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NASA Scientists Propose New Definition of Planets, and Pluto Could Soon Be Back

Slashdot - 3 hours 48 sec ago
Rei writes: After several years of publicly complaining about the "bullshit" decision at the IAU redefining what comprises a planet, New Horizons program head Alan Stern and fellow planetary geologists have put forth a new definition which they seek to make official, basing planethood on hydrostatic equilibrium. Under this definition, in addition to Ceres, Pluto and other Kuiper Belt objects, large moons like Titan and Europa, as well as our own moon, would also become planets; "planet" would be a physical term, while "moon" would be an orbital term, and hence one can have a planetary moon, as well as planets that orbit other stars or no star at all (both prohibited under the current definition). The paper points out that planetary geologists already refer to such bodies as planets, citing examples such as a paper about Titan: "A planet-wide detached haze layer occurs between 300-350 km above the surface; the visible limb of the planet, where the vertical haze optical depth is 0.1, is about 220 km above the surface."

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Judge Blocks California Law Limiting Publication of Actor's Ages

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 10:30pm
mi writes: IMDb has a reason to rejoice. Politico reports: "A federal judge has barred the State of California from enforcing a new law limiting online publication of actors' ages. Acting in a case brought by online movie information website IMDb, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria ruled Wednesday that the California law likely violates the First Amendment and appears poorly tailored to proponents' stated goal of preventing age discrimination in Hollywood. The judge expressed deep skepticism that the law, which he said appeared to apply only to IMDb, would have any effect on discrimination. The judge rejected the state's arguments that the law was a regulation of commercial speech, finding that IMDb was acting as a publisher in posting the birthday and age information online." "It's not clear how preventing one mere website from publishing age information could meaningfully combat discrimination at all. And even if restricting publication on this one website could confer some marginal anti-discrimination benefit, there are likely more direct, more effective, and less speech-restrictive ways of achieving the same end," Chhabria wrote in a three-page order.

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Paralyzed Man Uses Brain Implant To Type Eight Words Per Minute

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 8:41pm
A study published in the journal eLife describes three participants that broke new ground in the use of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) by people with paralysis. One of the participants, a 64-year-old man paralyzed by a spinal cord injury, "set a new record for speed in a 'copy typing' task," reports IEEE Spectrum. "Copying sentences like 'The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog,' he typed at a relatively blistering rate of eight words per minute." From the report: This experimental gear is far from being ready for clinical use: To send data from their implanted brain chips, the participants wear head-mounted components with wires that connect to the computer. But Henderson's team, part of the multiuniversity BrainGate consortium, is contributing to the development of devices that can be used by people in their everyday lives, not just in the lab. "All our research is based on helping people with disabilities," Henderson tells IEEE Spectrum. Here's how the system works: The tiny implant, about the size of a baby aspirin, is inserted into the motor cortex, the part of the brain responsible for voluntary movement. The implant's array of electrodes record electrical signals from neurons that "fire" as the person thinks of making a motion like moving their right hand -- even if they're paralyzed and can't actually move it. The BrainGate decoding software interprets the signal and converts it into a command for the computer cursor. Interestingly, the system worked best when the researchers customized it for each participant. To train the decoder, each person would imagine a series of different movements (like moving their whole right arm or wiggling their left thumb) while the researchers looked at the data coming from the electrodes and tried to find the most obvious and reliable signal. Each participant ended up imagining a different movement to control the cursor. The woman with ALS imagined moving her index finger and thumb to control the cursor's left-right and up-down motions. Henderson says that after a while, she didn't have to think about moving the two digits independently. "When she became facile with this, she said it wasn't anything conscious; she felt like she was controlling a joystick," he says. The man with the spinal cord injury imagined moving his whole arm as if he were sliding a puck across a table. "Each participant settled on control modality that worked best," Henderson says. You can watch a video about the study here.

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Owning a Cat Does Not Lead To Mental Illness, Study Finds

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 7:50pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Cats host a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that other research has linked to various mental illnesses. So, for some time, people have wondered whether cats are unsafe; for example, pregnant women are usually told to stay away from litter boxes. (They should still do this because transmission during pregnancy is very real.) In a study published in the journal Psychological Medicine, researchers looked at data that tracked 5,000 Brits born in the early '90s until they were 18. This included information about whether the kids grew up with cats, or whether there were cats around when the mother was pregnant. After the scientists controlled for factors like socioeconomic status, there was no link between developing psychosis and having owned a cat. The researchers suggest that previous studies that did show a link had relatively small sample sizes. In addition, many of these studies asked people whether they remembered having cats, which is not quite as accurate. That said, it's important to keep in mind that some mental disorders linked to the parasite -- like schizophrenia -- tend to be diagnosed fairly late in life, so only tracking until age 18 might limit the study.

