Some Corals Grow After 'Fatal' Warming
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org:
For the first time ever, scientists have found corals that were thought to have been killed by heat stress have recovered, a glimmer of hope for the world's climate change-threatened reefs. The chance discovery, made by Diego K. Kersting from the Freie University of Berlin and the University of Barcelona during diving expeditions in the Spanish Mediterranean, was reported in the journal Science Advances on Wednesday.
Kersting and co-author Cristina Linares have been carrying out long-term monitoring of 243 colonies of the endangered reef-builder coral Cladocora caespitosa since 2002, allowing them to describe in previous papers recurring warming-related mass mortalities. [T]he researchers found that in 38 percent of the impacted colonies, the polyps had devised a survival strategy: shrinking their dimensions, partly abandoning their original skeleton, and gradually, over a period of several years, growing back and starting a new skeleton. They were then able to gradually re-colonize dead areas through budding. "Coral are made up of hundreds to thousands of tiny creatures called polyps that secrete a hard outer skeleton of calcium carbonate (limestone) and attach themselves to the ocean floor," the report mentions. In order to be sure that the polyps were the same animals staging a comeback, "the team used 3D computer imaging to confirm the old, abandoned skeleton was connected to the new structure."
"This process of 'rejuvenescence' was known to exist in the fossil record but had never before been observed in coral colonies that exist today." While further investigation is required, the team says the findings open up the possibility that other modern corals around the world might be apply similar strategies to survive.
The Most Detailed Map of Auto Emissions In America
The New York Times published findings from an analysis of new data
released through Boston University's Database of Road Transportation Emissions. The map embedded in the report
shows a year's worth of CO2 from passenger and freight traffic on every road in the United States. From the report:
The database provides the most detailed estimates available of local on-road CO2 over the past three decades. Even as the United States has reduced carbon dioxide emissions from its electric grid, largely by switching from coal power to less-polluting natural gas, emissions from transportation have remained stubbornly high. The bulk of those emissions, nearly 60 percent, come from the country's 250 million passenger cars, S.U.V.s and pickup trucks, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Freight trucks contribute an additional 23 percent.
Reducing emissions from driving has been a big challenge, said Conor Gately, who led the project mapping CO2 on America's roads as a postdoctoral researcher at Boston University. Emissions dipped during the recession of the late 2000s, but have been ticking back up since 2013. National fuel economy standards put in place under the Obama administration have helped temper the rise in automotive emissions because the rules require cars and trucks to use less gasoline per mile traveled. But even as vehicles have become more efficient, Americans, buoyed by a strong economy and low gas prices, have been driving more miles and buying more S.U.V.s and pickup trucks, which have lower gas mileage. Freight trucking is also on the rise. Boston University's emissions database, first published in 2015 and updated this week with an additional five years of data, reveals that much of the increase in driving-related CO2 has occurred in and around cities. The report goes on to say that in nearly every metro area, total emissions have increased since 1990. "The New York area, home to 20 million Americans, accounted for the largest share of driving-related CO2," reports The New York Times. "After years of increase, emissions ebbed during the late-2000s recession but rebounded by 2017. In more car-dependent areas, like Dallas-Fort Worth, emissions from driving barely dipped during the recession and have increased rapidly in recent years. But, adjusted for population, these cities flip: Residents in the denser, more transit-friendly New York area contribute far less CO2 from driving on average than their counterparts in Dallas."
As for how the database was created, "Boston University researchers used federal traffic data to calculate the number of miles travelled on local segments of each road in the United States and converted those miles to carbon dioxide emissions by estimating how much fuel is consumed by different types of vehicles using those roads."
Da Vinci Bridge Design Holds Up Even After 500 Years, MIT Proves
Researchers at MIT
have proven that Leonardo da Vinci knew what he was doing when he came up with a novel bridge design that would connect Istanbul with its neighbor city Galata. At the time, it would've been the world's longest bridge, with an unprecedented single span of 790 feet -- constructed without wood planks or even mortar joints. But, unfortunately, it was only recently put to the test since the design was rejected by Sultan Bayezid II in 1502 A.D. CNET reports:
"It was time-consuming, but 3D printing allowed us to accurately recreate this very complex geometry," MIT graduate student Karly Bast said in a release on Thursday. Bast worked with a team of engineering academics to finally bring to life a faithful 1-to-500 scale model of da Vinci's famously rejected bridge design, putting the Renaissance man's long-questioned geometry to the test by slicing the complex shapes into 126 individual blocks, then assembling them with only the force of gravity. The group, which presented its work this week in Barcelona, relied on the sketches and descriptions found in da Vinci's letter bidding for the job, along with their own analysis of the era's construction methods.
