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At Least the Neighbors Won’t Hear: Scientists Start Study of Sex in Space

Since the dawn of man, humans have looked to the stars and been filled with wonder and questions. What’s out there? How can we go there, and when? Does the cosmos hold the answers that we seek about life and meaning? Now, scientists are beginning to seriously consider a new question: mechanically speaking, how do you bone in space?

As far as we can tell, no human has ever had sex outside of the confines of Earth’s gravity (unless some freaky stuff has been going on aboard the ISS). As a result, a lot of questions remain unanswered: what would sex look like in sterile, zero gravity conditions? Or on Mars? How about childbirth, or natal development?

“Not only how our reproductive systems adapt to the space environment, but if we actually want to go places, and we want to stay there – if we’re talking about colonization, there’s a key component to colonization that makes it possible, and that is having babies,” said Kris Lenhardt, assistant professor in the department of emergency medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, during a May panel.

“This is something that we, frankly, have never studied dramatically, because it’s not been relevant to date. But if we want to become a spacefaring species and we want to live in space permanently, this is a crucial issue that we have to address that just has not been fully studied yet.”

Bit by bit, researchers are coming around to what Gene Roddenberry realized half a century ago: space sex is super important, which is why all the ladies on the Starship Enterprise wore go-go boots and miniskirts. A group of Japanese scientists freeze-dried mouse sperm and stored it on the ISS for nine months, and then unfroze it to see if they could use it to artificially inseminate female mice.

The experiment was a success, showing that high levels of space radiation aren’t necessarily a barrier to reproduction. But that was only sperm, and from an exceptionally fecund animal at that. It isn’t clear how a human embryo, created in space or on a distant world, would fare because nobody has ever tried it before.

“We have no idea how they’re going to develop,” said Lenhardt. “Will they develop bones the way that we do? Will they ever be capable of coming to Earth and actually standing up?”

Even after a successful birth, there’s also the concern of what a child reared in micro or lessened gravity will look like. Low gravity and space radiation already pose major threats to adult spacefarers, let alone tender youths.

“So we’re basically, at that point, talking about people who are going to be – if they exist in the future – are going to be vastly different from what we are. And that may be kind of a turning point in human history,” Lenhardt said.

That doesn’t even touch on the physical challenges of sex in space. You may take it for granted, but almost everything fun you can do with another person also involves your good friend gravity.

“The first challenge is simply the result of moving about in near-zero gravity: every push or thrust will propel the astronaut in the opposite direction,” John Millis, chair of the department of physical sciences and engineering at Anderson University, told Gizmodo earlier in June. “Imagine a pair of ice skaters standing on fresh ice: if they were to push their hands against one another, they would each shoot backwards away from each other.

Microgravity interfering with blood flow and pooling might also make it more difficult for male astronauts to induce an erection (as if they needed another excuse, am I right ladies?) Females might have difficulties as well for similar reasons.

“Because of the micro-gravity environment, sweat and tears don’t run down the astronaut’s bodies like it does here on Earth, instead it pools like small ponds of fluid near where it was secreted,” Millis said, disgustingly. “If the motion is vigorous enough it could be ejected from the surface of the body. This means that liquid would both be pooling on the body, especially where there is contact with the other person. Also, the more they moved, pools of liquid would be flying off around the couple.”

Neither Lenhardt nor Miller touched on the ever-popular notion of sex with aliens, which is obviously what everyone cares about. Until we can conduct sexual anthropology on wookies or turians, however, that subject will remain one of popular and not academic interest.

Source: Sputniknews

China to upgrade Panama trade development office to embassy: Top representative

The China-Panama Trade Development Office, currently China’s highest representativeoffice in the country, will be upgraded to a full Chinese embassy.

Wang Weihua, permanent representative of the office, disclosed that the embassy will bebuilt in Panama City. Wang’s remarks came soon after China and Panama signed a jointcommuniqué on the establishment of diplomatic relations on June 13. More staff will berecruited and a new location will be scouted to build a more permanent embassy, Wangsaid. The Office of China-Panama Trade Development is located in an office building.

