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What should be the Book Club pick for December 2018?

  • Snow Crash - by Neal Stephenson
  • We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse #1) - by Dennis Taylor
  • Dawn (Xenogenesis #1) - by Octavia Butler
  • The Metropolitan Man (Fan Fiction) - by Alexander Wales
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow (Non-Fiction) - by Daniel Kahneman
  • Superforecasting (Non-Fiction) - by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner
  • Makers (Fiction) - by Cory Doctorow
  • Rip Foster in Ride the Gray Planet - by Harold L. Goodwin

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:34 | Votes:98

posted by Fnord666 on Monday October 15, @09:46PM   Printer-friendly
from the not-gonna-tell-ya dept.

Invisible Manipulation: 10 Ways our Data is Being Used Against Us:

The era where we were in control of the data on our own computers has been replaced with devices containing sensors we cannot control, storing data we cannot access, in operating systems we cannot monitor, in environments where our rights are rendered meaningless. Soon the default will shift from us interacting directly with our devices to interacting with devices we have no control over and no knowledge that we are generating data. Below we outline 10 ways in which this exploitation and manipulation is already happening.

As just one example from the short article:

8. Invisible Discrimination and Poverty

Online, and increasingly offline, companies gather data about us that determine what advertisements we see; this, in turn, affects the opportunities in our lives. The ads we see online, whether we are invited for a job interview, or whether we qualify for benefits is decided by opaque systems that rely on highly granular data. More often than not, such exploitation of data facilitates and exacerbates already existing inequalities in societies — without us knowing that it occurs. As a result, data exploitation disproportionately affects the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

That reminds me of the old saying: "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer." Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Here's another old saying:

"If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." Cardinal Richelieu.

How much data would suffice to accomplish this, today?


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday October 15, @08:14PM   Printer-friendly
from the mechanical-turk-2.0 dept.

Ubisoft pledge to make hieroglyph translation algorithm open access

During development [of Assassin's Creed Origins], [Ubisoft] partnered with Egyptologists, and in doing so they apparently discovered that translating hieroglyphs is very difficult and time consuming. In response, they started looking into ways to streamline the process using machine learning, and this week, they presented their initial progress.

[...] Ubisoft's first step was asking for volunteers to trace hieroglyphs on their website, and Assassin's Creed fans were well up for it – "more than 80,000 glyphs were drawn in the tool" on the first night it was active.

[...] Now they've got the basics in place, they've pledged to bring the algorithm into open access by the end of the year, so that academics can both use it and help them to improve it. They're taking the drawing tool and reworking it as a teaching tool for students learning the hieroglyphic script, too.

Ubisoft, Google Cloud and Psycle demonstrate the power of machine learning, lay the ground for automated hieroglyphics translation

The support of Academic contributors around the world has helped shape the Hieroglyphics Initiative. However it is only starting and now requires the contribution of the scientific community to deliver its full promise, therefore the data and tools will open source before the end of the year.

[...] Ubisoft will keep supporting the Hieroglyphics Initiative on the longer term in collaboration with Google Cloud teams as both hope for it to have a long-lasting legacy, and be the basis for more innovations in the study of Middle Egyptian.

2017 video (2m45s).


Original Submission

posted by CoolHand on Monday October 15, @06:42PM   Printer-friendly
from the reviewing-the-internet dept.

What if Earth was an unusually volcanic and hostile planet? What if an unusually bright sun and unusually high gravity made humans unusually compact and strong? What if religion kept humans sane and striving in such a hostile environment? What if apex predators were the exception rather than the norm? What if 30,000 alien abductees had been taken for medical research and the Interspecies Dominion had no qualms with indigenous flora and fauna (and especially meat-eating fauna) being taken in this manner? These are not new ideas but rarely have they been expounded so thoroughly.

The Jenkinsverse begins with Kevin Jenkins caught in a bureaucratic trap. The Canadian barman with a prominent crucifix tattoo was abducted by Alien Grays, forcibly given an experimental translator implant and dumped at an interstellar trading post. He is unable to assert citizenship, get a job or go home. Where is Earth, anyhow? Many bureaucratic systems refuse to register sentient life from a planet similar to Earth and some bureaucrats think he's a liar. After being pushed around for six months, he saves numerous lives when marauding cannibal spiders attack a space-station. He becomes famous throughout the galaxy - although he is deemed insane after he mentions religion.

