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Fashion for pointy shoes unleashed a plague of BUNIONS in Medieval Britain, study finds 

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Winklepickers have been a staple for British rock ‘n’ roll fans since the 1950s.

But a new study has found that a similar fashion for pointy shoes actually unleashed a plague of bunions in Medieval Britain. 

Cambridge researchers believe a change in shoe style during the 14th century, from a rounded toe to a lengthy, pointed tip, drove the rise in foot deformities. 

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Bunions: Cambridge researchers believe a change in shoe style during the 14th century, from a rounded toe to a lengthy, pointed tip, drove a rise in hallux valgus (pictured left). They studied almost 200 skeletons at the city’s cemeteries (right) dating from the 11th to 15th century

The skeletons (including the one pictured) came from four burial sites around Cambridge

WHAT WERE POULAINE SHOES?

Poulaines were a style of shoes with extremely long toes that were very popular in the 14th and 15th century.

The arrival of this fashion in England is traditionally associated with the marriage of Richard II and Anne of Bohemia in 1382.

Poulaine-toed shoes in 14th century London were mainly found in men’s sizes, but 15th century art shows them being worn by both men and women, with the toes of men’s shoes being the most extravagantly long.

Across late medieval society the pointiness of shoes became so extreme that in 1463 King Edward IV passed a law limiting toe-point length to less than two inches in London.

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Archaeologists analysed almost 200 skeletons from the city’s cemeteries and found that 27 per cent of those dating from the 14th and 15th centuries had been hobbled by longstanding hallux valgus – often called bunions. 

This compared to 6 per cent of those buried between the 11th and 13th centuries. 

Hallux valgus is a minor deformity in which the largest toe becomes angled outward and a bony protrusion forms at its base, on the inside of the foot.

While various factors can bunions, from genetics to muscle imbalance, by far the most common contemporary cause is constrictive boots and shoes. 

The University of Cambridge study claims that the change in shoe style in the 14th century, to a type known as ‘poulaines’, was to blame for the outbreak of bunions.   

‘The 14th century brought an abundance of new styles of dress and footwear in a wide range of fabrics and colours. Among these fashion trends were pointed long-toed shoes called poulaines,’ said study co-author Dr Piers Mitchell from Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology.

‘The remains of shoes excavated in places like London and Cambridge suggest that by the late 14th century almost every type of shoe was at least slightly pointed – a style common among both adults and children alike.’  

He added: ‘We investigated the changes that occurred between the high and late medieval periods, and realised that the increase in hallux valgus over time must have been due to the introduction of these new footwear styles.’

Fellow author Dr Jenna Dittmar said: ‘We think of bunions as being a modern problem but this work shows it was actually one of the more common conditions to have affected medieval adults.’

Researchers found that the burial plots for wealthier citizens and the clergy were much more likely to have skeletons with bunions.

The skeletons came from four sites around Cambridge: a charitable hospital (now part of St John’s College); the grounds of a former Augustinian friary, where clergy and wealthy benefactors were buried; a local parish graveyard on what was the edge of town; and a rural burial site by a village almost four miles south of Cambridge.

Researchers found that the burial plots for wealthier citizens and the clergy were much more likely to have skeletons with bunions

‘Paleopathological assessments’ were carried out including inspecting foot bones for the bump by the big toe that is the hallmark of hallux valgus. 

Only 3 per cent of the rural cemetery showed signs of bunions, 10 per cent of the parish graveyard (which mainly held the working poor), and 23 per cent of those on the hospital site.

However, some 43 per cent of those buried in the friary – including five of the eleven skeletons identified as clergy by their belt buckles – had evidence of bunions. 

‘Rules for the attire of Augustinian friars included footwear that was “black and fastened by a thong at the ankle'”, commensurate with a lifestyle of worship and poverty,’ said Mitchell.

‘However, in the 13th and 14th centuries it was increasingly common for those in clerical orders in Britain to wear stylish clothes – a cause for concern among high-ranking church officials.’

In 1215, the church forbade clergy from wearing pointed-toed shoes. However, this may have done little to curb the trend, as numerous further decrees on clerical dress had to be passed, most notably in 1281 and 1342. 

Across late medieval society the pointiness of shoes became so extreme that in 1463 King Edward IV passed a law limiting toe-point length to less than two inches in London.

The majority of remains with signs of hallux valgus across all sites and eras within the study were men (20 of the 31 total bunion sufferers).

The study is published in the International Journal of Paleopathology.

