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Velcro, bullet trains and robotic arms: how nature is the mother of invention

Many of the world’s most inspiring solutions have been created by scientists who stole their ideas from the natural world

Read more: What happens when humans meddle with nature?

Over millions of years of evolution, nature has worked out solutions to many problems. Humans have arrived late in the day and pinched them. For example, Velcro was invented after a Swiss engineer marvelled at the burdock burrs that got stuck to his dog’s fur; the idea for robotic arms came from the motion and gripping ability of elephant trunks, and the front of Japan’s bullet trains were redesigned to mimic a kingfisher’s streamlined beak, reducing the sonic boom they made exiting tunnels.

There are different types of mimicry, the most straightforward is the simple idea of copying something that exists in nature. Buildings are an obvious example, as outlined by research published in Nature. The Beijing national stadium is inspired by a bird’s nest, the Lotus Temple in India is shaped, unsurprisingly, like a lotus and the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai is shaped like a palm tree.

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UK’s digital services tax reaps almost £360m from US tech giants in first year

Figure raised exceeds what most of the digital businesses have been paying in UK corporation tax

The digital services tax has reaped almost £360m from US tech giants including Amazon, Google and Apple in its first year, raising more from most of the digital businesses than they have been paying in UK corporation tax.

A National Audit Office (NAO) report has found the UK’s digital services tax, which was introduced in April 2020 and imposes a 2% charge on the gross revenues made by digital titans running search engines, social media services and online marketplaces, hauled in 30% more than the government had forecast in 2021.

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Don’t like Musk? Work for us! Tech firms woo ex-Twitter staff

Tech companies aim to pick up experienced engineering talent by appealing to dislike of Tesla chief executive’s methods

Put off by Elon Musk’s muscular management style? Move to us! That’s the pitch being used by talent-starved technology firms trying to lure thousands of former Twitter employees laid off by the social media company under its new owner.

Twitter has fired top executives and enforced steep job cuts with little warning following Musk’s tumultuous takeover of the social media platform. About half of the workforce – around 3,700 employees – has been laid off.

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Crypto exchange FTX owes nearly $3.1bn to 50 biggest creditors

Company says cryptocurrency allegedly stolen in collapse being transferred to other exchanges

The collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX owes its 50 biggest creditors nearly $3.1bn (£2.6bn), according to a filing in a US bankruptcy court.

The exchange owes about $1.45bn to its top 10 creditors, it said in a court filing over the weekend, without naming them. The largest creditor is owed $226m.

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FTX was run as ‘personal fiefdom’ of Sam Bankman-Fried, court hears

Hearing in Delaware bankruptcy court is the first since the cryptocurrency exchange declared bankruptcy earlier this month

Bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX was run as the “personal fiefdom” of founder Sam Bankman-Fried with one of the company’s units spending $300m on real estate in the Bahamas for the use of its executives, a court heard on Tuesday.

The hearing in Delaware’s bankruptcy court is the first since FTX declared bankruptcy earlier this month.

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TechScape: How do you slice a billion-dollar crypto bankruptcy pie?

The 50 biggest claims against FTX total $3.1bn. Now a US court has to determine who gets what – if anything. Plus, what will be more valuable by the end of the year: Musk’s stake in Twitter, or a lettuce?

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If you owe the bank a grand and can’t repay it, you’re in trouble. If you owe the bank a billion and can’t repay it, the bank’s in trouble. If the bank owes you a billion and can’t repay it, the system’s in trouble.

When the cryptocurrency exchange FTX filed for bankruptcy last week, it didn’t actually know how much it owed customers, the company’s new chief executive, John Ray III, said in a filing. “Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here,” Ray wrote. That’s a weighty statement, given he worked on the Enron bankruptcy, the most notorious example of corporate fraud in recent American history.

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Elon Musk is a case study in how not to be a boss | Letter

Barbara Otis on the Twitter CEO’s troubling behaviour towards employees

As an organisational development practitioner, I have been watching the Twitter disaster unfold. As André Spicer’s article says, the kind of workplace behaviour exhibited by Elon Musk is not unusual among people in positions of power (The Elon Musk effect: have we reached our limit with awful bosses?, theguardian.com, 18 November).

Good leaders don’t have to email employees to tell them that they are expected to work hard. Great employees will work hard and be loyal when a healthy environment exists, where they are self-motivated and feel safe.

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‘Verified’ anti-vax accounts proliferate as Twitter struggles to police content

Platform’s paid verification system is being used to give sense of validity to accounts pushing health misinformation

As the troubled social media platform Twitter rolled out a paid verification system and laid off thousands of content moderators, health misinformation accounts on the social network began pushing their messages to a wider audience than ever.

Under Elon Musk’s new direction for Twitter, several anti-vaccine accounts with tens of thousands of followers are now verified by paying $7.99 a month for Twitter Blue.

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The metaverse will be a digital graveyard if we let new technologies distract us from today’s problems | Jordan Guiao

The collapse of digital ventures like FTX shows that no amount of hype and starry-eyed proselytising can escape reality

The tiny island nation of Tuvalu recently announced that it would be the first country to fully replicate itself as a virtual reproduction in the metaverse.

Tuvalu, comprising of nine small islands in the Pacific situated between Australia and Hawaii, fears that its demise is inevitable due to human-induced climate change, and wanted to preserve “the most precious assets of its people … and move them to the cloud”.

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Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 review: slick operation but dated design

Premium Windows 11 PC offers smooth and quiet experience but is showing its age compared with rivals

Microsoft’s latest Surface Laptop has new chips, new connections and costs the same as last year but has a five-year-old design that makes it look aged.

The Surface Laptop 5 starts at £999 ($999/A$1,699) for the 13.5in version, replacing the 18-month-old Laptop 4 as Microsoft’s idea of what a standard Windows 11 notebook should be. It sits above Microsoft’s entry-level Surface Laptop Go 2, which comes in at £529.

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