By EditorDavid from Slashdot's bi-polar-disorder department
schwit1 quotes Nature:
Something strange is going on at the top of the world. Earth's north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet's core. The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world's geomagnetism experts into a rare move. [T]hey are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet's magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones. The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 -- but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now.
"The error is increasing all the time," says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) National Centers for Environmental Information.... By early 2018, the World Magnetic Model was in trouble. Researchers from NOAA and the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh had been doing their annual check of how well the model was capturing all the variations in Earth's magnetic field. They realized that it was so inaccurate that it was about to exceed the acceptable limit for navigational errors.
Nature's article was updated on January 9th to inform readers that the release of the corrected World Magnetic Model, which should restore accuracy through the end of 2019, has now been postponed from January 15th to January 30th -- "due to the ongoing US government shutdown."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's back-to-the-future department
"How does the actual, purchaseable consumer technology available in 2019 compare to what you -- back in the 1960s, '70s, '80s or '90s -- thought consumer technology might look like around the year 2020?" asks Slashdot reader dryriver.
Is today's consumer technology as advanced, inventive, groundbreaking and empowering as you imagined it would be 30, 40, 50 years ago? Or is the "technological future that has now actually arrived" different, in various ways, from how you'd hoped/imagined it might be a few decades back?
If so, what was different in your "future technologies imagination" than what is available to buy today?
Each generation received different dreams from the pop culture of their time. Back in 1969 an 18-year-old Kurt Russell starred in a Disney movie with a malfunctioning mainframe. By 1984 one TV series showed David Hasselhoff with his own talking self-driving car. But how close did your own personal predictions come, asks the original submission.
"Do today's technological gadgets manage to live up to how you imagined tech around the year 2020 would be, or do they fall short of what you hoped/imagined might exist by today?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's senior-momentum department
Long-time Slashdot reader Futurepower(R) shares this article about a newly-published study which counters previous theories that neurons stop developing after adolescence:
Healthy men and women continue to produce new neurons throughout life, suggesting older people remain more cognitively and emotionally intact than previously believed, researchers found. For decades it was thought that adult brains were hard-wired and unable to form new cells. But a Columbia University study found older people continued to produce neurons in the hippocampus -- a part of the brain important for memory, emotion and cognition -- at a similar rate to young people....
However, the researchers also noted fewer blood vessels and connections between cells in the older brains, which Ms Boldrini said "may be linked to compromised cognitive-emotional resilience" in the elderly.
The article suggests these newest findings may be hotly debated.
"They come just a month after a University of California study suggested adults do not develop new neurons."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's making-security-virtual-again department
As America's government faces its longest-ever shutdown over the president's demands for border wall funding, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested "possible alternatives to a physical wall," according to one Silicon Valley newspaper:
Among the president's justifications for a wall is to stop drugs from coming into the United States, so Pelosi proposed spending "hundreds of millions of dollars" for technology to scan cars for drugs, weapons and contraband at the border. "The positive, shall we say, almost technological wall that can be built is what we should be doing," Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said during her weekly press conference.
That didn't go over well with Fight for the Future, a digital rights advocacy group that on Friday started a petition asking Democrats to drop plans for a "technological wall" that it says could threaten Fourth Amendment rights that guard against unreasonable searches and seizures. "Current border surveillance programs subject people to invasive and unconstitutional searches of their cell phones and laptops, location tracking, drone surveillance, and problematic watchlists," the group's petition says...
In December, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General released a report that showed searches of electronic devices at the border were up nearly 50 percent in 2017. The report also found that border agents were not always following standard operating procedures for searches, including failing to properly document such searches. In addition, information copied by agents were not always deleted as required.
The article also notes that Anduril Industries -- founded by Oculus Rift designer Palmer Luckey (and funded by Peter Thiel) -- is one of several companies already working on "a virtual border wall."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's silicon-values department
A California assemblyman has introduced a law barring retailers from printing paper receipts unless a customer requests one. Otherwise they'd be required to provide proof-or-purchase receipts "only in electronic form."
