Effective: 2016-June to 2016-December
Updated by: NCommander
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AT&T and Time Warner were called before Congress today to defend their upcoming $85 billion merger and they played all of the antitrust bingo words in the book. We heard a lot about "investment," "competition," and "innovation" in the two-hour session — but no reasons to believe that this merger is a necessary path to producing any of those things. And bizarrely, AT&T and Time Warner seem to have unwittingly argued against their need to merge.
The testimony was an unexpected vote for the value of an open internet and higher-quality services from ISPs across the board. Their arguments hinged on the idea that offering more innovative services over the internet is a way to better compete with cable companies. But that has nothing to do with a content company becoming part of the network company, and everything to do with the fundamental nature of the internet as an open platform.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has warned that giraffe populations are declining:
A dramatic drop in giraffe populations over the past 30 years has seen the world's tallest land mammal classified as vulnerable to extinction. Numbers have gone from around 155,000 in 1985 to 97,000 in 2015 according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The iconic animal has declined because of habitat loss, poaching and civil unrest in many parts of Africa. Some populations are growing, mainly in southern parts of the continent. Until now, the conservation status of giraffes was considered of "least concern" by the IUCN. However in their latest global Red List of threatened species, the ungainly animal is now said to be "vulnerable", meaning that over three generations, the population has declined by more than 30%.
[...] While researchers believe that some local populations may not survive, there is optimism that that the long term future of these tall creatures can be secured. The success in keeping giraffe numbers high in Southern Africa has much to do with the management of game parks for tourists say experts, who believe that the extra attention that the IUCN listing will now attract will benefit the species. "South Africa is a good example of how you can manage wildlife, there is a lot of moving of animals between different conservation areas, it is a very different scenario than in most of the rest of Africa." said Chris Ransom from the Zoological Society of London.
California gray wolves will now retain their protected status even if the population rises to 50 or more:
The California gray wolves will keep their endangered species protections even once the rebounding animal hits a population of at least 50, state wildlife officials said Wednesday.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife published its plan for managing wolves late Tuesday, setting its policy for the species that is making a comeback to the state after it was killed off in the 1920s.
"Wolves returning to the state was inevitable," said Charlton Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in a statement. "It's an exciting ecological story, and this plan represents the path forward to manage wolves."
The plan marks a shift in course, dropping language from an earlier draft that directed officials to remove wolves from the list of animals protected once they reached the critical mass.
Wolves in California were hunted to extinction nearly a century ago, but a lone wolf called OR-7 crossed the northern border from Oregon in 2011. OR-7 and his mate have had a litter for each of the last three years, and cameras caught another family pack in Northern California, but it hasn't been spotted in several months, wildlife advocates say. Officials say it's hard to say how many wolves roam the state today, but their numbers remain small.
Night vision goggles do a great job of countering the human eye's poor ability to see in the dark, but the devices are usually bulky, requiring several layers of lenses and plenty of power. But thanks to research from the Australian National University (ANU), a new type of nanocrystal could grant night vision powers to a standard pair of specs, without adding any weight.
Darkness, as we perceive it, is the absence of light on the visible spectrum that our eyes can detect, but there's still plenty of light at other frequencies that we can't use. Night vision goggles make use of the near-infrared spectrum, and convert the photons from that light into electrons that light up a phosphor screen inside the device to create the image. But all that makes for a chunky, power-hungry device.
The ANU team's nanocrystal can be used to create night vision devices that forgo electricity completely, by converting incoming photons from infrared light into other photons on the visible spectrum, to allow the human eye to see in the dark.
NASA will spend up to $127 million on the development of Restore-L, a robotic spacecraft intended to repair and refuel satellites in orbit. The contract could help Space Systems Loral launch a satellite servicing business:
A new contract from NASA to build the agency's Restore-L satellite servicing spacecraft could bring Space Systems Loral that much closer to launching its own satellite servicing business.
NASA awarded the contract to SSL Dec. 5, tasking the company with supplying a chassis, hardware and services for the mission. The Palo Alto, California-based satellite builder is responsible for supporting integration, test, launch and operations.
The purpose of Restore-L is to demonstrate the ability to refuel a satellite in orbit, including those not designed to have their fuel tanks opened in space. In-orbit refueling has the potential to extend the lives of otherwise healthy spacecraft that have exhausted their propellants.
SSL, with parent company MDA of Canada, has been actively entertaining the notion of launching a commercial in-orbit servicing business, one that would combine MDA's past experience from the almost-launched Space Infrastructure Services system in the early 2010s with SSL's knowledge of satellite manufacturing. Steve Oldham, the former president of MDA's Space Infrastructure Services division who currently leads strategic business development at SSL, said the company has interest from prospective customers in using an SSL-built servicer, and that the MDA board of directors expects to make a decision on relaunching such a business through SSL in the very near future.
