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SpaceX Will ‘Make Its Own Laws On Mars’
by BeauHD on Oct 31, 2020 at 7:00 am
schwit1 writes: SpaceX will not recognize international law on Mars, according to the Terms of Service of its Starlink internet project. Elon Musk’s space company will instead reportedly adhere to a set of “self-governing principles” that will be defined at the time of Martian settlement. Musk revealed plans to create a self-sustaining city on Mars last week, though no timeframe is yet to be put in place for its development. Any future colony created by SpaceX would likely use constellations of Starlink satellites orbiting the planet to provide internet connection to people and machines on the surface. “For services provided on Mars, or in transit to Mars via Starship or other colonization spacecraft, the parties recognize Mars as a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities,” the governing law section states. “Accordingly, disputes will be settled through self-governing principles, established in good faith, at the time of Martian settlement.” Space systems engineer Erwan Beauvois said SpaceX’s position was reminiscent of a declaration put forward by the Earthlight Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to preparing for the expansion of humanity beyond Earth. The Declaration of the Rights and Responsibilities of Humanity in the Universe states that space should be “considered free, by all, for all and to all.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.
US and UK Citizens Are World’s Biggest Sources of Plastic Waste
by BeauHD on Oct 31, 2020 at 3:30 am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The U.S. and UK produce more plastic waste per person than any other major countries, according to new research. The analysis also shows the U.S. produces the most plastic waste in total and that its citizens may rank as high as third in the world in contributing to plastic pollution in the oceans. Previous work had suggested Asian countries dominated marine plastic pollution and placed the U.S. in 20th place, but this did not account for U.S. waste exports or illegal dumping within the country. Data from 2016, the latest available, show that more than half of the plastic collected for recycling in the U.S. was shipped abroad, mostly to countries already struggling to manage plastic waste effectively. The researchers said years of exporting had masked the U.S.’s enormous contribution to plastic pollution. The latest study, published in the journal Science Advances, used World Bank data on waste generation in 217 countries. It focused on the U.S. and used additional data on littering and illegal dumping within the country and on contamination by exported plastic, which is likely to be dumped rather than recycled. The researchers found the U.S. produced the most plastic waste by World Bank reckoning, at 34m tonnes in 2016, but the total increased to 42m tonnes when the additional data was considered. India and China were second and third, but their large populations meant their figures for per capita plastic waste was less than 20% of that of U.S. consumers. Among the 20 nations with the highest total plastic waste production, the UK was second to the U.S. per capita, followed by South Korea and Germany. “When the researchers estimated how much of each country’s plastic waste ends up in the oceans, Indonesia and India ranked highest,” the report adds. “The U.S. ranked between third and eleventh, depending on the assumptions made about waste leakage into the environment. The analysis found that up to 1 million tons of exported U.S. plastic waste ended up as marine pollution.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.
‘Time Cells’ Discovered In Human Brains
by BeauHD on Oct 31, 2020 at 2:10 am
Researchers have identified cells in the human brain that are responsible for episodic memories. The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. NPR reports: The cells are called time cells, and they place a sort of time stamp on memories as they are being formed. That allows us to recall sequences of events or experiences in the right order. “By having time cells create this indexing across time, you can put everything together in a way that makes sense,” says Dr. Bradley Lega, the study’s senior author and a neurosurgeon at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Time cells were discovered in rodents decades ago. But the new study is critical because “the final arbitrator is always the human brain,” says Dr. Gyorgy Buzsaki, Biggs Professor of Neuroscience at New York University. Buzsaki is not an author of the study but did edit the manuscript. Lega and his team found the time cells by studying the brains of 27 people who were awaiting surgery for severe epilepsy. As part of their pre-surgical preparation, these patients had electrodes placed in the hippocampus and another area of the brain involved in navigation, memory and time perception. In the experiment, the patients studied sequences of 12 or 15 words that appeared on a laptop screen during a period of about 30 seconds. Then, after a break, they were asked to recall the words they had seen. Meanwhile, the researchers were measuring the activity of individual brain cells. And they found a small number that that would fire at specific times during each sequence of words. “The time cells that we found, they are marking out discrete segments of time within this approximately 30-second window,” Lega says. These time stamps seemed to help people recall when they had seen each word, and in what order, he says. And the brain probably uses the same approach when we’re reliving an experience like falling off a bike. The results help explain why people who have damage to the hippocampus may experience odd memory problems, Buzsaki says. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
