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What should be the Book Club picks for April+?

  • Oryx and Crake - Book #1 of the MaddAddam trilogy - Margaret Atwood
  • Beggars in Spain - Book #1 of the Sleepless trilogy - Nancy Kress
  • Too Far - Rich Shapiro
  • Revolt in 2100 - (short stories collection) - Robert A. Heinlein
  • Morlock the Maker Short Stories - (pre-Blood of Ambrose?) - James Enge
  • Downbelow Station - C. J. Cherryh
  • Hammerfall - C. J. Cherryh
  • Sundiver - David Brin

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:17 | Votes:56

posted by martyb on Tuesday December 04, @11:18PM   Printer-friendly
from the what-hapens-when-you...push? dept.

University of Leeds:

Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker—at the molecular level—as it is stretched.

Researchers led by Dr. Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching properties. Their findings are published today in Nature Communications.

There are materials in nature that exhibit auxetic capabilities, such as cat skin, the protective layer in mussel shells and tendons in the human body. Experts have been actively researching synthetic auxetic materials for more than 30 years, but until now have only been able to create them by structuring conventional materials using complex engineering processes, including 3-D printing. These processes are time consuming, costly, and can lead to weaker, porous products.

[...] "Auxetics are also great at energy absorption and resisting fracture. There may be many potential applications for materials with these properties including body armour, architecture and medical equipment. We have already submitted a patent and are talking to industry about the next steps."

More information:D. Mistry et al, Coincident molecular auxeticity and negative order parameter in a liquid crystal elastomer, Nature Communications (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-07587-y

"Auxetic" is your word for the day.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday December 04, @09:41PM   Printer-friendly
from the passion-for-details dept.

Tackling the Challenge of Undergraduate Retention in Computing: Interventions to Improve Engagement and Retention of All Students:

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, has released the highly anticipated report "Retention in Computer Science Undergraduate Programs in the U.S.: Data Challenges and Promising Interventions"(pdf)

[...] The computing field is experiencing exponential growth, both in terms of current and projected job openings, as well as students majoring in computer science (CS). Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor projected that between 2008 and 2018, ¼ million computing jobs opened in the U.S. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, however, in 2015-2016 only 64,405 students received computer science degrees. the main source of preparation for these jobs. Additionally, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment in computer and information technology occupations is expected to grow by 13% in the next decade.

The interest in computing is also reflected in the numbers of incoming students pursuing Bachelor degrees in computing. A report by the Computing Research Association (CRA) highlights that US undergraduate enrollment in computer science is higher today than at any other time. Additionally, the CRA report outlines a 185% increase in CS undergraduates at large institutions since 2006, and a 216% increase of CS majors at smaller institutions during the same period.

Despite these trends, the challenge of retaining more women and people from underrepresented minorities (African-American, Hispanic, Native American) has been a persistent challenge in the field for decades. According to the National Science Foundation's Engineering and Science Indicators for 2016, despite the fact that women earned 50% of the Bachelor degrees in science and engineering, they accounted for only 17.9% of Bachelor degrees in the computing sciences. Additionally, data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) shows that for CS Bachelor degrees granted at doctoral-granting institutions in 2015, only 8.4% of degree recipients were Latino and only 4.3% were African-American.

[...] it is an economic imperative for the United States to have a large and diverse tech workforce. Better solutions are developed by teams with a diversity of people and perspectives. Retention in college computing programs is foundational because if we are not attracting and retaining a diverse population of students in Computer Science programs during the students' academic careers, we will not see a diverse workforce in computing emerge.

The article enumerates several areas of interest:

  • Data Collection and Analysis
  • Promising Interventions
  • Give Students a Better Understanding of CS
  • Meet Students' Varied Backgrounds
  • Increase Helpful Collaboration
  • Increase Sense of Belonging and Build a Safe Learning Culture

The report concludes by emphasizing that there is no silver bullet than can transform an institution into an inclusive and equitable learning environment for all students, and that the work to create an inclusive environment is not a temporary effort. The ACM Education Board Retention Committee notes that because these constructs change very slowly, issues of equity will continue to be pressing in all fields -- including computing -- and therefore will require continued vigilance and determined effort.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday December 04, @08:04PM   Printer-friendly
from the selection-bias? dept.

