic abandoned after scientists ate infected polar bear meat has been unearthed.

The mysterious site, named ‘Schatzgraber’ or ‘Treasure Hunter’ by Hitler’s underlings, was constructed in 1942 – a year after the Third Reich invaded Russia.

Russian researchers have now rediscovered the military base, which the former garrison evacuated by U-boat after eating infected polar bear meat…

❝ More than 500 objects were recovered from the site as Russian scientists explored the former Nazi compound located in Alexandra Land, an island around 1,000 kilometres from the North Pole.

❝ On the barren moonscape of the isolated island, relics of the Second World War can be seen, with shells and other fragments of the conflict lying on the shale.

The ruins of bunkers, discarded petrol canisters and even paper documents have also been discovered, preserved in the intense cold

❝ Allied forces occupied most suitable sites for polar weather reports, so the Nazis landed a small group of observers on Alexandra Land.

Supplies for the men at the remote post were dropped by air.

In 1944 all of the men at he base ate raw polar bear meat, which resulted in trichinosis disease from roundworms living in the infected flesh.

A U-boat had to rescue the scientists posted there after infection ravaged their base.

Not exactly good duty. I hope they at least received combat pay.

Borrowed Time by Pixar

❝ Pixar Animation Studios is known for making surprisingly dark, bold storytelling choices in its movies. For movies that are meant to be accessible to children, they can be sharply daring in the directions they take…

❝ The piece certainly is more adult, but it still has the familiar Pixar look, with marvelously expressive characters and a tremendous attention to environment and modeling…And like so many Pixar features, Borrowed Time is expressly about family bonds, and how they heighten emotions — in this case, guilt and disappointment. This is a short vignette, but it’s effective and powerful.

❝ Granted, an actual Pixar film would certainly make a point of relieving the tension and sorrow this short sets up, and would use it to some spectacular end…Hamou-Lhadj…and Coats…have set up what feels like the beginning to a terrific story. Here’s hoping they keep it going, past this tragic moment and on to the rest of the story of this man’s life.

I’ll second that emotion.

Healthy mice born from first artificial lab-grown eggs

❝ The birth of baby mice made from artificial eggs has prompted calls for a public debate on whether the same approach should ever be offered by fertility clinics.

Nearly a dozen rodents were born after scientists created the early-stage mouse eggs from stem cells and nurtured them in the lab until they were mature enough to fertilise with mouse sperm.

The team went on to make hundreds of embryos from the lab-grown eggs and implanted them into female mice, leading some to give birth to apparently healthy mouse pups.

❝ Though far from ready for use in humans today, the procedure could potentially be improved upon in coming years and eventually made safe enough to treat couples with fertility problems, scientists said. The technology suggests it may one day be possible for doctors to make viable eggs from the skin cells of an infertile woman…

❝ …With stem cell science progressing so fast, some researchers are keen to thrash out the potential implications for humans now. “Ethically, this issue has yet to be discussed fully by scientists and society,” said Azim Surani, a stem cell scientist at the Gurdon Institute at Cambridge University, who was not involved in the latest work. “This indeed is the right time to start a debate and involve the wider public in these discussions, long before, and in case, the procedure becomes feasible in humans.”

❝ Labs around the world are now expected to repeat the experiments before attempting the same procedure in larger animals, such as pigs, sheep and cows. Before it can help humans to multiply, it might benefit other animals. “With such technology we might be able to rewind the process of mammalian extinction,” said Dusko Ilic, stem cell scientist at King’s College London.

If nothing else, this will provide full employment for priests, populist pundits and politicians.

Be warned – spiders can hear you

❝ While jumping spiders are known to have great vision, a new Cornell University study proves for the first time that spiders can hear at a distance.

The discovery runs counter to standard textbook wisdom that claimed spiders could only detect nearby sounds.

❝ A study describes how researchers used metal microelectrodes in a jumping spider’s poppy-seed-sized brain to show that auditory neurons can sense far-field sounds, at distances up to 3 meters, or about 600 spider body lengths.

In further tests, researchers stimulated sensitive long hairs on the spider’s legs and body – previously known to pick up near-field airflow and vibrations – which generated a response in the same neurons that fired after hearing distant sounds, providing evidence the hairs are likely detecting nanoscale air particles that become excited from a sound wave…

❝ The techniques open up studies that link neurology with behavior in all spiders, Ron Hoy said. Gil Menda has since found evidence of hearing in five different spider species: jumping spiders, fishing spiders, wolf spiders, netcasting spiders and house spiders.

Future work by Hoy’s lab will investigate audio perception from lyriform organs and will better investigate audio neurons in the brain. The findings could have applications for using hairlike structures for extremely sensitive microphones, such as in hearing aids.