The structure is held together only by compression -- the MIT team wanted to show that the forces were all being transferred within the structure, said Bast. "When we put it in, we had to squeeze it in." Bast said she had her doubts, but when she put the keystone in, she realized it was going to work. When the group took the scaffolding out, the bridge stayed up. "It's the power of geometry," she said.
Rwanda Releases First Smartphone Made Entirely In Africa
Rwanda's Mara Group just released two smartphones,
earning the company the title of the first smartphone manufacturer in Africa. Their grand ambitions are to help turn Rwanda into a regional tech hub. Fast Company reports:
Rwanda President Paul Kagame has announced Africa's "first high tech smartphone factory," CNN reported. While smartphones are assembled in other African nations (Egypt, Algeria, and South Africa all have assembly plants), according to Reuters, those companies all import the components. But at Mara, they manufacture the phones from the motherboards to the packaging, which is all done in the new factory. Kagame made the announcement in a press conference on Monday in the capital of Kigali. The phones, called Mara X and Mara Z, are the first "Made in Africa" models. Both run on Google's Android operating system. While the company admits they are a little more expensive than other options, like the popular Tecno brand phones made by a Chinese-owned company, they hope customers are willing to pay a bit more for quality and Made in Africa pride.
Quantum Computing May Be Closer Than Expected With 'Game Changer' Discovery
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse:
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University describe a superconducting material, B-Bi2Pd, that naturally exists in a quantum state without the additional influence of magnetic fields usually needed for such an effect. The authors write that the low-maintenance, stability of this material makes it a perfect candidate for designing quantum systems. The research will be published Friday in the journal Science by physicists from Johns Hopkins University. "We've found that a certain superconducting material contains special properties that could be the building blocks for technology of the future," the paper's first author, Yufan Li, said in a press release. "A ring of B-Bi2Pd already exists in the ideal state and doesn't require any additional modifications to work. This could be a game changer."
What makes this superconducting material special is the unique state it occupies as its ground state, or when no other forces are being exerted on it. While other superconducting materials can be forced to maintain a quantum state using external magnetic fields or energy-sustaining "quantum spin liquid," the researchers found that this material naturally exists in a quantum superposition, in which current can simultaneously flow clockwise and counter-clockwise in a ring of the material. This discovery is the realization of a prediction made by physicists in the 80s. The authors write that this property makes it an ideal candidate for quantum systems. But that doesn't mean we're out of the woods yet when it comes to our halting approach to universal quantum computing.
Tim Cook Defends Decision To Remove Hong Kong Maps App In Memo
On Thursday, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the company's
decision to remove a mapping app in Hong Kong, saying that the company received "credible information" from authorities indicating the software
was being used "maliciously" to attack police. Bloomberg reports:
Apple pulled HKmap.live from its App Store on Wednesday after flip-flopping between rejecting it and approving it earlier this month. Apple made the decision after consulting with local authorities, because it could endanger law enforcement and city residents. Cook echoed that sentiment in an email to Apple employees. "Over the past several days we received credible information, from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as from users in Hong Kong, that the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present," Cook wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News. He also said the app violates local laws.
The company has been criticized for the move, and Cook addressed that. "These decisions are never easy, and it is harder still to discuss these topics during moments of furious public debate," the CEO wrote. "National and international debates will outlive us all, and, while important, they do not govern the facts. In this case, we thoroughly reviewed them, and we believe this decision best protects our users." Apple's reversal came after the Chinese Communist Party's flagship newspaper
criticized Apple for letting the app into its store.
Computer Historians Crack Passwords of Unix's Early Pioneers
JustAnotherOldGuy shares a report from Boing Boing:
Early versions of the free/open Unix variant BSD came with password files that included hashed passwords for such Unix luminaries as Dennis Ritchie, Stephen R. Bourne, Eric Schmidt, Brian W. Kernighan and Stuart Feldman. Leah Neukirchen recovered an BSD version 3 source tree and revealed that she was able to crack many of the weak passwords used by the equally weak hashing algorithm from those bygone days.
Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie's was "dmac," Bourne's was "bourne," Schmidt's was "wendy!!!" (his wife's name), Feldman's was "axlotl," and Kernighan's was "/.,/.,." Four more passwords were cracked by Arthur Krewat: Ozalp Babaolu's was "12ucdort," Howard Katseff's was "graduat;," Tom London's was "..pnn521," Bob Fabry's was "561cml.." and Ken Thompson's was "p/q2-q4!" (chess notation for a common opening move). BSD 3 used Descrypt for password hashing, which limited passwords to eight characters, salted with 12 bits of entropy.
Should Cameras Replace Car Mirrors? US Regulators Want To Know
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a notice on Wednesday that is is seeking public and industry input on whether to allow so-called camera monitoring systems to replace rear- and side-view mirrors mandated by a longstanding U.S. auto safety standard. Tesla Inc. and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in 2014 petitioned the agency to allow cameras to be used in lieu of traditional mirrors, citing improved fuel economy through reduced aerodynamic drag as the primary benefit. Cameras feeding one or more displays inside the car could also improve rear and side visibility, the Auto Alliance has said.
A five-year agency study of the technology on heavy-duty vehicles found display screens were too bright, making it harder for drivers to see objects on the road ahead. NHTSA's 2017 tests of a prototype camera monitoring system found it was "generally usable" in most situations, and produced better-quality images than mirrors at dusk and dawn. It also found potential flaws, including displays that were too bright at night, distorted images and camera lenses that would become obscured by raindrops. NHTSA said in a notice in the online Federal Register is seeking outside research and data about the potential safety impacts of replacing mirrors with cameras to inform a possible proposal to alter the mirror requirement in the future.
System76 Will Begin Shipping 2 Linux Laptops With Coreboot-Based Open Source Firmware
System76, the Denver-based Linux PC manufacturer and developer of Pop OS, has some stellar news for those who prefer their laptops a little more open. Later this month the company will begin
shipping two of their laptop models with its Coreboot-powered open source firmware. From a report:
Beginning today, System76 will start taking pre-orders for both the Galago Pro and Darter Pro laptops. The systems will ship out later in October, and include the company's Coreboot-based open source firmware which was previously teased at the 2019 Open Source Firmware Conference. (Coreboot, formerly known as LinuxBIOS, is a software project aimed at replacing proprietary firmware found in most computers with a lightweight firmware designed to perform only the minimum number of tasks necessary to load and run a modern 32-bit or 64-bit operating system.) What's so great about ripping out the proprietary firmware included in machines like this and replacing it with an open alternative? To begin with, it's leaner. System76 claims that users can boot from power off to the desktop 29% faster with its Coreboot-based firmware.
[...] Both of these laptops can be kitted out with 10th-Generation Intel CPUs (specifically the i5-10210U and the i7-10510U), and both have glare-resistant matte 1080p IPS displays. Beginning at $949, the Galago Pro features an all-aluminum chassis, a wealth of connectivity options including HDMI, DisplayPort to USB-C and Thunderbolt, and can be configured with up to 32GB of RAM and up to 6TB of storage space. The Darter Pro, meanwhile, can be built out with 32GB of RAM and up to 2TB of storage, and features up to 10 hours of battery life.
Dyson Cancels Electric Car Project
Dyson has abandoned its attempts to break into the automotive industry and will wind down its electric vehicle project,
ending a venture that founder James Dyson claimed would redefine his business
[Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. From a report:
The company failed to find a buyer for its designs, and said its plans to build a car from scratch in Singapore were no longer commercially viable. Dyson's ambitions faced a mounting challenge from established carmakers, while electric vehicle makers such as Tesla have raised large sums on the stock and bond markets. Many new entrants such as China's Nio have struggled with the cost of competing against deep-pocketed incumbents. Sir James's decision represents a humbling U-turn for a man who is one of Britain's most celebrated living inventors. The billionaire businessman had hoped to harness his privately owned group's expertise in battery systems, aerodynamics and high-tech manufacturing to break into a fiercely competitive industry. "Though we have tried very hard throughout the development process, we simply can no longer see a way to make it commercially viable," Sir James wrote in an email to staff on Thursday. "We have been through a serious process to find a buyer for the project which has, unfortunately, been unsuccessful so far." The failed automotive gamble was part of a $3.1 bn investment push into a range of new technologies, including artificial intelligence and robotics and batteries.
