INDEPENDENT 2024-02-06 06:13:19


Met Office issues snow warning as arctic blast set to hit England

The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for snow for parts of England and Wales this week.

Wintry showers will hit the regions during the early hours of Thursday morning and will last until the early hours of Friday.

“A band of rain, sleet, and increasingly snow, will push north on Thursday bringing up to 2cm snow at lower-levels, 2-5cm on ground above 200m, and perhaps as much as 10-20cm above 400m,” the Met Office said.

The warning affects East Midlands, East of England, North East England, North West England, Wales, West Midlands, and Yorkshire & Humber.

This comes as a weather pattern brings cold air from the north while mild air keeps nudging in from the south, creating conditions for frost and snow.

Meanwhile, up to 170mm of rain heavy rain is set to lash Scotland today with a yellow weather warning in place until 9pm.

The Met Office said there is a “small chance that homes and businesses could be flooded”, which may result in damage to buildings.

New winged dinosaur discovered on Scottish island

A new winged dinosaur has been discovered on a Scottish island.

Scientists have discovered the new species of pterosaur, named Ceoptera evansae, on the Isle of Skye.

The winged reptile lived between 168 to 166 million years ago during the Middle Jurassic period.

The new species belongs to a group of pterosaurs known as Darwinoptera, with many fossils also found in China.

Palaeontologists spotted the fossil remains in 2006 during a field trip to Elgol, on the south-west coast of the island.

Since then, the team have spent years physically preparing the specimen and taking scans of the bones, some of which remain completely embedded in rock.

Despite the skeleton being incomplete – with only parts of the shoulders, wings, legs and backbone remaining – the researchers said it provides key insights into the evolutionary history and diversity of pterosaurs.

Findings, published in the Journal Of Vertebrate Paleontology, suggest Darwinoptera may have been considerably more diverse than previously thought, persisting for more than 25 million years.

Professor Paul Barrett, merit researcher at the Natural History Museum, said: “Ceoptera helps to narrow down the timing of several major events in the evolution of flying reptiles.

“Its appearance in the Middle Jurassic of the UK was a complete surprise, as most of its close relatives are from China.

“It shows that the advanced group of flying reptiles to which it belongs appeared earlier than we thought and quickly gained an almost worldwide distribution.”

Ceoptera evansae gets the first part of its name from the Scottish gaelic word “cheo”, meaning mist or fog, and the Latin word “ptera”, meaning wing.

The second part, evansae, honours British palaeontologist Professor Susan E Evans for her years of scientific work, particularly on the Isle of Skye.

As the Elgol coastal site is classed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the team led by Prof Barrett could only collect specimens from rocks that had fallen on to the beach.

But while crawling over boulders to examine these fossils, the researchers noticed a few bones sticking out, which has now been revealed as the new pterosaur.

Lead author Dr Liz Martin-Silverstone, a palaeobiologist from the University of Bristol, said: “The time period that Ceoptera is from is one of the most important periods of pterosaur evolution, and is also one in which we have some of the fewest specimens, indicating its significance.

“To find that there were more bones embedded within the rock, some of which were integral in identifying what kind of pterosaur Ceoptera is, made this an even better find than initially thought.

“It brings us one step closer to understanding where and when the more advanced pterosaurs evolved.”

The researchers said that pterosaur fossils from the Middle Jurassic period are rare and mostly incomplete, hindering attempts to understand more about how these creatures evolved.

Police claim to have solved London ‘spy in the bag’ mystery

A review into the death of a British spy, whose naked, decomposing body was found padlocked in a bag in his bathtub, has finished, Londonpolice said on Monday.

The announcement brings an end to one of the city’s greatest mysteries of recent years.

Gareth Williams, 31, was working for Britain’s external intelligence service MI6 when he was found dead at his home in August 2010, and the nature of his job and his death provoked a wide range of what police later called “weird and wonderful” conspiracy theories.

Although a coroner concluded in 2012 that Williams was probably killed unlawfully by another person, a police investigation found he had probably died accidentally on his own, rejecting suspicions that the unusual death had involved foreign spies.

A further forensic review was commissioned in 2021 and its findings, delivered last November, had not thrown further light on the case, Detective Chief Inspector Neil John, the senior investigating officer.

“No new DNA evidence was found and no further lines of enquiry were identified,” John said in a statement.

Williams, worked as a code breaker at the Government Communications Headquarters in western England but was on a three-year secondment to MI6, which deals with foreign espionage matters at the time of his death.

The remains of the maths prodigy were found curled up inside a zipped and padlocked red hold-all at the London flat – an intelligence service “safe house” – close to MI6’s headquarters.

His body was badly decomposed after remaining in the bag in the August heat for a full week until he was discovered. Tests found no traces of alcohol, drugs or poison in his body.

Police disclosed at the time of Williams’ death that he owned £15,000 worth of women’s designer clothing, a wig and make up. It had been suggested that Williams dressed as a woman outside of work, though a forensics expert has since said they believe the spy likely worked undercover as a woman.

Christian Horner subject to Red Bull investigation over ‘inappropriate behaviour’

Christian Horner‘s position as head of the Red Bull Formula One team appears to be at risk after an allegation emerged of inappropriate behaviour towards a female colleague.

A report from Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf states a Red Bull employee has made serious allegations about the team principal to the team’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH.

A separate report in The Times states the complaint came from a female colleague and concerns “inappropriate, controlling behaviour” while the Associated Press claim the complaint is allegedly about Horner’s aggressive management style. The allegations are being treated seriously by Red Bull chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff.

Horner, 50, who has been Red Bull team principal since 2005, will remain in his role during the investigation and strongly denies the accusation. When approached by The Independent, Red Bull Racing refused to comment on the matter.

