Apple’s iPad with iOS 11 takes us one step closer to killing laptops

Thanks to iOS 11, iPads are one step closer to killing off laptops. It’s only a matter of time before that happens, but until then, you do have to know what you are getting yourself into. For now, the best time to treat Apple’s iPad as a laptop is when you are in an office. As I found out, it’s not while you’re at a coffee shop.

On the basic model, the 9.7-inch iPad, I installed iOS 11 and started experimenting with the latest features, which are mostly designed to boost productivity (at least on the iPad). There’s a new dock, which makes it much easier to find commonly used apps. (Siri even plays a role here, tracking the most commonly used apps and storing them on the dock to the right.) There’s a cool multitasking view that lets you copy and paste elements from one section of the screen to another using Split View. In one case, I dragged a YouTube video over to iMessage and it inserted the video into my chat. That was cool.

I really like the Files app. I’ve been wanting a way to manage my files — mostly Word docs and photos — on the iPad because, as a journalist, I’m always trying to keep my projects straight. It was great being able to search for a slideshow by name and see exactly where it is located. The Files app also searches on services like Box and Dropbox. I had to send back an iPad Pro I was using for testing quite a while ago, but I’ve also noticed Apple keeps improving the Pencil. In iOS 11, you can tap on the lock screen and start jotting down a note.

So what is not quite there yet? What did I still miss while I was tooling around at the coffee shop?

For starters, you can improve the operating system on an iPad, but until the apps become much more powerful, you’ll probably still need a laptop. I liked managing my photo files on the iPad, but when an editor asked me to do a quick adjustment to an image of a car, taking out what looked like a smudge, I really wished I had the full desktop version of Photoshop. And, there’s one photo-related step that is still not quite right on the iPad — it was tricky to adjust the aspect ratio and pixels for an image. I do use web apps like Pixlr Editor in a browser on Chrome, and that works in a pinch, but I like Photoshop.

What about documents? The Files app makes it easier to manage my files, although most of them are on Google Drive and that app has been around for a while. And the Google Docs app works fine for me. However, there’s still a workflow problem. For starters, when I write using a laptop, I usually open a ton of tabs with new documents. Again, that’s possible on the iPad, but a mouse works better when you have six tabs up on the screen. With my finger on the 9.7-inch screen, it felt like something was still wrong — like I was on a tablet, not a laptop.

There’s a litany of other problems, and Apple knows all about them, I’m sure. Even though the A11 Bionic processor is supposedly faster than a MacBook, it’s not like I’m going to be playing Ark: Survival Evolved on the iPad anytime soon. Video editing is functional using apps like iMovie, but let’s get real here — you need a mouse, more graphics power, and a better workflow. On a Windows laptop, I can edit an entire 10-minute video using a lot of drag-and-drop, fine tweaks to clips, and layered audio channels. That just won’t happen on an iPad in the near future.

Surprisingly, even with these caveats, the iPad 9.7 with iOS 11 seemed like a big jump forward. I could see myself doing some drag-and-drop on a plane, typing or even dictating documents in a hotel room, and making use of the new dock to access my apps faster. The iPad is still mostly a “viewer” for movies and books, but it’s also great for email and documents. In the end though, I doubt I will be ready to leave the laptop behind unless the apps start working more like their desktop counterparts.

How sinister robot killing machines have changed the face of war

Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems was the first armed robotic vehicles to see combat. (AP Photo/Mike Derer)

KILLER robots sound like the stuff of science fiction, but a future of robotic warfare is not as far off as it seems.

This week, tech genius Elon Musk made headlines when he urged the United Nations to ban killer robots before the Terminator films become a dark reality, reports The Sun.

Killer tech is nothing new though, with a vast array of robotic weapons already fit for combat.

Under the Geneva Conventions, human input is needed whenever military robots are used, since AI can’t be trusted to pull the trigger.

Calls for killer robot ban

But that hasn’t stopped the development of all sorts of terrifying killing machines designed to operate as independently as possible.

From Russia’s automated tanks to the smart turrets used on the front lines in Korea, these are the war machines which are already a reality.

GUN-SLINGING ANDROIDS

Today, the closest we have to a Terminator-style killer robot is a Russian army android called FEDOR, who can drive a car, use tools and dual-wield handguns.

The sinister-looking bot was showcased earlier this year, when Putin’s armed forces released a clip of the robot shooting two automatic pistols down a range.

Although FEDOR is designed for rescue work, engineers are keen to see whether the droid could have military uses.

But the Russian army insisted that FEDOR, who is due to be sent to space in 2021, is “not a Terminator” — and was just shown slinging guns to prove how dexterous it is.

Meet FEDOR, Russia’s dual-wielding android soldier who can drive cars, use tools and shoot pistols IMAGE: ROBERTO LEONES MASINISource:YouTube

SMART SENTRY GUNS
One of the most advanced war robots in the world is the Super aegis II, a sentry gun capable of locking on to vehicles or humans from 3km away.

The smart turret can be completely automated, although all models are currently set up to make sure the gun can’t fire without human approval.

But the smart gun can still use its thermal imaging camera to find targets in the dead of night and regardless of the weather.

It sounds like something out of science-fiction, but the Super aegis II is already in use in the UAE, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and the Korean Demilitarised Zone.

PATROL ROBOTS

Robots are already used in security patrols and bomb disposal missions in warzones all over the world.

Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System (SWORDS) is one of these bots, and is essentially a remotely-controlled weapons platform capable of moving over any terrain.

The advanced version of SWORDS, the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS) is currently being developed by defence giant Qinetiq.

