How to Plan Travel to See an Aurora


It can feel nearly impossible to you access a sense of wonder in today’s all-the-information-anytime-you-want-it environment, but the answer, I find, is often in the natural world. Whether it’s feeling the strange cool breeze that arises during the totality of an eclipse, watching a thousand-strong starling murmuration swirl in the sky, or tasting fresh mango plucked from the tree in front of you, our sensory experience of the earth’s pleasures—even if we know exactly how and why they happen—can reacquaint us with wonder.

So it is with auroras. You can understand their mechanism—I’ll cover that below—but it’s one of those things that has to be experienced bodily, live-in-person to be understood. Which explains why people arrange trips and vacations around the chance to do just that. Here’s what to know if you’ve been thinking about traveling to see aurora.

What is an Aurora anyway?

The otherworldly undulations of colorful light are actually the result of some very specific earthly and cosmic phenomena. When our magnetosphere (which typically protects us from solar radiation) gets disturbed by solar winds, “…the charged particles collide and ionize with trace amounts of nitrogen and oxygen in the upper atmosphere, causing them to emit light when they recombine,” explains Khee-Gan Lee, an astrophysicist and NASA Hubble Fellow.


Usually seen in shades of bright and glimmering green and aqua, more rare sightings of red and blue lights also occur. “They appear in these distinctive colors because, like a laser, these recombination lines occur at specific narrow wavelengths of light rather than in a broad spectrum like sunlight,” said Lee. These are not static lights, like a rainbow—they move in response to the solar wind, undulating due to the natural “springy” qualities of Earth’s magnetic field lines, according to Lee.

The lights can only be seen in the auroral zone, which is only about 3-6 degrees of latitude wide at about 10-20 degrees from the poles (northern or southern)—which is why some people call them polar lights—and can only be seen against the dark backdrop of the night sky.

How can you see one?

Unless you happen to live in one of the zones pretty far north (or south) where auroras naturally occur, you’re going to have to travel to see one of the gorgeous displays. Iceland is a popular location, easily accessible from the east coast of the U.S. —including flights that will stop over there on your way to the U.K. or Europe. (Icelandair and WOW airlines both offer free stopovers.)

Lapland, the indigenous Sami cultural region that includes northern areas of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Russia, is another prime viewing area. Alaska in the U.S. and the Yukon in Canada are good options if you want to stay in North America, and the lights are also found in the islands and highlands of Scotland (though it tends to be cloudier there than some of the other locations mentioned, which can limit visibility). In the southern hemisphere, the lights are known as Aurora Australis, and are visible from some of the southernmost latitudes in Australia and New Zealand, as well as Chile and Argentina in South America, and also Antarctica.


Wherever you decide to go, you’ll need to give yourself enough time to be able to see them—auroras don’t turn up every night, or on any kind of predictable schedule, like, say, the moon or the tides. However, those in the know can make reasonable forecasts based on short-term solar flare activity. To see Aurora Borealis in the northern hemisphere, the best time of year is November-early March. Flip that for the southern hemisphere; their Aurora Australis season begins in March and goes through their winter.

Lola Akinmade Åkerström, an award-winning Stockholm-based author and photographer with National Geographic Creative, has seen auroras 5 times, and says that you should plan a window of at least 3-5 days to be sure that if you travel somewhere to see the lights, you will have a good shot at observing them at least one of the nights you travel. She also advises working with local guides who are aurora-chasing experts: “They know where to go and especially when to go, and they are always monitoring aurora websites and NASA feeds for activity,” Akerstrom said.

What you’ll see

Expect a light show — with colors and activity determined by the cosmic forces that most of us don’t really keep track of. The light may come in bands, lines, or spread out over the sky, and it may move in various ways, from rippling to appearing and disappearing. Taking a good photograph of aurora can be a challenge, so if you plan to do so, read through a guide or two and come prepared. It goes almost without saying that bundling up in warm clothes will be a simple but important part of enjoying the lights without focusing on frozen toes. And yes, you may even hear something—though debated for years, recent science has proven that auroras do make some quiet and eerie sounds.

Åkerström says her most memorable Northern Lights experience was when she stayed at the Nutti Sami Siida reindeer lodge in Northern Sweden. “After a simple dinner of reindeer prepared by elder Anders Kärrstedt, he walked out of the wooden lodge we were sitting in into the dark winter night and scanned the horizon for signs of the aurora,” said Åkerström. After waiting for a bit with just gentle flashes here and there, Kärrstedt predicted that lights should appear in a couple of hours. “Like clockwork, the lights started to appear a few minutes past 9pm and then they burst through the sky with vibrant greens, purples, and pinks,” said Åkerström, crediting Kärrstedt’s local knowledge and experience with his ability to know when the best show would be.

