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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:54

posted by martyb on Friday March 15, @11:06PM   Printer-friendly
from the Y? dept.

The Model Y will be a test of Tesla's popularity

Tesla announced at the end of February that it was finally ready to make and sell the long-awaited $35,000 Model 3, an affordable electric car that was part of Musk's original "master plan" for the company, published in 2006. Closing most of the company's stores and switching to a completely online sales model was how Musk was able to finally achieve this goal, and it also allowed Tesla to lower the price on its other cars.

Normally, that might be seen as a good thing. But many customers who purchased Teslas before the price drops felt jilted. One of the most vocal critics was comedian Chris Titus, who complained to his 125,000 Twitter followers on March 2nd about how his wife bought a Tesla two days before the prices dropped. "@elonmusk lost a loyal customer," Titus wrote. "[T]he people that supported you, praised you and cared about you [sic] dream got boned."

Anger about the price cuts bubbled up in China, too, which is the world's largest market for electric cars. After Tesla cut prices on all of its models there, a number of owners protested at the company's store in the Hunan province capital city of Changsha. The upset owners wrapped the store in a banner that apparently translated to "don't buy now, buy tomorrow at a discount."

[...] [There] is some data backing up the apparent change in sentiment around Tesla. In an Axios-Harris poll of 18,228 adults conducted between November and January, Tesla's ranking slid across a number of categories. It dropped from being the 14th most trusted company out of 100 to 46th. The company's "character" ranking fell from 7th to 57th, and its "ethics" ranking slid from 5th to 56th.

See also: Did Ford just tease an electric Mustang as Tesla debuts Model Y?
Tesla's Model Y sales goals 'aggressive,' analyst says

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday March 15, @09:29PM   Printer-friendly
from the Why-not-call-it-the-Open-Sea-Shell? dept.

GEOS is getting a fifth shot at life, as the 1990s DOS shell—despite the name, it is not an OS, in the strictest sense of the term—has been released as an open source project under the Apache 2.0 license by new owner blueway.Softworks.

Releasing PC/GEOS as open source came with significant hurdles, considering how often the platform changed hands. “After Frank S. Fischer, the former owner and long time GEOS enthusiast passed away, I worked with Breadbox's former CTO John Howard and Frank’s wife, as the new owner, to acquire the rights to give PC/GEOS a future and a new home,” Falk Rehwagen, former Breadbox employee and owner of new rights holder blueway.Softworks, told TechRepublic. “There always was the vision to make the technology available to the community to enable further developments, make it a living and developable system.”

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday March 15, @07:51PM   Printer-friendly

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Christchurch shootings at two mosques leave 49 dead, Australian arrested in relation to terror attack

At least one gunman with a semi-automatic weapon attacked worshippers gathering for Friday prayers in two locations: a mosque at Deans Avenue in central Christchurch and another mosque in the nearby suburb of Linwood.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed one of the people taken into custody was an Australian-born citizen.

The ABC has identified Grafton man Brenton Tarrant as the man visible in livestreamed footage of the attack.
Two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were found on a nearby vehicle, but defence force officers disarmed one and are still working on disarming the second. - Black Caps v Bangladesh [cricket] test cancelled after gunmen attack Christchurch mosques

The test match between the Black Caps and Bangladesh will not go ahead.

The Bangladesh cricket team escaped the Christchurch mosque near Hagley Park where a mass shooting took place on Friday. They were due to play New Zealand a short distance away at Hagley Oval on Saturday. - live coverage

* A gunman walked into a mosque on Deans Ave, Christchurch carrying a semi-automatic weapon and opened fire. He live streamed the attack.

* A second shooting occurred at a mosque in Linwood.

* At least 49 people were dead as of 9pm - 41 at the Central Mosque, 7 at Linwood Mosque, 1 in Christchurch Hospital.

* 48 people are in hospital with gunshots wounds as of 9pm, including young children. Other injured went to medical centres.

* A 28-year-old man has been charged with murder and is due to appear in the Christchurch District Court on Saturday morning.

* He was arrested on Brougham St in a car which had explosives and guns inside.

El Grauniad - Rightwing extremist wrote manifesto before livestreaming Christchurch shooting

The man who livestreamed himself attacking a Christchurch mosque and murdering at least 40 people identified himself online before the rampage as Australian citizen Brenton Tarrant.

On a now-deleted Twitter account, Tarrant posted multiple photos of what appear to be machine gun magazines and a link to what is being described as a manifesto for his actions.

The 74-page document starts off quoting a Dylan Thomas poem, Do not go gentle into that good night, and then moves onto a rant about white genocide.

