Scientists Use Stem Cells To Grow Animal-Free Pork In a Lab
new study published in the journal Scientific Reports describes research "
designed to generate muscle from a newly established pig stem-cell line, rather than from primary cells taken directly from a pig," says co-author Dr. Nicholas Genovese, a stem-cell biologist. "This entailed understanding the biology of relatively uncharacterized and recently-derived porcine induced pluripotent stem cell lines. What conditions support cell growth, survival and differentiation? These are all questions I had to figure out in the lab before the cells could be turned into muscle." Digital Trends reports:
It may not sound like the most appetizing of foodstuffs, but pig skeletal muscle is in fact the main component of pork. The fact that it could be grown from a stem-cell line, rather than from a whole pig, is a major advance. This is also true of the paper's second big development: the fact that this cultivation of pig skeletal muscle didn't use animal serum, a component which has been used in other livestock muscle cultivation processes. [Genovese] acknowledges that there are other non-food-related possibilities the work hints at. "There is a contingent interest in using the pig as a model to study disease and test regenerative therapies for human conditions," he said.
PewDiePie Calls Out the 'Old-School Media' For Spiteful Dishonesty
After losing his Youtube Red show and his contract with Disney, the owner of the most subscribed channel on Youtube, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (aka "PewDiePie"), has released a video response to the Wall Street Journal and other mainstream news outlets, who have labeled his comedy videos variously as racist, fascist or anti-semitic. In it, he accuses the mainstream media of deliberately fabricating and misrepresenting the evidence used against him because they are afraid of independent content producers such as himself. In the video, PewDiePie discusses the recent actions of the Wall Street Journal, whose reporters sent nine cherry-picked and edited videos to Disney, which led directly to Disney's decision to terminate their relationship with him. These video clips and others used to "prove" PewDiePie's guilt have been edited (he claims) to remove all context, to the extent of using a pose of him pointing at something as a Nazi salute and using a clip where other players are creating swastikas in a game and editing out the part where he is asking them to stop. The most-cited video in the controversy involves seeing if he can use the site Fiverr to hire someone to create a video containing an over-the-top message for a mere $5. After a couple of laughing males unfurl a sign saying "Death to All Jews," he recoils with widened eyes and sits, apparently dumbfounded, for another thirty seconds before the video ends, without him uttering another word.
PewDiePie's video comes several days after a Tumblr post where he attempted to clarify that the videos were intended to be comedy showing "how crazy the modern world is." He has not yet used the phrase "fake news" in his response to the controversy, but given the current trends surrounding that phrase, it isn't surprising that his supporters are resorting to it frequently. Is this all just another unfortunate instance of collateral damage in the war against far-right political movements, is it a campaign of malicious retaliation by old media that is terrified of new media (as Felix claims), or was J.K. Rowling correct when she called out PewDiePie as a Death Eater? Err, I mean, ...as a fascist?
Samsung Chief Lee Arrested In Corruption Investigation
According to Reuters, Samsung chief Jay Y. Lee
was arrested on Friday over his alleged role in a corruption scandal that led parliament to impeach South Korean President Park Geun-hye. From the report:
The 48-year-old Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS), was taken into custody at the Seoul Detention Centre, where he had awaited the court's decision following a day-long, closed-door hearing that ended on Thursday evening. The judge's decision was announced at about 5:30 a.m. (2030 GMT) on Friday, more than 10 hours after Lee, the sprawling conglomerate's third-generation leader, had left the court. The same court rejected a request from prosecutors last month to arrest Lee. On Tuesday, the special prosecutor's office had requested a warrant to arrest him and another executive, Samsung Electronics president Park Sang-jin, on bribery and other charges. The prosecution said it had secured additional evidence and brought more charges against Lee in the latest warrant request. While Lee's detention is not expected to hamper day-to-day operation of Samsung Group companies, which are run by professional managers, experts have said it could affect strategic decision-making by South Korea's biggest conglomerate. Prosecutors have focused their investigations on Samsung's relationship with Park, 65, who was impeached by parliament in December and has been stripped of her powers while the Constitutional Court decides whether to uphold her impeachment. They accused Samsung of paying bribes totaling 43 billion won ($37.74 million) to organizations linked to Choi to secure the government's backing for a merger of two Samsung units. That funding includes Samsung's sponsorship of the equestrian career of Choi's daughter, who is in detention in Denmark, having been on a South Korean wanted list.
