Science & Tech News

Ubuntu Is Switching to Wayland

Slashdot Updates - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 10:00am
An anonymous reader shares a report: Ubuntu is to ship Wayland in place of X.Org Server by default. Mir, Canonical's home-spun alternative to Wayland, had been billed as the future of Ubuntu's convergence play. But both Unity 8 the convergence dream was recently put out to pasture, meaning this decision was widely expected. It's highly likely that the traditional X.Org Server will, as on Fedora, be included on the disc and accessible from whichever login screen Ubuntu devs opt to use in ubuntu 17.10 onwards. This session will be useful for users whose system experience issues running on Wayland, or who need features and driver support that is only present in the legacy X.Org server session.

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Male robins can guess and satisfy their partner’s food cravings

New Scientist - Breaking news - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 9:57am
Female birds incubating eggs get an itch for specific foods, and their male partners somehow know what they want and deliver it to them
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TED Wants To Remind Us That Ideas -- Not Politicians -- Shape the Future

Slashdot Updates - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 9:20am
An anonymous reader shares a Quartz report: Amid global political upheavals, TED curator Chris Anderson argues that ideas have never mattered more. "Ideas changes how people act and [shape] their long term perspective," he said in during a April 17 press briefing. "Politicians come and go and ideas are forever." He said TED -- two segments of which will be broadcast live in movie theaters this year -- wants to re-introduce civility into political discourse. "We want to avoid the zero sum game we see on cable television every day," said Anderson, noting that TED is a non-partisan organization and has historically featured controversial and intriguing thinkers from both sides of the political divide. In place of the shrill, headline-bait tenor of political spectacles, TED wants to take viewers to a place of "reasoned discourse" where big ideas can act as a bridge between opposing views. By creating an eclectic program -- including an entire session delivered in Spanish and another on artificial intelligence -- Anderson said he wants to steer the conversation away from government and politics. "With so much focus in politics, the world is in danger of forgetting that so much of what really changes the future happens outside completely of politics. It happens inside the mind of dreamers, designers, inventors, technologists, entrepreneurs," he said.

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Nintendo To Launch SNES Mini This Year, Reports Eurogamer

Slashdot Updates - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 8:40am
Nintendo plans to release another console this year aimed at nostalgia-seekers. The iconic game company is working on a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) classic version that would launch in time for the holidays, according to Eurogamer, which cites sources with knowledge of the plans. The device is already under development and -- like its predecessor the NES Classic Edition -- will give gamers access to some of the console's biggest hits. From the article: Nintendo's plans for SNES mini are also a major reason why last year's NES mini did not see a reprieve from discontinuation, Eurogamer understands, despite the latter's continued popularity and sell-out status.

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Silicon Valley's $400 Juicer May Be Feeling the Squeeze

Slashdot Updates - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 8:00am
An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report: One of the most lavishly funded gadget startups in Silicon Valley last year was Juicero Inc. It makes a juice machine. The product was an unlikely pick for top technology investors, but they were drawn to the idea of an internet-connected device that transforms single-serving packets of chopped fruits and vegetables into a refreshing and healthy beverage. Doug Evans, the company's founder, would compare himself with Steve Jobs in his pursuit of juicing perfection. He declared that his juice press wields four tons of force -- "enough to lift two Teslas," he said. Google's venture capital arm and other backers poured about $120 million into the startup. Juicero sells the machine for $400, plus the cost of individual juice packs delivered weekly. But after the product hit the market, some investors were surprised to discover a much cheaper alternative: You can squeeze the Juicero bags with your bare hands. Two backers said the final device was bulkier than what was originally pitched and that they were puzzled to find that customers could achieve similar results without it.

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The Slashdot Interview With Lithium-Ion Battery Inventor John B. Goodenough

Slashdot Updates - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 7:20am
You asked, he answered! Lithium-ion battery inventor John B. Goodenough has responded to questions submitted by Slashdot readers. Read on for his answers.