The resumption of diplomatic ties will bring about positive changes in terms of visaapplications, investment and maritime cooperation, benefiting Chinese people andenterprises, Wang said. Cooperation and exchange under the framework of the UN willflourish as well, he added.

(The article is also published on People’s Daily Online)

China will not build hundreds of new coal plants: former head of Chinese energy authority

(File photo)

“China’s vow that its carbon emissions will peak by 2030 is totally different from building hundreds of additional coal plants,” said Zhang Guobao, former vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, at a June 9 round table on energy and climate in Beijing.

U.S. President Donald Trump referenced China in the statement he gave upon withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, claiming that China is allowed to do whatever it wants for 13 years. Zhang responded that this statement illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the Paris agreement.

Zhang, also the former director of China’s National Energy Administration, noted that China would never build hundreds of new coal plants, a point that has already been clearly explained and publicized. In fact, according to the National Energy Administration, the construction of 105 approved coal-fired power plants has already been halted. Zhang suggested that David Sandalow, the host of the round table and also the former acting undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, correct President Trump’s misunderstanding.

The average lifespan of coal plants in the U.S. is 33 years, said Zhang, which means that many American plants are indeed outdated. Zhang cited his experience visiting a coal plant in Indiana, built in 1952 with seven units and a capacity of 400 MW, pointing out that such a plant would be considered very outmoded in China.

“The coal consumption per kilowatt-hour in the U.S. is 400 grams, while the figure is 100 grams lower in China,” Zhang remarked, recommending that the U.S. shut down high-consumption plants and update its technology.

Trump stressed in his statement that the Paris climate accord disadvantaged the U.S. and would have taken away from the country’s wealth, “leaving American workers — who I love — and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly diminished economic production.”

However, both Zhang and Sandalow emphasized at the round table that the new-energy industry has become an important field for job creation in the U.S., and it should not be neglected by the president. According to Sandalow, a total of 250,000 people in the country are now working in the photovoltaic generation industry.

A report by the U.S. Department of Energy showed that 1.1 million people in the U.S. were engaged in traditional energy industries in 2016, while 0.8 million were in the low-carbon energy sector. Workers in solar energy and wind power respectively increased by 25 and 32 percent over the past year. In addition, wind turbine generation is now the fastest-growing industry in the U.S.

If permitted, Palace Museum could open for free: Museum director

Ticket prices for entry to the Palace Museum will not be raised, and the museum would potentially welcome visitors for free if the government approved and the public were on board, according to Shan Jixiang, the director of the museum.

Shan said in 2016 that the number of visitors to the Palace Museum had hit a record high, totaling 16 million, more than the visitors to the Louvre and the British Museum combined. In 2017, the museum put a cap on its number of visitors–80,000 per day.

More visiting space has been opened in recent years. In 2012, only 48 percent of the museum was open to the public. In 2014, that area was enlarged to 52 percent, and in 2015 it expanded to over 65 percent, Shan said. Last year, visitors could access more than 76 percent of the compound. By 2020, more than 80 percent of the Palace Museum compound will open to the public.

Shan said that the current price of museum tickets is not expensive. Peak season tickets are 60 RMB ($8.80), while off-peak tickets cost 40 RMB. These prices won’t be raised, he emphasized.

In order to better protect and manage cultural relics, Shan has reiterated on many occasions that the museum hopes to be recognized as a world cultural heritage site.

In January 2017, the “antiques hospital,” the museum’s repair and restoration workshop, was opened to the public. The workshop is equipped with 200 trained employees and boasts advanced facilities. Objects there are treated with as much care and respect as actual patients are in a hospital.

The Palace Museum’s Taobao store, home to a number of cultural and creative products, has become a hot topic on the internet. Statistics show that more than 9,170 distinctive cultural creative products and accessories had been launched by the end of 2016.

China’s air quality improved during 12th Five-Year Plan: Report

China’s air quality has improved since the Twelfth Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) was implemented, according to a report on satellite remote monitoring in 2016, which was released by the Chinese Academy of Sciences on June 12, Thepaper.cn reported.

