Amazon Seeks Prime North American Spot For Second Headquarters

Amazon has launched a $5bn (£3.8bn) search for a site for a new headquarters, asking cities across the US and Canada to make their pitches.

The new HQ will be the world’s largest e-commerce company’s second in North America, and “will be a full equal” to its current headquarters in Seattle, Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos said.

“Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in upfront and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. We’re excited to find a second home,” Bezos added.

The company is willing to look beyond the US for its new location, explicitly opening up to Canadian cities.

The pitch to cities from Amazon is simple: the company will bring highly skilled employment worth billions to the local area. Amazon says the second HQ will include “as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs”, and notes that the construction and economic impact of the building “is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community”.

Amazon estimates that in the last six years alone, it has brought an extra $38bn to Seattle’s economy. “Every dollar invested by Amazon in Seattle generated an additional $1.40 for the city’s economy overall,” the company says.

Eileen Burbidge, a partner at venture capital firm Passion Capital and the chair of Tech City UK, said any city would want to entice Amazon to its area. “The ‘prize’ is tremendous if any city/state is able to land Amazon, given its commitment to 50,000 new jobs and $5bn of investment in the HQ2,” she said. “I believe without question that it is beneficial for cities to attract large HQs such as Amazon’s.”

In exchange for all that economic growth, the company has a long list of requirements for any city which wants to bid for its presence. Amazon lists a number of “core preferences”, including a 45-minute drive to an international airport, mass transit (such as a tram or subway stop) connected directly to the site, and at least 500,000 square feet of office space available by 2019.

“It seems that Amazon will be looking at incentive packages to be offered by states/cities,” Burbidge said. “Whether those be tax/other financial incentives or other support and favourable conditions for its capital and operating expenditure forecast.”

In a seven-page document provided to cities interested in bidding, Amazon also lists a number of “decision drivers”, including “the presence and support of a diverse population”, “a strong university system” and “an overall high quality of life”.

But simply being a nice place to live is unlikely to be enough to win the company over. Amazon also lists financial incentives to “offset [its] initial capital outlay and ongoing operational costs” as a “key preference”.

“The initial cost and ongoing cost of doing business are critical decision drivers,” the company warns interested governments when asking for a detailed list of all incentives available, including “land, site preparation, tax credits/exemptions, relocation grants, workforce grants, utility incentives/grants, permitting, and fee reductions”.

The practice of offering hefty financial incentives to woo big employers to a specific location is widespread, but has come under increasing criticism in recent years. In July, the state of Wisconsin offered a reported $3bn in state subsidies to Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn to entice the firm to build an LCD manufacturing facility. But critics noted that the deal would only bring 3,000 jobs in the short term, potentially rising to 13,000 over the following six years.

Jennifer Shilling, a Democratic Wisconsin state senator, said in July of Foxconn: “The bottom line is this company has a concerning track record of big announcements with little follow-through. Given the lack of details, I’m skeptical about this announcement and we will have to see if there is a legislative appetite for a $1bn-to-$3bn corporate welfare package.”

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New Therapy Could Protect Diabetic Bones

A drug that can reverse diabetes and obesity in mice may have an unexpected benefit: strengthening bones. Experiments with a compound called TNP (2,4,6-trinitrophenol, which is also known as picric acid), which researchers often use to study obesity and diabetes, show that in mice the therapy can promote the formation of new bone. That’s in contrast to many diabetes drugs currently in wide use that leave patients’ bones weaker. If TNP has similar effects in humans, it may even be able to stimulate bone growth after fractures or prevent bone loss due to aging or disuse.

As more and more patients successfully manage diabetes with drugs that increase their insulin sensitivity, doctors and researchers have observed a serious problem: The drugs seem to decrease the activity of cells that produce bone, leaving patients prone to fractures and osteoporosis.

“There are millions and millions of people that have osteoporosis [with or without diabetes], and it’s not something we can cure,” says Sean Morrison, a stem cell researcher at University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas. “We need new agents that promote bone formation.”

Morrison and his colleagues have shown that a high-fat diet causes mice to develop bones that contain more fat and less bone. The diet increased the levels of leptin—a hormone produced by fat cells that usually signals satiety in the brain—in the bone marrow, which promoted the development of fat cells instead of bone cells. That suggests that nutrition has a direct effect on the balance of bone and fat in the bone marrow.

