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posted by janrinok on Saturday January 21, @07:27PM   Printer-friendly
from the dishing-the-dirt dept.

First precise calculation of the pre-agricultural rate of erosion across the Midwestern U.S., thanks to exploding stars:

In a discovery that has repercussions for everything from domestic agricultural policy to global food security and the plans to mitigate climate change, researchers at the University of Massachusetts recently announced that the rate of soil erosion in the Midwestern US is 10 to 1,000 times greater than pre-agricultural erosion rates. These newly discovered pre-agricultural rates, which reflect the rate at which soils form, are orders of magnitude lower than the upper allowable limit of erosion set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The study, which appears in the journal Geology, makes use of a rare element, beryllium-10, or 10Be, that occurs when stars in the Milky Way explode and send high-energy particles, called cosmic rays, rocketing toward Earth. When this galactic shrapnel slams into the Earth's crust, it splits oxygen in the soil apart, leaving tiny trace amounts of 10Be, which can be used to precisely determine average erosion rates over the span of thousands to millions of years.

[...] The numbers are not encouraging. "Our median pre-agricultural erosion rate across all the sites we sampled is 0.04 mm per year," says Larsen. Any modern-day erosion rate higher than that number means that soil is disappearing faster than it is accumulating.

Unfortunately, the USDA's current limit for erosion is 1 mm per year—twenty-five times greater than the average rate Larsen's team found. And some sites are experiencing far greater erosion, disappearing at 1,000 times the natural rate. This means that the USDA's current guidelines will inevitably lead to rapid loss of topsoil.

[...] Yet, there's no reason to despair. "There are agricultural practices, such as no-till farming, that we know how to do and we know greatly reduce erosion," says Quarrier. "The key is to reduce our current erosion rates to natural levels," adds Larsen.

Journal Reference:
Caroline L. Quarrier, Jeffrey S. Kwang, Brendon J. Quirk, et al.; Pre-agricultural soil erosion rates in the midwestern United States. Geology 2022;; 51 (1): 44–48. doi:

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Saturday January 21, @02:41PM   Printer-friendly

Chinese Companies to Build Commercial Spaceport on the Horn of Africa

The Hong Kong Aerospace Technology Group (HKATG) and a Shanghai-based Touchroad International Holdings Group have entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the government of Djibouti to build a $1 billion commercial spaceport with seven launch pads and three rocket engine test facilities.

Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh met with company officials on Monday to discuss the planned Djiboutian Spaceport, which will be constructed in the northern Obock region near the entrance to the Red Sea. It would be the first orbital spaceport in Africa.

[...] HKATG and the Djiboutian government will manage the spaceport for a period of 30 years. The government will then take control over the facility.

Construction of the spaceport is expected to begin after the parties sign a formal agreement in March. The project is expected to take five years.

The Djiboutian government said the project will require the development of a port facility, a network of highways, and a power grid.

See also: Rocket Report: SpaceX reaches 'ludicrous' cadence; ABL explains RS1 failure

    A Small Secret Airstrip in Africa is the Future of America's Way of War
    China Sends Troops to Djibouti Ahead of Establishment of its First Overseas Military Base
    U.S. Complains That Chinese Military Personnel Are Injuring American Pilots With Lasers in Africa

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posted by janrinok on Saturday January 21, @09:53AM   Printer-friendly

Lisa OS 3.1's 1984 source Pascal code now available under a non-commercial license:

As part of the Apple Lisa's 40th birthday celebrations, the Computer History Museum has released the source code for Lisa OS version 3.1 under an Apple Academic License Agreement. With Apple's blessing, the Pascal source code is available for download from the CHM website after filling out a form.

Lisa Office System 3.1 dates back to April 1984, during the early Mac era, and it was the equivalent of operating systems like macOS and Windows today.

The entire source package is about 26MB and consists of over 1,300 commented source files, divided nicely into subfolders that denote code for the main Lisa OS, various included apps, and the Lisa Toolkit development system.

