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Which world would you rather live in?

  • Star Trek
  • Star Wars
  • Babylon 5
  • Idiocracy
  • Dark City
  • Other (Please specify in comments)

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:184 | Votes:205

posted by The Mighty Buzzard on Sunday January 19, @03:40PM   Printer-friendly
from the lingere dept.

Well, crap. I have no idea why or when it happened but the Threshold setting when using Threaded-TOS appears to be non-functional at the moment. It's supposed to set the value below which a comment and any of its subcomments will be collapsed, unless a subcomment is over the Breakthrough value which should cause that comment only to be expanded. Right now it's functioning as if Threshold were set to 6. I never noticed it because I have both settings set to -1.

I can't monkey with it right this second but I'll see if I can get it fixed some time this weekend. Just a hotfix patch to the live code not a full site update.

Beats doing construction work in the rain I suppose.

Update: Okay, I can't fix something that ain't broke and TOS is functioning as intended. I just forgot that Threshold applied only to top-level comments, all subcomment trees should be collapsed by default, and Breakthrough was the setting for subcomments to show up no matter what. This doesn't make sense to me but then I'm not the one who decided it should function like that and I don't use TOS. If you lot want it to function differently or want a new mode that's similar, drop your insipid inspired ideas here and if there's enough demand I'll put it on the todo list.

posted by martyb on Sunday January 19, @02:54PM   Printer-friendly
from the Visualize-Herd-Immunity dept.

Flu shots are an annual annoyance with limited effectiveness (on average between 40 and 60 percent.) There is now hope to eliminate this annual ritual and provide more effective protection with a potential universal flu vaccine in clinical trials.

To keep up with antigenic drift, scientists are constantly tweaking the flu vaccine, which is designed to respond to a surface protein called hemagglutinin, targeting what [Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infections Diseases (NIAID)] calls the "head" of the protein. "When you make a good response, the good news is you get protected. The problem is, the head is that part of the protein that has a propensity to mutate a lot."

The other end of the protein—the "stem"—is much more resistant to mutations. A vaccine that targets the hemagglutinin stem has the potential to provide protection against all subtypes of influenza and work regardless of antigenic drift, offering an essentially universal defense against the flu. NIAID, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is currently working to develop a candidate for a universal flu vaccine in a Phase 1 clinical trial, the first time the vaccine candidate has been given to people. Results on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine are due in early 2020.

Reason for hope in the future, but for now according to Fauci "The initial indicators indicate this is not going to be a good season—this is going to be a bad season."

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday January 19, @12:31PM   Printer-friendly

Galactic Settlement and the Fermi Paradox:

A spacefaring species could easily settle the entire Milky Way given billions of years. Yet the fact is that there is no obvious one in our solar system right now. The supposed inconsistency between these statements is the Fermi Paradox, named for the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who supposedly first formulated it. In a trenchant formulation of the Fermi Paradox, American astrophysicist Michael H. Hart called the lack of extraterrestrial beings or artifacts on Earth today "Fact A." He showed that most objections to his conclusion—that a spacefaring civilization could have crossed the galaxy by now—stem from either a lack of appreciation for the timescales involved (it takes a small extrapolation from present human technology to get interstellar ships, and even slow ships can star-hop across our galaxy in less time than the galaxy's age) or else the dubious assumption that all members of all extraterrestrial species will avoid colonizing behaviors forever (an example of what I've called the monocultural fallacy).

William Newman and Carl Sagan later wrote a major rebuttal to Hart's work, in which they argued that the timescales to populate the entire galaxy could be quite long. In particular, they noted that the colonization fronts Hart described through the Milky Way might move much more slowly than the speed of the colonization ships if their population growth rates were so low that they only needed to spread to nearby stars very rarely. They also argued that being a long-lived civilization is inconsistent with being a rapidly-expanding one, so any species bent on settling the galaxy would not last long enough to succeed. In other words, they reasoned that the galaxy could be filled with both short-lived rapidly expanding civilizations that don't get very far and long-lived slowly expanding civilizations that haven't gotten very far—either way, it's not surprising that we have not been visited.

Being a long-lived civilization is inconsistent with being a rapidly-expanding one.

In a 2014 paper on the topic, my colleagues and I rebutted many of these claims. In particular, we argued that one should not conflate the population growth in a single settlement with that of all settlements. There is no reason to suppose that population growth, resource depletion, or overcrowding drives the creation of new settlements, or that a small, sustainable settlement would never launch a new settlement ship. One can easily imagine a rapidly expanding network of small sustainable settlements (indeed, the first human migrations across the globe likely looked a lot like this).

