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posted by n1 on Tuesday July 07, @01:55AM   Printer-friendly
from the a-taurus-is-not-a-torus-but-it-can-make-donuts-in-a-car-park dept.

Topology isn't for everyone, but knowing the difference between your coffee cup and a doughnut is an essential workplace skill.

However, algebraic topology may be closer to us than you think. Drones, self-driving cars, and semi-autonomous AI are going to need it. And if you code, you're going to have to understand it. A little.

Unconventional mathematician Robert Ghrist rejects his field’s “hippie aesthetic” in favor of suits and ties, loves medieval literature, reversed the usual way of teaching calculus in his popular MOOC, and is using one of mathematics’ most abstract disciplines—algebraic topology—to solve real-world problems in robotics and sensor networks.

Original Submission

posted by n1 on Tuesday July 07, @12:04AM   Printer-friendly
from the life,-uh,-finds-a-way dept.

The future of robotics may be defined by an unlikely source: the tails of seahorses.

A new study cites the fish appendages as possible inspiration for a breakthrough after finding that its movements facilitate bending and twisting while also providing strong resistance to crushing—key components for engineers developing new technologies.

Researchers from Clemson University in collaboration with U.C. San Diego, Ghent University, and Oregon State University began their work by seeking to ascertain why seahorses' tails are made up of square, as opposed to cylindrical (as found in most animals from rodents to monkeys), segments.

"Almost all animal tails have circular or oval cross-sections—but not the seahorse's. We wondered why," explained Michael Porter, assistant professor in mechanical engineering at Clemson University. "We found that the squared-shaped tails are better when both grasping and armor functions are needed."

Popular fiction has argued the case for environmental preservation for practical benefit. Is this sort of argument the only one that gets traction in a capitalist world?

Original Submission

posted by n1 on Monday July 06, @10:20PM   Printer-friendly
from the needs-more-metal-gear dept.

Some time ago the US Megabots team issued a challenge to the Japanese team behind the Kuratas mecha to have a mecha fight in one years time. The Japanese have now risen to the challenge and said tongue in cheek they want the battle to have brawling so they smash the US robot into pieces.

"My reaction? Come on, guys, make it cooler," Suidobashi founder and CEO Kogoro Kurata said in a YouTube video posted to the site on Sunday. "Just building something huge and sticking guns on it -- it's...Super American."

Kurata's playful comments came after MegaBots on July 2 issued a challenge to Suidobashi to engage in a real-life giant robot battle. The MegaBots pugilist is called Mark 2, weighs six tons, and is piloted by a team of two. The Mark 2 fires three-pound paint cannonballs up to 100 miles per hour. The Suidobashi Kuratas weighs 4.5 tons, making it a bit more agile. However, it comes with a pair of Gatling guns, coupled with an advanced targeting system and heads-up display.

In its own video, MegaBots called the fight a "duel," and said that it hoped to host the event in one year. The team called on Suidobashi to name the battleground.

posted by n1 on Monday July 06, @08:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the xdr-transcending-networks dept.

A patient with extensively drug-resistant TB flew from Mumbai to Chicago, and the deadly disease could become an infamous export due to problems in India's public health system

[...] Now, difficult-to-kill TB is no longer just India's nightmare. In June U.S. health authorities confirmed that an Indian patient carried this extreme form of the infection, called XDR-TB, across the ocean to Chicago. The patient drove from there to visit relatives as far away as Tennessee and Missouri. Health officials in several states are tracking down everyone with whom the patient—who is now quarantined and being treated at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland—had prolonged contact. The disease can be cured in only 30 percent of patients and sometimes requires surgery to remove infected parts of lungs. Although TB's slow rate of infection makes explosive epidemics unlikely, the Chicago episode shows how easy it might be for the illness to become a worldwide export.

Yet until recently Indian public health officials remained reluctant to admit there's a problem, says Nerges Mistry, director of the Mumbai-based Foundation for Medical Research. "They were always trying to deny it [existed]," she says. (Neither the head of India's Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP) nor Mumbai's main tuberculosis control official—both of whom are new to their posts—responded to interview requests from Scientific American.)

[...] If there are indeed many people with resistant germs, it heightens the chances of those pathogens leaving the country for the rest of the world. Nearly a million Indians traveled to the U.S. in 2014, compared with less than three million from all of central Asia. More and more middle-class Indians are being diagnosed with TB, and although the patient who carried XDR-TB to the U.S. was immediately placed in isolation, India has no provisions for quarantines or travel restrictions.

