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The Best Star Trek

  • The Original Series (TOS) or The Animated Series (TAS)
  • The Next Generation (TNG) or Deep Space 9 (DS9)
  • Voyager (VOY) or Enterprise (ENT)
  • Discovery (DSC) or Picard (PIC)
  • Lower Decks or Prodigy
  • Strange New Worlds
  • Orville
  • Other (please specify in comments)

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:41 | Votes:64

posted by janrinok on Friday March 01, @07:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the for-MBAs-sometimes-you-need-to-document-the-obvious dept.

Customers prefer text over video to provide service feedback:

At a time when one viral video can damage a business, some companies are turning to their own commenting platforms rather than letting social media be the main outlet for customer feedback. Only one wrinkle: in this context, customers appear to prefer writing a message rather than leaving a video.

In a recent study, more participants indicated they would likely leave written compliments or complaints about service on a restaurant-provided tablet powered by artificial intelligence. A video message option appeared to discourage leaving feedback.

With more restaurants and hotels turning to AI to enhance their service, the findings indicate that methods that require "low self-disclosure" would work better, meaning ones that don't require customers to provide very much identifiable information.

"Some restaurants and hotels actually ask customers to create video testimonials that they can share, but for general customers, it seems they still feel more comfortable with low self-disclosure. This is probably because people still do not trust AI to that level," said lead author Ruiying Cai, a researcher in Washington State University's Carson College of Business.

With a lot of hype around AI technology, many people have misperceptions about what it can do, Cai pointed out, perhaps believing it is capable of a lot more than simply recording a message.

The study participants reported being concerned about what would be done with their information in all the scenarios, but this was heightened with the option to leave a video.

[...] The researchers found that the participants were more willing to give feedback using text, whether positive or negative.

Journal Reference:
Ruiying Cai, Yao-Chin Wang, Jie Sun. Customers' intention to compliment and complain via AI-enabled platforms: A self-disclosure perspective, International Journal of Hospitality Management, Volume 116, January 2024, 103628 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhm.2023.103628


Original Submission

posted by hubie on Friday March 01, @02:50PM   Printer-friendly

https://phys.org/news/2024-02-pythagoras-wrong-universal-musical-harmonies.html

The tone and tuning of musical instruments has the power to manipulate our appreciation of harmony, new research shows. The findings challenge centuries of Western music theory and encourage greater experimentation with instruments from different cultures.

According to the Ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras, 'consonance'—a pleasant-sounding combination of notes—is produced by special relationships between simple numbers such as 3 and 4. More recently, scholars have tried to find psychological explanations, but these 'integer ratios' are still credited with making a chord sound beautiful, and deviation from them is thought to make music 'dissonant,' unpleasant sounding.

But researchers from the University of Cambridge, Princeton and the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, have now discovered two key ways in which Pythagoras was wrong.

Their study, published in Nature Communications, shows that in normal listening contexts, we do not actually prefer chords to be perfectly in these mathematical ratios.

"We prefer slight amounts of deviation. We like a little imperfection because this gives life to the sounds, and that is attractive to us," said co-author, Dr. Peter Harrison, from Cambridge's Faculty of Music and Director of its Center for Music and Science.

The researchers also found that the role played by these mathematical relationships disappears when you consider certain musical instruments that are less familiar to Western musicians, audiences and scholars. These instruments tend to be bells, gongs, types of xylophones and other kinds of pitched percussion instruments. In particular, they studied the 'bonang,' an instrument from the Javanese gamelan built from a collection of small gongs.

"When we use instruments like the bonang, Pythagoras's special numbers go out the window and we encounter entirely new patterns of consonance and dissonance," Dr. Harrison said.

[...] "Quite a lot of pop music now tries to marry Western harmony with local melodies from the Middle East, India, and other parts of the world. That can be more or less successful, but one problem is that notes can sound dissonant if you play them with Western instruments."

