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Effective: 2016-June to 2016-December

Updated: 2016-10-10

Updated by: NCommander

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The First Draft of the SN manifesto is available

Which competition should be added to political debates?

  • Beer chugging race
  • Obstacle course
  • Paint Ball
  • Dueling
  • Hand grenade juggling
  • Water balloon fight
  • Other (specify in comments)

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:17 | Votes:60

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday October 27, @03:41PM   Printer-friendly
from the screening-out-the-junk dept.

The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) has revised its guidelines on screen/television exposure for infants to allow for the indoctrination of 18-month-old children, from its earlier recommendation of 24 months and older:

The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) has announced new screen time guidelines for children aged up to two. It had recommended that children have no screen time before the age of two. But it now says children aged over 18 months can use video chat with family, and 18-month to five-year-olds can watch "high quality" programmes with parents. However, it also says physical activity and face-to-face interaction should be prioritised.

[...] Dr Steiner-Adair also called for more research into the benefits of educational apps, describing them as an "unregulated" industry. "I haven't seen who is developing the measures of learning for young children - what is actually going on?" she said. "What we do know is the toddler brain lights up for learning language the most when they are being spoken to in real life, face-to-face, by a caring adult. I would like to see more of how they assess the actual learning that goes on between 18-24 months [via screens] and how they compare it to learning from being read to by an adult from a real book."

Create a Family Media Plan here.

Media and Young Minds (open, DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-2591) (DX)

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday October 27, @02:06PM   Printer-friendly
from the no-video-games-out-there dept.

Each year, thousands of Oregon parents hug their kids goodbye and send them tramping into the wilderness for up to a week to learn about their state's natural wonders.

The Outdoor School program was groundbreaking when it started more than a half-century ago. Since then, more than 1 million children have enjoyed—or endured—this rite of passage at campsites scattered from Oregon's stormy coast to its towering evergreen forests to its rugged high desert.

At the program's heyday, 90 percent of sixth-graders spent the week testing water samples, studying fungi and digging through topsoil. Today, just half of Oregon's 11- and 12-year-olds take part, mostly through a patchwork of grants, fundraising, parent fees and charitable donations. Caps on property taxes, plus the recent recession, have forced many school districts to scrap the program or whittle it down to just a few days.

Now, backers of a statewide ballot measure want to use a slice of lottery proceeds to guarantee a week of Outdoor School for all children. If it passes, the measure would make Oregon the only state with dedicated funding for outdoor education, including students in charter, private and home schools, said Sarah Bodor, policy director for the North American Association for Environmental Education.

It's more biology camp than Outward Bound.

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday October 27, @12:29PM   Printer-friendly
from the in-Soviet-Russia-products-threaten-you dept.

The Chinese Ministry of Justice has threatened legal action against "organisations and individuals" making "false claims" about the security of Chinese-made devices.

It follows a product recall from the Chinese electronics firm Hangzhou after its web cameras were used in a massive web attack last week.

The attack knocked out sites such as Reddit, Twitter, Paypal and Spotify.

The Chinese government blamed customers for not changing their passwords.

Its legal warning was added to an online statement from the company Xiongmai, in which the firm said that it would recall products, mainly webcams, following the attack but denied that its devices made up the majority of the botnet used to launch it.

You will like Chinese products, or else.

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday October 27, @10:52AM   Printer-friendly
from the resist-the-urge-to-get-amped-up dept.

According to the National Resource Defense Council, Americans waste up to $19 billion annually in electricity costs due to "vampire appliances," always-on digital devices in the home that suck power even when they are turned off.

But University of Utah electrical and computer engineering professor Massood Tabib-Azar and his team of engineers have come up with a way to produce microscopic electronic switches for appliances and devices that can grow and dissolve wires inside the circuitry that instantly connect and disconnect electrical flow. With this technology, consumer products such as smartphones and computer laptops could run at least twice as long on a single battery charge, and newer all-digital appliances such as televisions and video game consoles could be much more power efficient.
"Whenever they are off, they are not completely off, and whenever they are on, they may not be completely on," says Tabib-Azar, who also is a professor with the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative. "That uses battery life. It heats up the device, and it's not doing anything for you. It's completely wasted power."

