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World’s biggest bee spotted alive for the first time in decades





A walnut-sized bee with a massive jaw and impressive wingspan has been spotted for the first time in nearly 38 years.

Wallace’s Giant Bee, known by the scientific name Megachile pluto, is the world’s largest bee species — and now we know it actually still exists.

Females measure up to 63.5 millimetres from wing tip to wing tip (longer than a AA battery) and 38 millimetres from head to tail, although males are smaller.

A female of the species was photographed and captured on video in the North Moluccas islands of Indonesia in January, the Global Wildlife Conservation Society announced this week.

A small expedition found the bee in her nest in a termite mound up in a rotting tree, where it’s thought she was raising her young, said Clay Bolt, an American nature photographer who was on the expedition.

“It’s very good news,” he said.

Natural history photographer Clay Bolt takes the first ever photos of a living Wallace’s giant bee at its nest, which is found in an termite mound in the North Moluccas, Indonesia. (Simon Robson)

The bee was first spotted by Iswan, one of the team’s two Indonesian guides, who had noticed a termite mound with a whole that was “very round, and just the size a giant bee might use,” Bolt wrote in a blog post about the discovery.

At the team’s request, Iswan climbed up to investigate and quickly jumped down when he saw the movement of what he thought could be either a snake or a bee. He was followed by American Museum of Natural History entomologist Eli Wyman, who confirmed the hole definitely looked like the nest of a Wallace’s giant bee.

Bolt went up next and directed his headlamp into the hole.

“I saw the bee’s face looking back at me,” he said in an interview with CBC News. “It was an extraordinary moment.”

The team spent two hours waiting for the bee to emerge. Eventually, they tapped her gently with a blade of grass “and she just walked right out,” Bolt said.

Sold on eBay

Prior to that, there had only been two scientific reports of the species. The first from Alfred Russell Wallace, the bee’s namesake and an entomologist who independently developed the theory of evolution by natural selection at the same time as Charles Darwin. And the second sighting was by American entomologist Adam C. Messer in 1981, who found six nests in the same group of Indonesian islands.

Even locals said they had never seen the bee when Bolt and the team arrived and began asking about it.

Indonesian guide Iswan examines an arboreal termite mound containing the first rediscovered Wallace’s giant bee and her nest. (Clay Bolt)

Still, there was good reason to believe that the bee still existed, as dead specimens had turned up for sale on places like eBay. One sold last March for $11, 975 ($9,100 US).

Bolt became captivated by the bee about four years ago after he was shown a specimen by Wyman at the American Museum of Natural History while doing background research for a project that involves photographing native bees across North America.

A couple of years ago, Bolt and Wyman successfully lobbied to have it added to the Global Wildlife Conservation Society’s list of “25 most wanted species” as part of its Search for Lost Species program. The program aims to find plant and animal species that haven’t been spotted for years or decades.

Simon Robson, honorary professor of biology at the University of Sydney and Central Queensland University in Australia, holds a tube containing a Wallace’s giant bee. (Clay Bolt)

As Bolt and Wyman discussed a plan to search for the bee, they were contacted by Canadian-Australian ornithologist and writer Glen Chilton, professor emeritus at St. Mary’s University in Calgary and adjunct professor at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. He had written a book about lost species and was planning a trip to hunt for the bee with James Cook University ecologist Simon Robson.

The four ended up organizing the expedition together, but Chilton fell very ill after a couple of days and had to leave Indonesia.

The team found the bee about four days later, but were unsuccessful in finding other specimens over the next two weeks.

3rd ‘most wanted’ species to be found

The bee is the third of the “25 most wanted species” to be reported found since the list was released in 2017. The news follows the announcement earlier this week that the Fernandina Giant Tortoise was found alive in the Galapagos Islands.

The first lost species found was Jackson’s climbing salamander of Guatemala in 2017. The publicity surrounding its rediscovery helped fund the creation of a reserve to protect its habitat, said Robin Moore, who leads the Global Conservation Society’s Lost Species program.

He hopes to get a similar result for Wallace’s giant bee, which is currently unprotected.

Despite the fact that it is rarely spotted, it’s only listed as “vulnerable,” not “endangered,” by the by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Moore suspects that’s because its habitat still exists, dead specimens are still being traded, and there isn’t enough data to confirm how many there are.

We’re hoping that this will help shine the spotlight and help us [fund] follow up expeditions to determine its status,” Moore said, “and hopefully catalyze conservation actions — protection of habitat, but also protection of species against the trade.”


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





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





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’





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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