Category Archives: Science

(ArutzSheva) Israeli scientists say cure for diabetes coming soon

(ArutzSheva) Betalin Therapeutics touts ‘Engineered Micro Pancreas’ as replacement for insulin injections for diabetes patients.

Hospital corridor

A cure for diabetes is just a few years away, according to a group of Israeli scientists and researchers.

Betalin Therapeutics has developed what it calls “the world’s first Engineered Micro Pancreas (EMP),” using pig-lung tissue and insulin-secreting cells. The company aims to replace insulin-therapy by providing the body with a natural way to measure and regulate blood-sugar levels.

A common problem with organ transplants is rejection by the body of the recipient. To address this issue, Betalin Therapeutics signed a licensing agreement with the Hebrew University for the use of cannabis extracted molecules to ensure the patient’s body does not reject the new pancreas.

Animal trials have already been completed. Human trials are expected to begin next year.

Betalin Therapeutics Dr. Nikolai Kunicher told the Jerusalem Post that “today, you only have ways to manage the disease. This is a cure. The diabetic pancreas has lost the function of secreting insulin and we give it back. The patient should never have to inject insulin into his body again.”

Prof. Eduardo Mitrani of Hebrew University’s Faculty of Science, who developed the technology used by Betalin Therapeutics, explained how the EMP is different from other organ transplants.

“The pancreas is unique in that it functions as a complete autonomous organ, not as single cells, and can therefore be located anywhere in the body,” prof. Mitrani said.

(NewScientist) Google claims it has finally reached quantum supremacy


Energy flash
Google’s demonstration reportedly involved checking a series of binary numbers were truly random

This could be the dawn of a new era in computing. Google has claimed that its quantum computer performed a calculation that would be practically impossible for even the best supercomputer – in other words, it has attained quantum supremacy.

If true, it is big news. Quantum computers have the potential to change the way we design new materials, work out logistics, build artificial intelligence and break encryption. That is why firms like Google, Intel and IBM – along with plenty of start-ups – have been racing to reach this crucial milestone.

The development at Google is, however, shrouded in intrigue. A paper containing details of the work was posted to a NASA server last week, before being quickly removed. Several media outlets reported on the rumours, but Google hasn’t commented on them.

A copy of the paper seen by New Scientist contains details of a quantum processor called Sycamore that contains 54 superconducting quantum bits, or qubits. It claims that Sycamore has achieved quantum supremacy. The paper identifies only one author: John Martinis at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who is known to have partnered with Google to build the hardware for a quantum computer.

“This dramatic speedup relative to all known classical algorithms provides an experimental realization of quantum supremacy on a computational task and heralds the advent of a much-anticipated computing paradigm,” the paper says.

Google appears to have partnered with NASA to help test its quantum computer. In 2018, the two organisations made an agreement to do this, so the news isn’t entirely unexpected.

The paper describes how Google’s quantum processor tackled a random sampling problem – that is, checking that a set of numbers has a truly random distribution. This is very difficult for a traditional computer when there are a lot of numbers involved.

Totally random

But Sycamore does things differently. Although one of its qubits didn’t work, the remaining 53 were quantum entangled with one another and used to generate a set of binary digits and check their distribution was truly random. The paper calculates the task would have taken Summit, the world’s best supercomputer, 10,000 years – but Sycamore did it in 3 minutes and 20 seconds.

This benchmarking task isn’t particularly useful beyond producing truly random numbers – it was a proof of concept. But in the future, the quantum chip may be useful in the fields of machine learning, materials science and chemistry, says the paper. For example, when trying to model a chemical reaction or visualise the ways a new molecule may connect to others, quantum computers can handle the vast amount of variables to create an accurate simulation.

“Google’s recent update on the achievement of quantum supremacy is a notable mile marker as we continue to advance the potential of quantum computing,” said Jim Clarke at Intel Labs in a statement.

Yet we are still at “mile one of this marathon”, Clarke said. This demonstration is a proof of concept, but it isn’t free of errors within the processor. Better and bigger processors will continue to be built and used to do more useful calculations.

Read more: Google’s quantum computing plans threatened by IBM curveball

At the same time, classical computing isn’t giving up the fight. Over the past few years, as quantum computing took steps towards supremacy, classical computing moved the goal posts as researchers showed it was able to simulate ever more complex systems. It is likely that this back-and-forth will continue.

“We expect that lower simulation costs than reported here will eventually be achieved, but we also expect they will be consistently outpaced by hardware improvements on larger quantum processors,” says the Google paper.

(GUA) First human-monkey chimera raises concern among scientists

(GUA) Researchers reprogrammed human cells before injecting them in the monkey embryo

Scientist with monkeys
 The human-monkey chimeras have reportedly only been allowed to develop for a few weeks. Photograph: Xinhua/Barcroft Images

Efforts to create human-animal chimeras have rebooted an ethical debate after reports emerged that scientists have produced monkey embryos containing human cells.

A chimera is an organism whose cells come from two or more “individuals”, with recent work looking at combinations from different species. The word comes from a beast from Greek mythology which was said to be part lion, part goat and part snake.

The latest report, published in the Spanish newspaper El País, claims a team of researchers led by Prof Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte from the Salk Institute in the US have produced monkey-human chimeras. The research was conducted in China “to avoid legal issues”, according to the report.

Chimeras are seen as a potential way to address the lack of organs for transplantation, as well as problems of organ rejection. Scientists believe organs genetically matched to a particular human recipient could one day be grown inside animals. The approach is based on taking cells from an adult human and reprogramming them to become stem cells, which can give rise to any type of cell in the body. They are then introduced into the embryo of another species.

Izpisúa Belmonte and other scientists have previously managed to produce both pig embryos and sheep embryos which contain human cells, although the proportions are tiny: in the latter case, researchers estimate that only one cell in 10,000 was human. Pig-human and sheep-human chimeras are attractive in part because pigs and sheep have organs about the right size for transplantation into humans.

Details of the work reported this week are scarce: Izpisúa Belmonte and colleagues did not respond to requests for comment.

However Alejandro De Los Angeles, from the department of psychiatry at Yale University, said it was likely monkey-human chimeras were being developed to explore how to improve the proportion of human cells in such organisms. “Making human-monkey chimeras could teach us how to make human-pig chimeras with the hope of making organs for transplantation,” he said. “It could teach us which types of stem cells we should be using, or other ways of enhancing what’s called ‘human chimerism levels’ inside pigs.”

De Los Angeles pointed out that, as with previous work in pigs and sheep, the human-monkey chimeras have reportedly only been allowed to develop for a few weeks – ie before organs actually form.

Prof Robin Lovell-Badge, a developmental biologist from London’s Francis Crick Institute, agreed. “I don’t think it is particularly concerning in terms of the ethics, because you are not taking them far enough to have a nervous system or develop in any way – it’s just really a ball of cells,” he said.

But Lovell-Badge added that if chimeras were allowed to develop further, it could raise concerns. “How do you restrict the contribution of the human cells just to the organ that you want to make?” he said. “If that is a pancreas or a heart or something, or kidney, then that is fine if you manage to do that. [But] if you allow these animals to go all the way through and be born, if you have a big contribution to the central nervous system from the human cells, then that obviously becomes a concern.”

The news of the monkey-human chimeras comes shortly after it was reported Japanese researchers such as Prof Hiromitsu Nakauchi received government support to create mouse-human chimeras.