A 5-Story Building In Shanghai ‘Walks’ To a New Location Using Technology
by BeauHD on Oct 31, 2020 at 1:30 am
In Shanghai’s latest effort to preserve historic structures, engineers have relocated an 85-year-old, five-story building in its entirety using new technology dubbed the “walking machine.” CNN reports: [E]ngineers attached nearly 200 mobile supports under the five-story building, according to Lan Wuji, chief technical supervisor of the project. The supports act like robotic legs. They’re split into two groups which alternately rise up and down, imitating the human stride. Attached sensors help control how the building moves forward, said Lan, whose company Shanghai Evolution Shift developed the new technology in 2018. “It’s like giving the building crutches so it can stand up and then walk,” he said. A timelapse shot by the company shows the school inching laboriously along, one tiny step at a time. According to a statement from the Huangpu district government, the Lagena Primary School was constructed in 1935 by the municipal board of Shanghai’s former French Concession. It was moved in order to make space for a new commercial and office complex, which will be completed by 2023. Workers had to first dig around the building to install the 198 mobile supports in the spaces underneath, Lan explained. After the pillars of the building were truncated, the robotic “legs” were then extended upward, lifting the building before moving forward. Over the course of 18 days, the building was rotated 21 degrees and moved 62 meters (203 feet) away to its new location. The relocation was completed on October 15, with the old school building set to become a center for heritage protection and cultural education. The project marks the first time this “walking machine” method has been used in Shanghai to relocate a historical building, the government statement said. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Sony Close To Buying Crunchyroll For Nearly $1 Billion
by BeauHD on Oct 31, 2020 at 12:50 am
According to Nikkei, Sony is close to acquiring U.S. anime-streaming service Crunchyroll for more than $957 million. From the report: Sony has its own popular anime, titles like “Demon Slayer” and “Kimetsu no Yaiba,” but has been licensing it to streaming services. Sony’s Aniplex, the studio behind “Kimetsu no Yaiba,” has a variety of content, including movies and music, that is mainly distributed by overseas companies. If the acquisition is realized, global competition for content among companies like Netflix and Hulu will intensify. Crunchyroll was founded in 2006 and has its headquarters in San Francisco. In 2018, AT&T, the U.S. telecommunications giant, became its parent company. Sony recently obtained the exclusive right to negotiate for Crunchyroll. Crunchyroll has 70 million free members and 3 million paying subscribers in more than 200 countries and regions, including the U.S and Europe. Crunchyroll would also give Sony more than 1,000 titles that it can use to vary its offerings. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Russian Hackers Targeted California, Indiana Democratic Parties In Repeat of 2016 Attacks
by BeauHD on Oct 31, 2020 at 12:10 am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The group of Russian hackers accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election earlier this year targeted the email accounts of Democratic state parties in California and Indiana, and influential think tanks in Washington and New York, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The attempted intrusions, many of which were internally flagged by Microsoft Corp over the summer, were carried out by a group often nicknamed “Fancy Bear.” The hackers’ activity provides insight into how Russian intelligence is targeting the United States in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election. The targets identified by Reuters, which include the Center for American Progress, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said they had not seen any evidence of successful hacking attempts. Fancy Bear is controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency and was responsible for hacking the email accounts of Hillary Clinton’s staff in the run-up to the 2016 election, according to a Department of Justice indictment filed in 2018. News of the Russian hacking activity follows last month’s announcement here by Microsoft that Fancy Bear had attempted to hack more than 200 organizations, many of which the software company said were tied to the 2020 election. Microsoft was able to link this year’s cyber espionage campaign to the Russian hackers through an apparent programming error that allowed the company to identify a pattern of attack unique to Fancy Bear, according to a Microsoft assessment reviewed by Reuters. The thrust of espionage operations could not be determined by Reuters. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in August here that Russian operations were attempting to undermine the campaign of presidential candidate Joe Biden. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Apple Added a Secret Button To Your iPhone
