2021-01-01 06:28:29 ..
2021-04-07 19:43:02 UTC
2021-04-08 12:51:39 UTC --martyb
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Google and the European Union have been fighting for several years over Android's default search engine. Just like when the EU took issue with Microsoft bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, the EU Antitrust enforcers don't want Google using its Android operating system monopoly to prop up Google Search and Google Chrome. The solution the EU came to—just like it did with Windows—is a "ballot" system that pops up during setup and asks users to pick a starting browser and search engine from a list. The only problem? Google was charging companies to appear in this list. It was basically an ad vector. In a blog post this week, Google says it will stop doing that.
A new Nevada law will outlaw about 40% of the grass in the Las Vegas area in an effort to conserve water amid a drought that is drying up the region's primary water source: the Colorado River.
Other cities and states around the US have enacted temporary bans on lawns that must be watered, but legislation signed Friday by the state's governor, Steve Sisolak, makes Nevada the first in the nation to enact a permanent ban on certain categories of grass. Sisolak said last week that anyone flying into Las Vegas viewing the "bathtub rings" that delineate how high Lake Mead's water levels used to be can see that conservation is needed.
"It's incumbent upon us for the next generation to be more conscious of conservation and our natural resources, water being particularly important," he said.
The ban targets what the Southern Nevada Water Authority calls "non-functional turf". It applies to grass that virtually no one uses at office parks, street medians and the entrances to housing developments. It excludes single-family homes, parks and golf courses.
The measure will require the replacement of about 8 sq miles (21 sq km) of grass in the metro Las Vegas area. By ripping it out, water officials estimate the region can reduce annual water consumption by 15% and save about 14 gallons (53 liters) per person a day in a region with a population of about 2.3 million.
If you want grass, go live where grass grows naturally.
The rocket that will send three crew members to start living on China's new orbiting space station has been moved onto the launch pad ahead of its planned blastoff next week. The three astronauts plan to spend three months on the space station doing spacewalks, construction and maintenance work and science experiments.
The main section of the Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, station was launched into orbit on April 29, and a cargo spacecraft sent up last month carried fuel, food and equipment to the station in preparation for the crewed mission.
The Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying the Shenzhou-12 spaceship was transferred to the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Wednesday, the China Manned Space Engineering Office said in a brief statement.
The space agency plans a total of 11 launches through the end of next year to deliver two laboratory modules to expand the 70-ton station, along with supplies and crew members. Next week's launch will be the third of those, and the first of the four crewed missions planned.
[...] China said in March the astronauts training for the upcoming crewed missions were a mix of space travel veterans and newcomers and included some women. The first station crew will be all male, though women will be part of future crews, according to Yang Liwei, who orbited Earth in China's first crewed mission in 2003 and is now an official at the space agency.
To catch sight of a fast radio burst is to be extremely lucky in where and when you point your radio dish. Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are oddly bright flashes of light, registering in the radio band of the electromagnetic spectrum, that blaze for a few milliseconds before vanishing without a trace.
These brief and mysterious beacons have been spotted in various and distant parts of the universe, as well as in our own galaxy. Their origins are unknown, and their appearance is unpredictable. Since the first was discovered in 2007, radio astronomers have only caught sight of around 140 bursts in their scopes.
Now, a large stationary radio telescope in British Columbia has nearly quadrupled the number of fast radio bursts discovered to date. The telescope, known as CHIME, for the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, has detected 535 new fast radio bursts during its first year of operation, between 2018 and 2019.
Scientists with the CHIME Collaboration, including researchers at MIT, have assembled the new signals in the telescope's first FRB catalog, which they will present this week at the American Astronomical Society Meeting.
The new catalog significantly expands the current library of known FRBs, and is already yielding clues as to their properties. For instance, the newly discovered bursts appear to fall in two distinct classes: those that repeat, and those that don't. Scientists identified 18 FRB sources that burst repeatedly, while the rest appear to be one-offs. The repeaters also look different, with each burst lasting slightly longer and emitting more focused radio frequencies than bursts from single, nonrepeating FRBs.
These observations strongly suggest that repeaters and one-offs arise from separate mechanisms and astrophysical sources. With more observations, astronomers hope soon to pin down the extreme origins of these curiously bright signals.