Another factor affects Newman and Sagan's numbers on timescales and colonization-front speeds. Most of the prior work on this topic exploits percolation models, in which ships move about on a static two-dimensional substrate of stars. In these models, a star launching settlement ships can quickly settle all of the nearby stars, limiting the number of stars it can settle. But real stars move in three dimensions, meaning that they can carry their orbiting settlements throughout the galaxy, and that a settlement will always have fresh new stars to settle if it waits long enough.

Jonathan Carroll-Nellenback, at the University of Rochester with Adam Frank, not long ago finished work, with Caleb Scharf and me, on analytic and numerical models for how a realistic settlement front would behave in a real gas of stars, one characteristic of the galactic disk at our distance from the galactic center. The big advances here are a few:

Carroll-Nellenback validated an analytic formalism for settlement expansion fronts with numerical models for a realistic gas of stars. He accounted for finite settlement lifetimes, the idea that only a small fraction of stars will be settle-able, and explored the limits of very slow and infrequent settlement ships. He also explored a range of settlement behaviors to see how galactic settlement fronts depend on them.

The idea that not all stars are settle-able is important to keep in mind. Adam Frank calls this the Aurora effect, after the Kim Stanley Robinson novel in which a system is "habitable, but not settle-able."

A very interesting read.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday January 19, @10:08AM   Printer-friendly
from the black-gold-or-bad-lungs dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Bowing to public pressure on climate change, Germany on Thursday promised to speed up its exit from coal power generation and to pay operators compensation in a strategy instantly rejected by environmental campaigners. With the announcement that coals could be history by 2035, instead of 2038 as previously planned, "the exit from coal begins now, and it's binding," Environment Minister Svenja Schulze told reporters in Berlin.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and premiers from the states of Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg agreed overnight a "shutdown plan" for the country's power plants using the highly polluting fossil fuel. The scheme will be written into a draft law set to be presented later this month and ratified by mid-2019. Meanwhile the government will compensate coal plant operators to the tune of 4.35 billion euros ($4.9 billion) for plants set to fall off the grid in the 2020s alone, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said.

The payouts "will be spread out over the 15 years following the shutdown" and represent an "affordable and in my view good result," Scholz added.

Giant RWE, with its power stations in North Rhine-Westphalia, will take the lion's share at 2.6 billion euros. But the group complained that was "well below" the 3.5 billion of losses it expects.

Some 3,000 jobs are set to go at the energy firm "in the short term" and 6,000 by 2030, mostly via early retirement, RWE added. That represents around 60 percent of RWE workers in the especially dirty brown-coal sector and one-quarter of the company's total workforce.

[...] A plan agreed in December under pressure from demonstrators calls for Germany to reduce output of greenhouse gases by 55 percent compared with 1990's levels.

The country has already admitted it will miss an intermediate target for 2020.

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday January 19, @07:43AM   Printer-friendly
from the and-the-blind-shall-see dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Mathematics and science Braille textbooks are expensive and require an enormous effort to produce -- until now. A team of researchers has developed a method for easily creating textbooks in Braille, with an initial focus on math textbooks. The new process is made possible by a new authoring system which serves as a "universal translator" for textbook formats, combined with enhancements to the standard method for putting mathematics in a Web page. Basing the new work on established systems will ensure that the production of Braille textbooks will become easy, inexpensive, and widespread.

"This project is about equity and equal access to knowledge," said Martha Siegel, a Professor Emerita from Towson University in Maryland. Siegel met a blind student who needed a statistics textbook for a required course. The book was ordered but took six months (and several thousand dollars) to prepare, causing the student significant delay in her studies. Siegel and Al Maneki, a retired NSA mathematician who serves as senior STEM advisor to the National Federation of the Blind and who is blind himself, decided to do something about it.

"Given the amazing technology available today, we thought it would be easy to piece together existing tools into an automated process," said Alexei Kolesnikov. Kolesnikov, a colleague of Siegel at Towson University, was recruited to the project in the Summer of 2018. Automating the process is the key, because currently Braille books are created by skilled people retyping from the printed version, which involves considerable time and cost. Converting the words is easy: Braille is just another alphabet. The hard part is conveying the structure of the book in a non-visual way, converting the mathematics formulas, and converting the graphs and diagrams.

The collaboration which solved the problem was formed in January, 2019, with the help of the American Institute of Mathematics, through its connections in the math research and math education communities.