It comes armed with a machine gun and grenade launchers, and is designed to provide foot patrols with an extra punch or be deployed to stand guard and record its surroundings.

Drones can be used for targeted assassinations and disrupting radar signals.Source:AAP

AUTONOMOUS DRONES

Remote-controlled drones, also known as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), have been used extensively to track down and strike targets from above.

However, the latest leaps in drone technology cut out the human operator entirely, with autonomous drones already in the skies.

Earlier this year, the US military unveiled a swarm of tiny, intelligent micro-drones, which can be dropped from fighter jets.

In footage released by the Department of Defence, a cloud of over 103 autonomous drones, designed for surveillance, was released into the sky.

It is believed that the drones, which are capable of working together and acting as a swarm, could have other potential uses, including targeted assassinations and disrupting radar signals.

UNMANNED TANKS

Another cutting-edge Russian warbot comes in the form of unmanned tanks.

The killing machines work in similar ways to remote controlled patrol robots, but pack all the punch of a regular tank.

Kalashnikov Concern, the arms company behind the infamous AK-47 rifle, has developed a smart unmanned tank, called the BAS-01G Soratnik.

The 7-tonne vehicle comes armed with a machine gun and up to eight antitank missiles, and can even operate with a degree of autonomy, independently of its human controllers.

5 man-killing cancers you might not spot until it’s too late

For all types of cancers combined, cancer rates are 20 percent higher in men than women—and they are 40 percent more likely to die from it, too.  (iStock)

Cancer kills: Nearly 1.7 million people will receive a cancer diagnosis in 2017, and more than 600,000 people will die from it, according to a report from the American Cancer Society (ACS).

And the picture seems especially dire for men. For all types of cancers combined, cancer rates are 20 percent higher in men than women—and they are 40 percent more likely to die from it, too. So it’s no surprise that cancer ranks as the second most-common killer of men.

The even scarier part? Many of the leading cancer killers have no clearcut symptoms in their earliest stages. And that’s one instance where ignorance definitely isn’t bliss: Hard-to-spot cancers—whether preventive screenings aren’t available yet or you don’t recognize the symptoms as something serious enough to get checked out—can lead to a delay in diagnosis and treatment, which can reduce your chances of successfully beating it.

So for this National Men’s Health Week—a nationwide initiative which aims to increase awareness of preventable health issues, early detection, and treatment for diseases facing men—we’re making it our mission to shine a light on these hard-to-spot cancers.

Read on to find how they might take hold in your body before you even realize it, and what you can do about them before it’s too late.

WHY LUNG CANCER CAN BE HARD TO DETECT

Even though prostate cancer may be more common, lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death in men. Only 16 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage, according to the American Lung Association. Once the disease spreads and becomes more aggressive, only 4 percent of people survive at least five years.

Why it’s hard to detect: Most people associate lung cancer with smoking, but that doesn’t paint the whole picture, says David Ross Camidge, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medical oncology and lung cancer researcher at the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

While smoking is linked to the majority of lung cancer cases, the disease still strikes people who have never even touched a cigarette, he explains.

In most other cases, blame radon, a natural gas that you can’t see or smell. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.—and about 1 in 15 homes have high radon levels, according to the CDC.

Plus, you might not even realize you have lung cancer until it’s already advanced to a more deadly stage: “Your lungs are mostly air, so you can actually grow a fairly decent sized mass without even noticing it,” says Dr. Camidge. “By the time you get symptoms, the cancer may have already spread.” These symptoms include a constant cough, shortness of breath, and unexplained weight loss.

But the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force has pretty narrow guidelines for who it recommends receive CT scans for lung cancer screening: those who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for at least 30 years, are either still smoking or have quit within the last 15 years, and are aged in their 50s through 70s.

“So if you’re a guy in your 30s and you’ve never smoked, you’re never going to qualify for a screening test,” says Dr. Camidge.

What you can do: Skip the stereotypes. Regardless of whether you’re a smoker or not, don’t ignore the telltale signs of lung cancer listed above when they do appear.

Many doctors will hear that you have a cough, have never been a smoker, and automatically assume that it can’t be lung cancer, says Dr. Camidge. So they’ll usually treat you for less serious conditions that share common symptoms, like asthma or bronchitis. But if your cough persists for a couple of months, you should talk to your doctor about your options for a test, especially if you cough up blood.

WHY COLORECTAL CANCER CAN BE HARD TO DETECT

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States, according to the ACS.

While the majority of colorectal cases affect men over 50, the disease is quickly on the rise in young people, too. People born in 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer than people born in 1950, when colorectal cancer risk was at its lowest, according to a study from the ACS.

Why it’s hard to detect: While colorectal cancer comes with its fair share of symptoms, they don’t typically appear in its earliest stages, when the cancer is most likely to be cured, says William Grady, M.D., a clinical researcher who specializes in colon cancer prevention at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

“You won’t know if you have an early colorectal cancer. The only time you’ll know is when it’s much more advanced. Even then, the symptoms are so nonspecific that it’s hard to know what they mean,” he adds. This means you might mistake common symptoms—which include abdominal cramping, blood in your stool, and a persistent, unexplained change in your bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea—for some other type of stomach or digestion issue instead.

That’s why it’s vital to get yourself checked through regular screening, since pre-cancerous growths can be removed before they develop into cancer—and before they start causing those symptoms.

Almost all colorectal cancers start out as a benign colon polyp, a clump of cells that forms on the lining of your colon or rectum, says Dr. Grady. Only 1 in 10 polyps will ever become a cancer if they do, and it usually takes about 10 to 15 years for the cancer to form. Colonoscopies are the most powerful way to find and remove a polyp early.