The report made full use of remote sensing data from China’s independently developed resources satellites, meteorological satellites, sea satellites, high-resolution earth observation as well as international remote sensing satellite data. It discussed issues including land use, atmospheric conditions of city clusters and food production, in addition to Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei coordinated development.

(The images show the concentration of NO2 from 2010 to 2015)

According to the report, the national average atmospheric turbidity showed a downward trend from 2010 to 2015. In addition, the concentration of NO2 in most areas of China was reduced during the five-year period, indicating that air-pollution control policies were effectively implemented.

Seasonal variation of NO2 concentrations reflects the important role of anthropogenic discharge, as increased energy use for heating in the winter leads to annual peak concentrations.

In addition, the PM 2.5 concentration steadied from 2010 to 2013, and the period between 2014 and 2015 saw significant decreases from satellite remote sensing images.

(The images show the PM2.5 concentration in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei from 2010 to 2015)

Apple causes controversy over 30% tax on tips for China’s digital content creators

Apple recently levied a 30 percent tax on tips paid to content creators via social media apps, creating a major controversy among China’s net users and tech community.

WeChat, which has about 889 million active monthly users in China, disabled its tipping function for iPhone users in April after it failed to reach an agreement on the issue with Apple. The U.S. technology company has reportedly negotiated with some Chinese app developers, demanding that they include Apple’s in-app tipping feature.

Some firms, such as the Beijing-based Zhihu, have decided to compromise. The company said in a statement that it will introduce Apple’s in-app tipping service in the latest version of its app. Other companies behind popular apps such as Yingke and YY have also changed the way customers tip in the latest versions of their apps.

The move has provoked a certain amount of outrage from Chinese net users, with many arguing that Apple’s request for a cut is unreasonable, as tipping is voluntary – not a formal exchange. The policy only affects income made by content creators via tips from iPhone users. Tips from Android users are not bound by the rule.

Jilin man modifies old Volkswagen into armored ‘zombie vehicle’

A man in northwestern China’s Jilin province has turned an old Volkswagen Jetta into an armored “zombie vehicle,” equipped with spears on its rims and model machine guns on its hood. Overall, it resembles a car that has just escaped from battle, what with its rusty surface and rough body.

The owner of the vehicle is Zhou Di, a 35-year-old man who runs a workshop that produces industrial-style commodities in Jilin. Inspired by the movies “Mad Max” and “Death Race,” Zhou decided to modify the vehicle himself. He bought the scrapped Jetta about two months ago, and soon removed its engine and gearbox. Later, he installed steel bars above the wind shield, which cover most of the passenger side and leave only a small peep hole.

Zhou has also made defensive body kits and armor for the vehicle. Most of its “weapons” are made from spare parts of old cars and motorcycles. It took Zhou nearly a month to complete the modification, he said.

A fan of machinery from a very young age, Zhou began to repair electric vehicles after his graduation. He later opened a barbershop and restaurant, both decorated in an industrial style. However, the machinery enthusiast eventually changed his profession, opening a workshop that sells handmade industrial-style commodities.

Zhou said he likes his unique car, and he hopes to expand it into a series in the future, creating pick-ups and off-road vehicles.

Automated driving achievable by 2025: Industry insiders

Chinese automakers say the target of producing high-speed automated vehicles can be achieved by 2025. By then, mass production of such vehicles may be a reality, they believe. That vision was included in the government’s medium- and long-term development plan for automobiles, which aims to transform China into an innovative automotive nation.

Smart cars are a hit at the ongoing Shanghai Asian Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where science and technology companies gather to display products and ideas in areas such as the Internet of Things, 3-D printing, robotics and wearable devices.

With the inexorable growth of international cooperation, insiders say the auto industry faces significant changes. On May 31, German technology company Continental signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Baidu, with the goal of establishing a comprehensive strategic cooperation in the areas of automated driving, connected vehicles and intelligent mobility services.

Elmar Degenhart, Continental’s chief executive, said collaboration with Baidu would enable his company to work on core technologies like batteries, machinery and electronic controls.

On June 1, German auto supplier Bosch announced a plan to team up with Baidu to strengthen cooperation on intelligent transportation. Dirk Hoheisel, a member of Bosch’s management board, said the two companies will make full use of their technologies and experience in order to promote smart mobility.

