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Scientists: Paris Climate Pledges Are Inadequate

Soylent New - 2 hours 42 min ago

The Independent reports on an article in Nature (full article is paywalled) (DOI: 10.1038/nature18307) in which the effects of the actions to which governments committed themselves at December's Paris climate summit are predicted. The authors estimate "a median warming of 2.6–3.1 degrees Celsius by 2100" if those policies are followed; they say more drastic action will be needed if warming is to be kept to 2 degrees or less.

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California Set to Vote to Legalize Recreational Marijauna

Soylent New - 29 June 2016 - 11:54pm

The LA Times reports that the Secretary of State's Office certified that a random sample showed sufficient signatures among the 600,000 petitions turned in to qualify the Legalization of Marijuana initiative for the November 8 election ballot.

The initiative would allow adults ages 21 and older to possess, transport and use up to an ounce of cannabis for recreational purposes and would allow individuals to grow as many as six plants.

California would join Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon as states that allow recreational use of marijuana. Eight other states also have marijuana measures on their ballots this year.

If the random sample of petition qualifies, one would think that the initiative will pass handily. California is a lot more conservative than you might think once you get out of the big cities. But there is no doubt the big cities supplied most of the signature for the petitions. However, this is one issue that may not be decided along party lines, as both sides seem to be gravitating toward legalization.

It might have something to do with the statistics that are starting to filter in from the legalized states.

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Scientists Say The Asteroid That Killed The Dinosaurs Almost Wiped Us Out Too

/. - 29 June 2016 - 11:30pm
HughPickens.com writes: Conventional wisdom states that mammalian diversity emerged from the ashes of the Cretaceous/Tertiary mass extinction event, ultimately giving rise to our own humble species. But Joshua A. Krisch writes at This Week that the asteroid that decimated the dinosaurs also wiped out roughly 93 percent of all mammalian species. "Because mammals did so well after the extinction, we have tended to assume that it didn't hit them as hard," says Nick Longrich. "However our analysis shows that the mammals were hit harder than most groups of animals, such as lizards, turtles, crocodilians, but they proved to be far more adaptable in the aftermath." Mammals survived, multiplied, and ultimately gave rise to human beings. So what was the great secret that our possum-like ancestors knew that dinosaurs did not? One answer is that early mammals were small enough to survive on insects and dying plants, while large dinosaurs and reptiles required a vast diet of leafy greens and healthy prey that simply weren't available in the lean years, post-impact. So brontosauruses starved to death while prehistoric possums filled their far smaller and less discerning bellies. "Even if large herbivorous dinosaurs had managed to survive the initial meteor strike, they would have had nothing to eat," says Russ Graham, "because most of the earth's above-ground plant material had been destroyed." Other studies have suggested that mammals survived by burrowing underground or living near the water, where they would have been somewhat shielded from the intense heatwaves, post-impact. Studies also suggest that mammals may have been better spread-out around the globe, and so had the freedom to recover independently and evolve with greater diversity. "After this extinction event, there was an explosion of diversity, and it was driven by having different evolutionary experiments going on simultaneously in different locations," Longrich says. "This may have helped drive the recovery. With so many different species evolving in different directions in different parts of the world, evolution was more likely to stumble across new evolutionary paths."

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Ancient 'Deep Skull' From Borneo Full of Surprises

Soylent New - 29 June 2016 - 10:11pm

A new study of the 37,000-year old remains of the "Deep Skull" - the oldest modern human discovered in island South-East Asia - has revealed this ancient person was not related to Indigenous Australians, as had been originally thought. The Deep Skull was also likely to have been an older woman, rather than a teenage boy.

The research, led by UNSW Australia Associate Professor Darren Curnoe, represents the most detailed investigation of the ancient cranium specimen since it was found in Niah Cave in Sarawak in 1958.

"Our analysis overturns long-held views about the early history of this region," says Associate Professor Curnoe, Director of the UNSW Palaeontology, Geobiology and Earth Archives Research Centre (PANGEA). "We've found that these very ancient remains most closely resemble some of the Indigenous people of Borneo today, with their delicately built features and small body size, rather than Indigenous people from Australia."

The study, by Curnoe and researchers from the Sarawak Museum Department and Griffith University, is published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

The Deep Skull was discovered by Tom Harrisson of the Sarawak Museum during excavations at the West Mouth of the great Niah Cave complex and was analysed by prominent British anthropologist Don Brothwell. In 1960, Brothwell concluded the Deep Skull belonged to an adolescent male and represented a population of early modern humans closely related, or even ancestral, to Indigenous Australians, particularly Tasmanians.