How Remote Work is Quietly Remaking Our Lives
From their ersatz offices in coffee shops, coworking spaces, and living rooms,
a growing number of remote workers are quietly remaking the way we work and live. From a report:
Take Eden Rehmet, who was able to parlay her wages working in trade services at a New York City commodities broker into buying a home and opening a small business upstate. Rob Osoria, a web developer, works remotely from Brooklyn half of the week to skip a commute to his Manhattan office. And interior designer Meg Lavalette gets the best of both worlds by living and doing the majority of her work in rural upstate New York, while traveling to New York City every other week to meet with clients. All of them told Recode that apart from a few downsides, they have improved the quality of their lives by working remotely and releasing their tether to specific places near their employers. While remote work has blurred some of the boundaries between their work lives and their personal lives, they say they're happier and often more productive than they'd been at traditional offices.
Depending on how you measure it, remote employees like these make up anywhere from 5.3 percent (those who typically work from home) to nearly two-thirds (who work remotely ever) of the US workforce, a number that has been rising since the advent of a reliable and robust home broadband connection earlier this decade. The changes remote work has introduced have happened so gradually you may not have noticed. But its growing popularity is remaking how we work, the tools we use to work, how we communicate at work, and even the hours we work. It's also connected to population shifts from big cities to less populated areas, and it's upending sectors of commercial real estate, both in terms of how spaces are designed and where they're located. What was once a rarity among a select set of workers is quickly becoming a defining feature of the future of work.
Pinterest Says AI Reduced Reported Self-Harm Content By 88%
Pinterest says it's using machine learning techniques to identify and hide content that displays, rationalizes, or encourages self-injury. The company says it has
achieved an 88% reduction in reports of self-harm content by users and that it's now able to remove such content 3 times faster. From a report:
Additionally, over 4,600 search terms and phrases related to self-harm have been removed from the platform, Pinterest says, and links to free and confidential support from expert resources are now more prominently displayed to members who search for those keywords. People showing signs of distress now see the resources directly in their boards (i.e., home screens), an approach Pinterest says was developed with guidance from outside emotional health experts at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Vibrant Emotional Health, and Samaritans. Elsewhere, Pinterest this morning broadened the rollout of the emotional well-being interactive practices and exercises it introduced in the U.S. through its iOS app earlier this year.
An AI Pioneer Wants His Algorithms To Understand the 'Why'
Deep learning is good at finding patterns in reams of data, but can't explain how they're connected. Turing Award winner Yoshua Bengio wants to change that. From a report:
In March, Yoshua Bengio received a share of the Turing Award, the highest accolade in computer science, for contributions to the development of deep learning -- the technique that triggered a renaissance in artificial intelligence, leading to advances in self-driving cars, real-time speech translation, and facial recognition. Now, Bengio says deep learning needs to be fixed. He believes it won't realize its full potential, and won't deliver a true AI revolution, until it can go beyond pattern recognition and learn more about cause and effect. In other words, he says, deep learning needs to start asking why things happen. The 55-year-old professor at the University of Montreal, who sports bushy gray hair and eyebrows, says deep learning works well in idealized situations but won't come close to replicating human intelligence without being able to reason about causal relationships. "It's a big thing to integrate [causality] into AI," Bengio says. "Current approaches to machine learning assume that the trained AI system will be applied on the same kind of data as the training data. In real life it is often not the case."
Cisco Hit By an Internal Network Outage
Not a great start to the day for Cisco employees, many of which are
struggling in the face of an internal IT outage. From a report:
The technology and networking giant confirmed in a tweet it was "aware of some disruption" to its IT systems and is "working" on restoring the network. Worse, the company's corporate blog also went kaput. For a period, Cisco's blog was displaying the default WordPress install page. But at the time of publication, the blog had been restored. Some customers were unable to login through Cisco's single sign-on.