In March Japan lifted a ban on allowing such embryos to develop beyond 14 days and being implanted in a uterus, meaning these chimeras can, if permission for an experiment is granted, be brought to term. Nakauchi has said he does not plan to bring the human-mouse chimeras to term yet.

Lovell-Badge said it is very unlikely the animals, if brought to term, would take on human-like behaviour, but said the animals might not behave like “normal” rodents.

“So there are some animal welfare issues as well as the ‘yuck-factor’ ethical issues from making something more human,” he said. “Clearly if any animal born had aspects of human appearance, their faces, their hands, their skin, then I suspect, while scientifically very interesting, people might get a little upset with that.”

De Los Angeles and colleagues have suggested monkey-human chimerascould, in theory, provide new ways to study neurological and psychiatric diseases in humans.

“In theory, for diseases where primate models are not good enough, making human-monkey chimeras could provide a better model of brain diseases,” he told the Guardian, adding that in the case of Alzheimer’s more than 150 trials have failed in 20 years, possibly because of a lack of a good disease model.

One possible approach for brain research is that a monkey embryo could be genetically altered and then injected with human stem cells so that part of the brain, for example the hippocampus, is composed only of human cells. A similar approach has previously been used by Izpisúa Belmonte and colleagues to grow a rat pancreas inside a mouse.

“If you just swap the hippocampus, it doesn’t mean you are now going to have a human-functioning brain,” said Lovell-Badge. “It might have perhaps slightly better memories or slightly different memories … but they are not going to have a human cortex, which is what actually makes us human.”

But such proposals walk straight into the ethical arena others have been at pains to dodge: the possibility of human cells ending up in monkey brains, a development some fear could result in the creatures being human-like. Researchers have previously said they are able to prevent human cells ending up in chimeras’ brains or sex organs.

De Los Angeles said there is still a long way to go before human-monkey chimeras are brought to term.

“The evolutionary distance between humans and monkeys spans 30-40 million years, so it is unclear if this is even possible,” he said. “This difference is greater than 10 million years between mice and rats, and even the efficiency of making mouse-rat chimeras is already quite low.”

While making monkey brains more human is a red line for some, in some ways it has already been crossed. In April scientists in China published a study in which they claimed to have introduced a human brain gene into monkeys, with the animals showing features including better short-term memory and shorter reaction times. These animals are not chimeras, but it is clear that new boundaries are being pushed.

Lovell-Badge said he thought it possible that the development of human-monkey chimeras to study a part of the central nervous system could gain approval, but that it would take a while.

“In the UK, any proposal to make human-monkey chimeras would have to be very well justified, and it would have to get through a very tough review process,” he said. “I am sure that any proposal to go straight to live born chimeras would not get approval in the UK and probably not also in Japan.”

(BBG) Your Personal Genetic Counselor

At a new clinic in Boston, genetic counselor Carrie Blout helps healthy patients get their DNA tested for predispositions to more than 2500 diseases. Bloomberg’s Aki Ito goes through the testing herself, trialing a controversial technology at the forefront of modern medicine. This is an episode of Next Jobs, a mini-documentary series about careers of the future.

(AFP) NASA to open International Space Station to tourists from 2020


An image of the International Space Station (ISS) is projected during the public viewing of deployment of Kenya’s first nano satellite (CubeSat) from the ISS at the University of Nairobi in Nairobi on May 11, 2018

NASA said Friday it will open up the International Space Station to business ventures including space tourism — with stays priced at $35,000 a night — as it seeks to financially disengage from the orbiting research lab.

“NASA is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing these opportunities as we’ve never done before,” NASA chief financial officer Jeff DeWit said in New York.

There will be up to two short private astronaut missions per year, said Robyn Gatens, deputy director of the ISS.

The missions will be for stays of up to 30 days. As many as a dozen private astronauts could visit the ISS per year, NASA said.

These travelers would be ferried to the orbiter exclusively by the two companies currently developing transport vehicles for NASA: SpaceX, with its Crew Dragon capsule, and Boeing, which is building one called Starliner.

These companies would choose the clients and bill for the trip to the ISS, which will be the most expensive part of the adventure: around $58 million for a round trip ticket.

That is the average rate the companies will bill NASA for taking the space adventurers up to the ISS.

But the tourists will also pay NASA for their stay in space, for food, water and use of the life support system on the orbiter.

That will run about $35,000 per night per astronaut, said DeWit.

The space station does not belong to NASA. It was built along with Russia starting in 1998, and other countries participate in the mission and send up astronauts.

But the US has paid for and controls most of the modules that make up the orbiter.

The new space tourists to the ISS will not be the first: US businessman Dennis Tito had that honor in 2001. He paid Russia around $20 million for the trip.

(OBS) A farmacêutica Pfizer tinha um medicamento capaz de combater o Alzheimer. Ocultou a informação e não quis investir na pesquisa


A empresa norte-americana detetou num anti-inflamatório a capacidade de reduzir os riscos de sofrer Alzheimer em 64%. Não investiu nesta investigação e tentou omitir as informações do público.Partilhe

A farmacêutica norte-americana Pfizer descobriu que um dos seus medicamentos poderia reduzir os riscos de sofrer Alzheimer em 64%, mas ocultou a informação do público. O Washington Post, que avança a notícia, teve acesso a centenas de milhares de reclamações de seguros e diz que a empresa não investigou os efeitos secundários do medicamento devido aos elevados custos que tal envolveria.

O medicamento em questão é o Enbrel, um potente anti-inflamatório para a artrite reumática e um dos produtos mais vendidos pela Pfizer. A farmacêutica detetou os benefícios do Enbrel para o Alzheimer em 2015. Na altura, trabalhadores da empresa insistiram para que fossem realizados testes científicos rigorosos em milhares de pacientes para explorar e comprovar estes efeitos. A Pfizer decidiu não avançar com a investigação, uma vez que seriam precisos cerca de 80 milhões de dólares (cerca de 71 milhões de euros) para o ensaio clínico, de acordo com o Washington Post.

O Washington Post diz ainda que, do ponto de vista do mercado, estes efeitos positivos do medicamento no Alzheimer não significariam um aumento do lucro da empresa. “O medicamento já enfrentava competição de medicamentos genéricos”, refere o jornalista norte-americano Christopher Rowland.

A farmacêutica terá dito que não havia provas suficientes que confirmassem os benefícios do medicamento, uma vez que o Enbrel não atua diretamente no cérebro. A empresa ainda estudou o medicamento durante três anos, mas abandonou a investigação. Ed Harnaga, porta-voz da Pfizer,  disse que a decisão de não investigar os efeitos foi puramente “científica”.

Clive Holmes, professor de psiquiatria biológia na Universidade de Southampton disse ao Washington Post que a Pfizer não terá investido na investigação simplesmente porque não queria ver o seu mercado ser invadido por medicamentos genéricos. 

O jornal norte-americano que divulgou o escândalo teve acesso a documentos internos da empresa. “O Enbrel poderia potencialmente prevenir, tratar e reduzir a progressão do Alzheimer”, informava um PowerPoint preparado por um grupo de investigadores da Pfizer para apresentar a um comité interno da empresa, em 2018.

Ainda de acordo como Washington Post, a Pfizer terá partilhado os dados do Enbrel com pelo menos um cientista. Investigadores consultados pelo jornal referem que a farmacêutica deveria ter partilhado o estudo com mais cientistas e investigadores.

