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Biotech

Kurzweil Argues Technology Improves The World, Compares DNA to Code (geekwire.com) 203

Futurist Ray Kurzweil told a Seattle conference specific ways in which technology is already improving our lives. For example, while there's a general perception that the world's getting worse, "What's actually happening is our information about what's wrong in the world is getting better. A century ago, there would be a battle that wiped out the next village, you'd never even hear about it." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes two of Kurzweil's other interesting insights: "We're only crowded because we've crowded ourselves into cities. Try taking a train trip across the United States, or Europe or Asia or anywhere in the world. Ninety-nine percent of the land is not used... we don't want to use it because you don't want to be out in the boondocks if you don't have people to work and play with. That's already changing now that we have some level of virtual communication..."

[And on the potential of human genomics] "It's not just collecting what is basically the object code of life that is expanding exponentially. Our ability to understand it, to reverse-engineer it, to simulate it, and most importantly to reprogram this outdated software is also expanding exponentially. Genes are software programs. It's not a metaphor. They are sequences of data. But they evolved many years ago, many tens of thousands of years ago..."

Biotech

Scientists Find Chemical-Free Way To Extend Milk's Shelf Life For Up To 3 Weeks (digitaltrends.com) 258

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Digital Trends: Researchers at Purdue University and the University of Tennessee have found a non-chemical way to extend regular milk's shelf life to around 2-3 weeks, and without affecting the nutrients or flavor. The technology they've developed involves increasing the temperature of milk by just 10 degrees for less than a second, which is well below the 70-degree Celsius threshold needed for pasteurization. That quick heat blast is still able to eliminate more than 99 percent of the bacteria left from pasteurization. "The developed technology uses low temperature, short time (LTST) in a process that disperses milk in the form of droplets with low heat/pressure variation over a short treatment time in conjunction with pasteurization," Bruce Applegate, Purdue's associate professor in the Department of Food Science, explained to Digital Trends. "The resultant product was subjected to a taste panel and participants had equal or greater preference for the LTST pasteurized milk compared to normally pasteurized milk. The shelf was determined to be a minimum of two weeks longer than the standard shelf life from pasteurization alone." As for whether or not this method will make its way to store shelves, it won't in the near future. "Currently an Ohio-based milk processor is using this technology and distributing the milk," Applegate says. "The unit is approved for processing milk in Ohio and distribution nationwide. The product is currently being distributed, however it has not been labeled as extended shelf life milk. Once the commercial application is validated the milk will be labelled with the extended shelf life." Scientists from Duke University believe there may be a large source of hydrogen gas under the ocean, caused by rocks forming from fast-spreading tectonic plates.
Communications

McDonald's 'Make Burger History' Site Hijacked With Offensive Burger Ideas (stuff.co.nz) 192

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Stuff.co.nz: McDonald's New Zealand has been left with egg on its face after a raft of bad-taste burger suggestions customers forced it to quickly take down its new design-your-own-burger website. The company launched its "Make Burger History" site this week, as part of a new promotion where customers can "build your own unique burger" and get free fries and a medium soft drink. "Just come in to a participating 'Create Your Taste' McDonald's and order your Creation at the self ordering kiosk," McDonald's promised. But its failure to consider what pranksters might dream up online has left the company red-faced, with the website overrun by racist, homophobic and otherwise offensive suggestions. The page now redirects to the McDonald's homepage. The burger concepts ranged from the mild, such as "Bag of Lettuce" (literally just a pile of lettuce leaves) and "The Carbonator" (seven burger buns, no filling), to X-rated, including "Girth" (a stack of seven undressed burger patties) and "Ron's Creamy Surprise" (a pile of mayonnaise, best left unexplained). But many went totally tasteless, creating burgers with names like "Mosque at Ground-Zero," "Rektal Prolapse" and "Toddler Body Bag," some of which ended up on the website's front page before it was shut down entirely overnight.
Biotech

