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Carl Zeiss launches virtual reality headset later this year

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Lately it seems like everybody is jumping on the virtual reality train, and with good reason. This market is still more or less untapped, with few examples of working VR headsets to talk about. The best known ones are undoubtedly the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus, although a few others have recently been announced as well. The latest virtual reality headset to be unveiled goes by the name of VR One and comes courtesy of Carl Zeiss. This device is very similar to Samsung’s Gear VR in the sense that it needs to be paired with a smartphone in order to work.

However, there is a very important difference between the two. While the Gear VR only works with Samsung devices, the VR One is compatible with a variety of Android and iOS smartphones. Granted, there are some requirements and one of them is that the handset must measure between 4.7 and 5.2-inches. Each device will have its special tray in order to make sure that it fits properly into the virtual reality headset. The only trays available at the moment are designed for the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S5, but more are expected to come in the near future. Carl Zeiss says that it will develop more trays based on consumer feedback.

The VR One headset will land sometime in December and will be priced at only $99. This is much cheaper than other virtual reality headsets but there’s a reason for that. The device doesn’t feature a lot of functionality and there are only a couple of demo apps available at the moment. Carl Zeiss is apparently leaving the rest to developers and will even host a contest soon as a way of enticing them to build apps for the VR One.

Although George has many hobbies, he likes nothing more than to play around with cameras and other photography equipment.

Medicine and Health

Toxic chemicals leak out of plastic bottles when they are exposed to sunlight

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If you don’t want to drink a bunch of chemicals that could be harmful, keep your water bottle out of the sun. Plastic water bottles that are left out in the sun break down and release many different types of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

VOCs are chemicals that evaporate quickly at room temperature. They are found in a lot of different products, like paints, cleaners, fuels, and solvents. They’re also made of plastic, like those used to make water bottles and food trucks. Many of them are safe, but some may be bad for your health in the short and long term.

In the most recent study, UV-A light and sunlight were used to test six different kinds of plastic water bottles in China. They discovered that this process let out a wide range of VOCs, such as acids, alcohols, aldehydes, and alkanes.

Some signs pointed to “highly toxic” VOCs, such as n-hexadecane, which is known to cause cancer.

A single sip of contaminated water doesn’t pose much of a health risk, but the researchers found that long-term exposure may pose a greater risk.

“Our results are strong proof that plastic bottles can release harmful chemicals into the air when they are exposed to sunlight.” “Consumers need to be aware of these risks, especially in places where bottled water is left out in the sun for long periods of time,” said Dr. Huase Ou, lead researcher from China’s Jinan University’s Guangdong Key Laboratory of Environmental Pollution and Health.

However, the researchers were quick to point out that the risk seems to be pretty low since the bottle only releases a small amount of chemicals.

“Given that a container weighs about 20 grams on average, the VOCs that were released from a single container were only a few nanograms.” So, even after long-term exposure, opening a bottle and drinking water from it doesn’t pose many health risks to people, the study’s authors write in the conclusion.

The bottles in the study were all made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is one of the most common types of plastic. However, the VOC composition and concentration of the different bottles were very different. The different production methods and additives seem to have something to do with this.

Most likely, the chemicals leaked out of the bottle because of a process called photodegradation. This is when light breaks down the structure of the plastic.

There are more things than just sunlight that you should think about when it comes to your plastic bottle’s “health.” A study from the past found that leaving water in a plastic bottle for just one day could let hundreds of chemicals get into your drink. Several of these chemicals are thought to be harmful to health, such as those that cause cancer or mess with the hormone system (endocrine disruptors).

In the same way, there is some evidence that heating plastic bottles might not be a good idea. A study done in 2020 found that the sterilization process recommended by the World Health Organization put between 1.3 and 16.2 million microplastic particles per liter into child bottles.

In the 21st century, plastic is found everywhere, from penises to ice in Antarctica. It was once thought to be mostly harmless, but it’s becoming clearer that it’s having a bad effect on us and the planet, and we’re only just beginning to understand how bad it is.

