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Elon Musk Agrees To Hold Contest For Fan-Made Tesla Ads, At the Urging of a 5th Grader
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '17 at 02:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's are-you-smarter-than-a-5th-grader department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Adweek: Elon Musk is well aware that Tesla's superfans love to make unauthorized commercials for the brand, given that Tesla doesn't make its own (and, given the power of word of mouth, doesn't really need to). But it has taken a fifth-grade girl to convince him to actually run a fan-made ad. "Dear Elon Musk, I'm Bria from Ms. Esparza's 5th grade class," she wrote to the Tesla founder in a letter that her father (a writer for InsideEVs.com) also posted to Twitter. "I have noticed that you do not advertise, but many people make homemade commercials for Tesla and some of them are very good, they look professional and they are entertaining. So, I think that you should run a competition on who can make the best homemade Tesla commercial and the winners will get their commercial aired." Within an hour of the Twitter post, Musk -- who apparently is as smart as a fifth grader -- brightened to the idea. "Thank you for the lovely letter. That sounds like a great idea. We'll do it!" he wrote. Two of the fan-made, cinematography-rich commercials mentioned in the report include the 2014 spot called "Modern Spaceship," and "Fireflies," which was directed by Parachute's Sam O'Hare. What's particularly neat about the "Fireflies" ad is that it was completely CGI.

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Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin To Offer 'Amazon-Like' Moon Delivery By 2020
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '17 at 01:02 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's because-why-not department:
Less than a week after Elon Musk's SpaceX announced it would soon offer space tourists a cruise around the moon, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos has announced that he would be launching an Amazon-like service shipping supplies, experiments, and crew to the Moon by 2020. From a report: Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture has proposed sending a robotic lander to the moonâ(TM)s south polar region by 2020, as an initial step toward an "Amazon-like" lunar delivery system and eventually a permanently inhabited moon base. The report says the company's seven-page proposal, dated Jan. 4, has been circulating among NASA's leadership and President Donald Trump's transition team. It's only one of several proposals aimed at turning the focus of exploration beyond Earth orbit to the moon and its environs during Trump's term.

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Apple Cracks Down Further On Cobalt Supplier in Congo as Child Labor Persists
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '17 at 01:02 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's fixing-things department:
Last year, a Washington Post investigation found several instances of miners -- including children -- labored in hazardous, even deadly, conditions at Congo's artisanal cobalt supply chain. Amnesty International and other human rights groups also have alleged problems. Earlier this week, British broadcaster Sky New published an investigation that alleged continued problems in the cobalt supply chain. The Washington Post now reports: Apple said it has temporarily stopped buying cobalt mined by hand in Congo while it continues to deal with problems with child labor and harsh work conditions. The Post connected this troubling trade to Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Company, a Chinese firm that is the largest buyer of artisanal cobalt in Congo and whose minerals are used in Apple products. Last year, Apple pledged to clean up its cobalt supply chain, but the tech giant said it wanted to avoid hurting the Congolese miners by cutting them off. Mining provides vital income for hundreds of thousands of people in one of the poorest countries in the world. Now, Apple says it has stopped -- for now -- buying cobalt from artisanal mines (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). "We have been working with Huayou on a program that will verify individual artisanal mines, according to our standards," Apple said in a statement, "and these mines will re-enter our supply chain when we are confident that the appropriate protections are in place."

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Razer Wants To Build the Best Linux Laptop, And It Needs Your Help
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '17 at 11:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's quest-for-best department:
Min-Liang Tan, a founder, CEO and creative director of gaming hardware company Razer, has assured enthusiasts that the company is looking into developing good -- the "best" he says -- Linux notebook. He writes in a post: The Razer Blade series have become the default coding machine for many out there and one of the most common asks is for us to support Linux on it. Well - we're looking at it and we're inviting all Linux enthusiasts to weigh in at the new Linux Corner on Insider to post feedback, suggestions and ideas on how we can make it the best notebook in the world that supports Linux. So if you're a Linux enthusiast, do check out the introductory thread.

