Cringeworthy Cats trailer reminds us were not out of the Uncanny Valley

first_imgJust when it seemed like Hollywood had found the right formula for blending live-action performances with computer-generated characters, the trailer for Cats comes along and makes all of that success feel like a distant … wait for it … memory.The first preview of director Tom Hooper’s theatrical spin on the insanely popular Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical generated no small amount of buzz when it debuted this week, and very little of what was being said was kind.The trailer features an all-star cast including Dame Judi Dench, James Corden, Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, and various other high-profile stars singing, dancing, and generally doing all the things one would expect from a movie based on a musical stage production — except that they do so beneath a heavy mix of CG effects and makeup that gives them a freaky feline appearance. That they’re also performing within a comically oversized human world adds another layer of off-putting digital lacquer to the on-screen antics, with familiar faces peering out from hair-covered, whisker-twitching, still-quite-humanoid bodies frolicking amid gigantic furniture.Basically, it’s kind of a furry mess.It’s also a bit of a bummer, given how great movie audiences have had it in recent years.Recent films like Alita: Battle Angel and many of the Star Wars and Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have given us CG characters that seamlessly blend human performances with digital artistry, to the point where it’s difficult to tell where the acting ends and technology takes over. They’ve put human faces on robot bodies, brought deceased actors back to cinematic life, and given a sentient tree and a talking raccoon a level of emotional depth that would have seemed impossible a decade ago.So what went wrong with Cats?Universal Pictures struck gold with Hooper’s 2012 adaptation of Les Misérables, so it makes sense that the studio would attempt to replicate that formula by bringing another enduring stage musical to the screen under his direction. Unlike the historical foundation that Les Misérables and its visual elements are built on, however, Cats has always been firmly set in a world of flexible fantasy, full of elaborate costumes, that relies heavily on the suspension of disbelief.The stage musical asks its audience to believe the actors on stage are cats without going all-in on turning them into actual felines. They wear makeup whiskers and fur coats and play dress-up with a Broadway-level costume budget, but there’s an unspoken agreement between the audience and cast that no one is going to look too closely or judge their perceived cat-ness too harshly.In the movie world, however, CG effects strive for realism. The effectiveness of CG artists’ work is often measured by how little we’re aware of their contributions. The inability to determine what was filmed in-camera and what was digitally created is a sign of success, and even a sentient tree is expected to feel — to the movie’s audience, at least — like it’s perfectly natural for it to be interacting with human characters.And therein lies the problem when it comes to bringing the wink-and-nod fantasy of Cats to life in the modern, CG-driven cinematic environment.The concept of the “Uncanny Valley” suggests that the more human we attempt to make an artificial creation look, the more uncomfortable we become. Getting past that Uncanny Valley to the point where computer-generated characters could hold their own on the screen with human actors was a relatively recent achievement for visual effects artists.A look at the Cats trailer suggests that plenty of time, money, and artistry was invested in bringing the feline characters to life — particularly when it comes to their hair. Hair and animal fur is a notoriously tricky element to create authentically with CG effects. Its imperfections and unpredictable growing patterns make anything that’s too uniform look unnatural — particularly on a body covered with it.The human face is a similarly tricky element to replicate digitally, with skin tone, shadows, blemishes, and yes, human hair, all combining to make faux-faces a tough sell to audiences — particularly on massive screens that amplify any digital shortcomings.Both the CG fur and the human faces in the Cats trailer look good, and that might be part of the problem.Whether you’re a fan or not, realism has never been part of the deal in the Cats stage musical. The production, which ostensibly follows a group of cats who must decide which of their number is given the chance at reincarnation, has always been more about the catchy songs and memorable dance numbers than the implications of their feline existence. We’re told these human actors in fur and makeup are supposed to be cats and we just go along with it.That unspoken agreement gets tossed out when the film offers a host of real-world cat-folk, though, and the audience is left to deal with a disturbing world of actual, humanoid cats doing (sort of) what cats do (and singing a lot, too).Instead of talented actors doing what they do best, we have human-cat hybrids romping around with those actors’ faces, and it somehow manages to feel both a little too real and a little too off.When the film’s CG effects blur the barrier between human actor and cat-like humanoid hybrid, the implied suspension of disbelief that came with the stage costumes and makeup is gone, and what we’re left with is, well … the visual equivalent of the sound a cat makes when you step on its tail.It’s not a nice look (or sound), certainly — and serves up a powerful reminder of how easily we can be plunged back into the valley.The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends. Editors’ Recommendations Top Gun: Maverick: Everything we know about the movie so far Neuroscientists discover the part of the brain behind the uncanny valley effect Terminator: Dark Fate: Everything we know about the new movie so far Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker: Everything we know so far Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker movie: Here’s everything we know so farlast_img read more

Truvada Gains FDA Approval As HIV Preventive

first_imgTruvada Gains FDA Approval As HIV Preventive This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. The daily pill is the first aimed at reducing the risk of contracting HIV in healthy people who are at high risk of contracting AIDS. It will have a boxed warning that it should be used only by people whose HIV-negative status is confirmed prior to prescription and at least every three months after.NPR: Deciding On Truvada: Who Should Take New HIV Prevention PillThere’s something new to prevent HIV infections. The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved a one-a-day pill that can drastically lower a person’s risk of getting the AIDS virus. It’s called Truvada — the first HIV prevention pill (Knox, 7/17).Bloomberg: Gilead Wins U.S. Approval For First HIV Prevention PillGilead Sciences Inc. (GILD) won U.S. approval to market its HIV treatment Truvada to prevent the virus that causes AIDS in healthy people who are at high-risk of contracting the disease. The daily drug is the first aimed at reducing the risk of HIV in uninfected people as part of a strategy that includes other prevention methods such as safe sex practices, risk reduction counseling and regular HIV testing, the Food and Drug Administration said today in a statement. Truvada will carry a boxed warning to physicians and patients that the drug should only be used by those confirmed HIV-negative prior to prescribing the drug and at least every three months during use (Edney, 7/16).San Francisco Chronicle: FDA Approves Truvada As HIV PreventiveThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the marketing of the first drug shown to curb the transmission of the HIV virus, a development heralded by AIDS advocates and physicians as a turning point in the battle against the decades-long epidemic. Truvada, made by Gilead Sciences in Foster City, was approved in 2004 to treat people already infected with HIV, but studies have shown the drug is also effective at reducing the risk of contracting the virus. “It’s a huge milestone that could change the course of the epidemic,” said Dr. Robert Grant, a UCSF professor and a researcher with the Gladstone Institute for Virology and Immunology who led one of the two studies on which the FDA approval was based (Colliver, 7/16).KQED:  FDA Approves First Drug To Help Prevent HIV InfectionThe Food and Drug Administration has approved Truvada, the first drug shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk of acquiring HIV, the virus that causes AIDS (Aliferis, 7/16).Medscape:  FDA Approves Drug To Prevent HIV InfectionThe US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today approved tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine (Truvada, Gilead) to reduce the risk for HIV infection in uninfected individuals at high risk of catching the virus, possibly through sexual activity, the agency announced.  The antiretroviral agent is now the first drug approved for prophylactic use. It is currently indicated — in combination with other antiretrovirals — to treat HIV-infected adults and children aged 12 years and older (Lowes, 7/16).The Associated Press: FDA Approves First Pill To Help Prevent HIVThe Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the first drug shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection, the latest milestone in the 30-year battle against the virus that causes AIDS. The agency approved Gilead Sciences’ pill Truvada as a preventive measure for healthy people who are at high risk of acquiring HIV through sexual activity, such as those who have HIV-infected partners. The decision comes less than two weeks after the agency approved another landmark product: the first over-the-counter HIV test that Americans can use in the privacy of their homes (Perrone, 7/16).last_img read more

