Earlier this month, the Russian weapons manufacturer Kalashnikov Group made a low-key announcement with frightening implications. The company revealed it had developed a range of combat robots that are fully automated and used artificial intelligence to identify targets and make independent decisions. The revelation rekindled the simmering, and controversial, debate over autonomous weaponry and asked the question, at what point do we hand control of lethal weapons over to artificial intelligence?
Sixteen years after a controversial biodegradation plan allowed 1,000 truckloads of orange peels to be unloaded onto a barren, deforested area of Costa Rican land, a team of Princeton researchers has discovered unexpectedly positive results. The area that was covered with orange waste is now a lush, overgrown forest with richer soil and more tree species than the adjacent land that was untreated.
After years of digging and research, paleontologists have identified a new species of dinosaur – and it seems to be the largest land animal to ever walk the Earth. Over 150 bones from at least six individual animals were found in a dig site in Argentina, and from those scientists were able to estimate their body mass, age, and the environment the beasts came from.
A few weeks back, Hyperloop One revealed a prototype of a pod that it hopes will eventually ferry passengers through near-vacuum tubes at around the speed of sound. Today, the company has announced the first successful tests of this futuristic capsule, in which it levitated above a test track en route to speeds of more than 300 km/h.
The USS Gerald R Ford scored a double first less than a week after commissioning, as the nuclear-powered supercarrier launched and recovered a fighter plane for the first time using an electromagnetic catapult. On July 28, an F/A-18F Super Hornet piloted by Commander Jamie Struck was launched from the flight deck by the ElectroMAgnetic Launch System (EMALS) shortly after arrival, when it made the first arrested landing with the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) system.
In about 5 billion years’ time, our Sun will use up its reserves of hydrogen and begin to cool down and expand, cooking the Earth in a miasma of heat and radiation. Given our current trajectory, humans will probably be long gone by then anyway, but at least one lifeform will likely still be plodding along: the utterly unkillable tardigrade. According to a new study from Harvard and Oxford, it’ll take nothing short of the death of the Sun to finally do the species in – which bodes well for the resilience of life as a whole.
After unveiling its Multi concept in 2014, German engineering conglomerate ThyssenKrupp has made its vision of a cable-free, Willy Wonka-style elevator design a reality. Over the past few years the company has been constructing a 246-m (807-ft) high test tower and refining the technology that would allow multiple cars to move vertically and horizontally in a single shaft using a magnet-based drive system similar to that in Maglev trains. Just last week, after two-and-a-half years of construction, the test tower and first fully functional Multi unit were launched.
An ESA-funded scientist is developing a magnetic space tug to combat the growing problem of space debris. The tugs could lock onto derelict satellites and deorbit them before they become a hazard to navigation, and because they use cryogenic magnets, they wouldn’t have to even touch the derelicts and the targets wouldn’t need to be specially modified for towing.