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Self-Propelling Microparticles Spot Ricin In Minutes

/. - 1 hour 13 min ago
ckwu writes: Tiny rocketlike particles that move around on their own in a hydrogen peroxide solution can detect trace amounts of the lethal toxin ricin within minutes. The tube-shaped, microsized particles--made of graphene oxide lined with platinum--carry sensor molecules that glow when they bind to ricin. In a dilute hydrogen peroxide solution, the platinum catalyzes the breakdown of the peroxide into water and oxygen. The oxygen bubbles shoot out one end of the tube, propelling them in the liquid like little rockets. The swimming motors could actively seek out ricin in a sample and speed up detection, paving the way towards a quick, easy way to detect the bioterrorism agent in food and water samples (without having to bring them back to a lab).

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Kim Jong-Un Found To Be Mac User

/. - 1 hour 51 min ago
jones_supa writes: He might hate the United States, but he sure digs those designed-in-California computers. You probably wouldn't take Kim Jong-un as a Mac user. Usually, in photos of him checking out military computers, we see the North Korean dictator in front of a PC with a Dell monitor. However, a handful of photos of the supreme leader at his own desk show him with Macs, leading to the assumption that while the military may use PCs, his personal preference is Mac. Reuters correspondent James Pearson, who covers both Koreas, tweeted out a fresh image of little Kim using a MacBook Pro inside an aircraft. There are other images, including a 2013 image of Kim Jong-un at his desk with an iMac. That same year, the South Korean newspaper Chosun published a photo from North Korean Central News Agency, which features an Apple iMac. This might also explain why the country's home-grown Linux distribution Red Star imitates OS X.

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Riffing on Java vs. Node/JavaScript

Soylent New - 2 hours 25 min ago

A link to an interesting article appeared in my e-mail box this morning with the following introduction:

I just watched an interesting discussion of Java and Node supporters on Youtube, that got my brain ticking. This article is an explosion of various ideas I have about Java, Node, JavaScript, and explicitly typed and weak typed languages.

I won't go into any more detail about the ideas that were produced as the result of the "explosion", but I'd be interested in reading about what others have to say. I will start the discussion with the following snippet from the article:

I don't remember the first release of Netscape browser with JavaScript, but I remember the reasons behind JS introduction:

  • Provide a simple scripting language "inspired by" Java to control embedded Java applets in web pages.
  • A simple scripting language to control forms.

Later, the public DOM representation of the page (partial initially), visible for JavaScript was introduced by Netscape, to provide some support of page changes driven by user actions beyond forms.

As you can see, the initial motivation was not to create a complete and powerful language to develop web client applications.

History is replete with examples of programming languages that have been bastardized and transmogrified into doing things they were never intended to do originally.


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Time Inc. Buys MySpace Parent Company Viant

/. - 2 hours 26 min ago
Today, in a surprising turn of events, Time Inc. went back in time 10 years and bought MySpace. Just kidding - there was no time travel. But Time did announce today that they acquired Viant, a company that has a large ad tech business, but also owns other properties, including the old networking site MySpace. Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed, but Time described the acquisition as "game changing," most likely in regards to Viant's ad-tech business. It remains to be seen what this will do for the future of MySpace ...

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Our Hidden Neanderthal DNA May Increase Risk of Allergies, Depression

/. - 3 hours 9 min ago
sciencehabit writes: Depressed? Your inner Neanderthal may be to blame. Modern humans met and mated with these archaic people in Europe or Asia about 50,000 years ago, and researchers have long suspected that genes picked up in these trysts might be shaping health and well-being today. Now, a study in the current issue of Science details their impact. It uses a powerful new method for scanning the electronic health records of 28,000 Americans to show that some Neanderthal gene variants today can raise the risk of depression, skin lesions, blood clots, and other disorders.

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Qualcomm Promises Gigabit LTE Speeds and New Chips to Power Smartwatches

/. - 3 hours 49 min ago
Qualcomm may have been losing steam (and jobs and sales), but it looks like the major telecommunications corporation is back in the lead when it comes to pushing out new LTE technologies. Qualcomm announced today the new Snapdragon X16 modem, which together with the WTR5975 transceiver, boasts Category 16 LTE download speeds of up to 1Gbps. Qualcomm also announced new chips that will power the next generation of wearables. Although you shouldn't hold your breath just yet, the implications could be huge!

