Sunday, May 19, 2019




To what extent is the autopilot of an airplane automatic?

According to Jorge Henrique Bidinotto, professor of aeronautical engineering at USP in São Carlos, autopilot does not decide anything - just follow instructions. If the human pilot orders the plane to go up to 30,000 feet, for example, the computer takes care of changing the altitude, keeping the other variables constant.
When there is turbulence, the autopilot turns off on its own. If the commander does not consider it prudent to deal with poor weather in manual mode, he can give the airplane instructions to deviate from the clouds. Again: the plane until it stops resuming the command, but will only obey, without deciding.
Take-off and landing are also delicate: the first is entirely the responsibility of the human pilot. Already in the landing, the automatic takes the airplane very close to the lane, but the control returns to the manual immediately before the airplane touches the ground.
It's good to remember that autopilot is just one of many systems that help guide the plane. It is part of the automatic control , which also includes stabilizing software or a system that "filters" the actions of the pilot, making them softer.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

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Dementia, an evil that scares everyone

Dementia is a real and increasingly alarming risk. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO) released in May this year more than 50 million people worldwide live with dementia, and each year are registered almost ten million new cases. These are alarming numbers but can be reduced with due care.
To prevent and prevent this disease, WHO recommends regular aerobic exercise and adoption of the Mediterranean diet - based on high intakes of whole grains, fruits, fish, vegetables and olive oil, among other measures,"   says the geriatrician and nutrologist Yara Dantas.
There are over 100 forms of dementia and the most common and Alzheimer's, accounting for 60% to 70% of cases. Women are most often affected. "Several studies point out that people with a more active life have less risk. According to WHO, adults 65 and older should practice at least 150 minutes of aerobic activities of moderate intensity per week, "says Yara Dantas.
In Brazil, according to data from the Brazilian Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology, 55,000 new cases of dementias are registered each year. Currently, 1.4 million Brazilians live with the disease - and, if not taken, this number is expected to reach more than six million by 2050.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Trump impeachment support grows among North Americans, research shows

The number of Americans who believe that President Donald Trump should suffer impeachment has grown 5 percentage points to 45 percent since mid-April, while more than half of those interviewed said that multiple congressional investigations of Trump interfered with matters important figures from the government, a Reuters / Ipsos poll showed on Thursday.
The poll, conducted on Monday, did not make it clear whether Americans weary of the investigations wanted Democrats in the House of Representatives to withdraw their investigations or push forward aggressively and be able to approve the impeachment request.
The question is urgent for the House's top Democratic leaders, who are still considering whether they enter into impeachment proceedings, despite the likely and insurmountable opposition the bill would face in the Republican-controlled Senate.
On Thursday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointed out that the leaders of the house's investigative committees were addressing the issue step by step.
"This is very methodical, well based on the Constitution," Pelosi said. "We will not proceed faster or slower than the facts."
In addition to the 45 percent favorable to Trump's impeachment, the survey found that 42 percent of Americans believe that Trump should not be stopped. The rest said they did not have an opinion on the subject.
By comparison, a survey conducted between April 18 and 19 found that 40 percent of Americans wanted the impeachment of the current president.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Does Cellphone Promotes Child Development? Fact or fake?

TV Globo's Fantástico has started a series on the use of mobile phones and tablets by children. Can we rely on surveys done with only 6 children?