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HP Top Level Executive On Life After the Split
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '17 at 11:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's split-into-two department:
An anonymous reader shares a ZDNet report: George Brasher is a 26-year HP veteran who has worked in a variety of roles in the company's printer and PC divisions over the years and is now HP Inc's managing director for the UK and Ireland. We began by asking how the first fifteen 'post-split' months had gone. "If you go back to the genesis of the separation, what Meg [Whitman, CEO of HPE and chairwoman of HP Inc] said was that, by splitting into two businesses, we'd be able to have more focus -- and I think that's truly what's happened with HP Inc. What we wanted to get out of it was: could we be more focused on our markets; could we actually accelerate our pace of innovation and get closer to our customers? In general, I'd say the answer is a resounding 'yes'." [...] The second thing is -- and you can see examples around this room [the CWC] -- we're a technology company, and innovation is our lifeblood: if you look at PC and print, we've seen more significant high-quality introductions in the last 15 months than in any previous 15-month period." [...] "The proof is always in the pudding: I look at the Spectre x360, the Elite X3 and other devices -- and it's not just new devices, but also the quality of the new devices; being able to have a partnership with B&O and thinking about a new computing experience. On the print side, it's the same thing: in September we announced our single biggest rollout ever, with a set of 16 A3 multifunction devices starting in a couple of months and rolling out over the course of the year. I don't think that happens unless you have separation, because then you've got a management team and a board, and a group of employees, that are just laser-focused on driving against that."

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Apple Is Expanding Its War With Qualcomm
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '17 at 11:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's war department:
Apple has opened a new front in its global patent war with Qualcomm. From a report: The Cupertino, Calif.-based company has sued Qualcomm in a U.K. court, accusing the chipmaker of violating patents and design concepts Apple owns. Details on exactly which patents Qualcomm has violated and why Apple believes Qualcomm has violated the patents were not disclosed in the public court records, according to Bloomberg, which earlier reported on the lawsuit. The lawsuit is the latest in a string of disputes Apple and Qualcomm have engaged in around the world. The main dispute resides in the U.S., where Apple has accused Qualcomm of using its position as a prominent chipmaker to hurt competition in the mobile marketplace. Apple, which has used Qualcomm chips for its iPhone's wireless connectivity, claims Qualcomm owes the company $1 billion in rebates the chip maker allegedly held back after Apple spoke to South Korean regulators about Qualcomm's business practices.

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An 81-Year-Old Woman Just Created Her Own iPhone App
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '17 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's age-no-bar department:
After 43 years working in one of Japan's leading banks, 81-year-old Masako Wakamiya has launched an iPhone app called "Hinadan" that shows users how to stage traditional dolls for the Hinamatsuri festival. From a report on CNN Money: She says she felt compelled to do something after noticing a shortage of fun apps aimed at people her age. "We easily lose games when playing against young people, since our finger movements can't match their speed," Wakamiya told CNN. The retired banker asked a bunch of people to create games for seniors, but no one was interested. So she took matters into her own hands and achieved something many people half her age haven't done. "I wanted to create a fun app to get elderly people interested in smartphones," she said. "It took about half a year to develop." Wakamiya started using computers at age 60 when she was caring for her elderly mother and finding it difficult to get out and socialize with friends.

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Why Typography Matters -- Especially At The Oscars
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '17 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fixing-things department:
An anonymous reader shares a blog post: There's one thing the Academy possibly didn't consider, or forgot, for this year's winner cards: typography. First, it's legible, you can tell all the letters apart. Second, it's somewhat readable, but the visual weight of "Moonlight" and the producers are equal and blend together. Lastly, even though it is just a winner's card, it's not visually appealing. I think it's fair to say it's objectively bland. That's horrible typography. Of course, anyone could've made the same honest error! You are on television with millions of people around the world watching. You are a little nervous, and you have to read a card. You will most likely read it from top to bottom (visual hierarchy) without questioning whether the card is right. That look on Warren's face was, "This says 'Emma Stone' on it." Faye must've skipped that part and was caught up in the excitement and just blurted out, "La La Land." I don't blame Faye or Warren for this. This was the fault of two entities: whoever was in charge of the design of the winning card (Was it really a design? C'mon), and the unfortunate person who handed them the wrong envelope. A clearly designed card and envelope (don't even get me started on that gold on red envelope) would've prevented this. The blogger, Benjamin Bannister (a creative consultant for old and new media), adds that there were essentially three things wrong with the card in question: Oscars logo need not to be at the top of the card. The category, "Best Acress" was at the bottom, and in small print. And, the winner's name, the main thing that should be read, is the same size as the second line and given equal weight.

