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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:27 | Votes:55

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday November 12 2017, @10:10PM   Printer-friendly
from the Nu-Skin dept.

'Butterfly child' given life-saving skin

A child has been given a new genetically modified skin that covers 80% of his body, in a series of lifesaving operations. Hassan, who lives in Germany, has a genetic disease - junctional epidermolysis bullosa - that leaves his skin as fragile as a butterfly's wings. A piece of his skin was taken, its DNA was repaired in the laboratory and the modified skin grafted back on. After nearly two years, the new skin appears completely normal.

[...] Normally, the different layers of the skin are held together by "anchoring proteins". But the junctional epidermolysis bullosa means Hassan's DNA lacks the instructions for sticking his epidermis (the surface layer) to the dermis (the next one down). There is no cure, and about four in 10 patients do not even reach adolescence.

[...] [A] team of biologists specialising in gene therapy were brought in from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, in Italy - and the parents gave approval for them to try an experimental therapy.

In September 2015, a 4 sq cm (0.6 sq inches) patch of skin was taken from an area where the epidermis was still intact. The biopsy was then infected with a customised virus. Viruses are good at getting inside cells, and this one contained the missing instructions for binding the layers of skin together.

The now genetically modified skin cells were grown to make skin grafts totalling 0.85 sq m (9 sq ft). It took three operations over that winter to cover 80% of the child's body in the new skin. Hassan's father said his son had spent months covered in so many bandages he had looked like a mummy. But 21 months later, the skin is functioning normally with no sign of blistering. You can even pinch the once incredibly fragile skin, with no sign of damage.

[...] An analysis of the structure of Hassan's skin, detailed in the journal Nature [DOI: 10.1038/nature24487] [DX], has discovered a group of long-lived stem cells are that constantly renewing his genetically modified skin.

Also at NYT and The Washington Post (archive).

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday November 12 2017, @07:49PM   Printer-friendly
from the anti-couples-day dept.

China shopping festival smashes record with $25 billion haul

Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, said on Saturday its Singles' Day sales extravaganza hit $25.4 billion, smashing its own record from last year and cementing it as the world's biggest shopping event. Once a celebration for China's lonely hearts, Singles' Day has become an annual 24-hour buying frenzy that exceeds the combined sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States, and acts as a barometer for China's consumers.

As tills shut midnight on Saturday, Alibaba's live sales ticker registered 168.3 billion yuan, up 39 percent from 120.7 billion yuan last year. The dollar figure was up more steeply due to the strength of the yuan against the greenback this year.

The event began soon after a star-studded event in Shanghai late on Friday. As midnight hit, a deluge of pre-orders helped drive a billion dollars of sales on Alibaba's platforms in the first two minutes and $10 billion in just over an hour. "In terms of scale it just dwarfs any other event out there," said Ben Cavender, Shanghai-based principal at China Market Research Group.

But what is Singles' Day?

Chinese Singles' Day or Guanggun Jie (Chinese: 光棍节; pinyin: Guānggùn Jié; Wade–Giles: Kuang-kun chieh; literally: "Single Sticks' Holiday") is an entertaining festival widespread among young Mainland Chinese people, to celebrate the fact that they are proud of being single. The date, November 11th (11/11), is chosen because the number "1" resembles an individual that is alone. This festival has become the largest offline and online shopping day in the world,[2] with sales in Alibaba's sites Tmall and Taobao at US$5.8 billion in 2013, US$9.3 billion in 2014, US$14.3 billion in 2015 and over US$17.8 billion in 2016.

Related: Alibaba Revenues Surge 61% On Online Shopping

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday November 12 2017, @05:28PM   Printer-friendly
from the go-fetch-me-a-switch dept.

Nintendo takes a gamble with record-setting Switch production plans

The Nintendo Switch has been an unqualified success so far, with Nintendo recently promising increased holiday season production to meet demand and expectations of over 16 million total sales by the end of March 2018. Reporting now suggests the company is expecting that sales pace to increase markedly in the coming year, though, and another associated production increase would come with both a fair amount of potential and risk for the company.

The production news comes from The Wall Street Journal, which cites "people with direct knowledge of the matter" in reporting that Nintendo plans to make 25 to 30 million Switch units in the coming fiscal year (which starts in April 2018). That's a major increase from the 13 million produced for the current fiscal year, which itself was a sizable increase from the company's initial plans to make just 8 million units for the console's first full year on shelves. WSJ's sources say those production numbers could go up even higher if coming holiday season sales are strong.