Some Medicare Beneficiaries Have Trouble Getting Extended Nursing And Therapy Services

first_imgSome Medicare Beneficiaries Have Trouble Getting Extended Nursing And Therapy Services Under a 2012 court settlement, the Department of Health and Human Services agreed to relax rules that said seniors could get these services only if they continued to improve. But many providers are still unaware of the new regulations.Reuters:  New Medicare Coverage Of Long-Term Care Off To Rocky StartUnder the 2012 settlement of Jimmo v. Sebelius, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agreed to relax Medicare’s requirements for coverage of skilled nursing and therapy services in institutional or home care settings. Prior to the settlement, Medicare’s policy was to cover skilled nursing care only when patients had demonstrated medical potential to improve. Starting this year, the key criterion for coverage is a demonstrated need for skilled care — even if the patient isn’t expected to improve. … That should be good news for the Klaibers, a retired couple living in Marstons Mills, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. But Diane Klaiber instead finds herself embroiled in a coverage dispute with Robert’s healthcare provider that underscores the rough start for the new Medicare rules (Miller, 4/29). In other Medicare news -Modern Healthcare:  Health Centers In Line For Medicare Boost Under New Pay ModelMedicare will increase payments to federally qualified health centers by as much as 32% while scrapping the fee-for-service model for one that gives the facilities a bundled rate for each patient encounter. On Oct. 1 the CMS will begin transitioning some 8,900 FQHCs to a new prospective payment system under a final rule issued late Tuesday. The health centers get enhanced Medicare reimbursement for providing care to underserved populations. Some of them, however, are wary of the new payment system, which was called for in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Dickson, 4/29). USA Today: Some Chiropractors Making Big Medicare AdjustmentsMore than 36,000 chiropractors were paid nearly $500 million by the federal government in 2012, making chiropractors one of the largest groups of Medicare providers. And one chiropractor in Brooklyn topped the list, receiving more than $1 million that year alone. Alexander Khavash, who works in Brooklyn out of a rented office, received nearly twice the Medicare payments than any other practitioner in his field, according to data released this month by the Department of Health and Human Services (O’Donnell, Hoyer and Alcindor, 4/29). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.last_img read more

Peace Corps Inspector General Says Delayed Care Contributed To Volunteers Death

first_imgPeace Corps Inspector General Says Delayed Care Contributed To Volunteer’s Death The report calls for more thorough training for doctors and improved record-keeping. In a detailed examination of the death of Nick Castle, a 23-year-old volunteer who was the subject of an article in The New York Times in July, the Peace Corps inspector general cited “cascading delays and failures in the treatment” of Mr. Castle as a factor in the death …. More broadly, the report calls on the Peace Corps to make changes to its health care system, including giving its doctors more thorough training in gastrointestinal illnesses, the most common health complaint from volunteers. It also suggests the agency improve record-keeping. (Stolberg, 11/24) The New York Times: Report Faults Care Of Peace Corps Volunteer center_img This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.last_img read more

Lawmakers On Both Sides Dig In Heels Over Drastic Cuts To NIH

first_img The New York Times: Plan To Cut Funding For Biomedical Research Hits Opposition In Congress Former vice president Joe Biden on Monday blasted as “draconian” President Trump’s proposed cuts in funding for biomedical research, predicting that they would severely set back the budget of the National Institutes of Health, shutter labs across the United States and end promising scientific careers. Biden, in a speech to the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington, said the proposed spending reductions for fiscal 2018 are sending a message that the United States is willing to cede its leadership in scientific and technical affairs. (McGinley, 4/3) This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Biden said the proposed $5.8 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health would be a stunning blow to scientific progress. “This would set the NIH budget, and biomedical research, back 15 years — and that’s not hyperbole,” Biden said. “The chance of getting a grant would almost certainly reach an historic low.” (Keshavan, 4/3) The Washington Post: Biden Attacks Trump’s Proposed Cuts To Medical Research A proposal by President Trump to cut federal spending for biomedical research by 18 percent — just months after Congress approved bipartisan legislation to increase such spending — has run into a buzz saw on Capitol Hill, with Republicans and Democrats calling it misguided. “I’m extremely concerned about the potential impact of the 18 percent cut,” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma and chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for the National Institutes of Health. “This committee and certainly me, personally, will be very hesitant” to go along with the proposal, he added. (Pear, 4/3) Stat: Biden Decries ‘Draconian Cuts’ To NIH In Trump’s Proposed Budget Lawmakers On Both Sides Dig In Heels Over Drastic Cuts To NIH Funding “I’m extremely concerned about the potential impact of the 18 percent cut,” said Rep. Tom Cole, the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for the National Institutes of Health. Meanwhile, Rep. Nita Lowey, senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said the proposed cuts could have “catastrophic results” for patients and researchers. And former Vice President Joe Biden says cuts to research would be a stunning blow to progress —last_img read more