The warrior cannibals are not pleased with defeat. An advance party attacks Earth. They foolishly decide to attack a televised ice hockey game in Vancouver. They are quickly beaten to pulp with ice hockey sticks. Many humans think that the event was a hoax to gain television ratings. The alien technology recovered from the attack leads to the formation of SCERF [Scotch Creek Extra-terrestrial Research Facility] in Canada. A Private Investigator, Kevin Jenkins and a bunch of other abductees descend on the facility (much like Close Encounters Of The 22nd Kind). They arrive with a sketched catalog of alien species and it is promptly leaked on the Internet. Despite this, Kevin Jenkins gets a job running SCERF's café and bar where his input to casual conversations is pivotal. The Private Investigator encounters misfortune - and so does the police officer investigating the Private Investigator.

The police officer wants a fresh start and this allows the reader to follow one of humanity's first colonies. The police officer is assigned a small hut in a small settlement. He sees the first school, the first church, the first park, the first restaurant, the first gymnasium, and eventually the settlement develops into multiple cities with major agricultural exports to the galaxy. This may be quite enjoyable for anyone who likes computer games such as Settlers, Civilization or SimCity. Due to a personality quirk of a minor character, the main city is called Folctha - which is Irish Gaelic for bath-tub.

A clever device is used to keep the story in the immediate future. Specifically, all dates are given as years, months and days AV [After Vancouver]. So, for example, a scene may be set 1y2m3d AV and some are set in Folctha, Planet Cimbrean, The Far Reaches. The story is written in chapters from 2,000 to 180,000 words (sometimes split into five or more pieces), is heavy with dialog and often switches focus at pivotal moments. It is normally in a style similar to a soap opera but often makes interesting observations, such as the difference between investigative journalism and clickbait churnalism. However, the story may also follow one character for 50,000 words or describe a battle in detail.

[read the rest...]

This space opera has a large cast. Each region of the galaxy has a loose federation of species. Each major species has multiple planets. Each planet is held by a differing mix of species and political factions. (Given that herd species are common, interplanetary politics often resembles a stampede.) Each political faction has one or more representative characters. For humans, the factions are a mix private consortia and military alliances. (Ceres is run by an asteroid mining consortium. Folctha is nominally British but the local garrison is staffed by AEC [Allied Extra-solar Command], presumably based upon AAC, ALC and AMC.) The sorta dog/bear/raccoon ambush predators are feudal. The unified Clan Of Females mostly live in communes and mostly maintain a selective breeding program. There is also Clan StoneBack (logistics and civil engineering), Clan WhiteCrest (officers), Clan FireFang (fighter pilots), Clan LongEar (tele-communications), Clan StraightShield (justice), Clan GoldPaw (merchants), Clan StarMind (priests) and numerous other clans and clanless who live in communes.

The Alien Grays sometimes appear as comic relief, sometimes as antagonists and sometimes advance the plot with a MacGuffin. While the Grays are motivated by fame, fortune and flashy research with a quick pay-off, the plodding sorta mammoth species of the Guvnuragnaguvendrugun Confederacy spends decades or centuries working through the details. As expected from fiction which is similar to Babylon5 or StarWars, there are numerous species and individuals with dubious motives. However, the characters are excellent.

There is Jennifer Delaney (formerly IT support in Dublin, currently self-styled space-babe pirate queen), Adrian Saunders (former Australian soldier, currently "The Human Disaster"), Kevin Jenkins (barman and bagman), Drew Cavendish and Drew Martin (spacesuit designers), Moses Byron (billionaire rocketeer), Adam Arès, Legsy and Owen Powell (commanding officers of the space marines and their oft forgotten technicians), Admiral Knight, Captain Bathini (wears turban, drinks tea), Ava Ríos (Mary Sue, chaos monkey and occasional journalist), Julian Etsicitty (part Native American wilderness expert shamelessly modelled on The Mighty Buzzard), Allison Buehler (Mormon runaway), Xìu Chang (Chinese-Canadian linguistic expert, martial artist, dancer and aspiring actress), Wei Chang (3D printing expert), Amir (pilot and devout Muslim who has difficulty facing Mecca to pray until he gets a Mecca-detector), Lewis (geek), Zane (megalomaniac), Krrkktnkk A'ktnnzzik'tk and Vedregnegnug (alien bureaucrats with names that will trip any text-to-speech system), Daar (big oaf from Clan StoneBack), Ragaari (Clan WhiteCrest), Gyotin (Clan StarMind), Mark Tisdale and Hayley Tisdale (hippy scientists), Vemik ("Cavemonkey scientist"), Yan (tribal chief), the Alpha Of Alphas (warlord), the Alpha Of The Brood That Builds (geek) and at least as many more.