The use of mobile phones and tablets by children. First of a series of programs produced by the BBC, this episode features results from an ongoing research comparing six children up to one year old - three users of electronic gadgets and three who apparently do not use them.
The program shows children performing different tests of broad and fine motor skills and underscores the superior performance of tablet and mobile users. At the end of the program, the researcher responsible for the study says that this is one of the areas that have been studied - in the others the use of these stimuli also seems to contribute to the development of different abilities. He says they are preliminary results and that although the sample is only six children, this study corroborates another larger study he is carrying out.
The program draws attention to three aspects: it was produced by the BBC of London, presents highly controversial results and is based on a research with only six children. Fact or fake? How to know?
First, it should be noted: the program received severe criticism in newspapers such as The Guardian, not because it is "controversial", how we like to use the term in Brazil, but to be mistaken.
Second, it presents controversial results, and, even more, in the area of ​​motor development, which is of secondary relevance in the case.
Thirdly, there is not enough methodological rigor to merit disclosure - even more so at this level.
What we see in the program does not even become a "fact". To be considered a scientific fact, the proof must be rigorous. In the case, we know nothing about the past of the three children who have never used tablets, nor about the others who use them intensely.
To avoid such doubts, scientific research needs to use random samples of participants, a number of cases that allow for safe inferences and rigorous experimental controls.
Without this, they are just case studies - they serve to raise hypotheses or alert for limitations of other studies, but they have no evidentiary value.
In fact, there is much more robust evidence that says the exact opposite regarding the relationship between intensive use of tablets and motor skills.
In addition, in the world of science, a swallow does not make summer: the evidence needs to be cumulative. It takes several studies, done in places, time, conditions and by different researchers, so that the validity is established.
They should also use different methodologies and instruments - in developmental studies, the impact analyzes of these continuous stimuli on the brain are essential. Also long-term impact is an essential part of the task of establishing and substantiating scientific facts.
There are thousands of published studies on the subject. The most important of these - known as the ABCD study - has been conducted under the direction of Dimitri Christakis of the United States National Institute for Child Health and Development (NICHD) and one of the authors of the approved "screen time" recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The conclusions of this study, consistent with the scientific knowledge accumulated so far, show the devastating effects of cellular use, especially on attention, memory and language - pillars of cognitive development and learning.
Cell phones fascinate children - just as chocolate, sugar, sex, money, power, speak evil of others - as well as pseudo-facts and fake news fascinate adults.
Apps for children are designed to be addictive - they use stimuli that act directly on brain areas that excite the sensation of pleasure, and do so unexpectedly, contributing to the formation of addiction. They are a vice like any other, but they are an addiction.
From the NICHD study the famous phrase "children need laps, not apps" has already come out: one of the most serious negative effects of this new addiction is the withdrawal of children from their parents. There is much more rigorous and interesting evidence that the media can show, to the best of society.
How about turning off the tablet - or the TV - and reading a book with your baby?

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Scientists discover dementia that has the same symptoms of Alzheimer's

Despite the similarity, they are different things. LATE acts even more slowly than Alzheimer's and affects people at the end of life.

The characteristics of a new type of disease were first described by a group of scientists. So far so good. It turns out that this disease is extremely similar to Alzheimer's - and may help explain the not-so-rare ineffectiveness of treating this problem, which is the most common dementia in the world.
We are talking about LATE, described in a study published on Tuesday (30) in the scientific journal Brain . According to the survey, she feta more than 20% of the elderly over 85 years of age. The acronym simplifies a disease with a long and complicated name: age-related limbic-predominant TDP-43 encephalopathy. 
Do not be alarmed: the name even helps you understand what this trouble is. Encephalopathy means that it is a disease in the brain. TDP-43 is the protein that contributes to the manifestation of the condition. "Limbic-predominant" says that it affects the limbic system, the area of ​​the brain responsible for emotions and social behaviors. And "age-related" indicates that those most affected are the elderly.
What distinguishes LATE from Alzheimer's is precisely the TDP-43 protein. In a young healthy person, it helps to regulate the genetic activity in the brain. Already when it presents in abnormal conditions, it affects the learning and the memory. In the case of those suffering with Alzheimer's are other proteins that lie behind: tau and beta-amyloid.
In practice, the symptoms are very similar: loss of memory, cognitive decline and mood swings. The main difference is that LATE develops more slowly. But it is also possible that a person has both diseases - and then degeneration is faster.
The fact that the two diseases are caused by different proteins explains the ineffectiveness of some treatments for Alzheimer's - there is no point in targeting beta-amyloid proteins, for example if the problem is in TDP-43.
For the authors of the study, it is essential to deepen the studies in LATE to find new treatments against the dementias. "We hope this work will help accelerate research that will help us understand the causes of these diseases and unlock new therapeutic opportunities," said Nina Silverberg, director of the Alzheimer's Center at the National Institute of Aging in the United States, in a statement.

One million species are at risk of extinction, UN alert

Animals and plants may disappear in Earth's next years

A million species of animals and plants are in danger of disappearing soon from the face of the Earth, which is equivalent to 1/8 of all the species that populate the planet. This is the alarm launched today (6) by the United Nations, which presented a report by 145 scientists from 50 countries.
The study, considered the most complex about environmental losses, is called the Intergovernmental Platform for Scientific Policies on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). According to the survey, which took three years to complete and has 1.8 thousand pages, one million species are currently at risk of extinction.
Five major changes in nature are the main causes of this problem: loss of natural habitat, exploitation of natural sources, climate change, pollution and invasive species.
"This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world," said one of the scientists taking part in the study.
According to experts, the loss of biodiversity is not only an environmental issue, but also a development, economic, security, social and moral issue.
The study also warned that the current situation will prevent 80% achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, related to hunger, health, water, climate, poverty, land and oceans.
"We are putting an end to the fundamentals of our economies, our livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life around the world," said Robert Watson, president of IPBES.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Can the US really invade Venezuela?