This post first appeared on The Sun

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Health: ‘Fat but fit’ people still at risk of health issues, study warns

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Obese people who exercise regularly are still at an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease, a study has cautioned.

University of Glasgow experts studied people who were obese but had a normal metabolic profile, a combination dubbed ‘metabolically healthy obesity’ (MHO). 

Individuals with MHO have a body mass index of 30 or higher, but lack the systemic inflammation, problematic blood fats and insulin issues often seen with obesity. 

Experts have calculated that MHO may occur in the general population at levels of anywhere between 3 and 22 per cent.

The team found that metabolically healthy obesity increases the risk of various health issues in comparison with people of a regular BMI.

For example, it raises the risk of type 2 diabetes 4.3 fold and leads to a whopping 76 per cent increase in the risk of heart failure.

Experts estimated that there are more then 300 million people worldwide who are obese — a figure expected to exceed 1 billion, or 1-in-5 people, come the year 2030.

Obese people who exercise regularly are still at an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease, a study has cautioned (stock image)

The study was undertaken by epidemiologist Frederick Ho of the University of Glasgow and his colleagues.

‘People with metabolically healthy obesity are not “healthy” as they are at higher risk of heart attack and stroke, heart failure, and respiratory diseases compared with people without obesity who have a normal metabolic profile,’ they wrote.

‘Weight management could be beneficial to all people with obesity irrespective of their metabolic profile.’

‘The term “metabolically healthy obesity” should be avoided in clinical medicine as it is misleading, and different strategies for defining risk should be explored.’ 

In their study, the researchers monitored 381,363 individuals — all of whom were either of a healthy weight, overweight or obese.

All the participants were part of the UK Biobank project, a large-scale study that collected detailed genetic and health information on half-a-million volunteers.

Subject were grouped into one of four categories — either metabolically healthy obese (MHO), metabolically unhealthy obese (MUO), metabolically healthy non-obese (MHN) or metabolically unhealthy non-obese (MUN).

The team found that the MHO individuals in the study were generally younger in age, watched less television, were more educated, at more red and processed meat and were less likely to be male and non-white than MUO participants.

Furthermore, MHO subjects were 4.3 times more likely to have type 2 diabetes, 18 per cent more at risk of a heart attack or stroke and 76 per cent more likely to suffer heart failure than metabolically healthy participants without obesity.

Metabolically healthy obesity also came with a 28 per cent increase in the risk of respiratory disease and a 19 percent increase in the likelihood of suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

When compared with metabolically unhealthy people without obesity, those classed as MHO were also 28 per cent more likely to experience heart failure.

‘Generally, rates of cardiovascular and respiratory outcomes were highest in MUO, followed by MUN and MHO, except for incident and fatal heart failure, and incident respiratory diseases,’ the researchers noted.

‘For these outcomes, people with MHO had higher rates than those with MUN.”

‘People with metabolically healthy obesity were at a substantially higher risk of diabetes, heart attack and stroke, heart failure, respiratory diseases, and all-cause mortality compared with [MHN people].’ 

‘Particularly worth noting is that people with metabolically healthy obesity had a higher risk of heart failure and respiratory disease than metabolically unhealthy participants without obesity.’

In addition, the team found that — in a subset of participants they followed up with — one third of the originally MHO individuals became metabolically unhealthy within 3–5 years.  

The full findings of the study were published in the Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. 

OBESITY: ADULTS WITH A BMI OVER 30 ARE SEEN AS OBESE

Obesity is defined as an adult having a BMI of 30 or over.

A healthy person’s BMI – calculated by dividing weight in kg by height in metres, and the answer by the height again – is between 18.5 and 24.9. 

Among children, obesity is defined as being in the 95th percentile.

Percentiles compare youngsters to others their same age. 

For example, if a three-month-old is in the 40th percentile for weight, that means that 40 per cent of three-month-olds weigh the same or less than that baby.

Around 58 per cent of women and 68 per cent of men in the UK are overweight or obese. 

The condition costs the NHS around £6.1billion, out of its approximate £124.7 billion budget, every year.

This is due to obesity increasing a person’s risk of a number of life-threatening conditions.

Such conditions include type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness and even limb amputations.

Research suggests that at least one in six hospital beds in the UK are taken up by a diabetes patient.

Obesity also raises the risk of heart disease, which kills 315,000 people every year in the UK – making it the number one cause of death.

Carrying dangerous amounts of weight has also been linked to 12 different cancers. 

