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London Gatwick Airport closure because of drones extends into Friday

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Tens of thousands of passengers were delayed, diverted or stuck on planes Thursday as the only runway at Britain’s Gatwick Airport remained closed into a second day after drones were spotted over the airfield.

The airport south of London — Britain’s second-busiest by passenger numbers — said all incoming and outgoing flights were suspended until further notice on a day when 115,000 people were scheduled to pass through, many en route to seasonal breaks.

Gatwick first closed its runway Wednesday evening after two drones were spotted. It reopened briefly at about 3 a.m. GMT Thursday, but shut 45 minutes later after further sightings. 

Drones were still being spotted into Thursday night, a Gatwick spokesperson said around 10 p.m. GMT, more than 24 hours after their first sighting.

Europe’s air traffic control agency Eurocontrol said the airport would remain closed until at least 6 a.m. GMT on Friday.

A page of the arrivals board at Gatwick Airport shows all but one arriving flight cancelled Thursday. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

Passengers were advised to check the status of their flights before heading to the airport, where many slept on floors or formed long lines at information desks.

Airport chief executive Stewart Wingate said in a statement Thursday that the drone intrusion at Gatwick was “highly targeted” and designed to cause “maximum disruption” just before Christmas.

Police said the drone flights were a “deliberate act to disrupt the airport,” but that there were “absolutely no indications to suggest this is terror-related.”

Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesperson condemned the standoff as “irresponsible and completely unacceptable.”

Two Canadian airlines operate direct flights to Gatwick: WestJet and Air Transat.

WestJet told CBC News it has cancelled all regularly scheduled flight to and from Gatwick on Thursday, and was contacting all affected customers.

Drone sightings persist

There were 20 police units from two forces searching for the elusive drone operator. Supt. Justin Burtenshaw of Sussex Police said the search was daunting.

“Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears. When we look to reopen the airfield, the drone reappears,” he said.

Get an idea of the madness at Gatwick:

Burtenshaw said new and bigger drones have more reach, making it harder for police to locate the person controlling the flying device.

“It’s a difficult and challenging thing to locate them, but I’ve got teams now and I’ve got investigators looking at how we do that, and I’m confident we will,” he said.

Gatwick’s chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe described one of the drones as a heavy industrial model.

“The police advice is that it would be dangerous to seek to shoot the drone down because of what may happen to the stray bullets,” he told BBC Radio.

“It is clearly our intention to get open again, but only when it is safe to do so,” Woodroofe said.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the military would be deployed to help police. He said the armed forces would bring “unique capabilities” but gave no details.

Any problem at Gatwick causes a ripple effect throughout Britain and continental Europe, particularly during a holiday period when air traffic control systems are under strain. The airport apologized Thursday on Twitter for the holiday-season delays.

Watch: A drone expert talks about regulations around airports.

A drone expert discusses the challenges and regulatory hurdles in the world of drones. Eric Sazcuk is an instructor at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Tens of thousands of passengers were delayed, diverted or stuck on planes Thursday as the only runway at Britain’s Gatwick Airport remained closed into a second day after drones were spotted over the airfield. 1:38

Passengers complained on Twitter that their Gatwick-bound flights had landed at London Heathrow airport or in Manchester, Birmingham and other cities, as far away as Paris and Amsterdam.

Canadian Charlotte Mather was trapped at Gatwick after her flight to Toronto was rescheduled for Friday morning.

“I think it’s crazy that someone would try to fly [a drone] at the airport … and that it’s been going on for so long now, so it’s obviously on purpose,” Maher said.

One pilot described “flights diverting all over the place to other airports,” on Instagram. “This is why we do not like drones!”

Andri Kyprianou, from Cyprus, described “freezing” conditions for passengers who spent the night at Gatwick’s South Terminal. Her flight to Kyiv had been cancelled.

“There were pregnant women, one of them was sleeping on the floor. There were people with small babies in here overnight. We saw disabled people on chairs. There were young children sleeping on the floor,” Kyprianou said.

Potential prison sentence for drone offenders

Gatwick, about 45 kilometres south of London, sees more than 43 million passengers a year to short- and long-haul destinations and serves as a major hub for the budget carrier EasyJet.

Gatwick normally operates throughout the night but the number of flights is restricted because of noise limitations. The airport website says it usually handles 18 to 20 flights overnight during the winter.

The airport briefly closed its runway last year when a drone was spotted in the area.

Pilots have reported a sharp rise in “airprox” incidents involving drones in Britain in recent years. Pilots or air traffic controllers in the U.K. may file airprox reports when they feel the distance between two aircraft could compromise safety.

