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Updated: 2016-02-08

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The First Draft of the SN manifesto is available

Do you trust your government?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I gots guns.. who cares 'bout the gubmint?
  • What government? This place is anarchy! And I'm going fishing.
  • Hang all them power mad bastards.
  • Zaphod Beeblebrox was a bad choice.
  • Abstain due to NSA fears.
  • Hillary Clinton is HOT!

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:95 | Votes:433

posted by cmn32480 on Friday February 12, @11:34AM   Printer-friendly
from the oragami-it-ain't dept.

I've taken the liberty of setting up an official folding@home team for Soylent News. In case you aren't familiar with folding@home, it's a distributed computing project that simulates protein folding in an attempt to better understand diseases such as Alzheimer's and Huntington's.

There is more information on the project here, which explains it much better than I could.

Clients are available for Linux, OSX, and even Windows (if you swing that way), so come join our botnet!

That Other Site's team is ranked at 1817, so we've got some catching up to do.

On a personal note, my Dad carries the gene markers for Huntington's disease, and will eventually succumb to it. Research like this is very helpful for understanding, and hopefully developing treatments for it.

tl;dr Our Soylent News team ID is 230319

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Friday February 12, @09:52AM   Printer-friendly
from the never-met-a-tax-they-couldn't-hike dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

Congress has voted to make permanent a federal law that prevents states or localities from taxing Internet access.


There's long been general agreement in Congress that taxing access to the Internet is a bad idea and shouldn't be allowed. But permanent consideration of the tax ban was held up by some lawmakers, including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who wanted it to be passed together with the Marketplace Fairness Act, or MFA.

The MFA mandates that Americans must pay sales tax on all online purchases. It, too, has garnered majorities on both sides of the aisle, and a version was passed by the Senate in 2013—yet, it still hasn't become law. Durbin reportedly dropped his opposition to the access tax once Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised a vote on a new MFA later this year.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 12, @08:16AM   Printer-friendly
from the TOP-to-BOTtom dept.

A significant thread through the net neutrality debate was making sure ISPs (read: cable companies) didn't turn the free and open internet into the thing those ISPs actually want, bundles of cable packages. We have, thus far, been mostly successful in stopping it.

Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook have defended net neutrality and fought the bundle.

But, deep inside the software that powers their empires, they're each creating a different kind of bundle. It came from places we haven't been watching closely enough, and it has many names: Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Facebook M, and Google Now. There's a problem that's built into them: they only seem to work with certain parts of the web and — here's the real rub — certain apps.

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Friday February 12, @06:46AM   Printer-friendly
from the what-not-to-do dept.

Did you hear? Virtual reality is legitimate now, because filmmakers have found it.

Forget those childish toys that you call video games, and think beyond those little 360-degree videos captured at concerts. VR is now a place for capital-F Films, complete with New York Times celebrations and dedicated exhibits at Sundance. Recent VR films have some impressive sounding premises, too: immersion in the wilderness alongside bison and cheetahs; trippy, sense-filling music videos; stark, racially charged drives through poor neighborhoods; and much more.

VR filmmakers have taken some pretty diverse approaches, but most of them have one unfortunate thing in common: an overreaction to the form. In their rush to put viewers inside their concepts, these burgeoning creators forgot about the importance of directing and cinematography—a fact that I, a devout believer in VR's future, can no longer stomach.
  [VR film's] worst moments hint to where the format will improve as filmmakers adopt the best practices that 3D game makers have practiced for decades. Good 3D storytelling is as much about giving viewers power as it is about taking it away—about blacking out and obstructing freedom in ways that both focus our attention and convey an important truth (where you're not allowed to go, and what that means, for example).

VR may soon force viewers to confront interesting and even harrowing new concepts in the arts world. Until then, the people who make those VR films need to confront a few truths of their own. Otherwise, we're going to nod our heads 'no' to the expectation of painfully nodding our heads all over virtual worlds.

The article reviews 3 VR films at the Sundance film festival.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 12, @05:02AM   Printer-friendly
from the knowing-where-you-are dept.