But if you don’t get yourself checked, there’s usually no outward sign of colorectal cancer until it advances, and you start experiencing its red-flag symptoms, like the ones mentioned above.

What you can do: Ask your doctor about screenings. Only a little more than half of people who should get tested for colorectal cancer do so, according to the ACS.

Most guys should start getting regular colonoscopies at the age of 50. But if you have a first-degree family member that suffered from the disease, you should start screenings at 40, or 10 years younger than they were when they were first diagnosed, the American College of Gastroenterology recommends.

These colonoscopies can be a lifesaver: 9 out 10 people who are diagnosed with colon cancer early are cured, says Dr. Grady. For those who are diagnosed late, after the cancer has already outside of the bowels to other organs like the liver or lungs, only 1 in 20 are cured. (Here are six ways you can prevent colon cancer.)

WHY PANCREATIC CANCER CAN BE HARD TO DETECT

The ACS predicts that 27,970 men will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017—compare that to the 116,990 men that will be diagnosed with lung cancer. Still, while pancreatic cancer accounts for just three percent of all cancers, it makes up about 7 percent of all cancer deaths.

One reason it’s overrepresented in the death column? The disease is one of the most insidious ones out there: “We don’t have any way to screen for pancreatic cancer, and symptoms don’t develop until it’s usually not curable, so almost everyone who gets pancreatic cancer dies from it,” says Dr. Grady.

Why it’s hard to detect: Abdominal or back pain, weight loss, lack of appetite, nausea, and even blood clots are pretty nonspecific symptoms of pancreatic cancer that could be attributed to lots of other things. The cancer usually has to spread to your liver before you develop a telltale sign that something’s really not right: jaundice, which causes your skin and eyes to yellow.

The structure and setup of your organs is part of the reason. Your GI tract is basically a series of tubes and organs with different layers, including your pancreas, says Dr. Grady. The layers around some areas, like your colon, are quite thick. Thicker layers allow cancers more time to grow before they spread to other organs, potentially boosting your doctor’s chances of finding it in time to treat it before it becomes aggressive.

But your pancreas is different—its outer layers are pretty thin. That means the cancer can quickly spread outside the pancreas. “We think the problem is that by the time you develop symptoms, the cancer has almost always spread outside the organ into different regions,” says Dr. Grady.

Plus, your pancreas is located deep within your body, so your doctor can’t see or feel early tumors during routine checkups, according to the ACS.

What you can do: While researchers are putting in a lot of effort to come up with better early-detection tests, nothing like that is currently available for most people, says Dr. Grady. Like colon cancer polyps, there are precancerous lesions on your pancreas that may go on to become cancer, but more research needs to be done to know for sure, he says.

So prevention is key. The best thing you can do is to minimize your risk, says Dr. Grady. Smokers are twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer than people who have never smoked, according to the ACS. (Here’s the best way to quit smoking forever.) And since obese people are 20 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, maintaining a healthy weight is crucial, too.

WHY MELANOMA CAN BE HARD TO DETECT

While melanoma accounts for only about 1 percent of skin cancers, it causes a majority of skin cancer deaths, according to the ACS.

And it’s on the rise. Melanoma rates have doubled in the last three decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—and guys are particularly at risk. Men who have developed stage-four melanoma are more likely to die from it than women, possibly due to immune system differences, says Tara Gangadhar, M.D., assistant professor of hematology oncology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Why it’s hard to detect: It’s not exactly easy to eyeball the difference between a harmless spot on your skin and a cancerous mole. One big reason? You might not be aware that a dark brown mole isn’t the only sign to look out for, says Dr. Gangadhar.

Some melanomas are colorless, flesh-colored, or even red and pink—meaning you might brush it off as a pimple, wart, or not even notice it at all, she says. Plus, even if you do find a suspicious mark, hectic schedules can get in the way, so you might put off getting it looked at while the cancer is in its earliest stages.

But ignoring the warning signs can be fatal: Even after melanoma has been surgically removed from your skin, it can come back and spread to other organs like your lungs, liver, or brain, making it much harder to cure, explains Dr. Gagadhar. Other skin cancers like squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas rarely recur or spread at the same rate that melanoma does.

What you can do: Scan your skin—even if you slather on the sunscreen. You’re still at higher risk for developing melanoma if you experienced sunburns as a kid, says Dr. Gangadhar.

So if you notice any changing lesion on your skin, get it looked at by your doctor or dermatologist, says Dr. Gangadhar. Changes in the shape, color, or border of your moles should all raise a red flag—but cancerous moles can bleed, grow rapidly, and become itchy, too. (These pictures show you exactly what skin cancer looks like.)

WHY LIVER CANCER CAN BE HARD TO DETECT

Liver cancer is the fast growing cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., according to a new ACS report published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. In fact, liver cancer deaths have doubled since 1980.

Only 1 in 5 people will survive five years after they’re diagnosed, the report found. What’s more, the disease is more common in men—the ACS predicts 29,200 guys will be diagnosed with the disease in 2017.

Why it’s hard to detect: There hasn’t been a ton of progress in figuring out how to effectively detect liver cancer at an earlier stage before it spreads, says Kim Miller, M.P.H., an epidemiologist at the ACS. Serious symptoms—like loss of appetite, feeling very full after a small meal, abdominal pain, and jaundice—don’t really appear until the cancer has already become difficult to treat.

Plus, your ribcage covers most of your liver, so it’s not easy for you or your doctor to feel a tumor there if you develop one, she says.

What you can do: Know your risk. A big reason liver cancer deaths are on the rise is because of the hepatitis C epidemic among Baby Boomers, or people who were born between 1945 and 1965, says Miller. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplants, since it can lead to liver damage and cirrhosis, scarring and inflammation of the liver, according to the CDC.

