Here’s How to Identify Rice That Contains Plastic.


China remains the world’s largest producer of rice. The Middle Kingdom harvests over 200 million tons per year and a large share of it gets exported all over the world.

But cooks and diners alike should take care: not only are untold amounts of pesticides used in Chinese agriculture, but according to a report in The Korea Times rice is also now being manufactured artificially.

Potato starch gets mixed with plastic (synthetic resin, for instance) and then formed into rice-shaped kernels.

Finally the grains are steamed with a typical rice aroma. Doctors have emphatically warned against consuming the artificial product: three full portions apparently contain as much plastic as there is in a little plastic bag. That’s alarming!

fake-rice

With these simple tricks you can test whether your rice is wholesome and plastic-free:

The Water Test
Pour a tablespoon of uncooked rice into a glass with cold water. If the rice all sinks to the bottom of the glass, it’s fine. If the grains float up to the surface, be careful!

The Fire Test

Try setting a little bit of your rice on fire with a match or lighter. If it starts burning right away and smells like burning plastic, then you know what to do! (Do not eat it!)

The Mortar and Pestle Test
When you crush a few grains of rice with a mortar and pestle they should be reduced to a fine, white, starchy powder.

But with artificial rice, you will see a light yellow discoloration instead.

The Mold Test
If you want to know for sure whether your cooked rice is quite safe, put a small quantity of cooked rice into an airtight container and leave it in a warm place.

Within a couple of days it will have gotten moldy. Only fake rice stays mold-free.

This is how to be on the safe side. Show these tricks to your rice-eating friends and that way no one will have to eat plastic for dinner!

Watch the video. URL:https://youtu.be/elt-ME5UDG4

Your appendix might serve an important biological function after all 


One of the first things you learn about evolution in school is that the human body has a number of ‘vestigial’ parts – appendix, wisdom teeth, tailbone – that gradually fell out of use as we adapted to more advanced lifestyles than our primitive ancestors.

But while our wisdom teeth are definitely causing us more pain than good right now, the human appendix could be more than just a ticking time bomb sitting in your abdomen. A new study says it could actually serve an important biological function – and one that humans aren’t ready to give up.

Researchers from Midwestern University traced the appearance, disappearance, and reemergence of the appendix in several mammal lineages over the past 11 million years, to figure out how many times it was cut and bought back due to evolutionary pressures.

They found that the organ has evolved at least 29 times – possibly as many as 41 times – throughout mammalian evolution, and has only been lost a maximum of 12 times.

“This statistically strong evidence that the appearance of the appendix is significantly more probable than its loss suggests a selective value for this structure,” the team reports.

“Thus, we can confidently reject the hypothesis that the appendix is a vestigial structure with little adaptive value or function among mammals.”

If the appendix has been making multiple comebacks in humans and other mammals across millions of years, what exactly is it good for?

Conventional wisdom states that the human appendix is the shrunken remnant of an organ that once played an important role in a remote ancestor of humans millions of years ago.

The reason it still exists – and occasionally has to be removed due to potentially fatal inflammation and rupturing – is that it’s too ‘evolutionarily expensive’ to get rid of altogether. There’s little evolutionary pressure to lose such a significant part of the body.

In other words, the amount of effort it would take for the human species to gradually lose the appendix though thousands of years of evolution is just not worth it, because in the majority of people, it just sits there not hurting anyone.

appendix-removed_1024

But what if it’s doing more than just sitting there?

For years now, researchers have been searching for a possible function of the human appendix, and the leading hypothesis is that it’s a haven for ‘good’ intestinal bacteria that help us keep certain infections at bay.

One of the best pieces of evidence we’ve had for this suggestion is a 2012 study, which found that individuals without an appendix were four times more likely to have a recurrence of Clostridium difficile colitis – a bacterial infection that causes diarrhoea, fever, nausea, and abdominal pain.

As Scientific American explains, recurrence in individuals with their appendix intact occurred in 11 percent of cases reported at the Winthrop-University Hospital in New York, while recurrence in individuals without their appendix occurred in 48 percent of cases.