I wonder if they’ll investigate Google spiders? Har.

Meanwhile, RTFA. A delightful tale of accidental discoveries and cross-discipline cooperation.

Plunging battery costs will bring the greatest change in automotive history

❝ Plunging battery costs will drive the auto industry’s biggest change in more than a century, enabling a boom by 2030 in technologies from self-driving electric cars to ride-sharing applications.

The price of lithium-ion battery packs for electric cars has fallen 65 percent since 2010 and is likely to keep declining, according to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and McKinsey & Co. Consumers may appreciate the biggest impact in the form of cheaper costs for taxis, including substantial reductions for ones run by machines.

Driving the trend are cheaper batteries, which are the biggest cost in electric cars, along with rapidly improving computer technology that will make self-driving cars a reality on roads within the next decade. Changes already are starting to feed through in the form of an investment boom in ride-hailing applications such as Uber Technologies…and the mushrooming of software developers that will link electric cars to utilities and payment systems.

Those trends will reduce the cost of running a taxi driven by a human by 3.1 percent to $2.76 a mile driven by 2025, according to the report. Self-driving taxis may be as cheap as 67 cents a mile to operate. The study counted in the total cost of owning the vehicle, driver’s pay and allowances for overhead and returns for investors…

❝ The changes will reshape the auto industry, tilting the need for investment away from developing engines and toward perfecting software that drives cars and links them to the web for managing payment and navigation, McKinsey said. Power companies could benefit from a 3 percent increase in electricity demand in the next 15 years…

❝ Battery and hybrid vehicles on the world’s roads may displace as many as 13 million barrels of oil a day by 2040, BNEF forecast this year in a separate report. The costs of lithium-ion batteries, which typically make up about 40 percent of an electric car’s value, may fall by 16 percent to 20 percent with each cumulative doubling of the vehicles’ manufacture…

The only cornball advice I have to offer is – it’s better to invest in rapidly growing tech too soon rather than too late. But, I welcome the changes coming in safety and environment with open arms.

Inside the world’s largest particle accelerator

…You can see scientists try to make space for a giant 360 degree camera-ball while they’re hard at work helping uncover the origins of the universe: the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) unveiled two new panoramic videos today of the Large Hadron Collider — you know, the same giant underground machine that found evidence of the Higgs boson back in 2012.

Both videos were taken during the Large Hadron Collider’s first long shutdown in 2013. During this time, called “consolidation,” crews performed accelerator element maintenance that’d help it run at a higher energy once they turned it back on in 2015. And that it did — at almost twice the energy as before, its proton beams colliding at an energy of 13 TeV (teraelectronvolts).

Ah, yes. Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress made damned certain we never built anything like this in our god-fearing nation.

Tesla rewrote the book on electric car sales last month

We’ve been pointing out the many electric vehicle sales records on the board in 2016. Nearly every month established a new high for the plug-in segment in the U.S., and June was best on the books. Still, Tesla had yet to have that breakout sales showing that rattled an industry built on gasoline. In September, things changed. Tesla not only shattered EV sales records on every level; it also outsold 13 long-established brands, including Porsche, Mitsubishi, and Volvo.

InsideEVs estimates Tesla delivered 4,350 Model S sedans and 3,200 Model X SUVs in September. Both are record totals for Tesla; Model S’s total is the highest ever for plug-in vehicle; and as a brand Tesla more than doubled the best EV sales by any other automaker in America…Overall, Tesla reached 24,500 deliveries worldwide.

The showing puts Tesla on pace to break the annual sales record (30,200) set in 2014 by Nissan Leaf. The industry as a whole was buoyed by the performances of Model S and Model X…

Parochial motorheads who favor EVs may be peering worried into their lite beers; but, globalized gear monkeys know the future is guaranteed. At least through the next few 5-year plans in the world’s largest auto market – China.

The government there has committed to electric transport, cars, truck, trains, for all the good reasons from fighting pollution to climate change. Doing so at a level we aren’t likely to approach in the GOUSA – even with Dems in the White House and controlling the lobbyist country club called Congress.

The cars will be built and available. Even if we’re only stealing a small share of what is destined for Asian shores.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch is worse than researchers expected

❝ The Ocean Cleanup, the Dutch foundation developing advanced technologies to rid the oceans of plastic…presented the initial findings of its Aerial Expedition — a series of low-speed, low-altitude flights across the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the plastic accumulation zone between Hawaii and California. Using a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft, expert spotters, and an experimental array of plastic scanning equipment, the expedition aims to accurately measure the biggest and most harmful debris in the ocean. This is an essential milestone in preparation for the cleanup of the patch, scheduled to begin before the end of the decade.