"Mathematics teachers who have worked with visually impaired students understand the unique challenges they face," said Henry Warchall, Senior Adviser in the Division of Mathematical Sciences at the National Science Foundation, which funds the American Institute of Mathematics. "By developing an automated way to create Braille mathematics textbooks, this project is making mathematics significantly more accessible, advancing NSF's goal of broadening participation in the nation's scientific enterprise."

There are three main problems to solve when producing a Braille version of a textbook. First is the overall structure. A typical textbook uses visual clues to indicate chapters, sections, captions, and other landmarks. In Braille all the letters are the same size and shape, so these structural elements are described with special symbols. The other key issues are accurately conveying complicated mathematics formulas, and providing a non-visual way to represent graphs and diagrams.

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday January 19, @05:26AM   Printer-friendly

Sticky situation inside blood vessels can worsen stroke damage:

A stroke appears to create a sticky situation inside the blood vessels of the brain that can worsen damage days, even months later, scientists report.

They have found that after stroke, exosomes — nanosized biological suitcases packed with an assortment of cargo that cells swap, like proteins and fats — traveling in the blood get activated and sticky and start accumulating on the lining of blood vessels, according to a collaborative study by the Medical College of Georgia and the University of Oxford.

Like a catastrophic freeway pileup, platelets, also tiny cells that enable our blood to clot after an injury, start adhering to the now-sticky exosomes, causing a buildup that can effectively form another clot, further obstruct blood flow to the brain and cause additional destruction, they report in the journal Scientific Reports.

One thing traveling exosomes typically aren't is sticky rather, much like our real suitcases, they have a smooth label that marks their intended destination, says Dr. Zsolt Bagi, vascular biologist in the MCGDepartment of Physiology. He and Dr. Daniel C. Anthony, professor of experimental neuropathology/pharmacology in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Oxford, are co-corresponding authors of the new study.

But when these external destination tags become inexplicably sticky following a stroke, not only do exosomes not reach their destination, they can worsen stroke outcome, he notes.

In a bit of a perfect storm, the scientists have shown in both stroke models and human blood vessels that exosomes cruising through the blood then pick up RGD, the unique and normally sticky peptide sequence, arginine-glycine-aspartate, which is key to the pileup that can cause additional brain damage.

More typically, exosomes carry a negligible amount of RGD, a protein that's important in holding together the extracellular matrix that helps cells connect and form tissue. In the aftermath of a stroke, cells and the extracellular matrix both get damaged, and sticky RGD is effectively set free.

Platelets normally aren't exposed to RGD, which should mostly be sequestered in the extracellular matrix, so they become angry, activated and also sticky in response. "There is always a problem when platelets become activated," Bagi says.

Journal Reference:
Zsolt Bagi, Yvonne Couch, Zuzana Broskova, Francisco Perez-Balderas, Tianrong Yeo, Simon Davis, Roman Fischer, Nicola R. Sibson, Benjamin G. Davis, Daniel C. Anthony. Extracellular vesicle integrins act as a nexus for platelet adhesion in cerebral microvessels. Scientific Reports, 2019; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-52127-3

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday January 19, @03:04AM   Printer-friendly
from the counter-counter-countermeasures dept.

Trump, Barr, and the FBI do not need Apple to unlock a terrorist's iPhones:

Previously, Cellebrite relied on a brute force system. With its machine plugged into an iPhone's Lightning port, Cellebrite would override limits on passcode attempts and would then try every possible passcode combination until it hit on the right one. But Apple added a Restricted USB Mode with iOS 12 that prevents the Lighting port from connecting to another device if an iPhone has not been unlocked within the last hour. Cellebrite's updated software allows it to communicate with the chipset used on certain iPhone models, apparently regardless of the iOS version that the phone in question is running. This new technology could be very useful.

Neil Broom, who works with law enforcement to unlock phones, said, "This Cellebrite tool would let the government get a whole lot of information out of the phone, more than we've previously been able to extract.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday January 19, @12:41AM   Printer-friendly
from the lern-ur-science-fm-Twitter dept.

The U.S. share of global science and technology activity has shrunk in some areas even as absolute activity has continued to grow, as China and other Asian countries have invested in science and engineering education and increased their research spending.

That's one of the main takeaways of the "State of U.S. Science and Engineering" 2020 report, published by the National Science Board Wednesday. The report has historically been published every other year, but starting with this year's edition, the NSB is transitioning its format from a single report published every two years to a series of shorter reports issued more frequently.