Now the Midwestern University team has taken a different approach to arrive at the same conclusion.

First they gathered data on the presence or absence of the appendix and other gastrointestinal and environmental traits across 533 mammal species over the past 11.244 million years.

Onto each genetic tree for these various lineages, they traced how the appendix evolved through years of evolution, and found that once the organ appeared, it was almost never lost.

“[T]he appendix has evolved independently in several mammal lineages, over 30 separate times, and almost never disappears from a lineage once it has appeared,” the team explains in a press statement.

“This suggests that the appendix likely serves an adaptive purpose.”

Next, the researchers considered various ecological factors – the species’ social behaviours, diet, habitat, and local climate – to figure out what that “adaptive purpose” could be.

They found that species that had retained or regained an appendix had higher average concentrations of lymphoid (immune) tissue in the cecum – a small pouch connected to the junction of the small and large intestines.

This suggests that the appendix could play an important role in a species’ immune system, particularly as lymphatic tissue is known to stimulate the growth of certain types of beneficial gut bacteria.

“While these links between the appendix and cecal factors have been suggested before, this is the first time they have been statistically validated,” the team concludes in their paper.

“The association between appendix presence and lymphoid tissue provides support for the immune hypothesis of appendix evolution.”

The study is far from conclusive, but offers a different perspective on the hypothesis that humans have been keeping the appendix around for its immune support this whole time.

The challenge now is to prove it, which is easier said than done, seeing as most people who have had their appendix removed don’t suffer from any adverse long-term effects.

But it could be that when people get their appendix removed, immune cell-producing tissues in the cecum and elsewhere in the body step up to compensate for the loss.

One thing’s for sure in all of this – while we’re probably not going to regain our tails, it’s too soon to write off the appendix just yet.

End of fillings in sight as scientists find Alzheimer’s drug makes teeth grow back


A dental gum examination
The days of fillings could be over after scientists find a drug stimulates stem cells in teeth

Fillings could be consigned to history after scientists discovered that a drug already trialled in Alzheimer’s patients can encourage tooth regrowth and repair cavities.

Researchers at King’s College London found that the drug Tideglusib stimulates the stem cells contained in the pulp of teeth so that they generate new dentine – the mineralised material under the enamel.

Teeth already have the capability of regenerating dentine if the pulp inside the tooth becomes exposed through a trauma or infection, but can only naturally make a very thin layer, and not enough to fill the deep cavities caused by

<img src=”/content/dam/science/2017/01/09/ss-composite-image-2017-1-9-11-25-small_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqqVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8.png” alt=”An image showing repair after four weeks (left) and six weeks (right)” width=”320″ height=”200″ class=”responsive-image–fallback”/> An image showing repair after four weeks (left) and six weeks (right)
An image showing repair after four weeks (left) and six weeks (right)

But Tideglusib switches off an enzyme called GSK-3 which prevents dentine from carrying on forming.

Scientists showed it is possible to soak a small biodegradable sponge with the drug and insert it into a cavity, where it triggers the growth of dentine and repairs the damage within six weeks.

The tiny sponges are made out of collagen so they melt away over time, leaving only the repaired tooth.

This is an extremely interesting and novel approach which shows great promise and we will look forward to it being translated into clinical applicationDr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation

Professor Paul Sharpe, lead author of the study, of the Dental Institute, from King’s College London, said: “The simplicity of our approach makes it ideal as a clinical dental product for the natural treatment of large cavities, by providing both pulp protection and restoring dentine.

“In addition, using a drug that has already been tested in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease provides a real opportunity to get this dental treatment quickly into clinics.”

Currently dentists use man-made cements or fillings, such as calcium and silicon-based products, to treat larger cavities and fill holes in teeth.

But this cement remains in the tooth and fails to disintegrate, meaning that the normal mineral level of the tooth is never completely restored.

However the new technique could reduce the need for fillings of cements, which are prone to infection and often need replacing a number of times.

