Twitter

NBC Publishes 200,000 Tweets Tied To Russian Trolls 269

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: NBC News is publishing its database of more than 200,000 tweets that Twitter has tied to "malicious activity" from Russia-linked accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. These accounts, working in concert as part of large networks, pushed hundreds of thousands of inflammatory tweets, from fictitious tales of Democrats practicing witchcraft to hardline posts from users masquerading as Black Lives Matter activists. Investigators have traced the accounts to a Kremlin-linked propaganda outfit founded in 2013 known as the Internet Research Association (IRA). The organization has been assessed by the U.S. Intelligence Community to be part of a Russian state-run effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential race. And they're not done. At the request of NBC News, three sources familiar with Twitter's data systems cross-referenced the partial list of names released by Congress to create a partial database of tweets that could be recovered. You can download the streamlined spreadsheet (29 mb) with just usernames, tweet and timestamps, view the full data for ten influential accounts via Google Sheets, download tweets.csv (50 mb) and users.csv with full underlying data, and/or explore a graph database in Neo4j, whose software powered the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers investigations.

NBC News' partners at Neo4j have put together a "get started" guide to help you explore the database of Russian tweets. "To recreate a link to an individual tweet found in the spreadsheet, replace 'user_key' in https://twitter.com/user_key/status/tweet_id with the screenname from the 'user_key' field and 'tweet_id' with the number in the 'tweet_id' field," reports NBC News. "Following the links will lead to a suspended page on Twitter. But some copies of the tweets as they originally appeared, including images, can be found by entering the links on webcaches like the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine and archive.is."
Medicine

First Human Eggs Grown In Laboratory (bbc.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Human eggs have been grown in the laboratory for the first time, say researchers at the University of Edinburgh. The team say the technique could lead to new ways of preserving the fertility of children having cancer treatment. It is also an opportunity to explore how human eggs develop, much of which remains a mystery to science. Experts said it was an exciting breakthrough, but more work was needed before it could be used clinically. Women are born with immature eggs in their ovaries that can develop fully only after puberty. It has taken decades of work, but scientists can now grow eggs to maturity outside of the ovary. It requires carefully controlling laboratory conditions including oxygen levels, hormones, proteins that simulate growth and the medium in which the eggs are cultured. But while the scientists have shown it is possible, the approach published in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction still needs refinement. In the paper, the researchers describe "how they took ovarian tissue from 10 women in their late twenties and thirties and, over four steps involving different cocktails of nutrients, encouraged the eggs to develop from their earliest form to maturity," reports The Guardian. "Of the 48 eggs that reached the penultimate step of the process, nine reached full maturity."
Bitcoin

India Rejects Cryptocurrency, But It Isn't Giving Up On Blockchain (betanews.com) 51

Mark Wilson shares a report from BetaNews: A budget speech given by India's finance minister led to numerous reports that India was banning the use of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum within the country. While Arun Jaitley noted in a speech that the Indian government does not recognize cryptocurrencies as legal tender, his slightly ambiguous language resulted in something of a misunderstanding. Now the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Committee of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has spoken out in an attempt to clarify the issue, and allay fears that Bitcoin et al are on the verge of being banned. At first glance, Jaitley's speech certainly seemed to imply that the Indian government wants to forbid the use of cryptocurrencies. In reality, he merely voiced concern about how cryptocurrencies were being used, and announced vague plans to introduce regulation to stop their use for illegal purposes. Delivering his speech, Jaitley said: "Distributed ledger system or the block chain technology allows organization of any chain of records or transactions without the need of intermediaries. The Government does not consider crypto-currencies legal tender or coin and will take all measures to eliminate use of these cryptoassets in financing illegitimate activities or as part of the payment system. The Government will explore use of block chain technology proactively for ushering in digital economy."
Sci-Fi

Slashdot Asks: What Are Some Sci-Fi Books, Movies, and TV Shows You're Looking Forward To? 364

Even as Hollywood studios report fewer footfalls in theaters, the last few years have arguably been impressive if you're a sci-fi admirer. Last year, we finally got to watch the Blade Runner 2049, and the The Last Jedi and Logan also found plenty of backers. In 2016, Arrival was a home run for many. Star Trek: Discovery, and Stranger Things TV shows continue to receive positive feedback from critics, and the The X-Files is also quickly winning its loyal fans back.

