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Ending Emails With Certain Variation Of Thank You Vastly Improves Response Rate, Study Finds
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '17 at 02:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's email-psychology department:
An anonymous reader shares an Inc article: The folks at Boomerang, a plug-in for scheduling emails, did a little study to see how the language people use to close their emails has any effect on the response rate. "We looked at closings in over 350,000 email threads," data scientist Brendan Greenley wrote on the Boomerang blog, "And found that certain email closings deliver higher response rates." But do all emails need a response? Not necessarily. That's why Boomerang ran a variation of the test that looked at threads whose initial email contained a question mark, meaning the initiator of the conversation was likely looking for a reply. The answer? Those that express gratitude. "Emails that closed with a variation of thank you got significantly more responses than emails ending with other popular closings," Greenley writes. Here are the exact numbers: Emails that ended in Thanks in advance had a 65.7% response rate. Of emails that ended in Thanks, 63.0% got responses. The third most effective closing was Thank you with a 57.9% response rate. Boomerang has shared the kind of emails it accessed and how.

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Apple Suspends Sales of LG's UltraFine 5K Monitor Over Hardware Issues
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '17 at 02:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's taking-a-step-back department:
Roger Fingas, writing for AppleInsider: Apple has temporarily stopped sales of LG's UltraFine 5K monitor, due to technical problems associated with a lack of proper shielding from wireless interference. Over the weekend, Apple retail staff were told to keep the product on display yet not sell any units if people asked, according to a Business Insider source. The site added that it heard the same from a representative at a New York Apple store. Separately, AppleInsider has confirmed the organized removal from sale of the Thunderbolt 3 display. Sources inside Apple not authorized to speak on behalf of the company indicated that retail locations are retaining demonstration displays, but not selling any stock on-hand that it may receive that may actually have the shielding fix, nor filling any pending orders until otherwise informed. Big blow to Apple, which has given up on external monitors business. But at least, it's comforting to know people who wish to purchase a new display for their MacBook or MacBook Pro have several company-approved alternatives. Oh wait, they don't.

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188,000 Evacuated As California's Massive Oroville Dam Threatens Catastrophic Floods
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '17 at 01:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's high-ground department:
Mr D from 63 quotes a report from The Washington Post: About 188,000 residents near Oroville, Calif., were ordered to evacuate Sunday after a hole in an emergency spillway in the Oroville Dam threatened to flood the surrounding area. Thousands clogged highways leading out of the area headed south, north and west, and arteries major and minor remained jammed as midnight approached on the West Coast -- though by early Monday, Lake Oroville's water level had dropped to a point at which water was no longer spilling over. The lake level reached its peak of 902.59 feet at about 3 a.m. Sunday and dropped to 898 feet by 4 a.m. Monday, according to the Sacramento Bee. Water flows over the emergency spillway at 901 feet. "The drop in the lake level was early evidence that the Department of Water Resources' desperate attempt to prevent a catastrophic failure of the dam's emergency spillway appeared to be paying dividends," the Bee reported Monday. Officials doubled the flow of water out of the nearly mile-long primary spillway to 100,000 cubic feet per second. The normal flow is about half as much, but increased flows are common at this time of year, during peak rain season, officials said. But water officials warned that damaged infrastructure could create further dangers as storms approach in the week ahead, and it remained unclear when residents might be able to return to their homes.

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Researchers Working on Liquid Battery That Could Last For Over 10 Years
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '17 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's breakthrough? department:
Jon Fingas, writing for Engadget: If Harvard researchers have their way, you may not have to worry about replacing power backs quite so often. They've developed a flow battery (that is, a battery that stores energy in liquid solutions) which should last for over a decade. The trick was to modify the molecules in the electrolytes, ferrocene and viologen, so that they're stable, water-soluble and resistant to degradation. When they're dissolved in neutral water, the resulting solution only loses 1 percent of its capacity every 1,000 cycles. It could be several years before you even notice a slight dropoff in performance. The use of water is also great news for both the environment and your bank account. As it's not corrosive or toxic, you don't have to worry about wrecking your home if the battery leaks -- you might just need a mop.

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Apple Joins Wireless Power Consortium Amid Rumors of iPhone With Wireless Charging
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '17 at 11:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
If you've been holding out hope for wireless charging to come to the iPhone, chew on this: Apple joined the Wireless Power Consortium. From a report: Last week, a leaked note suggested that Apple is working on adding wireless charging to three phones scheduled for release in 2017. The technology may be similar to what the company has already implemented with the Apple Watch, though other reports have hinted at charging solutions that can add power to devices from a distance. The Wireless Power Consortium is the group behind Qi, a wireless charging standard that uses inductive power transfers to charge without cords.