Hang in There. As Couples Age, Humor Replaces Bickering:

Honeymoon long over? Hang in there. A new University of California, Berkeley, study shows those prickly disagreements that can mark the early and middle years of marriage mellow with age as conflicts give way to humor and acceptance.

Researchers analyzed videotaped conversations between 87 middle-aged and older husbands and wives who had been married for 15 to 35 years, and tracked their emotional interactions over the course of 13 years. They found that as couples aged, they showed more humor and tenderness towards another.

Overall, the findings, just published in the journal Emotion, showed an increase in such positive behaviors as humor and affection and a decrease in negative behaviors such as defensiveness and criticism. The results challenge long-held theories that emotions flatten or deteriorate in old age and point instead to an emotionally positive trajectory for long-term married couples.

Journal Reference:
Alice Verstaen, Claudia M. Haase, Sandy J. Lwi, Robert W. Levenson. Age-related changes in emotional behavior: Evidence from a 13-year longitudinal study of long-term married couples.. Emotion, 2018; DOI: 10.1037/emo0000551

A sense of humor is key.

Original Submission

posted by CoolHand on Tuesday December 04, @06:27PM   Printer-friendly
from the picture-this dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

Study could lead to safer and cheaper 3D medical imaging

A new study led by The Australian National University (ANU) has discovered a promising way to significantly lower doses of X-rays that has the potential to revolutionise 3D medical imaging and make screening for early signs of disease much cheaper and safer.

The research team, which involved the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility and Monash University, built upon an unconventional imaging approach known as “ghost imaging” to take 3D X-ray images of an object’s interior that is opaque to visible light.

Lead researcher Dr Andrew Kingston said the study was the first to achieve 3D X-ray imaging using the ghost imaging approach, which has the potential to make 3D medical imaging much cheaper, safer and more accessible.    

“The beauty of using the ghost imaging technique for 3D imaging is that most of the X-ray dose is not even directed towards the object you want to capture – that’s the ghostly nature of what we’re doing,” said Dr Kingston from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering. 

“There’s great potential to significantly lower doses of X-rays in medical imaging with 3D ghost imaging and to really improve early detection of diseases like breast cancer.”

Original Submission

posted by CoolHand on Tuesday December 04, @04:43PM   Printer-friendly
from the get-you-coming-and-going dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

AT&T makes it more expensive to cancel DirecTV or Internet service

AT&T will start charging customers for the full month after they cancel TV or Internet service, ending its customer-friendly practice of providing a prorated credit for the final month.

Even if you cancel on the first day of a new billing period, you'll be charged for the full month and service will continue for the rest of the month whether you want it or not. To avoid paying for a month of service you don't want, you'd need to cancel by the last day of the previous billing period.

The change will take effect on January 14, 2019 and apply even when a customer is paying on a month-to-month basis and no longer under contract.

"We bill in advance for DirecTV, U-verse TV, AT&T Phone, AT&T Internet, and Fixed Wireless Internet accounts per our service agreements," AT&T said in its announcement of the change. "Currently, if you cancel any of these services, we give you prorated credits for the remaining days in your bill period. Starting January 14, 2019, if you disconnect these services before the bill period is over, we won't offer those prorated credits anymore. But, you can still use your services until the last day of your bill period."

AT&T noted that it already charges for the full final month when you cancel mobile service. But instead of changing the mobile policy to match the more forgiving TV-and-broadband policy, AT&T is changing the TV-and-broadband policy to match the more draconian terms of its cellular service.

"We're making this change so our video and broadband services follow the same billing policies as our mobility services," AT&T wrote.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday December 04, @03:01PM   Printer-friendly
from the portents-of-future-ecma-script dept.

The Enterprises Project writes about how the demand for several very specific, established skills, including COBOL, is increasing as boomers retire, taking their knowledge with them. Part of the skill gap between the old and the new is familiarity with the work flow and business processes.

