By BeauHD from Slashdot's mold-and-bacteria department
Mold spores commonly found aboard the International Space Station (ISS) turn out to be radiation resistant enough to survive 200 times the X-ray dose needed to kill a human being. Based on experiments by a team of researchers led by Marta Cortesao, a microbiologist at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne, the new study indicates that sterilizing interplanetary spacecraft may be much more difficult than previously thought. New Atlas reports: The researchers exposed samples of Aspergillus and Pennicillium spores to X-rays, heavy ions, and high-frequency ultraviolet light of the kinds and intensities found in space. Such radiation damages DNA and breaks down cell structures, but the spores survived X-rays up to 1,000 gray, heavy ions at 500 gray, and UV rays up to 3,000 joules per meter squared. Gray is a measurement of radiation exposure based on the absorption of one joule of radiation energy per kilogram of matter. To place the results into perspective, five gray will kill a person and 0.7 gray is how much radiation the crew of a Mars mission would receive on a 180-day mission.
Since mold spores can already survive heat, cold, chemicals, and drying out, being able to take on radiation as well poses new challenges. It means that not only will manned missions have to put a lot of effort into keeping the ship clean and healthy, it also means that unmanned planetary missions, which must be free of terrestrial organisms to prevent contaminating other worlds, will be harder to sterilize. But according to Cortesao there is a positive side to this resiliency. Since fungal spores are hard to kill, they'd be easier to carry along and grow under controlled conditions in space, so they can be used as raw materials or act as biological factories.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's lost-and-found department
A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Spain and the U.S. has announced that they have discovered a new property of light -- self-torque. Their findings have been published in the journal Science. Phys.Org reports: Scientists have long known about such properties of light as wavelength. More recently, researchers have found that light can also be twisted, a property called angular momentum. Beams with highly structured angular momentum are said to have orbital angular momentum (OAM), and are called vortex beams. They appear as a helix surrounding a common center, and when they strike a flat surface, they appear as doughnut-shaped. In this new effort, the researchers were working with OAM beams when they found the light behaving in a way that had never been seen before.
The experiments involved firing two lasers at a cloud of argon gasâ"doing so forced the beams to overlap, and they joined and were emitted as a single beam from the other side of the argon cloud. The result was a type of vortex beam. The researchers then wondered what would happen if the lasers had different orbital angular momentum and if they were slightly out of sync. This resulted in a beam that looked like a corkscrew with a gradually changing twist. And when the beam struck a flat surface, it looked like a crescent moon. The researchers noted that looked at another way, a single photon at the front of the beam was orbiting around its center more slowly than a photon at the back of the beam. The researchers promptly dubbed the new property self-torque -- and not only is it a newly discovered property of light, it is also one that has never even been predicted. Their technique may be used to modulate the orbital angular momentum of light in ways very similar to modulating frequencies in communications equipment, leading to the development of novel devices that make use of manipulating extremely tiny materials.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's search-and-destroy department
Iranian authorities have seized about 1,000 bitcoin mining machines in two abandoned factories, after warnings that the activity had led to a spike in consumption of government-subsidized electricity. Reuters reports: "Two of these bitcoin farms have been identified, with a consumption of one megawatt,"; Arash Navab, a power official in the central province of Yazd, told the television. The machines, which produce cryptocurrencies that are banned in Iran, were mostly to blame for a 7% increase in power consumption in the month to June 21, according to an Energy Ministry spokesman, quoted by the website of state-run Press TV. In 2018, Iran's central bank banned the country's banks from dealing in cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, over money-laundering concerns.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's finer-points department
Last week, Apple launched a voluntary recall and replacement program for the 15-inch 2015 MacBook Pro with Retina Displaying, saying that batteries on some of these devices could overheat and "may pose a fire safety risk." Thanks to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), we now know that Apple has received 26 reports of batteries overheating in affected notebooks, and that about 432,000 potentially affected MacBook Pro units were sold in the U.S., plus 26,000 in Canada. MacRumors reports: The CPSC has since indicated that Apple has received 26 reports of batteries overheating in affected notebooks, including five reports of minor burns and one report of smoke inhalation, as well as 17 reports of minor damage to nearby personal property. About 432,000 potentially affected MacBook Pro units were sold in the United States, plus 26,000 in Canada, according to a joint recall announcement from the CPSC and Health Canada. As of June 4, 2019, Apple has received one report of a consumer incident and no reports of injuries in Canada. Apple has asked customers to stop using affected MacBook Pro models and to contact the company to initiate a replacement. Apple's recall program page provides further details and instructions.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's point-A-to-point-C department
Apple is manufacturing its new Mac Pro computer in China (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), shifting abroad production of what had been its only major device assembled in the U.S. The Wall Street Journal reports: The tech giant has tapped Taiwanese contractor Quanta Computer Inc. to manufacture the $6,000 desktop computer and is ramping up production at a factory near Shanghai, the people said. Apple can save on shipping costs for components given the proximity of many of its suppliers to Shanghai, rather than having to supply a factory in the U.S. While the Mac Pro isn't one of Apple's higher-volume products, the decision on where to make it carries outsize significance. Apple's reliance on factories in China to manufacture its products has been an issue for the company, especially under President Trump, who has pressured Apple and other companies to make more in the U.S. An Apple spokesman said the new Mac Pro is designed and engineered in the U.S. and includes U.S.-made components. Apple said it supports manufacturing in 30 U.S. states and spent $60 billion last year with more than 9,000 U.S. suppliers.
