By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
On Saturday night in New York City a power outage struck Midtown Manhattan, hitting Hell's Kitchen north to Lincoln Center and from Fifth Avenue west to the Hudson River. The blackout darkened the huge, electric billboards of Times Square, forced Broadway shows to cancel performances, and even disabled some subway lines. But what caused it? From a report: According to reports, the outage was caused by a transformer fire within the affected region. Power was fully restored by early the following morning. [...] Saturday's blackout was most likely caused by a disabled transformer at an area substation. There are at least 50 of those in New York City, which are fed in turn by at least 24, higher-voltage transmission substations. When it comes to power, New York is unusual because of the city's age and the density of its population, both residential and commercial. That produces different risks and consequences. In Atlanta, where I live, storms often down trees, which take out aboveground power lines. In the West, where wildfires are becoming more common, flames frequently dismantle power infrastructure (sometimes the power lines themselves cause the fires). But across the whole of New York City -- not just Manhattan -- more than 80 percent of both customers and the electrical load are serviced by underground distribution from area substations. That makes smaller problems less frequent, but bigger issues more severe.
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By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Rhode Island is one of about a dozen states that prohibit the release of 911 recordings or transcripts without the written consent of the caller or by court order. The goal generally is to protect the privacy of callers in what may be one of the most stressful moments of their lives. From a report: But Rhode Island's restrictive law also keeps families in the dark about how the state's 911 system has responded to calls involving their loved ones, and it has left the public oblivious to troubling gaps in how the system is performing, according to an investigation by The Public's Radio and ProPublica. In March, the news organizations reported on the 2018 death of a 6-month-old baby in Warwick after a Rhode Island 911 call taker failed to give CPR instructions to the family. The lapse came to light after a family member who took part in the 911 call requested a copy of the recording.
In June, the news organizations reported on the death of Rena Fleury, a 45-year-old woman who collapsed while watching her son's high school football game in Cumberland last year. Four unidentified bystanders called 911. But none of the 911 call takers recognized that Fleury was in cardiac arrest. And none of them instructed the callers to perform CPR. The 911 recordings for Fleury were never made public. An emergency physician who treated Fleury testified about what happened during a state House committee hearing in March. Across the country, recordings of 911 calls for accidents, medical emergencies, mass shootings and natural disasters have provided insight into the workings of public safety systems and, in some cases, revealed critical failings.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department
US mobile network operator Sprint said hackers broke into an unknown number of customer accounts via the Samsung.com "add a line" website. From a report: "On June 22, Sprint was informed of unauthorized access to your Sprint account using your account credentials via the Samsung.com 'add a line' website," Sprint said in a letter it is sending impacted customers. "The personal information of yours that may have been viewed includes the following: phone number, device type, device ID, monthly recurring charges, subscriber ID, account number, account creation date, upgrade eligibility, first and last name, billing address and add-on services," the US telco said. Sprint said the information hackers had access to did not pose "a substantial risk of fraud or identity theft," although, many might disagree with its assessment. The company said it re-secured all compromised accounts by resetting PIN codes, three days later, on June 25.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's hunger-for-data department
Amazon.com has a promotion for U.S. shoppers on Prime Day, the 48-hour marketing blitz that started Monday: Earn $10 of credit if you let Amazon track the websites you visit. From a report: The deal is for new installations of the Amazon Assistant, a comparison-shopping tool that customers can add to their web browsers. It fetches Amazon's price for products that users see on Walmart.com, Target.com and elsewhere. In order to work, the assistant needs access to users' web activity, including the links and some page content they view. The catch, as Amazon explains in the fine print, is the company can use this data to improve its general marketing, products and services, unrelated to the shopping assistant. The terms underscore the power consumers routinely give to Amazon and other big technology companies when using their free services. In this case, Amazon gains potential insight into how it should tailor marketing and how it could stamp out the retail competition.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
An anonymous reader shares a report: The smokestack at Intermountain Power Plant looms mightily over rural Utah, belching steam and pollution across a landscape of alfalfa fields and desert shrub near the banks of the Sevier River. Five hundred miles away, Los Angeles is trying to lead the world in fighting climate change. But when Angelenos flip a light switch or charge an electric vehicle, some of the energy may come from Intermountain, where coal is burned in a raging furnace at the foot of the 710-foot smokestack. The coal plant has been L.A.'s single-largest power source for three decades, supplying between one-fifth and one-third of the city's electricity in recent years. It's scheduled to shut down in 2025, ending California's reliance on the dirtiest fossil fuel.
