Science & Tech News

Marchers, raise your banners for the tortoise pace of progress

New Scientist - Breaking news - Sat, 04/22/2017 - 1:00am
The March for Science reflects the growing gap between slow, steady, vital scientific gains and quick-fire, opportunist US politics, says Dave Levitan
Categories: Science & Tech News

Should you worry about heavy phone use causing cancer?

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 9:04am
An Italian court has ruled that heavy cellphone usage was to blame for a man’s tumour. But there is still no convincing evidence that phones raise cancer risk
Categories: Science & Tech News

Drones listen in on bats to reveal their in-flight secrets

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 8:35am
Using ultrasonic detectors, drones in the air and on the water are detecting bat calls, in the hope of finding out what the mammals get up to when flying
Categories: Science & Tech News

Arkansas should halt execution spree and let its drugs expire

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 8:03am
Regardless of your view on the death penalty, there's scant evidence to back the idea that the use of lethal injection is humane, says Anna Nowogrodzki
Categories: Science & Tech News

Chlamydia vaccine for koalas slows spread of deadly disease

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 7:43am
First results from trials of single-jab vaccine offer hope that the sexually transmitted disease devastating Australia’s koala population can be halted
Categories: Science & Tech News

In The First Months of Trump Era, Facebook And Apple Spent More On Lobbying Than They Ever Have

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 7:20am
An anonymous reader shares a report: According to federal lobbying disclosures filed Thursday, Facebook and Apple set their all-time record high for spending in a single quarter. Facebook spent $3.2 million lobbying the federal government in the first months of the Trump era. During the same period last year, Facebook spent $2.8 million (about 15% less). The company lobbied both chambers of Congress, the White House, and six federal agencies on issues including high-tech worker visas, network neutrality, internet privacy, encryption, and international taxation. Facebook was the 12th-highest spender out of any company and second-highest in tech. [...] Apple spent $1.4 million, which is just $50,000 more than during the final months of the Obama presidency, when it set its previous record, but the most it has ever spent in a single quarter. Apple lobbied on issues including government requests for data, the regulation of mobile health apps, and self-driving cars. Google, once again, outspent every other technology company. It was 10th overall, tallying $3.5 million.

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Trump's FCC Votes To Allow Broadband Rate Hikes Will Deprive More Public Schools From Getting Internet Access

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 6:41am
The FCC voted on Thursday to approve a controversial plan to deregulate the $45 billion market for business-to-business broadband, also known as Business Data Services (BDS), by eliminating price caps that make internet access more affordable for thousands of small businesses, schools, libraries and hospitals. The Outline adds: The price caps were designed to keep phone and, later, broadband, access cheap for community institutions like schools, hospitals, libraries, and small businesses. Now, there will be no limit. A spokesperson for the trade association Incompas, which advocates for competition among communications providers, told The Outline that the increase is expected to be at least 25 percent across the board. Low-income schools already don't have enough money; according to a report last year in The Atlantic, schools in high-poverty districts, where the property taxes are lower, spend 15.6 percent less per student than schools in low-poverty districts. If internet costs go up by 25 percent, it may make more sense to cut that budget item, or, for schools that still don't have internet, never add it at all. Add it to the list of things that well-funded schools in already-rich neighborhoods get that schools in low-income neighborhoods don't. New textbooks. Gyms. Advanced Placement classes that let students earn college credits. Computers. Internet access.

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Why better technology won’t stop violent videos going viral

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 6:36am
A graphic killing video on Facebook has sparked calls for technological fixes. But these ignore the fact that Facebook's biggest problem is not technology, but people
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Inside Elon Musk's New Company Neuralink Which Aims To Fight Brain Conditions And Help Humanity Survive in the Age of AI

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 6:01am
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has confirmed plans for his newest company, called Neuralink Corp, revealing he will be the chief executive of a startup that aims to merge computers with brains so humans could one day engage in "consensual telepathy." In an interview with explainer website Wait But Why (36,000-word), Musk said Neuralink aims to implant tiny brain electrodes that first would be used to fight brain conditions but later help humanity avoid subjugation at the hands of intelligent machines. From the report: "There are a bunch of concepts in your head that then your brain has to try to compress into this incredibly low data rate called speech or typing," Musk said. "That's what language is, your brain has executed a compression algorithm on thought, on concept transfer. If you have two brain interfaces, you could actually do an uncompressed direct conceptual communication with another person." Musk says he expects the project to take eight to 10 years before being usable by people with no disability. He anticipates tons of regulatory challenges in his way.

