Japan’s SoftBank Corp said on Thursday it will start selling human-like robots for personal use by February, expanding into a sector seen key to addressing labour shortages in one of the world’s fastest ageing societies.

The robots, which the mobile phone and Internet conglomerate envisions serving as baby-sitters, nurses, emergency medical workers or even party companions, will sell for 198,000 yen ($1,900) and are capable of learning and expressing emotions, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son told a news conference.

A prototype will be deployed this week, serving customers at SoftBank mobile phone stores in Japan, he added. The sleek, waist-high robot, named Pepper, accompanied Son to the briefing, speaking to reporters in a high-pitched, boyish voice.

The new rules announced Monday to limit carbon emissions from U.S. power plants represent President Barack Obama’s boldest effort yet to counter climate change, guidelines that supporters and critics alike cast as a turning point in U.S. environmental policy.

1. The United States is well on the way to meeting the goal of cutting carbon emissions by 30 percent. In setting the baseline for reductions at the 2005 emissions levels, the EPA is being less aggressive than it could have been. Emissions levels have been falling for years in the United States, thanks in part to the fracking boom that has boosted a nationwide shift to cleaner-burning natural gas, and to the 2008 recession, which depressed energy demand.

2. It’s not a great day for coal, but it’s not an immediate death knell. The EPA rules add to challenges that the coal industry has been facing for years, but they do not mandate the closure of any plant or eliminate coal from the U.S. energy picture.

3. A few states will have tough choices ahead. Many states, such as the nine Northeastern states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and those such as California that have been moving forward with clean energy alternatives, will need to forge ahead in the same direction they are already moving. But for coal-dependent states such as Kentucky and West Virginia, and for those that have not put any kind of targets for clean energy in place, meeting the standard will be a heavier lift.

4. On their own, the new EPA rules won’t be enough to reduce climate change. However momentous Monday’s plan might be in the context of domestic U.S. policy to curb climate change, worldwide the plan has more symbolic value than real impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

Scientists in the Netherlands have moved a step closer to overriding one of Albert Einstein’s most famous objections to the implications of quantum mechanics, which he described as “spooky action at a distance.”

In a paper published on Thursday in the journal Science, physicists at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at the Delft University of Technology reported that they were able to reliably teleport information between two quantum bits separated by three meters, or about 10 feet.

Quantum teleportation is not the “Star Trek”-style movement of people or things; rather, it involves transferring so-called quantum information — in this case what is known as the spin state of an electron — from one place to another without moving the physical matter to which the information is attached.

Classical bits, the basic units of information in computing, can have only one of two values — either 0 or 1. But quantum bits, or qubits, can simultaneously describe many values. They hold out both the possibility of a new generation of faster computing systems and the ability to create completely secure communication networks.

The car will have a stop-go button but no controls, steering wheel or pedals.

Pictures of the Google vehicle show it looks like a city car with a “friendly” face, designed to make it seem non-threatening and help people accept self-driving technology.

Co-founder Sergey Brin revealed the plans at a conference in California.

"We’re really excited about this vehicle - it’s something that will allow us to really push the capabilities of self driving technology, and understand the limitations," said Chris Urmson, director of the company’s self-driving project.

He added that the cars had the ability to “improve people’s lives by transforming mobility”.

But some researchers working in this field are investigating potential downsides to driverless car technology.

They believe they could make traffic and urban sprawl worse, as people accept longer commutes as they do not have to drive themselves.

Dozens of microbial species may have accompanied the Curiosity rover to Mars, where it landed in August 2012. The stowaways withstood spacecraft cleaning methods before the rover’s launch, although no one knows for sure whether the bacteria survived the inter-planetary ride.

A study that identified 377 strains found that a surprising number resist extreme temperatures and damage caused by ultraviolet-C radiation, the most potentially harmful type. The results, presented today at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, are a first step towards elucidating how certain bacteria might survive decontamination and space flight.

The work tells scientists a lot “about the kind of microbes that could be space explorers”, says evolutionary ecologist John Rummel of East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, who was not involved in the research.

The U.S. government’s medical research agency is taking steps to erase sex bias in pivotal biomedical studies that pave the way for human clinical trials, saying scientists too often favor male over female laboratory animals and cells.

A new requirement announced on Wednesday by the National Institutes of Health for researchers applying for NIH funding is likely to have a big influence because the agency is one of the world’s top financial backers of biomedical studies, spending about $30 billion annually.

Beginning October 1, researchers seeking NIH grants must report their plans for balancing male and female cells and animals in preclinical studies, with only “rigorously defined exceptions.” The NIH also plans to train grant recipients and its own staff on designing studies without sex bias.

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 3:05 p.m. EDT Sunday, in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 300 miles west of Baja California, returning more than 3,500 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from the International Space Station.

A boat will carry the Dragon spacecraft to a port near Los Angeles, where it will be prepared for a return journey to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing. Some cargo, including a freezer packed with research samples collected aboard the space station, will be removed at the port in California and returned to NASA within 48 hours.

A massive glacier system in West Antarctica has started collapsing because of global warming and will contribute to significant worldwide sea-level rise, two teams of scientists warn in a pair of major studies released Monday.

Scientists had previously thought the two-mile-thick (3.2 kilometers) glacier system would remain stable for thousands of years, but new research suggests a faster time frame for melting.

A rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in irreversible decline and will sink into the sea, scientists at the University of California, Irvine and NASA reported Monday.

"This retreat will have major implications for sea-level rise worldwide," said Eric Rignot, a UC-Irvine Earth science professor and lead author of a study to be published in a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Away

I will be out of town for a few weeks with no connection to the internet. Don’t expect any updates until my return :)