"Before CHIME, there were less than 100 total discovered FRBs; now, after one year of observation, we've discovered hundreds more," says CHIME member Kaitlyn Shin, a graduate student in MIT's Department of Physics. "With all these sources, we can really start getting a picture of what FRBs look like as a whole, what astrophysics might be driving these events, and how they can be used to study the universe going forward."
If life ever returns to normal, one thing no one will miss from the lockdown era is the 'TV goldfish'. For over a year, we've watched the disembodied, pixelated faces of contributors to live TV mouth their words out of sync with their audio, gulping away as if in a private fish tank. This isn't the exception for internet video, it's the norm.
John Day is one of the internet's greybeard founding fathers. For a decade he has been advancing a set of improvements to the current mainstream internet protocols. His proposals – called RINA (Recursive Internetwork Architecture) – revisit and build on Louis Pouzin's founding concept of datagrams (data packets). Simplifying these features allowed the original inter-networking protocols (IP) to get out of the door in the 1980s and 1990s, and allowed for the rapid growth of the internet. But the current system we have – TCP/IP – is holding back new innovation.
"I've long been concerned that if kids grow up too fast, their brains will mature too fast and will lose plasticity at an earlier age. Then they'll go into school and have trouble learning at the same rate as their peers," says Mackey, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Penn. "Of course, not every kid who experiences stress or [is] low income will show this pattern of accelerated development."
What would help, she thought, was a scalable, objective way -- a physical manifestation, of sorts -- to indicate how children embodied and responded to stresses in their world. Eruption timing of the first permanent molars proved to be just that.
In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Mackey, with doctoral student Cassidy McDermott and colleagues from Penn's School of Dental Medicine and the University of Missouri-Kansas City, shows that children from lower-income backgrounds and those who go through greater adverse childhood experiences get their first permanent molars earlier. The findings, generated initially from a small study and replicated using a nationally representative dataset, align with a broader pattern of accelerated development often seen under conditions of early-life stress.
Cassidy L. McDermott, Katherine Hilton, Anne T. Park, et al. Early life stress is associated with earlier emergence of permanent molars [open], Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2105304118)
On Wednesday, El Salvador’s president signed into law a proposal to adopt bitcoin as legal tender, making the Central American nation the first in the world to officially use the cryptocurrency.
The new law says that companies must accept bitcoin as a form of payment, and the government will allow people to pay taxes with it as well. The exchange rate with the dollar will be set by the market, and exchanges from dollars to bitcoin won’t be subject to capital gains tax. The law was passed by a supermajority vote of the legislature, with 62 of 84 deputies assenting.
A new study details the remarkable journey of a bdelloid rotifer, a miniscule freshwater critter that survived for millennia in the permafrost of Siberia.
"Our report is the hardest proof as of today that multicellular animals could withstand tens of thousands of years in cryptobiosis, the state of almost completely arrested metabolism," Stas Malavin, of the Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science in Russia, said in a Cell Press statement.
[...] Rotifers are also known as "wheel animalcules," thanks to the Latin root of their name which relates to a rotating "wheel" of tiny hairs at one end of their body. The "animalcule" part refers to them being microscopic animals.
[...] The rotifer came from a depth of about 11 feet (3.5 meters). [...] Once thawed, it was able to reproduce by way of essentially cloning itself.
[...] The researchers froze and thawed rotifers in lab experiments. The results suggest the wheel animalcules have an as-yet-unknown mechanism for surviving a slow freezing process. The team intends to keep looking for more animals that may be able to survive in similar circumstances. If scientists can understand how the animals protect and preserve themselves, they may be able to improve cryonics for more complex animals, like humans.
Lyubov Shmakova, Stas Malavin. A living bdelloid rotifer from 24,000-year-old Arctic permafrost, Current Biology (DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.04.077)
Vivaldi has always been one of the more interesting of the Chromium-based browsers, in no small part thanks to its emphasis on building tools for power users in a privacy-centric package, but also because of its pedigree, with Opera's outspoken former CEO Jon von Tetzchner as its co-founder and CEO. Today, the Vivaldi team is launching version 4.0 of its browser and with that, it's introducing a slew of new features that, among many other things, include the beta of new built-in mail, calendar and RSS clients, as well as the launch of Vivaldi Translate, a privacy-friendly translation service hosted on the company's own servers and powered by Lingvanex.