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Bose Headphones Secretly Collected User Data, Lawsuit Reveals

Slashdot Updates - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 6:40am
The audio maker Bose, whose wireless headphones sell for up to $350, uses an app to collect the listening habits of its customers and provide that information to third parties -- all without the knowledge and permission of the users, according to a lawsuit filed in Chicago. From a report: The complaint accuses Boston-based Bose of violating the WireTap Act and a variety of state privacy laws, adding that a person's audio history can include a window into a person's life and views. "Indeed, one's personal audio selections -- including music, radio broadcast, Podcast, and lecture choices -- provide an incredible amount of insight into his or her personality, behavior, political views, and personal identity," says the complaint, noting a person's audio history may contain files like LGBT podcasts or Muslim call-to-prayer recordings.

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Facebook Owns Four Out of the Five Most Downloaded Apps Worldwide

Slashdot Updates - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 6:00am
An anonymous reader shares a report: Facebook continues to storm the numbers as the company has claimed four out of the five spots for the most downloaded apps across the globe during the last quarter. Interestingly, Netflix still lords over everyone as far as revenue goes. New research by app analytics firm Sensor Tower reveals that WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Snapchat were the most downloaded apps for the first three months of this year. While the numbers differed across the App Store and Google Play, one thing both platforms shared is that Facebook owned four out of the top five spots for the most downloaded apps worldwide. While Messenger topped the App Store download charts, Facebook headed the race on Google Play.

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Baidu Announces New Open Platform To Help Speed Up Development of Self-Driving Cars

Slashdot Updates - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 5:00am
Chinese tech giant Baidu has announced a new autonomous vehicle platform called Project Apollo, which aims to help speed up the development of self-driving cars. "Baidu says the platform encompasses both hardware and software, providing partners with the tech and open-source code needed to help their own vehicles perceive obstacles, plan their routes, and otherwise move around our world," reports The Verge. From the report: Baidu says it will first open up Project Apollo for cars operating in restricted environments in July, before offering it to vehicles driving in simple urban road conditions later this year. That's ahead of a gradual rollout of self-driving features that should see cars operating fully autonomously on highways and regular roads by 2020. The release comes as Baidu moves to position itself at the forefront of the autonomous vehicle industry. The Chinese company has aimed for the ambitious goal of getting a self-driving car to market by 2018, and is challenging rivals such as Google on its home turf, building a team of engineers based in Silicon Valley and scoring relevant permits so it can test vehicles in California.

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Fast CRISPR test easily detects Zika and antibiotic resistance

New Scientist - Breaking news - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 4:00am
A method that uses the gene-editing tool CRISPR to recognise certain DNA sequences could make it quick and cheap to test for pathogens or genetic variants
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Scientists Invent Ultrasonic Dryer That Uses Sound To Dry Your Clothes

Slashdot Updates - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 2:00am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Yahoo: Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have developed a dryer that could make doing laundry much quicker. Called the ultrasonic dryer, it's expected to be up to five times more energy efficient than most conventional dryers and able dry a large load of clothes in about half the time. Instead of using heat the way most dryers do, the ultrasonic dryer relies on high-frequency vibrations. Devices called green transducers convert electricity into vibrations, shaking the water from clothes. The scientists say that this method will allow a medium load of laundry to dry in 20 minutes, which is significantly less time than the average 50 minutes it takes in many heat-based machines. The drying technology also leaves less lint behind than normal dryers do, since the majority of lint is created when the hot air stream blows tiny fibers off of clothing. Drying clothes without heat also reduces the chance that their colors will fade. While the ultrasonic dryer has been in development for the past couple of years, the U.S. Department of Energy explains in a published video that it has recently been "developed into a full-scale press dryer and clothes dryer drum -- setting the stage for it to one day go to market through partners like General Electric Appliances."

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Broadband Expansion Could Trigger Dangerous Surge In Space Junk

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 11:00pm
A new study from the University of Southampton warns that expanding broadband networks via launching "mega constellations" of thousands of communications satellites could increase catastrophic crashes of dangerous space junk in Earth's orbit. "Dr Hugh Lewis, a senior lecturer in aerospace engineering at the University of Southampton, ran a 200-year simulation to assess the possible consequences of such a rise in orbital traffic," reports The Guardian. "He found it could create a 50% increase in the number of catastrophic collisions between satellites." From the report: Such crashes would probably lead to a further increase in the amount of space junk in orbit, he said, leading to the possibility of further collisions and potential damage to the services the satellites were intended to provide. The European Space Agency, which funded Lewis's research, is calling for the satellites planned for orbital mega-constellations to be able to move to low altitudes once their missions are over so they burn up in Earth's atmosphere. They must also be able discharge all batteries, fuel tanks and pressure tanks to prevent explosions that would scatter debris. Lewis is presenting his research this week at the European conference on space debris at the ESA's center in Darmsadt, Germany. Krag said he expected some of the companies planning launches to attend.