First released on January 19, 1983, the Apple Lisa remains an influential and important machine in Apple's history, pioneering the mouse-based graphical user interface (GUI) that made its way to the Macintosh a year later. Despite its innovations, the Lisa's high price ($9,995 retail, or about $30,300 today) and lack of application support held it back as a platform. A year after its release, the similarly capable Macintosh undercut it dramatically in price. Apple launched a major revision of the Lisa hardware in 1984, then discontinued the platform in 1985.

The Lisa was not the first commercial computer to ship with a GUI, as some have claimed in the past—that honor goes to the Xerox Star—but Lisa OS defined important conventions that we still use in windowing OSes today, such as drag-and-drop icons, movable windows, the waste basket, the menu bar, pull-down menus, copy and paste shortcuts, control panels, overlapping windows, and even one-touch automatic system shutdown.

With the LisaOS source release, researchers and educators will now be able to study how Apple developers implemented those historically important features four decades ago. Apple's Academic license permits using and compiling the source code for "non-commercial, academic research, educational teaching, and personal study purposes only."

The Computer History Museum had previously teased the release of the code in 2018, but after spending some time in review, they decided to hold back its release until the computer's 40th birthday—the perfect gift to honor this important machine's legacy.

More Info:
Inventing the Lisa user interface [open], Interactions, 1997 (DOI:

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posted by hubie on Saturday January 21, @05:12AM   Printer-friendly
from the soylent-green-meet-the-matrix dept.

Life on earth could not survive without seaweed and algae. Every second oxygen molecule that we inhale originates from them. In the future, they could also become an important food source:

Fraunhofer researchers are working on processes for commercial cultivation, as well as the extraction of many kinds of protein and other nutrients.

Dr. Ulrike Schmid-Staiger is group manager for Algae Biotechnology at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart. For 25 years now, she has been perfecting the cultivation of microalgae in photobioreactors – transparent water tanks that supply the tiny organisms with light, CO2 and nutrients until they grow to form a thick green soup. Dr. Schmid-Staiger currently devotes most of her time to the marine Phaeodactylum tricornutum, which can generate particularly large quantities of omega-3 fatty acids, and to Chlorella vulgaris, which feels most at home in ponds and brackish water and stands out thanks to its high protein content of around 50 percent. When suspended in water, neither alga is detectable to the naked eye.

"Compared to terrestrial plants, our algae contain around ten times the amount of valuable nutritious substances," declares Dr. Schmid-Staiger with pride. Every single cell contains the same rich mix of nutrients. Terrestrial plants, on the other hand, also have roots, stalks and leaves. The substances contained in the cells vary in the different parts of a plant – the protein content of a corn kernel is different to that of its leaves or roots. "I can make use of every part of the algal biomass we grow here. There is hardly any waste material," emphasizes Dr. Schmid-Staiger. And these are not the only advantages microalgae have to offer. For one thing, they grow much more quickly than their botanical, land-based cousins. While 1 hectare of farmland can yield around 30 tons of corn biomass, a photobioreactor with artificial lighting can yield up to 150 tons of algae from the same surface area.

[...] Up to now, microalgae have been sold in tablet form as a food supplement for the most part, while consumers and food industry stakeholders are more familiar with multi-celled marine macroalgae, or seaweed. Most people will have seen this in sushi, where nori, a savory/sweet seaweed, is used to wrap up rice and fish. However, while seaweed has been a dietary staple in the Asiatic world for centuries, Europeans are still dubious about this superfood. It is rarely served in the form of a salad or soup. Yet even consumers that avoid sushi have probably already eaten algae without realizing it, as alginates and carrageen are common food additives. Alginates are often used as a gelatin substitute, while carrageen is added to products such as cream to prevent flocculation and ensure even fat distribution.

Originally spotted on The Eponymous Pickle.

Previously: Microalgae Promise Abundant Healthy Food and Feed in Any Environment

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Saturday January 21, @12:26AM   Printer-friendly
from the you-weren't-supposed-to-take-us-literally dept.