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Apple Losing Out To Microsoft and Google in US Classrooms
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '17 at 08:52 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Apple is losing its grip on American classrooms, which technology companies have long used to hook students on their brands for life. From a report on MacRumors: According to research company Futuresource Consulting, in 2016 the number of devices in American classrooms that run iOS and macOS fell to third place behind both Google-powered laptops and Windows devices. Out of 12.6 million mobile devices shipped to primary and secondary schools in the U.S., Chromebooks accounted for 58 percent of the market, up from 50 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, school shipments of iPads and Mac laptops fell to 19 percent, from about 25 percent, over the same period, while Microsoft Windows laptops and tablets stayed relatively stable at about 22 percent.

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Amazon Outage Cost S&P 500 Companies $150M
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '17 at 07:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's aftermath department:
From a report on Axios: Cyence, an economic modeling platform, shared some data with Axios that show the ramifications: Losses of $150 million for S&P 500 companies. Losses of $160 million for U.S. financial services companies using the infrastructure.

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Uber Loses Legal Test Case Over Language
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '17 at 07:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
Ride-hailing service Uber lost a court battle on Friday to stop a London regulator from forcing private hire drivers to prove their reading and writing skills in English, the latest setback for the firm in London which could now lose some workers. From a report: The ride-hailing app went to court after Transport for London (TfL) said that drivers should have to prove their ability to communicate in English. Uber argued that the standard of reading and writing required by the test was too high. The US firm said the test was "unfair and disproportionate" and it would appeal against the court's decision. The ruling will also apply to all minicab firms in London. "TfL are entitled to require private hire drivers to demonstrate English language compliance," said Judge John Mitting as he rejected Uber's claim. Tom de la Mare QC, for Uber and the drivers, told the judge that the language requirement would result in 70,000 applicants failing to obtain a licence over three years. The proposals would have a disproportionate impact on drivers from countries where English was not generally spoken and give rise to "indirect discrimination on grounds of race and nationality."

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Google Will Release a New Pixel Phone this Year
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '17 at 06:14 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: The Pixel represents Google's first proper foray into the smartphone market, allowing the search giant to directly compete with Apple and cement Android's reputation as a premium platform. While sales have been steady, it's been particularly hard to get a hold of one due to component shortages. That hasn't dampened the company's plans to continue investing in its own smartphones, though: according to Rick Osterloh, VP of Hardware at Google, there will be a successor to the Pixel this year and will continue to carry a high price tag.

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Mike Pence Used His AOL Email For Indiana State Business -- and It Got Hacked
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '17 at 06:14 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Vice President Mike Pence used a personal AOL email account to conduct sensitive state business -- including issues related to homeland security -- as the governor of Indiana, according to a report from The Indianapolis Star. Not only that, but Pence's email account was also compromised last year, the report reveals. Because personal email accounts are not subject to same types of public transparency laws, it's up to the official and his or her transition staff to hand over any sensitive state-related messages for archiving. Emails from a state account are automatically stored on state servers and subject to public records requests. Pence's office claims the contents of his personal AOL account used for state business are in fact in the process of being archived. A larger concern, however, is security. By using a private AOL account to conduct sensitive state matters, Pence could have exposed sensitive state business. In the hacking incident last year, Pence's email account was compromised by a scammer who used it to try and extort money from members of his contact list by claiming Pence and his wife were stranded in the Philippines, The Indianapolis Star reports. This hack didn't appear to have had been designed specifically to breach Pence's office, which made clear that his AOL account could be compromised by relatively benign breaching techniques designed by spammers and low-level hackers. It is not illegal in Indiana to own and use a personal account while in office, nor is it against the law to handle work-related matters from a personal account -- so long as those emails are in some way archived. However, the Star reports that Pence made no efforts to preserve his AOL emails under after he left office and is only just now doing months after public records requests were first made. "Similar to previous governors, during his time as governor of Indiana, Mike Pence maintained a state email account and a personal email account," reads a statement given to the The Indianapolis Star. "As governor, Mr. Pence fully complied with Indiana law regarding email use and retention. Government emails involving his state and personal accounts are being archived by the state consistent with Indiana law, and are being managed according to Indiana's Access to Public Records Act."

