Showing posts with label Miscellaneous. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Miscellaneous. Show all posts

8 February 2021

[Book Blast] 'The Fall of Kings' (Legend of the Cid, Book 3) By Stuart Rudge #HistoricalFiction

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'The Fall of Kings' (Legend of the Cid, Book 3) By Stuart Rudge #HistoricalFiction'
The Fall of Kings' (Legend of the Cid, Book 3) By Stuart Rudge - Book Blast banner

The Book:

The Fall of Kings
(Legend of the Cid, Book 3)
By Stuart Rudge
  • Publication Date: February 5th 2021
  • Publisher: Independently Published
  • Page Length: 406 pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
'The Fall of Kings' (Legend of the Cid, Book 3) By Stuart Rudge #HistoricalFiction
'The Fall of Kings' - Front cover

The Blurb:

Castile. 1071AD. Three kings. One crown.

After Sancho II of Castile dispatches his champion Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar to capture his brother, King Garcia of Galicia, he hopes it is a defining moment in his quest to reunite the lands of his father under one banner. But Alfonso VI of Leon is one step ahead, and has already added the lands of Galicia to his domain. When the only alternative is war, Sancho turns to Rodrigo to lead the armies of Castile, and he must use all his tactical acumen to defeat the Leonese in the field. Only one son of Fernando can claim victory and become the Emperor of Hispania.

Rodrigo and Antonio Perez, now a knight of the realm, find difficulty adjusting to the new regime. Dissent and unrest run rife throughout the kingdom, and the fear of a knife in the dark from enemies old and new hangs heavy upon the pair. But if it is allowed to fester, it threatens to undo all that has been achieved. Can Rodrigo and Antonio root out the enemies of the king, and prevent chaos reigning throughout the land?

  • The Fall of Kings in the breath taking third instalment of the Legend of the Cid.

Buy Links:

'The Fall of Kings' (Legend of the Cid, Book 3) By Stuart Rudge #HistoricalFiction
Stuart Rudge

Author Bio:

Stuart Rudge was born and raised in Middlesbrough, where he still lives. His love of history came from his father and uncle, both avid readers of history, and his love of table top war gaming and strategy video games. He studied Ancient History and Archaeology at Newcastle University, and has spent his fair share of time in muddy trenches, digging up treasure at Bamburgh Castle.

He was worked in the retail sector and volunteered in museums, before working in York Minster, which he considered the perfect office. His love of writing blossomed within the historic walls, and he knew there were stories within which had to be told. Despite a move in to the shipping and logistics sector (a far cry to what he hoped to ever do), his love of writing has only grown stronger.

Rise of a Champion is the first piece of work he has dared to share with the world. Before that came a novel about the Roman Republic and a Viking-themed fantasy series (which will likely never see the light of day, but served as good practise). He hopes to establish himself as a household name in the mound of Bernard Cornwell, Giles Kristian, Ben Kane and Matthew Harffy, amongst a host of his favourite writers.

'The Fall of Kings' (Legend of the Cid, Book 3) By Stuart Rudge #HistoricalFiction
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5 February 2021

6 Beneficial Ways to Deal with Critical People

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6 Beneficial Ways to Deal with Critical People
6 Beneficial Ways to Deal with Critical People (Photo by cottonbro)
Constructive criticism is fine, but some people who are so relentlessly negative that they can suck the joy out of life. No matter what happy news you might have, they are guaranteed to find the cloud to fit your silver lining.
Here are 6 strategies you can use to deal with hypercritical people.

1. Don’t Take It Personally

It’s a safe bet that it's not you, it's them. Some people just hug their negativity around them like a security blanket, and it colors their view of the world. They criticize everything because that suits them. Watch how they treat other people. It’s guaranteed they criticize everybody, not just you.

2. Listen to The Message

Is the person obscuring the message? Maybe your critical colleague or friend is tactless, or bad at expressing themselves rather than being mean. Try to see past the messenger to understand what is really being said, otherwise you might miss out on some valuable advice.

3. Accept the Feedback

You can decide to take crucial feedback on its own merits. That is, as a source of honest feedback. At least with hypercritical people what you see is what you get! If you can see past the blunt delivery, you may be able to find a kernel of truth that can improve the way you do things.

4. Deal with Your Discomfort

Criticism never feels good. Try to read your own discomfort as another source of information about what is being said. Does the negative feedback trigger a recognition deep within you? Maybe it subconsciously reminds you of a past event, but maybe there’s a ring of truth in the criticism. Sit with your discomfort and see what it’s telling you.

5. If You Can’t Take the Heat, Stay Out of the Kitchen

If you can’t stand being criticized, then it’s up to you not to get into situations with people who are likely to criticize you. Don’t ask for advice or expose yourself to their negativity. They’re not likely to change, so you need to take control and avoid such conversations. Don’t share good news if you know they’ll throw cold water on it, don’t seek their praise if you know you won’t get it.

