theodp writes The good news, writes Michael Thomas, is that wired kids are learning chess at an unprecedented rate. Young children learning chess from tablets can quickly become more knowledgeable than their parents. But the bad news, laments Thomas, is there is so much demand for scholastic chess that there are not enough experienced chess facilitators to go around. Could technology like RFID-tagged chess pieces or services like ChessStream.com be employed to referee second-grader chess matches, Thomas wonders, or are more well-meaning-but-not-necessarily-expert human facilitators — a la T-ball coaches — the answer?
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An anonymous reader writes with this story about how a cashless society might work and how far-off in the future it is. "...We're not there yet, but a cashless society is not as fanciful as it seems. Recent research suggests that many believe we will stop using notes and coins altogether in the not-too-distant future. New payments technologies are rapidly transforming our lives. Today in the U.S., 66 percent of all point-of-sale transactions are done with plastic, while in the U.K. it's just under half. But while a truly cashless society is some time away yet, there is raft of groundbreaking technologies that will make cash a mere supporting act in the near future."
An anonymous reader writes In response to the increased interest by the public in astronomy, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the world authority that names objects in space, is giving the public a chance to name up to 30 planets from a pre-selected group of 305 exoplanets. "Before you get excited about naming HAT-P-7b after your first pet goldfish, it's worth taking a look at the restrictions the IAU places on its minor planet names. The 16 characters or less must be 'pronounceable (in as many languages as possible)' and non-offensive in any language or culture. The names of living persons are verboten, pet names are 'discouraged,' and you can't use a name that is commercial or has political, military, or religious connotations." The proposed names can be submitted by astronomy clubs and non-profit organizations interested in astronomy and votes will be cast by the public from across the world.
sciencehabit writes Publishing is one of the most ballyhooed metrics of scientific careers, and every researcher hates to have a gap in that part of his or her CV. Here's some consolation: A new study finds that very few scientists—fewer than 1%—manage to publish a paper every year. But these 150,608 scientists dominate the research journals, having their names on 41% of all papers. Among the most highly cited work, this elite group can be found among the co-authors of 87% of papers. Students, meanwhile, may spend years on research that yields only one or a few papers. "[I]n these cases, the research system may be exploiting the work of millions of young scientists," the authors conclude.
gbjbaanb writes A British company is developing a new material that's so black it absorbs all but 0.035 percent of the visual light, making it the darkest material ever created. Of course, apart from making album covers, it conducts heat 7 times better than copper and is 10 times stronger than steel. "The nanotube material, named Vantablack, has been grown on sheets of aluminium foil by the Newhaven-based company. While the sheets may be crumpled into miniature hills and valleys, this landscape disappears on areas covered by it. 'You expect to see the hills and all you can see it's like black, like a hole, like there's nothing there. It just looks so strange,' said Ben Jensen, the firm's chief technical officer.
StartsWithABang writes Our observable Universe is a pretty impressive entity: extending 46 billion light-years in all directions, filled with hundreds of billions of galaxies and having been around for nearly 14 billion years since the Big Bang. But what lies beyond it? Sure, there's probably more Universe just like ours that's unobservable, but what about the multiverse? Finally, a treatment that delineates the difference between the ideas that are thrown around and explains what's accepted as valid, what's treated as speculative, and what's completely unrelated to anything that could conceivably ever be observed from within our Universe.
AHuxley (892839) writes "The Desk reports on a FOIA request covering "... all e-mails sent by Edward Snowden" and the NSA's refusal to release all documents. "The National Security Agency has acknowledged it retains a record of e-mail communications from former contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden, but says those records are exempt from public disclosure under the federal Freedom of Information Act. In a letter responding to a June 27 FOIA request from The Desk, the NSA’s chief FOIA officer Pamela Phillips wrote that while the agency has retained records related to Snowden’s employment as a contractor, they are being withheld from public examination because, among other things, releasing the records 'could interfere with law enforcement proceedings, could cause an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, could reveal the identities of confidential sources or would reveal law enforcement techniques and procedures.' Other records are being withheld because those documents were 'also found to be currently and properly classifiedand remains classified TOP SECRET, SECRET and CONFIDENTIAL.' The letter marks the first time the NSA has publicly acknowledged retaining communication and employment records related to Snowden’s time as a contractor."
hypnosec writes After several controversies arising about in-app purchases, a Chinese couple has done the unthinkable by selling their sons to buy in-app items. An unmarried couple, A Hui and A Mei, severely addicted to online games, were accused of selling their sons and were arrested. In an interview with Guangdong TV, they revealed that they chose to sell their sons to child traffickers. A Hui said A Mei is fond of playing online games and likes to buy game items. As he could not give up his in-app purchases, he was not able to support his first son and they sold him to Fujian-based child traffickers. When the wife bore another son, they felt they would not be able to support their second child either, and they again sold him to the traffickers.
mdsolar writes with this story about the possible elimination of tariffs on environmental goods between the world's largest economic powers. The United States, the European Union, China and 11 other governments began trade negotiations this week to eliminate tariffs on solar panels, wind turbines, water-treatment equipment and other environmental goods. If they are able to reach an agreement, it could reduce the cost of equipment needed to address climate change and help increase American exports. Global trade in environmental goods is estimated at $1 trillion a year and has been growing fast. (The United States exported about $106 billion worth of such goods last year.) But some countries have imposed import duties as high as 35 percent on such goods. That raises the already high cost of some of this equipment to utilities, manufacturers and, ultimately, consumers. Taken together, the countries represented in these talks (the 28 members of the E.U. negotiate jointly, while China and Hong Kong are represented by separate delegations) account for about 86 percent of trade in these products, which makes the potential benefit from an agreement substantial. Other big countries that are not taking part in these talks, like India, South Africa and Brazil, could choose to join later.
