Air Taxis Ready To Fly In The Skies Above LA

 Air taxis will be flying through the skies above Los Angeles in time for the summer Olympics of 2028 if city officials and entrepreneurs have their way.

A Silicon Valley company is the latest to claim that it is close to creating viable electric vehicles that can offer short hops above the traffic-choked streets for not much more than the cost of an Uber ride. Adam Goldstein, chief executive of Archer Aviation, told the Los Angeles Times that his vertical take-off aircraft, designed to travel 60 miles on a single charge at up to 150mph, would “completely change the way we live, the way we work”, and could be flying within two years.

Los Angeles is seen as an ideal fit for air taxis because it has so many car parks and high-rise roofs to accommodate “verti-ports” for take-off. Eric Garcetti, the mayor, supports the concept and helped to set up a group to shape regulations covering the vehicles. Some companies are hoping to be airborne even before the Olympics.

Archer Aviation said it was aiming to create a network of urban air taxis within two years to jump the queue on a slew of other competitors such as Joby Aviation in Santa Cruz and Wisk Aero in Mountain View.

Electronic Tattoo Can Monitor Blood Pressure Over Long Periods

Scientists have developed a new electronic “tattoo” that can monitor a patient’s blood pressure continuously. The e-tattoo is made of graphene and can be worn for long periods without getting in the way, allowing for better health data.

Continuous monitoring is needed to really understand how the body is functioning, but that’s hard to do outside of the clinic. Smartwatches and fitness trackers may seem like the answer, but they aren’t reliable enough to handle the job just yet – they tend to move around, and are too simple.

So for the new study, researchers at Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin developed a less invasive device that can measure blood pressure over time. The device is what’s called an e-tattoo, made up of a graphene sensor encased in a sticky material that’s apparently comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time, and doesn’t move around. Other e-tattoos have been designed to monitor cardiac patients’ heartsvital signs during exercise, or muscles of neurodegenerative patients.

The Human Brain Has A “Low Power” Mode Which Blunts Our Senses

 When our phones and computers run out of power, their glowing screens go dark and they die a sort of digital death. But switch them to low-power mode to conserve energy, and they cut expendable operations to keep basic processes humming along until their batteries can be recharged.

Our energy-intensive brain needs to keep its lights on too. Brain cells depend primarily on steady deliveries of the sugar glucose, which they convert to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to fuel their information processing. When we’re a little hungry, our brain usually doesn’t change its energy consumption much. But given that humans and other animals have historically faced the threat of long periods of starvation, sometimes seasonally, scientists have wondered whether brains might have their own kind of low-power mode for emergencies.

Now, in a paper published in Neuron in January, neuroscientists in Nathalie Rochefort’s lab at the University of Edinburgh have revealed an energy-saving strategy in the visual systems of mice. They found that when mice were deprived of sufficient food for weeks at a time — long enough for them to lose 15%-20% of their typical healthy weight — neurons in the visual cortex reduced the amount of ATP used at their synapses by a sizable 29%.

But the new mode of processing came with a cost to perception: It impaired how the mice saw details of the world. Because the neurons in low-power mode processed visual signals less precisely, the food-restricted mice performed worse on a challenging visual task.

Do We Really Want To Hear The Voices Of Our Departed Loved Ones In Smart Speakers?

 Amazon is devising a way for users to speak to their family members through its Alexa voice assistant, even after they’ve died.

At Amazon’s Re:Mars conference in Las Vegas recently, Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and head scientist for the Alexa team, detailed a feature that allows the voice assistant to replicate a specific human voice.

In a demonstration video, a child said, “Alexa, can Grandma finish reading me the Wizard of Oz?”

Alexa confirmed the request with the default, robotic voice, then immediately switched to a softer, more humanlike tone, seemingly mimicking the child’s family member.

The Alexa team developed a model that allows its voice assistant to produce a high-quality voice with “less than a minute of recorded audio,” Prasad said.