6. Stay Out of Their Way

You have a choice about how to deal with negative people. You can decide not to engage with their negativity, you can ignore them, or you can just avoid them altogether. If you must have contact with a negative person at work, for example, be helpful but don’t engage with them. Otherwise, it's up to you whether you want to have any contact with such negativity, or not.

6 Beneficial Ways to Deal with Critical People
6 Beneficial Ways to Deal with Critical People (Photo by Sam Lion)

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4 February 2021

Streaming Now! Patrick Page's "All The Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented The Villain" [Trailer Included]

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Streaming Now! Patrick Page's "All The Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented The Villain"
 Patrick Page's "All The Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented The Villain"Now Streaming
All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain, written by and starring Tony nominee Patrick Page, begins streaming today. It's the first ever online-only production from Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.
In the show, Page traces the evolution of Shakespeare's most diabolical characters, through a series of monologues and scenes. Filmed under strict health and safety protocols onstage at Sidney Harman Hall by Joo Kno Media, All the Devils Are Here illustrates the growth of Shakespeare's characters from stock archetypes to fully developed three-dimensional characters unlike anything that had come before.

Streaming Now! Patrick Page's "All The Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented The Villain" [Trailer Included]
Patrick Page, (Credit: Nathan Johnson)

About Patrick Page:

Beloved on Broadway and in Washington, D.C., Page has portrayed an astonishing array of bad guys. In 2019, Page was nominated for a Tony Award for his role as Hades in Hadestown. Other notable Broadway credits include Julius Caesar (with Denzel Washington), Saint Joan, Casa Valentina, Spring Awakening, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Lion King, and Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The MusicalAt STC he received a Helen Hayes Award for his portrayal of Iago to Avery Brooks' Othello, and has also starred as Claudius in Hamlet, Prospero in Tempest, and the lead roles in Macbeth and Coriolanus.
"Patrick understands Shakespeare's works as only a seasoned actor can," STC Artistic Director Simon Godwin shares. "Shakespeare was a playwright and an actor, and Patrick can get under the skin and into the minds of the most devilish creations ever to grace a stage."

The Trailer:

All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain is sponsored by KPMG. CoStar is the streaming sponsor for the 2020/21 season. This production is a component of Shakespeare Everywhere, which is made possible by the visionary support of the Beech Street Foundation.

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SOURCE: Shakespeare Theatre Company

Glass Portrait of Vice President Kamala Harris at Lincoln Memorial Celebrates Her Shattering of Historic Glass Ceiling

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Glass Portrait of Vice President Kamala Harris at Lincoln Memorial Celebrates Her Shattering of Historic Glass Ceiling
Glass Portrait of VP Kamala Harris Presented by National Women's History Museum, Chief & BBH NY Celebrates Her Shattering of Historic Glass Ceiling. (Photo by Shannon Finney /Getty Images for National Women's History Museum & Chief)
A dramatic glass portrait honoring Vice President Kamala Harris has been unveiled in front of the Lincoln Memorial today, celebrating Harris as America's first woman vice president.
The exhibit, which will be on display through Feb. 6th, commemorates this seminal achievement for women in America and celebrates an incredible woman leader with many "firsts" to her name – including the first woman vice president, first Black vice president, first South Asian vice president and first vice president to graduate from a Historically Black College and University.

The installation to honor Harris' shattering of this monumental "glass ceiling'' is presented by the National Women's History Museum – the nation's leading women's history museum and the most recognized institution dedicated to uncovering, interpreting, and celebrating women's diverse contributions to society, in partnership with Chief, a private network focused on connecting and supporting women leaders.