A divulgação dos dados beneficiaria a comunidade científica. Quer fosse dados positivos ou negativos, iriam disponibilizar mais informação e permitiram tomar decisões mais informadas”, disse Keenan Walker, professor de medicina na Johns Hopkins.

O Enbrel deu à Pfizer um lucro de 2,1 mil milhões de dólares (cerca de 1,8 mil milhões de euros) em 2018.

As farmacêuticas são frequentemente criticadas por não divulgarem os resultados negativos dos seus medicamentos. Mas, e como refere o El País, não existe consenso sobre qual a obrigação destas empresas de divulgarem os possíveis efeitos positivos dos seus produtos.

O Alzheimer é um tipo de demência que se caracteriza por problemas na memória, pensamento e comportamento. A doença é incurável. Só nos Estados Unidos, há 5.8 milhões de pessoas afetadas por este tipo de demência, de acordo com dados de 2019 da Associação Alzheimer.

(ZH) Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs Could Become A Bigger Killer Than Cancer


Antibiotic resistance is becoming a larger problem in developed parts of the world such as the United States.  The overuse of antibiotics has caused a sort of evolution effect to occur in certain types of bacteria.  They have become much harder to kill with antibiotics, evolving into what’s been dubbed “superbugs.”

The Daily Mail reported that in little more than 30 years, antibiotic-resistance may be more deadly than cancer around the globe.  At least 23,000 people in the US die of an antibiotic-resistant infection each year – and some estimates suggest it’s far more. By 2050, some projections suggest that drug resistance, in general, will claim the lives of 10 million people. That’s more than the 8.2 million that die of cancer worldwide each year.

Superbugs, or bacteria that has mutated and evolved to withstand modern medicine (antibiotics), are a growing threat worldwide. Their ever-increasing numbers are fueled by over-prescription, waste from drug manufacturing plants, antibiotic use in animals, and even international travel.

But don’t expect Big Pharma or the government to reign it in. There’s just too much money in drugs for either entity to care much about it.  We’ll have to take action as a society on our own. The first step you can take is to make sure you understand what an antibiotic is for and what it cannot do. Antibiotics cannot fight viral infections such as the common cold or the flu. Talk with a doctor and get an understanding of what it is you’re fighting. Never take antibiotics for a viral infection.

The symptoms of viral and bacterial infections are often difficult to distinguish from one another, and patients – especially the parents of pediatric patients – hate being told to go home empty-handed.

So doctors began to prescribe ‘harmless’ antibiotics to anyone with symptoms like a runny nose, a fever, and a headache, which could be caused either by a mild bacterial infection or a viral one like the common cold. –Daily Mail

Most doctors are seeing more resistant infections every day, forcing them to resort to more powerful drugs of last resort or simply to lose patients, the Daily Mail reports.

“You can still walk into pharmacies around the world and buy antibiotics, including colistin,” a powerful broad-spectrum drug with dangerous side effects that is sometimes used to treat resistant infections, says Dr. Jason Newland, a Washington University St Louis pediatrician, and antimicrobial stewardship specialist.

“It’s one of the major drivers [of antibiotic resistance], that if you want an antibiotic, you could go to India right now and buy it and use it inappropriately,” said Newland.

The rise of superbugs is not unprecedented, however, it shouldn’t be overlooked either. Keeping yourself healthy through good nutrition and exercise just might be the simple short term answer.  But evaluation of medical and prescription drug procedures should occur as well if any useful correction to this problem is to made

(OBS) Investigadores criaram um coração vivo, que contrai, numa impressora 3D


O coração tem apenas três centímetros e ainda não é capaz de bombear sangue, mas os investigadores acreditam que é o primeiro passo para, no futuro, se imprimirem corações humanos funcionais.Partilhe

O pequeno coração nas mãos do investigador responsável pela sua criação, Tal Dvir.

Investigadores da Universidade de Tel Aviv criaram um coração com tecido humano numa impressora 3D. As células do coração são capazes de se contrair, mas até termos uma réplica de um coração humano ainda é preciso ultrapassar algumas etapas. Os resultados foram publicados na revista científica Advanced Science.

A equipa de Tal Dvir retirou células adiposas de uma pessoa, separaram-nas dos restantes materiais existentes no tecido e fizeram com que se transformassem em células estaminais — com capacidade de dar origem a outras células. A partir daí fizeram com que as células se diferenciassem em células do coração e dos vasos sanguíneos. Depois de misturarem as células com hidrogel criaram uma biotinta para usar na impressora 3D.

O coração criado tem apenas três centímetros, como se de um coração de coelho se tratasse, e ainda não é capaz de bombear sangue — embora as células tenham a capacidade de se contrair. O próximo passo será fazer com que as células comuniquem entre si para se contraírem em conjunto, explicou o investigador, citado pelo jornal La Vanguardia.

Só depois os investigadores podem pensar em criar um coração maior. “Temos de descobrir como criar células suficientes para produzir um coração humano”, disse Tal Dvir, coordenador do Laboratório de Engenharia de Tecidos e Medicina Regenerativa.

“Em 10 ou 15 anos [talvez] tenhamos impressoras 3D em hospitais, que forneçam tecidos para os doentes. Quem sabe, corações”, disse o investigador.

(ZH) First Ever Image Of Black Hole Reveals “The Gates Of Hell, The Point Of No-Return”


Astronomers have captured the first-ever image of a black hole using the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) – a network of eight radio telescopes spanning the globe at various locations including Antarctica, Spain and Chile – which creates an effective telescope the size of the earth. 

The results were presented simultaneously by teams in Tokyo, Washington, Brussels, and Santiago de Chile. 

“This major discovery provides visual evidence for the existence of black holes and pushes the boundaries of modern science,” said the European Commission in Brussels in a Wednesday statement. 

The image shows a halo of dust and gas steadily “feeding” the black hole’s fuzzy doughnut-shaped accretion disc, according to The Guardian. The colossal black hole is located at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster 55-million light-years from Earth.

We are “looking at a region we cannot imagine, the gates of hell, the point of no-return,” said Heino Falcke – Professor of Astroparticle Physics and Radio Astronomy at Radbound University Nijmegen and chair of the EHT Science Council. “To me, it’s awe-inspiring, but it’s also important for physics.” 

At the event horizon, light is bent in a perfect loop around the black hole, meaning if you stood there you would be able to see the back of your own head. The observations also provide one of the most stringent tests to date of Einstein’s theory of general relativity: this predicts a rounded shape of the black hole’s halo, in line with what EHT has observed. –The Guardian

Scientists say they observed the source for four days and “the size is always the same, it doesn’t change and we measured the contrast between the ring itself and the central darkness,” Astrophysicist Monika Moscibrodzka from Radboud University Nijmegen said. “This kind of structure can only be formed if something is rotating — could be matter around it or black hole itself. Images give sense of direction of rotation, which is clockwise. We are looking at the shadow of the black hole.” –Bloomberg

“If immersed in a bright region, like a disc of glowing gas, we expect a black hole to create a dark region similar to a shadow — something predicted by Einstein’s general relativity that we’ve never seen before,” said Falcke. “This shadow, caused by the gravitational bending and capture of light by the event horizon, reveals a lot about the nature of these fascinating objects and allowed us to measure the enormous mass of M87’s black hole.”

