Science & Tech News

ESA Approves Gravitational-Wave Hunting Spacecraft For 2034

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 11:00pm
The European Space Agency has approved the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna mission designed to study gravitational waves in space. The spacecraft is slated for launch in in 2034. New Scientist reports: LISA will be made up of three identical satellites orbiting the sun in a triangle formation, each 2.5 million kilometers from the next. The sides of the triangle will be powerful lasers bounced to and fro between the spacecraft. As large objects like black holes move through space they cause gravitational waves, ripples which stretch and squeeze space-time. The LISA satellites will detect how these waves warp space via tiny changes in the distance the laser beams travel. In order to detect these minuscule changes, on scales less than a trillionth of a meter, LISA will have to shrug off cosmic rays and the particles and light from the sun. The LISA Pathfinder mission, a solo probe launched in December 2015, proved that this sensitivity was possible and galvanized researchers working to realize the full LISA mission.

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Scientists Discover How To Stop Luggage From Toppling On the Race Through the Airport

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 7:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Scientists have worked out why suitcases tend to to rock violently from one wheel to the other until they overturn on the race through the airport. This most pressing of modern mysteries was taken on by physicists in Paris, who devised a scale model of a two-wheeled suitcase rolling on a treadmill and backed up their observations with a pile of equations and references to holonomic restraints, finite perturbations and the morphing of bifurcation diagrams. Fortunately for non-physicists, the findings can be reduced to simpler terms. For the suitcase to rock it had to hit a bump or be struck in some other manner; the faster the suitcase was being pulled, the more minor the bump needed to set it off. So far, so obvious. But Sylvain Courrech du Pont wanted to know more. Why did a rocking suitcase swerve and make such violent movements that it might eventually topple over? After more treadmill tests and more equations, the answer popped up: because a suitcase's handle pulls from the middle and the wheels are at its sides, the suitcase swerves inwards whenever it tilts up on one wheel. If the rocking overcomes the dampening effect that happens when each wheel touches the ground again, the suitcase will keep on rocking or eventually flip over. In conclusion, the researchers discovered that "when a suitcase starts to rock out of control, the correct response is not to slow down but to pull it faster." The scientists have published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.

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Home Improvement Chains Accused of False Advertising Over Lumber Dimensions

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 6:05pm
per unit analyzer writes: According to Consumerist, an attorney has filed a class-action lawsuit charging Home Depot (PDF) and Menards (PDF) with deceptive advertising practices by selling "lumber products that were falsely advertised and labeled as having product dimensions that were not the actual dimensions of the products sold." Now granted, this may be news to the novice DIYer, but overall most folks who are purchasing lumber at home improvement stores know that the so-called trade sizes don't match the actual dimensions of the lumber. Do retailers need to educate naive consumers about every aspect of the items they sell? (Especially industry quirks such as this...) Furthermore, as the article notes, it's hard to see how the plaintiffs have been damaged when these building materials are compatible with the construction of the purchaser's existing buildings. i.e., An "actual" 2x4 would not fit in a wall previously built with standard 2x4s -- selling the something as advertised would actually cause the purchaser more trouble in many cases.

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McDonald's Hits All-Time High As Wall Street Cheers Replacement of Cashiers With Kiosks

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 5:25pm
McDonald's is expected to increase its sales via new digital ordering kiosks that will replace cashiers in 2,500 restaurants. As a result, the company's shares hit an all-time high, rallying 26 percent this year through Monday. CNBC reports: Andrew Charles from Cowen cited plans for the restaurant chain to roll out mobile ordering across 14,000 U.S. locations by the end of 2017. The technology upgrades, part of what McDonald's calls "Experience of the Future," includes digital ordering kiosks that will be offered in 2,500 restaurants by the end of the year and table delivery. "MCD is cultivating a digital platform through mobile ordering and Experience of the Future (EOTF), an in-store technological overhaul most conspicuous through kiosk ordering and table delivery," Charles wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. "Our analysis suggests efforts should bear fruit in 2018 with a combined 130 bps [basis points] contribution to U.S. comps [comparable sales]." He raised his 2018 U.S. same store sales growth estimate for the fast-food chain to 3 percent from 2 percent.

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The US Government Wants To Permanently Legalize the Right To Repair

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 4:45pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: In one of the biggest wins for the right to repair movement yet, the U.S. Copyright Office suggested Thursday that the U.S. government should take actions to make it legal to repair anything you own, forever -- even if it requires hacking into the product's software. Manufacturers -- including John Deere, Ford, various printer companies, and a host of consumer electronics companies -- have argued that it should be illegal to bypass the software locks that they put into their products, claiming that such circumvention violated copyright law. Thursday, the U.S. Copyright Office said it's tired of having to deal with the same issues every three years; it should be legal to repair the things you buy -- everything you buy -- forever. "The growing demand for relief under section 1201 has coincided with a general understanding that bona fide repair and maintenance activities are typically non infringing," the report stated. "Repair activities are often protected from infringement claims by multiple copyright law provisions." "The Office recommends against limiting an exemption to specific technologies or devices, such as motor vehicles, as any statutory language would likely be soon outpaced by technology," it continued.

