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Coming into the new year, I expect 2021 to be...

  • categorically better than 2020, as specified below.
  • generally better than 2020.
  • about the same as 2020.
  • generally worse than 2020.
  • categorically worse than 2020, as specified below.
  • I don't use the Gregorian calendar, you insensitive clod!

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:60 | Votes:146

posted by martyb on Wednesday January 13, @10:15PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Trump impeached for 'inciting' US Capitol riots:

The US House of Representatives has impeached President Donald Trump for "incitement of insurrection" at last week's Capitol riot.

Ten Republicans sided with Democrats to impeach the president by 232-197.

He is the first president in US history to be impeached twice, or charged with crimes by Congress.

Mr Trump, a Republican, will now face a trial in the Senate, where if convicted he could face being barred from ever holding office again.

But Mr Trump will not have to quit the White House before his term in office ends in one week because the Senate will not reconvene in time.

Mr Trump will leave office on 20 January, following his election defeat last November to Democrat Joe Biden.

The Democratic-controlled House voted after several hours of impassioned debate on Wednesday as armed National Guard troops stood guard inside and outside the Capitol.

[...] Impeachment charges are political, not criminal.

Also at Newsweek, c|net, Al Jazeera, Washington Post.

[Ed Note - The linked article has been revised since submission. The quoted text has been revised accordingly. - Fnord]

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday January 13, @09:49PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the My-Three-Suns dept.

Rare Planet With Three Suns Has A Super Weird Orbit:

Ciardi, along with his colleagues, have now gazed upon KOI-5Ab with new eyes, namely NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and several ground-based telescopes, including the Keck Observatory in Hawai'i. The team was finally able to confirm KOI-5Ab as a bona fide exoplanet, and in the process uncover some fascinating—if not completely perplexing—aspects about its stellar environment. Ciardi, a research astronomer at Caltech, recently presented his team's findings at a virtual meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Confirmation of KOI-5Ab was done with the tried-and true transit method, in which an orbiting planet passes in front of its star from our perspective, causing a brief dimming. The confirmation was further validated by another technique, the wobble method, in which the slight gravitational tug of an orbiting planet causes a detectable lurch in its host star. TESS was used for the transit method, while Keck was used to detect the wobble. The combined data allowed the researchers to rule out other possibilities, such as a fourth star.

KOI-5Ab is likely a gas giant, similar to Neptune in terms of its size. It resides within a triple-star system, and while its orbit is a bit strange, it's[sic] overall environment is less chaotic than it may sound.

Despite having three stellar companions, KOI-5Ab orbits a single star, KOI-5A, once every five days. This host star is caught in a mutual orbit with a nearby star called KOI-5B, and the two twirl around each other once every 30 years. A more distant star, KOI-5C orbits this pair once every 400 years.

[...] The issue has to do with KOI-5Ab's orbital alignment relative to KOI-5B. The two objects don't share the same orbital plane, which is an unexpected result—one that calls conventional planetary formation theories into question, such as how such objects are believed to form from a single protostellar disk.

Liu Cixin says don't transmit to them!

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday January 13, @07:17PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the A-long-time-ago-in-a-galaxy-far,-far-away... dept.

Quasar Discovery Sets New Distance Record:

The new discovery beats the previous distance record for a quasar set three years ago. Observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile confirmed the distance measurement to high precision.

Quasars occur when the powerful gravity of a supermassive black hole at a galaxy's core draws in surrounding material that forms an orbiting disk of superheated material around the black hole. The process releases tremendous amounts of energy, making the quasar extremely bright, often outshining the rest of the galaxy.

The black hole at the core of J0313–1806 is twice as massive as that of the previous record holder and that fact provides astronomers with a valuable clue about such black holes and their affect on their host galaxies.

"This is the earliest evidence of how a supermassive black hole is affecting the galaxy around it," said Feige Wang, a Hubble Fellow at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory and leader of the research team. "From observations of less distant galaxies, we know that this has to happen, but we have never seen it happening so early in the Universe."

The huge mass of J0313–1806's black hole at such an early time in the Universe's history rules out two theoretical models for how such objects formed, the astronomers said. In the first of these models, individual massive stars explode as supernovae and collapse into black holes that then coalesce into larger black holes. In the second, dense clusters of stars collapse into a massive black hole. In both cases, however, the process takes too long to produce a black hole as massive as the one in J0313-1806 by the age at which we see it.

"This tells you that no matter what you do, the seed of this black hole must have formed by a different mechanism," said Xiaohui Fan, also of the University of Arizona. "In this case, it's a mechanism that involves vast quantities of primordial, cold hydrogen gas directly collapsing into a seed black hole."

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday January 13, @04:44PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the repurpose-reuse-recycle dept.

Catalyst transforms plastic waste to valuable ingredients at low temperature:

For the first time, researchers have used a novel catalyst process to recycle a type of plastic found in everything from grocery bags and food packaging to toys and electronics into liquid fuels and wax.

[...] [The researchers] combined ruthenium, a metal in the platinum family, with cerium dioxide, used to polish glass among other applications, to produce a catalyst that caused the plastics to react at 473 degrees Kelvin. While still high for human sensibilities, it requires significantly less energy input compared to other catalyst systems.

New Atlas adds:

The researchers say they were able to convert about 92 percent of the waste plastic into useful materials. As much as 77 percent of it became a liquid fuel, while 15 percent yielded wax, which should help make plastic recycling a more viable prospect.

This is far from the only plastic recycling method on the horizon. Just a few weeks ago a team from UC Berkeley reported a new process to turn polyethylene into a clingy new adhesive, while others are designing new plastics from the ground up to be easily recyclable.


New Catalytic Process Turns Plastic Bags Into Adhesives

Journal Reference:
Yosuke Nakaji, Masazumi Tamura, Shuhei Miyaoka,et al. Low-temperature catalytic upgrading of waste polyolefinic plastics into liquid fuels and waxes, Applied Catalysis B: Environmental (DOI: 10.1016/j.apcatb.2020.119805)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday January 13, @02:13PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the reach-out-and-touch^W-kill-someone dept.

An iPhone 12 can shut down a pacemaker just by being near it:

According to a new study published last week in the journal Heart Rhythm, placing an iPhone 12 over a pacemaker can shut the lifesaving unit down.

That's in large part due to the magnetic field put out by the Apple device's MagSafe charging technology, a magnetic array on the back of the device designed to make wireless charging easier.

The researchers from the Henry Ford Heart and Vascular Institute found, chillingly, that the circular array of rare earth magnets around a central charging coil were able to completely suspend the operations of a Medtronic pacemaker.

"Once the iPhone was brought close to the ICD[*] over the left chest area, immediate suspension of ICD therapies was noted which persisted for the duration of the test," the paper reads. "This was reproduced multiple times with different positions of the phone over the pocket."

[*] ICD: Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday January 13, @11:39AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the adventure-time dept.

Bethesda, Lucasfilm tease new Indiana Jones video game:

Bethesda will be publishing a new Indiana Jones game "with an original story" in collaboration with Wolfenstein: The New Order developers Machine Games, the publisher announced today via Twitter. Todd Howard, best known for his directing work on Skyrim and Fallout 4, will serve as executive producer for the title.

Bethesda said it will be "some time" before more details are available. For the time being, the company shared a 30-second teaser video featuring the opening notes of John Williams' Raiders March and a ticking clock over a pan across a cluttered desk. The teaser culminates with an unseen hand picking up Indy's trademark hat to reveal a coiled whip.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday January 13, @09:12AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the compulsory dept.

Russia may fine citizens who use SpaceX's Starlink Internet service:

Russia's legislative body, the State Duma, is considering fines for individuals and companies in the country that use Western-based satellite Internet services. The proposed law seeks to prevent accessing the Internet by means of SpaceX's Starlink service, OneWeb, or other non-Russian satellite constellations under development.

According to a recent report in the Russian edition of Popular Mechanics, the recommended fines range from 10,000 to 30,000 rubles ($135-$405) for ordinary users, and from 500,000 to 1 million rubles ($6,750 to $13,500) for legal entities who use the Western satellite services.

Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Wednesday January 13, @06:36AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the build-it-and-you-will-get-internet dept.

Jared Mauch didn’t have good broadband—so he built his own fiber ISP:

The old saying "if you want something done right, do it yourself" usually isn't helpful when your problem is not having good Internet service. But for one man in rural Michigan named Jared Mauch, who happens to be a network architect, the solution to not having good broadband at home was in fact building his own fiber-Internet service provider.

"I had to start a telephone company to get [high-speed] Internet access at my house," Mauch explained in a recent presentation about his new ISP that serves his own home in Scio Township, which is next to Ann Arbor, as well as a few dozen other homes in Washtenaw County.

Mauch, a senior network architect at Akamai in his day job, moved into his house in 2002. At that point, he got a T1 line when 1.5Mbps was "a really great Internet connection," he said. As broadband technology advanced, Mauch expected that an ISP would eventually wire up his house with cable or fiber. It never happened.

He eventually switched to a wireless Internet service provider that delivered about 50Mbps. Mauch at one point contacted Comcast, which told him it would charge $50,000 to extend its cable network to his house. "If they had priced it at $10,000, I would have written them a check," Mauch told Ars. "It was so high at $50,000 that it made me consider if this is worthwhile. Why would I pay them to expand their network if I get nothing back out of it?"

Not the first to have need to do it themselves, but an interesting story.

Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Wednesday January 13, @04:04AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the stretchy-printable-traces dept.
Liquid metal ink liberates form:

Today’s electronic devices strive for new form factors – to make them foldable, stretchable, and deformable. To produce such devices that are highly stretchable or deformable, it is necessary to develop electrodes and circuit lines whose electrical properties can withstand harsh deformation or mechanical damage. To this, POSTECH-Yonsei University joint research team has recently developed liquid metal ink to accelerate printed electronic devices that can be changed into any shape.

Professor Unyong Jeong and Dr. Selvaraj Veerapandian of POSTECH’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, with Professor Aloysius Soon and Dr. Woosun Jang of Yonsei University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, have developed liquid metal microparticles with high conductivity and viscoplasticity. These research findings were published in the authoritative international journal Nature Materials on January 4, 2021.

[...] “The ultimate goal of this research is to develop stretchable and foldable 3D electronic devices that retain their electronic property even in harsh conditions or mechanical damage,” added Professor Unyong Jeong.

Journal Reference:
Selvaraj Veerapandian, Woosun Jang, Jae Bok Seol, et al. Hydrogen-doped viscoplastic liquid metal microparticles for stretchable printed metal lines, Nature Materials (DOI: 10.1038/s41563-020-00863-7)

Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Wednesday January 13, @01:33AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the don't-smoke-'em-if-you-got-'em dept.

Groundbreaking research could provide key to kicking smoking habit for good:

"People try to go cold turkey all the time. The problem is that there are withdrawal symptoms," says Dr. Ricky Stull, assistant professor of chemistry at Western Michigan University, whose breakthrough research lays the groundwork for a potential solution. His work advances a strategy of using enzymes to degrade nicotine in the body, flushing it from the system without any adverse effects.

[...] "My research was showing oxygen wasn't the acceptor for the [NicA2] enzyme. Instead we found a cytochrome protein, which is part of the electron transport chain and is normally used to produce energy within the cells, is the natural electron acceptor," says Clark, who is pursuing bachelor's degrees in chemical engineering and biochemistry. "I found if you use the cytochrome c as the electron acceptor, you need far less NicA2 to get the beneficial loss of nicotine addiction."

The result could be monumental for the millions of tobacco users who know the habit is bad for their health but are struggling to quit.

"I think the application where this would most be useful would be in an individual who is attempting to quit smoking and is at high risk of relapse," Stull says, giving an example of someone trying to quit smoking who slips during a social event with friends. Generally, introducing nicotine back into their body would trigger the addiction in their brain. "If they're being treated with this enzyme during a re-exposure event, the nicotine would not actually reach their brain, which would prevent them from becoming addicted once again."

Journal Reference:
Mark Dulchavsky, Christopher T. Clark, James C. A. Bardwell, et al. A cytochrome c is the natural electron acceptor for nicotine oxidoreductase, Nature Chemical Biology (DOI: 10.1038/s41589-020-00712-3)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday January 12, @10:59PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the censoring-the-censorship-to-stop-censorship dept.

Small Idaho ISP 'Punishes' Twitter And Facebook's 'Censorship'...By Blocking Access To Them Entirely

A small Idaho ISP by the name of Your T1 WIFI has decided to punish Twitter and Facebook for perceived "censorship" censoring them. In an email to subscribers posted to Twitter, the company claims it will be blocking customer access to both websites by default moving forward. To access the websites, users apparently will need to contact the company to be added to a whitelist

A North Idaho internet provider sent this email out to costumers[sic], absolutely INSANE

        — Coping MAGA (@CopingMAGA) January 11, 2021

While the company doesn't specify what "censorship" its customers are complaining about, the complaints were likely driven by Twitter's decision to ban Trump after he violated the company's terms of services[sic] by inciting a fatal insurrection. Or perhaps they're complaining about the steady purging of QAnon conspiracy theorists for espousing bogus claims of election fraud. Either way, the ISP claims to ingeniously be combating what they claim is embracing the exact same thing:

"Our company does not believe a website or social networking site has the authority to censor what you see and post and hide information from you, stop you from seeing what your friends and family are posting," the email states. "This is why with the amount of concerns, we have made this decision to block these two websites from being accessed from our network."

I'm sure the irony is totally lost on them.

I reached out to contact Your T1 WIFI, but their 1-888 number resolved to a woman's voicemail box that didn't even mention the name of the company. However, company owner Brett Fink spoke to a local CBS affiliate and contradicted his own company's email by claiming they weren't blocking anybody:

"In a phone call with KREM, the owner of the company, Brett Fink, again said the websites would only be blocked for customers who asked.

        "We've had customers asked to be blocked by it. That is what the email was about, so no we are not blocking anybody, only the ones that have asked for it," Fink said."

I wonder if Starlink works in Idaho?

Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Tuesday January 12, @08:29PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

c|net: CES 2021: Autonomous racing is coming to Indianapolis with the Indy Autonomous Challenge:

We've seen a couple of attempts at getting an autonomous racing series off the ground in recent years from the likes of Roborace and others, but none have really found much traction. A new series called the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) hopes to change that.

The series was announced on Monday during the 2021 CES show and features racecar chassis designed by the experts at Dallara -- you may know it as the firm that does all the chassis for the Indy Car series others. Interestingly, this is being run as a spec race, where the cars are all identical mechanically and it's each team's software that gives it a competitive edge.

Spectrum News 1 adds:

[T]he Indy Autonomous Challenge will pit 30 university teams against one another to remotely race full-size, and fully-powered, Indy cars for 20 laps. The first team to reach the finish line goes home with $1 million.

"If we can go 240 miles per hour without colliding, surely we can make highway traffic safer," said Mark Miles, president and chief executive of Penske Entertainment Corp., which owns the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — where the Indy Autonomous Challenge will take place.

[...] October's race was inspired by the DARPA autonomous challenge of 2005, which saw 196 teams competing to drive a car 140 miles without a person inside. Just five teams completed the race within the allotted time.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday January 12, @06:07PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the not-sorry-to-see-you-go dept.

That's it. It's over. It's really over. From today, Adobe Flash Player no longer works. We're free. We can just leave:

The Photoshop giant promised Flash would die on January 12, 2021. Thanks to the International Date Line, The Register's Asia-Pacific bureau, like other parts of the world, are already living in a sweet, sweet post-Flash future, and can report that if you try to access content in Adobe's Flash Player in this cyber-utopia, you'll see the following:

[...] Adobe's page also explains why you'll see the Flash Death Notice depicted above, rather than Flash content:

Since Adobe is no longer supporting Flash Player after the EOL Date, Adobe will block Flash content from running in Flash Player beginning January 12, 2021 to help secure users' systems. Flash Player may remain on the user's system unless the user uninstalls it.

More specifically, what's happened is that Adobe snuck a logic bomb into its Flash software some releases ago that activates on January 12, and causes the code to refuse to render any more content from that date. Adobe has also removed previous versions from its site, and "strongly recommends all users immediately uninstall Flash Player to help protect their systems."

[...] Thus ends Flash, which started life in 1993 as a vector drawing product named SmartSketch, from long-dead company FutureWave Software. FutureWave turned SmartSketch into an animation tool called FutureSplash Animator. FutureWave was acquired by Macromedia in 1996, occasioning a name change to Macromedia Flash 1.0.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday January 12, @03:39PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Crowdsourced-Government dept.

Taiwan has found a way to use a carefully designed social network constructively.
As stated in the Tyee,

Taiwan Is Crowdsourcing an Everybody-Wins Democracy

They had to do something. In 2014,

Opponents to the bill felt not just defeated, but invisible. The government had promised to listen to their concerns, but simply hadn't done so, rushing the bill onto the parliament floor. They had the votes; they could get it through. So that evening, protesters scaled the fence, kicked the door open and streamed onto the floor of Taiwan's parliament, the Legislative Yuan.

Sound familiar from recent history?

Well, the government found a way to listen.

They set up vTaiwan, a social network where prominence is given to posts that further concord instead of discord. And they're using it to craft proposals for legislation. Anyone can contribute.

The article doesn't state how the social network determines which posts promote consensus. I'd like to know.

Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Tuesday January 12, @01:14PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

NASA selects potential small-scale astrophysics missions, Hubble measures exoplanet's odd orbit

NASA has selected four small astrophysics mission concepts for further study as part of the experimental Pioneers program, which seeks SmallSat or balloon missions with $20 million cost caps that will give early-to-mid-career scientists an opportunity to lead their own mission.

[...] The four proposed missions are Aspera, Pandora, and Starburst (all SmallSat missions), and PEUO, a balloon mission into Earth's upper atmosphere.

Aspera would study galactic evolution via ultraviolet observations to examine not the galaxies themselves, but the hot gases in the space between them (the intergalactic medium) and how those gases flow inward and outward from various galaxies.

Pandora, the exoplanet mission, would study a total of 20 stars and their accompanying 39 exoplanets in both the visible and infrared spectrums and would seek to better understand how starlight affects the measurement of exoplanet atmospheres, an outstanding issue in determining the potential habitability of worlds beyond our Sun's influence.

Starburst, on the other hand, would seek to study high-energy gamma rays created by the mergers of neutron stars, which has only ever been observed once before and from which heavier elements, like platinum and gold, are formed.

The one non-satellite mission is PUEO, a balloon flight that would lift off from Antarctica to detect signals from ultra high-energy neutrinos — particles that contain valuable information about the processes governing the creation of black holes and neutron star mergers.

Original Submission