As indicated by the name, video games are a very visual medium. But that hasn't stopped participants in a study at the University of Washington (UW) successfully playing through a game without ever actually looking at it, hearing it or using any of the standard five senses. Instead, they were guided through virtual mazes via direct brain stimulation, in a demonstration of technology that could one day form the basis of sensory prosthetics to help visually-impaired people navigate the real world, or provide a new way for anyone to interact with virtual ones.
The five players taking part in the UW study interacted with the game through a process known as transcranial magnetic stimulation, where a magnetic coil is placed on the back of the skull to directly stimulate certain parts of the brain safely and painlessly. This technique has shown the potential to treat migraines, aid learning, improve memory and allow direct brain-to-brain communication.
[...] "The way virtual reality is done these days is through displays, headsets and goggles, but ultimately your brain is what creates your reality," says Rajesh Rao, senior author of the study. "The fundamental question we wanted to answer was: can the brain make use of artificial information that it's never seen before that is delivered directly to the brain to navigate a virtual world or do useful tasks without other sensory input? And the answer is yes."
At last we know how Luke was able to counter the drone with the blast shield down: direct brain stimulation.
The Denver Post reports
At first glance, Littleton, [Colorado,] looks like ground zero for Halloween pranksters this year--toilet paper is strewn across street after street and block after block.
The messy look prompted a few irritated inquiries from residents on the city's Facebook page this week, like this one from Madison Lucas: "This is UGLY!! All over Littleton!!" Or from Stephanie Gregory : "My kids and I thought it was vandalism."
But the TP'ing scheme is actually the work of the city itself. Littleton is using bathroom tissue as part of an effort to seal the myriad cracks that plague road surfaces in this city. It is tackling 120 streets with this bottoms-up tactic.
[...] The TP, applied with a paint roller, absorbs the oil from freshly laid tar as it dries, keeping it from sticking to people's shoes or car and bike tires. With the paper's protective abilities, asphalt isn't tracked all over the city or splattered on wheel wells. And the biodegradable paper breaks down and disappears in a matter of days.
[...] Kelli Narde, a spokeswoman for Littleton, said the real benefit of using toilet paper is that it allows traffic to retake the road right after a crack is filled.
It looks like video patent licensing agency MPEG LA is targeting the highly promising genome editing techniques of using CRISPR-Cas9. They are proposing to bundle all the relevant patents so that interested parties can rest assured they have all the necessary patents while developing their products. CRISPR-Cas9 is a set of enzymes and RNA guides that enable precise targeting of genomic regions which is quite handy in research and medicine. Note that there already is a litigation in this matter between Broad-Harvard and Berkeley.
From the press release:
"CRISPR's wide range of potential applications in medicine and agriculture, and the steadily increasing volume of intellectual property in the field, point to the need for a one-stop licensing platform to reduce litigation risk and provide efficiency, transparency and predictability to scientists and businesses worldwide," said MPEG LA President and CEO Larry Horn. "Our worldwide licensing infrastructure, trusted reputation for independence, experience, impartiality and results with patent pools, and relationships with industry and academia, including life sciences, position MPEG LA to deliver a licensing solution for the life sciences market as it did with digital video for the consumer electronics market."
Last August, Google announced it would change its name to Alphabet, which would effectively be a holding company for Google and its various businesses — YouTube, Android, etc. — as well as Google's more outlandish experiments, like its moonshots factory, "X"; its investment arms; and more.
The reasons Google provided mainly had to do with clarity for investors. By creating two specific segments of Google, investors and shareholders could separate the strengths of Google — namely, search and ads — from its riskier endeavors, like self-driving cars. Another reason: Larry Page, then Google's CEO, wanted to take a backseat in operations in order to focus on his bigger dreams, like the company's moonshots in health and energy. That's all well and good for Page, Sergey Brin, and the various executives at Google and Alphabet. But one year later, if you ask a random person on the street if they know what Alphabet is, they likely wouldn't know.
[...] While changing the name from Google to Alphabet and reorganizing Google's various properties under Alphabet doesn't change the past, it does help prevent [...] public relations debacles from happening in the future. Since it's technically Google's parent company currently working on all of its projects that might be considered "creepy" — like drones, self-driving cars, genetic engineering, machine intelligence, or its project to extend the human life span — the name Google is kept out of people's mouths and out of the media, to some degree.
Do modular evil!
Pebble has announced that the company will shut down and cease the production of its smartwatches. Many of the developers will join Fitbit, and Fitbit has acquired Pebble's "technology, software, and other intellectual property".
Pebble previously rejected offers of $740 million and later $70 million for the company. Fitbit is paying around $40 million for parts of Pebble without assuming its debts (which are around the same amount).
"A Look Back at Pebble's Rise and Fall" at PC Magazine.
According to a December 1st article from NASA:
On Nov. 10, 2016, scientists on NASA's IceBridge mission photographed an oblique view of a massive rift in the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen C ice shelf....
The IceBridge scientists measured the Larsen C fracture to be about 70 miles [113 km] long, more than 300 feet [91 m] wide and about a third of a mile [a half of a kilometer] deep. The crack completely cuts through the ice shelf but it does not go all the way across it – once it does, it will produce an iceberg roughly the size of the state of Delaware.