Black holes are the most mysterious objects in the universe. We have seen what we thought was unseeable. We have taken a picture of a black hole,” said EHT director and Harvard University senior research fellow, Sheperd Doeleman – who led the project involving more than 200 scientists. 

The EHT network detects radiation emitted by particles within the accretion disc that are heated to billions of degrees as they circle the black hole at close to the speed of light – before vanishing

The halo’s crescent-like appearance in the image is because the particles in the side of the disc rotating towards Earth are flung towards us faster and so appear brighter. The dark shadow within marks the edge of the event horizon, the point of no return, beyond which no light or matter can travel fast enough to escape the inexorable gravitational pull of the black hole.

Black holes were first predicted by Einstein’s theory of relativity – although Einstein himself was sceptical that they actually existed. Since then, astronomers have accumulated overwhelming evidence that these cosmic sinkholes are out there, including recent detection of gravitational waves that ripple across the cosmos when pairs of them collide. –The Guardian

When EHT launched observations in 2017, the program had two primary targets; Sagittarius A – the black hole in the middle of the Milky Way which has a mass of around 4m suns. The second target was the one which yielded the image above – a supermassive black hole into which the equivalent of 6bn suns of light are estimated to have disappeared. 

Success meant simultaneous coordination between teams and clear skies on several continents at the same time. Observations were coordinated using atomic clocks known as hydrogen masers – which are accurate to within one second every 100 million years. One night in 2017 – the conditions were perfect

We got super lucky, the weather was perfect,” said EHT member Ziri Younsi based at University College London. 

According to The Guardian, the observations are already giving scientists insights into how space behaves near a black hole – where gravity is so extreme that reality as we perceive it becomes distorted beyond recognition. 

Scientists are also hoping to understand more about the origin of jets of radiation that are blasted out from the poles of some black holes at close to the speed of light, creating brilliant beacons that can be picked out across the cosmos.

However, the observations do not yet reveal anything about the black hole’s inscrutable interior.

“The black hole is not the event horizon, it’s something inside. It could be something just inside the event horizon, an exotic object hovering just beneath the surface, or it could be a singularity at the centre … or a ring,” said Younsi. “It doesn’t yet give us an explanation of what’s going on inside.” –The Guardian

EHT science council chair Heino Falcke said: “The big question for me is whether we’ll ever be able to transcend that limit. The answer may be maybe not. That’s frustrating but we’ll have to accept it.”

(Haaretz) Israel’s First Moon Mission Blasts Off From Florida


The unmanned Genesis spaceship, which has already set several records, is scheduled to land on the moon on April 11

The SpaceX rocket that took off from Florida's Cape Canaveral carrying Israel's Beresheet spacecraft, on Thursday, February21, 2019.
The SpaceX rocket that took off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral carrying Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft, on Thursday, February21, 2019.AFP

Early Friday morning at 3:45 A.M. Israel time marked the beginning of a new era for Israeli space research with the launch of the first Israeli spacecraft heading to the moon. The launch set several records: The ship will be the smallest and least expensive spacecraft ever to land on the moon and will put Israel among the ranks of the superpowers, the United States, Russia and China, which have successfully carried out lunar landings of various kinds.

The unmanned Genesis spacecraft (“Beresheet” in Hebrew), which was privately built by the non-profit group SpaceIL in cooperation with Israel Aeronautics Industries, was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on a Falcon 9 rocket built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. At a press conference this week, the president of SpaceIL, Morris Kahn, who donated $40 million of the $100 million cost of the spacecraft, said Genesis was presented as a gift to President Reuven Rivlin and declared a national project.

A simulation of Israel's Genesis spacecraft on the moon.
A simulation of Israel’s Genesis spacecraft on the moon.SpaceIL

“We have been on this journey for eight years and it will be completed in two months, with the landing on the moon. We are making history and we are proud to be part of a group that has dreamed and realized the dream that many countries have had but only three have fulfilled,” Kahn said.

In addition to the national pride that the project, which is not entirely a private venture, generates, the symbolic importance of Genesis is huge and the launch has sparked global interest. The spacecraft itself is mostly a demonstration of the capabilities that the project has drawn on. Its scientific mission is simple and the plan is for it to stay on the moon for just two days. Up to this point, only China has had the proven technology necessary for a soft landing on the moon.

Israel’s success could lead to a whole host of future lunar landings and create an entirely different business model in which private firms would offer a range of services. Customers would be able to purchase a spot on a spacecraft for their equipment — ranging from scientific instruments and communications technology to clients who want to spread the ashes of their loved ones on the moon. In the longer term, firms could try to reach the moon to produce products, from precious metals to water that could be used to fuel rockets or to actually settle the moon.

Netanyahu attends an event to watch the launch of the Israeli spacecraft "Beresheet" from the Israel Aerospace Industries control room, in Yehud, Israel, on February 22, 2019.
Netanyahu attends an event to watch the launch of the Israeli spacecraft “Beresheet” from the Israel Aerospace Industries control room, in Yehud, Israel, on February 22, 2019.Eliran Avital

SpaceIL’s project began as an initiative of three young people, Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yehonatan Weintraub, who in 2010 registered for Google’s Lunar XPRIZE competition. The competition ended in March of last year without a winner, but SpaceIL announced that it would continue to pursue the plans. With the assistance of private donors and with the support of Israel’s Science, Technology and Space Ministry, the threesome managed to fulfill their dream with Friday’s launch.

Thirty-two minutes after liftoff, the spacecraft, which was placed on an Indian communications satellite, the main payload of the launch, separated from the Falcon rocket. Several minutes later, personnel in the project’s control room at Israel Aerospace Industries in Yehud, near Ben-Gurion International Airport, made contact with Genesis.

According to plans, the spacecraft’s lunar landing legs opened and were followed by a series of tests of the spacecraft’s systems to verify that they weathered the launch and are functioning well in space. About an hour after the launch, Genesis entered its first orbit of the Earth.

The unmanned Genesis spacecraft “(Beresheet” in Hebrew) ahead of the launch, on February 22, 2019.
The unmanned Genesis spacecraft “(Beresheet” in Hebrew) ahead of the launch, on February 22, 2019.יואב וייס

Genesis’ path toward the moon includes elliptical orbits of increasing size around the Earth, during which the spacecraft makes use of the Earth’s gravitational pull to increase its speed. All told, Genesis is scheduled to travel 6.5 million kilometers (4 million miles), making it the lunar mission with the longest path ever traveled.

On its final orbit, the spacecraft is scheduled to approach the moon itself, to be followed by a complex maneuver in which it will attempt to be pulled into the lunar field of gravity — about 10 days before it actually lands on the moon. If everything goes well, it will orbit the moon until the timing is right for a landing, which is currently scheduled for April 11.

“Our journey to the moon is full of challenges, and therefore our mission is immeasurably complex. Every step that we take successfully will pave the way for the success of the next step, until the landing on the moon,” Ido Anteby, SpaceIL’s CEO, said at this week’s news conference.

Lightweight and at a relatively low price tag 

Genesis, which weighs just 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds), and whose $100 million price tag compares with billions that have been spent on prior lunar missions, was planned without a backup system in the event of a technical malfunction. The spacecraft is a meter and a half tall and 2 meters wide (nearly 5 feet tall and 6 and a half feet wide). Its maximum planned speed is 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) per second.

