By EditorDavid from Slashdot's learning-to-fly department
Can researchers built a new kind of battery powerful enough to fuel an electric airplane? MIT's Technology Review profiles a company co-founded by MIT materials science professor Yet-Ming Chiang:
He and his colleague, Venkat Viswanathan, are taking a different approach to reach their next goal, altering not the composition of the batteries but the alignment of the compounds within them. By applying magnetic forces to straighten the tortuous path that lithium ions navigate through the electrodes, the scientists believe, they could significantly boost the rate at which the device discharges electricity. That shot of power could open up a use that has long eluded batteries: meeting the huge demands of a passenger aircraft at liftoff. If it works as hoped, it would enable regional commuter flights that don't burn fuel or produce direct climate emissions...
The initial plan is to develop a battery that could power a 12-person plane with 400 miles (644 kilometers) of range -- enough to make trips from, say, San Francisco to Los Angeles, or New York to Washington. In a second phase, they hope to enable an electric plane capable of carrying 50 people the same distance.... Last year, the company announced plans to deliver a line of "hybrid to electric" aircraft with room for 12 passengers in 2022. At launch, the company intends to offer a hybrid plane with a gas turbine and two battery packs capable of flying around 700 miles (1,127 kilometers), as well as an all-electric version with three battery packs and a range of less than 200 miles....But crucially, the plane itself is expected to feature an open architecture that allows owners to switch out these modules over time, enabling them to upgrade to better batteries developed in the future or shift from hybrid to all-electric operation.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's blinded-by-the-light department
Silicon Cali is now selling a massive device that uses a two-watt, 445 nanometer laser to light the bowl of a bong, according to an article shared by dmoberhaus:
This is about 400 times more powerful than the average laser pointer, which has an output of about five milliwatts. Silicon Cali even sells special glasses that are meant to protect your eyes while looking directly at the laser when you take a hit. "The laser is not that dangerous, it's not going to cut your finger off or anything crazy like that," Justin Zelaya, the founder of Silicon Cali, told me in an email. "It may sting a little bit if you get your hand in the way but kind of like a magnifying glass."
Zelaya told me that he worked with five other people to produce the bong and that their backgrounds range from "Bitcoin core developer to a mad scientist, like myself...." The glass, which is custom blown in California, is lined with color-changing LEDs. The entire thing is controlled by a phone app.
Each laser bong is being sold for $2,400 -- which as far as I can see is worth every damn penny.
The company only plans to sell 45 of these "limited edition" devices...Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's majoring-in-data department
UC Berkeley's fastest-growing class is their introduction to data science. (The Wall Street Journal calls it a combination of computer science and statistics "to mine the growing troves of data on everything from traffic patterns to the habits of social-media users.") But that's only the beginning. UC Berkeley plans to create a new Division of Data Science -- one of their biggest reorganizations in decades -- and this fall they even began offering a major in data science. "The division will enable students and researchers to tackle not just the scientific challenges opened up by pervasive data, but the societal, economic and environmental impacts as well."
"We need to consider the ethical implications of these technologies as they are being developed," says Data 8 instructor David Wagner -- "what does the world look like when decisions are made by algorithms rather than people, and how do we ensure that when we analyze data our decisions reflect not just numbers but the humans behind them?"
Slashdot reader theodp writes:
With a reported 1,295 students enrolled this semester, Berkeley's Data 8: The Foundations of Data Science boasts even bigger numbers than Harvard's most popular course, the more traditionally CS-focused CS50, which saw 724 students enroll this Fall....
Berkeley's embrace of Data Science coincidentally comes as Code.org is giving kudos to partners Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and Amazon for helping it convince lawmakers and tens of thousands of educators that more traditional computer science is what's needed for the K-12 masses, including the adoption of a new AP Computer Science program for high school students (an AP CS version of CS50 was funded by Microsoft). So, is Data Science for All the new Computer Science for All? And, if so, will U.S. schools be looking at a major case of buyer's remorse?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's won't-you-be-my-neighbor department
"Alexa, will you be my friend?"
"I'm happy to be your friend."
What should a parent do when they hear their five-year-old having that conversation? Engadget explores the question, also providing another example.