Tarrant outlines his motivations: including to “create an atmosphere of fear” and to “incite violence” against Muslims while offering up autobiographical details.

Also on BBC, Aljazeera, CNN

Original Submission

posted by Snow on Friday March 15, @06:14PM   Printer-friendly
from the nielson-smielson-ratings-mean-nothing-except-to-a-reality-tv-show-president dept.

YouTube Recommendations for 'Alt-Right' Videos have Dropped Dramatically, Study Shows:

Google has made "major changes" to its recommendations system on YouTube that have reduced the amount of "alt-right" videos recommended to users, according to a study led by Nicolas Suzor, an associate professor at Queensland University of Technology.

During the first two weeks of February, alt-right videos appeared in YouTube's "Up Next" recommendations sidebar 7.8 percent of the time (roughly one in 13). From Feb. 15 onward, that number dropped to 0.4 percent (roughly one in 250).

Suzor's study took random samples of 3.6 million videos, and used 81 channels listed on a recent study by Rebecca Lewis [.pdf] as a starting point. That list includes voices like Richard Spencer, an American white supremacist, but also includes more mainstream voices like Joe Rogan, who does not self-identify as alt-right but often plays host to more extremist voices on his podcast (including alt-right figures such as Alex Jones).

The drop appears significant, but it's difficult to figure precisely how that drop occurred. We don't know if YouTube is targeting 'alt-right' videos specifically or if the drop off is part of broader changes to YouTube's recommendation system.

Original Submission

posted by Snow on Friday March 15, @04:43PM   Printer-friendly
from the crushed-crust-carbon-capture dept.

Major Ice Ages may be Caused by Tectonic Collisions:

At geological time scales, what really controls the climate isn’t the atmosphere, it’s the ground. Most of Earth’s carbon dioxide is held underground, in reservoirs of natural gas and oil, but also in the rocks themselves. As the planet’s tectonic plates slide and churn against one another, they bury carbon deep beneath the surface while exposing fresh rock that will soak up more carbon over time.

That carbon can be liberated in large volcanic events, causing mass extinctions. But the process can also work the other way, where rocks pull carbon from the sky. A new study from MIT researchers claims that Earth’s last three major ice ages were caused by collisions of tectonic plates bringing fresh, carbon-hungry rock to the surface. Over millions of years, these rocks sucked up enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to cause temperatures to plummet and send glaciers marching outward from the poles.

The process is simple. Much of the rock in Earth’s mantle is composed largely of silicate, and when exposed to the air, it will naturally react with carbon dioxide, forming new minerals that sequester carbon as a solid. This process is much more likely to occur in the tropics where temperatures are higher and frequent rain will wash soils away to expose bare rock.

At certain points in Earth’s history, oceanic tectonic plates in the tropics have collided with continental plates, sliding over the top of them and exposing hundreds of thousands of square miles of fresh rock to the air. These pile-ups, called arc-continent collisions, create a generous supply of fresh rock. Weathering processes begin as they come into contact with air and over the course of a few million years, carbon is gradually drained from the atmosphere.

Direct link to the study:

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday March 15, @02:37PM   Printer-friendly
from the an-old-piano-in-a-tree dept.

If you remember in 2017, it was predicted Resurrection of the Woolly Mammoth Could Begin in Two Years.

Well it's 2019, and now that it is two years later... and so they have, of course, accomplished nothing of the sort are working on it.

[...] researchers extracted cells from Yuka, a woolly mammoth mummy (Mammuthus primigenius) whose remains were discovered in the Siberian permafrost in 2011. Then, the scientists recovered the least-damaged nuclei (structures that contain genetic material) from each cell and popped the nuclei into mouse eggs.

At first, this maneuver "activated" the mammoth chromosomes, as several biological reactions that occur before cell division actually happened within the mouse cell. But these reactions soon came to a crashing halt, probably, in part, because the mammoth DNA was severely damaged after spending 28,000 years buried in permafrost, the researchers said.

Beth Shapiro, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who was not part of the study, commented:

at first, the cellular machinery did try to fix damaged DNA within the chromosomes and piece together the broken bits [...] "But [the egg] can only do so much, [...] When the nuclei are badly damaged, then it's just not possible to reconstitute this to what you would need to do to actually bring it back to life."

According to Shapiro:

"The results presented here clearly show us again the de facto impossibility to clone the mammoth by current NT [nuclear-transfer] technology," the researchers wrote in the study, published online March 11 in the journal Scientific Reports.