Greg Milner writes in The New York Times that an American tourist in Iceland directed the GPS unit in his rental car to guide him from Keflavik International Airport to a hotel in nearby Reykjavik, and ended up 250 icy miles away in Siglufjordur, a fishing village on the outskirts of the Arctic Circle. Mr. Santillan apparently explained that he was very tired after his flight and had "put his faith in the GPS." In another incident, a woman in Belgium asked GPS to take her to a destination less than two hours away and two days later, she turned up in Croatia. Finally disastrous incidents involving drivers following disused roads and disappearing into remote areas of Death Valley in California have became so common that park rangers gave them a name: "death by GPS." "If we're being honest, it's not that hard to imagine doing something similar ourselves" says Milner. "Most of us use GPS as a crutch while driving through unfamiliar terrain, tuning out and letting that soothing voice do the dirty work of navigating."

Could society's embrace of GPS be eroding our cognitive maps? Julia Frankenstein, a psychologist at the University of Freiburg's Center for Cognitive Science, says the danger of GPS is that "we are not forced to remember or process the information — as it is permanently 'at hand,' we need not think or decide for ourselves." "Next time you're in a new place, forget the GPS device. Study a map to get your bearings, then try to focus on your memory of it to find your way around. City maps do not tell you each step, but they provide a wealth of abstract survey knowledge. Fill in these memories with your own navigational experience, and give your brain the chance to live up to its abilities."

How many people actually remember people's phone numbers these days?

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 12, @03:18AM   Printer-friendly
from the can-you-say-gentrification? dept.

It's hard out there for a Portlander:

With no laws mandating caps on yearly rent increases in Oregon, which for three years has been US's top moving destination, homelessness is increasing.

A city of bridges, Portland is full of places where people who are homeless can find dry, covered shelter from the Pacific North-west downpour. But lately, Portland is facing a housing crisis of a different sort as shelter for the homeless has become anything but discreet. New communities of vinyl pop tents and makeshift camps have been popping up everywhere, with many spilling out into city parks.

As a quick fix to address the prevalence of homelessness, Mayor Charlie Hales announced a plan this week to manage "camping" throughout the city for safe sleeping. Homeless will now be allowed to sleep overnight on sidewalks, with a sleeping bag and a tarp, while tents will be acceptable in certain areas from 9pm to 7am. Up to 10 city-sanctioned campsites with a couple hundred disaster-relief pods will be established through nonprofit service providers. Cars and RVs for homeless to camp in will be permitted in designated areas, such as church parking lots, and at least three or four spaces for more temporary shelter are being located. Though largely experimental, the plan has been given a six month trial run. But as a strategy, it's markedly different from other west coast cities, who have been adopting a strategy of clearing out visible homeless camps in recent years.

[...] Portland saw rents appreciate nearly 15% in 2015 – the highest increase in the nation – with an average rent of $1,689 per month, according to real estate company Zillow. Five years ago, it was around $980. And rents are only trending upwards. Zillow is forecasting that Portland will be among the nation's top six rental appreciations. Apart from Denver and Buffalo, the other cities are all on the west coast: San Francisco, Seattle, and San Jose. The forces driving Portland's rents are far from few. The city has a less than 3% vacancy rate. Meanwhile, the Portland Housing Bureau said 85% of all rental units currently being built are luxury.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 12, @01:47AM   Printer-friendly
from the absolutely-no-relation-to-Jim-Morrison dept.

As reported here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, Bruce Schneier, Kathleen Seidel, and Saranya Vijayakumar today released their worldwide survey of encryption products. They identified 865 hardware or software products from 55 countries that incorporate encryption, 546 of which originated from outside the United States. Their goal was to repeat a similar survey from 1999, when the debate about restricting the export of cryptographic technology was going on.

They didn't perform an in-depth review on the products, but they do state:

To be sure, we do not believe that either US or non-US encryption products are free of vulnerabilities. We also believe that both US and non-US encryption products can be compromised by user error. What we do believe is that there is no difference in quality between the two. Both use the same cryptographic algorithms, and their secure development and coding practices are a function of the quality of their programmers, not the country they happen to be living in.