"Musicians and producers might be able to make that marriage work better if they took account of our findings and considered changing the 'timbre,' the tone quality, by using specially chosen real or synthesized instruments. Then they really might get the best of both worlds: harmony and local scale systems."

Journal Reference:
Raja Marjieh et al, Timbral effects on consonance disentangle psychoacoustic mechanisms and suggest perceptual origins for musical scales, Nature Communications (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-024-45812-z


Original Submission

posted by hubie on Friday March 01, @10:05AM   Printer-friendly
from the red-flags dept.

Chinese police are investigating an unauthorized and highly unusual online dump of documents from a private security contractor linked to the nation's top policing agency and other parts of its government — a trove that catalogs apparent hacking activity and tools to spy on both Chinese and foreigners:

Among the apparent targets of tools provided by the impacted company, I-Soon: ethnicities and dissidents in parts of China that have seen significant anti-government protests, such as Hong Kong or the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang in China's far west.

The dump of scores of documents late last week and subsequent investigation were confirmed by two employees of I-Soon, known as Anxun in Mandarin, which has ties to the powerful Ministry of Public Security. The dump, which analysts consider highly significant even if it does not reveal any especially novel or potent tools, includes hundreds of pages of contracts, marketing presentations, product manuals, and client and employee lists.

[...] The hacking tools are used by Chinese state agents to unmask users of social media platforms outside China such as X, formerly known as Twitter, break into email and hide the online activity of overseas agents. Also described are devices disguised as power strips and batteries that can be used to compromise Wi-Fi networks.

[...] "We see a lot of targeting of organizations that are related to ethnic minorities — Tibetans, Uyghurs. A lot of the targeting of foreign entities can be seen through the lens of domestic security priorities for the government," said Dakota Cary, a China analyst with the cybersecurity firm SentinelOne.

Also at WaPo, NYT, and The Guardian.

Originally spotted on Schneier on Security

Related: The Internet Enabled Mass Surveillance. A.I. Will Enable Mass Spying


Original Submission

posted by hubie on Friday March 01, @05:18AM   Printer-friendly
from the providing-you-an-enhanced-customer-and-crew-experience dept.

Company speaks out after reports of "surge pricing" test led to calls for boycotts online:

A day after American fast food chain Wendy's announced plans to test dynamic pricing and AI menu features in 2025, the company clarified its plans.

Wendy's said it will not dynamically raise menu prices based on demand after reports about the experiment, which was set to roll out in 2025, caused a stir online. In a statement to Reuters, a Wendy's spokesperson said it "would not raise prices when our customers are visiting us most." Instead, the company framed experimental price changes as discounts during "slower times of day."

"We said these menuboards would give us more flexibility to change the display of featured items. This was misconstrued in some media reports as an intent to raise prices when demand is highest," the company told Reuters. "We have no plans to do that."

Presuming that lowered prices during slow times will eventually rise again, it appears some sort of dynamic pricing will still be taking place.

According to the original report from Nation's Restaurant News and Food & Wine, prices for food items would automatically change throughout the day depending on demand, similar to "surge pricing" in rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft. The initiative was disclosed by Kirk Tanner, the CEO and president of Wendy's, in a recent discussion with analysts.

[...] In conversation with Food & Wine, a spokesperson for Wendy's confirmed the company's commitment to this pricing strategy, describing it as part of a broader effort to grow its digital business. "Beginning as early as 2025, we will begin testing a variety of enhanced features on these digital menuboards like dynamic pricing, different offerings in certain parts of the day, AI-enabled menu changes and suggestive selling based on factors such as weather," they said. "Dynamic pricing can allow Wendy's to be competitive and flexible with pricing, motivate customers to visit and provide them with the food they love at a great value. We will test a number of features that we think will provide an enhanced customer and crew experience."

[Ed's comment: As of 29 Feb, there is some reporting that the CEO of Wendy's has withdrawn the entire plan]


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Friday March 01, @12:32AM   Printer-friendly
from the Browser-freedom dept.

