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[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:74 | Votes:207

posted by chromas on Monday March 25, @07:42AM   Printer-friendly
from the I'm-handing-out-infinite-punishment-for-finite-crime,-spread-the-word-and-take-donations dept.

Complex societies gave birth to big gods, not the other way around: study

"It has been a debate for centuries why humans, unlike other animals, cooperate in large groups of genetically unrelated individuals," says Seshat director and co-author Peter Turchin from the University of Connecticut and the Complexity Science Hub Vienna. Factors such as agriculture, warfare, or religion have been proposed as main driving forces.

One prominent theory, the big or moralizing gods hypothesis, assumes that religious beliefs were key. According to this theory, people are more likely to cooperate fairly if they believe in gods who will punish them if they don't. "To our surprise, our data strongly contradict this hypothesis," says lead author Harvey Whitehouse. "In almost every world region for which we have data, moralizing gods tended to follow, not precede, increases in social complexity." Even more so, standardized rituals tended on average to appear hundreds of years before gods who cared about human morality.

When ancient societies hit a million people, vengeful gods appeared

The God depicted in the Old Testament may sometimes seem wrathful. And in that, he's not alone; supernatural forces that punish evil play a central role in many modern religions.

[...] But which came first: complex societies or the belief in a punishing god?

The researchers found that belief in moralizing gods usually followed increases in social complexity, generally appearing after the emergence of civilizations with populations of more than about 1 million people.

"It was particularly striking how consistent it was [that] this phenomenon emerged at the million-person level," Savage said. "First, you get big societies, and these beliefs then come."

All in all, "our research suggests that religion is playing a functional role throughout world history, helping stabilize societies and people cooperate overall," Savage said. "In really small societies, like very small groups of hunter-gatherers, everyone knows everyone else, and everyone's keeping an eye on everyone else to make sure they're behaving well. Bigger societies are more anonymous, so you might not know who to trust."

Original Submission 1 | Original Submission 2

posted by chromas on Monday March 25, @06:02AM   Printer-friendly
from the ^s([^\w\d\s])(?:.*?[^\\]\1){2} dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

Is Computer Code a Foreign Language?

Maryland’s legislature is considering a bill to allow computer coding courses to fulfill the foreign language graduation requirement for high school. A similar bill passed the Florida State Senate in 2017 (but was ultimately rejected by the full Legislature), and a federal version proposed by Senators Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, and Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, is being considered in Congress.

The animating idea behind these bills is that computer coding has become a valuable skill. This is certainly true. But the proposal that foreign language learning can be replaced by computer coding knowledge is misguided: It stems from a widely held but mistaken belief that science and technology education should take precedence over subjects like English, history and foreign languages.

As a professor of languages and literatures, I am naturally skeptical of such a position. I fervently believe that foreign language learning is essential for children’s development into informed and productive citizens of the world. But even more urgent is my alarm at the growing tendency to accept and even foster the decline of the sort of interpersonal human contact that learning languages both requires and cultivates.

[...] The difference between natural and computer languages is not merely one of degree, with natural languages’ involving vocabularies that are several orders of magnitude larger than those of computer languages. Natural languages aren’t just more complex versions of the algorithms with which we teach machines to do tasks; they are also the living embodiments of our essence as social animals. We express our love and our losses, explore beauty, justice and the meaning of our existence, and even come to know ourselves all through natural languages.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Monday March 25, @04:53AM   Printer-friendly
from the no dept.

Opinion: Owning a Car Will Soon Be as Quaint as Owning a Horse

I will die before I buy another car. I don't say that because I am particularly old or sick, but because I am at the front end of one of the next major secular trends in tech. Owning a car will soon be like owning a horse — a quaint hobby, an interesting rarity and a cool thing to take out for a spin on the weekend.

Before you object, let me be clear: I will drive in cars until I die. But the concept of actually purchasing, maintaining, insuring and garaging an automobile in the next few decades? Finished.

[...] It's obviously an easier decision if you live near a major metropolitan area, like I do, where the alternatives — cars and then car pools and then bikes and now scooters — are myriad. (Why, by the way, this is a revolution led by private companies instead of public transportation is an important topic for another day.) In other countries, often with denser populations, there are even more ideas bubbling up, from auto-rickshaws and motorbike taxis to new bus services.

Obviously, the biggest change will be the advent of truly autonomous vehicles, which are still years or even decades in the future. But in the meantime I am going to lean into this future all I can, and will chronicle the efforts over the next year, its costs and its benefits and how I get there. Or not.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Monday March 25, @03:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the still-MS dept.