That’s why the CDC recommends getting blood tests done to detect if you’ve ever been infected with the hepatitis C virus. Successful treatments can completely eliminate the virus from the body, minimizing your risk of developing liver cancer.

Even if you’re not among the Baby Boomer generation, getting yourself vaccinated against the hepatitis B infection can help keep you protected too, since it can also cause liver damage.

And if you are at high risk—meaning you have chronic viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, or metabolic disorders like excess bodyweight and type-2 diabetes—there are some physicians out there who offer screening tests, like ultrasounds and CT scans. But there isn’t yet data out there to confirm the effectiveness of them, says Miller.

THESE CANADIAN ISLANDS ARE KILLING DEER TO RESTORE THE NATURAL HABITAT

The smell of sulphur tickles my nose, the mineral-laden waters soothing my bones as I settle deeper in the island’s hot springs, bubbling again after a 2012 earthquake stopped the flow. I watch a helicopter fly by, a sharpshooter balanced on one of the struts.

Yes, this is a combat zone – but I’m not worried. I’m on one of about 200 islands off Canada’s northwest coast that make up the archipelago of Haida Gwaii (meaning “Islands of the People”). Haida have lived here for 12,500 years and on the southern islands in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site, there is a battle to eradicate nasty souvenirs of colonization. Rats were eliminated in 2013 and this year efforts have turned to the introduced Sitka black-tailed deer that mow down all plants within reach.

The islands have plenty of moss but are lacking medicinal plants (GettyImages/iStockphoto)

When I step ashore on Gandll K’in Gwaay.yaay (Hotsprings Island), the ancient trees tower above me, their presence testament to the protesters who stopped logging companies in their tracks 30 years ago. But they couldn’t stop the deer.

I see carpets of furry green moss but no young trees or bushes laden with berries. Haida medicinal plants are gone from many islands because non-native deer are eating everything in sight.

How to go to safari guide school in Kenya

Championing the efforts to restore Gwaii Haanas’ habitat to a pre-European state is Parks Canada Superintendent Ernie Gladstone, the youngest person to hold the top job and the first Haida. While the government of Canada and the Haida Nation disagree over who owns Gwaii Haanas, they do agree the area needs protection. In 1993 the Gwaii Haanas Agreement was struck, providing a framework for co-management; in 2010 the Gwaii Haanas Marine Agreement was added, protecting everything from mountaintop to ocean floor.

The Archipelago Management Board (AMB) governs Gwaii Haanas with three representatives from the government of Canada and three from the Haida Nation. Gladstone is co-chair along with one of the Haida representatives.  All decisions are made by consensus and require balancing cultural, scientific and policy objectives. “I decided before I took the job that every decision would be in line with protecting Gwaii Haanas for future generations,” Gladstone told me when asked how he balances the tricky business of being Haida in a federal job. “There’s an old Haida saying: ‘everything is connected to everything’. You need to respect the land and you need to respect the creatures. Just like you need to look after yourself, you need to look after the land and everything around you.”

The hot springs at G andll K’in Gwaay.yaay are flowing again (Carol Patterson)

Gladstone has become something of a celebrity since being photographed sitting in a Haida canoe between the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on a 2016 visit. The media frenzy has increased Haida Gwaii tourism – but you will still meet more locals than visitors here.

Carrying my backpack ashore at Hotsprings with 11 other tourists – the maximum that can visit a cultural site at one time after a mandatory orientation session – I’m eager to meet the Haida Watchmen. These are guardians of these sacred sites who ensure rules are followed and, if approached with respect and openness, will share their family’s stories.

David Dixon and Donna Carter greet us with wide smiles. “I wanted to be a watchman because my grandparents were watchmen,” says Carter of her now deceased ancestors, her grandfather’s ashes spread at Hlk’yah GawGa, the site he visited frequently. “He said he wanted to be a spook,” Carter recalls with a laugh. Every watchman has a tale of unexplained voices or ghostly sightings in these forests; but today I see only humans, blending traditional knowledge with modern science to protect the islands’ rare habitat.

Guide James Cowpar describes Haida life on the archipelago (Carol Patterson)

James Cowpar, co-owner of Haida Style Expeditions with his twin brother, Shawn, runs the tour company that brought us to Gwaii Haanas. As he barbeques our halibut lunch he explains how marksmen from New Zealand are helping Parks Canada staff eradicate deer in the Llgaay gwii sdiihlda (Restoring Balance) project.

After lunch Cowpar will attempt the risky landing at Hlk’yah GawGa – known as Windy Bay for its strong winds and tides. More people are making the trip to see the 42ft legacy pole raised in 2013 to mark 20 years of cooperative management, the first pole raised in Gwaii Haanas in over 130 years. While much of Canada is celebrating 150 years of confederation, this archipelago is celebrating restoration of their environment and culture to pre-European contact.

Haida believe all creatures are connected (Carol Patterson)

We pack our lunch remnants into plastic coolers and carry them across heavy sand, avoiding the slippery seaweed-covered rocks.  As our boat chugs towards us, guide Jaylene Shelford pulls an elk-skin drum from her satchel. She starts a steady beat on the platter-sized instrument, her high, clear notes weaving a Haida love story with the waves tumbling over rocks and breezes ruffling cedar branches. The sounds dance in my ears and I feel balance being restored.

US Rules For Targeted Killing Using Drones Need Clarifying, RAND Report Asserts

Current U.S. policies on using drones for targeted killing are characterized by ambiguities in interpretations of international law and too many generalities, despite recent efforts by the Obama administration to clarify the policies, a new RAND Corporation report finds.

