By BeauHD from Slashdot's promising-findings department
"Researchers at Purdue University have developed a new chemical process that they say can convert approximately one-quarter of the world's plastic waste into gasoline and diesel-like fuels," writes Slashdot reader dmoberhaus. Motherboard explains how it works: As detailed in a paper published this week in Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, the chemists discovered a way to convert polypropylene -- a type of plastic commonly used in toys, medical devices, and product packaging like potato chip bags -- into gasoline and diesel-like fuel. The researchers said that this fuel is pure enough to be used as blendstock, a main component of fuel used in motorized vehicles. Polypropylene waste accounts for just under a quarter of the estimated 5 billion tons of plastic that have amassed in the world's landfills in the last 50 years.
To turn polypropylene into fuel, the researchers used supercritical water, a phase of water that demonstrates characteristics of both a liquid and a gas depending on the pressure and temperature conditions. Purdue chemist Linda Wang and her colleagues heated water to between 716 and 932 degrees Fahrenheit at pressures approximately 2300 times greater than the atmospheric pressure at sea level. When purified polypropylene waste was added to the supercritical water, it was converted into oil within in a few hours, depending on the temperature. At around 850 degrees Fahrenheit, the conversion time was lowered to under an hour. The byproducts of this process include gasoline and diesel-like oils. According to the researchers, their conversion process could be used to convert roughly 90 percent of the world's polypropylene waste each year into fuel.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's there's-more-where-that-came-from department
According to a new 16-month study of 1.5 billion tweets, researchers write that Twitter still isn't keeping up with the flood of automated accounts designed to spread spam, inflate follower counts, and game trending topics. Wired reports: In a 16-month study of 1.5 billion tweets, Zubair Shafiq, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa, and his graduate student Shehroze Farooqi identified more than 167,000 apps using Twitter's API to automate bot accounts that spread tens of millions of tweets pushing spam, links to malware, and astroturfing campaigns. They write that more than 60 percent of the time, Twitter waited for those apps to send more than 100 tweets before identifying them as abusive; the researchers' own detection method had flagged the vast majority of the malicious apps after just a handful of tweets. For about 40 percent of the apps the pair checked, Twitter seemed to take more than a month longer than the study's method to spot an app's abusive tweeting. That lag time, they estimate, allows abusive apps to cumulatively churn out tens of millions of tweets per month before they're banned.
The researchers say they've been sharing their results with Twitter for more than a year but that the company hasn't asked for further details of their method or data. When WIRED reached out to Twitter, the company expressed appreciation for the study's goals but objected to its findings, arguing that the Iowa researchers lacked the full picture of how it's fighting abusive accounts. "Research based solely on publicly available information about accounts and tweets on Twitter often cannot paint an accurate or complete picture of the steps we take to enforce our developer policies," a spokesperson wrote.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's toys-to-life department
David Aguila, a 19-year-old bioengineering student at the Universitat Internacional de Catulunya in Spain, has built himself a robotic prosthetic arm using Lego pieces. David was born with Poland syndrome that affects his right peck and right arm. From a report: Once his favorite toys, the plastic bricks became the building material for Mr Aguilar's first, still very rudimentary, artificial arm at the age of nine, and each new version had more movement than the one before. He uses the artificial arm only occasionally and is self-sufficient without it, with all the versions on display in his room in the university residence on the outskirts of Barcelona. In November 2017 Mr Aguilar, who uses Lego pieces provided by a friend, proudly displayed a fully functional red and yellow robotic arm, built when he was 18, bending it in the elbow joint and flexing the grabber.
