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Tesla, Panasonic Are Freezing Plans To Add More Battery Production Lines At Gigafactory
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 03:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's modified-plans department:
Tesla and Panasonic are reportedly freezing their plans to add more battery production lines at Gigafactory 1, its massive factory outside of Reno, Nevada that is a cornerstone to the automaker's business. "The partners had planned to increase capacity by 50 percent next year, but financial problems have forced a rethink," reports TechCrunch, citing a report from Nikkei. "Nikkei also reported that Panasonic was suspending a planned investment in Tesla's automotive battery and EV plant in Shanghai." From the report: TechCrunch confirmed that Tesla is not adding more battery production lines and will instead focus its efforts on existing equipment. Tesla stressed that it will continue to make new investments as needed into the plant. However, the automaker noted that attention and investments might be focused on improving existing equipment to increase battery cell output.

As of November, Panasonic had 11 production lines operating at Gigafactory 1. Panasonic president President Kazuhiro Tsuga told Bloomberg that the company planned to add two more lines by the end of the year to bring total capacity up to 35 gigawatt-hours. The last number shared by Tesla is from July when the company reported an annualized run rate of 20 gigawatt-hours of capacity. It's not clear if those two production lines were added. "We will of course continue to make new investments in Gigafactory 1, as needed. However, we think there is far more output to be gained from improving existing production equipment than was previously estimated," a Tesla spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.

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How To Stop Amazon From Listening To Your Alexa Recordings
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 03:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
Yesterday, Bloomberg dropped a bombshell report revealing that Amazon employs thousands of people around the world to listen to voice recordings captured in Echo owners' homes and offices, and uses them to improve its Alexa digital assistant. "The recordings are transcribed, annotated and then fed back into the software as part of an effort to eliminate gaps in Alexa's understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands," the report says. "A screenshot reviewed by Bloomberg shows that the recordings sent to the Alexa auditors don't provide a user's full name and address but are associated with an account number, as well as the user's first name and the device's serial number."

While many have assumed that this was already happening behind the scenes, it may still come as a surprise to see proof of the practice. Thankfully, there is a way to stop Amazon from listening to your Alexa recordings. Tom's Guide explains: 1. In the Alexa app, access Settings. You'll find this button at the bottom of the menu in the top left corner of the home screen. 2. Click on Alexa Account. This should be at the top of the page. 3. Select Alexa Privacy. You'll be taken to Amazon's external Alexa privacy page. You can review a number of things here, including our voice history, skill permissions, and other data settings.

4. Tap "Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa."

5. Toggle "Help Develop New Features" and "Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions" to Off. Alexa will no longer learn and improve from your responses, but your recordings will be safe and sound.

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EU Tells Internet Archive That Much Of Its Site Is 'Terrorist Content'
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 01:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department:
Mike Masnick, reporting for TechDirt: We've been trying to explain for the past few months just how absolutely insane the new EU Terrorist Content Regulation will be for the internet. Among many other bad provisions, the big one is that it would require content removal within one hour as long as any "competent authority" within the EU sends a notice of content being designated as "terrorist" content. The law is set for a vote in the EU Parliament just next week. And as if they were attempting to show just how absolutely insane the law would be for the internet, multiple European agencies (we can debate if they're "competent") decided to send over 500 totally bogus takedown demands to the Internet Archive last week, claiming it was hosting terrorist propaganda content. [...] And just in case you think that maybe the requests are somehow legit, they are so obviously bogus that anyone with a browser would know they are bogus. Included in the list of takedown demands are a bunch of the Archive's "collection pages" including the entire Project Gutenberg page of public domain texts, it's collection of over 15 million freely downloadable texts, the famed Prelinger Archive of public domain films and the Archive's massive Grateful Dead collection. Oh yeah, also a page of CSPAN recordings. So much terrorist content!

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Moon Landing By Israel's Beresheet Spacecraft Appears To End In Crash
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 01:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's better-luck-next-time department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: A small spacecraft that has captured the imagination and excitement of people in Israel and around the world appears to have crashed on the moon (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). "We had a failure in the spacecraft," said Opher Doron, the general manager of Israel Aerospace Industries' space division, which collaborated on building the spacecraft. "We unfortunately have not managed to land successfully."