After reading Morrison’s work, Siddaraju Boregowda, a stem cell researcher at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, was reminded of genetically altered mice that don’t gain body fat or develop diabetes, even when fed high-fat diets. He and his boss, stem cell researcher Donald Phinney, wondered whether those mice were also protected from the fattening of the bone marrow that accompanies a high-fat diet.

They contacted Anutosh Chakraborty, a molecular biologist who was studying such mice down the hall at Scripps at the time. The animals lack the gene for an enzyme called inositol hexakisphosphate kinase 1 (IP6K1), which is known to play a role in fat accumulation and insulin sensitivity. The scientists suspected that the lost enzyme might affect the animals’ mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)—stem cells found in the bone marrow that are capable of developing into both the bone cells and fat cells that make up our skeletons. If too many fat cells develop, they take the place of bone cells, weakening the bone.

The researchers fed genetically altered and normal mice a high-fat diet for 8 weeks. Not only did the genetically altered mice develop fewer fat cells than their normal counterparts, but their production of bone cells was higher than that of the normal mice, the team reported last month in Stem Cells.

The scientists then set out to see whether they could use a drug to achieve the same effect in normal mice. For 8 weeks, they fed normal mice a high-fat diet and gave them daily injections of either TNP, a well-known IP6K1 inhibitor, or a placebo. When they analyzed the animals’ bones and marrow, they found that mice that had received TNP had significantly more bone cells, fewer fat cells, and greater overall bone area. The IP6K1 inhibitor apparently protected the mice from the detrimental effects of the high-fat diet.

The study “provided the surprising result that one new therapy currently being explored to lower insulin resistance promotes, rather than decreases, the formation of bone in mice,” says Darwin Prockop, a stem cell researcher at Texas A&M College of Medicine in Temple, who was not involved in the work.

The researchers still need to figure out how to deliver TNP’s effects only to MSCs, instead of the entire body, given that it sometimes blocks other enzymes along with IP6K1. Inhibition of IP6K1 is a promising target for patients with both diabetes and obesity, Boregowda says. He says he and his colleagues are now enthusiastic about testing their findings in a wide range of bone-related diseases and disorders. It might even help heal broken bones, he speculates.

Phinney, on the other hand, is aiming even higher. He wonders whether the therapy could also be useful for space travel, because bones are especially vulnerable to deterioration in zero gravity. “It’s a whole new field of science and drug discovery.”

Scientists Find Evidence Of New Type Of Black Hole Hiding In Our Own Galaxy

Scientists have known for a while that big and small black holes exist. The largest, supermassive black holes, lurk at the center of galaxies, while small black holes result from the collapse of huge stars. But if there’s big black holes and small black holes, there’s got to be something in between, right? Researchers have long assumed so, but lacked much in the way of evidence. Now, a team led by Tomoharu Oka of Keio University in Japan believes it has found some solid data to back up a theory that a mid-sized black hole is actually hanging out in our own home galaxy.

The research, which was published in Nature, was prompted by observations made with the 45-meter Nobeyama radio telescope in Japan. The researchers spotted what appeared to be a huge cloud of gas behaving oddly in the interior of the Milky Way. Areas of the gas were moving extremely fast, and it hinted that an extremely massive object was nearby. The team then enlisted the help of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, which helped add detail to their previous observations.

Advanced computer models of the gas cloud further flesh out the hypothesis that an intermediate-sized black hole is residing close to the center of our galaxy. Radio waves similar but fainter than those believed to be produced by the supermassive black hole seated in the center of the Milky Way were also detected coming from the spot where the massive object is thought to be, further supporting the theory.

But if there really is a large (but not supermassive) black hole hiding in our galaxy, it must have come from somewhere. Finding out where it originated is much more difficult, but the team believes it could have been the core of a dwarf galaxy that the Milky Way swallowed at some point in its history. This “galaxy cannibalism” would help explain the growth of large galaxies, though it would need to be supporter through further research.

