By msmash from Slashdot's existential-crisis department
At a convention on digital currency, rarely does an audience Q&A session include a question as incendiary as, "Why is this fraud allowed to speak at this conference?" But that's how a discussion about Bitcoin ended up last year in Seoul. From a report: The supposed fraud is Craig Wright, an Australian-born technologist who gained notoriety three years ago when he declared himself the inventor of Bitcoin. The provocateur is Vitalik Buterin, a baby-faced Russian-Canadian programmer who helped create another popular digital currency called Ether. No one disputes Buterin's role in Ether; many reject Wright's claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious genius behind Bitcoin.
Wright is a comic-book supervillain for some in the world of cryptocurrency. Buterin's rant was applauded by a handful of people at the conference, including one of the panelists and a man on the sidelines wearing a vest and metallic fiber shirt. It had the feel of an impromptu live performance of a Twitter flame war. The whole thing lasted 90 seconds. Footage recorded from the crowd provided an amusing YouTube video and sparked a fresh round of tweets mocking Wright. That appeared to be that, until a year later when Buterin received a letter from Wright's attorney. The legal notice, dated April 12, said Wright intends to sue Buterin in the U.K. for defamation. Less than a week later, Wright filed suit with similar claims against a podcaster named Peter McCormack, seeking 100,000 pounds ($129,000) in damages. And on May 2, Wright's lawyers served Roger Ver, an early Bitcoin investor, at a cryptocurrency meet-up in London.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's air-delivery department
Amazon announced this morning the expansion of its own air delivery network, Amazon Air. "The retailer says it's leasing an additional 15 Boeing 737-800 cargo aircraft from partner GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS)," reports TechCrunch. "These will join the five Boeing 737-800's already leased from GECAS, announced earlier this year. The aircraft will fly out of more than 20 U.S. air gateways in the Amazon Air network." From the report: In addition, Amazon says it will open more air facilities in 2019, including at Fort Worth Alliance Airport, Wilmington Air Park and Chicago Rockford International Airport. Meanwhile, the main Air Hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport will open in 2021. The Amazon Air network, then called Prime Air, was first launched in 2016, with the goal of speeding up Amazon's e-commerce deliveries, particularly for its Prime members. But over the years, the competition with partners-slash-rivals like FedEx have heated up -- and not only on air cargo, but also in newer areas like ground delivery robots and drones.
At the end of last year, Amazon announced more aircraft additions for Amazon Air, bumping the network from 40 planes to 50. Today, it says it's on track to reach 70 planes by 2021, thanks to this new expansion. The company also claims to have created thousands of U.S. jobs thanks to Amazon's investment of millions into its air network.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's possibly-habitable department
A tiny, old star just 12 light-years away might host two temperate, rocky planets, astronomers announced today. If they're confirmed, both of the newly spotted worlds are nearly identical to Earth in mass, and both planets are in orbits that could allow liquid water to trickle and puddle on their surfaces. National Geographic reports: Scientists estimate that the stellar host, known as Teegarden's star, is at least eight billion years old, or nearly twice the sun's age. That means any planets orbiting it are presumably as ancient, so life as we know it has had more than enough time to evolve. And for now, the star is remarkably quiet, with few indications of the tumultuous stellar quakes and flares that tend to erupt from such objects.
The two worlds orbit a star so faint that it wasn't even spotted until 2003, when NASA astrophysicist Bonnard Teegarden was mining astronomical data sets and looking for dim, nearby dwarf stars that had so far evaded detection. Teegarden's star is a stellar runt that's barely 9 percent of the sun's mass. It's known as an ultra-cool M dwarf, and it emits most of its light in the infrared -- just like the star TRAPPIST-1, which hosts seven known rocky planets. But Teegarden's star is just a third as far from Earth as the TRAPPIST-1 system, which makes it ideal for further characterization. The team of astronomers reported their findings in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's copy-+-paste department
Magic Leap, a secretive U.S. startup that makes a $2,295 augmented-reality headset, filed a lawsuit Monday accusing one of its former engineers of stealing its technology to create his own AR device for China. Bloomberg reports: In a lawsuit filed Monday, Magic Leap alleges that Chi Xu, who left in 2016, exploited its confidential information to "quickly develop a prototype of lightweight, ergonomically designed, mixed reality glasses for use with smart phones and other devices that are strikingly similar" to the Florida-based startup's designs. The lawsuit marks the latest accusation from an American firm of intellectual property theft by Chinese companies, a perennial sore point that's helped escalate tensions between the world's two largest economies. With more than $2 billion in financing, Magic Leap is one of the better-funded startups delving into so-called augmented or mixed reality, a technology that gives users the illusion that fantastical, three-dimensional digital objects exist in the physical world.