British Grand Prix 2019 Time TV schedule and free live stream details

first_img Show More Unlike other sites, we thoroughly review everything we recommend, using industry standard tests to evaluate products. We’ll always tell you what we find. We may get a commission if you buy via our price links.Tell us what you think – email the Editor We’d also like to send you special offers and news just by email from other carefully selected companies we think you might like. Your personal details will not be shared with those companies – we send the emails and you can unsubscribe at any time. Please tick here if you are happy to receive these messages.By submitting your information, you agree to the Terms & Conditions and Privacy & Cookies Policy. Sign up for the Mobile NewsletterSign Up Please keep me up to date with special offers and news from Goodtoknow and other brands operated by TI Media Limited via email. You can unsubscribe at any time. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. If you’re not a Sky customer, but desperately don’t want to miss this season’s opener, you can watch the action by picking up a NOW TV Sports Pass, which will set you back either £8.99 (for a Day Pass) or £14.99 (for a Week Pass). The Week Pass is obviously the best value for F1 fanatics, especially if you’re completely free on both Saturday and Sunday morning.Buy now: Now TV Sky Sports Day PassBuy now: Now TV Sky Sports Week Pass Exciting news − Mercedes are fallible! Even more exciting news − you can watch this weekend’s British Grand Prix for free! Welcome to our guide on how to watch all of the action at Silverstone, including channels and UK times for practice races, qualifying and, of course, the main event. Plus, how to live stream all of the action, no matter where in the world you are.Was the Austrian GP two weeks ago a key moment of the season? Anyone who isn’t affiliated with Mercedes will certainly be hoping so. For the first time this season, someone other than Lewis Hamilton or teammate Valtteri Bottas triumphed − though they weren’t wearing the red of Ferrari. Instead it was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.Sebastian Vettel didn’t even make the podium last time out, but the German should be boosted by the fact he was victorious at Silverstone last season, with Hamilton and Kimi Raikonnen joining him on the podium.The practice sessions were deliciously mixed. Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly was fastest in the first practice session, followed by Bottas, Verstappen and Hamilton. The second session was dominated by Mercedes, with Bottas fastest, and Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc just behind. Leclerc was fastest in the third practice session, just ahead of Vettel and Hamilton.Bottas is in pole position at Silverstone, having just edged Hamilton and Leclerc in qualifying.British Grand Prix Schedule – What time is the F1 on TV?The 10th stop on the 2019 Formula One world tour is Silverstone, with the main action taking place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You’ll be pleased to hear that there are no early morning starts this weekend.Here’s Sky Sports’ full British Grand Prix schedule (all times BST):Friday, July 129:30am − British GP Practice One build-up10am − British GP Practice One1:45pm − British GP Practice Two build-up2pm − British GP Practice TwoSaturday, July 1310:30am − British GP Practice Three build-up11am − British GP Practice Three1pm − British GP Qualifying build-up2pm − British GP QualifyingSunday, July 1412:30pm − British GP Pit Lane1:30pm − British GP On the Grid2:10pm − THE BRITISH GRAND PRIX4pm − British GP PaddockBritish Grand Prix – TV channel and live stream detailsSky now has exclusive rights to F1 in the UK, but this season’s British Grand Prix is also being shown by Channel 4. Sky is showing all of the events listed above, while Channel 4 is sticking to the key events − practice sessions, qualifying and the race itself.If you’re a Sky subscriber, you can tune in – in 4K, no less – on Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports F1 and Sky One. You can also tune in using the Sky Go mobile app, at no additional charge. Here are some quick-links to help you:Download now: Sky Go app for iOSDownload now: Sky Go app for AndroidThe first practice session is being shown live on Channel 4 from 9:55am on Friday. That’ll be followed by live coverage of the second practice session at 1:55pm on Saturday.On Saturday, coverage of the third practice session kicks off at 10:55am. That’ll be followed by live coverage of the qualifying session from 12:55pm.On race day, coverage begins at 12:55pm.You can also keep up with the action online through the All 4 website, and on your mobile with the All 4 app for both iOS and Android. Here are some more quick-links to help you:Watch: Channel 4 onlineDownload now: All 4 app for AndroidDownload now: All 4 app for iOSWorried that you might not be able to access Sky Go or All 4 where you live? A common workaround is to use a VPN – and our guide to the best VPNs is the obvious place to get started choosing the one that’s right for you.We’ve rounded up three of the best VPNs for streaming below: Best VPNs For StreamingExpressVPNNo.1 trusted VPN on the market, with unrestricted access to Netflix, HBO and iPlayer. Get 49% off on their one year subscription and receive a further three months completely free.Express VPN|Save 49%|£6.67/monthView Deal£6.67/month|Save 49%|Express VPNHotspot ShieldOne of the best overall VPN’s on the market, Hotspot Shield is the fastest VPN for streaming, browsing and security. Pay for one year now and save 77%.Hotspot Shield|Save 77%|£2.99/monthView Deal£2.99/month|Save 77%|Hotspot ShieldNordVPNNordVPN is one of the fastest and most secure VPN services with unlimited and private P2P. Pay for a 3 year subscription and save 75%.Nord VPN|Save 75%|£2.29/monthView Deal£2.29/month|Save 75%|Nord VPN Best Now TV Sky Sports DealNow TV – 9 Months of Sky SportsHow would you like like to save nearly a third off your Sky Sports subscription? Stream football, rugby and cricket to your hearts content, all while pocketing a swift £110 for your troubles.Now TV|Save £110.91|Now £195View DealNow £195|Save £110.91|Now TVlast_img read more

