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posted by martyb on Sunday September 24, @06:06PM   Printer-friendly
from the Not-MegaVegan dept.

A study (open, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-11538-w) (DX) has found that large plant-eating dinosaurs opportunistically dined on crustaceans that sheltered in rotting logs:

Large plant-eating dinosaurs are usually presumed to have been strictly herbivorous, because their derived teeth and jaws were capable of processing fibrous plant foods. This inferred feeding behavior offers a generalized view of dinosaur food habits, but rare direct fossil evidence of diet provides more nuanced insights into feeding behavior. Here we describe fossilized faeces (coprolites) that demonstrate recurring consumption of crustaceans and rotted wood by large Late Cretaceous dinosaurs. These multi-liter coprolites from the Kaiparowits Formation are primarily composed of comminuted conifer wood tissues that were fungally degraded before ingestion. Thick fragments of laminar crustacean cuticle are scattered within the coprolite contents and suggest that the dinosaurian defecators consumed sizeable crustaceans that sheltered in rotting logs. The diet of decayed wood and crustaceans offered a substantial supply of plant polysaccharides, with added dividends of animal protein and calcium. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the fossilized fecal residues depict year-round feeding habits. It is more reasonable to infer that these coprolites reflected seasonal dietary shifts—possibly related to the dinosaurs' oviparous breeding activities. This surprising fossil evidence challenges conventional notions of herbivorous dinosaur diets and reveals a degree of dietary flexibility that is consistent with that of extant herbivorous birds.

Also at BBC and NPR.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday September 24, @03:45PM   Printer-friendly
from the just-need-a-thousand-monkeys dept.

[The] main problem here is that software development is not an individual sport. Assessing technical traits means that we are looking at candidates as individuals. At the same time, we will put them in a team context and the project's success will depend on their teamwork. A person's resume or LinkedIn profile says close to nothing about their team skills.

What's more, we know quite a lot about what makes teams effective. Anita Woolley's research on collective intelligence [DOI: 10.1126/science.1193147] [DX] provides extremely valuable insight on the topic. First of all, how do we define collective intelligence? It's basically the skill of a group to solve complex problems. Well, it sounds like the definition of everyday work for software development teams if you ask me.

Why is collective intelligence so important? Exploiting collective intelligence, as opposed to going with the opinion of the smartest person in a room, is a winning strategy. To put in Anita Woolley's words: "Collective intelligence was much more predictive in terms of succeeding in complex tasks than average individual intelligence or maximal individual intelligence."

The power is in the team.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday September 24, @01:23PM   Printer-friendly
from the is-your-fridge-"clean"? dept.

Walmart wants to test "in-fridge delivery" for Silicon Valley customers with August Home "smart locks":

Here's how the test will work: I place an order on for several items, even groceries. When my order is ready, a Deliv driver will retrieve my items and bring them to my home. If no one answers the doorbell, he or she will have a one-time passcode that I've pre-authorized which will open my home's smart lock. As the homeowner, I'm in control of the experience the entire time – the moment the Deliv driver rings my doorbell, I receive a smartphone notification that the delivery is occurring and, if I choose, I can watch the delivery take place in real-time. The Deliv associate will drop off my packages in my foyer and then carry my groceries to the kitchen, unload them in my fridge and leave. I'm watching the entire process from start to finish from my home security cameras through the August app. As I watch the Deliv associate exit my front door, I even receive confirmation that my door has automatically been locked.

While some may find the idea creepy, others have downplayed the creepiness factor:

"Five years ago consumers wouldn't have assumed they'd let a stranger drive them from the airport, much less stay in their house," said Forrest Collier, the CEO of eMeals, a platform that offers shopping lists based on recipes and loads the items into online shopping carts at Walmart and Kroger (KR) . "Now both Uber and Airbnb are billion-dollar companies."

For now, the fridge restocking service will only be available to Silicon Valley users of August Home. Customers will get a notification through their August Home app every time a delivery person drops off their food.

[...] Even though this Walmart service sounds "creepy on the front end," said Collier of eMeals, "it's really not as creepy as letting a stranger sleep in your bedroom."

Also at LA Times, Reuters, SiliconBeat, and CNET.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday September 24, @11:02AM   Printer-friendly
from the Programming-Jobs dept.

Commentary from The Guardian

The rationale for this rapid curricular renovation is economic. Teaching kids how to code will help them land good jobs, the argument goes. In an era of flat and falling incomes, programming provides a new path to the middle class – a skill so widely demanded that anyone who acquires it can command a livable, even lucrative, wage.