Yes, their headline is sensationalist - but there really IS a problem here, as evidenced by the CDC, WHO, and other organizations. Perhaps the problem wasn't created by India's restructured medical school system, but it has almost certainly been increased by it.

As reported by The Times of India last year:

The SN Medical College's trauma centre which became 'functional' in 2011 is yet to conduct a surgery. This came to UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's attention when he conducted a surprise inspection of the centre on Friday.

[...] "Not a single serious patient has ever been treated at the centre. Whenever a minister or a dignitary plans to pay a visit to the centre, a few are admitted in the intensive care unit (ICU) to 'show' them," said a doctor, who did not wish to be named. He added that a ward boy has been put on duty in the ICU just to keep an eye that no one steals anything from there.

posted by n1 on Monday July 06, @06:57PM   Printer-friendly
from the country-club-tax-break dept.

Japan has been focusing on finding spaces well-suited for solar power that might otherwise go unused. Recently, solar power company Kyocera announced that it was building huge floating solar power plants that covered inland bodies of water like reservoirs, projects that both provided clean energy and were beneficial to the reservoirs themselves.

Now, the company has turned their attention to the several abandoned golf courses in the country, with plans to build large solar farms on the land. These golf courses feature large amounts of unused open land, few shade trees and high sun exposure -- all of the things you need for a productive solar farm.

The company has just started construction on a 23-MW solar power plant on an abandoned course in Kyoto Prefecture. It will generate an estimated 26,312 MWh per year -- enough to power 8,100 local homes. The company calculated that number based on the average household electricity use of 3,254.4 kWh per year.

When finished, it will be the largest solar power installation in Kyoto Prefecture.

How much power could be generated by covering parking lots with solar panels?

Kyocera and Century Tokyo Leasing, along with two other companies, also announced recently that they are developing a 92MW solar power plant at a site in Kagoshima Prefecture. The site was originally designated as a golf course over 30 years ago and then was abandoned.

In the bigger picture, are we looking at a solar uptake of abandoned golf courses? Are we to see more large-scale solar projects go up on golf-course land otherwise going unused? The press release said, "In the United States, several cities in states such as Florida, Utah, Kansas and Minnesota are having public discussion and considering proposals on how best to repurpose closed golf courses."

Advantages for groups with solar interests are evident in courses characterized by expansive land mass, high sun exposure and a low concentration of shade trees.

In Japan, embracing solar energy is easier said than done, however. PV-Tech, which focuses on news about the solar PV supply chain, put this in perspective. The site noted Japan's shortage of land for large-scale solar initiatives, with the government "now offering incentives to developers building PV plants on landfill sites" while at the same time showing reluctance to approve plant development on agricultural land.

Courses left idle are now under analysis for repurposing or redevelopment, said Kyocera. The glut is a reflection of golf-property overdevelopment, in the real estate boom of the 1990s and 2000s.

Andy Colthorpe in PV-Tech said earlier this month, "A legacy of Japan's early 90s boom years, the country's obsession with golf led to the development of many golf courses that have since proven economically unsustainable."

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Original Submission 2

posted by n1 on Monday July 06, @05:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the human-obsolescence dept.

MIT computer scientists have devised a new system that repairs dangerous software bugs by automatically importing functionality from other, more secure applications.

Remarkably, the system, dubbed CodePhage, doesn’t require access to the source code of the applications whose functionality it’s borrowing. Instead, it analyzes the applications’ execution and characterizes the types of security checks they perform. As a consequence, it can import checks from applications written in programming languages other than the one in which the program it’s repairing was written.

Once it’s imported code into a vulnerable application, CodePhage can provide a further layer of analysis that guarantees that the bug has been repaired.

[...] Sidiroglou-Douskos and his coauthors — MIT professor of computer science and engineering Martin Rinard, graduate student Fan Long, and Eric Lahtinen, a researcher in Rinard’s group — refer to the program CodePhage is repairing as the “recipient” and the program whose functionality it’s borrowing as the “donor.” To begin its analysis, CodePhage requires two sample inputs: one that causes the recipient to crash and one that doesn’t. A bug-locating program that the same group reported in March, dubbed DIODE, generates crash-inducing inputs automatically. But a user may simply have found that trying to open a particular file caused a crash.