The feature is currently in development, Prasad said. Amazon did not say when the feature will roll out to the public.

Placing Nuclear Reactors In Orbit – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Humans could vastly expand our presence off Earth by powering spacecraft with nuclear reactors, but this dream has been stalled out for decades, partly due to regulations governing the use of nuclear power in space. Though many orbiters, deep-space probes, and Mars rovers run on radioisotope batteries fuelled by plutonium, the United States has only ever launched one nuclear fission reactor in space, called SNAP-10, in 1965.

A start-up called Atomos Space is now working to change this decades-long lag with a plan to conduct a basic critical test of a low-power (100-Watts thermal) fission reactor in orbit. Called the Neutrino Space Nuclear Pathfinder, the planned spacecraft would navigate a new U.S. government framework that clarifies many ambiguous regulations surrounding space nuclear power.

Atomos Space, which was founded in 2017 and is based in Denver, Colorado, is currently investing in a reactor as part of the company’s larger vision to develop “space tug” services that guide satellites into target orbits after launch. Though it is not the only organization developing space nuclear reactors—others include companies like SpaceNukes and X-energy, as well as government agencies such as NASA and DARPA—the company has set itself apart with a focus on the bureaucratic legwork, according to Atomos Space CEO Vanessa Clark.

Meet A “Hyper Realistic” Virtual Being

Krafton is best-known for games like PUBG and the upcoming Callisto Protocol — but now it’s showing off something very different. The company is teasing a “virtual human” named Ana, which it says will “help establish” its Web3 ecosystem. The character was built using Unreal Engine — which itself has a tool specifically for realistic digital people — along with what Krafton describes as “hyperrealism, rigging, and deep learning.”

It’s not clear exactly how Ana will fit into the loosely defined vision of a metaverse or Web3, though Krafton has flirted with NFTs and the blockchain in the past. In the meantime, it sounds like its realistic virtual human will instead attempt to become something of a celebrity.

“We expect her to attract the interest and popularity of Gen Z around the world,” Josh Seokjin Shin, head of Krafton’s creative center, said in a statement. “Ana will release an original music track and expand her scope of activity as an influencer into various areas across entertainment and esports.”

Get Ready To Enter Your Personal Sound Bubble When Flying First Class

 For passengers who like to listen to music during long-haul flights, capable noise-cancelling headphones are an essential carry on. But that may change for passengers in first class thanks to Euphony in-seat audio from Safran Seats and Devialet.

The goal of the Euphony project from the aircraft seating manufacturer that’s part of aviation multinational the Safran Group and French high-end audio innovators Devialet is to deliver a top-notch individual sound experience to premium flyers without them needing to don a pair of headphones.

As the passenger sits back in their business class or first class seat to enjoy in-flight entertainment offerings, two bespoke speakers on each side of the headrest will envelop them in “high-fidelity sound that is clear and full-bodied” without affecting other passengers. The output will also automatically adapt to the audio content and ambient cabin noise in real-time, which suggests directional audio being employed.

Keep Drinking Your Daily Lager For The Sake Of Your Gut Health

 The state of our gut microbiome continues to be linked to a range of health outcomes, with the diversity of these microbial populations believed to play an important role in our vulnerability to disease. A small pilot study suggests that moderate consumption of lager beer may influence this diversity in a positive way, whether it’s a traditional brew or one of the increasingly popular non-alcoholic variety.

Led by scientists in Portugal, the study sought to build on previous research hinting that moderate beer consumption might increase the diversity of gut bacteria. The researchers tested this idea through double-blind, randomized study with 19 healthy males, who were divided into two groups that drank 11 oz (325 ml) of either alcoholic or non-alcoholic beer with dinner each day.

This took place over a four-week period, with blood and fecal samples collected both before and after, and gut microbiota analysed through a form of RNA gene sequencing. Interestingly, the scientists found that drinking this amount of beer led to no increase in body weight or body fat mass and didn’t alter serum markers for heart health and metabolism.