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[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:42 | Votes:162

posted by martyb on Thursday September 03, @11:08PM   Printer-friendly

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.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday September 03, @09:24PM   Printer-friendly
from the but-first-we-need-a-definition-of-genuine-intelligence dept.

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.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday September 03, @07:45PM   Printer-friendly
from the eat-more-beans! dept.

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."

Original Submission

posted by LaminatorX on Thursday September 03, @05:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the terrifying-silence dept.

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?

Original Submission

posted by LaminatorX on Thursday September 03, @02:59PM   Printer-friendly
from the Two-Roads-Diverged-in-a-Yellow-Wood dept.

The existence of parallel universes may seem like something cooked up by science fiction writers, with little relevance to modern theoretical physics. But the idea that we live in a “multiverse” made up of an infinite number of parallel universes has long been considered a scientific possibility – although it is still a matter of vigorous debate among physicists. The race is now on to find a way to test the theory, including searching the sky for signs of collisions with other universes.

It is important to keep in mind that the multiverse view is not actually a theory, it is rather a consequence of our current understanding of theoretical physics. This distinction is crucial. We have not waved our hands and said: “Let there be a multiverse”. Instead the idea that the universe is perhaps one of infinitely many is derived from current theories like quantum mechanics and string theory.

The universes predicted by string theory and inflation live in the same physical space (unlike the many universes of quantum mechanics which live in a mathematical space), they can overlap or collide. Indeed, they inevitably must collide, leaving possible signatures in the cosmic sky which we can try to search for.

Whether we will ever be able to prove their existence is hard to predict. But given the massive implications of such a finding it should definitely be worth the search.

Original Submission

posted by LaminatorX on Thursday September 03, @01:05PM   Printer-friendly
from the freight-train-hopping-IN-SPAAAAAACE! dept.

Traveling around space can be hard and require a lot of fuel, which is part of the reason NASA has a spacecraft concept that would hitch a free ride on one of the many comets and asteroids speeding around our solar system at 22,000 miles per hour (on the slow end). Comet Hitchhiker, developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, would feature a reusable tether system to replace the need for propellant for entering orbit and landing on objects.

The spacecraft would first cast an extendable tether toward the object and attach itself using a harpoon attached to the tether. Next, it would reel out the tether while applying a brake that harvests energy while the spacecraft accelerates. This allows Comet Hitchhiker to accelerate and slowly match the speed of its ride, and keeping that slight tension on the line harvests energy that is stored on-board for later use, reeling itself down to the surface of the comet or asteroid. A comet hitchhiker spacecraft can obtain up to ~10 km/s of delta-V by using a carbon nanotube (CNT) tether, reaching the current orbital distance of Pluto (32.6 AU) in just 5.6 years.

Unfortunately rocket scientists apparently don't read SN, or they'd know from discussions last year that it simply won't work. It seems that the idea defies "basic orbital mechanics" and "makes no sense".

Original Submission

posted by LaminatorX on Thursday September 03, @11:30AM   Printer-friendly
from the from-my-cold-dead-hands dept.

Hackaday sounds the alarm and along with ThinkPenguin, the EFF, FSF, Software Freedom Law Center, Software Freedom Conservancy, OpenWRT, LibreCMC, Qualcomm, and others have created the SaveWiFi campaign ( capture, real link is at this overloaded server) , providing instructions on how to submit a formal complaint to the FCC regarding this proposed rule. The comment period is closing on September 8, 2015.

From Hackaday:

Under the rule proposed by the FCC, devices with radios may be required to prevent modifications to firmware. All devices operating in the 5GHz WiFi spectrum will be forced to implement security features to ensure the radios cannot be modified. While prohibiting the modification of transmitters has been a mainstay of FCC regulation for 80 years, the law of unintended consequences will inevitably show up in full force: because of the incredible integration of electronic devices, this proposed regulation may apply to everything from WiFi routers to cell phones. The proposed regulation would specifically ban router firmwares such as DD-WRT, and may go so far as to include custom firmware on your Android smartphone.

