A forensic psychiatrist who assessed Alek Minassian on behalf of the Crown is being cross-examined by Minassian’s defence lawyer Monday.
Dr. Scott Woodside, a long-time forensic psychiatrist based at the Centre for Mental Health and Addictions in Toronto, has said he does not think Minassian meets the test to be found not criminally responsible for Toronto’s worst mass killing.
Minassian clearly understood what he was doing was morally wrong because that was part of his motivation for carrying out his plan, Woodside testified Friday.
“That, in fact, is part of the calculation. He was going to morally outrage people. This is part of how he become famous, by doing something that people will recognize as a horrible, horrific act,” said Dr. Scott Woodside, explaining his opinion that Minassian is criminally responsible. “You have to do the worst thing, the most pain… his degree of infamy depends on that.”
Minassian had been fantasizing about mass murder for years, and when he could no longer see hope for his future, he rented a van and weeks later set out to run down many people as possible and then be killed by police, Woodside said. On April 23, 2018, Minassian killed 10 people, injured 16 more and sent waves of trauma through Toronto.
Minassian, 28, is seeking to be found not criminally responsible for the murder and attempted murder of 26 people. He is arguing that his autism spectrum disorder rendered him unable to know what he did was morally wrong. There are no Canadian cases in which a not criminally responsible defence has been raised involving the sole diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
The key defence witness, Yale-based forensic psychiatrist Dr. Alexander Westphal testified that Minassian’s autism spectrum disorder has caused him to have a “substantial defect in social development” and lack of empathy, which in turn means his ability to morally reason and understand moral wrongfulness is affected by his inability to take the perspectives of other people. Westphal concluded Minassian saw other people as “objects.”
Woodside, however, said this is a high-level view of moral reasoning that most people don’t normally do — in day-to-day life we just follow the rules and laws automatically, including the most universal rule: don’t kill other people.
And while Minassian does lack empathy and some ability to feel the emotions of other people, he has the intellectual capacity to work through moral decisions and has shown some ability to take the perspectives of other people, Woodside said. Minassian himself said he consciously chose to block out thoughts that would have stopped him from carrying out the attack — selfishly focusing only on his own goal and ignoring the consequences to anyone else, Woodside said.
And this was “not a complex moral dilemma,” Woodside said, nor were his actions impulsive.
Via a pre-written Facebook post sent during the attack, Minassian deliberately set a narrative — a connection to the misogynistic incel ideology and mass killer Elliot Rodger — to ensure maximum media attention and chose tactics to cause maximum carnage, Woodside said.
“I think it would require you to ignore everything Mr. Minassian has actually said when asked about his knowledge of what he did and whether it was wrong,” Woodside said, referring to the opposing view that Minassian didn’t know what he was doing was morally wrong.
Woodside also took issue with a central tenet of defence expert Westphal’s conclusion: that Minassian’s stated motives are incoherent and therefore the only explanation is that he had no comprehension of the impact his actions would have on other people.
Woodside said frequently fantasizing about mass murder and reading positive reinforcement of those ideas can lead to dehumanizing potential victims as a means to an end. But Minassian repeatedly said “this is something he really, really wanted to do,” and he provided a number of motivations behind that, Woodside said.
“Whether they represent the full picture of what really led him to act in this way, I’m not sure, but I think it would be dangerous to discount everything he actually says about why he commits this act,” Woodside said.
He pointed to Minassian feeling lonely, rejected and most importantly not feeling hopeful about his future — where he saw himself failing at a new job, disappointing his family and being unemployed. He also said he wanted to “make his mark” and have his name live forever.
“Those are expressions to some extent of narcissism and grandiosity but they come from a place of, you know, loss and loneliness and rejection and a desire I think at least a bit of revenge on people… and society at large (who prevented him) from achieving the things he thinks are his due and that most of us do expect to achieve in life,” Woodside said.
Woodside said he saw no indication that Minassian had lost touch with reality or that his thinking was distorted in the way Dr. Westphal argued. He also said that while Minassian has trouble expressing emotion, it does not mean he is “devoid of emotion” internally, Woodside said.
Woodside also said that while some of Minassian’s social challenges are linked to his autism spectrum disorder, that does not explain all of it. Minassian was also very worried about failure, Woodside said.
Woodside also disputed the idea that Minassian was obsessed with mass murder, the incel ideology and the writings of another mass killer to the point that he was delusional or indoctrinated. Minassian was able to understand that incel ideology was flawed and was not, as with some people with autism who have extremely focused interests, able to only discuss that one subject, Woodside said.
