By BeauHD from Slashdot's lock-and-load department
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities, residing in Washington and Louisiana, will be upgraded via grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation, UK Research and Innovation and the Australian Research Council -- providing stronger, more frequent detections and decreasing noise. CNET reports: Over $34 million will be provided for the upgrade which makes LIGO sound like the latest iPhone. When it is complete, LIGO will go from its crusty old 2015 "Advanced LIGO" phase to the "Advanced LIGO Plus" phase. LIGO's twin facilities both contain two 4-kilometer long arms that use lasers to detect minute disturbances caused by extremely energetic cosmic events -- like black holes merging. The incredibly high-powered events are responsible for gravitational waves, rippling out through spacetime the same way water does when you drop a rock in a pond. By the time they reach Earth, the ripples are so small that only incredibly tiny disturbances in LIGO's lasers can detect them.
The proposed upgrades will greatly increase the number of events that LIGO will detect. With only 11 under its belt so far, [David Reitze, executive director of LIGO] even expects we might see "black hole mergers on a daily basis" and describes neutron star mergers becoming "much more frequent." All that extra power adds up, hopefully revealing some of the cosmos' deepest, darkest secrets. In September 2015, LIGO provided the first evidence for a black hole merger -- and in turn, the existence of gravitational waves -- just four days after a three-year long upgrade. Since then, LIGO has seen 10 black hole mergers and a single, huge collision between two incredibly dense stars, known as neutron stars.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's laughter-is-the-best-medicine department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: [R]esearchers have found that the success of a future mission to the red planet may depend on the ship having a class clown. "These are people that have the ability to pull everyone together, bridge gaps when tensions appear and really boost morale," said Jeffrey Johnson, an anthropologist at the University of Florida. "When you're living with others in a confined space for a long period of time, such as on a mission to Mars, tensions are likely to fray. It's vital you have somebody who can help everyone get along, so they can do their jobs and get there and back safely. It's mission critical." Johnson spent four years studying overwintering crews in Antarctica and identified the importance of clowns, leaders, buddies, storytellers, peacemakers and counsellors for bonding teams together and making them work smoothly. He found the same mixes worked in U.S., Russian, Polish, Chinese and Indian bases.
"These roles are informal, they emerge within the group. But the interesting thing is that if you have the right combination the group does very well. And if you don't, the group does very badly," he said. Johnson is now working with Nasa to explore whether clowns and other characters are crucial for the success of long space missions. So far he has monitored four groups of astronauts who spent 30 to 60 days in the agency's mock space habitat, the Human Exploration Research Analog, or Hera, in Houston, Texas. Johnson, who also studied isolated salmon fishers in Alaska, found that clowns were often willing to be the butt of jokes and pranks. In Antarctica, one clown he observed endured a mock funeral and burial in the tundra, but was crucial for building bridges between clusters of overwintering scientists and between contractors and researchers, or "beakers" as the contractors called them.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-shiny department
Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy Tab S5e, its lightest and thinnest tablet ever made. "At $399, it's not only far more affordable than the flagship $649 Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, it's arguably surpassed it in some ways," reports The Verge. From the report: For starters, the Tab S5e has the thinnest and lightest metal unibody of any Galaxy Tab, measuring 5.5mm thin and weighing just 400 grams -- even compared to the 11-inch iPad Pro at 5.9mm thick and 468 grams, the Tab S5e is both lighter and thinner. The company also claims they've maximized space with the Tab S5e's massive 81.8 percent screen-to-body ratio, which on paper, is an improvement over the Tab S4's lower 79 percent ratio. It's also right on the heels of the 11-inch iPad Pro's ~82.9 percent screen-to-body ratio.
And unlike Samsung's previous attempt to make its 10.5-inch tablet more affordable, this slate doesn't skimp on the screen and not nearly as much on the processor. Samsung's Tab S5e is a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED device with a 16:10 aspect ratio and 2560 x 1600 resolution, while its octa-core Snapdragon 670 processor should provide solid mid-range performance. Samsung's also promising up to 14.5 hours of battery life. The Tab S5e is also the first tablet from the Korean tech giant to ship with Pie, the latest version of Android, along with the new Bixby 2.0 virtual assistant and information tool. Samsung is also carrying features like Dex, a desktop-style Android environment, over from other Galaxy devices, like the Note 9 and Tab S4. It allows users to interact with their device using the screen, a mouse, keyboard, or all three. Other features include AKG-tuned, quad surround sound speakers, 64GB of internal storage (microSD expandable to 512GB), with 4GB RAM (upgradable to 6GB RAM/128GB storage), and 13-megapixel back and 8-megapixel front-facing cameras. Cellular models will follow the Wi-Fi versions later this year.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's are-we-really-surprised department
18,000 Android apps with tens or hundreds of millions of installs on the Google Play Store have been found to violate Google's Play Store Advertising ID policy guidance by collecting persistent device identifiers such as serial numbers, IMEI, WiFi MAC addresses, SIM card serial numbers, and sending them to mobile advertising related domains alongside ad IDs. Bleeping Computer reports: AppCensus is an organization based in Berkeley, California, and created by researchers from all over the world with expertise in a wide range of fields, ranging from networking and privacy to security and usability. The project is supported by "grants from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Data Transparency Lab." By highlighting this behavior, AppCensus shows that while users are being offered the option to reset the advertising ID, doing so will not immediately translate into getting a new "identity" because app developers can also use a multitude of other identifiers to keep their tracking and targeting going.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's marked-for-deletion department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Twitter retains direct messages for years, including messages you and others have deleted, but also data sent to and from accounts that have been deactivated and suspended, according to security researcher Karan Saini. Saini found years-old messages in a file from an archive of his data obtained through the website from accounts that were no longer on Twitter. He also reported a similar bug, found a year earlier but not disclosed until now, that allowed him to use a since-deprecated API to retrieve direct messages even after a message was deleted from both the sender and the recipient -- though, the bug wasn't able to retrieve messages from suspended accounts.