The serialized story is currently 1.5 million words (excluding the non-canon fan fiction) and is currently increasing by more than 30,000 words per month. Installments are published monthly or slightly more frequently. This fiction has been ongoing for about five years and the plot has advanced by more than 15 years. Therefore, senior characters retire, junior characters get promotion, children become adults and new characters are born. Despite the wide cast, the sheer volume of words creates an emotional investment and it can hit hard when a character is suddenly killed. This can realistically happen to any character at any time. One of the funerals has made me cry on at least four occasions. It was more emotional than StarTrek 2: The Wrath Of Khan or StarTrek Continues, Episode 1: Pilgrim Of Eternity. However, within 500 words, I had cause to openly laugh. Indeed, the story is such that it is common to cry then laugh.

Although it is not strictly a military saga, more than 20% of the writing depicts the space marines and some of the action is quite intense. This includes Operation Nova Hound, Operation Empty Bell, Dark Eye and multiple reconnaissance and extraction operations. For anyone who plays GURPS table-top rôle playing, Hello Kitty 40K or similar, there is plenty of source material for a campaign. It is also gratifying to see the technology advance over the 15 years (so far) of the story. As much as possible, a 900,000kg salvaged vessel is stripped of untrusted "alien space magic", fitted with keel and hatches to space navy standards, fitted with triple redundant 0.5GW fusion reactors (don't dare imitate Doc Brown and say "One point twenty one jigawatts!!!"), bus-bars to super-capacitors (reverse engineered by SCERF) and 90% efficient solid state inertial drives. In a burst, it can accelerate to 3g while dumping 3GW of heat. On a smaller scale, an EM rifle with 90 DU rounds per clip has a RS-485 bus on the Picatinny rail integrated with the suit HUD. There's also an RFG which is not to be confused with a VLM or a BFG.

A quirk of the Jenkinsverse is that the primary author was initially unaware of its success. Therefore, multiple story-lines gained considerably more chapters before characters were brought wholesale into the main spine of the story. Additionally, the primary author has written a prequel, looped off repeatedly and maintains a secondary story-line. Contemporary serialized fiction is decidedly collaborative and non-linear.

The final three chapters of the eight chapter prequel are quite amusing. The five chapter fan fiction, Wounded Rabbit, is particularly good and made me cry. Similar fan fiction covers the daily life of a human adopted by aliens. In addition to difficulty with language and cuisine, attempts to teach self defence are hindered by differing proportions.

I ignored the recommended reading order and read through the main spine of the story skipping parts required for continuity with fan fiction. This works very well with the exception that a batch of additional characters are introduced in Chapter 19. It is otherwise the most effective method to see improvements in writing quality. This is notably more flowing and candid every 10 chapters or so. From Chapter 20 or so, adult themes are covered. Swearing occurs from Chapter Zero and gets significantly more prolific from Chapter 12. Military characters swear like troopers but this is typically with British regional accents. "Well, fook me" is a typical example.

Adjusting for inflation, the primary author, Hambone3110, earns less money per word than a 1950s science fiction author. However, the author does not write to length and is certainly not restricted by it. Donations (per chapter) are almost US$3,600 and this is likely to grow considerably. Multiple levels of sponsorship are available up to and including product placement and naming characters.