❝ This first-ever aerial survey of floating ocean plastic provided confirmation of the abundance of plastic debris sized 0.5 m/1.5′ and up. While the flight plan took us along the Northern boundary of the patch, more debris was recorded than what is expected to be found in the heart of the accumulation zone. Initial estimates of the experienced observer crew indicate that in a span of 2.5hours, over a thousand items were counted.

❝ For the development of a cleanup technology, it is essential to understand the problem, specifically the dimensions of the individual objects and the plastic accumulation as a whole. The nature and amount of the debris determine the design of cleanup systems, the logistics of hauling plastic back to shore, the methods for recycling plastic, and the costs of the cleanup.

❝ The quest to answer this question started in August 2015, when The Ocean Cleanup’s fleet of about 30 vessels crossed the patch simultaneously in an operation named the Mega Expedition. On their crossing wide range of debris sizes were sampled, producing the first high-resolution map of the patch. By using sampling nets that were 80x larger than conventional scientific measurement tools, it was discovered that the amount of large debris was heavily underestimated

Once all exploration flights are finalized later this week, the results from the Aerial Expedition will be combined with the data collected during the 2015 Mega Expedition in a peer-reviewed scientific paper expected to be published early 2017…

❝ Instead of going after plastic debris with vessels and nets – which would take many thousands of years and billions of dollars to complete – The Ocean Cleanup is designing a network of extremely long floating barriers that will remain stationary in the water, enabling the ocean to concentrate the plastic using its own currents.

We won’t know if that experimental measure works until the group moves to a pilot plant stage. As important as questions of plastic pollution in our oceans appear to be – it might be nice if nation-states and governments provided some regulation and oversight along the way to solutions.

Wall-E changed his name to MUTT, he is in the Marines, and he is packing a .50 cal machine gun

Click to enlargeLance Cpl Julien Rodarte

The Multi-Utility Tactical Transport (MUTT) is the Marines’ new best friend and it speaks fluent Ma Deuce. Moreover, it has a buddy with a Mini-Gun.

Developed by General Dynamics Land Systems, the MUTT is lightweight for a vehicle, weighing in at just 750-pounds. It is amphibious. It can use either tracks or low-pressure wheels to get through surf, sand and swamp. It can be loaded aboard most Marine aviation assets such as the MV-22 Osprey.

And best yet, it can carry up to 600-pounds of gear so Marines don’t have to, making it the 21st Century pack mule of a rifle squad. Plus, the MUTT can transpo large crew-served weapons such as the M2HB it is shown with. Currently being fielded by the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory is testing the MUTT’s use in the July RIMPAC exercise…

As noted in the article, no word on whether or not the Dallas PD has any on order. Yet.

Tesla taxi crossing 200,000 miles – maintenance costs, battery life, impressive!

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Tesloop, a Tesla-only intercity shuttle service for Southern California and Las Vegas residents, has just surpassed the magical 200,000 mile marker driven in a Model S. The achievement goes down as one of the highest mileage Teslas we’ve ever heard of which is notable in itself.

The folks at TechCrunch had the chance to catch up with Tesloop CEO Rahul Sonnad to find out more about what it’s like behind the wheel of a high mileage Tesla. When asked about whether there were any concerns over battery degradation as the vehicle continued to tack on hundreds of thousands of miles driven, Sonnad indicates that the Tesloop Model S, which reached the 200k mile marker in one year, has lost only 6% of battery range.

Sonnad tells TechCrunch, “For your daily driver, you don’t fully charge unless you’re doing a long trip, We’re doing a long trip every day. We save, like, three minutes in charging in Barstow if we fully charge beforehand. We decided that we’re gonna suck it up, fully charge, and let it degrade. We figured that if it degraded enough, we could take it off a Vegas route and put it on a local Orange County route.”

Even more noteworthy is the fact that Tesloop’s Model S has had little to no maintenance costs. Aside from replacing tires and the 12V battery, the car has never gone through a set of brake pads, nor experience any major issues…

Tesloop’s remarkable achievement in crossing 200,000 miles and counting further validates why Tesla owners embrace having a high mileage car and treat it as a badge of honor. Free long-distance travel courtesy of Tesla’s growing Supercharger network, combined with virtually no maintenance costs, is a win-win no matter how you look at it.

Nothing to add. If you can afford it up front, nothing wrong with owning one of the best and saving money at the same time.

My wife and I are both retired. Couple years ago, she got the last new car we’ll have in the family from here on out. Between the two of us, we drive about 2000 miles/year, now. Otherwise? If we were still a few years away from the end of commuting, electric is the way we’d go.