When fillings fail or infection occurs, dentists have to remove and fill an area that is larger than what is affected, and after multiple treatments the tooth may eventually need to be extracted.

Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation: “This is an extremely interesting and novel approach which shows great promise and we will look forward to it being translated into clinical application that could undoubtedly be a progressive step in the treatment of dental disease.

“While fillings have remained highly effective in repairing large cavities, they are susceptible to wear-and-tear and can occasionally be in need of repair and replacement. This presents problems as the dentist could have to remove and fill a larger area each time and after numerous treatments the tooth may then have to be extracted.

“Creating a more natural way for the tooth to repair itself could not only eliminate these issues, but also be a far less invasive treatment option for patients. With dental phobia still being very common, using a natural way to stimulate the renewal of dentine could be an especially comforting proposal for these groups, for which undergoing treatment can often be a cause great anxiety.”

The procedure has so far only been used in mouse teeth, but it was shown to ‘fill the whole injury site’.

And Tideglusib has already been shown to be safe in clinical trials of patients with Alzheimer’s disease so scientists say that the treatment could be fast-tracked into dental practices.

Scientists have found a drug that regenerates teeth, and it could reduce the need for fillings


Researchers have identified a drug that can regenerate teeth from the inside out, possibly reducing the need for artificial fillings.

The drug was previously used in Alzheimer’s clinical trials, and it now appears to improve the tooth’s natural ability to heal itself. It works by activating stem cells inside the tooth’s pulp centre, prompting the damaged area to regenerate the hard dentin material that makes up the majority of a tooth.

“The simplicity of our approach makes it ideal as a clinical dental product for the natural treatment of large cavities, by providing both pulp protection and restoring dentine,” said lead author Paul Sharpe from King’s College London.

“In addition, using a drug that has already been tested in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease provides a real opportunity to get this dental treatment quickly into clinics.”

After a tooth is damaged by things like trauma or cavities, the soft pulp at its centre can be exposed, increasing the risk of infection.

To prevent that, our bodies create a thin layer of dentin – the hard, calcified tissue that makes up the bulk of a tooth – which helps block outside material from making its way inside.

But this process is not enough to stop large cavities from exposing the vulnerable pulp, which is why dentists drill out the cavity, and then pack the area with artificial fillings – a treatment that’s worked in the past, but isn’t ideal.

“The tooth is not just a lump of mineral, it’s got its own physiology. You’re replacing a living tissue with an inert cement,” Sharpe told Hannah Devlin at The Guardian.

“Fillings work fine, but if the tooth can repair itself, surely [that’s] the best way. You’re restoring all the vitality of the tooth.”

Sharpe and his team found that they could use the Alzheimer’s drug Tideglusib to stimulate the stem cells inside a tooth to actually create more dentin than usual, regenerating the whole structure without needing to add any foreign substance at all.

dentistheader_1024

In other words, no fillings.

To figure this out, the researchers used Tideglusib on damaged teeth in mice to see how it promoted stem cell activation.

The drug was applied to the cavity using a biodegradable collagen sponge soaked in Tideglusib molecules, and then everything was sealed up inside.

After several weeks, the team saw that the collagen sponge had degraded, and the teeth had regenerated enough dentin to fill the gap.

The process itself is very similar to a normal cavity filling, but instead of putting in an artificial filler, doctors are encouraging the growth of natural dentin, leading to healthier teeth in the long run.

“Dentistry is not only about filling and drilling, but also about keeping the teeth healthy,” oral cell biologist Ben Scheven from the University of Birmingham in the UK, who was not involved with the study, told The Guardian.

“Especially since it’s an accessible and cheap treatment, I can imagine this being used in the clinic.”

Considering the technique has so far only been tested in mice, there’s a lot more research to be done to confirm if the results can be replicated in humans, so we can’t get ahead of ourselves just yet.

The team plan on moving to rats next, and if those results are positive, human trials could be on the cards.