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Physicists Detect Whiff of New Particle At the Large Hadron Collider

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 7:30pm
sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: For decades, particle physicists have yearned for physics beyond their tried-and-true standard model. Now, they are finding signs of something unexpected at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's biggest atom smasher at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. The hints come not from the LHC's two large detectors, which have yielded no new particles since they bagged the last missing piece of the standard model, the Higgs boson, in 2012, but from a smaller detector, called LHCb, that precisely measures the decays of familiar particles. The latest signal involves deviations in the decays of particles called B mesons -- weak evidence on its own. But together with other hints, it could point to new particles lying on the high-energy horizon. "This has never happened before, to observe a set of coherent deviations that could be explained in a very economical way with one single new physics contribution," says Joaquim Matias, a theorist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain. B mesons are made of fundamental particles called quarks. Familiar protons and neutrons are made of two flavors of quarks, up and down, bound in trios. Heavier quark flavors -- charm, strange, top, and bottom -- can be created, along with their antimatter counterparts, in high-energy particle collisions; they pair with antiquarks to form mesons. In their latest result, reported today in a talk at CERN, LHCb physicists find that when one type of B meson decays into a K meson, its byproducts are skewed: The decay produces a muon (a cousin of the electron) and an antimuon less often than it makes an electron and a positron. In the standard model, those rates should be equal, says Guy Wilkinson, a physicist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and spokesperson for the 770-member LHCb team. The new data suggest the bottom quark might morph directly into a strange quark -- a change the standard model forbids -- by spitting out a new particle called a Z9 boson. That hypothetical cousin of the Z boson would be the first particle beyond the standard model and would add a new force to theory. The extra decay process would lower production of muons, explaining the anomaly.

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How Tilt Went From Hot $375 Million Startup To Fire Sale

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 5:25pm
tedlistens writes: Not long ago, social payments company Tilt seemed to have it all -- a hot idea; cool, young founders with Y Combinator pedigrees; and $67 million in funding -- not to mention a $375 million valuation. But Tilt was more successful at cultivating its user growth and fun, frat-tastic office culture than at nailing down a viable business model. When Tilt finally ran out of cash, the party ended with the company's sale at fire-sale prices to fellow Y Combinator alums Airbnb in an aqui-hire deal. Where did it all go wrong? Here's an excerpt from the report: "Tilt was based on the premise that 'something like PayPal and Facebook would collide,' Tilt founder and CEO James Beshara says. The company aspired to be a social network for money -- instead of sharing photos and videos, users exchanged digital cash for birthday ragers and beer runs. During Tilt's early years, the pitch was simple, and carefully calibrated for Silicon Valley boardrooms: 'Let's prove that we can dominate the globe.' [...] By early 2013, millions in venture dollars were pouring into Tilt's coffers. Investors were lured by the same strong social metrics (viral coefficient, for example, a measure of user growth) that had marked Facebook as a winner. But the hopes embedded in Tilt's $375 million valuation came crashing down to earth last year. Beshara hadn't built a business; instead, he had manufactured a classic Silicon Valley mirage. While investors were throwing millions of dollars at the promise of a glittering business involving 'social' and 'money,' their Mark Zuckerberg-in-the-making was basking in the sunny glow of Bay Area praise and enjoying the ride with his bros. Revenue was not a top priority -- a remarkable oversight for any company, and a particularly galling one for a payments company. Eventually, with cash running low, Tilt went looking for a buyer..."