"Final assembly is only one part of the manufacturing process," the spokesman said, adding that the company's investments support two million American jobs.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-observation department
Hal Hodson, a correspondent for Economist writes in a Twitter thread: Something really massive is happening, and I feel like society is barely grasping the tendrils of the implications. Technology is eroding one of the great levees of human society -- the ability to move around the physical world anonymously. This is happening because computers are getting better at spotting patterns in data, and the cost of capturing data that contain patterns about human beings is plummeting. Most adult humans have a device in their pocket capable of recognizing the patterns in another human's face. Face recognition is just the most obvious side of this new reality. It's easy to grasp that a computer can remember what your face looks like, because humans can do that too (not that well though). But computers don't care what data is used to tag you, only that the data is unique.
You can measure someone's: heartbeat with a laser; breathing with the RF-waves in wifi; walking gait with a camera; geographical movements through their phone; and voice and emotional state through a microphone. These datasets all hold patterns which uniquely ID a person. Pretty much anyone can "scan" anyone at this point. The hard bit is matching the patterns in that data with a person's legal identity, figuring out to whom a pattern belongs. This means that control of and access to identity systems is more important than it has ever been before.
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By msmash from Slashdot's scam-factory department
H. Claire Brown, reporting for The New Food Economy: GrubHub's commission fees had been inching upward over the years she'd [anecdote in the story] been working with the platform. There was the flat transaction fee, which hovered around 3 or 4 percent. Then there were marketing fees and costs for additional promotions. Shivane says she feels like the platform is increasingly pay to play: Spend more to promote your restaurant, and see your search rankings rise. Cut down on marketing spend, and watch your restaurant fall to the bottom of the page and lose sales.
"It's putting us in a financial hole. Last month, I paid $7,000 to GrubHub. That's my rent for the month," Shivane says. The New Food Economy viewed the company's invoice to Shivane's restaurant -- it was actually $8,000. We agreed to use only her first name and last initial in this story because she still uses the platform and fears the company could retaliate by dropping her restaurant to the bottom of its search rankings. Frustrated, Shivane started exploring other options. She says she thought about bulking up her restaurant's web presence and offering orders on her own site through a different service, one that offered a flat monthly rate and no commission fee.
There was just one problem: Someone already owned the web domain that matched her restaurant's name. She looked up the buyer. It was GrubHub. The New Food Economy has found that GrubHub owns more than 23,000 web domains. Its subsidiary, Seamless, owns thousands. We've published the full list here. Most of them appear to correlate with the names of real restaurants. The company's most recent purchase was in May of this year. Grubhub purchased three different domains containing versions of Shivane's restaurant's name -- in 2012, 2013, and 2014. "I never gave them permission to do that," she says.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department
U.S. intelligence agencies are encouraging American research universities to develop protocols for monitoring students and visiting scholars from Chinese state-affiliated research institutions, as U.S. suspicion toward China spreads to academia. From a report: Since last year, FBI officials have visited at least 10 members of the Association of American Universities, a group of 62 research universities, with an unclassified list of Chinese research institutions and companies. Universities have been advised to monitor students and scholars associated with those entities on American campuses, according to three administrators briefed at separate institutions.
FBI officials have also urged universities to review ongoing research involving Chinese individuals that could have defense applications, the administrators say. "We are being asked what processes are in place to know what labs they are working at or what information they are being exposed to," Fred Cate, vice president of research at Indiana University, tells NPR. "It's not a question of just looking for suspicious behavior -- it's actually really targeting specific countries and the people from those countries." In a statement responding to NPR's questions, the FBI said it "regularly engages with the communities we serve. As part of this continual outreach, we meet with a wide variety of groups, organizations, businesses, and academic institutions. The FBI has met with top officials from academia as part of our ongoing engagement on national security matters."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's going-all-in department
Microsoft's transformation into a fully paid-up member of the Linux love-train continued this week as the Windows giant sought to join the exclusive club that is the official linux-distros mailing list. From a report: The purpose of the linux-distros list is used by Linux distributions to privately report, coordinate, and discuss security issues yet to reach the general public; oss-security is there for stuff that is already out in the open or cannot wait for things to bounce around for a few days first. Sasha Levin, who describes himself as a "Linux kernel hacker" at the beast of Redmond, made the application for his employer to join the list, which if approved would allow Microsoft to tap into private behind-the-scenes chatter about vulnerabilities, patches, and ongoing security issues with the open-source kernel and related code.
