Solar Panels On Half the World's Roofs Would Power the Planet
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Conversation:
Our new paper in Nature Communications presents a global assessment of how many rooftop solar panels we'd need to generate enough renewable energy for the whole world -- and where we'd need to put them. Our study is the first to provide such a detailed map of global rooftop solar potential, assessing rooftop area and sunlight cover at scales all the way from cities to continents. We found that we would only need 50 percent of the world's rooftops to be covered with solar panels in order to deliver enough electricity to meet the world's yearly needs.
We designed a program that incorporated data from over 300 million buildings and analyzed 130 million km of land -- almost the entire land surface area of the planet. This estimated how much energy could be produced from the 0.2 million km of rooftops present on that land, an area roughly the same size as the U.K. We then calculated electricity generation potentials from these rooftops by looking at their location. Generally, rooftops located in higher latitudes such as in northern Europe or Canada can vary by as much as 40% in their generation potential across the year, due to big differences in sunshine between winter and summer. Rooftops near the equator, however, usually only vary in generation potential by around 1% across the seasons, as sunshine is much more consistent. This is important because these large variations in monthly potential can have a significant impact on the reliability of solar-powered electricity in that region. That means places where sunlight is more irregular require energy storage solutions -- increasing electricity costs. Our results highlighted three potential hotspots for rooftop solar energy generation: Asia, Europe and North America.
Of these, Asia looks like the cheapest location to install panels, where -- in countries like India and China -- one kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity, or approximately 48 hours of using your laptop, can be produced for just 0.05p. This is thanks to cheap panel manufacturing costs, as well as sunnier climates. Meanwhile, the costliest countries for implementing rooftop solar are the U.S., Japan and the U.K. Europe holds the middle ground, with average costs across the continent of around 0.096p per kWh. The report mentions this endeavor would be "extremely expensive," and won't be a solution for some industries that require very large currents and specialized electricity delivery. However, the report concludes by saying: "If the costs of solar power continue to decrease, rooftop panels could be one of the best tools yet to decarbonize our electricity supply."
Google Cloud Will Now Show Its Users Their Carbon Footprint In the Cloud
Google Cloud today
announced a new (and free) feature that will provide its users with
custom carbon footprint reports that detail the carbon emissions their cloud usage generates. TechCrunch reports:
"Customers can leverage this data for reporting as well as internal audits and carbon reduction efforts. Build in collaboration with customers like HSBC, L'Oreal and Atos, our carbon footprint reporting introduces a new level of transparency to support customers in meeting their climate goals," said Jenn Bennett, who leads Google Cloud's data and technology strategy for sustainability in the Office of the CTO. "Customers can monitor their cloud emissions over time by project, by product and by region, empowering IT teams and developers with metrics that help them reduce their carbon footprint. Digital infrastructure emissions are really just one part of their environmental footprint, but accounting for carbon emissions is necessary to measure progress against the carbon reduction targets that they all have."
As Bennett noted, once a company has accurate reporting in place, providing recommendations for how to reduce their climate impact is a natural next step. Specifically, this means adding carbon estimates to Google Cloud's Unattended Project Recommender, which helps customers reduce their number of idling resources, and adding a sustainability impact category to its Active Assist Recommender.
Study Reveals Android Phones Constantly Snoop On Their Users
new study (PDF) by a team of university researchers in the UK has
unveiled a host of privacy issues that arise from using Android smartphones. BleepingComputer reports:
The researchers have focused on Samsung, Xiaomi, Realme, and Huawei Android devices, and LineageOS and /e/OS, two forks of Android that aim to offer long-term support and a de-Googled experience. The conclusion of the study is worrying for the vast majority of Android users: "With the notable exception of /e/OS, even when minimally configured and the handset is idle these vendor-customized Android variants transmit substantial amounts of information to the OS developer and also to third parties (Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) that have pre-installed system apps." As the summary table indicates, sensitive user data like persistent identifiers, app usage details, and telemetry information are not only shared with the device vendors, but also go to various third parties, such as Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Facebook. And to make matters worse, Google appears at the receiving end of all collected data almost across the entire table.