"Brothwell's ideas have been highly influential and stood largely untested, so we wanted to see whether they might be correct after almost six decades," says Curnoe. "Our study challenges many of these old ideas. It shows the Deep Skull is from a middle-aged female rather than a teenage boy, and has few similarities to Indigenous Australians. Instead, it more closely resembles people today from more northerly parts of South-East Asia."


"We need to rethink our ideas about the region's prehistory, which was far more complicated than we've appreciated until now."

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DMCA Notices Remove 8,268 Projects On Github In 2015

/. - 29 June 2016 - 9:25pm
An anonymous reader writes: Github's transparency report for 2015 shows that the site received many DMCA notices that removed more than 8,200 projects. "In 2015, we received significantly more takedown notices, and took down significantly more content, than we did in 2014," Github reports. For comparison, the company received only 258 DMCA notices in 2014, 17 of which responded with a counter-notice or retraction. In 2015, they received 505 takedown notices, 62 of which were the subject of counters or withdrawals. TorrentFreak reports: "Copyright holders are not limited to reporting one URL or location per DMCA notice. In fact, each notice filed can target tens, hundreds, or even thousands of allegedly infringing locations." September was a particularly active month as it took down nearly 5,834 projects. "Usually, the DMCA reports we receive are from people or organizations reporting a single potentially infringing repository. However, every now and then we receive a single notice asking us to take down many repositories," Github explains. They are called 'Mass Removals' when more than 100 repositories are asked to be removed. "In all, fewer than twenty individual notice senders requested removal of over 90% of the content GitHub took down in 2015."

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Google's 'FASTER' 9000km, 60Tbps Transpacific Fiber Optics Cable Completed

/. - 29 June 2016 - 8:45pm
An anonymous reader writes from a report via 9to5Google: Google and an association of telecom providers have announced that the FASTER broadband cable system that links Japan and the United States is now complete. The system is the fastest of its kind and stretches nearly 9,000 km across the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, starting in Oregon and ending in two landing spots in Japan. The association consists of Google, China Mobile International, China Telecom Global, Global Transit, KDDI, Singtel, and supplier NEC Corporation. The estimated construction cost of the project was $300 million in 2014. At 60 terabits per second, FASTER will help "support the expected four-fold increase in broadband traffic demand between Asia and North America." The system uses a six-fiber pair cable and the latest 100Gbps digital coherent optical transmission technology. The service is scheduled to start on June 30, 2016, and will help increase the connectivity between Google's data centers scattered around the globe.

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Intel is Said to Mull Sale of its Security Business

Soylent New - 29 June 2016 - 8:44pm

Intel is considering selling its security business as the company tries to focus on delivering chips for cloud computing and connected devices, according to a news report.

The Intel Security business came largely from the company's acquisition for US$7.7 billion of security software company McAfee. Intel announced plans to bake some of the security technology into its chips to ensure higher security for its customers.

With the surge in cyberthreats, providing protection to the variety of Internet-connected devices, such as PCs, mobile devices, medical gear and cars, requires a fundamentally new approach involving software, hardware and services, the company said in February 2011, when announcing the completion of the McAfee acquisition.

Intel has been talking to bankers about the future of its cybersecurity business for a deal that would be one of the largest in the sector ... a group of private equity firms may join together to buy the security business if it is sold at the same price or higher than what Intel paid for it.

[...] The company rebranded its McAfee business as Intel Security in 2014.

The security sector has seen a lot of interest from private equity buyers. Symantec said earlier this month it was acquiring Web security provider Blue Coat for $4.65 billion in cash, in a deal that will see Silver Lake, an investor in Symantec, enhancing its investment in the merged company, and Bain Capital, majority shareholder in Blue Coat, reinvesting $750 million in the business through convertible notes.

Intel said in April that it was cutting 12,000 jobs, or 11 percent of its workforce, by mid-2017 as it tries to evolve from chips for PCs to silicon for data centers and the Internet of Things.