Apple: Expect A Radical iPhone Redesign For Its 10th Anniversary


Apple will hold a press event on 12 September to unveil its much anticipated new iPhones, which are expected to introduce a whole new design and set the tone for the next few years.

Unlike previous years, much is known about at least one of the new iPhones thanks to a large software leak from Apple that revealed several of its key details. But new smartphones are not the only new thing Apple is expected to announce, with the event taking place in the just-built Apple Park and its Steve Jobs Theatre.

Apple Park

Known externally as Apple’s “spaceship”, Apple Park is the firm’s new headquarters in Cupertino, California, built to house its growing workforce in a giant, four-storey ring surrounded by manicured woodland. The multi-billion-dollar construction was designed by Norman Foster with Apple’s Jony Ive and is meant to be part of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ legacy.

The event will be the first time non-Apple personnel will be allowed on the grounds in any number, giving the world a glimpse of the latest hallowed halls of big US technology.

‘D22’ iPhone – iPhone 8/Pro/X

Apple is expected to announce a new design for at least one of its iPhones for 2017. While the details on the naming of the device codenamed “D22” are sketchy – it could be called the iPhone 8, iPhone Pro, or perhaps the iPhone X if it is named after the Apple smartphone’s 10th anniversary – a leak from Apple of the HomePod software revealed much about its design and features.

The biggest change is a new all-screen design, similar to that produced by Samsung for the Galaxy S8 and Note 8, and LG for the G6 and V30. Apple is expected to do away with the traditional home button on the front, with the screen extending to the edges at the top, bottom and sides of the device, with much slimmer bezels.

The top of the device is expected to have a cutout in the screen for the earpiece speaker, selfie camera and sensors, similar to that of Android-founder Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone.

Lacking a home button on the front of the iPhone also means no Touch ID fingerprint scanner on the front. While Apple was hoping, like Samsung, to have an under-screen fingerprint scanner, neither company appears to have been able to get the technology to work for this generation. It is unlikely the iPhone 8 will have such an advancement.

Instead, Apple is expected to rely on infrared facial recognition as its primary biometric system for the iPhone 8, which will be capable of recognising a user, unlocking the device and authenticating payments. Leaks also point to the phone being able to tell when a user is looking at it and automatically silencing notifications.

Samsung’s “smart stay” system uses a front-facing camera to tell when a user is looking at their smartphone to keep the screen lit when actively being used but not touched.

Apple is also expected to integrate more advanced systems for its camera, including augmented reality and further enhancement of its computation photography system, which combines the images from multiple cameras on the back into one photo.

The new iPhone may also include wireless charging for the first time, a feature common on rivals from Samsung and others that allows users to charge their smartphones inductively on small plates or mats, which can be built into furniture.

iPhone 7S

Alongside the new iPhone 8, Apple is also expected to update its iPhone 7 line of devices, possibly called the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus, in line with previous iterations of the iPhone.

These updates, if they happen, are expected be minor improvements, with some new features given by software updates.

Apple Watch

Apple’s smartwatch, the Apple Watch, is also expected to receive updates. Rumours suggest that a new version of the Apple Watch could include 4G cellular connectivity, making it capable of accessing the internet without being connected to an iPhone or wifi.

The Apple Watch is the current market leader of smartwatches, which as a category is starting to eat into traditional wearables such as basic fitness trackers, according to the latest data from analysts IDC. Shipments of the Apple Watch were up nearly 50% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2017 with 3.4m units, giving Apple a 13% share of the total wearables market.

4K Apple TV

According to several reports, the company could also upgrade its Apple TV smart TV box to support 4K video and HDR, the two new technologies currently permeating the television market.

The Apple TV was last updated in 2015 adding support for the App Store and a new touch-controlled remote.