What to watch for in Lululemons first analyst day in five years

first_imgWhat to watch for in Lululemon’s first analyst day in five years — and why you should care Lululemon Athletica has given investors reasons to jump on board. Now it wants to give them reasons to stay Comment Lululemon 0 Comments Share this storyWhat to watch for in Lululemon’s first analyst day in five years — and why you should care Tumblr Pinterest Google+ LinkedIn Lululemon Athletica Inc. is expected to share its strategy for the next few years and disclose new financial targets on Wednesday.Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images April 23, 201911:22 AM EDT Filed under News Retail & Marketing More Recommended For YouShopify launches network of warehouses and shipping in U.S. to handle orders for independent merchantsMicrosoft beats on sales and profit on strength of cloud businessLoonie could hit US$0.80 before Bank of Canada crashes the partyThe storm is coming and investors need a financial ark to see them throughTrans Mountain construction work can go ahead as National Energy Board re-validates permits Lululemon Athletica Inc. has given investors reasons to jump on board. Now it wants to give them reasons to stay.The upscale yogawear maker is hosting its first analyst day since 2014 on Wednesday, when it’s expected to share its strategy for the next few years and disclose new financial targets. Key for investors will be how the Vancouver-based company plans to keep up momentum after reporting in March the fastest annual sales growth in six years and an upbeat outlook, which boosted the stock to a record last week. Here’s what to listen for during the event, which begins in New York at 9:30 a.m.: Lululemon soars to record high after delivering one of ‘strongest years ever’ We have to find a better way to grow the future Lululemons, BlackBerrys and Nortels: Joy Nott Lululemon’s full-time U.S. workers can now get three to six months of paid parental leave Sales vs MarginsMost analysts now see Lululemon on track to reach its current revenue goal — US$4 billion by 2020 — ahead of time. The forecast, which dates to 2016, will probably be eclipsed by a new 2023 target, they say.Bloomberg Intelligence’s Poonam Goyal sees a push into new markets, categories and fabrics, lifting sales to a potential US$6 billion. Nomura Instinet’s Simeon Siegel says revenue could climb to US$6.5 billion but likely at the expense of margins. Lululemon may soon reach a size where growth for companies selling directly to customers in North America requires larger marketing budgets, extensive footwear lines or branching into wholesale. Investors want to figure out what Lululemon “becomes ‘when it grows up,”‘ Siegel wrote in an April 17 note. “Is it the next Nike or simply one of the most productive retailers around,” Siegel wrote. “Our main questions focus on how large the opportunity is for revenues and margins, and whether the company is at a point where they will no longer be able to grow both.”New Shoppers, New ProductsLululemon has a loyal base of female customers, but the company describes the men’s market as one of its largest growth areas. The category is likely to reach a US$1 billion annual revenue target ahead of schedule. Male customers can already buy products as varied as boxers, running shorts or wind breakers. The company may share details on new product lines or partnerships following a capsule, or limited collection, with high-end e-commerce menswear site Mr. Porter.What Bloomberg Intelligence saysLululemon’s men’s market is likely to reach a $1 billion annual revenue target ahead of schedule.center_img Reddit Twitter Email Bloomberg News Sandrine Rastello “Momentum in the men’s activewear business has helped Lululemon gain market share, but success depends on the company’s ability to brand itself as a lifestyle name with superior product quality and fit.” — Poonam Goyal, senior retail analyst. Yoga is core to the company’s image but outfits now range from sport bras to casual dresses as it cashes in on the “athleisure” trend that blurs boundaries between gym and work clothes. Plans for its “office, travel, commute” collections and new fabrics will be of particular interest. Lululemon may also share more details about an Amazon Prime-like loyalty plan it’s been testing in Denver and Edmonton, Alberta, as well as a new line of post-workout toiletries including a deodorant and a dry shampoo.The World’s the LimitInternational sales will likely lead the next growth phase as Lululemon maxes out the number of stores in North America. So far, revenue from overseas, while growing quickly, accounts for just 11 per cent of the total, compared with an initial target for 20 per cent to 25 per cent by 2020. Chief executive Calvin McDonald, who joined in August and led Sephora’s international expansion in his previous job, has announced plans to open 25 to 30 stores in international markets this year and is accelerating openings in China. Questions on Wednesday will include investments needed on the distribution side, how the brand will be managed during the expansion and how receptive consumers in Asia and Europe have become to a more casual “Street to Studio” look, RBC’s Kate Fitzsimons wrote in a Monday note. Digital sales will be key to the expansion. A revamped website helped e-commerce thrive last year and analysts await guidance on the online strategy’s next steps.Bloomberg.com Facebook Join the conversation →last_img read more

Canadas big banks feel the pain from the stock markets swoon

first_imgCanada’s big banks feel the pain from the stock market’s swoon Market volatility in late 2018 hit banks across the board Geoff Zochodne Market volatility in late 2018 hit banks across the board.Canadian Press Reddit Investors weren’t the only ones who took a hit when North American stock markets swooned in late 2018: It seems Canada’s biggest banks felt the pain, too.On Thursday, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Toronto-Dominion Bank became the latest banks to note their financial results for the most recent quarter were negatively affected by the market turbulence.In particular, the volatility hurt revenue from the sale of bonds and shares, and also dampened some trading activity.The other members of the Big Five had also cited some form of market disruption in announcing their first-quarter results. Royal Bank of Canada’s CEO said in a release that there was “a challenging market backdrop,” while Bank of Nova Scotia’s said that “significant market volatility impacted some of our business lines.” Bank of Montreal’s CEO said in a release that “market-sensitive businesses were impacted by the challenging revenue environment.” CIBC reported earnings Thursday of nearly $1.2 billion for the three months ended Jan. 31, down 11 per cent from a year ago. Adjusted earnings per share were $3.01, below analyst expectations.“While we were met with some challenges this quarter, including a volatile market and isolated loan impairments, our core business continued to perform very well and in line with our strategy,” said Victor Dodig, president and chief executive officer of CIBC, during a conference call Thursday morning. Credit quality is deteriorating, and our banks are feeling the impact CIBC hikes dividend but declining profit misses expectations TD raises dividend, but profit rise misses expectations TD, meanwhile, said its first-quarter profit was $2.4 billion, up two per cent compared with the same three months last year. Adjusted earnings per share were $1.57, which also missed analyst estimates.“TD’s retail segments in both Canada and the U.S. had a strong start to the year, with continued revenue growth and solid earnings,” said TD president and CEO Bharat Masrani in a release. “However, market volatility and lower client activity impacted our wholesale segment in the quarter.”National Bank Financial analyst Gabriel Dechaine wrote that CIBC’s earnings miss was driven by “higher than expected” provisioning for credit losses, while TD’s was “primarily attributable” to lower trading and advisory revenues, in addition to greater provisions for credit losses.CIBC said its results were affected by a few items, such as $227 million to secure its place in Air Canada’s new loyalty program. It also said there was lower transaction volume in its Canadian wealth-management business, as well as less underwriting of debt and equity and lower investment portfolio gains from its capital-markets unit.“There was slower client activity, obviously, given the heightened volatility in … the equity and debt capital markets, and also in our bond-trading business,” said Harry Culham, the head of the bank’s capital-markets business, during the conference call. “But we’re very pleased with the diversification of our revenue across products, industry and geography, and we’re pretty confident this is going to continue forward.”Like CIBC, TD reported a charge tied to a loyalty agreement with Air Canada, which was $607 million.But TD’s wholesale business makes money from “corporate lending, advisory, underwriting, sales, trading and research, client securitization, trade finance, cash management, prime services, and trade execution services,” it says. The unit saw revenue fall $308 million for the quarter, to $582 million, and reported a loss of $17 million.“The volatility in rates, equity and credit markets resulted in a difficult trading environment, reduced client activity and a meaningful slowdown in debt and equity underwriting, particularly in Canada,” the bank said.TD runs a “lower-risk” securities dealer that is focused on fixed income, according to Riaz Ahmed, the bank’s chief financial officer.While the bank did not have any significant losses or write-downs on any given day, Ahmed said there were two effects from the volatility last year, which had been attributed to various concerns, including those around interest rates and global trade.“One is clients did remain on the sidelines,” Ahmed told the Financial Post in a phone interview. “That is, with so much volatility and uncertainty, they might have deferred and waited to make their decisions about their issuances or whatever. And on the other hand, because of the dislocations in the market, our trading margins compressed quite significantly.”Still, CIBC announced Thursday that it was hiking its quarterly dividend by four cents, to $1.40 per share. TD said it was increasing its dividend as well, by seven cents, to 74 cents per share.• Email: gzochodne@nationalpost.com | Twitter: Related Stories 0 Comments Twitter Join the conversation → Facebook Banking abroad boosts Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank as domestic market slips More Mortgage growth, the bread and butter of Canadian banks, has shrunk to 17-year low Featured Stories Sponsored By: Comment ‘They still don’t like you’: Why major Canadian banks remain cool to the red-hot cannabis sector Email February 28, 20195:15 PM EST Filed under News FP Street advertisement Share this storyCanada’s big banks feel the pain from the stock market’s swoon Tumblr Pinterest Google+ LinkedIn What you need to know about passing the family cottage to the next generation ← Previous Next →last_img read more