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Researchers Discover New Species of Giant Spider

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 4:45pm
adeelarshad82 writes: Califorctenus cacachilensis, recently named by researchers at the San Diego Natural History Museum, was first located in 2013 in a mountain range in Baja California Sur, Mexico. The eye pattern led researchers to believe it was potentially part of a group of wandering spiders from the Ctenidae family. Knowing Ctenidae are nocturnal, the researchers returned to the cave at night, where they spotted a living specimen. Their research further led them to confirm that it was a previously unidentified species related to the Brazilian wandering spider. The findings have been published in Zootaxa.

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Benchmarks Show Galaxy S8 With Snapdragon 835 Is a Much Faster Android Handset

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 4:05pm
MojoKid writes: Samsung recently launched the Galaxy S8 series of Android smartphones to much fanfare but only recently did the handsets begin to arrive in market for testing and review. Though the high-polish styling of the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ may or may not appeal to you, few would argue with its claims of significant performance gains and improved battery life. As it turns out, in deep-dive testing and benchmarking, the Galaxy S8 series is significantly faster than any other Android handset on the market currently, especially when it comes to graphics and gaming workloads. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor on board the GS8 is currently a Samsung exclusive, though it's expected to arrive in other handsets later this year. The Adreno 540 graphics engine on board the new Snapdragon chip is roughly 25% faster than the previous generation 820/821 series, though the chip is only about 10 percent faster in standard CPU-intensive tasks. Regardless, these are appreciable gains, especially in light of the fact that the new Galaxy S8 also has much better battery life than the previous generation Galaxy S7 series. The Samsung Galaxy S8 (5.8-inch) and Galaxy S8+ (6.2-inch) are expected to arrive at retail this week and though pricing is carrier-dependent, list for roughly $720 and $850 respectively, off contract.

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StarCraft Is Now Free, Nearly 20 Years After Its Release

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 3:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Nearly two decades after its 1998 release, StarCraft is now free. Legally! Blizzard has just released the original game -- plus the Brood War expansion -- for free for both PC and Mac. You can find it here. Up until a few weeks ago, getting the game with its expansion would've cost $10-15 bucks. The company says they've also used this opportunity to improve the game's anti-cheat system, add "improved compatibility" with Windows 7, 8.1, and 10, and fix a few long lasting bugs. So why now? The company is about to release a remastered version of the game in just a few months, its graphics/audio overhauled for modern systems. Once that version hits, the original will probably look a bit ancient by comparison -- so they might as well use it to win over a few new fans, right?

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Zika mosquito is spreading worldwide but WHO wants to stop it

New Scientist - Breaking news - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 3:01pm
Inspired by efforts that have curbed malaria, the World Health Organization wants to control the Aedes mosquito in every one of the 140 countries it is found
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Boeing To Lay Off Hundreds of Engineers Amid Sales Slowdown

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 3:00pm
According to Reuters, Boeing has warned its employees that it "planned another round of involuntary layoffs that would affect hundreds of engineers at its commercial airplanes unit." From the report: The latest job cuts followed a prior involuntary reduction of 245 workers set for May 19 as the company responded to increasing competition and slowing aircraft sales. The additional layoffs are due to start June 23, according to the memo from John Hamilton, vice president of engineering at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "We are moving forward with a second phase of involuntary layoffs for some select skills in Washington state and other enterprise locations," the memo said. "We anticipate this will impact hundreds of engineering employees. Additional reductions in engineering later this year will be driven by our business environment and the amount of voluntary attrition."

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Microsoft's Cool Quantum Computing Plan Embraces Cryogenic Memory

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 2:40pm
An anonymous reader shares a PCWorld report: Microsoft has crazy quantum computing plans: first, it built hardware based on a particle that hasn't even been discovered. Now, it's hoping to co-design super-cool memory for quantum computers. The company is working with Rambus to develop and build prototype computers with memory subsystems that can be cooled at cryogenic temperatures, typically below minus 180 degrees Celsius or minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit. Cryogenics goes hand in hand with quantum computers, which promise to be significantly faster than today's PCs and servers and may even eventually replace them. But the systems are notoriously unstable and need to be stored in refrigerators for faster and secure operation. As an example, D-Wave's 2000Q quantum computer needs to be kept significantly cooler than supercomputers so operations don't break down.

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