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Getting All Your News From Facebook Is Like Eating Only Potato Chips, Flipboard CEO Says
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '17 at 11:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's analogies department:
In a wide-ranging interview, Mike McCue, CEO of news curator app Flipboard, talked about how -- and from where -- people get their news nowadays and how it shapes their worldview. From a report: McCue said getting all your news from either friends or algorithms is "challenging and semi-dangerous" because today's social platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, favor content that people engage with, driving "extremist" content to the top. Hence, he argues, the "fake news" epidemic, which McCue believes had an effect on the 2016 election. "Sometimes I think of news feeds as the 'mystery meat' of your information diet," he said. "It's not like you finish reading your Facebook feed, after half an hour, and feel like, 'That was a great use of time!' It's like if you ate potato chips all day long."

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Nobody Is Moving, Especially Millennials
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '17 at 10:20 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-we-live department:
For a fun new entry into millennials are lazy, consider this: According to new data tracked down by Richard Fry for Pew Research, just 20 percent of 25- to 35-year-olds (Old Millennials, if you will) reported having lived at a different address the previous year. From a report on NYMag: In 2000, a full 26 percent of Gen-Xers -- then at the same age range -- had reported making a move in the previous year. In 1963, members of the Silent Generation moved at a 26 percent rate, too. The census data being used here doesn't include college-dorm moves prevalent with 18- to 24-year-olds, so those young'uns are left out of the analysis. The 20 percent rate is the lowest level of young adult mobility in half a century, Fry reports, and all this with millennials getting married, owning homes, and having kids less than previous generations. Student debt and less favorable lending rates may be driving down homeownership -- imagine that -- which further reduces movement. Psychologically, this also means that young adults are more stuck with their personalities and faded of memory compared with their more mobile peers.

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Story of Two Developers Who Are Reporting Growth in Revenue After Leaving Apple's App Store
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '17 at 10:20 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's going-independent department:
John Biggs, writing for TechCrunch: In what amounts to one of the purest and most interesting experiments in assessing the value of Mac OS's App Store, the founder of Rogue Amoeba posted a description of what happened when he pulled his app Piezo. The result? More revenue as a whole without much damage to sales. The impetus for the move came after Apple pulled the Dash app off of the App Store. In the 100-day period since the move, Dash maintained and even increased revenue and found that its users didn't care which platform they were using -- 84% of the customers simply moved over to the independent app license from the App Store license. The bottom line? "It feels great to have full control over my business and to avoid App Store installation/updating/purchasing issues," wrote Dash creator Bogdan Popescu. When Paul Kafasis tried to move away from the App Store he was worried he'd lose half of his sales. After all, many months saw about 50% of sales coming from the App Store directly. When he pulled the app a year ago, however, all of those App Store sales turned into direct sales through his website, a fact that surprised and amused Kafasis.

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Encrypted Email Is Still a Pain in 2017
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '17 at 10:20 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's encrypted-emails department:
Bristol-based software developer James Stanley, who used to work at Netcraft, shares how encrypted emails, something which was first introduced over 25 years ago, is still difficult to setup and use for even reasonably tech savvy people. He says he recently tried to install Enigmail, a Thunderbird add-on, but not only things like GPG, PGP, OpenPGP were -- for no reason -- confusing, Enigmail continues to suffer from a bug that takes forever in generating keys. From his blog post: Encrypted email is nothing new (PGP was initially released in 1991 -- 26 years ago!), but it still has a huge barrier to entry for anyone who isn't already familiar with how to use it. I think my experience would have been better if Enigmail had generated keys out-of-the-box, or if (a.) gpg agreed with Enigmail on nomenclature (is it a secring or a private key?) and (b.) output the paths of the files it had generated. My experience would have been a lot worse had I not been able to call on the help of somebody who already knows how to use it.

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Elon Musk: Humans Need To Merge With Machines Else They Will Become Irrelevant in AI Age
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '17 at 10:20 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
Billionaire Elon Musk is known for his futuristic ideas. So it didn't come as a surprise when on Monday at the World Government Summit in Dubai, he predicted that over time we will see a "closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence." He added, via a CNBC report: "It's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output." Musk explained what he meant by saying that computers can communicate at "a trillion bits per second", while humans, whose main communication method is typing with their fingers via a mobile device, can do about 10 bits per second. In an age when AI threatens to become widespread, humans would be useless, so there's a need to merge with machines, according to Musk. "Some high bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence and maybe solves the control problem and the usefulness problem," Musk explained.