However that does not mean all is lost,

Other research groups are also trying to resurrect the mammoth, using different technology. George Church, a geneticist at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is heading the Harvard Woolly Mammoth Revival team, is taking one approach. He's using CRISPR — a tool that can edit DNA's bases, or letters — to insert woolly mammoth genes into the DNA of Asian elephants, which are closely related to the extinct animals.

All of this is not without the usual controversies, but it will certainly be an accomplishment should they succeed.

For those who are unaware, there is a nibble of truth to Pliny the Elder's assertion in A.D. 77 that Elephants hate mice, as it turns out Elephants will definitely avoid the heck out of mice in the wild.

Considering the close relationship of elephants and mammoths, perhaps mixing their bits together with mice is not the best approach?

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday March 15, @12:59PM   Printer-friendly
from the Both-Sideism dept.

Homeland Security’s Intelligence Overreach: Two Cases Illustrate Risks to Civil Society:

Two stories this week show how the Department of Homeland Security is deploying its intelligence apparatus against activists, journalists, and human rights lawyers. While this type of political surveillance rightly raises serious concerns, it is hardly surprising given the immense growth in DHS’s intelligence gathering programs during and since the Obama administration, and the lack of meaningful standards, safeguards, and oversight of their operation.

[...]NBC7 San Diego published a leaked copy of a set of slides titled “San Diego Sector Foreign Operations Branch: Migrant Caravan FY-2019, Suspected Organizers, Coordinators, Instigators and Media,” dated January 9, 2019. The document, which appears under a U.S.-Mexican seal, is essentially a surveillance target list with photographs of 59 people, 40 of whom are identified as U.S. citizens, all of whom seem to have some connection to migrant caravans heading from Central America to the United States. “Alerts” have been placed against the information of 43 people, including 28 Americans. DHS kept dossiers on the targets as well, including one that was shared with NBC 7 on[sic] Nicole Ramos, an attorney with a legal center for migrants and refugees in Tijuana, Mexico.

DHS claims it was tracking people who were in the vicinity of violence near the border in November 2018 and just wanted to talk to them as part of its investigation of those incidents. This justification rings hollow; it is much more plausible that the agency was tagging people based on their perceived involvement with the caravan, not as potential witnesses to any incident of violence.

[...]Far from the southern border, officers of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of DHS in New York City were also keeping tabs on protests. Documents obtained by The Nation via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request included a spreadsheet of public protests, titled “Anti-Trump Protest Spreadsheet 07/31/2018.”

The document covered protests during the two-week period from July 31 to August 17, suggesting that such monitoring may be undertaken on a regular basis. It also showed the number of people who had signed up for the protests on Facebook, indicating that ICE was monitoring social media to follow political movements.

DHS claims it was monitoring leftist activists in New York to provide agents from ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit with “situational awareness” information in case they were traveling through the city “on work or personal time.” Again, the title of the document gives away what is likely the agency’s true intent: the list is not about protests or demonstrations in general, it is focused on “anti-Trump” (and anti-ICE) political activity.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday March 15, @11:23AM   Printer-friendly
from the DNA-cut-and-paste dept.

Mammoth Biosciences adds the final piece of the CRISPR diagnostics puzzle to its toolkit

With the announcement today that Mammoth Biosciences has received the exclusive license from the University of California, Berkeley to the new CRISPR protein Cas14, the company now has the last piece of its diagnostics toolkit in place.

Cas14 is a newly discovered protein from the lab of Jennifer Doudna, a pioneer in gene-editing research and a member of the first research team to identify and unlock the power of CRISPR technology. Doudna and Mammoth Biosciences co-founder Lucas Harrington were part of the team of researchers to identify the new Cas14 protein, which can identify single-stranded DNA. The journal Science published their findings [DOI: 10.1126/science.aav4294] [DX] in October 2018.

"With the addition of this protein that is DNA binding and target single strands, it really means we can target any nucleic acid," says Mammoth chief executive Trevor Martin. "It's an extension of the toolbox." The licensing deal moves Mammoth one step closer toward its goal of low-cost, in-home molecular diagnostics for any illness. "The idea is we want to make this test so affordable that you can imagine going down to your CVS or Walgreens so you can bring this access to molecular level information [to questions like] if my kid has strep or flu before dropping them off to school."

See also: CRISPR-Cas14: a family of small DNA-targeting enzymes enabling high-fidelity SNP genotyping

Related (all involving Dr. Jennifer Doudna): The Rapid Rise of CRISPR
Compact CRISPR Systems Found in Some of World's Smallest Microbes
Nonviral CRISPR-Gold Editing Technique Fixes Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Mutation in Mice
CRISPR Used to Cure Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in Dogs... by Further Damaging DNA
CasX Protein Works for Gene Editing in Bacterial and Human Cells

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday March 15, @09:46AM   Printer-friendly
from the put-the-HAMR-down dept.

Toshiba's HDD Tech Roadmap: A Mix of SMR, MAMR, TDMR, and HAMR

In an interview published this week with Blocks & Files, Toshiba outlined the company will be relying on a mix of hard drive technologies in order to keep increasing hard drive capacities. Along with current-generation two-dimensional magnetic recording (TDMR) and shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technologies, the company will also be tapping both microwave assisted magnetic recording (MAMR) as well as heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) for future drives. Already gearing up to ship its first 16 TB TDMR drives, Toshiba's short-term development plans call for it to adopt SMR as well as MAMR. Meanwhile in the longer-term, HAMR will be introduced for further capacity increases.

[...] By adopting MAMR for their 2019 – 2020 nearline HDDs Toshiba and Western Digital can continue using HDD media that is similar to platters used today. By contrast, Seagate is set to skip MAMR and use HAMR along with brand new disks instead.

Previously: Toshiba Will Adopt Western Digital's Microwave-Assisted Magnetic Recording Approach for Hard Drives
"Nobody" Wants SSDs with Over 16 TB of Storage?

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday March 15, @08:08AM   Printer-friendly
from the building-connections dept.

Intel, RISC-V Rally Rival Groups

Intel and RISC-V backers announced rival alliances to nurture competing ecosystems around tomorrow's processors.

Intel initiated Compute Express Link (CXL), an open chip-to-chip interconnect that it expects to use on its processors starting in 2021 to link to accelerators and memories. Other members include Alibaba, Cisco, Dell EMC, Facebook, Google, HPE, Huawei, and Microsoft.

Separately, a handful of RISC-V proponents launched the CHIPS Alliance, a project of the Linux Foundation to develop a broad set of open-source IP blocks and tools for the instruction set architecture. Initial members include Esperanto, Google, SiFive, and Western Digital. CHIPS stands for Common Hardware for Interfaces, Processors, and Systems.

The CHIPS Alliance is, by far, the most ambitious of the two efforts and is just one of several open-hardware initiatives in the works at the Linux Foundation. CHIPS aims to create open-source blocks for a variety of embedded cores as well as multi-core SoCs capable of running Linux — and, ultimately, an open-source design flow to build and test them.

Also at SDxCentral.

Related: Compute Express Link Specification (CXL) Version 1.0 Launched

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday March 15, @06:29AM   Printer-friendly
from the bad-news-for-flight-crew dept.

Long lines. Narrow seats. Baggage fees. You recognize this list. It's the downside of flying on modern commercial airlines. And now we have a new item to add: neutrons. and Earth to Sky Calculus have just completed a 5-continent survey of cosmic ray neutrons at aviation altitudes. From Dec. 2018 through Feb. 2019, Hervey Allen of the University of Oregon's Network Startup Resource Center carried Earth to Sky radiation sensors including neutron bubble chambers onboard commercial flights from North America to Europe, Africa, South America and Asia. Neutrons from deep space were detected on every flight.

Hervey logged 83 hours in the air as he traveled 41,500 miles above 30,000 feet. For reference, that's almost twice the circumference of the Earth. The entire time, he gathered data on X-rays, gamma-rays and neutrons in an energy range (10 keV to 20 MeV) similar to that of medical radiology devices and "killer electrons" from the Van Allen Radiation Belts.

The results were eye-opening. During the trip, Hervey recorded 230 uGy (microGrays) of cosmic radiation. That's about the same as 23 panoramic dental x-rays or two and a half chest X-rays. Moreover, 41% of the dose came in the form of neutrons. This confirms that cosmic-ray neutrons are abundant at aviation altitudes and must be considered in any discussion of "Rads on a Plane."

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday March 15, @04:52AM   Printer-friendly
from the wish-I-thought-of-doing-that dept.

The AI-Art Gold Rush Is Here

The images are huge and square and harrowing: a form, reminiscent of a face, engulfed in fiery red-and-yellow currents; a head emerging from a cape collared with glitchy feathers, from which a shape suggestive of a hand protrudes; a heap of gold and scarlet mottles, convincing as fabric, propping up a face with grievous, angular features. These are part of "Faceless Portraits Transcending Time," an exhibition of prints recently shown at the HG Contemporary gallery in Chelsea, the epicenter of New York's contemporary-art world. All of them were created by a computer.

The catalog calls the show a "collaboration between an artificial intelligence named AICAN and its creator, Dr. Ahmed Elgammal," a move meant to spotlight, and anthropomorphize, the machine-learning algorithm that did most of the work. According to HG Contemporary, it's the first solo gallery exhibit devoted to an AI artist.

[...] The AI-art gold rush began in earnest last October, when the New York auction house Christie's sold Portrait of Edmond de Belamy, an algorithm-generated print in the style of 19th-century European portraiture, for $432,500.

Bystanders in and out of the art world were shocked. The print had never been shown in galleries or exhibitions before coming to market at auction, a channel usually reserved for established work. The winning bid was made anonymously by telephone, raising some eyebrows; art auctions can invite price manipulation. It was created by a computer program that generates new images based on patterns in a body of existing work, whose features the AI "learns." What's more, the artists who trained and generated the work, the French collective Obvious, hadn't even written the algorithm or the training set. They just downloaded them, made some tweaks, and sent the results to market.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday March 15, @03:15AM   Printer-friendly
from the images-of-imagination dept.

JRR Tolkien's original illustrations are on display at the Morgan Library in New York City until May 12. A handful are described online in The Economist article describing the exhibit:

This exhibition is a slightly more compact version of last year's at the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford, where Tolkien studied and taught, and where the bulk of his archive is stored. It brings together original manuscripts of "The Hobbit", "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Silmarillion" with illustrations and maps that take you right inside his Legendarium. Walking through it, you feel as though you're peering over his shoulder in his study, watching an elvish conjuror at work. In Tolkien's hands, fantasy has never seemed more real.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday March 15, @01:35AM   Printer-friendly
from the one-thing-is-not-enough dept.

WebAIM issued a report last month analyzing the top one million home pages for accessibility and web designers Eric W Bailey and Ethan Marcotte each take separate, hard looks at it because it is indicating a very sad state. The report noted all kinds of problems, even including throwbacks like using tables for layout with 2,099,665 layout tables detected versus only 113,737 data tables out of 168,000,000 data points. Web designers, old and new, are largely failing in simple matters that were, or should have been, covered in Web Design 101.

Ethan includes in his summary:

Those are just a few items that stuck with me. Actually, “haunted” might be a better word: this is one of the more depressing things I’ve read in some time. Organizations like WebAIM have, alongside countless other non-profits and accessibility advocates, been showing us how we could make the web live up to its promise as a truly universal medium, one that could be accessed by anyone, anywhere, regardless of ability or need. And we failed.

I say we quite deliberately. This is on us: on you, and on me. And, look, I realize it may sting to read that. Hell, my work is constantly done under deadline, the way I work seems to change every year month, and it can feel hard to find the time to learn more about accessibility. And maybe you feel the same way. But the fact remains that we’ve created a web that’s actively excluding people, and at a vast, terrible scale. We need to meditate on that.

Eric also followed the WebAIM report closely:

Digital accessibility is a niche practice. That’s not a value judgement, it’s just the way things are. Again, it’s hard to fault someone for creating an inaccessible experience if they simply haven’t learned the concept exists.

And yet, seventy percent of websites are non-compliant. It’s a shocking statistic. What if I told you that seventy percent of all bridges were structurally unsound?

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday March 14, @11:58PM   Printer-friendly
from the a-bit-of-an-overstatement? dept.

The Reality of SSD Capacity: No-One Wants Over 16TB Per Drive

One of the expanding elements of the storage business is that the capacity per drive has been ever increasing. Spinning hard-disk drives are approaching 20 TB soon, while solid state storage can vary from 4TB to 16TB or even more, if you're willing to entertain an exotic implementation. Today at the Data Centre World conference in London, I was quite surprised to hear that due to managed risk, we're unlikely to see much demand for drives over 16TB.

Speaking with a few individuals at the show about expanding capacities, storage customers that need high density are starting to discuss maximum drive size requirements based on their implementation needs. One message starting to come through is that storage deployments are looking at managing risk with drive size – sure, a large capacity drive allows for high-density, but in a drive failure of a large drive means a lot of data is going to be lost.

[...] Ultimately the size of the drive and the failure rate leads to element of risks and downtime, and aside from engineering more reliant drives, the other variable for risk management is drive size. 16TB, based on the conversations I've had today, seems to be that inflection point; no-one wants to lose 16TB of data in one go, regardless of how often it is accessed, or how well a storage array has additional failover metrics.

Related: Toshiba Envisions a 100 TB QLC SSD in the "Near Future"
Samsung Announces a 128 TB SSD With QLC NAND

Original Submission