Xu, who founded Beijing-based Hangzhou Tairuo Technology Co., also known as Nreal, unveiled his own augmented reality glasses at a major Las Vegas trade show in January, touting them as lighter than the Magic Leap One, Forbes has reported. Magic Leap released its headset last August after seven years of secretive work and more than $2 billion of investment. The startup alleges that Xu plotted during his roughly 13 months working there to launch his own competing company in China and "neglected his work duties" to acquire proprietary information. Xu is accused in the suit of breach of contract, fraud and unfair competition.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's symbiotic-relationships department
Earlier today, Facebook announced its cryptocurrency "Libra" and the nonprofit association that will oversee it. "But behind Facebook's ambitions to create a quasi-nation state ruled by mostly corporate interests is a secret weapon, one the company hopes it can use to create another platform used by billions of people -- and generate enormous new revenue streams along the way," reports The Verge. "It's called Calibra, and it's a new subsidiary of Facebook the company is launching to build financial services and software on top of the Libra blockchain." From the report: At first blush, Calibra resembles a fairly standard payments company -- but its tight integration with Facebook's enormous user base could give it a significant advantage over any rivals. Thanks to its proximity to the technical development of Libra, and its ability to leverage WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram, Calibra could very well become Facebook's next big thing. Calibra's immediate goal is to develop and launch its own digital cryptocurrency wallet, and integrate that wallet into other Facebook products. The company will become a member of the nonprofit Libra Association and have equal voting power the other partners as Facebook's official representative, which include Uber, Lyft, eBay, and PayPal, along with several other tech companies, financial service providers, venture capitalists, and fellow nonprofits. That way, Facebook can say it does not solely control the currency or the network by itself. It also gets the benefit of having twice the representation as other companies, at least for now.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's solar-driven department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Researchers in Rice's Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP) this week showed they could boost the efficiency of their solar-powered desalination system by more than 50% simply by adding inexpensive plastic lenses to concentrate sunlight into "hot spots." The results are available online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "The typical way to boost performance in solar-driven systems is to add solar concentrators and bring in more light," said Pratiksha Dongare, a graduate student in applied physics at Rice's Brown School of Engineering and co-lead author of the paper. "The big difference here is that we're using the same amount of light. We've shown it's possible to inexpensively redistribute that power and dramatically increase the rate of purified water production."
In conventional membrane distillation, hot, salty water is flowed across one side of a sheetlike membrane while cool, filtered water flows across the other. The temperature difference creates a difference in vapor pressure that drives water vapor from the heated side through the membrane toward the cooler, lower-pressure side. Scaling up the technology is difficult because the temperature difference across the membrane -- and the resulting output of clean water -- decreases as the size of the membrane increases. Rice's "nanophotonics-enabled solar membrane distillation" (NESMD) technology addresses this by using light-absorbing nanoparticles to turn the membrane itself into a solar-driven heating element. Dongare and colleagues, including study co-lead author Alessandro Alabastri, coat the top layer of their membranes with low-cost, commercially available nanoparticles that are designed to convert more than 80% of sunlight energy into heat. The solar-driven nanoparticle heating reduces production costs, and Rice engineers are working to scale up the technology for applications in remote areas that have no access to electricity.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's right-to-privacy department
Two House lawmakers are pushing an amendment that would effectively defund a massive data collection program run by the National Security Agency unless the government promises to not intentionally collect data of Americans. TechCrunch reports: The bipartisan amendment -- just 15 lines in length -- would compel the government to not knowingly collect communications -- like emails, messages and browsing data -- on Americans without a warrant. Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI, 3rd) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA, 19th) have already garnered the support from some of the largest civil liberties and rights groups, including the ACLU, the EFF, FreedomWorks, New America and the Sunlight Foundation.
Under the current statute, the NSA can use its Section 702 powers to collect and store the communications of foreign targets located outside the U.S. by tapping into the fiber cables owned and run by U.S. telecom giants. But this massive data collection effort also inadvertently vacuums up Americans' data, who are typically protected from unwarranted searches under the Fourth Amendment. The government has consistently denied to release the number of how many Americans are caught up in the NSA's data collection. For the 2018 calendar year, the government said it made more than 9,600 warrantless searches of Americans' communications, up 28% year-over-year.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's caught-red-handed department
Over the weekend, Google Search was caught allegedly copying song lyrics from Genius.com. In response, Google published a long explanation of how lyrics in Search work and said that they will add attribution to note which third-party service is supplying the lyrics. 9to5Google reports: When you look up a song in Search, Google often returns a YouTube video with the Knowledge Panel featuring lyrics, links to streaming services, and other artist/album/release/genre info. A query that explicitly asks for "lyrics" will display the full text as the first item at the top of Google.com. The Wall Street Journal over the weekend reported on an accusation that Search was taking content from Genius. According to Google today, it does "not crawl or scrape websites to source these lyrics." When available, Google will pay music publishers for the right to display lyrics. However, in most cases, publishers do not have digital transcripts, with the search engine instead turning to third-party "lyrics content providers."