The good news is that Tideglusib and the collagen sponges used in the procedure have both passed clinical trials for other treatments, which will likely speed up the process if the technique does make it to human testing.

This isn’t the only effort to improve how we perform fillings – in 2015, another team in the UK announced that they’re developing a ‘pulp cap’ that can be inserted in a tooth to stimulate stem cells and trigger similar dentin growth.

And another study from 2015, this time by researchers in Australia, found that tooth decay could be reversed with a high-concentration fluoride varnish before cavities form, possibly lowering the amount of treatment needed to begin with.

We still have a long way to go before these options will be available at our local dentist, but researchers are determined to make oral care less horrible in the future, which should be good news to millions of people who fear the drill.

QUALITY OF LIFE.


Do read if you want some insight…
Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. It was diagnosed as pancreatic cancer by one of the best surgeons in the country, who had developed a procedure that could triple a patient’s five-year-survival odds—from 5% to 15%—albeit with a poor quality of life.
Charlie, 68 years old, was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with his family. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation or surgical treatment. Medicare didn’t spend much on him.

It’s not something that we like to talk about, but doctors die, too. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared with most Americans, but how little. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care that they could want. But they tend to go serenely and gently.
Doctors don’t want to die any more than anyone else does. But they usually have talked about the limits of modern medicine with their families. They want to make sure that, when the time comes, no heroic measures are taken. During their last moments, they know, for instance, that they don’t want someone breaking their ribs by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (which is what happens when CPR is done right).
In a 2003 article, Joseph J. Gallo and others looked at what physicians want when it comes to end-of-life decisions. In a survey of 765 doctors, they found that 64% had created an advanced directive—specifying what steps should and should not be taken to save their lives should they become incapacitated. That compares to only about 20% for the general public. (As one might expect, older doctors are more likely than younger doctors to have made “arrangements,” as shown in a study by Paula Lester and others.)
Why such a large gap between the decisions of doctors and patients? The case of CPR is instructive. A study by Susan Diem and others of how CPR is portrayed on TV found that it was successful in 75% of the cases and that 67% of the TV patients went home. In reality, a 2010 study of more than 95,000 cases of CPR found that only 8% of patients survived for more than one month. Of these, only about 3% could lead a mostly normal life.
Unlike previous eras, when doctors simply did what they thought was best, our system is now based on what patients choose. Physicians really try to honor their patients’ wishes, but when patients ask “What would you do?,” we often avoid answering. We don’t want to impose our views on the vulnerable.
The result is that more people receive futile “lifesaving” care, and fewer people die at home than did, say, 60 years ago. Nursing professor Karen Kehl, in an article called “Moving Toward Peace: An Analysis of the Concept of a Good Death,” ranked the attributes of a graceful death, among them: being comfortable and in control, having a sense of closure, making the most of relationships and having family involved in care. Hospitals today provide few of these qualities.
Written directives can give patients far more control over how their lives end. But while most of us accept that taxes are inescapable, death is a much harder pill to swallow, which keeps the vast majority of Americans from making proper arrangements.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Several years ago, at age 60, my older cousin Torch (born at home by the light of a flashlight, or torch) had a seizure. It turned out to be the result of lung cancer that had gone to his brain. We learned that with aggressive treatment, including three to five hospital visits a week for chemotherapy, he would live perhaps four months.
Torch was no doctor, but he knew that he wanted a life of quality, not just quantity. Ultimately, he decided against any treatment and simply took pills for brain swelling. He moved in with me.
We spent the next eight months having fun together like we hadn’t had in decades. We went to Disneyland, his first time, and we hung out at home. Torch was a sports nut, and he was very happy to watch sports and eat my cooking. He had no serious pain, and he remained high-spirited.
One day, he didn’t wake up. He spent the next three days in a coma-like sleep and then died. The cost of his medical care for those eight months, for the one drug he was taking, was about $20.
As for me, my doctor has my choices on record. They were easy to make, as they are for most physicians. There will be no heroics, and I will go gentle into that good night. Like my mentor Charlie. Like my cousin Torch.