The one-of-a-kind broken glass medium used by the artist Simon Berger to create the portrait uniquely embodies Harris' glass-shattering achievement. The installation was created by creative agency BBH New York, with production partnership from M ss ng P eces.
"Representation matters, especially at the ballot box, and the inauguration of Kamala Harris as the first woman, and first woman of color, to serve as vice president of the United States is a landmark moment in American history," said Holly Hotchner, President and CEO of the National Women's History Museum.
"Today's progress is built on the legacy of the women who came before – the trailblazers, like Kamala, who raised their voices, marched for their rights, and ran for elected office; the women who cracked glass ceilings so that other women could shatter them," Hotchner said. "It is a true honor to join BBH and Chief as partners in this remarkable installation honoring this critical turning point in the fight for representation, Vice President Harris, and the numerous women throughout history who demanded a seat at the table."
"Chief's mission is to drive women into positions of power and keep them there – we exist to support ascendant women to break glass ceilings, retain their seats at the table, and create lines of succession for future women leaders," said Lindsay Kaplan, who co-founded Chief in 2019 with Carolyn Childers. "This artwork not only celebrates Vice President Kamala Harris, a woman who embodies this mission, but it recognizes the women who came before her and those who'll come after. Today, only 23% of executive roles are held by women. We hope this exhibit will show women of all backgrounds that they can change that percentage, assert their voices, and open doors as they shatter barriers."
  • Set against the historic and scenic backdrop of the reflecting pool and Washington Monument, the installation will include a plaque featuring a QR code which viewers can scan to take them to an Instagram Spark AR. This will provide an augmented reality experience that immerses the observer in Harris' glass-breaking moments. 
  • The campaign also includes a companion website and film.
"We hope that women – of all ages and backgrounds – will see their own strength and potential reflected in the portrait of our first woman vice president," said Amani Duncan, President of BBH New York. "This incredible work of art featuring interactive elements is a rallying moment for all organizations to work together to advance gender equity and address the issues facing women and other marginalized genders."
  • Based on a color photo of Harris taken by photographer Celeste Sloman (represented by ATRBUTE, New York), the artwork measures 6.5 feet x 6.5 feet and was crafted by artist Simon Berger (represented by Artstübli Gallery, Basel). To create these unique works of art, Berger delicately taps a hammer on large sheets of laminated safety glass, making tiny cracks and fissures that, when viewed together, coalesce to create an incredible, 3-D-style likeness .
Glass Portrait of Vice President Kamala Harris at Lincoln Memorial Celebrates Her Shattering of Historic Glass Ceiling
Glass Portrait of VP Kamala Harris Presented by National Women's History Museum, Chief & BBH NY Celebrates Her Shattering of Historic Glass Ceiling. (Photo by Shannon Finney /Getty Images for National Women's History Museum & Chief)

About National Women's History Museum:

Founded in 1996, the National Women's History Museum is the nation's leading women's history museum and the most recognized institution dedicated to uncovering, interpreting, and celebrating women's diverse contributions to society. A renowned leader in women's history education, the Museum brings to life the countless untold stories of women throughout history, and serves as a space for all to inspire, experience, collaborate, and amplify women's impact—past, present, and future. The Museum is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)3. 

About Chief:

Chief is the future of women in the workplace. Created to drive more women into positions of power and keep them there, Chief is a private network designed specifically for women executives to strengthen their experience in the C-suite, cross-pollinate power across industries, and effect change from the top-down. Co-founders Carolyn Childers and Lindsay Kaplan launched in Chief in 2019, and have grown to nearly 4,000 of the most formidable senior leaders in the United States, representing over 3,000 companies. Chief is headquartered in New York City, with membership open in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco. 

About BBH NY:

Helmed by the trio of President Amani Duncan, Chief Creative Officer Rafael Rizuto and Head of Planning Tom Callard, BBH NY "zags" where other agencies "zig," making ambitious ideas for ambitious clients. Leveraging the power of creativity for outsized impact on culture and business growth, BBH NY works with some of the most innovative marketers in the world, including Google, Marvel, Brighthouse Financial, and Samsung. 

About m ss ng p eces:

m ss ng p eces is the new wave production and entertainment partner for content and immersive experiences that inspire culture. As the industry shifts and evolves through new mediums and new demands, we bring the missing pieces to the table to make content and immersive experiences with diverse creatives across storytelling, technology and physical experiences – all supported by world-class integrated production. With offices in NY & LA, we produce globally recognized work for agencies, brands, and studios, and have been named to the Ad Age Production Company A-List for the past 4 years in a row.
SOURCE: Chief

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3 February 2021

The Cat Fanciers' Association, ZYMOX & Oratene Present: TrapKing's "From Feral to Fancy" TNR Fundraising Cat Photo Contest

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The Cat Fanciers' Association, ZYMOX & Oratene Present: TrapKing's "From Feral to Fancy" TNR Fundraising Cat Photo Contest
Cat owners can enter their cats in the competition beginning Sunday, February 7. Spectators can vote on their favorite cats from February 14 through 26 and the judges will announce the winners on Facebook February 27 and 28.
What do you get when you team up rapper-turned-trapper Sterling "TrapKing" Davis with the world's largest cat organization, two top pet healthcare brands, and 10 well-known internet purrsonalities? A CFA Virtual Cat Competition destined to turn 11 lucky kitties into mini-celebrities!
Davis is an African American cat rescuer dedicated to Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), widely considered the only humane way to stop cat overpopulation. It's endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Humane Association, and many other progressive animal welfare organizations.

The Cat Fanciers' Association, ZYMOX & Oratene Present: TrapKing's "From Feral to Fancy" TNR Fundraising Cat Photo Contest
Sterling "TrapKing" Davis (Photo via vcc.cfa.org)
TrapKing's From Feral to Fancy TNR Fundraising Cat Photo Contest offers cats everywhere the chance to compete for 100 prizes with their photos. "I love how CFA realizes that rescue, shelter and feral cats are just as beautiful as the fancy pedigree ones," said Davis recently. Top winners in each of the competitive categories will enjoy photo appearances in New York City's Times Square! 

