Chinese City May Get Fake Moon

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An aerospace executive in China has announced plans to launch a satellite which would serve as an artificial moon designed to illuminate a city at night. The unorthodox idea was reportedly revealed by Wu Chunfeng, who heads one of the main contractors for the Chinese space agency, at a conference last week. According to him, the faux moon will hover over the city of Chengdu emitting a “dusk-like glow” which would eliminate the need for street lights.

The illumination from the satellite, he said, will be adjustable and could cover an area of land ranging from five to fifty miles in diameter. While the idea may sound fanciful to some, Chungfeng appears to be quite serious about the endeavor, explaining that the concept has been tested extensively for the last few years and now looks to be almost fully feasible. With that in mind, the executive is eying a 2020 launch for the fake moon.

Lest one have concerns about how the illumination will impact wildlife in the area, an aerospace professor was quick to assure Chinese media that it will not be a problem thanks to its similarity in intensity to twilight. Be that as it may, whether the residents of Chengdu want another moon is another matter altogether. Alas, they probably won’t have much of a say in the decision, so hopefully they won’t mind living under the light of a fake moon.

Essays reveal Stephen Hawking predicted race of ‘superhumans’

The late physicist and author Prof Stephen Hawking has caused controversy by suggesting a new race of superhumans could develop from wealthy people choosing to edit their and their children’s DNA.

Hawking, the author of A Brief History of Time, who died in March, made the predictions in a collection of articles and essays.

The scientist presented the possibility that genetic engineering could create a new species of superhuman that could destroy the rest of humanity. The essays, published in the Sunday Times, were written in preparation for a book that will be published on Tuesday.

“I am sure that during this century, people will discover how to modify both intelligence and instincts such as aggression,” he wrote.

“Laws will probably be passed against genetic engineering with humans. But some people won’t be able to resist the temptation to improve human characteristics, such as memory, resistance to disease and length of life.”

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In Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Hawking’s final thoughts on the universe, the physicist suggested wealthy people would soon be able to choose to edit genetic makeup to create superhumans with enhanced memory, disease resistance, intelligence and longevity.

Hawking raised the prospect that breakthroughs in genetics will make it attractive for people to try to improve themselves, with implications for “unimproved humans”.

“Once such superhumans appear, there will be significant political problems with unimproved humans, who won’t be able to compete,” he wrote. “Presumably, they will die out, or become unimportant. Instead, there will be a race of self-designing beings who are improving at an ever-increasing rate.”

The comments refer to techniques such as Crispr-Cas9, a DNA-editing system that was invented six years ago, allowing scientists to modify harmful genes or add new ones. Great Ormond Street hospital for children in London has used gene editing to treat children with an otherwise incurable form of leukaemia.

What is Crispr?
Crispr, or to give it its full name, Crispr-Cas9, allows scientists to precisely target and edit pieces of the genome. Crispr is a guide molecule made of RNA, that allows a specific site of interest on the DNA double helix to be targeted. The RNA molecule is attached to Cas9, a bacterial enzyme that works as a pair of “molecular scissors” to cut the DNA at the exact point required. This allows scientists to cut, paste and delete single letters of genetic code.

However, questions have been raised about whether parents would risk using such techniques for fear that the enhancements would have side-effects.

The astronomer Lord Rees, who was a friend of Hawking at Cambridge University but often disagreed with his peer, noted a sperm bank in California offering only “elite” sperm, including from Nobel prize winners, had closed due to lack of demand.

Vintage Celeb Photos

A new book brings together the work of photographer Orlando Suero, who always established a good rapport with his subjects. It makes for a mixture of striking posed images and off-the-cuff shots, featuring some of the 20th-Century’s most famous politicians and celebrities, writes Christine Ro.

Orlando Suero’s photography career extended from his teens to his 80s. A new book, Orlando/Photography, gathers around 200 intimate shots of well-known actors, politicians, musicians and other celebrities in their heyday, ranging from the 1950s to 1980s. Some of these photos have remained unpublished for 50 years.

The book’s editors, Orlando’s son Jim and their friend, film producer Rod Hamilton, combed through boxes of negatives and transparencies recently sent over by Orlando’s former photo agency. They scanned nearly 10,000 negatives to select these gems. It was an emotional process. On the day that art publisher Hatje Cantz confirmed that the book would be published, Orlando suffered a stroke. And on hearing that the book had gone to print, 93-year-old Orlando was brought to tears.

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Tony Randall and Zamba, 1965

The opening image from Orlando/Photography is of actor Tony Randall placidly reading to Zamba the lion. This is one of more than 100 photos that Suero took of Tony and Zamba on the bed while on the set of the film Fluffy, a comedy about a psychology professor who attempts to prove that a lion can be domesticated. Suero began working on film sets while living in his native New York, before moving to Hollywood to further his entertainment career.