Source: – Toronto Star
NASA Test of Mega Moon Rocket Engines Cut Short Unexpectedly – Gadgets 360
NASA’s deep space exploration rocket built by Boeing briefly ignited all four engines of its behemoth core stage for the first time on Saturday, cutting short a crucial test to advance a years-delayed US government programme to return humans to the moon in the next few years.
Mounted in a test facility at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the Space Launch System’s (SLS) 212-foot tall core stage roared to life at 4:27pm local time (3:57am IST) for just over a minute — well short of the roughly four minutes engineers needed to stay on track for the rocket’s first launch in November this year.
“Today was a good day,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a press conference after the test, adding “we got lots of data that we’re going to be able to sort through” to determine if a do-over is needed and whether a November 2021 debut launch date is still possible.
The engine test, the last leg of NASA’s nearly year-long “Green Run” test campaign, was a vital step for the space agency and its top SLS contractor Boeing before a debut unmanned launch later this year under NASA’s Artemis programme, the Trump administration’s push to return US astronauts to the moon by 2024.
It was unclear whether Boeing and NASA would have to repeat the test, a prospect that could push the debut launch into 2022. NASA’s SLS program manager John Honeycutt, cautioning the data review from the test is ongoing, told reporters the turnaround time for another hot fire test could be roughly one month.
To simulate internal conditions of a real liftoff, the rocket’s four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines ignited for roughly one minute and 15 seconds, generating 1.6 million pounds of thrust and consuming 700,000 gallons of propellants on NASA’s largest test stand, a massive facility towering 35 stories tall.
The expendable super heavy-lift SLS is three years behind schedule and nearly $3 billion (roughly Rs. 22,000 crores) over budget. Critics have long argued for NASA to retire the rocket’s shuttle-era core technologies, which have launch costs of $1 billion (roughly Rs. 7,300 crores) or more per mission, in favor of newer commercial alternatives that promise lower costs.
By comparison, it costs as little as $90 million to fly the massive but less powerful Falcon Heavy rocket designed and manufactured by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, and some $350 million (roughly Rs. 2,600 crores) per launch for United Launch Alliance’s legacy Delta IV Heavy.
While newer, more reusable rockets from both companies – SpaceX’s Starship and United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan – promise heavier lift capacity than the Falcon Heavy or Delta IV Heavy potentially at lower cost, SLS backers argue it would take two or more launches on those rockets to launch what the SLS could carry in a single mission.
Reuters reported in October that President-elect Joe Biden’s space advisers aim to delay Trump’s 2024 goal, casting fresh doubts on the long-term fate of SLS just as SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin scramble to bring rival new heavy-lift capacity to market.
NASA and Boeing engineers have stayed on a ten-month schedule for the Green Run “despite having significant adversity this year,” Boeing’s SLS manager John Shannon told reporters this week, citing five tropical storms and a hurricane that hit Stennis, as well as a three-month closure after some engineers tested positive for the coronavirus in March.
© Thomson Reuters 2020
Mars Needs Minerals: Researchers Are Trying to Turn the Red Planet Green – IGN – IGN
It can take seven months – or more – to get to Mars. NASA can send supplies to the International Space Station if need be, but the same isn’t true of the distant planet. Instead, astronauts spending any time on Mars will have to rely on what’s known as in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) – using what’s around to replace objects brought from Earth. That includes food, which will eventually have to be grown there, to support any long-term residents. Instead of hauling bags of fertilizer in the spacecraft, researchers are trying to figure out how to make do with what’s on the ground, that is, Martian soil.
Thanks to NASA’s rovers and landers, scientists know about the pH and mineral makeup of the planet’s soil, which is known as regolith. Mars gets its red color from the oxidation of its rocks, regolith, and dust. Below the dust is the crust, which contains iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and more elements, according to NASA. But their presence isn’t enough to ensure plants can thrive there. The nutrients may not exist in a usable, or bioavailable, form. The levels of some may be toxic.
Cosmos: Possible Worlds Gallery
Some studies have shown it’s theoretically possible to grow plants in replicated Martian soil, but there aren’t big enough samples of actual Martian regolith to be certain. Since there’s no way to do farming trials on Mars itself, scientists try to replicate conditions on Earth. Researchers at the Florida Institute of Technology recently tried to grow Arabidopsis thaliana, a weed, and Lactuca sativa, lettuce, in a trio of Martian Regolith Simulants. These simulants are mixtures of artificial and natural materials that mimic the basalt-like Martian surface. The scientists found that neither plant in the synthetic soil without the addition of supplemental nutrients.