Tabib-Azar and his team have devised a new kind of switch for electronic circuits that uses solid electrolytes such as copper sulfide to literally grow a wire between two electrodes when an electrical current passes through them, turning the switch on. When you reverse the polarity of the electrical current, then the metallic wire between the electrodes breaks down -- leaving a gap between them -- and the switch is turned off. A third electrode is used to control this process of growing and breaking down the wire.

He did not get the memo--reducing vampire current is not what the Internet of Things is all about.

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday October 27, @09:09AM   Printer-friendly
from the coming-to-a-conference-room-near-you dept.

Google has announced Jamboard, a 55-inch 4K touchscreen not unlike Microsoft's Surface Hub. In fact, Microsoft's version of the interactive whiteboard concept comes in two sizes - 84 inches (2160p) and 55 inches (1080p):

Tools like handwriting and shape help streamline the process and worked quite well in my own hands-on time with the product. The board also has 16 levels of pressure sensitive touch and nice little animations that bring small things like erasing to life, as you watch the text flake and fall off the display. The system runs on a highly specialized version of Android that features a built in browser and Google Maps among other features, along with opening it up to potential third-party apps. It also has Google Cast built in, so you can also use it as a big video display, complete with speakers that face down into the magnetic tray that holds the styli and eraser. The speakers, from what I heard aren't great, but they're plenty loud and will do the trick with teleconferencing audio. You can also just use the built-in Bluetooth to run it all through a speaker.

[...] All of the collaboration occurs in real-time, making it possible to monitor the board on a mobile device with minimal latency. And once a project is finished, it can be shared with the team as a PNG or PDF. [...] The board can be mounted to a wall or users can choose to buy the optional stand. All said, it should run less than $6,000 when it launches next year.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday October 27, @07:31AM   Printer-friendly
from the Between-Scylla-and-Charybdis dept.

The Pentagon recently asked nearly 10,000 soldiers to repay excessive bonuses they were given for re-enlisting in the California National Guard between 2007 and 2009 amid the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress was notified of the problem in 2014, but representatives failed to pass a provision that would allow the Defense Secretary to waive the repayments.

Some representatives claim that the California National Guard failed to convey the scale of the repayments issue or make it a congressional priority. An outraged and bipartisan group of legislators have called for quick action and full forgiveness of the overpayments (estimated to be around $70 million). On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and President Obama have promised to resolve the issue, even as officials acknowledge that the issue may extend to other states:

President Obama has told the Defense Department to expedite its review of nearly 10,000 California National Guard soldiers who have been ordered to repay enlistment bonuses improperly given a decade ago, but he is not backing growing calls for Congress to waive the debts, the White House said Tuesday. The comments by White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggest the administration is running into legal and policy roadblocks as it struggles to handle a public relations headache for the Pentagon, the National Guard and members of Congress who were caught off guard by the scope of the problem.

[...] California Guard officials say they informed California lawmakers about the scale of the debts in 2014, telling them in a list of legislative priorities sent to each House office and the House Armed Services Committee that "thousands of soldiers have inadvertently incurred debt, through no fault of their own because of faulty Army recruiting or accounting practices."

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday October 27, @05:53AM   Printer-friendly
from the it's-that-bloody-dress-again! dept.

Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard


It's like nothing we've seen on any other planet in the entire Universe, and now the mysterious structure on Saturn's north pole just got even weirder.

In just four years, Saturn's hexagon has changed its colour from blue to gold. So far, our best guess as to why this change occurred is that this is what it looks like when Saturn's north pole gears up for next year's summer solstice.

Discovered almost 30 years ago, Saturn's hexagon is a six-sided structure that spans roughly 32,000 km (20,000 miles) in diameter, and extends about 100 km (60 miles) down into the planet's dense atmosphere.

As observed by NASA's Voyager and Cassini spacecraft, each point of the hexagon appears to rotate at its centre at nearly the same rate that Saturn rotates on its axis. Along the rim of the hexagon, a jet stream of air is blasting eastward at speeds of 321 km/h (200 mph).

Based on its size and movements, scientists have concluded that it's a vast cloud pattern generated by a gigantic, perpetual hurricane spinning at the centre of the planet's north pole.

Scientists estimate that this storm has been raging for decades - maybe even centuries.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday October 27, @04:27AM   Printer-friendly
from the I-see-what-they-did-there dept.