It is important to note that this concerns the collection of data for which there's no option to opt-out, so Android users are powerless against this type of telemetry. This is particularly concerning when smartphone vendors include third-party apps that are silently collecting data even if they're not used by the device owner, and which cannot be uninstalled. For some of the built-in system apps like miui.analytics (Xiaomi), Heytap (Realme), and Hicloud (Huawei), the researchers found that the encrypted data can sometimes be decoded, putting the data at risk to man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks. As the study points out, even if the user resets the advertising identifiers for their Google Account on Android, the data-collection system can trivially re-link the new ID back to the same device and append it to the original tracking history. The deanonymization of users takes place using various methods, such as looking at the SIM, IMEI, location data history, IP address, network SSID, or a combination of these. In response to the report, a Google spokesperson said: "While we appreciate the work of the researchers, we disagree that this behavior is unexpected -- this is how modern smartphones work. As explained in our Google Play Services Help Center article, this data is essential for core device services such as push notifications and software updates across a diverse ecosystem of devices and software builds. For example, Google Play services uses data on certified Android devices to support core device features. Collection of limited basic information, such as a device's IMEI, is necessary to deliver critical updates reliably across Android devices and apps."
Robotics Engineer Adds a Working USB-C Port To An iPhone
Ken Pillonel, a robotics engineer on YouTube,
replaced an iPhone's Lightning port with a working USB-C port. AppleInsider reports:
In a YouTube Short titled "World's First USB-C iPhone," Ken Pillonel claims to have installed the component into the iPhone X, replacing Lightning in the process. In the video, the iPhone is said to receive power via the connection, as well as being able to handle data transfers over a USB-C cable. In the description of the video, Pillonel says he reverse-engineered Apple's C94 connector, in order to make a PCB with a female USB-C port. After the schematics were set in place, it then became a challenge to shrink it down and install it into an iPhone.
Pillonel has spent a few months on his creation, with a blog post from May showing the thinking behind the replacement, and the challenges of replacing the Lightning port itself. A video at that time showed a DIY prototype that worked and laid out the work ahead to make it small enough to work within an iPhone enclosure. A late September update advised he had designed and ordered a flexible PCB, a key component in enabling the port switch to occur. He adds a future video is in production, explaining how the board was made and squeezed into the iPhone itself.
Best Buy's New $200/Yr Membership Locks PS5, Hot Holiday Items Behind Membership
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
If you're still searching for a PS5 and are a Best Buy customer, your ship may have just come in -- that is, if you're willing to spend an extra $200 a year for access. That's because the big-box electronics retailer is locking stock of in-demand holiday items like Sony's console behind membership of its new Totaltech program. The expensive customer service package was recently rolled out nationwide. The $200 annual service -- which has benefits like round-the-clock tech support, up to two years of protection on Best Buy purchases (including AppleCare+ insurance, which can cost $200 on its own), and member discounted prices -- is throwing in exclusive access to "the season's hardest-to-find products" as a bonus perk for the holidays, the company said in a statement. The Best Buy retail site had the $500 disc drive model PS5s available for Totaltech members to buy Monday morning, with the consoles gated behind an "exclusive access event" paywall. Instead of selling out instantly, its stock lasted between 90 minutes and two hours -- a relatively glacial sales pace compared to the insane demand for the hardware that consumers have faced since it hit stores last November.
Although the PS5's listing page pointed directly to Totaltech membership exclusivity while the hardware was still available, its seemingly unrelated VIP buying privileges aren't listed anywhere on the program's membership benefits and FAQ pages. We would not be shocked to see other highly desired products that have been affected by the chip shortage follow suit, particularly high-end PC GPUs and Xbox Series X/S consoles. The service is replacing a "Best Buy Beta" program that was tested in select markets starting in April. Beta seemed to target a more generalized range of benefits over one focused on tech support and protection, and it notably did not offer special members-only events to buy limited-stock electronics. The company's free My Best Buy membership, which sometimes includes exclusive discount sales, remains unaffected.