WatchWe have to find a better way to grow the future Lululemons

first_img KPMG trade partner Joy Nott tells Financial Post’s Larysa Harapyn that Ottawa needs to do something ‘substantial’ in next week’s budget to help Canada compete on the world stage. 4 Comments March 14, 201910:29 AM EDT Filed under News Economy Comment Reddit Email Facebook Join the conversation → More Larysa Harapyn Twitter We have to find a better way to grow the future Lululemons, BlackBerrys and Nortels: Joy Nott KPMG trade partner Joy Nott says Ottawa needs to do something ‘substantial’ in next week’s budget to help Canada compete on the world stage Share this storyWe have to find a better way to grow the future Lululemons, BlackBerrys and Nortels: Joy Nott Tumblr Pinterest Google+ LinkedIn last_img read more

Largest Private Bus Operator In Vancouver Goes Electric With BYD

Author Liberty Access TechnologiesPosted on October 11, 2018Categories Electric Vehicle News BYD Invests Millions To Up Production In U.S. BYD to Deliver First Electric Buses to Montreal and Longueuil Toronto Places Order For BYD Electric Buses Source: Electric Vehicle News BYD will supply electric buses to VancouverVancouver’s largest private bus operator, WESTCOAST Sightseeing, is committed to having a 100% clean-energy fleet by 2023.The entire fleet consists of 90 buses of various types (open top buses, double decks, singles and others) and BYD was contracted as the exclusive supplier for the transition to electric.“WESTCOAST Sightseeing will also work with city to develop charging infrastructure that will not only benefit WESTCOAST but many other companies that want to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and climate impact.”“The BYD battery-electric buses will make an immediate improvement to air quality and noise levels for the B.C. region. These buses alone will deliver a reduction in carbon emissions of some 4,500 Metric Tons of carbon emissions per year based on EPA standards.”“WESTCOAST Sightseeing recently added Electric Harbour tours to its line of sightseeing products, providing the first Harbor tour on a 100% electric boat in Vancouver.” So far, BYD invested more than $250 million in North America and delivered more than 270 electric buses (over 600 were sold/ordered), which means that over 300 need to be produced and delivered.Deliveries worldwide already exceed 35,000 (mostly in China).Rob Safrata, Chief Executive Officer of WESTCOAST Sightseeing said:“Our business is built around the natural beauty of our home and we are especially conscious of the impact our day-to-day operations has on the environment. We are proudly working towards a greener and more sustainable future. And adding electric buses and boats is the first step to achieve our goal in 2023 of becoming the first Sightseeing firm in Canada with 100% electric vehicles.”BYD Canada’s Vice President Ted Dowling said:“CEO Rob Safrata has long held a clean energy vision and we are excited to be working with him. This aligns perfectly with the recent announcement by British Columbia Premier John Horgan for the need to find other ways to reduce emissions.” BYD buses in North America read more

Rivian R1T Pickup Truck R1S Hit The Powder At 11000 Feet Video

first_img Author Liberty Access TechnologiesPosted on February 22, 2019Categories Electric Vehicle News See Rivian R1T Electric Pickup Truck Up Close In New Video Rivian Pricing: Think GMC Denali, Chevy Suburban, Loaded Ford F-150 At home in the mountains.The Rivian R1T electric truck and R1S electric SUV ventured out into the backcountry for a joyous ride.Without a set script, it was quite simply a let’s see what’s out there type of drive.More Rivian Truck & SUV News Rivian R1T EV Pickup Truck Range Exceeds 400 Miles: Here’s How Source: Electric Vehicle News Well, at 11,000 feet above sea level in the middle of winter, you can expect to encounter snow. Lots of it, in fact. And that’s precisely what was found. Powder for days, says Rivian.The video is actually the conclusion of what began as an adventure out to Aspen, Colorado where both the R1T and R1S were displayed. Later, both of the adventure vehicles headed off on a journey, with Rivian dropping hints here and there of what was to come.Well, the hints have now ended and this stunning clip is the end result. So, go ahead and watch it. It’s quite amazing.Video description:This past January, we made a short film. There was no script, no set, no actors. Just mountains as far as the eye could see, powder for days and the hut of our dreams, luring us 11,000 feet up above sea level. We invited Ben Moon to bring a few friends, some cameras and several underlayers, and we filmed the magic that ensued as we headed off the grid, into the backcountry, in the R1T and R1S.last_img read more