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T-Mobile Promises Big LTE Boost From 5GHz Wi-Fi Frequencies

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 7:10pm
"T-Mobile USA is ready to deploy a new LTE technology over the same 5GHz frequencies used by Wi-Fi following U.S. government approval of the first 'LTE-U' devices," reports Ars Technica. "The Federal Communications Commission today authorized the first LTE-U (LTE for unlicensed spectrum) devices after a controversial process designed to ensure that cellular network use of the 5GHz band won't interfere with Wi-Fi networks." From the report: LTE-U will help T-Mobile achieve its goal of offering gigabit LTE speeds, the carrier said. Verizon Wireless is also planning to use LTE-U. The company said in September that it is "eager to deploy" the technology and developed an equipment testing plan, but it's not clear when a Verizon deployment will happen. Cellular carriers in the US generally hold exclusive licenses to spectrum, while Wi-Fi operates in unlicensed frequencies. Anyone can operate in unlicensed spectrum without an FCC license as long as they use certified radio equipment and comply with power limits and other technical requirements. The plan to bring LTE to unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum set off an industry fight. LTE-U deployment plans drew opposition in 2015 from cable companies and the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group that certifies equipment to make sure it doesn't interfere with other Wi-Fi equipment. Industry groups worked together to develop a "Coexistence Test Plan" to prevent interference, and the Wi-Fi Alliance said it's satisfied with the result even though the new testing is voluntary rather than required by the FCC.

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Tesla Posts Earnings Loss But Claims Model 3 Production Will Start In July

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 6:30pm
An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report from BGR: Tesla on Wednesday released its earnings report (PDF) for the company's recent fourth quarter. When the dust settled, Tesla posted revenue of $2.28 billion and a loss of 69 cents per share. By way of contrast, Tesla during the same quarter a year-ago posted a loss of $0.87 per share on the back of $1.75 billion in revenue. Notably, Tesla notes that its cumulative 2016 revenue checked in at $7 billion, a 73% increase from 2015. As far as the Model 3 is concerned, Tesla's press release relays that the company is still on track to begin production in July ahead of volume production in September. Tesla notes in its press release: "Our Model 3 program is on track to start limited vehicle production in July and to steadily ramp production to exceed 5,000 vehicles per week at some point in the fourth quarter and 10,000 vehicles per week at some point in 2018. To support accelerating vehicle deliveries and maintain our industry-leading customer satisfaction, we are expanding our retail, Supercharger, and service functions. Model 3 vehicle development, supply chain and manufacturing are on track to support volume deliveries in the second half of 2017. In early February, we began building Model 3 prototypes as part of our ongoing testing of the vehicle design and manufacturing processes. Initial crash test results have been positive, and all Model 3-related sourcing is on plan to support the start of production in July. Installation of Model 3 manufacturing equipment is underway in Fremont and at Gigafactory 1, where in January, we began production of battery cells for energy storage products, which have the same form-factor as the cells that will be used in Model 3."

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Disney Develops Room With 'Ubiquitous Wireless' Charging

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 5:50pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: The scientific and tech arm of the entertainment giant Disney has built a prototype room with "ubiquitous wireless power delivery" that allows several devices to be charged wirelessly in much the way we get internet access through Wi-Fi. By tapping quasistatic cavity resonance, researchers discovered they could generate magnetic fields inside specially built structures to deliver kilowatts of power to mobile devices inside that structure. "This new innovative method will make it possible for electrical power to become as ubiquitous as WiFi," Alanson Sample, associate lab director and principal research scientist at Disney Research, told Phys.org. "This in turn could enable new applications for robots and other small mobile devices by eliminating the need to replace batteries and wires for charging." All you have to do is be in the room and your device will start charging automatically. And depending on where you are in the room, delivery efficiency can be as high as 95 percent, researchers said. There is one potential issue: you have to not mind being in a room constructed mostly of aluminum, that includes the walls, ceiling and floor. There's a copper pole in the middle of the room, and 15 discrete high quality factor capacitors that separate the magnetic field from the electric field.

