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Biotech

China Pulls Plug On Genetically Modified Rice and Corn 1

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-on-my-plate dept.
sciencehabit writes China's Ministry of Agriculture has decided not to renew biosafety certificates that allowed research groups to grow genetically modified (GM) rice and corn. The permits, to grow two varieties of GM rice and one transgenic corn strain, expired on 17 August. The reasoning behind the move is not clear, and it has raised questions about the future of related research in China.
Power

How Argonne National Lab Will Make Electric Cars Cheaper 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the cheap-charge dept.
ashshy writes Argonne National Lab is leading the charge on next-generation battery research. In an interview with The Motley Fool, Argonne spokesman Jeff Chamberlain explains how new lithium ion chemistries will drive down the cost of electric cars over the next few years. "The advent of lithium ion has truly enabled transportation uses," Chamberlain said. "Because if you remember your freshman chemistry, you think of the periodic table -- lithium is in the upper left-hand corner of the periodic table. Only hydrogen and helium are lighter on an atomic basis."
Medicine

Study: Seals Infected Early Americans With Tuberculosis 51

Posted by samzenpus
from the seal-of-consumption dept.
mdsolar writes that a study suggests that tuberculosis first appeared in the New World less than 6,000 years ago and it was brought here by seals. After a remarkable analysis of bacterial DNA from 1,000-year-old mummies, scientists have proposed a new hypothesis for how tuberculosis arose and spread around the world. The disease originated less than 6,000 years ago in Africa, they say, and took a surprising route to reach the New World: it was carried across the Atlantic by seals. The new study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, has already provoked strong reactions from other scientists. "This is a landmark paper that challenges our previous ideas about the origins of tuberculosis," said Terry Brown, a professor of biomolecular archaeology at the University of Manchester. "At the moment, I'm still in the astonished stage over this."
Government

Smartphone Kill Switch, Consumer Boon Or Way For Government To Brick Your Phone? 160

Posted by samzenpus
from the best-of-both-worlds dept.
MojoKid writes We're often told that having a kill switch in our mobile devices — mostly our smartphones — is a good thing. At a basic level, that's hard to disagree with. If every mobile device had a built-in kill switch, theft would go down — who would waste their time over a device that probably won't work for very long? Here's where the problem lays: It's law enforcement that's pushing so hard for these kill switches. We first learned about this last summer, and this past May, California passed a law that requires smartphone vendors to implement the feature. In practice, if a smartphone has been stolen, or has been somehow compromised, its user or manufacturer would be able to remotely kill off its usability, something that would be reversed once the phone gets back into its rightful owner's hands. However, such functionality should be limited to the device's owner, and no one else. If the owner can disable a phone with nothing but access to a computer or another mobile device, so can Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Nokia or Apple. If the designers of a phone's operating system can brick a phone, guess who else can do the same? Everybody from the NSA to your friendly neighborhood police force, that's who. At most, all they'll need is a convincing argument that they're acting in the interest of "public safety."
The Almighty Buck

Women Founders Outpace Male Counterparts In Certain Types of Kickstarter Funding 98

Posted by samzenpus
from the gathering-the-cash dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes Women outpace men when it comes to raising money for technology projects through crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, according to a new study by researchers at New York University and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Jason Greenberg (NYC) and Ethan Mollick (Wharton/UPenn) chose 1,250 Kickstarter projects in five categories: games and technology, where founders were predominantly male; film, with an even gender distribution; and fashion and children's books, both populated with more female founders and backers. They analyzed additional factors such as "industry typing" (a theory in which people 'often hold conscious or unconscious biases about what gender is the archetype employee in a particular occupation or industry') and restricted the data set by geography and how much money each Kickstarter project wanted (a project aiming for less than $5,000 may attract an inordinate percentage of family and friends as funders, skewing results). After crunching the data, they found that female founders of technology projects were more likely than males to achieve their Kickstarter goals, a finding that didn't extend to the other four categories. "It appears female backers are responsible for helping female founders succeed in specific industry categories that women backers generally disfavor," they theorized, adding a little later: "The value of crowdfunding is that it enables access to a pool of potential female backers particularly inclined to support women in industry categories in which they believe women to be underrepresented."
Earth

The Royal Society Proposes First Framework For Climate Engineering Experiments 161

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-can-make-it-better dept.
Jason Koebler writes The Royal Society of London, the world's oldest scientific publisher, has unveiled a proposal to create the first serious framework for future geoengineering experiments. It's a sign that what are still considered drastic and risky measures to combat climate change are drifting further into the purview of mainstream science. The scientific body has issued a call to create "an open and transparent review process that ensures such experiments have the necessary social license to operate."
Data Storage

The Data Dome: A Server Farm In a Geodesic Dome 59

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-it-cool dept.
1sockchuck writes In a unique approach to data center design, the new high-performance computing center in Oregon is housed in a geodesic dome. The new facility at the Oregon Health and Science University requires no mechanical air conditioning, using outside air to racks of servers reaching densities of 25kW per cabinet. The design uses an aisle containment system to separate hot and cold air, and can recirculate server exhaust heat to adjust cold aisle temperatures in the winter. It's a very cool integration of many recent advances in data center design, combining elements of the Yahoo Chicken Coop and server silo in Quebec. The school has posted a virtual tour that provides a deep technical dive.
Programming

