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Google Has Enlisted NASA To Help it Prove Quantum Supremacy Within Months
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '18 at 02:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
Google wants NASA to help it prove quantum supremacy within a matter of months, MIT Technology Review reported Monday, citing the Space Act Agreement. From the report: Quantum supremacy is the idea, so far undemonstrated, that a sufficiently powerful quantum computer will be able to complete certain mathematical calculations that classical supercomputers cannot. Proving it would be a big deal because it could kick-start a market for devices that might one day crack previously unbreakable codes, boost AI, improve weather forecasts, or model molecular interactions and financial systems in exquisite detail. The agreement, signed in July, calls on NASA to "analyze results from quantum circuits run on Google quantum processors, and ... provide comparisons with classical simulation to both support Google in validating its hardware and establish a baseline for quantum supremacy." Google confirmed to MIT Technology Review that the agreement covered its latest 72-qubit quantum chip, called Bristlecone. Where classical computers store information in binary bits that definitely represent either 1 or 0, quantum computers use qubits that exist in an undefined state between 1 and 0. For some problems, using qubits should quickly provide solutions that could take classical computers much longer to compute.

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Flaws in Self-Encrypting SSDs Let Attackers Bypass Disk Encryption
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '18 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers have found flaws that can be exploited to bypass hardware encryption in well known and popular SSD drives. Master passwords and faulty standards implementations allow attackers access to encrypted data without needing to know the user-chosen password. SSDs from Micron (Crucial) and Samsung are affected. These are SSDs that support hardware-level encryption via a local built-in chip, separate from the main CPU. Some of these devices have a factory-set master password that bypasses the user-set password, while other SSDs store the encryption key on the hard drive, from where it can be retrieved. The issue is worse on Windows, where BitLocker defers software-level encryption to hardware encryption-capable SSDs, meaning user data is vulnerable to attacks without the user's knowledge. More in the research paper.

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Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust, Two of the World's Largest Biomedical Research Funders, Back Europe's Ambitious Open-Access Plan
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '18 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's information-wants-to-be-free department:
Two of the world's largest biomedical research funders have backed a plan to make all papers resulting from work they fund open access on publication by 2020. From a report: On 5 November, the London-based Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington, announced they were both endorsing 'Plan S,' adding their weight to an initiative already backed by 13 research funders across Europe since its launch in September. The plan was spearheaded by Robert-Jan Smits, the European Commission's special envoy on open access. The Wellcome Trust, which gave out $1.4 billion in grants in 2016-17, is also the first funder to detail how it intends to implement Plan S. Its approach suggests that journals may not need to switch wholesale to open-access (OA) models by 2020 to be compliant with Plan S -- if the initiative's other backers decide on a similar line. The biomedical charity already has an OA policy, but in some cases it allows an embargo of up to six months after publication before papers have to be made free to read. The organization says that by 1 January 2020, it will ban all such embargoes. Wellcome-funded work will not be able to appear in Nature, Science and other influential subscription journals unless these publications permit Wellcome-funded papers to be published under OA terms. Researchers that the charity funds could still publish in subscription journals, says Robert Kiley, Wellcome's head of open research. But only if those journals agree that the authors can immediately deposit their accepted manuscript in the PubMed Central repository under a liberal publishing licence. Some publishers, such as the Royal Society in London, already allow this.

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Amazon Plans To Split HQ2 Evenly Between Two Cities, Report Says
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '18 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
Amazon plans to split its second headquarters evenly between two locations rather than picking one city for HQ2, WSJ reported Monday, citing a person familiar with the matter, a surprise decision that will spread the impact of a massive new office across two communities. From the report: The driving force behind the decision to build two equal offices in addition to the company's headquarters in Seattle is recruiting enough tech talent, according to the person familiar with the company's plans. The move will also ease potential issues with housing, transit and other areas where adding tens of thousands of workers could cause problems. [...] The report, published Monday, did not specify the locations Amazon is exploring, but on Sunday, the newspaper had reported that the ecommerce giant was in late-stage discussions with Crystal City in Virginia, Dallas and New York City. [The aforementioned link may be paywalled; here's an alternative source.]