A lot is on the line. The freedom to modify devices you own is a concern, but the proposed rules prohibiting new device firmware would do much more damage. The economic impact would be dire, the security implications would be extreme, and emergency preparedness would be greatly hindered by the proposed restrictions on router firmware. The FCC is taking complaints and suggestions until September 8th.

Leave a comment for the FCC via this link to the Federal Register

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday September 03, @09:48AM   Printer-friendly
from the can-automation-write-a-report-on-report-automation? dept.

Patterson’s task is becoming increasingly common in newsrooms. Journalists at ProPublica, Forbes, The New York Times, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Yahoo!, and others are using algorithms to help them tell stories about business and sports as well as education, inequality, public safety, and more. For most organizations, automating parts of reporting and publishing efforts is a way to both reduce reporters’ workloads and to take advantage of new data resources. In the process, automation is raising new questions about what it means to encode news judgment in algorithms, how to customize stories to target specific audiences without making ethical missteps, and how to communicate these new efforts to audiences.

Automation is also opening up new opportunities for journalists to do what they do best: tell stories that matter. With new tools for discovering and understanding massive amounts of information, journalists and publishers alike are finding new ways to identify and report important, very human tales embedded in big data.

Can automating reporting lead the way back to fact-based news?

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday September 03, @08:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the must-not-have-used-gmail dept.

The BBC News reports that:

The 56 Dean Street clinic in London's Soho sent out the names and email addresses of 780 patients when a newsletter was issued to people who attend the clinic. Patients were supposed to be blind-copied into the email but instead details were sent as a group email.

From an interview with one patient:

One man, a 40-year-old public sector worker, has been HIV positive for 13 years and has been using the Dean Street clinic for five. He said: "I felt sick when I realised what had happened. I first saw the email at work but ignored it as I was busy. I then looked at it when I was on the way home from work. I couldn't breathe. I'm concerned who will get this information. If it ends up in the hands of the wrong people, such as hate groups, it could be dynamite."


Fellow patient James ... said: "I was travelling back from the pride parade in Manchester on Monday when I received this email. I couldn't believe it when I got it and I've been full of worry since. I am not ready to disclose my HIV status to my wider friends or family. I fear now that I have no choice."

Finally, a friend informs me that a breach of privacy at another clinic may be widely reported within the next few days.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday September 03, @06:52AM   Printer-friendly
from the Carbonation-or-Caffeine? dept.

Carbonated beverages are associated with out-of-hospital cardiac arrests of cardiac origin, according to results from the All-Japan Utstein Registry presented for the first time today at ESC Congress. The study in nearly 800,000 patients suggests that limiting consumption of carbonated beverages may be beneficial for health.

"Some epidemiologic studies have shown a positive correlation between the consumption of soft drinks and the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke, while other reports have demonstrated that the intake of green tea and coffee reduced the risk and mortality of CVD," said principal investigator Professor Keijiro Saku, Dean and professor of cardiology at Fukuoka University in Japan. "Carbonated beverages, or sodas, have frequently been demonstrated to increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and CVD, such as subclinical cardiac remodeling and stroke. However, until now the association between drinking large amounts of carbonated beverages and fatal CVD, or out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) of cardiac origin, was unclear."

In other words, put the soda down and back away slowly... Is there a safer way to make our beverages bubbly?

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday September 03, @05:23AM   Printer-friendly
from the ignorance-is-bliss dept.

Olga Khazan writes in The Atlantic that learning to program involves a lot of Googling, logic, and trial-and-error—but almost nothing beyond fourth-grade arithmetic.

Victoria Fine explains how she taught herself how to code despite hating math. Her secret? Lots and lots of Googling. "Like any good Google query, a successful answer depended on asking the right question. “How do I make a website red” was not nearly as successful a question as “CSS color values HEX red” combined with “CSS background color.” I spent a lot of time learning to Google like a pro. I carefully learned the vocabulary of HTML so I knew what I was talking about when I asked the Internet for answers."

According to Khazan while it’s true that some types of code look a little like equations, you don’t really have to solve them, just know where they go and what they do. "In most cases you can see that the hard maths (the physical and geometry) is either done by a computer or has been done by someone else. While the calculations do happen and are essential to the successful running of the program, the programmer does not need to know how they are done."

