By EditorDavid from Slashdot's lack-of-wisdom-of-crowds department
"Medical crowdfunding has become a billion-dollar industry practically overnight, led by sites like GoFundMe," reports Gizmodo, citing new research on its dark side: over a million dollars in donations "funneled to ludicrous, unscientific treatments for life-threatening diseases like cancer."
The authors of the study, published Thursday in The Lancet, searched for a particular kind of medical crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe: campaigns for cancer treatments that involved the use of homeopathy. Homeopathy might easily be considered the lowest-hanging fruit of medical quackery. The theory behind how it works is nonsensical (in short, its proponents claim water can be programmed with the "memory" of toxic substances that will then treat the symptoms they normally cause); there are no good studies that show it works; and its practitioners are some of the most brazen cranks this side of P.T. Barnum still kicking. "These treatments are the bunkiest of the bunk, just complete garbage," lead author Jeremy Snyder, a bioethicist at Simon Fraser University in Canada, told Gizmodo.
Snyder and his co-author found that over 200 GoFundMe campaigns, as of June 2018, had been created to help fund homeopathic cancer treatments...and were shared on Facebook more than 100,000 times in total. They collectively asked for more than $5 million in funding, and raised $1.4 million from over 13,000 donors.... Snyder and his co-author also tried to find out what ultimately happened to the people behind all these campaigns. Sometimes, the campaigns would have final updates reporting the person had died; other times, they were able to track down obituaries. In total, they found that 28 percent of the people had died by the time of their search. But even that might be an underestimate...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's road-sharing-vs-ride-sharing department
The percentage of Americans biking to work has dropped for the third year straight, reports the U.S. Census Bureau. An anonymous reader quotes USA Today:
Nationally, the percentage of people who say they use a bike to get to work fell by 3.2 percent from 2016 to 2017, to an average of 836,569 commuters, according to the bureau's latest American Community Survey, which regularly asks a group of Americans about their habits. That's down from a high of 904,463 in 2014, when it peaked after four straight years of increases....
Experts offered several explanations for the nationwide decrease that has unfolded even as cities spent millions trying to become more bike-friendly. Most obviously, lower gasoline prices and a stronger economy contributed to strong auto sales and less interest in cheaper alternatives, such as mass transit and bikes. The rise of ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft and electric scooters cut into bike commuting, said Dave Snyder, executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition.
In at least two American cities -- Cleveland and Tampa -- the number of bike commuters has dropped by 50%.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's creating-not-consuming department
Tech Republic re-visits the story of the earliest attempts to build the Raspberry Pi, and the dramatic launch of a quest "to rekindle the curiosity about computing in a generation immersed in technology but indifferent to how it worked."
[T]he dominant computers -- games consoles and later tablets and smartphones -- no longer offered an invitation to create, but rather to consume. Eben Upton recalls a bonfire party in 2007 where an 11-year-old boy told him he wanted to be an electrical engineer, and his disappointment at realizing the boy didn't have access to a computer he could program on. "I said, 'Oh, what computer have you got?'. He said, 'I've got a Nintendo Wii'. And there was just that awful feeling about there being a kid who was excited, a kid who was showing concrete interest in our profession, and who didn't have access to a programmable computer, a computer of any sort. He just had a games console."
At this time Upton was working as a system-on-a-chip architect at chip designer Broadcom, and realized he had the skills to try to halt this drift away from computers that encouraged users to code.
Upton describes the Raspberry Pi as "a very conscious attempt" to bring back the easily programmable home computers that he remembered as a child in the 1980s -- and he was gratified at its success. "Even early on you started to see those pictures of kids lying on the living room floor, looking up at the TV with Raspberry Pi plugged into it, the same way we used to."
It was named "Pi" because it booted into a version of Python, and Raspberry because "There's a lot of fruit-named computer companies, and the 'blowing a raspberry' thing was also deliberate."
It's gone on to become the world's third best-selling general-purpose computer.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's open-source-under-the-hood department
ZDNet reports that by 2020, "many, if not most, new cars will be running with Linux."
While some companies, like Tesla, run their own homebrew Linux distros, most rely on Automotive Grade Linux (AGL). AGL is a collaborative cross-industry effort developing an open platform for connected cars with over 140 members... Its membership includes Audi, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Mercedes, Suzuki, and the world's biggest automobile company: Toyota. Why? "Automakers are becoming software companies, and just like in the tech industry, they are realizing that open source is the way forward," said Dan Cauchy, AGL's executive director, in a statement.
Car companies know that while horsepower sells, customers also want smart infotainment systems, automated safe drive features, and, eventually, self-driving cars. Linux and open-source company can give them all of that. The AGL's goal is to develop an open-source, common platform for infotainment systems: The Unified Code Base (UCB). This is a Linux distribution and open-source software platform for car infotainment, telematics, and instrument cluster applications... The AGL's hope is that this will serve as a de facto industry standard. It's well on its way.
