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We're Entering a New Age of Philosophy

9 April 2017 - 11:12am
Luciano Floridi, The New Atlantis
When we use a computer, its performance seems to degrade progressively. This is not a mere impression. Over the years of owning a particular machine, it will get sluggish. Sometimes this slowdown is caused by hardware faults, but more often the culprit is software: programs get more complicated, as more features are added and as old bugs are patched (or not), and greater demands are placed on resources by new programs running in the background.
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Challenging the Bee-Extinction 'Crisis'

7 April 2017 - 11:44pm
Hank Campbell, Science 2.0

Colony Collapse Disorder, the belief that honeybees, an important pollinator, are being killed off in droves, has been good for environmental fundraising but hasn't had a scientific foundation.Nonetheless, it has persisted for 10 years despite data showing that periodic die-offs in bees are as common, and therefore predictable, as solar cycles and California droughts. From the time that records of bees were formally kept, there were reports of mass die-offs without explanation, a thousand years before pesticides even existed.
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Why Did Our Ancestors Eat Each Other?

7 April 2017 - 9:51pm
James Cole, The Conversation
In the recently released horror movie Raw, a lifelong vegetarian teenager arrives at a veterinary school and, after being forced to consume a rabbit kidney at a student initiation ritual, discovers a deep desire to eat human flesh. Most of us are fascinated with cannibalism and there are many examples of brutal and dark dramas exploring the topic, including Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal.
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Eight Megawatt-Hour Flow Battery Is Largest of Its Kind

7 April 2017 - 9:51pm
Megan Geuss, AT
A company called UniEnergy Technologies (UET) has installed a new large flow battery on the grid in Snohomish County in Washington state. The 2MW, 8MWh battery system may seem like a small installation compared to recent projects in Southern California and Hawaii, but it's quite a step for the nascent flow battery industry. In fact, this installation is currently the largest capacity containerized flow battery system in the world. It's housed in 20 connected shipping containers and will be used by the Snohomish Public Utility District (otherwise known as SnoPUD), which has also invested in...
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Is TRAPPIST-1 Alive or Dead?

7 April 2017 - 9:51pm
John Wenz, Astronomy

TRAPPIST-1 opens up an exciting field for astronomers: a small, nearby, compact planetary system with seven Mars- to Earth-size worlds orbiting in days or weeks instead of months and years. What's more, because their star is small and cool, all the planets may be habitable.Maybe. Two new papers are out on TRAPPIST-1. One makes the chances for life even more ripe, while the other virtually strips away all chances of habitability.
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Dolphins 'Tenderize' Octopus Before Eating

7 April 2017 - 9:51pm
Kacey Deamer, Live Science

Attempting to consume live octopus can prove deadly for predators, but dolphins have an innovative way to prep their dinner: They tenderize the meat by tossing it around.In a new study, researchers have detailed the eye-catching way dolphins eat octopus. Scientists observed bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Australia shaking octopus prey on the water's surface, and tossing the animals several feet into the air multiple times. This was all done to help break down and tenderize the prey before eating it, the researchers said.
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FDA Approves Sale of Genetic-Risk Tests

7 April 2017 - 9:50pm
Gina Kolata, NY Times

For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration said it would allow a company to sell genetic tests for disease risk directly to consumers, providing people with information about the likelihood that they could develop various conditions, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.The move on Thursday is a turnaround for the agency, which had imposed a moratorium in 2013 on disease tests sold by the company, 23andMe, which is based in Mountain View, Calif. The decision is expected to open the floodgates for more direct-to-consumer tests for disease risks, drawing a road map for other...
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Giant-Virus Discovery Elicits Discord and Debate

7 April 2017 - 1:19am
Sara Reardon, NN
Evolutionary biologists have never known what to make of viruses, arguing over their origins for decades. But a newly discovered group of giant viruses, called Klosneuviruses, could be a 'missing link' that helps to settle the debate or provoke even more discord.In 2003, researchers reported that they had found giant viruses, which they named Mimiviruses, with genes that suggested their ancestors could live outside of a host cell1. The discovery split researchers into two camps. One group thinks viruses started out as self-sufficient organisms that became trapped inside other cells,...
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