There's a new browser in town: Nyxt. It is free software. It is intended to be modified by the user, perhaps even rewritten. From https://nyxt.atlas.engineer/:

Built-in programmability.

Use the built-in REPL to program Nyxt. Run short scripts, and try out new workflows. Everything in Nyxt is fully extensible and modifiable.

It is written in Common Lisp.

Is this the browser we programmers have been waiting for? The one we can modify to our wildest dreams?

[Ed's comment: The linked source is obviously intended to show a potential user how it will work, and in this role it does a reasonable job. But there is not a great deal to explain why they think it is a game changer, or why it will appeal to many users. If it is necessary to use Lisp to extend the browser then perhaps it will not have the impact that they seem to believe it will have. But what do you think? Will it gain a foothold, or simply fade away to be forgotten except perhaps for a few enthusiasts?]


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday February 29, @07:47PM   Printer-friendly
from the if-its-boeing-i'm-not-going dept.

Boeing Missing Key Elements of Safety Culture: FAA Report

Employees lack awareness of the basics in reporting safety concerns.

The FAA blamed Boeing for a deficient safety culture in a 50-page report issued on Monday following a public outcry over several safety lapses before the January 5 incident in which a door plug "blew out" from an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 in mid-flight.

[....] an expert panel found what it called gaps in Boeing's safety journey and that a majority of employees did not show "skillful awareness" of the concepts of just culture and reporting culture.

Some things from that FAA report linked above:

The Expert Panel observed a disconnect between Boeing's senior management and other members of the organization on safety culture. Interviewees, including ODA [Organization Designation Authorization] (ODA)Unit Members (UM), also questioned whether Boeing's safety reporting systems would function in a way that ensures open communication and non-retaliation. The Expert Panel also observed inadequate and confusing implementation of the five components of a positive safety culture [....]

[....] Boeing safety management systems (SMS) procedures are not structured in a way that ensures all employees understand their role in the company's SMS. The procedures and training are complex and in a constant state of change, creating employee confusion especially among different work sites and employee groups. The Expert Panel also found a lack of awareness of safety-related metrics at all levels of the organization; employees had difficulty distinguishing the differences among various measuring methods, their purpose, and outcomes.

Boeing's restructuring of the management of the ODA unit decreased opportunities for interference and retaliation against UMs, and provides effective organizational messaging regarding independence of UMs. However, the restructuring, while better, still allows opportunities for retaliation to occur, particularly with regards to salary and furlough ranking. This influences the ability of UMs to execute their delegated functions effectively.

It's good as long as they can keep showing profits, increasing stock prices and executive bonuses.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday February 29, @03:03PM   Printer-friendly
from the parts-are-parts dept.

Astroscale's ADRAS-J spacecraft will inspect a dead Japanese rocket in orbit—a major moment in space-junk removal:

There are an estimated 500,000 pieces of space junk as small as a centimeter across orbiting Earth, and about 23,000 trackable objects bigger than 10 centimeters. Dead rockets make up an interesting—and dangerous—category. The 956 known rocket bodies in space account for just 4% of trackable objects but nearly a third of the total mass. The biggest empty rockets, mostly discarded by Russia in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, weigh up to nine tons—as much as an elephant.

These discarded upper stages, the top section of a rocket that boosts a satellite or spacecraft into its final orbit, are left to drift around our planet once the launch is complete. They are uncontrolled, spinning haphazardly, and pose a huge risk. If any two were to collide, they would produce a deadly cloud of up to "10,000 to 20,000 fragments," says Darren McKnight, a space debris expert at the US debris tracking firm LeoLabs.

Such an event could happen at any moment. "At some point, I'd expect there to be a collision involving them," says Hugh Lewis, a space debris expert at the University of Southampton in the UK. "There's so much stuff out there." That would pose a huge problem, rendering parts of Earth's orbit unusable or, in a worst-case scenario, leading to a runaway chain reaction of collisions known as the Kessler syndrome. That could make some orbits unusable or even make human spaceflight too risky until the debris falls back into the atmosphere after decades to centuries.