Crazy idea make a nationwide license for ebikes escooters and emotorcycles up

first_imgSource: Charge Forward https://youtu.be/a80dwn_R-mcThe post Crazy idea: make a nationwide license for e-bikes, e-scooters, and e-motorcycles up to 45 mph appeared first on Electrek. While many people think of electric bicycles as purely recreational, they have proven themselves as potent commuter vehicles. Not only do e-bike riders often outpace traffic, but they reduce everyone’s wait by taking cars off crowded urban streets.When you add in electric motorcycles and electric scooters or e-mopeds, the results are even more impressive. But varied and often antagonistic laws across the US can make it harder for urban commuters to switch to two-wheeled EVs.What if there was a nationwide class for these vehicles and a special license to make riding them safer and more convenient, while also reducing traffic for everyone? That’s what I’m proposing, and this is how I think it could work. more…Subscribe to Electrek on YouTube for exclusive videos and subscribe the podcast.last_img read more

New eufy Lumos smart LED light bulbs see first price drop plus

first_imghttps://youtu.be/a80dwn_R-mcThe post New eufy Lumos smart LED light bulbs see first price drop, plus deals on smart plugs, more appeared first on Electrek. This week Anker unveiled its second generation eufy Lumos LED Smart Bulb 2.0, and it’s now on sale for $12.79 Prime shipped when promo code EUFYBULB1 is applied during checkout. That’s good for $3 off the regular going rate and the first discount we’ve tracked. This is the soft white model, but if you’re interested in tunable colors the upgraded model is available for $15.99 with code EUFYBULB2. That’s down 20% from the regular going rate and also the first discount we’ve tracked. Without a required hub, this is one of the more compelling options out there if you’re looking to cash in on LED energy savings and bring smart home control to the mix. Eufy’s line of products has solid ratings across the board. Head below for more deals. more…Subscribe to Electrek on YouTube for exclusive videos and subscribe the podcast. Source: Charge Forwardlast_img read more

Friday Roundup

first_imgMaking a difference, to FCPA Inc., and scrutiny alert.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.Making a DifferenceIn running this website, I sometimes feel like the captain of a small ship on a wide vast ocean.  My metrics tell me that many people are reading, but is the content on FCPA Professor making a difference?  Many people have told me that it is and I could cite several examples such as the most recent one.On April 2nd, FCPA Professor published this post about the recent decision from the W.D. of Ark. in the Wal-Mart FCPA-related derivative actions.  The post highlighted two errors in the court’s decision.“In a footnote, Judge Hickey’s order states: “The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits United States companies from bribing foreign officials to secure improper business advantage.”This is an inaccurate statement of law.Rather, the FCPA contains an “obtain or retain business” element that must be proved.  Indeed, the DOJ’s position that the FCPA captures payments to “secure an improper business advantage” wholly apart from the “obtain or retain business” element has been specifically rejected by courts. (See here for the prior post).The inaccurate statement of law in the order is perhaps not surprising given that the Judge referred to the FCPA as the “Federal Corrupt Practices Act.”I am happy to see that a day later, on April 3rd, the court issued an amended order to “reflect the correction of minor typographical errors.”The above referenced footnote (and its substance) no longer appear in the decision and reference to the “Federal” Corrupt Practices Act has been removed. To FCPA Inc.It happens so often it is difficult to keep track of, but I try my best.Earlier this week, Morrison & Foerster announced:“James Koukios, who served in the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), most recently as Senior Deputy Chief, has joined the firm’s Washington, D.C. office as a partner in the Securities Litigation, Enforcement & White-Collar Criminal Defense Practice Group.Mr. Koukios is the second high-ranking DOJ prosecutor to join MoFo in the past year, following the 2014 arrival of former Fraud Section Deputy Chief Charles Duross, who served as head of the DOJ’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Unit. In his most recent position, Mr. Koukios oversaw the FCPA, Health Care Fraud, and Securities and Financial Fraud Units. With the addition of Mr. Koukios, who previously served as an Assistant Chief in the FCPA Unit and tried two of the most significant FCPA cases in the past decade, MoFo is the only law firm in the world with two former FCPA Unit managers.[…]During his tenure at DOJ, Mr. Koukios worked with domestic and foreign law enforcement authorities around the globe. He tried nearly two dozen jury cases, serving as a lead trial attorney in two landmark FCPA-enforcement trials: Esquenazi and Duperval.”Not to dissect the MoFo press release too much, but the Duperval case was not an “FCPA-enforcement” trial. Rather, it was a non-FCPA case against the alleged “foreign official” in the Esquenazi case and directly related to the Esquenazi case.Scrutiny AlertThe Wall Street reports on a bribery probe separate and distinct from the ongoing Petrobras probe.  According to the article:“Prosecutors said 74 companies and 24 individuals are under investigation. None have been named publicly and no charges have been filed. But a leading investigator on the case said companies under investigation include Ford Motor Brazil, a unit of Ford Motor Co.; JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, the Brazilian unit of the Spanish bank Banco Santander SA; and Brazil’s second largest private-sector bank, Bradesco SA.[…]Brazil’s tax system is among the most onerous and complex in the world. Penalties can be steep. That has fostered an environment where corruption can flourish, experts say.“Taxes in Brazil are so high and complicated that it is easy for companies to get in trouble with the taxman,” the leading investigator told The Wall Street Journal. The investigator said frequent tax disputes created opportunities for ill-intentioned public servants to profit by helping firms circumvent red tape.”Speaking of the Petrobras inquiry, the Wall Street Journal goes in-depth here.*****A good weekend to all.last_img read more