Amazon Workers May Be Watching Your Cloud Cam Home Footage
An anonymous reader shares a report:
In a promotional video, Amazon says its Cloud Cam home security camera provides "everything you need to monitor your home, day or night." In fact, the artificially intelligent device requires help from a squad of invisible employees. Dozens of Amazon workers based in India and Romania review select clips captured by Cloud Cam, according to five people who have worked on the program or have direct knowledge of it. Those video snippets are then used to train the AI algorithms to do a better job distinguishing between a real threat (a home invader) and a false alarm (the cat jumping on the sofa). An Amazon team also transcribes and annotates commands recorded in customers' homes by the company's Alexa digital assistant, Bloomberg reported in April.
AI has made it possible to talk to your phone. It's helping investors predict shifts in market sentiment. But the technology is far from infallible. Cloud Cam sends out alerts when it's just paper rustling in a breeze. Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa still occasionally mishear commands. One day, engineers may overcome these shortfalls, but for now AI needs human assistance. Lots of it. At one point, on a typical day, some Amazon auditors were each annotating about 150 video recordings, which were typically 20 to 30 seconds long, according to the people, who requested anonymity to talk about an internal program.
Apple, a company that loves to talk about its values, has this week demonstrated that when it comes to China -- one of its biggest markets and where most of its iPhones and other products are assembled taking full benefit of low-cost labors -- even the Steve Jobs-founded company lacks a backbone. The company has bowed down to Chinese pressure and
pulled an app from the Chinese App Store that helped pro-democracy protesters track cops to ensure their safety. Apple, a company with nearing $1 trillion in market cap, said the app "violates our guidelines and local laws."
The company has also pulled news app Quartz, which has been extensively covering the protests in Hong Kong, from the app store. The explanation from Apple, the company which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to plaster every mall on the face of this planet in recent weeks to tell us that its new iPhone models have an ultra-wide lens? Crickets. On the Chinese App Store, Apple also does not offer The New York Times app because it "violates its policies." That's right. The New York Times, the biggest publication on the planet that wins tons of awards for its reportage each year and is celebrated across the globe and is a partner of Apple for Apple News subscription service, violates Apple's policies in China.
A few other times when x-ray report
showed Apple did not have a backbone.
Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower: US Heading In 'Same Direction As China' With Online Privacy
"The United States
is walking in the same direction as China, we're just allowing private companies to monetize left, right and center," Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie told CNBC on Wednesday. "Just because it's not the state doesn't mean that there isn't harmful impacts that could come if you have one or two large companies monitoring or tracking everything you do," he said. CNBC reports:
Wylie, whose memoir came out this week, has become outspoken about the influence of social media companies due to the large amounts of data they collect. In March 2018, he exposed the Cambridge Analytica scandal that brought down his former employer and resulted in the Federal Trade Commission fining Facebook, 15 months later, $5 billion for mishandling. While Cambridge Analytica has since shut down, Wylie said the tactics it used could be deployed elsewhere, and that is why data privacy regulation needs to be dramatically enhanced.
"Even if the company has dissolved, the capabilities of the company haven't," he said. "My real concern is what happens if China becomes the next Cambridge Analytica, what happens if North Korea becomes the next Cambridge Analytica?" Wylie also said he believes that social media companies should, at a minimum, face regulation similar to water utilities or electrical companies -- "certain industries that have become so important because of their vital importance to business and people's lives and the nature of their scale." In those cases, "we put in place rules that put consumers first," he added. "You can still make a profit. You can still make money. But you have to consider the rights and safety of people."
Overwatch Mei Is Becoming a Hong Kong Protest Symbol
decision to suspend a Hearthstone player for expressing support of protests in Hong Kong during an official tournament broadcast, some gamers are
working to turn Overwatch hero Mei into a symbol of the Hong Kong resistance. Polygon reports:
A post yesterday on the r/HongKong subreddit suggested people turn Mei, a Chinese Overwatch hero, into a "pro-democracy symbol" to get "Blizzard's games banned in China." (China already censors Winnie the Pooh after the internet began associating the character with president Xi Jinping.) The post has been upvoted more than 12,000 times, and has more than 300 comments, plenty of which are images of Mei supporting Hong Kong. The movement has spread outward into Twitter and elsewhere. Players have also continued to post screenshots of themselves uninstalling Blizzard games and closing their accounts. The #BoycottBlizzard hashtag remains active, with new tweets generated nearly every second.