Baby Boomers are retiring and taking with them the skills to run legacy technologies upon which organizations still (amazingly) rely – from AS/400 wrangling to COBOL development. That leaves many CIOs in a tight spot, trying to fill roles that not only require specialized knowledge no longer being taught but that most IT professionals agree also have limited long-term prospects. "Specific skill sets associated with mainframes, DB2 and Oracle, for example, are complex and require years of training, and can be challenging to find in young talent," says Graig Paglieri, president of Randstad Technologies.

Apparently, COBOL is still in use in 9 percent of businesses, mainly in finance and government. And so the demand for COBOL is gradually growing. If one has interest to pick up that plus one or more of the other legacy technologies, on top of something newer and trendier, there should be a possibility to clean up before the last of these jobs moves to India.

Earlier on SN:
Jean Sammet, Co-Designer of a Pioneering Computer Language, Dies at 89 (2017)
Banks Should Let Ancient Programming Language COBOL Die (2017)
Honesty in Employment Ads (2016)
3 Open Source Projects for Modern COBOL Development (2015)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday December 04, @01:28PM   Printer-friendly
from the seek-and-ye-shall-find dept.

At the end of the Stone Age and in the early Bronze Age, families were established in a surprising manner in the Lechtal, south of Augsburg, Germany. The majority of women came from outside the area, probably from Bohemia or Central Germany, while men usually remained in the region of their birth. This so-called patrilocal pattern combined with individual female mobility was not a temporary phenomenon, but persisted over a period of 800 years during the transition from the Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age.

The findings, published today in PNAS, result from a research collaboration headed by Philipp Stockhammer of the Institute of Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology and Archaeology of the Roman Provinces of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. In addition to archaeological examinations, the team conducted stable isotope and ancient DNA analyses. Corina Knipper of the Curt-Engelhorn-Centre for Archaeometry, as well as Alissa Mittnik and Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena and the University of Tuebingen jointly directed these scientific investigations. "Individual mobility was a major feature characterizing the lives of people in Central Europe even in the 3rd and early 2nd millennium," states Philipp Stockhammer. The researchers suspect that it played a significant role in the exchange of cultural objects and ideas, which increased considerably in the Bronze Age, in turn promoting the development of new technologies.

For this study, the researchers examined the remains of 84 individuals using genetic and isotope analyses in conjunction with archeological evaluations. The individuals were buried between 2500 and 1650 BC in cemeteries that belonged to individual homesteads, and that contained between one and several dozen burials made over a period of several generations. "The settlements were located along a fertile loess ridge in the middle of the Lech valley. Larger villages did not exist in the Lechtal at this time," states Stockhammer.

Female exogamy and gene pool diversification at the transition from the Final Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age in central Europe (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1706355114) (DX)

[Update: Yes, this story is from 2017 and, no, I have no idea how it appeared in the story submission queue. As for why I didn't notice its antiquity, I plead exhaustion and being unwilling to let the story queue run dry though it was well past midnight when I pushed the story out. Hope you can have some fun with it, anyway! --martyb]

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday December 04, @11:51AM   Printer-friendly
from the How-much-does-your-vote-count dept.

According to Reuters and The Washington Post:

Two of the Democratic Party’s biggest wins last month occurred in Wisconsin and Michigan, where their candidates won gubernatorial elections, unseating a well-known incumbent in the former and flipping the seat in the latter. In anticipation of having to work with a Democratic governor, state lawmakers are aiming to hurriedly pass legislation that would dilute the executives' powers.

The moves in both states have drawn comparisons to Republican efforts in NC in 2016, when lawmakers pushed through legislation limiting the authority of the state’s Democratic governor, after he defeated the incumbent Republican.

The proposals include preventing the incoming governor from withdrawing Wisconsin from a legal challenge to the federal Affordable Care Act, sidestepping the attorney general’s power to represent the state in litigation and rescheduling a 2020 election to boost the chances of a Republican state Supreme Court Justice, among others.

U.S. Republicans and Democrats have a history of using lame-duck sessions to advance priorities ahead of power shifts. Wisconsin Democrats in 2010 unsuccessfully tried to push through public union contracts after Walker won election while promising to get tough with organized labor.

