By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
An anonymous reader shares a report: In 1913 on the outskirts of Cairo, an inventor from Philadelphia named Frank Shuman built the world's first solar thermal power station, using the abundant Egyptian sunshine to pump 6,000 gallons of water a minute from the Nile to irrigate a nearby cotton field. World War I and the discovery of cheap oil derailed Shuman's dream of replicating his "sun power plant" on a grand scale and eventually producing enough energy to challenge the world's dependence on coal. More than a century later, that vision has been resurrected. The world's largest solar park, the $2.8-billion Benban complex, is set to open next year 400 miles south of Cairo in Egypt's Western Desert. It will single-handedly put Egypt on the clean energy map. That is no small feat for a country that's been hobbled by its longtime addiction to cheap, state-subsidized fossil fuels and currently gets more than 90% of its electricity from oil and natural gas. [...] The Benban complex, which will be operated by major energy companies from around the world, is expected to generate as much as 1.8 gigawatts of electricity, or enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses. It will consist of 30 separate solar plants, the first of which began running in December, and employ 4,000 workers.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's gaming-the-system department
NPR has an interesting story, full of anecdotes, that looks into several growing marketplaces where reviews for Amazon products are bought and paid for. From the story: "Our approximation is that less than 1 percent of reviews are inauthentic," says Sharon Chiarella, vice president of community shopping at Amazon. She adds that "sometimes individual products have more suspicious activity." [...] Chiarella says the lawsuits give the company the opportunity to subpoena bad actors to get data from them. "That allows us to identify more bad actors and spider out from there and train our algorithms," she says. But this has led to a sort of digital cat-and-mouse game. As Amazon and its algorithms get better at hunting them down, paid reviewers employ their own evasive maneuvers. Travis, the teenage paid reviewer, explained his process. He's a member of several online channels where Amazon sellers congregate, hawking Ethernet cables, flashlights, protein powder, fanny packs -- any number of small items for which they want favorable reviews. If something catches Travis' attention, he approaches the seller and they negotiate terms. Once he buys the product and leaves a five-star review, the seller will refund his purchase, often adding a few dollars "commission" for his trouble. He says he earns around $200 a month this way. The sellers provide detailed instructions, to avoid being detected by Amazon's algorithms, Travis says. For example, he says, "Order here at the Amazon link. Don't clip any coupons or promo codes. [Wait 4 to 5 days] after receiving [the item]." This last instruction is especially important, Travis adds. "If you review too soon after receiving it'll look pretty suspicious."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
gollum123 writes: Tech workers are the envy of labor market -- they earn some of the highest starting salaries and often command top-notch benefits. But money doesn't always buy satisfaction. Entrepreneur reports that tech workers in major American cities earn an average of $135,000 and yet, a survey of 6,000 tech workers conducted by workplace app Blind and reported by Quartz found that over 60 percent feel they aren't being paid enough. The survey also breaks down how tech workers feel about their pay by company. The five tech companies with the highest percentage of employees who felt they were underpaid shared one important characteristic: They were all founded before 1998. Cisco, Intel, Expedia, VMware and Microsoft employees were the most likely to say that they did not make enough money. Cisco had the highest percentage of dissatisfied employees, with 80 percent telling Blind that they did not feel adequately compensated. Facebook employees, on the other hand, were the most like to say that they are overpaid, with 13.8 percent saying that they felt their employer was overly generous.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
The race is on to become the go-to destination for cryptocurrency companies that are looking for shelter from regulatory uncertainty in the United States and Asia, the New York Times reports. From the report: In Malta, the government passed three laws on July 4 so companies can easily issue new cryptocurrencies and trade existing ones. In Bermuda this year, the legislature passed a law that lets start-ups doing initial coin offerings apply to the minister of finance for speedy approval. "We are 65,000 people, and 20 square miles, but we have a very advanced economy," the premier of Bermuda, E. David Burt, said in an interview at a cryptocurrency conference in May in New York, where he was trying to pitch companies on the island's charms. "We want to position Bermuda as the incubator for this industry." The competition for cryptocurrency companies is part of a broader rush by governments to figure out how to approach a new industry that took on outsize prominence over the last year. Becoming a crypto center has many potential upsides, including jobs and tax revenue. But the drive to be a crypto nexus also comes with significant risk. Hackings and scams have followed the industry everywhere it has gone. They have been aided by the underlying technology introduced by Bitcoin, known as the blockchain, which was built to make it possible to send money without requiring approval from government agencies or existing financial institutions.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-future department