  • Proceeds from the event will go to Davis' nonprofit, TrapKing Humane Cat Solutions, which will use the money to teach cat rescuers the basics of TNR.
CFA is partnering with Davis because of his exemplary work in bringing diversity to the animal world. "It's no secret the cat scene is dominated by white women, and Sterling brings a message of acceptance and compassion. He's trying to bridge the racial divide between the cat world and the black community," says Desiree Bobby, CFA's Marketing Director. Davis is known for his motto, "You don't lose cool points for compassion." 

  • The show is also sponsored by the brands ZYMOX and Oratene, veterinarian recommended solutions that have been helping pets have healthy ears, skin and mouths for over twenty years.
The event is part of CFA's Companion Cat World Program, reflecting the organization's mission to enhance all cats' lives. 

Kitty contestants can choose from 11 categories, including: 

  • Main Event
  • Me & My Cat Lady/Cat Daddy
  • Beautiful Eyes 
  • Gotcha! Day,
  • Cats in Costume
  • Outdoor/Adventure
  • Cats Looking for Fur-ever Homes. 
The judging lineup includes well-known cat influencers NathanTheCatLady, SunglassCat, Adventure Cats, "Catification" designer Kate Benjamin, Two Crazy Cat Ladies and Pet Behavior Expert Arden Moore, plus many more. 

SOURCE: The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.

1 February 2021

Education Policies in England Overlook Bullying of LGBT+ Pupils

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Education Policies in England Overlook Bullying of LGBT+ Pupils
Education Policies in England Overlook Bullying of LGBT+ Pupils (photo via spixel)

Nearly half of LGBT+ pupils are bullied in school because of their gender or sexual orientation. In fact, LGBT+ bullying is the most common type of bullying in schools. Just 27% of secondary school pupils believe it would be safe to come out as LGBT+ in their schools.

Despite this, a 2020 report shows that only one-fifth of secondary school students report learning about LGBT+ identities and homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

While schools are now required to teach LGBT+ content as part of Relationships and Sex Education, guidance from the Department of Education leaves it up to schools how and when they approach this content. There is no specific mention of the need to tackle bullying aimed at LGBT+ pupils as part of the curriculum.

The content of LGBT+ education needs to be standardised across schools, and a more explicit stance needs to be taken against anti-LGBT+ bullying.

Taking care

Protecting the wellbeing of young people is hugely important, and teenagers from sexual minorities are more likely than their peers to suffer from mental health problems. The experience of discrimination at a young age can have long-term implications for people’s mental health. In the short term, being bullied in school affects pupils’ attendance and educational performance.

Education Policies in England Overlook Bullying of LGBT+ Pupils
Bullying can affect students’ school performance. (photo via wavebreakmedia)

However, funding for LGBT+ anti-bullying projects in English schools, provided by the Government Equalities Office, was withdrawn in March 2020. Since September 2020, Relationships Education is a compulsory subject in primary schools, while Relationships and Sex Education is compulsory in secondary schools. Schools are required to teach “LGBT content” as part of this new curriculum.

The explicit reference to LGBT+ content is laudable, given that the previous curriculum does not mention this at all. But the curriculum guidance leaves it up to schools to determine how and when they teach LGBT+ content. The only specification is that it must be taught at a “timely point”. The guidance continues to make allowances for religious schools to teach in accordance with their faith perspectives.

In principle, then, a school could get away with teaching very little about LGBT+ inclusivity, on the basis that it was not timely nor appropriate to do so with their pupils. For example, the Catholic Education Service’s Model Curriculum for Secondary Schools, which has been cited as an example of good practice by Nick Gibb, the minister of state for School Standards, merely discusses the need to teach about diversity in sexual attraction and developing sexuality, but makes no mention of LGBT+ content.

We cannot assume that all schools will offer comprehensive teaching on LGBT+ identities, especially when the guidance is vague. A further issue is that some teachers still feel they need more support to teach LGBT+ inclusive relationships and sex education.

A missing focus

Also, while the new curriculum guidance makes some reference to anti-bullying education, the emphasis falls mainly on cyberbullying, rather than LGBT+ bullying. Schools are required to identify any homophobic incidents and to deal with them appropriately. But beyond this, there is no specific mention of the need to tackle homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying as part of the curriculum.

The Government Equalities Office has claimed that it is “misleading” to state that the government has de-prioritised anti-LGBT+ bullying, because the Department for Education has awarded £750,000 to three charitable organisations for anti-bullying projects. The three organisations are the Diana Award, the Anne Frank Trust and the Anti-Bullying Alliance, none of which are LGBT-specific.

The lack of suitable emphasis on LGBT+ content, coupled with the withdrawal of funding for anti-bullying projects in schools that are specific to LGBT+ students, reflects a deliberate stance on the part of the government to sit on the fence, perhaps due to the contentious nature of the subject matter.