You could also just get lucky

It’s actually not uncommon to see auroras from planes on long-haul routes that go over or near the poles. Called the “Polar Route” or “Santa’s Shortcut” by people in the aviation business, these routes have been opened up since 1998, and can give a unique perspective on Northern Lights, since you are miles above the earth’s surface. Be sure to choose a window seat (always a great idea; you can see incredible sights from 30K feet above the earth) and keep your eye on your in-seat guidance system to determine when you’ll be near the poles. Seattle-based writer Cat Bohannon was returning to the U.S. from China in 2003 when she was somewhere above the Bering Sea and a rustle of conversation went through the cabin.

“Just outside, big ribbons of colored light were snaking through the sky,” Bohannon told Lifehacker. “It was the strangest thing—level, it seemed, with our plane, just a few miles out. I bundled up my flimsy blue airplane blanket and pulled it around my head like a hood while I looked out the window. I couldn’t stop staring out at those ribbons of light. You could really see their structure, up there, their height, where they stopped and started in the atmosphere. And you could see them moving. Like something alive.”

from Lifehacker

PornHub is improving search with an AI porn addict


NSFW Warning: This story may contain links to and descriptions or images of explicit sexual acts.

One of the (many) problems that porn websites that rely upon user-generated content have, is that its one-handed users often don’t respect proper database use. As a consequence, you may have thousands of clips, all described with the same five words and two tags. That makes discovery and cataloging a problem, especially if you’re looking for videos to cater to your very specific niche or favorite performer.

It’s an issue that PornHub is looking to remedy by implementing an artificial intelligence that will scrub through every frame of every video in its catalog. The system has been fed thousands of images of specific models and acts to create a database of names, faces and positions. Then, that data will be compared with the clips on PornHub’s system to automatically tag and catalog all of its vast library of content.

The system will then attempt to use computer vision to identify the act being carried out on screen at any given time. In (very, very unpublishable) clips shared with Engadget, the system was able to identify both the names of the performers in a scene, and what they were doing. Tags such as "blowjob," "doggy," "cowgirl," and "missionary" floated on screen with the corresponding action. The system is also capable of, for instance, identifying blonde performers and adding the requisite tags.

Currently, PornHub groups videos by what other people watched on their research trail, combined with the aforementioned tags. In the future, it’s hoped that visitors will be able to find clips according to PornHub’s AI smarts, with a confidence rating attached. If you’re looking for Model X, you’ll be shown all of the clips that the system believes they’ve performed in, alongside a percentage rating. Users will be asked to help train the machine further by up-voting correct guesses and down-voting errors.

The system has run through around 500,000 featured videos as of today, but the company is hoping to have cataloged its entire library by the start of 2018. And as dystopian as this all sounds, PornHub has pledged that it will only tag professional, "known" models rather than amateurs. Not to mention that the system can’t identify performers with masks or obscured faces. As a consequence, perma-masked BDSM / fetish performers like Emma Lee, and those looking for anonymity should be able to keep their identity off the site.

As creepy as this could sound (and, it does), the news also highlights AI’s power to highlight and correct for human error. PornHub could use the system to find low-quality duplicate clips and cut-downs of material and eliminate them. Not to mention that it can utilize machine vision and learning to effectively automate tagging and identification, plus description-writing. The end result should be better discoverability, higher quality videos and fewer duplicates. Should, at least.

from Engadget

Hyperledger and Linux to Offer a Massive Open Online Blockchain Course


Hyperledger, the international blockchain collaboration of corporate giants and young startups in partnership with the Linux Foundation, is launching a new free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to meet the rapidly accelerating worldwide demand for blockchain education.

The pace at which the “red hot” blockchain technology market is evolving and increasing in popularity makes it difficult for the established education system to keep up with the demand.

In an announcement, Brian Behlendorf, Executive Director of Hyperledger said:

"Interest in blockchain technology is exploding. Software developers, product teams, and business managers are all desperately eager to figure out how this technology can solve real-world problems.

"This first introductory-level course is carefully designed for both non-technical and technical audiences, to bring everyone further up the learning curve and get started with it on their own business needs.”

The Linux Foundation, responsible for training and certifying more developers in open source software than any organization in the world, together with the worldwide open source community, is aiming to solve the hardest technology problems by creating the largest shared technology community in history.  

The MOOC will be on the website, a free online education platform started by MIT and Harvard University in 2012. The site is now a collaborative effort of more than 50 top-rated universities and colleges including Cornell, University of California Berkeley, the Sorbonne, McGill, Juilliard, the University of Hong Kong, Oxford, Notre Dame, the University of Tokyo and the University of Toronto.