The Red Bull F1 chief is married to former Spice Girl member Geri Horner and is the longest-serving team principal on the F1 grid, having been at the helm for six constructors’ championship victories and seven drivers’ championship triumphs – three for Max Verstappen and four for Sebastian Vettel.

Horner, who back in 2021 signed a contract extension at Red Bull until 2026, was made a CBE in the new year honours list for services to motorsport, having previously received an OBE in 2013.

Red Bull GmbH said in a statement on Monday: “After being made aware of certain recent allegations, the company launched an independent investigation.

“This process, which is already under way, is being carried out by an external specialist barrister. The company takes these matters extremely seriously and the investigation will be completed as soon as practically possible.

“It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

The team are due to launch their 2024 F1 car next Thursday (15 February) at their headquarters in Milton Keynes. Horner is scheduled to appear.

Red Bull won 21 out of 22 races in 2023 in their most successful year so far in F1, with Verstappen storming to his third straight championship.

Speaking about their season of domination last year and whether they can match it in 2024, Horner said: “I couldn’t have imagined it in a million years.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see a repeat, certainly not in our lifetimes, of what we managed to achieve [last] year with a car that’s managed the kind of dominance of RB19 [the 2023 car].

“I’m fully expecting with stable regulations, [there’ll be] diminishing returns for us [this year] because I think we got to the top of the curve quicker than others.

“The field is going to converge. For us, it’s difficult to know who that will be. Will it be McLaren? Will it be Ferrari? Will it be Mercedes? It keeps moving around behind us. But that’s what we’re fully expecting going into [this] year.”

“There’s always a reset as you go into the following year. I’m convinced that you’ll see a lot more cars that look like the RB19 philosophy going into next year. If you stand still in this business, you tend to be going backwards. I think we have got up that curve quicker than others, but we’re into a law of diminishing returns.”

The first race of the 2024 F1 season – featuring a record 24 races – is on 2 March in Bahrain. Pre-season testing takes place in Bahrain a week earlier, starting on 22 February.

Apple Vision Pro torn apart and experts find ‘achilles heel’

The Apple Vision Pro has already been torn to pieces – and experts believe it has shown its “achilles heel”.

The new augmented reality headset was released on 2 February, at $3,499 and after years of rumours. One of the first to buy one was iFixit, the website that tears technology apart in an attempt to understand how easy it is to fix.

The company’s experts noted that the “achilles heel” of repairing the headset might be the large display on the front, which sometimes shows a virtual version of the eyes of its wearer, to let people know that they can see into the real world.

That was just one of the many complications in attempting to break down the headset to understand how it was to repair, the company said. The teardown revealed that the Vision Pro is tightly packed with a huge array of different components, which likely mean that it is practically impossible to fix it from home.

Overall, the company’s experts seemed impress with the headset. It said that the vast array of the components meant that it was not great to repair but that “some of the connections are quite delightful”.

“The Vision Pro is insanely ambitious,” iFixit wrote. “Yes, it’s heavy, and the glass is fragile, and that tethered battery might get annoying. But Apple has managed to pack the power of a Mac, plus the performance of a new dedicated AR chip, into a computer that you can wear on your face.”

But it appeared concerned about the display on the front of the headset, and it had been added. It noted that the feature had proven controversial in reviews, with some suggesting it was creepy or useless – but also noted that it required lots of complex technology to work.

It uses a “lenticular display” which aims to produce a three-dimensional effect. That means that it is actually made up of three layers that together show many videos of the eyes.

But all of those videos still did not give the right effect, the company said. As such, it had added complexity without even providing much value.

“So why, when this thing clearly took years and years to create—and is Apple’s latest bet on the future of computing—did Apple fail to live up to their own standards with the EyeSight screen?” iFixit wrote.

“It’s dim, it’s low-resolution, and it adds a lot of bulk, weight, complexity, and expense to the most weight-sensitive part of the headset. Did they finally hit the drop dead date and miss their targeted performance? Could it be a late-stage manufacturing error? Regardless, we’re sure bringing it to market was a difficult decision.”

The company also suggested that it would provide more information on the headset in the days to come.

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It is time to fix the UK’s broken defence infrastructure

It was Admiral Beatty, commander at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, who uttered the famous complaint: “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.” His understandable frustration at the Royal Navy’s failure to destroy the German High Seas fleet was exacerbated by the fact that two of his ships exploded primarily due to poor design and with minimal firepower expended by the enemy.

Perhaps similar epithets could be heard in recent days around the Ministry of Defence when the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier broke down before it could leave Portsmouth harbour en route to lead the maritime arm of Steadfast Defender, a transatlantic exercise that is the biggest in decades and involves some 40 Nato allies.

The idea was that the Queen Elizabeth, built at a cost of some £3bn, would make a major contribution to a show of collective security and British maritime power in the face of Russian aggression. Sadly, that grand scheme was scuppered thanks to an “issue” with a propeller shaft. It should not have come as a great surprise to Beatty’s successors at the Admiralty, however, because Queen Elizabeth’s sister ship, Prince of Wales, suffered a similar fault 18 months ago. The development also calls into question whether a British carrier will be available to relieve the USS Dwight D Eisenhower in the Red Sea.

Has Keir Starmer scored own goal over Labour’s £28bn green spending?

On the same day thousands of Port Talbot steelworkers were told they would be losing their jobs, with the plant’s two blast furnaces closing down, Labour’s £28bn Green Prosperity Plan hit the headlines again.

The latest iteration of a story that has been doing the rounds for months popped up, with reports suggesting Sir Keir Starmer would ditch the hefty spending commitment.

The Port Talbot job losses, which will devastate the South Wales community, offered a visceral warning of the risk of failing to invest in future-proofing British industry.