Effective: 2015-July to 2015-December
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The discovery of live anthrax outside a containment area at a military lab in Utah prompted military officials to order an immediate freeze on operations at nine biodefense laboratories that work with dangerous viruses, toxins and bacteria, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
The moratorium, first reported by USA TODAY, came after officials took a detailed look at policies and procedures at the labs and found them wanting, according to Defense officials. Labs at the Army's Dugway Proving Ground facility in Utah have been the focus of international concern since May, when the first clues emerged that the facility had been mistakenly shipping live anthrax — instead of killed specimens — to labs in the USA and abroad for years.
An ongoing USA TODAY Media Network investigation has revealed numerous safety problems at government, university and private labs that operate in the secretive world of biodefense research. Federal lab regulators are conducting comprehensive reviews of how they oversee lab safety and security.
While open-source hardware is already available for CPUs, researchers from the Vertical Research Group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have announced at the Hot Chips Event in Cupertino, Calif., that they have created the first open source general-purpose graphics processor (GPGPU).
Called MIAOW, which stands for Many-core Integrated Accelerator Of the Waterdeep, the processor is a resistor-transistor logic implementation of AMD's open source Southern Islands instruction set architecture. The researchers published a white paper on the device.
The creation of MIAOW is the latest in a series of steps meant to keep processor development in step with Moore's Law, explains computer scientist Karu Sankaralingham, who leads the Wisconsin research group.
The FTC said the settlement [PDF] will forbid Machinima from running videos without properly disclosing when the broadcaster has been compensated for endorsing a product. "When people see a product touted online, they have a right to know whether they're looking at an authentic opinion or a paid marketing pitch," said FTC consumer protection bureau head Jessica Rich. "That's true whether the endorsement appears in a video or any other media."
[...] The videos were aired as part of an advertising campaign for Microsoft and its advertising agency, Starcom Mediavest Group. The FTC determined that neither Microsoft or Starcom would be subject to the complaint, which was instead made against Machinima. "The failures to disclose here appear to be isolated incidents that occurred in spite of, and not in the absence of, policies and procedures designed to prevent such lapses," the FTC said [PDF]. "Microsoft had a robust compliance program in place when the Xbox One campaign was launched, including specific legal and marketing guidelines concerning the FTC's Endorsement Guides."
Under the terms of the settlement, Machinima will be required for the next 30 years to clearly disclose when a video includes paid endorsements. The company will also be required to set up policies to ensure proper labeling and disclosure of paid endorsements and, for the next five years, maintain all documents related to the settlement available to the FTC.
Quantum computing continues to attract investment, and Intel has just announced a $50 million investment to support research at Delft University of Technology:
Quantum computing is, for many, a given for solving certain kinds of problems, and it is going to take a significant amount of funding to turn the ideas embodied in quantum computing into working machines. That was the consensus of the researchers who spoke recently about quantum computing at the ISC 2015 supercomputing conference in Germany, who had varying opinions about the right approach to building quantum computers and the time it would take to get a machine of sufficient size to solve real problems.
Google has acquired a quantum machine from upstart D-Wave and has been playing around with it to see what kinds of problems – particularly search indexing problems – they might be better at solving than conventional binary machines. D-Wave raised $23.1 million in January from unknown investors, and has received a total of $139 million in funding from a variety of investors, including investment bank Goldman Sachs, In-Q-Tel (the investment arm of the US Central Intelligence Agency), Bezos Expeditions (the investment arm of Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos), as well as BDC Capital, Harris & Harris Group, and DFJ.
[...] Another hotbed of quantum computing is QuTech, which is located at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, where Liven Vandersypen heads up research efforts. Vandersypen was blunt about the steep curve quantum computing has to climb to go from curiosity to useful tool. "What we are after, in the end, is a machine with many millions of qubits – say 100 million qubits – and where we are now with this circuit model, where we really need to control, very precisely and accurately, every qubit by itself with its mess of quantum entangled states, is at the level of 5 to 10 quantum bits," Vandersypen explained. "So it is still very far way."
But it just got a little bit closer, because binary chip juggernaut Intel has just ponied up $50 million to support research at Delft University of Technology over the next ten years. This may seem like a strange thing for Intel to do, but as we pointed out back in July, a quantum computer will not stand in isolation, but will require a very large and very conventional parallel supercomputer to do error detection and correction on the qubits. And Intel, as a key player in computing, has to hedge its bets outside of traditional logic devices.
Under the collaboration agreement, Intel will put engineers to work on quantum computing at QuTech and at its own facilities to coordinate with Vandersypen and his team. Intel is specifically going to help with its manufacturing, electronics, and architectural expertise as QuTech tries to take the collection of electronics gear – which includes waveform generators, cryo-amplifiers, FPGAs, and other gear to control and measure qubits – and reduce them down in size. This will take semiconductor manufacturing and packaging expertise, which Intel can supply. To highlight the investment, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich put out a statement outlining his views on quantum computing, pointing out that the future of computing is not easy to see, even if you have some good stars to steer by.