But Los Angeles is preparing to build a natural gas-fired power plant at the Intermountain site, even as it works to shut down three gas plants in its own backyard. Although gas burns more cleanly than coal, it still traps heat in the atmosphere. It also leaks from pipelines as methane, a planet-warming pollutant more powerful than carbon dioxide. Critics say Los Angeles and other Southern California cities have no business making an $865-million investment in gas, especially when the state has committed to getting 100% of its electricity from climate-friendly sources such as solar and wind. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti has touted his decision to close the three local gas plants as part of his own "Green New Deal" to fight climate change.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's owning-your-time department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Our workplaces are set up for convenience, not to get the best out of our brains, says Cal Newport, bestselling author of books including Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, and a Georgetown University professor. In knowledge sector jobs, where products are created using human intelligence rather than machines, we must be switched on at all times and prepared to multitask. These are two things that are not compatible with deep, creative, insightful thinking. "In knowledge work, the main resource is the human brain and its ability to produce new information with value," says Newport. "But we are not good at getting a good return." Being switched on at all times and expected to pick things up immediately makes us miserable, says Newport. "It mismatches with the social circuits in our brain. It makes us feel bad that someone is waiting for us to reply to them. It makes us anxious."
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's machine-translation department
Jiaming Luo and Regina Barzilay from MIT and Yuan Cao from Google's AI lab in Mountain View, California, have developed a machine-learning system capable of deciphering lost languages, and they've demonstrated it on a script from the Mediterranean island of Crete. The script, Linear B, appeared after 1400 BCE, when the island was conquered by Mycenaeans from the Greek mainland. MIT Technology Review reports: Luo and co put the technique to the test with two lost languages, Linear B and Ugaritic. Linguists know that Linear B encodes an early version of ancient Greek and that Ugaritic, which was discovered in 1929, is an early form of Hebrew. Given that information and the constraints imposed by linguistic evolution, Luo and co's machine is able to translate both languages with remarkable accuracy. "We were able to correctly translate 67.3% of Linear B cognates into their Greek equivalents in the decipherment scenario," they say. "To the best of our knowledge, our experiment is the first attempt of deciphering Linear B automatically."
That's impressive work that takes machine translation to a new level. But it also raises the interesting question of other lost languages -- particularly those that have never been deciphered, such as Linear A. In this paper, Linear A is conspicuous by its absence. Luo and co do not even mention it, but it must loom large in their thinking, as it does for all linguists. Yet significant breakthroughs are still needed before this script becomes amenable to machine translation. For example, nobody knows what language Linear A encodes. Attempts to decipher it into ancient Greek have all failed. And without the progenitor language, the new technique does not work.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fertile-oases department
Scientists believe aerogel sheets could transform the cold, arid surface of Mars into land fit for farming. The Guardian reports: The "aerogel" sheets work by mimicking Earth's greenhouse effect, where energy from the sun is trapped on the planet by carbon dioxide and other gases. Spread out in the right places on Mars, the sheets would warm the ground and melt enough subsurface ice to keep plants alive. Should humans ever decide to spread beyond Earth, as the late Stephen Hawking declared we must, then growing food on alien worlds will be a skill that has to be mastered. But on Mars the conditions are hardly conducive. The planet is frigid and dry and bombarded by radiation, the soil contains potentially toxic chemicals and the wispy atmosphere is low on nitrogen.
The aerogel sheets do not solve all of the problems but they could help future spacefarers create fertile oases on desolate planets where plants and other photosynthesizing organisms can take root. Because life would only grow beneath the sheets, the risk of contaminating the rest of Mars with foreign lifeforms would be minimal. The aerogel used to make the sheets is composed 97% of air, with the rest made up of a light silica network. The researchers, including scientists at Nasa and the University of Edinburgh, showed that 2cm- to 3cm-thick sheets of silica aerogel blocked harmful UV rays, allowed visible light through for photosynthesis and trapped enough heat to melt frozen water locked in Martian soil. The sheets could be laid directly on the ground to grow algae and aquatic plants, or suspended to provide room for land plants to grow beneath them. The researchers published their findings in the journal Nature Astronomy.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBC.ca: Screen time -- and social media in particular -- is linked to an increase in depressive symptoms in teenagers, according to a new study by researchers at Montreal's Sainte-Justine Hospital. The researchers studied the behavior of over 3,800 young people from 2012 until 2018. They recruited adolescents from 31 Montreal schools and followed their behavior from Grade 7 until Grade 11. The teenagers self-reported the number of hours per week that they consumed social media (such as Facebook and Instagram), video games and television. Conrod and her team found an increase in depressive symptoms when the adolescents were consuming social media and television. The study was published on Monday in JAMA Pedatrics, a journal published by the American Medical Association. The researchers "found that the increased symptoms of depression are linked to being active on platforms such as Instagram, where teens are more likely to compare their lives to glitzy images in their feeds," the report says. "They also tested to see if the additional screen time was taking away from other activities that might decrease depressive symptoms, such as exercise, but found that was not the case."
