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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:55

posted by martyb on Tuesday April 23, @11:10PM   Printer-friendly
from the there's-an-app-for-that! dept.

Once the highly infrastructure developed economic powerhouse of Africa, South Africans these days are more interested in the outlook for rolling blackouts. The country’s most-downloaded app provides schedules, alerts and forecasts for power outages.

Eskom, the state power monopoly, is struggling to generate enough electricity to meet needs, and has re-introduced a byzantine system of rotating outages known as “load-shedding.” On February 11th a whopping 4,000 megawatts of power, enough to power some 3m households, was cut from the national grid to prevent it from collapsing. Some businesses have bought generators and battery systems; others close during outages. In big cities, there is chaos at rush hour as traffic lights go dark. The blackouts suit copper-cable thieves, who can steal without fear of electrocution. And when the electricity is switched backed on, substations sometimes explode, resulting in secondary outages.
[paywall: you can see the whole article in 'anonymous view' through]

More on the situation:

How to bring back the lights in South Africa?

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Tuesday April 23, @09:25PM   Printer-friendly
from the they-already-have-the-acronym-thing-down dept.

At the April 13th meeting of the American Physical Society, students from Drake University in Iowa presented their MISSFIT (Magneto-Ionization Spacecraft Shield for Interplanetary Travel) design that uses superconducting magnets to generate a magnetic shield protecting spacecraft against cosmic radiation while in transit.

The design incorporates both passive and active magnetic shielding similar to the Earth's ionosphere.

With help from a small NASA grant through the Iowa Space Grant Consortium, experiments are already underway on the passive shielding, which could protect astronauts from high-energy gamma-rays that a magnetic shield can’t stop. The hope, said Lorien MacEnulty, a junior at Drake and a member of the team, is to solve a key safety problem that's delayed an eventual NASA mission to Mars: long-term exposure to interplanetary radiation.

Right now, the students are experimenting with a number of radiation-blocking fabrics that might be light enough to mount on a spacecraft.

"We expose [the fabrics] to radiation," MacEnulty told Live Science. "Then we count how many particles make it through the layers of fabric."

The active shielding on the other hand assumes that any future spacecraft would be 'roughly cylindrical' with room at either end for a superconducting magnet ring powered by nuclear reactors.

Those magnets wouldn't divert gamma-rays. But they would cause charged alpha particles — another component of cosmic rays that could strike the spacecraft and emit X-rays — to move toward the ends of the spacecraft, which would be capped by two bubbles of material filled with a mixture of ionized gas that mimics Earth's ionosphere.

As the alpha particles zoom through this ionized gas, they would lose energy in a process similar to the one that produces auroras in the ionosphere near Earth's own North and South Poles.

Many questions remain unanswered in the design and the students are already showing their maturity as researchers by planning out what will require investigation and study over the next several years.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday April 23, @08:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the You're-folding-it-wrong dept.

Samsung delays Galaxy Fold indefinitely: 'We will take measures to strengthen the display'

Samsung has confirmed reports from earlier today that it is postponing the release of its $2,000 Galaxy Fold foldable phone only days before it was originally scheduled to go on sale. "We want our customers to have the best experience possible which is why, after initial feedback, we have decided to delay the release of the category-changing Galaxy Fold to make sure it measures up to the high standards we know you expect from us," the company said. "We plan to announce the [new] release date in the coming weeks."

Earlier today, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Fold won't hit shelves until sometime in May at the earliest, but Samsung is giving itself plenty of leeway with its non-committal timeframe. In an email to customers who have already preordered the Fold, the company said they can expect a revised update on shipping details in two weeks (which would be May 6th). US carriers AT&T and T-Mobile are also slated to carry the premium device.

Also at CNN and Time.

See also: A Broken Galaxy Fold Is Bad for Samsung—and Even Worse for Folding Phones
Galaxy Fold review: A lot of money for a prototype
The Samsung Galaxy Fold is a flawed glimpse at the future
Galaxy Fold review: Should you pay $2,000 for Samsung's delayed folding phone tablet?

Previously: You're Folding It Wrong: Tech Reviewers Break Samsung Galaxy Fold after Just Days of Use

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday April 23, @06:23PM   Printer-friendly
from the I-think-I-heard-that-somewhere dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

Blind People Really Do Have More Sensitive Hearing, MRI Study Finds

A new study out Monday suggests that losing your sight early in life can lead to subtle alterations in the brain circuitry primarily responsible for hearing.

It's commonly believed that being born blind or losing your sight early in life can make hearing more sensitive. But while studies have consistently shown that blind people do seem to have more precise hearing in some ways, we don't know too much about how or where this heightened ability actually shows up in the brain.

The authors behind this latest study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, say theirs is one of the first to look at what's happening in the auditory cortex of people living with blindness.

"Previous studies have really looked at the behavioral aspects of it, and we're one of the first to try to tackle it in a more modeled approach," lead author Kelly Chang, a vision and cognition researcher at the University of Washington, told Gizmodo.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday April 23, @04:51PM   Printer-friendly
from the 1984-is-a-warning-not-a-guideline dept.

A conversation between a passenger and an airline has gone viral, largely because people find it intensely creepy.

MacKenzie Fegan went to the airport last week. As with normal flights, she was expecting at some point to present her boarding card in order to get on her plane. However, she found all she had to do was look at a camera, and at no point was asked for her pass.

As convenient as that sounds, she had questions, which she put to the airline, JetBlue, in a now-viral thread.

I just boarded an international @JetBlue flight. Instead of scanning my boarding pass or handing over my passport, I looked into a camera before being allowed down the jet bridge. Did facial recognition replace boarding passes, unbeknownst to me? Did I consent to this?
— MacKenzie Fegan (@mackenzief) April 17, 2019

Fegan had several pressing follow-up questions, such as "how" and "who exactly has my face on record?".

"Presumably these facial recognition scanners are matching my image to something in order to verify my identity," she wrote. "How does JetBlue know what I look like?"

So how concerned should we be that companies like JetBlue have access to this data?

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday April 23, @03:19PM   Printer-friendly
from the and-then-there-were-some dept.

We had a minor site hiccup today. All seems to be working, now.

We have always been open and upfront about the site, so in the interests of full disclosure here is a summary of the problem and steps taken to fix it.

tl;dr Comment counts shown for each story on the main page seem to have stopped getting updated since about midnight this morning; appears to be working now. Please accept our apologies for any who were inconvenienced.

Read on past the fold for details.

Problem: Comment counts on the main page showed "0" comments on recent stories, but opening a story showed the correct number of comments for it.

Actions Taken:

1.) Try bouncing the front-end servers to restart apache (This is a low-risk step that seems to fix a surprising number of issues).

No joy.

2.) Ask for help on the #dev channel on IRC.

Ncommander replied asking if slashd (an over-seeing daemon for the site) was running.

Looked through my log files and on the site wiki; determined that slashd should be running on server: fluorine

ps -AF | grep slashd | wc showed 32 processes

Ncommander suggested: killall -9 slashd

Try: killall -9 slashd

"No process found."

Inspection of output of PS -AF suggested this one-liner should do it:
$(ps -AF | grep slashd | awk '{print "kill -9 " $2}' )

Got most of the processes, but there still seemed to be some stragglers.

/etc/init.d/./slash stop
/etc/init.d/./slash restart


Looked like it might have worked... reloaded main page... see updated comment counts!

Looks like all is working again.

It's a credit to the staff here that the site has been running so smoothly and without crashing or hiccups for... I can't remember when we last had an outage. Given that in the early days of the site we had maybe a few hours of uptime between crashes, we have come a long ways!

I'm going to assume this is one of those "have you tried turning it off and back on again" kind of problems, and unless the problem re-occurs, assume it is solved.

Need to hurry to get to work, so I apologize for the brevity of this posting.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday April 23, @01:47PM   Printer-friendly
from the for-certain-definitions-of-5Ge dept.

AT&T settles 5G E false advertising lawsuit with Sprint

Sprint and AT&T on Monday reached a settlement -- characterized by both as "amicable" -- over a lawsuit in which Sprint claimed its rival carrier used "numerous deceptive tactics to mislead consumers" with its "5G E" branding.  

[...] News of the settlement was first reported by the site Law360, but the details haven't been released. 

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday April 23, @12:15PM   Printer-friendly
from the would-you-like-fries-with-that? dept.

More than half of American millennials, the generation of people born between 1981 and 1996, believe that they will one day be millionaires; one in five think they will get there by the age of 40. These are the findings from a survey conducted in 2018 by TD Ameritrade, a financial-services company.

But a working paper by the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, offers a sobering antidote to this youthful optimism. It finds that millennials are less wealthy than people of a similar age were in any year from 1989 to 2007. The economic crisis of 2008-09 hit millennials particularly hard. Median household wealth in 2016 for 20- to 35-year-olds was about 25% lower than it was for the similar-aged cohort in 2007.

[...] But all is not lost. Millennials are living longer and are the best-educated generation in history. Taken together, this could yet mean that the youngest millennials, who have been less scarred by the crisis, could contribute towards their retirement pots for longer. Then there is mum and dad: even if they don’t become millionaires, millennials will one day inherit from their parents, and that may help redress their relative poverty.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday April 23, @10:43AM   Printer-friendly
from the putting-things-off dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

A stitch in time saves nine?

High-Deductible Health Policies Linked To Delayed Diagnosis And Treatment

A study published last month in Health Affairs examined claims data from a large national insurer for 316,244 women whose employers switched insurance coverage from low-deductible health plans (i.e., deductibles of $500 or less) to high-deductible health plans (i.e., deductibles of $1,000 or more) between 2004 and 2014.

The study group consisted of women who were in low-deductible plans for one year, then switched to a high-deductible plan for an additional one month to four years. The control group consisted of women who remained in low-deductible plans.

In particular, the researchers looked at the relative effects of such plans on women who have low incomes versus those with higher incomes.

Women with low incomes who had high-deductible insurance plans waited an average of 1.6 months longer for diagnostic breast imaging, 2.7 months for first biopsy, 6.6 months for first early-stage breast cancer diagnosis and 8.7 months for first chemotherapy, compared with low-income women with low-deductible plans.

In some cases, delays of that length might lead to poorer health outcomes, says J. Frank Wharam, an internist and specialist in insurance and population health, who led the study. More research needs to be done to confirm that, he says.

Interestingly, women with high incomes who relied on high-deductible health plans were not immune to such delays — they experienced lags of 0.7 months for first breast imaging, 1.9 months for first biopsy, 5.4 months for first early-stage breast cancer diagnosis and 5.7 months for first chemotherapy, compared with high-income women with low-deductible plans.

The researchers also found that having a high-deductible health plan was linked to delays in care whether the women lived in metropolitan areas or not and whether they lived in neighborhoods that were predominantly white or predominantly nonwhite.

"In general, we are finding that the effects of modern high-deductible plans on access to care are sometimes predictable but often surprising," Wharam explains.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday April 23, @09:11AM   Printer-friendly
from the getting-to-the-root-of-the-issue dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

Let's Encrypt to transition to ISRG root

Let's Encrypt have announced that on July 8th, 2019 they will begin issuing new certificates from their own intermediate CA and not their current cross-signed intermediate. Here's what that means and what action, if any, site operators need to take.

[...] Like all new CAs, Let's Encrypt began life with a cross-signature. Cross-signing is a trick that CAs can use to avoid the years long process of becoming a root CA. It genuinely does take many years to go through this process and Let's Encrypt wouldn't have been able to issue any certificates over the last 3+ years without a cross-sign.

[...] In short, Let's Encrypt currently issue from their cross-signed intermediate, which is issued to them by IdenTrust. IdenTrust have been a CA for many years and even old, legacy clients recognise them as a CA. When you get a certificate from Let's Encrypt right now it is issued by the cross-signed X3 intermediate which chains to the IdenTrust root. Now that Let's Encrypt's ISRG root is widely trusted, they can instead switch to issuing from their own X3 intermediate instead of the cross-signed one. This is a big step forwards for them and will likely not mean anything to the vast majority of their users. There are a few considerations though.

Useful links and information

Let's Encrypt transition announcement:

Let's Encrypt ISRG root coverage:

The Best TLS Training in the World:

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday April 23, @07:39AM   Printer-friendly
from the take-two-coins-and-two-barley-cakes dept.

Nasa is prepping a mission to the asteroid Psyche (formally '16 Psyche') to be launched in 2022. Psyche is an especially interesting asteroid due to it's unique composition.

The asteroid belt is composed of three types of asteroid: C-type (carbonaceous, ~75 percent of all asteroids), S-type (silicate-rich, ~17 percent of asteroids) and M-type (metal-rich), which are roughly 10 percent of the total population ... 16 Psyche is an M-type asteroid made of iron-nickel. What makes it unusual is that it's believed to be the now-exposed core of a protoplanet. It's also estimated to be worth $10,000 quadrillion dollars

Psyche presents unique opportunities:

First, it's the only known 'iron world' in the solar system. Second, it's likely the closest we will ever come to examining the core of an actual planet.

The spacecraft that will head to Psyche is in the preliminary design stages. According to Jim Bell, the deputy principal investigator of the Psyche mission:

"We are trying to prepare for any eventuality, no matter what it's like. Our instruments will make interesting measurements, observations and discoveries that will allow us to put the history of that object back together."

The spacecraft will use a gravity assist from Mars in 2023 and arrive at Psyche in 2026. It is hoped that examining Psyche will provide us with much more information about early protoplanets and planetary formation.

No word if the asteroid Cupid will be nearby when the spacecraft and asteroid rendezvous.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday April 23, @06:07AM   Printer-friendly
from the what's-wrong-with-the-dumb-ones dept.

Submitted via IRC for ErnestGoesToSpace

A Canadian civil liberties group is taking aim at all three tiers of government for allegedly allowing Sidewalk Labs to make decisions about citizens' privacy in Toronto.

A civil liberties group in Canada is suing three tiers of government over potential privacy issues posed by Sidewalk Labs's plan to develop a 12-acre smart city in Toronto, which will be approved or denied later this summer. The lawsuit aims to nullify the partnership that Sidewalk Labs, Google's sibling company, has with the taxpayer-funded organization Waterfront Toronto. (Waterfront Toronto was created jointly by the federal, provincial, and municipal governments.) The Canadian Civil Liberties Association claims that Waterfront Toronto, let alone Sidewalk Labs, doesn't have the jurisdiction to make rules about people's privacy.

The government "sold out our constitutional rights to freedom from surveillance and sold it to the global surveillance mammoth of behavioral data collection: Google," said Michael Bryant, the executive director and general counsel of the CCLA, in a press conference. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association joined with Toronto resident Lester Brown, who lives next to the Quayside neighborhood that Sidewalk Labs is proposing to develop, in suing the government. "Canada, Toronto, you are the lab rats in Google's Sidewalk Lab," Bryant said. "Our job at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association is to say to all three levels of government that Canadians should not be Google's lab rat. This lab needs to be shut down and reset."


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday April 23, @04:35AM   Printer-friendly
from the optimism dept.

Tesla promises 'one million robo-taxis' in 2020

Submitted via IRC for ErnestGoesToSpace

Tesla Promises Investors 'One Million Robo-Taxis' by 2020

To kick things off, the company shared that it had built its very own computer for self-driving cars. The neural network chip was built from the ground up; the project started back in 2016. Each computer (which is stored behind the glove box) has redundancy so that if one chip fails, the second chip can take over.

This is the company's first time building its own silicon. CEO Elon Musk was quick to boast that Tesla " which has never designed a chip, designed the best chip in the world."

Musk reiterated what he's said before about the hardware available in Teslas. "All Tesla cars right now have everything necessary for self-driving available today. All you need to do is improve the software."

That hardware includes the company's reliance on cameras and radar. When the subject of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) came up, Musk said "LiDAR is a fool's errand. Anyone that's relying on LiDAR is doomed." He later added that "it's fricking stupid. It's expensive and unnecessary."


Tesla Vaunts Creation of 'The Best Chip in the World' for Self-Driving

TechCrunch reports:

At its "Autonomy Day" today, Tesla detailed the new custom chip that will be running the self-driving software in its vehicles. Elon Musk rather peremptorily called it "the best chip in the world... objectively." That might be a stretch, but it certainly should get the job done.

Called for now the "full self-driving computer," or FSD Computer, it is a high-performance, special-purpose chip built (by Samsung, in Texas) solely with autonomy and safety in mind. Whether and how it actually outperforms its competitors is not a simple question and we will have to wait for more data and closer analysis to say more.

Robotaxis also at TechCrunch.

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

posted by mrpg on Tuesday April 23, @02:55AM   Printer-friendly

Submitted via IRC for ErnestGoesToSpace

Obesity can break down our protective blood brain barrier resulting in problems with learning and memory, scientists report.

[...] People who have obesity and diabetes have higher rates of cognitive impairment as they age and most of the related structural changes are in the hippocampus, a center of learning and memory and Stranahan's focus of study. Fat is a source of inflammation and there is evidence that reducing chronic inflammation in the brain helps prevent obesity-related memory loss.

In a model that mimics what happens to some of us, young mice fed a high-fat diet got fat within two weeks, and by 16 weeks they had increases in fasting glucose and insulin concentrations, all signs that diabetes is in their future.

Source: New insight into how obesity, insulin resistance can impair cognition

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Tuesday April 23, @01:20AM   Printer-friendly
from the Food-and-Science dept.

It's actually cured, and it's not better for you. When was the last time you read a story where the villain was celery? Pull up a chair.

The issue is that "uncured" bacon is actually cured. It's cured using exactly the same stuff — nitrite — used in ordinary bacon. It's just that, in the "uncured" meats, the nitrite is derived from celery or beets or some other vegetable or fruit naturally high in nitrate, which is easily converted to nitrite. In ordinary bacon and cured meats, the nitrite is in the form of man-made sodium nitrite. But the nitrite molecule is the same, no matter its source.

Original Submission