An anonymous reader quotes CNBC:
Stores that give out printed receipts without first being asked by the customer could be subject to fines [of $25 per day, up to $300 per year].... Proponents of the bill say the legislation would help reduce waste as well as contaminants in the recycling stream from toxins often used to coat the paper-based receipts... Up to 10 million trees and 21 billion gallons of water are used annually in the U.S. to create receipts, according to Green America, a green ecology organization. It said receipts annually generate 686 million pounds of waste and 12 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, or the equivalent of 1 million cars on the road...
Then again, the use of electronic receipts raises some privacy concerns since retailers usually require an email address for an electronic receipt and companies will then be able to potentially track and collect more data about customers.
If the bill passes, digital receipts would become California's default option on January 1, 2022.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's bad-robots department
Last Saturday a firm which rents promotional robots claimed that one of their robots broke free from a line of robots, only to be hit by a self-driving Tesla.
Though video of the incident has now been viewed over 1.2 million times, Wired followed up on the company's claim that "Nevada police" were investigating the incident.
Or weren't. Aden Ocampo Gomez, a public information officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said he couldn't find any record of such an incident. And anyway, he says, "We don't report to that kind of incident on private property."
Wired also challenged Promobot's claim that their robot was hit by "a self-driving Tesla car":
Teslas don't have a "full self-driving" mode. Autopilot, the automaker's semiautonomous system, is made for highways, not the sort of private road shown in a video of the alleged crash published by the robotics company. Promobot seems to start falling over just a moment before the car gets to it. And that video appears to show a rope snaking away from the incident -- the sort that could be used, say, to pull down a robot that hadn't been hit by a car at all.
When Wired contacted the company for a comment, they didn't respond.
The company's press release also claims that after the collision "most likely there is no way to restore" their robot -- and yet the Daily Dot reports Promobot "does not intend to pursue reparations".Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's compilation-optimization department
Python "is often described as being slow when it comes to performance... But is that truly the case?" writes Patrick Wohlschlegel, Arm's senior product manager for infrastructure and high-performance computing tools.
Slashdot reader igor.sfiligoi writes:
Effectively profiling Python has always been a pain. Arm recently announced that their Arm Forge is now able to profile both Python and compiled code.
It's available for any hardware architecture, Wohlschlegel writes, adding that developers "typically assume that most of the execution time is spent in compiled, optimized C/C++ or Fortran libraries (e.g. NumPy) which are called from Python..."
"How confident are you that your application is not wasting your precious computing resources for the wrong reasons?"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's oldies-but-goodies department
"Some people have figured out how to turn reselling public domain content into side hustles," reports Motherboard:
On Etsy, there are thousands of listings for downloadable prints and lithographs that are in the public domain. The concept is pretty simple: these merchants round up and download the most visually beautiful art in the public domain, and then sell prints on Etsy. But some of them don't even go that far and just sell digital files of the art. Then, the buyers can print out the prints at whichever size they want and use them as they please...
With that being said, there's also big companies like Walmart that are also trying to earn money off art in the public domain... Similarly, the Museum of Modern Art is selling "Red Canna" by Georgia O'Keeffe, which is now in the public domain, for $166.50 (on sale from $185). For the love of god, don't pay $166.50 for something you could download for free and print yourself for less than $16.
Of course, none of this is bad necessarily. The public domain exists in part so that people can give formerly copyrighted works new life -- sometimes an iconic painting simply needs to become a bedspread. But now that many new works are available for free, it's worth having a quick look around if you're thinking of buying vintage art. You might be able to get it for free elsewhere.
To be fair, the Museum of Modern Art is a non-profit -- and reportedly avoids all government funding.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's terminal-points department
"One of the world's foremost mathematicians, Prof Sir Michael Atiyah, has died at the age of 89," reports the BBC.
"He has been described to me by more than one professor of mathematics as the best mathematician in this country since Sir Isaac Newton," his brother tells the BBC. Slashdot reader OneHundredAndTen shared their report:
Sir Michael was best known for his co-development of a branch of mathematics called topological K-theory and the Atiyah-Singer index theorem. His research also involved deep insights relating to mathematical concepts known as "vector bundles". His work in these areas has helped theoretical physicists to advance their understanding of quantum field theory and general relativity.