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
A huge study at Indiana University, led by Elizabeth Canning, finds that the attitudes of instructors affect the grades their students earned in classes. The researchers conducted their study by sending out a simple survey to all the instructors of STEM courses at Indiana University, asking whether professors felt that a student's intelligence is fixed and unchanging or whether they thought it could be developed. Then, the researchers were given access to two years' worth of students' grades in those instructors' classes, covering a total of 15,000 students. Ars Technica reports: The results showed a surprising difference between the professors who agreed that intelligence is fixed and those who disagreed (referred to as "fixed mindset" and "growth mindset" professors). In classes taught by fixed mindset instructors, Latino, African-American, and Native American students averaged grades 0.19 grade points (out of four) lower than white and Asian-American students. But in classes taught by "growth mindset" instructors, the gap dropped to just 0.10 grade points. No other factor the researchers analyzed showed a statistically significant difference among classes -- not the instructors' experience, tenure status, gender, specific department, or even ethnicity. Yet their belief about whether a students' intelligence is fixed seems to have had a sizable effect.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's call-to-action department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gamasutra: In the wake of Activision Blizzard's massive layoff wave, a move that was announced in the same call as the company's record quarter, the union federation AFL-CIO has published an open letter to game developers urging members of the industry to organize. The AFL-CIO itself is the largest labor organization in the United States and counts 55 individual unions (and more than 12.5 million workers) among its affiliates. The letter, readable in full on Kotaku, calls out many of the issues that have prompted conversations about unionization in just recent years like excessive crunch, toxic work conditions, inadequate pay, and job instability. The industry, points out AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer Liz Shuler, boasted sales 3.6 times greater than those of the film industry in 2018, yet much of that financial success isn't felt by the developers working on the games that generate those billions. "Executives are always quick to brag about your work. It's the talk of every industry corner office and boardroom. They pay tribute to the games that capture our imaginations and seem to defy economic gravity. They talk up the latest innovations in virtual reality and celebrate record-smashing releases, as your creations reach unparalleled new heights," says Shuler.
"My question is this: what have you gotten in return? They get rich. They get notoriety. They get to be crowned visionaries and regarded as pioneers. What do you get? Outrageous hours and inadequate paychecks. Stressful, toxic work conditions that push you to your physical and mental limits. The fear that asking for better means risking your dream job. [...] Change will happen when you gain leverage by joining together in a strong union. And, it will happen when you use your collective voice to bargain for a fair share of the wealth you create every day. No matter where you work, bosses will only offer fair treatment when you stand together and demand it."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's no-GPS-needed department
From a report: A new robot can navigate without GPS, using the same light-sensing abilities as desert ants. Desert ants survive in searingly hot conditions in the Sahara. They sometimes have just a few minutes to forage for food before they risk burning to death. As a result, they are very efficient navigators, using bands of polarized light, invisible to humans, to get around. They also carefully count their steps. These two tactics help to keep them alive. AntBot: The bot, described this week in Science Robotics, is fitted with UV light sensors that can detect polarized light from the sun. This is known as a "celestial compass" and is designed to mimic the way desert ants see the sun's light. This helps it work out the direction it's going in. The robot also counts its steps, much like its desert muse. In tests, it successfully managed to complete an outdoor homing task, where it was required to go to several checkpoints and then return to a fixed location within a range of 14 meters.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-tension department
Hackers allegedly working for the embattled Venezuelan government tried to trick activists into giving away their passwords to popular services such as Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and others, according to security researchers. From a report: Last week, the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido called for citizens to volunteer with the goal of helping international humanitarian organizations deliver aid into the country. President Nicolas Maduro is refusing to accept aid and has erected blocks across a border bridge with Colombia with the military's help. The volunteer efforts were organized around the website voluntariosxvenezuela.com. A week later, on February 11 someone registered an almost identical domain, voluntariosvenezuela[.]com. And on Wednesday, users in Venezuela who were trying to visit the original and official VoluntariosxVenezuela website were redirected to the newer one, according to security firm Kaspersky Lab, as well as Venezuelan users on Twitter.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's ask-away department
As you may have noticed, Facebook is not cool anymore. The social juggernaut has been mired in controversies -- infamous privacy scandals or company's ruthless "grow fast and break things" approach to gain users, to name a few. Luckily enough, some people are trying to build new social networks and are coming up with interesting original ideas. Minds.com is one such social network.
The open source social network, which has been operational since 2012, works on a point-earning/exchange system to give users full control over the reach of their posts. One of the complaints people have with Facebook and Twitter is that they feel their posts are not being seen by all of their friends. Minds.com lets users earn points and then trade those points to boost their posts on the platform. Users earn tokens by being active on the platform and engaging in uploading, voting, commenting and other similar activities. They can then use these tokens, which can be exchanged within the platform, to boost the reach of their posts. The company last year launched a cryptocurrency reward program based on the ethereum blockchain for all users on the platform. Minds says it does not determine what should be censored. Users are free to post whatever they want. (You can follow us on Minds.)
We are excited to announced that Minds founder and chief executive Bill Ottman has agreed to do an interview with us. If you have a question about Minds.com for him or his take on the current social networking space, feel free to ask it in the comments section below.Read Replies (0)