Representatives of the US government gave more obvious signs this week about the possibility of military action in the South American country.

The United States has given new impetus to the threats of military action in Venezuela , now more explicitly than the repeated warnings that "all options are on the table" in Washington's conduct over Caracas.

With Nicolás Maduro still in power in Venezuela, a day after his opponents called for an uprising to topple him, the US faced the crisis in the South American country as a matter of priority.
While the general statement is that Washington prefers Maduro to leave power in a peaceful transition, representatives of the White House summit have in recent days made more open statements about the possibility of a military invasion of Venezuela.
"If military action is possible, that's what the United States will do," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox Business.
He added that "President [ Donald Trump ] will finally have to make that decision and is prepared to do so if necessary."
White House national security adviser John Bolton said the military should be "ready" to work in Venezuela, if necessary.
The Pentagon denied it had orders for military action in that country, but Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had to cancel a trip to Europe in late April to "effectively coordinate" with the Bolton and Pompeo teams on Venezuela and the border with Mexico, according to a spokesman.
We have done a thorough planning [in relation to Venezuela] so that there is no situation for which we have not prepared ourselves," Shanahan told a congressional hearing.
So does all this mean that Washington is actually closer to sending troops to Venezuela?
Not necessarily, experts say.

Higher pressure

What Washington is seeking is to persuade the Venezuelan military to support opposition leader Juan Guaidó and self-proclaimed interim president, says Alan McPherson, a history professor and director of the Center for Strength and Diplomacy Studies at Temple University in the United States.
"It looks like it did not work yesterday, but I think the State Department is using stronger language in its warnings to pressure more people," McPherson told the BBC.
In McPherson's view, the Pentagon is reluctant about military intervention in Venezuela, but Trump can do so despite the important consequences that this might have on the Latin American agenda - such as the accusation, by allied countries in the region, that intervention would be illegal.
In fact, the highest-ranking US military, Gen. Joseph Dunford, said the Pentagon is focused on gathering information about Venezuela through its intelligence services.
According to the Washington Post, the issue caused friction between the Pentagon and John Bolton's team. Last week, Gen. Paul Selva, the second-ranking military man in the country, would have been furious with Bolton's advisers, who pressed him for military action in Venezuela.
The US has sought to weaken Maduro by economic sanctions and by forming a coalition of dozens of countries, including Brazil, which recognizes Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela and qualifies Maduro as dictator.
Washington also called on the Venezuelan military to support Guaido.
But Maduro remains in power amid a huge political and economic crisis, with the support of the top commanders of the Venezuelan Armed Forces. Russia and China also support his government.
This seems to thwart the US, which analysts say could lead to breaches in the coalition around Guaidó depending on which direction to take.
Because of these risks, Pompeo's or Bolton's statements have "vague" terms about when or how a military action would take place, says McPherson.
"I do not think they're lying," he says, "but they're sending out a warning that they're approaching that decision."

The factor Russia

Washington also seems to be sending firmer rebounds to Russia over Venezuela.
In March, the deployment of Russian military aircraft to Caracas was seen by the Americans as an affront to their influence in the region.
Pompeo said on Tuesday that Maduro was ready to leave Venezuela, but gave up doing so at the request of Russia, which denied that version.
Earlier in the week, Pompeo phoned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and said that "the intervention of Russia and Cuba is destabilizing Venezuela and US-Russia bilateral relations," a spokesman for the Department of State.
But Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement stating that "Washington's interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, the threat against its leadership, is a grave violation of international law."
"It is indicated that the continuation of these aggressive steps would be accompanied by more serious consequences," added the Russian text.
Kimberly Marten, a professor at Barnard College at the University of Columbia University and a specialist in international security and Russia, believes that Washington and Moscow seek to establish their positions in Venezuela.
"The danger is that it could reach a point where the United States will either give in or start military operations, which would be a tragedy," Marten told the BBC.
"We can expect both sides to try instead to simply use this move to fuel their claims for a peaceful solution," he adds, "and for cooler heads to prevail."

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