Vivaldi isn't new to email clients. The company has long offered a webmail service, for example. But building an offline email client into the browser — as well as a calendar client — almost feels like a return to the early days of browsers, like Netscape Navigator and Opera, when having these additional built-in features was almost standard. Von Tetzchner argues that for a lot of browser vendors, doing away with those features was about steering users into certain directions (including their own webmail clients).
"We've chosen to say, 'okay, we don't want to have the business model decide what we do. We rather focus on what the users want.' And I think there's a significant value [in a built-in email client]. Most all of us use email — at varying levels, some of use it a lot, some less, but everyone basically has at least one email account," he said. "So having a good client for that, that's kind of where we're coming from. And, I mean, we obviously did a lot of those things at Opera — some of them we didn't — and we are filling a gap with what Opera used to be doing. And now at Vivaldi, we are doing those things, but also a lot more. We never did a calendar at Opera."
(...) As of now Vivaldi isn't profitable. It generates some revenue from preinstalled bookmarks and search engine partnerships. But von Tetzchner argues that Vivaldi just needs to increase its user base a bit more to become a sustainable company. He seems comfortable with that idea — and the fact that its per-user revenue is relatively low. "We've done this before and we've seen this work. It takes time to build a company like ours," he said. "I hope people are liking what we're building — that's kind of the feel I get — people are really liking what we're building. And then kind of gradually, we'll get enough users to pay the bills and then we take it from there."
[Ed note: if anyone happens upon a better link about the eclipse — where and when it is visible — please post it to the comments!
On June 10, skywatchers all over the world will be able to view the eclipse.
[...] A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly between the Earth and the sun, completely blocking the sun's light. During an annular solar eclipse, the moon does not completely cover the sun as it passes, leaving a glowing ring of sunlight visible.
An annular eclipse can only occur under specific conditions, NASA says. The moon must be in its first lunar phase, and it must also be farther away from Earth in its elliptical orbit, appearing smaller in the sky than it usually would.
Because the moon appears smaller under these circumstances, it cannot fully block out the sun, forming what's called a "ring of fire" or "ring of light."
"As the pair rises higher in the sky, the silhouette of the Moon will gradually shift off the sun to the lower left, allowing more of the Sun to show until the eclipse ends," NASA said.
This is just one of two solar eclipses in 2021. A total solar eclipse will be visible on December 4.
Relativity Space, leveraging their 3D printing technology, has announced the next step towards supporting multiplanetary spaceflight: a fully reusable, medium lift launch vehicle named Terran R.
The company's second launch vehicle, succeeding the Terran 1 rocket to debut later this year, will have more payload capacity than the partially reusable SpaceX Falcon 9, and is only the second fully reusable commercial launch vehicle to be revealed publicly after SpaceX's Starship.
The two stage Terran R rocket will be 216 feet (65.8 meters) tall and 16 feet (4.9 meters) in diameter. The second stage features aerodynamic surfaces which will enable recovery and reuse, in addition to a reusable 5 meter diameter payload fairing. Terran R will be capable of delivering over 20,000 kilograms to Low Earth Orbit in its reusable configuration, beating Falcon 9's 15,600 kilograms with drone ship recovery.
Just like Terran 1, Relativity's small lift vehicle offering 1,250 kilograms to Low Earth Orbit, the components for Terran R will be 3D printed. Relativity Space aims to reduce cost and improve reliability by designing 3D printed vehicles with a low part count.
Previously: Relativity Space Leases Land at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi
Aerospace Startup Making 3D-Printed Rockets Now Has a Launch Site at America's Busiest Spaceport
Relativity Space Selected to Launch Satellites for Telesat
The FDA has approved a new drug for Alzheimer's disease, while not a cure it is supposed to slow the decline. Even though data is not entirely positive or straight forward in its interpretation or that it will actually even work as thought.
But if you have it then you are probably desperate enough to try almost anything that claims to work, until you get to the price tag of $56,000 per year. That will probably make it out of reach for most people, it's doubtful if any insurance will cover something like this. Perhaps you can just forget to pay the bill, they might understand due to your condition.
Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos [...][said] he thought the drug's price was "fair" but also vowed that the company would not hike its price for four years.