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FCC Says TV Airwaves Being Sold For Wireless Use Are Worth $86.4 Billion

/. - 29 June 2016 - 8:05pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission said on Wednesday the price of 126 MHz of television airwaves taken from broadcasters to be sold for wireless use in an ongoing auction is $86.4 billion. The FCC disclosed the price in a statement after completing the first part of an auction to repurpose low-frequency wireless spectrum relinquished by television broadcasters. The so-called "broadcast incentive" spectrum auction is one of the commission's most complex and ambitious to date. In this round, called a reverse auction, broadcasters competed to give up spectrum to the FCC for the lowest price. In the next stage, the forward auction, wireless and other companies will bid to buy the airwaves for the highest price. If wireless companies are unwilling to pay $86.4 billion, the FCC may have to hold another round of bidding by broadcasters and sell less spectrum than had been expected, analysts said. The Wall Street Journal points out that $86.4 billion is more than the market cap of T-Mobile and Spring combined. It's roughly double the amount raised in the last FCC auction, where ATT spent $18.2 billion and Verizon spent $10.4 billion. It's highly likely we'll see multiple rounds stretching into 2017 that will eventually match the supply with the demand.

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Tesla Admits Defeat, Quietly Settles Model X Lawsuit Over Usability Problems

/. - 29 June 2016 - 7:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BGR: We can talk about how innovative Tesla is for days on end. Indeed, there's no disputing the fact that the company, in injecting a bit of Silicon Valley ingenuity into the tried and true auto design process, has completely turned the auto industry on its head. At the same time, Tesla helped kickstart the EV revolution, even causing traditional automakers like Porsche and BMW to start taking electric cars more seriously. But in Tesla's zeal to move extraordinarily quickly, problems have inevitably begun to creep in. Specifically, quality control issues still seem to be plaguing the Model X. According to a recent report, avowed Tesla fan named Barrett Lyon recently returned his Model X and filed a lawsuit against Tesla arguing that the Model X was "rushed" and released before it was ready for sale. Now comes word that Tesla has since quietly settled the lawsuit. "In Lyon's lawsuit," Fortune writes, "he claimed the cars doors opened and closed unpredictably, smashing into his wife and other cars, and that the Model X's Auto-Pilot feature posed a danger in the rain. He also shared a video that shows the car's self-parking feature failing to operate successfully." Tesla's response: "We are committed to providing an outstanding customer experience throughout ownership. As a principle, we are always willing to buy back a car in the rare event that a customer isn't completely happy. Today, the majority of Model X owners are loving their cars."

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Raspberry Pi AI Beats USAF Pilot in Simulated Dogfights

Soylent New - 29 June 2016 - 7:02pm

El Reg reports

Today's generation of fighter pilots could be the last of their breed, thanks to an [Artificial Intelligence] system dubbed ALPHA that's proving unkillable in air combat.

The US Air Force has just completed dogfighting trials in a simulator, pitching the software against retired Air Force Colonel Gene Lee. The AI--which ran on a $35 Raspberry Pi computer--was deliberately handicapped but still managed to shoot down its fleshy opponent every time and evade his attempts to kill it.

[...] To make the defeat even more humiliating, the ALPHA AI's fighters were deliberately handicapped with shorter-range missiles and fewer of them, and its opponents got additional intelligence from a simulated AWACS radar aircraft.

[...] The key to the software is the use of a "Genetic Fuzzy Tree" algorithm[PDF], which breaks down complex decisions into simpler if/then scenarios and narrows down the possible choices very quickly. The code then works through its plans 250 times faster than a human can blink.

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UK Has Fastest Mobile Internet While US Lags Behind, Says Report

/. - 29 June 2016 - 6:40pm
An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: Content delivery network Akamai says the UK has the best average mobile connection speeds in the world. The State of the Internet report claims that British mobile users were able to get average speeds of 27.9 Mbps when connecting to Akamai's HTTP/S platform in Q1 2016, beating most countries in Europe by an average of more than 10 Mbps, and the United States' average speed by more than 20 Mbps. For comparison, the U.S. had an average connection speed of 5.1 Mbps, which was lower than Turkey, Kenya, and Paraguay, and on par with Thailand. Many European countries more than doubled the average U.S. speed, including Slovakia with 13.3 Mbps, France with 11.5 Mbps, and Germany with 15.7 Mbps. Algeria was only 2.9 Mbps slower than the United States' average with 2.2 Mbps, and they had the lowest average speed of countries included in the report. Akamai says its data shows that regular internet connections have continued to increase in speed, jumping 12 percent from Q4 2015 to 6.3 Mbps in Q1 2016, which is a year-on-year boost of 23 percent. Peak connection speed also rose to 34.7 Mbps, a 6.8 percent increase from the last quarter, and a 14 percent increase year-on-year. In addition, mobile data traffic is rising from just over 3,500 petabytes per month in Q1 2015 to more than 5,500 petabytes per month in the same period this year.