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which funds a range of blue-sky research efforts relevant to the US military, last year launched a $1.5 billion, five-year program known as the Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI) to support work on advances in chip technology. It has now unveiled the first set of research teams selected to explore unproven but potentially powerful approaches that could revolutionize US chip development and manufacturing. From a report: The ERI's budget represents around a fourfold increase in DARPA's typical annual spending on hardware. Initial projects reflect the initiative's three broad areas of focus: chip design, architecture, and materials and integration. One project aims to radically reduce the time it takes to create a new chip design, from years or months to just a day, by automating the process with machine learning and other tools so that even relatively inexperienced users can create high-quality designs. "No one yet knows how to get a new chip design completed in 24 hours safely without human intervention," says Andrew Kahng of the University of California, San Diego, who's leading one of the teams involved. "This is a fundamentally new approach we're developing." William Chappell, the head of the DARPA office that manages the ERI program, said, "We're trying to engineer the craft brewing revolution in electronics." The agency hopes that the automated design tools will inspire smaller companies without the resources of giant chip makers, just as specialized brewers in the US have innovated alongside the beer industry's giants.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's regulatory-roads department
Okian Warrior shares a report from Science Magazine: Hopes for an easier regulatory road for genetic engineering in European agriculture were dashed by the Court of Justice of the European Union. In a closely watched decision, the court ruled that plants created with new gene-editing techniques that don't involve transferring genes between organisms -- such as CRISPR -- must go through the same lengthy approval process as traditional transgenic plants. Many researchers had argued that regulators should take a lighter touch when evaluating products created with the new technologies, but environmental groups and their allies successfully argued that they should be subject to the same EU rules that apply to other genetically modified organisms.
The case focused on crops that have been made resistant to herbicides without transferring genes from other species. The French government had passed a law exempting these new gene-edited crops from regulation under the European Union's directive on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which requires an assessment of risks to health and the environment, as well as labeling, tracking, and monitoring of the products. Confederation Paysanne, a French union in Bagnolet representing small farms, and eight other groups, sued and charged that the plants modified with gene-editing techniques should be regulated under the GMO directive, because they could cause significant harm. The court decided that gene-editing techniques are covered by the GMO directive because they "alter the genetic material of an organism in a way that does not occur naturally." (The court exempted conventional mutagenesis -- the unnatural use of chemicals or radiation to create mutations for plant breeding -- because it has "a long safety record.") It also said the new gene-editing techniques have risks that could be similar to those of transgenic engineering.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's just-keep-swimming department
According to two complementary studies, sperm change their cargo as they travel the reproductive tract, which can have consequences on the viability of future offspring. Smithsonian reports: The legacy of a dad's behavior can even live on in his child if his epigenetic elements enter an embryo. For instance, mice born to fathers that experience stress can inherit the behavioral consequences of traumatic memories. Additionally, mouse dads with less-than-desirable diets can pass a wonky metabolism onto their kids. Upasna Sharma and Colin Conine, both working under Oliver Rando, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, were some of the researchers to report such findings in 2016. In their work, Sharma and Conine noted that, in mice, while immature testicular sperm contain DNA identical to that of mature sperm, immature sperm relay different epigenetic information. It turns out that sperm small RNAs undergo post-testes turnover, picking up intel on the father's physical health (or lack thereof) after they're manufactured, but before they exit the body. However, the exact pit stop at which these additional small RNAs hitch a ride remained unknown.
< article continued at Slashdot's just-keep-swimming department
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's because-that's-what-we-all-asked-for-right department
According to supply chain blog Macotakara, the new iPad Pro models that will be introduced later this year will be slimmer, feature Face ID, and have no headphone jacks. 9to5Mac reports the details: First off, the report offers additional details on the 2018 iPad Pro dimensions. The 10.5-inch model is said to come in at 247.5mm (H) x 178.7mm (W) x 6mm (T), compared to the current dimensions of 250.6mm x 174.1mm x 6.1 mm. Meanwhile, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is said to stack up at 280mm (H) x 215mm (W) x 6.4mm (T), which compares to the current-generation model at 305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9 mm. With these dimensions, it seems that Apple is focused more on reducing the overall footprint of the 12.9-inch model, fitting the same size display into a considerably smaller body. The report goes on to explain that Apple is likely to ditch the headphone jack with this year's iPad Pro models, a move the company first made with the iPhone 7. While Apple includes a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone adapter to ease the blow for iPhone users, it will not do the same for iPad Pro users, according to today's report.