This narrative pervades policymaking at every level, from school boards to the government. Yet it rests on a fundamentally flawed premise. Contrary to public perception, the economy doesn't actually need that many more programmers. As a result, teaching millions of kids to code won't make them all middle-class. Rather, it will proletarianize the profession by flooding the market and forcing wages down – and that's precisely the point.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday September 24, @08:40AM   Printer-friendly
from the Go-Fish! dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow8963

Security researchers from Adguard have issued a warning that the popular GO Keyboard app is spying on users. Produced by Chinese developers GOMO Dev Team, GO Keyboard was found to be transmitting personal information about users back to remote servers, as well as

Adguard made the discovery while conducting research into the traffic consumption and unwanted behavior of various Android keyboards. The AdGuard for Android app makes it possible to see exactly what traffic an app is generating, and it showed that GO Keyboard was making worrying connections, making use of trackers, and sharing personal information.

[...] Within the app description, the developers say:

PRIVACY and security
We will never collect your personal info including credit card information. In fact, we cares for privacy of what you type and who you type! [sic]

But Adguard points out that this is contradicted by the company's privacy policy. In addition to this, GO Keyboard shares personal information right after installation, communicates with dozens of tracking servers, and has access to sensitive data on phone. Adguard concedes that this is fairly typical for modern apps, but goes on to say that the app violates Google Play policies.

The apps in question are:


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday September 24, @06:19AM   Printer-friendly
from the does-the-editor-have-an-undo-function? dept.

Scientists at the Francis Crick Institute have performed the UK's first human embryo editing experiment:

The blueprint for life - DNA - has been altered in human embryos for the first time in the UK. The team at the Francis Crick Institute are unravelling the mysteries of the earliest moments of life. Understanding what happens after a sperm fertilises an egg could lead to ways of improving IVF or explain why some women miscarry. The embryos were modified shortly after fertilisation and allowed to develop for seven days.

[...] The researchers used 41 embryos that had been donated by couples who no longer needed them for IVF. After performing the genetic modification, the team could watch how the embryos developed without OCT4.

Over the course of the first seven days, a healthy, normal embryo goes from one cell to about 200. It also goes through the first steps of organising itself and handing out specialised jobs to different cells. The embryo forms a hollow sphere called a blastocyst, with some cells destined to go on to form the placenta, some the yolk sac and others, ultimately, us. But without OCT4 the blastocyst cannot form. It tries - but implodes in on itself. From the embryo's perspective it is a disaster but for scientists it has given unprecedented insight.


Also at CNN, Science Magazine, and The Guardian.

Genome editing reveals a role for OCT4 in human embryogenesis (open, DOI: 10.1038/nature24033) (DX)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday September 24, @03:57AM   Printer-friendly
from the we-can't-share-what-we-don't-have dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow8963

The UK government has made no secret of its dislike of encrypted messaging tools, and it has made frequent reference to the problems WhatsApp causes it with regard to investigations into terrorism. Calls have been made by the government to force companies to allow access to encrypted content when asked.

In the wake of Theresa May's "more needs to be done about extremist content" speech, it has emerged that WhatsApp refused to add a backdoor that would allow the government and law enforcement agencies to access private conversations.

Sky News reports anonymous sources as saying that during the summer the government told WhatsApp to devise a way that would enable it to access encrypted messages. While WhatsApp already complies with government requests to provide meta data such as the name of an account holder, associated email address, and IP addresses used, it does not -- and, indeed, due to lack of access itself, cannot -- provide access to, or the content of encrypted messages.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday September 24, @01:36AM   Printer-friendly
from the sure-beats-dialup dept.

Microsoft, Facebook, and Telxius have completed the Marea subsea cable, which connects Virginia Beach, Virginia, U.S. to Bilbao, Spain:

The Marea cable's new "open" design allows it to evolve with technology, ensuring the highest performance for users now and well into the future, even as the global population of internet users grows. And make no mistake, the demand is growing. Just think of the many high-bandwidth applications and content you use today such as Skype and Facebook Live, and the volume of streaming videos, movies and music consumed daily. This ability to interoperate with many different kinds of networking equipment brings significant benefits including lower costs and easier equipment upgrades, leading to faster growth in bandwidth rates.