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GameStop Stock Price Tanks After Microsoft Announces New Digital-Gaming Service
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '17 at 04:51 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department:
After Microsoft announced Xbox Game Pass earlier this week -- a monthly service coming this spring that will give you a selection of games you can download and play on your Xbox One for $9.99 a month, GameStop's stock price dropped nearly 8 percent. The news likely worries investors who view Xbox's instant game library a potential threat to GameStop's sales. VentureBeat reports: The brick-and-mortar retailer makes quite a lot of its money from secondhand sales where it resells products that consumers have traded in. If more people are playing digital games, that takes product out of the supply chain that could end up on GameStop store shelves. Additionally, Game Pass looks like it will primarily traffic in older games that people would typically would purchase used. Older releases like Mad Max, Saints Row IV, and Halo 5 are some of the big options that Microsoft is highlighting. Of course, GameStop isn't completely removed from the digital-gaming ecosystem. The retailer sells a lot of currency cards for the Xbox Store, the PlayStation Store, the Steam PC-gaming portal, and it's possible that people who don't like using a credit card will purchase cards to buy their subscription to Game Pass through GameStop. But that will likely not make up for a dearth of used-game sales or trade-ins if a lot of people adopt a Game Pass subscription.

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NASA Releases 2017-2018 Catalog of Software For Free
Posted by News Fetcher on March 03 '17 at 12:14 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's free-for-all department:
mspohr writes: Eureka Magazine has a story about the latest NASA 2017-2018 software catalog. From the report: "NASA has released its 2017-2018 software catalogue free of charge to the public, without any royalty or copyright fees. This third edition of the publication has contributions from all the agency's centers on data processing/storage, business systems, operations, propulsion and aeronautics. It includes many of the tools NASA uses to explore space and broaden our understanding of the universe. 'The software catalogue is our way of supporting the innovation economy by granting access to tools used by today's top aerospace professionals to entrepreneurs, small businesses, academia and industry,' said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) in Washington. 'Access to these software codes has the potential to generate tangible benefits that create jobs, earn revenue and save lives.'" Amazing amount of quality software... it IS rocket science. Further reading (and digesting): TechCrunch

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Scientists Have Found a Way To Rapidly Thaw Cryopreserved Tissue Without Damage
Posted by News Fetcher on March 02 '17 at 08:12 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's medical-breakthrough department:
schwit1 quotes a report from ScienceAlert: Researchers have developed a technique that allows them to rapidly thaw cryopreserved human and pig samples without damaging the tissue -- a development that could help get rid of organ transplant waiting lists. Cryopreservation is the ability to preserve tissues at liquid nitrogen temperatures for long periods of time and bring them back without damage, and it's something scientists have been dreaming about achieving with large tissue samples and organs for decades. Instead of using convection, the team used nanoparticles to heat tissues at the same rate all at once, which means ice crystals can't form, so they don't get damaged. To do this, the researchers mixed silica-coated iron oxide nanoparticles into a solution and generated uniform heat by applying an external magnetic field. They then warmed up several human and pig tissue samples ranging between 1 and 50 mL, using either their new nanowarming technique and traditional slow warming over ice. Each time, the tissues warmed up with nanoparticles displayed no signs of harm, unlike the control samples. Afterwards, they were able to successfully wash the nanoparticles away from the sample after thawing. The team also tested out the heating in an 80 mL system -- without tissue this time -- and showed that it achieved the same critical warming rates as in the smaller sample sizes, suggesting that the technique is scalable. You can view a video of tissue being thawed out in less than a minute here. The research has been published in Science Translational Medicine.

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Li-Ion Battery Inventor Creates Breakthrough Solid-State Battery, Holds 3X Charge
Posted by News Fetcher on March 02 '17 at 06:42 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's back-at-it-again department:
A research team led by John Goodenough at the Cockrell School of Engineering (Yes, this is a legitimate story) has created a new fast charging solid-state battery. Decades ago, American physicist John Goodenough received a noble prize for the lithium-ion batteries, which are now omnipresent in today's technology. The team has published a research paper in the journal Energy and Environmental Science. Fossbytes reports: The design limitations of lithium batteries containing liquid electrolytes don't allow them to charge quickly. If done forcefully, it would lead to the formation of metal whiskers (dendrites). Eventually, a short circuit would happen, or the battery would explode. However, that's not the problem with the solid-state batteries. The researchers have used a solid glass electrolyte in place of the liquid one. The glass electrolyte allows the researchers to use the alkali metal anode (negative side) which increases the charge density of the battery and prevents the formation of dendrites. Also, the glass electrolyte enables a battery to operate in extreme temperatures of -20-degree celsius. You can read more via The University of Texas at Austin.