McDonald's Hires Project Ara Design Team To Reinvent the Drinking Straw
An anonymous reader writes:
McDonald's has hired the creators of Google's Project Ara to reinvent the drinking straw. Their new invention, the "Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal" (STRAW for short), is a J-shaped device that allows the user to drink both layers of the company's dual-layer Chocolate Shamrock shake simultaneously, receiving an optimal mixture of chocolate and, um, shamrock. McDonald's announced the new product at a Facebook live event yesterday, which included a keynote by McDonald's Senior Director of Menu Innovation Darci Forrest, a Silicon-Valley-style panel moderated by Austin Evans, and interviews with engineers from NK Labs and JACE. Computational fluid dynamics simulations, 3D printing, and extensive real-world testing (drinking shakes) were required to get the design ready for its eventual unveiling. McDonald's is producing a limited first run of 2000 of the straws for distribution at restaurants across the U.S. "My first reaction was, that doesn't seem too hard. We could have a double straw -- one longer, one shorter. No problem," says Seth Newburg, principal engineer and managing partner at NK Labs, which teamed up with JACE Design on the STRAW. "Then we immediately thought, once you get halfway down, one straw is going to start sucking air... It's one of those things that seems so simple, but as we got into it there were a lot more issues exposed. It turned out to present quite a few engineering and scientific challenges." NK Labs and JACE Design were the two companies who also worked on
Project Ara together, the Google initiative to build a phone with interchangeable modules for various components like cameras and batteries. Unfortunately, the plans for Project Ara were
scrapped late last year.
Scottish Court Awards Damages For CCTV Camera Pointed At Neighbor's House
AmiMoJo quotes a report from BoingBoing:
Edinburgh's Nahid Akram installed a CCTV system that let him record his downstairs neighbors Debbie and Tony Woolley in their back garden, capturing both images and audio of their private conversations, with a system that had the capacity to record continuously for five days. A Scottish court has ruled that the distress caused by their neighbor's camera entitled the Woolleys to $21,000 (17,000 British Pounds) in damages, without the need for them to demonstrate any actual financial loss. The judgment builds on a 2015 English court ruling against Google for spying on logged out Safari users, where the users were not required to show financial losses to receive compensation for private surveillance.
AT&T Is the Latest Carrier To Offer Unlimited Data For All Its Customers
Earlier this week, Verizon announced it is
bringing back unlimited data plans after years of selling capped data packages. Now, ATT will be
doing the same. ATT
will let any current or potential customer buy an unlimited data plan. Until now, only DirecTV customers were able to purchase unlimited data from the carrier. PhoneDog reports:
ATT says that starting tomorrow, February 17, its Unlimited Plan will be available to all customers. The plan will include unlimited data, talk, and text, and customers with the plan will also be able to travel to Canada or Mexico and use their plan just as they would at home, with zero roaming charges. ATT's Unlimited Plan also includes Stream Saver, which will optimize video streams to 480p. However, Stream Saver can be disabled if you'd like. One feature that's missing from ATT's Unlimited Plan is mobile hotspot usage, which is notable because the unlimited plans from the other three major U.S. carriers do include some mobile hotspot. Finally, it's worth noting that after 22GB of usage, ATT Unlimited Plan customers may have their speeds slowed during times of network congestion. This policy is also in place at the other three major U.S. carriers, with Verizon's threshold being 22GB, Sprint's 23GB, and T-Mobile's 26GB. A single line on the ATT Unlimited Plan will cost $100 per month. Each additional line will cost $40, but ATT will offer the fourth line free, making the cost for a family of four $180 per month.
