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Those Dang Kids! So What if SpaceX and Blue Origin are Launching and Landing

Soylent New - 2 hours 21 min ago

Ars Technica reports on an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics forum in Salt Lake City with the provocative title, "Launch Vehicle Reusability: Holy Grail, Chasing Our Tail, or Somewhere in Between?"

Moderator Dan Dumbacher said of the panel, "We purposefully tried to get a good cross-section of those who have been working on it." However, the panel included no one actually building reusable rockets and relied heavily on the old-guard perspective. Dumbacher himself, now a professor at Purdue University, previously managed development of the Space Launch System rocket for NASA, and he expressed doubt about the viability of reusable launch vehicles in 2014 by essentially saying that because NASA couldn't do it, it was difficult to see how others could.

[...] The panel featured three men tied to the reusable but costly space shuttle in one way or another. Gary Payton, a visiting professor at the United States Air Force Academy, is a former shuttle astronaut. Doug Bradley is chief engineer of advanced space & launch at Aerojet Rocketdyne, which built the shuttle's reusable engines. And Ben Goldberg is director of technology at Orbital ATK, which manufactured the shuttle's solid rocket boosters.

The discussion was predictably negative, even dismissive. (Think tones of IBM, Honeywell, Burroughs, Amdahl, DEC when a couple of punks debuted a new "computer" at a Homebrew Computer Club meeting in Menlo Park.) But, reality happens...

So where were the representatives of the new space companies actually building reusable launch systems in 2016 and flying them into space? Dumbacher addressed that question more than halfway through the two-hour discussion: SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic were all invited, but "unfortunately were unable to attend due to other commitments." Perhaps instead of debating the question, they're just getting on with the job.[emphasis added]

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ULA Interns Launch Record-Breaking 50-Foot Rocket

/. - 2 hours 22 min ago
schwit1 writes: A team of United Launch Alliance (ULA) interns, working in their spare time, have successfully launched the largest model rocket every built. Space.com reports: "On Sunday (July 24), ULA launched the 50-foot-tall (15.24 meters) Future Heavy rocket out of Fort Carson Army Post, breaking the record for 'the largest sport rocket launched anywhere in the world,' according to a statement from ULA. The Future Heavy is also notable because it was built entirely by company interns and their mentors. 'We like [our interns] to have a very realistic experience,' ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno told Space.com at the Space Symposium meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado, last April." Calling it a "model rocket" really isn't fair. The thing is big, and really ranks up there with many of the suborbital rockets NASA used to routinely fly out of Wallops Island. [The fact that] ULA has provided support for this effort again suggests that the leadership of Bruno is reshaping the company into a much more innovative and competitive company.

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British Workers See Biggest Fall in Wages

Soylent New - 4 hours 10 min ago

Workers in the UK have suffered the biggest fall in wages among the world's richest countries since the financial crisis, research has suggested.

Between 2007 and 2015 wages in the UK fell by 10.4%, a drop equalled only by Greece, the analysis by the TUC found.

Women's pay in particular needs to be boosted, the union body said. Women earn on average 19.2% less than men, according to the latest official data.

The Treasury said the TUC's analysis did not fully reflect living standards.

The UK is the joint biggest faller on pay in 29 countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - a forum for wealthy countries who work together to promote financial growth and social wellbeing.

The UK, Greece and Portugal were the only three OECD countries that saw real wages fall, according to the research complied by the TUC.

Source: BBC News

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Tech Takes Its K-12 CS Education and Immigration Crisis To the DNC

/. - 5 hours 22 min ago
theodp writes: In early 2013, Code.org and FWD.us coincidentally emerged after Microsoft suggested tech's agenda could be furthered by creating a crisis linking U.S. kids' lack of computer science savvy to tech's need for tech worker visas. Three years later, CNET's Marguerite Reardon reports that tech took its K-12 computer science and immigration crisis to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, where representatives from Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon called for the federal government to invest in more STEM education and reform immigration policies -- recurring themes the industry hopes to influence in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. "We believe in the importance of high-skilled immigration coupled with investments in education," said Microsoft President Brad Smith, repeating the Microsoft National Talent Strategy. The mini-tech conference also received some coverage in the New Republic, where David Dayen argues that the DNC is one big corporate bride.

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Why Uber switched from Postgres to MySQL

Soylent New - 5 hours 52 min ago

[redacted] Coward writes:


The early architecture of Uber consisted of a monolithic backend application written in Python that used Postgres for data persistence. Since that time, the architecture of Uber has changed significantly, to a model of microservices and new data platforms. Specifically, in many of the cases where we previously used Postgres, we now use Schemaless, a novel database sharding layer built on top of MySQL. In this article, we’ll explore some of the drawbacks we found with Postgres and explain the decision to build Schemaless and other backend services on top of MySQL.

[...] We encountered many Postgres limitations:

Inefficient architecture for writes
Inefficient data replication
Issues with table corruption
Poor replica MVCC support
Difficulty upgrading to newer releases

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After-Hours Email Expectations Negatively Impact Employee Well-Being

Soylent New - 7 hours 39 min ago

Earlier this year, France passed a labor reform law that banned checking emails on weekends. New research—to be presented next week at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management—suggests other countries might do well to follow suit, for the sake of employee health and productivity.

[...] Using data collected from 365 working adults, [Liuba] Belkin [of Lehigh University], and her colleagues [William Becker of Virginia Tech and Samantha A. Conroy of Colorado State University] look at the role of organizational expectation regarding "off" hour emailing and find it negatively impacts employee emotional states, leading to "burnout" and diminished work-family balance, which is essential for individual health and well-being. The study—described in an article entitled "Exhausted, but unable to disconnect: the impact of email-related organizational expectations on work-family balance"—is the first to identify email-related expectations as a job stressor along with already established factors such as high workload, interpersonal conflicts, physical environment or time pressure.

[...] Interestingly, they found that it is not the amount of time spent on work emails, but the expectation which drives the resulting sense of exhaustion. Due to anticipatory stress—defined as a constant state of anxiety and uncertainty as a result of perceived or anticipated threats, according to research cited in the article—employees are unable to detach and [therefore] feel exhausted regardless of the time spent on after-hours emails.

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Tor Project Confirms Sexual Misconduct By Developer Jacob Appelbaum

/. - 27 July 2016 - 11:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The Tor Project, a nonprofit known for its online anonymity software, says it has verified claims that former employee Jacob Appelbaum engaged in "sexually aggressive behavior" with people inside and outside of its organization. "We have confirmed that the events did take place as reported," Shari Steele, Tor's executive director, tells The Verge. In a blog post today, Steele says that Tor began an investigation into Appelbaum's behavior after several people came forward with allegations of misconduct in late May. In a statement made in June, he said the allegations were "entirely false." He resigned from the Tor Project in May. "I want to thank all the people who broke the silence around Jacob's behavior," Steele writes. "It is because of you that this issue has now been addressed. I am grateful you spoke up, and I acknowledge and appreciate your courage." Steele says that Tor is now implementing a new anti-harassment policy, as well as a process for submitting complaints and having them reviewed. The changes will be put in place this week. Tor also announced last month that it would replace its entire board of directors.

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Super-Fast Magnetic Motor Keeps Tiny Satellites on Track

Soylent New - 27 July 2016 - 11:02pm

A story from Engadget reports:

Satellites often rely on reaction wheels, or constantly spinning flywheels, to tweak their attitudes without using precious fuel. However, they tend to be very delicate -- since they use ball bearings, they spin relatively slowly (under 6,000RPM), take up a lot of space, need tightly controlled environments and aren't very precise. Thankfully, researchers at Celeroton have a better way. They've created a magnetically levitated motor that achieves the effect of a regular reaction wheel with virtually none of the drawbacks. Since its rotor floats in a magnetic field, it can spin much faster (up to 150,000RPM) without wearing out, creating vibrations or requiring a special, lubricated environment. And given that it produces the same angular momentum as a much larger reaction wheel, it's perfect for CubeSats and any other tiny satellite where internal space is at a premium.

The motor is only a prototype at the moment, and it'll take a while before there's something commercially viable. However, multiple potential partners (including the European Space Agency) are reportedly interested. You may well see production satellites that can always adjust their positions, which might keep them useful well after conventional orbiters break down and become space junk.

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Tesla and Autopilot Supplier Mobileye Split Up After Fatal Crash

/. - 27 July 2016 - 9:25pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Tesla and Mobileye, one of the top suppliers to its Autopilot partial self-driving system, are parting ways in the wake of the May accident that killed an owner of one of its electric Model S sedans. Mobileye is considered a leader in developing the equipment that will be needed for fully self-driving cars. The Israeli tech company will continue to support and maintain current Tesla products, including upgrades that should help the Autopilot system with crash avoidance and to better allow the car to steer itself, said Chairman Amnon Shashua in releasing the company's second-quarter earnings Tuesday. Shashua said moving cars to higher levels of self-driving capability "is a paradigm shift both in terms of function complexity and the need to ensure an extremely high level of safety." He added there is "much at stake" in terms of Mobileye's reputation, and that it is best to end the relationship with Tesla by the end of the year. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, meeting with reporters at the company's new battery Gigafactory outside Reno, indicated that Tesla can go forward without Mobileye. "Us parting ways was somewhat inevitable. There's nothing unexpected here from our standpoint," Musk said. "We're committed to autonomy. They'll go their way, and we'll go ours."

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Americans Broadly Oppose Biomedical Enhancements and Gene Editing

Soylent New - 27 July 2016 - 9:19pm

The Pew Research Center conducted a survey of 4,726 American adults and asked them about gene editing to prevent diseases in babies, brain chip implants for improved cognition, and synthetic blood for enhanced physical abilities. A majority of Americans said they were "somewhat" or "very" worried about these three developments. 48% said they would use gene editing to prevent diseases in their own babies, while 50% said they would not:

Whatever appeal these ideas may have, they also raise fundamental questions about what it means to be human. From the earliest days of civilization, people have sought to better their condition through the use of tools, medications, surgeries and other therapies. But as new scientific and technological breakthroughs arise, so do questions about whether such developments move beyond limits set by God, nature or reason. Thus, this research is aimed in part at understanding where, if at all, the public might "draw the line" on human enhancements and the possibilities they could bring to society.

The developments are not far off from becoming a clinical reality; for example, the NHS will begin giving small transfusions of artificial/synthetic blood to 20 healthy people in 2017.


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Hyperloop One Announces Opening of Its First Manufacturing Plant

/. - 27 July 2016 - 8:45pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Hyperloop One is today announcing the opening of its first manufacturing plant. Called Hyperloop One Metalworks, the 105,000 square-foot building in North Las Vegas will be the new professional home of many of the company's 170 employees, including engineers, machinists and welders. These folks will build and test a number of components for the DevLoop, a full-system prototype of the Hyperloop, set for testing in 2017. The project, if successful, promises a half-hour travel time between Stockholm and Helsinki, which is the equivalent of about 300 miles. The company plans to have a working prototype of the Hyperloop by 2017 thanks to this new plant."Hyperloop One Metalworks is the first Hyperloop manufacturing plant in the world," said co-founder and President of Engineering Josh Giegel in a press release. "The ability to have a world-class machine shop in-house gives us an advantage to build rapidly and develop the Hyperloop in real-time."

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ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Funding Leads To New Genetic Findings

/. - 27 July 2016 - 8:05pm
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers are crediting the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a fundraiser for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis that went viral in 2014, for funding a new study that has possibly identified a common gene that contributes to the nervous system disease. Yahoo reports via Good Morning America: "In a study published in The Nature Genetics Journal, researchers from various institutions, including the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the University Medical Center Utrecht, identified the gene NEK1 as a common gene that could have an impact on who develops the disease. Variants of the gene appear to lead to increased risk of developing ALS, according to preliminary findings. Researchers in 11 countries studied 1,000 families in which a family member developed ALS and conducted a genome-wide search for any signs that a gene could be leading to increased ALS risk. After identifying the NEK1 gene, they also analyzed 13,000 individuals who had developed ALS despite no family history and found they had variants in that same gene, again linking that gene with increased ALS risk. Starting in the summer of 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge led to 17 million videos made and $220 million raised, according to the ALS Association -- $115 million of which went to the association."

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Bezos and Tyson Join Pentagon's Innovation Advisory Board

Soylent New - 27 July 2016 - 7:57pm

SpaceNews reports that Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that Jeff Bezos and Neil deGrasse Tyson will join the Defense Innovation Advisory Board.

Carter has asked the board to identify private-sector practices that the Pentagon could adopt. A first round of recommendations is expected in October.

The full list of current board members is:

· Eric Schmidt, executive chairman, Alphabet Inc.

· Jeff Bezos, president, chairman and CEO, Amazon Inc.

· Adam Grant, professor, Wharton School of Business

· Danny Hillis, computer theorist & co-founder, Applied Inventions

· Reid Hoffman, co-founder, LinkedIn, and partner, Greylock Partners

· Walter Isaacson, president & CEO, Aspen Institute, former TIME magazine editor and Steve Jobs biographer

· Eric Lander, president and founding director, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

· Marne Levine, chief operating officer, Instagram

· J. Michael McQuade, senior vice president for science and technology, United Technologies

· William McRaven, chancellor, University of Texas System

· Milo Medin, vice president, Access Services, Google Capital

· Richard Murray, professor, California Institute of Technology

· Jennifer Pahlka, founder, Code for America

· Cass Sunstein, professor, Harvard Law School

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Office 365 Gets New Word, PowerPoint and Outlook Features

/. - 27 July 2016 - 7:20pm
New submitter Miche67 writes: As part of the July 2016 update to Office 365, Microsoft is adding several features across the board to Word, PowerPoint and Outlook. Word, however, is getting the biggest new features -- Researcher and Editor -- to improve your writing. "As its name implies, Researcher is designed to help the user find reliable sources of information by using the Bing Knowledge Graph to search for sources, and it will properly cite them in the Word document," reports Network World. "[Editor] builds on the already-existing spellchecker and thesaurus to offer suggestions on how to improve your overall writing. In addition to the wavy red line under a misspelled word and the wavy blue line under bad grammar, there will be a gold line for writing style." The new features are expected to be available later this year. In addition to the two new features added to PowerPoint last year -- Designer and Morph, Microsoft is offering Zoom, a feature that lets you easily create "interactive, non-linear presentations." "Instead of the 1-2-3-4 linear method of presenting slides, forcing you to place them all in the order you wish to display, presenters will be able to show their slides in any order they want at any time," reports Network World. "This way you can change your presentation order as needed without having to stop PowerPoint or interrupt the display." As for Outlook, Focused Inbox is coming to Office 365. Focused Inbox separates your inbox into two tabs. The "Focused" tab is where all of your high-priority emails will be found, while everything else will be in the "Other" tab. Outlook will learn from your behavior over time and sort your mail accordingly. In addition, @mentions are coming to Outlook 365 and Outlook for PC and Mac, "making it easy to identify emails that need your attention, as well as flag actions for others."

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Amazon Debuts a Dedicated Shop For Kickstarter Products

/. - 27 July 2016 - 6:40pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Today, Amazon announced it's teaming up with Kickstarter to offer those successful Kickstarter products a way to reach more customers through a dedicated section on Amazon's website. Via www.amazon.com/launchpad/kickstarter, the online retailer is now featuring a group of over 300 Kickstarter products across a variety of categories, like electronics, books, home and kitchen, movies and tv, and more. The products can also be browsed by theme, like STEM products, "Always be Learning," "Exquisite Objects," "Inventing the Future," and "Public Benefit," for example. The new Kickstarter section is actually an expansion on Amazon's Launchpad platform, launched a year ago. In July 2015, the retailer debuted a dedicated portal that offered both marketing and sales for hardware and physical goods from younger tech companies. Today, Amazon says it has now worked with over 100 VCs, accelerators and crowdfunders and has helped more than 1,000 launch products across the U.S., the U.K., China, Germany, and France. All startups who participate in Launchpad receive custom product pages, a comprehensive marketing package, and access to Amazon's global fulfillment network, the retailer notes.

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Would-Be Reagan Assassin John Hinckley to be Freed

Soylent New - 27 July 2016 - 6:19pm

John Hinckley Jr, the man who tried to assassinate US President Ronald Reagan, is to be released from a psychiatric hospital next month after 35 years.

Mr Reagan and three others were injured in the shooting outside a hotel in Washington in March 1981.

Mr Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity but was sent for treatment to a Washington hospital.

Source: BBC News



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One Billion iPhones Have Been Sold, Apple Says

/. - 27 July 2016 - 6:00pm
Apple announced on Wednesday that it has sold its one billionth iPhone handset. The milestone comes nine years after the iPhone was first introduced. The phone has unarguably shaped the smartphone industry and bolstered the apps market. In a statement, Tim Cook said: iPhone has become one of the most important, world-changing and successful products in history. It's become more than a constant companion. iPhone is truly an essential part of our daily life and enables much of what we do throughout the day. Last week we passed another major milestone when we sold the billionth iPhone. We never set out to make the most, but we've always set out to make the best products that make a difference. Thank you to everyone at Apple for helping change the world every day.

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Comcast Excited To Have Lost 4,000 TV Subscribers This Spring

/. - 27 July 2016 - 5:20pm
An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Consumerist: Comcast has released their second quarter results and they are happy to announce that they lost 4,000 TV subscribers in the last three months. Why are they so happy to announce such a loss? Because, compared to the same time last year where they lost 69,000 TV subscribers, the loss this year is much better for them. Comcast said in a statement to investors that "video customers net losses improved to 4,000, the best second quarter result in over 10 years." That Consumerist reports: "That means that for the most than a decade, the best Comcast can do in April to June of every year is to lose only 4,000 TV subscribers. At this time last year, Comcast reported 22.3 million TV subscribers, and at the same time this year, they report roughly 22.3 million TV subscribers. The major driver of increased subscriptions comes, as you'd guess, from broadband. Comcast reports an increase of 220,000 broadband customers in the second quarter which, in the overall growth of the company, entirely offsets a lost of 4,000 TV viewers."

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Rio Olympics Will Be First Sporting Event Watched By 'Eye In The Sky' Drone Cameras

/. - 27 July 2016 - 4:40pm
tedlistens quotes a report from Fast Company: When the Olympic Games begin next month in Rio de Janeiro, billions of people are expected to watch athletes from countries around the world compete. But also watching over the Olympic and Paralympic events will be a set of futuristic, balloon-mounted surveillance camera systems capable of monitoring a wide swath of the city in high resolution and in real-time. Initially developed for use by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan by Fairfax, Virginia-based Logos Technologies, the technology is sold under the name Simera, and offers live aerial views of a large area, or what the company calls 'wide-area motion imagery,' captured from a balloon tethered some 200 meters above the ground. The system's 13 cameras make it possible for operators to record detailed, 120-megapixel imagery of the movement of vehicles and pedestrians below in an area up to 40 square kilometers, depending on how high the balloon is deployed, and for up to three days at a time. The Rio Olympics marks the "first time [Simera] will be deployed by a non-U.S. government at a large-scale event," according to the company. Simera is being compared to a live city-wide Google Maps combined with TiVo, as it can let law enforcement view ground-level activities in real time in addition to letting them rewind through saved images. Doug Rombough, Logo's vice president of business development, says the image clarity is not good enough to make out individual faces or license plate numbers, though it is clear enough to follow individual people and vehicles around the city. "However, a higher resolution video camera attached to the same balloon, which captures images at 60 times that of full HD resolution, or 15 times 4K, at three frames per second, will allow operators to get a closer look at anything or anyone that looks suspicious," reports Fast Company.

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Ice Bucket Challenge Reportedly Funded ALS Gene Discovery

Soylent New - 27 July 2016 - 4:32pm

Believe it or not, but funding raised by the viral "Ice Bucket Challenge" has been credited for helping discover a gene that may cause some cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS):

The Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral in 2014 has funded an important scientific gene discovery in the progressive neurodegenerative disease ALS, the ALS Association says. Scientists have identified a new gene contributing to the disease, NEK1.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $115m (£87.7m) from people pouring cold water over themselves and posting the video on social media. It was criticised as a stunt, but has funded six research projects. Research by Project MinE, published in Nature Genetics [DOI: 10.1038/ng.3626], is the largest-ever study of inherited ALS, also known as motor neurone disease (MND). More than 80 researchers in 11 countries searched for ALS risk genes in families affected by the disease. "The sophisticated gene analysis that led to this finding was only possible because of the large number of ALS samples available," Lucie Bruijn of the ALS Association says. The identification of gene NEK1 means scientists can now develop a gene therapy treating it. Although only 10% of ALS patients have the inherited form, researchers believe that genetics contribute to a much larger percentage of cases.

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