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Qualcomm's New 802.11ax Chips Will Ramp Up Your Wi-Fi
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '17 at 07:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's all-about-the-chips department:
Your home Wi-Fi performance could soon get much better thanks to new Wi-Fi chips that Qualcomm announced today, the IPQ8074 system-on-chip (SoC) for broadcasters (routers and access points) and the QCA6290 SoC for receivers (Wi-Fi devices). They belong to the first end-to-end commercial Wi-Fi portfolio to support the all-new 802.11ax standard. From a report on CNET: Qualcomm says the IPQ8074 is a highly-integrated all-in-one platform designed for access points, gateways and routers. The 14nm chip integrates an 11ax radio, MAC and baseband, and a quad-core 64-bit A53 CPU as well as a dual-core network accelerator. It uses a 12x12 Wi-Fi configuration (8x8 on the 5GHz band and 4x4 on the 2.4GHz band) and supports MU-MIMO for uplink. As a result, it can deliver up to 4.8 Gbps while maintaining fast connections over a larger coverage area than any 802.11ac chip. On the client side, Qualcomm says the QCA6290 SoC can offer up to a 4x increase in throughput speed in a crowded network. It supports 2x2 MU-MIMO and can realize the full benefits of the 8x8 MU-MIMO thanks to its 8x8 sounding mechanism. The chip can combine 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands using its Dual Band Simultaneous (DBS) feature to deliver up to 1.8 Gbps Wi-Fi speed. Compared with 802.11ac, the chip can reduce power consumption by two-thirds.

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Bay Area Tech Job Growth Has Rapidly Decelerated
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '17 at 07:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fewer-to-come-by department:
An anonymous reader shares a MercuryNews report: Job growth in the tech industry used to zoom like a race car, but these days, hiring by this principal driver of the Bay Area's economy chugs along more like a family SUV. The technology industry's job growth in the nine-county region has dramatically decelerated, according to this newspaper's analysis of figures released by state labor officials and Beacon Economics. Tech's annual job growth throttled back to 3.5 percent, or 26,700 new jobs, in 2016. That's much slower than the 6 percent annual gain of 42,300 jobs in 2015, or the 6.4 percent gain in 2014. And while the industry's 3.5 percent growth last year is still a sturdy annual pace, Bay Area technology companies have already disclosed plans to slash about 2,000 jobs in the first three months of 2017.

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Angry Birds Is the Most-Banned Mobile App By Businesses
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '17 at 06:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's anti-productivity department:
Barb Darrow, writing for Fortune: Corporate IT pros face the unenviable task of trying to protect valuable data from threats that change all the time. One vector of attack is clearly smartphones and tablets that employees use both for work and pleasure. To that end, mobile device management firm MobileIron just came out with its latest tally of the ten most blacklisted apps, based on a survey of 7,800 companies worldwide. Angry Birds tops the list of most-banned apps at companies worldwide, as well as in Australia, the U.S., and government sectors tracked by MobileIron in its twice-yearly Mobile Security and Risk Review. The survey covers the use of Android, iOS, and Windows devices from Oct. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2016.

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34 'Highly Toxic Users' Wrote 9% of the Personal Attacks On Wikipedia
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '17 at 04:50 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's speaking-of-user-contributions department:
Researchers used machine learning to analyze every single comment left on Wikipedia in 2015. An anonymous reader shares their results:
34 "highly toxic users" were responsible for 9% of all the personal attacks in the comments on Wikipedia, according to a research team from Alphabet's Jigsaw and the Wikimedia Foundation. They concluded that "significant progress could be made by moderating a relatively small number of frequent attackers." But at the same time, in Wikipedia's comments "less than half of attacks come from users with little prior participation; and perhaps surprisingly, approximately 30% of attacks come from registered users with over a 100 contributions. These results suggest the problems associated with personal attacks do not have an easy solution... the majority of personal attacks on Wikipedia are not the result of a few malicious users, nor primarily the consequence of allowing anonymous contributions."

The researchers "developed a machine learning algorithm that was able to identify and distinguish different forms of online abuse and personal attacks," reports Bleeping Computer, adding that the team "hopes that Wikipedia uses their study to build a comments monitoring dashboard that could track down hotspots of abusive personal attacks and help moderators ban or block toxic users." The paper describes it as a method "that combines crowdsourcing and machine learning to analyze personal attacks at scale."