Swedish Court Rules: 'Block the Pirate Bay For Next 3 Years'
"In 2014, many film studios teamed up to force the Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget to block the popular torrent website The Pirate Bay," reports Fossbytes. "It was also said that ISPs should be blocked if they refused to block copyright infringing websites." Now, a Swedish Patent and Market Court of Appeal has ordered The Pirate Bay and streaming portal Swefilmer to be
blocked by Bredbandsbolaget for the next three years. Fossbytes reports:
The court overruled the earlier ruling of the District Court, ordering the ISP to employ some technical measures to stop its customers from accessing the website and its different URLs. The court said that a blocking injunction would be proportional "in the light of EU law." Notably, under the EU law, it's possible for the copyright owners to get an injunction against the ISPs whose services are used to pirate content. This verdict is the first of its kind in Sweden, but similar injunctions have been announced in the past in other European nations. This ruling also opens new doorways for the copyright holders to target more torrent websites in the near future. Pirate Bay spokesperson Peter Sunde said in a
statement to TorrentFreak: "The fight is not about TPB -- the users of TPB can just bypass this blockade easily. It's about the slippery slope it brings."
FCC Chairman Wants It To Be Easier To Listen To Free FM Radio On Your Smartphone
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode:
Your smartphone has an FM radio in it, only it's unlikely that you're able to use it. That's because in the U.S., less than half of phones actually have the FM tuner turned on. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who just recently assumed the top position at the regulatory agency under President Trump, thinks that should change. In remarks made to the North American Broadcasters Association yesterday, Pai said that it's a public safety issue. Both the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Association and an FCC advisory panel on public safety have advocated for turning on the FM radio capabilities in smartphones, since radio is a reliable source of information when internet or cellphone networks go down in severe weather. Although Pai thinks smartphones should have the FM chip turned on, he doesn't think the government should mandate it: "As a believer in free markets and the rule of law, I cannot support a government mandate requiring activation of these chips. I don't believe the FCC has the power to issue a mandate like that, and more generally I believe it's best to sort this issue out in the marketplace."
Google Fiber Sheds Workers As It Looks to a Wireless Future
Mariella Moon, writing for Engadget:
Alphabet is making some huge changes to steer Google Fiber in a new, more wireless direction. According to Wired, the corporation has reassigned hundreds of Fiber employees to other parts of the company and those who remained will mostly work in the field. It has also hired broadband veteran Greg McCray as the new CEO for Access, the division that runs Google Fiber. These changes don't exactly come out of left field: back in October, Google announced that it's pausing the high-speed internet's expansion to new markets and that it's firing nine percent of the service's staff. Wired says running fiber optic cables into people's homes has become too expensive for the company. A Recode report last year says it costs Mountain View $1 billion to bring Fiber to a new market.
Tech Jobs Took a Big Hit Last Year
Barb Darrow, writing for Fortune:
Tech jobs took it on the chin last year. Layoffs at computer, electronics, and telecommunications companies were up 21 percent to 96,017 jobs cut in 2016, compared to 79,315 the prior year. Tech layoffs accounted for 18 percent of the total 526,915 U.S. job cuts announced in 2016, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement firm based in Chicago. Of the 2016 total, some 66,821 of the layoffs came from computer companies, up 7% year over year. Challenger attributed much of that increase to cuts made by Dell Technologies, the entity formed by the $63 billion convergence of Dell and EMC. In preparation for that combination, layoffs were instituted across EMC and its constituent companies, including VMware.
CloudFlare Puts Pirate Sites on New IP Addresses, Avoids Cogent Blockade
Earlier this month, several users worldwide reported that they were unable to access pirate websites including the Pirate Bay. It was because the internet backbone network of Cogent Communications had
blackholed the CloudFlare IP-address of pirate websites. Less than a week later,
CloudFlare is fighting back. From a report on TorrentFreak:
The Pirate Bay and dozens of other pirate sites that were blocked by Cogent's Internet backbone are now accessible again. CloudFlare appears to have moved the sites in question to a new pair of IP-addresses, effectively bypassing Cogent's blackhole. [...] As of yesterday, the sites in question have been assigned the IP-addresses 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11, still grouped together. Most, if not all of the sites, are blocked by court order in the UK so this is presumably done to prevent ISP overblocking of 'regular' CloudFlare subscribers.