The latest models are marked MK followed by the number -- a tribute to comic book superhero Iron Man and his MK armor suits. The MK II was a predominantly blue model built from a Lego plane set, including a motor, while MK III was created from a set for a piece of mining equipment. After graduating from university, he wants to create affordable prosthetic solutions for people who need them.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department
Wave723 shares a report from IEEE Spectrum: A new kind of magnet, theorized for decades, may now have been experimentally proven to exist. And it could eventually lead to better data storage devices. In a normal magnet, the magnetic moments of individual grains align with each other to generate a magnetic field. In contrast, in the new "singlet-based" magnet, magnetic moments are temporary in nature, popping in and out of existence. Although a singlet-based magnet's field is unstable, the fact that such magnets can more easily transition between magnetic and non-magnetic states can make them well-suited for data storage application. Specifically, they could operate more quickly and with less power than conventional devices, says Andrew Wray, a materials physicist at New York University who led the research. Now, Wray and his colleagues have discovered the first example of a singlet-based magnet that is robust -- one made from uranium antimonide (USb2). "It ends up taking very little energy to create spin excitons for uranium antimonide," Wray says. "This is essential for the singlet-based magnet, because if it took a lot of energy, then there wouldn't be enough spin excitons to condense, stabilize one another, and give you a magnet." The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department
According to new job listings (first spotted by Android Police), it looks like Google may start building its own wearable devices. "A job listing posted two days ago on the Google Careers site calls for a Vice President of Hardware Engineering for Wearables," reports Android Police. The description reads, "As the VP of Hardware Engineering for Wearables, you'll work collaboratively with the Senior Leadership team for Google Hardware and will be responsible for the design, development, and shipment of all Google's Wearable products. You will lead and enable the effectiveness of a large engineering organization primarily based in Mountain View to develop multiple next-generation wearable products simultaneously." From the report: Google's only current wearable product is the Pixel Buds, which hasn't been a runaway success. It seems extremely unlikely that the company would want a Vice President dedicated to producing earbuds, so it's safe to assume Google has plans for other wearable products, like fitness trackers and/or smartwatches. Another listing is for a "Wearables Design Manager," but the description is more vague. "As the Design Manager of the Wearables design team within the award-winning Google Hardware Design organization, you will be a critical leader and contributor to guide the efforts in defining and evolving what it means to hold 'Google in your hand.'"Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Apple will design its own modems in-house, according to sources that spoke with Reuters. In doing so, the company may hope to leave behind Intel modems in its mobile devices, which Apple has used since a recent falling out with Qualcomm. According to the sources, the team working on modem design now reports to Johny Srouji, Apple's senior vice president of hardware technologies. Srouji joined Apple back in 2004 and led development of Apple's first in-house system-on-a-chip, the A4. He has overseen Apple silicon ever since, including the recent A12 and A12X in the new iPhone and iPad Pro models.
Before this move, Apple's modem work ultimately fell under Dan Riccio, who ran engineering for iPhones, iPads, and Macs. As Reuters noted, that division was heavily focused on managing the supply chain and working with externally made components. The fact that the team is moving into the group focused on developing in-house components is a strong signal that Apple will not be looking outside its own walls for modems in the future. In recent years, Apple has been locked in a costly and complex series of legal battles with Qualcomm, the industry's foremost maker of mobile wireless chips. While Apple previously used Qualcomm's chips in its phones, the legal struggles led the tech giant to turn instead to Intel in recent iPhones.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
From Nature magazine: Female Aedes aegypti, like other mosquito species, feed on blood to get the protein they need to produce their eggs, and spread diseases such as dengue in the process. But once the mosquitoes have had their blood fix, they stop biting until they've laid their eggs several days later. Leslie Vosshall, a neurobiologist at the Rockefeller University in New York City, wondered whether she could hijack this biological process to switch off a mosquito's appetite.