The Intercept Reveals Facebook's Secret Blacklist of 'Dangerous Individuals and Organizations'
Sam Biddle writes via The Intercept:
To ward off accusations that it helps terrorists spread propaganda, Facebook has for many years barred users from speaking freely about people and groups it says promote violence. The restrictions appear to trace back to 2012, when in the face of growing alarm in Congress and the United Nations (PDF) about online terrorist recruiting, Facebook added to its Community Standards a ban on "organizations with a record of terrorist or violent criminal activity." This modest rule has since ballooned into what's known as the Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy, a sweeping set of restrictions on what Facebook's nearly 3 billion users can say about an enormous and ever-growing roster of entities deemed beyond the pale. [...] The Intercept has reviewed a snapshot of the full DIO list and is today publishing a reproduction of the material in its entirety, with only minor redactions and edits to improve clarity. It is also publishing an associated policy document, created to help moderators decide what posts to delete and what users to punish.
The list and associated rules appear to be a clear embodiment of American anxieties, political concerns, and foreign policy values since 9/11, experts said, even though the DIO policy is meant to protect all Facebook users and applies to those who reside outside of the United States (the vast majority). Nearly everyone and everything on the list is considered a foe or threat by America or its allies: Over half of it consists of alleged foreign terrorists, free discussion of which is subject to Facebook's harshest censorship. The DIO policy and blacklist also place far looser prohibitions on commentary about predominately white anti-government militias than on groups and individuals listed as terrorists, who are predominately Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Muslim, or those said to be part of violent criminal enterprises, who are predominantly Black and Latino, the experts said.
The materials show Facebook offers "an iron fist for some communities and more of a measured hand for others," said Angel Diaz, a lecturer at the UCLA School of Law who has researched and written on the impact of Facebook's moderation policies on marginalized communities. Facebook's policy director for counterterrorism and dangerous organizations, Brian Fishman, said in a written statement that the company keeps the list secret because "[t]his is an adversarial space, so we try to be as transparent as possible, while also prioritizing security, limiting legal risks and preventing opportunities for groups to get around our rules." He added, "We don't want terrorists, hate groups or criminal organizations on our platform, which is why we ban them and remove content that praises, represents or supports them. A team of more than 350 specialists at Facebook is focused on stopping these organizations and assessing emerging threats. We currently ban thousands of organizations, including over 250 white supremacist groups at the highest tiers of our policies, and we regularly update our policies and organizations who qualify to be banned."
Stripe Is Hiring a Crypto Team 3 Years After Ending Bitcoin Support
Payments company Stripe has
begun assembling a crypto engineering team to chart its future in digital assets. CoinDesk reports:
The team -- described in LinkedIn posts and job listings -- will be run by Guillaume Poncin, Stripe's former head of engineering for banking and financial products. He is looking to hire at least four staffers to help plot Stripe's crypto strategy. Those engineers "will design and build the core components that we need to support crypto use cases," the job posts said. "Crypto is a brand new team at Stripe."
The team may be new but Stripe's interest in crypto stretches back years. A payments giant whose API supports millions of digital storefronts, it made headlines in 2014 when it supported bitcoin -- an industry first. Stripe abandoned that service four years later. But a source told CoinDesk that Stripe never left crypto. The company continued to watch the digital assets space develop, weighing if and how to participate again. In recent months it has shown increasing interest in non-fungible tokens (NFTs), the source said. One thing on the company's mind is a need to avoid picking favorites, the source said. Stripe already supports an array of more traditional online payment options. It wants to remain tech-neutral when it comes to crypto, the source said.
Adobe Uses DMCA To Nuke Project That Keeps Flash Alive, Secure and Adware Free
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak:
In January 2021, development and support for Adobe Flash was discontinued. That marked the end of an era but in reality, Flash wasn't quite dead. Flash Player is still available in China, something that was exploited by the Clean Flash project to continue making the software more widely and safely available. The Chinese version of Flash receives one security update per month and can be freely downloaded from Flash.cn but also has significant strings attached. It comes preinstalled with an adware program called Flash Helper which, according to security sources, exhibits malicious behavior. Developed by 'darktohka' and previously located on Github, Clean Flash Installer solves these problems and more. "Clean Flash Installer installs this up-to-date freely available version of Flash, but it comes WITHOUT the adware program," darktohka informs TorrentFreak. "As such Clean Flash Installer can be used by anyone to use a relatively secure version of Flash Player after the support for Flash ended."