The report outlines an approach that would provide greater clarity, specificity and consistency in U.S. international legal policies involving the use of long-range armed drones in targeted killing.

“Policymakers in the United States and other countries need to define an overall approach to targeted killing using long-range armed drones that protects civilians and human rights, while also allowing reasonable latitude in the fight against terrorism,” said Lynn Davis, the study’s lead author and a senior fellow at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Adopting such an approach would provide a basis for building public support at home and abroad for U.S. policies.”

Since the beginning of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has dramatically increased use of unmanned drones, developing technology to target and kill those identified as being terrorist leaders.

The strategy has proven to be controversial, with some domestic and international groups saying the approach sidesteps due process and is done in violation of international law. Foreign governments have criticized the accuracy of U.S. drone strikes when civilians mistakenly have been killed during operations carried out against terrorist cells. Such collateral damage has tarnished the purpose and efficacy of using unmanned drones, according to the RAND report.

The report’s proposed framework for a new drone policy is built on critical elements of international law related to the use of drones, and incorporates alternative legal policy interpretations drawn from administration officials as well as those critical of U.S. policies.

“The United States has an opportunity to take a leadership role in designing international norms for the use of drones in targeted killing that would be accepted and followed by the international community,” said Michael McNerney, an author of the report and a senior defense research analyst at RAND.

According to the report, the Obama administration’s reluctance to pursue international norms has created an environment where countries could employ long-range armed drones in ways that could harm U.S. interests by exacerbating regional tensions and violating human rights through the illegal use of drones to further the agendas of anti-American groups

England can’t ignore the role English authorities played in killing Test cricket’s competitiveness

West Indies captain Jason Holder leaves the field after being dismissed by Stuart Broad Getty
And so it begins, again: the existential fears for Test cricket so beloved of its fans. The West Indies’ desultory performance at Edgbaston, losing 19 wickets in a single day, combined with Sri Lanka being eviscerated 3-0 by India at home, has provoked a new bout of angst about the state of the Test game.

In a format so small – only 10 nations have ever played, though that will soon increase to 12 when Afghanistan and Ireland play their first Tests – Test cricket cannot afford to lose teams. This century, it has effectively lost both Zimbabwe – who once beat Pakistan and India in consecutive Test series – and the West Indies, who have won 16 and lost 89 of their 146 matches against other top eight teams since June 2000, as competitive sides.

The West Indies’ complicity in their own downfall – the endless petty politicking, the stubbornness, the squabbling between islands – is well-known. Yet England should not feel entitled to any sanctimony. The West Indies are also the victims of a broken structure in international cricket – one that England, the second wealthiest cricket nation, did a great deal to build.

If countries like the West Indies get the message that they aren’t cared for in Test cricket, they could hardly be blamed. From 2011-15, four of England’s five major home series were against Australia or India – not because of the quality of the contests, but because those matches were the most lucrative.

West Indies, it is true, have hardly made a compelling case for more fixtures. But consider the case of New Zealand. In 2013-15, they went seven series undefeated, toppling India at home and being thrilling tourists to England in their two-Test drawn series in 2015. At the time, Mike Hesson, New Zealand’s coach, said his side had “earned the right” to play longer Test series.

But to get bilateral fixtures what matters is not the quality of cricket. Instead fixtures are determined by a combination of short-term alliances and politicking – Sri Lanka are touring India for another three Tests later this year, and it may or may not be coincidence that they joined India in opposing ICC reforms earlier this year – and the size of a country’s GDP, which is where New Zealand fall short. Although they are still competitive, they have trimmed their forthcoming summer to just four Tests, with a gaping three months in the middle of the summer with no Tests at all. Senior players are frustrated, but the board can hardly be blamed: unless it is against England or India, hosting a Test typically loses the home board around $500,000.

Unlike most sports leagues, there is no central dividing up of TV rights. But then Test cricket has never really been a league at all; instead, its quaint structure of bilateral matches, meandering on without any final, is out of kilter with all other sports.

That bodes ill for the West Indies who, as a small and relatively penurious nation, will never – even with the best administration in the world – be able to generate anything like enough to prevent leading talents from playing in T20 leagues instead. The West Indies earn around £12m a year for their domestic TV rights; England’s new broadcasting deal is worth £220m a year. Given this disparity, it is curious how England, even after agreeing to a substantial reduction in their ICC funding in June, can justify receiving over £1m more than the West Indies from the ICC a year. In England that money will do little more than swell the ECB’s £35m reserves; in the West Indies it could improve facilities in the region – most territories lack decent indoor training centres – and salaries for playing regional and international cricket.

Root and Cook dominated against a weak bowling line-up (Getty Images)

Enriching the English game – through the ICC, and through not pooling TV rights – has actually helped deprive Test fans at home of competitive cricket. A lack of cash for their board means that leading West Indies players in all three formats can earn $225,000 a year, according to a FICA report last year – or they can earn in the region of $1m playing in T20 leagues. England’s clout is even hollowing out South Africa who, after losing Kyle Abbott to a Kolpak deal, as well as a raft of fringe players, now face Morne Morkel retiring too.

Ironically, the largest nations do recognise the need for financial equality. That’s why, both the Big Bash, Indian Premier League have salary caps designed to ensure competitive balance on the pitch; the new English T20 competition will do the same. Yet this logic does not apply to international cricket itself.

And then there is the structure of Test cricket: there is none. When England lost the 2013/14 Ashes 5-0, it had no impact on their their fixtures or future. Even the players barely feign to care about the world rankings, which, with no semblance of equity in the fixture list, are scarcely valid anyway. Test matches have no more consequences for success or failure than friendlies in other sports.

