By BeauHD from Slashdot's effects-of-long-term-space-travel department
The final findings of the NASA Twins Study, which compared 50-year-old astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent a year aboard the International Space Station in 2015, and his identical twin brother, who stayed on Earth, were published in Science. Gizmodo reports: NASA found that Scott Kelly was about as mentally, physically, and genetically healthy as his brother during his trip to space, and that the vast majority of small changes spotted in Scott (relative to himself before the mission) went back to normal within six months time. But the differences seen in Scott while up in space and after his return home could provide NASA important leads on how to keep astronauts safe during longer missions to Mars and beyond.
Preliminary results from the study were released in 2017. But it was the second round of findings, released in January 2018, that really caught the attention of media outlets, some of which misrepresented what was found. In particular, outlets like Newsweek reported that a whopping "seven percent of [Scott Kelly's] genes did not return to normal after he landed." Others implied that Scott Kelly had become a different person from his twin brother. But the researchers were never talking about a seven percent difference between the twins' genes. They were saying that some of Scott Kelly's genes had changed in their expression -- the carrying out of instructions in a cell's genome -- during his time up in space. And that roughly 7 percent of this overall change in gene expression could still be seen six months after he returned home. The remaining change in gene expression six months out was actually closer to 10 percent, but NASA clarified that this was still a relatively tiny change in his epigenetics. "Given that the majority of the biological and human health variables remained stable, or returned to baseline, these data suggest that human health can be mostly sustained over this duration of spaceflight," said NASA in a statement.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's there's-more-to-this-than-meets-the-eye department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: On Wednesday, an international team of scientists published the first image of a black hole ever. It looked like a SpaghettiO, and yet the image was an incredible scientific achievement that gave humanity a glimpse of one of the universe's most destructive forces and confirmed long-held theories -- namely, that black holes exist. Storing the raw data for the image was a feat itself -- tiny portions of data spread across five petabytes stored on multiple hard drives, the equivalent of 5,000 years worth of MP3s. Katie Bouman, a computer scientist and assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology, led the development of the algorithm that imaged the black hole. An image of her posing with some of the data drives went viral as observers praised her success.
The massive amounts of data were essential to creating the image of the black hole. Bouman and other scientists coordinated radio telescopes all over the Earth, each pointed at the black hole and gathering data at different times. The data scientists then pieced this information together and used an algorithm to fill in the blanks and generate a likely image of the black hole. The five petabytes of data took up such a massive amount of digital and physical space it couldn't be sent over the internet. Instead, the hard drives were flown to processing centers in Germany and Boston where the data was assembled. On Reddit's /r/datahoarder subreddit, a community dedicated to spreading the passion of hoarding vast amounts of data, the drives were bigger news than the scientific achievement itself.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-security-protocols department
Google announced today that Gmail has become the first major email provider to support two new security standards, namely MTA-STS and TLS Reporting. Both are extensions to the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), the protocol through which all emails are sent today. ZDNet reports: The purpose of MTA-STS and TLS Reporting is to help email providers establish cryptographically secure connections between each other, with the main goal of thwarting SMTP man-in-the-middle attacks. The two new standards will prevent this by allowing legitimate email providers to create a secure channel for exchanging emails. For example, SMTP MTA Strict Transport Security (MTA-STS) works by allowing email server admins to set up an MTA-STS policy on their server. This policy allows a legitimate provider to request that external email servers verify the security of a SMTP connections before sending any emails. Minimum requirements, such as forcing external email servers to authenticate with a valid public certificate encrypted with TLS 1.2 or higher, can be enforced, depending on preferences, ensuring that emails sent to a company's server travel through an obligatory and properly encrypted channel -- or they don't arrive at all. In addition, the TLS Reporting SMTP extension sets up a reporting mechanism through which a legitimate email server can request daily reports from other email servers about the success or failure of emails that have been sent to the legitimate server's domain. Both, when combined, will either prevent or help email server admins identify SMTP man-in-the-middle attacks against their email traffic.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's near-term-solutions department
Despite efforts from Tesla, Daimler, Nikola and Siemens to reduce emissions from heavy-duty, diesel-powered trucks, either by producing their own electric- or hydrogen-powered alternatives, "trucking in the U.S. is still driven by diesel-fueled, compression-ignition (CI), internal combustion engines," reports Ars Technica. According to a new paper from MIT researchers, "the best way forward is not to wait for all-electric or hydrogen-powered semis, but to build a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) truck with an internal combustion engine/generator that can burn either gasoline or renewable ethanol or methanol." From the report: Such a setup preserves the range and affordability that's expected of diesel long-haul trucks while significantly reducing the emissions associated with diesel. To boot, it's a near-term solution; no waiting for battery weight to fall or hydrogen refueling stations to be installed. [T]here are some distinct problems with all-electric and all-diesel trucks that a hybrid flex-fuel truck could solve. First, freight companies are looking for the cheapest way to transport goods from point A to point B, so expensive electric vehicles don't make short-term economic sense, especially if you're competing with other freight companies using cheaper diesel engines.
