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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:14 | Votes:26

posted by mrpg on Saturday April 13, @10:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the my-God,-it's-full-of-ice-hockey-rinks dept.

Astronomers have spotted a potential second planet circling our nearest neighbor.

The red dwarf star Proxima Centauri is 'just' 4.2 light years away and is already known to have one roughly Earth sized planet dubbed Proxima b, which orbits within the habitable zone (where liquid water could exist on the surface.)

If confirmed, the new world would be Proxima c, however

"It is only a candidate," Mario Damasso, of the University of Turin in Italy, said during a presentation today (April 12) at the Breakthrough Discuss conference

Damasso['s], fellow presenter Fabio Del Sordo of the University of Crete and their colleagues analyzed observations of Proxima Centauri made by the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher instrument. HARPS, which is installed on a telescope at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Observatory in Chile, notices the tiny stellar movements induced by the gravitational tugs of orbiting planets. The instrument's data helped lead to the discovery of Proxima b (and many other alien worlds as well).

The potential planet Proxima c is a minimum of six times the mass of Earth and 1.5 AUs from the dim star. As a result it is almost certainly too cold for life with an equilibrium temperature around -390 degrees Fahrenheit (-234 degrees Celsius).

Sadly Proxima b is likely not very hospitable either as it is almost certainly tidally locked to the star causing blistering heat on one side and extreme cold on the other, it is also not unlikely to have lost its atmosphere to solar flares long ago.

Things aren't looking too hospitable close to home so far.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday April 13, @07:53PM   Printer-friendly
from the Lucy-in-the-sky-with-diamonds-??? dept.

SpaceX drops protest of NASA launch contract

SpaceX withdrew a protest April 4 that it had filed with the U.S. Government Accountability Office Feb. 11 regarding a NASA launch procurement formally known as RLSP-35. That covered a contract NASA awarded Jan. 31 to ULA for the launch of Lucy, a mission slated for launch in October 2021 to visit several Trojan asteroids in the same orbit around the sun as Jupiter.

[...] SpaceX's decision to withdraw the protest comes to[sic] a relief to many familiar with development of Lucy. They were concerned about potential additional costs to the mission and threats to its schedule if GAO upheld the protest and forced NASA to recompete the contract for the launch. That additional work, such as planning to be compatible with two different launch vehicles while the contract was recompeted, threatened to negate any launch vehicle savings.

SpaceX will assist NASA's first-ever mission to redirect an asteroid

NASA has chosen SpaceX to help out on its first-ever attempt to deflect an asteroid. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will blast off on a Falcon 9 rocket in June 2021 from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Its mission: To smash a satellite into the Didymos asteroid's small moon in a bid to knock it off its orbit. What sounds like the plot of a Michael Bay movie could turn out to be NASA's first line of defense against Earth-bound asteroids.

[...] The total cost for the mission is expected at around $69 million including the launch service, which NASA's Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida will manage. Fresh off the back of its successful Falcon Heavy launch and triple landing, SpaceX's involvement in DART sees its relationship with NASA evolving beyond its commercial payloads and resupply missions to the ISS. As usual, Elon Musk shared his reaction in a tweet: "Thanks on behalf of the SpaceX team. We ♥️♥️♥️ NASA!"

Coincidence? Maybe.

65803 Didymos.

Double Asteroid Redirection Test contract also at Space News.

Previously: NASA to Redirect an Asteroid's Moon With Kinetic Impact
ESA Plans "Hera" Follow-Up Mission to NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test
SpaceX Protests NASA's Award of "Lucy" Launch Contract to ULA


Original Submission

posted by takyon on Saturday April 13, @07:15PM   Printer-friendly
from the with-friends-like-these dept.

Assange associate Ola Bini has been arrested in Ecuador for alleged involvement in hacking government computer systems. A large quantity of electronic equipment and credit cards were allegedly found in his suitcase and during a raid of his home.

Assange's arrest was designed to make sure he didn't press a mysterious panic button he said would bring dire consequences for Ecuador

Julian Assange's arrest at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London was carried out in a specific way to prevent him from pressing a mysterious panic button he said could bring dire consequences for Ecuador, its foreign minister said.

[...] It is not clear exactly what form the "panic button" took: whether it was a physical device or a metaphor for some other easily activated insurance measure. It is also unclear what leverage Assange thought he had over Ecuador.

Assange's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider on the nature of the button and whether it existed. According to Valencia, though, it was serious enough for Ecuador to warn British authorities and carry out the raid in such a way that Assange was not able to get back into his room after learning of his imminent arrest.

Julian Assange must face Swedish justice first - MPs and peers

More than 70 MPs and peers have signed a letter urging the home secretary to ensure Julian Assange faces authorities in Sweden if they want his extradition.

[...] In their letter to Sajid Javid, 70 parliamentarians - chiefly Labour MPs and peers - urged him to "stand with the victims of sexual violence" and ensure the rape claim against the Wikileaks founder could be "properly investigated". "We do not presume guilt, of course, but we believe due process should be followed and the complainant should see justice be done," the letter said. Labour's Stella Creasy tweeted a copy of the letter sent to Mr Javid. The same letter was also sent to shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.

See also: The U.S. Government's Indictment of Julian Assange Poses Grave Threats to Press Freedom
Sweden Considers Request to Reopen Rape Investigation of Julian Assange
Four theories about Julian Assange's cat (also at NPR)

Previously: Wikileaks Co-Founder Julian Assange Arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday April 13, @05:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the let's-talk-about-it dept.

Packt reports that Gab's Dissenter browser extension was removed from Mozilla's Firefox add-ons on April 10th (people already using it can continue to do so), and was booted from Google's Chrome browser the next day. Gab pitches itself as an anti-censorship social media platform that only prohibits speech that is illegal. Their Dissenter browser extension and associated website allow people to share comments about any webpage, giving users the ability to share comments on articles, videos, etc., regardless of whether or not the website hosting the content has a comments section. Mozilla's rationale for the ban was that Dissenter was being used to promote violence, hate speech, and discrimination, but they failed to show any examples to bolster that claim. Gab plans to develop their own browser in response.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday April 13, @03:18PM   Printer-friendly
from the you-landed-on-Boardwalk dept.

XDA Developers reports Google and Apple will be investigated by Netherlands authorities for their app store practices. From the XDA Developers article:

It is no secret that Google and Apple have monopolies on their respective platform's application marketplaces. Apple owns iOS' App Store and Google owns Android's Play Store. There are almost no other alternatives for third-party and indie developers to distribute their applications, which are sometimes their only source of income. That gives Apple and Google an edge to treat developers however they see fit, which may not be always for the best. The newest official report claims that The Netherlands Authority for Consumer and Markets (ACM) is going to investigate both of these marketplaces.

The important point to note is the investigation is not arguing it is wrong for Google or Apple to distribute their own apps on these market places but if they are manipulating the market place in a manner that gives them an unfair advantage against third party developers releasing similar apps on the same marketplace. As a reminder, both market places require a fee to join as a developer, a one time $25USD payment to Google and a yearly $99USD payment to Apple. Additionally, both stores then charge a 30% transaction fee on every purchase. This fee is assessed for both paid apps as well as in-app purchases. On top of that, Apple prevents apps in the App Store from linking to any websites where a transaction (one-time or subscription) could be processed outside of the app store. There are also rumors of Apple removing apps prior to or conjunction with a release of an Apple app that provides a similar function. Developers also note that Apple applications have access to the personal assistant API, allowing Siri to respond intelligently to owners requests with Apple apps. However, third party apps do not have access to the Siri API, they can't provide similar function with their apps, e.g. Siri can use iTunes to recognize a song or shop for music, while Spotify cannot because there is no API for Siri to pass information to their app.

The question is, with their ownership of the marketplace and platform, are they playing fairly with third party application developers releasing similar applications or are they using their dominance to purposefully disadvantage third party developers?

Fight between Apple and Spotify over 'fair play' on the App Store
ACM (Authority for Consumers & Markets) launches investigation into App Store abuse


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday April 13, @01:01PM   Printer-friendly
from the Anything-can-be-deep-fried-at-least-once dept.

Milky Lane in Bondi has a history of deep frying food for the sake of experimentation. This year as a special Easter present for its fans they have come up with a new concoction: deep fried Creme egg. Lovingly coated in Crunchy Nut Cornflakes mixed with the gooey innards of the egg, the deep fried delicacy looks like a large chicken nugget as it is served with a Nutella dipping sauce. Not content with just deep frying, they also have invented awesome looking drinks.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday April 13, @10:40AM   Printer-friendly
from the new-tanning-destination-vacations dept.

Alien Life Could Thrive On Four Earth-Like Planets Close To The Solar System, Says Study

Alien life could be evolving right now on some of the nearest exoplanets to our solar system, claim scientists at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Their proof is you.

It's been presumed that the high levels of radiation known to be bombarding many of the rocky Earth-like exoplanets discovered so far by astronomers precludes life, but that theory is turned on its head by new research published [open, DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stz724] [DX] in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

In "Lessons from Early Earth: UV Surface Radiation Should Not Limit the Habitability of Active M Star System", the authors say that all of life on Earth today evolved from creatures that thrived during an era of much higher levels of UV radiation assault. So why not life on alien worlds? It also poses another question: does the evolution of life actually require high levels of radiation?

The exoplanets studied are Proxima b, TRAPPIST-1e, Ross 128 b, and LHS 1140 b.

Related: ESO Confirms Reports of Proxima Centauri Exoplanet
Proxima b May Have Oceans
Seven Earth-Sized Exoplanets, Including Three Potentially Habitable, Identified Around TRAPPIST-1
Possible Habitable Planet, LHS 1140b, Only 40 Light Years Away
An Earth-Like Atmosphere May Not Survive the Radiation in Proxima b's Orbit
Hubble Observations Suggest TRAPPIST-1 Exoplanets Could Have Water
Ross 128b: A Newly Discovered "Earth-Like" Exoplanet Orbiting a Less Active Red Dwarf
Another TRAPPIST-1 Habitability Study


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday April 13, @08:19AM   Printer-friendly
from the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it dept.

Currently the content of comments on web sites are the responibility of the commentor. There have been several pushes to change that. So it is obvious now to ask the question, what happens if platforms really are treated as if they were publishers or movie studios and not as utilities? And would joke ideas like just slapping paywalls on everything be a real solution?

In the past year, especially in recent weeks, the public and political governance in many parts of the western world has signaled an increasing interest in removing most laws that protect Internet platform companies from downstream liability for user-generated content, and requiring the platforms to acts as publishers, responsible for all content on their platforms (or as distributors or broadcast networks), not as utilities.

There is certainly some understanding that the capacity for users to reach most of the world on their own without supervision or permission of others has created new opportunities and also provides a new layer of check on establishment corruption – an idea that may have reached its peak in 2011 with the so-called Arab Spring. On the other hand, there is also a problem like giving everyone detention to punish the few. Bad actors create real dangers for others and random victims. This has long been the case with some problems, like cyberbullying. But in recent years the Internet is becoming seen as an amateur facility that destroy legacy businesses and jobs and that can facilitate unpredictable (“stochastic”) terror attacks. Is the risk “worth it” – if you become a victim? The question has a strong parallel in the Second Amendment and gun control debates.

This discussion has several components. [...]


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday April 13, @05:58AM   Printer-friendly
from the bone-to-pick-with-history dept.

Phys.org:

During the Great Depression, some unemployed Texans were put to work as fossil hunters. The workers retrieved tens of thousands of specimens that have been studied in small bits and pieces while stored in the state collections of The University of Texas [(UT)] at Austin for the past 80 years.

Now, decades after they were first collected,a UT researcher has studied and identified an extensive collection of fossils from dig sites near Beeville, Texas, and found that the fauna make up a veritable "Texas Serengeti—with specimens including elephant-like animals, rhinos, alligators, antelopes, camels, 12 types of horses and several species of carnivores. In total, the fossil trove contains nearly 4,000 specimens representing 50 animal species, all of which roamed the Texas Gulf Coast 11 million to 12 million years ago.

[...]In addition to shedding light on the inhabitants of an ancient Texas ecosystem, the collection is also valuable because of its fossil firsts. They include a new genus of gomphothere, an extinct relative of elephants with a shovel-like lower jaw, and the oldest fossils of the American alligator and an extinct relative of modern dogs.

Texas's abundant land and similar ecosystems have also made it a refuge for extremely endangered animals like the Oryx in modern times.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday April 13, @03:37AM   Printer-friendly
from the but-but-cloud! dept.

Microsoft: Google Stadia Has the Infrastructure but Lacks the Content; Cloud Won't Match Local Experience

2019 will be the year that sees some of the biggest tech companies in the world diving into the cloud streaming business for games. Google announced its Stadia platform at the Game Developers Conference 2019 for a launch scheduled later this year, Microsoft confirmed plans to publicly test Project xCloud in the coming months and even Amazon is rumored to be readying its own cloud-based streaming service.

With competition often comes strife, and in an interview with the Telegraph (locked behind the publication's paywall), Microsoft's Chief Marketing Officer for Xbox Mike Nichols didn't pull any punches when he discussed the weaknesses of the upcoming cloud-based streaming platform.

While he admitted that Google has the infrastructure (7,500 edge node locations) to pull it off, Nichols pointed out that unlike Microsoft they don't have strong ties to game developers and publishers to deliver the content that fans expect.

[...]Microsoft CFO Mike Nichols also went on to reiterate that regardless of the availability Project xCloud, the 'local' experience users can get on an Xbox console or Windows PC will remain superior to the cloud in terms of quality.

Previously: Google and Microsoft Eyeing Streaming Game Services
Google Announces "Stadia" Streaming Game Service


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday April 13, @01:16AM   Printer-friendly
from the early-shipping dept.

Phys.org:

It has long been assumed that Indigenous Australia was isolated until Europeans arrived in 1788, except for trade with parts of present day Indonesia beginning at least 300 years ago. But our recent archaeological research hints of at least an extra 2,100 years of connections across the Coral Sea with Papua New Guinea [(PNG)].

[...]This means societies with complex seafaring technologies and widespread social connections operated at Australia's doorstep over 2,500 years prior to colonisation. Entrepreneurial traders were traversing the entire south coast of PNG in sailing ships.

There is also archaeological evidence that suggests early connections between PNG and Australia's Torres Strait Islands. Fine earthenware pottery dating to 2,600 years ago, similar in form to pottery arriving in the Gulf of Papua around that time, has been found on the island of Pulu. Rock art on the island of Dauan further to the north depicts a ship with a crab claw-shaped sail, closely resembling the ships used by Indigenous traders from PNG.

Were the aborigines trading with other islands in Oceania?


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday April 12, @10:55PM   Printer-friendly
from the how-do-you-make-gin-from-hemp? dept.

Phys.org:

Richard Evans is on a mission to save the world with hemp.
...
Richard says hemp is "renewable, sustainable and clean" and can be used to "create foods, proteins, fibres and medicines".

If that wasn't enough, Richard also says the plant would be useful for decontaminating soil, storing carbon and could even be a contender to replace the oil industry.

The diverse potential of hemp is why Mirreco created its specialised machine—a world-first invention capable of processing hemp in a new way.

"I realised a few years ago that the bottleneck in the global hemp industry is processing," says Richard.

The machine allows for processing at farms, with rapid conversion into numerous materials that can be used for many purposes.

Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin saved cotton farming in the American South. Perhaps Mirreco's machine could do the same for hemp?


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday April 12, @09:18PM   Printer-friendly
from the it's-only-natural-to-question-authority dept.

Phys.org:

Around 80 percent of the land area in Europe is used for settlement, agriculture and forestry. In order to increase yields even further than current levels, exploitation is being intensified. Areas are being consolidated in order to cultivate them more efficiently using larger machines. Pesticides and fertilisers are increasingly being used and a larger number of animals being kept on grazing land. "Such measures increase yield but, overall, they also have negative impacts on biodiversity," says UFZ biologist Dr. Michael Beckmann. "This is because even agricultural areas offer fauna and flora a valuable habitat—which is something that is frequently not sufficiently taken into consideration."

Betteridge's law of headlines says no, but is more intensive farming really crowding out native species more than less intensive farming?


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday April 12, @07:39PM   Printer-friendly
from the took-too-many-hits-for-the-team dept.

Abnormal Levels of a Protein Linked to C.T.E.[*] Found in N.F.L Players' Brains, Study Shows

Experimental brain scans of more than two dozen former N.F.L. players found that the men had abnormal levels of the protein linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease associated with repeated hits to the head.

Using positron emission tomography, or PET, scans, the researchers found "elevated amounts of abnormal tau protein" in the parts of the brain associated with the disease, known as C.T.E., compared to men of similar age who had not played football.

The authors of the study and outside experts stressed that such tau imaging is far from a diagnostic test for C.T.E., which is likely years away and could include other markers, from blood and spinal fluid.

The results of the study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday [DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1900757] [DX], are considered preliminary, but constitute a first step toward developing a clinical test to determine the presence of C.T.E. in living players, as well as early signs and potential risk.

[*] CTE: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

Also at NBC.

Editorial: Links in the Chain of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (DOI: 10.1056/NEJMe1903746) (DX)

Related: NFL Acknowledges Link Between American Football and CTE
What if PTSD is More Physical Than Psychological?
Ailing NFL Players' Brains Show Signs of Neurodegenerative Disease
Former Football Star Aaron Hernandez's Brain Found to Have Severe CTE
Researchers: Aaron Hernandez Had the Worst Case of CTE Ever Seen in an Athlete So Young
CTE Can be Diagnosed in a Living Person


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday April 12, @06:01PM   Printer-friendly
from the buck-feta! dept.

Mozilla releases Firefox beta for Windows 10 ARM laptops

Mozilla is releasing an ARM version of its Firefox browser today for Windows 10. While Microsoft and Google have been working together on Chromium browsers for Windows on ARM, Mozilla has been developing its own ARM64-native build of Firefox for Snapdragon-powered Windows laptops. We got an early look at this version of Firefox late last year, and it seemed to fare well on an ARM laptop with a dozen tabs open.

This new build of Firefox is available today as part of Mozilla's beta channel for the browser for anyone with an ARM-powered Windows 10 laptop to test. That might not be a lot of people right now, but Mozilla has been working on its Firefox Quantum technology to optimize Firefox for the octa-core CPUs available from Qualcomm. This should mean the performance is relatively solid, while maintaining all of the regular web compatibility you'd expect from Firefox.

Also at AnandTech and Engadget.

Related: Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon 8cx, an ARM Chip Intended for Laptops


Original Submission