YouTube Has 1 Billion Videos With Closed-Captioning (But Not All of Them Are Accurate)
Over a billion videos on YouTube are accessible to viewers with difficulties in hearing, thanks to the video giant's automated captions, it said Thursday. From a report on Variety:
That certainly sounds impressive -- except when you realize that many of the site's automatically generated captions aren't completely right. The Google-owned video giant first launched captions back in 2006, and three years later introduced automatic speech recognition to add closed-captioning to YouTube content. Today, YouTube users watch video with auto-generated captions more than 15 million times per day. But the system is prone to errors. For example, the trailer for Amazon Studio's Oscar-nominated "Manchester by the Sea" (at this link) includes numerous inaccuracies in the auto-transcribed captions, sometimes to hilarious -- not to mention frustrating -- effect.
EU Privacy Watchdogs Seek Assurances on US Data Transfer Pact
European Union data privacy watchdogs will seek assurances from U.S. authorities that a move by U.S. President Donald Trump to crack down on illegal immigration
will not undermine a transatlantic pact protecting the privacy of Europeans' data. From a report:
European concerns have been raised by an executive order signed by Trump on Jan. 25 aiming to toughen enforcement of U.S. immigration law. The order directs U.S. agencies to "exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information." The exemption of foreigners from the U.S. law governing how federal agencies collect and use information about people has stoked worries across the Atlantic about the new administration's approach to privacy and its impact on cross-border data flows.
Sprint's New Unlimited Plan Adds HD Streaming, Four Lines For $90
Take that, Verizon! Sprint's unlimited data plan now has HD video too. From a report:
On February 16, Sprint upped its unlimited plan, launching the "best unlimited HD plan ever", according to its press release. The new plan matches Verizon Wireless' new unlimited plan by offering unlimited calls, text, data, HD video streaming, and 10 GB of mobile hotspot for $22.50 per line, for four lines. That equates to $90 per month for four lines, or half of what Verizon Wireless is charging. Sprint's plan requires the account owner to enable AutoPay, ensuring the bill is paid on time each month. For those who don't need four lines, the first line will set you back $50 per month, two lines of service will bump it $90 per month.
Valve 'Comfortable' If Virtual Reality Headsets Fail
VR headset developer Valve is "comfortable" with the idea that the technology
could turn out to be a complete failure. Gabe Newell, head of the game studio, made the statement in an interview with news site Polygon. From a report:
Valve is co-developer of the Vive VR headset with phone firm HTC. Mr Newell said, so far, interest in the technology was in line with its expectations and that some VR games had already sold well. In the rare and wide-ranging interview, Mr Newell said the advent of VR had much in common with the development of PCs in the 1980s. In both cases, he said, people bought technology without knowing why and discovered afterwards what they were good for. For the PC, he said, it was spreadsheets and businesses that drove the initial success. With VR, people were only starting to discover compelling uses as they experimented and took risks with the technology.Mr Newell said there were now about 1,300 VR-based applications on its Steam gaming service and about 30 of those had made more than $250,000 in revenue.
Google Releases TensorFlow 1.0 With New Machine Learning Tools
An anonymous reader shares a VentureBeat report:
At Google's inaugural TensorFlow Dev Summit in Mountain View, California, today, Google announced the release of version 1.0 of its TensorFlow open source framework for deep learning, a trendy type of artificial intelligence. Google says the release is now production-ready by way of its application programing interface (API). But there are also new tools that will be part of the framework, which includes artificial neural networks that can be trained on data and can then make inferences about new data. Now there are more traditional machine learning tools, including K-means and support vector machines (SVMs), TensorFlow's engineering director, Rajat Monga, said at the conference. And there's an integration with the Python-based Keras library, which was originally meant to ease the use of the Theano deep learning framework. And there are now "canned estimators," or models, Monga said, including simple neural networks to start using quickly.
Linus Torvalds: Talk of Tech Innovation is Bullshit. Shut Up and Get the Work Done
Linus Torvalds believes the technology industry's celebration of innovation is smug, self-congratulatory, and self-serving. From a report on The Register:
The term of art he used was more blunt: "The innovation the industry talks about so much is bullshit," he said. "Anybody can innovate. Don't do this big 'think different'... screw that. It's meaningless. Ninety-nine per cent of it is get the work done." In a deferential interview at the Open Source Leadership Summit in California on Wednesday, conducted by Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, Torvalds discussed how he has managed the development of the Linux kernel and his attitude toward work. "All that hype is not where the real work is," said Torvalds. "The real work is in the details." Torvalds said he subscribes to the view that successful projects are 99 per cent perspiration, and one per cent innovation.
