Paleontologists discover new species called microsaur

Paleontologists have discovered a new species - a microsaur - from a 308-million-year-old fossil unearthed in the United States. In deference to its tiny size, researchers called it Joermungandr bolti after a giant sea serpent from Norse mythology.

Microsaurs were small, lizard-like animals that roamed the Earth well before dinosaurs made their appearance. They lived during the Carboniferous period, when the forebears of modern mammals and reptiles, called amniotes, first appeared.

Joermungandr had a two-inch long snake-like body with scales, and four short, plump legs. Scientists were astonished to discover that the fossil contained the animal's skin. They also discovered a pattern of ridges similar to those found on the scales of modern reptiles that dig into the ground. The scale shape led them to hypothesise that Joermungandr burrowed as well.

"It would probably have been a head-first burrower, using its head to smack itself into the soil," said lead study author Arjan Mann from Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.

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South Korean toilet rewards user with digital currency

An engineering professor at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) has shown that a person's poop can generate income that can buy books, fruits or coffee!

Cho Jae-weon, an urban and environmental engineering professor at UNIST, devised a virtual currency called Ggool, which means 'honey' in Korean. Each person using his eco friendly toilet earns 10 Ggool a day.

Cho's eco-friendly toilet is connected to a laboratory that uses excrement to produce biogas and manure. The BeeVi toilet uses a vacuum pump to send faeces into an underground tank, reducing water use. There, microorganisms break down the waste into methane, which becomes a source of energy for the building, powering a gas stove, hot-water boiler and solid oxide fuel cell.

An average person defecates about 500 grams a day, which can be converted to 50 litres of methane gas, Cho says. This gas can generate 0.5kWh of electricity. When a person uses the toilet, the human waste helps power a building and the user earns money. UNIST students can pick up the products they want at a shop and scan a QR code to pay with Ggool.

"I had only ever thought that faeces are dirty, but now it is a treasure of great value to me," said student Heo Hui-jin at the Ggool market.

New species of skittering frog discovered

A new species of skittering frog has been identified from the surroundings of the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary in Kerala. Researchers from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Mount Carmel College (MCC), Bengaluru, and National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER), Bhubaneswar, made the discovery.

The new species is named Euphlyctis Kerala in honour of the remarkable biodiversity of the state. Kerala is known to have 180 species of frogs and there could be many more new species awaiting formal descriptions.

Initial studies suggest that Euphlyctis Kerala is found in the fresh water bodies of the foothills of the Western Ghats, south of the Palakkad Gap. Since these frogs live in fresh water bodies, conservation of these freshwater systems plays a crucial role in conservation of the species.

Members of the genus Euphlyctis (skittering frogs) have their distribution range from Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, India, pal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand. Earlier, skittering frog species known from India were thought to be widespread across other countries, but this research shows some of the frogs as native to India.

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Facebook's new privacy changes for Instagram's teen users

Facebook is taking steps to make Instagram, the photo- and video-sharing app with more than 1 billion users, safer for teens. They include automatically defaulting teen users under 16 into private accounts, making it harder for suspicious adult accounts to find them, limiting the options advertisers have to reach younger viewers with ads, and using AI to detect users' ages. "We think private accounts are the right choice for young people, but we recognize some young creators might want to have public accounts to build a following," Instagram said in a blog post. "We want to strike the right balance of giving young people all the things they love about Instagram while also keeping them safe." However, critics say that even though Instagram appears to be addressing online predation, underage users, and advertising standards for teens, they also must be mindful of other issues including cyberbullying, self-harm and exposure to misinformation and adult content.

Giving users options has been frowned upon for years. The logic was simple enough: Most people won't change their default settings anyway, so the onus is on the product to get things right automatically. More algorithms, fewer settings. Less friction! Now, people are being given more choices and more tools with which to decide their experience.

Facebook acknowledged it's still trying to figure out the right way to verify people's age — because there's not much to stop new ones from just, you know, lying — and often, by the time someone reports a rule break, it's already too late. The only option for the platforms is to be more proactive and more careful. Doing that with young users is an obvious choice, because the stakes are so high and the relative business hit fairly low, but it'll be equally important and much harder to make the same decisions for the broader user base.

But whether it was Twitter serving the "Are you sure you want to share this article you haven't read?" pop-up or some of these privacy-focused tools that let people choose who can reach or read them, the focus has clearly shifted away from building the One Perfect System to letting users build it for themselves. At the scale at which these companies operate, that's the only way it's ever going to work.

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What is special about Brickit app?

Got a pile of Lego bricks lying around at home and have no idea what to build? Brickit uses an AI powered camera to rapidly scan the bricks and suggest things you can make. Spread out your Lego bricks, and let the app scan them. Seconds later, the app delivers options you can construct, without worrying about what to look for from the large number of bricks. Choose the project you want to build and follow the step-by-step building process on the app. The app doesn't just mark the bricks you need for a particular project but also tells you where they are in the pile of Lego pieces! You can share your project with other users on the app. Brickit is available for iOS for now, and will be available for Android soon.

For many of us however, Lego is a big box containing a jumble of random bricks, each belonging to structures that were dismantled long ago. With the instruction manuals long gone, building more than a simple house feels like a daunting prospect. But what if you could scan all of the random pieces and be told exactly what you could make with them? This was the dream for the team behind Brickit, a new app that is inspiring kids and adults alike to build new creations from their old Lego. The process is very straightforward: simply lay out your bricks, point your camera at the unruly heap, and let Brickit do all the work for you. It will scan each individual piece, identify it, and then figure out which of Lego’s many sets you can build from what you have on hand. It will even tell you which bricks are missing.

As well as identifying the various bits in the pile, it will also provide you with illustrations of them in a similar vein to the official Lego instruction manuals. If you’re unsure of where to find these pieces in the undoubtedly huge pile, fear not because the app will then highlight each one in the original photo. As a result, building the proposed sets – assuming you have the correct bricks – becomes a relatively quick and easy task. Though, if you don’t have the right pieces to make any of the sets, you can attempt them anyway, substituting missing pieces for others that you have in your arsenal. This stage might require a bit of thinking outside the box but, as Lego’s original tagline goes: “Just Imagine…”

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