If it had succeeded, the robotic lander, named Beresheet, which means "Genesis" or "in the beginning" in Hebrew, would have been the first on the moon built by a private organization, and it would have added Israel to just three nations -- the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China -- to have accomplished that feat. Beresheet reached the launchpad and was headed to space aboard a SpaceX rocket in February. It orbited the moon, by itself a major accomplishment. That has only been done by five nations -- the United States, the former Soviet Union, China, Japan and India -- and the European Space Agency. But the landing was the riskiest part of the mission. The start of the automated landing sequence went as planned. The spacecraft even took a picture of itself at an altitude of 13 miles with the moon in the background. Then, still high above the surface, the engine cut out. The appointed landing time -- 10:25 p.m. in Israel, or 3:25 p.m. Eastern time -- came and passed, and the SpaceIL team realized the mission was over. "Well we didn't make it, but we definitely tried," said Morris Kahn, an Israeli telecommunications entrepreneur and president of SpaceIL, the nonprofit that undertook the mission. "And I think the achievement of getting to where we got is really tremendous. I think we can be proud."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said, "If at first you don't succeed, you try again."

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Google's Next Big Money Maker Could Be the Maps on Your Phone
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
Google became the world's most profitable internet company on the back of search advertising. Now, it's turning another popular web service into a major cash machine. From a report: Google Maps is an indispensable part of life for more than 1 billion people, who use it to commute, explore new cities or find a hot new restaurant. The service has been mostly free, and free from ads, since it launched 14 years ago.

Interviews with Google executives and customers show this is changing as the internet giant increases the ways advertisers can reach Maps users, while raising prices for some businesses that use the underlying technology. The app now regularly highlights sponsored locations, and shows extra paid listings when people look for nearby gas stations, coffee shops or other businesses. "There's a big opportunity for them to ramp up monetization," said Andy Taylor, associate director of research at digital marketing agency Merkle. "They've been slow-playing it."

"Sometimes I say the most under-monetized asset that I cover is Google Maps," Brian Nowak, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, said while interviewing Google's business chief Philipp Schindler at a recent conference. "It's almost like a utility where it's kind of waiting for you to flip the switch on." Schindler's response showed that Google isn't waiting anymore.

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MIT Says We're Overlooking a Near-Term Solution To Diesel Trucking Emissions
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-ahead department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Trucking in the US is still driven by diesel-fueled, compression-ignition (CI), internal combustion engines. Daniel Cohn and Leslie Bromberg, a pair of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), published a paper with the Society of Automotive Engineers, suggesting that the best way forward is not to wait for all-electric or hydrogen-powered semis, but to build a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) truck with an internal combustion engine/generator that can burn either gasoline or renewable ethanol or methanol. Such a setup preserves the range and affordability that's expected of diesel long-haul trucks while significantly reducing the emissions associated with diesel. To boot, it's a near-term solution; no waiting for battery weight to fall or hydrogen refueling stations to be installed.

A hybrid heavy-duty system isn't a completely novel idea, though a PHEV system has yet to be widely applied and tested in long-haul heavy-duty trucking. A company called Hyliion introduced a hybrid electric-diesel truck in 2017, and San Diego uses a hybrid electric-compressed natural gas bus on its transit system, though the former still grapples with diesel emissions and the latter is not for long-haul use. But there are some distinct problems with all-electric and all-diesel trucks that a hybrid flex-fuel truck could solve. First, freight companies are looking for the cheapest way to transport goods from point A to point B, so expensive electric vehicles don't make short-term economic sense, especially if you're competing with other freight companies using cheaper diesel engines.

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To Answer Critics, YouTube Tries a New Metric: Responsibility
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
YouTube is changing the way it measures success on the world's biggest video site following a series of scandals. There's just one problem: The company is still deciding how this new approach works, Bloomberg reports. From the report: The Google division introduced two new internal metrics in the past two years for gauging how well videos are performing, according to people familiar with the company's plans. One tracks the total time people spend on YouTube, including comments they post and read (not just the clips they watch). The other is a measurement called "quality watch time," a squishier statistic with a noble goal: To spot content that achieves something more constructive than just keeping users glued to their phones.

The changes are supposed to reward videos that are more palatable to advertisers and the broader public, and help YouTube ward off criticism that its service is addictive and socially corrosive. Creating the right metric for success could help marginalize videos that are inappropriate, or popular among small but active communities with extreme views. It could also help YouTube make up for previous failures in curbing the spread of toxic content. YouTube, like other parts of Alphabet's Google, uses these corporate metrics as goal posts for most business and technical decisions -- how it pays staff and creates critical software like its recommendation system. But the company has yet to settle on how the "quality watch time" metric works, or communicate how the new measure will impact millions of "creators" who upload videos to the site.