DeathWorlders has a mix of gung-ho abandon, peril and consequences which is preferable to much commercial output. The major downside is the time required to read 1.5 million words. (It took me three months to get to Chapter 48 while doing graphic design.) A reader may incur increased swearing and a general feeling of invincibility which could be dangerous in some circumstances. However, before DeathWorlders obtained its own website, much of the work was placed in a section of Reddit.Com called Humans, F*ck Yeah which is an invigorating mix of factual and fictional accounts of people overcoming adversity. DeathWorlders will similarly raise spirits.


Original Submission

posted by CoolHand on Monday October 15, @05:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the the-rich-getting-richer dept.

Understanding 'Moneyland' — the offshore world of the super-rich

Many of the world's problems — from declining public services to corruption — can be explained in two words: offshore wealth. That's according to investigative journalist Oliver Bullough, who is working to unravel the intricate global web of money and power. To try and de-mystify the idea, Bullough came up with his own word: Moneyland. "I invented 'Moneyland' to try and get my own head around this problem, basically," he says.

[...] One of the greatest stumbling blocks in addressing the issues around offshore tax havens, Bullough says, is that the very term is relatively ambiguous and generally difficult to conceptualise. "'Offshore' isn't a place, it's not the British Virgin Islands or Hong Kong or whatever," he says. "'Offshore' just means not here; elsewhere. It's a legal construct that essentially means something can hide without being anywhere in particular."

To try and de-mystify the idea, Bullough came up with his own word: Moneyland. "I invented 'Moneyland' to try and get my own head around this problem, basically," he says. Moneyland — also the name of Bullough's book on the issue — makes up roughly 10 per cent of the world's wealth, he says. "If you look at its economy, it is the third biggest economy in the world after America and China, it's absolutely massive." Bullough declares London to be the likely capital of Moneyland, followed closely by New York. According to Oxfam, the top three-and-a-half dozen people in the world this year owns the same amount of stuff as the bottom 3.5 billion people in the world.

How far does the Gini curve have to bend before something snaps?


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday October 15, @03:21PM   Printer-friendly
from the getting-bigger dept.

Defense giants Harris, L3 Technologies to merge

Harris Corp. and L3 Technologies Inc. on Sunday announced plans to combine in the largest-ever defense merger, reacting to Pentagon efforts to get companies to boost investment and speed the development of weapons.

The enlarged company would have annual sales of around $16 billion this year and 48,000 staff, ranking sixth among U.S. defense contractors by revenue as the industry enjoys a bump in Pentagon spending after five years of budget cuts.

The deal, first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Saturday, would unite two companies with a combined market value of about $33.5 billion.

Also at Bloomberg, Reuters, and The Washington Post.

See also: Schumer: Rochester won't lose jobs as a result of Harris Corp. merger


Original Submission

posted by takyon on Monday October 15, @01:44PM   Printer-friendly
from the drone-wars dept.

The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018 regulates airline seat sizes and allows authorities to shoot down drones without obtaining a warrant:

Despite objection, Congress passes bill that lets U.S. authorities shoot down private

U.S. authorities will soon have the authority to shoot down private drones if they are considered a threat — a move decried by civil liberties and rights groups. [...] [Critics] say the new authority that gives the government the right to "disrupt," "exercise control," or "seize or otherwise confiscate" drones that's deemed a "credible threat" is dangerous and doesn't include enough safeguards.

Federal authorities would not need to first obtain a warrant, which rights groups say that authority could be easily abused, making it possible for Homeland Security and the Justice Department and its various law enforcement and immigration agencies to shoot down anyone's drone for any justifiable reason.

Also at CBS and Aero News Network.

See also: New FAA Rules for Drones Go Into Effect


Original Submission

posted by takyon on Monday October 15, @12:17PM   Printer-friendly
from the surface-tension dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

PC market flat, as Surface becomes a top-5 computer brand in the US

Microsoft was the fifth-biggest PC maker in the US in the third quarter of this year, according to industry advisory firm Gartner.

The top spot in the US belongs to HP, with about 4.5 million machines sold, ahead of Dell at 3.8 million, Lenovo at 2.3 million, and Apple at 2 million. The gap between fourth and fifth is pretty big—Microsoft sold only 0.6 million Surface devices last quarter—but it suggests that Microsoft's PC division is heading in the right direction, with sales 1.9 percent higher than the same quarter last year. The company pushed down to sixth place was Acer.