So far this year, the U.K. Airprox Board reported 117 incidents involving drones. Just six incidents involving drones were reported in 2014.

Passengers wait around in the South Terminal building at Gatwick Airport after drones flying illegally over the airfield forced the airport to halt all incoming and outgoing flights. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

U.K. aviation authorities have warned there is a growing risk that a midair collision between drones and planes, which could cause a major disaster.

Under British law, it is illegal to fly drones within one kilometre of an airport boundary. Flying a drone near an airport carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Christopher Lister, whose flight from Kyiv to Gatwick was diverted to Birmingham in central England, said the scale of the disruption was “a little bit scary.”

“We feel grateful it’s not a worse story this morning about an aircraft [that has] come down,” he told the BBC.

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Trudeau Government Should Turn to Sustainable Floor Heating In Its New Deal

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A consortium has been chosen by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to manage the $1.1-billion overhaul of five heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region. However, this decision has been met with a lot of disapproval by the country’s largest federal public service union.

Early June, the department announced that Innovate Energy has been awarded the 30-year contract “to design, retrofit, maintain and operate the plants,”winning the bid over a rival group that included SNC-Lavalin.

Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, said the federal government was “leading by example” in its bid to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. McKenna noted that by supporting this project, they’re utilizing heating and cooling infrastructure to promote a more environmentally friendly option.

“We’re very proud that our government is working with partners like Innovate Energy to modernize this critical infrastructure,” she said during the announcement at one of the facilities that will be upgraded, the Cliff Heating and Cooling Plant in downtown Ottawa.

The plants would be known as the district energy system and would heat 80 buildings in the area with steam. It is also expected to cool 67 of these buildings with chilled water through more than 14 kilometres of underground pipes.

Under the Energy Services Acquisition Program, PSPC will be tasked with modernizing the outdated technology in the plants to lower emissions and supportgrowth in the eco-friendly technology sector.

During the first stage of the overhaul, the system would be converted from steam to low temperature hot water and then switched from steam to electric chillers—with the estimated completion date being 2025. PSPC notes that the project will reduce current emissions by 63 per cent, the equivalent of removing 14,000 non-eco-friendly cars off the road.

Afterwards, the natural gas powering the plant will then be replaced by carbon-neutral fuel sources, which according to estimated will reduce emissions by a further 28 per cent. The renovation project is bound to save the government an estimated fee of more than $750 million in heating and cooling costs in the next 40 years.

Furthermore, the implementation of radiant floor heating in Ottawa by the federal government would be an additional step in driving its agenda for a more eco-friendly state.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website, radiant floor heating has a lot of benefits and advantages over alternate heat systems and can cut heating costs by 25 to 50 per cent.

“It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through ducts,” the website states.

Radiant floor heating provides an equal amount of heat throughout a building, including areas that are difficult to heat, such as rooms with vaulted ceilings, garages or bathrooms. Consideringit warms people and objects directly—controlling the direct heat loss of the occupant—radiant floor heating provides comfort at lower thermostat settings.

“Radiators and other forms of ‘point’ heating circulate heat inefficiently and hence need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels,” reports the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNet).

Radiant heating is a clean and healthy option—a perfect choice for those with severe allergies—as it doesn’t rely on circulating air, meaning there are no potentially irritating particles blowing around the room. Additionally, it is more energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing with wall radiators or floor registers and virtually noiseless when in operation.

“They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down, creating drafts and circulating dust and allergens.”

It is important for the leadership in Ottawa to equally drive the adoption of radiant floor heating as doing this would lead to increased usage in residential buildings—and even government-owned buildings.

However, in October, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a representative body of employees of the plants,began a campaign target at the government against their decision to use a public-private partnership (P3) for the retrofitting project, citing concerns about costs and safety.

According to the union, outside employees won’t be bound to the same health and safety standards of government workers and that typically P3 projects cost a lot more than traditional public financing deals.

The union demands that the government scraps the proposed project and meet PSAC members and experts to brainstorm on a new way forward that would ensure federal employees continue to operate and maintain the plants.

However, parliamentary secretary to public services and procurement minister, Steve MacKinnon said that the union officials have consulted him but that after conducting an analysis, the P3 option was still the best for the job.

“We didn’t have (to) sacrifice on safety or health — we didn’t have to sacrifice on job security,” he said.

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Steps to becoming a Data Scientist

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Data science has become one of the most in-demand career paths in this century, according to Business Insider. With the amount of information being circulated online, it has created a huge demand for storing, interpreting and implementing big data for different purposes—hence the need for a data scientist.