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Tim Berners-Lee Launches Campaign To Save the Web From Abuse
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '18 at 11:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's Magna-Carta-for-the-web department:
Tim Berners-Lee has launched a global campaign to save the web from the destructive effects of abuse and discrimination, political manipulation, and other threats that plague the online world. A report adds: In a talk at the opening of the Web Summit in Lisbon on Monday, the inventor of the web called on governments, companies and individuals to back a new "Contract for the Web" that aims to protect people's rights and freedoms on the internet. The contract outlines central principles that will be built into a full contract and published in May 2019, when half of the world's population will be able to get online. More than 50 organisations have already signed the contract, which is published by Berners-Lee's World Wide Web Foundation alongside a report that calls for urgent action. "For many years there was a feeling that the wonderful things on the web were going to dominate and we'd have a world with less conflict, more understanding, more and better science, and good democracy," Berners-Lee told the Guardian. "But people have become disillusioned because of all the things they see in the headlines. Humanity connected by technology on the web is functioning in a dystopian way. We have online abuse, prejudice, bias, polarisation, fake news, there are lots of ways in which it is broken. This is a contract to make the web one which serves humanity, science, knowledge and democracy." Under the principles laid out in the document, which Berners-Lee calls a "Magna Carta for the web", governments must ensure that its citizens have access to all of the internet, all of the time, and that their privacy is respected so they can be online "freely, safely and without fear." Berners-Lee, added, "We're at a 50/50 moment for the web. We've created something amazing together, but half the world is still not online, and our online rights and freedoms are at risk. The web has done so much for us, but now we need to stand up #ForTheWeb." You can watch his talk here (skip the first 10 minutes).

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Supreme Court Rejects Industry Challenge of 2015 Net Neutrality Rules
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '18 at 11:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-turn-of-events department:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused a request by the Trump administration and the telecommunications industry to wipe away a lower court decision that had upheld Obama-era net neutrality rules aimed at ensuring a free and open internet. The justices' action, however, does not undo the 2017 repeal of the policy. A report adds: The Federal Communications Commission's 2015 order to impose net neutrality rules and strictly regulate broadband was already reversed by Trump's pick for FCC chairman, Ajit Pai. But AT&T and broadband industry lobby groups were still trying to overturn court decisions that upheld the FCC order. A win for the broadband industry could have prevented future administrations from imposing a similarly strict set of rules. The Trump administration supported the industry's case, asking the US Supreme Court to vacate the Obama-era ruling. But the Supreme Court today said it has denied petitions filed by AT&T and broadband lobby groups NCTA, CTIA, USTelecom, and the American Cable Association. Four of nine justices must agree to hear a case, but only three voted to grant the petitions. Further reading: Reuters and Variety.

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The Year OnePlus Started Ignoring Fans
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '18 at 10:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's never-settle-to-becoming-complacent department:
OnePlus has made a name for itself selling devices that punch above the price class. The Chinese smartphone maker has also built a loyal fanbase by proactively reaching out to its users and incorporating the changes and suggestions they make in its product lineup. But as the company grows bigger and embarks on a new journey -- entering the United States -- it is increasingly turning a blind eye to its community. From a story: To get the whole picture, we have to look at all of 2018. OnePlus releases two phones per year, and it makes sure to hype these before each debut. This year was the same in this regard, except for the obvious fan backlash. I'm of course talking about notches and headphone jacks. In March, OnePlus cofounder Carl Pei tweeted that users should "learn to love the notch." The outcry was so great that Pei deleted the tweet. The OnePlus 6 of course launched in May with a notch. Earlier in March, Pei also tweeted his usual annual poll about headphone jacks. The OnePlus 6T, which started shipping in the U.S. on November 1 and will hit the rest of the world on November 6, has a smaller "teardrop" notch. But as you likely already know, it doesn't have a headphone jack. [...] It's a bizarre set of decisions given OnePlus has always prided itself on giving its fans exactly what they want. This year, OnePlus seems to be happily pushing its fans to Samsung, which at least for now still offers headphone jacks in all its phones and has completely ignored the ugly notch trend.