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Bird eggs may be shaped by the way their mother flies

New Scientist - Breaking news - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 11:00am
Huge survey reveals that bird species spending more time on the wing tend to have long or pointy eggs
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If you want to be a mega philanthropist Jeff Bezos, take note

New Scientist - Breaking news - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 10:03am
Amazon's founder, set to be the planet's richest person, wants to use his wealth for the greater good. It's harder than it sounds, warns David Auerbach
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Trump’s wise monkey environment plan: See no evil, hear no evil

New Scientist - Breaking news - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 9:33am
If you don't measure the bad stuff, you don't have to do anything about it. That looks like the Trump philosophy, say Gretchen Goldman and Andrew Rosenberg
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Stephen Hawking Says He Is Convinced That Humans Need To Leave Earth

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 9:20am
Reader dryriver writes: Back in May, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking made yet another doomsday prediction. He said that humanity has 100 years left on Earth, which knocked 900 years off the prediction he made in November 2016, which had given humanity 1,000 years left. With his new estimate, Hawking suggested the only way to prolong humanity's existence is for us to find a new home, on another planet (alternative source). Speaking at the Starmus Festival in Trondheim, Norway on Tuesday, Hawking reiterated his point: "If humanity is to continue for another million years, our future lies in boldly going where no one else has gone before," he explained, according to the BBC. Specifically, Hawking said that we should aim for another Moon landing by 2020, and work to build a lunar base in the next 30 years -- projects that could help prepare us to send human beings to Mars by 2025. "We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds. It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth," Hawking added.

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Fallen Tech Star Imagination Technologies Up For Sale After Apple Row Bites

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 8:40am
UK chip designer Imagination Technologies -- which is in dispute with Apple, its largest customer -- has put itself up for sale. Shares in the company more than halved in April when Imagination said that Apple was to stop using its technology. From a report: The firm was regarded as a leading light in Britain's burgeoning tech sector, but ran into trouble when the phones giant, by far its biggest customer, said it would no longer rely on it for graphics design. Apple accounts for more than half of Imagination's revenues and last year held takeover talks with Imagination. Two parts of the business, MIPS and Ensigma, were already up for sale. Imagination said it has received "interest from a number of parties for a potential acquisition of the whole group." It is in "preliminary discussions" with the aid of bankers from Rothschild.

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Italy’s drying lakes imperil rare shrimp species found only here

New Scientist - Breaking news - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 8:22am
The survival of ancient and unique species thriving in mountain lakes in central Italy have been threatened by a double whammy of a quake and climate change
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Weird amphibians found at record depth in dark underground lake

New Scientist - Breaking news - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 8:15am
A new sighting of the olm, an amphibious salamander, in a Croatian cave extends our knowledge of this mysterious and vulnerable animal
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University of Missouri To Use Open Source And Other Cheaper Alternatives For General Education Textbook

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 8:00am
Rudi Keller, writing for Columbia Tribune: The University of Missouri will move quickly to use open source and other cheaper alternatives for general education textbooks, building on initiatives already in place, system President Mun Choi said. At an event with members of the Board of Curators, administrators, lawmakers, faculty from all four campuses and student representatives, Choi said the intent is to save money for students while providing up-to-date materials. Faculty, including graduate assistants, will be eligible for incentive payments of $1,000 to $10,000 for preparing and adopting materials that save students money, Choi said. Textbooks are sometimes overlooked as a contributor to the cost of attending college, Choi said. "We want to provide our students an opportunity to have a low cost, high-quality alternative," Choi said.

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'Coal King' Is Suing John Oliver, Time Warner, and HBO

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 7:20am
Reader Daetrin writes: Robert E. Murray, CEO of one of the largest coal mining companies in the US, is suing John Oliver, HBO, and Time Warner for defamation (alternative source) over a comedic report on the status of the coal industry in John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight". The report began with the decline of the coal mining industry, Trump's promises to revive it, and the plight of the workers involved, but was also highly critical of the business practices and safety record of Murray Energy Corporation and Robert Murray's leadership of the company. When the company was contacted about the piece before airing they responded with a cease and desist letter and threatened to sue. John Oliver continued with the segment anyway, saying "I didn't really plan for so much of this piece to be about you, but you kinda forced my hand on that one."