Stay up to date: Sign up to our newsletter

Email*Sign up

It will be carrying equipment to measure the moon’s magnetic field, which astronomers still don’t fully understand. In addition, after the spacecraft lands, it will take a selfie of itself and of the Israeli flag from the lunar surface. Genesis also has a time capsule on board with hundreds of digital files, from details regarding the construction of the spacecraft and the team involved, to national symbols, cultural information and other material collected from members of the public over the years.

One of the motivations leading the various partners in the project to support it is the hope that it will spawn the Israeli equivalent of the Apollo effect in the United States, created in connection with the American program to land a man on the moon, leading up to the actual landing of Apollo 11 in 1969. The Israeli entrepreneurs and their donors hope that a successful Genesis mission will encourage Israeli young people to take an interest in space and science and engineering.

(CNBC) Trump officially directs Pentagon to create Space Force legislation for Congress


  • President Donald Trump signed a directive Tuesday ordering the Pentagon draft legislation for Congress that would created the Space Force as a part of the the U.S. Air Force.
  • This would establish the first military branch in over 70 years.
  • Currently the U.S. Air Force manages the space domain through the U.S. Space Command.

Michael SheetzAmanda MaciasPublished 17 Hours Ago  Updated 14 Hours

President Donald Trump displays the "Space Policy Directive 4" after signing the directive to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 19, 2019.

Jim Young | ReutersPresident Donald Trump displays the “Space Policy Directive 4” after signing the directive to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 19, 2019.

President Donald Trump signed a directive on Tuesday that ordered the Department of Defense create a Space Force as a sixth military branch.

Known as Space Policy Directive 4 (SPD-4), the directive orders the Pentagon draft legislation for Congress that would create the Space Force as a part of the U.S. Air Force. This would establish the first military branch in 72 years. The Air Force is the nation’s youngest branch and was added shortly after World War II.

“America must be fully equipped to defend our vital interests. Our adversaries are training forces and developing technology to undermine our security in space, and they’re working very hard at that,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

Deputy Defense Sec.: Space and cyberspace the two new war-fighting domains

Deputy Defense Sec.: Space and cyberspace the two new war-fighting domains  3:07 PM ET Wed, 19 Sept 2018 | 01:53

“We’re investing in new space capabilities to project military power and safeguard our nation’s interests, especially when it comes to safety and defense,” Trump added.

The National Space Council developed the directive alongside counterparts at the Pentagon, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, National Security Council, Office of Management and Budget, and the White House Counsel’s Office.

Currently the U.S. Air Force manages the space domain through the U.S. Space Command. This proposed Space Force would stand alongside the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. However, the newest branch is expected to be akin to the structure of the Marine Corps, which is a component of the U.S. Department of the Navy but has separate representation on the Joint Chiefs.

The new sister service branch will be represented on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and overseen by an Air Force under secretary for space.

Trump first floated the Space Force idea as a part of his national security strategy March 13. The president described in March how he had originally coined the term as a joke, while discussing U.S. government spending and private investment in space. Trump then directed the Pentagon in June to immediately begin the creation of the new branch.

“I am hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” Trump said in June before asking Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to see the directive through.

“Our destiny beyond the Earth is not only a matter of national identity but a matter of national security,” Trump said.

In August, Vice President Mike Pence announced the Pentagon’s detailed plan for President Donald Trump‘s vision of a Space Force.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

(EP) El país con más mujeres científicas es… Portugal

(EP) El porcentaje de portuguesas en carreras de ciencias dobla al de la japonesas.

Una científica en un laboratorio.
Una científica en un laboratorio. Sergio Pérez REUTERS

Sí, ya se sabía que el portugués es quien más corcho tiene del mundo y quien más vino bebe y más bacalao consume; pero lo que nadie calculaba en la tierra del fado es que Portugal fuera el país de las mujeres científicas o, al menos, el país con más mujeres estudiando carreras de ciencias.

Según el estudio de la OCDE The Pursuit of Gender Equality, el 57% de las portuguesas estudian ciencias, tecnologías, ingenierías y/o matemáticas; es el porcentaje más alto del mundo rompiendo todo tipo de estereotipos. Son 17 puntos más que en el Estados Unidos de Silicon Valley, 22 puntos más que en España o Dinamarca y más del doble que en Japón.

La presencia de mujeres en las carreras científicas no se debe a que los presupuestos del Estado derrochen el dinero en esta parte de la educación y aún menos en investigación. Aunque el objetivo del Gobierno es llegar al 1,5% del presupuesto nacional, apenas pasa del 0,8%.

La falta de dinero o de perspectivas no parece desanimar la afición de la portuguesa por las ciencias, aunque son más de ingenierías que de Tecnologías de la Información, donde aún el porcentaje de mujeres es ínfimo. Aún así, en ese terreno destaca Elvira Fortunato, de la Universidad Nova de Lisboa. Sus investigaciones de circuitos integrados sin silicio, es decir, chips de papel, le han valido hace unas semanas una subvención de 3,5 millones de euros del Consejo Europeo de Investigación para dedicar a proyectos de tecnologías amigas del medioambiente.

La encuesta de la Fundación Santos, Global Portuguese Scientist, que rastrea el número de científicos portugueses por el mundo, también certifica esa supremacía femenina. Desde hace años la diáspora científica portuguesa, presente en 50 países, tiene una mayoría femenina (50,3%).

Aunque una cosa son las licenciadas, otra las trabajadoras y muy otra los puestos en la dirección de empresas (en Estados Unidos son mujeres el 57% de los graduados pero solo el 6% de los directivos de empresas de S&P), en Portugal dos mujeres dirigen las dos mayores fundaciones científicas, la Champalimaud (Leonor Beleza) y el Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (Mónica Bettencourt).

(CNN) A second mysterious repeating fast radio burst has been detected in space


Far outside our Milky Way galaxy, something is causing repeating short bursts of radio waves to be released into space. Scientists have recorded the second repeating fast radio burst to be discovered, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.The finding was also presented at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.These radio bursts are only millisecond-long radio flashes, and such rapid bursts themselves aren’t rare in space.But this is only the second one that has been found to repeat. The mystery about why these bursts happen and where they come from continues, which always spurs believers to think that advanced extraterrestrial civilizations are creating them.The first one, deemed FRB 121102, was discovered in 2015 by the Arecibo radio telescope, and it was revealed in 2018 that the bursts release an enormous amount of energy.

What's sending mysterious repeating fast radio bursts in space?

What’s sending mysterious repeating fast radio bursts in space?This new repeating fast radio burst is called FRB 180814.J0422+73 and was recorded six times coming from the same location, 1.5 billion light-years away.This is one of the very first detections made by the new Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME. The radio telescope was still in its pre-commissioning phase and operating with only a small amount of its full capacity in the summer of 2018 when it detected this and 12 singular fast radio bursts.And although this new detection doesn’t solve the biggest mysteries surrounding the radio bursts, the researchers who recorded it believe that other repeating fast radio bursts will be found — which could allow them to figure out where they originate.”Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there,” said Ingrid Stairs, a member of the CHIME team and an astrophysicist at the University of British Columbia. “And with more repeaters and more sources available for study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles — where they’re from and what causes them.”