The Swedish judiciary has ruled that camera drones are surveillance devices, meaning their pilots will have to get a seldom-issued permit to use them for private flights.

The judgement from the highest court in the land looked at two cases, one against private drones and the other against a camera mounted on a bicycle. The judges found that the bike-mounted camera is fine – because it goes where its owner goes – but that airborne drones were capable of spying things out of sight and therefore must be characterized as surveillance devices.

"The Court further found that the camera can be used for personal monitoring, although it is not the purpose," the ruling reads. "The camera is therefore to be regarded as a surveillance camera."

Private drone operators will now have to apply for a permit stating that the use of the camera drone is for monitoring personal property. Since that excludes the vast majority of drone flight for things like racing, nature photography, and the odd wedding, fliers and the industry association are in full Viking mode over the proposal.

They should not have made the drones angry...

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday October 27, @02:55AM   Printer-friendly
from the they-had-a-dream dept.

The Pirate Party looks set for a successful outing in the coming weekend's Icelandic elections.

A poll by local newspaper Morgunblaðið and the Icelandic Social Science Research Institute of the University of Iceland reports support for the Pirate Party is running at about 22.6 per cent, a point-and-a-half ahead of the ruling Independence Party and four points clear of the Left-Greens. That's impressive support, although the party's support has fallen a couple of points since March 2015.

Iceland uses s proportional representation system so the party's current level of support will likely translate into about 15 seats in the 63-member Althingi.

That won't be not enough for Píratar, the party's Icelandic name, to take government. It's also ruled out a coalition with the Independence Party.

But earlier this year Independence split and the recently-formed splinter group Viðreisn (tr. "Regeneration") is polling at 8.8 per cent and has ruled out joining a government with any of the current coalition parties. If the Pirates can align with Viðreisn and other like-minded parties it may therefore become part of a governing coalition and win some ministries.

Four years for a party founded by geeks to take over the government is not bad.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday October 27, @01:13AM   Printer-friendly
from the in-the-dark dept.

The leaves of some species of the Begonia plant have a blue sheen when shaded. A team of scientists has found that chloroplasts in the leaves are optimized to collect green light in low-light conditions:

There are over 1,500 species of Begonia, and for a while, it has been known that some species show a bright blue sheen to their leaves. The biological function of this unnatural looking blue sheen was unknown: was it to deter predators or protect the leaf from too much light? This mystery has remained unsolved until a team headed by Dr. Heather Whitney at the University of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences began to study Begonias and noticed something new. They found that the leaves only developed a blue sheen when put in almost dark conditions and in bright light the sheen slowly disappeared.

Matt Jacobs, PhD student in the School of Biological Sciences and first author on the paper, said: "We discovered under the microscope, individual chloroplasts in these leaves reflected blue light brightly, almost like a mirror. Looking in more detail by using a technique known as electron microscopy, we found a striking difference between the 'blue' chloroplasts found in the begonias, also known as 'iridoplasts' due to their brilliant blue iridescent colouration, and those found in other plants. The inner structure had arranged itself into extremely uniform layers just a few 100 nanometres in thickness, or a 1,000th the width of human hair."

Photonic multilayer structure of Begonia chloroplasts enhances photosynthetic efficiency (DOI: 10.1038/nplants.2016.162) (DX)

Here we show that epidermal chloroplasts, also known as iridoplasts, in shade-dwelling species of Begonia, notable for their brilliant blue iridescence, have a photonic crystal structure formed from a periodic arrangement of the light-absorbing thylakoid tissue itself. This structure enhances photosynthesis in two ways: by increasing light capture at the predominantly green wavelengths available in shade conditions, and by directly enhancing quantum yield by 5–10% under low-light conditions. These findings together imply that the iridoplast is a highly modified chloroplast structure adapted to make best use of the extremely low-light conditions in the tropical forest understorey in which it is found.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday October 26, @11:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the hacking-is-legal dept.

A US judge overseeing an FBI "Playpen case" has told agents to reveal whether or not their investigative hacking was approved by the White House.

The case is one of several the Feds are pursuing against more than 100 alleged users of the child sex abuse material exchange network called the Playpen. The prosecutions have become test grounds over investigators' use of hacking tools to unmask Tor users – Playpen was hidden in the Tor network and agents injected tracking software into Playpen visitors' browsers to identify users.

