Forget props and fixed wings. New bio-inspired drones mimic birds, bats and bugs.

By Kate Baggaley

From hummingbirds that zip about in all directions to bats that veer sharply to nab flies in midair and land upside down to hang from cave ceilings, the world is filled with extraordinary flying animals.

These tiny aviators are more agile than any aircraft — but that may be about to change. Inspired by the aerial abilities of birds, bats and insects, researchers are crafting a new generation of ultralight drones that lack propellers and are equipped not with fixed wings but with flapping ones.

One day, these tiny flying machines may be flitting unobtrusively over the landscape, collecting weather data, monitoring traffic, alerting first responders to accidents and disasters, inspecting construction sites and more. Farmers could use them to pollinate crops and law enforcement agencies could use them for search and rescue and to conduct surveillance.

Eventually, the so-called bio-inspired drones may become available for personal use, flying inside homes and outside them, perching on people’s shoulders, shooting photos and videos and perhaps even keeping discreet watch on elderly people at risk of falling or wandering off….

Human-animal hybrids to be developed in Japan after ban controversially lifted

Human-animal hybrids are to be developed in embryo form in Japan after the government approved controversial stem-cell research.

Human cells will be grown in rat and mouse embryos, then brought to term in a surrogate animal, as part of experiments set to be carried out at the University of Tokyo.

Supporters say the work – led by renowned geneticist Hiromitsu Nakauchi – could be a vital first step towards eventually growing organs that can then be transplanted into people in need.

But opponents have raised concerns that scientists are playing God.

They worry the human cells could stray beyond the targeted organs into other areas of the animal, effectively creating a creature that is part animal, part person…

Neuroscientists decode brain speech signals into written text

Study funded by Facebook aims to improve communication with paralysed patients

Ian Sample Science editor @iansample

Tue 30 Jul 2019 11.21 EDT Last modified on Tue 30 Jul 2019 16.10 EDT

The study recording brain signals sent to trigger organ movement is considered a breakthrough.

The study recording brain signals sent to trigger organ movement is considered a breakthrough. Photograph: yacobchuk/Getty/iStockphoto

Doctors have turned the brain signals for speech into written sentences in a research project that aims to transform how patients with severe disabilities communicate in the future.

The breakthrough is the first to demonstrate how the intention to say specific words can be extracted from brain activity and converted into text rapidly enough to keep pace with natural conversation.

In its current form, the brain-reading software works only for certain sentences it has been trained on, but scientists believe it is a stepping stone towards a more powerful system that can decode in real time the words a person intends to say.

Doctors at the University of California in San Francisco took on the challenge in the hope of creating a product that allows paralysed people to communicate more fluidly than using existing devices that pick up eye movements and muscle twitches to control a virtual keyboard.

“To date there is no speech prosthetic system that allows users to have interactions on the rapid timescale of a human conversation,” said Edward Chang, a neurosurgeon and lead researcher on the study published in the journal Nature.

The work, funded by Facebook, was possible thanks to three epilepsy patients who were about to have neurosurgery for their condition. Before their operations went ahead, all three had a small patch of tiny electrodes placed directly on the brain for at least a week to map the origins of their seizures…

Did Israel violate Jewish law with the Oslo Accords?

Chief Rabbi of Tzfat Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu addressed the question of whether the Oslo Accords are “in accordance with halakha,” or Jewish law.   In a Twitter video posted on Tuesday as part of a daily series addressing questions in halakha, Rabbi Eliyahu said, “The Torah speaks about the land of Israel hundreds of times. Out of those, dozens of times speak of the covenant that G-d made about the land. A covenant and a promise.”   “Dozens of other times, the Torah speaks of the exalted status of the land of Israel, and there are 87 times – I counted – in which the Torah speaks about ‘inheriting the land,’ which means conquering the land. Thus G-d makes a covenant with Abraham in the ‘Covenant between the Parts,’ that he will give him the land to ‘inherit,’ meaning to ‘conquer,’” the rabbi adds.   “This is what all the Torah commentators say, and regarding the World to Come it is also written, ‘G-d will bring you to the land that your forefathers inherited, and you shall inherit it – Just as they conquered, so you shall conquer and rule over it.’ Because rule over the land of Israel is Torah law, a positive mitzvah (Divine commandment) according to [Torah commentator] Ramban – to conquer the land – and [Torah commentator] Rashi says this, too. And it is understood from the simple reading of the text.”   “There is no subject that the Torah repeats so many times like this one, due to its great importance,” Rabbi Eliyahu notes. “Why is it important? Because in our day there are those who think it is a political issue, whether the Palestinians will control the land of Israel or the Jewish people. But it’s halakha. The Ramban says, ‘Why does the Torah define the borders of the land of Israel? To tell you, in these borders – only you shall rule.’ This is the mitzvah of inheriting the land.”   “How can one ignore this? I don’t understand,” Rabbi Eliyahu emphasizes. “I address these things to the secular public to whom the tradition is dear, but mainly to the religious public. How can you keep every mitzvah that the Torah mentions only once, but throw aside this mitzvah that is brought up so much and is so dear to G-d. This subject must be remedied. Learn what is written in the Torah, see what G-d wants, and do it.”

