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Mazda Says Its Next-Gen Gasoline Engine Will Run Cleaner Than An Electric Car
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '18 at 02:35 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's clean-as-a-whistle department:
schwit1 shares a report from Popular Mechanics: Mazda is staking much of its future on the continued existence of the internal-combustion engine, with clever tech like spark-controlled compression ignition set to debut in Mazda's next-generation production-car engine, Skyactiv-X. But the automaker is already thinking even further into the internal-combustion future. Automotive News reports that Mazda is working on a new gas engine, Skyactiv-3, which the automaker says will be as clean as an electric vehicle. Speaking at a tech forum in Tokyo, Mazda powertrain chief Mitsuo Hitomi said that the main goal with Skyactiv-3 is to increase the engine's thermal efficiency to roughly 56 percent. If achieved, that would make the Skyactiv engine the first internal-combustion piston engine to turn the majority of its fuel's energy into power, rather than waste due to friction or heat loss. To date, the most thermally efficient automotive internal combustion engine belongs to Mercedes-AMG's Formula 1 team, with an efficiency of 50 percent; AMG hopes the F1-derived engine in the Project One street-legal supercar will achieve 41-percent thermal efficiency, which would make it the most thermally efficient production-car engine in history. Automotive News says Mazda's 56-percent goal would represent a 27-percent improvement over current Mazda engines. Hitomi didn't provide a timeline for when Skyactiv-3 would reach production, nor did he specify how Mazda hopes to achieve such an improvement. Mazda's claim, that Skyactiv-3 would be cleaner to run than an all-electric vehicle, is a bold one, and requires some unpacking. Mazda bases the assertion on its estimates of "well-to-wheel" emissions, tallying the pollution generated by both fossil fuel production and utility electricity generation to compare Skyactiv-3 and EV emissions. Such analysis reflects the reality that, currently, much electricity is generated through fossil fuels. In regions where electricity comes from wind, solar, or hydroelectric, the EV would clearly win the argument, but that's not the case for many customers today. If Mazda can make a mass-production internal-combustion engine that achieves more than 50 percent thermal efficiency, it will be an incredible feat -- and would likely help guarantee the piston engine's continued survival.

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How To Watch the 'Super Blue Blood Moon' Lunar Eclipse
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 11:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's spirit-in-the-sky department:
Stephanie Pappas reports via Live Science how you can watch Wednesday's "Super Blue Blood Moon" eclipse: The eclipse will occur in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, Jan. 31, when the full moon will pass through the Earth's shadow. Viewers on Earth will see the face of the moon turn a murky red. On the West Coast, totality (the full shading of the moon) will occur at 4:51 a.m. PST until 6:08 a.m. PST. Before that, the moon will enter the outer portion of the Earth's shadow, or penumbra, at 2:51 a.m. PST. The real show will become visible starting at 3:48 a.m. PST, when the moon will be entering the umbra, or central portion of Earth's shadow, and a dark shadow will move over the face of the moon. The moon will leave the umbra at 7:11 a.m. PST. East Coasters can catch the partial lunar eclipse before dawn, but they will miss totality because the moon will have set below the horizon by 7:06 a.m. EST. To see the shadow of the Earth become visible on the moon's face, look up at 6:31 a.m. EST; by 6:48 a.m. EST, the moon will be entering the umbra, or central portion of the shadow, which should make the color change more apparent.

For viewers in the Central and Mountain time zones, the moon will set either during the total eclipse or while the satellite is exiting the Earth's shadow. The moon enters the dark umbra at about 5:48 a.m. CST and will hit totality slightly before moonset, at 6:51 a.m. CST. The umbra will appear at 4:48 a.m. MST, and the moon will enter totality at 5:51 a.m. MST. Viewers in the Mountain time zone will also get the chance to see the middle of totality, when the moon is up to 100,000 times fainter than usual, at 6:29 a.m. The eclipse will end slightly before moonset, at 7:07 a.m. MST. Viewers in Alaska and Hawaii will get a full dose of totality, too, but they'll have to be very early birds or night owls. Totality begins at 3:51 a.m. AKST and ends at 5:05 a.m. AKST. Totality hits at 2:51 a.m. HST and will be over by 4:05 a.m. HST.