Slashdot Asks: Would You Eat Lab-Grown Meat? (dmarge.com) 351

An anonymous reader writes from a report via WIRED: Lab-grown meat appears to be coming to a supermarket near you whether you like it or not. Granted, you have some time before that becomes a reality. Scientists in Belgium and the United States are working on cultured meat substitutes that taste like real meat and cost less than real meat, but don't use as many environmental resources as meat from animals, nor does it involve the slaughtering of animals. They predict such meat substitutes will cost a lot less by the year 2020 when the efficiency of bulk production kicks in. According to a 2014 Pew poll, only 20 percent of Americans would be willing to try cultured meat, while a 2013 survey in Belgium revealed that just 13 percent of 180 subjects knew what cultured meat was. Also, vegetarians surveyed perceived man-made meat to be unhealthy and unfavorable. However, once respondents were told how the meat is grown, most said they might try it. When educated about the environmental benefits, the number of people who were willing to try it nearly doubled. A poll from The Vegan Scholar found that lab-grown meat was much more appealing to vegetarians than to vegans. Similar Reddit and SurveyMonkey polls have come to similar conclusions, but it's important to note that none of these polls were peer-reviewed. Researchers have suggested that the media greatly overestimates the importance of vegetarian and vegan opinions on lab-grown meat. Given the lack of large surveys determining the public's opinion on lab-grown meat, we thought we would pose the question to Slashdotters: Would you eat lab-grown meat?
Businesses

Wendy's Says More Than 1,000 Restaurants Affected By Hack (go.com) 134

An anonymous reader writes from a report via ABC News: The fast food giant Wendy's has reported today that hackers were able to steal customers' credit and debit card information at 1,025 of its U.S. restaurants. The company said Thursday hackers were able to obtain card numbers, names, expiration dates and codes on the card, beginning in late fall. Some customers' cards were used to make fraudulent purchases at other stores. Wendy's first announced it was investigating a possible hack in January. In May, it found malware in fewer than 300 restaurants; two types of malware were found two months later and the number of restaurants affected was "considerably higher." There are more than 5,700 Wendy's restaurants in the U.S. Customers can check to see which locations were affected via Wendy's website. The company said it is offering free one-year credit monitoring to people who paid with a card at any of those restaurants. In May, Wendy's announced plans to start automating all of its restaurants with self-service ordering kiosks.
Biotech

Researchers Develop Electronic Nose To Sniff Out Pesticides and Nerve Gas (phys.org) 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Researchers from KU Leuven have now built a very sensitive electronic nose with metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). "MOFs are like microscopic sponges," postdoctoral researcher Ivo Stassen explains. "They can absorb quite a lot of gas into their minuscule pores." "We created a MOF that absorbs the phosphonates found in pesticides and nerve gases. This means you can use it to find traces of chemical weapons such as sarin or to identify the residue of pesticides on food. This MOF is the most sensitive gas sensor to date for these dangerous substances. Our measurements were conducted in cooperation with imec, the Leuven-based nanotechnology research centre. The concentrations we're dealing with are extremely low: parts per billion -- a drop of water in an Olympic swimming pool -- and parts per trillion." The chemical sensor can easily be integrated into existing electronic devices, Professor Rob Ameloot adds. "You can apply the MOF as a thin film over the surface of, for instance, an electric circuit. Therefore, it's fairly easy to equip a smartphone with a gas sensor for pesticides and nerve gas." Professor Ameloot continues, "MOFs can measure very low concentrations, so we could use them to screen someone's breath for diseases such as lung cancer and MS in an early stage. Or we could use the signature scent of a product to find out whether food has gone bad or to distinguish imitation wine from the original. This technology, in other words, offers a wide range of perspectives."
Biotech

Stop Bashing GMO Food, Say 109 Nobel Laureates (nytimes.com) 470

The New York Times reports: More than 100 Nobel laureates have a message for Greenpeace: Quit the G.M.O.-bashing. Genetically modified organisms and foods are a safe way to meet the demands of a ballooning global population, the 109 laureates wrote in a letter posted online and officially unveiled at a news conference on Thursday in Washington, D.C...

"Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production," the group of laureates wrote. "There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity."

Slashdot reader ArmoredDragon writes: As an echo to that comment, one of the key benefits of GMO is increased crop yield, which means a reduced need for deforestation to make way for farmland. GMO food such as Golden Rice, which improves the micronutrient content of rice, and Low Acrylamide Spuds, which are potatoes engineered to have reduced carcinogen content compared to their natural counterparts, can possibly solve many health problems that are inherent with consuming non-GMO produce. And for those concerned about patent-related issues, many of these patents have recently expired, which means anybody can freely grow them and sell the seeds without the need to pay any royalties.
Facebook