< article continued at Slashdot's near-term-solutions department
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By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department
In response to a question posed by The Register via Twitter, the company's former CTO CJ Silverio said, "The main thing I want to note is how NPM's statement is not an apology by [Isaac's] own standards. His blog post about apologies is very clear about the three things an apology must contain, and it seems to me that all three items were missing from that statement. It said nothing substantive. It went so far as to blame NPM's users for forcing them into the move."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's modified-plans department
Tesla and Panasonic are reportedly freezing their plans to add more battery production lines at Gigafactory 1, its massive factory outside of Reno, Nevada that is a cornerstone to the automaker's business. "The partners had planned to increase capacity by 50 percent next year, but financial problems have forced a rethink," reports TechCrunch, citing a report from Nikkei. "Nikkei also reported that Panasonic was suspending a planned investment in Tesla's automotive battery and EV plant in Shanghai." From the report: TechCrunch confirmed that Tesla is not adding more battery production lines and will instead focus its efforts on existing equipment. Tesla stressed that it will continue to make new investments as needed into the plant. However, the automaker noted that attention and investments might be focused on improving existing equipment to increase battery cell output.
As of November, Panasonic had 11 production lines operating at Gigafactory 1. Panasonic president President Kazuhiro Tsuga told Bloomberg that the company planned to add two more lines by the end of the year to bring total capacity up to 35 gigawatt-hours. The last number shared by Tesla is from July when the company reported an annualized run rate of 20 gigawatt-hours of capacity. It's not clear if those two production lines were added. "We will of course continue to make new investments in Gigafactory 1, as needed. However, we think there is far more output to be gained from improving existing production equipment than was previously estimated," a Tesla spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department
Yesterday, Bloomberg dropped a bombshell report revealing that Amazon employs thousands of people around the world to listen to voice recordings captured in Echo owners' homes and offices, and uses them to improve its Alexa digital assistant. "The recordings are transcribed, annotated and then fed back into the software as part of an effort to eliminate gaps in Alexa's understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands," the report says. "A screenshot reviewed by Bloomberg shows that the recordings sent to the Alexa auditors don't provide a user's full name and address but are associated with an account number, as well as the user's first name and the device's serial number."
While many have assumed that this was already happening behind the scenes, it may still come as a surprise to see proof of the practice. Thankfully, there is a way to stop Amazon from listening to your Alexa recordings. Tom's Guide explains: 1. In the Alexa app, access Settings. You'll find this button at the bottom of the menu in the top left corner of the home screen. 2. Click on Alexa Account. This should be at the top of the page. 3. Select Alexa Privacy. You'll be taken to Amazon's external Alexa privacy page. You can review a number of things here, including our voice history, skill permissions, and other data settings.
4. Tap "Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa."
5. Toggle "Help Develop New Features" and "Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions" to Off. Alexa will no longer learn and improve from your responses, but your recordings will be safe and sound.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's better-luck-next-time department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: A small spacecraft that has captured the imagination and excitement of people in Israel and around the world appears to have crashed on the moon (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). "We had a failure in the spacecraft," said Opher Doron, the general manager of Israel Aerospace Industries' space division, which collaborated on building the spacecraft. "We unfortunately have not managed to land successfully."