The study was published in the magazine Eco-Environment & Health.

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Technology

Texas paid a Bitcoin miner $31.7 million to chill out during a heat wave

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Much of the US is baking in the summer, which means that Texas’s notoriously bad power grid will be under a lot of stress once more. Many people will have blackouts and power failures, but some people have made money in the past by taking advantage of the hot weather.

Last summer, when demand was very high, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) did everything possible to cut the state’s power use.

Along with eight calls for people to save energy on their own, the company also looked at Bitcoin mining, which uses a lot of computer power to solve hard math problems in order to verify transactions on the Bitcoin network and earn new bitcoins.

It was said that in August 2023, ERCOT paid one company $31.7 million in energy credits to cut back on its Bitcoin mining. Riot Platforms owns the largest Bitcoin mine in North America, which is located in Rockdale and has a total power capacity of 700 MW.

Jones Les, CEO of Riot, said in a statement that has since been taken down from their website, “August [2023] was a landmark month for Riot in showcasing the benefits of our unique power strategy.”

“Riot set a new monthly record for Power and Demand Response Credits in August, with a total of $31.7 million. This was more than the total amount of credit received in 2022.” “Power and demand response credits received were equal to about 1,136 bitcoins based on the average price of bitcoin in August,” Les explained.

In late that same year, a bill was introduced to limit the amount of credit that cryptocurrency miners could get as payment, but it never made it past the House’s committees.

It’s not clear if Texas will give Bitcoin miners the same kind of credits this summer, but the state’s power grid is in for more trouble. The most recent report from ERCOT says that between 8 and 9 pm in August 2024, there is a 16% chance of an emergency with the power grid and a 12% chance of rolling blackouts.

In the US, Texas is the only state that has its own electric grid. This has some benefits, like getting around federal rules, but it makes it harder for Texas to get electricity from other states when it’s needed or in an emergency.

Recently, things have gotten even worse for the Lone Star State because of the rise in computer data centers and artificial intelligence (AI), both of which use a huge amount of power. Studies show that AI could use about 0.5% of the world’s energy by 2027, which is about the same amount as the Netherlands.

A lot of places in the world, including Texas, which wants to be known as a hub for tech infrastructure, will have trouble with the rising energy needs of AI and crypto. It’s still not clear if their power grid can keep up.

The Senate Committee on Business and Commerce heard shocking testimony today from ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas and others that our power grid needs will rise from about 85,000 megawatts to 150,000 megawatts in just six years, which is only three legislative sessions. On X earlier this month, Dan Patrick, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, wrote this.

Later testimony claimed that artificial intelligence (AI), normal business growth, and more people residing in the area were all to blame for the growth. But crypto miners and data centers will be to blame for more than half of the extra growth. We need to pay close attention to those two fields. Compared to how much stress they put on our grid, they don’t create many jobs. “People who mine crypto might make more money by selling electricity back to the grid than by mining crypto itself,” he said.

“Texans will pay the price in the end.”

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Astronomy

There Is A Hotly Debatable Twin To The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence

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Humanity has been trying to find signals from extraterrestrial civilizations for more than a century. Prior to focusing our eyes and ears on the galaxy and universe beyond, early efforts in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) concentrated on listening for messages from within the Solar System.

There have been no alien signals found thus far in these searches. While one signal remains enigmatic, it most likely stems from a human or natural source. But given that we (aside from our stray signals) don’t broadcast ourselves on a regular basis, is it unreasonable to assume that alien civilizations would do the same?

Messaging for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or METI, is introduced. While it wouldn’t be accurate to state that humanity hasn’t communicated with the cosmos, there have undoubtedly been a few. The Golden Records are audio and visual files that NASA’s Voyager I and Voyager II spacecraft “selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.” Aliens will probably never find these. However, we have also sent other signals, like the Arecibo Message, which was directed about 21,000 light-years from Earth toward the globular star cluster M13. With only 210 bytes of data, the message was small but contained information about the 4 billion people that lived on Earth at the time, a stick figure of a person, a double helix, and a drawing of the Arecibo radio telescope that sent the message.