 

How Solar Eclipses Illuminate The Marvel Of Science

ON MONDAY, AUGUST 21, 2017, the world will go under, or so it might well feel like if you position yourself along a 70-mile-wide swath of the US from South Carolina to Oregon. From here you can witness the moon move in front of the sun in the middle of the day and darken the skies above you. A total solar eclipse is a spectacular event that has struck fear into people throughout history, and at the same time has enlightened us in our quest to understand the cosmos. Our ability to predict this year’s event with such specificity is thanks to scientific inquiries dating back thousands of years.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus tells us that as the Medes and Lydians were fighting by the Halys River, day suddenly turned to night. They took it as a sign that the gods were angry, ceased their fighting, and thus peace was restored to the troubled region. Strikingly, Herodotus goes on to say that the star-gazing thinker Thales of Miletus had foretold of the phenomena. This is the first known account of an accurate prediction of a solar eclipse, and the first historical event that we can date back to a specific day: May 28, 585 BC. More importantly, the story hints at how Thales broke with mythological thinking and began to recognize nature as a series of immutable constants that the human intellect can hope to uncover, as opposed to a consequence of the unpredictable mood swings of gods.

The Greeks believed that Thales had foretold of an eclipse, at least to within the year that it happened. They must have been inspired by the prediction when they built on his ideas about a rationally ordered cosmos and created a new tradition of philosophical and scientific thinking. However, it was not until more than 2,000 years later, in the early 18th century, that the first precise prediction of a solar eclipse was made by astronomer Edmund Halley. Using Isaac Newton’s revolutionary theory of universal gravitation, Halley estimated an eclipse to within four minutes. In what was likely the most widely distributed broadside in England up to its time, Halley announced his finding publicly in 1715, shortly before the eclipse on May 3. He proclaimed the successes of science, and advised that rather than seeing the eclipse as something ominous, portending evil, “hereby they will see that there is nothing in it more than natural, and no more than the necessary result of the motions of the sun and moon”.

The connection between the development of scientific thinking and solar eclipses was further strengthened when Albert Einstein expanded on Newtonian physics by stating that gravity should not be understood as the sun pulling objects toward it. Rather, he theorized, the sun literally bends the curvature of space like a heavy object on a trampoline, and this causes things to fall toward it. If correct, he reasoned, the light from distant stars that pass by our sun will be bent twice as much as Newtonian physics had earlier predicted. To test Einstein’s theory, astronomer Sir Edmund Ellington and his team put up cameras in advance of a total solar eclipse on May 29, 1919. That way, they could see the light from distant stars that passed by close to the sun without the interference of the sun’s own bright light.

After spending six months evaluating their data from the solar eclipse, Ellington’s findings were published in The New York Times. From there the news went around the world that Einstein’s strange theory of general relativity had been proven correct. Almost overnight, Einstein became a household name.

The forthcoming American eclipse is unlikely to stand out in our collective memory as a symbol of scientific evolution and ingenuity the way the eclipses of 585 BC, 1715, and 1919 have. But next week’s event represents more than mere spectacle and media hype. More data will be collected from this eclipse than from any previous one in history, enabling us to better analyze such things as the sun’s upper atmosphere, or corona, which is visible only during a solar eclipse, and perhaps find clues as to why the corona is 300 times hotter than the surface of the sun. Next week’s eclipse can also help us to better predict space weather in order to protect astronauts and satellites.

It is one of the most formidable testaments to the marvel and achievement of science that we can predict with great confidence, and with accuracy measured in seconds, that such an awe-inspiring phenomenon as a total solar eclipse will happen on August 21, 2017—whether the gods are angry on that particular day or not.

Trees In The Amazon Make Their Own Rain

The Amazon rainforest is home to strange weather. One peculiarity is that rains begin 2 to 3 months before seasonal winds start to bring in moist air from the ocean. Now, researchers say they have finally figured out where this early moisture comes from: the trees themselves.

The study provides concrete data for something scientists had theorized for a long time, says Michael Keller, a forest ecologist and research scientist for the U.S. Forest Service based in Pasadena, California, who was not involved with the work. The evidence the team provides, he says, is “the smoking gun.”

Previous research showed early accumulation of moisture in the atmosphere over the Amazon, but scientists weren’t sure why. “All you can see is the water vapor, but you don’t know where it comes from,” says Rong Fu, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. Satellite data showed that the increase coincided with a “greening” of the rainforest, or an increase in fresh leaves, leading researchers to suspect the moisture might be water vapor released during photosynthesis. In a process called transpiration, plants release water vapor from small pores on the underside of their leaves.

Fu thought it was possible that plants were releasing enough moisture to build low-level clouds over the Amazon. But she needed to explicitly connect the moisture to the tropical forest.

