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Biotech

New Study Says Governments Should Ditch Reliance On Biofuels 191

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-switchgrass? dept.
HughPickens.com writes The NYT reports on a new study from a prominent environmental think tank that concludes turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand. They add that continuing to pursue this strategy is likely to use up vast tracts of fertile land that could be devoted to helping feed the world's growing population. "I would say that many of the claims for biofuels have been dramatically exaggerated," says Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, a global research organization based in Washington that is publishing the report. "There are other, more effective routes to get to a low-carbon world." The report follows several years of rising concern among scientists about biofuel policies in the United States and Europe, and is the strongest call yet by the World Resources Institute, known for nonpartisan analysis of environmental issues, to urge governments to reconsider those policies.

Timothy D. Searchinger says recent science has challenged some of the assumptions underpinning many of the pro-biofuel policies that have often failed to consider the opportunity cost of using land to produce plants for biofuel. According to Searchinger, if forests or grasses were grown instead of biofuels, that would pull carbon dioxide out of the air, storing it in tree trunks and soils and offsetting emissions more effectively than biofuels would do. What is more, as costs for wind and solar power have plummeted over the past decade, and the new report points out that for a given amount of land, solar panels are at least 50 times more efficient than biofuels at capturing the energy of sunlight in a useful form. "It's true that our first-generation biofuels have not lived up to their promise," says Jason Hill said. "We've found they do not offer the environmental benefits they were purported to have, and they have a substantial negative impact on the food system."
Science

The Gap Between What The Public Thinks And What Scientists Know 449

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-do-you-know? dept.
First time accepted submitter burtosis writes Despite similar views about the overall place of science in America, the general public and scientists often see science-related issues through a different lens, according to a new pair of surveys by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). From FiveThirtyEight: "The surveys found broad support for government to spend money on science, but that doesn't mean the public supports the conclusions that scientists draw. The biggest gap between scientists and the public came on issues that may elicit fear: the safety of genetically modified (or GMO) foods (37 percent of the public said GMOs were safe, compared to 88 percent of scientists) and the use of pesticides in agriculture (28 percent of the public said foods grown with pesticides were safe to eat, versus 68 percent of scientists). There was also disagreement over the cause of climate change (50 percent of the public said it is mostly due to human activity, compared to 87 percent of scientists). Here’s a full list, via Pew Research Center, of the scientific issues the survey asked about."
United Kingdom

UK Broadcaster Sky To Launch Mobile Service 32

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-in-one dept.
An anonymous reader sends word that British pay-TV company Sky will launch mobile services next year. UK pay-TV firm Sky is launching a mobile phone service next year in partnership with O2's Spanish parent Telefonica. Sky will use Telefonica UK's wireless network, enabling the satellite broadcaster to offer mobile voice and data services for the first time. It takes Sky into the battle for "quad play", adding mobile to its existing services of internet, landline and TV. Offering all four services is seen as the next big UK growth area for telecoms firms and broadcasters.
Biotech

FDA Wants To Release Millions of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes In Florida 256

Posted by samzenpus
from the I've-seen-this-movie dept.
MikeChino writes In an attempt to curb outbreaks of two devastating tropical diseases in the Florida Keys, the FDA is proposing the release of millions of genetically modified mosquitoes into the area. Scientists have bred male mosquitoes with virus gene fragments, so when they mate with the females that bite and spread illness, their offspring will die. This can reduce the mosquito population dramatically, halting the spread of diseases like dengue fever.
Businesses

Alibaba Face Off With Chinese Regulator Over Fake Products 79

Posted by samzenpus
from the clean-up-your-act dept.
hackingbear writes China's State Administration of Industry and Commerce on Wednesday issued a scathing report against one of the country's biggest stars, accusing e-commerce giant Alibaba of failing to do enough to prevent fake goods from being sold on its websites. SAIC said Alibaba allowed "illegal advertising" that misled consumers with false claims about low prices and other details. It claims some Alibaba employees took bribes and the company failed to deal effectively with fraud. Alibaba fired back with charges of bias and misconduct by accusing the SAIC official in charge of Internet monitoring, Liu Hongliang, of unspecified "procedural misconduct" and warned it will file a formal complaint. Such public defiance is almost unheard of in China. Apparently, Alibaba has long attained the too big to fail status.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Invest In Rogue Android Startup Cyanogen 264