Submitted via IRC for chromas

A first look at Microsoft’s new Chromium-powered Edge browser

Microsoft is rebuilding its Edge browser on Chromium. The software maker has been testing versions of this browser internally at Microsoft, and now The Verge has secured an exclusive first look at the early work thanks to a source who wishes to remain anonymous. While the previously leaked screenshots made Edge look very similar to Chrome, Microsoft is adding its own touches and animations to make it look and feel like a Windows browser.

When you first install the Chromium version of Edge, Microsoft will prompt you to import favorites, passwords, and browsing history from Chrome or Edge (depending on your default). The setup screen also prompts you to pick a style for the default tab page before you start browsing.

Most of the user interface of the browser is a mix of Chrome and Edge, and Microsoft has clearly tried to add its own little touches here and there. There’s a read aloud accessibility option, and it simply reads the page out loud like it does in existing versions of Edge. Some features that you’d expect from Edge are missing, though. Microsoft hasn’t implemented its set aside tabs feature just yet, and write on the web with a stylus isn’t available. A dark mode is only available via a testing flag right now.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Monday March 25, @01:55AM   Printer-friendly
from the I'm-not-lazy,-I'm-doing-research-for-NASA dept.

A 60 day bed rest study designed to determine the potential effects of space flight and artificial gravity starts Monday, March 25th in Cologne, Germany. The experiment itself is termed the "Artificial Gravity Bedrest Study" according to officials in Germany.

Study participants will be prone for 60 days at a 6 degree angle (heads below feet). They will also periodically be spun up in a centrifuge to force blood back to the extremities in hopes of showing how artificial gravity, such as might be experienced in a rotating ship or space station, might help to keep astronauts healthy.

Bed rest is a common research tool in the human-spaceflight community; it can induce muscle atrophy and loss of bone density, just as prolonged stays in microgravity can.

The study is intended to help ESA and NASA better prepare for crewed missions to the moon, Mars, and elsewhere.

Researchers will perform a variety of experiments during the study; they'll measure participants' cardiovascular and cognitive performance, balance and muscle strength, among other factors.

Just throw in a good set of VR googles.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Monday March 25, @12:02AM   Printer-friendly
from the marco-polo-would-be-proud dept.

Italy joins China's New Silk Road project

Italy has become the first developed economy to sign up to China's global investment programme which has raised concerns among Italy's Western allies.

A total of 29 deals amounting to €2.5bn ($2.8bn) were signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Rome. The project is seen as a new Silk Road which, just like the ancient trade route, aims to link China to Europe. Italy's European Union allies and the United States have expressed concern at China's growing influence.

The new Silk Road has another name - the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - and it involves a wave of Chinese funding for major infrastructure projects around the world, in a bid to speed Chinese goods to markets further afield. Critics see it as also representing a bold bid for geo-political and strategic influence.

Also at Bloomberg and The Washington Post.

Related: China's Xi Jinping Negotiates $46bn Superhighway to Pakistan
China Plans $503 Billion Investment in High-Speed Rail by 2020
Chinese President Xi Jinping Pledges $124 Billion for One Belt, One Road Initiative
China's $1 Trillion Belt and Road Project Includes Military Cooperation With Pakistan

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Sunday March 24, @09:40PM   Printer-friendly
from the her-best-interests-at-heart dept.

About a Third of Medical Vaccine Exemptions in San Diego Came From one Doctor:

She wrote 141 exemptions since 2015. The second highest number was 26.

A single San Diego doctor wrote nearly a third of the area’s medical vaccination exemptions since 2015, according to an investigation by the local nonprofit news organization Voice of San Diego.

[...]Medical vaccination exemptions are intended for the relatively few people who have medical conditions that prevent them from receiving vaccines safely. That includes people who are on long-term immunosuppressive therapy or those who are immunocompromised, such as those with HIV or those who have had severe, life-threatening allergic reactions (e.g. anaphylaxis) to previous immunizations. Such patients typically receive medical exemptions incidentally during their medical care. But some doctors are providing evaluations specifically to determine if a patient qualifies for an exemption and granting exemptions using criteria not based on medical evidence. Some doctors are even charging fees for these questionable exemption evaluations—including the doctor in San Diego, Tara Zandvliet.

[...]Zandvliet charges $180 for the evaluation, and her practice does not accept insurance.

Since 2015, Zandvliet has issued 141 of the 486 total medical exemptions granted in the San Diego Unified School District. After Zandvliet, the second highest number of medical exemptions granted by a single doctor was 26. The Voice of San Diego noted that Zandvliet’s practice is listed on several websites as being friendly to anti-vaccine parents.