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ACLU Lawsuit Challenges Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

/. - 29 June 2016 - 6:00pm
An anonymous reader writes: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice contending that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act's criminal prohibitions have created a barrier for those wishing to conduct research and anti-discrimination testing online. The ACLU have pursued the matter on behalf of a group of academic researchers, computer scientists and journalists seeking to remove that barrier to allow for third-party testing and research into potential online discrimination. In a public statement the ACLU contend: "The CFAA violates the First Amendment because it limits everyone, including academics and journalists, from gathering the publicly available information necessary to understand and speak about online discrimination."

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Google's My Activity Reveals How Much It Knows About You

/. - 29 June 2016 - 5:20pm
An anonymous reader writes: Google has released a new section to Google's account settings, called My Activity, which lets users review everything that Google has tracked about their online behavior -- search, YouTube, Chrome, Android, and every other Google service. Best of all, users can edit or delete their tracked behaviors. In addition, the My Activity tools come with new ad preferences. Google is now offering to use its behavioral information to tailer ads shown across the wider non-Google internet and Google's search pages, which until now was purely done through the use of cookies. The difference between Google and other companies that offer ads like Facebook is that Google is making this interest-based advertising extension optional, or opt-in, not opt-out. There are two separate behavioral advertising settings for users to switch on or off: signed in ads and signed out ads. Signed in ads are those on Google services, and signed out ads are those served by Google on third-party sites. However, if you're conscious about your privacy, you'll probably want to stay opted out.

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Amazon Said to be Planning Another Brand Blitz for Dash Buttons

Soylent New - 29 June 2016 - 5:14pm

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Amazon is reportedly trying to attract more consumers to its Dash push-button ordering devices by beefing up the brands offering goods for sale through the gadgets.

The internet retail giant is expected to announce this week the addition of dozens of new brands for Dash buttons, according to a Wall Street Journal report Sunday that cites documents and people familiar with the matter. It wasn't immediately clear which brands might be added to the lineup of Dash buttons, which are small, Internet-connected buttons that people can click to purchase household goods like paper towels or detergent through Amazon.

The new batch of brands comes roughly two months after Amazon unleashed dozens more of them to mark the first anniversary of the tiny widgets in April, tripling the current lineup to surpass 100 different buttons. Because the Dash button was introduced just before April 1, 2015, some reporters wondered if the concept was a joke.

Despite the reinforcements, consumer response to the tiny devices has been tepid, according to one market researcher. In a study released in march, Slice Intelligence found that less than 50 percent of people who bought the buttons actually placed an order with them.

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AMD RX 480 Offers Best-in-Class Performance For $199/$239

/. - 29 June 2016 - 5:00pm
Reader Vigile writes: It's been a terribly long news cycle, but today is finally the day reviews and sales start of the new AMD Radeon RX 480 graphics card based on the company's latest Polaris architecture and built on 14nm FinFET process technology. With a starting price tag of $199 for the 4GB model and $239 for the 8GB, the RX 480 has some interesting performance characteristics. Compared to the GeForce GTX 970, currently selling for around $280, the RX 480 performs +/- 5-10% in DX11 games but PC Perspective found that the RX 480 was as much as 40% faster in DX12 titles like Gears of War, Hitman and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Compared to previous AMD products, the RX 480 is as fast as a Radeon R9 390 but uses just 150 watts compared to 275 watts for the previous generation. Chances are that NVIDIA will have a competing product based on Pascal available sometime in July, so AMD's advantage may be short-lived; but in the meantime, the Radeon RX 480 is clearly the best GPU for $200.AnandTech has more details.

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Facebook Wins Belgian Court Appeal Over Storing Non-User Data

/. - 29 June 2016 - 4:40pm
Stephanie Bodoni, and Aoife White reporting for Bloomberg Technology (condensed):Facebook won an appeal against a Belgian privacy ruling that prompted the social network to prevent people without an account from accessing its site within the country. The Brussels Court of Appeal said the nation's data protection authority couldn't prevent Facebook from storing data from non-users in a fight over measures the technology giant says help it combat hacking attacks. "Belgian courts don't have international jurisdiction over Facebook Ireland, where the data concerning Europe is processed," the Brussels court of appeal said in a ruling Wednesday, referring to the company's European headquarters. The court also said there was no urgency to rule on the case since Belgian court proceedings only started in mid-2015 over behavior that started in 2012. Facebook is appealing a ruling that ordered it to stop storing data from people who don't have an account with the social network, or face a 250,000 euro ($277,800) daily fine. Willem Debeuckelaere, president of the Belgian data protection commission, said last year that Facebook's "disrespectful" treatment of users' personal data, without their knowledge, "needs tackling." Facebook said it can now start showing its pages to Belgians who aren't signed up to its service.