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Pocket-Sized DNA Reader Used To Scan Entire Human Genome Sequence
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 07:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's pocket-sized department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A few years back, a company called Oxford Nanopore announced it was developing a radically different way of sequencing DNA. Its approach involved taking single strands of the double helix and stuffing them through a protein pore. With a small bit of current flowing across the pore, the four bases of DNA each created a distinct (if tiny) change in the voltage as it passed through. These could be used to read the DNA one base at a time as it wiggled through the pore. After several years of slow progress, Oxford Nanopore announced that its sequencing hardware would be as distinctive as its wetware: a USB device that could fit comfortably in a person's hand. As the first devices went out to users, it became clear that the device had some pros and cons. On the plus side, the device was quick and could be used without requiring a large facility to support it. It could also read very long stretches of DNA at once. But the downside was significant: it made lots of mistakes.

With a few years of experience, people are now starting to learn to make the most of the devices, as demonstrated by a new paper in which researchers use it to help sequence a human genome. By using the machine's long reads -- in one case, nearly 900,000 bases from one DNA molecule -- the authors were able to get data out of areas of the human genome that resisted characterization before. And they were able to distinguish between the two sets of chromosomes (one from mom, one from dad) and locate areas of epigenetic control in many areas of the genome. In light of all the distinct information it can provide, the machine's error rate is seeming like less of a problem.

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T-Mobile Commits To 100 Percent Renewable Electricity By 2021
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 05:15 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fully-sustainable department:
T-Mobile said on Monday that it will move to 100 percent renewable electricity by the year 2021. It had also "finalized a contract for wind power from the Solomon Forks Wind Project in Kansas," reports CNBC. "Power generation there is due to begin at the beginning of 2019, and will supplement the energy T-Mobile receives from the Red Dirt Wind Power Project in Oklahoma." From the report: John Legere, T-Mobile's president and CEO, said moving to renewable energy was the right thing to do and smart business. "We expect to cut T-Mobile's energy costs by around $100 million in the next 15 years thanks to this move," he added. T-Mobile has also joined the RE100, a group of global businesses committed to renewable power. Other members of the RE100 include Apple, Facebook and Google.

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Amazon's Push Into Healthcare Just Cost the Industry $30 Billion In Market Cap
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 05:15 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's industry-shocking department:
Today, Amazon, along with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan, announced a plan to launch an independent company that will offer healthcare services to the companies' employees at a lower cost. The venture, which will be managed by executives from the firms, will be run more like a non-profit, than a for-profit entity. Even though the plans are vague, the news caused the market value of 10 large, listed health insurance and pharmacy stocks to drop by a combined $30 billion in the first two hours of trading. Quartz reports: "The healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty," said Amazon's Jeff Bezos in a statement. "Hard as it might be, reducing healthcare's burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner's mind, and a long-term orientation." Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, likened America's mushrooming healthcare costs to "a hungry tapeworm on the American economy." How the venture will provide less pricy healthcare to the 1.2 million employees of the participating companies isn't yet clear. The new company will leverage "technology solutions" that provide "simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost." Not much else, including the name of the company, is known.

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Google Play Removed 700,000 Bad Apps In 2017, 70 Percent More Than In 2016
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 03:53 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
Today, Google announced that it removed more than 700,000 apps that violated Google Play's policies, or 70 percent more apps than the year before. "Google does not share total Google Play app numbers anymore, so we have to rely on third-party estimates to put this 70 percent figure into perspective," reports VentureBeat. "Statista pegs the total number of apps on Google Play at 2.6 million in December 2016 and 3.5 million in December 2017, a 35 percent growth. How many of those were bad apps, however, is anyone's guess." From the report: All we know is that the number of bad apps removed grew faster than the total number of apps in the store, which makes sense if you take into account the next statistic Google revealed today: 99 percent of apps with abusive content were identified and rejected before anyone could install them in 2017. This was possible, Google says, thanks to its implementation of machine learning models and techniques to detect abusive app content and behaviors such as impersonation, inappropriate content, or malware. The company claims that the odds of getting malware is 10x lower via Google Play than if you install apps from outside sources.

