China develops actual laser rifle
According to reports first published in the South China Morning Post, a Chinese company has developed a real-life laser rifle capable of hitting targets over a distance of 800 metres. The ZKZM-500 can be fired 1000 times for two seconds per shot before its lithium ion batteries need a recharge, but the beam is not strong enough to be used for anything except nonlethal engagements. Mass production is also unlikely given the weapon’s current R200 000 price tag.
Lab grows mini caveman brains
A lab at the University of California, San Diego are growing miniature Neanderthal brains in petri dishes, in order to settle the debate around their extinction. The most prominent theory about Neanderthal extinction is that they died off because they didn’t have the same brain capacity as the new kids on the block, homo sapiens. Researchers believe that the mini brains, which will measure 0.2cm each when mature, can provide a key to solving this mystery.
AI outperforms humans in GP exam
An artificial intelligence programme developed by the UK’s Babylon Healthcare Services has outperformed humans in the Royal Society of General Practitioners’ GP exam. The software maintained a score of 81%, better than the average score of 72% required to pass. The AI also correctly diagnosed the most common patient ailments 98% of the time. GP in Hand, a mobile app by the same company, can be selected as a primary care provider by National Health Service users.
‘Rain of blood’ showers Siberian town
When blood started raining from the sky recently in Norilsk, a drab industrial town in Siberia, residents understandably thought the end of the world was nigh. The explanation was far more pedestrian: cleaning staff at a local factory forgot to cover rust scrapings they had removed from the factory roof. Strong winds lifted the particles into the air where they mixed with rainwater and fell back to earth in a crimson shower. Red rain in Europe is often caused by dust particles from the Sahara.