In September, Atiyah also claimed to have proved the 160-year-old Riemann hypothesis.
"If the hypothesis is proven to be correct," New Scientist reported, "mathematicians would be armed with a map to the location of all such prime numbers, a breakthrough with far-reaching repercussions in the field."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's got-your-number department
An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet: German authorities have asked the public for help in surfacing more details and potentially identifying the owner of a MAC address known to have been used by a bomber in late 2017... The MAC address is f8:e0:79:af:57:eb. Brandenburg police say it belongs to a suspect who tried to blackmail German courier service DHL between November 2017 and April 2018. The suspect demanded large sums of money from DHL and threatened to detonate bombs across Germany, at DHL courier stations, private companies, and in public spaces. [The bomb threats were real, but one caught fire instead of exploding, while the second failed to explode, albeit containing real explosives.]
Investigators called in to negotiate with the bomber managed to exchange emails with the attacker on three occasions, on April 6, 2018, April 13, 2018, and April 14, 2018. One of the details obtained during these conversations was the bomber's MAC address, which based on the hardware industry's MAC address allocation tables, should theoretically belong to a Motorola phone... Now, they're asking router owners to check router access logs for this address, and report any sightings to authorities. Investigators want to know to what routers/networks the bomber has connected before and after the attacks, in order to track his movements and maybe gain an insight into his identity.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's tweet-land-of-liberty department
One study found that 66% of tweets with links were posted by "suspected bots" -- with an even higher percentage for certain kinds of content. Now a new California law will require bots to disclose that they are bots.
But does that violate the bots' freedom of speech, asks Laurent Sacharoff, a law professor at the University of Arkansas.
"Even though bots are abstract entities, we might think of them as having free speech rights to the extent that they are promoting or promulgating useful information for the rest of us," Sacharoff says. "That's one theory of why a bot would have a First Amendment free speech right, almost independent of its creators." Alternatively, the bots could just be viewed as direct extensions of their human creators. In either case -- whether because of an independent right to free speech or because of a human creator's right -- Sacharoff says, "you can get to one or another nature of bots having some kind of free speech right."
In previous Bulletin coverage, the author of the new California law dismisses the idea that the law violates free speech rights. State Sen. Robert Hertzberg says anonymous marketing and electioneering bots are committing fraud. "My point is, you can say whatever the heck you want," Hertzberg says. "I don't want to control one bit of the content of what's being said. Zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. All I want is for the person who has to hear the content to know it comes from a computer. To me, that's a fraud element versus a free speech element."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's see-you-on-the-road department
Startups are demonstrating "sensor technology that watches and analyzes drivers, passengers and objects in cars" reports Reuters -- a technology that "will mean enhanced safety in the short-term, and revenue opportunities in the future."
SonicSpike shares their report:
Whether by generating alerts about drowsiness, unfastened seat belts or wallets left in the backseat, the emerging technology aims not only to cut back on distracted driving and other undesirable behavior, but eventually help automakers and ride-hailing companies make money from data generated inside the vehicle... Data from the cameras is analyzed with image recognition software to determine whether a driver is looking at his cellphone or the dashboard, turned away, or getting sleepy, to cite a few examples... European car safety rating program Euro NCAP has proposed that cars with driver monitoring for 2020 should earn higher ratings...
But automakers are more excited by the revenue possibilities when vehicle-generated data creates a more customized experience for riders, generating higher premiums, and lucrative tie-ins with third parties, such as retailers. "The reason (the camera) is going to sweep across the cabin is not because of distraction ... but because of all the side benefits," said Mike Ramsey, Gartner's automotive research director. "I promise you that companies that are trying to monetize data from the connected car are investigating ways to use eye-tracking technology...." Carmakers could gather anonymized data and sell it. A billboard advertiser might be eager to know how many commuters look at his sign, Ramsey said. Tracking the gaze of a passenger toward a store or restaurant could, fused with mapping and other software, result in a discount offered to that person.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's zero-hour department
An anonymous reader quotes CNN:
SpaceX is laying off 10% of its 6,000-person workforce as it tackles two hugely expensive projects. Elon Musk's rocket company said its finances are healthy, but that it needs to make cuts so its most ambitious plans can succeed. "To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company," the company said in a statement....