MOOC is Designed for Technical and Non-Technical Audiences

Some universities, like the University of Edinburgh, MIT, Stanford, University of California Berkeley and Princeton University, have already begun to offer courses in blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies at the college level, while a new Blockchain University is tailoring its courses to professionals looking to upgrade their knowledge. The University of Nicosia in Cyprus offers the world’s first MSc in Digital Currency. But these courses are designed for the post-secondary and graduate knowledge level markets.

In contrast, Hyperledger’s MOOC is set up for both beginners and trained developers, and includes an introduction to the Hyperledger organization and its key business blockchain platforms, including Hyperledger Fabric and Sawtooth.

It covers key features of blockchain and distributed ledger technologies, current Hyperledger projects and common use cases, and the differences between various types of Hyperledger projects in the fields of finance, banking, Internet of Things, supply chains and manufacturing technologies.

The course includes how to install Hyperledger Fabric and Sawtooth frameworks and how to build simple applications on top of the Fabric and Sawtooth frameworks.

In a statement, edX CEO and MIT professor Anant Agarwal noted:

“Hyperledger and blockchain are two key skillsets that are increasingly in demand in today’s digital world. Our global community of learners have told us that they are seeking courses to help them gain the career-relevant skills they need for the modern workplace. We are thrilled to once again partner with the Linux Foundation to offer a course on this popular, in-demand subject that will provide the building blocks needed for success within the exciting and rapidly expanding field of blockchain technologies.”

Recent job numbers show that the demand for cryptocurrency jobs has doubled in the past six months and are soon to triple from 2016. The job board AngelList reports that cryptocurrency job postings remain one of the largest non-corporate startup opportunities..

Pre-registration is now open. The free Hyperledger course will become fully available on October 25, 2017 (with the option to add a verified certificate of completion for $99).

from Bitcoin Magazine

Why Do Happy People Have Affairs?


In the first installment of our four-part series on infidelity, relationship and sex expert Esther Perel looked at how we define infidelity, and how our definition of cheating has evolved over the years.

Next up, Perel takes on a thornier issue: why people in happy relationships still sometimes wind up cheating. Instead of indicating that there’s some hole to be filled in the relationship—or in ourselves—affairs often mean that we’re looking for a different version of ourselves, says Perel, rather than just a different partner. Cheating can often be a means of self-exploration, albeit one that’s very hurtful to our loved ones.


“I think what is important to understand is that it’s not always a problem in the relationship, or a problem in you,” says Perel. Check out the clip above for the full explanation, and stay tuned later this week for more videos from Perel, including tips on how couples can heal in the aftermath of an affair.

Video credits:

Narrated by: Esther Perel

Illustrated by: Natalia Ramos

Animated by: Daniel García

from Lifehacker

The future of checking your blood sugar without needles is here



Diabetics who have been pricking their fingers for years finally have another option. Freestyle Libre is a small patch that can be easily applied to the upper-arm. With a simple scan, the sensor can read your glucose levels, no needles or blood necessary. The device keeps readings for up to ten days, making it much easier to see any patterns or trends in your blood sugar readings, and it even shows these readings in an easy to understand line graph. 

The product is currently available at drug stores in the United States. Read more…

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from Mashable!

Intel created a superconducting test chip for quantum computing


Quantum computing is the next big technological revolution, and it’s coming sooner than you might think. IBM unveiled its own quantum processor this past May, scientists have been experimenting with silicon-laced diamonds (and basic silicon, too) as a quantum computing substrate, Google is already looking at cloud-based solutions and Microsoft is already creating a new coding language for the technology. Now Intel has taken another big step towards a quantum computing reality: the company has created a new superconducting chip using advanced material science and manufacturing techniques, and delivered it to Intel’s research partner in the Netherlands, QuTech.

According to Intel, the building blocks of quantum computing, qubits, are very fragile. They can only operate at extremely low temperatures (250 times colder than deep space) and must be packaged carefully to prevent data loss. Intel’s research groups in Oregon and Arizona have found a way to manufacture 17-quibit chips with an architecture that makes them more reliable at higher temperatures and reduced RF interference between each qubit. The chip can send and receive 10 to 100 times more signal than comparable wire-bonded chips and has an advanced design that allows for the techniques to be applied to larger quantum integrated circuits, which are much bigger than typical silicon chips.

"Our quantum research has progressed to the point where our partner QuTech is simulating quantum algorithm workloads, and Intel is fabricating new qubit test chips on a regular basis in our leading-edge manufacturing facilities," said Intel Labs’ Dr. Michael Mayberry. "Intel’s expertise in fabrication, control electronics and architecture sets us apart and will serve us well as we venture into new computing paradigms, from neuromorphic to quantum computing."

Source: Intel

from Engadget