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Facebook Users Cry 'Censorship' After Being Told Which Russian Troll Pages They Liked
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 03:53 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: As the FBI's investigation into Russian election interference reaches a fever pitch, Facebook rolled out a new News Feed alert Monday night. The bulletin told users who followed pages created by Russian trolls that those pages have been removed. And some of the affected users did not like this. A brief search revealed that numerous people believe that this is an act of censorship by Facebook. Some users argued that they should be allowed to decide what's "true, fake, or otherwise," a challenge that's bound to be a slippery slope in this era of algorithm-based confirmation bias. Others took on a more conspiratorial tone, claiming that Facebook failed to reveal which pages were removed (despite the alert containing a link listing the pages in question). Facebook first released the information in December, creating a help page that showed users if they liked or followed pages and accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency, Russia's notorious troll farm, but today's alert seems to have inspired newfound alarm. The fact that Facebook explicitly stated which pages were deleted seems to have done little to reduce the anger over the allegedly clandestine silencing.

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Verizon Drops Plans To Sell Huawei Phones Due To US Government Pressure
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 02:34 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's under-pressure department:
Bloomberg reports that Verizon has dropped all plans to sell phones by Chinese manufacturer Huawei due to pressure from the U.S. government. The decision comes after AT&T walked away from a deal earlier this month to sell Huawei smartphones in the U.S. Bloomberg: Huawei devices still work on both companies' networks, but direct sales would've allowed them to reach more consumers than they can through third parties. The government's renewed concern about Chinese spying is creating a potential roadblock in the race between Verizon and AT&T to offer 5G, the next generation of super-fast mobile service. Huawei is pushing to be among the first to offer 5G-capable phone, but the device may be considered off-limits to U.S. carriers who are beginning to offer the next-generation service this year in a few cities. U.S. security agencies and some lawmakers fear that 5G phones made by companies that may have close ties to the Chinese government could pose a security risk.

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Facebook Is Banning Cryptocurrency, ICO Ads
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 02:34 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-policies department:
Facebbook has a new advertising policy pertaining to cryptocurrency, binary options and initial coin offerings. The policy specifically prohibits ads that promote those types of products and services "that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive practices," Facebook Product Management Director Rob Leathern wrote in a blog post today. TechCrunch reports: Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum, and initial coin offerings have all hit the mainstream, which has promptly resulted in a number of scams. While Facebook says it wants people "to continue to discover and learn" about those products and services, "there are many companies who are advertising binary options, ICOs and cryptocurrencies that are not currently operating in good faith," Leathern wrote. Leathern recognizes that the policy is quite broad, but he says that's intentional. The plan is to continue working to better detect deceptive and misleading ads that pertain to cryptocurrencies, ICOs and binary options. Over time, Facebook says it will revisit the policy and its enforcement mechanisms as its signals improve. In the meantime, Facebook is encouraging people to report content that violates this policy.

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US Government Investigates Apple Over iPhone Battery Slowdowns
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 01:13 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's saga-continues department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from PhoneDog: The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating Apple about its updates that slowed performance on iPhones with older batteries. Sources speaking to Bloomberg say that the agencies are looking into whether Apple violated securities laws regarding disclosures about its updates that throttled older iPhones. So far, the DOJ and SEC have requested information from Apple. Because the investigation is still early, it's unclear if the agencies will actually take an action against Apple. Apple apologized for not being more clear about its actions after the news of its performance-throttling updates came out, but we've still seen class action lawsuits and now this investigation come out. The good news is that Apple will be more transparent about iPhone battery health and performance in the future, but for now, it'll have to deal with the DOJ and SEC.

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Robot Delivery Vans Are Arriving Before Self-Driving Cars
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 01:13 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's next-up department:
The future of driverless driving looks like a giant toaster with a funny hat. From a report: That's an approximation of a new autonomous vehicle unveiled Tuesday by Nuro, a Silicon Valley startup that's been cryptic about its business plan since it launched about 18 months ago. Nuro's shiny, minimalist appliance on wheels doesn't have doors or windows to speak of, because it will be carrying packages -- not people. As every major automaker and dozens of tech companies race to replace drivers in Uber cars and taxi fleets, Nuro is ignoring humans altogether and steering for Amazon.com, United Parcel Service and any retailer looking to build its e-commerce business.

