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  • How Identifiable Are You On the Web?

    An anonymous reader writes How identifiable are you on the web? This updated browser fingerprinting tool implements the current state of the art in browser fingerprinting techniques(including canvas fingerprinting) to show you how unique your browser is on the web. Good food for thought when three-letter agencies talk about "mere metadata."

    157 comments | 3 days ago

  • No More Foamy Beer, Thanks To Magnets

    sciencehabit writes Few sights at a bar are more deflating than a bottle of beer overflowing with foam. This overfoaming, called gushing, arises when fungi infect the barley grains in beer's malt base. The microorganisms latch onto barley with surface proteins called hydrophobins. During the brewing process, these hydrophobins can attract carbon dioxide molecules produced by the mashed barley as it ferments, making the beer far too bubbly. Brewers try to tamp down the gushing by adding hops extract, an antifoaming agent that binds to the proteins first. Now, food scientists in Belgium have hit upon a technological solution: magnets. When the team applied a magnetic field to a malt infused with hops extract, the magnets dispersed the antifoaming agent into tinier particles. Those smaller particles were much more effective at binding to more hydrophobins, blocking carbon dioxide and decreasing gushing. During tests in a real brewery, the magnets decreased excess foaming so effectively that brewers needed much lower amounts of hops extract—a potential cost-saving measure. Future studies could explore whether magnetic fields alone could reduce foaming on an industrial scale, the team says.

    130 comments | 4 days ago

  • In North Korea, Hackers Are a Handpicked, Pampered Elite

    HughPickens.com writes: Ju-Min Park and James Pearson report at Reuters that despite its poverty and isolation, North Korea has poured resources into a sophisticated cyber-warfare cell called Bureau 121, staffed by some of the most talented, and rewarded, people in North Korea, handpicked and trained from as young as 17. "They are handpicked," says Kim Heung-kwang, a former computer science professor in North Korea who defected to the South in 2004. "It is a great honor for them. It is a white-collar job there and people have fantasies about it." The hackers in Bureau 121 were among the 100 students who graduate from the University of Automation each year after five years of study. Over 2,500 apply for places at the university, which has a campus in Pyongyang, behind barbed wire.

    According to Jang Se-yul, who studied with them at North Korea's military college for computer science, the Bureau 121 unit comprises about 1,800 cyber-warriors, and is considered the elite of the military. As well as having salaries far above the country's average, they are often gifted with good food, luxuries and even apartments. According to John Griasafi, this kind of treatment could be expected for those working in the elite Bureau. "You'd have to be pretty special and well trusted to even be allowed on email in North Korea so I have no doubt that they are treated well too." Pyongyang has active cyber-warfare capabilities, military and software security experts have said. In 2013, tens of thousands of computers were made to malfunction, disrupting work at banks and television broadcasters in South Korea. "In North Korea, it's called the Secret War," says Jang.

    102 comments | about two weeks ago

  • The Ancestor of Humans Was an "Artist" 500,000 Years Ago

    brindafella writes Our ancient ancestor, Homo erectus, around 500,000 years ago, has been shown to make doodles or patterns. So, it seems that we Homo sapiens have come from a thoughtful lineage. The zig-zag markings cut into the covering of a fossil freshwater shell were from a deposit in the main bone layer of Trinil (Java, Indonesia), the place where Homo erectus was discovered by Eugène Dubois in 1891, says Dr Stephen Munro, a palaeoanthropologist with the Australian National University. The team's testing shows the erectus doodling was from 0.54 million years to a minimum of 0.43 million years ago. This pushes back the thoughtful making of marks by hundreds of thousands of years. The thoughtful gathering of shellfish and their nutrients also points to possible explanations for the evolving of bigger brains.