In 2019, parental protests erupted over the “No Outsiders” programme – which aimed to teach children about the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 (including, but not limited to, sexual orientation). The government’s lack of clarity on their expectations for schools’ teaching on LGBT+ topics was highlighted by the National Association of Head Teachers.

LGBT+ anti-bullying projects are needed alongside LGBT+ education under the new relationships and sex education curriculum in order to truly embed short and long-term positive changes for the LGBT+ pupils. The government can no longer afford to take a back seat on this

About Today's Contributor:

Rachel Heah, Lecturer in Law, Lancaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

We’re Teaching Robots To Evolve Autonomously – So They Can Adapt To Life Alone On Distant Planets

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We’re Teaching Robots To Evolve Autonomously – So They Can Adapt To Life Alone On Distant Planets
In the future, robots we’ve programmed may evolve and multiply on distant planets.(SquareMotion)

It’s been suggested that an advance party of robots will be needed if humans are ever to settle on other planets. Sent ahead to create conditions favourable for humankind, these robots will need to be tough, adaptable and recyclable if they’re to survive within the inhospitable cosmic climates that await them.

Collaborating with roboticists and computer scientists, my team and I have been working on just such a set of robots. Produced via 3D printer – and assembled autonomously – the robots we’re creating continually evolve in order to rapidly optimise for the conditions they find themselves in.

Our work represents the latest progress towards the kind of autonomous robot ecosystems that could help build humanity’s future homes, far away from Earth and far away from human oversight.

Robots rising

Robots have come a long way since our first clumsy forays into artificial movement many decades ago. Today, companies such as Boston Dynamics produce ultra-efficient robots which load trucks, build pallets, and move boxes around factories, undertaking tasks you might think only humans could perform.

Despite these advances, designing robots to work in unknown or inhospitable environments – like exoplanets or deep ocean trenches – still poses a considerable challenge for scientists and engineers. Out in the cosmos, what shape and size should the ideal robot be? Should it crawl or walk? What tools will it need to manipulate its environment – and how will it survive extremes of pressure, temperature and chemical corrosion?

An impossible brainteaser for humans, nature has already solved this problem. Darwinian evolution has resulted in millions of species that are perfectly adapted to their environment. Although biological evolution takes millions of years, artificial evolution – modelling evolutionary processes inside a computer – can take place in hours, or even minutes. Computer scientists have been harnessing its power for decades, resulting in gas nozzles to satellite antennas that are ideally suited to their function, for instance.

But current artificial evolution of moving, physical objects still requires a great deal of human oversight, requiring a tight feedback loop between robot and human. If artificial evolution is to design a useful robot for exoplanetary exploration, we’ll need to remove the human from the loop. In essence, evolved robot designs must manufacture, assemble and test themselves autonomously – untethered from human oversight.

Unnatural selection

Any evolved robots will need to be capable of sensing their environment and have diverse means of moving – for example using wheels, jointed legs or even mixtures of the two. And to address the inevitable reality gap that occurs when transferring a design from software to hardware, it is also desirable for at least some evolution to take place in hardware – within an ecosystem of robots that evolve in real time and real space.

The Autonomous Robot Evolution (ARE) project addresses exactly this, bringing together scientists and engineers from four universities in an ambitious four-year project to develop this radical new technology.

We’re Teaching Robots To Evolve Autonomously – So They Can Adapt To Life Alone On Distant Planets
Robotic hardware will undergo natural selection in this cradle-to-grave facility. (Emma Hart, Author provided)

As depicted above, robots will be “born” through the use of 3D manufacturing. We use a new kind of hybrid hardware-software evolutionary architecture for design. That means that every physical robot has a digital clone. Physical robots are performance-tested in real-world environments, while their digital clones enter a software programme, where they undergo rapid simulated evolution. This hybrid system introduces a novel type of evolution: new generations can be produced from a union of the most successful traits from a virtual “mother” and a physical “father”.

As well as being rendered in our simulator, “child” robots produced via our hybrid evolution are also 3D-printed and introduced into a real-world, creche-like environment. The most successful individuals within this physical training centre make their “genetic code” available for reproduction and for the improvement of future generations, while less “fit” robots can simply be hoisted away and recycled into new ones as part of an ongoing evolutionary cycle.

Two years into the project, significant advances have been made. From a scientific perspective, we have designed new artificial evolutionary algorithms that have produced a diverse set of robots that drive or crawl, and can learn to navigate through complex mazes. These algorithms evolve both the body-plan and brain of the robot.

The brain contains a controller that determines how the robot moves, interpreting sensory information from the environment and translating this into motor controls. Once the robot is built, a learning algorithm quickly refines the child brain to account for any potential mismatch between its new body and its inherited brain.

