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Talking Points: Robot exhibition, carbon nanotube computers, and euthanasia in the Netherlands

START ME UP: Workers in Hefei in China’s Anhui province test the functioning of a giant robot in preparation for an exhibition.



You might want to double check your route the next time you get driving directions from your smartphone. The BBC reports that a glitch in the Apple iPhone maps app recently resulted in some people driving directly onto the runway of an Alaskan airport. Fairbanks International Airport had to shut down an access road normally used by local pilots after at least two motorists steered their vehicles right onto the runway. "They drove right across the runway to get to the terminal," Fairbanks resident Dermot Cole told BBC Radio 5. "Luckily there's been no accidents and no planes were landing." Apple has fixed the app, but declined to comment on the glitch.


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As envisioned by science-fiction writers and futurists, the next generation of computers is smaller, faster and stronger. The Wall Street Journal reports that researchers at Stanford University have created the first working computer constructed entirely from carbon nanotube transistors. Composed of ultra-pure carbon, the transistors top the list of new materials being investigated as replacements for silicon transistors. Made from sheets of carbon just one atom thick and rolled into tubes 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, they are exceptional at conducting electricity and heat, and at absorbing and emitting light. "This shows that you can build working, useful circuits out of carbon nanotubes and they can be manufactured reliably,"said Stanford electrical engineer Max Shulaker.


The number of medically sanctioned euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands just keeps rising. As reported in The Montreal Gazette, the commission that oversees assisted suicide in the Netherlands says cases increased by 13 per cent from 2011 to 2012, marking the sixth consecutive year of increases. Physician-administered euthanasia for terminally ill people was legalized in 2002. In 2012, 4,188 euthanasia deaths were recorded – roughly 3 per cent of all deaths in the Netherlands. In 2006, the number was 1,923. In a report published last week, the commission said the reasons for the increase could not be determined with certainty, but most health experts attribute it to a growing awareness of the practice among doctors and patients.


"Too bad all the people who know how to run the country are too busy driving taxicabs or cutting hair."

George Burns, Comedian (1896-1996)

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