[...] “The longer-term vision is that you never have to write a piece of code that somebody else has written before,” Rinard says. “The system finds that piece of code and automatically puts it together with whatever pieces of code you need to make your program work.”

“The technique of borrowing code from another program that has similar functionality, and being able to take a program that essentially is broken and fix it in that manner, is a pretty cool result,” says Emery Berger, a professor of computer science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “To be honest, I was surprised that it worked at all.”

Original Submission

posted by n1 on Monday July 06, @04:10PM   Printer-friendly
from the next-stop-is-the-east-side-motel dept.

Mexico City is proposing regulations that would allow Uber and other smartphone-based ride-sharing apps to operate, while requiring drivers and cars to be registered, the city's Office of Legal and Legislative Studies said Friday.

The proposed regulation also calls for such companies to pay into a fund for transportation infrastructure. The city would create an app for licensed taxis and help pay for their GPS technology.

[...] The Organized Taxi Drivers of Mexico City have pushed the city to regulate or ban Uber, saying it's unfair that its drivers avoid costly licensing and inspections that taxis must undergo to operate. On Friday, spokesman Daniel Medina emphasized that the proposal is still under construction and the organization continues to meet with city officials, including on Friday.

Uber, meanwhile, said it is not against regulation. "Regulation that allows us to continue to provide service that is quality, safe and efficient," said Luis de Uriarte, Uber spokesman for Mexico and Central America. "We don't want them putting up any obstacles."

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday July 06, @02:42PM   Printer-friendly
from the is-it-made-of-kyber? dept.

From New Scientist

Ordinary crystals are three-dimensional objects whose atoms are arranged in regular, repeating patterns – just like table salt. They adopt this structure because it uses the lowest amount of energy possible to maintain.

Earlier this year, Frank Wilczek, a theoretical physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, speculated that a similar structure might repeat regularly in the fourth dimension – time.

Wilczek has also theorised that a working time crystal could be made into a computer, with different rotational states standing in for the 0s and 1s of a conventional computer.

The article includes a description (by Tongcang Li from the University of California, and others) of how such a time crystal could be built. Though it will be tricky because building the crystal will need temperatures close to absolute zero.

While Wilczek points out that the heat-death of the universe is, in principle, "very user friendly" for this kind of experiment because it would be cold and dark, there are other issues to consider.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday July 06, @01:21PM   Printer-friendly
from the not-the-best-advertising dept.

Inquisitr has this story.

It is just now being reported on Twitter and by CSO Online that Italian security firm Hacking Team has been compromised by parties unknown.

The attack, which took place during the Women's World Cup, resulted in a Torrent file with over 400GB of of internal documents, source code, and email communications being made available to the public. Meanwhile, the attackers have also seized control of Hacking Team's Twitter, defacing it and posting images of the stolen data.

Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist of the ACLU, says that a preliminary analyst of the Torrent's contents suggests that Hacking Team included among their customers nations such as South Korea, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Lebanon, and Mongolia. Hacking Team, which specializes in intrusion and surveillance, has always maintained that they do not do business with oppressive governments.

The tools developed by Hacking Team have been linked to several cases of privacy invasion in the past, by researches and the media.

n1 writes:

As reported by Threatpost:

Among the more potentially damaging documents made public are invoices showing that Hacking Team has sold its intrusion software to government agencies in countries known to have oppressive regimes, including Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt.

[...] Hacking Team officials have not released any official public statements about the attack yet.

As researchers and others have begun to look through the documents, they have found a number of significant things, aside from the invoices. Among the discoveries is the fact that Hacking Team has a legitimate Apple iOS developer certificate that expires next year. Another researcher found a handful of files that listed the VPS (virtual private server) servers used by Hacking Team, and published a list of the IP addresses for the servers.

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Original Submission 2

posted by mrcoolbp on Monday July 06, @12:25PM   Printer-friendly
from the finally! dept.

When I contacted CowboyNeal just as SoylentNews launched a year ago, I never expected a response. A few others tried to get a hold of him, but I was successful eventually. He was polite, but mentioned that he didn't have much free time to hang around on the site. A year later, I sent him another email; though still quite busy, he agreed to do an interview.