Today's report corroborates that this year's iPad Pro models will feature Face ID, but it notes that there is no support for landscape Face ID as earlier reports had indicated. This presents an interesting problem for the iPad Pro, which is used commonly in landscape mode with accessories such as the Smart Keyboard. Macotakara notes, however, that Apple is moving the Smart Connector on this year's models to "the lower rear side -- close to the Lightning connector." What exactly this means is unclear, but the report explains that "the next iPad Pro Smart Keyboard may be changed to vertical position specifications." This is seemingly implying that the iPad Pro would dock vertically into the Smart Keyboard, but how that would work is vague at the moment.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hide-and-seek department
Scientists have discovered a new shape called the scutoid (SCOO-toid) while studying epithelial cells, the building blocks of embryos that eventually end up forming our skin and lining our organs and blood vessels. The new "twisted prism" shape is "extremely efficient at keeping cells tightly-packed and organized in the literal twists and turns of development," reports Gizmodo. From the report: As embryos grow, their tissues curve and bend as they start to form into organs. Scientists thought the cells could stay tightly packed if they were bottle- or column-shaped, but computer modeling suggested that a more complex shape would be more likely. First, a computer model set out to predict which cell shapes would be most efficient at staying in contact with one another in both flat or curved layers. That shape ended up being prism-like, with six sides one end, five on the other, and a strange triangular face on one of the long edges of the prism. Using microscopy and computer imaging, the team confirmed that cells found in fruit fly salivary glands and cells in zebrafish were indeed scutoid-shaped. As noted in their paper published Friday in Nature Communications, the researchers believe these scutoid-shaped cells exist in any curved sheet of epithelial cells -- even in humans.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's stop-drop-and-roll department
"Autodesk has published a support document announcing that it is stopping development of its Alias and VRED vertical market packages, and that older versions will not work on Mojave due to Apple's OpenGL deprecation," writes Stephen Silver for Apple Insider. Alias is software predominantly used in automotive design and industrial design, while VRED is 3D visualization software. From the report: According to a note posted on Autodesk's support website, while older Alias versions can run on High Sierra or earlier, "no versions of VRED will run on that operating system due to the OpenGL deprecation." The change, according to the Autodesk note, "allows Autodesk development teams to focus on bringing innovations to market faster, and allows for more frequent software updates." "In the end, the entire Alias and VRED community will benefit from this streamlined approach," wrote the company.
This follows the announcement by Apple in June at WWDC that Mojave will require graphics hardware to support Metal, and that active development has ceased for OpenGL and OpenCL on the Mac. It isn't clear why Autodesk made the declaration that OpenGL's deprecation was responsible for the applications not working in Mojave. Deprecation does not mean removed, and the existing OpenGL implementation in High Sierra remains in Mojave. The move at present does not appear to affect the core AutoDesk product.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's not-so-secret-after-all department
TechCrunch's Lucas Matney describes the Lumin operating system that will power Magic Leap's upcoming Magic Leap One mixed reality headset: Alright, first, this is what the Magic Leap One home screen will apparently look like, it's worth noting that it appears that Magic Leap will have some of its own stock apps on the device, which was completely expected but they haven't discussed much about. Also worth noting is that Magic Leap's operating system by and large looks like most other operating systems, they seem to be well aware that flat interfaces are way easier to navigate so you're not going to be engaging with 3D assets just for the sake of doing so. The company seems to be distinguishing between two basic app types for developers: immersive apps and landscape apps. Landscape apps like what you see in the image above, appear to be Magic Leap's version of 2D where interfaces are mostly flat but have some depth and live inside a box called a prism that fits spatially into your environment. It seems that you'll be able to have several of these running simultaneously. Immersive apps, on the other hand, like the game title, Dr. Grordbort -- which Magic Leap has been teasing for years -- respond to the geometry of the space that you are in and is thus called an immersive app.
Moving beyond apps, the company also had a good deal to share about how you interact with what's happening in the headset. Magic Leap will have a companion smartphone app that you can type into, you can connect a bluetooth keyboard and there will also be an onscreen keyboard with dictation capabilities. One of the big highlights of Magic Leap tech is that you'll be able to share perspectives of these apps in a multi-player experience which we now know is called "casting," apps that utilize these feature will just have a button that you can press to share an experience with a contact.Read Replies (0)