"Artemis" by Andy Weir and "New York 2140" by Kim Stanley have found their ways among best selling books. "Borne" by Jeff VanderMeer, and "Walkaway" by BoingBoing's Cory Doctorow have also been widely loved by the readers.

On that note, what are some movies, TV shows, and books on sci-fi that you are waiting to explore in the next two to three years?
Bitcoin

India Vows To Eliminate Use of Cryptocurrencies in the Country (hindustantimes.com) 68

India will move to stamp out use of cryptocurrencies, which it considers illegal, country's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday, launching a no-holds-barred attack on virtual currencies such as Bitcoin. From a report: Governments around the world are grappling with how to regulate cryptocurrency trading, and policymakers are expected to discuss the matter at a G20 summit in Argentina in March. "The government does not consider cryptocurrencies legal tender or coin and will take all measures to eliminate use of these cryptoassets in financing illegitimate activities or as part of the payment system," Jaitley told parliament in his annual budget speech. However, the minister said, the government would explore use of block chain technology proactively to speed the move toward a digital economy. Jaitley's announcement could trigger "panic selling" in cryptocurrencies in India, said Amit Maheshwari, partner at tax consultants Ashok Maheshwary & Associates LLP.
Mars

Ask Slashdot: What Kind of Societies Will the First Mars Colonies Be? 305

New submitter nyri writes: I'm making a two-part study in what kind of societies humans will build on Mars when we start to colonize the red planet. In first part, I'm trying to approach the question sociologically as rigorously as possible. Sociology being what it is, this also includes informed speculation. So, what does Slashdot think: What sort of colonies will humans build on the red planet? How large will they be? How will they make decisions and select their leaders? What kind of judicial systems will they use? What happens if a colony's population grows larger than they are able to sustain? Will they be religious and if so, how? How will their internal and external economy work? And so on...

A second part of the study is of psychometric nature to explore the kind of personalities be present in first colonies. I also encourage you to take the survey.
Operating Systems

Fitbit Will End Support For Pebble Smartwatches In June (arstechnica.com) 93

Today, Fitbit announced that it will extend its support of the Pebble smartwatch ecosystem, including devices, software, and forums, until June 30, 2018. "During this time, we invite the Pebble community to explore how familiar highlights from the Pebble ecosystem are evolving on the Fitbit platform, from apps and clock faces to features and experiences," the company's blog post states. Ars Technica reports: Fitbit's invitation is a hopeful one for the company itself. After the buyout, members of the Pebble team helped Fitbit develop its own smartwatch OS that debuted on the $300 Fitbit Ionic last year. Fitbit is likely hoping that diehard members of the Pebble community, many of which developed apps and programs for the smartwatch platform, will try making similar programs for Fitbit's new wearable operating system. The Fitbit SDK is already quite accessible, allowing developers to sign up and start building programs using all-online tools. But in addition to the accessibility of the SDK, Fitbit wants to entice Pebble users with a discount: users with a valid Pebble device serial number can get $50 off a Fitbit Ionic smartwatch. It's currently the only device that runs Fitbit OS, and it's useful to have if you want to test out any apps made with the SDK. But for those who want nothing to do with Fitbit OS development and only care about how long their Pebbles will last, this news is bittersweet. According to Fitbit's announcement, Pebble devices will continue to work after June 30, but these features will stop working: the Pebble app store, the Pebble forum, voice recognition features, SMS and email replies, timeline pins from third-party apps (although calendar pins will still function), and the CloudPebble development tool.
Businesses

Tax Change Aims to Lure Intellectual Property Back to the US (wsj.com) 186

U.S. companies rich in intellectual property are looking at a new tax-friendly regime: the U.S (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source). From a report: A provision in the newly revised U.S. tax code slashes the income tax companies pay on royalties from the overseas use of intellectual property or so-called intangible assets, such as licenses and patents. The new tax break, for what is dubbed foreign-derived intangible income, effectively reduces tax on foreign income from goods and services produced in the U.S. using patents and other intellectual property to 13.125% until the end of 2025, after which the rate rises to 16.4%. Previously, royalties paid to a unit in the U.S. would have been taxed similarly to other U.S. income, for which the top corporate tax rate was 35%. The new headline corporate rate is 21%. The deduction is meant to induce companies with large U.S. operations and significant foreign income from patent royalties to base more of those assets in the U.S. Such companies, especially in technology and pharmaceutical sectors, often hold foreign rights for their IP in a company based in a low-tax country.
Space