In June, a judge hearing one of the Playpen cases in Virginia ruled that the FBI can hack any computer in any country, if it wants.

During its investigation, the FBI compromised Playpen's Tor-protected distribution servers, leaving them in operation to keep users visiting the service. The Feds then hacked the targets' computers to identify the owners.

It's not a crime if the President orders it.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday October 26, @10:03PM   Printer-friendly
from the slow-down dept.

A newly published analysis of Type Ia supernovae calls into question the accelerating expansion of the universe and the existence of dark energy:

Five years ago, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three astronomers for their discovery, in the late 1990s, that the universe is expanding at an accelerating pace. Their conclusions were based on analysis of Type Ia supernovae – the spectacular thermonuclear explosions of dying stars – picked up by the Hubble space telescope and large ground-based telescopes. It led to the widespread acceptance of the idea that the universe is dominated by a mysterious substance named 'dark energy' that drives this accelerating expansion.

Now, a team of scientists led by Professor Subir Sarkar of Oxford University's Department of Physics has cast doubt on this standard cosmological concept. Making use of a vastly increased data set – a catalogue of 740 Type Ia supernovae, more than ten times the original sample size – the researchers have found that the evidence for acceleration may be flimsier than previously thought, with the data being consistent with a constant rate of expansion.

Marginal evidence for cosmic acceleration from Type Ia supernovae (open, DOI: 10.1038/srep35596) (DX)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday October 26, @08:37PM   Printer-friendly
from the The-answer-is-blowin'-in-the-wind dept.

The International Energy Agency [IEA] says that the world's capacity to generate electricity from renewable sources has now overtaken coal.

The IEA says in a new report that last year, renewables accounted for more than half of the increase in power capacity.

The report says half a million solar panels were installed every day last year around the world. In China, it says, there were two wind turbines set up every hour.

Renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydro are seen as a key element in international efforts to combat climate change. At this stage, it is the capacity to generate power that has overtaken coal, rather than the amount of electricity actually produced. Renewables are intermittent - they depend on the sun shining or the wind blowing, for example, unlike coal which can generate electricity 24 hours a day all year round. So renewable technologies inevitably generate a lot less than their capacity.

Even so it is striking development.

The IEA's Executive Director Fatih Birol said "We are witnessing a transformation of global power markets led by renewables".

Link to original BBC story:

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday October 26, @07:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the wheels-of-justice dept.

Volkswagen AG's $14.7 billion settlement with the U.S. government, State of California, and vehicle owners has been approved, and the company will begin buying back affected vehicles in mid-November:

It represented one of the biggest corporate settlements of any kind. The action by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco marked a pivotal moment for VW as it aims to move past a scandal that has engulfed the company since it admitted in September 2015 to installing secret software in diesel cars to cheat exhaust emissions tests and make them appear cleaner than they really were.

[...] Breyer turned away objections from car owners who thought the settlement did not provide enough money, saying it "adequately and fairly compensates" them. In addition to the pre-scandal "trade in" value of the vehicle, owners will receive $5,100 to $10,000 in additional compensation. "Given the risks of prolonged litigation, the immediate settlement of this matter is far preferable," Breyer wrote.

Also at USA Today , NPR, The Los Angeles Times , and The Denver Post (AP).

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday October 26, @05:38PM   Printer-friendly
from the tick-tock-tech dept.

Apple is the captain of a sinking ship:

Maybe not everyone is convinced they need a smartwatch? According to a new industry report from IDC out this morning, smartwatch shipments experienced "significant" declines in the third quarter, as total shipments were down 51.6 percent from the same time last year. Just 2.7 million units were shipped in Q3 2016 versus 5.6 million in Q3 2015. While IDC offers several explanations as to why sales are dropping – including issues related to launch timings, Android Wear delays, and more – the numbers still indicate how smartwatches are having a hard time finding traction among a majority of consumers.

Of course, we need to keep in mind that Apple Watch is the market leader among smartwatches – its Series One device accounted for the majority of shipments in the quarter (1.1 million units shipped, a 72 percent year-over-year decline). That means its ups and downs will have an outsize impact on the industry's numbers at large.

Another factor mentioned: potential Apple Watch customers may have been waiting for second generation version.

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