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California Senate Defies FCC, Approves Net Neutrality Law
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 11:53 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-back department:
The California State Senate yesterday approved a bill to impose net neutrality restrictions on Internet service providers, challenging the Federal Communications Commission attempt to preempt such rules. From a report: The FCC's repeal of its own net neutrality rules included a provision to preempt state and municipal governments from enforcing similar rules at the local level. But the governors of Montana and New York have signed executive orders to enforce net neutrality and several states are considering net neutrality legislation. The FCC is already being sued by t21 states and the District of Columbia, which are trying to reverse the net neutrality repeal and the preemption of state laws. Attempts to enforce net neutrality rules at the state or local level could end up being challenged in separate lawsuits.

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The Next Time You Order Room Service, It May Come by Robot
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 11:53 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Hotels across the country are rushing to introduce robots with the promise of enhancing the guest experience and increasing efficiency. From a report: The automated companions can do everything from make and pick up deliveries to help guests find their way around. Aloft Cupertino in the Silicon Valley (rates from $150) was the first hotel in the United States to debut Savioke's Relay robot in 2014. The three foot tall autonomous robot, nicknamed Botlr, weighs 90 pounds and makes deliveries throughout the hotel using multiple sensors, 3D cameras and Wi-Fi to operate the elevators. Marriott has since begun mobile robot service at four other Aloft properties. Other hotels are following suit. H Hotel Los Angeles's Relay robot, named Hannah, made 610 front desk deliveries and 42 room service deliveries, traveling a total of 50 miles, in the first three months since the hotel opened last October (rates from $249).

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US Regulators To Subpoena Crypto Exchange Bitfinex, Tether
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 10:37 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tough-luck department:
U.S. regulators are scrutinizing one of the world's largest cryptocurrency exchanges as questions mount over a digital token linked to its backers, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. From the report: The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission sent subpoenas last week to virtual-currency venue Bitfinex and Tether, a company that issues a widely traded coin and claims it's pegged to the dollar, according to a person familiar with the matter. The firms share the same chief executive officer. Tether's coins have become a popular substitute for dollars on cryptocurrency exchanges worldwide, with about $2.3 billion of the tokens outstanding as of Tuesday. While Tether has said all of its coins are backed by U.S. dollars held in reserve, the company has yet to provide conclusive evidence of its holdings to the public or have its accounts audited. Skeptics have questioned whether the money is really there.

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False Hawaii Missile Alert Sent After Drill Recording Said 'This Is Not A Drill'
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 10:37 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
A false ballistic missile alert in Hawaii was sent on January 13 because an emergency worker believed there really was a missile threat, according to a preliminary investigation by The Federal Communications Commission. From a report: The report finds that the false alert was not the result of a worker choosing the wrong alert by accident from a drop-down menu, but rather because the worker misunderstood a drill as a true emergency. The drill incorrectly included the language "This is not a drill."

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New FCC Rules Will Require Wireless Companies To Deliver Emergency Alerts More Accurately
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 10:37 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
The Federal Communications Commission voted Tuesday to update the country's wireless emergency alert system, aiming to ensure that local officials only sound alarms on Americans' smartphones when those citizens are truly in harm's way. From a report: The system, implemented in 2012, allows first responders around the country to dispatch short, loud, text-message-like bulletins to warn mobile users about inclement weather, abducted children or criminals at large. But public-safety leaders long have complained the alerts are inaccurate, rendering it difficult to use them in times of disaster without creating undue panic. And they fret that "over-alerting" has proven so frustrating to smartphone owners that they've simply turned off the alarms entirely -- rendering it even more difficult to communicate in times of an emergency.