From an engineering perspective, we have designed the “RoboFab” to fully automate manufacturing. This robotic arm attaches wires, sensors and other “organs” chosen by evolution to the robot’s 3D-printed chassis. We designed these components to facilitate swift assembly, giving the RoboFab access to a big toolbox of robot limbs and organs.

Waste disposal

The first major use case we plan to address is deploying this technology to design robots to undertake clean-up of legacy waste in a nuclear reactor – like that seen in the TV miniseries Chernobyl. Using humans for this task is both dangerous and expensive, and necessary robotic solutions remain to be developed.

Looking forward, the long-term vision is to develop the technology sufficiently to enable the evolution of entire autonomous robotic ecosystems that live and work for long periods in challenging and dynamic environments without the need for direct human oversight.

In this radical new paradigm, robots are conceived and born, rather than designed and manufactured. Such robots will fundamentally change the concept of machines, showcasing a new breed that can change their form and behaviour over time – just like us.

About Today's Contributor:

Emma Hart, Chair in Natural Computation, Edinburgh Napier University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license

We’re Teaching Robots To Evolve Autonomously – So They Can Adapt To Life Alone On Distant Planets
We’re Teaching Robots To Evolve Autonomously – So They Can Adapt To Life Alone On Distant Planets (Photo via Pixabay)

30 January 2021

5 Steps to Handle Constructive Criticism Like A Pro

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5 Steps to Handle Constructive Criticism Like A Pro
5 Steps to Handle Constructive Criticism Like A Pro (Photo by Andrew Wilus)
Wise people have learned how to handle criticism. They deal with it like any other feedback, calmly and judiciously. They try and see how they can use it to get ahead and meet their goals. Many people, however; find it hard not to react defensively or angrily. Some people even launch a counterattack and shift the blame to the critic. That behavior doesn’t win you any friends or help you get ahead.
Criticism is a fact of life, and the sooner you learn to handle it positively, the better you can use that feedback for your own success.

1. Before you React – Stop!

You will feel the reaction in your body before you can get the words out. And that is where you must stop. Don’t do anything, just breathe and take a moment to calm your defenses. Chances are, the other person won’t notice a thing, but it will give you time to compose yourself.

5 Steps to Handle Constructive Criticism Like A Pro
5 Steps to Handle Constructive Criticism Like A Pro (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio)

2. Remind Yourself that This is Feedback

Your composure time gives you a chance to remember that this criticism is an opportunity to learn something, possibly something valuable. Say to yourself, “This is not personal,” and repeat it as often as you need to until your initial reaction has passed.

3. Practice Your Active Listening

Feedback time is not a time to talk, it’s a time to listen. Try to understand what the other person is saying. Maybe it’s an aspect of your project or goal that you haven’t thought of yet. What initially feels like criticism may offer valuable insight.
Repeat back what you heard and seek clarification if you need to. This is not a time to analyze or push back, it’s a time to understand precisely what is being said.
5 Steps to Handle Constructive Criticism Like A Pro
5 Steps to Handle Constructive Criticism Like A Pro (Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko)

4. Thank Your Critic

Even if it makes you cringe inside, say thank you for the feedback. You don’t have to agree with what they’ve said to be sincerely appreciative of the input. After all, they took the time to say what they thought and give you some advice.

5. Process the Feedback

You may need some time to do this, or you might be able to do it on the spot. If your emotions are running high, it’s probably better to take a break and come back to deal with what has been said. Otherwise, it’s fine to ask questions to clarify the feedback, and maybe seek their suggestions on how to move forward.
Learning to deal constructively with criticism and feedback is an important skill, and one you will be glad you learned sooner rather than later.
5 Steps to Handle Constructive Criticism Like A Pro
5 Steps to Handle Constructive Criticism Like A Pro (Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko)

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29 January 2021

Royal Entomological Society: "Discovering The Miniature Safari All Around Us"

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Royal Entomological Society: "Discovering The Miniature Safari All Around Us"
1st Prize Under18: James Spensley
The winners of the National Insect Week Photography Competition have been announced by the Royal Entomological Society.

A record 2443 entries were received from amateur photographers in 72 countries during 2020. Each winning photograph captures a moment in the busy and often beautiful lives of insects. People of all ages have been discovering the smaller animals we see around us every day, even during the pandemic.
Head judge Dr Tim Cockerill from Falmouth University's Institute of Photography said "In a year that has been memorable for all the wrong reasons it is wonderful to see how so many people around the world have taken solace in nature.

Life has gone on as normal for insects and it's clear that watching wildlife has been a great comfort to many of us. Every one of the photographs entered into the competition represents someone turning their attention to insects. They are truly fascinating animals and are all around us, but often go unnoticed. Photographs like these really allow us to appreciate them and the great many roles they play in nature
."
The winner in the over-18s' category German wasps drinking by Alan Clark features a group of German wasps (Vespula germanica). 