Check Your Privacy Filters: Facebook Wants To Be the New LinkedIn
From a report on CNET:
Facebook isn't just for wasting time in the office. It can now help you find a new job entirely. The social network has unveiled a Jobs page, which allows businesses to list all kinds of work for you to find. You can even apply for the job and make contact with recruiters directly through Facebook. This could be seen as a challenge to competing services such as LinkedIn, the recruiting network acquired by Microsoft last December. But while LinkedIn is entirely focused on business, Facebook's social aspects could make it easier for potential employers to trawl your profile for details of your personal life.
Apple Announces WWDC 2017, To Be Held in San Jose On June 5-9
Apple said today it will kick off this year's Worldwide Developers Conference on June 5. Much like every year, the developer conference is the place where we can expect to see what's coming to iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS later this year. This year, the event is being held in a different venue:
the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, the original home of WWDC. John Gruber, writing for DaringFireball:
First, announcing early really helps people who have to travel long distances to attend, particularly those from outside the U.S. The San Jose Convention Center is the original home of WWDC -- that's where it was held from 1988 through 2002. (WWDC 2002 was the year Steve Jobs held a funeral for Mac OS 9 during the keynote.) San Jose is way closer to Apple headquarters. San Francisco is about an hour drive from 1 Infinite Loop. The San Jose Convention Center is only five minutes away from Apple's new campus. Schiller emphasized to me that this is a big deal: more Apple employees from more teams will be present, simply because they won't have to devote an entire day to being there. (This could be a particular boon to WWDC's developer labs, where attendees can get precious face time with Apple's engineers.)
Elon Musk Is Really Boring
Sometimes it is hard to tell if Elon Musk is serious about the things he says. But as for his "boring" claims, that's really happening. In a wide-range interview with Bloomberg,
the billionaire talked more about his new venture, The Boring Company. The idea began on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago when Musk tweeted, "Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging..." Over the course of next few hours later, Musk added, "It shall be called 'The Boring Company,' Boring, it's what we do. I am actually going to do this. Excerpts from the story:
And so, around noon on a Friday in January, an excavation crew started digging. "I was like, 'Hey, what's the biggest hole we can make by Sunday evening?'" Musk says. [...] "My other idea was to call it Tunnels R Us and to essentially troll Toys "R" Us into filing a lawsuit," he says, letting out a loud and well-articulated ha-ha-ha-ha. "Now we've decided to troll AT&T instead! We're going to call it American Tubes and Tunnels." When I ask him if the tunnel venture will be a subsidiary of SpaceX or an independent company, he responds cryptically. "Don't you read my Twitter? The Boring Company. Or TBC. To Be Continued." An aide chimes in: Yes, the Boring Company, aka To Be Continued, aka Tunnels R Us, aka American Tubes and Tunnels, aka whatever, will indeed be an independent company. Tunnel technology is older than rockets, and boring speeds are pretty much what they were 50 years ago. Musk says he hopes to build a much faster tunneling machine and use it to dig thousands of miles, eventually creating a vast underground network that includes as many as 30 levels of tunnels for cars and high-speed trains such as the Hyperloop. Musk chose the SpaceX parking lot as the site of his first dig, mostly because it was convenient and he could legally do so without city permits. The plan is to expand the current hole into a ramp designed for a large tunnel boring machine and then start digging horizontally once the machine is 50 feet or so below ground, which would make it low enough to clear gas and sewer lines and to be undetectable at the surface. 100 marks to Bloomberg for the headline, and the story
which is as funny as it is insightful.