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Naked Mole Rats Defy Mortality Mathematics
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 09:13 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Naked mole rats are adorably ugly creatures that challenge what we think we know about aging. Naked mole rats can live to be 30 years old. Further, female mole rats show no signs of menopause, and remain highly fertile even into their final years of life. Neurogenesis in naked mole rats continues over two decades, and their hearts and bones don't seem to change significantly over time. They rarely get cancer. Hell, they can even live up to 18 minutes utterly deprived of oxygen. [...] At Google's biotech company, Calico, in San Francisco, California, biologist Rochelle Buffenstein is looking to the naked survivors to unlock their secrets of aging. Buffenstein says naked mole rats violate to the Gompertz-Makeham law, and she has over 3,000 data points to back her conclusion. After reaching adulthood six months into their lives, a naked mole rat's mortality risk remained the same for the rest of its days her analysis revealed. Rather than grow exponentially, a naked mole rat's risk of death on any given day, no matter their point in life, hovered around 1 in 10,000. Surprisingly, their mortality risk even fell a little when they grew very old. In this sense, Buffenstein writes, naked mole rats have established themselves as "a non-aging mammal. This life-history trend is unprecedented for mammals," Buffenstein and colleagues wrote in a study published recently in the journal eLife.

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Child Experts: Just Say 'No' To Facebook's Kids App
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 09:13 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's big-concerns department:
A group letter sent Tuesday to CEO Mark Zuckerberg argues that younger children -- the app is intended for those under 13 -- aren't ready to have social media accounts, navigate the complexities of online relationships or protect their own privacy. From a report: Facebook launched the free Messenger Kids app in December, pitching it as a way for children to chat with family members and parent-approved friends. It doesn't give kids separate Facebook or Messenger accounts. Rather, the app works as an extension of a parent's account, and parents get controls such as the ability to decide who their kids can chat with. The social media giant has said it fills "a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want." But a group of 100 experts, advocates and parenting organizations is contesting those claims. Led by the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the group includes psychiatrists, pediatricians, educators and the children's music singer Raffi Cavoukian. "Messenger Kids is not responding to a need -- it is creating one," the letter states. "It appeals primarily to children who otherwise would not have their own social media accounts."

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Drug Firms Shipped 20.8 Million Pain Pills To West Virginia Town of 2,900
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 07:54 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's outrageous department:
A congressional committee investigating the opioid crisis has discovered out-of-state drug companies shipped 20.8 million prescription painkillers over a decade to two pharmacies in a Southern West Virginia town with 2,900 people. From a report: Between 2006 and 2016, two drug wholesalers shipped 10.2 million hydrocodone pills and 10.6 million oxycodone pills to Tug Valley Pharmacy and Hurley Drug in the town of Williamson, in Mingo County, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. "These numbers are outrageous, and we will get to the bottom of how this destruction was able to be unleashed across West Virginia," the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore. and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J. said in a joint statement.

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Lawyers Faced With Emojis and Emoticons Are All _("/)_/
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '18 at 07:54 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department:
Zorro shares a WSJ report: Lawyers gathered at the Atlanta office of a big law firm were debating a head-scratching legal question. What does the emoji known as the "unamused face" actually mean? They couldn't even agree that the emoji in question -- it has raised eyebrows and a frown -- looked unamused. "Everybody said something different," recalls Morgan Clemons, 33 years old, a regulatory compliance lawyer at Aldridge Pite who organized the gathering last summer at Bryan Cave LLP, called "Emoji Law 101." Emojis -- tiny pictures of facial expressions or objects used in text messages, emails and on social media -- are no longer a laughing matter for the legal profession. (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source.) Increasingly, they are bones of contention in lawsuits ranging from business disputes to harassment to defamation. In one Michigan defamation dispute, the meaning of an emoticon, an emoji-like image created with text characters from a standard keyboard, was up for debate. A comment on an internet message board appeared to accuse a local official of corruption. The comment was followed by a ":P" emoticon. The judges on the Michigan Court of Appeals concluded in 2014 that the emoticon "is used to represent a face with its tongue sticking out to denote a joke or sarcasm." The court said the comment couldn't be taken seriously or viewed as defamatory. Puzzled lawyers are turning to seminars, informal meetings and academic papers to discern innuendo in seemingly innocuous pictures of martini glasses and prancing horses.

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