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Childhood Obesity Linked To Air Pollution From Vehicles
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '18 at 10:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Early exposure to air pollution from vehicles increases the risk of children becoming obese, new research has found. From a report: High levels of nitrogen dioxide, which is emitted by diesel engines, in the first year of life led to significantly faster weight gain later, the scientists found. Other pollutants produced by road traffic have also been linked to obesity in children by recent studies. Nitrogen dioxide pollution is at illegal levels in most urban areas in the UK and the government has lost three times in the high court over the inadequacy of its plans. The pollutant also plagues many cities in Europe and around the world. "We would urge parents to be mindful where their young children spend their time, especially considering if those areas are near major roads," said Jeniffer Kim, at the University of Southern California, who led the new research. "The first year of life is a period of rapid development of various systems in the body [and] may prime the body's future development." The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed last Monday that 90% of the world's children are breathing unsafe air, a situation described as "inexcusable" by the WHO's head. Concern over the impact of toxic air on children's health is rising as research reveals serious long-term damage to both their physical and mental health.

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Why Big Tech Pays Poor Kenyans To Teach Self-Driving Cars
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '18 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's outsourcing-everything department:
Each day, thousands of people from places like Kibera, Africa's largest slum and one of the toughest neighborhoods on earth, commute to an office of Samasource in the east side of Nairobi. The San Francisco-headquartered company occupies four floors of a business park building, with vast banks of computers being used for the job of training data. Google, Microsoft, Salesforce and Yahoo are among the clients of Samasource. What exactly do these people do at Samasource? Its clients won't say, but BBC reports that the "information prepared here forms a crucial part of some of Silicon Valley's biggest and most famous efforts in AI." From the report: [...] Brenda loads up an image, and then uses the mouse to trace around just about everything. People, cars, road signs, lane markings -- even the sky, specifying whether it's cloudy or bright. Ingesting millions of these images into an artificial intelligence system means a self-driving car, to use one example, can begin to "recognise" those objects in the real world. The more data, the supposedly smarter the machine. She and her colleagues sit close -- often too close -- to their monitors, zooming in on the images to make sure not a single pixel is tagged incorrectly. Their work will be checked by a superior, who will send it back if it's not up to scratch. For the fastest, most accurate trainers, the honor of having your name up on one of the many TV screens around the office. And the most popular perk of all: shopping vouchers. It's the kind of technological progress that will likely never be felt in a place like Kibera. As Africa's largest slum, it has more pressing problems to solve, such as a lack of reliable clean water, and a well-known sanitation crisis. But that's not to say artificial intelligence can't have a positive impact here. We drove to one of Kibera's few permanent buildings, found near a railway line that, on this rainy day, looked thoroughly decommissioned by mud, but has apparently been in regular use since its colonial inception. Almost exactly a year ago, this building was the dividing line between stone-throwing rioters and the military. Today, it's a thriving hub of activity: a media school and studio, something of a cafeteria, and on the first floor, a room full of PCs. Here, Gideon Ngeno teaches around 25 students the basics of using a personal computer. What's curious about this process is that digital literacy is high, even in Kibera, where smartphones are common and every other shop is selling chargers and accessories, which people buy using the mobile money system MPesa.