This includes breast, which affects one in eight women at some point in their lives.

Among children, research suggests that 70 per cent of obese youngsters have high blood pressure or raised cholesterol, which puts them at risk of heart disease.

Obese children are also significantly more likely to become obese adults. 

And if children are overweight, their obesity in adulthood is often more severe.  

As many as one in five children start school in the UK being overweight or obese, which rises to one in three by the time they turn 10.  

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Drone ‘bus’ able to carry 40 people from NYC to the Hamptons for just $85 in 2024

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While Uber Elevate plans to launch an air taxi service for up to four passengers in 2023, a New York-startup is thinking bigger by developing a drone bus that fits 40 people.

Kelekona recently unveiled plans for a giant electric vertical takeoff and landing craft (eVTOL) to transport people between cities, with the first route set for Manhattan and the Hamptons.

This flight would take just 30 minutes and cost flyers $85 – the same price as a train ticket.

The firm is eyeing 2024 for its first passenger flights and plans to expand into different regions soon after that includes London to Paris and Los Angeles to San Francisco. .

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Kelekona recently unveiled plans for a giant electric vertical takeoff and landing craft (eVTOL) to transport people between cities, with the first route set for Manhattan and the Hamptons

Founder Braeden Kelekona told Digital Trends the company’s main competitor is public transportation, as many travelers hit the road, squish into trains or waiting on line for the bus when starting a vacation or weekend getaway.

And it seems fitting that the first route would be in New York.

‘We have a really small airspace in New York,’ Kelekona told the news outlet.

‘It never made sense to us to create a small aircraft that was only able to carry up to six people.

The firm is eyeing 2024 for its first passenger flights and plans to expand into different regions soon after that includes London to Paris and Los Angeles to San Francisco

To achieve one-way, one-hour flights, Kelekona is developing a swappable battery method similar to what Tesla uses in its Model S and Model 3 cars

‘You have to have the kind of mass transit we rely on here in the city. It makes sense to try to move as many people as possible in one aircraft, so that we’re not hogging airspace.’

After Kelekona gets the New York route up and running, the firm plans to add other pathways including Boston to New York; New York to Washington, D.C.; and Los Angeles to San Francisco.

The drone bus, which resembles a mash-up of a flying saucer and blimp, is designed with eight thrust vectoring fans with movable propellers to perform all stages of flight: vertical takeoff, forward flight and landing.

And to achieve one-way, one-hour flights, Kelekona is developing a swappable battery method similar to what Tesla uses in its Model S and Model 3 cars.

The drone bus, which resembles a mash-up of a flying saucer and blimp, is designed with eight thrust vectoring fans with movable propellers to perform all stages of flight: vertical takeoff, forward flight and landing

By utilizing swappable batteries, the drone bus can cut turnaround time when flying between hubs, thus eliminating the need to recharge.

The battery pack, according to the New York startup, will also be equipped with 3.6 megawatt hours of capacity, which is enough to power thousands of homes.

Along with taking passengers for joy rides, Kelekona also sees its drone bus transporting cargo for military personal in war zones or assisting as an aerial medical evacuation in the event of an emergency.  

Although Kelekona has a route picked and date set for passenger flights, it has only designed its drone bus in computer simulations.

But Kelekona told Digital Trends that the world should ‘expect to see our aircraft in the air next year.’

Uber Technologies sold its air taxi arm in December to Joby Aviation, but the deal has not pulled the plug on Uber’s initial plans to ferry passengers through the skies by 2023.

While terms of the transaction were not released, Uber has agreed to invest $75 million in Joby Aviation.

This post first appeared on The Sun

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Google’s new artificial intelligence can design computer chips in under six hours

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Google has developed an artificial intelligence that it says is capable of creating computer chips in ‘under six hours,’ according to a new study.

The research, published in Nature, notes that humans can take ‘months’ to design specialized chips for its tensor processing units – a type of chip used in AI – but the reinforcement learning (RL) algorithm is better and faster than humans at creating more complex AI.

‘The RL agent becomes better and faster at floorplanning optimization as it places a greater number of chip netlists,’ the researchers wrote in the study. 

‘We show that our method can generate chip floorplans that are comparable or superior to human experts in under six hours, whereas humans take months to produce acceptable floorplans for modern accelerators.’

