Not just the Russians: A biometric ATM in Korea
ATMs in Russia may soon be outfitted with intelligence services–style lie detection software, designed to help banks pick out consumer credit fraud—without bank employees actually having to go through the arduous business of talking to and evaluating potential cardholders.
The simulated eagle has finally landed, and today, two men have walked upon the red sands of fake Mars. This jaunt along a sandpit in Moscow, the latest episode in the Mars500 project designed to test human endurance, gives the cosmonauts a respite from their past eight months of windowless confinement.
As the BBC reports:
“We have made great progress today,” commented Vitaly Davydov, the deputy head of the Russian Federal Space Agency, who was watching a video feed of the two men. “All systems have been working normally.”
Organized by Russia’s Institute of Biomedical Problems and the European Space Agency, the Mars500 project seeks to better understand how humans would endure the psychological and physical effects of the isolation and confinement necessary for a real mission to Mars. The ‘500’ in Mars500 indicates the mission’s time frame–the organizers estimated that it would takes 250 days to travel to Mars, and then allotted 30 days for surface exploration before a 240-day return trip. (Technically, the project’s name should be Mars520.)
The chain of cause and effect seems clear: climate change causes Arctic temperatures to fluctuate, which causes ice build-up as snow repeatedly thaws and refreezes. And to Arctic reindeer herders–who want their herds to continue to eat the nice lichen underneath all that ice–the next link in this chain is also clear: castrate your reindeer.
“Males castrated in the traditional way would have an increased chance of survival over other males since they maintain body weight and condition during the rutting season,” according to a research document by Eli Risten Nergaard of Sami University College.
But that’s not all. Researchers have found that castrated male reindeer are larger than their un-castrated brethren, are therefore better able to pound through the thick Arctic ice; they’re also more willing to share their food with calves. In other words, castrated male reindeers facilitate the survival of the entire herd–that is, assuming they’re not all castrated.
With less than 10,000 miles to go until they reach fake Mars, the fake mission to the Red Planet is going as planned. Which is to say, the space travel simulation project known as Mars-500 project is full of mishaps and surprises, as the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems tests the fake astronauts’ ability to handle anything outer space could throw at them.
The next milestone: the fake arrival in Mars orbit on February 1.
And for being confined to a 1,800-square-foot test module for 520 lonely days, the crew members are doing a stellar job. In their last update, published on the official Mars-500 website on January 14, they give a terse but positive appraisal of their condition:
226th day of the experiment. Scientific equipment is in operable condition. Clarification for implementation of special experiments is carried out. There are no alterations of health state which can interfere with participating in the experiment and realizing of scientific program.
Required for biopsying a gray whale: one speed boat, one crossbow, and one Russian prime minister. Vladimir Putin recently spent some quality time in Olga Bay, helping the V.I. Il’ichev Pacific Oceanological Institute sort out the family tree for a group of gray whales.
As Nature’s blog The Great Beyond explains, the Institute hopes to determine if the whales descended from a Californian or extinct Korean whale population, and the crossbow holds a specially-designed arrow for taking a skin sample. The bold Russian prime minister, known for his shirtless fishing, fire fighting, and bear tracking, told the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS that science can be tricky but exciting:
“I had the sporting feeling, I missed the target thrice, but hit it the fourth time.”
Since World War II, Russian scientists have been researching ways to bend the weather to their liking. Today, they routinely ensure sun-splashed Victory Day celebrations by chasing away clouds using a technology known as cloud seeding (the same technology the Chinese government used to chase away clouds during the Beijing summer Olympics).
It’s nice to have sunny parades, but Moscow officials believe they can use their technology to alter the weather and save some rubles, according to the Los Angeles Times:
Now they’re poised to battle the most inevitable and emblematic force of Russian winter: the snow.
Moscow’s government, led by powerful and long-reigning Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, has indicated that clearing the capital’s streets of snow is simply too expensive. Instead, officials are weighing a plan to seed the clouds with liquid nitrogen or dry ice to keep heavy snow from falling inside the city limits.
Remember being told when you were a kid that if you swallowed any of the seeds inside an apple, the fruit would start growing in your stomach? And then learning later that it was all a joke? Well…turns out that might not be so far from impossible. The Russian publication Mosnews.com is reporting that a 28-year-old patient was found to have a five-centimeter fir tree in his lung.
Doctors were performing a biopsy on the patient, Artyom Sidorkin, after he’d complained of intense chest pain and was coughing up blood. They suspected cancer, but instead of finding a tumor when they cut the lung tissue, they reportedly found green needles. They continued, in alleged disbelief, to remove an entire branch from inside Sidorkin’s body.
• German twenty-somethings would rather give up sex than the Internet: In an industry survey, 84 percent of 19- to 29-year-olds said they would rather live without their current partner or an automobile than their Internet connection, and 97 percent found it “unthinkable” to live without a cell phone.
• The “Bodies” exhibit has reached Poland, and government officials are investigating whether the human cadavers on display amount to desecration of the human body. Next in the investigation queue: this woman.
• Meanwhile, Mother Russia “disproves” [sic] of the “monopolizing” American control over the Internet. A government official has spoken out against the California-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which creates top-level domain names (like .com) and manages IP addresses. The goverment reportedly plans to release suggestions for how to “demonopolize” the Internet—like oh, say, put a few crooked billionaires in charge.