Four-year-old Aiden has struggled with bullies in school, and has found an unexpected friend in his grandmother's Echo Plus. After a particularly stressful day at school, his mother, Alexandria Melton, heard her son crying in the next room. "Alexa," he asked, "are we friends?"
'Of course we are," Alexa responded.
"Alexa, I love you," Aiden said.
The parents aren't worried about these relationships -- but Engadget asks, should they be? Dr. John Mayer, an adolescent psychologist, says "The behaviors of kids talking to a 'non-real' entity is not new in human development." But Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, "believes that children should not make friends with Alexa. Her main objection is that early friendship with Alexa may bring children to expect the same instant, accurate responses from real friends down the line."
"Alexa has taught, or conditioned, kids to expect an immediate response," Walfish said. "Human interactiveness requires patience that allows people a chance to think, process information and retrieve responses..."
Some experts and parents also note that a friendship with Alexa can help children practice friendships outside of school -- it's a trial run for the real world. Robin E. believes that since her son has became friends with Alexa, his speech has become clearer, and that he's learned to slow down and enunciate so that Alexa can understand him... While parents and teachers can generally piece together sloppy English, Alexa won't give you what you want unless you're clear and concise.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's pointer-variable department
Linus Torvalds "has shown already for the new Linux 4.20~5.0 cycle he isn't relaxing his standards but is communicating better when it comes to bringing up coding," reports Phoronix, adding "So far it looks like Linus' brief retreat is paying off with still addressing code quality issues -- and not blatantly accepting new code into the kernel as some feared -- but in doing so in a professional manner compared to his past manner of exclaiming himself over capitalized sentences and profanity that at time put him at odds with some in the Linux kernel community."
AmiMoJo quotes their report:
Last Saturday he took issue with the HID pull request and its introduction of the BigBen game controller driver that was introduced: the developer enabled this new driver by default. Linus Torvalds has always frowned upon random new drivers being enabled by default in the kernel configuration driver. [H]e still voiced his opinion over this driver's default "Y" build configuration, but did so in a more professional manner than he has done in the past:
We do *not* enable new random drivers by default. And we most *definitely* don't do it when they are odd-ball ones that most people have never heard of.
Yet the new "BigBen Interactive" driver that was added this merge window did exactly that.
Just don't do it.
Yes, yes, every developer always thinks that _their_ driver is so special and so magically important that it should be enabled by default. But no. When we have thousands of drivers, we don't randomly pick one new driver to be enabled by default just because some developer thinks it is special. It's not.... Please don't do things like this.
Phoronix also describes another "kernel oops" testing Torvalds' patience, in which Linus responded tactfully that "What makes me *very* unhappy about this is that if I'm right, I think it means that code was literally not tested at all by anybody who didn't have one of the entries in that list."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's man-made-stars department
Long-time Slashdot reader Zorro shared this article from Bloomberg:
Not long before he died, tech visionary Paul Allen traveled to the south of France for a personal tour of a 35-country quest to replicate the workings of the Sun. The goal is to one day produce clean, almost limitless energy by fusing atoms together rather than splitting them apart. The Microsoft Corp. co-founder said he wanted to view the early stages of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in Cadarache firsthand, to witness preparations "for the birth of a star on Earth." Allen wasn't just a bystander in the hunt for the holy grail of nuclear power. He was among a growing number of ultra-rich clean-energy advocates pouring money into startups that are rushing to produce the first commercially viable fusion reactor long before the $23 billion ITER program's mid-century forecast. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Peter Thiel are just three of the billionaires chasing what the late physicist Stephen Hawking called humankind's most promising technology.
Scientists have long known that fusion has the potential to revolutionize the energy industry, but development costs have been too high for all but a handful of governments and investors. Recent advances in exotic materials, 3D printing, machine learning and data processing are all changing that. "It's the SpaceX moment for fusion," said Christofer Mowry, who runs the Bezos-backed General Fusion Inc. near Vancouver, Canada. He was referring to Elon Musk's reusable-rocket maker. "If you care about climate change you have to care about the timescale and not just the ultimate solution. Governments aren't working with the urgency needed."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's aye-robot department
Twitter has deleted over 10,000 disinformation bots discouraging Americans from voting in Tuesday's midterm elections.