Apple's iPhone 8 To Replace Touch ID Home Button With 'Function Area'
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Apple Insider:
Apple will ditch the home button when it debuts a new 'iPhone 8' model later this year, and will dedicate the extra screen real estate to an area for virtual buttons, according to KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Adding detail to his previous predictions regarding the next-generation handset, Kuo in a note to investors obtained by AppleInsider said the full-screen design will allow Apple to integrate a "function" area never seen in an iPhone. The device is expected to adopt a 5.8-inch OLED panel in a form factor similar to the current 4.7-inch iPhone 7. Despite having extended screen real estate as compared to current iPhone models, the actual active display area on "iPhone 8" will be closer to 5.15 inches on the diagonal, with the remaining bottom portion dedicated to system functions like virtual buttons. While Kuo failed to elaborate on an exact implementation, the note suggests Apple plans to hardcode a set of always-on, static system controls into iOS. Whether the so-called "function area" is capable of switching to an active display mode for in-app activities like watching videos or playing games, remains to be seen. With the deletion of current Touch ID technology, Kuo believes "iPhone 8" will incorporate new bio-recognition assets to take over device security and Apple Pay authentication duties. The analyst did not offer predictions on the type of biometric tech Apple intends to use, but a report earlier today said the company could integrate a 3D laser scanning module capable of facilitating facial recognition and augmented reality applications. Kuo in a note last month said Apple might integrate a dual biometric system utilizing optical fingerprint readers and facial recognition hardware.
Astronomers Discover 60 New Planets Including 'Super Earth'
schwit1 quotes a report from New York Post:
An international team of astronomers has found 60 new planets orbiting stars close to Earth's solar system, including a rocky "super Earth." The experts also found evidence of an additional 54 planets, bringing the potential discovery of new worlds to 114. One planet in particular, Gliese 411b, has been generating plenty of attention. Described as a "hot super Earth with a rocky surface," Gliese 411b is located in the fourth-nearest star system to the Sun, making it the third-nearest planetary system to the Sun, according to the U.K.'s University of Hertfordshire, which participated in the research. Gliese 411b (also known as GJ 411b or Lalande 21185) orbits the star Gliese 411 (or GJ 411). Despite the "super Earth" label, Dr. Mikko Tuomi from University of Hertfordshire's Centre for Astrophysics told Fox News that Gliese 411b is too hot for life to exist on its surface. The 60 new planets are found orbiting stars that are mostly some 20 to 300 light years away, according to Tuomi. The discoveries are based on observations taken over 20 years by U.S. astronomers using the Keck-I telescope in Hawaii as part of the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey. During the course of the research, scientists obtained almost 61,000 observations of 1,600 stars, which are now available to the public.
Lost Winston Churchill Essay Reveals His Thoughts On Alien Life
"A newly discovered essay by Winston Churchill shows that the British statesman
gave a lot of thought to the existential question that has inspired years of scientific research and blockbuster movies: are we alone in the University?" reports The Verge. "The essay was drafted in the 1930s, but unearthed in a museum in Missouri last year." Astrophysicist Mario Livio was the first scientist to analyze the article and has
published his comments in the journal Nature. The Verge reports:
Livio was "stunned" when he first saw the unpublished, 11-page essay on the existence of alien life, he tells The Verge. The astrophysicist was visiting Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, for a talk last year, when he was approached by Timothy Riley, the director of Fulton's US National Churchill Museum. Riley showed him the essay, titled "Are We Alone in the Universe?" In the essay, Churchill reasons that we can't possibly be alone in the Universe -- and that many other Suns will likely have many other planets that could harbor life. Because of how enormously distant these extrasolar planets are, we may never know if they "house living creatures, or even plants," Churchill concludes. He wrote this decades before exoplanets were discovered in the 1990s; hundreds have since been detected. What's impressive about the essay is the way Churchill approaches the existential and scientific question of whether life exists on other planets, Livio says. Churchill's reasoning mirrors extremely well the way scientists think about this problem today. The British leader also talks about several theories that still guide the search for alien life, Livio says. For example, he notes that water is the key ingredient for life on Earth, and so finding water on other planets could mean finding life there. Churchill also notes that life can only survive in regions "between a few degrees of frost and the boiling point of water" -- what today we call the habitable zone, the region around a star that is neither too hot or too cold, so that liquid water may exist on the planet's surface.