The report concludes:

Laws regulating product features are national, and only affect people living in the countries in which they're enacted. It is easy to purchase products, especially software products, that are sold anywhere in the world from everywhere in the world. Encryption products come from all over the world. Any national law mandating encryption backdoors will overwhelmingly affect the innocent users of those products. Smart criminals and terrorists will easily be able to switch to more-secure alternatives.

The 1999 report which inspired this survey (original pdf is gone), came to pretty much the same conclusion about the futility of export regulations on encryption products.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 12, @12:09AM   Printer-friendly
from the getting-away-from-it-all dept.

Flotation tanks are dark, soundproof pods in which people float in warm water for hours at a time. They have been a niche interest of various new-age and hippy communities for decades, but in recent years the number of people using them in the UK has grown, writes Tom Ireland.

"The sensation is one of no sensation - your mind becomes untethered from your body. There's nowhere like it on the planet."

Gary Mossman is a 26-year-old tattoo artist in Basingstoke.

He has started to use flotation tanks to explore what he refers to as the "theta-state", a drowsy or trance-like state which he hopes will help him be more creative with his tattoo designs.

"It's about making a blank canvas in your mind so you can then picture something completely original. It's a little like the stage just before falling asleep, where you have a really vivid imagination and things just appear in your head."

[...] Now a growing number of researchers are studying sensory deprivation's effects again. In 2015 a laboratory dedicated to studying flotation tanks was set up at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Early work has suggested that floating - referred to as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy - could be useful in treating stress and anxiety-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder. In Sweden, where patients can be referred to a float tank centre by their GP or employer, there are more tanks per person than anywhere else in the world.

Have any Soylentils done this?

[Editor addition.] Noted physicist Richard Feynman documented his experiences in what was then called a sensory deprivation tank in his book Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday February 11, @10:27PM   Printer-friendly
from the gone-fishing dept.

No longer satisfied to be washed out by epic seas and vast oceans, the world's lakes, rivers, streams, canals, reservoirs and other land-locked waters continue a push to be recognized - and properly managed - as a global food security powerhouse.

In an article today by Environmental Reviews, authors, which include six either currently affiliated with Michigan State University (MSU) and/or are alumni, offers the first global review of the value of inland fish and fisheries.

"Inland capture fisheries and aquaculture are fundamental to food security globally," said Abigail Lynch, a fisheries research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and an adjunct professor at MSU. "In many areas of the world, these fisheries are a last resort when primary income sources fail due to, for instance, economic shifts, war, natural disasters and water development projects."

The article shows that although aquaculture and inland capture fisheries contribute more than 40 percent of the world's reported fish production, excluding shellfish, their harvest is greatly under-reported and value is often ignored.

Inland waters comprise about 0.01 percent of the earth's water.

The social, economic, and environmental importance of inland fish and fisheries (open, DOI: 10.1139/er-2015-0064)

Original Submission

posted by CoolHand on Thursday February 11, @08:54PM   Printer-friendly
from the making-smart-computers dept.

The Next Platform has an article about waning interest in brain-inspired neuromorphic computing post-2013 (which has not yet delivered a "revolution in computing") and some of the developments in the field since then:

There have been a couple of noteworthy investments that have fed existing research for neuromorphic architectures. The DARPA Synapse program was one such effort, which beginning in 2008, eventually yielded IBM's "True North" chip—a 4096-core device comprised of 256 programmable "neurons" that act much like synapses in the brain, resulting in a highly energy efficient architecture that while fascinating—means an entire rethink of programming approaches. Since that time, other funding from scientific sources, including the Human Brain Project, have pushed the area further, leading to the creation of the SpiNNaker neuromorphic device, although there is still a lack of a single architecture that appears best for neuromorphic computing in general.