Posted by samzenpus
from the have-a-pile-of-money dept.
An anonymous reader writes The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft plans to be a minority investor in a roughly $70 million round of equity financing for mobile startup Cyanogen Inc. Neither company is commenting on the plan but last week during a talk in San Francisco, Cyanogen's CEO said the company's goal was to "take Android away from Google." According to Bloomberg: "The talks illustrate how Microsoft is trying to get its applications and services on rival operating systems, which has been a tenet of Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella. Microsoft has in the past complained that Google Inc., which manages Android, has blocked its programs from the operating system."

+ - Microsoft to Invest in Rogue Android Startup Cyanogen

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft plans to be a minority investor in a roughly $70 million round of equity financing for mobile startup Cyanogen Inc.. Neither company is commenting on the plan but last week during a talk in San Francisco, Cyanogen's CEO said the company's goal was to "take Android away from Google." According to Bloomberg: "The talks illustrate how Microsoft is trying to get its applications and services on rival operating systems, which has been a tenet of Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella. Microsoft has in the past complained that Google Inc., which manages Android, has blocked its programs from the operating system.""
Businesses

LibreOffice Gets a Streamlined Makeover With 4.4 Release 145

Posted by samzenpus
from the check-it-out dept.
TechCurmudgeon sends word that LibreOffice 4.4 has been released. "The Document foundation announced availability of the latest version of LibreOffice on Thursday, which it says is the most beautiful version of the open source productivity suite yet. LibreOffice 4.4 also fixes some compatibility issues with files that are saved in Microsoft's OOXML formats. LibreOffice 4.4 has got a lot of UX and design love," Jan "Kendy" Holesovsky, who leads the design team for Libreoffice, said in a statement. LibreOffice 4.4 is currently available for Windows."
Security

D-Link Routers Vulnerable To DNS Hijacking 63

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-ya-neck dept.
An anonymous reader writes At least one and likely more D-Link routers as well as those of other manufacturers using the same firmware are vulnerable to remote changing of DNS settings and, effectively, traffic hijacking, a Bulgarian security researcher has discovered. Todor Donev, a member of the Ethical Hacker research team, says that the vulnerability is found in the ZynOS firmware of the device, D-Link's DSL-2740R ADSL modem/wireless router. The firmware in question is implemented in many networking equipment manufactured by D-Link, TP-Link Technologies and ZTE.
Crime

Why ATM Bombs May Be Coming Soon To the United States 367

Posted by samzenpus
from the almost-worth-the-troub;e dept.
HughPickens.com writes Nick Summers has an interesting article at Bloomberg about the epidemic of 90 ATM bombings that has hit Britain since 2013. ATM machines are vulnerable because the strongbox inside an ATM has two essential holes: a small slot in front that spits out bills to customers and a big door in back through which employees load reams of cash in large cassettes. "Criminals have learned to see this simple enclosure as a physics problem," writes Summers. "Gas is pumped in, and when it's detonated, the weakest part—the large hinged door—is forced open. After an ATM blast, thieves force their way into the bank itself, where the now gaping rear of the cash machine is either exposed in the lobby or inside a trivially secured room. Set off with skill, the shock wave leaves the money neatly stacked, sometimes with a whiff of the distinctive acetylene odor of garlic." The rise in gas attacks has created a market opportunity for the companies that construct ATM components. Several manufacturers now make various anti-gas-attack modules: Some absorb shock waves, some detect gas and render it harmless, and some emit sound, fog, or dye to discourage thieves in the act.