An anonymous reader quotes CNN:
Twitter said that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had brought the accounts to their attention. "For the election this year we have established open lines of communication and direct, easy escalation paths for state election officials, DHS, and campaign organizations from both major parties," the spokesperson said. The company said it believes the network of accounts was run from the United States.
The 10,000 accounts were deleted in late September and early October, Reuters reports:
The number is modest, considering that Twitter has previously deleted millions of accounts it determined were responsible for spreading misinformation in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Yet the removals represent an early win for a fledgling effort... The DCCC launched the effort this year in response to the party's inability to respond to millions of accounts on Twitter and other social media platforms that spread negative and false information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and other party candidates in 2016, three people familiar with the operation told Reuters... The DCCC developed its own system for identifying and reporting malicious automated accounts on social media, according to the three party sources.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's losing-their-touch department
schwit1 shared this article from the BBC:
A professor of surgery says students have spent so much time in front of screens and so little time using their hands that they have lost the dexterity for stitching or sewing up patients. Roger Kneebone, professor of surgical education at Imperial College, London, says young people have so little experience of craft skills that they struggle with anything practical. "It is important and an increasingly urgent issue," says Prof Kneebone, who warns medical students might have high academic grades but cannot cut or sew. "It is a concern of mine and my scientific colleagues that whereas in the past you could make the assumption that students would leave school able to do certain practical things - cutting things out, making things - that is no longer the case," says Prof Kneebone.
The professor, who teaches surgery to medical students, says young people need to have a more rounded education, including creative and artistic subjects, where they learn to use their hands. Prof Kneebone says he has seen a decline in the manual dexterity of students over the past decade - which he says is a problem for surgeons, who need craftsmanship as well as academic knowledge.... "A lot of things are reduced to swiping on a two-dimensional flat screen," he says, which he argues takes away the experience of handling materials and developing physical skills. Such skills might once have been gained at school or at home, whether in cutting textiles, measuring ingredients, repairing something that's broken, learning woodwork or holding an instrument. Students have become "less competent and less confident" in using their hands, he says. "We have students who have very high exam grades but lack tactile general knowledge," says the professor.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's dev,-test,-and-produce department
Slashdot reader pgmrdlm shared this article from CNN Business:
One company is doubling the shelf-life of avocados, citrus and other produce by taking a chemical-free cue from nature.... After researching the issue, Apeel CEO James Rogers realized spoilage was at the root of the problem. In 2012, he founded Apeel Sciences, which aims to extend the shelf-life of food and reduce waste. Rather than relying on chemical agents to preserve fresh produce, it develops a special protective coating to slow down the rotting process. The company is backed by Micorosoft cofounder Bill Gates and venture capitalist Andressen Horowitz, and has raised $110 million dollars in financing to date. Walter Robb, the former co-CEO of Whole Foods, recently joined its board of directors....
Food typically rots when moisture exits, oxygen gets in and mold takes over. To prevent this, Apeel takes the skins, seeds and pulp of homogeneous fruits or veggies -- such as grapes from a winery or tomato skins from a ketchup factor -- and presses out an oil rich in fat lipids. The company turns the oil into a colorless, odorless, tasteless powder that is tailored for each type of produce to which it will be applied. It's then mixed with water by the suppliers before it arrives at the store. The produce is either rinsed in or sprayed with the mixture at packaging facilities, essentially creating a second "peel"...
Apeel says the process is doubling the shelf life of fruits and vegetables and can triple it inside their lab. It aims to extend the life of some produce by four times.
The article points out that nearly a trillion dollars of food still goes to waste each year around the globe -- and at least one store testing Apeel's product has already reported a 50% boost in their profits on avocados thanks to the longer shelf life.
The FDA recognizes Apeel's product as safe, and it's already being used in more than 200 grocery-selling stores in the U.S., including Costco and Kroger.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's animaled-planet department
Remember that study which reported humanity had wiped out 60 percent of animal populations since 1970? The researchers' findings "have been widely mischaracterized," reports the Atlantic's science writer -- while adding that "the actual news is still grim."