If it had succeeded, the robotic lander, named Beresheet, which means "Genesis" or "in the beginning" in Hebrew, would have been the first on the moon built by a private organization, and it would have added Israel to just three nations -- the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China -- to have accomplished that feat. Beresheet reached the launchpad and was headed to space aboard a SpaceX rocket in February. It orbited the moon, by itself a major accomplishment. That has only been done by five nations -- the United States, the former Soviet Union, China, Japan and India -- and the European Space Agency. But the landing was the riskiest part of the mission. The start of the automated landing sequence went as planned. The spacecraft even took a picture of itself at an altitude of 13 miles with the moon in the background. Then, still high above the surface, the engine cut out. The appointed landing time -- 10:25 p.m. in Israel, or 3:25 p.m. Eastern time -- came and passed, and the SpaceIL team realized the mission was over. "Well we didn't make it, but we definitely tried," said Morris Kahn, an Israeli telecommunications entrepreneur and president of SpaceIL, the nonprofit that undertook the mission. "And I think the achievement of getting to where we got is really tremendous. I think we can be proud."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said, "If at first you don't succeed, you try again."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
Google became the world's most profitable internet company on the back of search advertising. Now, it's turning another popular web service into a major cash machine. From a report: Google Maps is an indispensable part of life for more than 1 billion people, who use it to commute, explore new cities or find a hot new restaurant. The service has been mostly free, and free from ads, since it launched 14 years ago.
Interviews with Google executives and customers show this is changing as the internet giant increases the ways advertisers can reach Maps users, while raising prices for some businesses that use the underlying technology. The app now regularly highlights sponsored locations, and shows extra paid listings when people look for nearby gas stations, coffee shops or other businesses. "There's a big opportunity for them to ramp up monetization," said Andy Taylor, associate director of research at digital marketing agency Merkle. "They've been slow-playing it."
"Sometimes I say the most under-monetized asset that I cover is Google Maps," Brian Nowak, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, said while interviewing Google's business chief Philipp Schindler at a recent conference. "It's almost like a utility where it's kind of waiting for you to flip the switch on." Schindler's response showed that Google isn't waiting anymore.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-ahead department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Trucking in the US is still driven by diesel-fueled, compression-ignition (CI), internal combustion engines. Daniel Cohn and Leslie Bromberg, a pair of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), published a paper with the Society of Automotive Engineers, suggesting that the best way forward is not to wait for all-electric or hydrogen-powered semis, but to build a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) truck with an internal combustion engine/generator that can burn either gasoline or renewable ethanol or methanol. Such a setup preserves the range and affordability that's expected of diesel long-haul trucks while significantly reducing the emissions associated with diesel. To boot, it's a near-term solution; no waiting for battery weight to fall or hydrogen refueling stations to be installed.
A hybrid heavy-duty system isn't a completely novel idea, though a PHEV system has yet to be widely applied and tested in long-haul heavy-duty trucking. A company called Hyliion introduced a hybrid electric-diesel truck in 2017, and San Diego uses a hybrid electric-compressed natural gas bus on its transit system, though the former still grapples with diesel emissions and the latter is not for long-haul use. But there are some distinct problems with all-electric and all-diesel trucks that a hybrid flex-fuel truck could solve. First, freight companies are looking for the cheapest way to transport goods from point A to point B, so expensive electric vehicles don't make short-term economic sense, especially if you're competing with other freight companies using cheaper diesel engines.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's in-hindsight department
Ford CEO Jim Hackett scaled back hopes about the company's plans for self-driving cars this week, admitting that the first vehicles will have limits. From a report: "We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles," said Hackett, who once headed the company's autonomous vehicle division, at a Detroit Economic Club event on Tuesday. While Ford still plans on launching its self-driving car fleet in 2021, Hackett added that "its applications will be narrow, what we call geo-fenced, because the problem is so complex." Hackett's announcement comes nearly six months after its CEO of autonomous vehicles, Sherif Markaby, detailed plans for the company's self-driving car service in a Medium post. The company has invested over $4 billion in the technology's development through 2023, including over $1 billion in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company that is creating a virtual driver system. Ford is currently testing its self-driving vehicles in Miami, Washington, D.C. and Detroit.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's curb-your-enthusiasm department
The PC market is still in decline, according to research firms Gartner and IDC. That's nothing new for the duo to agree on, but coincidentally they also (for the first time?) estimated the exact same number of PC shipments: 58.5 million in Q1 2019. From a report: Gartner and IDC also both found PC shipments were down globally year-over-year. So far, 2019 looks like more of the same. After six years of quarterly PC shipment declines, 2018 brought a positive Q2, a flat Q3 ... and then a negative Q4. Gartner and IDC analysts have pointed to CPU shortages as contributing to this past quarter's decline. But that just seems to be an excuse for reality: The PC simply isn't as in-demand as it once was. The top six vendors were Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple, Asus, and Acer, per Gartner.Read Replies (0)