Facebook To Shred 'Paper' News-Reading App On July 29th (theverge.com) 23

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: Facebook's Paper app for iOS is scheduled to shut down on July 29th. While the app impressed critics, it failed to impress the general public. The Verge reports: "The app transformed the core Facebook experience into a kind of newsreader, with customizable sections for politics, technology, food, and other subjects. When it was introduced in January 2014, Paper signaled the beginning of a design renaissance at Facebook. The look and feel of the app were orchestrated by Mike Matas, whose design firm Push Pop Press was acquired by Facebook in 2011. Paper was notable for the novel animations it used to guide you through the app -- tap on a link and it would unfold like a letter; pull down on the story and it would fold back up, returning you to the feed. But despite the enormous growth of Facebook, which surged to 1.09 billion daily users this year, Paper has not been among the 1,500 most-downloaded apps since December 2014, according to research firm App Annie. It never came to Android, and the iOS version was last updated in March 2015. Facebook says that ideas from Paper have made their way into other Facebook apps, most notably Instant Articles, the fast-loading story format that the company introduced last year. Instant Articles borrowed several design elements from Paper, including full-bleed images and custom designs for individual publishers' articles."
Businesses

Robot Pizza Company 'Zume' Wants To Be 'Amazon of Food' (bloomberg.com) 208

kheldan writes: Do you want robots making your pizza? Alex Garden, co-founder and executive chairman of Mountain View startup Zume, is betting you will. Garden, the former president of Zynga Studios, was previously a general manager of Microsoft's Xbox Live. Garden launched Zume in stealth mode last June, when he began quietly recruiting engineers under a pseudonym and building his patented trucks in an unmarked Mountain View garage. In September, he brought on Julia Collins, a 37-year-old restaurant veteran. She became chief executive officer and a co-founder. Collins was previously the vice president and CEO of Harlem Jazz Enterprises, the holding company for Minton's, a historic Harlem eatery. The company consists of an army of robot sauce-spreaders and trucks packed full of ovens. "In the back of Mountain View's newest pizzeria, Marta works tirelessly, spreading marinara sauce on uncooked pies. She doesn't complain, takes no breaks, and has never needed a sick day. She works for free." The pie then "travels on a conveyer belt to human employees who add cheese and toppings." From there, "The decorated pies are then scooped off the belt by a 5-foot tall grey automation, Bruno, who places each in a 850-degree oven. For now, the pizzas are fully cooked and delivered to customers in branded Fiats painted with slogans, including: 'You want a piece of this?' and 'Not part of the sharing economy.'" Garden says, "We are going to be the Amazon of food. [...] Just imagine Domino's without the labor component. You can start to see how incredibly profitable that can be."
Medicine

Crispr Wins Key Approval to Fight Cancer in Human Trials (bloomberg.com) 71

Tom Randall, reporting for Bloomberg Technology:An experimental cancer treatment that alters the DNA of patients has won a key approval to proceed with its first human tests using the controversial gene-altering tool known as Crispr. Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania want to edit the immune systems of 18 patients to target cancer cells more effectively. The experiment, backed by internet billionaire Sean Parker, won approval from the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC), a federal ethics panel set up at the National Institutes of Health 40 years ago to review controversial experiments that change the human genome. The trial still needs final approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The experiment targets difficult-to-treat cases of multiple myeloma, sarcoma, and melanoma. The scientists will remove blood samples from patients and alter their T-cells -- central to human immune response -- to more effectively target and pursue cancer. The T cells will then be infused back into patients and studied for the safety and effectiveness of the technique.STAT News has an article in which it discusses the probable consequences of altering the DNA of a cancer patient.
Cellphones

KFC Introduces Meal Box That Doubles As A Smartphone Charger (indianexpress.com) 77

An anonymous reader writes: KFC has introduced a limited edition 5-in-1 Meal Box to select KFC outlets in Delhi and Mumbai. The box has one mighty special feature: it will charge a user's smartphone while they eat. The company has partnered with a Mumbai-based digital agency, Blink Digital, to make the "Watt a Box" concept a reality. In terms of specs, the box features a built-in 6100 mAh power bank, and two USB-ports with the ability to charge Android smartphones and iPhones. KFC has launched a contest on its Facebook page, giving users a chance to win the box. You can watch the "Watt a Box" promo video here on YouTube.
Businesses

Domino's Ends Free Pizza Promo With T-Mobile Due To High Demand (techcrunch.com) 56

An anonymous reader writes: In addition to giving customers stock in the company, T-Mobile announced last week at its "un-carrier" event that it would be offering freebies every Tuesday through its new app, such as Domino's pizza and Fandango movie tickets. One week has passed since then and Domino's is now backing out of the free pizza promotion due to higher-than-expected demand. T-Mobile CEO John Legere posted an internal memo from the company that read, "After reviewing yesterday's results and taking your feedback into account, the decision has been made not to continue the T-Mobile Tuesdays promotion unless we can find a solution that is best for the brand." Customers of T-Mobile were upset to find that Domino's was limiting the number of free pizzas per store due to promotion limits. Some stores simply stopped accepting the coupons. What may have led to the extremely high demand was the fact that under the deal's terms, T-Mobile customers on a single family plan could all use their own codes to place large orders of multiple pizzas. That is to say, each line warranted a free pizza.
IBM