Today, there too much information flying around for regular people to process efficiently and use. Therefore, it has become the responsibility of data scientists to collect, organize and analyze this data. Doing this helps various people, organizations, enterprise businesses and governments to manage, store and interpret this data for different purposes.

Though data scientists come from different educational backgrounds, a majority of them need to have a technical educational background. To pursue a career in data science, computer-related majors, graduations and post graduations in maths and statistics are quite useful.

Therefore, the steps to becoming a data scientist are quite straightforward.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in an IT related field—such as computer science, maths or physics—you can also further your education by obtaining a master’s degree in a data science or any other related field of study. With the necessary educational background, you can now search for a job and obtain the required experience in whichever filed you choose to invest your acquired skills.

Here are the necessary steps to be taken to become a data scientist.

Step 1: Obtain the necessary educational requirements

As earlier noted, different educational paths can still lead to a career in data science. However, it is impossible to begin a career in data science without obtaining a collegiate degree—as a four-year bachelor’s degree is really important. However, according to a report by Business Insider, over 73% of data scientist in existence today have a graduate degree and about 38% of them hold a Ph.D. Therefore, to rise above the crowd and get a high-end position in the field of data science, it is important to have a Master’s degree or a Ph.D.—and with various online data science masters program, obtaining one is quite easy.

Some institutions provide data science programs with courses that will equip students to analyze complex sets of data. These courses also involve a host of technical information about computers, statistics, data analysis techniques and many more. Completing these programs equips you with the necessary skills to function adequately as a data scientist.

Additionally, there are some technical—and computer-based degrees—that can aid you begin a career in data science. Some of them include studies in, Computer Science, Statistics, Social Science, Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Applied Math. These degrees will imbibe some important skills related to data science in you—namely, coding, experimenting, managing large amounts of data, solving quantitative problems and many others.

Step 2: Choose an area of specialization

There rarely exists an organization, agency or business today that doesn’t require the expertise of a data scientist. Hence, it is important that after acquiring the necessary education to start a career as a data scientist, you need to choose an area of specialization in the field you wish to work in.

Some of the specializations that exist in data science today include automotive, marketing, business, defence, sales, negotiation, insurance and many others.

Step 3: Kick start your career as a data scientist

After acquiring the necessary skills to become a data scientist, it is important to get a job in the filed and company of your choice where you can acquire some experience.

Many organizations offer valuable training to their data scientists and these pieces of training are typically centred around the specific internal systems and programs of an organization. Partaking in this training allows you learn some high-level analytical skills that were not taught during your various school programs—especially since data science is a constantly evolving field.

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Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech’s ‘Nobel Prize’

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Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don’t think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as “artificial intelligence,” or AI.

Their insights and persistence were rewarded Wednesday with the Turing Award, an honor that has become known as technology industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. It comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, a company where AI has become part of its DNA.

The award marks the latest recognition of the instrumental role that artificial intelligence will likely play in redefining the relationship between humanity and technology in the decades ahead.

Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said Cherri Pancake, president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the group behind the Turing Award.

Although they have known each other for than 30 years, Bengio, Hinton and LeCun have mostly worked separately on technology known as neural networks. These are the electronic engines that power tasks such as facial and speech recognition, areas where computers have made enormous strides over the past decade. Such neural networks also are a critical component of robotic systems that are automating a wide range of other human activity, including driving.

Their belief in the power of neural networks was once mocked by their peers, Hinton said. No more. He now works at Google as a vice president and senior fellow while LeCun is chief AI scientist at Facebook. Bengio remains immersed in academia as a University of Montreal professor in addition to serving as scientific director at the Artificial Intelligence Institute in Quebec.

“For a long time, people thought what the three of us were doing was nonsense,” Hinton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought we were very misguided and what we were doing was a very surprising thing for apparently intelligent people to waste their time on. My message to young researchers is, don’t be put off if everyone tells you what are doing is silly.” Now, some people are worried that the results of the researchers’ efforts might spiral out of control.

While the AI revolution is raising hopes that computers will make most people’s lives more convenient and enjoyable, it’s also stoking fears that humanity eventually will be living at the mercy of machines.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun share some of those concerns especially the doomsday scenarios that envision AI technology developed into weapons systems that wipe out humanity.

But they are far more optimistic about the other prospects of AI empowering computers to deliver more accurate warnings about floods and earthquakes, for instance, or detecting health risks, such as cancer and heart attacks, far earlier than human doctors.

“One thing is very clear, the techniques that we developed can be used for an enormous amount of good affecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hinton said.

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