You can cross another resolution off the smartphone display list:
The third device from the Z5 series is the Xperia Z5 Premium, which includes the 5.5" 4k [3840×2160] screen, a 3,430 mAh battery, and the ability to expand its 32 GB of default internal storage by up to 200 GB through microSD cards. The 4k Triluminos IPS display promises to have a high color gamut, higher contrast and higher sharpness, as well. In the few moments I've spent with it at IFA, the screen did indeed look crystal clear.
[...] Xperia Z5 will launch globally in October this year, while the Xperia Z5 Premium should arrive a month later, in November. Both single-SIM and dual-SIM variants will exist for both models.
Some lucky Sony executive is shoving the Xperia Z5 Premium in his Google Cardboard. Next stop, the world's first 5K (5120×2880) smartphone.
The Justice Department unveiled a policy Thursday that will require its law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant to deploy cellphone-tracking devices in criminal investigations and inform judges when they plan to use them.
The department's new policy, announced by Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates, should increase transparency around the use of the controversial technology by the FBI and other Justice Department agencies.
... The new policy waives the warrant requirement for exigent circumstances. These include the need to protect human life "or avert serious injury," prevent the imminent destruction of evidence, the hot pursuit of a fleeing felon, or the prevention of escape by a convicted fugitive from justice.
The FBI had imposed their own internal warrant requirement back in April.
But the policy does not apply to State, and Local agencies that have been given Stingrays with instructions to keep them secret, even to the extent of dismissing charges rather than admit some evidence was gathered by questionable legal means.
So will ill gotten information now flow in reverse, from local to federal authorities? Will the Feds start practicing "Parallel Construction" using, but hiding, the information supplied by local police?
From The Register:
Apple, Google, Adobe, and Intel's $415m settlement with Silicon Valley techies over wage-fixing accusations has been formally approved by a judge.
On Thursday, Judge Lucy Koh, sitting in the northern district court of California, gave her approval [PDF] to a deal that will see the tech giants compensate workers for potential lost wages related to their illegal "no-poaching" pact.
[...] After paying off the lawyers, the money will be distributed among the 64,466 class-action members making up the plaintiffs in the case. Another 56 people opted out of the settlement, reserving their right to pursue individual cases.
Apple, Google, Adobe, and Intel were the four remaining holdouts in the case over a large-scale conspiracy by Silicon Valley firms not to poach each others' employees in an effort to slow escalating wages. The pacts were said to involve executives in the companies' highest ranks, including Apple co-founder and longtime CEO Steve Jobs.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has announced that his company's "mass market sedan", the Model 3, can be pre-ordered in March 2016 for $35,000. The cars will not be available until 2017 at the earliest. From CNBC:
What's taking so long, you ask? Right now, the batteries that would power the Model 3 would cost about as much as the car is slated to. Tesla is building an enormous lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Nevada to make its own batteries for far less money — the "Gigafactory" mentioned in Musk's tweet.
Not much more can be revealed about the Model 3 except that, as Musk mentioned cryptically during a Q&A session on Reddit, "It won't look like other cars." What does that mean, exactly? We'll find out in March.
In the meantime, you can order yourself a new Model X — if you have the cash. The entry level model will cost around $5,000 more than a Model S with the same options, Musk wrote in yet another tweet — though you can easily spend well into the six figure range for the "Signature" high-end series.
Tesla customers will begin receiving their Model X "all-electric SUVs" beginning on Sept. 29.
A while back we discussed robot furniture. Now a restaurant in San Francisco is trying to build and run a restaurant run entirely by robots. Now granted, these are not robots like in Asimov's Robot Series. Instead of humanoid-style robots, these are highly specialized, single-purpose machines.
I can foresee a future populated by many, many robots, in which we didn't notice that we were surrounded by them — we were looking for Rosie the Robot and instead got inconspicuous robots that act as automated furniture and interactive surroundings.
What do my fellow Soylenters think? Are we on the verge of a "Robot Revolution" — even if it doesn't look like how 50s sci-fi imagined it would?
An international research team from Canada and Germany has been able to demonstrate that graphene can be made to behave as a superconductor when it's doped with lithium atoms. The researchers believe that this new property could lead to a new generation of superconducting nanoscale devices.
Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity without resistance and without dissipating energy. In ordinary materials, electrons repel each other, but in superconductors the electrons form pairs known as Cooper pairs, which together flow through the material without resistance. Phonons, the mechanism that facilitates these electrons' alliances are vibrations in lattice crystalline structures.
In a research paper available on arXiv, the researchers demonstrated in physical experiments that the computer models were indeed correct in their predictions. Andrea Damascelli at the University of British Colombia in Vancouver, together with collaborators in Europe, grew layers of graphene on silicon-carbide substrates, then deposited lithium atoms onto the graphene in a vacuum at 8 K, creating a version of graphene known as "decorated" graphene.
The full paper is available.