The claim was made in a lawsuit over Walter Huang's fatal Model X crash in 2018:

Tesla's widely viewed 2016 Autopilot demonstration video showing the system stopping for red lights and moving off again when the light changed to green was faked, according to the director of Autopilot software, Ashok Elluswamy. Elluswamy made the statement under oath during a deposition for a lawsuit brought against Tesla following the fatal crash of Apple engineer Walter Huang in 2018.

The video, posted in October 2016 and still available on Tesla's website, begins with the caption: "The person in the driver's seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself." We then see a Tesla Model X leave a garage, and a driver enters the car as The Rolling Stones' "Paint it Black" begins to play.

[...] At the time, Tesla CEO Elon Musk publicized the video via his Twitter account, telling the world that "Tesla drives itself (no human input at all) thru urban streets to highway to streets, then finds a parking spot." Musk went on to add that "8 cameras, 12 ultrasonars and radar all flush mounted and body color. Beauty remains."

[...] But the Model X in the video was preprogrammed to drive from Menlo Park to Palo Alto, according to Elluswamy, who was a senior software engineer in 2019 before being promoted to head all Autopilot software development in 2019.

"The intent of the video was not to accurately portray what was available for customers in 2016. It was to portray what was possible to build into the system," Elluswamy said in his testimony, according to Reuters. 3D maps were used to pre-program the route, including where to stop, and during the self-parking demo a Tesla crashed into a fence, Elluswamy said.

The fatal crash occurred on Highway 101 in Mountain View, California, in March 2018 when Huang's Model X, operating under Autopilot, swerved into a highway crash attenuator at more than 70 mph. Tesla blamed Huang for the crash, claiming he was not paying attention. But according to the National Transportation Safety Board, Huang had repeatedly complained to friends and family about his car's propensity to swerve at that particular crash barrier in the past. The National Transportation Safety Board had harsh words for Tesla, CalTrans, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, all of which shared blame for the death, it said in 2020.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Friday January 20, @09:39PM   Printer-friendly
from the one-person's-insecurity-is-another-person's-opportunity dept.

MSI accidentally disables Secure Boot on hundreds of its motherboards:

One of the latest MSI UEFI updates accidentally disabled Secure Boot technology on hundreds of its motherboards, reports Bleeping Computer. As a consequence, over 290 motherboards for AMD and Intel processors can run insecure operating systems, which can be harmful.

MSI's firmware update version 7C02v3C released on January 18, 2022, comes with Image Execution Policy set to 'Always Execute' by default, which allows the PC to boot an operating system that lacks proper signature by its developer. This means that a computer can boot an OS that may have been tampered with, which is an insecure policy as the operating system may be infected or have malicious intent.

The discovery was recently made by Polish security researcher named Dawid Potocki. The researcher noted that he contacted MSI, but did not receive any response, which essentially means that so far the motherboard maker has not fixed its Secure Boot.

See article for a list of motherboard models.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Friday January 20, @08:33PM   Printer-friendly

Iconic musician David Crosby, RIP:

Iconic musician David Crosby has died at 81. The co-founder of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash also had a long solo career beginning in 1971 with the absolute masterpiece If I Could Only Remember My Name.

"David was fearless in life and in music," posted Graham Nash. "He leaves behind a tremendous void as far as sheer personality and talent in this world. He spoke his mind, his heart, and his passion through his beautiful music and leaves an incredible legacy. These are the things that matter most."

What memories do you have of the man or his music?

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Friday January 20, @06:56PM   Printer-friendly
from the SoylentNews-thought-leader dept.

Generative AI, like OpenAI's ChatGPT, could completely revamp how digital content is developed, said Nina Schick, adviser, speaker, and A.I. thought leader told Yahoo Finance Live:

"I think we might reach 90% of online content generated by AI by 2025, so this technology is exponential," she said. "I believe that the majority of digital content is going to start to be produced by AI. You see ChatGPT... but there are a whole plethora of other platforms and applications that are coming up."

