Self-Driving Cars Pose Big Legal Questions

What kind of insurance does a self-driving car need? Can a police officer pull one over? While technological challenges to the new autos are being overcome, legal ones remain far from resolved.

What's the Latest Development?

Last month, Google said its self-driving automobile project had logged 200,000 miles without an accident. While today's automakers already use sensitive sensory technology to assist drivers and in some cases, correct them, Google's project goes a step further. It aims to make human drivers into permanent passengers, combining the semi-autonomous cars with conventional vehicles, driven by people, on conventional roads. Besides some sticky technological problems, there remain serious social and legal obstacles.

What's the Big Idea?

What kind of insurance do self-driving cars need? If there is a collision, who is liable? Can a police officer pull over a semi-auto auto? Can the officer search the vehicle? Gary Marchant, director of the Center for Law, Science and Innovation at the Arizona State University law school, said the liabilities car makers face for self-driving cars would be astronomical: 'Why would you even put money into developing it?' he asked. 'I see this as a huge barrier to this technology unless there are some policy ways around it.'

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How to make a black hole

Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.

  • There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
  • CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
  • Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
  • Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.
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China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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