Nintendo exec: Failed Wii U is responsible for Switch's success

The success of the company's latest gaming console, the Nintendo Switch, is the result of lessons taken from the failed Wii U, according to Reggie Fils-Aimé, the president of Nintendo America.

[...] The console also didn't have a consistent flow of new games supporting the system. "We've addressed that with the Nintendo Switch -- having a steady pace of new launches is critical," he said. The Switch includes games like "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," "Super Mario Odyssey" and "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe."

Another issue with the Wii U was that it didn't have "strong support" from Nintendo's third-party partners, Fils-Aimé said. "Whether it's the big companies like Electronic Arts, or whether it's the smaller independent developer, we need those companies to create content to support us. We have that now with Nintendo Switch," he said.

Previously: Will Third-Party Developers Support Nintendo's Switch?
Nintendo Switch Available on March 3rd for $299
Nintendo Switch Stolen by Distributor's Employees Ahead of Launch, Details Leaked
The Ghost in Nintendo's Switch - Game Unlocks on the Date of Satoru Iwata's Death

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday November 12 2017, @02:47PM   Printer-friendly
from the good-enough-for-Al-Capone dept.

Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard

The 10,000 bitcoins that seven years ago famously paid for the delivery of two Papa John's pizzas would be worth more than $74 million today.

The exploding value of the cryptocurrency since its first real-world transaction in 2010 is one reason the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is pushing to see records on thousands of users of Coinbase Inc., one of the biggest U.S. online exchanges. The company's digital currency platform allows gains to be converted into old-fashioned dollars in transactions that the IRS alleges are going unreported.

Coinbase and industry trade groups are fighting back in court, claiming the government's concerns about tax fraud are unfounded and that its sweeping demand for information is a threat to privacy.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday November 12 2017, @11:30AM   Printer-friendly
from the what-notam? dept.

[Update: The launch was delayed to the end of the 5-minute launch window because of a vessel in the safety area in the bay. Launch was successful. Second-stage separation went cleanly and the Cygnus supply ship is on course for its journey to the International Space Station. NASA TV coverage resumes for solar array deployment scheduled at 8:45 EST (13:45 UTC) --martyb]

[Update 2: Solar array deployment was successful and "the cargo craft is set to fine-tune its approach to the space station with a series of thruster firings over the next two days." - Fnord666]

Antares launch to resupply space station halted by wayward airplane

Managers aborted liftoff of a commercial Antares cargo launcher Saturday when an aircraft strayed into restricted airspace near the rocket's planned flight path east from Virginia's Eastern Shore.

The Antares rocket and a Cygnus supply ship, both owned by Orbital ATK, were ready for liftoff at 7:37 a.m. EST (1237 GMT) Saturday. The launch team loaded kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants into the first stage of the Antares booster, and a computer-controlled countdown sequencer took over for the final three minutes before liftoff.

But an unidentified aircraft ventured into the safety zone surrounding the rocket and its planned trajectory over the Atlantic Ocean. "LC, LC, we are red," a member of the launch team told Adam Lewis, Orbital ATK's launch conductor. "We have an aircraft in the hazard area." "Copy that," Lewis replied. "Abort, abort, abort. This is LC on the countdown net. Abort, abort, abort. Proceed to the abort safing checklist."

Another attempt will be made today (Sunday) at 7:14 AM EST (1214 GMT). You can watch coverage on NASA TV starting right now.

Also at Spaceflight Insider.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday November 12 2017, @10:06AM   Printer-friendly
from the write-a-strongly-worded-letter dept.

Both takyon and Phoenix666 bring us news of some harsh words that ex-Facebook president Sean Parker has for the company:

Ex-Facebook President Sean Parker Criticizes Facebook

Facebook's first President has sharply criticized the behemoth he helped shape:

Sean Parker, Facebook's first president, had some harsh words about the social network during an interview this week. The tech investor, also a co-founder of Napster and, perhaps most recognizably, the guy played by Justin Timberlake in "The Social Network," said Facebook was designed to exploit the way people fundamentally think and behave.

There have been "unintended consequences," Parker said, now that Facebook has grown to include 2 billion people -- two out of every seven people on the planet. "It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other," he said in published Wednesday night by Axios. "It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains."