Like so many of my fellow doctors.

How Smartphone Addiction Affects Our Health.


Although cell phones allow individuals to have unlimited access to information and to connect with others in a way otherwise thought impossible, there are many harmful and disturbing effects of smartphone dependence.

genuine-phone-6s-plus-6s-6-plus-6-5s-5c-unlocked-new-mobile-phone-cell-phone-smart-phone

Cell phone addiction, is a behavioural addiction thought to be similar to that of an Internet, gambling, shopping or video game addiction and leads to severe impairment or distress in one’s life.

India has the world’s second-highest mobile phone users with the figure standing above one billion. As per one study, 79% of the Indian population between the age group of 18 and 44 have their cell phones with them almost all the time, with only two hours of their waking day spent without their cell phone on hand.

Signs and symptoms of cell phone addiction:

Although cell phone addiction is not yet officially listed in psychiatry literature, it is comparable to gambling addiction with clear diagnostic criteria.

A need to use the cell phone more and more often in order to achieve the same desired effect.
Persistent failed attempts to use cell phone less often.
Turns to a cell phone when experiencing unwanted feelings such as anxiety or depression.
Excessive use characterised by loss of sense of time.
Has put a relationship or job at risk due to excessive cell phone use. 
Need for newest cell phone model, more applications, or increased use – the tolerance.
When the cell phone or network is unreachable or cell phone is discharged, feeling of anger, tension, irritability or/and restlessness.
Physical effects of cell phone overuse:

Overuse of your cell phone or smartphone can result in a number of different physical problems that may cause permanent damage or be difficult to treat, including:

Digital eye strain

The pain and discomfort associated with viewing a digital screen for over 2 hours.
Eyes begin to burn and itch.
Blurred vision.
Eye fatigue.
Digital Eye Strain can cause headaches.
Direct exposure to blue light – like the one that comes from cell phone screens – can cause damage to the retina of the eye.
Hearing too loud:

Simply chatting on the phone may not damage your hearing, but if you use your smartphone and headphones for listening to music then you might have cause for concern.
A number of young persons suffering from noise induced deafness are rising.
The Dangerous Decibels public health campaign states that repeated exposure to noises above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss – approximately the noise level of heavy traffic.
The maximum volume of a smartphone is around 105 Listening to music at this volume for more than four minutes would likely result in damage to hearing.
Even if you lower it to just 94 decibels, you can cause damage if you listen for over an hour.
Musculoskeletal:

Neck pain resulting from looking down at a cell phone or tablet for too long.
Cramped fingers, wrist pain and muscle pain due to continuous texting and scrolling on the touch screen of a smartphone.
Occipital neuralgia – a neurological condition where the nerves that run from the top of the spinal cord up through the scalp become compressed or inflamed.
Phone surface- a source of bacteria:

The average phone has 10 times more bacteria than that are found on a toilet seat! Yes, 1 in 6 cell phones has faecal substance on it and no matter how clean your toilet seat is, you’re probably not going to let it touch your face.
E. coli bacteria, which can cause fever, vomiting, and diarrhoea, are found on many phones.
Phones have been found to be contaminated with MRSA which causes painful abscesses and sometimes life-threatening infections in bones, joints, surgical wounds, bloodstream, heart valves, and lungs.
Car accidents:

Using a cell phone while driving reduces brain alertness level by 37%. By making devices hands-free or voice-activated is not sufficient to eliminate distractions while driving.
Though many people believe that they can multitask and use their phones while driving, but this causes significant impairment and puts the driver and others on the road in danger.
Texting and driving can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving.
Male fertility:

Preliminary studies have revealed that cell phone radiation may decrease sperm count, sperm motility and viability.
Radiations:

While it’s not clear if the radiation from cell phones and other connected devices generate a strong electromagnetic field.
The World Health Organization already classes cellphones as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’.
Psychological effects of cell phone addiction:

Sleep disturbance: Increase in sleep disorders and fatigues, insomnia, decreasing sleep quality, takes to fall asleep.
Depression anxiety
Obsessive compulsive disorder
Relationship problems and conflicts
Impaired work performance
Regain your independence

While cell phone addiction is a fairly new concept there are a few treatment suggestions.

