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The ancient girl who ate hazelnuts

According to CNN, in late 2019, a small piece of birch pitch (pictured above) was found by archeologists on Lolland, the fourth largest island of Denmark. A study uncovered a 5,700-year-old girl's entire genome and oral microbiome, marking the first time human genetic material has successfully been extracted from something besides human bones.

Nicknamed Lola, the young girl who chewed on the birch pitch had blue eyes, dark skin and dark hair. Her last meal included hazelnuts and mallard duck but no milk. She was lactose-intolerant, which serves to validate the theory that adults evolved the tolerance after dairy farming was introduced.

New planets discovered

Scientists have recently discovered two exoplanets, Kepler-62f and Kepler 186f, which are located within the habitable zones of their respective stars, and the best part is that the planets probably have stable climates and regular seasons. The astronomers also believe that one of them is similar in size to our home planet. 

Researchers from the Georgia Tech and Harvard University found out that both Kepler-186f and Kepler-62f seem to be steadily tilted on their axis, just like Earth, giving them stable climates and seasons. "Our calculations show that their spin would have remained constant over tens of millions of years," said Georgia Tech's Assistant Professor Gongjie Li. According to the scientists, these exoplanets are capable of harboring life.

Good news for coffee drinkers

Coffee is among the most commonly consumed beverages on earth. Because of its popularity, it has attracted a great deal of research over the years.

Scientists have now stacked up a fair amount of evidence proving that coffee can protect against certain diseases and may even extend lifespan. Studies have shown that moderate coffee consumption might protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease, to name but three.

But the findings to date leave some unanswered questions. For instance, certain people have genetic variations that alter the way in which they metabolize, or break down, caffeine. How are they affected? Similarly, does the type of coffee — ground, instant, or decaffeinated — make a difference?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

We are now experiencing the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), a period of rapid change driven by progress in science and technology. The main drivers of 4IR are AI, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT). Japan will play a leading role in global innovation with a new World Economic Forum (WEF) center devoted to maximizing the potential of the 4IR, says Klaus Schwab, WEF founder and executive chairman.

“Japan is not sufficiently recognized for its innovative capabilities,” Schwab said in a recent interview with Forbes Japan. “The world is speaking about what’s happening in Silicon Valley and Shenzhen, but it is not aware that Japan has created a very successful startup community.”

Mitsubishi Financial to launch AI

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group plans to establish an organization to look into the use of artificial intelligence in loan application screenings and market trend predictions.

The new entity will be called MUFG AI Studio. MUFG aims to develop new financial services and improve operational effectiveness by proactively adopting AI in the financial sector. They will use AI to screen loan applications through analyzing the risk of bankruptcy and other factors because AI is capable of understanding corporate earnings and financial flows. The AI is also expected to read worldwide news reports and forecast changes in stock and bond prices.

Under the initiative, MUFG is also considering using AI in other areas, including to collect expertise from people who have performed well in trading bonds and to find new loan borrowers. MUFG would then use that expertise to train its employees.

Blockchain technology in space

Future spacecraft could think for themselves using the same technology that powers Bitcoin.

A new $330,000 NASA grant supports work to develop autonomous spacecraft that could make more decisions without human intervention. One example could be enabling spacecraft to dodge space debris faster than a human on Earth could help out the far-away probe.

"I hope to develop technology that can recognize environmental threats and avoid them, as well as complete a number of tasks automatically," principal investigator Jin Wei Kocsis, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at The University of Akron in Ohio, said in the statement. 

If proven, Wei Kocsis' early-stage research would be especially useful in deep-space environments, where spacecraft communicating back to Earth must currently wait for hours for a response.

Luxury space hotel

Well-heeled space tourists will have a new orbital destination four years from now, if one company's plans come to fruition. The California-based startup Orion Span aims to loft its "Aurora Station" in late 2021 and begin accommodating guests in 2022.

"We are launching the first-ever affordable luxury space hotel," said Orion Span founder and CEO Frank Bunger. A 12-day stay aboard Aurora Station will start at $9.5 million, which is quite a bit less than orbital tourists have paid in the past. From 2001 through 2009, seven private citizens took a total of eight trips to the International Space Station, paying an estimated $20 million to $40 million each time.

Aurora Station will be about the size of a large private jet's cabin and will accommodate four paying guests and two crewmembers. Orion Span plans to add more modules onto the original Aurora Station core over time as demand grows.

Let workers sleep

Many business leaders still believe that time on-task equates to productivity. However, studies have shown that shorter amounts of sleep lead to both lower efficiency and slower completion of basic tasks. That is, sleepy employees are unproductive employees, and they generate fewer and less accurate solutions to problems.

Many people don't understand that when you are not getting enough sleep, you work less productively and thus need to work longer hours to accomplish a goal, creating a negative feedback loop.

The effects of sleep deficiency on CEOs and supervisors are equally powerful. On days when the supervisor was under-slept, the employees rated them as having worse self-control and being more abusive to others.

Allowing and encouraging employees, supervisors, and executives to arrive at work well rested makes them productive individuals who inspire and support one another. Ounces of sleep offer pounds of business in return.

Japan asks China for pandas

The Japanese government has asked the Chinese government to loan Japan more giant pandas. Amid the growing popularity of the giant panda cub Xiang Xiang, who is on public view at Ueno Zoo in Taito Ward, Tokyo, the Japanese government hopes to realize the loan as soon as possible as a symbol of improved relations between Japan and China.

The Japanese government is considering Oji Zoo and Yagiyama Zoological Park in Sendai as possible breeding facilities for new pandas. Oji Zoo has only one female, Tan Tan, meaning they need a male for breeding. Yagiyama Zoological Park has petitioned for pandas, to cheer up people affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Giant pandas are extremely popular in each country for their cute appearance and rarity; they have become an important diplomatic tool for the Chinese government. China is likely to decide whether to loan more pandas after carefully examining developments in China-Japan relationships.