Royal Entomological Society: "Discovering The Miniature Safari All Around Us"
1st Prize Over18: Alan Clark
Dr Cockerill said "This brilliant image reminded the judges of those classic wildlife photography shots of antelope drinking around a water hole on the African savannah. To see this in a much-maligned insect like the wasp made for a striking and memorable photograph."
In the under-18s' category, Marmalade hoverfly on a pink flower by Jamie Spensley (age 17) is a bold and striking composition featuring a hoverfly nestled within a flower from an impressive young wildlife photographer.

Other judges were TV presenter and naturalist Nick Baker, Ashleigh Whiffin from National Museums Scotland, and Lucia Chmurová from the conservation charity Plantlife.

About National Insect Week:

National Insect Week is organised by the Royal Entomological Society to encourage people of all ages to learn more about insects and entomology, the study of insects. It is supported by a large number of partner organisations across the UK with interests in the science, natural history and conservation of insects.

About The Royal Entomological Society:

The Royal Entomological Society is one of the oldest entomological societies in the world. Many eminent scientists of the past, including Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, have been fellows. The Society organises regular meetings for insect scientists, as well as hosting international symposia and events for the public. It publishes journals and books as well as identification guides. It has fellows and members all over the world. 
The aim of the Society is "the improvement and diffusion of entomological science".
SOURCE: Royal Entomological Society

SpaceX Vs Nasa: Who Will Get Us To The Moon First? Here's How Their Latest Rockets Compare

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Nasa’s Space Launch System. (Nasa)
No-one has visited the Moon since 1972. But with the advent of commercial human spaceflight, the urge to return is resurgent and generating a new space race. Nasa has selected the private company SpaceX to be part of its commercial spaceflight operations, but the firm is also pursuing its own space exploration agenda.

To enable flights to the Moon and beyond, both Nasa and SpaceX are developing new heavy lift rockets: SpaceX’s Starship and Nasa’s Space Launch System.

But how do they differ and which one is more powerful?

Starship

Rockets go through multiple stages to get into orbit. By discarding spent fuel tanks while in flight, the rocket becomes lighter and therefore easier to accelerate. Once in operation, SpaceX’s launch system will be comprised of two stages: the launch vehicle known as Super Heavy and the Starship.

Super Heavy is powered by the Raptor rocket engine, burning a combination of liquid methane and liquid oxygen. The basic principle of a liquid fuel rocket engine is that two propellants, – a fuel such as kerosene and an oxidiser such as liquid oxygen – are brought together in a combustion chamber and ignited. The flame produces hot gas under high pressure which is expelled at high speed through the engine nozzle to produce thrust.

The rocket will provide 15 million pounds of thrust at launch, which is approximately twice as much as the rockets of the Apollo era. Atop the launcher sits the Starship, itself powered by another six Raptor engines and equipped with a large mission bay for accommodating satellites, compartments for up to 100 crew and even extra fuel tanks for refuelling in space, which is critical to long duration interplanetary human spaceflight.

SpaceX Vs Nasa: Who Will Get Us To The Moon First? Here's How Their Latest Rockets Compare
Super Heavy separating from Starship. (wikipedia, CC BY-SA)

The Starship is designed to operate both in the vacuum of space and within the atmospheres of Earth and Mars, using small moveable wings to glide to a desired landing zone.

Once over the landing area, the Starship flips into a vertical position and uses its on-board Raptor engines to make a powered descent and landing. It will have sufficient thrust to lift itself off the surface of Mars or the Moon, overcoming the weaker gravity of these worlds, and return to Earth – again making a powered soft landing. The Starship and Super Heavy are both fully reuseable and the entire system is designed to lift more than 100 tons of payload to the surface of the Moon or Mars.

The spacecraft is maturing rapidly. A recent test flight of the Starship prototype, the SN8, successfully demonstrated a number of the manoeuvres required to make this work. Unfortunately, there was a malfunction in one of the Raptor engines and the SN8 crashed on landing. Another test flight is expected in the coming days.

Nasa’s Space Launch System

The Space Launch System (SLS) from Nasa will be taking the crown from the discontinued Saturn V as the most powerful rocket the agency has ever used. The current incarnation (SLS block 1) stands at almost 100 metres tall.

The SLS core stage, containing more than 3.3 million litres of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen (equivalent to one-and-a-half Olympic size swimming pools), is powered by four RS-25 engines, three of which were used on the previous Space Shuttle. Their main difference from the Raptors is that they burn liquid hydrogen instead of methane.

SpaceX Vs Nasa: Who Will Get Us To The Moon First? Here's How Their Latest Rockets Compare
Stages of the SLS. (Nasa)

The core stage of the rocket is augmented by two solid rocket boosters, attached to its sides, providing a total combined thrust of 8.2 million pounds at launch - about 5% more than the Saturn V at launch. This will lift the spacecraft to low Earth orbit. The upper stage is intended to lift the attached payload – the astronaut capsule – out of Earth’s orbit and is a smaller liquid fuel stage powered by a single RL-10 engine (already in use by ATLAS and DELTA rockets) which is smaller and lighter than the RS-25.