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Gmail Becomes First Major Email Provider To Support MTA-STS and TLS Reporting
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Google announced this week that Gmail has become the first major email provider to support two new security standards, namely MTA-STS and TLS Reporting. From a report: Both are extensions to the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), the protocol through which all emails are sent today. The purpose of MTA-STS and TLS Reporting is to help email providers establish cryptographically secure connections between each other, with the main goal of twarthing SMTP man-in-the-middle attacks. SMTP man-in-the-middle attacks are a major problem for today's email landscape, where rogue email server operators can intercept, read, and modify the contents of people's emails. The two new standards will prevent this by allowing legitimate email providers to create a secure channel for exchanging emails.

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Much To Oracle's Chagrin, Pentagon Names Microsoft and Amazon as $10B JEDI Cloud Contract Finalists
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
The Pentagon this week announced two finalists in the $10 billion, decade-long JEDI cloud contract process -- and Oracle was not one of them. From a report: In spite of lawsuits, official protests and even back-channel complaining to the president, the two finalists are Microsoft and Amazon. "After evaluating all of the proposals received, the Department of Defense has made a competitive range determination for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud request for proposals, in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations. The two companies within the competitive range will participate further in the procurement process," Elissa Smith, DoD spokesperson for Public Affairs Operations told TechCrunch. She added that those two finalists were in fact Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS, the cloud computing arm of Amazon).

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Ford CEO Says the Company 'Overestimated' Self-Driving Cars
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 09:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's in-hindsight department:
Ford CEO Jim Hackett scaled back hopes about the company's plans for self-driving cars this week, admitting that the first vehicles will have limits. From a report: "We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles," said Hackett, who once headed the company's autonomous vehicle division, at a Detroit Economic Club event on Tuesday. While Ford still plans on launching its self-driving car fleet in 2021, Hackett added that "its applications will be narrow, what we call geo-fenced, because the problem is so complex." Hackett's announcement comes nearly six months after its CEO of autonomous vehicles, Sherif Markaby, detailed plans for the company's self-driving car service in a Medium post. The company has invested over $4 billion in the technology's development through 2023, including over $1 billion in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company that is creating a virtual driver system. Ford is currently testing its self-driving vehicles in Miami, Washington, D.C. and Detroit.

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Dutch Regulators Want To Know Whether Apple is Favoring Its Own Apps
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
Apple has another antitrust problem in Europe. Dutch regulators said Thursday that they have opened an investigation into whether Apple has abused its market position by giving preferential treatment to its own apps. From a report: The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets said in a statement that app providers have submitted evidence "which seem to indicate that Apple abuses its position in the App Store." The regulator said it had been studying the issue for 10 months. It said the probe would initially focus on Apple, but it also called on app providers to report any issues with Google's Play Store. "Apps have increasingly become important parts of our daily lives," said the regulator, which added that it "expects Apple and Google to exhibit fair and transparent behavior."
Apple said in a statement that it is "confident" the review "will confirm all developers have an equal opportunity to succeed in the App Store." The move comes after Spotify launched a similar complaint against Apple last month with the European Commission.

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Gartner and IDC Agree: Global PC Shipments Fell To Exactly 58.5 Million in Q1 2019
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's curb-your-enthusiasm department:
The PC market is still in decline, according to research firms Gartner and IDC. That's nothing new for the duo to agree on, but coincidentally they also (for the first time?) estimated the exact same number of PC shipments: 58.5 million in Q1 2019. From a report: Gartner and IDC also both found PC shipments were down globally year-over-year. So far, 2019 looks like more of the same. After six years of quarterly PC shipment declines, 2018 brought a positive Q2, a flat Q3 ... and then a negative Q4. Gartner and IDC analysts have pointed to CPU shortages as contributing to this past quarter's decline. But that just seems to be an excuse for reality: The PC simply isn't as in-demand as it once was. The top six vendors were Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple, Asus, and Acer, per Gartner.