FCPA Flash Podcast – A Conversation With Ira Raphaelson Regarding A Variety

first_imgThe FCPA Flash podcast provides in an audio format the same fresh, candid, and informed commentary about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and related topics as readers have come to expect from written posts on FCPA Professor.This FCPA Flash episode is a conversation with Ira Raphaelson (White & Case). During his career, Raphaelson has encountered the FCPA and related topics from a variety of positions including lawyer in private practice, senior executive and general counsel at publicly-traded companies, as a corporate director, and as a DOJ prosecutor. During the podcast, Raphaelson touches upon the following topics: whether the FCPA has been successful in achieving its objectives; how in-house counsel have the most challenging FCPA position; the most important FCPA development over the last decade; how the FCPA or FCPA enforcement can be improved; and what the future holds for the FCPA.FCPA Flash is sponsored by Kreller Group.For the past 30 years, Kreller has distinguished itself as a best-in-class enhanced due diligence provider. It’s investigative network leverages the talent and integrity of some of the best law-enforcement, military specialists, business correspondents, and government contacts worldwide.  With firsthand knowledge of the language, laws, regulations, political and economic climates and data availability in each country, Kreller provides reliable, compliant, and accurate information.  A licensed private investigations firm, Kreller’s competitive advantage is experience, quality, commitment, and customer service.last_img read more

TK Expands Trial Practice with Litigator Patrick McManemin

first_img Lost your password? Password Username Remember mecenter_img © 2013 The Texas Lawbook.By Brooks IgoStaff Writer for The Texas LawbookPatrick McManemin and three counsel from Patton Boggs have joined Thompson & Knight to bolster its trial practice group. Joining McManemin are J. Thomas Gilbert, Michael Tristan and John P. Vacalis.“McManemin and this team bring impressive litigation experience spanning a broad range of industries, including real estate and construction, energy, securities, finance, and banking,” said Emily Parker, Thompson & Knight’s managing partner, in a statement issued by the firm. “Their collective litigation expertise will directly benefit our . . .You must be a subscriber to The Texas Lawbook to access this content. Not a subscriber? Sign up for The Texas Lawbook.last_img read more

Columbia researchers develop new noninvasive approach to permanently correct vision

first_img Source:http://www.engineering.columbia.edu/ May 29 2018Nearsightedness, or myopia, is an increasing problem around the world. There are now twice as many people in the US and Europe with this condition as there were 50 years ago. In East Asia, 70 to 90 percent of teenagers and young adults are nearsighted. By some estimates, about 2.5 billion of people across the globe may be affected by myopia by 2020.Eye glasses and contact lenses are simple solutions; a more permanent one is corneal refractive surgery. But, while vision correction surgery has a relatively high success rate, it is an invasive procedure, subject to post-surgical complications, and in rare cases permanent vision loss. In addition, laser-assisted vision correction surgeries such as laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) and photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) still use ablative technology, which can thin and in some cases weaken the cornea.Columbia Engineering researcher Sinisa Vukelic has developed a new non-invasive approach to permanently correct vision that shows great promise in preclinical models. His method uses a femtosecond oscillator, an ultrafast laser that delivers pulses of very low energy at high repetition rate, for selective and localized alteration of the biochemical and biomechanical properties of corneal tissue. The technique, which changes the tissue’s macroscopic geometry, is non-surgical and has fewer side effects and limitations than those seen in refractive surgeries. For instance, patients with thin corneas, dry eyes, and other abnormalities cannot undergo refractive surgery. The study, which could lead to treatment for myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, and irregular astigmatism, was published May 14 in Nature Photonics.”We think our study is the first to use this laser output regimen for noninvasive change of corneal curvature or treatment of other clinical problems,” says Vukelic, who is a lecturer in discipline in the department of mechanical engineering. His method uses a femtosecond oscillator to alter biochemical and biomechanical properties of collagenous tissue without causing cellular damage and tissue disruption. The technique allows for enough power to induce a low-density plasma within the set focal volume but does not convey enough energy to cause damage to the tissue within the treatment region.”We’ve seen low-density plasma in multi-photo imaging where it’s been considered an undesired side-effect,” Vukelic says. “We were able to transform this side-effect into a viable treatment for enhancing the mechanical properties of collagenous tissues.”The critical component to Vukelic’s approach is that the induction of low-density plasma causes ionization of water molecules within the cornea. This ionization creates a reactive oxygen species, (a type of unstable molecule that contains oxygen and that easily reacts with other molecules in a cell), which in turn interacts with the collagen fibrils to form chemical bonds, or crosslinks. The selective introduction of these crosslinks induces changes in the mechanical properties of the treated corneal tissue.Related StoriesTen-fold rise in tongue-tie surgery for newborns ‘without any real strong data’Transobturator sling surgery shows promise for stress urinary incontinenceOlympus Europe and Cytosurge join hands to accelerate drug development, single cell researchWhen his technique is applied to corneal tissue, the crosslinking alters the collagen properties in the treated regions, and this ultimately results in changes in the overall macrostructure of the cornea. The treatment ionizes the target molecules within the cornea while avoiding optical breakdown of the corneal tissue. Because the process is photochemical, it does not disrupt tissue and the induced changes remain stable.”If we carefully tailor these changes, we can adjust the corneal curvature and thus change the refractive power of the eye,” says Vukelic. “This is a fundamental departure from the mainstream ultrafast laser treatment that is currently applied in both research and clinical settings and relies on the optical breakdown of the target materials and subsequent cavitation bubble formation.””Refractive surgery has been around for many years, and although it is a mature technology, the field has been searching for a viable, less invasive alternative for a long time,” says Leejee H. Suh, Miranda Wong Tang Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the Columbia University Medical Center, who was not involved with the study. “Vukelic’s next-generation modality shows great promise. This could be a major advance in treating a much larger global population and address the myopia pandemic.”Vukelic’s group is currently building a clinical prototype and plans to start clinical trials by the end of the year. He is also looking to develop a way to predict corneal behavior as a function of laser irradiation, how the cornea might deform if a small circle or an ellipse, for example, were treated. If researchers know how the cornea will behave, they will be able to personalize the treatment–they could scan a patient’s cornea and then use Vukelic’s algorithm to make patient-specific changes to improve his/her vision.”What’s especially exciting is that our technique is not limited to ocular media–it can be used on other collagen-rich tissues,” Vukelic adds. “We’ve also been working with Professor Gerard Ateshian’s lab to treat early osteoarthritis, and the preliminary results are very, very encouraging. We think our non-invasive approach has the potential to open avenues to treat or repair collagenous tissue without causing tissue damage.”last_img read more

