Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Enjoy Your Bananas - They Are Going to Go Extinct

The bananas you so love will soon vanish into the mists of time. The world's Cavendish variety of bananas are threatened by a strain of Tropical Race 4 fungus which is expected to wipe them out. The Cavendish is of one of a number of banana cultivars and include commercially important versions such as 'Dwarf Cavendish' and 'Grand Nain'.

The $4 billion-a-year worldwide banana export trade is almost entirely based on vast plantations filled with genetically identical Cavendish clones. It is the supermarket banana’s lack of genetic diversity that has put it at risk, perhaps even (as some scientists say) at risk of extinction. A similar situation with another crop, the potato, set the stage for the great Irish famine of the 1840s, after the high-yielding potato varieties favored by Irish farmers fell prey to an airborne fungus that turned whole fields of tubers black and rotten overnight. Today, similar pests are stalking the banana. 

Read more at the Smithsonian Magazine...

Monday, December 28, 2020

Goes Both Ways - Fast! Robotaxi purpose-built from the tarmac up...

 The Zoox Robotaxi Is a Bi-Directional autonomous vehicle, built specifically to be a robot car.  

We learn over at Yanko that the Amazon-owned Zoox...

... is a conventional cube-shaped with a unique bi-directional ride sans any steering wheel – having the capability to smoothly navigate tight spaces without much fuzz since it comes with a 4 wheel independent suspension system. The fact that it can move in any direction (independent turning wheels) and does not need to reverse (remember it is bi-directional) gives it an advantage on urban roads as it measures just 3.63 meters. 

The interior of the autonomous ride has charging ports and a small display is quite minimalistic with emphasis on passenger safety as there are next-generation airbags enveloping the passengers, providing five-star safety standards by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. 

To further enhance the safety of the riders, the vehicle is decked in six LIDAR pucks, multiple sensors, and cameras for a 270-degree field of view – covering the blind spots and having the ability to see objects 150 meters away en route for a safe ride. And it can achieve a top speed of 70 miles per hour, so you can rest assured of arriving at your destination on time.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Ireland - From Developing Country to One of the Richest in 100 Years

After hundreds of years of being under the thumb of the imperialist/colonialist neighbor,  Ireland in 1957 shifted from a proto-communist model to a property capitalistic model. Once the "sick man of Europe," the Tallaght Strategy changed the country's economic trajectory. 

Fast forward to just a few years ago, the Republic of Ireland is an unlikely pick for an EU economic and political maverick. A nation of fewer than 5 million people, it was one of the hardest hit by the 2008 global financial crisis. But the country has managed to grow its economy at rates well above the EU average (and on par with the People's Republic of China, in some areas) and went through several landmark cultural transformations that brought it closer to its European neighbors. So, how did Ireland do it?

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Will Diversity Become Part of Corporate Governance?

In the USA, the Nasdaq asked the Securities and Exchange Commission if it can require all 3,300+ companies that trade on its exchange to (a) publicly disclose diversity statistics about their boards of directors, and (b) retain at least two diverse directors (one woman, one who identifies as an underrepresented minority and/or LGBTQ).

If the SEC gives the nod, boards will have two years to bring on at least one diverse director and two+ years to hire the second. If companies miss the deadline and fail to provide a sufficient explanation of why they missed it, they could get delisted.  

As of now, 75% of Nasdaq-listed companies would not meet that benchmark. We know corporate America has made slow progress improving diversity at the top. In 2018, women held less than 1/4 of Fortune 500 board seats. From 2010–2018, seats held by Black directors increased just one percentage point to 9%.

This would mark the first time a major exchange would impose such requirements, but it's not alone in pushing for board diversity. California requires at least one diverse director for companies headquartered in the state, and Goldman Sachs does as well to underwrite an IPO. 

For diversity as a success story, just turn to Europe: EU companies and others are successful in bringing more women into the top ranks of business. Norway was the first to introduce quotas for women in 2003. Iceland, Spain, and France followed with 40% targets. In 2015, Germany became the largest economy to impose a quota, mandating 30% of supervisory board seats be filled by women. Across Europe, the number of women on boards is climbing, although from a low base. The number of women board members at 734 large publicly traded companies across the Europe in 2016 was 23%, up from 11% in 2007, according to EU data. In countries with quotas in place, it’s higher: 44% in Iceland, 39% in Norway, 36% in France and 26% in Germany (2016 numbers).


What Every Happened with the Drone Sightings at Gatwick?

Short answer: not much.

Around 9pm on Wednesday December 19, 2018, a security guard observed two drones inside the security perimeter at Gatwick Airport,  Unauthorized drone activity is considered a danger to aircraft and passengers due to the risk of collision. Within minutes, Gatwick’s only runway had been closed and all flights were suspended -- the full details are documented here.

The Gatwick drone incident was the first time a major airport was shut down by drones. The unknowns -- was this a terrorism incident, or just random overflight by irresponsible parties -- remain. Two years on, the perpetrators remain unidentified, despite a law enforcement operation that lasted 18 months, cost £800,000 and involved five different organizations.

Without evidence – or any leads or convincing motives – Sussex police and Gatwick maintain it was a sophisticated, malicious, and well-planned attack. In other circles. the Gatwick drone has become a punchline, with doubts of the drones' very existence.

Read more at the Guardian...

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

AWS Jumps on the M1 Bandwagon... at a premium price

Amazon's web services cloud provisioning is now offering Apple Mac Mini as an option for Apple developers. Over at an AWS blog, we read:

Powered by Mac mini hardware and the AWS Nitro System, you can use Amazon EC2 Mac instances to build, test, package, and sign Xcode applications for the Apple platform including macOS, iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, watchOS, and Safari. The instances feature an 8th generation, 6-core Intel Core i7 (Coffee Lake) processor running at 3.2 GHz, with Turbo Boost up to 4.6 GHz. There’s 32 GiB of memory and access to other AWS services including Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), Amazon Elastic File System (EFS), Amazon FSx for Windows File Server, Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), AWS Systems Manager, and so forth.

On the networking side, the instances run in a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) and include ENA networking with up to 10 Gbps of throughput. With EBS-Optimization, and the ability to deliver up to 55,000 IOPS (16KB block size) and 8 Gbps of throughput for data transfer, EBS volumes attached to the instances can deliver the performance needed to support I/O-intensive build operations.

Found at AWS re:Invent, these new Mac instances for its Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) enable developers to natively run macOS in Amazon Web Services for the first time.