On the same day, China’s Beijing Automotive Group (BAIC Group) and Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group (JAC Motor) signed a cooperative agreement with Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG. Volkswagen AG and JAC Motor announced that they will set up a joint venture to produce electric vehicles. Xu Heyi, chairman of BAIC, said the partnership would combine the strategies of “Made in China 2025” and German Industrie 4.0.

34-year-old giant panda dies of disease in Chengdu

Susu, a 34-year-old giant panda, died from an illness on June 2. The eldest panda at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Susu’s age was equivalent to 100-plus for a human being.

Susu experienced a hard life, during which she gave birth to five baby pandas. In recent years, she suffered from many diseases including high blood pressure, deterioration of liver function and heart failure. Her condition gradually worsened beginning in late May, and she passed away on June 2.

An autopsy showed that Susu’s liver had hardened, and many of her organs, such as her spleen and lungs, had atrophied.

China contributes a lot to SCO: Secretary-General

By Xie Yahong from People’s Daily

China is an important contributor to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), its Secretary-General Rashid Alimov said in an interview with the People’s Daily, adding that the organization has maintained close cooperation with China.

Alimov’s remarks came after the 17th meeting of the SCO Heads of State Council held on June 8 and 9 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the SCO Charter and the 10th anniversary of the Treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation of the SCO Member States, Alimov said, adding that it is a historically significant year for the organization.

The official hailed that the SCO has made huge contributions to safeguarding the security and stability of its member states.

It has also further expanded its influence by strengthening contact and cooperation with international and regional organizations such as the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, ASEAN and the UN, he pointed out.

India and Pakistan will complete procedures in line with the SCO rules to become official members this year. Alimov believes it is a reflection of SCO’s increasing significance, saying it will prove to those people who sing the blues about the organization that the prospect of the SCO is worth looking forward to.

“The SCO has been seeking the agreement among its member states on the connectivity of infrastructure, and the Intergovernmental Agreement of the SCO Member States on the Facilitation of International Road Transport signed in September 2014 was one of the important achievements,” said the secretary-general.

There were only a few of flights between China and Central Asian countries a dozen of years ago, and the number has increased by at least 10 times nowadays, Alimov noted.
In addition, the number of the freight trains running between China and Europe is also on the rise, with Central Asia and Russia playing the role of bridging countries, which has boosted trade among the SCO member states, he added.

People-to-people exchanges, according to Alimov, is another focus of the SCO. The organization has always been enhancing the cooperation on higher education and youth communication.

“Young generation is the future of the SCO and its member states,” he said, adding that the organization has always attached great importance to youth development.

“For a long time we have been enhancing mutual understanding among the youth of each member state,” Alimov noted, illustrating that a youth debate competition was recently held by the organization, and the great performance of the debaters inspired him very much.

“We are fortunate to see the new generation growing under the ‘Shanghai spirit’,” he added.

The official also lauded the promising prospect for tourism cooperation among the SCO members. Statistics showed that 12% of the world natural heritage is located in the SCO member states, most of which remain unknown.

“We have the responsibility to advertise those tourist sites that the member states take pride in, and we are currently working on it,” Alimov said.

China will take over the rotating presidency of the SCO after the Astana Summit. Alimov praised the country’s huge contribution to the SCO in recent years, saying that the organization has kept close cooperation with China and held many activities under the country’s support.

“I believe the SCO summit to be held in Beijing next year will be another successful event,” he added.

The SCO head stressed that the cooperation with Chinese provinces and cities will be a major direction for the SCO.

“We hosted the SCO Kunming International Marathon last December which was participated by more than 10,000 athletes from 25 countries,” he said, adding that the event has indicated the huge potential of bilateral cooperation.

He believed that the “Belt and Road” initiative proposed by China provides a major opportunity for SCO member states and will bring broad prospects.

The SCO supported and participated in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing last month, Alimov said, adding that the organization will accelerate the docking of the “Belt and Road” initiative with the development strategies of its member states for the sake of common prosperity.