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Dragonblood Vulnerabilities Disclosed in Wi-Fi WPA3 Standard
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 07:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
Two security researchers disclosed details this week about a group of vulnerabilities collectively referred to as Dragonblood that impact the Wi-Fi Alliance's recently launched WPA3 Wi-Fi security and authentication standard. From a report: If ever exploited, the vulnerabilities would allow an attacker within the range of a victim's network to recover the Wi-Fi password and infiltrate the target's network. In total, five vulnerabilities are part of the Dragonblood ensemble -- a denial of service attack, two downgrade attacks, and two side-channel information leaks.

While the denial of service attack is somewhat unimportant as it only leads to crashing WPA3-compatible access points, the other four are the ones that can be used to recover user passwords. Both the two downgrade attacks and two side-channel leaks exploit design flaws in the WPA3 standard's Dragonfly key exchange -- the mechanism through which clients authenticate on a WPA3 router or access point. In a downgrade attack, Wi-Fi WPA3-capable networks can be coerced in using an older and more insecure password exchange systems, which can allow attackers to retrieve the network passwords using older flaws.

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A New Bill Would Force Companies To Check Their Algorithms For Bias
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 05:50 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's check-yo-self-before-you-wreck-yo-self department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: U.S. lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require large companies to audit machine learning-powered systems -- like facial recognition or ad targeting algorithms -- for bias. The Algorithmic Accountability Act is sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), with a House equivalent sponsored by Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY). If passed, it would ask the Federal Trade Commission to create rules for evaluating "highly sensitive" automated systems. Companies would have to assess whether the algorithms powering these tools are biased or discriminatory, as well as whether they pose a privacy or security risk to consumers.

The Algorithmic Accountability Act is aimed at major companies with access to large amounts of information. It would apply to companies that make over $50 million per year, hold information on at least 1 million people or devices, or primarily act as data brokers that buy and sell consumer data. These companies would have to evaluate a broad range of algorithms -- including anything that affects consumers' legal rights, attempts to predict and analyze their behavior, involves large amounts of sensitive data, or "systematically monitors a large, publicly accessible physical place." That would theoretically cover a huge swath of the tech economy, and if a report turns up major risks of discrimination, privacy problems, or other issues, the company is supposed to address them within a timely manner.

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Magnetic Field Reversals Unlikely To Be a Problem For Life, Says Astronomer
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 03:11 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's unwarranted-hysteria department:
RockDoctor writes: A common trope in "the world is going to end, maybe tomorrow" alarmism is the prospect of the earth undergoing one of its frequent (but aperiodic) magnetic field reversals. Popular conceptions have migrating birds falling out of the sky, satellites and GPS systems no longer working, and much other such silliness. Of course, geologists point out that it has literally all happened before, that there is no significant association of extinction with reversals, and that what evidence there is points to a reversal taking a number of centuries to millennia to achieve. And then the next story comes out and the same old "sky is falling" garbage comes out again.
Just for a change, an astronomer has thrown in his few cents worth. In a letter to The Astrophysical Journal (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), Manasvi Lingam of Harvard University looks at the implications of a magnetic reversal, or of the "switching on" of the Earth's "dynamo" on the flux of radiation experienced by an organism living near the surface. Lingam deduces that during a reversal (or before the dynamo started) "neither the biological radiation dose rates [...] would vary by more than a factor of 2." Behind the "..." is a prospect which will appeal to those looking for ways to die, as "the atmospheric escape rate" is also somewhat affected by the strength of the magnetic field. As a theoretical astronomer, Lingam agrees with the geological record (yay!) that field reversals are unlikely to have major effects on life, or on the atmosphere, or really, on anything other than astronomers' and geophysicists' gauges and dials. None of this will even slightly slow down the overblown hysteria that accompanies the next twitch of the magnetic field.

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Wikileaks Co-founder Julian Assange Arrested in London
Posted by News Fetcher on April 11 '19 at 01:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's breaking-news department:
Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange has been arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where the WikiLeaks founder was granted refuge in 2012 while on bail in the UK over sexual assault allegations against him in Sweden. From a report: At the time, Assange claimed that if he was extradited to Sweden he might be arrested by the US and face charges relating to WikiLeaks's publication of hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables. The journalist and Assange supporter John Pilger called last week for people to "fill the street outside the embassy and protect him and show solidarity with a courageous man." US authorities have never officially confirmed that they have charged Assange, but in November 2018 a mistake in a document filed in an unrelated case hinted that criminal charges might have been prepared in secret. London's Metropolitan police released a statement which said officers had executed a warrant after the Ecuadorian government withdrew asylum.