[...] Parker on Wednesday drilled into the addictive nature of Facebook that keeps so many of us coming back. He said it's all by design, because receiving a "like" or a comment on your post gives you a little hit of dopamine. "It's a social-validation feedback loop ... exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology."

But that didn't matter to people like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, he said. Or Kevin Systrom, founder of Instagram, which Facebook owns. Or even himself. In addition to co-founding Napster in 1999, he started Airtime, a video social network that never gained traction. Now he's the founder and chair of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.

"The inventors, creators ... understood this consciously," he said. "And we did it anyway."

Also at The Verge and Business Insider.

Facebook Founding President Sounds Alarm

Even Facebook doesn't like Facebook?

"God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains."

A view on social media shared not by some uninformed luddite, but by one of the people responsible for building Facebook into the social media titan it is today.

Sean Parker, Facebook's founding president, unloaded his worries and criticisms of the network, saying he had no idea what he was doing at the time of its creation.

Speaking on stage to Mike Allen from Axios, Mr Parker said: "The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, was all about: 'How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'"

"That means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever.

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday November 12 2017, @08:04AM   Printer-friendly
from the fungus-among-us dept.

Mushrooms are full of antioxidants that may have antiaging potential

Mushrooms may contain unusually high amounts of two antioxidants that some scientists suggest could help fight aging and bolster health, according to a team of Penn State researchers. In a study, researchers found that mushrooms have high amounts of the ergothioneine and glutathione, both important antioxidants, said Robert Beelman, professor emeritus of food science and director of the Penn State Center for Plant and Mushroom Products for Health. He added that the researchers also found that the amounts the two compounds varied greatly between mushroom species.

[...] According to the researchers, who report their findings in a recent issue of Food Chemistry, the amounts of ergothioneine and glutathione in mushrooms vary by species with the porcini species, a wild variety, containing the highest amount of the two compounds among the 13 species tested. "We found that the porcini has the highest, by far, of any we tested," said Beelman. "This species is really popular in Italy where searching for it has become a national pastime."

[...] Cooking mushrooms does not seem to significantly affect the compounds, Beelman said. "Ergothioneine are very heat stable," said Beelman. Beelman said that future research may look at any role that ergothioneine and glutathione have in decreasing the likelihood of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

"Anti-aging" buzzword news.

Also at Newsweek and New Atlas. Related PPT/PDF.

Mushrooms: A rich source of the antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione (DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.04.109) (DX) (PubMed)

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Sunday November 12 2017, @05:43AM   Printer-friendly
from the always-use-a-helmet dept.

Aaron Hernandez's brain shows signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) with a severity beyond anything experts have ever seen in an athlete his age:

The Boston researcher who examined the brain of former football star Aaron Hernandez says it showed the most damage her team had seen in an athlete so young.

Hernandez, whose on-field performance for the New England Patriots earned him a $40 million contract in 2012, hanged himself in a prison cell earlier this year while serving a life sentence for murder. He was 27 years old.

Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist who directs research of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, at Boston University, said her research team found Hernandez had Stage 3 CTE and that they had never seen such severe damage in a brain younger than 46 years old. McKee announced her findings at medical conference on Thursday in Boston where she spoke publicly for the first time.

The researchers described the brain as one of the most significant contributions to their work due to the former athlete's young age at the time of his death. Also at the Boston Herald.

In other news, a lawsuit by the estate of Aaron Hernandez (filed while Hernandez was alive) against a prison phone service has been thrown out:

The identity of a hacker who accessed jailhouse conversations between Aaron Hernandez and his fiancee while he was awaiting trial will likely never be revealed now that a judge has spiked the former Patriot's lawsuit against the phone service hired to record and store non-privileged calls.

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Helene Kazanjian entered her judgment Monday allowing Texas-based Securus Technologies Inc.'s motions to dismiss Hernandez's complaint. It was initially filed in federal court last year, five months before Hernandez hanged himself in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley. Hernandez's estate was pushing forward with the civil action.

Did American football create a murderer and drive him to suicide?

Previously: NFL Acknowledges Link Between American Football and CTE
Ailing NFL Players' Brains Show Signs of Neurodegenerative Disease
Former Football Star Aaron Hernandez's Brain Found to Have Severe CTE

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Sunday November 12 2017, @03:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the next-time-dont-misplace-them dept.