by BeauHD on Oct 30, 2020 at 11:20 pm
Your iPhone got a new button last month, and you may not have even noticed. The Verge reports: No, Apple didn’t sneak into your house and secretly superglue a button onto your smartphone. But it did release iOS 14, the latest version of its iPhone software, which includes a feature called Back Tap. Back Tap adds a fascinating new “button” to your phone that blurs the line between hardware and software. Back Tap turns the entire back of your iPhone into a giant touch-sensitive button that you can double or triple tap to trigger specific functions on your phone. There’s a good chance that you haven’t noticed it yet. Apple slipped the settings for Back Tap into its Accessibility menu. Its intended purpose is to give users more options for interacting with their devices. Most of Back Tap’s options reflect that, with settings to open the app switcher, notification menu, or control center; scroll through an app or webpage; trigger Siri; or take a screenshot. But Back Tap also ties into Apple’s incredibly robust Shortcuts app, which means you can effectively make those new buttons do almost anything you can imagine. It’s a fascinating kind of button: entirely invisible to the naked eye, completely nonfunctional until it’s enabled through software, but can be tasked to open, interact with, or accomplish nearly any task on your smartphone with just a quick tap. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Under Armour To Sell MyFitnessPal For $345 Million, After Acquiring It In 2015 For $475 Million
by BeauHD on Oct 30, 2020 at 10:40 pm
Global fitness giant Under Armour announced this morning that it will be selling MyFitnessPal to investment firm Francisco Partners for $345 million, five and a half years after acquiring it for $475 million. The company also announced that it will be winding down the Endomondo platform which it also acquired at the same time for $85 million. TechCrunch reports: In a press release announcing the news, Under Armour said the reason for this decision was to simplify and focus its brand, keeping it aimed at its “target consumer — the Focused Performer” in the interest of building “a singular, cohesive UA ecosystem.” The fact that Under Armour is selling MyFitnessPal at a discount (not even including five years of inflation and stated MyFitnessPal user growth) indicates there’s more to this than just maintaining focus. It’s definitely true that both MyFitnessPal (which claimed 80 million users in 2015 at the time of acquisition, and has more than 200 million users according to today’s press release) and Endomondo were aimed at more casual and entry-level fitness users, who might be working out for the first time, or looking to improve their daily health, but aren’t likely training for endurance-sport competitions. Under Armour’s overall brand image is more associated with professional athletics, and with an enthusiast/semi-pro clientele (or those aspiring to that designation). What’s more likely going on here is that Under Armour sees diminishing value in this segment over the long term… The company is going to continue to own and operate the MapMyFitness platform, which includes MapMyRun and MapMyRide. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Waymo Pulls Back the Curtain On 6.1 Million Miles of Self-Driving Car Data
by BeauHD on Oct 30, 2020 at 10:02 pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: In its first report on its autonomous vehicle operations in Phoenix, Arizona, Waymo said that it was involved in 18 crashes and 29 near-miss collisions during 2019 and the first nine months of 2020. These crashes included rear-enders, vehicle swipes, and even one incident when a Waymo vehicle was T-boned at an intersection by another car at nearly 40 mph. The company said that no one was seriously injured and “nearly all” of the collisions were the fault of the other driver. The report is the deepest dive yet into the real-life operations of the world’s leading autonomous vehicle company, which recently began offering rides in its fully driverless vehicles to the general public. … [I]n this paper, and another also published today, the company is showing its work. Waymo says its intention is to build public trust in automated vehicle technology, but these papers also serve as a challenge to other AV competitors. The two papers take different approaches. The first outlines a multilayered approach that maps out Waymo’s approach to safety. It includes three layers: Hardware, including the vehicle itself, the sensor suite, the steering and braking system, and the computing platform; The automated driving system behavioral layer, such as avoiding collisions with other cars, successfully completing fully autonomous rides, and adhering to the rules of the road; Operations, like fleet operations, risk management, and a field safety program to resolve potential safety issues. The second paper is meatier, with detailed information on the company’s self-driving operations in Phoenix, including the number of miles driven and the number of “contact events” Waymo’s vehicles have had with other road users. This is the first time that Waymo has ever publicly disclosed mileage and crash data from its autonomous