The organization METI International was founded in 2015 with the intention of communicating with extraterrestrial civilizations. They delivered a similar message to the super-Earth exoplanet GJ273b in October 2017, which is only 19 light-years away from Earth and may be habitable.

This is where METI becomes a little contentious. A map of the solar system was also included in the Arecibo message, and there are (very speculative) reasons why we might not want to communicate with aliens in our cosmic backyard or even send a return address.

The explanation of the Fermi paradox offered by what is now widely referred to as the “Dark Forest Hypothesis” is one of the reasons METI is controversial.

In short, it looks like the universe is full of planets that might be habitable, but we have never picked up a signal from an alien civilization.

The very dark Dark Forest Hypothesis, which is explained in Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, says that alien civilizations hide their existence because you can’t be sure what other civilizations want. There’s no way for you to know if they are hostile or friendly, or what their intentions are.

It’s possible that you, as a friendly civilization, find an alien civilization that is also friendly and about the same level of development as yours. You know you’re nice, but you don’t know if they’re also calm. Even worse, because of how far away these civilizations are and how long it takes to receive light and signals from them, you have no idea how their society has changed since the signal from them reached yours. In the meantime, they may have made huge technological leaps. This means that even if the planet you are looking at seems peaceful and not too far ahead of yours, everything could have changed by the time the light gets to you.

On top of that, there is the pressure of resources. According to the books, you also know from your own planet that life uses and spreads all the resources it can find. But there are only so many resources in the universe.

You still have to deal with the fact that you don’t know if they know that you are peaceful if you decide that they are peaceful. Since they think or even just suspect that you are bad, it makes sense that they would try to kill you before you could kill them. You could talk to them, just like you can here on Earth, to reassure them even more of your plans. In space, though, it could take hundreds or even thousands of years for your new message to get there. During that time, they could have began an attack to destroy you. With this many red flags, Liu comes to the conclusion that the only smart thing for a civilization that wants to stay alive is to hide in the forest and kill any civilizations that make noise, before they kill you.

Scientists are serious about the idea of hostile aliens, even though the idea became popular in fiction. In 2015, Stephen Hawking started a project to look for alien civilizations. He talked about why it might not be a good idea to say hello back.

According to Space.com, Hawking told the crowd, “We don’t know much about aliens, but we know a lot about humans.” “If you look at history, interactions between humans and less intelligent creatures have often been terrible for them, and interactions between civilizations with advanced and primitive technologies have also been bad for the less advanced.” If someone reads one of our messages, they might be billions of years ahead of us. They will be much stronger if that’s the case, and they might not value us more than we value bacteria.

However, the Dark Forest theory is still a long way from being proven. It is important to think about hostile aliens when deciding whether to contact other species and who should make that decision. David Brin, an American author and scientist, asked “whether small groups of zealots should bypass all institutions, peer critique, risk appraisal, or public opinion, to shout ‘yoohoo’ into a potentially dangerous cosmos.”

In a way, the fact that METI exists could be used to show that the Dark Forest Hypothesis is wrong. Let’s say there are very advanced societies out there. Assuming that some people in these advanced civilizations have access to advanced broadcast technology is a reasonable thing to do. Another reasonable guess is that if they were that advanced, they would have built this civilization with science instead of magic.

The civilizations would probably gather information about other star systems in the same way that we do, unless they have a good reason for not wanting to know about life beyond their own planet. Assuming that this information and broadcast technology aren’t somehow limited across all civilizations, there must be some people who would be crazy enough to try to get in touch with other civilizations. While obviously speculating wildly, it’s possible that an alien METI species that likes to take risks might try to warn other, younger civilizations about how the universe is like a dark forest. Also, we haven’t heard from these actors, which could mean that the long silence has a different cause than the Dark Forest Hypothesis.

That, or the METI problem, might only happen in new civilizations that send out messages every so often before we learn about the universe’s dark side and do everything we can to stay quiet.

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