James Webb Telescope sun shield snags, further launch delays likely

A new report on the James Webb Space Telescope has found that ongoing technical issues with final testing and assembly of the $8.8 billion project will probably cause the launch date of the oft-delayed instrument to slip again to the right. Presently, NASA is targeting June 2019 for launch aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. Source: arstechnica.com

Elon Musk’s Bacteria-Covered Space Car May Be a ‘Biothreat’

“ The load of bacteria on the Tesla could be considered a biothreat—or a backup copy of life on Earth.” Source: vice.com

Toyota’s new magnet won’t depend on some key rare-earth minerals

The new magnet Toyota developed also uses no terbium or dysprosium, which can be added to neodymium to improve its operability at high heat, above 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit). (In fact, mining consultancy Roskill notes that few automakers use terbium in magnets anymore, though dysprosium is still commonly added to magnets with neodymium.) Source: arstechnica.com

Probabilistic Programming and Bayesian Methods for Hackers

Bayesian Methods for Hackers is designed as a introduction to Bayesian inference from a computational/understanding-first, and mathematics-second, point of view. Of course as an introductory book, we can only leave it at that: an introductory book. For the mathematically trained, they may cure the curiosity this text generates with other texts designed with mathematical analysis in mind. For the enthusiast with less mathematical-background, or one who is not interested in the mathematics but simply the practice of Bayesian methods, this text should be sufficient and entertaining.

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Details emerge about Porsche’s new electric car, charging network

The electric vehicle market is finally about to get interesting. It has been some time since Tesla proved that EVs didn’t have to involve hair shirts, and at long last some other automakers are ready to enter the fray. Later this week at the Geneva Motor Show, Jaguar is going to reveal the I-Pace, which goes on sale shortly. Audi is readying its e-tron for later in the year. And Porsche has the Mission E.

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Forecasts of genetic fate just got a lot more accurate

Doctors already test for rare, deadly mutations in individual genes. Think of the BRCA breast cancer gene. Or the one-letter mutation that causes sickle-cell anemia. But such one-to-one connections between a mutation and a disease—“the gene for X”—aren’t seen in most common ailments. Instead, these have complex causes, which until recently have remained elusive. Source: technologyreview.com

African rainforests vanished for 600 years, then bounced back—why?

Three thousand years ago, dense old-growth rainforests covered most of central Africa. But around 2,600 years ago, an event that ecologists call the Late Holocene Rainforest Crisis occurred, and the forests suddenly gave way to savannas dotted with islands of trees. Six hundred years later, the forests grew back almost as swiftly as they had vanished. Source: arstechnica.com

The Poignant Gulag Art by Stalin’s Doomed Meteorologist

Imprisoned for ‘false weather forecasts’, Alexey Wangenheim sent sketches to the family he’d never see again. Source: atlasobscura.com

We can learn to be more creative

You’ve probably heard someone say “I’m not really a creative type…”? When people say that, it’s quite rarely a positive thing. Probably never. They might mean that they are not artistic, but usually the message is that this person has given up on being creative in all the ways possible, because that’s just how the world works. Only some selected people get to be creative and they just weren’t part of that special group.

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Western science catching up to Indigenous Traditional Knowledge

The latest discovery has taken this assessment to new heights, literally. A team of researchers led by Mark Bonta and Robert Gosford in northern Australia has documented kites and falcons, colloquially termed “firehawks,” intentionally carrying burning sticks to spread fire. While it has long been known that birds will take advantage of natural fires that cause insects, rodents and reptiles to flee and thus increase feeding opportunities, that they would intercede to spread fire to unburned locales is astounding.

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