NASA Tests a Drone To Explore Jupiter's Moon in Antarctica (popularmechanics.com) 65

Three months of research in Antarctica is just the beginning for one Georgia Tech researcher, according to an article shared by schwit1: The waters beneath our planet's ice sheet are fascinating, turning up species few people have ever laid eyes on. But they are not the final target of this chase. Icefin [a 10-foot-long subsea drone] is meant to search for alien life -- a "bug hunt," as some scientists cheerfully call it. It is bound for the icy waters of Jupiter's moon, Europa, possibly as soon as 2030...

The new equipment includes sensors to monitor for organics and measure environmental factors like the presence of dissolved oxygen and levels of acidity, all to see if Europa could (in theory) support life in its subterranean seas... The subsea drone is also smarter than its prototype predecessor, and that high-IQ autonomy would be needed on Europa. The probe must not only operate 400 million miles from Earth but also navigate all by itself under alien ice.

Government

New York City Moves To Create Accountability For Algorithms (propublica.org) 183

The algorithms that play increasingly central roles in our lives often emanate from Silicon Valley, but the effort to hold them accountable may have another epicenter: New York City. From a report: Last week, the New York City Council unanimously passed a bill to tackle algorithmic discrimination -- the first measure of its kind in the country. The algorithmic accountability bill, waiting to be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio, establishes a task force that will study how city agencies use algorithms to make decisions that affect New Yorkers' lives, and whether any of the systems appear to discriminate against people based on age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or citizenship status. The task force's report will also explore how to make these decision-making processes understandable to the public. The bill's sponsor, Council Member James Vacca, said he was inspired by ProPublica's investigation into racially biased algorithms used to assess the criminal risk of defendants. "My ambition here is transparency, as well as accountability," Vacca said.
Science

The Science That's Never Been Cited (nature.com) 91

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Nature: One widely repeated estimate, reported in a controversial article in Science in 1990, suggests that more than half of all academic articles remain uncited five years after their publication. Scientists genuinely fret about this issue, says Jevin West, an information scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle who studies large-scale patterns in research literature. After all, citations are widely recognized as a standard measure of academic influence: a marker that work not only has been read, but also has proved useful to later studies. Researchers worry that high rates of uncitedness point to a heap of useless or irrelevant research. In reality, uncited research isn't always useless. What's more, there isn't really that much of it, says Vincent Lariviere, an information scientist at the University of Montreal in Canada.

To get a better handle on this dark and forgotten corner of published research, Nature dug into the figures to find out how many papers actually do go uncited (explore the full data set and methods). It is impossible to know for sure, because citation databases are incomplete. But it's clear that, at least for the core group of 12,000 or so journals in the Web of Science -- a large database owned by Clarivate Analytics in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- zero-citation papers are much less prevalent than is widely believed. Web of Science records suggest that fewer than 10% of scientific articles are likely to remain uncited. But the true figure is probably even lower, because large numbers of papers that the database records as uncited have actually been cited somewhere by someone.
"The new figures [...] suggest that in most disciplines, the proportion of papers attracting zero citations levels off between five and ten year after publication, although the proportion is different in each discipline," the report adds. "Of all biomedical-sciences papers published in 2006, just 4% are uncited today; in chemistry, that number is 8% and in physics, it is closer to 11%. In engineering and technology, the uncitedness rate of the 2006 cohort of Web of Science-indexed papers is 24%, much higher than in the natural sciences."
Social Networks