    59 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Pizza Hut Tests New "Subconscious Menu" That Reads Your Mind

    HughPickens.com writes Allison Griswold reports at Slate that Pizza Hut wants to help you order your food subconsciously with a new product that is being tested at 300 locations across the UK that uses eye-tracking technology to allow diners to order within seconds using only their eyes. The digital menu shows diners a canvas of 20 toppings and builds their pizza based on which toppings they look at longest. To try again, a diner can glance at a "restart" button. "Finally the indecisive orderer and the prolonged menu peruser can cut time and always get it right," a Pizza Hut spokesperson said in a statement, "so that the focus of dining can be on the most important part — the enjoyment of eating!" According to news release from Tobii Technology, the Subconscious Menu can determine which ingredients your mind and eyes have been looking at longest in exactly 2.5 seconds. The menu then uses a powerful mathematical algorithm to identify, from 4896 possible ingredient combinations, the customer's perfect pizza. "Tests on the Subconscious Menu have been incredibly positive with 98% of people, recommended a pizza with ingredients they love."

    186 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Interviews: The Hampton Creek Team Answers Your Questions

    A few days ago you had a chance to ask the people at Hampton Creek about about their products and the science of food. Below you'll find the answers to your questions from a number of Hampton Creek employees.

    47 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Interviews: Ask the Hampton Creek Team About the Science and Future of Food

    samzenpus writes Hampton Creek is a food technology company that makes food healthier by utilizing a specially made egg substitute in food products. The company was selected by Bill Gates to be featured on his website in a story called, The Future of Food, and has raised $30 million in funding. Hampton Creek's latest product is called, Just Cookies, which is an eggless chocolate chip cookie dough, but it is their eggless mayo that has been in the news lately. Unilever, which manufactures Hellmann's and Best Foods mayonnaise, is suing Hampton Creek claiming that the name Just Mayo is misleading to consumers. Named one of Entrepreneur Magazine's 100 Brilliant Companies and one of CNBC's Top 50 Disruptors, Hampton Creek has picked up some impressive talent including the former lead data scientist at Google Maps, Dan Zigmond. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, Dan and the Hampton Creek team have agreed to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.

    145 comments | about three weeks ago

  • How the World's Agricultural Boom Has Changed CO2 Cycles

    An anonymous reader writes Every year levels of carbon dioxide drop in the summer as plants "inhale," and climb again as they exhale after the growing season in the Northern Hemisphere. However, the last 50 years has seen the size of this swing has increase by as much as 50%, for reasons that aren't fully understood. A team of researchers may have the answer. They have shown that agricultural production, corn in particular, may generate up to 25% of the increase in this seasonal carbon cycle. "This study shows the power of modeling and data mining in addressing potential sources contributing to seasonal changes in carbon dioxide" program director for the National Science Foundation's Macro Systems Biology Program, who supported the research, Liz Blood says. "It points to the role of basic research in finding answers to complex problems."

    186 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Fish Tagged For Research Become Lunch For Gray Seals

    sciencehabit writes: When scientists slap an acoustic tag on a fish, they may be inadvertently helping seals find their next meal. The tags — rods a few centimeters long that give off a ping that can be detected from up to a kilometer away — are often used to follow fish for studies on their migration, hunting, or survival rates. Researchers working with 10 gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) who were captive for a year have now reported that the animals can learn to associate the pings with food. If the findings hold true in the wild, the authors warn, they could skew the results of studies trying to analyze fish survival rates or predation.

    48 comments | about a month ago

  • Group Tries To Open Source Seeds

    jenwike writes The Open Source Seed Initiative is a passionate group that wants to ensure their seeds are never patented, but making sure seeds are free for use and distribution by anyone isn't as easy as you might think. Part of the equation are plant characteristics, like an extended head on lettuce — is that an invention? Or, would you argue that it is the product of the collective sharing of material that improves the whole crop over time? In this report, one farmer says, "If you're not exchanging germplasm, you're cutting your own throat."

    100 comments | about 1 month ago

  • A Worm's Mind In a Lego Body

    mikejuk writes The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) is tiny and only has 302 neurons. These have been completely mapped, and one of the founders of the OpenWorm project, Timothy Busbice, has taken the connectome and implemented an object oriented neuron program. The neurons communicate by sending UDP packets across the network. The software works with sensors and effectors provided by a simple LEGO robot. The sensors are sampled every 100ms. For example, the sonar sensor on the robot is wired as the worm's nose. If anything comes within 20cm of the 'nose' then UDP packets are sent to the sensory neurons in the network. The motor neurons are wired up to the left and right motors of the robot. It is claimed that the robot behaved in ways that are similar to observed C. elegans. Stimulation of the nose stopped forward motion. Touching the anterior and posterior touch sensors made the robot move forward and back accordingly. Stimulating the food sensor made the robot move forward. The key point is that there was no programming or learning involved to create the behaviors. The connectome of the worm was mapped and implemented as a software system and the behaviors emerge. Is the robot a C. elegans in a different body or is it something quite new? Is it alive? These are questions for philosophers, but it does suggest that the ghost in the machine is just the machine. The important question is does it scale?

    200 comments | about a month ago

  • MARS, Inc: We Are Running Out of Chocolate

    schwit1 writes There's no easy way to say this: You're eating too much chocolate, all of you. And it's getting so out of hand that the world could be headed towards a potentially disastrous (if you love chocolate) scenario if it doesn't stop. ... Chocolate deficits, whereby farmers produce less cocoa than the world eats, are becoming the norm. Already, we are in the midst of what could be the longest streak of consecutive chocolate deficits in more than 50 years. It also looks like deficits aren't just carrying over from year-to-year—the industry expects them to grow. Last year, the world ate roughly 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than it produced. By 2020, the two chocolate-makers warn that that number could swell to 1 million metric tons, a more than 14-fold increase; by 2030, they think the deficit could reach 2 million metric tons.

    323 comments | about a month ago

  • How 4H Is Helping Big Ag Take Over Africa

    Lasrick writes 4H is in Africa, helping to distribute Big Ag products like DuPont's Pioneer seeds through ostensibly good works aimed at youth. In Africa, where the need to produce more food is especially urgent, DuPont Pioneer and other huge corporations have made major investments. But there are drawbacks: "DuPont's nutritious, high-yielding, and drought-tolerant hybrid seed costs 10 times as much. While Ghanaians typically save their own seeds to plant the next year, hybrid seeds get weaker by the generation; each planting requires another round of purchasing. What's more, says Devlin Kuyek, a researcher with the sustainable-farming nonprofit Genetic Resources Action International, because hybrid seeds are bred for intensive agriculture, they typically need chemicals to thrive."

    377 comments | about a month ago

  • French Health Watchdog: 3D Viewing May Damage Eyesight In Children

    dryriver (1010635) writes with this clipping from the BBC: A French health watchdog has recommended that children under the age of six should not be allowed access to 3D content. The Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (Anses) added that access for those up to the age of 13 should be 'moderate'. It follows research into the possible impact of 3D imaging on still-developing eyes. Few countries currently have guidelines about 3D usage. According to Anses, the process of assimilating a three-dimensional effect requires the eyes to look at images in two different places at the same time before the brain translates it as one image. 'In children, and particularly before the age of six, the health effects of this vergence-accommodation conflict could be much more severe given the active development of the visual system at this time,' it said in a statement.

    99 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

    KentuckyFC writes It's 20 years since the FDA approved the Flavr Savr tomato for human consumption, the first genetically engineered food to gain this status. Today, roughly 85 per cent of corn and 90 per cent of soybeans produced in the US are genetically modified. So it's easy to imagine that the scientific debate over the safety of genetically modified organisms has been largely settled. Not for Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan and several academic colleagues who say that the risks have been vastly underestimated. They say that genetically modified organisms threaten harm on a global scale, both to ecosystems and to human health. That's different from many conventional risks that threaten harm on a local scale, like nuclear energy for example. They argue that this global threat means that the precautionary principle ought to be applied to severely limit the way genetically modified organisms can be used.

    432 comments | about 1 month ago

  • Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes

    dcblogs writes: McDonald's this week told financial analysts of its plans to install self-ordering kiosks and mobile ordering at its restaurants. This news prompted the Wall Street Journal to editorialize, in " Minimum Wage Backfire," that while it may be true for McDonald's to say that its tech plans will improve customer experience, the move is also "a convenient way...to justify a reduction in the chain's global workforce." Minimum wage increase advocates, the Journal argued, are speeding along an automation backlash. But banks have long relied on ATMs, and grocery stores, including Walmart, have deployed self-service checkouts. In contrast, McDonald's hasn't changed its basic system of taking orders since its founding in the 1950s, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a research group focused on the restaurant industry. While mobile, kiosks and table ordering systems may help reduce labor costs, the automated self-serve technology is seen as an essential. It will take the stress out of ordering (lines) at fast food restaurants, and the wait for checks at more casual restaurants. It also helps with upselling and membership to loyalty programs. People who can order a drink refill off a tablet, instead of waving down waitstaff, may be more inclined to do so. Moreover, analysts say younger customers want self-service options.

    720 comments | about 2 months ago

  • DHS Investigates 24 Potentially Lethal IoT Medical Devices

    An anonymous reader writes: In the wake of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recent recommendations to strengthen security on net-connected medical devices, the Department of Homeland Security is launching an investigation into 24 cases of potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities in hospital equipment and personal medical devices. Independent security researcher Billy Rios submitted proof-of-concept evidence to the FDA indicating that it would be possible for a hacker to force infusion pumps to fatally overdose a patient. Though the complete range of devices under investigation has not been disclosed, it is reported that one of them is an "implantable heart device." William Maisel, chief scientist at the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said, "The conventional wisdom in the past was that products only had to be protected from unintentional threats. Now they also have to be protected from intentional threats too."

    79 comments | about 2 months ago

  • NASA's HI-SEAS Project Results Suggests a Women-Only Mars Crew

    globaljustin writes "Alan Drysdale, a systems analyst in advanced life support and a contractor with NASA concluded, "Small women haven't been demonstrated to be appreciably dumber than big women or big men, so there's no reason to choose larger people for a flight crew when it's brain power you want," says Drysdale. "The logical thing to do is to fly small women." Kate Greene, who wrote the linked article, took part in the first HI-SEAS experiment in Martian-style living, and has some compelling reasons for an all-women crew, energy efficiency chief among them: Week in and week out, the three female crew members expended less than half the calories of the three male crew members. Less than half! We were all exercising roughly the same amount—at least 45 minutes a day for five consecutive days a week—but our metabolic furnaces were calibrated in radically different ways. During one week, the most metabolically active male burned an average of 3,450 calories per day, while the least metabolically active female expended 1,475 calories per day. It was rare for a woman on crew to burn 2,000 calories in a day and common for male crew members to exceed 3,000. ... The calorie requirements of an astronaut matter significantly when planning a mission. The more food a person needs to maintain her weight on a long space journey, the more food should launch with her. The more food launched, the heavier the payload. The heavier the payload, the more fuel required to blast it into orbit and beyond. The more fuel required, the heavier the rocket becomes, which it in turn requires more fuel to launch.

    399 comments | about 2 months ago

  • An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man

    Any gathering of 65,000 people in the desert is going to require some major infrastructure to maintain health and sanity. At Burning Man, some of that infrastructure is devoted to a supply chain for ice. Writes Bennett Haselton, The lines for ice bags at Burning Man could be cut from an hour long at peak times, to about five minutes, by making one small... Well, read the description below of how they do things now, and see if the same suggested change occurs to you. I'm curious whether it's the kind of idea that is more obvious to students of computer science who think algorithmically, or if it's something that could occur to anyone. Read on for the rest; Bennett's idea for better triage may bring to mind a lot of other queuing situations and ways that time spent waiting in line could be more efficiently employed.

    342 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Soda Pop Damages Your Cells' Telomeres

    BarbaraHudson writes Those free soft drinks at your last start-up may come with a huge hidden price tag. The Toronto Sun reports that researchers at the University of California — San Francisco found study participants who drank pop daily had shorter telomeres — the protective units of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes in cells — in white blood cells. Short telomeres have been associated with chronic aging diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. The researchers calculated daily consumption of a 20-ounce pop is associated with 4.6 years of additional biological aging. The effect on telomere length is comparable to that of smoking, they said. "This finding held regardless of age, race, income and education level," researcher Elissa Epel said in a press release.

    422 comments | about 2 months ago

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