Is Denver The Next High-Tech Center? (newyorker.com) 151

An anonymous reader write: "The spread of the tech industry outside Silicon Valley has helped make Denver the fastest-growing large city in the U.S.," reports the New Yorker, saying it's now growing faster than Austin and Seattle, becoming one of America's 20 most populous cities. Cost-conscious investors and tech executives now are opening offices in cheaper "secondary cities" outside of Silicon Valley, like Salt Lake City, and the good universities near Denver mean a well-educated workforce, coupled with a low cost of living.

"Though the city isn't the headquarters for any big tech companies -- like Dell in the Austin area or Microsoft and Amazon in Seattle -- several of them, including IBM and Oracle, have offices here. The presence of those offices, and of the universities, has also helped create a vibrant startup scene: people get educated here or come here for jobs, and then they graduate or leave those jobs and become entrepreneurs." Last year venture capitalists invested $800 million in Demver's tech, energy, food, and marijuana companies, and in 2014 Oracle paid over a billion dollars to acquire Denver-based Datalogix.

Anyone else live in a burgeoning "secondary" tech city? Scott McNealy said he co-founded his data-analysis startup in Denver because in California "The prices of everything have skyrocketed. The regulations. The pension deficit. The traffic. It's just not a fun place to go start."
Medicine

FDA Approves First Implant Treatment For Opioid Addiction (bloomberg.com) 49

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Bloomberg: The Food and Drug Administration cleared the first implant in the U.S. to treat heroin and opioid painkiller addictions. The product, Probuphine, may be used to treat addicts continuously for six months with the drug buprenorphine, according to a statement from the agency on Thursday. Titan Pharmaceuticals Inc. and partner Braeburn Pharmaceuticals are the two companies behind the implant and plan to bring it to the market just as Congress passed a bill aimed at addressing the opioid crisis. Buprenorphine differs from methadone in that it doesn't require a treatment program. Doctors can prescribe the implant to patients after they take a four-hour training program. The FDA rejected the implant in 2013 because the original dose that the companies proposed was too low to provide effective treatment. The companies decided to maintain the lower dose and attempt to gain approval by restricting use to patients who already were stable on such amounts. Meanwhile, employers are struggling to find workers who can pass a pre-employment drug test.
Robotics

Former McDonald's USA CEO: $35K Robots Cheaper Than Hiring at $15 Per Hour (foxbusiness.com) 1023

An anonymous reader shares an article on Fox Business: As fast-food workers across the country vie for $15 per hour wages, many business owners have already begun to take humans out of the picture. "I was at the National Restaurant Show yesterday and if you look at the robotic devices that are coming into the restaurant industry -- it's cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who's inefficient making $15 an hour (warning: autoplaying video) bagging French fries -- it's nonsense and it's very destructive and it's inflationary and it's going to cause a job loss across this country like you're not going to believe," said former McDonald's USA CEO Ed Rensi during an interview on the FOX Business Network's Mornings with Maria. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.3 million people earned the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour with about 1.7 million having wages below the federal minimum in 2014. These three million workers combined made up 3.9 percent of all hourly paid workers.
Science

Sorry, There's Nothing Magical About Breakfast (nytimes.com) 300

Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Plenty of people certainly believe that, but according to a new report, that notion is based on "misinterpreted research and biased studies." The New York Times has run a piece authored by Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, who looked into numerous studies -- and found flaws in them -- to conclude that breakfast isn't as important after all. (Could be paywalled; alternate source) He writes: The [reports] improperly used causal language to describe their results. They misleadingly cited others' results. And they also improperly used causal language in citing others' results. People believe, and want you to believe, that skipping breakfast is bad. Carroll also points out a conflict in many of such studies: most of them have been funded by the food industry. He concludes: The bottom line is that the evidence for the importance of breakfast is something of a mess. If you're hungry, eat it. But don't feel bad if you'd rather skip it, and don't listen to those who lecture you. Breakfast has no mystical powers.
AI