Identify the problem

Be honest with yourself and answer truthfully whether you think your usage of your mobile phone is impacting your social life.

Go ahead slowly and steadily

Overcoming any addiction requires taking small steps, one at a time. Trying to achieve too much in one go will do you more harm than good. Just because you are addicted to your phone it doesn’t mean that you have to stop using it, after all, it is a valuable tool. Just cut down on the amount that you use it. Try spending some time away from your phone, even an hour a day will make a difference to your perceived reliance on it. Go for a walk and leave the phone at home. Stop carrying it around with you at home, leave it in one place and get on with some other activities.

Set time periods in which you shouldn’t use your phone (i.e., 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.).
Designate activities in which your phone is forbidden (e.g., driving, dinner time).
Schedule break times to access your phone or social media.
By restricting the amount of time that you spend each day away from your phone you will be working towards regaining your independence from it. So that eventually you will once again view it as a communication tool rather than a lifeline to a virtual world.

Relaxation techniques- Meditation

Help you to cope with your cravings to use your cell phone or access social media.

Smartphone addiction therapy

Individual therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy
Motivational interviewing 
Pharmacotherapy: Although there are no current FDA-approved medications to treat smartphone addiction when combined with psychotherapy, medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics can help to treat Internet addiction.

No proof diet drinks help in losing weight


There is no evidence that sugar-free drinks can help fight obesity, according to researchers, who also argue that artificially-sweetened beverages should not be promoted as part of a healthy diet, as they may be a risk factor for chronic diseases.
No proof diet drinks help in losing weight – study

Artificially-sweetened beverages (ASBs) are marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), but a paper compiled by scientists from Imperial College London and two universities in Brazil states that there is no proof that diet drinks are healthier or help in weight loss.

“A common perception, which may be influenced by industry marketing, is that because ‘diet’ drinks have no sugar they must be healthier and aid weight loss when used as a substitute for full-sugar versions. However, we found no solid evidence to support this,” Professor Christopher Millett, top researcher at Imperial’s School of Public Health, said.

In fact, there are mixed scientific findings on the matter, the study says.

“The effect of ASBs on weight management has been tested in some randomized controlled trials (RCTs). These have produced mixed findings, with some studies indicating a null effect, while others have found modest reductions in weight.”

Diet drinks can contribute to the problem, as “characteristics related to ASB composition (low nutrient density and food additives), consumption patterns (potential promotion of sweet taste preference), and environmental impact (misuse of natural resources, pollution, or ecotoxicity) make them a potential risk factor for highly prevalent chronic diseases,” the study adds.

Sugar-free drinks now constitute about a quarter of the global soft drink market, according to an Imperial College London press release.

In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than ten percent of their total energy intake, triggering the introduction of measures in some countries to reduce the consumption of drinks with added sugar.

As a result, ASBs have emerged as an important alternative to maintain beverages companies’ profits.

The study’s co-author, Carlos Monteiro, believes that taxes and regulations on SSBs and not ASBs will help promote the intake of diet drinks “rather than plain water, the desirable source of hydration for everyone.”

Not everyone agrees with the study’s claims, however. The head of the British Soft Drinks Association, Gavin Partington, told The Guardian that “scientific research shows that low-calorie sweeteners, such as those found in diet drinks, help consumers manage their weight as part of a calorie-controlled diet.”

Finland Has Finally Launched Its Universal Basic Income Experiment


IN BRIEF
  • The universal basic income trial will give out €560 ($587) a month, tax free, to 2,000 randomly-selected Finns.
  • UBI is a potential source of income that could one day be available to all adult citizens, regardless of income, wealth, or employment status.