It's been quite some time since we asked for your questions, but I'm happy to announce that the responses are finally here. What follows is the email I received in it's entirety:

Read the responses from CowboyNeal past the break:

posted by NCommander on Monday July 06, @11:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the long-time-coming dept.

I've long wanted SoylentNews to have much more in terms of content, and user participation. Many discussion sites such as reddit allow users to create their own independent communities-within-communities and as of the rehash upgrade, we've finally laid down most of the fundamental ground work for us to do the same. Right now, we have two nexuses, Meta, and Breaking News, and plans to add more. As one can see, by browsing these nexuses directly, you can see the intended communities-within-communities effect we want to generate. Right now, users can configure their home page to exclude or include nexuses they are directly interested in.

To clarify, rolling out community nexuses will not impact the main page; the intent of this upgrade is to allow more niche topics to have their own place of discussion and allow users to customize their home page as they see fit. For instance, if we have a nexus about Minecraft, you could elect to have those posts show up on the main page. To prevent us from falling into pitfalls experienced by other sites, I want to make sure we get the dialog going on this now and have a firm plan to hit the ground running. Our community defines this site and without that we are nothing, so we both want to make sure we do this right and provide opportunities to give back.

Overall, here's what I want to discuss

  • Avoiding Community Fragmentation
  • Community Governance
  • Monetization and Revenue Sharing
  • In Closing

Check past the fold for more information.

posted by martyb on Monday July 06, @09:36AM   Printer-friendly
from the up-in-the-air-about-this-one dept.

A Wisconsin robbery and auto theft suspect was captured by police thanks to a borrowed drone on May 31, according to court papers filed yesterday in Middleton, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Marquis Phiffer, 21, stole a car and robbed a convenience store in Middleton, Wisconsin on May 31.

After allegedly stealing a car that had been left running outside a coffee shop and robbing the store at a BP gas station (he declared he had a gun, but the clerk never saw one), Phiffer was pursued by police. A chase that reached speeds of up to 70mph ended when Phiffer crashed into a parked car. He abandoned the car and ran into a marsh near Tiedemann's Pond, just a few blocks from Middleton's National Mustard Museum.

The Middleton Fire Department lent the police a rubber raft and a camera-equipped DJI Phantom quadrocopter drone used in search and rescue operations to locate Phiffer. He was hiding in the water, and when the police reached him "his shoes were floating away from him," along with a "large wad of cash," Wisconsin State Journal's Ed Trevelen reported. More cash and a hypodermic needle were found in his pocket.

Seems like the same thing as calling in a chopper, but a lot less expensive. Anyone know what the cost differential is?

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday July 06, @07:23AM   Printer-friendly
from the sees-the-moment dept.

Army researchers are improving how computers manage a myriad of images, which will help analysts across the DOD [Department of Defense] intelligence community.

In a new user interface developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Dr. Jeff Hansberger designed and created a system that facilitates the visualization, navigation and manipulation of tens of thousands of images.

Hansberger works at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, or ARL Human Research and Engineering Directorate field element at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. DARPA selected his design earlier this year for its Visual Media Reasoning, or VMR.

The DARPA VMR system aids intelligence analysts in searching, filtering, and exploring visual media through the use of advanced computer vision and reasoning techniques.

[Also Covered By]:

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday July 06, @04:57AM   Printer-friendly
from the getting-what-you-asked-for-may-not-be-getting-what-you-want dept.

The Greeks voted no to the European Union's terms, despite warnings from the EU that rejecting new austerity terms would set their country on a path out of the Eurozone. 62% voted "No" while 38% voted "Yes".

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday July 06, @02:46AM   Printer-friendly
from the better-safe-than-sorry dept.

TAILS is a live system that aims to preserve your privacy and anonymity. It helps you to use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship almost anywhere you go and on any computer but leaving no trace unless you ask it to explicitly.

It is a complete operating system designed to be used from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card independently of the computer's original operating system. It is Free Software and based on Debian GNU/Linux.

Tails comes with several built-in applications pre-configured with security in mind: web browser, instant messaging client, email client, office suite, image and sound editor, etc. -

# Check first the about and warning pages to make sure that Tails is the right tool for you and that you understand well its limitations.

It can be downloaded here. There is plenty more info on the site, linked to above, giving details of the security enhancements and bug fixes over previous versions.

Original Submission

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