As far as anyone knows, there has never been a gas attack on an American ATM. The leading theory points to the country's primitive ATM cards. Along with Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, and not many other countries, the U.S. doesn't require its plastic to contain an encryption chip, so stealing cards remains an effective, nonviolent way to get at the cash in an ATM. Encryption chip requirements are coming to the U.S. later this year, though. And given the gas raid's many advantages, it may be only a matter of time until the back of an American ATM comes rocketing off.
Space

The Big Bang By Balloon 23

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-the-beginning dept.
StartsWithABang writes If you want to map the entire sky — whether you're looking in the visible, ultraviolet, infrared or microwave, your best bet is to go to space. Only high above the Earth's atmosphere can you map out the entire sky, with your vision unobscured by anything terrestrial. But that costs millions of dollars for the launch alone! What if you've got new technology you want to test? What if you still want to defeat most of the atmosphere? (Which you need to do, for most wavelengths of light.) And what if you want to make observations on large angular scales, something by-and-large impossible from the ground in microwave wavelengths? You launch a balloon! The Spider telescope has just completed its data-taking operations, and is poised to take the next step — beyond Planck and BICEP2 — in understanding the polarization of the cosmic microwave background.
Government

Drone Maker Enforces No-Fly Zone Over DC, Hijacking Malware Demonstrated 164

Posted by samzenpus
from the fly-that-anywhere dept.
An anonymous reader writes A recent incident at the White House showed that small aerial vehicles (drones) present a specific security problem. Rahul Sasi, a security engineer at Citrix R&D, created MalDrone, the first backdoor malware for the AR drone ARM Linux system to target Parrot AR Drones, but says it can be modified to target others as well. The malware can be silently installed on a drone, and be used to control the drone remotely and to conduct remote surveillance. Meanwhile, the Chinese company that created the drone that crashed on the White House grounds has announced a software update for its "Phantom" series that will prohibit flight within 25 kilometers of the capital.
Medicine

Brain Implants Get Brainier 49

Posted by samzenpus
from the thinking-better dept.
the_newsbeagle writes "Did my head just beep?" wonders a woman who just received a brain implant to treat her intractable epilepsy. We're entering a cyborg age of medicine, with implanted stimulators that send pulses of electricity into the brain or nervous system to prevent seizures or block pain. The first generation of devices sent out pulses in a constant and invariable rhythm, but device-makers are now inventing smart stimulators that monitor the body for signs of trouble and fire when necessary.
Businesses

One In Five Developers Now Works On IoT Projects 251

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-a-whole-lot-of-things dept.
dcblogs writes Evans Data Corp., which provides research and intelligence for the software development industry, said that of the estimated 19 million developers worldwide, 19% are now doing IoT-related work. A year ago, the first year IoT-specific data was collected, that figure was 17%. But when developers were asked whether they plan to work in IoT development over the next year, 44% of the respondents said they are planning to do so, said Michael Rasalan, director of research at Evans.
Science

Spider Spins Electrically Charged Silk 42

Posted by samzenpus
from the will-you-walk-into-my-electric-parlour? dept.
sciencehabit writes In their quest to make ultrastrong yet ultrasmall fibers, the polymer industry may soon take a lesson from Uloborus spiders. Uloborids are cribellate spiders, meaning that instead of spinning wet, sticky webs to catch their prey, they produce a fluffy, charged, wool-like silk. A paper published online today in Biology Letters details the process for the first time. It all starts with the silk-producing cribellar gland. In contrast with other spiders, whose silk comes out of the gland intact, scientists were surprised to discover that uloborids' silk is in a liquid state when it surfaces. As the spider yanks the silk from the duct, it solidifies into nanoscale filaments. This "violent hackling" has the effect of stretching and freezing the fibers into shape. It may even be responsible for increasing their strength, because filaments on the nanoscale become stronger as they are stretched. In order to endow the fibers with an electrostatic charge, the spider pulls them over a comblike plate located on its hind legs. The technique is not unlike the so-called hackling of flax stems over a metal brush in order to soften and prepare them for thread-spinning, but in the spider's case it also gives them a charge. The electrostatic fibers are thought to attract prey to the web in the same way a towel pulled from the dryer is able to attract stray socks.

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