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Intel Cascade Lake-AP Xeon CPUs Embrace the Multi-Chip Module
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '18 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's major-bets department:
Ahead of the annual Supercomputing 2018 conference next week, Intel today announced part of its upcoming Cascade Lake strategy. From a report: The company teased plans for a new Xeon platform called Cascade Lake Advanced Performance, or Cascade Lake-AP, this morning ahead of the Supercomputing 2018 conference. This next-gen platform doubles the cores per socket from an Intel system by joining a number of Cascade Lake Xeon dies together on a single package with the blue team's Ultra Path Interconnect, or UPI. Intel will allow Cascade Lake-AP servers to employ up to two-socket (2S) topologies, for as many as 96 cores per server. Intel chose to share two competitive performance numbers alongside the disclosure of Cascade Lake-AP. One of these is that a top-end Cascade Lake-AP system can put up 3.4x the Linpack throughput of a dual-socket AMD Epyc 7601 platform. This benchmark hits AMD where it hurts. The AVX-512 instruction set gives Intel CPUs a major leg up on the competition in high-performance computing applications where floating-point throughput is paramount. Intel used its own compilers to create binaries for this comparison, and that decision could create favorable Linpack performance results versus AMD CPUs, as well.

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Microsoft Working on Porting Sysinternals To Linux
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '18 at 07:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
An anonymous reader writes: A Microsoft exec has confirmed yesterday that the company's engineers are working on porting the highly popular Sysinternals software package to Linux. Microsoft engineers have already ported the ProcDump utility and are currently working on porting ProcMon as well. More tools to follow. Microsoft's decision to port this highly popular debugging utility to Linux comes after two months ago, in September, Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's executive vice president of the cloud and enterprise group, revealed that "sometimes slightly over half of Azure VMs are Linux." With Linux's growing adoption as the preferred OS for running Azure VMs, it's only natural that Azure engineers are now looking into porting their favorite debugging utilities to Linux, for both themselves but also for the company's customers.

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Australian Intelligence Knows Huawei Was Used in Espionage, Report Says
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '18 at 07:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
According to a report in The Australian, Australia received intelligence reports that Huawei personnel provided Chinese spies passwords to hack a "foreign network." From a report: Though there are many broad allegations that telecommunications equipment providers Huawei and ZTE sabotage products so that spies can conduct espionage, the public is largely in the dark about how and if the nation has ever used that capacity. The Australian report claims: "Chinese espionage services used telecommunications giant Huawei's staff to get access codes to infiltrate a foreign network." The attack took place within the last two years.

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Daylight Saving Time is Super Unpopular. Here Are the Countries Trying To Ditch It.
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '18 at 06:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what-in-the-world department:
Daylight Saving Time ended in the United States on Sunday, bumping the clocks back an hour. The change happened in Europe a week earlier, meaning the time difference between the continents was momentarily smaller. It's another confusing wrinkle in a confusing temporal process that confounds the world. From a story: Today, 70 countries change their clocks midyear for Daylight Saving Time, including most of North America, Europe and parts of South America and New Zealand. China, Japan, India and most countries near the equator don't fall back or jump ahead. In much of Asia and South America, the Daylight Saving Time shift was adopted, but then abandoned. It has never been observed in most of Africa. While the United States extended its Daylight Saving Time in 2005 and Florida wants to make it its standard time, other countries are moving to ditch the practice. The European Union is weighing a plan to abandon shifting from daylight saving time midyear. "Millions ... believe that summertime should be all the time," the European Union's chief executive, Jean-Claude Juncker, told German reporters in August. Juncker was referring, in part, to an online poll conducted by the E.U., which found that changing clocks is tremendously unpopular. (As my colleague Rick Noack pointed out, however, there are methodological problems: "The largest share of participants came from one country -- Germany -- where the time switch has been a somewhat odd front-page topic for years. But any E.U. decision would also impact the 27 other member states.")