Google today reiterated that it's asking partners to "investigate the issue," with the third-party -- and not Google directly -- likely at fault for scraping Genius content. Meanwhile, Knowledge Panels in Search will soon gain attribution to note who is supplying digital lyrics text. "Google today reiterated that it's asking partners to 'investigate the issue,' with the third-party -- and not Google directly -- likely at fault for scraping Genius content," Google said in a blog post. "Meanwhile, Knowledge Panels in Search will soon gain attribution to note who is supplying digital lyrics text."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's definition-of-do-it-yourself department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Simone Giertz was tired of waiting for Elon Musk to unveil his new Tesla pickup truck, so she decided to make one herself. The popular YouTuber and self-described "queen of shitty robots" transformed a Model 3 into an honest-to-god pickup truck, which she dubs "Truckla" -- and naturally you can watch all the cutting and welding (and cursing) on her YouTube channel. There's even a fake truck commercial to go along with it. Giertz spent over a year planning and designing before launching into the arduous task of turning her Model 3 into a pickup truck. And she recruited a ragtag team of mechanics and DIY car modifiers to tackle the project: Marcos Ramirez, a Bay Area maker, mechanic and artist; Boston-based Richard Benoit, whose YouTube channel Rich Rebuilds is largely dedicated to the modification of pre-owned Tesla models; and German designer and YouTuber Laura Kampf.
Giertz's truck looks exactly like what it is: a Model 3 with the top part of the back half removed. As such, it blurs the line between sedan and pickup, which used to be a popular design style in the 1970s and 80s, until consumers decided that bigger is better. Think Chevy El Camino, or Ford Ranchero. But Giertz smartly added some standard truck accoutrements, like a lumber rack with Hella lights attached to the front, so that it wouldn't look out of place among the Rams and Silverados of the world. It wasn't a project without its obstacles. After stripping the backseat and the trunk of its many parts, the Model 3 refused to start. Ramirez explained that the car was reporting "all of its many faults" to Tesla headquarters via cell connection, or essentially "snitching" on the YouTubers who were trying to modify it. They also ran into problems after cutting through the first beam when the metal started to buckle slightly. Luckily they were able to reinforce the steel and keep going.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's whatever-works department
The southwestern tip of Iceland is a barren volcanic peninsula called Reykjanesskagi. It's home to the twin towns of Keflavik and Njardvik, around 19,000 people, and the country's main airport. On the edge of the settlement is a complex of metal-clad buildings belonging to the IT company Advania, each structure roughly the size of an Olympic-size swimming pool. Less than three years ago there were three of them. By April 2018, there were eight. Today there are 10, and the foundations have been laid for an 11th.
From a report: This is part of a boom fostered partly by something that Icelanders don't usually rave about: the weather. Life on the North Atlantic island tends to be chilly, foggy, and windy, though hard frosts are not common. The annual average temperature in the capital, Reykjavik, is around 41F (5C), and even when the summer warmth kicks in, the mercury rarely rises above 68. Iceland has realized that even though this climate may not be great for sunning yourself on the beach, it is very favorable to one particular industry: data. Each one of those Advania buildings in Reykjanesskagi is a large data center, home to thousands of computers. They are constantly crunching away, processing instructions, transmitting data, and mining Bitcoin. Data centers like these generate large amounts of heat and need round-the-clock cooling, which would usually require considerable energy.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's something-better-than-nothing department
Google pledged $1 billion over the next 10 years to try to address an affordable housing crisis California's Bay Area. From a report: The tech giant will re-purpose $750 million of its own land for residential use, allowing the development of at least 15,000 new homes, Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said in a blog post on Tuesday. Another $250 million will go to incentives for developers to build at least 5,000 affordable housing units. The success of Google and other Silicon Valley technology companies has contributed to massive housing cost increases in the San Francisco Bay Area. The firms employ tens of thousands of high-earners who have bought or rented homes, leaving fewer options for poor and middle-income residents. Meanwhile, the supply of new houses and apartments has not kept up with demand.
Read about hundreds of Silicon Valley residents living in RVs to make ends meet. "Our goal is to help communities succeed over the long term, and make sure that everyone has access to opportunity, whether or not they work in tech," Pichai said. He noted that just 3,000 homes were built in the South Bay area last year. Silicon Valley is the most expensive housing market in the country, with a median existing-home price of $1.2 million. The San Francisco and Oakland metro area is second with a $930,000 median, according to the National Association of Realtors.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
The British research submarine Boaty McBoatface has made an impressive debut in the scientific arena, discovering a significant link between Antarctic winds and rising sea temperatures on its maiden outing. From a report: The unmanned submarine, whose moniker won a landslide victory in a public poll to name a $300 million British polar research ship, undertook its inaugural mission in April 2017. The task saw McBoatface travel 180 kilometers (112 miles) through mountainous underwater valleys in Antarctica, measuring the temperature, saltiness and turbulence in the depths of the Southern Ocean.
Its findings, published in the journal PNAS on Monday, revealed how increasingly strong winds in the region are causing turbulence deep within the sea, and as a result mixing warm water from middle levels with colder water in the abyss. That process is causing the sea temperature to rise, which in turn is a significant contributor to rising sea levels, scientists behind the project said. Antarctic winds are growing in strength due to the thinning of the ozone layer and the build-up of greenhouse gases, but their impact on the ocean has never been factored in to climate models.Read Replies (0)