The art and science of Japan’s cherry blossom forecast

by Natsuko FUKUE Agence France-Presse TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — As spring approaches in Japan, the country’s weather forecasters face one of their biggest missions of the year: predicting exactly when the famed cherry blossoms will bloom. Japan’s sakura or cherry blossom season is feverishly anticipated by locals and visitors alike. Many tourists plan their entire trips around the blooms, and Japanese flock to parks in their millions to enjoy the seasonal spectacle. “People pay more […]

Instagram tightens rules on self-injury images

by Glenn CHAPMAN Agence France-Presse SAN FRANCISCO, United States (AFP) — Instagram late Thursday announced it is clamping down on images related to self-injury such as cutting. The move came after British Health Secretary Matt Hancock met with social media companies about doing more to safeguard the mental health of teenagers using their platforms. British teenager Molly Russell was found dead in her bedroom in 2017. The 14-year-old had apparently taken her own life, and […]

Japan’s Hayabusa2 probe to land on asteroid on Feb 22

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — A Japanese probe sent to examine an asteroid in order to shed light on the origins of the solar system is expected to land on the rock later this month, officials said Wednesday. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said the Hayabusa2 probe is expected to touch down on the Ryugu asteroid at 8am local time on February 22. “The landing point is decided and how we’re going to land is […]

Magnetic north pole leaves Canada, on fast new path

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — The position of the Earth’s magnetic North Pole — used in navigation systems such as smartphones — is moving far faster than it has, sending scientists scrambling to put out a new model this week. The magnetic North is the point at which the planet’s magnetic field points vertically down. The World Magnetic Model is critical to sea and military navigation — as well as our ubiquitous smartphones. It normally […]

‘Inkjet’ solar panels poised to revolutionise green energy

by Stanislaw WASZAK Agence France Presse WROCLAW, Poland (AFP) — What if one day all buildings could be equipped with windows and facades that satisfy the structure’s every energy need, whether rain or shine? That sustainability dream is today one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to Polish physicist and businesswoman Olga Malinkiewicz. The 36-year-old has developed a novel inkjet processing method for perovskites — a new generation of cheaper solar cells — that […]

Concept cars turn heads at Paris exhibition

PARIS, France (AFP) — Bugattis, Ferraris, but also Renaults and Peugeots, the Concept Car and Automobile Design Exhibition in Paris presents the automobile world’s most innovative models at a show dedicated exclusively to the cars of tomorrow.

For some whales, sonar may provoke suicidal behaviour: study

by Marlowe HOOD Agence France Presse PARIS, France (AFP) — Scientists have long known that some beaked whales beach themselves and die in agony after exposure to naval sonar, and now they know why: the giant sea mammals suffer decompression sickness, just like scuba divers. At first blush, the explanation laid out Wednesday by 21 experts in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B seems implausible. Millions of years of evolution have turned whales into perfectly […]

iPhone FaceTime bug lets callers eavesdrop

  SAN FRANCISCO, United States (AFP) — A newly discovered FaceTime bug lets people hear and even see those they are reaching out to on iPhones even if the other person hasn’t answered their phone. When a phone number is dialed on FaceTime — the iPhone’s internet-based voice and video calling feature — the caller can swipe up from the bottom of the screen and tap an option to add a person, according to video […]

Microsoft’s Bing search engine inaccessible in China

BEIJING, China (AFP) — Microsoft’s Bing search engine was inaccessible in China on Thursday, with social media users fearing it could be the latest foreign website to be blocked by censors. Attempts to open has resulted in an error message for users since Wednesday. “We’ve confirmed that Bing is currently inaccessible in China and are engaged to determine next steps,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a brief statement, hours after saying the company was […]

Boeing flying car prototype completes first test flight

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — Boeing said Wednesday its prototype “flying car” — part of a project aimed at “on-demand autonomous air transportation” — has completed its first successful test flight. The electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft said the test was carried out Tuesday outside the US capital Washington, the company said in a statement. Boeing is among a handful of companies in the United States and around the world — including Uber […]

France sees Huawei ‘risks’ for 5G networks: foreign minister

PARIS, France (AFP) — French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned Wednesday of “risks” in deploying next-generation 5G wireless networks using equipment from the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. “We are well aware of the risks… from Huawei’s position in major networks, the risks that could stem from Huawei’s extensive work on 5G,” Le Drian told a Senate panel in Paris. “The government will take all necessary measures at the proper time,” he said. France joins […]

Amazon rolls out ‘Scout’ delivery robots

SAN FRANCISCO, United States (AFP) — Amazon on Wednesday began putting cooler-sized robots to work delivering packages to customers in a neighborhood outside Seattle. Electric-powered, wheeled delivery vehicles named “Scout” were created by Amazon and guide themselves along sidewalks at a walking pace, according to Sean Scott, the vice president heading the project. Amazon becomes the latest entry to the market for robotic or autonomous delivery aimed at getting meals or other goods to customers […]