By BeauHD from Slashdot's cutting-carbon department
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via MIT Technology Review: A lumpy disc of dark-gray steel covers a bench in the lab space of Boston Metal, an MIT spinout located a half-hour north of its namesake city. It's the company's first batch of the high-strength alloy, created using a novel approach to metal processing. Instead of the blast furnace employed in steelmaking for centuries, Boston Metal has developed something closer to a battery. Specifically, it's what's known as an electrolytic cell, which uses electricity -- rather than carbon -- to process raw iron ore.
If the technology works at scale as cheaply as the founders hope, it could offer a clear path to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions from one of the hardest-to-clean sectors of the global economy, and the single biggest industrial source of climate pollution. After working on the idea for the last six years, the nine-person company is shifting into its next phase. If it closes a pending funding round, the startup plans to build a large demonstration facility and develop an industrial-scale cell for steel production. The process to produce steel results in around 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere annually, "adding up to around 5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to a recent paper in Science," MIT Technology Review reports.
The electrolytic cell that Boston Metal developed was realized after it was proposed to be used to extract oxygen from the moon's surface. "The by-product was molten metal," the report says. "But producing something like steel would require an anode made from cheap materials that wouldn't corrode under high temperatures or readily react with iron oxide. In 2013, [MIT chemist] Sadoway and MIT metallurgy researcher Antoine Allanore published a paper in Nature concluding that anodes made from chromium-based alloys might check all those boxes."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's openly-sourced department
TechCrunch is reporting that GraphQL, the Facebook-incubated data query language, is moving into its own open-source foundation. "Like so many other similar open-source foundations, the aptly named GraphQL Foundation will be hosted by the Linux Foundation." From the report: Facebook announced GraphQL back in 2012 and open sourced it in 2015. Today, it's being used by companies that range from Airbnb to Audi, GitHub, Netflix, Shopify, Twitter and The New York Times . At Facebook itself, the GraphQL API powers billions of API calls every day. At its core, GraphQL is basically a language for querying databases from client-side applications and a set of specifications for how the API on the backend should present this data to the client. It presents an alternative to REST-based APIs and promises to offer developers more flexibility and the ability to write faster and more secure applications. Virtually every major programming language now supports it through a variety of libraries.
"GraphQL has redefined how developers work with APIs and client-server interactions. We look forward to working with the GraphQL community to become an independent foundation, draft their governance and continue to foster the growth and adoption of GraphQL," said Chris Aniszczyk, vice president of Developer Relations at the Linux Foundation. As Aniszczyk noted, the new foundation will have an open governance model, similar to that of other Linux Foundation projects. The exact details are still a work in progress, though. The list of founding members is also still in flux, but for now, it includes Airbnb, Apollo, Coursera, Elementl, Facebook, GitHub, Hasura, Prisma, Shopify and Twitter.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fun-for-the-whole-family department
Microsoft is using Minecraft to help employees get acquainted with a refresh of the company's campus in Redmond, Washington. CNBC reports: Earlier this year, Microsoft enlisted Blockworks, a company that uses Minecraft's digital building blocks for designing real-world projects, to create a miniature rendering of the campus facelift, which is scheduled for completion in 2022. They're using graphics that are far more immersive than two-dimensional photos and videos. While Minecraft was designed for gamers, its immersive nature and the ability to quickly move around and construct edifices makes it easy to see how new buildings will look when inserted into an existing landscape. [James Delaney, a managing director at Blockworks] said Minecraft forces designers to sacrifice some accuracy because structures in real life don't always have the game's squared-off look, but the speed and ease of use more than made up for those deficiencies. It might take just 10 minutes to wrap up a single building, he said. Microsoft employees -- and anyone else with the education edition of Minecraft -- can now take a digital tour of the new campus and see how plans are developing. Outside of Microsoft, that access requires a subscription to Office 365 Education.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's well-that-was-quick department
Corporate Vice President of Cortana Javier Soltero is leaving the company after being in charge of Cortana for less than a year. "Soltero joined Microsoft when it bought at the end of 2014 Acompli, a mobile mail startup in San Francisco which he co-founded and led," reports ZDNet. "After joining Microsoft four years ago, Soltero spearheaded Outlook Mobile, then all of Outlook." Before being appointed to run Cortana in March of this year, he was the head of strategy for Office. From the report: Last month, Microsoft officials confirmed that Cortana was one of the technologies that management was moving from AI + Research to the Experiences & Devices team, which is under Executive Vice President Rajesh Jha. Microsoft is in the midst of trying to reposition Cortana from a standalone digital assistant to more of an assistance aide. Given the strong focus on home and work productivity by the Microsoft 365 and Office teams, officials seemingly decided it made sense for Cortana to be situated in that group. I've heard Soltero is going to go back to doing entrepreneurial activities once he leaves by year-end. Perry Clarke is going to be working with Soltero on transition plans in the next couple of months, sources are telling me. Clarke has been with Microsoft engineering since 1996, when he led Exchange. He also has been a Microsoft Distinguished Engineer for the past several years. I've heard talk that Microsoft ultimately is looking to bring Cortana and Search together into a single engineering team.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department