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Goodbye Cardboard: Google to Create VR Headset to Compete with Samsung's Gear VR

Soylent New - 4 hours 4 min ago

Google will reportedly release a smartphone-assisted virtual reality headset in 2016 and build virtual reality software features into Android rather than rely on an app. The device will use plastic casing, add extra sensors, and include better lenses than those distributed with Google Cardboard:

We've said a few times now that Google's virtual reality initiative is too big for the company to just be working on Google Cardboard, and now the Financial Times has published a report detailing what seems to be the next phase of Google's VR push. The report says that Google is working on "a successor to Cardboard," creating a higher-quality headset and building VR software directly into Android.

The device sounds like a Google version of Samsung's Gear VR. Like Cardboard, the headset will be powered by your existing smartphone, with a "more solid plastic casing" along with better lenses and sensors. Also like Cardboard, this won't be limited to just a handful of devices, with the report saying that the headset "will be compatible with a much broader range of Android devices than Gear VR."

Such a device sounds like it would occupy a compelling spot in the market. The Gear VR is a great device—the $100 headset is a powerful entry-level VR experience—but it only works with Samsung phones. Cardboard has much wider phone compatibility, but it comes with a huge list of compromises that lead to a subpar experience. Taking the Gear VR model and expanding it to accept most popular smartphones sounds like a solid idea.

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Drivers Need To Forget Their GPS

/. - 4 hours 31 min ago
HughPickens.com writes: Greg Milner writes in the NYT that an American tourist in Iceland directed the GPS unit in his rental car to guide him from Keflavik International Airport to a hotel in nearby Reykjavik, and ended up 250 icy miles away in Siglufjordur, a fishing village on the outskirts of the Arctic Circle. Mr. Santillan apparently explained that he was very tired after his flight and had "put his faith in the GPS." In another incident, a woman in Belgium asked GPS to take her to a destination less than two hours away and two days later, she turned up in Croatia. Finally disastrous incidents involving drivers following disused roads and disappearing into remote areas of Death Valley in California have became so common that park rangers gave them a name: "death by GPS." "If we're being honest, it's not that hard to imagine doing something similar ourselves" says Milner. "Most of us use GPS as a crutch while driving through unfamiliar terrain, tuning out and letting that soothing voice do the dirty work of navigating." Could society's embrace of GPS be eroding our cognitive maps? Julia Frankenstein, a psychologist at the University of Freiburg's Center for Cognitive Science, says the danger of GPS is that "we are not forced to remember or process the information — as it is permanently 'at hand,' we need not think or decide for ourselves." "Next time you're in a new place, forget the GPS device. Study a map to get your bearings, then try to focus on your memory of it to find your way around. City maps do not tell you each step, but they provide a wealth of abstract survey knowledge. Fill in these memories with your own navigational experience, and give your brain the chance to live up to its abilities."

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Htop 2.0 Released, Runs Natively On BSDs and Mac OSX

/. - 4 hours 57 min ago
An anonymous reader writes: The popular Linux process viewer htop got a new major revision, and now runs natively on FreeBSD, OpenBSD and Mac OS X. The author discussed the process of making the tool cross-platform earlier this year at FOSDEM. Htop also got some new features, including mouse wheel support via ncurses 6 and listing process environment variables.

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Interviews: Ask Author and Programmer Andy Nicholls About R

/. - 5 hours 19 min ago
Andy Nicholls has been an R programmer and consultant for Mango Solutions since 2011 (where he currently manages the R consultancy team), after a long stint as a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry. He has a serious background in mathematics, too, with a Masters in math and another in Statistics with Applications in Medicine. Andy has taught more than 50 on-site R training courses and has been involved in the development of more than 30 R packages; he's also a regular contributor to events at LondonR, the largest R user group in the UK. But since not everyone can get to London for a user group meeting, you can get some of the insights he's gained as an R expert in Sams Teach Yourself R In 24 Hours (available in print or at Safari), of which he is the lead author. Today, though, you can ask Andy about the much-lauded statistics-oriented free software (GPL) language directly -- Why to use it, how to get started, how to get things done, and where those intriguing release names come from. (The about page is helpful, too.) As usual, please ask as many questions as you'd like, but one question at a time, please.

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Swedish Researchers Use Wood To Make Carbon Fiber Car Components

Soylent New - 5 hours 27 min ago

Remember wood paneled station wagons? Well, wood is back, but this time it's not for aesthetics—it's for reducing vehicle weight with renewable materials. Swedish researchers have produced the world's first model car with a roof and battery made from wood-based carbon fiber.

