Jane, you ignorant slut.
- Dan Ackroyd, Weekend Update "Point/Counterpoint" on Saturday Night Live
The journalist and author Nicholas Carr has turned pessimistic on technology, and artificial intelligence in particular. This time, it isn't so much that IT doesn't matter, which is what he concluded over a decade ago. In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, in which Carr continues to explore themes covered in his most recent books, he argues that mankind has begun to delegate to machines more and more activities that once required thought, judgement, and practice. Carr acknowledges this isn't a new phenomenon — the erosion of craftsmanship occurred throughout the Industrial Revolution. But the trend has been accelerated by computers, both overt and embedded, which has led to atrophying of expert skills in such diverse professions as airline pilots, physicians, and building architects. Skilled professionals need to practice every day to maintain their edge, and the computers are taking that practice away from them and us, Carr says.
The Scottish novelist Andrew O'Hagan sounds a more positive note about information technology. O'Hagan dismisses the idea that ours is a world where we have hundreds of "friends", but nobody to talk to. Back in the late '70s and '80s, when he was first making his way into the adult world, life was no more soulful or intimate than it is today, says O'Hagan; the main difference was the amount of tedious legwork and days of waiting that is completely unnecessary in today's world where information, music, literature, shopping, and booking of services can be found or accomplished with a few clicks of a mouse and keypad. By analogy, O'Hagan says his mother was perfectly happy to use the invention of the refrigerator to avoid having to negotiate bottles with the milkman each morning; she didn't regret the "loss" of the clunkier way of doing things.
The Guardian features a story about e-cigarettes carrying some malware, infecting computers used to charge them. Though not entirely surprising when you actually think about it, personally I'd not have expected non-computerized devices which just happen to have micro-usb charger socket to pose a threat to IT security.
From the article:
“The made in China e-cigarette had malware hardcoded into the charger, and when plugged into a computer’s USB port the malware phoned home and infected the system.”
Later the article references some low-level attacks might be used to reprogram USB chips on devices, letting them act as USB keyboards issuing commands on the behalf of the logged in user, etc.
There's a press release from last week on NASA's website publicising the opportunities to participate in the Asteroid Grand Challenge.
This particular release is an announcement about the 10 projects developed with technical partner SpaceGAMBIT, a "US-government funded open-source space program", and the SpaceGAMBIT website describes the ten grand challenge projects.
NASA is counting on Maker communities to be a part of the solution to asteroid threats. In addition to the 10 new projects with SpaceGAMBIT, NASA is offering a variety of other opportunities for Makers around the country to connect directly with NASA. This includes events like the World Maker Faire and opportunities to solve tough problems through NASA Solve -- a program of challenges, prize competitions, and crowdsourcing activities.
The NASA Asteroid initiative page has additional background.
Sony was targeted by an attack to their infrastructure. Apparently, large parts of their internal network was infiltrated.
According to This story
the threat is enough that Sony has shut down its electronics on a global scale as the company investigates the breach. An unnamed source spoke to Deadline and said, “We are down, completely paralyzed.” [...]
Another unnamed source [...] went on to say that [...] the situation will take anywhere from one day to three weeks to be resolved.
I have a feeling computer security is a very lucrative business to work in for the foreseeable future...
A new genetic sequencing technique has found that turtles are not as closely related to lizards and snakes as previously thought; and instead have a closer relationship with birds, crocodiles and dinosaurs.
A team of scientists, including researchers from the California Academy of Sciences, has reconstructed a detailed "tree of life" for turtles. The specifics of how turtles are related--to one another, to other reptiles, and even to dinosaurs--have been hotly debated for decades. Next generation sequencing technologies in Academy labs have generated unprecedented amounts of genetic information for a thrilling new look at turtles' evolutionary history. These high-tech lab methods revolutionize the way scientists explore species origins and evolutionary relationships, and provide a strong foundation for future looks into Earth's fossil record.
Research results, appearing in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, describe how a new genetic sequencing technique called Ultra Conserved Elements (UCE) reveal turtles' closest relatives across the animal kingdom. The new genetic tree uses an enormous amount of data to refute the notion that turtles are most closely related to lizards and snakes. Instead, authors place turtles in the newly named group "Archelosauria" with their closest relatives: birds, crocodiles, and dinosaurs. Scientists suspect the new group will be the largest group of vertebrates to ever receive a new scientific name.