“These findings underscore that ISRU food solutions are likely at a lower technological readiness level than previously thought,” the researchers wrote in the study, which will be published in Icarus. For example, it’s a mistake to assume the regolith is uniform over the entire planet. “Our strategy was, rather than saying this simulant grows plants so that means we can grow plants everywhere on Mars, we need to say that Mars is a diverse planet,” ocean engineering and marine sciences associate professor Andrew Palmer told Florida Tech News.
In another new study, also published in Icarus, researchers break down the preparation of five new types of Mars simulants. Laura Fackrell, a doctoral candidate at the University of Georgia in Athens, and her colleagues created the mixtures specifically formulated with characteristics of Martian regolith that might make it difficult to grow plants. TThe soil might have high salinity or a low level of organic matter. Such conditions might require future Mars residents to add other minerals and components to their gardens before planting. “Specific types of bacteria and fungi are known to be beneficial for plants and may be able to support them under stress conditions like we see on Mars,” Fackrell told TNW.
To test the mock Mars dirt, Fackrell tried growing several plants, including a moth bean. They hold up better with less water than other options she tried, “But they’re not necessarily super healthy,” Fackrell told Science News.
It will be years before humans reach Mars, but in the meantime, research into growing plants in difficult environments could translate to Earth, where temperatures are rising. Fackrell studied microbes that live in hot springs. “Anything we learn about farming on Mars could help with farming in challenging environments on Earth that help us build to a sustainable future,” she told Florida Tech News.
Open Windows May Reduce COVID-19 Risk In Cars: Study – Jalopnik
COVID-19 has completely changed the face of travel as we know it, with massively reduced numbers of people taking flights and public transportation—but our cars have remained a mystery. How safe are we in our vehicles? What are our risks?
A study published by Science Advances in early January has begun to answer some of our most pressing questions about COVID-19 transmission in our vehicles. Four scientists from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Brown University used computational fluid dynamics to evaluate the risks posed by the virus within a vehicle’s cabin and have also suggested ways to mitigate risk.
If you’re familiar with the design process of a race car or airplane, then you’ve likely encountered computational fluid dynamics before. Essentially, these computer simulations model how gases and liquids move over and through different surfaces. In this particular case, our scientists used CFD to model the way air moves inside a car.
The simulated vehicle used in the study was loosely based on a Toyota Prius traveling at 50 mph carrying two passengers: a driver in the front left of the car and a passenger in the back right. Interestingly, the air flow outside the moving car creates a pressure gradient inside the car that causes air to circulate from the back of the car to the front. Then, they started modeling the interior air flow with different combinations of the windows being open or closed. It’s important to note here that, no matter the combination, the air conditioning was on.
The results probably aren’t going to be surprising. When all four windows were closed, the car was at its most poorly ventilated, so eight to 10 percent of aerosols—on which COVID-19 travels—exhaled by one person in the car traveled to the other. When all the windows were open, the car was at its best ventilated, with just 0.2 to two percent of aerosols swapping between passengers.
Of course, wide open windows aren’t always practical when you’re driving. Up north, you’ll freeze in the winter. Down south, someone with a delicate constitution will melt in the summer. A heavy rain will make things twice as miserable. So, having both the driver and the passenger roll down their windows was found to be better than keeping everything shut tight. That diagonal configuration allows air to flow in and then right back out. It might not be comfortable, but it could save lives.
A later study that hasn’t yet been published found that cracking windows halfway was also a good idea, but only rolling them a quarter of the way down was significantly more dangerous, the New York Times reports. For larger vehicles like minivans or for vehicles transporting more people, the recommendation is to keep everything open.
Opening windows has been recommended since the onset of the virus. The increased ventilation allows virus particles to be whisked away rather than recirculated. And we also know that the smaller the space we share, the more likely we are to swap aerosol particles. This study basically just used science to give us the ideal strategy for, say, rideshares or short jaunts outside your bubble.
Of course, there are still dangers, even when opening your windows. In fact, driving with your windows open increases in-car air pollution by 80 percent, which thus increases your likelihood of dying as a result of air pollution.
The very best option is, of course, to stay home unless absolutely necessary and, when traveling, to do so in off-peak hours.
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