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Sony Unveils World's Fastest SD Card

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 5:10pm
At CP+2017, Sony announced the SF-G UHS-II SD card that features read and write speeds of 300MB/s and 299 MB/s, respectively, which makes it the fastest SD card in the world. Amateur Photographer reports: Available in 32GB, 64GB or 128GB from March 2017, all versions of the cards are compatible with Sony's free file rescue software, for recovering lost content. Pricing has yet to be revealed. Alongside the SF-G series, Sony has also introduced a new memory card reader, the MRW-S1, due for release in April. It features an in-built SuperSpeed USB port for cable-free PC connection, so that your files can be copied faster than by using the slower SD slot on a PC. [From the press release:] "'As the continuous shooting of higher-resolution images and adoption of 4K video with DSLR and mirrorless camera increases, the inherent need for larger, faster and more reliable cards becomes apparent. Thanks to the SF-G series, we continue to show our commitment to providing a full range of extremely high performance media devices to professional photographers and enthusiasts, maximizing their camera performances,' said Romain Rousseau, European Product Marketing Manager."

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Software Vendor Who Hid 'Supply Chain' Breach Outed

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 4:30pm
tsu doh nimh writes: Researchers at RSA released a startling report last week that detailed a so-called "supply chain" malware campaign that piggybacked on a popular piece of software used by system administrators at some of the nation's largest companies. This intrusion would probably not be that notable if the software vendor didn't have a long list of Fortune 500 customers, and if the attackers hadn't also compromised the company's update servers -- essentially guaranteeing that customers who downloaded the software prior to the breach were infected as well. Incredibly, the report did not name the affected software, and the vendor in question has apparently chosen to bury its breach disclosure as a page inside of its site -- not linking to it anywhere. Brian Krebs went and dug it up. Spoiler: the product/vendor in question is EVlog by Altair Technologies Ltd.

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Apple's New Spaceship Campus Gets a Name, Lifts Off In April

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 3:50pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Apple has been building its giant new "spaceship" campus in the company's hometown of Cupertino, California, since December of 2013, and since then fans have paid obsessive attention to the structure. It gets buzzed by drones constantly, and the most popular YouTube videos of the building in progress have amassed well over half-a-million views apiece. The company announced today that the campus will be open to employees starting in April and that the building and environs now have a name: Apple Park. Apple says that moving the 12,000 employees who will work at the campus will take more than six months, and landscaping and construction on some buildings won't be done until the summer. The new campus mostly replaces the university-style Infinite Loop campus Apple has used since 1993, though Apple has said that it will also be keeping the older buildings. The new campus' cost has been estimated at around $5 billion. Apple will also be naming one space on the new campus after its founder and former CEO -- the Steve Jobs Theater will replace the current Town Hall event space that Apple sometimes uses for company meetings and product announcements, and it will open "later this year." The new space will be much larger (it will seat 1,000, compared to roughly 300 for the Town Hall), and the larger space will presumably allow Apple to launch more of its products on its campus rather than having to rent expensive event space in downtown San Francisco. The company is also moving its Worldwide Developers Conference closer to home this year -- it will return to San Jose after many years at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

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Americans at Risk of Identity Theft as They File their Tax Returns

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 3:10pm
Ian Barker, writing for BetaNews: As we move into the tax return season a new study reveals that attitudes to identity theft and a pattern of poor practices are leaving much of the public vulnerable. Data security and ID theft protection company CyberScout has carried out its second annual Tax Season Risk Report and finds 58 percent of Americans are not worried about tax fraud in spite of federal reports of 787,000 confirmed identity theft returns in 2016, totaling more than $4 billion in potential fraud. Among other findings are that only 35 percent of taxpayers demand that their preparers use two-factor authentication to protect their clients' personal information. Less than a fifth (18 percent) use an encrypted USB drive to save important documents like tax worksheets, W-2s, 1099s or 1040s. And another 38 percent either store tax documents on their computer's hard drive or in the cloud, approaches that are susceptible to a variety of hacks.