So Fu and her colleagues observed water vapor over the Amazon with NASA’s Aura satellite, a spacecraft dedicated to studying the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere. Moisture that evaporates from the ocean tends to be lighter than water vapor released into the atmosphere by plants. That’s because during evaporation, water molecules containing deuterium, a heavy isotope of hydrogen made of one proton and one neutron, get left behind in the ocean. By contrast, in transpiration, plants simply suck water out of the soil and push it into the air without changing its isotopic composition.

Aura found that the early moisture accumulating over the rainforest was high in deuterium—“too high to be explained by water vapor from the ocean,” Fu says. What’s more, the deuterium content was highest at the end of the Amazon’s dry season, during the “greening” period when photosynthesis was strongest.

The tree-induced rain clouds could have other domino effects on the weather. As those clouds release rain, they warm the atmosphere, causing air to rise and triggering circulation. Fu and colleagues believe that this circulation is large enough that it triggers the shift in wind patterns that will bring in more moisture from the ocean, they report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists have studied the connection between trees and rain in the Amazon before. A 2012 study found that plants help “seed” the atmosphere for rain by releasing tiny salt particles. But the new study strongly supports the idea that plants play an important role in triggering the rainy season, says Scott Saleska, an ecologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, who was not involved with the work. The deuterium provides a clear “fingerprint” for what plants contribute to the process, he says.

The findings also address a long-standing debate about the role plants play in weather, says Saleska, suggesting that they are more than just “passive recipients,” and that they instead can play an active role in regulating rainfall. If that’s true in the Amazon, Saleska says, climate scientists will need to take into account practices like deforestation when predicting regional changes in weather patterns. And curbing deforestation will be an important step for people to take in preventing drought.

Next, Fu will be studying rainforests in the Congo, to see whether the same process is happening.

International Technology Bank to launch operations this year

The International Technology Bank, which aims to strengthen science, technology and innovation capacities in the least developed countries, will launch operations this year in Turkey, Science, Industry and Technology Minister Faruk Özlü said. Özlü said that a United Nations delegation has come to Turkey to evaluate preparations of the International Technology Bank site to be established in Gebze.

Explaining that a host country agreement between Turkey and the U.N. will be prepared and signed, Özlü said that following the signing, employees and office space in Gebze will be determined and the International Technology Bank will launch operations this year.

Özlü told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the International Technology Bank in Turkey is being established under the leadership of the U.N. in coordination with the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBİTAK).

Recalling that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan previously announced a commitment package at the United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries in 2011 when he was still prime minister, Özlü said that one of the commitments in science and technology fields in the country is the establishment of an international hub that will take over the role of the technology bank for least developed countries.

Özlü said that a high-level expert panel was set up to provide consultancy and suggestions during the establishment process of the bank and that evaluation conferences were held. Recalling that the proposals for the operation and structuring of bank were presented and that it was recommended the bank be established in Turkey during the meetings, Özlü said that it was decided at the 70th U.N. General Assembly that the International Technology Bank be established in Gebze.

Bank employees to be determinedÖzlü said that the U.N. delegation visited the Science, Industry and Technology Ministry, adding that the issues of the host country agreement as well as financial, aid in kind agreement were discussed.

Özlü pointed out that the U.N. delegation will go to the U.S. after Turkey, adding that the host country agreement between Turkey and the U.N. will be prepared and signed afterward. “The signing is expected to be held this month. After the signing, office space and employees in Gebze will be determined and this year the International Technology Bank will launch its activities,” Özlü said.

Stressing that Turkey has pledged its full support for the International Technology Bank project, Özlü said that financing is voluntary, informing that the donor country, Turkey, will provide financial support of $2 million annually for the first five years and that following the establishment, many U.N. member countries, as well as world-famous technology companies, are expected to support the bank.

Özlü underlined that when the International Technology Bank commences operations, need analysis will be carried out for the least developed countries and service will be provided in line with the shortcomings. Indicating that the countries will be given training and support on the establishment of governance mechanisms and the development and implementation of science and technology policies, Özlü added that they wish Turkey to contribute to the efforts in reducing income disparities in the world and the great differences in development levels.