I would not trust such a doctor to have only my best interests at heart.

If my paying a fee can persuade the doctor to write my desired exemption, then it stands to reason that an incentive from, say, a "big pharma" representative could induce the doctor to prescribe medications for me that are either questionably warranted or for which there are better or less expensive alternatives.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Sunday March 24, @07:20PM   Printer-friendly

Where Spider-Man and Captain America Intern: The White House Economic Team:

The 2019 Economic Report of the President [pdf] runs 705 pages and features chapters on “expanding labor force opportunities” and “ensuring a balanced financial regulatory landscape.” It also claims to be written by Batman.

For the second straight year, the group of economists that do regression analyses and forecast annual growth rates for President Trump has slipped a straight-out-of-Comic-Con Easter egg into its annual report.

[...] The list of Council of Economic Advisers interns on Page 624 of the report includes Steve Rogers (a.k.a. Captain America), Peter Parker (Spider-Man) and Bruce Wayne (Batman). There’s also Aunt May (Peter Parker’s guardian; apparently there are no anti-nepotism rules at the council), J. T. Hutt (a superfan abbreviation for Jabba the Hutt, the “Star Wars” gangster who hangs a frozen Han Solo on his wall), the actor John Cleese, Kathryn Janeway (a “Star Trek” captain) and someone called John Snow

[...] Also, who is this “John Snow” they speak of? Is he the former Treasury secretary under President George W. Bush? An actual intern? Or did the council, in a blow to its nerd cred, misspell the name of the “Game of Thrones” hero Jon Snow?

The New York Times asked a council spokeswoman to clarify. “Have a sense of humor!” she replied.

If the White House hires superheroes as interns, what hope does a mere mortal have of getting a job?

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Sunday March 24, @05:00PM   Printer-friendly

Faster space ships for less money, it's what we do.

California scientists think they’ve found a way to make objects levitate using concentrated light — a theory that could even propel spacecraft farther than they’ve ever traveled before, according to a report.

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology believe that by covering the surfaces of objects with microscopic nanoscale patterns specially designed to interact with beams of light, they could be propelled without fuel — and potentially by light sources millions of miles away, according to

Also at

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday March 24, @02:43PM   Printer-friendly
from the 1984 dept.

New Zealand has banned possession of Tarrant's manifesto and it is mentioned that possessing the manifesto is a crime. None of the articles I read noted what the penalties are for possession, so I looked up the law referenced in the article above, the "Films, Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993". The maximum penalties are pretty staggering if I have these figured right:

New Zealand does have a Bill of Rights of sorts, but it is merely a statute rather than a superseding law — in other words, it's just fluff because typically, specific statutes prevail over general statutes and so a later enacted censorship law is going to trump a general 1A type "guarantee" of the freedom of expression. Worse, the NZ Bill of Rights has a built-in neutering provision:

Section 4 specifically denies the Act any supremacy over other legislation. The section states that Courts looking at cases under the Act cannot implicitly repeal or revoke, or make invalid or ineffective, or decline to apply any provision of any statute made by parliament, whether before or after the Act was passed because it is inconsistent with any provision of this Bill of Rights.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday March 24, @12:17PM   Printer-friendly
from the shouldn't-it-be-obvious? dept.

BREAKING: US District Court Strikes Down New York’s Ban on TASERs and Stun Guns

As Judge Hurd wrote . . .

        New York’s sweeping prohibition on the possession and use of tasers and stun guns by all citizens for all purposes, even for self-defense in one’s own home, must be declared unconstitutional in light of Heller. To be clear, this conclusion does not foreclose the possibility that some restriction(s) on the possession and/or use of tasers and stun guns would be permissible under the Second Amendment. Other states have already done this. See, e.g., WIS. STAT . § 941.295(2g)(b) (permitting possession of “electric weapon” in home or place of business). New York might consider doing so as well.

        Therefore, it is

        ORDERED that

        1. Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment is GRANTED;

        2. Defendant’s cross-motion for summary judgment is DENIED;

        3. New York Penal Law § 265.01(1), as applied to “electronic dart guns” and “electronic stun guns,” is an unconstitutional restriction on the right to bear arms; and

        4. Defendant, his officers, agents, servants, employees, and all persons in active concert or participation with the New York State Police are hereby ENJOINED from enforcing New York Penal Law § 265.01(1) as applied to “electronic dart guns” and “electronic stun guns.”