The developer says that he was inspired to create his tool to keep Flash content alive, something which he says was a huge part of his childhood. Adobe appears to be less enthusiastic about his work and following a DMCA notice filed with Github, the developer platform has nuked the project. In a DMCA complaint filed with Github on October 4, 2021, a legal representative acting for Adobe explains that the Clean Flash Installer project breaches copyright law. "Adobe Inc. is the copyright owner and I am authorized to act on its behalf. Our Adobe Flash Player software has been infringed. The files in question contain our proprietary Adobe Inc. owned copyrighted materials (software code)," it reads, adding that the project must be removed. "As this is my passion project, I am deeply disappointed with Adobe's action. The repository in question only hosts the installer code for the project, which was written by myself and does not contain any infringing code," explains darktohka. "Adobe Flash was a huge part of our childhood, and it's gut-wrecking that Adobe would rather have everyone use super out-of-date versions of the software when versions with security updates are freely available. It makes no sense for them to DMCA an installer that was written independently and makes use of the freely available and downloadable version of the project."
Microsoft Puts the Windows Subsystem for Linux in Its App Store for Faster Updating
Microsoft has announced that new WSL features will be
even easier to get in the future. From a report:
The company has posted a preview version of WSL to the Microsoft Store so that Windows 11 users can download and update WSL independently of other Windows updates. Many of Windows' built-in apps have already moved to being updated through the Microsoft Store rather than through regular Windows Updates. This gives the company more flexibility when deciding when to update apps, though one side effect has been that many of Windows 11's pre-installed apps still haven't been fully updated for Windows 11. But long-term, it also means you don't need to wait for a new Windows update to benefit from updated apps. For WSL, this means you won't need to install major, potentially disruptive Windows updates (like, say, Windows 11) just to take advantage of new WSL additions.
Microsoft's Project Turing is Building AI to Rival Google and Open AI
An anonymous reader
shares a report:
Since 2017, Microsoft has pursued this goal under the name Project Turing, a team that's tasked with building these large language models and figuring out how they can be used in the company's vast suite of products. Project Turing might not be a visible name outside the company, its AI can already be found generating text inside Microsoft Office products and powering much of the curated information provided when searching with Bing. If Turing succeeds, the strategy could amplify the research dollars that Microsoft has poured into AI research over previous decades. Notably, Microsoft isn't only using Turing-NLG, the project's flagship model, internally: It's already begun selling the tech to select partners, hinting at the cloud giant's ambitions for the AI market. Insider spoke with AvePoint and Volume.ai, both of whom are using Turing in their own products.
"Our job is to further the frontier of AI innovation as much as possible," Ali Alvi, group program manager of Project Turing, told Insider. Alvi tells Insider that the Turing team was assembled from within the company by Microsoft chief technology officer Kevin Scott, in recognition of the ongoing deep learning boom. Scott encouraged the team to think bigger and work with the Azure infrastructure team to make the models exponentially larger. When CEO Satya Nadella saw the team's progress, he decided to get it into the hands of customers, Alvi says. AvePoint, a Microsoft partner that resells and builds applications on top of Microsoft products, has launched two products so far using the Turing model: An education platform for teachers that will automatically create quiz questions using material that's been uploaded for a specific course, and a corporate training platform that uses Turing to test employees on internal material.
Woman Allegedly Hacked Flight School, Cleared Planes With Maintenance Issues To Fly
A woman allegedly hacked into the systems of a flight training school in Florida to delete and
tamper with information related to the school's airplanes. In some cases, planes that previously had maintenance issues had been "cleared" to fly, according to a police report. The hack, according to the school's CEO, could have put pilots in danger. From a report:
Lauren Lide, a 26-year-old who used to work for the Melbourne Flight Training school, resigned from her position of Flight Operations Manager at the end of November of 2019, after the company fired her father. Months later, she allegedly hacked into the systems of her former company, deleting and changing records, in an apparent attempt to get back at her former employer, according to court records obtained by Motherboard. The news of her arrest was first reported by local TV station News Channel 8.