The researchers had studied sample population estimates representing 4,000 of 63,000 known vertebrate species -- or 6.4 percent -- then performed a scientific extrapolation:
Ultimately, they found that from 1970 to 2014, the size of vertebrate populations has declined by 60 percent on average. That is absolutely not the same as saying that humans have culled 60 percent of animals -- a distinction that the report's technical supplement explicitly states. "It is not a census of all wildlife but reports how wildlife populations have changed in size," the authors write. To understand the distinction, imagine you have three populations: 5,000 lions, 500 tigers, and 50 bears. Four decades later, you have just 4,500 lions, 100 tigers, and five bears (oh my). Those three populations have declined by 10 percent, 80 percent, and 90 percent, respectively -- which means an average decline of 60 percent. But the total number of actual animals has gone down from 5,550 to 4,605, which is a decline of just 17 percent.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's deep-breaths department
A new study published in the journal Emotion has found that playing the classic game of Tetris can help sooth the mind when you are awaiting uncertain news. The Week reports: The venerable video game was used in a recent experiment to create a state of flow -- the term psychologists use to describe a state of mind so engaged it makes the rest of the world fall away, and time pass more quickly. Researchers from University of California (UC) Riverside in the U.S. have found that state of perfect disengagement may improve the otherwise-emotionally unpleasant experience of waiting for uncertain news. In place of Tetris, in which blocks are flipped every which way and stacked into rows, one can substitute flow activities such as rock climbing, carpentry, playing chess, or swimming, researchers said.
For the research published in the journal Emotion, 290 undergraduate students were told the study would be about physical attractiveness. They filled out a questionnaire, after which a photo was taken of them. They were then told that students in another location would rate their physical attractiveness. While they were ostensibly being rated, the students were then asked to play Tetris for 10 minutes. [...] The participants who achieved flow -- those in the adaptive group -- experienced less negative emotion, and greater positive emotion than those who were bored, or for whom the level of play was too difficult.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's lips-sealed department
Yesterday, during the company's Q4 earnings call, Apple's chief financial officer Luca Maestri said the company will no longer report unit sales of its main hardware divisions, including iPhones, iPad, and Mac. "This is the same as protocols Apple already follows for its smaller devices, such as the Apple Watch, AirPods, and HomePod, which are bundled under the 'Other Products' category," The Verge reports. From the report: The announcement comes after iPhone unit sales percentage was unchanged year over year, despite a revenue bump of 29 percent. The decision to stop disclosing unit sales is because that figure is "not representative of underlying strength of our business," Maestri said. "A unit of sale is less relevant today than it was in our past," he says, adding that unit sales increase are still a clear part of Apple's goals. While unit sales may not accurately represent Apple's business performance, it's a figure that analysts and journalists have used to calculate a product's average selling price. For example, that number can provide insight into how well different iPhone models are selling, as newer iPhones like the XS, XS Max, and XR are priced higher than older models like the now-discontinued SE, 6S, and 6.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's truth-will-prevail department
Tesla said in a regulatory filing Friday that the SEC and Justice Department are investigating their Model 3 production projections to see if they misled investors. CNBC reports: The filing confirms much of an Oct. 26 article in The Wall Street Journal that said FBI agents were looking at whether Tesla misled investors about production of its Model 3 sedans. The FBI is the principal investigative arm of the Justice Department. The SEC, which just settled its securities fraud investigation against CEO Elon Musk and the company, has separately subpoenaed Tesla for Musk's statements about production rates regarding its popular Model 3 sedan, the company said. DOJ prosecutors have also asked for the same information, although it stopped short of issuing a formal subpoena, the company said in a filing with the SEC. In an interview with Recode's Kara Swisher, Elon Musk denied the validity of the WSJ article. "The amount of untruthful stuff that is written is unbelievable. Take that Wall Street Journal front-page article about, like, 'The FBI is closing in.' That is utterly false. That's absurd," Musk told Swisher. "To print such a falsehood on the front page of a major newspaper is outrageous. Like, why are they even journalists? They're terrible. Terrible people."