The current quarter should be better still; the Surface Pro, Surface Laptop, and Surface Studio have all been given hardware refreshes which, when combined with the always-busy holiday season, should stimulate higher sales.


Original Submission

posted by takyon on Monday October 15, @10:55AM   Printer-friendly
from the switch-to-VR-news dept.

Submitted via IRC for chromas

Protip from Mozilla (and Opera): If you hide a feature then you can say nobody uses it, and then remove it.

Your RSS is grass: Mozilla euthanizes feed reader, Atom code in Firefox browser, claims it's old and unloved

When Firefox 64 arrives in December, support for RSS, the once celebrated content syndication scheme, and its sibling, Atom, will be missing.

"After considering the maintenance, performance and security costs of the feed preview and subscription features in Firefox, we've concluded that it is no longer sustainable to keep feed support in the core of the product," said Gijs Kruitbosch, a software engineer who works on Firefox at Mozilla, in a blog post on Thursday.

RSS – which stands for Rich Site Summary, RDF Site Summary, or Really Simple Syndication, as you see fit – is an XML-based format for publishing and subscribing to web content feeds. It dates back to 1999 and for a time was rather popular, but been disappearing from a variety of applications and services since then.

Mozilla appears to have gotten the wrecking ball rolling in 2011 when it removed the RSS button from Firefox. The explanation then was the same as it is now: It's just not very popular.

Among RSS/Atom fans, there's a more sinister explanation: feeds don't mesh well with the internet's data gathering industry because they allow users to consume web content (though usually not the full text of a site's articles) without triggering the dozens or even hundreds of analytics scripts lurking on web pages. Also, companies like Google and Facebook that have their own mechanisms for content aggregation have a disincentive to promote RSS/Atom apps as an alternative.


Original Submission

posted by takyon on Monday October 15, @09:25AM   Printer-friendly

Republican Senators Demand Answers about Google+ Cover-up

Senators Thune, Wicker, and Moran Letter to Google

takyon: Three Senators have written a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai requesting responses to several questions about the recent Google+ breach.

Also at Reuters, Ars Technica, and The Verge.

How Google's China Project Undermines its Claims to Political Neutrality

Submitted via IRC for chromas

How Google's China project undermines its claims to political neutrality

The company's official position on content moderation remains political neutrality, a spokeswoman told me in an email:

Google is committed to free expression — supporting the free flow of ideas is core to our mission. Where we have developed our own content policies, we enforce them in a politically neutral way. Giving preference to content of one political ideology over another would fundamentally conflict with our goal of providing services that work for everyone.

Of course, it's impossible to read the report or Google's statement without considering Project Dragonfly. According to Ryan Gallagher's ongoing reporting at The Intercept, Google's planned Chinese search engine will enable anything but the free flow of ideas. Even in an environment where American users are calling for tech platforms to limit users' freedoms in exchange for more safety and security, many still recoil at the idea of a search engine that bans search terms in support of an authoritarian regime.

And that's the unresolvable tension at the heart of this report. Almost all of us would agree that some restrictions on free speech are necessary. But few of us would agree on what those restrictions should be. Being a good censor — or at least, a more consistent censor — is within Google's grasp. But being a politically neutral one is probably impossible.

See also: Senator Says Google Failed to Answer Key Questions on China

Related: Leaked Transcript Contradicts Google's Denials About Censored Chinese Search Engine


Original Submission #1Original Submission #2Original Submission #3

posted by takyon on Monday October 15, @07:54AM   Printer-friendly
from the garbage-out-garbage-in dept.

Submitted via IRC for chromas

When yesterday's agriculture feeds today's water pollution

A study led by researchers at Université de Montréal quantifies for the first time the maximum amount of nutrients – specifically, phosphorus – that can accumulate in a watershed before additional pollution is discharged into downriver ecosystems. That average threshold amount is 2.1 tonnes per square kilometre of land, the researchers estimate in their study published today in Nature Geoscience. "Beyond this, further phosphorus inputs to watersheds cause a significant acceleration of (phosphorus) loss in runoff."

[...] Focusing on 23 watersheds feeding the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, the researchers reconstructed historic land-use practices in order to calculate how much phosphorus has accumulated on the land over the past century. The two main sources of phosphorus to watersheds, the land adjacent to tributaries, come from agriculture (fertilizers and animal manure) and from the human population (through food needs and sewage).