NEW YEAR, NEW INCOME

It looks like 2,000 citizens in Finland will welcome the new year with outstretched arms. These Finns are the lucky recipients of a guaranteed income beginning this year, as the country’s government finally rolls out its universal basic income (UBI) trial run. UBI is a potential source of income that could one day be available to all adult citizens, regardless of income, wealth, or employment status.

This pioneering UBI program was launched by the federal social security institution, Kela. It will give out €560 ($587) a month, tax free, to 2,000 Finns that were randomly selected. The only requirement was that they had to be already receiving unemployment benefits or an income subsidy.

The program allows unemployed Finns to not lose their benefits, even when they try out odd jobs. “Incidental earnings do not reduce the basic income, so working and … self-employment are worthwhile no matter what,” says Marjukka Turunen, legal unit head at Kela.

JUST THE BEGINNING

If successful, the program could be extended to include all adult Finns. “Its purpose is to reduce the work involved in applying for subsidies, as well as free up time and resources for other activities, such as making or applying for work,” according to a press release by Kela.

Furthermore, the Finnish government, as well as UBI advocates, may see how this program can end up saving more money for Finland in the long run — as it is less costly than maintaining social welfare services for the unemployed. “Some people think basic income will solve every problem under the sun, and some people think it’s from the hand of Satan and will destroy our work ethic,” said Olli Kangas, who oversees research at Kela, about the program. “I’m hoping we can create some knowledge on this issue.”

Then, of course, there is the looming issue of job loss due to automation. Many UBI proponents, including tech entrepreneurs Elon Musk (Tesla and SpaceX) and Sam Altman (Y Combinator), see the program as the only solution to the problem.

UBI is, without a doubt, controversial. There is an ongoing debate as to whether or not it’s a workable system. Of course, the only real way to definitively find out is to put the system to the test – hence, Finland’s experiment. After its two-year run, the government will have enough data — from the 2,000 participants and a control group of about 173,000 non-participants from the same background — to see just how effective a UBI program could be.

Finland is just one of several governments considering a UBI trial in 2017. Also set for a trial this month is the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands — with Canada and Uganda also preparing their own programs.

Apple Manufacturer Foxconn to Fully Replace Humans With Robots


IN BRIEF
  • The Taiwanese company that manufactures Apple’s iPhone has announced a three-part plan to fully automate its factories, with hopes to achieve 30% automation by 2020.
  • The move could put as many as a million people out of work, another example of automation’s major implications for the global workforce.

FULLY AUTOMATED FACTORIES

Foxconn Electronics, the Taiwanese manufacturing company behind some of the biggest electronic brands’ devices, including Apple’s iPhone, has announced that it will ramp up automation processes at its Chinese factories. The goal is to eventually achieve full automation.

In an article published in Digitimes, General Manager Dai Jia-peng of Foxconn’s Automation Technology Development Committee explains that the process will unfold in three phases.

“In the first phase, Foxconn aims to set up individual automated work stations for work that workers are unwilling to do or is dangerous,” Dai said. This will be followed by the second phase, which focuses on streamlining production efficiency and removing unnecessary robots from the production line. “In the third phase, entire factories will be automated with only a minimal number of workers assigned for production, logistics, testing, and inspection processes,” concluded Dai.

Back in 2015, Foxconn began its efforts toward automation, stating that they wanted to achieve 30 percent automation by 2020. Right now, the manufacturing giant has already deployed over 40,000 of its Foxbots, the industrial robots it has developed in-house. Foxconn has the capability to produce 10,000 Foxbots annually, which could be used to replace human labor.

According to Dai, the company’s factories in Chengdu, western China; Shenzhen, southern China; and Zhengzhou, northern China, are already in the second or third phase of this longterm automation plan, and at least 10 fully automated production lines are already in place at some of those factories.

Image Credit: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

THE REALITY OF AN AUTOMATED FUTURE

As businesses strive toward increased efficiency, automation has emerged as a valuable tool in helping them achieve their goals. While perhaps beneficial to the companies, this will ultimately lead to job loss for many employees. Foxconn, for instance, employed around 1.2 million people as of last year — if they reach their goal of full automation, that’s over a million people who will lose their jobs to Foxbots.