Since 2007, when the United Nations introduced a new guideline that objects should be removed from space within 25 years of their operational lifetime, fewer rockets have been abandoned in orbit. Most upper stages now retain a bit of fuel to push themselves back into the atmosphere after launch. "They now tend to reserve some propellant to help them deorbit," says Lewis. But thousands of "legacy objects" remain from before this rule was introduced, Lewis adds.

The rocket JAXA is targeting, as part of its Commercial Removal of Debris Demonstration (CRD2) program, is the upper stage of a Japanese H-IIA rocket that launched a climate satellite in 2009. Weighing three metric tons and as big as a bus, it orbits our planet at an altitude of 600 kilometers (373 miles). If left untended it will remain in orbit for decades, says Lewis, before the atmospheric drag of our planet is able to pull it back into the atmosphere. At that point it will burn up, with any remnants most likely falling into the ocean.

ADRAS-J's mission is to figure out how to pull it back into the atmosphere before that happens. Sidling up to the rocket, the spacecraft will use cameras and sensors to inspect it from as near as a meter away. It will study the state of the rocket, including whether it is intact or if pieces have broken off and are drifting nearby, and also look for grapple points where a future spacecraft could attach.

"Designing a servicer to go up and grapple a three-ton piece of debris comes with a lot of challenges," says Mike Lindsay, Astroscale's chief technology officer. "The biggest challenge is dealing with the amount of uncertainty. The object has been up there for 15 years. It's uncontrolled. We're not communicating with it. So we don't know how it's moving, how it looks, and how it's aged."


Original Submission

posted by hubie on Thursday February 29, @10:17AM   Printer-friendly
from the Where-have-you-been-recently? dept.

Sensitive location data could be sold off to the highest bidder:

In 2021, a company specializing in collecting and selling location data called Near bragged that it was "The World's Largest Dataset of People's Behavior in the Real-World," with data representing "1.6B people across 44 countries." Last year the company went public with a valuation of $1 billion (via a SPAC). Seven months later it filed for bankruptcy and has agreed to sell the company.

But for the "1.6B people" that Near said its data represents, the important question is: What happens to Near's mountain of location data? Any company could gain access to it through purchasing the company's assets.

The prospect of this data, including Near's collection of location data from sensitive locations such as abortion clinics, being sold off in bankruptcy has raised alarms in Congress. Last week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging the agency to "protect consumers and investors from the outrageous conduct" of Near, citing his office's investigation into the India-based company.

Wyden's letter also urged the FTC "to intervene in Near's bankruptcy proceedings to ensure that all location and device data held by Near about Americans is promptly destroyed and is not sold off, including to another data broker." The FTC took such an action in 2010 to block the use of 11 years worth of subscriber personal data during the bankruptcy proceedings of the XY Magazine, which was oriented to young gay men. The agency requested that the data be destroyed to prevent its misuse.

Wyden's investigation was spurred by a May 2023 Wall Street Journal report that Near had licensed location data to the anti-abortion group Veritas Society so it could target ads to visitors of Planned Parenthood clinics and attempt to dissuade women from seeking abortions. Wyden's investigation revealed that the group's geofencing campaign focused on 600 Planned Parenthood clinics in 48 states. The Journal also revealed that Near had been selling its location data to the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies.

[...] This week, a new bankruptcy court filing showed that Wyden's requests were granted. The order placed restrictions on the use, sale, licensing, or transfer of location data collected from sensitive locations in the US and requires any company that purchases the data to establish a "sensitive location data program" with detailed policies for such data and ensure ongoing monitoring and compliance, including the creation of a list of sensitive locations such as reproductive health care facilities, doctor's offices, houses of worship, mental health care providers, corrections facilities and shelters among others. The order demands that unless consumers have explicitly provided consent, the company must cease any collection, use, or transfer of location data.

[...] The bankruptcy order also provided a rare glimpse into how data brokers license data to one another. Near's list of contracts included agreements with several location brokers, ad platforms, universities, retailers, and city governments.