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Janet Leigh with Tony Curtis, Winter Olympics, 1960

Janet Leigh had her most famous film role in 1960, in the Hitchcock classic Psycho. That year she also appeared with her husband, fellow actor Tony Curtis, in People, Hopes, Medals, a documentary about the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California. Suero was good friends with Curtis and Leigh, and had photographed them several times before the Olympics, when he followed them around the Olympic Village. Suero excelled at capturing unguarded moments like this one, where Leigh lights a cigarette for Curtis inside a clothing store. Suero explains in the book that “one thing I felt was key to a great shot is rapport. I felt that if there’s no rapport, then there are no pictures”.

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Jacqueline and John F Kennedy, 1954

Suero’s career took off with his photographs of the fresh-faced Kennedy family. Initially, the owner of his picture agency was sceptical about the young photographer’s ability to pull off the assignment. But after spending five spring days and more than 20 photo sessions documenting the small details of the Kennedys’ domestic life in Georgetown – including the couple looking at wedding photos and the Kennedy siblings playing American football –  Suero produced classic images of the newlyweds. Jackie would later write appreciatively to Suero: “They are the only photos I’ve ever seen of me where I don’t look like something out of a horror movie. If I’d realised what a wonderful photographer you were… I never would have been the jittery subject I was. Poor Orlando!” Jack was also not yet as image-conscious as he would later become. He allowed Suero to photograph him wearing glasses, which he later avoided.

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John F, John, Jr, and Jacqueline Kennedy, 1960

This photo of JFK holding a young John, Jr is one of many that Suero took in the run-up to the presidential election. Suero wasn’t the only photographer to do so, of course, and several journalists and a photographer can be seen in the background. Suero himself called his Kennedy images his “footprints in the sands” of history. “The camera loved the Kennedys,” he has said. “There wasn’t a lens made for a camera that didn’t love the Kennedys.”

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Eartha Kitt, circa 1958

This pensive image of entertainer Eartha Kitt, shot on medium format film, captures Suero’s occasionally sombre side. Suero served in the Marine Corps during World War Two, trading in his camera for a gun at the age of 18. Returning to photography after he was discharged gave him some relief from his PTSD. He reflects in the book: “For me, my work was an escape from the war. It allowed me to detach from it because when you come back, the war doesn’t end for you. It stays with you for life… for the most part, photography was my solace.” Kitt’s daughter, Kitt Shapiro, was supportive of Orlando/Photography, as she could relate to Jim Suero’s desire to create an homage to his parent.

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Rudolf Nureyev with Shirley MacLaine, 1965

This photo captures ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev and actress Shirley MacLaine at a party thrown for Nureyev and ballerina Margot Fonteyn. MacLaine and Nureyev are pictured dancing to a live band in a dance style considerably shorter-lived than ballet, known as The Frug. The party was held in the Malibu home of costume designer Jean Louis, and had a glittery list of attendees, including Marlon Brando, Cary Grant and Lauren Bacall. Suero is best known for black and white photographs like this one. He explains in the book: “There’s a certain nakedness to black and white. It renders the aesthetic and emotion of a subject in a way that colour just cannot express.”

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Brigitte Bardot, 1965

Suero was initially disappointed on the set of comedy film Viva Maria! He’d been expecting an exclusive shoot with film star Brigitte Bardot, but plenty of other photographers were on the scene. Suero, who was shorter than Bardot and the other photographers, stood in front of them without shooting. Bardot noticed and asked about Suero, sparking a playful series of photos like this beach bed fantasy. This playfulness is also evident in the interview between Jim and Orlando Suero at the beginning of Orlando/Photographer. The father tells the son: “I know you were always sneaking in my darkroom looking at the nudes, don’t think I didn’t know!”

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Brigitte Bardot as Charlie Chaplin, 1965

This photo is a refreshingly silly change from Bardot’s usual sultry sexpot image. While chatting with Suero, Bardot revealed that she wasn’t very familiar with Charlie Chaplin. Suero suggested that he photograph her as the comedic legend, which would help her to connect with Chaplin. The only time available for this beach shoot was early in the morning, and Bardot definitely wasn’t a morning person. Yet the sense of fun is clear in both this photo and one where Suero beams at the camera next to Bardot-as-Chaplin. Suero always considered himself an instinctive rather than a technical photographer. As he recounts in the book: “When I think back, I realise that my success was based on my feel for photography. By that I mean I was never much of a technical guy. Of course I knew the technical aspects, you have to, but when it came to equipment, lighting, this or that, it always came down to how it felt, what my instincts told me. I consider it thinking with my eyes.”

BBC