Meanwhile, in Utah, lawmakers are getting ready to meet in a special lame-duck session on Monday (Dec 3rd) to rewrite a medical marijuana law that voters passed this November. Patient advocates are saying the move is an end run around voters.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday December 04, @10:14AM   Printer-friendly
from the the-system-is-broken dept.

In a followup to an article discussed previously here on SoylentNews:

Bloomberg has a three-part series on the use of an obscure legal document that unscrupulous lenders are using against small businesses.

  • In Part 1 - I Hereby Confess Judgement, (the part discussed earlier on SoylentNews,) they go into detail on what the predatory lenders are doing to small businesses using a document known as a "Confession of Judgement" to extract court wins from small businesses without a trial.
  • In Part 2 - The $1.7 Million Man, they go into how a debt collector became NYC's top earning official.
  • In Part 3 - Rubber Stamp Justice, the article describes how the courts are involved, and what some of them are doing to prevent this abuse.

After the story was released on Bloomberg, the New York State Attorney General's office opened a formal investigation last month.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday December 04, @08:37AM   Printer-friendly
from the face-palm dept.

Jared, Kay Jewelers Parent Fixes Data Leak:

In mid-November 2018, KrebsOnSecurity heard from a Jared customer who found something curious after receiving a receipt via email for a pair of earrings he’d just purchased as a surprise gift for his girlfriend.

Dallas-based Web designer Brandon Sheehy discovered that slightly modifying the link in the confirmation email he received and pasting that into a Web browser revealed another customer’s order, including their name, billing address, shipping address, phone number, email address, items and total amount purchased, delivery date, tracking link, and the last four digits of the customer’s credit card number.

[...] Concerned that his own information was similarly exposed, Sheehy contacted Jared parent company Signet Jewelers and asked them to fix the data exposure. When several weeks passed and Sheehy could still view his information and that of other Jared customers, he reached out to KrebsOnSecurity.

Scott Lancaster, chief information security officer at Signet, said the company did fix the problem for all future orders shortly after receiving a customer’s complaint. But Lancaster said Signet neglected to remedy the data exposure for all past orders until contacted by KrebsOnSecurity.

“When a customer first brought this matter to our attention in early November, we fixed it for all new orders going forward,” Lancaster said. “But we didn’t notice at the time that this applied to all past orders as well as future orders.”

Lancaster said the problem affected only orders made online through and, and that the weakness was not present on the sites of the company’s other jewelry brands, such as Zales and Piercing Pagoda.

[...] “Being a Web developer, the only thing I can chalk this up to is complete incompetence, and being very lazy and indifferent to your customers’ data,” he said. “This isn’t novel stuff, it’s basic Web site security.”

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday December 04, @07:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the new-shiny! dept.

Microsoft is building a Chromium-powered web browser that will replace Edge on Windows 10

Microsoft's Edge web browser has seen little success since its debut on Windows 10 back in 2015. Built from the ground up with a new rendering engine known as EdgeHTML, Microsoft Edge was designed to be fast, lightweight, and secure, but launched with a plethora of issues which resulted in users rejecting it early on. Edge has since struggled to gain any traction, thanks to its continued instability and lack of mindshare, from users and web developers.

Because of this, I'm told that Microsoft is throwing in the towel with EdgeHTML and is instead building a new web browser powered by Chromium, a rendering engine first popularized by Google's Chrome browser. Codenamed Anaheim, this new web browser for Windows 10 will replace Edge as the default browser on the platform. It's unknown at this time if Anaheim will use the Edge brand or a new brand, or if the user interface between Edge and Anaheim is different. One thing is for sure, however; EdgeHTML in Windows 10's default browser is dead.

Report: Windows Lite is Microsoft's long-awaited answer to Chrome OS

The success of Google's Chromebook hardware and Chrome OS software wasn't an inevitability, but the ease of use they afford ended up allowing Google to carve out a niche in a very crowded PC marketplace. Ever since Chrome OS entered the scene, we've been waiting for Microsoft to come out with its own pared down version of Windows, but its half-hearted attempts (Windows 10 S, Windows RT) have all fallen flat.