It was the first international day-night Test played in England (Getty Images)

There were issues with the ICC’s plans for two divisions, which was abandoned last year after the Full Member boards refused to endorse it, fearing the consequences of relegation. Yet the meritocracy and context beloved of English sports could, if implemented sensibly, have improved the spectacle of Test cricket. “It will make people look at their high-performance programmes and their systems, so the product of Test cricket will improve as well,” David White, New Zealand’s chief executive, said at the time. The nine-team league structure that the ICC hopes will be passed in October is also imperfect – series would be of different length, though count for the same number of overall points; and it remains unlikely that India would be sanctioned to play Pakistan.

But any genuine context would be better than the status quo which is, essentially, the worst of all worlds. For smaller countries, there are no real incentives to improve. Without any semblance of meritocracy, success is not rewarded; nor is failure punished. The fixture list is unfathomable. Fans have no incentive to follow games involving other nations. The empty platitudes about ‘protecting the primacy of Test cricket’ continue, along with the format’s inadequate structure. Where dynamic T20 leagues produce a clear champion, Test cricket just bumbles on.

The best that can be said is that it always has done so – and, after 140 years, Test cricket is still here. But never has it faced so many challenges – from other sports and cricket’s own shorter formats, which are not only engaging fans but also incentivising players from smaller nations to quit Tests prematurely.

Together with ensuring context, Test cricket would also do well to learn from the world’s most lucrative sports league. In 1962, the NFL’s club owners met to discuss their network television revenue. By dint of being in a far larger market, the New York Giants received five times more than the Green Bay Packers. Yet the Giants argued that “the NFL was only as strong as its weakest link, that Green Bay should receive as much money as any of the other teams,” as the NFL commissioner at the time later said. With a little of such thinking in cricket, it would be possible for the ICC to guarantee a minimum sum for each Test cricketer from the 12 nations, perhaps funded by the proceeds of a Test league, to ensure that teams from smaller economies would be able to actually pick their strongest possible side.

The alternative to radical reform, both to the fixture list and economic structure, threatens to be a further erosion of competitive balance, and an accelerating hollowing out of Test talent in smaller countries. All accompanied by more tedious laments for how the West Indies’ maroon cap has been devalued.

The sport of cricket is far richer than it’s ever been. When it’s not in players’ economic interests to play Tests, administrators have failed abjectly.

Dino-killing asteroid could have thrust Earth into two years of darkness

An illustration of an asteroid impacting Earth.

Tremendous amounts of soot, lofted into the air from global wildfires following a massive asteroid strike 66 million years ago, would have plunged Earth into darkness for nearly two years, new research finds. This would have shut down photosynthesis, drastically cooled the planet, and contributed to the mass extinction that marked the end of the age of dinosaurs.

These new details about how the climate could have dramatically changed following the impact of a 10-kilometer-wide asteroid will be published Aug. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study, led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) with support from NASA and the University of Colorado Boulder, used a world-class computer model to paint a rich picture of how Earth’s conditions might have looked at the end of the Cretaceous Period, information that paleobiologists may be able to use to better understand why some species died, especially in the oceans, while others survived.

Scientists estimate that more than three-quarters of all species on Earth, including all non-avian dinosaurs, disappeared at the boundary of the Cretaceous-Paleogene periods, an event known as the K-Pg extinction. Evidence shows that the extinction occurred at the same time that a large asteroid hit Earth in what is now the Yucatán Peninsula. The collision would have triggered earthquakes, tsunamis, and even volcanic eruptions.

Scientists also calculate that the force of the impact would have launched vaporized rock high above Earth’s surface, where it would have condensed into small particles known as spherules. As the spherules fell back to Earth, they would have been heated by friction to temperatures high enough to spark global fires and broil Earth’s surface. A thin layer of spherules can be found worldwide in the geologic record.

“The extinction of many of the large animals on land could have been caused by the immediate aftermath of the impact, but animals that lived in the oceans or those that could burrow underground or slip underwater temporarily could have survived,” said NCAR scientist Charles Bardeen, who led the study. “Our study picks up the story after the initial effects — after the earthquakes and the tsunamis and the broiling. We wanted to look at the long-term consequences of the amount of soot we think was created and what those consequences might have meant for the animals that were left.”

Other study co-authors are Rolando Garcia and Andrew Conley, both NCAR scientists, and Owen “Brian” Toon, a researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder.

A world without photosynthesis

In past studies, researchers have estimated the amount of soot that might have been produced by global wildfires by measuring soot deposits still preserved in the geologic record. For the new study, Bardeen and his colleagues used the NCAR-based Community Earth System Model (CESM) to simulate the effect of the soot on global climate going forward. They used the most recent estimates of the amount of fine soot found in the layer of rock left after the impact (15,000 million tons), as well as larger and smaller amounts, to quantify the climate’s sensitivity to more or less extensive fires.

In the simulations, soot heated by the Sun was lofted higher and higher into the atmosphere, eventually forming a global barrier that blocked the vast majority of sunlight from reaching Earth’s surface. “At first it would have been about as dark as a moonlit night,” Toon said.

While the skies would have gradually brightened, photosynthesis would have been impossible for more than a year and a half, according to the simulations. Because many of the plants on land would have already been incinerated in the fires, the darkness would likely have had its greatest impact on phytoplankton, which underpin the ocean food chain. The loss of these tiny organisms would have had a ripple effect through the ocean, eventually devastating many species of marine life.

