Nothing Bitty About It: Bitcoin Value Skyrockets to Record-Breaking $1,700

For the first time ever, bitcoin has topped $1,700 in value. This is an 85-percent gain in the cryptocurrency in 2017, and a 43-percent gain in value in just one month.

Since May 2016, market capitalization on bitcoin has nearly quadrupled, from $7.16 billion in May 2016 to $27.9 billion today.

Major drivers of this trend were Japan allowing bitcoin to become legal tender in the Land of the Rising Sun (albeit with plenty of oversight), and Russia’s announcement that they would rule on cryptocurrency legality in 2018.

Bitcoin supply was also halved in mid-2016, an automatic process meant to prevent inflation. Fewer bitcoins sent the price skyrocketing. Another factor was the falling value of the euro, due to instability in the EU.

However, the cryptocurrency hasn’t evaded challenges. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruled in March against two bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETF), which are mutual funds that can be freely traded as though they were stocks.

The SEC wrote that the ETF’s were in violation of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 “which requires, among other things, that the rules of a national securities exchange be designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices and to protect investors and the public interest.”

Traders have petitioned for the SEC to overturn its decision, but it has yet to come to a new ruling.

Other challenges that have faced bitcoin this year include strict regulation in China and the threat of a “hard fork,” where a group of mostly-Chinese cryptocurrency exchanges threatened to split bitcoin into two currencies over the issue of a stable bitcoin used in few transactions (as it is now) or an updating bitcoin used in many transactions.

“On one side, a few influential Chinese miners want to increase bitcoin’s block size to accommodate more transactions per block,” said Chris Burniske, a blockchain products lead analyst at fund manager ARK Invest, to CNBC. “On the other side, bitcoin’s most influential software developers want to implement a software update called Segregated Witness to accommodate more transactions, among a host of other improvements to the protocol.”

“The issue with a split, and especially one for bitcoin, is the fallout in terms of publicity as it will gain no favors in the complexity and show of disunity.”

A new currency, litecoin, was created, which has helped to mitigate the split in the bitcoin miner community over the hard fork.

(Source: sputniknews)

Wrath of the Sun: Astronomers Solve Mystery of ‘Stealth’ Solar Eruptions

Sometimes, massive amounts of energy are released from unstable magnetic fields on our sun, a phenomenon known as a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). At other times, these CMEs come from stable, quiet regions of the sun with no prior indication and nobody knows why. Now, new research may have explained the phenomenon of “stealth CMEs.”

Here’s how it works: the sun is surrounded by an atmosphere just like Earth – except, because the sun is outrageously hot, so is its atmosphere. So hot, in fact, that its gasses ionized and became superhot plasma. The sun’s plasma atmosphere is called its “corona.”

The movement of plasma within the corona creates a magnetic field, and spots where the magnetic field is particularly intense can cause instability. That instability then sends a geyser of plasma into space – thus, a CME.

More than just astronomical phenomena, CMEs have a real bearing on us Earthlings. They are the cause of solar storms, which can stress or even deactivate electrical devices. We’ve been fortunate to have not been hit with a major storm since the 19th century, but one today could cause billions or even trillions of dollars worth of damage. Fortunately, stealth CMEs move too slowly to cause that sort of damage, but they can still affect Earth’s magnetic field.

The damage could be mitigated if we saw the CME coming – except some CMEs happen without warning, in spots without active magnetic fields. CMEs are typically heralded by solar flares, but so-called “stealth CMEs” are not. They just seem to happen without cause.

NASA and the ESA launched a combined effort to uncover the meaning behind these stealth CMEs. “Using data from NASA’s STEREO spacecraft and the NASA/European Space Agency Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), an international team of researchers has developed a model that simulates the evolution of these mysterious eruptions,” NASA wrote in a statement

The sun’s equator moves faster than its poles: since the entire star completes a rotation at the same time, but the equator is the longest part of the sphere, it has to move quicker (Earth’s equator also rotates faster than its poles). This phenomenon, known as “differential rotation,” also affects the sun’s magnetic field.

The researchers found that the differential rotation caused “knots” to form in the magnetic fields, as different bands moved at different speeds intersected. Add in a tremendous amount of energy from the corona’s plasma, and the magnetic energy is converted to kinetic and thermal energy. Voila: a stealth CME.

Since magnetic fields are much harder to detect than plasma eruptions or solar flares, the cause of stealth CMEs hasn’t been known until now.

(Source: sputniknews)

Tencent closes suspicious network groups on Russian ‘Blue Whale’ suicide game

(File photo)

Tencent, China’s largest Internet service portal, recently closed 12 suspicious networkgroups on the‘Blue Whale’ suicide game from Russia. The provider also blocked the use ofcertain keywords, as the game has resulted in a wave of suicides worldwide, China Newsreported on May 9.