Derek Fallon, the CEO of Melbourne Flight Training called the police on January 17, 2020, and reported that five days before, he logged onto his account for Flight Circle, an app his company uses to manage and keep track of its airplanes, and found that there was missing information. Fallon found that someone had removed records related to planes with maintenance issues and reminders of inspections had all been deleted, "meaning aircraft which may have been unsafe to fly were purposely made 'airworthy,'" according to a document written by a Melbourne Airport Police officer.
Pentagon Says Hypersonic Weapons Are Too Expensive
The Pentagon wants defense contractors to
cut the ultimate cost of hypersonic weapons, the head of research and development said on Tuesday, as the next generation of super-fast missiles being developed currently cost tens of millions per unit. From a report:
"We need to figure out how to drive towards more affordable hypersonics," Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu told reporters at the Association of United States Army conference in Washington. She said cost was something she "would like to help industry focus on." Currently, the U.S. uses cruise missiles which are mature technologies costing less than $5 million per unit to strike deep into enemy territory. But cruise missiles are inferior to hypersonic weapons because they have a shorter range, are far slower and more vulnerable to being detected and shot down. Both Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies are working on hypersonic weapons for the Pentagon. The Pentagon's budget request in the 2022 fiscal year for hypersonic research was $3.8 billion which was up from $3.2 billion they year before.
A Record Number of Workers Are Quitting Their Jobs, Empowered by New Leverage
The number of people quitting their jobs has
surged to record highs, pushed by a combination of factors that include Americans sensing ample opportunity and better pay elsewhere. From a report:
Some 4.3 million people quit jobs in August, according to the monthly survey -- about 2.9 percent of the workforce, according to new data released Tuesday from the Department of Labor. Those numbers are up from the previous records set in April and nearly matched in July, of about 4 million people quitting. The phenomenon is being driven in part by workers who are less willing to endure inconvenient hours and poor compensation, quitting at this stage in the pandemic to find better opportunities elsewhere. According to the report, there were 10.4 million job openings in the country at the end of August -- down slightly from July's record high, which was adjusted up to 11.1 million, but still a tremendously high number.
The "quits" numbers include about 892,000 workers in restaurants, bars and hotels, as well as 721,000 workers in retail. An additional 706,000 employees in professional business services and 534,000 workers in health care and social assistance also left jobs. Nick Bunker, economist at the jobs site Indeed, said the numbers were a reflection of the leverage workers have in the current economic market, with job openings outnumbering unemployed workers. The high level of people quitting their jobs was likely due in large part to people leaving jobs to take other positions, although the data doesn't specify why people are quitting and where they are ending up.
Magic Leap Somehow Raised $500 Million To Make Another AR Headset
Magic Leap has raised $500 million in funding and is
preparing to release a new AR headset, the Magic Leap 2, next year, the company announced Monday. From a report:
The headset will be generally available next year, the company said, and "select customers" are using it as part of an early access program. CEO Peggy Johnson said in a statement that with the new funding "Magic Leap will have greater financial flexibility and the resources needed to continue our growth trajectory as we expand on our industry-leading AR technology." She revealed the new device in an Monday appearance on CNBC.
Magic Leap, of course, is the company that began its existence as a mysterious AR startup, received almost $3 billion to fund its consumer-friendly AR headset, before changing its headset's name from Magic Leap 1 to The Magic Leap One Creator Edition in an attempt to attract professional customers. The company laid off 1,000 employees -- roughly half its workforce -- in 2020, and was reportedly abandoning its consumer business. Cofounder and CEO Rony Abovitz left the company in July 2020, and was replaced by Johnson. Magic Leap, which has previously raised $3.5 billion (according to Pitchbook), is now valued at $2 billion, down from $6 billion in 2018.
Coinbase is Launching a Marketplace for NFTs
Coinbase is getting into NFTs. The cryptocurrency exchange said Tuesday it plans to launch a marketplace that
lets users mint, collect and trade NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. From a report:
Users can sign up to a waitlist for early access to the feature, the company said. NFTs are one-of-a-kind digital assets designed to represent ownership of online items like rare art or collectible trading cards. They aren't fungible, meaning you can't exchange one NFT for another like you could with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Sales of such tokens have boomed this year. The NFT market topped $10 billion in transaction volume in the third quarter of 2021, according to DappRadar, a company that tracks data on crypto-based applications.