"While the U.S. remains a leading player, other countries have seen the benefits of investing in research and education and are following our example," said Julia Phillips, chair of the NSB Science and Engineering Policy Committee. "While China is not the only story, its dramatic annual rate of R&D [research and development] growth is impressive. Other countries have seen the benefits of investing in research, and China is on a path to shortly become the world's largest R&D performer.

National Science Board report finds US dominance in science is slipping
State of U.S. Science and Engineering - 2020 report

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Saturday January 18, @10:29PM   Printer-friendly
from the It's-pronounced-"Fronkenbreeks" dept.

Engineers at the University of Colorodo, Boulder have demonstrated a novel building material that grows, has self repair capability, and sequesters carbon.

The microbes in the brick are cyanobacteria, which perform photosynthesis to grow, taking in carbon dioxide. They produce a powdery substance called calcium carbonate — the main ingredient in cement — which toughens the material.

The bacteria are mixed with sand and common gelatin like you would buy in a supermarket and require a humid environment to grow.

If researchers can develop a version of the mixture that can withstand dry temperatures, the bricks could even offer a way to build future structures on the Moon or Mars, since less building material would need to be launched and carried on a spacecraft.

This is similar to the myco-architecture project out of NASA's Ames Research Center in California, which aims to grow habitats on the moon and Mars using fungi.

"Right now, traditional habitat designs for Mars are like a turtle - carrying our homes with us on our backs - a reliable plan, but with huge energy costs," said Lynn Rothschild, the principal investigator on the early-stage project.

"Instead, we can harness mycelia (vegetative part of a fungus) to grow these habitats ourselves when we get there".

Ultimately, the project envisions a future where human explorers can bring a compact habitat built out of a lightweight material with dormant fungi that will last on long journeys to places like Mars.

Upon arrival, by unfolding that basic structure and simply adding water, the fungi will be able to grow around that framework into a fully functional human habitat - all while being safely contained within the habitat to avoid contaminating the Martian environment.

These technologies have the potential to reduce our carbon footprint on Earth as well. The construction industry is responsible for 11% of global carbon emissions (39% when heating/cooling/power are included).

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday January 18, @08:10PM   Printer-friendly
from the my-precious dept.


There are four ages in Tolkien's works. Lord of the Rings was set in the Third Age, and this series will take place in The Second Age, Amazon revealed in a tweet sent in March 2019. The famous One Ring of Lord of the Rings fame was forged in this time period by the Dark Lord Sauron, who seems likely to be a major part of the new show.

Welcome to the Second Age: — The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime)

Amazon's Salke told Deadline, "we're not remaking the movies, but we're also not starting from scratch. So, it'll be characters you love."

But probably not one particular character. Tolkien fan site stirred buzz among fans in May 2018 by that the show's first season would be centered on a young Aragorn. Portrayed by Viggo Mortensen in the Peter Jackson movies, he was an acclaimed warrior and ranger who plays a major role in Lord of the Rings. But that rumor fell flat once Amazon confirmed the Second Age setting, since Aragorn wouldn't have been around then.

It is not yet clear if they're focusing on Numenor in the Second Age, or the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday January 18, @05:49PM   Printer-friendly
from the you-are-here dept.


The first aren't even built yet, but [Elon Musk] already has big plans for his company's spacecraft, which includes turning humans into an interplanetary species with a presence on Mars. He crunched some of the numbers he has in mind on Twitter on Thursday.

Musk doesn't just want to launch a few intrepid souls to Mars, he wants to send a whole new nation. He tossed out a goal of building 100 Starships per year to send about 100,000 people from Earth to Mars every time the planets' orbits line up favorably.

A Twitter user ran the figures and checked if Musk planned to land a million humans on Mars by 2050. "Yes," . The SpaceX CEO has suggested this sort of . This new round of tweets give us some more insight into how it could be done, though "ambitious" doesn't do that timeline justice. Miraculous might be a more fitting description.
fans, rejoice. there will be plenty of jobs on Mars. When asked how people would be selected for the Red Planet move, , "Needs to be such that anyone can go if they want, with loans available for those who don't have money." So perhaps you could pay off your SpaceX loans with a sweet terraforming gig.

Terraforming the planet should be easy if Quaid can get past Cohagen and start the reactor.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday January 18, @03:00PM   Printer-friendly

Microsoft Corp said on Thursday it aims to:

By 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.