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First living example of giant ancient mollusc found in the wild

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 6:00am
The giant shipworm has mostly been known for its elephant tusk-like shells. Now we’ve finally found some live ones - they eat noxious mud and smell like rotten eggs
Categories: Science & Tech News

US Prepares Charges To Seek Arrest of WikiLeaks' Julian Assange

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 5:00am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: U.S. authorities have prepared charges to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, U.S. officials familiar with the matter tell CNN. The Justice Department investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks dates to at least 2010, when the site first gained wide attention for posting thousands of files stolen by the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst now known as Chelsea Manning. Prosecutors have struggled with whether the First Amendment precluded the prosecution of Assange, but now believe they have found a way to move forward. During President Barack Obama's administration, Attorney General Eric Holder and officials at the Justice Department determined it would be difficult to bring charges against Assange because WikiLeaks wasn't alone in publishing documents stolen by Manning. Several newspapers, including The New York Times, did as well. The investigation continued, but any possible charges were put on hold, according to U.S. officials involved in the process then.The U.S. view of WikiLeaks and Assange began to change after investigators found what they believe was proof that WikiLeaks played an active role in helping Edward Snowden, a former NSA analyst, disclose a massive cache of classified documents. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference Thursday that Assange's arrest is a "priority." "We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks," he said. "This is a matter that's gone beyond anything I'm aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious. So yes, it is a priority. We've already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail." Meanwhile, Assange's lawyer said they have "had no communication with the Department of Justice."

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Here’s what to expect from Saturday’s March for Science

New Scientist - Breaking news - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 3:00am
Despite criticisms of the organising committee and a perceived lack of a clear message, the march could be a turning point for how scientists approach government
Categories: Science & Tech News

Neuroscientists Offer a Reality Check On Facebook's 'Typing By Brain' Project

Slashdot Updates - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 2:00am
the_newsbeagle writes: Yesterday, Facebook announced that it's working on a "typing by brain" project, promising a non-invasive technology that can decode signals from the brain's speech center and translate them directly to text (see the video beginning at 1:18:00). What's more, Facebook exec Regina Dugan said, the technology will achieve a typing rate of 100 words per minute. Here, a few neuroscientists are asked: Is such a thing remotely feasible? One neuroscientist points out that his team set the current speed record for brain-typing earlier this year: They enabled a paralyzed man to type 8 words per minute, and that was using an invasive brain implant that could get high-fidelity signals from neurons. To date, all non-invasive methods that read brain signals through the scalp and skull have performed much worse. Thomas Naselaris, an assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, says, "Our understanding of the way the words and their phonological and semantic attributes are encoded in brain activity is actually pretty good currently, but much of this understanding has been enabled by fMRI, which is noninvasive but very slow and not at all portable," he said. "So I think that the bottleneck will be the [optical] imaging technology," which is what Facebook's gear will be using.

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CEO of Silicon Valley's $400 Juicer Promises Refunds After Hand-Squeezing Demonstration

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 11:00pm
Anthony Ha writes via TechCrunch: Jeff Dunn, the former Coca-Cola executive who became CEO of Juicero last year, has responded to a wave of coverage suggesting that the company's juice press isn't all that was promised -- and he's offering dissatisfied customers their money back. A Bloomberg report showed that Juicero's packs could be squeezed by hand, no expensive juicer required. Dunn's response? He doesn't deny that hand-squeezing is a very real possibility, but he does quibble about what you'll find inside, saying it's "nothing but fresh, raw, organic chopped produce" -- see, it's not juice yet because it hasn't been pressed. "What you will get with hand-squeezed hacks is a mediocre (and maybe very messy) experience that you won't want to repeat once, let alone every day," he argued. More importantly, he said, "The value of Juicero is more than a glass of cold-pressed juice. Much more." At the beginning of his post, Dunn said his goal was to "demonstrate the incredible value we know our connected system delivers." And if you're not convinced this is worth $400, well, there's another option for disillusioned Juicero buyers -- Dunn said the company's "Happiness Guarantee" (i.e. its return policy) has been extended to cover anyone who's ever purchased a Juicero Press. So for the next 30 days, anyone who's bought a Press should be able to return it for a full refund.

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Ambient Light Sensors Can Be Used To Steal Browser Data

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 9:00pm
An anonymous reader writes: "Over the past decade, ambient light sensors have become quite common in smartphones, tablets, and laptops, where they are used to detect the level of surrounding light and automatically adjust a screen's intensity to optimize battery consumption... and other stuff," reports Bleeping Computer. "The sensors have become so prevalent, that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed a special API that allows websites (through a browser) to interact with a device's ambient light sensors. Browsers such as Chrome and Firefox have already shipped versions of this API with their products." According to two privacy and security experts, Lukasz Olejnik and Artur Janc, malicious web pages can launch attacks using this new API and collect data on users, such as URLs they visited in the past and extract QR codes displayed on the screen. This is possible because the light coming from the screen is picked up by these sensors. Mitigating such attacks is quite easy, as it only requires browser makers and the W3C to adjust the default frequency at which the sensors report their readings. Furthermore, the researcher also recommends that browser makers quantize the result by limiting the precision of the sensor output to only a few values in a preset range. The two researchers filed bug reports with both Chrome and Firefox in the hopes their recommendations will be followed.