NASA's planet-hunter TESS makes first discoveries

NASA’s planet-hunter TESS makes first discoveriesOne hypothesis is that powerful astrophysical phenomena are causing them. The first repeating fast radio burst was recorded at a frequency of 700 megahertz, but some of the bursts CHIME recorded were as low as 400 megahertz.”[We now know] the sources can produce low-frequency radio waves and those low-frequency waves can escape their environment, and are not too scattered to be detected by the time they reach the Earth,” Tom Landecker, a CHIME team member from the National Research Council of Canada, said in a statement. “That tells us something about the environments and the sources. We haven’t solved the problem, but it’s several more pieces in the puzzle.”

Citizen scientists discover rare exoplanet

Citizen scientists discover rare exoplanetThe low frequency of this new detection could mean that the source of the bursts differ. “Scattering” was detected in the fast radio bursts, which is a phenomenon that helps determine more about the environment surrounding the origin.The CHIME team believes this scattering is indicative of powerful astrophysical objects at the source of the bursts.”That could mean [the source is] in some sort of dense clump like a supernova remnant,” team member Cherry Ng, an astronomer at the University of Toronto, said in a statement. “Or near the central black hole in a galaxy. But it has to be in some special place to give us all the scattering that we see.”And if CHIME was able to make these detections before it was even fully up and running, the researchers are hopeful that the new radio telescope will help them find answers about these mysterious signals.

(Mirror) Mysterious radio signals from space ‘could be aliens’ 1.5 billion light years away

(Mirror) The ‘Fast Radio Bursts’ (FRBs) are only a millisecond-long and were first detected accidentally in 2007, when a burst signal was spotted in radio astronomy data

The latest discovery was made by a Canadian-led team of astronomers on the hunt for FRBs last summer(Image: CHIME /SWNS.COM)

Get Daily News updates directly to your inboxSubscribeSee our privacy noticeMore newsletters

Radio bursts from outer space which experts suggest could be evidence of aliens have been detected for the second time.

The ‘Fast Radio Bursts’ (FRBs) are only a millisecond-long and were first detected in repeated form accidentally in 2007, when a burst signal was spotted in radio astronomy data collected in 2001.

The new discovery reported in the journal Nature was made by a Canadian-led team of astronomers on the hunt for FRBs last summer.

Most scientists believe they are generated by powerful astrophysical phenomena such as black holes or super-dense neutron stars. But a few have suggested more outlandish theories.

Professor Avid Loeb, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in the US, argues that they could be evidence of incredibly advanced alien technology.

In last year’s discovery, the team detected 13 of the flashes using a new type of radio telescope, the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (Chime).

Some believe the signals have come from aliens in deep space (Image: Getty Images)

Super blood wolf moon 2019: How and when to see the lunar eclipse this month 

One of the FRBs was repeating. Of more than 60 FRBs detected to date, such repeating bursts have only been picked up once before, by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico in 2015.

Where the FRBs come from is not known although they are thought to emanate from sources billions of light years away outside our galaxy, the Milky Way.

Chime astrophysicist Dr Ingrid Stairs, from the University of British Columbia, Canada, said: “Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB.

“Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there. And with more repeaters and more sources available for study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles – where they’re from and what causes them.”

Most of the 13 FRBs showed signs of “scattering” that suggest their sources could be powerful astrophysical objects in locations with special characteristics, the scientists said.

Team member Dr Cherry Ng, from the University of Toronto, Canada, said: “That could mean in some sort of dense clump like a supernova (exploding star) remnant. Or near the central black hole in a galaxy. But it has to be in some special place to give us all the scattering that we see.”

The FRBs could be a sign of intelligent life i n space, according to some (Image: Getty Images/Science Photo Libra)

The new FRBs are are also at unusually low radio frequencies. Most previously detected FRBs have had frequencies of around 1,400 megahertz (MHz), but the new ones fell within a range below 800 MHz.

In 2017 Prof Loeb and Harvard colleague Manasvi Lingham proposed that FRBs could be leakage from planet-sized alien transmitters.

Rather than being designed for communication, they would more likely be used to propel giant space ships powered by light sails.

A light sail works by bouncing light, or in this case radio beams, off a huge reflective sheet to provide forward thrust.

Prof Loeb, who discusses the idea in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, said: “An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking.”

(BBG) China Lands Probe on Far Side of the Moon in a World First


  •  Beijing wants to be one of top aerospace powers by 2030
  •  NASA administrator, Elon Musk congratulate China in tweets

China landed a lunar probe on the far side of the moon, the first ever spacecraft to reach the surface that always faces away from Earth and giving a boost to the country’s ambitious space program.

The Chang’e-4 lunar probe, named after the mythical Moon Goddess, landed at 10:26 a.m. Beijing time Thursday and relayed a picture, the People’s Daily newspaper reported.

The feat caps a series of lunar missions China has launched over the past few years as part of its plan to become one of the world’s top three aerospace powers by 2030. The nation’s space budget is about $8 billion a year, second only to the U.S. The moon landing comes at a time when tensions between the two powers are at a long-time high, with their economic, technological and military rivalry deepening amid China’s quest for dominance.

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

China Xinhua News@XHNews

What does the far side of the moon look like?
China’s Chang’e-4 probe gives you the answer.
It landed on the never-visible side of the moon Jan. 3 1,4155:14 AM – Jan 3, 2019934 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

Aerospace is among sectors President Xi Jinping has identified as key to modernizing China’s economy. That means developing its own technology for planes, rockets, satellites and other spacecraft. In 2017, a state-owned company successfully test flew the nation’s first home-built single-aisle passenger plane. The country has also rolled out an alternative to American-owned GPS, while local startups are racing to launch rockets and microsatellites.

Space Billionaires Now Have a Rival With Even Deeper Pockets

Jim Bridenstine, the administrator at the U.S. National Aeronautics & Space Administration, congratulated China on the accomplishment in a Twitter post, as did billionaire Elon Musk.View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Jim Bridenstine@JimBridenstine

Congratulations to China’s Chang’e-4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the Moon. This is a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment!3,7394:14 AM – Jan 3, 20191,407 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

Landing on the unexplored region will enable Chang’e-4’s rover to better study the moon because of the lack of electromagnetic interference from Earth. The rover is equipped with a low-frequency radio spectrometer to help scientists understand “how the earliest stars were ignited and how our cosmos emerged from darkness after the Big Bang,” according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency. Scientists will test whether plants can grow while on the moon, it said.

China’s Rival to GPS Technology Is Looking to Go Global

Chang’e-3, launched in 2013, and its rover Yutu — or Jade Rabbit — surveyed the moon’s geology and natural resources after a soft landing.

In May, China launched a relay satellite called Queqiao that’s now orbiting about 450,000 kilometers (280,000 miles) from Earth, where a gravitational equilibrium can be maintained so it stays on course to relay messages from the rover back to Earth.

A Long March-4C rocket carrying the Queqiao satellite lifts off in Xichang on May 21.Photographer: AFP via Getty Images

China also plans to launch its first Mars probe by the end of this decade, according to a white paper on the country’s space activities issued in 2016. It also aims to build its own space station in 2022, Xinhua reported.

NASA is pursuing a dual path of building a lunar orbital platform and returning astronauts to the moon in the mid-2020s, with the eventual aim to send humans to Mars. The Mars InSight craft landed on the planet on Nov. 26 to study its interior to help answer questions about the early days of the solar system.