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Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Things That Every Hacker Once Knew?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 13 '17 at 12:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's and-ESR-still-does department:
Open source guru Eric Raymond turns 60 this year, prompting this question from an anonymous reader:
Eric Raymond's newest writing project is "Things Every Hacker Once Knew," inspired by the day he learned that not every programmer today's knows the bit structure of ASCII. "I didn't write it as a nostalgia trip -- I don't miss underpowered computers, primitive tools, and tiny low-resolution displays... In any kind of craft or profession, I think knowing the way things used to be done, and the issues those who came before you struggled with, is quite properly a source of pride and wisdom. It gives you a useful kind of perspective on today's challenges."
He writes later that it's to "assist retrospective understanding by younger hackers so they can make sense of the fossils and survivals still embedded in current technology." It's focusing on ASCII and "related technologies" like hardware terminals, modems and RS-232. ("This is lore that was at one time near-universal and is no longer.") Sections include "UUCP and BBSes, the forgotten pre-Internets" and "The strange afterlife of the Hayes smartmodem" (which points out some AT commands survived to this day in smartphones). He requests any would-be contributors to remember that "I'm trying to describe common knowledge at the time." This got my thinking -- what are some that every programmer once knew that have since been forgotten by newer generations of programmers?
Eric Raymond is still hard at work today on the NTPsec project -- a secure, hardened, and improved implementation of Network Time Protocol -- and he promises donations to his Patreon page will help fund it. But what things do you remember that were commonplace knowledge "back in the day" that have now become largely forgotten? Leave your best answers in the comments. What are some things that every hacker once knew?

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LinuxQuestions Users Choose Their Favorite Distro: Slackware
Posted by News Fetcher on February 12 '17 at 10:00 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's 24-years-young department:
ZDNet summarizes some of the surprises in this year's poll on LinuxQuestions, "one of the largest Linux groups with 550,000 member". An anonymous reader quotes their report:
The winner for the most popular desktop distribution? Slackware...! Yes, one of the oldest of Linux distributions won with just over 16% of the vote. If that sounds a little odd, it is. On DistroWatch, a site that covers Linux distributions like paint, the top Linux desktop distros are Mint, Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Manjaro. Slackware comes in 28th place... With more than double the votes for any category, it appears there was vote-stuffing by Slackware fans... The mobile operating system race was a runaway for Android, with over 68% of the vote. Second place went to CyanogenMod, an Android clone, which recently went out of business...
Linux users love to debate about desktop environments. KDE Plasma Desktop took first by a hair's breadth over the popular lightweight Xfce desktop. Other well-regarded desktop environments, such as Cinnamon and MATE, got surprisingly few votes. The once popular GNOME still hasn't recovered from the blowback from its disliked design change from GNOME 2 to GNOME 3.

Firefox may struggle as a web browser in the larger world, but on Linux it's still popular. Firefox took first place with 51.7 percent of the vote. Chrome came in a distant second place, with the rest of the vote being divided between a multitude of obscure browsers.

LibreOffice won a whopping 89.6% of the vote for "best office suite" -- and Vim beat Emacs.

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US-Born NASA Scientist Detained At The Border Until He Unlocked His Phone
Posted by News Fetcher on February 12 '17 at 07:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's yearning-to-breathe-free department:
Sidd Bikkannavar works at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After racing solar-powered cars in Chile, he had trouble returning to America.

mspohr quote The Verge:
Bikkannavar says he was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and pressured to give the Customs and Border Protection agents his phone and access PIN. Since the phone was issued by NASA, it may have contained sensitive material that wasn't supposed to be shared. Bikkannavar's phone was returned to him after it was searched by CBP, but he doesn't know exactly what information officials might have taken from the device...

The officer also presented Bikkannavar with a document titled "Inspection of Electronic Devices" and explained that CBP had authority to search his phone. Bikkannavar did not want to hand over the device, because it was given to him by JPL and is technically NASA property. He even showed the officer the JPL barcode on the back of phone. Nonetheless, CBP asked for the phone and the access PIN. "I was cautiously telling him I wasn't allowed to give it out, because I didn't want to seem like I was not cooperating," says Bikkannavar. "I told him I'm not really allowed to give the passcode; I have to protect access. But he insisted they had the authority to search it."

While border agents have the right to search devices, The Verge reports that travelers aren't legally required to unlock their phones, "although agents can detain them for significant periods of time if they do not." They also report that Bikkannavar "was not allowed to leave until he gave CBP his PIN," adding that the cybersecurity team at JPL "was not happy about the breach."