Apple Announces October 18 Event After Months of Mac Rumors
Apple's next hardware event will
take place on October 18th, according to invites it sent out today. From a report:
The company is widely expected to use its second fall event to launch a pair of new MacBooks, a redesigned higher-end Mac Mini, and possibly a pair of third-generation AirPods. The invite video teases one word: Unleashed.
[...] There have been reports for months that Apple is on the cusp of releasing new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models. The new MacBooks would be the latest step in Apple's transition away from Intel chips, replacing them with an Arm-based processor called the M1X that Apple designs itself. The new chip could boost performance compared to the M1 chip that debuted last year. Other anticipated features include the return of fan-favorite MacBook features like magnetic MagSafe charging, an HDMI port, and an SD card slot. The maligned OLED touch bar, mercifully, could be on the way out. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman recently noted that stock of the company's existing MacBook Pro appears to be running low.
Olympus Confirms US Cyberattack, Weeks After BlackMatter Ransomware Hit EMEA Systems
Japanese technology giant Olympus has confirmed it was
hit by a cyberattack over the weekend that forced it to shut down its IT systems in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. From a report:
In a statement on its website, Olympus said it is "investigating a potential cybersecurity incident detected October 10" and is "currently working with the highest priority to resolve this issue."
"As part of the investigation and containment, we have suspended affected systems and have informed the relevant external partners. The current results of our investigation indicate the incident was contained to the Americas with no known impact to other regions. We are working with appropriate third parties on this situation and will continue to take all necessary measures to serve our customers and business partners in a secure way. Protecting our customers and partners and maintaining their trust in us is our highest priority. Our investigation is ongoing and we are committed to transparent disclosure and will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available."
It's near-identical to a statement put out by Olympus last month following a cyberattack on its European, Middle East and Africa network.
Spectrum Threatens Former Customers In Renewal Shakedown
An anonymous reader writes:
Spectrum has been sending former customers strange letters threatening to report them to the credit agencies unless they renew services, in attempt to win back their business. The letters say that "as a one-time courtesy," the company will cancel debt it claims they owe and stop reporting them to credit agencies -- if they agree to resume cable service. The threat continues by stating that "You have worked hard to build a great future for yourself and your family" "We look forward to welcoming you back."
Microsoft Says It Mitigated a 2.4 Tbps DDoS Attack, the Largest Ever
Microsoft said its Azure cloud service
mitigated a 2.4 terabytes per second (Tbps) distributed denial of service attack this year, at the end of August, representing the largest DDoS attack recorded to date. From a report:
Amir Dahan, Senior Program Manager for Azure Networking, said the attack was carried out using a botnet of approximately 70,000 bots primarily located across the Asia-Pacific region, such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, and China, as well as the United States. Dahan identified the target of the attack only as "an Azure customer in Europe."
The Microsoft exec said the record-breaking DDoS attack came in three short waves, in the span of ten minutes, with the first at 2.4 Tbps, the second at 0.55 Tbps, and the third at 1.7 Tbps. Dahan said Microsoft successfully mitigated the attack without Azure going down. Prior to Microsoft's disclosure today, the previous DDoS record was held by a 2.3 Tbps attack that Amazon's AWS division mitigated in February 2020.
Google Unveils Cybersecurity Programs and Action Team
An anonymous reader
shares a report:
By the end of 2021, cybercrime is expected to cost the world $6 trillion. And by 2025, this figure will climb to $10.5 trillion, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. There's been a rash of recent high-profile cyberattacks, including Colonial Pipeline, the SolarWinds breach, and JBS USA. That's perhaps why 80% of senior IT employees believe that their companies lack sufficient protection against cyberattacks, despite increased security investments made in 2020.
To address the challenges, Google today at Google Cloud Next 2021 debuted Work Safer, a program to help organizations, employees, and partners collaborate in hybrid work environments. It also unveiled a new security-focused task force --- the Cybersecurity Action Team -- and a security and resilience framework, in addition to enhanced security capabilities in Workspace. The announcements come after research showing that companies want cloud providers to increase their security efforts. According to a a recent Tripwire survey, while the majority of enterprises believe that public cloud providers are doing enough to ensure security for users, it's "just barely adequate."