Yesterday Hyundai announced that they were also joining both the AGL effort and the Linux Foundation.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's owned-by-Microsoft department
LinkedIn had 590 million members -- though back in 2016 Microsoft conceded that less than 25% of the service's members were active. Yet CNBC recently shared estimates that 95% of recruiters are using LinkedIn to find candidates, and touted a new tool called "LinkedIn Hashtags" which lets companies highlight policies like "#dogfriendly" or "#freelunch".
But is LinkedIn really helpful for job-seekers? An anonymous Slashdot reader writes:
I'm on unemployment and am looking for a new job, and I've been told "Oh, you need to be on LinkedIn if you want to be taken seriously!"
So I go there, and it looks like Facebook or something, wants to scrape my email contacts, upload pictures, and so on.
Is LinkedIn really necessary, or is it just a ruse to get me to give them all sorts of personal information like all other social media sites?
"I'm also unemployed and looking for a job," adds another anonymous Slashdot reader, "and have all my crap on Linkedin and Indeed, and have been using them to apply left and right. If they aren't useful anymore I'm essentially sitting on my hands doing nothing."
But Slashdot reader tomhath insists that LinkedIn "was never relevant. Their motto was that you didn't exist if you're not there -- but that was only their marketing hype, not reality."
Leave your own thoughts in the comments. Is LinkedIn still relevant?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's looks-like-BB-8 department
"Scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission released the first detailed images of the most distant object ever explored," reports the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (which is operating the spacecraft). "Its remarkable appearance, unlike anything we've seen before, illuminates the processes that built the planets four and a half billion years ago."
Tablizer (Slashdot reader #95,088) shares their report:
"The new images -- taken from as close as 17,000 miles (27,000 kilometers) on approach -- revealed Ultima Thule as a "contact binary," consisting of two connected spheres. End to end, the world measures 19 miles (31 kilometers) in length. The team has dubbed the larger sphere "Ultima" (12 miles/19 kilometers across) and the smaller sphere "Thule" (9 miles/14 kilometers across). The team says that the two spheres likely joined as early as 99 percent of the way back to the formation of the solar system, colliding no faster than two cars in a fender-bender...
Data from the New Year's Day flyby will continue to arrive over the next weeks and months, with much higher resolution images yet to come.
Space.com reports that astronomers are now hunting for moons near Ultima Thule. At a Thursday news conference, a New Horizons co-investigator from the SETI Institute explained that the rotation of Ultima Thule appears to have been slowed by orbiting moons, and the discovery of "Any moon at all, on any orbit at all, will tell us the mass and the density to pretty decent usable precision." Although it's also possible that the moons of Ultima Thule have since drifted away.
Space.com adds that the New Horizons spacecraft "has enough fuel and power, and is in good enough health, to potentially fly past a third object, if NASA grants another mission extension."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's magic-internet-money-lawsuits department
Long-time Slashdot reader foxalopex writes:
It looks like Nvidia is going to be hit with a class action for investors who lost big when their stock price crashed more than 50% due to an overstock of GPU cards that were produced for the crypto-currency craze back in 2018.
The suit claims investors were told Nvidia had control of the situation until it crashed worse than even Nvidia had anticipated.
"The Company's public statements were false and materially misleading," argues the complaint from a Los Angeles law firm, seeking investors who purchased shares in NVIDIA between August 10, 2017 and November 15, 2018.
It was on November 15 that NVIDIA issued a statement that "excess channel inventory post the crypto-currency boom...will be corrected." Citing new products for machine learning, film rendering, and cloud computing, they added that "Our market position and growth opportunities are stronger than ever."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's summer-of-'72 department
General Motors was once the world's most profitable company -- for two decades -- and by 1970 its revenue was $22.8 billion (or $152 billion in today's dollars). But five weeks ago GM announced that it was finally ending small-car production and closing its Lordstown Assembly plant in Youngstown, Ohio.
So what went wrong? Quartz argues that GM's decline "began with its quest to turn people into machines," as "the company turned assembly work into an interlocking chain of discrete tasks, to be executed by robots whenever possible." In an article shared by Slashdot reader reporter, Quartz argues that seen in that light, the company's response to a 1972 strike "marked the beginning of the company's long but uneven descent, which would be characterized by a repeated impulse to bet on fancy, futuristic but unproven technologies while undervaluing its workers."
But the strike also raised larger issues for "a massive special task force" issuing a federal report on the quality of working life in 1972, titled Work in America...