Google developed an artificial intelligence that it says is capable of creating computer chips in ‘under six hours’ 

The new process was used in Google’s latest TPU chip, Anna Goldie, one of the study’s co-authors said

The researchers gave the software 10,000 chip floorplans to analyze and it then worked out how to come up with floorplans that did not use more space, wire and electric power than those designed by humans

The chip floorplan is where parts such as CPUs, GPUs and memory have been placed on the silicon.

It could have broader implications for the semiconductor industry, which is struggling with the end of Moore’s Law 

Google’s research should be shared for the greater good, according to an editorial alongside the study

Putting its money where its mouth is, the Google researchers said it is already being used commercially in the latest version of its tensor processing unit chips. 

Google’s researchers gave the software 10,000 chip floorplans to analyze and it then worked out how to come up with floorplans that did not use more space, wire and electric power than those designed by humans.

The chip floorplan is where parts such as CPUs, GPUs and memory have been placed on the silicon.

Since the 1960s, there have been three different approaches to how these parts could be laid out on the silicon: partitioning-based methods, stochastic/hill-climbing approaches and analytic solvers.

None have achieved human level performance, but the RL system is able to do it fairly easily.

‘Our method, on the other hand, can scale to netlists with millions of nodes, and optimizes directly for any mixture of differentiable or non-differentiable cost functions,’ the researchers added. 

‘Furthermore, our method improves in both speed and quality of result because it is exposed to more instances of the chip placement problem.

‘In addition to the immediate impact on chip floorplanning, the ability of our method to generalize and quickly generate high-quality solutions has major implications, unlocking opportunities for co-optimization with earlier stages of the chip design process. Large-scale architectural explorations were previously impossible, because it took months of human effort to accurately evaluate a given architectural candidate.’    

It’s widely considered a remarkable achievement, one that has been hailed by some of the leading AI researchers in the world, including Facebook’s Yann LeCun.

This is considered a remarkable achievement, one that has been hailed by some of the leading AI researchers in the world, including Facebook’s Yann LeCun

It could have broader implications for the semiconductor industry, which is struggling with the end of Moore’s Law, which states the number of transistors on a chip doubles roughly every two years.

There is the concern, however, that the findings should be shared for the greater good.

‘This is an important achievement and will be a huge help in speeding up the supply chain, but the technical expertise must be shared widely to make sure the ‘ecosystem’ of companies becomes genuinely global,’ an editorial published in Nature reads

‘And the industry must make sure that the time-saving techniques do not drive away people with the necessary core skills.’

WHY ARE PEOPLE SO WORRIED ABOUT AI?

It is an issue troubling some of the greatest minds in the world at the moment, from Bill Gates to Elon Musk.

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk described AI as our ‘biggest existential threat’ and likened its development as ‘summoning the demon’.

He believes super intelligent machines could use humans as pets.

Professor Stephen Hawking said it is a ‘near certainty’ that a major technological disaster will threaten humanity in the next 1,000 to 10,000 years.

They could steal jobs 

More than 60 percent of people fear that robots will lead to there being fewer jobs in the next ten years, according to a 2016 YouGov survey.

And 27 percent predict that it will decrease the number of jobs ‘a lot’ with previous research suggesting admin and service sector workers will be the hardest hit.

As well as posing a threat to our jobs, other experts believe AI could ‘go rogue’ and become too complex for scientists to understand.

A quarter of the respondents predicted robots will become part of everyday life in just 11 to 20 years, with 18 percent predicting this will happen within the next decade. 

They could ‘go rogue’ 

Computer scientist Professor Michael Wooldridge said AI machines could become so intricate that engineers don’t fully understand how they work.

If experts don’t understand how AI algorithms function, they won’t be able to predict when they fail.

This means driverless cars or intelligent robots could make unpredictable ‘out of character’ decisions during critical moments, which could put people in danger.

For instance, the AI behind a driverless car could choose to swerve into pedestrians or crash into barriers instead of deciding to drive sensibly.

They could wipe out humanity 

Some people believe AI will wipe out humans completely.

‘Eventually, I think human extinction will probably occur, and technology will likely play a part in this,’ DeepMind’s Shane Legg said in a recent interview.

He singled out artificial intelligence, or AI, as the ‘number one risk for this century’.

Musk warned that AI poses more of a threat to humanity than North Korea.

‘If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea,’ the 46-year-old wrote on Twitter.

‘Nobody likes being regulated, but everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc) that’s a danger to the public is regulated. AI should be too.’

Musk has consistently advocated for governments and private institutions to apply regulations on AI technology.

He has argued that controls are necessary in order protect machines from advancing out of human control

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