An anonymous reader writes Oxford University engineering professor Dr Thomas Povey just invented a new cooking pot that heats food 40% faster. The pot is made from cast aluminum, and it features fins that direct flames across the bottom and up the sides, capturing energy that would otherwise be wasted. The pot is set to hit the market next month in the UK. "Povey specializes in the design of high-efficiency cooling systems for next-generation jet engines. He is also an avid mountaineer and says that this invention was spurred by the long time it takes for water to reach a boil at high altitudes. He and a group of his students worked three years experimenting with different designs before they came up with one being marketed."
mpicpp Points out this story about Seattle City Light's anger over negative search results and its inability to get them removed. Seattle's publicly-owned electrical utility, City Light, is now demanding a refund for the $17,500 that it paid to Brand.com in a botched effort to boost the online reputation of its highly-paid chief executive, Jorge Carrasco. Brand.com "enhances online branding and clears negatives by blanketing search results with positive content" in an attempt to counteract unwanted search engine results. City Light signed a contract with the company in October 2013 and extended it in February 2014. The contracts authorized payments of up to $47,500. Hamilton said that he first raised the issue of the utility's online reputation when he was interviewing for the chief of staff job in early 2013. "All I saw were negative stories about storms, outages and pay increases and I raised it as a concern during that interview," he said. "And then after I started, [CEO Jorge Carrasco] and I discussed what we could do to more accurately represent the utility and what the utility is all about, because we didn't feel it was well represented online." Thus, the Brand.com contract. City Light says that it only ever thought Brand.com would help it place legitimate material in legitimate outlets—talking up some of the positive changes that have taken place at City Light during Carrasco's tenure. Instead, it appears to have received mostly bogus blog posts.
MojoKid writes We've been around the block enough times to know that outside of shredding a storage medium, all data is recoverable. It's just matter of time, money, and effort. However, it was still sobering to find out exactly how much data security firm Avast was able to recover from Android devices it purchased from eBay, which included everything from naked selfies to even a completed loan application. Does this mean we shouldn't ever sell the old handset? Luckily, the answer is no. Avast's self-serving study was to promote its Anti-Theft app available on Google Play. The free app comes with a wipe feature that overwrites all files, thereby making them invisible to casual recovery methods. That's one approach. There's another solution that's incredibly easy and doesn't require downloading and installing anything. Before you sell your Android phone on eBay, Craigslist, or wherever, enable encryption and wait for it to encrypt the on board storage. After that, perform a wipe and reset as normal, which will obliterate the encryption key and ensure the data on your device can't be read. This may not work on certain devices, which will ask you to decrypt data before wiping but most should follow this convention just fine.
The wage gap between college-educated workers and those with just a high school diploma has been growing — and accelerating. But the education gap is also doing something unexpected: clustering workers with more education in cities with similar people. "This effectively means that college graduates in America aren't simply gaining access to higher wages. They're gaining access to high-cost cities like New York or San Francisco that offer so much more than good jobs: more restaurants, better schools, less crime, even cleaner air." Most people are aware of the gentrification strife occurring in San Francisco, but it's one among many cities experiencing this. "[Research] also found that as cities increased their share of college graduates between 1980 and 2000, they also increased their bars, restaurants, dry cleaners, museums and art galleries per capita. And they experienced larger decreases in pollution and property crime, suggesting that cities that attract college grads benefit from both the kind of amenities that consumers pay for and those that are more intangible." The research shows a clear trend of the desirable cities becoming even more desirable, to the point where it's almost a necessity for city planners to lure college graduates or face decline.
Zothecula (1870348) writes "The Retina displays featured on Apple's iPhone 4 and 5 models pack a pixel density of 326 ppi, with individual pixels measuring 78 micrometers. That might seem plenty good enough given the average human eye is unable to differentiate between the individual pixels, but scientists in the UK have now developed technology that could lead to extremely high-resolution displays that put such pixel densities to shame."
Last year, we mentioned that the French government was unhappy with Amazon for offering better prices than the French competition, and strongly limited the amount by which retailers can discount books. Last month, the French parliament also passed a law banning free delivery of books. Ars Technica reports that Amazon has responded with a one-penny shipping rate on the orders that would previously have shipped free. Says the article: This is by no means the first time France has tried to put a damper on major US tech companies dabbling in books or other reading materials. In 2011, the country updated an old law related to printed books that then allowed publishers to impose set e-book pricing on Apple and others. And in 2012, there was the very public dispute between French lawmakers and Google over the country's desire to see French media outlets paid for having their content pop up in search results. At least for now with this most recent situation, an online giant has found a relatively quick and easy way to regain the upperhand.