It is not clear from the filing if the agreements covered Near data being licensed, Near licensing the data from the companies, or both.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday February 29, @05:35AM   Printer-friendly

Growing but unprofitable, Reddit could kick off 2024's IPO cycle:

Social media giant Reddit filed to go public today [22 Feb 2024]. Its long-awaited S-1 filing will see it approach the public markets potentially at the head of a long column of richly valued technology startups and private companies that need to find an exit this year.

[...] The company's got a long and tangled history. It was sold in its infancy, only to be later spun back out. Today Reddit approaches the public markets with more than $800 million worth of revenue in 2023, up from $666.7 million in 2022.

However, the company remains unprofitable on both a GAAP and adjusted basis, and continues to consume cash to fund its operations. Scale has not yet solved the profitability question for Reddit, which could limit its potential valuation when it does list its shares.

In 2022, Reddit generated a net loss of $158.6 million and had an adjusted EBITDA of negative $108.4 million. In 2023, those figures improved to a $90.8 million net loss and $69.3 million worth of negative adjusted EBITDA. The company's free cash flow improved from –$100.3 million to –$84.8 million over the same timeframe.

The company may be making progress toward stemming the red ink that is missed in its annual figures. In the final quarter of 2023, Reddit not only posted what was at least a local maximum in revenue terms — $249.8 million — but also a net profit of $18.5 million. While the GAAP profit is notable for the fourth quarter, the company's free cash flow was still negative in the period, ending the three-month period at –$22 million.

Reddit raised more than $1 billion while private, according to Crunchbase data. That figure includes a massive $410 million Series F raised in 2021 and a smaller $368 million Series E raised earlier the same year. The Series E pushed Reddit's valuation to $6.4 billion, while its Series F took it to a roughly $10 billion valuation.

Both of those bubble-era valuations will be tested in Reddit's now quickly forthcoming IPO. But the company's debut will be more than a test for certain private-market startup valuations. Reddit is reportedly trying something novel in its own flotation.

In what is broadly viewed as an unorthodox move, Reddit reportedly plans to reserve an undetermined number of shares for 75,000 of its users, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter. Those users will be given the chance to scoop up shares of Reddit at its IPO price before the stock even begins trading — something typically reserved only for large investors.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday February 29, @12:49AM   Printer-friendly

Researchers Adopt Innovative Method to Boost Speed and Accuracy of Traditional Computing:

Quantum computing has been hailed as a technology that can outperform classical computing in both speed and memory usage, potentially opening the way to making predictions of physical phenomena not previously possible.

Many see quantum computing's advent as marking a paradigm shift from classical, or conventional, computing. Conventional computers process information in the form of digital bits (0s and 1s), while quantum computers deploy quantum bits (qubits) to store quantum information in values between 0 and 1. Under certain conditions this ability to process and store information in qubits can be used to design quantum algorithms that drastically outperform their classical counterparts. Notably, quantum's ability to store information in values between 0 and 1 makes it difficult for classical computers to perfectly emulate quantum ones.

However, quantum computers are finicky and have a tendency to lose information. Moreover, even if information loss can be avoided, it is difficult to translate it into classical information—which is necessary to yield a useful computation.

[...] The scientists' results show that classical computing can be reconfigured to perform faster and more accurate calculations than state-of-the-art quantum computers.

This breakthrough was achieved with an algorithm that keeps only part of the information stored in the quantum state—and just enough to be able to accurately compute the final outcome.

"This work shows that there are many potential routes to improving computations, encompassing both classical and quantum approaches," explains Dries Sels, an assistant professor in New York University's Department of Physics and one of the paper's authors. "Moreover, our work highlights how difficult it is to achieve quantum advantage with an error-prone quantum computer."

[....] In seeking ways to optimize classical computing, Sels and his colleagues at the Simons Foundation focused on a type of tensor network that faithfully represents the interactions between the qubits. Those types of networks have been notoriously hard to deal with, but recent advances in the field now allow these networks to be optimized with tools borrowed from statistical inference.