The problem is really that there is no "general" purpose for such devices as of yet and no widely accepted device or programmatic approach. Much of this stems from the fact that many of the existing projects are built around specific goals that vary widely. For starters, there are projects around broader neuromorphic engineering that are more centered on robotics versus large-scale computing applications (and vice versa). One of several computing-oriented approaches taken by Stanford University's Neurogrid project, which was presented in hardware in 2009 and remains an ongoing research endeavor, was to simulate the human brain, thus the programming approach and hardware design are both thus modeled as closely to the brain as possible while others are more oriented toward solving computer science related challenges related to power consumption and computational capability using the same concepts, including a 2011 effort at MIT, work at HP with memristors as a key to neuromorphic device creation, and various other smaller projects, including one spin-off of the True North architecture we described here.


posted by martyb on Thursday February 11, @07:25PM   Printer-friendly
from the this-is-only-a-test dept.

A team led by engineers at the University of California, San Diego has 3D-printed a tissue that closely mimics the human liver's sophisticated structure and function. The new model could be used for patient-specific drug screening and disease modeling. The work was published the week of Feb. 8 in the online early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers said the advance could help pharmaceutical companies save time and money when developing new drugs.

"It typically takes about 12 years and $1.8 billion to produce one FDA-approved drug," said Shaochen Chen, NanoEngineering professor at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. "That's because over 90 percent of drugs don't pass animal tests or human clinical trials. We've made a tool that pharmaceutical companies could use to do pilot studies on their new drugs, and they won't have to wait until animal or human trials to test a drug's safety and efficacy on patients. This would let them focus on the most promising drug candidates earlier on in the process."

A Deterministically Patterned Biomimetic Human iPSC-derived Hepatic Model via Rapid 3D Bioprinting (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1524510113)

Original Submission

posted by CoolHand on Thursday February 11, @05:47PM   Printer-friendly
from the code-on dept.

A link to an interesting article appeared in my e-mail box this morning with the following introduction:

I just watched an interesting discussion of Java and Node supporters on Youtube, that got my brain ticking. This article is an explosion of various ideas I have about Java, Node, JavaScript, and explicitly typed and weak typed languages.

I won't go into any more detail about the ideas that were produced as the result of the "explosion", but I'd be interested in reading about what others have to say. I will start the discussion with the following snippet from the article:

I don't remember the first release of Netscape browser with JavaScript, but I remember the reasons behind JS introduction:

  • Provide a simple scripting language "inspired by" Java to control embedded Java applets in web pages.
  • A simple scripting language to control forms.

Later, the public DOM representation of the page (partial initially), visible for JavaScript was introduced by Netscape, to provide some support of page changes driven by user actions beyond forms.

As you can see, the initial motivation was not to create a complete and powerful language to develop web client applications.

History is replete with examples of programming languages that have been bastardized and transmogrified into doing things they were never intended to do originally.


Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday February 11, @04:08PM   Printer-friendly
from the glass-on-steroids dept.

Google will reportedly release a smartphone-assisted virtual reality headset in 2016 and build virtual reality software features into Android rather than rely on an app. The device will use plastic casing, add extra sensors, and include better lenses than those distributed with Google Cardboard:

We've said a few times now that Google's virtual reality initiative is too big for the company to just be working on Google Cardboard, and now The Financial Times has published a report detailing what seems to be the next phase of Google's VR push. The report says that Google is working on "a successor to Cardboard," creating a higher-quality headset and building VR software directly into Android.

The device sounds like a Google version of Samsung's Gear VR. Like Cardboard, the headset will be powered by your existing smartphone, with a "more solid plastic casing" along with better lenses and sensors. Also like Cardboard, this won't be limited to just a handful of devices, with the report saying that the headset "will be compatible with a much broader range of Android devices than Gear VR."

Such a device sounds like it would occupy a compelling spot in the market. The Gear VR is a great device—the $100 headset is a powerful entry-level VR experience—but it only works with Samsung phones. Cardboard has much wider phone compatibility, but it comes with a huge list of compromises that lead to a subpar experience. Taking the Gear VR model and expanding it to accept most popular smartphones sounds like a solid idea.