Instagram Will Now Let You Follow Hashtags In Your Main Feed (theverge.com) 23

"Up until now, there were two ways to interact with a hashtag," reports The Verge. "You could click through a hashtag on a post, or you could search for a specific tag in the Explore section of the app." Today, Instagram is adding a new way to interact with a hashtag: the ability to follow hashtags so you can see top posts and Stories about a topic on your home page. From the report: You can now "follow" a hashtag the same way you would follow an account. Instagram's algorithms will then pick and choose some of the highlights from that collection and surface them in your main feed. It's a fundamental change to one of the largest social media platforms in the world, elevating your interest in adorable dogs or expensive automobiles to equal status with your friends and family. By contrast, the posts injected into my main feed based on the hashtags I chose to follow (#modernart, #bjj, #ancient) felt carefully curated. There is a lot of variety, even within those categories, but you can train the algorithm on what you do and don't like. Engage with the post by leaving a heart or a comment, and Instagram will assume you want more. Click the menu button on the top right of the post, and you can downvote the offending image by asking Instagram not to show you similar content for that hashtag again. After a few days of this, the art in my feed, both martial and modern, felt fine-tuned to my taste.
Japan

The Neon Glow of Tokyo Modified Car Culture (kottke.org) 77

Jason Kottke: New Zealand drift racer Mike Whiddett recently travelled to Japan to explore Tokyo's "extraordinary after-dark modified auto scene." He found people making California-style lowriders, Dekotora (my favorite, if only for the sheer spectacle), illegally modified cars, and a man who says with a straight face that "driving an unmodified Lamborghini is boring."
Science

Fewer Toys Gives Kids a Better Quality of Playtime, Study Claims (nypost.com) 145

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New York Post: Toddlers with just a few toys were more creative and focused than tots with more choices, according to the study, published in an upcoming edition of the journal Infant Behavior and Development. For the study, University of Toledo researchers gave kids under age 3 either four toys or 16 toys and recorded their playing habits, according to the report. "When provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively," researchers said. Fewer toys "promotes development and healthy play," they concluded. The bah humbug-boosting findings may be one reason to skimp on the stocking stuffers -- but parents have another option. Simply keep more toys in storage also helps rein in the attention of scatterbrained toddlers, researchers said.
AI

Google's AI Built an AI that Outperforms Any Made By Humans (sciencealert.com) 235

schwit1 quotes ScienceAlert: In May 2017, researchers at Google Brain announced the creation of AutoML, an artificial intelligence (AI) that's capable of generating its own AIs. More recently, they decided to present AutoML with its biggest challenge to date, and the AI that can build AI created a 'child' that outperformed all of its human-made counterparts... For this particular child AI, which the researchers called NASNet, the task was recognising objects -- people, cars, traffic lights, handbags, backpacks, etc. -- in a video in real-time. AutoML would evaluate NASNet's performance and use that information to improve its child AI, repeating the process thousands of times.

When tested on the ImageNet image classification and COCO object detection data sets NASNet was 82.7 percent accurate at predicting images on ImageNet's validation set. This is 1.2 percent better than any previously published results, and the system is also 4 percent more efficient, with a 43.1 percent mean Average Precision (mAP).

Chrome

Firefox vs Chrome: Speed and Memory (laptopmag.com) 160

Mashable aleady reported Firefox Quantum performs better than Chrome on web applications (based on BrowserBench's JetStream tests), but that Chrome performed better on other benchmarks. Now Laptop Mag has run more tests, agreeing that Firefox performs beter on JetStream tests -- and on WebXPRT's six HTML5- and JavaScript-based workload tests. Firefox Quantum was the winner here, with a score of 491 (from an average of five runs, with the highest and lowest results tossed out) to Chrome's 460 -- but that wasn't quite the whole story. Whereas Firefox performed noticeably better on the Organize Album and Explore DNA Sequencing workloads, Chrome proved more adept at Photo Enhancement and Local Notes, demonstrating that the two browsers have different strengths...

You might think that Octane 2.0, which started out as a Google Developers project, would favor Chrome -- and you'd be (slightly) right. This JavaScript benchmark runs 21 individual tests (over such functions as core language features, bit and math operations, strings and arrays, and more) and combines the results into a single score. Chrome's was 35,622 to Firefox's 35,148 -- a win, if only a minuscule one.