The surge of interest in OpenAI's DALL-E and ChatGPT has facilitated a wide-ranging public discussion about AI and its expanding role in our world, particularly generative AI.

[...] Though it's complicated, the extent to which ChatGPT in its current form is a viable Google competitor, there's little doubt of the possibilities. Meanwhile, Microsoft already has invested $1 billion in OpenAI, and there's talk of further investment from the enterprise tech giant, which owns search engine Bing. The company is reportedly looking to invest another $10 billion in OpenAI.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Friday January 20, @04:09PM   Printer-friendly

UK lawmakers vote to jail tech execs who fail to protect kids online:

The United Kingdom wants to become the safest place for children to grow up online. Many UK lawmakers have argued that the only way to guarantee that future is to criminalize tech leaders whose platforms knowingly fail to protect children. Today, the UK House of Commons reached a deal to appease those lawmakers, Reuters reports, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's government agreeing to modify the Online Safety Bill to ensure its passage. It now appears that tech company executives found to be "deliberately" exposing children to harmful content could soon risk steep fines and jail time of up to two years.

The agreement was reached during the safety bill's remaining stages before a vote in the House of Commons. Next, it will move on to review by the House of Lords, where the BBC reports it will "face a lengthy journey." Sunak says he will revise the bill to include new terms before it reaches the House of Lords, where lawmakers will have additional opportunities to revise the wording.

Reports say that tech executives responsible for platforms hosting user-generated content would only be liable if they fail to take "proportionate measures" to prevent exposing children to harmful content, such as materials featuring child sexual abuse, child abuse, eating disorders, and self-harm. Some measures that tech companies can take to avoid jail time and fines of up to 10 percent of a company's global revenue include adding age verification, providing parental controls, and policing content.

If passed, the Online Safety Bill would make managers liable for holding tech companies to their own community guidelines, including content and age restrictions. If a breach of online safety duties is discovered, UK media regulator Ofcom would be responsible for prosecuting tech leaders who fail to respond to enforcement notices. Anyone found to be acting in good faith to police content and protect kids reportedly won't be prosecuted.

[...] "The onus for keeping young people safe online will sit squarely on the tech companies' shoulders," Donelan wrote. "You or your child will not have to change any settings or apply any filters to shield them from harmful content. Social media companies and their executives in Silicon Valley will have to build these protections into their platforms—and if they fail in their responsibilities, they will face severe legal consequences."

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Friday January 20, @01:23PM   Printer-friendly
from the hot-potato dept.

Though spuds may not have all of the same benefits as other vegies, they can still be part of a healthy diet - so long as they're prepared the right way:

With low or no-carbohydrate diets rising in popularity in recent times, the humble potato is now regularly overlooked in favour of other vegetables.

In fact, research literature has previously indicated potatoes may have a detrimental effect on health, such as possibly increasing the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes.

However, new Edith Cowan University (ECU) research has shown while spuds may not have all the same benefits as some other vegetables — such as lowering risk of Type 2 diabetes — health issues associated with potatoes may actually be due to how people are preparing them and what they're eating them with.

[...] "In previous studies, potatoes have been positively linked to incidence of diabetes, regardless of how they're prepared — but we found that's not true," Mr Pokharel said.

"In Denmark, people consume potatoes prepared in many different ways; in our study, we could distinguish between the different preparation methods.

"When we separated boiled potatoes from mashed potatoes, fries or crisps, boiled potatoes were no longer associated with a higher risk of diabetes: they had a null effect.

[...] Mr Pokharel said findings from the study indicate vegetables could play a key role in reducing Type 2 diabetes, as people who ate a lot of leafy greens and cruciferous vegies such as spinach, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower had a significantly lower risk of developing the condition.

[...] "Regarding potatoes, we can't say they have a benefit in terms of type 2 diabetes, but they also aren't bad if prepared in a healthy way.