Although it's built on the scale of a toy, the prototype vehicle represents a giant step towards realizing a vision of new lightweight materials from the forest, one of the benefits of a so-called bioeconomy.

The demo is a joint project of KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, the Swedish research institute Innventia and Swerea, a research group for industrial renewal and sustainable development.

The key ingredient in the carbon fiber composite is lignin, a constituent of the cell walls of nearly all plants that grow on dry land. Lignin is the second most abundant natural polymer in the world, surpassed only by cellulose.

Göran Lindbergh, Professor of Chemical Engineering at KTH, says that the use of wood lignin as an electrode material came from previous research he did with Innventia. Lignin batteries can be produced from renewable raw materials, in this case the byproduct from paper pulp production.

"The lightness of the material is especially important for electric cars because then batteries last longer," Lindbergh says. "Lignin-based carbon fiber is cheaper than ordinary carbon fiber. Otherwise batteries made with lignin are indistinguishable from ordinary batteries."

Research along similar lines is being done a Oak Ridge National Laboratories And North Carolina State University

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New Air Force Satellites Launched To Improve GPS

/. - 6 hours 1 min ago
AmiMoJo writes: This morning, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched a Boeing-built satellite into orbit as part of the U.S. Air Force's Global Positioning System (GPS). This $131 million satellite was the final addition to the Air Force's most recent 12-satellite GPS series, known as the Block IIF satellites. The GPS Block IIF satellites were launched to improve the accuracy of GPS. Before the Block IIF series, the accuracy of GPS could be off by 1 meter. With the new Block IIF satellites in place that error is down to 42 centimeters.

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Why Sarcasm Is Such a Problem In Artificial Intelligence

/. - 6 hours 40 min ago
An anonymous reader writes: A new paper from researchers in India and Australia, "Automatic Sarcasm Detection: A Survey," highlights one of the strangest and ironically most humorous facets of the problems in machine learning and humour. The paper outlines ten years of research efforts from groups interested in detecting sarcasm in online sources. It details the ways that academia has approached the sarcasm problem, including flagging authors and ring-fencing sarcastic data. However, the report concludes that the solution to the problem is not necessarily one of pattern recognition [PDF], but rather a more sophisticated matrix that has some ability to understand context.

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Moore's Law Is Dead. For Real This Time. Honest!

Soylent New - 6 hours 50 min ago

Moore's Law, coined eponymously for Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel Corporation, who, in a 1965 paper famously observed that component densities on integrated circuits will double every twelve months. He amended his observation in 1975 to a doubling every 24 months. Since then, the chip industry has borne out Moore's observation/prediction. However, there are still those who claim that Moore's Law is dying, just as many have done before.

However, Peter Bright over at Ars Technica is reporting on a change in focus for the chip industry away from chasing Moore's Law. From the article:

Gordon Moore's observation was not driven by any particular scientific or engineering necessity. It was a reflection on just how things happened to turn out. The silicon chip industry took note and started using it not merely as a descriptive, predictive observation, but as a prescriptive, positive law: a target that the entire industry should hit.

Apparently, the industry isn't going to keep trying to hit that particular target moving forward, as we've seen with the recent delay of Intel's 10nm Cannonlake chips. This is for several reasons:

In the 2000s, it was clear that this geometric scaling was at an end, but various technical measures were devised to keep pace of the Moore's law curves. At 90nm, strained silicon was introduced; at 45nm, new materials to increase the capacitance of each transistor layered on the silicon were introduced. At 22nm, tri-gate transistors maintained the scaling.

But even these new techniques were up against a wall. The photolithography process used to transfer the chip patterns to the silicon wafer has been under considerable pressure: currently, light with a 193 nanometre wavelength is used to create chips with features just 14 nanometres. The oversized light wavelength is not insurmountable but adds extra complexity and cost to the manufacturing process. It has long been hoped that extreme UV (EUV), with a 13.5nm wavelength, will ease this constraint, but production-ready EUV technology has proven difficult to engineer.

Even with EUV, it's unclear just how much further scaling is even possible; at 2nm, transistors would be just 10 atoms wide, and it's unlikely that they'd operate reliably at such a small scale. Even if these problems were resolved, the specter of power usage and dissipation looms large: as the transistors are packed ever tighter, dissipating the energy that they use becomes ever harder.

