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Technology and Your Brain

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Your use of technology may be changing the way your brain works. But so is everything else.
We can’t read properly anymore, our memories are fading, we don’t know the stuff that we used to and we don’t talk to each other. What’s technology doing to us? Are smartphones, computers and the internet making us dumber?

Well, maybe. But perhaps there’s an alternative, and less alarming, way of looking at things.
We change We all change and grow. Our bodies and our brains change over time. And, mostly, this is for the better because we are adapting to new circumstances.

Your brain is the most complex thing we know of. Billions of neurons each with myriad connections to others — it’s an amazingly complex organ.

And everything you do — everything — affects its structure and those connections. Learn a new skill and that learning process is your brain adapting. If you repeatedly do something, it eventually becomes automatic — another adaptation. So if you are using technology a lot — your phone,…

Bacon Increases the Risk of Cancer but Should We Worry?

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Bacon, sausages and other processed meat may increase your chance of getting cancer but some scientists say that there's no need to worry. It's a question of personal or public health.

On the 17th of April, 2019, under the headline "KILLER RASHER", the UK's Sun newspaper explained that eating just 25g of processed meat a day increased your risk of bowel cancer.

And yet, a few months later, on 1st October, the same newspaper told bacon-loving Brits that their favorite breakfast was safe to eat after all,"NO IFS OR BUTTIES*"?

The first headline was prompted by research done at Oxford University which warned of the increased cancer risk of eating processed and red meat. It was covered in all the major news outlets.

The staple of the traditional English breakfast, we were told, will increase the instance of bowel cancer by nearly 20%.

A little later, though, another team of scientists headed by a Canadian academic, had produced a rival report that stated t…

Should Robots Pay Tax?

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Around half of all tax receipts come from payroll taxes. So where will tax revenue come from if robots take all the jobs? There is no dispute that AI, robots, automation generally, can do more and more jobs that used to be done by humans. Inevitably, that trend will continue.

Sounds great - the work still gets done but we all have more leisure time.

But this means that, unless new types of jobs are created, fewer people will have productive work in the future. Which means they won’t be paying income tax!

Worse still, those who can no longer work will need to be supported by social security payments or something like a universal basic income. This will create an enormous fiscal challenge for the government.
The country runs on income tax Income taxes make up a very large proportion of government income and without it the government would have much less to spend. In the US and in the UK, for example, payroll taxes (including National Insurance contributions in the UK) make up about hal…

Elon Musk's One Million Robo-Cabs

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The Tesla founder promises fully autonomous cars by the end of the year. Fully autonomous vehicles will, almost certainly, disrupt car ownership in a fundamental way. We may give up the idea of private cars, altogether, or maybe we'll share them, or possibly make some money out of them when we are not actually using them. The cost of running an electric vehicle will be much less than one with a conventional internal combustion engine. This is not only because the cost of energy is less but also, electric vehicles are much simpler,  will have much longer operational lives and will require less maintenance.
If you then remove the driver, taxis and ride-hailing services, such as Uber, will become much cheaper.
All this was detailed in a report by the think tank, RethinkX, in 2017.
But Musk has a different take. The RethinkX report considered that car ownership would plummet because using autonomous taxis would be cheaper the cost of running a private car.
Musk is floating the idea …

Schrödinger's Cat is Alive and Well ...

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...and living in a parallel universe.
How can a cat be both alive and dead? How can something be in two places at the same time?

Quantum Mechanics is strange. Richard Feynman, the physicist and Nobel Laureate, once wrote, "I think I can safely say that nobody understands Quantum Mechanics" and he most certainly included himself in that assessment. Quantum Mechanics simply cannot be understood with our every-day experience of the physical world. It's a system where electrons behave like particles, or waves, or both. Or, indeed, neither. Electrons behave like electrons - they exhibit behaviour that is similar to a wave and behaviour that is particle-like. Superposition
One of the strangest aspects of Quantum Mechanics is superposition, a situation where something can be in two different states at the same time and its definite state is not resolved until an observation is made. At least, that is one way of looking at it.

Another way of looking at it is that both states …

What if Dark Matter Doesn't Really Exist?

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Dark Matter makes up 85% of the universe and scientists have been looking for it for decades. 
They have yet to find it, so how do we know that it exists?
It might seem a mystery how we could be unaware of so much of the universe. Eighty-five percent is an awful lot of stuff to be missing.
But there is good reason to believe that it really is there. This is because the existence of Dark Matter would explain why the movement of galaxies appear to flout the laws of physics.
The thing is that motion of the outer parts of galaxies ought to slow down, the further they get from the centre, as the effect of gravity diminishes. The trouble is, they don't.

However, if the outer parts of these galaxies contained large amounts of matter that we are not aware of, then this would increase the gravitational effect and thus explain the anomaly. 
And that is the currently received wisdom: Dark Matter must exist because that explains the movement of galaxies.

The problem is that no one has been abl…

How to save $10,000 a year: stop driving!

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Is this the end of the road for the private car?
According to the American think-tank RethinkX, the average American could save thousands of dollars by giving up their private car.


Driverless Uber-like taxis are going to be so cheap that it simply won’t be worth owning a car.

Why so cheap? Because, first, they will be electric vehicles that will be much cheaper to run than than conventional petrol, or diesel, cars, and, second, there will be no driver to pay.

Waymo (the company formed from the Google self-driving car project) is already testing AV (autonimous vehicle) taxis in Arizona and appear to planning expand further. According to the jourmal, IEEE Spectrum, both Waymo and Cruise GM (the General Motors AV company) are planning commercial self-driving services using all-electric Jaguar I-Pace SUVs and Chevrolet Bolts, respectively.

Level 4 Autonomy
The taxis will be level 4 autonomous vehicles which means that they will be fully autonomous within a restricted environment. That en…