Using Quebec government data, the researchers matched the estimated accumulation with phosphorus concentrations measured in the water for the last 26 years. Since the watersheds they studied had different histories – some had been used intensively for agriculture for decades whereas others were forested and pristine – this method allowed the researchers to establish a gradient of different phosphorus accumulations among sites. In so doing, they were able to see at what point the watershed "tipped" or reached a threshold and began to leak considerably more phosphorus into the water.

"Think of the land as a sponge," Maranger said. "After a while, sponges that absorb too much water will leak. In the case of phosphorus, the land absorbs it year after year after year, and after a while, its retention capacity is reduced. At that point historical phosphorus inputs contribute more to what reaches our water."

Low buffering capacity and slow recovery of anthropogenic phosphorus pollution in watersheds (DOI: 10.1038/s41561-018-0238-x) (DX)


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday October 15, @05:18AM   Printer-friendly
from the perpetual-motion dept.

Think of it: The government prints more money or perhaps — god forbid — it taxes some corporate profits, then it showers the cash down on the people so they can continue to spend. As a result, more and more capital accumulates at the top. And with that capital comes more power to dictate the terms governing human existence.

UBI really just turns us from stakeholders or even citizens to mere consumers.

Meanwhile, UBI also obviates the need for people to consider true alternatives to living lives as passive consumers. Solutions like platform cooperatives, alternative currencies, favor banks, or employee-owned businesses, which actually threaten the status quo under which extractive monopolies have thrived, will seem unnecessary. Why bother signing up for the revolution if our bellies are full? Or just full enough?

Under the guise of compassion, UBI really just turns us from stakeholders or even citizens to mere consumers. Once the ability to create or exchange value is stripped from us, all we can do with every consumptive act is deliver more power to people who can finally, without any exaggeration, be called our corporate overlords.

No, income is nothing but a booby prize. If we're going to get a handout, we should demand not an allowance but assets. That's right: an ownership stake.

https://medium.com/s/powertrip/universal-basic-income-is-silicon-valleys-latest-scam-fd3e130b69a0


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday October 15, @03:39AM   Printer-friendly
from the has-a-nice-keyboard,-though dept.

I have been a follower of John Dvorak's articles on PC Magazine for a long time. His column comes out like clockwork, but his Opinions page was not updated for weeks. A little searching found an article on Medium from John himself. He says that he was released for his article that was critical of the forthcoming 5G system, and the magazine went so far as to replace his article with a pro-industry article. You can read John's story here.

A sad sign of the times where advertising rules everything.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday October 15, @02:00AM   Printer-friendly

Soyuz failure probe narrows focus on collision at booster separation

Russian investigators believe a malfunction during separation of the Soyuz rocket's four liquid-fueled first stage boosters two minutes after liftoff from Kazakhstan led to an emergency landing of a two-man crew heading for the International Space Station, officials said Friday.

Speaking to reporters Friday in Moscow, veteran cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, head of the Russian space agency's human spaceflight program, said the investigation into Thursday's launch failure has narrowed on a collision between part of the Soyuz rocket's first stage and the launcher's second stage.

Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague were carried away from the failing rocket by an emergency escape system, and they safely landed inside their descent module near Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, around 250 miles (400 kilometers) northeast of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, where the launch originated.

The Soyuz first stage is comprised of four boosters, each powered by a four-nozzle kerosene-fueled RD-107A main engine, that burn for 1 minute, 58 seconds, during launch. Once their engine firings are complete, the boosters are supposed to jettison simultaneously at an altitude of roughly 150,000 feet (45 kilometers) to tumble back to Earth. Krikalev said Friday that one of the boosters did not separate from the Soyuz core stage — or second stage — cleanly.

Previously: Soyuz Crew Vehicle Fails Mid-Flight, Astronauts OK


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday October 15, @12:21AM   Printer-friendly
from the will-need-a-larger-memory-card dept.