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It's Not Your Imagination: Smartphone Battery Life Is Getting Worse
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '18 at 06:32 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's downward-spiral department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post: For the last few weeks, I've been performing the same battery test over and over again on 13 phones. With a few notable exceptions, this year's top models underperformed last year's. The new iPhone XS died 21 minutes earlier than last year's iPhone X. Google's Pixel 3 lasted nearly an hour and a half less than its Pixel 2. Phone makers tout all sorts of tricks to boost battery life, including more-efficient processors, low-power modes and artificial intelligence to manage app drain. Yet my results, and tests by other reviewers I spoke with, reveal an open secret in the industry: the lithium-ion batteries in smartphones are hitting an inflection point where they simply can't keep up.

"Batteries improve at a very slow pace, about 5 percent per year," says Nadim Maluf, the CEO of a Silicon Valley firm called Qnovo that helps optimize batteries. "But phone power consumption is growing up faster than 5 percent." Blame it on the demands of high-resolution screens, more complicated apps and, most of all, our seeming inability to put the darn phone down. Lithium-ion batteries, for all their rechargeable wonder, also have some physical limitations, including capacity that declines over time -- and the risk of explosion if they're damaged or improperly disposed. And the phone power situation is likely about to get worse. New ultrafast wireless technology called 5G, coming to the U.S. neighborhoods soon, will make even greater demands on our beleaguered batteries. If you want a smartphone that excels in battery life, you pretty much have two options: Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 and Apple's iPhone XR. According to The Washington Post's tests, the iPhone XR and Note 9 topped the list with times of 12:25 and 12:00, respectively.

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Elon Musk Shows Off The Boring Company's LA Tunnel
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '18 at 02:30 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's disturbingly-long department:
Elon Musk is keeping to his promise of opening the Boring Company's proof-of-concept tunnel to the public on December 10th. The two-mile-long Los Angeles tunnel takes 30 seconds to get through via a sped-up video. The Verge reports: Construction on the tunnel began over a year ago, and extends from SpaceX's Hawthorne, California headquarters, to an LA suburb. Since then, the Boring Company has been selected to build tunnels for Chicago and Washington DC, and has sketched out plans to build a larger network of tunnels under LA, with the aim of reducing congestion. The tunnels will theoretically use autonomous, electric skates to move anywhere from 8 to 16 people along the system's rails at speeds anywhere from 124 mph to 155mph.

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SpiNNaker Powers Up World's Largest Supercomputer That Emulates a Human Brain
Posted by News Fetcher on November 04 '18 at 11:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's up-and-running department:
The world's largest neuromorphic supercomputer, the Spiking Neural Network Architecture (SpiNNaker), was just switched on for the first time yesterday, boasting one million processor cores and the ability to perform 200 trillion actions per second. HotHardware reports: SpiNNaker has been twenty years and nearly $19.5 million in the making. The project was originally supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), but has been most recently funded by the European Human Brain Project. The supercomputer was designed and built by the University of Manchester's School of Computer Science. Construction began in 2006 and the supercomputer was finally turned on yesterday.

SpiNNaker is not the first supercomputer to incorporate one million processor cores, but it is still incredibly unique since it is designed to mimic the human brain. Most computers send information from one point to another through a standard network. SpiNNaker sends small bits of information to thousands of points, similar to how the neurons pass chemicals and electrical signals through the brain. SpiNNaker uses electronic circuits to imitate neurons. SpiNNaker has so far been used to mimic the processing of more isolated brain networks like the cortex. It has also been used to control SpOmnibot, a robot that processes visual information and navigates towards its targets.

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How Llamas Could Help Us Fight the Flu
Posted by News Fetcher on November 04 '18 at 07:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-kind-of-flu-protection department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from PBS: Researchers now think they're on the path to a new kind of flu protection -- one that might last longer and work against all types of influenza viruses. The source of their new defense: llamas. These furry South American mammals produce special antibodies -- molecules that mark foreign invaders in our bodies for destruction -- that can identify a huge range of elusive influenza viruses. A new study used these antibodies to target multiple strains of influenza at once, a technique that could lead to more effective flu prevention. These antibodies can survive without refrigeration for longer, which could reduce the cost and complexity of flu treatment.