The authors compare the work of the algorithm to the compression of an image into a JPEG file, which allows large images to be stored using less space by eliminating information with barely perceivable loss in the quality of the image.

Journal Reference:
Tindall, Joseph and Fishman, Matthew and Stoudenmire, E. Miles and Sels, Dries, Efficient Tensor Network Simulation of IBM's Eagle Kicked Ising Experiment, PRX Quantum, 5, 1, 010308, 2024 https://doi.org/10.1103/PRXQuantum.5.010308


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday February 28, @08:02PM   Printer-friendly
from the clink! dept.

https://www.psi.ch/en/science/scientific-highlights/altermagnetism-proves-its-place-on-the-magnetic-family-tree

There is now a new addition to the magnetic family: thanks to experiments at the Swiss Light Source SLS, researchers have proved the existence of altermagnetism:

Altermagnets have a special combination of the arrangement of spins and crystal symmetries. The spins alternate, as in antiferromagnets, resulting in no net magnetisation. Yet, rather than simply cancelling out, the symmetries give an electronic band structure with strong spin polarization that flips in direction as you pass through the material's energy bands -- hence the name altermagnets. This results in highly useful properties more resemblant of ferromagnets, as well as some completely new properties.

Spintronics has promised to revolutionise IT. Typically, ferromagnets have been used as they offer highly desirable, strong, spin-dependent physical phenomena. Yet the macroscopic net magnetisation that is useful in so many other applications poses practical limitations on the scalability of these devices as it causes crosstalk between bits. Instead, Antiferromagnets have been investigated for spintronics, as they have no net magnetisation and thus offer ultra-scalability and energy efficiency. However, the strong spin-dependent effects are lacking, again hindering their practical applicability.

Enter altermagnets with the best of both: zero net magnetisation together with the coveted strong spin-dependent phenomena typically found in ferromagnets -- merits that were regarded as principally incompatible.

The researchers believe that this new fundamental discovery in magnetism will enrich our understanding of condensed-matter physics, with impact across diverse areas of research and technology. As well as its advantages to the developing field of spintronics, it also offers a promising platform for exploring unconventional superconductivity, through new insights into superconducting states that can arise in different magnetic materials.

"Altermagnetism is actually not something hugely complicated. It is something entirely fundamental that was in front of our eyes for decades without noticing it," says Jungwirth. "And it is not something that exists only in a few obscure materials. It exists in many crystals that people simply had in their drawers. In that sense, now that we have brought it to light, many people around the world will be able to work on it, giving the potential for a broad impact."

Original Publications: Altermagnetic Lifting of Kramers spin degeneracy (J. Krempaský, L. Šmejkal, S. W. D'Souza, M. Hajlaoui, G. Springholz, K. Uhlířová, F. Alarab, P. C. Constantinou, V. Strokov, D. Usanov, W. R. Pudelko, R. González-Hernández, A. Birk Hellenes, Z. Jansa, H. Reichlová, Z. Šobáň, R. D. Gonzalez Betancourt, P. Wadley, J. Sinova, D. Kriegner, J. Minár, J. H. Dil, T. Jungwirth) Nature, 14 February 2024

DOI: 10.1038/s41586-023-06907-7


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday February 28, @03:17PM   Printer-friendly

Quitting smoking at any age brings big health benefits, fast: study:

People who quit smoking see major gains in life expectancy after just a few years, according to a new study by University of Toronto researchers at Unity Health Toronto.

The study, published in NEJM Evidence, shows that smokers who quit smoking before age 40 can expect to live almost as long as those who never smoked. Those who quit at any age return close to never-smoker survival 10 years after quitting, and about half that benefit occurs within just three years.

[...] Former smokers lowered their risk of death to 1.3-fold (or 30 per cent higher) compared to never smokers. Stopping smoking at any age was associated with longer survival, and even those who quit for less than three years gained up to six years in life expectancy.