World's fastest camera freezes time at 10 trillion frames per second

What happens when a new technology is so precise that it operates on a scale beyond our characterization capabilities? For example, the lasers used at INRS produce ultrashort pulses in the femtosecond range (10–15 s) that are far too short to visualize. Although some measurements are possible, nothing beats a clear image, says INRS[*] professor and ultrafast imaging specialist Jinyang Liang. He and his colleagues, led by Caltech's Lihong Wang, have developed what they call T-CUP: the world's fastest camera [open, DOI: 10.1038/s41377-018-0044-7] [DX], capable of capturing ten trillion (1013) frames per second (Fig. 1). This new camera literally makes it possible to freeze time to see phenomena—and even light!—in extremely slow motion.

[...] Using current imaging techniques, measurements taken with ultrashort laser pulses must be repeated many times, which is appropriate for some types of inert samples, but impossible for other more fragile ones. For example, laser-engraved glass can tolerate only a single laser pulse, leaving less than a picosecond to capture the results. In such a case, the imaging technique must be able to capture the entire process in real time [open, DOI: 10.1364/OPTICA.5.001113] [DX].

[...] Setting the world record for real-time imaging speed, T-CUP can power a new generation of microscopes for biomedical, materials science, and other applications. This camera represents a fundamental shift, making it possible to analyze interactions between light and matter at an unparalleled temporal resolution.

The first time it was used, the ultrafast camera broke new ground by capturing the temporal focusing of a single femtosecond laser pulse in real time (Fig. 2). This process was recorded in 25 frames taken at an interval of 400 femtoseconds and detailed the light pulse's shape, intensity, and angle of inclination.

[*] INRS — "The Institut national de la recherche scientifique (English: 'National Institute of Scientific Research') is the research-oriented branch of the Université du Québec that offers only graduate studies. INRS conducts research in four broad sectors: water, earth and the environment; energy, materials and telecommunications; human, animal and environmental health; and urbanization, culture and society." (Summary is from Wikipedia).


Original Submission

posted by chromas on Sunday October 14, @10:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the my-name-is-Inigo-Montoya dept.

Bad News for People Who Can't Remember Names:

With colleagues at Scotland's University of Aberdeen, [psychologist Devin] Ray ran four experiments[$] that measured how people interpret forgetting. One had 56 students keep online "diaries" at the beginning of the school year, asking them to detail every single time they were forgotten. Their entries, recorded daily for two weeks, captured all the ways forgetting can play out. For the most part, it was loose acquaintances forgetting basic facts—names, class years, majors—or experiences they'd shared with the diary keepers, like attending the same party. But there were also broken commitments ("My friend was supposed to meet me at the library today"), dramatic exclusions ("My friends organized a night out and forgot to ask me"), and confusions of one person for someone else.

Ray and his team were surprised by how consistently damaging all this forgetting was. Statistical analyses of both the students' reports and a follow-up, controlled study found that people who were forgotten felt less close to those who had forgotten them, regardless of whether the forgetter was a family member or someone they'd just met. Mercifully, the people who were forgotten were almost always eager to excuse the memory lapses: The university students, for instance, would explain away potential slights with comments like "she already met too many people in the last couple of days." But such rationalizations only softened the blow in the end. "The good news is that this happens a lot, and people will try their best to be forgiving," Ray says. "The bad news is that, on average, they can't quite get there."

These results, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggest that forgetting someone does indeed send the message everyone seems to fear it does: You simply weren't interested or invested in that person enough to remember things about them. The impression might be inescapable. "It's such a big deal to admit that you don't remember a person," says Laura King, a psychologist at the University of Missouri who has separately studied the social consequences of forgetting. "It's an insult, even though it's completely innocent and we have absolutely no desire to hurt the person's feelings. You just told that person they're a zero."

In a subtle way, doing so might harm the people who are forgotten, on top of their relationships with the forgetters. Ray's team asked the research subjects to do a little soul searching during the experiments, instructing participants to rate their general feelings of belonging, self-esteem, meaningful existence, and other abstract emotions after they were forgotten or remembered. The effects were marginal but reliable: People who were forgotten reported decreased senses of belonging and meaning in the world. It was as if they'd received an ever-so-faint existential zap.

If you meet me in real life and don't remember my name, just introduce yourself as "Anonymous Coward" and I'll know to do the same.


Original Submission