The researchers behind Thursday's study fused four different single-domain antibodies into one larger molecule, held together with a human protein as a scaffold. When they injected this hybrid into mice, the antibodies kept the animals safe from a wide variety of influenza type A and type B viruses -- the two most common assailants in America's annual flu epidemic. This hybrid seemed to successfully target each of the five flu strains they tested. When the researchers injected mice with their hybrid antibody, it protected the mice from lethal doses of the flu. But the paper also explored another route of delivery: gene therapy. The researchers used a benign virus -- dubbed AAV -- to embed the genetic blueprint of the llama antibodies directly into mouse cells. This procedure allowed the mice to produce the antibodies on their own.

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Tablet Shipments Decline For 16th Straight Quarter
Posted by News Fetcher on November 04 '18 at 06:30 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sign-of-the-times department:
The tablet market has now declined year-over-year for 16 quarters straight. According to new estimates from IDC, "Q3 2018 saw an 8.6 percent year-over-year decline: 36.4 million units shipped worldwide, compared to 39.9 million units in the same quarter last year," reports VentureBeat. From the report: The only silver lining is that the Q3 2018 decline wasn't double digits again. While 2017 quarters only saw single-digit declines, Q1 2018 and Q2 2018 were in the double digits. The estimates come from IDC, which counts both slate form factors and detachables, meaning tablets with keyboards included. Apple maintained its top spot for the quarter, with Samsung and Amazon rounding out the top three. Huawei was the only company in the top five to ship more tablets than the year before. The top five vendors accounted for 68.4 percent of the market, up from 67.1 percent last year.

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20th Century Fox Is Using AI To Analyze Movie Trailers, Find Out What Films Audiences Will Like
Posted by News Fetcher on November 04 '18 at 02:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's connecting-the-dots department:
20th Century Fox is using AI to predict what films people will want to see. According to a recently published paper, researchers from the company are using machine learning to examine trailer footage and compare the objects and events it identifies with data generated for other trailers. "The idea is that movies with similar sets of labels will attract similar sets of people," The Verge reports. From the report: As the researchers explain in the paper, this is exactly the sort of data movie studios love. (They already produce lots of similar data using traditional methods like interviews and questionnaires.) "Understanding detailed audience composition is important for movie studios that invest in stories of uncertain commercial," they write. In other words, if they know who watches what, they will know what movies to make.

To create their "experimental movie attendance prediction and recommendation system" (named Merlin), 20th Century Fox partnered with Google to use the company's servers and open-source AI framework TensorFlow. In an accompanying blog post, the search giant explains Merlin's analysis of Logan. First, Merlin scans the trailer, labeling objects like "facial hair," "car," and "forest" (taking into account how long these objects appear on-screen and when they show up the trailer). By comparing this information with analyses of other trailers, Merlin can try to predict what films might interest the people who saw Logan.

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People Who Prefer Black Coffee Are More Likely To Have Psychopathic Or Sadistic Traits, Study Finds
Posted by News Fetcher on November 04 '18 at 02:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's that-explains-so-much department:
A new study conducted at the University of Innsbruck in Austria finds that people who drink their coffee black often has psychopathic or sadistic traits. The study surveyed more than 1,000 adults about their taste preferences with foods and drinks that are bitter. They also took four different personality tests that assessed traits like narcissism, psychopathy, sadism, and aggression. From a report: Researchers found a trend that suggested a correlation between preferences for black coffee, and other bitter tastes, and sadistic or psychopathic personality traits. They also found that people who enjoyed milky or sugary coffee, and other sweet flavors, generally tended to have more "agreeable" personality traits like sympathy, cooperation, and kindness. The closest correlation found in the study was between bitter foods, like radishes and tonic water, and "everyday sadism," or the enjoyment of inflicting moderate levels of pain on others. The researchers went further, suggesting that this association between bitter foods and psychopathic tendencies could "become chronic" and get worse with time.

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