The research team also found that photosynthesis would have been temporarily blocked even at much lower levels of soot. For example, in a simulation using only 5,000 million tons of soot — about a third of the best estimate from measurements — photosynthesis would still have been impossible for an entire year.

In the simulations, the loss of sunlight caused a steep decline in average temperatures at Earth’s surface, with a drop of 50 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius) over land and 20 degrees Fahrenheit (11 degrees Celsius) over the oceans.

While Earth’s surface cooled in the study scenarios, the atmosphere higher up in the stratosphere actually became much warmer as the soot absorbed light from the Sun. The warmer temperatures caused ozone destruction and allowed for large quantities of water vapor to be stored in the upper atmosphere. The water vapor then chemically reacted in the stratosphere to produce hydrogen compounds that led to further ozone destruction. The resulting ozone loss would have allowed damaging doses of ultraviolet light to reach Earth’s surface after the soot cleared.

The large reservoir of water in the upper atmosphere formed in the simulations also caused the layer of sunlight-blocking soot to be removed abruptly after lingering for years, a finding that surprised the research team. As the soot began to settle out of the stratosphere, the air began to cool. This cooling, in turn, caused water vapor to condense into ice particles, which washed even more soot out of the atmosphere. As a result of this feedback loop — cooling causing precipitation that caused more cooling — the thinning soot layer disappeared in just a few months.

Challenging the model

While the scientists think the new study gives a robust picture of how large injections of soot into the atmosphere can affect the climate, they also caution that the study has limitations.

For example, the simulations were run in a model of modern-day Earth, not a model representing what Earth looked like during the Cretaceous Period, when the continents were in slightly different locations. The atmosphere 66 million years ago also contained somewhat different concentrations of gases, including higher levels of carbon dioxide.

Additionally, the simulations did not try to account for volcanic eruptions or sulfur released from the Earth’s crust at the site of the asteroid impact, which would have resulted in an increase in light-reflecting sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere.

The study also challenged the limits of the computer model’s atmospheric component, known as the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM).

“An asteroid collision is a very large perturbation — not something you would normally see when modeling future climate scenarios,” Bardeen said. “So the model was not designed to handle this and, as we went along, we had to adjust the model so it could handle some of the event’s impacts, such as warming of the stratosphere by over 200 degrees Celsius.”

These improvements to WACCM could be useful for other types of studies, including modeling a “nuclear winter” scenario. Like global wildfires millions of years ago, the explosion of nuclear weapons could also inject large amounts of soot into the atmosphere, which could lead to a temporary global cooling.

“The amount of soot created by nuclear warfare would be much less than we saw during the K-Pg extinction,” Bardeen said. “But the soot would still alter the climate in similar ways, cooling the surface and heating the upper atmosphere, with potentially devastating effects.”

Researchers Question If Banning Of ‘Killer Robots’ Actually Will Stop Robots From Killing

A University at Buffalo research team has published a paper that implies that the rush to ban and demonize autonomous weapons or “killer robots” may be a temporary solution, but the actual problem is that society is entering into a situation where systems like these have and will become possible.

Killer robots are at the center of classic stories told in films such as “The Terminator” and the original Star Trek television series’ “The Doomsday Machine,” yet the idea of fully autonomous weapons acting independently of any human agency is not the exclusive license of science fiction writers.

Killer robots have a Pentagon budget line and a group of non-governmental organizations, including Human Rights Watch, is already working collectively to stop their development.

Governance and control of systems like killer robots needs to go beyond the end products.

“We have to deconstruct the term ‘killer robot’ into smaller cultural techniques,” says Tero Karppi, assistant professor of media study, whose paper with Marc Böhlen, UB professor of media study, and Yvette Granta, a graduate student at the university, appears in the International Journal of Cultural Studies.

“We need to go back and look at the history of machine learning, pattern recognition and predictive modeling, and how these things are conceived,” says Karppi, an expert in critical platform and software studies whose interests include automation, artificial intelligence and how these systems fail. “What are the principles and ideologies of building an automated system? What can it do?”

PHOTO: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2016/11/015.html.

By looking at killer robots we are forced to address questions that are set to define the coming age of automation, artificial intelligence and robotics, he says.

“Are humans better than robots to make decisions? If not, then what separates humans from robots? When we are defining what robots are and what they do we also define what it means to be a human in this culture and this society,” Karppi says.

Cultural techniques are principles that lead into technical developments. Originally related to agriculture, cultural techniques were once about cultivation and the processes, labors and actions necessary to render land productive and habitable.

In media theory, however, the cultural-techniques approach is interested in various working parts and multiple evolutionary chains of thought, technology, imagination and knowledge production, and how these practices turn into actual systems, products and concepts. Cultural techniques provide insight into the process of becoming: How we got to now.

“Cultural techniques create distinctions in the world,” says Karppi. “Previously humans have had the agency on the battlefield to pull the trigger, but what happens when this agency is given to a robot and because of its complexity we can’t even trace why particular decisions are made in particular situations?”

Any talk of killer robots sounds at first to be an exercise in fantasy, but agencies are already both working to build and trying to prevent the building of their operative foundation.

The Pentagon allocated $18 billion of its latest budget to develop systems and technologies that could form the basis of fully autonomous weapons, instruments that independently seek, identify and attack enemy combatants or targets, according to The New York Times.

A diplomatic strike in this potential theater of machine warfare came in 2012 when a group of NGOs formed “The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots,” charged with banning the development of such weapons.

But Karppi and his fellow authors argue in their paper “that there is a need to reconsider the composition of the actual threat.”

“Consider how both software and ethical systems operate on certain rules,” says Karppi. “Can we take the ethical rule-based system and code that into the software? Whose ethics do we choose? What does the software allow us to do?”