Fossils of Some of Our Oldest Mammal Ancestors Found

Two ancient teeth found in southern England are some of the oldest known fossils from the group of mammals that gave rise to humans. The teeth likely belonged to ancient creatures that nibbled on insects and went out only at night—a life strategy that let them avoid the dinosaurs that dominated Earth during the Cretaceous.

The teeth represent two newfound species of early mammal, both of which vaguely resembled small shrews. The smaller animal, named Durlstotherium, in all likelihood ate insects almost exclusively. The larger one, named Durlstodon, may have had hefty enough teeth for processing plant material, but researchers can't be certain.

[...] According to [Steve Sweetman's] analysis, the teeth are roughly 145 million years old, the age of the rock formation in which they were found, and they're dead ringers for eutherian mammals. This group includes today's placental mammals—such as dogs, elephants, and humans—and their now-extinct kin.

[...] The timing of the first eutherians has been a matter of debate. Based on fossil and genetic evidence, some paleontologists suggest that they've been around since at least the late Jurassic, about 160 million years ago, while some studies imply that they may have arisen later. If this analysis holds, the new fossils, unveiled this week in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica [open, DOI: 10.4202/app.00408.2017] [DX], hold the record for the oldest eutherian remains ever found in Europe, adding a crucial piece of hard evidence to the debate. (The oldest eutherian known today, a Chinese fossil called Juramaia [DOI: 10.1038/nature10291] [DX], is about 15 million years older, but some researchers argue that it's not a eutherian.)

Also at The Guardian and Live Science. Eutheria.

Related: Flying Squirrel-Like Mammals Lived 160 Million Years Ago

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Sunday November 12 2017, @01:01AM   Printer-friendly
from the From-Russia-with-radioactive-pollution dept.

According to the French nuclear safety institute IRSN there might have been a nuclear accident in Russia or Kazakhstan in September. So far no news from the Russians.

A cloud of radioactive pollution over Europe in recent weeks indicates that an accident has happened in a nuclear facility in Russia or Kazakhstan in the last week of September, French nuclear safety institute IRSN said on Thursday.

The IRSN ruled out an accident in a nuclear reactor, saying it was likely to be in a nuclear fuel treatment site or center for radioactive medicine. There has been no impact on human health or the environment in Europe, the IRSN said.

[...] "Russian authorities have said they are not aware of an accident on their territory," IRSN director Jean-Marc Peres told Reuters. He added that the institute had not yet been in contact with Kazakh authorities.

This brings back flashbacks from when Chernobyl went boom in '86.

French institute suspects nuclear accident in Russia or Kazakhstan in September

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Saturday November 11 2017, @10:46PM   Printer-friendly
from the fight-the-bad-fight dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

"We have an ongoing dialogue with a lot of tech companies in a variety of different areas," he [Rod Rosenstein] told Politico Pro. "There's some areas where they are cooperative with us. But on this particular issue of encryption, the tech companies are moving in the opposite direction. They're moving in favor of more and more warrant-proof encryption."

[...] In the interview, Rosenstein also said he "favors strong encryption."

"I favor strong encryption, because the stronger the encryption, the more secure data is against criminals who are trying to commit fraud," he explained. "And I'm in favor of that, because that means less business for us prosecuting cases of people who have stolen data and hacked into computer networks and done all sorts of damage. So I'm in favor of strong encryption."

[...] He later added that the claim that the "absolutist position" that strong encryption should be by definition, unbreakable, is "unreasonable."

[...] Rosenstein closed his interview by noting that he understands re-engineering encryption to accommodate government may make it weaker.

"And I think that's a legitimate issue that we can debate—how much risk are we willing to take in return for the reward?" he said.


Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Saturday November 11 2017, @08:25PM   Printer-friendly
from the isn't-it-always dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

A crippling flaw affecting millions—and possibly hundreds of millions—of encryption keys used in some of the highest-stakes security settings is considerably easier to exploit than originally reported, cryptographers declared over the weekend. The assessment came as Estonia abruptly suspended 760,000 national ID cards used for voting, filing taxes, and encrypting sensitive documents.

The critical weakness allows attackers to calculate the private portion of any vulnerable key using nothing more than the corresponding public portion. Hackers can then use the private key to impersonate key owners, decrypt sensitive data, sneak malicious code into digitally signed software, and bypass protections that prevent accessing or tampering with stolen PCs.