Neuroscientists Claim To Have Pinpointed the Brain States Unique To 'Team Flow'
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ScienceAlert:
At some point in life, you have probably enjoyed a 'flow' state -- when you're so intensely focused on a task or activity, you experience a strong sense of control, a reduced awareness of your environment and yourself, and a minimized sense of the passing of time. It's also possible to experience 'team flow,' such as when playing music together, competing in a sports team, or perhaps gaming. In such a state, we seem to have an intuitive understanding with others as we jointly complete the task at hand. An international team of neuroscientists now thinks they have uncovered the neural states unique to team flow, and it appears that these differ both from the flow states we experience as individuals, and from the neural states typically associated with social interaction.
Researchers found increased beta and gamma brain wave activity in the left middle temporal cortex. This region of the brain is typically associated with information integration and key functions like attention, memory, and awareness, which are "consistent with higher team interactions and enhancing many flow dimensions," the team writes. However, what was unique about team flow, was that participants' neural activity appeared to synchronize. When participants were performing the task as a unit, their brains would mutually align in their neural oscillations (beta and gamma activity), creating a "hyper-cognitive state between the team members." If brains can be functionally connected through inter-brain synchrony, does this mean it is not only our brain that contributes to our consciousness? It's a curious question, but the authors warn it is much too soon to tell. "Based on our findings, we cannot conclude that the high value of integrated information correlates with a modified form of consciousness, for instance, 'team consciousness'," they write. "Its consistency with neural synchrony raises intriguing and empirical questions related to inter-brain synchrony and information integration and altered state of consciousness." The study was
published in the journal eNeuro.
Peter Norvig Leaves Google To Join Stanford AI Unit
Artificial intelligence expert Peter Norvig is
joining the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI this fall as a Distinguished Education Fellow, with the task of developing tools and materials to explain the key concepts of artificial intelligence. From a blog post:
Norvig helped launch and build AI at organizations considered innovators in the field: As Google's director of research, he oversaw the tech giant's search algorithms and built the teams that focused on machine translation, speech recognition, and computer vision. At NASA Ames, his team created autonomous software that was the first to command a spacecraft, and served as a precursor to the current Mars rovers. Norvig is also a well-known name in AI education. He co-wrote Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, an introductory textbook used by some 1,500 universities worldwide, and he's taught hundreds of thousands of students through his courses on online education platform Udacity. In this interview, he discusses his move to Stanford, building a human-focused AI curriculum, and broadening access to education. When asked why he's leaving Google, Norvig said: "Throughout my career I've gone back and forth between the major top-level domains: .edu, .com, and .gov. After 20 years with one company and after 18 months stuck working from home, I thought it was a good time to try something new, and to concentrate on education."
Star Trek's William Shatner On His Plan To Boldly Go Into Space
In an interview with Gayle King on "CBS Mornings," Star Trek's William Shatner
talks about his plan to boldly go into space, becoming the oldest person to do so. He's planning to launch to the final frontier on Wednesday,
courtesy of Jeff Bezos and his rocket company Blue Origin. CBS News reports:
Shatner joked that he'll be able to brag about the age record. But he said his actual motivation was "to have the vision. I want to see space. I want to see the Earth. I want to see what we need to do to save Earth." "I want to have a perspective that hasn't been shown to me before," he said. "That's what I'm interested in seeing."
Shatner will eclipse Funk's record by eight years and John Glenn's mark before that by 13. "I'm looking forward to the whole thing," Shatner told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "Imagine being weightless and staring into the blackness and seeing the Earth, that's what I want to absorb." But he added, smiling: "Things like that go up and boom in the night. It's a little scary, I'll tell you." The most difficult challenges for 90-year-old Shatner likely will be climbing the seven flights of stairs required to reach the gangway to board the New Shepard capsule and then enduring more than five times the normal force of gravity during descent. But Funk had no problems, and Blue Origin officials presumably expect the same for Shatner.