The company earns tens of millions of dollars per launch. SpaceX was recently valued at $30.5 billion after initiating a $500 million equity sale in December. The company also took on about $250 million in debt last year in its first loan sale, according to the Wall Street Journal. But SpaceX's new products are expected to cost billions to develop. In September, Musk estimated SpaceX would spend between $2 billion and $10 billion developing an ultra-powerful spaceship and rocket system, recently renamed Starship and Super Heavy.
SpaceX plans to use the technology to fly tourists to space and, potentially, one day send humans to Mars... SpaceX is also developing a constellation of satellites that could one day beam high-speed internet down to the Earth. SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said during a TED Talk last year that she expects the satellite constellation to cost about $10 billion to deploy. The company has already made headway on both projects.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's time-to-pay-the-price department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vox: More than 150 people who previously stayed in Marriott properties are suing the hotel chain in a federal class-action lawsuit, claiming that Marriott didn't do enough to protect them from a data breach that exposed more than 300 million guests' personal information, including names, credit card information, and passport numbers. The suit, which was filed Maryland federal district court on January 9, claims that Marriott did not adequately protect guest information before the breach and, once the breach had been discovered, "failed to provide timely, accurate, and adequate notice" to guests whose information may have been obtained by hackers.
According to the suit, Marriott's purchase of the Starwood properties [in 2016] is part of the problem. "This breach had been going on since 2014. In conducting due diligence to acquire Starwood, Marriott should have gone through and done an accounting of the cybersecurity of Starwood," Amy Keller, an attorney at DiCello Levitt & Casey who is representing the Marriott guests, told Vox. "In so doing, it should have caught -- at the very least -- that there was some suspicious activity concerning the database where a lot of consumer information was contained." Instead, Keller said, the breach continued for an additional two years after the acquisition, until Marriott caught it in September 2018. And even then, the suit claims, the company waited until November to tell guests about the breach.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's human-modification department
A comprehensive new high-resolution analysis of human modification of the planet finds that just 5% of the Earth's land surface is currently unaffected by humans, far lower than a previous estimate of 19%. 95% of the Earth's land surface has some indication of human modification, while 84% has multiple human impacts, the study found. New Atlas reports: The researchers from The Nature Conservancy and Conservation Science Partners used publicly available, high-resolution data from ground surveys and remotely sensed imagery on land use in 1 square kilometer grids to provide a spatial assessment of the impact of 13 human-caused stressors across all terrestrial lands, biomes and ecological regions, including: Agriculture; The physical extent of human settlement; Transportation, including railroads and minor roads; Mining, energy production; and Electrical infrastructure, including power lines.
52% of ecological regions and 49% of countries are considered moderately modified. These regions are highly fragmented, retain up to only 50% of low modified lands and fall within critical land use thresholds. Only 30% of terrestrial ecological regions and 18% of the world's countries have a low degree of land modification and retain most of their natural lands, which are distant from human settlements, agriculture and other modified environments. The study found the least modified biomes tend to be in high latitudes and include tundra, boreal forests, or taiga and temperate coniferous forests. On the other hand, the most modified biomes include more tropical landscapes, such as temperate broadleaf and mixed forests, as well as mangroves.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's unforeseen-consequences department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A man attending this week's CES show in Las Vegas says that a lidar sensor from startup AEye has permanently damaged the sensor on his $1,998 Sony camera. Earlier this week, roboticist and entrepreneur Jit Ray Chowdhury snapped photos of a car at CES with AEye's lidar units on top. He discovered that every subsequent picture he took was marred by two bright purple spots, with horizontal and vertical lines emanating from them. "I noticed that all my pictures were having that spot," he told Ars by phone on Thursday evening. "I covered up the camera with the lens cap and the spots are there -- it's burned into the sensor." In an email to Ars Technica, AEye CEO Luis Dussan confirmed that AEye's lidars can cause damage to camera sensors -- though he stressed that they pose no danger to human eyes. "Cameras are up to 1000x more sensitive to lasers than eyeballs," Dussan wrote. "Occasionally, this can cause thermal damage to a camera's focal plane array." Chowdhury says that AEye has offered to buy him a new camera. The potential issue is that self-driving cars also rely on conventional cameras. "So if those lidars are not camera-safe, it won't just create a headache for people snapping pictures with handheld camera," reports Ars. "Lidar sensors could also damage the cameras on other self-driving cars."