Completed in less than two years — nearly three times faster than is typical — Marea is a powerful example of the important role the private sector has to play in connecting the world. It also set a new standard for subsea cables because it is designed to meet today's demand and evolve with the progress of tomorrow, allowing companies offering digital services to be better equipped to handle cross-border internet traffic, which is expected to increase eightfold by 2025.

VentureBeat notes:

Elsewhere, Google and Facebook last year partnered on a new submarine cable project between Los Angeles and Hong Kong, while a new Google-backed transpacific internet cable from Japan to Oregon opened for business. Earlier this year, Google revealed it was also backing Indigo, a new undersea cable between Asia and Australia.

It was no surprise to learn that Amazon — a competitor in the cloud services space alongside Google and Microsoft — made its first major subsea cable investment last year when it plowed money into the transpacific Hawaiki cable, which should improve latency for Amazon Web Services (AWS) users in Australia and New Zealand.

[...] Though the cable should help bring greater speeds to connections between North America and Europe, it may also have a knock-on effect for Asia and Africa, which are connected via the same landmass.

Also at PC Magazine, eWeek, ZDNet, and Data Center Knowledge.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday September 23, @11:14PM   Printer-friendly
from the license?-we-don't-need-no-stinkin'-license! dept.

Uber will lose its license to operate inside London. The issue may be only a temporary setback since the license expires on September 30th and Uber can continue to operate in London while appealing the decision:

London's transportation agency dealt a major blow to Uber on Friday, declining to renew the ride-hailing service's license to operate in its largest European market. [...] "Uber's approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications," the agency, Transport for London, said in a statement.

[...] In issuing its decision, Transport for London, which is responsible for the city's subways and buses as well as regulating its taxicabs, declared that Uber was not "fit and proper" to operate in the city — a designation that carries significant weight in Britain. "Fit and proper" is a benchmark applied across different sectors of business and the charitable organizations in the country to ensure that people or organizations meet the requirements of their industry or specialty. Tests typically assess factors like an individual or company's honesty, transparency and competence, though there is no formal exam. In Uber's case, Transport for London said it examined issues of how it dealt with serious criminal offenses, how it conducted background checks on drivers and its justification for a software program called Greyball that "could be used to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to the app."

Opinion: London's Uber Ban Is a Big Brexit Mistake

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday September 23, @08:53PM   Printer-friendly
from the best-of-luck-to-them dept.

Scientists have engineered a "tri-specific antibody" that they say can attack 99% of HIV strains:

Scientists have engineered an antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains and can prevent infection in primates. It is built to attack three critical parts of the virus - making it harder for HIV to resist its effects.

The work is a collaboration between the US National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical company Sanofi. The International Aids Society said it was an "exciting breakthrough". Human trials will start in 2018 to see if it can prevent or treat infection.

Trispecific broadly neutralizing HIV antibodies mediate potent SHIV protection in macaques (DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8630) (DX)

The development of an effective AIDS vaccine has been challenging due to viral genetic diversity and the difficulty in generating broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs). Here, we engineered trispecific antibodies (Abs) that allow a single molecule to interact with three independent HIV-1 envelope determinants: 1) the CD4 binding site, 2) the membrane proximal external region (MPER) and 3) the V1V2 glycan site. Trispecific Abs exhibited higher potency and breadth than any previously described single bnAb, showed pharmacokinetics similar to human bnAbs, and conferred complete immunity against a mixture of SHIVs in non-human primates (NHP) in contrast to single bnAbs. Trispecific Abs thus constitute a platform to engage multiple therapeutic targets through a single protein, and could be applicable for diverse diseases, including infections, cancer and autoimmunity.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday September 23, @06:31PM   Printer-friendly
from the let-me-think-about-that-one dept.

A new study of a Neanderthal child's skeleton has suggested that Neanderthal brains developed more slowly than previous studies had indicated:

A new study shows that Neanderthal brains developed more slowly than ours. An analysis of a Neanderthal child's skeleton suggests that its brain was still developing at a time when the brains of modern human children are fully formed. This is further evidence that this now extinct human was not more brutish and primitive than our species. The research has been published in the journal Science.

Until now it had been thought that we were the only species whose brains develop slowly. Unlike other apes and more primitive humans modern humans have an extended period of childhood lasting several years. This is because it takes time and energy to develop our large brain. Previous studies of Neanderthal remains indicated that they developed more quickly than modern humans - suggesting that their brains might be less sophisticated.