While robots may be a more cost-effective option in the longterm, a company must be ready to shell out a sizable initial investment to begin the transition to automation, and while robotic technology continues to improve, bots aren’t likely to put everyone out of work. As Dai noted, “Industrial robots will not be able to completely replace workers because humans have the flexibility to quickly switch from one task to another.” Reprograming a robot to perform multiple tasks or even a single new one is just too time-consuming and expensive.

Nevertheless, the automation of jobs, beginning with the manufacturing industry, will have major implications for global employment, especially given the pace at which the technology is advancing. With up to 47 percent of jobs in the United States alone at risk of replacement by automation, extensive job loss is a reality that the world must prepare for.

Thankfully, many experts are already proposing ways to mitigate the changes, such as universal basic income (UBI) or increased job training, so by the time the robots do take over these jobs, hopefully a solid plan will be in place to support those displaced workers.

Climate Change Threatens to Destroy the Planet’s Oldest Tree Species


IN BRIEF
  • Bristlecone pine, the world’s oldest species of tree, may go extinct due to changing temperatures caused by climate change in the frigid mountains where they used to thrive.
  • Some of these trees are almost 5,000 years old, so their loss would be another devastating blow to the environment brought on by manmade climate change.

FOREST GIANTS

At 4,845 years old, Methuselah, a Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) in the White Mountains of California, is one of the oldest trees on Earth. It’s so old, in fact, that it was only a seedling when the Egyptian pyramids were being constructed. Since it first broke ground, the pine tree has survived wars, cultural upheavals, extreme weather conditions, and whatever else this world threw at it. Now, after more than 48 centuries of life and history, this tree is facing its toughest challenge yet: climate change.

Around the world, giant, old trees like Methuselah stand as a living history of this planet, but a new study suggests that climate change could lead to their extinction. “I think what’s going to happen — at least in some areas — is that we’re going to lose bristlecone,” said Brian Smithers, an ecologist at the University of California and co-author of a recent study of the iconic forest giants.

Bristlecone pine have historically thrived in the upper elevations of California’s White Mountains because they have adapted to survive the temperatures found just below the tree line. As temperatures warm and the tree line moves higher up the mountains, it’s expected that this particular species would simply begin to seek out higher elevations as well. However, those higher areas are being populated more heavily by a different species, limber pines, thanks to the help of a bird species that spreads its seeds. “Whoever can get there first wins,” Smithers said. “And it looks like limber pine is just better able to get there quicker.”

As these limber pine trees grow, they could use up the light and water supplies that the slower-growing bristlecone pines that do sprout in the higher elevations need to survive, eventually taking over those higher elevations completely. The bristlecone pines left in the lower elevations could then succumb to the warmer, less desirable conditions brought on by climate change.

Methuselah Grove. Image Credit: Oke/Wikipedia

WORLDWIDE PROBLEM

The loss of our planet’s oldest tree species isn’t exclusive to the bristlecone pine. According to an article published by ThinkProgress back in 2012, leading ecologists have already “documented an alarming increase in the death rate of trees between 100 and 300 years old in many of the world’s forests, woodlands, savannahs, farming areas, and even in cities.” As a response, researchers are urging an increased focus on efforts that can help us identify the cause of this rapid loss of historic trees so that strategies can be immediately implemented to manage its effects.

A more recent study published in Nature World News looked into how the growth rate of trees changed historically under previous climate conditions. Those researchers projected that the United States will see a 75 percent decrease in its growth rate of trees in the southwest, and as the planet gets warmer, this will push numerous forests into critical levels as early as 2050. When that happens, our forests will be unable to help protect us from the effects of climate change by offsetting carbon emissions.

Combine this negative impact on the planet’s tree species with the ever-increasing number of other plants and animals facing extinction, and you can see that humans are far from the only species battling the devastating consequences of manmade climate change.