Longlost satellite data reveal new insights to climate change

first_imgOnce stashed in warehouses in Maryland and North Carolina, images and video captured from orbit by some of NASA’s first environmental satellites in the mid-1960s are now yielding a trove of scientific data. The Nimbus satellites, originally intended to monitor Earth’s clouds in visible and infrared wavelengths, also would have captured images of sea ice, researchers at the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center realized when they heard about the long-lost film canisters in 2009. After acquiring the film—and then tracking down the proper equipment to read and digitize its 16-shades-of-gray images, which had been taken once every 90 seconds or so—the team set about scanning and then stitching the images together using sophisticated software. So far, more than 250,000 images have been made public, including the first image taken by Nimbus-1 (left) on 31 August 1964, of an area near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, the researchers reported on 29 August. (The image at right depicts the same region as seen on 31 August, 50 years later.) Using the Nimbus-1 data gathered during its 1 month in orbit, the researchers have previously estimated that sea ice surrounding Antarctica in September 1964 covered about 19.7 million square kilometers—an area slightly larger than the United States and Canada together, and larger than that seen in satellite data from any year between 1972 and 2012. Similar data from another Nimbus satellite reveal a record low coverage of sea ice just 2 years later, the team notes. Besides yielding a wealth of sea ice data, the data recovery project, which will end early next year, could also be used to extend satellite records of deforestation and sea surface temperatures.last_img read more

Mysterious Oort cloud objects shed light on early solar system

first_img Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Emailcenter_img A cometlike object that originated in the farthest reaches of our solar system is not what it should be. Unlike other objects from this vast field of icy bodies at our solar system’s outer edge, known as the Oort cloud, the body resembles those that formed much closer to the sun. The finding supports the idea that large planets like Jupiter moved around a lot during the chaotic early days of the solar system, flinging asteroids outward as they went. That hypothesis also suggests icy bodies were thrown inward, which could explain how water got to our planet. “It’s pretty exciting,” says Michael Kelley, an astronomer at the University of Maryland, College Park, who was not involved with the research. “If this one asteroid in particular really is made of inner solar system material that got out to the Oort cloud and has worked its way back in,” he says, it could refine theories about how the solar system formed.Comets from the Oort cloud have been spotted before (including Hale-Bopp’s spectacular 1997 flyby), but they’re usually cloaked in gas and dust that make it hard to see what’s underneath. Astronomers spotted one of two new Oort cloud objects in August 2013 using Pan-STARRS1, a telescope on Maui designed to survey the sky for potentially dangerous asteroids. It had the orbit of a long-distance Oort comet, but it looked like an inert piece of rock, similar to an asteroid, not a volatile, icy comet. Even though astronomers had never seen a rocky, asteroidlike object come from the Oort cloud before, the finding wasn’t a complete surprise. Astronomer Jan Oort (who theorized the existence of the Oort cloud and later had it named after him) had predicted in 1950 that distant comets might burn off their covering of ice and dust on their first trip around the sun. “I thought, ‘Wow, maybe we are seeing these things that he predicted and nobody ever saw before,’ ” says team leader Karen Meech of the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, Manoa.When the researchers used the 8-meter Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea for follow-up observations, they saw extremely faint traces of a classic comet’s tail, bolstering the theory that the object may have been a burned-out comet. They also obtained a spectrum of light coming from its surface that appeared very red, similar to objects from the Kuiper belt—a less distant cloud of objects that starts just outside the orbit of Neptune. This provides further evidence that the object was made of materials drawn from the outer reaches of the solar system.But while the scientists were analyzing the results, they spotted a second rocky object on a long-period orbit from the Oort cloud. This time, follow-up observations with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea found an unexpected result: a surface color more similar to an asteroid from the inner solar system. Even more puzzling, this object also had faint traces of a cometary tail, the team reported this week at the annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Tucson, Arizona.Astronomers have never seen an object that looks like an asteroid but casts off dust like a comet and has a comet’s orbit, says astronomer Yanga Fernández of the University of Central Florida, Orlando, who was not involved in the research. “It’s a disconnect between two things we thought were pretty solid,” he says. “It’s a very unusual result, and it will be extremely interesting if people get data that corroborate it.”In addition to upsetting long-held assumptions about how asteroids and comets behave, the finding could challenge what we thought we knew about the composition of the Oort cloud, which astronomers previously believed was made up almost exclusively of icy bodies. If the object turns out to be an inner solar system asteroid, it could indicate that there’s much more of that material in the Oort cloud. One possible explanation is that large planets like Jupiter migrated significantly while the solar system was forming, an idea that has gained currency through observations of extrasolar planetary systems, which appear to have giant planets in a wide range of orbits. Such movements would likely throw asteroids outward into the far solar system.“The origin of the Oort cloud is going to tell you something about how things were moving around in that era right after the planets started to form,” Fernández says. “That’s a very long-term goal.” The observation is so unusual, Kelley adds, it’s likely some astronomers won’t believe it. “It needs confirmation, for sure.”Meech is now hoping to get telescope time in the next month—before the object becomes too faint to observe—to get a spectrum of the second object that would more definitively show whether its surface properties match those of inner solar system asteroids. But even if they miss their window, astronomers may get another chance to solve the mystery. Meech says a number of similar objects have been spotted in recent decades, but scientists never paid attention to them.“Now that we know what to look for,” she says, “it may be that we start seeing a lot more of them.”last_img read more

Scientists find way to create supersized fruit

first_imgWhen Spanish explorers first brought domesticated tomatoes to Europe 500 years ago, the fruit was already gigantic compared with its olive-sized wild counterparts. Researchers trying to understand the genetic basis of this girth have uncovered a way to make other fruits larger as well. The team discovered this secret by studying two mutant tomato strains that had many branches coming off the upper part of the stem and that produced unusually fecund fruit. Fruit size and other plant traits depend on what happens in the uppermost part of the stem, a growing tip called the meristem. There, unspecialized cells called stem cells divide to make more of themselves or specialize into specific plant parts, like carpels, the flower organs that make seed compartments. Wild tomatoes have two; beefsteaks have eight or more. The scientists discovered a feedback loop involving two genes, one to stimulate stem cell production and the other to hold production in check. A shortage of the latter, a gene called CLAVATA3, leads to plumped up beefsteaks, the team reports today in Nature Genetics. This gene’s protein requires a chain of three sugar molecules to work right, and shortening that chain yields ever larger fruit, the scientists report. Because this feedback loop exists in most plants, the team suspects plant breeders can manipulate it to improve crops, and even increase the number of kernels on a corncob.last_img read more