(PUB) Lições dos incêndios e das viagens no espaço: Estará tudo relacionado? – Ricardo Cabral

(PUB) Os riscos de catástrofes, naturais ou causadas pelo homem, obrigam-nos a olhar para o espaço como parte integral do nosso futuro colectivo como espécie.

Os incêndios da Califórnia e, em particular, um dos mais recentes e mais mortíferos, conhecido por Camp Fire, com até agora 76 vítimas mortais e quase 1300 desaparecidos, relembram-nos as tragédias em Pedrógão Grande em Junho de 2017 e os incêndios de Outubro de 2017 na região centro do país, que causaram 116 vítimas mortais. E, noutra dimensão, o incêndio na Madeira que chegou a atingir parte do centro do Funchal, causando três vítimas mortais e o pânico.

Já muito se escreveu sobre estes dramas. Pretende-se aqui chamar a atenção para uma parte das implicações financeiras dos incêndios em Portugal e nos EUA.

Em Portugal, pelo menos um relatório técnico (da comissão técnica independente) refere que a causa do incêndio de Pedrógão Grande terá sido uma descarga eléctrica “mediada pela rede de distribuição de energia”.

O Ministério Público “deduziu acusação contra doze arguidos” pelo incêndio de Pedrógão Grande, incluindo dois responsáveis da EDP. Mas, segundo um artigo do Expresso, citado pela Renascença, a EDP não é acusada nem arguida porque a lei não o permitiria. Por outro lado, no contrato de parceria público-privada entre o SIRESP e o Estado, uma cláusula providencial iliba a primeira entidade de responsabilidade em caso de falhas dos sistema de comunicações de emergência durante catástrofes. O resultado, como se sabe, foi que o Estado desistiu de aplicar multas ao SIRESP por considerar que não era possível demonstrar, por falta de provas, falhas do sistema de comunicações de emergência.

Os casos ganham-se na secretaria?

Em suma, a fazer fé na comunicação social, em Portugal, empresas como o SIRESP e a EDP parecem estar ilibadas à partida de responsabilidade nos incêndios, quer pelos contratos, quer pela lei vigente.

O contraste com os incêndios na Califórnia não poderia ser maior. Peritos desse Estado responsabilizam uma das duas principais operadoras eléctricas da Califórnia, a PG&E, por 17 dos 21 grandes incêndios no norte da Califórnia de Outono de 2017, tendo remetido 8 desses casos para a justiça, por eventual violação da lei estadual. O Citigroup estima que a responsabilidade dessa empresa, por esses incêndios de 2017, será de cerca de 15 mil milhões de dólares.

No início de Novembro foi a própria PG&E que informou responsáveis do Estado da Califórnia no próprio dia do incêndio, bem como os seus accionistas e credores no dia seguinte, de falha eléctrica na rede próxima de Camp Fire, sugerindo que poderá vir a ser determinado que a empresa tem responsabilidade na origem do mesmo, e que o seu seguro de responsabilidade civil de 1,4 mil milhões de dólares poderá não ser suficiente para cobrir as previsíveis indemnizações pelos incêndios.

É certo que o governador democrata da Califórnia fez recentemente aprovar uma lei que permite passar os custos das indemnizações para os consumidores de electricidade, a partir de 2019.

Mas, para já, as consequências previstas para a empresa PG&E são dramáticas e, justificadamente, bem. A empresa suspendeu o pagamento de dividendos a accionistas, os preços das suas acções e obrigações caem, a empresa foi obrigada a accionar todas as linhas de crédito junto da banca para obter liquidez e poderá mesmo vir a declarar falência em resultado dos incêndios.

Lições da Califórnia para Portugal

A Presidência da República e o Governo têm dado elevada prioridade à alteração das políticas públicas de prevenção e de combate a incêndios, mas nesta vertente da prevenção de incêndios – a inexistência de riscos financeiros legais por parte de empresas perante situações como as ocorridas em 2017 – afigura-se, que a resposta tem sido escassa, se é que não é nula.

A penalização financeira, criminal e civil, de empresas é fundamental para que as respectivas direcções executivas dêem a necessária prioridade à prevenção de incêndios e de outras catástrofes, “investindo” os recursos necessários.

O ambiente é um desafio tecnológico e económico esquecido

O progresso tecnológico das últimas décadas poderá ter convencido a opinião pública de que as sociedades modernas podem superar os desafios colocados pelo meio ambiente e, em particular, as catástrofes naturais. Porém, mesmo não conhecendo ou ignorando o que dizem os cientistas, a violência dos desastres ambientais mais recentes não pode deixar de abalar essa convicção.

Acresce que não são somente as alterações climatéricas que representam um desafio, traduzindo-se no caso acima em apreço, em incêndios mais violentos e perigosos. Catástrofes naturais representam um risco económico e social enorme, como se viu no caso do tsunami no Japão, sem esquecer o risco de erupções vulcânicas ou de quedas de meteoritos.

De acordo com algumas estimativas, já antigas, os desastres naturais terão vitimado 62 milhões de pessoas desde 1900, um número comparável ao dos mortos da primeira e da segunda guerras mundiais. Ou seja, as catástrofes naturais continuam a ser um dos principais riscos à sobrevivência da espécie humana.

O sector privado não tem incentivos suficientes para se preparar de modo adequado contra esse tipo de riscos.

As pessoas não estão dispostas a, no extremo, abandonar a costa da Califórnia, o Japão ou Lisboa devido ao elevado risco de terramotos ou de tsunamis. Também pretendem continuar a viajar e a viver junto ao mar, apesar do efeito das emissões de dióxido de carbono no efeito estufa e na subida do nível do mar. Ou seja, não querem sacrificar o seu nível de vida por causa de um risco incerto e muito baixo.

E é difícil aos decisores políticos alterar o modelo de desenvolvimento económico e social com vista a minimizar ou mesmo inverter os seus efeitos nefastos no ambiente e, ao mesmo tempo, tomar as medidas adequadas para proteger as populações dos riscos mais catastróficos que a ciência prevê.

Uma nova corrida para o espaço

Esses riscos de catástrofes, naturais ou causadas pelo homem, obrigam-nos a olhar para o espaço como parte integral do nosso futuro colectivo como espécie.

Já aqui se abordou os planos da SpaceX para viagens espaciais inter- e intra-planetárias, com o conceito apelativo de viagens intercontinentais de 30 minutos pelo espaço.

Recentemente, a agência espacial da Rússia, Roscomos, anunciou que conseguiu desenvolver um novo propulsor de plasma com base num reactor nuclear, reutilizável, para viagens espaciais. É um feito notável, que representa um salto qualitativo nos sistemas de propulsão espacial, desde o início da exploração espacial nos anos 50.

As viagens para o espaço e no espaço baseiam-se em princípios da física mecânica: as três leis do movimento de Sir Isaac Newton. Para fazer a nave acelerar numa direcção é necessário expulsar massa na direcção contrária à maior velocidade possível. O que significa que uma nave espacial tem de transportar uma enorme quantidade de massa (e de peso), para a poder expulsar posteriormente e assim acelerar, ganhando velocidade. Também precisa de massa para travar mas, para poupar energia, pode recorrer à força de gravidade do planeta de destino.