Actual ruling here: (warning, expect javascript to screw with your ability to read the article)

Commentary: Amid the controversy over owning lethal weapons, why wouldn't we want people to have access to non-lethal weapons? Aren't a lot of people likely to purchase a non-lethal weapon, in preference to a lethal weapon? In a high population area, aren't non-lethal weapons preferable?

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Sunday March 24, @09:09AM   Printer-friendly
from the CLOSURE dept.

Folks were wondering for so long, what happened to these brave men & women? Now we know. Thank you Global Warming!

Melting glaciers on Mount Everest are revealing the bodies of dead climbers, sparking concern from the organizers of expeditions to the famous peak, according to the BBC.

The BBC reports that global warming is unlocking the deadly mountain’s gruesome secrets. Everest has claimed the lives of almost 300 climbers since the first attempt to conquer the mountain in 1921, two-thirds of whom are buried in the mountain’s ice and snow. In 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to reach Everest's summit.

"Because of global warming, the ice sheet and glaciers are fast melting and the dead bodies that remained buried all these years are now becoming exposed," Ang Tshering Sherpa, former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, told the news outlet.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Sunday March 24, @06:50AM   Printer-friendly

Patrick Shanahan: Pentagon chief's ties to Boeing investigated

The Pentagon has launched an inquiry into acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan for alleged favouritism to his ex-employer, Boeing. The Defence Department's inspector general will look into the matter following a complaint from a watchdog group.

Mr Shanahan is accused of frequently praising Boeing in meetings about government contracts and acquisitions. Mr Shanahan, who denies any wrongdoing, spent 30 years at Boeing. He rose through the ranks to become a senior executive at the world's biggest planemaker.

Last week Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the Pentagon inspector general about Mr Shanahan.

[...] The inquiry casts a shadow over Mr Shanahan as the White House considers whether to formally nominate him to fill the defence secretary post left vacant by Jim Mattis, who stepped down in December.

Boeing is already under pressure after the deadly crash of one of its 737 Max 8 passenger jets in Ethiopia last week.

Also at NYT.

See also: How Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan May Have Promoted Boeing Over Competitors

Related: DoJ Issues Subpoenas in 737 Max Investigation

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday March 24, @04:32AM   Printer-friendly
from the fossils-with-a-difference dept.

Spectacular new fossil bonanza captures explosion of early life

A wealth of ancient remains found by chance on the banks of a river in China are some of the most astoundingly preserved fossils now known on Earth, researchers report today in the journal Science [DOI: 10.1126/science.aau8800] [DX].

The 518-million-year-old site, called Qingjiang, joins just a few places around the world where fossil preservation is so extraordinary, it captures even soft-bodied animals. Called Lagerstätten, these special types of deposits include Canada's famous Burgess shale, which dates to 507 million years ago, and China's Chengjiang locality, which formed at about the same time as Qingjiang but in shallower waters.

"Most fossil localities throughout all of time are going to preserve the shelly things, the hard things ... [but] what these localities give you is anatomy," says Harvard paleontologist Joanna Wolfe, an expert on Cambrian life who wasn't involved in the study. "These are the best of the best."

So far, researchers have identified 101 animal species in the remains, and more than half of them are brand-new to science. "I can see a bright future," says lead study author Dongjing Fu, a paleontologist at Northwest University in Xi'an, China. "Qingjiang will be the next Burgess shale."

Also at Ars Technica.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Sunday March 24, @01:15AM   Printer-friendly
from the waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh! dept.

New York Times CEO warns publishers ahead of Apple news launch

Apple Inc is expected to launch an ambitious new entertainment and paid digital news service on Monday, as the iPhone maker pushes back against streaming video leader Netflix Inc. But it likely will not feature the New York Times Co.

Mark Thompson, chief executive of the biggest U.S. newspaper by subscribers, warned that relying on third-party distribution can be dangerous for publishers who risk losing control over their own product.

"We tend to be quite leery about the idea of almost habituating people to find our journalism somewhere else," he told Reuters in an interview on Thursday. "We're also generically worried about our journalism being scrambled in a kind of Magimix (blender) with everyone else's journalism."

Thompson, who took over as New York Times CEO in 2012 and has overseen a massive expansion in its online readership, warned publishers that they may suffer the same fate as television and film makers in the face of Netflix's Hollywood insurgence.

See also: Apple secures deal with WSJ for paid Apple News service, NYT and Washington Post opt out
Apple reaches deal with Vox for upcoming Apple News subscription service, report says
Apple is on a hardware-launching bonanza ahead of its big TV announcement
Apple teams with media literacy programs in the US and Europe

Previously: Apple in Talks to Create "Netflix for News" Subscription Service

Original Submission