"Many people think it's too late to quit smoking, especially in middle age," said Jha. "But these results counter that line of thought. It's never too late, the impact is fast and you can reduce risk across major diseases, meaning a longer and better quality of life."

The researchers found that quitting smoking reduced the risk of dying from vascular disease and cancer, in particular. Former smokers also reduced their risk of death from respiratory disease, but slightly less so, likely due to residual lung damage.

Journal Reference:
Eo Rin Cho, Ilene K. Brill, Inger T. Gram, et al., Smoking Cessation and Short- and Longer-Term Mortality, NEJM Evidence, 2024. https://doi.org/10.1056/EVIDoa2300272


Original Submission

posted by hubie on Wednesday February 28, @10:34AM   Printer-friendly

https://newatlas.com/energy/geologic-hydrogen-gold-rush/

There's enough natural hydrogen trapped underground to meet all projected demands for hundreds of years. An unpublished report by the US Geological Survey identifies it as a new primary resource, and fires the starter pistol on a new gold rush.

The "black gold" oil rush in the US started in 1859, when one Edwin Drake drove a stake into the Pennsylvania soil and oil started flowing out. The gold hydrogen rush may have a similar moment to point back to; in 1987, as one Mamadou Ngulo Konaré tells the story, well diggers gave up on a 108-m (354-ft) deep dry borehole, but he and other villagers in Bourakébougou, Mali, noticed that wind was blowing out of it. When one of the drillers looked in, smoking a cigarette, it blew up in his face, causing severe burns as well as a huge fire.

That fire, as Science quoted Konaré, burned "like blue sparking water, and did not have black smoke pollution. The color of the fire at night was like shining gold." It took weeks to put the fire out and plug the hole, but subsequent analysis showed the gas coming out was 98% pure hydrogen. Celebratory mangos were served. Some years later, a little 30 kW Ford generator was hooked up, and Bourakébougou became the first village in the world to enjoy the benefits of clean, naturally occuring hydrogen as a green energy source.
...
Either way, the situation has now changed, big time. Geoffrey Ellis, of the US Geological Survey, has been investigating the global potential of geo-locked "gold" hydrogen as a new primary resource. In a Denver meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he previewed the results of an as-yet unpublished study, according to the Financial Times.

In short, there are as many as 5.5 trillion tons of hydrogen in underground reservoirs worldwide. It may have been generated by the interaction of certain iron-rich minerals with subterranean water. In some cases, it may be mixed in with other gases such as methane, from which it would need to be separated. But it's there, in such extraordinary quantities that analysts are expecting a gold hydrogen rush at a global scale.

It may not be super easy to get to: "Most hydrogen is likely inaccessible," Ellis told the Financial Times. "But a few per cent recovery would still supply all projected demand – 500 million tonnes a year – for hundreds of years."

Gold hydrogen won't won't hog renewable energy like electrolyzers, or divert it away from other decarbonization opportunities. In that sense, you could argue it'll have the potential to be significantly greener than green hydrogen. On the other hand, if tapping it releases methane into the atmosphere, that's a serious issue; methane is around 85 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.


Original Submission

posted by hubie on Wednesday February 28, @05:49AM   Printer-friendly

Users are even more likely to stick with Google due to one change, says Yelp:

To comply with looming rules that ban tech giants from favoring their own services, Google has been testing new look search results for flights, trains, hotels, restaurants, and products in Europe. The EU's Digital Markets Act is supposed to help smaller companies get more traffic from Google, but reviews service Yelp says that when it tested Google's design tweaks with consumers it had the opposite effect—making people less likely to click through to Yelp or another Google competitor.

The results, which Yelp shared with European regulators in December and WIRED this month, put some numerical backing behind complaints from Google rivals in travel, shopping, and hospitality that its efforts to comply with the DMA are insufficient—and potentially more harmful than the status quo. Yelp and thousands of others have been demanding that the EU hold a firm line against the giant companies including Apple and Amazon that are subject to what's widely considered the world's strictest antitrust law, violations of which can draw fines of up to 10 percent of global annual sales.