Software Combines Thousands of Online Images Into One That Represents Them All 66

Posted by samzenpus
from the best-representation dept.
Zothecula writes If you're trying to find out what the common features of tabby cats are, a Google image search will likely yield more results than you'd ever have the time or inclination to look over. New software created at the University of California, Berkeley, however, is designed to make such quests considerably easier. Known as AverageExplorer, it searches out thousands of images of a given subject, then amalgamates them into one composite "average" image.
Businesses

Microsoft's Windows 8 App Store Is Full of Scamware 178

Posted by samzenpus
from the needs-a-cleaning dept.
Deathspawner writes Windows 8 brought a lot to the table, with one of its most major features being its app store. However, it's not a feature that Microsoft seems too intent on keeping clean. As it is today, the store is completely littered with misleading apps and outright scamware. The unfortunate thing is that to find any of it, all you have to do is simply open the store and peruse the main sections. Not so surprisingly, no Microsoft software seems to be affected by this, but many open-source apps can be found at the store from unofficial sources that have a cost, or will lead the user to download a third-party installer. It's only a matter of time before malware sneaks its way in, if it's not there already.
EU

The Cost of Caring For Elderly Nuclear Plants Expected To Rise 244

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-it-going dept.
mdsolar writes with this story about the rising costs of keeping Europe's nuclear power plants safe and operational. Europe's aging nuclear fleet will undergo more prolonged outages over the next few years, reducing the reliability of power supply and costing plant operators many millions of dollars. Nuclear power provides about a third of the European Union's electricity generation, but the 28-nation bloc's 131 reactors are well past their prime, with an average age of 30 years. And the energy companies, already feeling the pinch from falling energy prices and weak demand, want to extend the life of their plants into the 2020s, to put off the drain of funding new builds. Closing the older nuclear plants is not an option for many EU countries, which are facing an energy capacity crunch as other types of plant are being closed or mothballed because they can't cover their operating costs, or to meet stricter environmental regulation.
The Internet

Plan Would Give Government Virtual Veto Over Internet Governance 61

Posted by samzenpus
from the changing-things-up dept.
An anonymous reader writes The debate over Internet governance for much of the past decade has often come down to a battle between ICANN and the United Nations. The reality has always been far more complicated. The U.S. still maintains contractual control over ICANN, while all governments exert considerable power within the ICANN model through the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). Now governments are looking for even more power, seeking a near-complete veto power of ICANN decisions.
Crime

WikiLeaks' Assange Hopes To Exit London Embassy "Soon" 289

Posted by samzenpus
from the leaving-the-building dept.
An anonymous reader writes Julian Assange has hosted a press conference in which he indicated he is soon about to leave the embassy of Ecuador in London. From the article: "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent over two years in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid a sex crimes inquiry in Sweden, said on Monday he planned to leave the building 'soon', but Britain signaled it would still arrest him if he tried. Assange made the surprise assertion during a news conference alongside Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino. But his spokesman played down the chances of an imminent departure, saying the British government would first need to revise its position and let him leave without arrest, something it has repeatedly refused to do.
Transportation

Selectable Ethics For Robotic Cars and the Possibility of a Robot Car Bomb 238

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-hands dept.
Rick Zeman writes Wired has an interesting article on the possibility of selectable ethical choices in robotic autonomous cars. From the article: "The way this would work is one customer may set the car (which he paid for) to jealously value his life over all others; another user may prefer that the car values all lives the same and minimizes harm overall; yet another may want to minimize legal liability and costs for herself; and other settings are possible. Philosophically, this opens up an interesting debate about the oft-clashing ideas of morality vs. liability." Meanwhile, others are thinking about the potential large scale damage a robot car could do.

Lasrick writes Patrick Lin writes about a recent FBI report that warns of the use of robot cars as terrorist and criminal threats, calling the use of weaponized robot cars "game changing." Lin explores the many ways in which robot cars could be exploited for nefarious purposes, including the fear that they could help terrorist organizations based in the Middle East carry out attacks on US soil. "And earlier this year, jihadists were calling for more car bombs in America. Thus, popular concerns about car bombs seem all too real." But Lin isn't too worried about these threats, and points out that there are far easier ways for terrorists to wreak havoc in the US.
AI

Machine Vision Reveals Previously Unknown Influences Between Great Artists 74

Posted by samzenpus
from the spilled-like-pollock dept.
KentuckyFC writes Art experts look for influences between great masters by studying the artist's use of space, texture, form, shape, colour and so on. They may also consider the subject matter, brushstrokes, meaning, historical context and myriad other factors. So it's easy to imagine that today's primitive machine vision techniques have little to add. Not so. Using a new technique for classifying objects in images, a team of computer scientists and art experts have compared more than 1700 paintings from over 60 artists dating from the early 15th century to the late 20 the century. They've developed an algorithm that has used these classifications to find many well known influences between artists, such as the well known influence of Pablo Picasso and George Braque on the Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt, the influence of the French romantic Delacroix on the French impressionist Bazille, the Norwegian painter Munch's influence on the German painter Beckmann and Degas' influence on Caillebotte. But the algorithm also discovered connections that art historians have never noticed (judge the comparisons for yourself). In particular, the algorithm points out that Norman Rockwell's Shuffleton's Barber Shop painted in 1950 is remarkably similar to Frederic Bazille's Studio 9 Rue de la Condamine painted 80 years before.

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