vehicle testing operation in Phoenix. Between January and December 2019, Waymo’s vehicles with trained safety drivers drove 6.1 million miles. In addition, from January 2019 through September 2020, its fully driverless vehicles drove 65,000 miles. Taken together, the company says this represents “over 500 years of driving for the average licensed US driver,” citing a 2017 survey of travel trends by the Federal Highway Administration. “This is a major milestone, we think, in transparency,” said Matthew Schwall, head of field safety at Waymo, in a briefing with reporters Wednesday. Waymo claims this is the first time that any autonomous vehicle company has released a detailed overview of its safety methodologies, including vehicle crash data, when not required by a government entity. “Our goal here is to kickstart a renewed industry dialogue in terms of how safety is assessed for these technologies,” Schwall said. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
These Drones Will Plant 40,000 Trees in a Month. By 2028, They’ll Have Planted 1 Billion
by msmash on Oct 30, 2020 at 9:25 pm
Earlier this month, on land north of Toronto that previously burned in a wildfire, drones hovered over fields and fired seed pods into the ground, planting native pine and spruce trees to help restore habitat for birds. From a report: Flash Forest, the Canadian startup behind the project, plans to use its technology to plant 40,000 trees in the area this month. By the end of the year, as it expands to other regions, it will plant hundreds of thousands of trees. By 2028, the startup aims to have planted a full 1 billion trees. The company, like a handful of other startups that are also using tree-planting drones, believes that technology can help the world reach ambitious goals to restore forests to stem biodiversity loss and fight climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that it’s necessary to plant 1 billion hectares of trees — a forest roughly the size of the entire United States — to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Existing forests need to be protected while new trees are planted; right now, that isn’t working well. “There are a lot of different attempts to tackle reforestation,” says Flash Forest cofounder and chief strategy officer Angelique Ahlstrom. “But despite all of them, they’re still failing, with a net loss of 7 billion trees every year.” Drones don’t address deforestation, which is arguably an even more critical issue than planting trees, since older trees can store much more carbon. But to restore forests that have already been lost, the drones can work more quickly and cheaply than humans planting with shovels. Flash Forest’s tech can currently plant 10,000 to 20,000 seed pods a day; as the technology advances, a pair of pilots will be able to plant 100,000 trees in a day (by hand, someone might typically be able to plant around 1,500 trees in a day, Ahlstrom says.) The company aims to bring the cost down to 50 cents per tree, or around a fourth of the cost of some other tree restoration efforts. When it begins work at a site, the startup first sends mapping drones to survey the area, using software to identify the best places to plant based on the soil and existing plants. Next, a swarm of drones begins precisely dropping seed pods, packed in a proprietary mix that the company says encourages the seeds to germinate weeks before they otherwise would have. The seed pods are also designed to store moisture, so the seedlings can survive even with months of drought. In some areas, such as hilly terrain or in mangrove forests, the drones use a pneumatic firing device that shoots seed pods deeper into the soil. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
RIAA Obtains Subpoenas Targeting 40 YouTube-Ripping Platforms and Pirate Sites
by msmash on Oct 30, 2020 at 8:45 pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: The RIAA is ramping up the pressure on a wide range of platforms allegedly involved in music piracy. Two DMCA subpoenas obtained against Cloudflare and Namecheap require the companies to hand over all information they hold on more than 40 torrent sites, streaming portals and YouTube-ripping services. Also included in the mix are several file-hosting platforms. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Seagate Says 20 TB HAMR Drives Will Arrive in December, 50 TB Capacities in 2026
by msmash on Oct 30, 2020 at 8:05 pm
Seagate revealed several interesting points about its upcoming releases of next-generation hard drives during its quarterly earnings call this week. From a report: The company has disclosed a shift to a new generation of HDDs based on so-called heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) technology. This technology is set to bring many improvements compared to the one currently used by Seagate’s rivals like Western Digital. The rivaling company uses energy-assisted perpendicular magnetic recording (ePMR) and microwave-assisted (MAMR) technologies and it already has a 20 TB drive in the offering. Seagate announced that they will unveil a 20 TB HDD in December this year, with the use of HAMR technology, which will bring many improvements like better speed and more efficient disk read/write. It added, “Seagate will be the first to ship this crucial technology with a path to deliver 50-TB HAMR drives forecast in 2026.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.