"All the gatekeepers are trying to hold on as long as possible to the status quo and make the new world unattractive," says Richard Stables, CEO of shopping comparison site Kelkoo, which is unhappy with how Google has tweaked shopping results to comply with the DMA. "That's really the game plan."

Google spokesperson Rory O'Donoghue says the more than 20 changes made to search in response to the DMA are providing more opportunities for services such as Yelp to show up in results. "To suggest otherwise is plain wrong," he says. Overall, Google's tests of various DMA-inspired designs show clicks to review and comparison websites are up, O'Donoghue says—at the cost of users losing shortcuts to Google tools and individual businesses like airlines and restaurants facing a drop in visits from Google search. "We've been seeking feedback from a range of stakeholders over many months as we try to balance the needs of different types of websites while complying with the law," he says.

Google, which generates 30 percent of its sales from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, views the DMA as disrespecting its expertise in what users want. Critics such as Yelp argue that Google sometimes siphons users away from the more reliable content they offer. Yelp competes with Google for advertisers but generated less than 1 percent of its record sales of $1.3 billion last year from outside the US. An increase in European traffic could significantly boost its business.


Original Submission

posted by hubie on Wednesday February 28, @01:02AM   Printer-friendly

Facial-recognition data is typically used to prompt more vending machine sales:

Canada-based University of Waterloo is racing to remove M&M-branded smart vending machines from campus after outraged students discovered the machines were covertly collecting facial-recognition data without their consent.

The scandal started when a student using the alias SquidKid47 posted an image on Reddit showing a campus vending machine error message, "Invenda.Vending.FacialRecognitionApp.exe," displayed after the machine failed to launch a facial recognition application that nobody expected to be part of the process of using a vending machine.

"Hey, so why do the stupid M&M machines have facial recognition?" SquidKid47 pondered.

The Reddit post sparked an investigation from a fourth-year student named River Stanley, who was writing for a university publication called MathNEWS.

Stanley sounded alarm after consulting Invenda sales brochures that promised "the machines are capable of sending estimated ages and genders" of every person who used the machines without ever requesting consent.

[...] A University of Waterloo spokesperson, Rebecca Elming, eventually responded, confirming to CTV News that the school had asked to disable the vending machine software until the machines could be removed.

[...] Adaria Vending Services told MathNEWS that "what's most important to understand is that the machines do not take or store any photos or images, and an individual person cannot be identified using the technology in the machines. The technology acts as a motion sensor that detects faces, so the machine knows when to activate the purchasing interface—never taking or storing images of customers."

According to Adaria and Invenda, students shouldn't worry about data privacy because the vending machines are "fully compliant" with the world's toughest data privacy law, the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

"These machines are fully GDPR compliant and are in use in many facilities across North America," Adaria's statement said. "At the University of Waterloo, Adaria manages last mile fulfillment services—we handle restocking and logistics for the snack vending machines. Adaria does not collect any data about its users and does not have any access to identify users of these M&M vending machines."

Under the GDPR, face image data is considered among the most sensitive data that can be collected, typically requiring explicit consent to collect, so it's unclear how the machines may meet that high bar based on the Canadian students' experiences.

According to a press release from Invenda, the maker of M&M candies, Mars, was a key part of Invenda's expansion into North America. It was only after closing a $7 million funding round, including deals with Mars and other major clients like Coca-Cola, that Invenda could push for expansive global growth that seemingly vastly expands its smart vending machines' data collection and surveillance opportunities.

"The funding round indicates confidence among Invenda's core investors in both Invenda's corporate culture, with its commitment to transparency, and the drive to expand global growth," Invenda's press release said.

But University of Waterloo students like Stanley now question Invenda's "commitment to transparency" in North American markets, especially since the company is seemingly openly violating Canadian privacy law, Stanley told CTV News.


Original Submission