"When I visited Chernobyl for the first time 7 years ago, I didn’t think that a similar disaster could take place anywhere ever again, and certainly not in Japan. After all, nuclear power is safe and the technology is less and less prone to failure, and therefore a similar disaster cannot happen in the future. Scientists said this, firms that build nuclear power stations said this, and the government said this.

    But it did happen.

    When I was planning my trip to Fukushima I didn’t know what to expect. There the language, culture, traditions and customs are different, and what would I find there four years after the accident? Would it be something similar to Chernobyl?

    Source: The Guardian

    Over 1,000 high-profile artificial intelligence experts and leading researchers have signed an open letter warning of a “military artificial intelligence arms race” and calling for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons”.

    The letter, presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was signed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis and professor Stephen Hawking along with 1,000 AI and robotics researchers.

    Source: University of Houston

    The social media site, Facebook, can be an effective tool for connecting with new and old friends. However, some users may find themselves spending quite a bit of time viewing Facebook and may inevitably begin comparing what's happening in their lives to the activities and accomplishments of their friends.

    According to University of Houston (UH) researcher Mai-Ly Steers, this kind of social comparison paired with the amount of time spent on Facebook may be linked to depressive symptoms. Steers' research on the topic is presented in the article, "Seeing Everyone Else's Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms" published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

    The DNA from the 45,000-year-old bone of a man from Siberia is helping to pinpoint when modern humans and Neanderthals first interbred, researchers say.

    Although modern humans are the only surviving human lineage, others once lived on Earth. The closest extinct relatives of modern humans were the Neanderthals, who lived in Europe and Asia until they went extinct about 40,000 years ago. Recent findings revealed that Neanderthals interbred with ancestors of modern humans when modern humans began spreading out of Africa — 1.5 to 2.1 percent of the DNA of anyone living outside Africa today is Neanderthal in origin.

    It remains uncertain when interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals occurred. Previous estimates of these events ranged from 37,000 to 86,000 years ago. [See Photos of Humanity's Closest Relative]

    People who diligently follow their horoscopes may claim that it's all just good fun. But on closer examination, this claim falls flat. Here's why astrology is potentially damaging to our understanding of science, relationships — and even our place in the universe itself.

    Astrology, though discredited for centuries, still remains wildly popular. Scarcely does a day go by when we're not told of how our astrological sign is supposed to govern our behavior or predetermine the day's events. Yet no explanation has ever been given — nor is one forthcoming — that can adequately explain the mechanism for which the alignment of the planets can influence our psychologies or the unfolding of the universe.

    By Noah Smith

    The human race is on the brink of momentous and dire change. It is a change that potentially smashes our institutions and warps our society beyond recognition. It is also a change to which almost no one is paying attention. I’m talking about the coming obsolescence of the gun-wielding human infantryman as a weapon of war. Or to put it another way: the end of the Age of the Gun.

    There's a reason churches are struggling to maintain membership, and it has nothing to do with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

    As we head into a new year, the guardians of traditional religion are ramping up efforts to keep their flocks—or, in crass economic terms, to retain market share. Some Christians have turned to soul searching while others have turned to marketing. Last fall, the LDS church spent millions on billboards, bus banners, and Facebook ads touting “I’m a Mormon.” In Canada, the Catholic Church has launched a “Come Home” marketing campaign. The Southern Baptists Convention voted to rebrand themselves. A hipster mega-church in Seattle combines smart advertising with sales force training for members and a strategy the Catholics have emphasized for centuries: competitive breeding.

    When you take a vacation, the point is usually to get away from everyday life and do something different. Well, there is nothing quite as different (and no place quite as removed from everyday life) as venturing into space. A Russian company called Orbital Technologies is developing a commercial space station, an orbiting hotel that is 217 miles removed from the surface of Earth.

    The incredible hotel is not for the budget-conscious traveler; it will cost a bit over US$800,000 just to get there, with another US$160,000 or so required for five days of accommodations aboard the space station. However, the spacecraft will be designed as a comfortable environment that is much more focused on leisure than the science-oriented International Space Station.

    (Reuters) - Amsterdam police will turn a blind eye to foreigners buying cannabis in its famous "coffee shops" when a national ban comes into force next year, the city's mayor said on Wednesday.

    The mayor's comments put an end to months of uncertainty over a ban on foreign visitors purchasing cannabis at the shops that was introduced this year by a Dutch national government coalition which has since collapsed.

    "It has been decided that Amsterdam law enforcement authorities will not attach any priority to enforcing the local residence requirement," Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan wrote in a letter to the current government.

    The previous Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition government which introduced the ban complained that coffee shops attracted crime and unwelcome visitors.


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