Original Submission

posted by NotSanguine on Thursday February 11, @02:45PM   Printer-friendly
from the seeing-the-saab-for-the-trees dept.

Remember wood paneled station wagons? Well, wood is back, but this time it's not for aesthetics—it's for reducing vehicle weight with renewable materials. Swedish researchers have produced the world's first model car with a roof and battery made from wood-based carbon fiber.

Although it's built on the scale of a toy, the prototype vehicle represents a giant step towards realizing a vision of new lightweight materials from the forest, one of the benefits of a so-called bioeconomy.

The demo is a joint project of KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, the Swedish research institute Innventia and Swerea, a research group for industrial renewal and sustainable development.

The key ingredient in the carbon fiber composite is lignin, a constituent of the cell walls of nearly all plants that grow on dry land. Lignin is the second most abundant natural polymer in the world, surpassed only by cellulose.

Göran Lindbergh, Professor of Chemical Engineering at KTH, says that the use of wood lignin as an electrode material came from previous research he did with Innventia. Lignin batteries can be produced from renewable raw materials, in this case the byproduct from paper pulp production.

"The lightness of the material is especially important for electric cars because then batteries last longer," Lindbergh says. "Lignin-based carbon fiber is cheaper than ordinary carbon fiber. Otherwise batteries made with lignin are indistinguishable from ordinary batteries."

Research along similar lines is being done a Oak Ridge National Laboratories And North Carolina State University

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Thursday February 11, @01:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the where-is-mccoy-when-you-need-him dept.

Moore's Law, coined eponymously for Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel Corporation, who, in a 1965 paper famously observed that component densities on integrated circuits will double every twelve months. He amended his observation in 1975 to a doubling every 24 months. Since then, the chip industry has borne out Moore's observation/prediction. However, there are still those who claim that Moore's Law is dying, just as many have done before.

However, Peter Bright over at Ars Technica is reporting notes a change in focus for the chip industry away from chasing Moore's Law. From the article:

Gordon Moore's observation was not driven by any particular scientific or engineering necessity. It was a reflection on just how things happened to turn out. The silicon chip industry took note and started using it not merely as a descriptive, predictive observation, but as a prescriptive, positive law: a target that the entire industry should hit.

Apparently, the industry isn't going to keep trying to hit that particular target moving forward, as we've seen with the recent delay of Intel's 10nm Cannonlake chips. This is for several reasons:

In the 2000s, it was clear that this geometric scaling was at an end, but various technical measures were devised to keep pace of the Moore's law curves. At 90nm, strained silicon was introduced; at 45nm, new materials to increase the capacitance of each transistor layered on the silicon were introduced. At 22nm, tri-gate transistors maintained the scaling.

But even these new techniques were up against a wall. The photolithography process used to transfer the chip patterns to the silicon wafer has been under considerable pressure: currently, light with a 193 nanometre wavelength is used to create chips with features just 14 nanometres. The oversized light wavelength is not insurmountable but adds extra complexity and cost to the manufacturing process. It has long been hoped that extreme UV (EUV), with a 13.5nm wavelength, will ease this constraint, but production-ready EUV technology has proven difficult to engineer.

Even with EUV, it's unclear just how much further scaling is even possible; at 2nm, transistors would be just 10 atoms wide, and it's unlikely that they'd operate reliably at such a small scale. Even if these problems were resolved, the specter of power usage and dissipation looms large: as the transistors are packed ever tighter, dissipating the energy that they use becomes ever harder.

The new techniques, such as strained silicon and tri-gate transistors, took more than a decade to put in production. EUV has been talked about for longer still. There's also a significant cost factor. There's a kind of undesired counterpart to Moore's law, Rock's law, which observes that the cost of a chip fabrication plant doubles every 4 years. Technology may provide ways to further increase the number of transistors packed into a chip, but the manufacturing facilities to build these chips may be prohibitively expensive—a situation compounded by the growing use of smaller, cheaper processors.

The article goes on to discuss how the industry will focus moving forward:


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