Little Robot Friends: Kids Should have Fun with Code

Little Robot Friends is a Toronto-based startup that wants kids to not only be comfortable with code, they want kids to have fun playing with it too. The company runs traditional classes which teach coding practices like similar educational services. The neat thing with Little Robot Friends is that they want you to take it home. They sell kits for kids to make, you guessed it, a little robot they can be friends with.

We started with a simple idea. How can we blur the line between toys and tools? Can we make a robot that encourages kids to customize not only how it looks and sounds, but how it works? And so we created the Little Robot Friends – a coding companion for curious minds.

Before launching Little Robot Friends, Ann & Mark spent their time designing and building museum and science center exhibits around the world. Their expertise is in taking challenging subjects and making them fun & engaging for kids. When kids discover for themselves why things are awesome, they can propel their own excitement and imagination. Check out their past work at Aesthetec Studio.

Check it out.
Thanks to Nick!

Solar Panels Help Crops Grow

Solar panels on grass
Solar energy is the future and it keeps getting better. Not only are renewables cheaper than destructive gas and coal energy they also have other positive effects. Recently it’s been discovered that solar fields can be used as a really good place to grow crops. This is counterintuitive as the solar panels block the sun which plants typically love and to service the panels there needs to be a pathway where crops would thrive.

However, by planting shade-tolerant plants beneath the panels it means workers can still do their job and the plants can do theirs. The plants do well in the shade thanks to the ambient light and the increased humidity from the panels themselves. Neat!

The researchers see potential here (and in similar “agrivoltaics” experiments elsewhere) that is worth investigating and optimizing. Solar panel installations may not be compatible with the machinery used to harvest many crops, and boosting the panels higher off the ground costs extra. But there are configurations for certain crops in certain areas that can make a lot of sense. Farmers could save water, make money from a solar lease, and might even find that workers are much more comfortable and safe working under some shade—all while allowing solar arrays to expand in those areas without competing for land with agriculture.

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A Diverse Diet may Starve some Cancers

beans

Cancer is awful and destroys far too many lives, but what if we can help people survive by augmenting their medicine with better diets? New research is revealing that a diverse diet could help people essentially starve cancer. To be very clear: a diet change will not defeat cancer. The key takeaway here is that some medication can be more effective if matched with a diet that promotes healthy cells in your body which also stymies the development of cancer cells. We still have a long way to go when it comes to fighting cancer, but new developments every year help us on this healthy journey.

Seventy percent of T cells — the body’s most potent cancer-fighting immune cell — live along the gastrointestinal tract, making them highly sensitive to what you eat and what medicines you take. Over the last five years, scientists have started to understand how the gut microbiome influences T cells and the immune system, and how that can affect health and disease.
The general consensus seems to be that more diversity in gut bacteria is better, and, many of the studies looking at what the gut of a cancer treatment responder looks like differ in terms of which types of bacteria are present, driving home that no single strain is overly important. The one consistent finding is that people with more diversity in their gut bacteria seem to have better responses to immunotherapy.

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Talking Truth About Climate Change Matters

Canadians will be voting this fall in a federal election and one party is running with the mantra that reality isn’t real. Specifically that our current climate crisis doesn’t exist and that climate change as a concept is false. How anyone can vote for such an unethical party is beyond me. Regardless of my confusions, Elections Canada has decided that talking about climate change is now considered partisan.

The good news here isn’t in Canada, it’s in the rest of the world. Recent studies have shown that giving reality deniers airtime on the news changes the discourses around climate change for the worse. The research has led to changes in how media companies approach who they have on their shows when talking about the environment. It’s time that we all hold people accountable for denying the reality of our climate crisis.

“It’s time to stop giving these people visibility, which can be easily spun into false authority,” University of California Merced Professor Alex Petersen said in a statement. Peterson was one of three scientists who traced the digital footprints of climate deniers and scientists across 100,000 media articles for a study in Nature Communications. They discovered about half of mainstream outlets actively seek out climate change denying experts for coverage.

In the new research, Petersen and colleagues looked at 386 prominent climate deniers and 386 climate scientists. They looked at 200,000 scientific journals and 100,000 media articles—from both traditional and new formats. Their findings showed climate change deniers were 49 percent more visible to audiences than climate change scientists. Where media sources adhere to traditional editorial standards, the visibility of the two groups was on par. The only area where scientists had prominence was within scientific publications. New media, they say, “facilitates the production and mass distribution of assertive content” by climate change deniers, “which intentionally or not, crowds out the authoritative message of real” climate scientists.

Read more.

Plus, if you’re interested in what you can do about the discourse around climate change:

Tired of Being Sane? Try Hypersanity

happiness

Being considered normal is a lot of work and can lead to a lot of stress, yet it’s something that we all strive for. For a myriad of reasons we dress in certain ways, get certain jobs, and participate in certain activities. All of this to “fit in” and demonstrate sanity. But what if it’s insane to participate in sanity? The concept of hypersanity is all about going beyond societal concepts of normality.

Many ‘normal’ people suffer from not being hypersane: they have a restricted worldview, confused priorities, and are wracked by stress, anxiety and self-deception. As a result, they sometimes do dangerous things, and become fanatics or fascists or otherwise destructive (or not constructive) people. In contrast, hypersane people are calm, contained and constructive. It is not just that the ‘sane’ are irrational but that they lack scope and range, as though they’ve grown into the prisoners of their arbitrary lives, locked up in their own dark and narrow subjectivity. Unable to take leave of their selves, they hardly look around them, barely see beauty and possibility, rarely contemplate the bigger picture – and all, ultimately, for fear of losing their selves, of breaking down, of going mad, using one form of extreme subjectivity to defend against another, as life – mysterious, magical life – slips through their fingers.

We could all go mad, in a way we already are, minus the promise. But what if there were another route to hypersanity, one that, compared with madness, was less fearsome, less dangerous, and less damaging? What if, as well as a backdoor way, there were also a royal road strewn with sweet-scented petals? After all, Diogenes did not exactly go mad. Neither did other hypersane people such as Socrates and Confucius, although the Buddha did suffer, in the beginning, with what might today be classed as depression.

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