[T]echnology had failed in its promise to free humans from drudgery and wring profit from their talents, the authors said. On the contrary, the new jobs created generally required minimal expertise and therefore prevented workers from honing their skills. That stymied career mobility and left people mired in the same torpor of boredom for decades. Despite this, America continued to offer its young people increasingly rigorous education -- even as work life left little opportunity to apply it.... The larger hopes and ambitions of Work in America -- the vision that saw satisfying work itself as essential to the health of American society and democracy -- exists now as little but a curio in the footnotes of academic journals....
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-its-kind department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: China will introduce the world's first driverless trains to run at speeds of up to 217 mph (350 km/h) on the Beijing-Zhangjiakou railway line. The automatic operation bullet trains were trialled on a section of the Beijing-Shenyang line in 2018 by the China Railway Corporation (CRC) and the system passed all safety tests. "The bullet train can automatically depart, operate between stations and adjust the train's operation to meet its precise timetable after a single button is pressed," a researcher from China Academy of Railway Sciences told the Sciences and Technology Daily. A driver currently performs these operations on high-speed trains.
For the first 10 years of the high-speed ATO trains, an attendant will still be deployed on board to ensure nothing goes wrong. After that, the trains will be totally driverless. Experts say this should improve safety long-term. "An automatic driving system could greatly improve the safety of trains which run on high-speed railways, compared with human drivers who may have sudden health problems or disregard safety precautions during driving," Sun Zhang, a railway expert and professor at Shanghai Tongji University, told the Global Times. The Beijing-Zhangjiakou Line is currently being constructed for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, "to enable easy travel between Beijing and the Winter Olympic Village in 50 minutes," the report says.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's historic-NASA-news department
NASA's asteroid-chasing Osiris-Rex spacecraft has been placed in an orbit around Bennu, an asteroid that drifts through the solar system's asteroid belt between Earth and Mars. "By inserting itself into orbit around Bennu, Osiris-Rex will survey the asteroid from a distance of only about 1 mile (1.75 kilometers) from its center," reports CNET. "Bennu's small size creates an incredibly tiny gravitational force, so maintaining that orbit will require lots of little adjustments, made by NASA and its collaborating organizations." From the report: "The gravity of Bennu is so small, forces like solar radiation and thermal pressure from Bennu's surface become much more relevant and can push the spacecraft around in its orbit much more than if it were orbiting around Earth or Mars, where gravity is by far the most dominant force," said Dan Wibben, maneuver and trajectory design lead. NASA also released a GIF of the various surveys Osiris-Rex carried out after arriving at Bennu in early December The series of images, captured between Nov. 30 and Dec. 31, helped the team more accurately determine Bennu's mass, which ensured that the orbital insertion would proceed smoothly.
The orbital period, lasting until mid-February, is expected to provide additional details about Bennu's gravity, orientation and spin, along with a better understanding of its mass. All those observations should lead to completing one of the chief objectives for Osiris-Rex: retrieve a sample from Bennu's surface and fly it back to Earth. In 2020, the spacecraft will extend a specially designed arm, called Tagsam, for a brief high-five with the asteroid. The arm will blow nitrogen gas onto the surface of Bennu, kicking up handfuls of dirt, which the spacecraft will fly back to Earth in 2023.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's look-out department
The "super blood wolf moon eclipse" is coming to a sky near you later this month. "The total lunar eclipse will start late on Sunday, Jan. 20 and finish early on Monday, Jan. 21," reports USA Today. Slashdot reader Zorro shares the report: Total lunar eclipse: A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon and the sun are on exact opposite sides of Earth, according to NASA. When this happens, Earth blocks the sunlight that normally reaches the moon. Instead of that sunlight hitting the moon's surface, Earth's shadow falls on it. Starting at 9:36 p.m. EST Jan. 20, skywatchers will notice a "little notch is taken out of the moon," according to Brian Murphy, director of Indiana's Holcomb Observatory & Planetarium and Butler University professor. At 10:34 p.m., it moves into a partial eclipse, and starting at 11:41 p.m., the full eclipse begins; a maximum eclipse occurs at 12:12 a.m. Jan. 21. The total eclipse ends at 12:44 a.m. Supermoon: A supermoon occurs when the full moon is at the closest point of its orbit to the Earth (perigee). That makes the moon look extra-close and extra bright -- up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter than a full moon at its farthest point from Earth, known as the apogee, NASA said. This is the first of three supermoons in 2019. The others will be on Feb. 19 and March 21. Of these, the Feb. 19 full moon will be the closest and largest full supermoon of 2019.