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Plastc Swiped $9 Million From Backers, Now It Plans To File For Bankruptcy and Shut Down

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 7:30pm
Plastc announced today that it is planning to file for bankruptcy and will shut down on April 20, 2017, after raising more than $9 million through preorders and shipping to no backers. "Plastc launched in 2014 with the promise of shipping a single card that could digitally hold 20 credit or debit cards that a user could switch between," reports The Verge. From the report: With that, all backers' money is lost, and no Plastc cards will ship. Plastc announced the news on its website today along with the fact that all its employees have been laid off. Its customer care and social media channels have also been shut down. The company explains that it thought it would close $3.5 million in funding in February this year, but that fell through. Another possible investment deal of $6.75 million fell through, too. What's not clear is how more than $9 million wasn't sufficient to get backers their orders. Backers will likely have questions and want their money back, but with no one to turn to from Plastc, they'll likely be out the cash.

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Canada Rules To Uphold Net Neutrality

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 6:05pm
According to a new ruling by Canada's telecommunications regulator, internet service providers should not be able to exempt certain types of content, such as streaming music or video, from counting toward a person's data cap. The ruling upholds net neutrality, which is the principle that all web services should be treated equally by providers. CBC.ca reports: "Rather than offering its subscribers selected content at different data usage prices, Internet service providers should be offering more data at lower prices," said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC in a statement. "That way, subscribers can choose for themselves what content they want to consume." The decision stems from a 2015 complaint against the wireless carrier Videotron, which primarily operates in Quebec. Videotron launched a feature in August of that year, enabling customers to stream music from services such as Spotify and Google Play Music without it counting against a monthly data cap as a way to entice people to subscribe to Videotron's internet service. The decision means that Videotron cannot offer its unlimited music streaming plan to subscribers in its current form -- nor can other internet providers offer similar plans that zero-rate other types of internet content, such as video streaming or social media.

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Apple Forces Recyclers To Shred All iPhones and MacBooks

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 5:25pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Apple released its Environmental Responsibility Report Wednesday, an annual grandstanding effort that the company uses to position itself as a progressive, environmentally friendly company. Behind the scenes, though, the company undermines attempts to prolong the lifespan of its products. Apple's new moonshot plan is to make iPhones and computers entirely out of recycled materials by putting pressure on the recycling industry to innovate. But documents obtained by Motherboard using Freedom of Information requests show that Apple's current practices prevent recyclers from doing the most environmentally friendly thing they could do: Salvage phones and computers from the scrap heap. Apple rejects current industry best practices by forcing the recyclers it works with to shred iPhones and MacBooks so they cannot be repaired or reused -- instead, they are turned into tiny shards of metal and glass. "Materials are manually and mechanically disassembled and shredded into commodity-sized fractions of metals, plastics, and glass," John Yeider, Apple's recycling program manager, wrote under a heading called "Takeback Program Report" in a 2013 report to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. "All hard drives are shredded in confetti-sized pieces. The pieces are then sorted into commodities grade materials. After sorting, the materials are sold and used for production stock in new products. No reuse. No parts harvesting. No resale."

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Subway Sues Canada Network Over Claim Its Chicken Is 50 Percent Soy

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 4:45pm
jenningsthecat writes: As reported here back in February, the CBC, (Canada's national broadcaster), revealed DNA test results which indicated the chicken used in Subway Restaurants' sandwiches only contained about 50% chicken. Now, Subway is suing the public broadcaster for $210 million, because "its reputation and brand have taken a hit as a result of the CBC reports." The suit claims that "false statements [...] were published and republished, maliciously and without just cause or excuse, to a global audience, which has resulted in pecuniary loss to the plaintiffs." Personally, my working assumption here is that the CBC report is substantially correct. It will be interesting to see how the case plays out -- but should this have happened at all? Regulatory agencies here in Canada seem to be pretty good when it comes to inspecting meat processing facilities. Should they also be testing the prepared foods served by major restaurant chains to ensure that claims regarding food content are true and accurate?

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Tesla Recalls 53,000 Model S, Model X Cars For Stuck Parking Brakes

Slashdot Updates - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 4:05pm
Tesla has issued a voluntary recall for approximately 53,000 Model S and Model X cars, which may be susceptible to having stuck parking brakes. The company hasn't received any reports of the parking brake system failing, but decided to issue a recall for precautionary reasons. According to CNET, the recall affects 31,000 Model S and Model X cars in the U.S., "and all affected vehicles carry build dates between February and October 2016." From the report: The problem lies with the electric parking brakes that help secure the vehicles when placed in Park. The parking brakes contain a small gear that might fracture, which would prevent the parking brake from releasing. Thus, a car that enters Park may not be able to move again. This has no bearing on the vehicles' regular brakes, and Tesla has received no reports of the parking brake system failing to hold a car in place. Tesla estimates that about 2 percent of the vehicles recalled contain the improperly manufactured gear. It should be noted that the parking brake assembly is from a third-party supplier, as well.

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