In Surprise Turnaround, Biogen to Submit Previously Failed Alzheimer Drug for Approval
Disputed Alzheimer's Study Links Decrease in Amyloid Levels to Reduction in Cognitive Decline
Positive Result in Mice as Alzheimer's Drug Trials Fail and Regulatory Barriers Are Rolled Back
Crypto investors are waking to sea of red this morning as the entire market took an absolute hammering overnight for the second time in just a few weeks.
The price of bitcoin fell sharply on overnight, approaching a dreaded $US30,000 ($A38,800) threshold it has not crossed since January and dragging other cryptocurrencies in its wake.
At around 2am, bitcoin fell 8.6 per cent to a value of $US31,501 ($A40,715), a level not seen since mid-May, when the volatile cryptocurrency temporarily lost 30 per cent in one session.
The second-largest cryptocurrency, ethereum, lost 11.2 per cent of its value, falling to $US2361 ($A3051).
Bitcoin's value has recovered slightly since the drop, rising to $US33,738 ($A43,606) at around 7am today – but, across the board, almost all of the smaller cryptos have been battered overnight.
[...] No concrete reason appeared to explain the price drop on Tuesday, but some analysts pointed to the seizure of $2.3 million ($A3 million) worth of bitcoin belonging to the Darkside hackers by US authorities as a possible factor.
[...] The US managed to recover almost all the bitcoin ransom paid to the perpetrators of the cyber attack on the Colonial Pipeline last month.
[...] It is being seen as a sign that law enforcement is capable of pursuing online criminals even when they operate outside the nation's borders – and, crucially, that crypto isn't beyond government control.
The Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, formerly known as the Endless Frontier Act, Tuesday. The bill approves hundreds of billions of dollars in spending for science and technology at a range of government agencies, as well as $52 billion for chip manufacturing. The heavily debated and amended bill now heads to the House, where it faces an uphill battle against key Democrats who have, up to this point, vocally opposed it.
[...] Senators attached a slew of new provisions to benefit certain sectors of the tech industry, including appropriating $52 billion to boost chip manufacturing in the U.S. Another amendment would add $10 billion for NASA's lunar landing program, a provision Sen. Bernie Sanders called "welfare to Mr. [Jeff] Bezos," who owns the space company Blue Origin.
The semiconductor industry applauded the bill upon its passage. "Senate passage of USICA is a pivotal step toward strengthening U.S. semiconductor production and innovation and an indication of the strong, bipartisan support in Washington for ensuring sustained American leadership in science and technology," John Neuffer, CEO of the Semiconductor Industry Association, said in a statement.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar also managed to squeeze in an antitrust provision that would increase filing fees for large mergers.
The final bill includes a litany of oddball items vaguely linked to China — from a prohibition on the sale of shark fins to an exemption on country of origin labeling for cooked king crab. By the time it passed, the bill stretched more than 2,000 pages long.
The mad rush to stuff the bill full of tangential amendments was as good a sign as any early on that the law could actually pass the Senate. But it faces a bigger challenge in the House, where Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, could block its advancement. Johnson has written publicly about her opposition to the Endless Frontier Act, arguing that it creates a "'shiny new object' that gets the attention of policymakers to the detriment of NSF's fundamental research mission."
The first two images from NASA Juno's June 7, 2021, flyby of Jupiter's giant moon Ganymede have been received on Earth. The photos – one from the Jupiter orbiter's JunoCam imager and the other from its Stellar Reference Unit star camera – show the surface in remarkable detail, including craters, clearly distinct dark and bright terrain, and long structural features possibly linked to tectonic faults.
"This is the closest any spacecraft has come to this mammoth moon in a generation," said Juno Principal Investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "We are going to take our time before we draw any scientific conclusions, but until then we can simply marvel at this celestial wonder."
[...] "The conditions in which we collected the dark side image of Ganymede were ideal for a low-light camera like our Stellar Reference Unit," said Heidi Becker, Juno's radiation monitoring lead at JPL. "So this is a different part of the surface than seen by JunoCam in direct sunlight. It will be fun to see what the two teams can piece together."
The spacecraft will send more images from its Ganymede flyby in the coming days, with JunoCam's raw images being made available here.
Also at NYT.