Further coverage: from The Verge, BBC, CBC
"direct emissions" but those they may have caused. If they can achieve it though, it will be a positive step.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Saturday January 18, @01:07PM   Printer-friendly
from the my-data-is-still-my-data dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Analysis: In a massive win for privacy rights, the advocate general advising the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has said that national security concerns should not override citizens' data privacy.

That doesn't mean that the intelligence and security services should oblige communications companies to hand over information, especially when it comes to terrorism suspects, the opinion, handed down yesterday, proposes. But it would mean that those requests will need to be done "on an exceptional and temporary basis," as opposed to sustained blanket harvesting of information – and only when justified by "overriding considerations relating to threats to public security or national security."

In other words, a US-style hovering [sic] up of personal data is not legal under European law.

The legal argument being made by the AG is technically advisory - the ECJ has yet to decide - though in roughly 80 per cent of cases it does side with the preliminary opinion put forward by its Advocate General, in this case Manuel Campos Sánchez-Bordona.

If the ECJ agrees, it could also have significant implications for the UK which has passed a law that gives the security services extraordinary reach and powers – which is in a legal limbo due to the ongoing Brexit plans to leave the European Union.

If this proposed legal solution is adopted by the court, the UK will be able to retain its current laws, though it would almost certainly face legal challenges and would have a hard time reaching an agreement with Europe over data-sharing – something that could have enormous security and economic implications.

The case itself was sparked by a legal challenge from Privacy International against the UK's Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) as well as a French data retention law.

In essence, the issue was whether national governments can oblige private parties - in this case, mostly ISPs - to hand over personal details by simply saying there were national security issues at hand.

The AG opines that no, it cannot: the European Directive on privacy and electronic communications continues to apply, and is not superseded by security claims. It does not apply to public bodies who are obliged to do what the government says.

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Saturday January 18, @10:43AM   Printer-friendly
from the I-didn't-see-that-coming dept.

Deep learning enables real-time imaging around corners:

Researchers have harnessed the power of a type of artificial intelligence known as deep learning to create a new laser-based system that can image around corners in real time. With further development, the system might let self-driving cars "look" around parked cars or busy intersections to see hazards or pedestrians. It could also be installed on satellites and spacecraft for tasks such as capturing images inside a cave on an asteroid.

"Compared to other approaches, our non-line-of-sight imaging system provides uniquely high resolutions and imaging speeds," said research team leader Christopher A. Metzler from Stanford University and Rice University. "These attributes enable applications that wouldn't otherwise be possible, such as reading the license plate of a hidden car as it is driving or reading a badge worn by someone walking on the other side of a corner."

[...] The new imaging system uses a commercially available camera sensor and a powerful, but otherwise standard, laser source that is similar to the one found in a laser pointer. The laser beam bounces off a visible wall onto the hidden object and then back onto the wall, creating an interference pattern known as a speckle pattern that encodes the shape of the hidden object.

Reconstructing the hidden object from the speckle pattern requires solving a challenging computational problem. Short exposure times are necessary for real-time imaging but produce too much noise for existing algorithms to work. To solve this problem, the researchers turned to deep learning.

"Compared to other approaches for non-line-of-sight imaging, our deep learning algorithm is far more robust to noise and thus can operate with much shorter exposure times," said co-author Prasanna Rangarajan from Southern Methodist University. "By accurately characterizing the noise, we were able to synthesize data to train the algorithm to solve the reconstruction problem using deep learning without having to capture costly experimental training data."

More information: Chris Metzler et al, Deep-Inverse Correlography: Towards Real-Time High-Resolution Non-Line-of-Sight Imaging, Optica (2019). DOI: 10.1364/OPTICA.374026

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Saturday January 18, @08:26AM   Printer-friendly
from the better-than-none-at-all dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

The fires, unprecedented for Australia in terms of duration and intensity, have claimed 28 lives and killed an estimated billion animals. Sustained hot weather and rare periods of light rain in the affected areas have deepened the crisis.

Downpours on Thursday in the state of New South Wales, where many of the worst fires have burnt, offered hope that dozens of blazes could be brought under control.

"Relief is here for a number of firefighters working across NSW," the state's Rural Fire Service said in a social media post accompanying footage of rain falling in a burning forest.

"Although this rain won't extinguish all fires, it will certainly go a long way towards containment."

Before the rains, there were 30 blazes burning out of control in New South Wales.

Along the south coast of the state, locals who witnessed towns and forests being destroyed in recent weeks expressed cautious hope.

"We're thrilled and so relieved to have some dampness in the air because it makes things safe for a little while," Virginia Connor told AFP near the town of Nowra.

"But we need more, we need lots more."

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission