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iONiUM (530420) writes As reported by many news sources, yet another plane has lost contact during a trip. This comes on the heels of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 which is still missing, and Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down. From ABC's coverage: Sixteen children and one infant were among the passengers. At a press conference this morning, Indonesian officials said the plane was several hours past the time when its fuel would have been exhausted. The six-year-old aircraft was on the submitted flight plan but requested a deviation because of enroute weather before communication with the aircraft was lost. The plane was under the control of the Indonesian Air Traffic Control and had been in the air for about 42 minutes when contact was lost, AirAsia said.
61 comments | 2 hours ago
Convicted drunk drivers all over California may soon be required to install and pay for the use of ignition interlock devices, at a cost of $50-100 per month, plus installation. Says the article: "State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, wants to expand a program already in place in four California counties, including Alameda, and 24 other states. Under the proposed state law Hill will introduce Monday, anyone convicted of driving under the influence would be required to install an ignition interlock device in their car for six months on a first offense and a year on a second conviction." Though interlock devices could be fitted to check for other conditions as well, the usual case (as described on this Wikipedia page) is that they base the ability to operate a car on blood alcohol content. Already in California, interlock devices are mandatory for those re-arrested for DUI while "driving on a suspended license due to a DUI conviction."
111 comments | 5 hours ago
HughPickens.com writes Phys.org reports that in a new paper accepted by the journal Astroparticle Physics, Robert Ehrlich, a recently retired physicist from George Mason University, claims that the neutrino is very likely a tachyon or faster-than-light particle. Ehrlich's new claim of faster-than-light neutrinos is based on a much more sensitive method than measuring their speed, namely by finding their mass. The result relies on tachyons having an imaginary mass, or a negative mass squared. Imaginary mass particles have the weird property that they speed up as they lose energy – the value of their imaginary mass being defined by the rate at which this occurs. According to Ehrlich, the magnitude of the neutrino's imaginary mass is 0.33 electronvolts, or 2/3 of a millionth that of an electron. He deduces this value by showing that six different observations from cosmic rays, cosmology, and particle physics all yield this same value within their margin of error. One check on Ehrlich's claim could come from the experiment known as KATRIN, which should start taking data in 2015. In this experiment the mass of the neutrino could be revealed by looking at the shape of the spectrum in the beta decay of tritium, the heaviest isotope of hydrogen.
But be careful. There have been many such claims, the last being in 2011 when the "OPERA" experiment measured the speed of neutrinos and claimed they travelled a tiny amount faster than light. When their speed was measured again the original result was found to be in error – the result of a loose cable no less. "Before you try designing a "tachyon telephone" to send messages back in time to your earlier self it might be prudent to see if Ehrlich's claim is corroborated by others."
109 comments | yesterday
jones_supa writes The wait is finally over for aviation aficionados wanting to book a flight aboard the Airbus A350 XWB. Qatar Airways, the global launch customer of the plane, accepted delivery of their first A350 of 80 in order, during a ceremony at Airbus' headquarters in Toulouse, France, on Monday morning. This particular A350-900 will enter regular commercial service in January, operating daily flights between its Hamad International Airport hub in Doha, Qatar and Frankfurt, Germany. There are three different iterations of A350 XWB being built: the A350-800, the A350-900 and the A350-1000, which seat 270, 314 and 350 passengers, respectively, in three-class seating. The "XWB" in the name means "extra wide body." The A350 is the first Airbus with both fuselage and wing structures made primarily of carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer. Curious what it was like to be on the Tuesday delivery flight? Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren was onboard that flight and chronicled the landmark trip in photographs.
58 comments | yesterday
HughPickens.com writes Kitsap Sun reports at Military.com that the USS Ranger, a 1,050-foot-long, 56,000-ton Forrestal-class aircraft carrier, is being towed from the inactive ship maintenance facility at Puget Sound for a 3,400-mile, around-Cape Horn voyage to a Texas dismantler who acquired the Vietnam-era warship for a penny for scrap metal. "Under the contract, the company will be paid $0.01. The price reflects the net price proposed by International Shipbreaking, which considered the estimated proceeds from the sale of the scrap metal to be generated from dismantling," said officials for NAVSEA. "[One cent] is the lowest price the Navy could possibly have paid the contractor for towing and dismantling the ship."
The Ranger was commissioned Aug. 10, 1957, at Norfolk Naval Shipyard and decommissioned July 10, 1993, after more than 35 years of service. It was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on March 8, 2004, and redesignated for donation. After eight years on donation hold, the USS Ranger Foundation was unable to raise the funds to convert the ship into a museum or to overcome the physical obstacles of transporting the ship up the Columbia River to Fairview, Oregon. As a result, the Ranger was removed from the list of ships available for donation and designated for dismantling. The Navy, which can't retain inactive ships indefinitely, can't donate a vessel unless the application fully meets the Navy's minimum requirements. The Ranger had been in pristine condition, but for a week in August volunteers from other naval museums were allowed to remove items to improve their ships. The Ranger was in a slew of movies and television shows, including "The Six Million Dollar Man," "Flight of the Intruder" and "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" where it stood in for the USS Enterprise carrier. But the Ranger's most famous role was in the 1980's Tom Cruise hit, "Top Gun." "We would have liked to have seen it become a museum, but it just wasn't in the cards," Navy spokesman Chris Johnson told Fox. "But unfortunately, it is a difficult proposition to raise funds. The group that was going to collect donations had a $35 million budget plan but was only able to raise $100,000."
117 comments | 2 days ago
An anonymous reader writes Many companies emerged in 2014 offering new ways to help people connect, get stuff done, or find that special someone. Slack, for example, offers a chatty alternative to work email. Or Yonomi might actually make an Internet connected home feasible. But other new startups, looking for that new and original thing, peddled products that were gimmicky, legally unsound, or just not super useful. On the other hand, sometimes things that seem gimmicky get revised down the road; Kozmo.com is my favorite example — the business model might not have been perfect, but the underlying idea wasn't so bad. Sometimes there's a large not-being-the-first-mover advantage.
34 comments | 2 days ago
HughPickens.com writes Nicholas St. Fluer reports at The Atlantic that according to researchers, our convenient, sedentary way of life is making our bones weak foretelling a future with increasing fractures, breaks, and osteoporosis. For thousands of years, hunter-gatherers trekked on strenuous ventures for food with dense skeletons supporting their movements and a new study pinpoints the origin of weaker bones at the beginning of the Holocene epoch roughly 12,000 years ago, when humans began adopting agriculture. "Modern human skeletons have shifted quite recently towards lighter—more fragile, if you like—bodies. It started when we adopted agriculture. Our diets changed. Our levels of activity changed," says Habiba Chirchir. A second study attributes joint bone weakness to different levels of physical activity in ancient human societies, also related to hunting versus farming.
The team scanned circular cross-sections of seven bones in the upper and lower limb joints in chimpanzees, Bornean orangutans and baboons. They also scanned the same bones in modern and early modern humans as well as Neanderthals, Paranthropus robustus, Australopithecus africanus and other Australopithecines. They then measured the amount of white bone in the scans against the total area to find the trabecular bone density. Crunching the numbers confirmed their visual suspicions. Modern humans had 50 to 75 percent less dense trabecular bone than chimpanzees, and some hominins had bones that were twice as dense compared to those in modern humans. Both studies have implications for modern human health and the importance of physical activity to bone strength. "The lightly-built skeleton of modern humans has a direct and important impact on bone strength and stiffness," says Tim Ryan. That's because lightness can translate to weakness—more broken bones and a higher incidence of osteoporosis and age-related bone loss. The researchers warn that with the deskbound lives that many people lead today, our bones may have become even more brittle than ever before. "We are not challenging our bones with enough loading," says Colin Shaw, "predisposing us to have weaker bones so that, as we age, situations arise where bones are breaking when, previously, they would not have."
110 comments | 3 days ago
jones_supa writes: Russia is facing a "full-blown economic crisis," a former finance minister has warned, as the country is forced to take emergency financial measures. The economy has been battered by a wave of sanctions (set by other countries as a result of tensions over Ukraine), geopolitical uncertainty, and falling oil prices. Analysts have warned that the Russian economy will not improve in the long run until the aforementioned conditions have also improved. The Central Bank of Russia said that a plan to loan Trust bank an amount of up to 30bn rubles ($54m) had been approved. Trust bank has run a series of advertisements featuring actor Bruce Willis in Russia, along with the ironic quote: "When I need money, I just take it." Anna Stupnytska, an economist at Fidelity Solutions, said that "the risk of a sovereign default is low, it's the corporate sector where the main vulnerabilities lie, and banking in particular. Due to sanctions, companies cannot refinance their debt as access to international markets has been essentially cut off." Reader hackingbear adds: Two Chinese ministers offered support for Russia as President Vladimir Putin seeks to shore up the plummeting ruble without depleting foreign-exchange reserves. Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said expanding a currency swap between the two nations and making increased use of the yuan for bilateral trade would have the greatest impact in aiding Russia. Western governments and experts have been criticizing China for restricting exchange and suppressing the value of its currency, even though anyone who lived in China during the 1990's knew that the value of the yuan was cut to align with the (vibrant) black market. But as grandma has warned us, we should be careful of what we wish for. China has greatly sped up the relaxation of currency exchange and is promoting the yuan as an alternative to the dollar for global trade and finance. They've signed currency-swap agreements with 28 other central banks to encourage this. Once accomplished, and backed by China's growing military might, Renminbi would be a formidable competitor to U.S. Dollar, which would hamper the U.S's ability to borrow almost freely with banks around the world.
263 comments | 4 days ago
Alek Komarnitsky, Colorado (and the Internet's) own Clark Griswold, has decided to retire as his own props master, programmer, best boy, and effects specialist. After 10 years of increasingly elaborate set-ups, Alek's decided to go out with a bang, with his largest-yet rooftop display of open-source powered, remotely controllable, internet-connected Christmas lights. (This year, he even matches the fictional Griswold's 25,000 lights, but truth tops fiction, with live webcams, animated props, and more.) We talked with Alek last year, too; but now he's got a full decade's worth of reminiscing about his jest-made-real hobby as That Guy With the Lights, and some advice for anyone who'd like to take on a project like this.
Alek has managed to stay on good terms with his neighbors, despite the car and foot traffic that his display has drawn, and kept himself from serious harm despite a complex of minor, overlapping risks including ladders, squirrels, a fair amount of electricity and (the most dangerous, he says) wind. The lights are what the world sees, but the video capture and distribution to the vast online audience is an equal part of the work. Alek has learned a lot along the way about automation, logistics, wireless networking, and the importance of load balancing. It's always possible the lights will return in some form, or that someone will take up the mantle as Blinkenlights master, but this tail end of 2014 (and the first day of 2015) is your last good chance to tune in and help toggle some of those lights. (The display operates from 1700-2200 Mountain time.) Alternate Video Link Update: 12/22 22:50 GMT by T : Note: Alek talks about the last year here.
21 comments | 5 days ago
HughPickens.com writes Bloomberg News reports that venture capitalist and paypal co-founder Peter Thiel has a plan to reach 120 years of age. His secret — taking human growth hormone (HGH) every day, a special Paleo diet, and a cure for cancer within ten years. "[HGH] helps maintain muscle mass, so you're much less likely to get bone injuries, arthritis," says Thiel. "There's always a worry that it increases your cancer risk but — I'm hopeful that we'll get cancer cured in the next decade." Human growth hormone also known as somatotropin or somatropin, is a peptide hormone that stimulates growth, cell reproduction and regeneration in humans and other animals. Thiel says he also follows a Paleo diet, doesn't eat sugar, drinks red wine and runs regularly. The Paleolithic diet, also popularly referred to as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet, is a modern nutritional diet designed to emulate, insofar as possible using modern foods, the diet of wild plants and animals eaten by humans during the Paleolithic era. Thiel's Founders Fund is also investing in a number of biotechnology companies to extend human lifespans, including Stem CentRx Inc., which uses stem cell technology for cancer therapy. With the 70 plus years remaining him and inspired by "Atlas Shrugged," Thiel also plans to launch a floating sovereign nation in international waters, freeing him and like-minded thinkers to live by libertarian ideals with no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.
439 comments | 5 days ago
Paul Fernhout writes: An article in the Harvard Business Review by William H. Davidow and Michael S. Malone suggests: "The "Second Economy" (the term used by economist Brian Arthur to describe the portion of the economy where computers transact business only with other computers) is upon us. It is, quite simply, the virtual economy, and one of its main byproducts is the replacement of workers with intelligent machines powered by sophisticated code. ... This is why we will soon be looking at hordes of citizens of zero economic value. Figuring out how to deal with the impacts of this development will be the greatest challenge facing free market economies in this century. ... Ultimately, we need a new, individualized, cultural, approach to the meaning of work and the purpose of life. Otherwise, people will find a solution — human beings always do — but it may not be the one for which we began this technological revolution."
This follows the recent Slashdot discussion of "Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates" citing a NY Times article and other previous discussions like Humans Need Not Apply. What is most interesting to me about this HBR article is not the article itself so much as the fact that concerns about the economic implications of robotics, AI, and automation are now making it into the Harvard Business Review. These issues have been otherwise discussed by alternative economists for decades, such as in the Triple Revolution Memorandum from 1964 — even as those projections have been slow to play out, with automation's initial effect being more to hold down wages and concentrate wealth rather than to displace most workers. However, they may be reaching the point where these effects have become hard to deny despite going against mainstream theory which assumes infinite demand and broad distribution of purchasing power via wages.
As to possible solutions, there is a mention in the HBR article of using government planning by creating public works like infrastructure investments to help address the issue. There is no mention in the article of expanding the "basic income" of Social Security currently only received by older people in the U.S., expanding the gift economy as represented by GNU/Linux, or improving local subsistence production using, say, 3D printing and gardening robots like Dewey of "Silent Running." So, it seems like the mainstream economics profession is starting to accept the emerging reality of this increasingly urgent issue, but is still struggling to think outside an exchange-oriented box for socioeconomic solutions. A few years ago, I collected dozens of possible good and bad solutions related to this issue. Like Davidow and Malone, I'd agree that the particular mix we end up will be a reflection of our culture. Personally, I feel that if we are heading for a technological "singularity" of some sort, we would be better off improving various aspects of our society first, since our trajectory going out of any singularity may have a lot to do with our trajectory going into it.
622 comments | about a week ago
krakman writes: Researchers discovered security flaws in SS7 that allow listening to private phone calls and intercepting text messages on a potentially massive scale – even when cellular networks are using the most advanced encryption now available. The flaws, to be reported at a hacker conference in Hamburg this month, are actually functions built into SS7 for other purposes – such as keeping calls connected as users speed down highways, switching from cell tower to cell tower – that hackers can repurpose for surveillance because of the lax security on the network. It is thought that these flaws were used for bugging German Chancellor Angela's Merkel's phone.
Those skilled at the housekeeping functions built into SS7 can locate callers anywhere in the world, listen to calls as they happen or record hundreds of encrypted calls and texts at a time for later decryption (Google translation of German original). There is also potential to defraud users and cellular carriers by using SS7 functions, the researchers say. This is another result of security being considered only after the fact, as opposed to being part of the initial design.
89 comments | about a week ago
HughPickens.com writes The human genome is astonishingly complex and dynamic, with genes constantly turning on or off, depending on what biochemical signals they receive from the body. Scientists have known that certain genes become active or quieter as a result of exercise but they hadn't understood how those genes knew how to respond to exercise. Now the NYT reports that scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have completed a study where they recruited 23 young and healthy men and women, brought them to the lab for a series of physical performance and medical tests, including a muscle biopsy, and then asked them to exercise half of their lower bodies for three months. The volunteers pedaled one-legged at a moderate pace for 45 minutes, four times per week for three months. Then the scientists repeated the muscle biopsies and other tests with each volunteer. Not surprisingly, the volunteers' exercised leg was more powerful now than the other, showing that the exercise had resulted in physical improvements. But there were also changes within the exercised muscle cells' DNA. Using technology that analyses 480,000 positions throughout the genome, they could see that new methylation patterns had taken place in 7,000 genes (an individual has 20–25,000 genes).
In a process known as DNA methylation, clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach to the outside of a gene like microscopic mollusks and make the gene more or less able to receive and respond to biochemical signals from the body. In the exercised portions of the bodies, many of the methylation changes were on portions of the genome known as enhancers that can amplify the expression of proteins by genes. And gene expression was noticeably increased or changed in thousands of the muscle-cell genes that the researchers studied. Most of the genes in question are known to play a role in energy metabolism, insulin response and inflammation within muscles. In other words, they affect how healthy and fit our muscles — and bodies — become. Many mysteries still remain but the message of the study is unambiguous. "Through endurance training — a lifestyle change that is easily available for most people and doesn't cost much money," says Sara Lindholm, "we can induce changes that affect how we use our genes and, through that, get healthier and more functional muscles that ultimately improve our quality of life."
56 comments | about a week ago
Slate reports that even old movies are enough to trigger a pretty strong knee jerk: Team America, World Police, selected as a tongue-in-cheek replacement by Dallas's Alamo Drafthouse Theater for the Sony-yanked The Interview after that film drew too much heat following the recent Sony hack, has also been pulled. The theater's tweet, as reprinted by Slate: "due to circumstances beyond our control,” their Dec. 27 Team America screening has also been canceled." If only I had a copy, I'd like to host a viewing party here in Austin for The Interview, which I want to see now more than ever. (And it would be a fitting venue.)
230 comments | about two weeks ago
First time accepted submitter groggy.android writes This year's biggest news about Bitcoin may well turn out not to be the repeat of its surge in value last year against the dollar and other state currencies but its impending eclipse by another independent but corporate-backed digital currency. Popularly known as Ripple, XRP shot up in value last year along with other cryptocurrencies that took advantage of the hype around Bitcoin. However, among the top cryptocurrencies listed in Coinmarketcap.com, a site that monitors trading across different cryptocurrency exchanges, Ripple is the only one that not only regained its value after the collapse in the price of Bitcoin but has more than doubled from its peak last year. In September it displaced Litecoin to become the second most valuable cryptocurrency. Even more surpising, a Ripple fork, Stellar, is one of the two other cryptocurrencies in the Coinmarketcap top ten that have risen sharply in value during the last few weeks.
What makes Ripple different from Bitcoin? Strictly speaking, Ripple isn't the name of the digital currency but of the decentralized payment network and protocol created and maintained by the eponymous Ripple Labs. Users of the Ripple system are able to transact in both cryptocurrency and regular fiat currency like the dollar without passing through a central exchange. XRP is the name of the native unit of exchange used in the Ripple network to facilitate conversion between different currency types.
144 comments | about two weeks ago
In June of 1962, three prisoners escaped the penitentary on Alcatraz, in an elaborate plot that was dramatized in a Clint Eastwood movie. A question that has long puzzled the public is whether these men ever made it to shore; the many factors that made Alcatraz a secure prison include sharks, cold water, and contrary currents. Still, some artifacts from the attempt, and perhaps the appeal of stories about survival against high odds, have led many people to believe that the men actually landed safely and faded into society. coondoggie writes This week Dutch scientists from Delft University of Technology presented findings from a computer modeling program they were working on, unrelated to the mystery, that demonstrated the escapees could have survived the journey. "In hindsight, the best time to launch a boat from Alcatraz was [11:30 am], one and a half hours later than has generally been assumed. A rubber boat leaving Alcatraz at [11:30 am] would most likely have landed just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The model also shows that debris in that scenario would be likely to wash up at Angel Island, exactly where one of the paddles and some personal belongings were found.
89 comments | about two weeks ago
rossgneumann writes North Korea may really be behind the Sony hack, but we're still acting like idiots. Peter W. Singer, one of the nations foremost experts on cybersecurity, says Sony's reaction has been abysmal. "Here, we need to distinguish between threat and capability—the ability to steal gossipy emails from a not-so-great protected computer network is not the same thing as being able to carry out physical, 9/11-style attacks in 18,000 locations simultaneously. I can't believe I'm saying this. I can't believe I have to say this."
580 comments | about two weeks ago
HughPickens.com writes: Peter Baker reports at the NYT that in a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, the United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century. In addition, the United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations, and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government. Although the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will remain in place for now, the administration signaled that it would welcome a move by Congress to ease or lift it should lawmakers choose to. "We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America's interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state," said the White House in a written statement. "The United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people."
435 comments | about two weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes: IEEE Spectrum reports on a study out of NASA exploring the idea that manned missions to Venus are possible if astronauts deploy and live in airships once they arrive. Since the atmospheric pressure at the surface is 92 times that of Earth, and the surface temperate is over 450 degrees C, the probes we've sent to Venus haven't lasted long. The Venera 8 probe sent back data for only 50 minutes after landing. Soviet missions in 1985 were able to get much more data — 46 hours worth — by suspending their probes from balloons. The new study refines that concept: "At 50 kilometers above its surface, Venus offers one atmosphere of pressure and only slightly lower gravity than Earth. Mars, in comparison, has a "sea level" atmospheric pressure of less than a hundredth of Earth's, and gravity just over a third Earth normal. The temperature at 50 km on Venus is around 75 C, which is a mere 17 degrees hotter than the highest temperature recorded on Earth.
The defining feature of these missions is the vehicle that will be doing the atmospheric exploring: a helium-filled, solar-powered airship. The robotic version would be 31 meters long (about half the size of the Goodyear blimp), while the crewed version would be nearly 130 meters long, or twice the size of a Boeing 747. The top of the airship would be covered with more than 1,000 square meters of solar panels, with a gondola slung underneath for instruments and, in the crewed version, a small habitat and the ascent vehicle that the astronauts would use to return to Venus's orbit, and home."
200 comments | about two weeks ago
mrflash818 points out a new study which found that California can recover from its lengthy drought with a mere 11 trillion gallons of water. The volume this water would occupy (roughly 42 cubic kilometers) is half again as large as the biggest water reservoir in the U.S. A team of JPL scientists worked this out through the use of NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites. From the article: GRACE data reveal that, since 2011, the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins decreased in volume by four trillion gallons of water each year (15 cubic kilometers). That's more water than California's 38 million residents use each year for domestic and municipal purposes. About two-thirds of the loss is due to depletion of groundwater beneath California's Central Valley. ... New drought maps show groundwater levels across the U.S. Southwest are in the lowest two to 10 percent since 1949.
330 comments | about two weeks ago