The game has become a subject of heated debate across the internet. Tencent stated thatattention from society, collaboration from all network platforms and internet users’cooperation are all necessary to control the situation. In addition, Tencent remindedpeople to report abnormal circumstances to authorities, as the game is suspected ofinvolvement in criminal acts, as well as of organizing and inciting people to commitsuicide and self-harm.

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

 

China to legislate national anthem, ensuring dignified performances

China plans to institute regulations regarding the national anthem in order to ensure itsdignity, according to the Legislation Work Plan of the Standing Committee of the NationalPeople’s Congress in 2017, issued by China’s National People’s Congress, Xinhuanet.comreported on May 9.

The legislation will undergo a preliminary examination this June. In 2014, the GeneralOffice of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and General Office ofthe State Council published a document about normalizing the singing and playing of thenational anthem. Now, the proposed legislation will effectively stop insufficiently seriousand non-standard renditions of the song. Most importantly, the legislation will guide thepublic to adopt a proper attitude toward the anthem as part of a patriotic education.

The national anthem legislation stresses that on formal occasions, the public shouldrespect the anthem as they do the nation. However, this does not mean individuals will bebreaking the law if they cannot sing the anthem well, noted Yu Hai, former head of themilitary band of the People’s Liberation Army.

China is not the first country to make laws about its national anthem. Russia, Canada andMalaysia have all previously done so, with some creating legislation about their nationalflags and symbols in addition to the anthem.

800 villagers build road on cliff

A total of 800 residents in Fulanyan Township of Changzhi, Shanxi province built a 10-kilometer road on a cliff on Taihang Mountain in 1968. They spent two years living on the mountain, drilling through five culverts with extremely primitive tools. The difference between the highest and the lowest culverts is about 200 meters, which means the road is quite bumpy. Today, the road is still unpaved, covered instead by sand and pebbles. It has a slope of more than 30 degrees, presenting a unique and magnificent view.

 

China’s Robinson! Man to round Chinese coastline by kayak

A man from Zhuhai, Guangdong province will kick off his journey around the coastline of China on May 15, traveling without any escort in a man-powered kayak.

The adventurer, Li Huacan, currently lives in Shanghai. He was chosen as one of the world’s top 10 explorers by National Geographic in November 2016 after finishing the first source-to-sea solo expedition down the Yellow River. Li has logged 7,000 kilometers of solo ocean travel in the last decade, along with 15,000 kilometers of solo river travel. Now Li is poised to hit the water once again.

China has the world’s fourth longest coastline, totaling 18,000 kilometers along eight coastal provinces. Li will start his journey from Fangchenggang, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in the southwest, and he will finish in Dandong, Liaoning province in the northeast. The estimated range of the journey is between 6,000 and 7,000 kilometers.

Li owns a customized kayak made of Kevlar fiber, measuring 56 centimeters in width and 540 centimeters in length. Besides the vessel’s reinforced body, a solar charging panel is also installed on the kayak. The balance of the boat will be totally controlled by Li himself. A cross-bar is present in case of capsizing.

Climate and ocean currents are the main reasons the explorer set his date of departure for May 15, but that date also happens to be International Day of Families. This is especially appropriate given that Li’s wife will join him for land travel during his journey.

Compared with his solo expedition down the Yellow River, which brought social awareness to the cause of environmental protection, Li’s next trip will simply be a family expedition. He hopes to show the world that love means sticking together, no matter what one’s journey brings.

If You Eat a Lot of Salt It Makes You Thirsty, Right? Wrong, Say Scientists

A new study which used Russian cosmonauts as guinea pigs, suggested eating more salt actually made them less thirsty but more hungry. The scientists followed up their findings with experiments on mice which showed they burned more calories when they got more salt.

Doctors have always assumed — and advised patients — not to eat too much salt because sodium chloride is considered to be harmful.

It was assumed that while a certain level of salt was vital for maintaining blood pressure and nerve impulses, too much would have a harmful effect. It was also thought salt itself made you thirsty.

A report in 2014 suggested curbing salt intake — as well as stopping smoking and drinking — could prevent 37 million premature deaths by 2025.

But new research, published in the Journal of Clinical of Investigation, has upended years of received wisdom on the subject.

Really fascinating findings on salt from @VUMChealth own Dr. Jens Titze https://t.co/UHOqCrHzbq

— Vanderbilt Kidney (@VUMCKidney) May 9, 2017​
The researchers, led by Dr. Jens Titze, a kidney specialist at Vanderbilt University and the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research in Germany, analyzed the results of two space simulation studies in 2006.

Zero gravity conditions were created and simulated in two separate studies, lasting 105 and 520 days respectively.

The cosmonauts, who included a German, Oliver Knickel, were given 12 grams of salt daily, reduced to nine grams and as little as six grams. Mr. Knickel, 33, who now works as an automotive engineer in Stuttgart, said that when the food got down to just six grams: “It didn’t taste good.”

Dr. Titze and his team measured the amount of sodium excreted in the cosmonauts’ urine and blood. When the crew ate less salt, they excreted less salt. No great surprise there.