Those failures haven't stopped Microsoft though, as Petri on Monday reported that the company is working on "a new version of Windows that may not actually be Windows." Based on the documentation he has seen, Petri's Brad Sams believes that Windows Lite — the new OS — is Microsoft's answer to Chrome OS.

According to Sams, Windows Lite will only run Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps, while removing all other functionality. He says that this is the first "truly lightweight version of Windows" – one which won't run in enterprise or small business environments, and may not even be available for purchase on its own. Just like Chrome OS, Windows Lite will have to be pre-installed by an OEM.

Microsoft ChromeOS: It's Linux-Free!

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday December 04, @05:23AM   Printer-friendly
from the close-encounter dept.

NASA's Osiris-Rex Arriving at Asteroid Bennu After a Two-Year Journey

Launched two years ago, NASA's Osiris-Rex spacecraft arrives at the asteroid Bennu on Monday. Its mission is to survey the asteroid ahead of retrieving pristine bits of the solar system from the rock's surface and then bringing them back to Earth in the years ahead.

[...] Osiris-Rex is pulling in at a modest speed, and the moment of arrival is a somewhat arbitrary designation. The spacecraft started the approach phase of its mission in August when it was 1.2 million miles from Bennu. On Monday, it will be 12 miles away, although still too far away to orbit the asteroid. There should be no drama. It should be just a smooth transition to the next phase of the mission.

Osiris-Rex will make a series of passes over the asteroid at a range of 4.3 miles for an initial survey to better determine its mass, rate of spin and shape. In January, the spacecraft will get closer to Bennu, between 0.9 and 1.2 miles, and be drawn into orbit around the asteroid. It will then spend more than a year performing reconnaissance of Bennu before attempting to bounce off the surface and collect a sample of the asteroid in mid-2020.

OSIRIS-REx and 101955 Bennu.

Previously: New Horizons Spacecraft Approaches 2014 MU69; OSIRIS-REx Nears 101955 Bennu
OSIRIS-REx Approaches Bennu, Sends Photo Captured at a Distance of 330 km

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday December 04, @03:46AM   Printer-friendly
from the active-memory dept.

IBM Reveals 8-Bit Analog Chip With Phase-Change Memory

Today at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco, IBM reported a new 8-bit analog chip. But the true development was less about analog chips catching up to their digital peers and more a radical rethink of chip architecture: this chip is the first to perform 8-bit calculations right where information is stored.

In traditional von Neumann chip architecture, data constantly shuttles between memory and processing, which consumes valuable energy and time, [...] IBM's new analog chip is based on phase-change memory. The key ingredient is a material that can undergo phase changes in response to electrical current. Typically, these are alloys of germanium, tellurium, and antimony. In one phase, which is conductive, the atoms are lined up nicely. In the other phase, which doesn't conduct electricity, the atoms move around, heated locally by current, and become jumbled.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday December 04, @02:09AM   Printer-friendly
from the commoditize-your-complement dept.

Nvidia is proud to announce PhysX SDK 4.0, available on December 20, 2018. The engine has been upgraded to provide industrial grade simulation quality at game simulation performance. In addition, PhysX SDK has gone open source, starting today with version 3.4! It is available under the simple 3-Clause BSD license. With access to the source code, developers can debug, customize and extend the PhysX SDK as they see fit.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday December 04, @12:32AM   Printer-friendly
from the cool-idea dept.

Richard Branson (who asked for UK taxpayer money to repair his private island after hurricane Irma) Has set a climate change challenge:

As the world continues to warm, you can expect more and more folks to be turning to air conditioners to keep their living environments cool and comfortable. And in that sense, this energy-intensive technology will do plenty to exacerbate the very problem it is designed to solve. The Global Cooling Prize is a competition to help stop runaway climate change, by dangling US$3 million in prize money for the development of more energy-efficient cooling solutions.

The Global Cooling Prize is backed by the Indian government among other partners, with Richard Branson taking on the ambassadorial duties.

$3M could keep this site running for some time -- go team SoylentNews!

Original Submission