In a series RAM-usage tests, Chrome's average score showed it used "marginally" less memory, though the average can be misleading. "In two of our three tests, Firefox did finish leaner, but in no case did it live up to Mozilla's claim that Quantum consumes 'roughly 30 percent less RAM than Chrome,'" reports Laptop Mag.

Both browsers launched within 0.302 seconds, and the article concludes that "no matter which browser you choose, you're getting one that's decently fast and capable when both handle all of the content you're likely to encounter during your regular surfing sessions."
Television

Amazon Is Making a 'Lord of the Rings' Prequel Series (techcrunch.com) 109

Amazon is making a Lord of the Rings prequel TV series for its Amazon Instant streaming service. The show, which already carries a multi-season commitment, will "explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring." TechCrunch reports: It's possible the new series will mine the ponderous but rich Silmarillion for material, as fan fiction writers and lore aficionados have done for decades. The exploits of the Elf-Lords of old would make for a stirring epic, while many would thrill at the possibility of seeing Moria at the height of its grandeur. So much depends on the quality of the adaptation, though. Amazon has been pretty good about its Originals, but this will be an undertaking far beyond the scope of anything its studios and partners have yet attempted. Amazon is partnering with New Line Cinema, which of course was the film company behind the much-loved trilogy that began in 2001, and the Tolkien Estate, as well as HarperCollins for some reason. The deal also "includes a potential additional spin-off series," presumably if it's popular enough.
Businesses

Broadcom Explores Buying Qualcomm (bloomberg.com) 69

phalse phace writes: Bloomberg news is reporting that Broadcom may be planning to make an offer to buy Qualcomm. From the report: "Broadcom Ltd. is considering a bid of more than $100 billion for Qualcomm Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, in what would be the biggest-ever takeover of a chipmaker. Broadcom is speaking to advisers about the potential deal, said the people, who asked not to be identified because talks are private. The offer of about $70 a share would include cash and stock and is likely to be made in the coming days, the people said." If the deal goes through, Broadcom would become "the world's third largest chipmaker behind Intel Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. and give it a huge swath of the supply chain of vital phone components such as Wi-Fi and cellular modem chips. The two companies are already among the top ten providers of chips ranked by revenue in an industry that's consolidating rapidly."
AI

Wall Street's Research Jobs Are the Most Likely To Be Upended By AI (qz.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Research analysts are the most likely employees on Wall Street to find themselves working with -- or being replaced by -- robots, according to a survey by Greenwich Associates. By next year, some 75% of banks and financial firms will either explore or implement artificial intelligence technologies, harnessing a variety of digital services to extract insights from mountains of data. While AI is probably near the peak of its hype cycle, several factors have helped it gain traction in recent years, according to Greenwich. Billions of images and documents are now available online for training computers to spot patterns and other high-level tasks. Advances in graphical processing units, which are adept at the kind of data crunching required by AI, are making sifting through daunting datasets much easier. The cloud has also made it cheaper for researchers and startups to boost their computing power to service sophisticated AI-enabled systems. AI makes sense for financial research, as machines can crunch reams of data more quickly than human analysts and, with the right data, identify obscure correlations and patterns.
Facebook

Facebook Tests Removing Publishers From News Feed -- Unless They Pay (mashable.com) 88

According to a report via Mashable, Facebook is removing posts from Pages in the original News Feed and relegating them to another feed, forcing users to "pay to play" in order to have their content back in the News Feed. The setting is only available in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia for now, but it could be rolled out to other countries later. From the report: The social network last week officially launched its secondary news feed called Explore. The feed generally features posts from Facebook Pages users don't follow. News Feed, meanwhile, hosts posts from friends and Pages users do follow. But that's not true for everyone. In six markets, Facebook has removed posts from Pages in the original News Feed and relegated them to another feed, Filip Struharik, editor and social media manager at Dennik N, wrote. That means Facebook's main feed is no longer a free playing field for publishers. Instead, it's a battlefield of "pay to play," where publishers have to pony up the dough to get back into the News Feed. It's a stark change from how media outlets have grown with Facebook. Publishers like BuzzFeed's Tasty and NowThis grew via distributing viral posts and videos on News Feed, as Ziad Ramley, former social lead at Al Jazeera English, wrote. While companies had to employ social media managers, they could generally rely on them sharing content without paying to boost it.

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