Surprisingly, time spent playing video games was found to not be contributing to depressive symptoms. "The study suggests the average gamer is not socially isolated, with more than 70 percent of gamers playing with other people either online or in person," CBC.ca reports.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's supply-and-demand department
dcblogs writes: The Master of Science in Analytics was created in North Carolina State University in 2006. Today, there are about 280 colleges and universities that offer a similar graduate degree and in total, they will produce about 10,000 analytics master graduates in 2019. "The demand is there, but the supply [of data scientists] is catching up quickly," said Michael Rappa, who founded the Institute for Advanced Analytics at North Carolina State University. Graduates of these programs are typically called data scientists, a relatively new term that's often cited as one of the most in-demand occupations in the U.S. These programs aren't completely unique. Graduates with degrees in statistics, for instance, were forerunners of the shift to analytics. Despite the increase in graduates, the entry level salaries remain strong, typically beginning at $80K plus. Amazon recently cited data scientists as a second fastest internal growing occupations.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's energy-consumption department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Wind turbines in Scotland generated 9,831,320 megawatt hours between January and June 2019, WWF Scotland said Monday. The numbers, which were supplied by WeatherEnergy, mean that Scottish wind generated enough electricity to power the equivalent of 4.47 million homes for six months. That is almost double the number of homes in Scotland, according to WWF Scotland. By 2030, the Scottish government says it wants to produce half of the country's energy consumption from renewables. It is also targeting an "almost completely" decarbonized energy system by 2050. "Up and down the country, we are all benefiting from cleaner energy and so is the climate," Robin Parker, climate and energy policy manager at WWF Scotland, said in a statement Monday. "These figures show harnessing Scotland's plentiful onshore wind potential can provide clean, green electricity for millions of homes across not only Scotland, but England as well," Parker added.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's gray-area department
In a press conference Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Facebook's proposed digital currency, Libra, "could be misused by money launderers and terrorist financiers" and that it was a "national security issue." CNBC reports: "Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have been exploited to support billions of dollars of illicit activity like cyber crime, tax evasion, extortion, ransomware, illicit drugs and human trafficking," Mnuchin said, adding that he is "not comfortable today" with Facebook's launch. "They have a lot of work to do," he said. The press conference comes days after President Donald Trump said in a tweet that he was "not a fan" of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. He also suggested Facebook, which plans on launching the global cryptocurrency next year, would need a bank charter to do so. Bitcoin dropped sharply on Monday following the president's criticism on Twitter. The world's first and most valuable digital currency fell roughly 10% to a low of $9,872 to start the week.
"The president does have concerns as it relates to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies -- those are legitimate concerns that we have been working on for a long period of time," Mnuchin said. In response to the Treasury secretary's comments, Facebook told CNBC that "they anticipated critical feedback from regulators, central banks, lawmakers around the world." The tech giant also said they announced Libra a year before its anticipated launch date, "so that we could have those conversations."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's other-end-of-your-order department
Amazon workers around the world are going on strike today to bring attention to the working conditions they endure. "Some are arguing that buying from Amazon during Prime Day is akin to crossing a picket line," reports Quartz. From the report: As the two-day bacchanal of discounted Amazon offerings begins, workers at its fulfillment centers around the U.S. continue to complain of extremely odious quotas, limited bathroom breaks, mandatory holiday shifts, and the need for pain medication just to get through their 10-hour work days.
The U.S.: Workers at a Shakopee, Minnesota fulfillment center will be walking out during a six-hour period that overlaps with the end of the facility's morning shift and the start of its evening shift. There are about 1,500 full-time employees at the facility, according to the Daily Beast.
Germany: Hundreds of employees at seven facilities will be striking today and tomorrow, over longstanding issues with employee pay. âoeWhile Amazon holds a giant Prime-Day bargain hunt, employees are deprived of a living wage,â Orhan Akman, a representative from the German labor union Ver.di, said in a statement shared with Quartz.
The UK: The GMB trade union will be staging protests at Amazon facilities across the country. Some of the most shocking accounts issues of issues faced by Amazon warehouse workers have come out of the UK. One undercover writer said they witnessed co-workers urinating in bottles to avoid missing quotas by taking bathroom breaks.
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