Oracle's Internet Intelligence division has confirmed today the findings of a recently published academic paper that accused China of "hijacking the vital internet backbone of western countries." From a report: The research paper was authored by researchers from the US Naval War College and Tel Aviv University and it made quite a few waves online after it was published. Researchers accused China Telecom, one of China's biggest state-owned internet service providers, of hijacking and detouring internet traffic through its normally-closed internet infrastructure. Some security experts contested the research paper's findings because it didn't come from an authoritative voice in the world of internet BGP hijacks, but also because the paper touched on many politically sensitive topics, such as China's cyber-espionage activities and how China used BGP hijacks as a way to circumvent the China-US cyber pact of 2015. But today, Doug Madory, Director of Oracle's Internet Analysis division (formerly Dyn), confirmed that China Telecom has, indeed, engaged in internet traffic "misdirection." "I don't intend to address the paper's claims around the motivations of these actions," said Madori. "However, there is truth to the assertion that China Telecom (whether intentionally or not) has misdirected internet traffic (including out of the United States) in recent years."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's or-the-real-batman department
If extraterrestrial intelligence exists somewhere in our galaxy, a new MIT study proposes that laser technology on Earth could, in principle, be fashioned into something of a planetary porch light -- a beacon strong enough to attract attention from as far as 20,000 light years away. From a report: The research, which author James Clark calls a "feasibility study," appears today in The Astrophysical Journal. The findings suggest that if a high-powered 1- to 2-megawatt laser were focused through a massive 30- to 45-meter telescope and aimed out into space, the combination would produce a beam of infrared radiation strong enough to stand out from the sun's energy. Such a signal could be detectable by alien astronomers performing a cursory survey of our section of the Milky Way -- especially if those astronomers live in nearby systems, such as around Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to Earth, or TRAPPIST-1, a star about 40 light-years away that hosts seven exoplanets, three of which are potentially habitable. If the signal is spotted from either of these nearby systems, the study finds, the same megawatt laser could be used to send a brief message in the form of pulses similar to Morse code.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's further-expansion department
AMD on Monday revealed the Zen 2 architecture for the family of processors that it will launch in the coming years, starting with 2019. The move is a follow-up to the competitive Zen designs that AMD launched in March 2017, and it promises two-times improvement in performance throughput. From a report: AMD hopes the Zen 2 processors will keep it ahead of or at parity with Intel, the world's biggest maker of PC processors. The earlier Zen designs enabled chips that could process 52 percent more instructions per clock cycle than the previous generation. Zen has spawned AMD's most competitive chips in a decade, including Ryzen for the desktop, Threadripper (with up to 32 cores) for gamers, Ryzen Mobile for laptops, and Epyc for servers. In the future, you can expect to see Zen 2 cores in future models of those families of chips. AMD's focus is on making central processing units (CPUs), graphics processing units (GPUs), and accelerated processing units (APUs) that put the two other units together on the same chip.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's hitting-the-limits department
Machine learning algorithms don't yet understand things the way humans do -- with sometimes disastrous consequences. Melanie Mitchell, a professor of Computer Science at Portland State University, writes: As someone who has worked in A.I. for decades, I've witnessed the failure of similar predictions of imminent human-level A.I., and I'm certain these latest forecasts will fall short as well. The challenge of creating humanlike intelligence in machines remains greatly underestimated. Today's A.I. systems sorely lack the essence of human intelligence: understanding the situations we experience, being able to grasp their meaning. The mathematician and philosopher Gian-Carlo Rota famously asked, "I wonder whether or when A.I. will ever crash the barrier of meaning." To me, this is still the most important question. The lack of humanlike understanding in machines is underscored by recent cracks that have appeared in the foundations of modern A.I. While today's programs are much more impressive than the systems we had 20 or 30 years ago, a series of research studies have shown that deep-learning systems can be unreliable in decidedly unhumanlike ways. I'll give a few examples. "The bareheaded man needed a hat" is transcribed by my phone's speech-recognition program as "The bear headed man needed a hat." Google Translate renders "I put the pig in the pen" into French as "Je mets le cochon dans le stylo" (mistranslating "pen" in the sense of a writing instrument). Programs that "read" documents and answer questions about them can easily be fooled into giving wrong answers when short, irrelevant snippets of text are appended to the document. Similarly, programs that recognize faces and objects, lauded as a major triumph of deep learning, can fail dramatically when their input is modified even in modest ways by certain types of lighting, image filtering and other alterations that do not affect humans' recognition abilities in the slightest. One recent study showed that adding small amounts of "noise" to a face image can seriously harm the performance of state-of-the-art face-recognition programs. Another study, humorously called "The Elephant in the Room," showed that inserting a small image of an out-of-place object, such as an elephant, in the corner of a living-room image strangely caused deep-learning vision programs to suddenly misclassify other objects in the image.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's they-know department
A look at VoteWithMe and OutVote, two new political apps that are trying to use peer pressure to get people to vote. From a story: The apps are to elections what Zillow is to real estate -- services that pull public information from government records, repackage it for consumer viewing and make it available at the touch of a smartphone button. But instead of giving you a peek at house prices, VoteWithMe and OutVote let you snoop on which of your friends voted in past elections and their party affiliations -- and then prod them to go to the polls by sending them scripted messages like "You gonna vote?" "I don't want this to come off like we're shaming our friends into voting," said Naseem Makiya, the chief executive of OutVote, a start-up in Boston. But, he said, "I think a lot of people might vote just because they're frankly worried that their friends will find out if they didn't." Whom Americans vote for is private. But other information in their state voter files is public information; depending on the state, it can include details like their name, address, phone number and party affiliation and when they voted. The apps try to match the people in a smartphone's contacts to their voter files, then display some of those details. The data's increasing availability may surprise people receiving messages nudging them to vote -- or even trouble them, by exposing personal politics they might have preferred to keep to themselves. Political campaigns have for years purchased voter files from states or bought national voter databases from data brokers, but the information has otherwise had little public exposure outside of campaign use. Now any app user can easily harness such data to make inferences about, and try to influence, their contacts' voting behavior.Read Replies (0)