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Wi-Fi Gets Multi-Gigabit, Multi-User Boost With Upgrades To 802.11ac

/. - 29 June 2016 - 4:00pm
The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced its certification program for IEEE 802.11ac Wave 2, a technology that has been around on the market for more than a year. Wave 2 can deliver up to 6.8Gbps and lets an access point interact with more than one device at a time. Wave 2 features MIMO (or MU-MIMO) which improves the MIMO technology that lets Wi-FI transmit over more than one stream through the air. Wave 2 standard utilizes channels up to 160MHz wide (up from 80MHz channels available with Wave 1). It also creates more spatial streams and uses spectrum more efficiently, the industry group said on Wednesday. Ars Technica adds:On top of MU-MIMO, wider channels, and more streams, the Wi-Fi Alliance says Wave 2 features now being certified bring "support for a greater number of available channels in 5GHz," a change that "makes more efficient use of available spectrum and reduces interference and congestion by minimizing the number of networks operating on overlapping channels." You may have already noticed routers supporting some of these features, since the specification details have been available for a few years. In fact, routers with MU-MIMO started appearing in July 2014, and you can find routers that use 160MHz channels. The certification program takes a while to catch up with real-world implementations, but it ensures compatibility between devices and may spur faster adoption by vendors. End-user devices such as phones, tablets, and laptops must also be updated to take advantage of new features such as MU-MIMO.

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Countdown to Jupiter: Juno Just Five Days From Orbit

Soylent New - 29 June 2016 - 3:38pm

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Juno is on the seven-day countdown to entering Jovian orbit, and it's going to be a wild ride.

On May 31, the probe crossed the boundary between solar gravity and Jupiter's.

That also marked the start of manoeuvering towards an orbit that's going to take it within 5,000 km of the planet's cloud tops for 37 flybys.

As space probes go, Juno is a hefty beast indeed. Much of its roughly 3,640 kg (8,000 pound) weight is shielding to protect the probe from the radiation of the planet's much-more-intense version of Earth's Van Allen belts.

It's one of the toughest radiation environments in the solar system (Vulture South supposes things are more unpleasant at a similar distance from the Sun).

The shielding around the probe's flight computer alone weighs in at more than 170 kg.

NASA says the excitement will start with a 35-minute burn of its main engine for orbital insertion. That burn will lop 542 metres per second off the probe's velocity.

Orbit insertion and NASA TV commentary begin at 10:30 PM EDT on July 4th.

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Facebook Tweaks Its Newsfeed To Better Showcase Posts From Friends Instead Of Publishers

/. - 29 June 2016 - 3:20pm
Facebook announced on Wednesday that it is making some changes to its algorithm that powers the News Feed to better showcase posts from friends and family members over posts from publishers. Mark Wilson, writing for BetaNews:The problem we currently face, Facebook says, is that there is "far too much information for any one person to consume." This is where algorithms come into play, meddling with timelines and newsfeeds in ways that never please everyone. The latest change promises that content from "the friends you care about" will appear "higher up in your News Feed."The move comes as Facebook struggles to get people to interact and post more on its social network. This is yet another blow to publishers that rely heavily on social media exposure. In recent years, Facebook has not only downranked stories that have misleading and unclear headlines but also cut the traffic it was once sending publishers' way. It is worth pointing out that these events have happened in the lights of Facebook launching its own publishing network called Instant Articles on the social media and encouraging publishers to directly publish on its platform instead of their respective websites.

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Microsoft Kills Windows 10's Messaging Everywhere Texts, To Bolster Skype

/. - 29 June 2016 - 2:40pm
Reader tripleevenfall writes: The ability to respond to text messages received on your phone with the same app on your PC. It's a dream that's been a reality for Mac users since 2014, and Windows 10 Mobile users were supposed to get the feature, called Messaging Everywhere, with the Anniversary Update rolling out August 2. But that's not happening anymore. Instead, Microsoft thinks it has a better idea: add Messaging Everywhere to an upcoming version of Skype for Windows 10 PCs.Microsoft commentator Brad Sams writes, "Skype barely works; let's add new features. Texting from your phone is cool, let's remove it. 0.0% people want this."

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