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Oil-exploration airguns punch 2-kilometre-wide holes in plankton

New Scientist - Breaking news - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 7:00am
The seismic airguns used to look for undersea oil don’t just disrupt marine mammals, their shock waves also kill and disperse the plankton population
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AMD Looks To 'Crush' Intel's Xeon With New Epyc Server Chips

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 6:40am
AMD has unveiled the first generation of Epyc, its new range of server processors built around its Zen architecture. Processors will range from the Epyc 7251 -- an eight-core, 16-thread chip running at 2.1 to 2.9GHz in a 120W power envelope -- up to the Epyc 7601: a 32-core, 64-thread monster running at 2.2 to 3.2GHz, with a 180W design power. From a report: These chips are built on the same fundamental architecture as the company's Ryzen CPU cores, and they're aimed at the incredibly powerful data center market. AMD's 32-core / 64-thread Epyc CPUs combine four eight-core dies, each connected to the other via the company's Infinity Fabric. According to AMD, this approach is significantly cheaper than trying to pack 32 cores into a single monolithic die -- that approach would leave the company potentially throwing away huge amounts of silicon during its production ramp. The Infinity Fabric is deliberately over-provisioned to minimize any problems with non-NUMA aware software, according to Anandtech. Each 32-core Epyc CPU will support eight memory channels and two DIMMs per channel, for a total maximum memory capacity of 2TB per socket, or 4TB of RAM in a two-socket system. Each CPU will also offer 128 lanes of PCI Express 3.0 support -- enough to connect up to six GPUs at x16 each with room left over for I/O support. That's in a one-socket system, mind you. In a two-socket system, the total number of available PCI Express 3.0 lanes is unchanged, at 128 (64 PCIe 3.0 lanes are used to handle CPU -- CPU communication). Anandtech has a longer writeup with more details on the CPUs power efficiency and TDP scaling. Further reading: ZDNet, press release.

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With Her Blog Post About Toxic Bro-Culture at Uber, Susan Fowler Proved That One Person Can Make a Difference

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 6:01am
Kara Swisher, writing for Recode: It was Lao Tzu who said that "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." In the case of complete and utter change reeling through Uber right now -- culminating in the resignation of its once untouchable CEO Travis Kalanick -- it turns out that it began with one of the most epic blog posts to be written about what happens when a hot company becomes hostage to its increasingly dysfunctional and toxic behaviors. It was clear from the moment you read the 3,000-word post by former engineer Susan Fowler about her time at the car-hailing company that nothing was going to be the same. Titled simply, "Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber," the essay deftly and surgically laid out the map that the media and others would use to prove to its out-to-lunch board and waffling investors that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had to go. In her account, Fowler was neither mean nor self-righteous, although in reading the story that she laid out about her horrible time there, it would have been completely fair for her to have taken that tone.

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Verizon Is Killing Tumblr's Fight For Net Neutrality

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 5:00am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: In 2014, Tumblr was on the front lines of the battle for net neutrality. The company stood alongside Amazon, Kickstarter, Etsy, Vimeo, Reddit, and Netflix during Battle for the Net's day of action. Tumblr CEO David Karp was also part of a group of New York tech CEOs that met with then-FCC chairman Tom Wheeler in Brooklyn that summer, while the FCC was fielding public comment on new Title II rules. President Obama invited Karp to the White House to discuss various issues around public education, and in February 2015 The Wall Street Journal reported that it was the influence of Karp and a small group of liberal tech CEOs that swayed Obama toward a philosophy of internet as public utility. But three years later, as the battle for net neutrality heats up once again, Tumblr has been uncharacteristically silent. The last mention of net neutrality on Tumblr's staff blog -- which frequently posts about political issues from civil rights to climate change to gun control to student loan debt -- was in June 2016. And Tumblr is not listed as a participating tech company for Battle for the Net's next day of action, coming up in three weeks. One reason for Karp and Tumblr's silence? Last week Verizon completed its acquisition of Tumblr parent company Yahoo, kicking off the subsequent merger of Yahoo and AOL to create a new company called Oath. As one of the world's largest ISPs, Verizon is notorious for challenging the principles of net neutrality -- it sued the FCC in an effort to overturn net neutrality rules in 2011, and its general counsel Kathy Grillo published a note this April complimenting new FCC chairman Ajit Pai's plan to weaken telecommunication regulations.

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Domestic Appliances Guzzle Far More Energy Than Advertised, Says EU Survey

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 2:00am
Chrisq writes: An EU study has found that many electronic devices and appliances use more energy in real-world conditions than in the standard EU tests. Often the real world figures are double those in the ratings. Sometimes this is achieved by having various optional features switched off during the test. For example, switching on modern TV features such as "ultra-high definition" and "high-dynamic range" in real-world test cycles boosted energy use in four out of seven televisions surveyed -- one by more than 100%. However some appliances appear to have "defeat devices" built in, with some Samsung TVs appearing to recognize the standard testing clip: "The Swedish Energy Agency's Testlab has come across televisions that clearly recognize the standard film (IEC) used for testing," says the letter, which the Guardian has seen. "These displays immediately lower their energy use by adjusting the brightness of the display when the standard film is being run. This is a way of avoiding the market surveillance authorities and should be addressed by the commission."

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Volunteers teach AI to spot slavery sites from satellite images

New Scientist - Breaking news - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 1:00am
A crowdsourcing project is helping train a machine learning algorithm to identify possible sites of forced labour in South Asia from space
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