We've gotten several submissions about the unrest here today of various sorts, but I couldn't bring myself to publish any of them. I live in St. Louis, not particularly near to the conflict zones, but not so far that they're foreign territory. I have close friends who posted pictures of the StL Metropolitain Police Department's "Civil Disobedience Squad" from their apartment windows and others who got gassed while taking shelter in a coffee shop. My first steady-girlfriend from way back when now lives in Ferguson itself where she and her husband have spent months putting their children back to sleep when circling choppers wake them in the night. I have been to the Canfield Green Apartments, spoken with parents there, and played with their children.
The mood here today is uneasy, as we get the gamut of reactions from our friends, family, and co-workers: head-in-the-sand, outrage, fear, reactionary griping, sadness, hope, and exhaustion. Some want things to go back to normal, for others that is an intolerable proposition. No one knows what will happen next.
So, why talk about this here? What angle does SoylentNews have to offer? For one, feel free to take this as an ask-me-anything about St. Louis and its history. I've lived here most of my life, and have worked jobs from tech to broadcasting to music to cab driving. I know this town and its people. For another, I want to hear what folks far afield have to say about this; especially observations from folk from other regions and countries. Finally, we are uniquely suited to dig into the tech-side of this, streaming, KKK vs Anonymous, drones, etc. than many traditional reporting sources.
phys.org has an article on a study which investigates the improved stability that electric vehicles bring to the power grid.
Several recent studies have shown that plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) operating as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) devices can offer advantages for the grid such as backup power for renewable energy sources, power regulation, and load balancing.
Now in a new study, researchers have found another potential advantage of using PEVs as sources of power for the grid: they can improve stability when the grid is subjected to large disturbances
This study appears to look at a two way communication mechanism between the grid and vehicles using low latency ethernet links to control power consumption - Vehicles can consume when there is surplus power, but can react to shortages by feeding return power back into the grid.
The results of the simulations show that PEVs can improve stability in two ways. First, they can reduce the speed and voltage fluctuations resulting from large disturbances by up to 80%. And second, they can extend the critical clearing times (after which the system will be unable to resume stable operation) by 20-40%. In general, the PEVs can begin to stabilize the grid within seconds of a large disturbance
The paper, published in the New Journal of Physics, is available for download.
Do you remember Manic Mansion? The Monkey Island series? The genius behind those great adventure games is back, with a kickstarter project for a new old style adventure, Thimbleweed Park. Thimbleweed Park is the curious story of two washed up detectives called in to investigate a dead body found in the river just outside of town. It’s a game where you switch between five playable characters while uncovering the dark, satirical and bizarre world of Thimbleweed Park. There are also multiple possible endings.
It's a game with a very retro feel, but brought up-to-date with improved programming techniques and advances in technology when compared to the original.
With 23 days to go, it is already funded, but there are some interesting extended goals, including an android version.
For many decades, a fantasy among space enthusiasts has been to invent a device that produces a net thrust in one direction, without any need for reaction mass. Of course, a reaction-less space drive of this type is impossible. Or is it ? By Charles Platt
In October of this year, at the laboratory of Dr. James Woodward in California State University at Fullerton (above), I watched a very small-scale experiment that was surprisingly persuasive. Unlike all the "free energy" scams that you see online, Woodward's device does not violate basic physical laws (it does not produce more energy than it consumes, and does not violate Newton's third law). Nor is Woodward withholding any information about his methods. He has written a book, published by Springer, that explains in relentless detail exactly how his equipment works--assuming that it does, indeed, work. He published his theory in Foundations of Physics Letters, vol. 3, no. 5, 1990, and he even managed to get a US patent -- number 5,280,864, issued January 25, 1994.
While there seem to be a plethora of stories about how "cloud" (private or public) computing is and will revolutionize the way we work and how products are brought to market, has this really affected the way that technical people do their jobs or find new work?
For me, the biggest changes have come in how the systems I'm responsible for are deployed, secured and managed. But aside from changes in some management tools and implementation scenarios, things haven't changed all that much.
So how has the advent of more centralized computing (resource pooling, application/workload partitioning, fluid resource allocation, etc.) affected how and with whom you do your work?