Previous research had suggested that a mosquito's desire to feed is controlled by neuropeptides, molecules used by the nervous system to communicate. Vosshall and her team suspected that neuropeptide Y (NPY) receptors might be particularly important, because they form part of the molecular pathway involved in food-seeking behaviour for many animals -- including humans. Some human appetite-suppressant drugs already target the NPY receptors, so Vosshall decided to take a "completely zany" approach: feed these drugs to mosquitoes and see what happens. The method worked: mosquitoes that fed on a solution containing NPY-activating drugs were much less likely to approach a human-scented 'lure' than were the control group, and their appetites remained suppressed for two days. Further reading: A New Way to Keep Mosquitoes From Biting.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
MIT Media Lab spinoff Affectiva's neural network, SoundNet, can classify anger from audio data in as little as 1.2 seconds regardless of the speaker's language -- just over the time it takes for humans to perceive anger. From a report: Affectiva's researchers describe it ("Transfer Learning From Sound Representations For Anger Detection in Speech") in a newly published paper [PDF] on the preprint server Arxiv.org. It builds on the company's wide-ranging efforts to establish emotional profiles from both speech and facial data, which this year spawned an AI in-car system codeveloped with Nuance that detects signs of driver fatigue from camera feeds. In December 2017, it launched the Speech API, which uses voice to recognize things like laughing, anger, and other emotions, along with voice volume, tone, speed, and pauses.
SoundNet consists of a convolutional neural network -- a type of neural network commonly applied to analyzing visual imagery -- trained on a video dataset. To get it to recognize anger in speech, the team first sourced a large amount of general audio data -- two million videos, or just over a year's worth -- with ground truth produced by another model. Then, they fine-tuned it with a smaller dataset, IEMOCAP, containing 12 hours of annotated audiovisual emotion data including video, speech, and text transcriptions.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's know-your-rights department
The federal judiciary has built an imposing pay wall around its court filings, charging a preposterous 10 cents a page for electronic access to what are meant to be public records. A pending lawsuit could help tear that wall down. From a report: The costs of storing and transmitting data have plunged, approaching zero. By one estimate, the actual cost of retrieving court documents, including secure storage, is about one half of one ten-thousandth of a penny per page. But the federal judiciary charges a dime a page to use its service, called Pacer (for Public Access to Court Electronic Records). The National Veterans Legal Services Program and two other nonprofit groups filed a class action in 2016 seeking to recover what they said were systemic overcharges. "Excessive Pacer fees inhibit public understanding of the courts and thwart equal access to justice, erecting a financial barrier that many ordinary citizens are unable to clear," they wrote. The suit accuses the judicial system of using the fees it charges as a kind of slush fund, spending the money to buy flat-screen televisions for jurors, to finance a study of the Mississippi court system and to send notices in bankruptcy proceedings.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
Google's SVP of Global Affairs, Kent Walker, laid out Google's opposition to the EU's highly contested copyright reform rules. "Google warns Article 11 and Article 13 could have catastrophic effects on the creative economy in Europe by hampering user uploads and news sharing," reports The Next Web. From the report: Article 11 in its current form will limit news aggregators' abilities to show snippets of articles. According to Google's own experiments, the impact of it only showing URLs, very short fragments of headlines, and no preview images would be a "substantial traffic loss to news publishers." "Even a moderate version of the experiment (where we showed the publication title, URL, and video thumbnails) led to a 45 percent reduction in traffic to news publishers," Walker explained. "Our experiment demonstrated that many users turned instead to non-news sites, social media platforms, and online video sites -- another unintended consequence of legislation that aims to support high-quality journalism." "Article 11, called the 'link tax' by opponents, requires anyone who copies a snippet of text from a publisher's articles to have a license to do so," reports ZDNet. "Article 13 demands that online platforms filter and block uploads of copyright-infringing material." The European Parliament approved Article 11 and Section 13 in September. The finalized version may be passed in March or April of this year.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
Google Chrome 73, scheduled for release next month, will be the first version of Chrome that will officially support the multimedia keys that some users have on their desk and laptop keyboards, ZDNet reports. From the report: Support for multimedia keys will initially be available for Chrome on Chrome OS, macOS, and Windows, while support for Linux will come later (unspecified date). Users will be able to control both audio and video content played in Chrome, including skipping through playlists. Initial support is planned for multimedia keys such as "play," "pause," "previous track," "next track," "seek backward," and "seek forward." Key presses will be supported at the Chrome level, not the tab level, meaning that multimedia buttons will work regardless if the Chrome browser is in the operating system's foreground or background (minimized).Read Replies (0)