The Space Launch System will send the Orion crew capsule, which can support up to six crew for 21 days, to the Moon as part of the Artemis-1 mission – a task that current Nasa rockets are currently not capable of performing.

It is intended to have large acrylic windows so astronauts can watch the journey. It will also have its own engine and fuel supply, as well as secondary propulsion systems for returning to the Earth. Future space stations, such as the Lunar Gateway, will serve as a logistical hub, which may include refuelling.

The core stage and booster rockets are unlikely to be reusable (instead of landing they will drop in the ocean), so there is a higher cost with the SLS system, both in materials and environmentally. It is designed to evolve to larger stages capable of carrying crew or cargo weighing up to 120 tonnes, which is potentially more than Starship.

SpaceX Vs Nasa: Who Will Get Us To The Moon First? Here's How Their Latest Rockets Compare
NASA’s SLS and SpaceX’s Starship, on the right, could both get us to the Moon and beyond. (Ian Whittaker/NASA/SpaceX, Author provided)

A lot of the technology being used in SLS is so-called “legacy equipment” in that it is adapted from previous missions, cutting down the research and development time. However, earlier this month, a test fire of the SLS core stage was stopped a minute into the eight-minute test due to a suspected component failure. No significant damage occurred, and the SLS program manager, John Honeycutt, stated: “I don’t think we’re looking at a significant design change.”

And the winner is…

So which spacecraft likely to reach carry a crew to the Moon first? Artemis 2 is planned as the first crewed mission using SLS to perform a flyby of the Moon and is expected to launch in August 2023. Whereas SpaceX has no specific date planned for crewed launch, they are running #dearMoon – a project involving lunar space tourism planned for 2023. Musk has also stated that a crewed Martian mission could take place as early as 2024, also using Starship.

Ultimately it is a competition between an agency that has had years of testing and experience but is limited by a fluctuating taxpayer budget and administration policy changes, and a company relatively new to the game but which has already launched 109 Falcon 9 rockets with a 98% success rate and has a dedicated long-term cash flow.

Whoever reaches the Moon first will inaugurate a new era of exploration of a world which still has much scientific value.

About Today's Contributors:

Gareth Dorrian, Post Doctoral Research Fellow in Space Science, University of Birmingham and Ian Whittaker, Senior Lecturer in Physics, Nottingham Trent University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

28 January 2021

4 Reasons We Should Embrace Criticism

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4 Reasons We Should Embrace Criticism
4 Reasons We Should Embrace Criticism (Photo by mentatdgt)
Being criticized never feels good. It can make you feel judged, as though you’re not good enough no matter how hard you try. Most people’s reaction to criticism is to get defensive, make excuses, or blame someone else. None of those options are especially constructive. 

It’s up to you how you choose to react to criticism. You can see it as a personal attack, or you can embrace it, get the positives out of it, and move on. 
  • If you feel skeptical about criticism having any benefits, here are some excellent reasons why you should embrace it. 

1. Use Criticism for Personal Growth

Often, criticism has more than a grain of truth in, even if it’s delivered a bit harshly. That’s partly why it makes you uncomfortable—deep down it rings true, even if you don’t want to admit it.

Think of criticism as another element in your personal development toolbox, one that offers insight you might otherwise miss. If nothing else, observing and managing how you react to criticism can shine a spotlight on your triggers, your unconscious reactions, and assumptions.

2. Develop Emotional Resilience

Criticism usually comes laden with emotions. You feel shamed, upset, and attacked. Learning to embrace criticism can help you become more emotionally resilient as you learn how to sit with your uncomfortable emotions instead of blindly reacting.

Practicing detachment takes you to a mental place where you can use your problem-solving skills. You can listen, assess, analyze, and work out what lessons to take away from the experience.

Embracing criticism can also help you step away from needing other people’s approval to feel good about yourself. Once you see criticism as potentially helpful feedback, it stops being a judgment of you as a person.

3. Improve Relationships

Once you stop reacting (or over-reacting) to feedback, you allow more space for openness, honesty, and better communication. People can talk to you about problems without feeling they have to walk on eggshells.

Embracing criticism makes for much better relationships as there are fewer barriers or ‘no go’ areas. You don’t want to be seen as prickly, difficult, or defensive, nor do you want to have your self-worth depend on other people’s good opinion of you.

4. Boost Self-Confidence

Embracing criticism will free you from the curse of perfectionism. You can accept that making mistakes is human, and that being criticized is actually okay, even helpful. Accept that criticism is part of everyday life and you’ll be more confident, happier, and freed up to be your best you.

4 Reasons We Should Embrace Criticism
4 Reasons We Should Embrace Criticism (Photo by Jill Wellington)

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