Norm Matloff, professor of Computer Science at UC-Davis, writes an insightful post on how Obama's latest executive actions on immigration might affect the American tech worker.
There are obvious adverse impacts here to American workers, by swelling the labor market, thus reducing job opportunities and wages for Americans. This is especially true in that the foreign workers are overwhelmingly young, thus exacerbating the rampant age discrimination that we already have in the tech world.
The issue is touchy because while we don't want to discriminate unfairly against our fellow tech workers claiming a different nationality, there might be reason for being concern that continued influx of low-cost labor from overseas might provide (even more) negative pressure on the salaries and opportunities for the American tech worker. The spectre of ageism is certainly lurking in the shadows as well.
We've seen this kind of thing before of course, but now the issue seems to have gained added momentum.
What do you think? Is there cause for concern and if so, what strategies do we need to employ so we don't become irrelevant?
El Reg reports
[The week of November 23,] punters [traveling] between Bristol and Bath will be able to ride on a bus ultimately powered by human poo, the first ever such service in the UK.
The 40-seater "Bio-Bus" will run up to two times a day and is expected to carry around 10,000 passengers a month by tour operator Bath Bus Company. It can travel up to 300km on a full tank of pressurised methane, which is produced from the equivalent annual waste of five people.
The Bio-Bus will be powered by people living in the area "including quite possibly those on the bus itself," said Mohammed Saddiq, GENeco general manager - the company which generates the biomethane gas that will fuel the service. This is done at the Bristol sewage works.
[...]17 million cubic metres of biomethane is generated a year at the Bristol plant. GENeco said this could power 8,300 homes, though in fact most of it is used to power the treatment plant itself. However there is a surplus of biogas left over for projects such as the Poo Bus.
Researchers have made great progress in recent years in the design and creation of biological circuits — systems that, like electronic circuits, can take a number of different inputs and deliver a particular kind of output. But while individual components of such biological circuits can have precise and predictable responses, those outcomes become less predictable as more such elements are combined.
A team of researchers at MIT has now come up with a way of greatly reducing that unpredictability, introducing a device that could ultimately allow such circuits to behave nearly as predictably as their electronic counterparts. The findings are published this week in the journal Nature Biotechnology, in a paper by associate professor of mechanical engineering Domitilla Del Vecchio and professor of biological engineering Ron Weiss.
Jason Kane reports at PBS that emergency treatments delivered in ambulances that offer “Advanced Life Support” for cardiac arrest may be linked to more death, comas and brain damage than those providing “Basic Life Support.” "They’re taking a lot of time in the field to perform interventions that don’t seem to be as effective in that environment,” says Prachi Sanghavi. “Of course, these are treatments we know are good in the emergency room, but they’ve been pushed into the field without really being tested and the field is a much different environment.” The study suggests that high-tech equipment and sophisticated treatment techniques may distract from what’s most important during cardiac arrest — transporting a critically ill patient to the hospital quickly.
Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulances stick to simpler techniques, like chest compressions, basic defibrillation and hand-pumped ventilation bags to assist with breathing with more emphasis placed on getting the patient to the hospital as soon as possible. Survival rates for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients are extremely low regardless of the ambulance type with roughly 90 percent of the 380,000 patients who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year not surviving to hospital discharge. But researchers found that 90 days after hospitalization, patients treated in BLS ambulances were 50 percent more likely to survive than their counterparts treated with ALS. Not everyone is convinced of the conclusions. “They’ve done as much as they possibly can with the existing data but I’m not sure that I’m convinced they have solved all of the selection biases,” says Judith R. Lave. “I would say that it should be taken as more of an indication that there may be some very significant problems here.”
The new robot sentries guarding Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus seem like something straight out of a futuristic sci-fi movie. According to ExtremeTech ( http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/194338-here-come-the-autonomous-robot-security-guards-what-could-possibly-go-wrong ), each of the K5 security guard robots from robotics company Knightscope ( http://knightscope.com ) stands 5 feet tall and weighs 300 pounds, so you probably don’t want to mess with one.
The K5 robots don’t come with any weapons onboard—thankfully—but they use a suite of alarms, sirens, and cameras to monitor and patrol the grounds of Microsoft’s campus. If one spots trouble, it’ll either sound an alarm or dispatch a human security guard to its location.