But a team led by Prof Antonio Rosas of the Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid found that if anything, Neanderthal brains may develop more slowly than ours. "It was a surprise," he told BBC News. "When we started the study we were expecting something similar to the previous studies," he told BBC News.

Also at Science Magazine, NYT, and Discover Magazine.

The growth pattern of Neandertals, reconstructed from a juvenile skeleton from El Sidrón (Spain) (open, DOI: 10.1126/science.aan6463) (DX)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday September 23, @04:10PM   Printer-friendly
from the information-wants-to-be-free? dept.

Adobe is showing that it can be transparent about its security practices:

Having some transparency about security problems with software is great, but Adobe's Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT) took that transparency a little too far today when a member of the team posted the PGP keys for PSIRT's e-mail account—both the public and the private keys. The keys have since been taken down, and a new public key has been posted in its stead.

The faux pas was spotted at 1:49pm ET by security researcher Juho Nurminen:

Oh shit Adobe
— Juho Nurminen (@jupenur) September 22, 2017

Nurminen was able to confirm that the key was associated with the e-mail account.

Also at The Register and Wccftech.

[How many here have done something like this? Perhaps an extra file accidentally uploaded to GitHub? --Ed.]

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday September 23, @01:48PM   Printer-friendly
from the innovations-in-financial-engineering dept.

SolarCity, a company Tesla acquired in Nov. 2016, has agreed to pay $29.5 million to resolve allegations that it lied to the government by submitting inflated claims to cash in on a solar stimulus program, the Department of Justice announced Friday.

SolarCity has agreed to drop charges it had against the US government as part of the settlement, which is not an admission of guilt. The settlement is a SolarCity obligation, a SolarCity representative told Business Insider.

The investigation centered on a program — Section 1603 — set up under the Obama administration that was meant to encourage solar adoption by subsidizing installation costs. The program allowed solar companies to receive a federal grant that was equal to 30% of the cost to install or acquire solar systems.

The Justice Department alleges that SolarCity made thousands of claims that overstated the costs of its installations, allowing it to receive inflated grant payments. It has been probing SolarCity and several other solar companies since 2012.

Source: Business Insider

SolarCity was founded in 2006 by brothers Peter and Lyndon Rive, based on a suggestion for a solar company concept by their cousin, Elon Musk, who is the chairman and helped start the company. The Rive brothers left SolarCity earlier this year.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday September 23, @11:27AM   Printer-friendly
from the on-the-rocks dept.

More ice has been found to exist in permanently shadowed craters and terrain on Mercury's surface:

The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters [DOI: 10.1002/2017GL074723] [DX], adds three new members to the list of craters near Mercury's north pole that appear to harbor large surface ice deposits. But in addition to those large deposits, the research also shows evidence that smaller-scale deposits scattered around Mercury's north pole, both inside craters and in shadowed terrain between craters. Those deposits may be small, but they could add up to a lot more previously unaccounted-for ice.

"The assumption has been that surface ice on Mercury exists predominantly in large craters, but we show evidence for these smaller-scale deposits as well," said Ariel Deutsch, the study's lead author and a Ph.D. candidate at Brown. "Adding these small-scale deposits to the large deposits within craters adds significantly to the surface ice inventory on Mercury."

[...] To seek further evidence that such smaller-scale deposits exist, the researchers looked though the altimeter data in search of patches that were smaller than the big crater-based deposits, but still large enough to resolve with the altimeter. They found four, each with diameters of less than about 5 kilometers. "These four were just the ones we could resolve with the MESSENGER instruments," Deutsch said. "We think there are probably many, many more of these, ranging in sizes from a kilometer down to a few centimeters."

A Mercury Colony?

Also at the American Geophysical Union.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Saturday September 23, @09:06AM   Printer-friendly
from the woosh dept.

China is once again operating the world's fastest train service after a speed cap was lifted:

China increased the maximum speed of bullet trains on the Shanghai-Beijing line to 350 kilometers per hour yesterday, six years after a fatal accident led to a speed cap. The limit was reduced to 300kph after 40 people died in a high-speed train crash near Wenzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, in July 2011.

The decision to increase the speed means that China once again has the world's fastest train service. The new limit cuts the time of the 1,318-kilometer journey between Shanghai and the capital to four hours and 28 minutes, saving passengers nearly an hour. A total of 14 trains a day will run between the two cities at the higher speed.

Also at Xinhua and NextBigFuture.

Original Submission