By BeauHD from Slashdot's foul-mouthed department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Researchers have discovered the earliest known ancestor of humans -- along with a vast range of other species. They say that fossilized traces of the 540-million-year-old creature are "exquisitely well preserved." The microscopic sea animal is the earliest known step on the evolutionary path that led to fish and -- eventually -- to humans. Details of the discovery from central China appear in Nature journal. The research team says that Saccorhytus is the most primitive example of a category of animals called "deuterostomes" which are common ancestors of a broad range of species, including vertebrates (backboned animals). Saccorhytus was about a millimeter in size, and is thought to have lived between grains of sand on the sea bed. The researchers were unable to find any evidence that the animal had an anus, which suggests that it consumed food and excreted from the same orifice. The study was carried out by an international team of researchers, from the UK, China and Germany. Among them was Prof Simon Conway Morris, from the University of Cambridge. The study suggests that its body was symmetrical, which is a characteristic inherited by many of its evolutionary descendants, including humans. Saccorhytus was also covered with a thin, relatively flexible skin and muscles, leading the researchers to conclude that it moved by contracting its muscles and got around by wriggling. The researchers say that its most striking feature is its large mouth, relative to the rest of its body. They say that it probably ate by engulfing food particles, or even other creatures. Also interesting are the conical structures on its body. These, the scientists suggest, might have allowed the water that it swallowed to escape and so might have been a very early version of gills.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's flip-of-a-switch department
JustAnotherOldGuy quotes a report from Boing Boing: The World Wide Web Consortium's Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) is a DRM system for web video, being pushed by Netflix, movie studios, and a few broadcasters. It's been hugely controversial within the W3C and outside of it, but one argument that DRM defenders have made throughout the debate is that the DRM is optional, and if you don't like it, you don't have to use it. That's not true any more. Some time in the past few days, Google quietly updated Chrome (and derivative browsers like Chromium) so that Widevine (Google's version of EME) can no longer be disabled; it comes switched on and installed in every Chrome instance. Because of laws like section 1201 of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (and Canada's Bill C11, and EU implementations of Article 6 of the EUCD), browsers that have DRM in them are risky for security researchers to audit. These laws provide both criminal and civil penalties for those who tamper with DRM, even for legal, legitimate purposes, and courts and companies have interpreted this to mean that companies can punish security researchers who reveal defects in their products. Further reading: Boing Boing and Hacker News.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's buyer-beware department
Last year in November, the Federal Trade Commission issued an enforcement policy statement that requires over-the-counter (OTC) homeopathic drugs and product makers to disclose in their advertisement and labeling that there is no evidence that homeopathic products are effective. At around the same time the FTC issued the statement, the Food and Drug Administration was investigating homeopathic teething gels and tablets, which may have been improperly diluted, thus causing serious harm to infants. The FDA investigated 10 infant deaths and more than 400 reports of seizures, fever, and vomiting and confirmed Friday that belladonna, also known as deadly nightshade, was the prime suspect. When the FDA notified the products' maker, Hyland's, the company would not agree to recall the products. Ars Technica reports: Hyland's has been defensive since the FDA first opened the investigation last September. In an October press release, the company referred to agency's warnings as a source of "confusion" and assured consumers that the products are safe and effective. Still, the company discontinued distribution in the U.S. The National Center for Homeopathy, which has ties with Hyland's, slammed the FDA, calling the agency's warnings "arbitrary and capricious." In an "action alert," the organization went on to suggest that warning was prompted by "groups interested in seeing homeopathy destroyed" and led to "fear mongering" by the media. As before, the FDA is urging parents to avoid the homeopathic teething products and toss any already purchased. The FDA does not evaluate or approve the homeopathic products, which have no proven health benefit. Belladonna is an active ingredient in those products, but is supposed to be heavily diluted. Homeopaths belief that ailments and diseases can be cured by trace amounts or "memories" of toxic substances that mimic or cause similar symptoms. Homeopathy is a pseudoscience that has been squarely debunked, offering no more than a placebo effect. In its announcement Friday, the FDA said it had found inconsistent amounts of belladonna in Hyland's products. Some of the amounts were "far exceeding" what was intended.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-happening department
An anonymous reader shares a Ghacks report: Google made a change in Chrome 57 that removes options from the browser to manage plugins such as Google Widevine, Adobe Flash, or the Chrome PDF Viewer. If you load chrome://plugins in Chrome 56 or earlier, a list of installed plugins is displayed to you. You can use it, among other things, to disable plugins that you don't require. While you can do the same for some plugins, Flash and PDF Viewer, using Chrome's Settings, the same is not possible for the DRM plugin Widevine, and any other plugin Google may add to Chrome in the future. Starting with Chrome 57, that option is no longer available. This means essentially that Chrome users won't be able to disable -- some -- plugins anymore, or even list the plugins that are installed in the web browser. Please note that this affects Google Chrome and Chromium.Further report on BetaNews.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's not-as-planned department
As anticipated, wearable leader Fitbit kicked off the week by announcing a six-percent reduction in global work force, following disappointing fourth quarter financials. From a report: A preliminary statement issued this morning details the loss of 110 jobs, as part of a "reorganization of its business" designed to "creat[e] a more focused and efficient operating model." The news follows what has been a disappointing several months for the wearable space at large, impacting even Fitbit, the dominant player in the space. As rivals like Jawbone grapple with the future and the smartwatch space looks dismal, however, the Fitbit has been making acquisitions, including the once promising smartwatch pioneer Pebble, which met with its own struggles as the year drew to a close. The financials detail 6.5 million devices sold for the fourth quarter of last year, with quarterly revenue and annual revenue growth both falling below the company's guidance range.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's 3D-glasses department
Released five days ago, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard already has over 800,000 players -- and 84,036 of them are using a PlayStation VR headset. An anonymous reader quotes Digital Trends:
These numbers show that VR might have some real legs if compelling software is made... The numbers are also being updated live, so expect them to go up in the coming weeks. Earlier this week, numbers were in the 60-thousand range, meaning that positive buzz is driving gamers to pick up the game along with a VR headset.
Unfortunately for many gamers, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a PSVR exclusive, meaning PC gamers that own an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift are unable to experience the game in VR... Luckily, patient PC gamers will be able to experience the game in VR next year, when Sony and Capcom's PSVR exclusivity deal expires.
It's the first Resident Evil game using the first-person point-of-view. Are there any Slashdot readers who have already tried gaming with a VR headset?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's second-Second-Life department
An anonymous reader writes:
After four years of development, Sansar, the new virtual reality world from Second Life's creators will arrive later this year on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets. "It is trying to solve some of the big problems that plagued Second Life for years," reports MIT Technology Review, "such as that most users come in through what is essentially a front door and have a hard time finding things to do once they get in... In the demos I tried, I navigated via an atlas that shows a simple clickable thumbnail image of each destination along with its name."
But it still has to prove itself to users like John Artz, an associate professor at George Washington University who once taught a class about using Second Life for business applications. Artz "thinks Sansar will still suffer from the same fundamental issue that dogs Second Life: while the technology behind it is good, he says, it just got boring after a while."
Second Life still has 800,000 monthly users -- and in Sansar, virtual land will be cheaper, with Linden Lab concentrating "more on making money from selling virtual objects like clothing for avatars and furniture."Read Replies (0)