These discussions are crucial for getting an early heads up, and coordinating the handling and deployment of fixes before they are made public. To demonstrate that Microsoft qualifies for membership alongside the likes of Ubuntu, Debian, and SUSE, he cited Microsoft's Azure Sphere and the Windows Subsystem For Linux (WSL) 2 as examples of distro-like builds.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's let-the-man-speak department
Andrew Yang, who says he's running "the nerdiest campaign in presidential history," made an almost immediate splash when he arrived without a tie on the second night of the first presidential Democratic debate. The former head of Venture for America, a nonprofit that sends entrepreneurs into cities to help revitalize them, Yang brought his passion to the stage on how to deal with economic disruption and a universal basic income for all Americans. This is how he thinks UBI would work in America: "Oh, so it's difficult to do if you have companies like Amazon, trillion-dollar tech companies, paying literally zero in taxes while they're closing 30 percent of our stores. We'd save money on things like incarceration, homelessness services, emergency room health care, and just the value gains from having a stronger, healthier, mentally healthier population would increase GDP by $700 billion. Yang thinks his proposals for UBI and a value-added tax will help those at the bottom end of the income spectrum readjust to the changing economy. He added: "We automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and we are about to do the same thing to millions of retail jobs, call center jobs, fast food jobs, truck-driving jobs and other jobs through the economy," he said. But the debate did not go as planned for Yang, who complained that there were few times when his mic was not on. He said: "There were also a few times, FYI, where I just started talking, being like, 'Hey, I want to add something there,' and my mic was not on," Yang said while speaking to supporters after the event. "And it's this sort of thing where, it's not like if you started talking, it takes over the [conversation]. It's like I was talking, but nothing was happening. And it was like, 'Oh f---.' So that happened a bit too."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's dude,-where's-my-eighth-wonder? department
Josh Dzieza, reporting for The Verge: It's been exactly one year since President Trump pushed a golden shovel into a field in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, breaking ground on a planned Foxconn factory he called "the eighth wonder of the world." "This is one of the great deals, ever," he said at the ceremony. The proposed facility would employ more than 13,000 Wisconsin workers and manufacture high-resolution LCD screens. And it would be huge, he said. "Think of it: more than 20 million feet, and that's probably going to be a minimal number," he claimed. The factory, Trump said, was evidence he was bringing manufacturing back to the United States, "restoring America's industrial might."
But Foxconn's plans were already shrinking. When then-Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wooed the company to the state with a subsidy package that came to total $4.5 billion, Foxconn had agreed to build a "Generation 10.5" facility that manufactured 75-inch LCD screens. But days before Trump's groundbreaking, the company acknowledged it would build a much smaller "Gen6" LCD factory, a type that makes smaller screens and requires far fewer workers. It would be the first of many changes. The last year has seen the factory shrink, get canceled, reappear, and undergo other shifts chronicled below. Even now, as concrete is finally being poured, it's unclear what exactly Foxconn is building in Mount Pleasant. Industry experts shown Foxconn's building plans say it does not appear to even be the scaled-down Gen6 LCD factory. If the last year is any guide, the whipsawing is far from over.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's end-of-an-era department
Apple's chief design officer announced on Thursday that he is leaving the company after nearly 30 years at the firm. John Gruber of DaringFireball making sense of things and what it means for the company: I've never been an "Apple is doomed without Steve Jobs" person. But part of what made Apple the Apple we know in the post-1997 era is that when Jobs was at the helm, all design decisions were going through someone with great taste. Not perfect taste, but great taste. But the other part of what made Jobs such a great leader is that he could recognize bad decisions, sooner rather than later, and get them fixed.
I think Tim Cook is a great CEO and Jeff Williams is a great COO. But who's in charge of product design now? There is no new chief design officer, which, really, is what Steve Jobs always was. From a product standpoint, the post-Jobs era at Apple has been the Jony Ive era, not the Tim Cook era. That's not a knock on Tim Cook. To his credit, Tim Cook has never pretended to be a product guy, which is exactly the hubris that John Sculley succumbed to back in the early '90s, leading to the Newton being launched far before it was ready and the Macintosh platform languishing.
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