Self-driving cars operate based on the rules of the road: when to stop, turn, yield or proceed. But autonomous weapons need to distinguish between friend and foe and, perhaps most importantly, when one becomes the other, in the case of surrender, for instance.

“The distinctions between combatant and non-combatant, human and machine, life and death are not drawn by a robot,” write the authors. “While it may be the robot that pulls the trigger, the actual operation of pulling is a consequence of a vast chain of operations, processes and calculations.”

Karppi says it’s necessary to unpack two different elements in the case of killer robots.

“We shouldn’t focus on what is technologically possible,” he says. “But rather the ideological, cultural and political motivations that drive these technological developments.”

Real Food & Killing Ants Naturally

I had so much fun on this interview with Katie Kimball of KitchenStewardship.com. She is a fantastic writer and researcher, pregnant with her fourth child, and manages a household and her popular blog (and makes it all look easy). We recorded at 9 PM after our collective 8.5 children were sleeping and she provided a lot of great tips for cooking real food for a family. My apologies in advance for the little bit of audio feedback in this episode. The problem has been fixed for the future episodes.

Katie shared some of her best tips for getting rid of pests like ants and wasps naturally without chemicals that can harm your children.

Other Fun Topics We Talked About

0:30- Random brain facts like why you can’t tickle yourself
1:40- Katie’s ten foundational habits for a healthier family
2:00- The struggle to balance it all
2:20- Katie’s “Core Four” = Environment, Nutrition, Time and Budget
3:00- One thing at a time approach- Monday missions
3:40- One simple switch that makes a big difference
4:15- Katie’s three budget friendly real foods that she makes daily
5:00- The super inexpensive way her family gets probiotics
6:15- 3 foods that seem scary but aren’t
8:00- The simple way to make homemade yogurt
11:00- Real food really does cost more
11:45- How to stretch an organic chicken and make multiple batches of broth
15:35- How to prepare beans if you are going to eat them
18:45- A tip to fix crunchy beans
20:20- Her quick and easy natural way to get rid of sugar ants
22:20- Lines that insects can’t cross
22:38- Katie’s natural tip to get rid of wasps
23:53- The biggest struggle Katie thinks the next generation will face
24:30- Battling the sugar giant
26:50- My battle cry
27:30- The advice she wishes she’d gotten earlier in life
29:20- Easy action steps to take right now
31:11- The two books she can’t live without

Resources Mentioned

  • Katie’s start here page with her foundational habits
  • Homemade yogurt recipe
  • Natural tips for killing ants naturally
  • Natural ways to deal with wasps
  • How to cook dried beans
  • Book: Crock On
  • Website: Gnowfglins.com
  • Katie’s Kindle Books on Amazon

Organo-Metal Compound Seen Killing Cancer Cells From Inside

Researchers have witnessed – for the first time – cancer cells being targeted and destroyed from the inside, by an organo-metal compound discovered by the University of Warwick.

Professor Peter J. Sadler, and his group in the Department of Chemistry, have demonstrated that Organo-Osmium FY26 – which was first discovered at Warwick – kills cancer cells by locating and attacking their weakest part.

This is the first time that an Osmium-based compound – which is fifty times more active than the current cancer drug cisplatin – has been seen to target the disease.

Using the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), researchers analysed the effects of Organo-Osmium FY26 in ovarian cancer cells – detecting emissions of X-ray fluorescent light to track the activity of the compound inside the cells.

Looking at sections of cancer cells under nano-focus, it was possible to see an unprecedented level of minute detail. Organelles like mitochondria, which are the ‘powerhouses’ of cells and generate their energy, were detectable.

In cancer cells, there are errors and mutations in the DNA of mitochondria, making them very weak and susceptible to attack.

FY26 was found to have positioned itself in the mitochondria – attacking and destroying the vital functions of cancer cells from within, at their weakest point.

Researchers were also able to see natural metals which are produced by the body – such as zinc and calcium – moving around the cells. Calcium in particular is known to affect the function of cells, and it is thought that this naturally-produced metal helps FY26 to achieve an optimal position for attacking cancer.

More than half of all cancer chemotherapy treatments currently use platinum compounds, which were introduced nearly 40 years ago, so there is a need to explore the benefits which other precious metals could bring.

Although this research was conducted on ovarian cancer cells, the ground-breaking results are applicable to a wider range of cancers.

FY26 has been shown to be more selective between normal cells and cancer cells than cisplatin – having a greater effect on cancer cells than on healthy ones.

Professor Sadler comments that this research could lead to new cancer treatments:

“Cancer drugs with new mechanisms of actions which can combat resistance and have fewer side-effects are urgently needed.

“The advanced nano-focussed x-ray beam at ESRF has not only allowed us to locate the site of action of our novel Organo-Osmium FY26 candidate drug in cancer cells at unprecedented resolution, but also study the movement of natural metals such as zinc and calcium in cells. Such studies open up totally new approaches to drug discovery and treatment”

Professor Sadler’s group, including research fellows Dr Carlos Sanchez and Dr Isolda Romero Canelon, gained their results with Dr Peter Cloetens and colleagues at the ESRF in Grenoble, France – a powerful synchrotron source which emits extremely powerful X-ray beams.

Dr Peter Cloetens comments on the process:

“These kinds of experiments are normally performed using bigger doses than what would be done in real life or on a coarse scale that does not provide a clear picture of the processes that take place. On the new nano-imaging ID16A beamline, however, by combining a very tight focus and high flux, we could get a real picture of where the drug goes in a single cell using real-life pharmacological doses.”