Khazan says that in order to figure out what your program should say, you’re going to need some basic logic skills and you’ll need to be skilled at copying and pasting things from online repositories and tweaking them slightly. "But humanities majors, fresh off writing reams of term papers, are probably more talented at that than math majors are."

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday September 03, @04:34AM   Printer-friendly
from the but-is-her-dress-yellow-or-black? dept.

A Fox News anchor is suing a US toy company, Hasbro, for more than $5m (£3.3m) over a toy hamster that she says resembles her and shares her name. Harris Faulkner said the company's portrayal of her as a plastic hamster "was demeaning and insulting". She filed a legal case saying the toy resembled her traditional professional appearance, including complexion, eye shape and eye make-up design. The toy is part of the company's popular Littlest Pet Shop collection. It was first introduced in 2014, according to legal documents (pdf) obtained by entertainment news website Deadline. The legal case, which was filed at a district court in New Jersey on Monday, said Hasbro had "wilfully and wrongfully appropriated Faulkner's unique and valuable name and distinctive persona for its own financial gain". It said Mrs Faulkner, who has been a Fox News anchor for 10 years, had never given the toy manufacturer permission to use her name or likeness and in January demanded they stop using the product. But three weeks later, it said, the doll was still available on the Hasbro website.

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday September 03, @03:14AM   Printer-friendly
from the is-anonymity-even-possible-anymore dept.

A news post of IPv6 tunnel broker SixXS explains why they reject tunnel applications where the user intends to circumvent censorship or network surveillance. (Spoiler: It's not because SixXS hates free speech.)

"An adversary who would like to limit Free Speech is likely to monitor internect connections. Users therefor use tunneling/VPN techniques to circumvent the monitoring of these networks. A SixXS tunnel is a point to point link from the user to the PoP. The addresses, both IPv4 and IPv6, of the PoP are publically known. The protocols used for tunneling are publicly documented and known: proto-41 and AYIYA. Neither of these protocols encrypt the contents of the communication. Neither of these protocols cause any kind of hiding of data. On top of that Whois provides all the details about a user given a[n] IPv6 address.

Any adversary network that wants to monitor thus only has to fill in our PoP IPs in a special list and they know that anything talking to those addresses are using a tunnel, which is a red light that that user is doing something special. Their next step is to simply de-encapsulate the traffic inside the tunnel and the adversary has full access to what the user is sending. Noting[sic] that all major monitoring systems understand these protocols.

Thus when a user specifically puts in their request reason that they want to circumvent their local government, we reject the request and point that user to the Tor Project. Approving the request would put the user in a situation where they might think they are avoiding the monitoring system and thus give a false sense of security."

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday September 03, @01:27AM   Printer-friendly
from the not-something-to-joke-about dept.

One of the sisters who has been sentenced to be repeatedly raped because her brother eloped with a woman from a higher caste has said she cannot return home because she fears village elders will want to take revenge on her.

An illegal jury, composed of male upper caste Baghpat village elders, reportedly ordered the gang rape of Meenakshi Kumari, 23, and her 15-year-old sister after their brother Ravi eloped with a married woman, known only as Krishna, from a higher caste.

Ms Kumari, fearing for their lives, petitioned India's Supreme Court for protection. The case brought international attention after an Amnesty International petition to save the two girls from the punishment garnered more than 200,000 signatures.

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Wednesday September 02, @11:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the will-it-give-us-the-poops dept.

Childhood memories of sticky hands from melting ice cream cones could soon become obsolete, thanks to a new food ingredient.

Scientists have discovered a naturally occurring protein that can be used to create ice cream that is more resistant to melting than conventional products. The protein binds together the air, fat and water in ice cream, creating a super-smooth consistency.

The new ingredient could enable ice creams to keep frozen for longer in hot weather. It could also prevent gritty ice crystals from forming, ensuring a fine, smooth texture like those of luxury ice creams. The development could allow products to be manufactured with lower levels of saturated fat -- and fewer calories -- than at present.

With luck this additive won't cause the same issues past additives have.

Original Submission

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