"We should separate potatoes and other vegetables in regard to messaging about disease prevention but replacing refined grains such as white rice and pasta with potatoes can improve your diet quality because of fibre and other nutrients found in potatoes."

Journal Reference:
Pratik Pokharel, Cecilie Kyrø, Anja Olsen, et al.; Vegetable, But Not Potato, Intake is Associated With a Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Cohort. Diabetes Care 2022; dc220974.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Friday January 20, @10:37AM   Printer-friendly

NASA Reveals Tantalizing Details About Webb Telescope's Successor:

The Habitable Worlds Observatory now has a name, a rough timeline, and a whole lot of hype.

[...] In the session, Mark Clampin, the Astrophysics Division Director NASA's Science Mission Directorate, offered a few details about the telescope, which could be operational in the early 2040s.

One of the key findings of the most recent decadal survey was the necessity of finding habitable worlds beyond our own, using a telescope tailored specifically for such a purpose. The report suggested an $11 billion observatory—one with a 6-meter telescope that would take in light at optical, ultraviolet, and near-infrared wavelengths. (Hubble Space Telescope sees mostly in optical and ultraviolet light, while the more recently launched Webb Space Telescope images at mid-infrared and near-infrared wavelengths.)

The authors of the decadal survey suggested the Habitable Worlds Observatory as the first in a new Great Observatories program; basically, the linchpin in the next generation of 21st-century space telescopes. As Science reported, the decadal report's suggestion of an exoplanet-focused space telescope falls somewhere between two older NASA proposals, telescope concepts named HabEx and LUVOIR.

[...] Unlike other telescopes—both operational and those still on the drawing board—the planned Habitable Worlds Observatory would look specifically for so-called Goldilocks planets, worlds with conditions that could foster life.

The search for extraterrestrial life is a relentless goal of NASA. The Perseverance rover on Mars is collecting rock samples on Mars to learn, among other things, whether there's any evidence for ancient microbial life in a region of the planet that once was a flowing river delta. (An environment, it's important to note, that scientists believe was similar to that where Earth's first known life materialized.)

[...] Space News reported that NASA will imminently begin seeking out nominations for people to join the Science, Technology, Architecture Review Team (START) for the new observatory. The first phase of the observatory's development is slated for 2029.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Friday January 20, @07:49AM   Printer-friendly

The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to reconsider rules social networks operate under, potentially leading to the most significant reset of the doctrines governing online speech since the 1990s:

For years, giant social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have operated under two crucial tenets.

The first is that the platforms have the power to decide what content to keep online and what to take down, free from government oversight. The second is that the websites cannot be held legally responsible for most of what their users post online, shielding the companies from lawsuits over libelous speech, extremist content and real-world harm linked to their platforms.

[...] On Friday, the Supreme Court is expected to discuss whether to hear two cases that challenge laws in Texas and Florida barring online platforms from taking down certain political content. Next month, the court is scheduled to hear a case that questions Section 230, a 1996 statute that protects the platforms from liability for the content posted by their users.

[...] The cases are part of a growing global battle over how to handle harmful speech online. In recent years, as Facebook and other sites attracted billions of users and became influential communications conduits, the power they wielded came under increasing scrutiny. Questions arose over how the social networks might have unduly affected elections, genocides, wars and political debates.

[...] If the Supreme Court's justices decide to hear the challenges, they could move to take the cases immediately for the court's term ending in June or for its next term, which runs from October until the summer of 2024.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Friday January 20, @05:06AM   Printer-friendly

KIT's Spinoff 'Digital Power Systems' Develops Ultralong-lived Industrial Power Supplies:

Switching power supplies are omnipresent in our daily life, may it be in households, offices, or industry. They convert the alternating current supplied into direct current for smartphones, laptops, charging stations of e-cars, and logistics and computing centers. However, conventional power supplies usually have to be exchanged after nine years of permanent operation. Digital Power Systems (DPS), a spinoff of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), has now developed and tested power supplies with a lifetime of 50 years.