A Holiday Season Covid Surge, Outbreaks in Swing States, and More
by Eve Sneider on Oct 30, 2020 at 7:49 pm
Catch up on the most important updates from this week.
Google Discloses Windows Zero-Day Exploited in the Wild
by msmash on Oct 30, 2020 at 7:35 pm
Security researchers from Google have disclosed today a zero-day vulnerability in the Windows operating system that is currently under active exploitation. From a report: The zero-day is expected to be patched on November 10, which is the date of Microsoft’s next Patch Tuesday, according to Ben Hawkes, team lead for Project Zero, Google’s elite vulnerability research team. On Twitter, Hawkes said the Windows zero-day (tracked as CVE-2020-17087) was used as part of a two-punch attack, together with another a Chrome zero-day (tracked as CVE-2020-15999) that his team disclosed last week. The Chrome zero-day was used to allow attackers to run malicious code inside Chrome, while the Windows zero-day was the second part of this attack, allowing threat actors to escape Chrome’s secure container and run code on the underlying operating system — in what security experts call a sandbox escape. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Is This the End of the Repairable iPhone?
by msmash on Oct 30, 2020 at 6:51 pm
iFixit: After exhaustive testing, comparing notes with multiple repair technicians, and reviewing leaked Apple training documents, we’ve found that the iPhone 12 camera is entirely unreliable when swapped between iPhones. This latest fault, along with indications from Apple’s repair guides, makes it more clear than ever: Apple, by design or neglect or both, is making it extremely hard to repair an iPhone without their blessing. This may be a bug that Apple eventually fixes. There is even precedent for iPhone parts misbehaving when swapped between phones. But it is also possible that Apple is planning on locking out all unauthorized iPhone camera and screen repairs. Apple’s internal training guides tell authorized technicians that, starting with the 12 and its variants, they will need to run Apple’s proprietary, cloud-linked System Configuration app to fully repair cameras and screens. We are very concerned about this possibility. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Why Are Lines at Polling Places So Long? Math
by Adam Rogers on Oct 30, 2020 at 6:28 pm
It’s a resource allocation problem, a tough challenge in “queueing theory.” It’s also racism.
It’s Hard to Escape Facebook’s Vortex of Polarization
by Sidney Fussell on Oct 30, 2020 at 6:24 pm
Suggesting other news sources only reinforces users’ political beliefs. Another study finds that quitting the social media giant leaves people less informed.
Instagram Tries Clamping Down on Misinformation
by Kellen Browning on Oct 30, 2020 at 6:23 pm
The photo-sharing site said it would temporarily remove its “recent” tab to slow the spread of harmful content before Tuesday’s election.
What Went Viral This Week
by Kevin Roose on Oct 30, 2020 at 6:16 pm
Halloween decorations, Harry Styles and a QAnon-adjacent missing children story broke up a wall of pre-election political news.
Facebook Says Technical Glitches Improperly Blocked Campaign Ads
by msmash on Oct 30, 2020 at 6:11 pm
Facebook revealed Thursday how internal technical glitches had disrupted the delivery of some ads from the Joe Biden and Donald Trump campaigns, but said it made changes to resolve those hiccups in the run-up to the November U.S. presidential election. From a report: The social media giant’s admission followed complaints from the Biden camp about how thousands of its ads had been blocked. Facebook said in a blog post it spotted “unanticipated issues” affecting both campaigns, including technical flaws that caused a number of ads to be “paused improperly.” “No ad was paused or rejected by a person, or because of any partisan consideration,” Facebook said in its post. “The technical problems were automated and impacted ads from across the political spectrum and both Presidential campaigns.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.