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's here-goes-nothing department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Magazine: In the first attempt of its kind, researchers plan to sequence all known species of eukaryotic life -- 66,000 species of animals, plants, fungi, and protozoa -- in a single country, the United Kingdom. The announcement was made here today at the official launch of an even grander $4.7 billion global effort, called the Earth BioGenome Project (EBP), to sequence the genomes of all of Earth's known 1.5 million species of eukaryotes within a decade. The U.K. sequencing effort -- dubbed The Darwin Tree of Life project -- will now become part of the EBP mix. The Wellcome Sanger Institute in Hinxton, U.K., says it plans to sequence all known 66,000 species of eukaryotes found within the United Kingdom, except for its overseas territories. Collaborators will include the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Hinxton, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in the United Kingdom, and the Natural History Museum in London. Sanger will spend up to 50 million British pounds over 8 years, about 4% of its annual budget, on the first phase of the project, which will focus on developing the processes for sample collection, R&D on sequencing, and computational methods for assembling the genomes. Sanger director Mike Stratton said he expects another 100 million British pounds will be needed over the next 5 to 7 years for the bulk of sample collections and sequencing.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rest-in-peace department
Iwastheone shares a report from Ars Technica: Mario Segale, the Seattle real estate and construction business owner who inspired the name for Nintendo's famous mascot, passed away on October 27 according to reports from The Seattle Times and The Auburn Reporter. He was 84 years old. Segale owned the business park housing Nintendo's American arcade operation in the early '80s, when the company was busy converting thousands of disused Radarscope cabinets to play Donkey Kong. At the time, Nintendo of America President Minoru Arakawa and other executives were trying to come up with an Americanized name for the game's player avatar, who was still referred to as "Jumpman" at that point (a name that appears on early Donkey Kong cabinet art). As the story goes, when Segale came to Arakawa to demand payment for a late rent bill, inspiration struck. While the broad strokes of Segale's role in Mario's naming remain consistent, the particulars can change with the retelling. David Sheff's seminal Nintendo history Game Over suggests the executives exclaimed "Super Mario!" after Segale's visit in 1981 (though the book misspells his name "Segali"). As Benj Edwards notes in an in-depth 2010 exploration of the tale, though, the "Super" descriptor for the character wouldn't become common until the release of Super Mario Bros. in 1985. Other retellings over the years go so far as to suggest that the "Super" came from Segale's role as "superintendent" of the building, but these stories offer little in the way of direct evidence. Ars mentions a 1993 Seattle Times article that quotes Segale as joking, "You might say I'm still waiting for my royalty checks."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's big-ambitions department
chiefcrash shares a report from The New York Times about a man who wants to build a community based on the blockchain technology introduced by Bitcoin: An enormous plot of land in the Nevada desert -- bigger than nearby Reno -- has been the subject of local intrigue since a company with no history, Blockchains L.L.C., bought it for $170 million in cash this year. The man who owns the company, a lawyer and cryptocurrency millionaire named Jeffrey Berns, put on a helmet and climbed into a Polaris off-road vehicle last week to give a tour of the sprawling property and dispel a bit of the mystery. He imagines a sort of experimental community spread over about a hundred square miles, where houses, schools, commercial districts and production studios will be built. The centerpiece of this giant project will be the blockchain, a new kind of database that was introduced by Bitcoin. So far, he said, he has spent $300 million on the land, offices, planning and a staff of 70 people. And buying 67,000 largely undeveloped acres is a bit of old-fashioned, real estate risk-taking. Still, Mr. Berns said his ambition was not to be a real estate magnate or even to get rich -- or richer. He is promising to give away all decision-making power for the project and 90 percent of any dividends it generates to a corporate structure that will be held by residents, employees and future investors. That structure, which he calls a "distributed collaborative entity," is supposed to operate on a blockchain where everyone's ownership rights and voting powers will be recorded in a digital wallet. "In a keynote spectacle at Devcon4 in Prague, Berns announced some of their plans for the future, as well as some of their recent activities, such as buying two nuclear bomb shelters, a mountain fortress in Switzerland, and a bank," adds Slashdot reader chiefcrash.Read Replies (0)