Conventional switching power supplies are light and compact, but highly susceptible to failure due to the electrolyte capacitors they contain. Film capacitors are far more long-lived. So far, however, they have needed up to ten times more space. "We have now developed a digital control process, by means of which film capacitors can be used on smaller space," DPS Director Michael Heidinger says. [...]

[...] The novel digital control process allows for the use of film capacitors with a slightly increased space requirement only. For control purposes, a microprocessor is integrated in the power supply. It detects disturbing ambient impacts and balances large voltage fluctuations of the film capacitor. As a result, storage capacitors of smaller capacity are sufficient. Heidinger explains that powerful microprocessors have made this possible.

I've had to replace a number of electrolytic capacitors in several of my home appliances over the years, so I can appreciate this development, but do you think the concepts "lifetime of 50 years" and "integrated microprocessor" generally compatible?

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Friday January 20, @02:15AM   Printer-friendly
from the there's-yttrium-in-them-thar-hills! dept.

Sweden Finds Largest-Ever Rare Earth Metal Deposit In Europe:

Rare earth elements are vital to a green energy future because you can't build batteries and other EV components without them. That's a problem for Europe, which has no rare earth mining operations. That could be changing, though. Government-run mining firm LKAB has reported the largest rare earth mineral deposit ever discovered in Europe.

In 2022, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen noted that European mining of rare earth metals, as well as lithium, would soon be more important than oil and gas. According to LKAB, the north of Sweden is home to 1 million metric tons of rare earth oxides. These elements, the names of which you probably don't hear often, have a huge number of applications. For example, Yttrium is used in battery cathodes, lasers, and camera lenses. Neodymium is used for magnets, more lasers, and capacitors.

[...] LKAB cautions that it's too early to tell China to take its mountains of rare earth minerals someplace else. The Per Geijer deposit, which sits in and around the town of Kiruna, has only just been identified. It will take several more years of exploration to determine the full extent of the deposit, and then there's the long process of getting mining permits. Some residents of Kiruna have also expressed concern about how mining will affect the region, and that could further slow the process of getting the minerals out of the ground and into the supply chain. LKAB currently expects it will be 10-15 years before any mining operation could be up and running.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Thursday January 19, @11:27PM   Printer-friendly
from the side-effects dept.

A SoylentNews contributor writes:

This trade magazine, is reporting on a new study and modeling effort--

A new study conducted by MIT researchers has found that in the future, the amount of energy required to run computers on board an international fleet of AVs could generate the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as all the world's current data centers. The study explored the potential energy consumption and related carbon emissions if autonomous vehicles were widely adopted.

At present, the data centers that house the physical computing infrastructure used for running applications account for approximately 0.3% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). As there has been little focus on the potential footprint of AVs, MIT researchers developed a statistical model to study the potential issue.

The research team calculated that one billion AVs driving for an hour each day, with each vehicle's computer using 840W, would consume enough energy to generate roughly the same number of emissions as global data centers do currently. Researchers also found that in 90% of modeled scenarios, to keep AV emissions from surpassing present day data center emissions, the vehicle would have to use under 1.2kW of computing power. To achieve this target, more efficient hardware for AVs would be required.

In one test, the team modeled a scenario in 2050 where 95% of the global fleet is made up of AVs. During this scenario, computational workloads doubled every three years and the Earth continued to decarbonize at the current rate. Upon completion of this simulation, researchers found that hardware efficiency would need to double faster than every 1.1 years to keep emissions under those levels.

"If we just keep the business-as-usual trends in decarbonization and the current rate of hardware efficiency improvements, it doesn't seem like it is going to be enough to constrain the emissions from computing on board autonomous vehicles," said first author Soumya Sudhakar, a graduate student in aeronautics and astronautics. "This has the potential to become an enormous problem. But if we get ahead of it, we could design more efficient autonomous vehicles that have a smaller carbon footprint from the start."

The source paper is here (abstract), with the full text linked (may be behind an IEEE paywall?)

[Paper made available by MIT Open Access --hubie]

Original Submission