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iPhone Owners in US Spent $40 Each on Apps in 2016

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 2:10pm
Zoey Chong, writing for CNET: iPhone users in the US are spending more and more on apps and in-app purchases. Spending climbed to an average of $40 per person last year, according to research released Monday by Sensor Tower. This is up from $35 in 2015. Gaming continued to lead the way, accounting for more than 80 percent of Apple App Store revenue in the US. Spending in that category increased from $25 on average per person in 2015 to $27 last year. This may not be the biggest surprise, given that 2016 witnessed the rise of Pokemon Go, which crossed $1 billion in revenue worldwide last month.

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Thrilling Discovery of Seven Earth-Sized Planets Orbiting Nearby Star

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 1:21pm
At a press conference on Wednesday, NASA scientists announced that they have spotted seven Earth-sized planets orbiting closely around a small, ultra-cool star. The star is 39 light years away. From a report on The Guardian: It is the first time that so many Earth-sized planets have been found in orbit around the same star, an unexpected haul that suggests the Milky Way may be teeming with worlds that, in size and firmness underfoot at least, resemble our own rocky home. The planets closely circle a dwarf star named Trappist-1, which at 39 light years away makes the system a prime candidate to search for signs of life. Only marginally larger than Jupiter, the star shines with a feeble light about 2,000 times fainter than our sun. "The star is so small and cold that the seven planets are temperate, which means that they could have some liquid water and maybe life, by extension, on the surface," said Michael Gillon, an astrophysicist at the University of Liege in Belgium. [...] While the planets have Earth-like dimensions, their sizes ranging from 25 percent smaller to 10 percent larger, they could not be more different in other features. Most striking is how compact the planet's orbits are. Mercury, the innermost planet in the solar system, is six times farther from the sun than the outermost seventh planet is from Trappist-1.

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HP Is Advertising Its Real, Modern Printers on This Fake, Awkward '80s Computer Show

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 1:01pm
T.L. Stanley, writing for AdWeek: It's a fine line between effective '80s homage and clumsy retro spoof, with the latter usually involving a lot of overplayed visual gags like brick-sized cell phones and VHS tapes. Cue pointing and laughing. This new HP video, dubbed "Computer Show," hits the sweet spot perfectly with its recreation of a Reagan-era public access show about technology, but with a fish-out-of-water spin. The host is stuck in time -- stilted stage manner, goofy haircut and all -- but his guests are current-day tech pioneers. Awkward hilarity ensues. The short film, made by Giant Spoon and Sandwich Video for HP, sets up a print-off between HP's PageWide super-fast model and a dot matrix supplied by an employee of the neighborhood "Kwikopy."

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GE, Intel, and AT&T Are Putting Cameras and Sensors All Over San Diego

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 12:20pm
An anonymous reader shares a Fortune report: General Electric will put cameras, microphones, and sensors on 3,200 street lights in San Diego this year, marking the first large-scale use of "smart city" tools GE says can help monitor traffic and pinpoint crime, but raising potential privacy concerns. Based on technology from GE's Current division, Intel and AT&T, the system will use sensing nodes on light poles to locate gunshots, estimate crowd sizes, check vehicle speeds and other tasks, GE and the city said on Wednesday. The city will provide the data to entrepreneurs and students to develop applications. Companies expect a growing market for such systems as cities seek better data to plan and run their operations. San Diego is a test of "Internet of things" technology that GE Current provides for commercial buildings and industrial sites.

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Verizon To Begin 5G User Trials in 11 Markets by Middle of Year

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 11:40am
Verizon will test faster fifth-generation (5G) mobile broadband service in 11 markets in the first half of this year as the nation's largest wireless carrier tries to take the lead in the 5G race. From a report on Bloomberg: Working with equipment partners including Ericsson and Samsung, Verizon will beam 5G signals to a test group of homes and businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Atlanta; Bernardsville, New Jersey; Brockton, Massachusetts; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Miami; Sacramento, California; Seattle; and Washington, D.C., according to a statement released as part of Mobile World Congress, which starts this week in Barcelona. While 5G service isn't expected to be commercially available until 2020, Verizon and its closest rival, AT&T, are bringing the technology out of the lab and into the hands of actual users to spur development.

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US Homeland Security Employees Locked Out of Computer Networks

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 11:01am
Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: Some U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees in the Washington area and Philadelphia were unable to access some agency computer networks on Tuesday, according to three sources familiar with the matter. It was not clear how widespread the issue was or how significantly it affected daily functions at DHS, a large government agency whose responsibilities include immigration services, border security and cyber defense. In a statement, a DHS official confirmed a network outage that temporarily affected four U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) facilities in the Washington area due to an "expired DHS certificate." Reuters first reported the incident earlier Tuesday, which a source familiar with the matter said also affected a USCIS facility in Philadelphia. Employees began experiencing problems logging into networks Tuesday morning due to a problem related to domain controllers, or servers that process authentication requests, which could not validate personal identity verification (PIV) cards used by federal workers and contractors to access certain information systems, according to the source.