‘Iran building military front against Israel’

Iranian diplomat Amir Al-Moussawi reports of a plan to create an “axis of resistance” against Israel that will include a united military front comprised of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, which would work together in any future military confrontation.   In an interview with the Felesteen al-Yawm website, which is affiliated with the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, al-Moussawi estimated that a recent visit to Tehran by a senior Hamas delegation was linked to the creation of the new front, and was aimed at coordinating positions on the economic and security levels as well as assisting “Palestinian refugees” in Lebanon.   Al-Moussawi said the talks with Hamas in were successful, and that Hamas conveyed a message to Iran’s leader from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh about his organization’s preparedness for any confrontation with Israel in a scenario of war between Iran and Israel and the US.   Al-Moussawi also said that Iran intends to work to bring Hamas back to Syria and intends to discuss the matter with the Syrian leadership. During the civil war in Syria, Hamas relocated its leadership office to Turkey after it refused to support Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, a close ally of Iran’s, in the uprising against him.   Speaking about alleged Israeli air strikes in Syria, al-Moussawi said that the new axis of action has plans for a response, but he does not want to expose them to the “enemy” at this point. He also estimated that Syria would respond if Israel attacked its territory again.

Egypt, Jordan reaffirm support for two states

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II met on Monday to discuss efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict, AFP reported.   Sisi’s office said the two leaders reaffirmed their support for a two-state solution. The meeting comes ahead of an expected visit to the region by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House advisor Jared Kushner, who is pushing the Trump administration’s peace plan which has been rejected by the Palestinian Arabs and criticized by Jordan.   Kushner’s initiative, partially unveiled at a Bahrain conference in June, dangled the prospect of pumping $50 billion-worth of investment into the Palestinian Authority economy. Little is known about the political component of the peace plan, but Kushner indicated in April that the plan would not focus on the two-state solution.   In a statement Monday, Sisi’s office said the Egyptian and Jordanian leaders had agreed on “the importance of intensifying efforts” to resume peace talks.   They stressed the talks should abide by the two-state solution long accepted internationally as the basis for a solution: a “Palestinian state based on the June 1967 boundaries with East Jerusalem as its capital.”   Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said recently that Jordan will not accept any deal that neglects the legitimate right of the Palestinians to establish a state.   Last week, King Abdullah II met PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, and restated his position that the creation of a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital is the only way to end the conflict.   The PA has rejected the US peace plan before it has even been unveiled, claiming it is biased in Israel’s favor.

Israel said to hit Iranian sites in Iraq, expanding strikes on missile shipments

Israel has expanded its operations against Iranian targets to Iraq, where Air Force jets have struck twice in ten days, a report said Tuesday morning. Israel commonly conducts strikes in Syrian territory, targeting Iranian missile shipments meant for Lebanese terror group Hezbollah to use against the Jewish state, but strikes in Iraq by Israel have not been reported since the 1981 bombing of a nuclear reactor. Asharq Al-Awsat, an Arabic-language newspaper published in London, cited Western diplomatic sources as saying an Israeli F-35 plane was behind a July 19 strike on a rocket depot in a Shiite militia base north of Baghdad. The IDF has not commented on the report. The Saudi-based al-Arabiya network reported at the time that members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah had been killed in the strike. It said the base had shortly before the strike received Iranian ballistic missiles, which had been hidden inside trucks. Iraq’s military said at the time that one fighter was killed and two Iranians wounded, saying the strike was carried out by an unmanned drone. The United States denied involvement. Asharq Al-Awsat also said that Israel was behind another strike in Iraq carried out Sunday at Camp Ashraf, the former headquarters of the exiled People’s Mujahedin of Iran, located 40 kilometers northeast of Baghdad and 80 kilometers from the Iranian border. That strike targeted Iranian advisers and a ballistic missile shipment, the report cited sources as saying. READ MORE