Humanoid 'Pepper' Robot Needs US Android Programmers (usatoday.com) 29

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Japan-based SoftBank Robotics announced Wednesday at Google I/O, the company's annual developer's conference, that it is opening a new Pepper-focused outpost in San Francisco and unveiling an Android SDK, or software development kit, in the hopes of enticing programmers to write code for the robot. Asked if SoftBank will roll out at SDK for iOS developers, Carlin says he wouldn't rule anything out but "for the moment Android is the pervasive language." Pepper is a white hard-plastic robot with humanoid features such as large eyes and arms as well as a display screen for a chest. The robot is said to be able to read human emotions by processing visual and vocal inputs through its various microphones and cameras. Its purpose is to be "much more than a robot, he is a genuine humanoid companion created to communicate with you in the most natural and intuitive way," according to the company's website. Pepper already has been deployed commercially in Japan, where it is used to greet customers at 140 SoftBank Mobile stores as well as help take orders at fast food eateries and discuss car model details at dealerships. Carlin says programmers working on Pepper-related tech will get access to "a best in class developer portal" that includes a developer forum, links to robotics workshops, access to SoftBank's engineering team and scientific details about Pepper. Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) at Google I/O, which the company claims advances machine learning capability by a factor of three generations.
Medicine

Pfizer Blocks The Use Of Its Drugs In Executions 566

HughPickens.com writes: Erik Eckholm reports in the NYT that the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has announced that it has imposed sweeping controls on the distribution of its products to ensure that none are used in lethal injections, a step that closes off the last remaining open-market source of drugs used in executions. "Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve," the company says, and "strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment." "With Pfizer's announcement, all F.D.A.-approved manufacturers of any potential execution drug have now blocked their sale for this purpose," says Maya Foa. "Executing states must now go underground if they want to get hold of medicines for use in lethal injection." The mounting difficulty in obtaining lethal drugs has already caused states to furtively scramble for supplies. Some states have used straw buyers or tried to import drugs from abroad that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, only to see them seized by federal agents. Other states have experimented with new drug combinations, sometimes with disastrous results, such as the prolonged execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona in 2014, using the sedative midazolam. A few states have adopted the electric chair, firing squad or gas chamber as an alternative if lethal drugs are not available. Since Utah chooses to have a death penalty, "we have to have a means of carrying it out," said State Representative Paul Ray as he argued last year for authorization of the firing squad.
Earth

Genetically Modified Crops Are Safe, Report Says (nbcnews.com) 378

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: Genetically modified crops on the market are not only safe, but appear to be good for people and the environment, experts determined in a report released Tuesday. "The committee delved into the relevant literature, heard from 80 diverse speakers, and read more than 700 comments from members of the public to broaden its understanding of issues surrounding GE crops," the report reads. Panel members read more than 900 reports. A lot of concern centered on health effects. The committee determined the following: there is no evidence of large-scale health effects on people from genetically modified foods; there is some evidence that crops genetically engineered to resist bugs have benefited people by reducing cases of insecticide poisoning; genetically engineered crops to benefit human health, such as those altered to produce more vitamin A, can reduce blindness and deaths due to vitamin A deficiency; using insect-resistant or herbicide-resistant crops did not damage plant or insect diversity and in some cases increased the diversity of insects; sometimes the added genes do leak out to nearby plants -- a process called gene flow -- but there is no evidence it has caused harm; in general, farmers who use GM soybean, cotton, and corn make more money but it does depend on how bad pests are and farming practices; GM crops do reduce losses to pests, and if farmers use insect-resistant crops but don't take enough care, sometimes pest insects develop resistance. The National Academics of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have put the evidence up on a website for skeptics of the report. The report also includes a 'Summarized Comments Received from Members of the Public' section for people to look up the facts to answer their concerns.
The Internet

Amazon To Sell Its Own Private-Label Groceries (techcrunch.com) 64

An anonymous reader writes: The Wall Street Journal reports Amazon will soon roll-out its own private-label brands of common household items like coffee, diapers, and other perishable groceries. Such offerings include baby food, tea, coffee, spices, and even laundry detergent, and will live under the brand names Happy Belly, Wickedly Prime, and Mama Bear. The products are expected to go on sale as soon as this month, available exclusively for Amazon Prime members. The idea to sell private-label products is nothing new for Amazon. It's been selling consumer electronics devices under its Amazon Basics line for quite some time now. They launched several in-house clothing brands earlier this year as well. In 2014, the company had to recall its Element brand diapers due to a design flaw. With a wider array of private-label goods, especially edible goods, the stakes are only higher, as one recall could severely hurt the company's reputation.

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