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Tinder Wants AI To Set You Up On a Date

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 10:22am
Dave Lee, writing for BBC: Tinder is growing up. It's now a serious technology company tackling one of life's most important matters, and is by far the most popular dating app worldwide. After a lot of boardroom musical chairs, Mr Rad is the chairman of both Tinder and Swipe Ventures, the arm of the company designed to buy other dating-related technologies. One of which is artificial intelligence. And its collision with dating might be the most intriguing application of AI yet. "I think this might sound crazy," Mr Rad said on Tuesday at tech conference Start-Up Grind. "In five years time, Tinder might be so good, you might be like "Hey [Apple voice assistant] Siri, what's happening tonight?' "And Tinder might pop up and say 'There's someone down the street you might be attracted to. She's also attracted to you. She's free tomorrow night. We know you both like the same band, and it's playing -- would you like us to buy you tickets?'... and you have a match. "It's a little scary."

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AMD Launches Ryzen, Claims To Beat Intel's Core i7 Offering At Half the Price

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 9:43am
Reader MojoKid writes: AMD CEO, Dr. Lisu Su took to the stage at AMD's Ryzen tech day yesterday and opened the event with official speeds, feeds, pricing, and benchmark scores for the company's upcoming Ryzen series processors. AMD's goal with Ryzen, which is based on its Zen microarchitecture, was a 40% IPC (instructions per clock) uplift. As it turns out, AMD was actually able to increase IPC by approximately 52% with the final shipping product, sometimes more depending on workload type. Dr. Su also showed the first die shot of an 8-core Ryzen processor, disclosing that it consists of approximately 4.8 billion transistors. AMD's flagship Ryzen 7 1800X 8-core/16 thread CPU will have a base clock speed of 3.6GHz, a boost clock of 4.0GHz, and a 95 watt TDP. AMD claims the Ryzen 7 1800X will be the fastest 8-core desktop processor on the market when it arrives. The next member of the line-up is the Ryzen 7 1700X with a base clock of 3.4GHz and a boost clock of 3.8GHz, also with 8 cores and a 95 watt TDP. Finally, the Ryzen 7 1700 – sans X – is also an 8-core / 16-thread CPU, but it has lower 3.0GHz base and 3.7GHz boost clocks, along with a lower 65 watt TDP. AMD took the opportunity to demo the Ryzen 7 1800X and it was approximately 9% faster than the Core i7-6900K running Cinebench R15's multi-threaded test, at about half the cost. And in another comparison, Dr. Su put the 8-core 7 1700 up against the quad-core Core i7-7700K, converting a 4K 60 FPS video down to 1080P and the Ryzen CPU outpaces the Core i7 by 10 full seconds. Pricing for the three initial Ryzen 7 series processors will undercut competing Intel processors significantly. AMD's Ryzen 7 1800X will arrive at $499, Ryzen 7 1700X at $399, and Ryzen 7 1700 at $329. Based on current street prices, Ryzen will be between 20% — 50% lower priced but AMD is claiming performance that's better than Intel at those price points.

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Uber's Self-Driving Cars Are Now Picking Up Passengers in Arizona

Slashdot - February 22, 2017 - 9:00am
Almost two months to the day after Uber loaded its fleet of self-driving SUVs into the trailer of a self-driving truck and stormed off to Arizona in a self-driving huff, the company is preparing to launch its second experiment (if you don't count the aborted San Francisco pilot) in autonomous ride-hailing. From a report on The Verge: What's different is that this time, Uber has the blessing from Arizona's top politician, Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, who is expected to be "Rider Zero" on an autonomous trip along with Anthony Levandowski, VP of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group. [...] Starting today, residents of Tempe, Arizona, can hail a self-driving Volvo XC90 SUV on Uber's ride-sharing platform. All trips will include two Uber engineers in the front seats as safety drivers, in the event a human needs to take over control from the vehicle's software. Uber says it hopes to expand the coverage area to other cities in Arizona in the coming weeks.

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