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Face Recognition + Mandatory Police Body Cameras = Mass Surveillance?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 12 '17 at 05:32 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's I'll-be-seeing-you department:
Facial recognition software is already in use, and it has privacy advocates worried. An anonymous reader quotes the Bay Area Newsgroup.
Southern California-based FaceFirst sells its facial recognition technology to retail stores, which use it to identify shoplifters who have been banned from the store, and alert management if they return. Corporate offices and banks also use the software to recognize people who are wanted by police... Several local law enforcement agencies have expressed interest in the technology, but so far none have had the budget for it. FaceFirst sells software police officers can install on their smartphones and use to identify people in the field from up to 12 feet away.
Some privacy experts worry facial recognition technology will show up next in police body cameras, with potentially dangerous consequences... The problem, say privacy advocates, is that all kinds of people come into contact with police, including many who are never suspected of any crimes. So lots of innocent people could be caught up in a police database fed by face-recognizing body cameras. The body cameras could turn into a "massive mobile surveillance network," said Jeramie Scott, national security counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

One-third of America's police departments use body cameras. (And just in San Jose, there's already 450 neighborhood cameras that have also agreed to share their footage for police investigations.) The new technologies concern the ACLU's policy director for technology and civil liberties. "You have very powerful systems being purchased, most often in secret, with little-to-no public debate and no process in place to make sure that there are policies in place to safeguard community members."

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Shamed In Super Bowl Ads, Verizon Introduces Unlimited Data Plans
Posted by News Fetcher on February 12 '17 at 04:02 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's bills-being-belittled department:
A surprise announcement Sunday revealed that tomorrow Verizon will begin offering introductory plans with unlimited data.*

* Customers "will get full LTE speeds until they reach 22GB of usage," reports The Verge, "after which they'll be subject to reduced data speeds and de-prioritization."

An anonymous reader writes:
Other carriers have similar limits. "For Sprint it's 23GB. T-Mobile has a slightly higher threshold of 26GB... AT&T matches Verizon at 22GB," reports The Verge. Verizon says their cap is "to ensure a quality experience for all customers... While we don't expect to do that very often, network management is a crucial tool that benefits all Verizon customers."

The $80-a-month plan also includes hotspot tethering -- up to 10 gigabytes -- and "includes 'HD' video as opposed to the 480p/DVD-quality video that T-Mobile One customers get by default." In a Sunday YouTube video, the head of Verizon's wireless effort says customer interviews found "Some of the heavier users of data -- the power users -- had data anxiety." But it's still a surprising move. Engadget reports that in the past Verizon "frequently tried its hardest to discourage unlimited data users," but today is "facing stiff competition from T-Mobile, which engineered a dramatic comeback in recent years and upped the ante by making unlimited data standard through the One plan."

Verizon's pricing was also targeted heavily last week in a barrage of Super Bowl ads by both Sprint and T-Mobile just last Sunday. T-Mobile showed a masochistic woman calling Verizon just to enjoying hearing about the overages, taxes and fees she incurred by exceeding her data limit, while Sprint showed a man who was trying to escape his Verizon contract by faking his own death.

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Gravity-Detecting LIGO Also Found To Be Creating Gravity Waves
Posted by News Fetcher on February 12 '17 at 02:45 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's popular-quantum-mechanics department:
LIGO is a large-scale physics experiment to detect "ripples in spacetime," as well as gravity waves from outer space. But it turns out that it's also creating gravity waves, according to a team of physicists led by Belinda Pang, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology. sciencehabit quotes Science magazine:

Although these waves are far too feeble to detect directly, the researchers say, the radiation in principle could be used to try to detect weird quantum mechanical effects among large objects... Of course, LIGO doesn't generate large gravitational waves -- you could probably make bigger ones yourself by whirling bowling balls around -- but it does so with optimal efficiency [and] the waves could still be used to probe quantum effects among macroscopic objects, Pang says.

Quantum mechanics says that a vanishingly small object such as an electron can literally be in two places in once. Many physicists suspect that it might just be possible to coax a macroscopic object, such as one of LIGO's mirrors, into a similar state of quantum motion. That delicate state wouldn't last long, as interactions with the outside world would make it "decohere" and put it in one place or another. However, one could imagine measuring the rate at which such a state decoheres to see whether it matches the rate expected from the radiation of gravitational waves, Pang says.

"It's unbelievably difficult," Pang says. "But if you want to do it, what we're saying is that LIGO is the best place to do it."

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