this week

Prototype hyperloop pod reaches a speed of 324 kilometers per hour

The team WARR Hyperloop has won SpaceX's Hyperloop Pod competition with an entry that reached a speed of 324 km/h (201 mi/h). WARR’s carbon-fiber pod, is powered by a 50KW electric motor and features four pneumatic friction brakes that can stop the pod within five seconds.

Source: The Verge

The next Game of Thrones book has been written by a neural network

A software engineer is training a recurrent neural network (RNN) to predict the events of the unfinished sixth Game of Thrones novel, The Winds of Winter. In this version Sansa is a Baratheon, a new character called Greenbeard appears, Jaime kills Cersei and Jon rides a dragon.

Source: Motherboard

The planet is warming at an unprecedented rate

A new study has revealed that our planet is currently warming at an even faster pace than during one of the most dramatic climate change events in Earth's history. The study concluded that the rate of carbon dioxide release was far slower during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum than today.

Source: Ars Technica

Security flaw leaves 745,000 pacemakers open to hackers

A security flaw in 745,000 pacemakers could allow them to be hacked. The flaws could theoretically be used to cause the devices to pace too quickly or run out of battery. The manufacturer, Abbott, said it wasn't aware of any cases of this happening, and said it would require a "highly complex set of circumstances".

Source: BBC

China has its own plan for hyperloop

China has its own plan for a hyperloop system, which is being referred to as a "supersonic flying train". The bullet trains will travel at 4,000km/h (2,485mi/h) with the carriage floating on magnetic levitation tracks and running in tubes that have been pumped out to a near-vacuum. Similar to the hyperloop we know but faster.

Source: The Register

Scientists enhance spider's web to the point that it can hold a human

Scientists led by Nicola Pugno at Italy's University of Trento have succeeded in combining spider silk with graphene and carbon nanotubes to produce a composite material that is five times stronger. Remarkably, the composite is produced by the spider itself, after it drinks water containing the nanotubes.

Robot takes first steps towards building artificial lifeforms

A robot equipped with sophisticated AI has successfully simulated the creation of artificial lifeforms, in a key first step towards the eventual goal of creating true artificial life.

The robot, which was developed by scientists at the University of Glasgow, was able to model the creation of artificial lifeforms using unstable oil-in-water droplets. These droplets effectively played the role of living cells, demonstrating the potential of future research to develop living cells based on building blocks that cannot be found in nature.

Significantly, the robot also successfully predicted their properties before they were created, even though this could not be achieved using conventional physical models.

The robot, which was designed by Glasgow University’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, Professor Lee Cronin, is driven by machine learning and the principles of evolution.

It has been developed to autonomously create oil-in-water droplets with a host of different chemical makeups and then use image recognition to assess their behaviour.

Using this information, the robot was able to engineer droplets to have different properties­. Those which were found to be desirable could then be recreated at any time, using a specific digital code.

“This work is exciting as it shows that we are able to use machine learning and a novel robotic platform to understand the system in ways that cannot be done using conventional laboratory methods, including the discovery of ‘swarm’ like group behaviour of the droplets, akin to flocking birds,” said Cronin.

“Achieving lifelike behaviours such as this are important in our mission to make new lifeforms, and these droplets may be considered ‘protocells’ – simplified models of living cells.”

One of the oil droplets created by the robot

The research, which is published today in the journal PNAS, is one of several research projects being undertaken by Cronin and his team within the field of artificial lifeforms.

While the overarching goal is moving towards the creation of lifeforms using new and unprecedented building blocks, the research may also have more immediate potential applications.

The team believes that their work could also have applications in several practical areas, including the development of new methods for drug delivery or even innovative materials with functional properties.

Mac spyware stole millions of user images

A criminal case brought against a man from Ohio, US has shed more light on a piece of Mac malware, dubbed Fruitfly, that was used to surreptitiously turn on cameras and microphones, take and download screenshots, log keystrokes, and steal tax and medical records, photographs, internet searches, and bank transactions from users.

Source: Ars Technica

Drone swarm attack strikes Russian military bases

Russia's Ministry of Defence claims its forces in Syria were attacked a week ago by a swarm of home-made drones. According to Russia's MoD Russian forces at the Khmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility "successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)"

Source: Science Alert

Las Vegas strip club employs robot strippers

A Las Vegas strip club has flown in robot strippers from London to 'perform' at the club during CES. Sapphire Las Vegas strip club managing partner Peter Feinstein said that he employed the robots because the demographics of CES have changed and the traditional female strippers aren’t enough to lure a crowd to the club anymore.

Source: Daily Beast

GM to make driverless cars without steering wheels or pedals by 2019

General Motors has announced it plans to mass-produce self-driving cars without traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals by 2019. “It’s a pretty exciting moment in the history of the path to wide scale [autonomous vehicle] deployment and having the first production car with no driver controls,” GM President Dan Ammann told The Verge.

Source: The Verge

Russia-linked hackers "Fancy Bears" target the IOC

Following Russia's ban from the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, the Russia-linked hacking group "Fancy Bears" has published a set of apparently stolen emails, which purportedly belong to officials from the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, and third-party groups associated with the organisations.

Source: Wired

Scientists discover ice cliffs on Mars

Using images provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have described how steep cliffs, up to 100 meters tall, made of what appears to be nearly pure ice indicate that large deposits of ice may also be located in nearby underground deposits. The discovery has been described as “very exciting” for potential human bases.

Source: Science Mag