A SpaceX rocket launched a new American-European satellite that will monitor global sea levels and help our understanding of climate change. While its primary goal is monitoring Earth’s oceans and sea level rise, the spacecraft also carries sensitive equipment that can track hurricanes and provide data that will improve weather forecasts and climate models on Earth. It is the first of two twin satellites with the same mission. The second is set to launch in 2025. “The satellite will map 95% of Earth’s ice-free ocean every 10 days and provide crucial information for operational oceanography and climate studies.”
Researchers say they’ve created sarcasm detection AI that achieved state-of-the-art performance on a dataset drawn from Twitter. The AI uses multimodal learning that combines text and imagery since both are often needed to understand whether a person is being sarcastic. The researchers argue that sarcasm detection can assist with sentiment analysis and crowdsourced understanding of public attitudes about a particular subject. The researchers’ AI focuses on differences between text and imagery and then combines those results to make predictions. It also compares hashtags to tweet text to help assess the sentiment a user is trying to convey.
Researchers have developed a wound-healing biomaterial for cuts, burns and other injuries that could significantly reduce scar formation and result in healthier, stronger skin. The advance builds on wound-healing gels made of injectable microporous annealed particles, or MAPs. As the gel gradually dissolves, however, it loses the scaffolding support needed for the tissue to repair fully. The researchers switched the type of amino acid they used to link the molecules in the gel. They found that the modified gel disappeared from the wound even more quickly than before but resulted in far less scarring and far better skin regeneration.
Researchers have discovered that new green materials currently being developed for next-generation solar panels could be useful for indoor light harvesting. The team found that perovskite-inspired materials are much more effective at absorbing indoor light with efficiencies that are promising for commercial applications. Crucially, the researchers demonstrated that the power provided by these materials under indoor illumination is already sufficient to operate electronic circuits. “Our discovery opens up a whole new direction in the search for green, easy-to-make materials to sustainably power our smart devices.”
Tax abuse by multinational companies and avoidance by rich individuals is costing countries $427bn a year in lost revenues, according to a study. The Tax Justice Network said its report revealed for the first time the extent of the resources being lost. The TJN’s state of tax justice 2020 report says more than half the losses – $245bn – came from companies shifting $1.38tn of profits out of the countries where they were generated into tax havens, where corporate tax rates were low or nonexistent. Private individuals paid $182bn less tax than they should have by storing a total of more than $10tn in financial assets offshore.
Western Union, the world’s largest money transfer firm, has acquired a 15% stake in the digital payment unit of Saudi Arabia’s STC Group for $200 million. The acquisition values the company at $1.3 billion and will finance its capital and support long-term expansion plans. Chairman Mohammed bin Khalid Abdullah Al Faisal said the investment reflected the company’s position as a “digital enabler”. He said the deal created the first “Saudi unicorn and the first fintech unicorn in the Middle East”. Reducing dependence on cash is part of Saudi government efforts to modernise the economy of the world’s largest oil exporter.
An ancient Islamic necropolis containing over 4,500 bodies has been uncovered in northeastern Spain, with archaeologists excavating more than 400 tombs in the five-acre site. The tombs were discovered in an 8th-century burial ground in the town of Tauste in Aragon. DNA studies and carbon dating place remains between the 8th and 11th centuries. All of the skeletons had been buried according to Islamic customs, positioned to the right and facing southeast toward Mecca. Experts believe the discovery will challenge previous assumptions about Muslim settlements in the area.
The iconic Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico is to be dismantled amid safety fears. A review found that the 305m telescope was at risk of catastrophic collapse, following damage to its support system. It concluded that the huge structure could not be repaired without posing a potentially deadly risk to construction workers. The foundation will now focus on decommissioning the giant structure, which is surrounded by forest in the western half of the island. The telescope has been a key scientific resource for radio astronomers for 57 years.