"It's worth noting that companies like Alphabet's Waymo and GM's Cruise have been testing dozens of vehicles with lidar on public streets for more than a year," adds Ars. "People have taken many pictures of these cars, and as far as we know none of them have suffered camera damage. So most lidars being tested in public today do not seem to pose a significant risk to cameras."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sour-relationships department
Lucas Matney writes via TechCrunch: Improbable is taking a daring step after announcing earlier today that Unity had revoked its license to operate on the popular game development engine. The U.K.-based cloud gaming startup has inked a late-night press release with Unity rival Epic Games, which operates the Unreal Engine and is the creator of Fortnite, establishing a $25 million fund designed to help game developers move to "more open engines." This is pretty bold on Improbable's part and seems to suggest that Unity didn't give them a call after Improbable published a blog post that signed off with, "You [Unity] are an incredibly important company and one bad day doesn't take away from all you've given us. Let's fix this for our community, you know our number."
Unity, for its part, claims that they gave Improbable ample notice that they were in violation of their Terms of Service and that the two had been deep in a "partnership" agreement that obviously fell short. The termination of Improbable's Unity license essentially cut them off from a huge portion of indie developers who build their stuff on Unity. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney was quick to jump on the news earlier today, rebuking Unity's actions. "Epic Games' partnership with Improbable, and the integration of Improbable's cloud-based development platform SpatialOS, is based on shared values, and a shared belief in how companies should work together to support mutual customers in a straightforward, no-surprises way," the blog post reads.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ready-or-not-here-they-come department
In a wide-ranging interview with Mark Spoonauer from Tom's Guide, CTO and president of LG Electronics, IP Park, said his company is working on both rollable and foldable smartphones, regardless of whether there's demand for them or not. Here's an excerpt from the report: Are you looking into rollable and foldable phones as well? We are exploring many different form factors for phones, including foldable and rollable. Because display technology has grown so much that it can make it into very flexible form factors. And with 5G, if the market requires much bigger screens, we'll need to fold it or roll it. So we'll explore. A lot of people are saying the whole smartphone market has stagnated and there are even some who argue that LG should exit the business altogether. What's your reaction to that? The smartphone business is very tough because of the competition. Also because of the penetration. Everyone has a phone now, right? Everybody has a big screen, and everybody has many features that others have. I think this year could be the year of the upgrade in the smartphone industry because of 5G. 5G is going to be available this year, and people will come out with 5G phones. And 5G is different from LTE, not only because of bandwidth, but also latency. You may want to have even bigger screens on 5G phones because of the more content you can get. That could trigger different killer applications that you run on phones.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's tokens-of-capitalism department
Amazon Dash buttons have been ruled illegal in Germany for making it too easy to buy Amazon products. Germany consumer advocacy group, Verbraucherzentrale NRW, "complained that Amazon's terms enable the company to switch out an ordered product with something else, and the buttons break laws protecting shoppers from buying things they are not fully informed about," reports Gizmodo. From the report: At first the wifi-connected buttons enabled users to quickly buy basic home goods and groceries -- like detergent, paper towels, macaroni and cheese, and bottled water. But Amazon has since added dozens more, from Slim Jims to Red Bull to Calvin Kline underwear. "We are always open to innovation. But if innovation means that the consumer is put at a disadvantage and price comparisons are made difficult then we fight that," Wolfgang Schuldzinski, leader of Verbraucherzentrale NRW, said to in a public statement.
The Munich court has sided with the organization, and ruled that the Dash buttons break consumer protection rules. The Verbraucherzentrale NRW statement suggests Amazon can't appeal the decision. But an Amazon spokesperson told Gizmodo that the company believes the button and its app don't violate German law, and Amazon is going to appeal. "The decision is not only against innovation, it also prevents customers from making an informed choice for themselves about whether a service like Dash Button is a convenient way for them to shop," the spokesperson said.Read Replies (0)