The British Antarctic Survey's Halley VI research station is currently located on the Larsen C ice shelf. Fortunately, the station was designed to move. A December 7th article from The Guardian gives more information about that station and the upcoming move:
The British Antarctic Survey's Halley VI research station has recorded data relevant to space weather, climate change, and atmospheric phenomena from its site on the Brunt Ice Shelf shelf since 2012....
The new site, nicknamed Halley VI A, was identified during in-depth site surveys in the 2015-16 Antarctic summer. Now that winter has passed, the relocation team are preparing to tow the station 23km [14 miles] to its new home using large tractors.
The Telegraph outlines the timeframe for the move:
In 2012, satellite monitoring of the ice shelf revealed the first signs of movement in the chasm that had lain dormant for at least 35 years and, by 2013, it began opening at an alarming pace of one mile per year. If the base does not move, it could be in danger of tumbling into the chasm by 2020.
To make matters more time critical, in October, a new crack emerged 10 miles [16 km] to the north of the research station across the route sometimes used to resupply the base.
The team has just nine weeks to relocate operations, before the harsh winter begins, making it difficult to move the structure amid complete darkness, plummeting temperatures and gale-force winds.
Additional information about the Halley VI research station is available from the British Antarctic Survey.
Mobile OS outfit Cyanogen has made further sackings and parted ways with founder Steve Kondik.
A post by CEO Lior Tal says the company is closing its Seattle office and consolidating a single Palo Alto abode.
"The purpose of the change is to improve the communication and performance of the team which will now operate under one roof," Tal writes. "This consolidation effort will allow us to build in greater efficiencies and reduce restrictions in our product development lifecycle. Understandably some are unable to follow their role and relocate. We appreciate and value all of the amazing work these individuals have provided to the growth and success of Cyanogen."
Folks who work in Seattle will be offered the chance to make the move south.
Tal also says "With these changes, Cyanogen has separated ties with Steve Kondik, allowing him to continue to forge his path as he sees fit. We wish him the best of luck in his next venture."
Cassini moves in closer to the jewel of our solar system! According to NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's article Cassini Makes First Ring-Grazing Plunge:
Cassini crossed through the plane of Saturn's rings on Dec. 4 at 5:09 a.m. PST (8:09 a.m. EST) at a distance of approximately 57,000 miles (91,000 kilometers) above Saturn's cloud tops. This is the approximate location of a faint, dusty ring produced by the planet's small moons Janus and Epimetheus, and just 6,800 miles (11,000 kilometers) from the center of Saturn's F ring.
The BBC brings us news of new Saturn images from the Cassini mission, including the hexagon-shaped storm in Saturn's northern atmosphere:
Cassini began what are known as its ring-grazing orbits on 30 November. Each of these week-long orbits - 20 in all - lifts the spacecraft high above Saturn's northern hemisphere before sending it hurtling past the outer edges of the planet's main rings.
Nasa said that it would release images from future passes that included some of the closest-ever views of the outer rings and small moons that orbit there.
Carolyn Porco, the head of Cassini's imaging team, commented: "This is it, the beginning of the end of our historic exploration of Saturn.
"Let these images - and those to come - remind you that we've lived a bold and daring adventure around the Solar System's most magnificent planet."
For more information, NASA JPL also provides a summary page for Cassini's ring-grazing orbits, including a diagram of the probe's projected orbital path, a glossary, and a countdown timer to the second ring-grazing orbit.
WikiLeaks published on Monday a searchable archive of nearly 58,000 emails from the private email account of Berat Albayrak - Turkey's incumbent energy minister and son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – revealing the influence Albayrak has in Turkey and his correspondence regarding Powertrans, a company implicated in oil imports from ISIS-controlled oil fields.
The emails encompass 16 years between April 2000 and September 23, 2016. A search by the 'Powertrans' keyword in the published WikiLeaks emails returns 32 results, including emails sent to Albayrak regarding personnel and salary issues at Powertrans.
Turkey banned oil transportation by road or railway in or out of the country in November 2011, but included a provision in the same bill that it could revoke the ban in specific cases, such as meeting the needs of the military. The Turkish government later gave exclusive privilege to Powertrans for transit of oil, WikiLeaks says.
SoftBank Group Corp. Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son told President-elect Donald Trump he would create 50,000 new jobs in the U.S. through a $50 billion investment in startups and new companies.
The money will come from SoftBank's previously announced $100 billion technology fund, according to a person familiar with the matter. That investment vehicle has a $45 billion commitment from the government of Saudi Arabia and $25 billion from Tokyo-based SoftBank, which operates technology and wireless companies around the world.
[...] Some investments from SoftBank's fund, which was unveiled in October, were probably destined for the U.S. anyway, given the nation's leadership in the global technology industry. But Son hadn't previously committed to creating a specific amount of jobs through the investment vehicle.