[...] One of the scenarios Bernstein and Lange presented in Sunday's post is that serious attackers can further reduce costs by buying dedicated computer gear, possibly equipped with GPU, field programmable gate array, and application-specific integrated circuit chips, which are often better suited for the types of mathematical operations used in factorization attacks. The estimates provided by the original researchers were based on the cost of renting equipment, which isn't as cost-effective when factorizing large numbers of keys. They also noted that compromising just 10 percent of cards used in country-wide voting might be enough to tip an election.

Source: Flaw crippling millions of crypto keys is worse than first disclosed

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday November 11 2017, @06:04PM   Printer-friendly
from the don't-try-thisssss-at-home dept.

For nearly 30 years, London-based reptile enthusiast and musician Steve Ludwin has been injecting snake venom—a practice that has almost killed him.

It may now help save thousands of lives, as researchers search for a new antidote based on his body's response to the toxic fluids.

"It sounds very crazy what I am doing but it turns out that it potentially has lots of health benefits," Ludwin, the tattooed 51-year-old told AFP in the living room of his home in the British capital.

Ludwin demonstrated his decades-old habit by firmly holding the head of a green Pope's tree viper—Trimeresurus popeiorum—and extracting a few drops of its venom.

Minutes later, he has injected the fluid into his arm using a syringe.

The scientists hope to produce cheaper anti-venom from the antibodies in his blood.

[Please note that this is very dangerous and Mr. Ludwin has almost died a number of times. Don't try this at home! - Ed]

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday November 11 2017, @03:43PM   Printer-friendly
from the Clippy-for-jobs dept.

Microsoft is integrating LinkedIn with Word:

Writing and updating your résumé is a task that few of us enjoy. Microsoft is hoping to make it a little less painful with a new feature coming to Word called Resume Assistant.

Resume Assistant will detect that you're writing a résumé and offer insights and suggestions culled from LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a vast repository of both résumés and job openings and lets you see how other people describe their skillsets and which skills employers are looking for.

The feature will also show job openings that are suitable for your résumé directly within Word, putting résumé writers directly in contact with recruiters.

The feature is now available to a select few Office 365 subscribers:

Resume Assistant is available today to Office 365 subscribers as part of the Insiders program and those subscribers must have the latest version of Word on Windows. It will be generally available to Office 365/Microsoft 365 subscribers "in the coming months." Resume Assistant will be available in all Office 365 commercial and consumer plans, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed.

Error: No jobs were found to be suitable based on your résumé. You are overqualified and too old.

How to Land a Dream Job With Microsoft Resume Assistant

Step 1: Lie.

Related: Microsoft to Buy LinkedIn for $26.2 Billion in Cash
LinkedIn Introduces "Open Candidates" Feature to Help Employees Look for a Better Job
LinkedIn Apologizes for Attempted Privacy Breach
LinkedIn Mulls Producing Videos; May Buy Rights From Sports Leagues

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday November 11 2017, @01:12PM   Printer-friendly
from the there's-always-someone dept.

YouTube to crack down on inappropriate content masked as kids' cartoons

Recent news stories and blog posts highlighted the underbelly of YouTube Kids, Google's children-friendly version of the wide world of YouTube. While all content on YouTube Kids is meant to be suitable for children under the age of 13, some inappropriate videos using animations, cartoons, and child-focused keywords manage to get past YouTube's algorithms and in front of kids' eyes. Now, YouTube will implement a new policy in an attempt to make the whole of YouTube safer: it will age-restrict inappropriate videos masquerading as children's content in the main YouTube app.

[...] Also, all age-restricted content is not eligible for advertising, which will undoubtedly hit the wallets of the creators making these videos. While it's hard to understand why anyone would make a video about Peppa Pig drinking bleach or a bunch of superheroes and villains participating in a cartoonish yet violent "nursery rhyme," it's been a decent way to make money on YouTube. Some of these videos have amassed hundreds of thousands (and sometimes millions) of views, gleaning ad dollars and channel popularity.

Check the related videos to see some bizarre clickbait. Some are even live action skits performed by adults.

Are we doing enough to traumatize our kids?

Also at The Verge and Medium.

Related: YouTube's "Ad-Friendly" Content Policy may Push one of its Biggest Stars off the Site
Google Fails to Stop Major Brands From Pulling Ads From YouTube

Original Submission