Contudo, como é gasta grande quantidade de massa a acelerar a nave, os reactores espaciais para viagens interplanetárias, por exemplo, até Marte, só podem funcionar por um período curto de tempo medido em minutos, o que significa que a velocidade máxima que a nave espacial pode atingir é relativamente baixa, resultando em durações de viagem muito elevadas, o que torna as viagens inter-estelares (entre sistemas estelares distintos) na prática impossíveis e viagens inter-planetárias muito morosas e dispendiosas.

O novo reactor nuclear da Roscomos e tecnologias similares baseadas na propulsão por plasma desenvolvidas nos EUA, em França e noutros paísespoderia funcionar milhares de horas resultando em aceleração da nave espacial durante esse período de tempo e, por conseguinte, em velocidades muito mais elevadas e duração de viagem mais curtas. Também significa que, em teoria, seria necessária muito menos massa para a propulsão no espaço, diminuindo a dimensão e massa da nave que é necessário transportar da Terra para o espaço.

Desenvolvimentos muito positivos, por conseguinte!

(BBG) Meat Has a Replacement But No One Knows What to Call It

(BBG) Battle lines blur over labeling lab-grown substitutes as Big Meat invests in the startups making them.

Lab-grown. Cell-based. Clean. In vitro. Cultured. Fake. Artificial. Synthetic. Meat 2.0. These are all terms that refer to the same kind of food, one that’s not even on the market yet.

But the companies making it have already raised hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investor cash and earned the close attention of U.S. regulators. Rather than methodically slaughtering animals, this industry uses science to grow what it claims is essentially the same thing as traditional meat. Given the planetary damage wrought by mass-market animal husbandry, such cellular agriculture is seen as the future of meat.

But what to name it, and getting people to eat it, is another matter altogether.

Crucial to public acceptance of any consumer product, of course, is branding. But no one can agree what to call this stuff. Originally, there was a push for the label “clean meat.” This was seen as a better alternative to the more clinical “lab-grown meat,” said Bruce Friedrich, co-founder and executive director of the Good Food Institute, which lobbies for these new products.

But then the traditional meat industry weighed in, saying the cellular version shouldn’t be called meat at all. “We’re using the term ‘lab-produced cultured protein,’” said Dan Kovich, deputy director of science and technology at the National Pork Producers Council. Other groups representing meat producers, including the North American Meat Institute, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Chicken Council, also objected to the “clean meat” label.

The U.S. meat industry represents almost $200 billion in sales, according to one industry estimate, and spends millions of dollars annually to keep Washington in its corner. Investing in this new sector could be giving it more leverage in the debate over what to call the product and how it should be labeled for consumers.

Now, other terms seem to be gaining traction, both in the U.S. and abroad. Mark Post, co-founder of Dutch company Mosa Meats, told AgFunder in July that he doesn’t use the “clean meat” label. “It can’t translate into Dutch, French or German, and it kind of suggests that current meat is dirty,” he said. A spokeswoman for the company told Bloomberg the term is “too antagonistic to industry.”

Meat producers have said “clean meat” is offensive, said Sarah Lucas, head of strategy & communications for Mosa Meat. Investors, meanwhile, “haven’t particularly said that they would like us to use one term over another,” she said.

In August, cellular agriculture company Memphis Meats (which counts among its financial backers meat giants Cargill and Tyson) used the term “cell-based” in a letter sent to the White House. The co-signer of the letter was none other the Meat Institute, the meat industry’s main lobbying arm.

“We thought it was reasonable and far better than ‘clean meat,’ which is inappropriate and inaccurate,” Eric Mittenthal of the Meat Institute told Bloomberg. Cell-based is “clear, factual and inclusive,” Eric Schulze, vice president of product and regulation at Memphis Meats, told federal regulators last month during a two-day meeting in Washington. “It is distinct from plant-based proteins and animal-based meats. It differentiates our products while also clearly conveying that cell-based meat is, in fact, real meat.”

JUST Inc., which said it may make its first commercial sale of a cultured chicken product this year, is in the “cultured” camp when it comes to names. Labels should include “a statement of identity which indicates that the product is cultured, as well as the species from which the product is derived,” Peter Licari, chief technology officer, said at the meeting.

JUST “Chicken Bites.”
Source: JUST

Friedrich’s opposition notwithstanding, Good Food Institute Policy Director Jessica Almy told Bloomberg her organization has rethought its position on how to talk about the products, too. “It feels like ‘clean meat’ doesn’t resonate with everybody right now,” she said. Others see this budding consensus in a more cynical light.

“I think the meat industry has done something very clever,” said Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group. By investing in companies such as Memphis Meats, it now has a voice from within its own aspiring competition. “They’re not up against the meat industry,” she said of meat substitute companies. “They are the meat industry.

At the meeting last month, officials of the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture listened as industry representatives chewed over the labeling issue. It’s important to protect consumers with transparent labeling, Almy testified, adding that there should be some flexibility in labeling requirements. Meanwhile, Danni Beer of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association said new processes should be spelled out explicitly.

Brian Spears of New Age Meats argued that it would be dishonest to label meat substitutes as anything other than meat, since it’s really the same thing.

“This conversation is feeling more and more premature,” said Tyler Lobdell, a food-law fellow at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, who told Bloomberg the group seeks to ensure that the meat industry doesn’t hamper consumer options. “We just don’t know what the product looks like, so it’s hard to say what’s misleading when there are no products available.”

Barbara Kowalcyk, a professor in the department of food science and technology at Ohio State University, said there are still too many unknowns about the products and how they’re made—including food safety risks—for regulators to make any decisions.

“When I asked questions, there weren’t good responses, and that suggests we’re not ready for prime time,” she said. “Before we put it in the marketplace, we need to know the answers.”

Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

One look at the American food landscape reveals that organic sales are outpacing everything else at the grocery store. Restaurant menus are highlighting the locality and diet of the animals they serve. Consumers are hungry for more natural foods and willing to pay more for them.

Key to the success of any new “meat” product, however, is overcoming what’s colloquially called the “ick” factor, and labeling is a big part of that. Almy contends that consumers aren’t overly concerned with the provenance of their meat (or its substitute). “I don’t think most consumers care how their meat is produced,” she said. “There’s a strong desire to not have requirements about distinguishing the origin of these products.”

Sorscher of CSPI called this approach a “horrible mistake.” Using the example of widespread consumer mistrust of genetically modified organisms in food, she predicted “there would be such a backlash from consumers, it would ultimately undermine these products.” Indeed, only 5 percent of Americans think such meat substitutes should be labeled as “meat” without further explanation, according to a survey conducted by Consumers Union, which has also called for more transparency.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

“The labeling issue surrounding products of cellular agriculture is fundamentally a public policy question,” said Robert Hibbert, a partner at law firm Morgan Lewis who focuses on food and agriculture regulations. Because the FDA has allowed food companies wiggle room around identity standards (think “soy milk”) while also bringing enforcement actions when it sees potential for confusion, Hibbert said, it’s hard to predict how these labels will be treated.

Even those rooting for meat substitutes said consumers deserve to know what they’re getting. Jessica Resler is creative director at Participation Agency, an experiential marketing firm. A vegan who wants to see all slaughterhouses closed, she said a failure to disclose the meat’s origins will anger consumers.

Still, Resler said. “It has to be described on labels, for sure.”

Eventually, consumers will develop their own shorthand for meat substitutes, for good or for ill. “The mass-adopted term is going to be decided by the public.” Nik Contis, a branding expert at PS212, said.