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'Hyperscans' Show How Brains Sync As People Interact
Posted by News Fetcher on April 10 '19 at 11:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's social-neuroscience department:
"A growing cadre of neuroscientists is using sophisticated technology -- and some very complicated math -- to capture what happens in one brain, two brains, or even 12 or 15 at a time when their owners are engaged in eye contact, storytelling, joint attention focused on a topic or object, or any other activity that requires social give and take," reports Scientific American. "Although the field of interactive social neuroscience is in its infancy, the hope remains that identifying the neural underpinnings of real social exchange will change our basic understanding of communication and ultimately improve education or inform treatment of the many psychiatric disorders that involve social impairments." Here's an excerpt from the report: [T]he first study to successfully monitor two brains at the same time took place nearly 20 years ago. Physicist Read Montague, now at Virginia Tech, and his colleagues put two people in separate functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines and observed their brain activity as they engaged in a simple competitive game in which one player (the sender) transmitted a signal about whether he or she had just seen the color red or green and the other player (the receiver) had to decide if the sender was telling the truth or lying. Correct guesses resulted in rewards. Montague called the technique hyperscanning, and his work proved it was possible to observe two brains at once.

< article continued at Slashdot's social-neuroscience department >

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Scientists Have Found 600 New Cancer Vulnerabilities, Each Could Be the Target of a Drug
Posted by News Fetcher on April 10 '19 at 08:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's lost-and-found department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Scientists have taken cancer apart piece-by-piece to reveal its weaknesses, and come up with new ideas for treatment. A team at the Wellcome Sanger Institute disabled every genetic instruction, one at a time, inside 30 types of cancer. It has thrown up 600 new cancer vulnerabilities and each could be the target of a drug. Cancer Research UK praised the sheer scale of the study.

The researchers disrupted nearly 20,000 genes in more than 300 lab-grown tumors made from 30 different types of cancer. The results, published in the journal Nature, revealed 6,000 crucial genes which at least one type of cancer needs to survive. Some were unsuitable for developing cancer drugs, as they are also essential in healthy cells. Others are already the target of precision drugs like Herceptin in breast cancer -- the team called this a "sanity check" that proves their method works. And yet more are beyond current science to develop suitable drugs, so the researchers narrowed down a shortlist of 600 potential new targets for drugs to attack.

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New Human Species Found In Philippines
Posted by News Fetcher on April 10 '19 at 07:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's family-tree department:
Major Blud writes: A newly discovered extinct species of human has been found in the Philippines. It's been named Homo Luzonensis after the island of Luzon where it was found. Homo Erectus has long thought to have been the first member of our direct line to leave the African homeland -- around 1.9 million years ago. The physical features of Homo Luzonensis are a mixture of those found in very ancient human ancestors and in more recent people. This could mean primitive human relatives left Africa and made it all the way to South-East Asia, something not previously thought possible, since Luzon was only ever accessible by sea. The paper detailing the discovery has been published in the journal Nature.

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Chinese Scientists Have Put Human Brain Genes In Monkeys -- And Yes, They May Be Smarter
Posted by News Fetcher on April 10 '19 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's understanding-the-evolution-of-human-cognition department:
Scientists in southern China report that they've created several transgenic macaque monkeys with extra copies of a human gene suspected of playing a role in shaping human intelligence. "According to their findings, the modified monkeys did better on a memory test involving colors and block pictures, and their brains also took longer to develop -- as those of human children do," reports MIT Technology Review. "There wasn't a difference in brain size." From the report: The experiments, described on March 27 in a Beijing journal, National Science Review, and first reported by Chinese media, remain far from pinpointing the secrets of the human mind or leading to an uprising of brainy primates. Bing Su, the geneticist at the Kunming Institute of Zoology who led the effort, specializes in searching for signs of "Darwinian selection" -- that is, genes that have been spreading because they're successful. His quest has spanned such topics as Himalayan yaks' adaptation to high altitude and the evolution of human skin color in response to cold winters. [Instead of the FOXP2 gene famous for its potential link to human speech] Su was fascinated by a different gene: MCPH1, or microcephalin. Not only did the gene's sequence differ between humans and apes, but babies with damage to microcephalin are born with tiny heads, providing a link to brain size. With his students, Su once used calipers and head spanners to the measure the heads of 867 Chinese men and women to see if the results could be explained by differences in the gene.

< article continued at Slashdot's understanding-the-evolution-of-human-cognition department >

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