"Blood" moon: That is just the reddish color the moon will appear during the total lunar eclipse. "Wolf" moon: According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, Native Americans called the January full moon the "wolf" moon because it appeared when wolves howled in hunger outside the villages.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's decisions-decisions department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Magazine: How far will Plan S spread? Since the September 2018 launch of the Europe-backed program to mandate immediate open access (OA) to scientific literature, 16 funders in 13 countries have signed on. That's still far shy of Plan S's ambition: to convince the world's major research funders to require immediate OA to all published papers stemming from their grants. Whether it will reach that goal depends in part on details that remain to be settled, including a cap on the author charges that funders will pay for OA publication. But the plan has gained momentum: In December 2018, China stunned many by expressing strong support for Plan S. This month, a national funding agency in Africa is expected to join, possibly followed by a second U.S. funder. Others around the world are considering whether to sign on. Plan S, scheduled to take effect on 1 January 2020, has drawn support from many scientists, who welcome a shake-up of a publishing system that can generate large profits while keeping taxpayer-funded research results behind paywalls. But publishers (including AAAS, which publishes Science) are concerned, and some scientists worry that Plan S could restrict their choices.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's add-insult-to-injury department
Researchers at the University of Maryland have managed to trick Google's reCaptcha system by using Google's own speech-to-text service. "[The researchers] claim that their CAPTCHA-fooling method, unCaptcha, can fool Google's reCaptcha, one of the most popular CAPTCHA systems currently used by hundreds of thousands of websites, with a 90 percent success rate," reports Motherboard. From the report: The researchers originally developed UnCaptcha in 2017, which uses Google's own free speech-to-text service to trick the system into thinking a robot is a human. It's an oroborus of bots: According to their paper, UnCaptcha downloads the audio captcha, segments the audio into individual digit audio clips, uploads the segments to multiple other speech-to-text services (including Google's), then converts these services' responses to digits. After a little homophone guesswork, it then decides which speech-to-text output is closest to accurate, and uploads the answer to the CAPTCHA field. This old method returned an 85% success rate.
After the release of that version of unCaptcha, Google fixed some of the loopholes that made it work, including better browser automation detection and switching to spoken phrases, rather than digits. The researchers claim that their new method, updated in June, gets around these improvements and is even more accurate than before, at 90 percent. "We have been in contact with the ReCaptcha team for over six months and they are fully aware of this attack," the researchers write. "The team has allowed us to release the code, despite its current success."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
According to a new study published in the journal EClinicalMedicine, the link between social media use and depressive symptoms in 14-year-olds may be much stronger for girls than boys. CNN reports: Among teens who use social media the most -- more than five hours a day -- the study showed a 50% increase in depressive symptoms among girls versus 35% among boys, when their symptoms were compared with those who use social media for only one to three hours daily. Yet the study, conducted in the UK, showed only an association between social media use and symptoms of depression, which can include feelings of unhappiness, restlessness or loneliness. The findings cannot prove that frequent social media use caused depressive symptoms, or vice versa. The study also described other factors, such as lack of sleep and cyberbullying, that could help explain this association.
For the study, researchers analyzed data on 10,904 14-year-olds who were born between 2000 and 2002 in the United Kingdom. The data, which came from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, included information from questionnaires on the teens' depressive symptoms and social media use. Depressive symptoms were recorded as scores, and the researchers looked at which teens had high or low scores. They found that on average, girls had higher depressive symptom scores compared with boys. The researchers also found that girls reported more social media use than boys; 43.1% of girls said they used social media for three or more hours per day, versus 21.9% of boys. The data showed that for teens using social media for three to five hours, 26% of girls and 21% of boys had depressive symptom scores higher than those who used social media for only about one to three hours a day. As for the gender gap, Yvonne Kelly, first author of the study and professor of epidemiology and public health, believes it has to do with "the types of things that girls and boys do online."
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department
Early last year, Netflix allowed some iOS users in more than two dozen markets to bypass the iTunes payment method as part of an experiment. The streaming company is now incorporating the change globally, curbing a $256 million revenue stream for Apple. "According to new data compiled by Sensor Tower, Netflix grossed $853 million in 2018 on the iOS App Store," reports TechCrunch. "Based on that figure, Apple's take would have been around $256 million, the firm said." The new policy change allows Netflix to avoid paying the 15% levy that Apple charges on in-app subscriptions. From a report: "We no longer support iTunes as a method of payment for new members," a Netflix spokesperson told VentureBeat. Existing members, however, can continue to use iTunes as a method of payment, the spokesperson added. The company did not share exactly when it rolled out the change globally, but a support representative VentureBeat spoke with pegged the timeframe as late last month. Additionally, the support rep added that customers who are rejoining Netflix using an iOS device, after having canceled payment for at least one month, also won't be able to use iTunes billing. The move, which will allow Netflix to keep all proceeds from its new paying iPhone and iPad customers, underscores the tension between developers and the marquee distributors of mobile apps -- Apple and Google.Read Replies (0)