One of the individuals who first brought the Internet to Australia, Geoff Huston, writes in his blog:
I recall from some years back, when we were debating in Australia some national Internet censorship proposal de jour, that if the Internet represented a new Global Village then Australia was trying very hard to position itself as the Global Village Idiot. And the current situation with Australia's new Data Retention laws may well support a case for reviving that sentiment. Between the various government agencies who pressed for this legislation, the lawyers who drafted the legislation, the politicians who advocated its adoption and the bureaucrats who are overseeing its implementation, then as far as I can tell none of them get it. They just don't understand the Internet and how it works, and they are acting on a somewhat misguided assumption that the Internet is nothing more than the telephone network for computers. And nothing could be further from the truth.
The intended aim of this legislation was to assist various law enforcement agencies to undertake forensic analysis of network transactions. As the government claims: "telecommunications companies are retaining less data and keeping it for a shorter time. This is degrading the investigative capabilities of law enforcement and security agencies and, in some cases, has prevented serious criminals from being brought to justice." ( https://www.ag.gov.au/dataretention ). So what the agencies wanted was a regulation to compel ISPs to hold a record of their address assignment details so that the question "who was using this IP address at this time" had a definitive answer based on the retention of so-called meta-data records of who had what IP address when.
[Also Covered By]: Australia the idiot in the global village, says Geoff Huston
It's always hard to take your eyes off Serena Williams. But it’ll be especially tough at this year’s U.S. Open, where the tennis champ is currently working toward a single season Grand Slam. She’s just so darn good. But what is it, exactly that makes her so good?
Sure, we can all speculate—it’s her power, her serve, her stamina, the way she controls a point. But we can’t calculate precisely what makes her game so special. IBM believes it can.
Since 1990, IBM has been working with the United States Tennis Association to support the technological infrastructure of the U.S. Open. Back in the day, that meant generating scores and keeping the website up and running. Today, it means doing those things while also analyzing millions of data points about every player, every stat, every point, in every tournament, extending back for decades to derive insight about how a given match—or career—will play out.
When we talk about artificial intelligence (AI), what do we actually mean ?
AI experts and philosophers are beavering away on the issue. But having a usable definition of AI – and soon – is vital for regulation and governance because laws and policies simply will not operate without one.
This definition problem crops up in all regulatory contexts, from ensuring truthful use of the term “AI” in product advertising right through to establishing how next-generation Automated Weapons Systems (AWSs) [PDF] are treated under the laws of war.
True, we may eventually need more than one definition (just as “goodwill” means different things in different contexts). But we have to start somewhere so, in the absence of a regulatory definition at the moment, let’s get the ball rolling.
Gregory Meyer reports at CNBC that electricity generated by US wind farms fell 6 per cent in the first half of the year even as the nation expanded wind generation capacity by 9 per cent. The reason was some of the softest air currents in 40 years, cutting power sales from wind farms to utilities and the situation is likely to intensify into the first quarter of 2016 as the El Niño weather phenomenon holds back wind speeds around much of the US. "We never anticipated a drop-off in the wind resource as we have witnessed over the past six months," says David Crane.
Wind generated 4.4 per cent of US electricity last year, up from 0.4 per cent a decade earlier. But this year US wind plants' "capacity factor" has averaged just a third of their total generating capacity, down from 38 per cent in 2014. The EIA (U.S. Energy Information Administration) notes that slightly slower wind speeds can reduce output by a disproportionately large amount. "Capacity factors for wind turbines are largely determined by wind resources," according to their report "Because the output from a turbine varies nonlinearly with wind speed, small decreases in wind speeds can result in much larger changes in output and, in turn, capacity factors." In January of 2015, wind speeds remained 20 to 45 percent below normal on areas of the west coast, but it was especially bad in California, Oregon, and Washington, where those levels dropped to 50 percent below normal during the month of January.
Some also speculate the the increase in the number of wind farms may be having an effect. Since wind turbines extract kinetic energy from the air around them, and since less energy makes for weaker winds, turbines make it less windy. Technically speaking, the climate zone right behind a turbine (or behind all the turbines on a wind farm) experiences what's called a "wind speed vacuum," or a "momentum deficit." In other words, the air slows down and upwind turbines in a densely packed farm may weaken the breeze before it reaches the downwind ones. A study in 2013 also found that large wind farms could be expected to influence local and regional atmospheric circulations. "If wind farms were constructed on a truly massive scale," adds Daniel Engbar, "their cumulative momentum deficit could conceivably alter wind speeds on a global scale."
When geoecologist Steffen Zuther and his colleagues arrived in central Kazakhstan to monitor the calving of one herd of saigas, a critically endangered, steppe-dwelling antelope, veterinarians in the area had already reported dead animals on the ground.
"But since there happened to be die-offs of limited extent during the last years, at first we were not really alarmed," Zuther, the international coordinator of the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative, told Live Science.
But within four days, the entire herd — 60,000 saiga — had died. As veterinarians and conservationists tried to stem the die-off, they also got word of similar population crashes in other herds across Kazakhstan. By early June, the mass dying was over.
Are mass-die-offs like these indications of stress in the larger ecosystem?