The new techniques, such as strained silicon and tri-gate transistors, took more than a decade to put in production. EUV has been talked about for longer still. There's also a significant cost factor. There's a kind of undesired counterpart to Moore's law, Rock's law, which observes that the cost of a chip fabrication plant doubles every 4 years. Technology may provide ways to further increase the number of transistors packed into a chip, but the manufacturing facilities to build these chips may be prohibitively expensive—a situation compounded by the growing use of smaller, cheaper processors.

The article goes on to discuss how the industry will focus moving forward:

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Microsoft's 'Replacement' Surface Pro Charger Cable Is an Off-Brand, and Short

/. - 6 hours 56 min ago
Carly Page writes with a story from The Inquirer, where: As part of its Surface Pro charger recall, Microsoft has chosen to replace the sleek, shapely matt[e] plastic original with a cable approximately half the length and ordered from an off-brand manufacturer, in our case China's I-Sheng Electric Wire and Cable Company. Writer Peter Gothard points out a plausible reason for the length, though: "The extraordinarily short length of the cord is presumably to discourage behaviour that resulted in the "tightly wrapped" or "repeatedly bent" cables catching fire in at least 56 separate incidents."

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ZDNet Writer Downplays Windows 10's Phoning-Home Habits

/. - 7 hours 15 min ago
jones_supa writes: Gordon F. Kelly of Forbes whipped up a frenzy over Windows 10 when a Voat user found out in a little experiment that the operating system phones home thousands of times a day. ZDNet's Ed Bott has written a follow-up where he points out how the experiment should not be taken too dramatically. 602 connection attempts were to using UDP port 137, which means local NetBIOS broadcasts. Another 630 were DNS requests. Next up was 1,619 dropped connection attempts to address, which is a Microsoft Teredo server. The list goes on with NTP, random HTTP requests, and various cloud hosts which probably are reached by UWP apps. He summarizes by saying that a lot of connections are not at all about telemetry. However, what kind of telemetry and data-mined information Windows specifically sends still remains largely a mystery; hopefully curious people will do analysis on the operating system and network traffic sent by it.

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The Way VCs Think About Open Source: Mostly Wrong

/. - 7 hours 38 min ago
An anonymous reader writes: In an epic smack-down, Simon Phipps examines a recent article by some VCs with an apparently strong track record in open source startups and finds the way they see the world makes them plain wrong about Red Hat, OSI licenses, Apache and probably everything else they talk about.

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As Elections Approach, Iran Uses "Far More Advanced" Internet Censorship

/. - 7 hours 56 min ago
Patrick O'Neill writes: Election time in Iran means increased censorship for the country's tens of millions of Internet users. But this months parliamentary election, experts say, comes with a new level of aggressive censorship from a government notorious for authoritarianism in cyberspace. "What's happening [right now] is far more advanced than anything we've seen before," said Karl Kathuria, CEO of Psiphon Inc., the company behind the widely popular encryption and circumvention tool Psiphon. "It's a lot more concentrated attempt to stop these services from working."

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Andreessen Apologizes for Snarky Tweet About India

Soylent New - 8 hours 12 min ago

That businessman/reality TV star who just won the New Hampshire primary is far from the only famous person addicted to sharing his current thoughts and mood on Twitter. When you do that, you're bound to eventually make a mistake that has consequences. This time it was Marc Andreessen, venture capitalist and co-founder of Netscape (and lead developer for the Mosaic Web browser before that), who got busted for tweeting a thought that shouldn't have left the hotel bar:

Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?

Indians complained; evidently they've grown accustomed to having their own country. It was noticed that Andreessen sits on the board of Facebook, which has been unsuccessfully trying to peddle free Internet service (featuring Facebook, of course) to India for awhile. Oops. Mark Zuckerberg wasn't pleased.

Andreessen, a master of the multi-part tweet, quickly backpedaled. And the original tweet was deleted.

takyon: The Register's Andrew Orlowski has a partial defense of Andreessen's comments that you may find illuminating and/or entertaining.

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Cisco ASA Firewall Has a Wormable Problem — And a Million Installs

/. - 8 hours 39 min ago
itwbennett writes: Cisco has published an advisory for a vulnerability with a CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System) score of 10 that was discovered by researchers from Exodus Intelligence. According to the advisory, 'a vulnerability in the Internet Key Exchange (IKE) version 1 (v1) and IKE version 2 (v2) code of Cisco ASA Software could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to cause a reload of the affected system or to remotely execute code.' As CSO's Dave Lewis points out, 'the part of this that is most pressing is that Cisco claims that there are over a million of these deployed.' And attackers have not been sitting on their thumbs.

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