But Dr. Titze said: “Then we had a look at fluid intake, and were more than surprised.”

They found that the cosmonauts were actually drinking less water despite getting more salt.

“There was only one way to explain this phenomenon. The body most likely had generated or produced water when salt intake was high.”

It is not the first time cosmonauts have been involved in experiments.

In April, it was reported Russian cosmonauts would be trying to ferment milk on the International Space Station in a bid to produce dairy foods and beverages to sustain space travelers.

Dr. Titze then experimented on the salt intake of laboratory mice.

He found the same result — the more salt he added to their diet, the less water they drank.

They were generating water themselves by using glucocorticoid hormones to break down fat in their bodies.

This involved a lot of energy and he found they were burning more calories and eating 25 more food on a high-salt diet.

Dr. Mark Zeidel, a nephrologist at Harvard Medical School, wrote in an editorial in the JCI: “Together the results of these two studies lay the groundwork for future studies to determine how, in the face of chronic changes in salt intake, humans maintain volume and osmotic homeostasis.”

Dr. Melanie Hoenig, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said:

“This work suggests that we really do not understand the effect of sodium chloride on the body… These effects may be far more complex and far-reaching than the relatively simple laws that dictate movement of fluid, based on pressures and particles.”

While salt may not be as harmful as first thought, research earlier this year suggested high sugar intake can shorten your life longer after you improve your diet.

Dr. Titze said eating a lot of salt was not recommended as a way of dieting.

He added that more salt would ultimately make you hungrier, so you would have to ensure you did not eat more food to make up for the extra calories burned.

(Source: sputniknews)

China develops thermo-sensitive auto-release pesticide

Chinese scientists have developed a pesticide that can automatically control the release amount of pesticide by sensing temperature, according to the Hefei Institute of Materials Science under the Chinese Academy of Sciences on May 4, China News reported.

The scientific result has been published by the U.S. journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

Pesticide, an indispensable means of production in agriculture, plays a significant role in protecting crops from insects, diseases, and weeds, as well as in ensuring China’s food security.

The pesticide use ratio in China is less than 30 percent, and the country consumes more than a million tons of pesticides per year. Pesticide waste has not only resulted in severe environmental pollution, but has endangered the health of people and livestock.

This is why Wu Zhengyan and his research team at the institute have developed herbicide granules that release pesticide based on temperature. Thermo-sensitivity can control the release of the herbicide, as it effectively adjusts the number of nano-channels in granules based on temperature.

This technology is a good solution to a common problem in agriculture, since it possesses many advantages, including a high utilization rate, low cost, high efficiency, and environmental protection.

China mulls new plan to audit state-owned assets

China is planning to step up auditing of overseas state-owned assets and strengthen supervision of state-owned capital.

The establishment, implementation, and performance of international operations, such as overseas investment, joint ventures, and joint capital, will receive the most scrutiny.

The plan is aimed at helping boost the competitiveness of state-owned businesses and minimize business risks.

Faced with a highly competitive international market and different management styles, China’s state-owned enterprises need to better recognize and control risks.

Data shows that the total assets of China’s state-owned enterprises hit five trillion RMB ($724 billion) in 2016, including demonstration projects, the construction of high-speed rail and electric power and communications infrastructure, and equipment manufacturing.

The new plan will help overseas state-owned assets preserve and increase business value, according to Li Jin, chief researcher of the China Enterprise Reform and Development Society.

Chinese train maker to develop 400kph track-changing locomotives

China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation Limited (CRRC), China’s rail car manufacturer,is devoted to researching and developing locomotives that can travel at speeds of up to400 kilometers per hour and also change tracks to better facilitate rail transportationbetween regions that utilize different track types, the company revealed on May 8.

CRRC’s chairman of the board, Liu Hualong, revealed the plan at a press conference on theBelt and Road Initiative, held by the Information Office of the State Council. The pressconference was hosted ahead of the two-day Belt and Road Forum for InternationalCooperation, set to kick off in Beijing on May 14.

Liu disclosed that CRRC has received orders totaling 10 billion RMB ($1.45 billion) fromMalaysia in past three years. He added that, as a next step, CRRC will produce newtechnologies and products to better adapt itself to international transport andinterconnection.

For instance, when designing motor train units for Malaysia, the corporation createdspecially designed carriages for female passengers as well as prayer rooms, bringingenormous convenience to both operators and passengers, according to CRRC.

In addition, Liu said that CRRC’s products are in 83 percent of countries that containrailways across the world. In recent years, CRRC has received orders from many majorcities including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and London.

CRRC’s assets abroad have surged from 3 billion RMB up to 20.6 billion in just threeyears, from 2013 to 2016, with its total number of employees climbing from 509 to 4,808in that same period. As of April, CRRC possessed 75 branches in 26 countries and regions,among which 50 were established after the Belt and Road Initiative was put forward in2013.