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Uber Says It Will Apply For Self-Driving Permit In California
Posted by News Fetcher on March 02 '17 at 06:42 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's what-goes-around-comes-around department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Mercury News: Uber will apply for a state permit to test its self-driving cars on public roads [in California], the company said Thursday, more than a month after the California Department of Motor Vehicles shut down Uber's autonomous vehicle pilot program. The DMV already has reinstated the registrations for two of Uber's self-driving Volvos, which are back on the road in San Francisco, an Uber spokeswoman said. The cars will not go into self-driving mode until the permit is issued, she said. "These cars are legally registered and are being driven manually," an Uber spokeswoman said. "We are taking steps to complete our application to apply for a DMV testing permit. As we said in December, Uber remains 100 percent committed to California." DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez confirmed that regulators have been working with Uber on the application process. "Uber hasn't formally submitted their autonomous vehicle tester program application," Gonzalez wrote in an email, "but just as we would with any other manufacturer, the DMV is providing assistance with the steps necessary to apply for and receive a test permit."

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AMD Ryzen 7 Series Processor Reviews Go Live, Zen Looks Strong Vs Intel
Posted by News Fetcher on March 02 '17 at 05:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's run-for-its-money department:
MojoKid writes: AMD has finally lifted the veil on independent reviews of its new Ryzen series of desktop processors that bring the company's CPU architecture back more on competitive footing versus its rival, Intel's Core series. The initial family of Ryzen processors consists of three 8-core chips, the Ryzen 7 1800X at 3.6GHz with boost to 4.1GHz, the Ryzen 7 1700X at 3.4Ghz with boost to 3.8GHz, and the Ryzen 7 1700 at 3GHz with boost to 3.7GHz. Each has support for 2 threads per core, for a total of 16 threads with 16MB of L3 cache on-board, 512K of L2 and TDPs that range from 65 watts for the Ryzen 7 1700 at the low-end, on up to 95 watts for the 1700X and 1800X. In comparison to AMD's long-standing A-series APUs and FX-series processors, the new architecture is significantly more efficient and performant than any of AMD's previous desktop processor offerings. AMD designed the Zen microarchitecture at the heart of Ryzen with performance, throughput, and efficiency in mind. Initially, AMD had reported a 40% target for IPC (instructions per clock) improvement with Zen but actually realized about a 52% lift in overall performance. In the general compute workloads, rendering, and clock-for-clock comparisons, the Ryzen 7 1800X either outperformed or gives Intel's much more expensive Core i7-6900K a run for its money. The lower clock speeds of the Ryzen 7 1700X and 1700 obviously resulted in performance a notch behind the flagship 1800X, but those processors also performed quite well. Ryzen was especially strong in heavily threaded workloads like 3D rendering and Ray Tracing, but even in less strenuous tests like PCMark, the Ryzen 7 series competed favorably. It's not all good news, though. With some older code, audio encoding, lower-res gaming, and platform level tests, Ryzen trailed Intel -- sometimes by a wide margin. There's obviously still optimization work that needs to be done -- from both AMD and software developers.

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Researchers Store Computer OS, Short Movie On DNA
Posted by News Fetcher on March 02 '17 at 05:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's microscopic-level department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: In a new study published in the journal Science, a pair of researchers at Columbia University and the New York Genome Center (NYGC) show that an algorithm designed for streaming video on a cellphone can unlock DNA's nearly full storage potential by squeezing more information into its four base nucleotides. They demonstrate that this technology is also extremely reliable. Erlich and his colleague Dina Zielinski, an associate scientist at NYGC, chose six files to encode, or write, into DNA: a full computer operating system, an 1895 French film, "Arrival of a train at La Ciotat," a $50 Amazon gift card, a computer virus, a Pioneer plaque and a 1948 study by information theorist Claude Shannon. They compressed the files into a master file, and then split the data into short strings of binary code made up of ones and zeros. Using an erasure-correcting algorithm called fountain codes, they randomly packaged the strings into so-called droplets, and mapped the ones and zeros in each droplet to the four nucleotide bases in DNA: A, G, C and T. The algorithm deleted letter combinations known to create errors, and added a barcode to each droplet to help reassemble the files later. In all, they generated a digital list of 72,000 DNA strands, each 200 bases long, and sent it in a text file to a San Francisco DNA-synthesis startup, Twist Bioscience, that specializes in turning digital data into biological data. Two weeks later, they received a vial holding a speck of DNA molecules. To retrieve their files, they used modern sequencing technology to read the DNA strands, followed by software to translate the genetic code back into binary. They recovered their files with zero errors, the study reports. The study also notes that "a virtually unlimited number of copies of the files could be created with their coding technique by multiplying their DNA sample through polymerase chain reaction (PCR)." The researchers also "show that their coding strategy packs 215 petabytes of data on a single gram of DNA."

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