Science

MIT Discovers Way To Mass-Produce Graphene In Large Sheets (inhabitat.com) 62

New submitter Paige.Bennett writes: Up till now, graphene has been produced in small batches in labs. But MIT just found a way to mass-produce graphene in large sheets using a process that rolls out five centimeters of graphene each minute. The longest span so far was nearly four hours, which produced about 10 meters of graphene. According to MIT, here's how their conveyor belt system works: "The first spool unfurls a long strip of copper foil, less than one centimeter wide. When it enters the furnace, the foil is fed through first one tube and then another, in a 'split-zone' design. While the foil rolls through the first tube, it heats up to a certain ideal temperature, at which point it is ready to roll through the second tube, where the scientists pump in a specified ratio of methane and hydrogen gas, which are deposited onto the heated foil to produce graphene." The work has been published in the journal Materials and Interfaces.
United Kingdom

Amazon Employee Explains the Poor Working Conditions of An Amazon Warehouse 307

Earlier this week, James Bloodworth, a former UK Amazon employee that worked undercover in the "fulfillment center" for six-months, released a book detailing the mistreatment of warehouse employees at the commerce company. He described the work culture as a prison after discovering that Amazon warehouse staff were peeing in bottles to avoid taking too many breaks. Since the report first broke, many Amazon employees have come out to share their thoughts on the working conditions, including one Reddit user who claims that "the post is pretty spot on": They don't monitor bathroom breaks, but [your] individual rate (or production goal) [doesn't] account for bathroom breaks, or... let's say there is a problem like you need [two] of something and there's only one left, well you have to put on your "andon"... wait for someone to come "fix" for you, all the while your rate is dropping. The [two] most common reasons [people] get fired are not hitting rate, and attendance. They don't really try to help you hit rate, they just fire and replace.

My first week there [two] [people] collapsed from dehydration. It's so [commonplace] to see someone collapse that nobody is even shocked anymore. You'll just hear a manager complain that he has to do some report now, while a couple of new [people] try to help the guy (veterans won't risk helping [because] it drips rate). No sitting allowed, and there's nowhere to sit anywhere except the break rooms. Before the robots (they call them kivas) pickers would regularly walk 10-15 miles a day, now it's just stand for 10-12 hours a day. [People] complain about the heat all the time but we just get told 80 degrees (Fahrenheit obviously) is a safe working temp. [Sometimes] they will pull out a thermometer, but even when it hits 85 they just say it's fine. There's been deaths, at least one in my building... Amazon likes to keep it all hush hush. Heard about others, you can find the stories if you search for it, but Amazon does a good job burying it...
Amazon has denied the allegations, saying: "Amazon ensures all of its associates have easy access to toilet facilities which are just a short walk from where they are working. Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace for thousands of people across the UK with competitive pay and benefits from day one. We have not been provided with confirmation that the people who completed the survey worked at Amazon and we don't recognize these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings."
Technology

Elon Musk's Alleged Email To Employees on Tesla's Big Picture (jalopnik.com) 184

An email allegedly sent by Elon Musk to Tesla staff has announced that the Model 3, which has faced a number of production issues, will go into "24/7" production by June, resulting in 6,000 Model 3 units made per week. But apart from this update, in the email, Elon Musk sheds light on how much he values precision in his cars. An excerpt: Most of the design tolerances of the Model 3 are already better than any other car in the world. Soon, they will all be better. This is not enough. We will keep going until the Model 3 build precision is a factor of ten better than any other car in the world. I am not kidding.

Our car needs to be designed and built with such accuracy and precision that, if an owner measures dimensions, panel gaps and flushness, and their measurements don't match the Model 3 specs, it just means that their measuring tape is wrong.

Some parts suppliers will be unwilling or unable to achieve this level of precision. I understand that this will be considered an unreasonable request by some. That's ok, there are lots of other car companies with much lower standards. They just can't work with Tesla.

Transportation

Tesla Temporarily Stops Model 3 Production Line (theverge.com) 145

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Tesla is temporarily stopping production of its Model 3 electric car, amid a long waiting list and several missed targets. The company, however, says the shutdown is intended to resolve some of the problems that have contributed to the numerous delays in getting the cars to hundreds of thousands of reservation holders. The automaker said Monday it would halt production of the Model 3 sedan for 4-5 days at its Fremont, California assembly plant, BuzzFeed reported. Tesla, however, says this is part of a planned period of downtime that was similar to another shutdown in February, and it isn't intended to have an affect on the company's current production targets for the car. "Our Model 3 production plan includes periods of planned downtime in both Fremont and Gigafactory 1," a Tesla spokesperson told The Verge. "These periods are used to improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks in order to increase production rates. This is not unusual and is in fact common in production ramps like this."
Robotics

Tesla Relied On Too Many Robots To Build the Model 3, Elon Musk Says (theverge.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Elon Musk says Tesla relied on too many robots to build the Model 3, which is partly to blame for the delays in manufacturing the crucial mass-market electric car. In an interview with CBS Good Morning, Musk agreed with Tesla's critics that there was over-reliance on automation and too few human assembly line workers building the Model 3. Earlier this month, Tesla announced that it had officially missed its goal of making 2,500 Model 3 vehicles a week by the end of the first financial quarter of this year. It will start the second quarter making just 2,000 Model 3s per week, but the company says it still believes it can get to a rate of 5,000 Model 3s per week at the midway point of 2018. Previously, Tesla has blamed bottlenecks in the production of the Model 3's batteries at the company's Gigafactory for the delays. But in a wide-ranging (and largely positive) interview with CBS's Gayle King, Musk also admits it was Tesla's over-reliance on robots in the production. Musk then said the company needs more people working in the factory and that automation slowed the Model 3 production process. He alluded to a "crazy, complex network of conveyor belts" the company had previously used and said the company eliminated it after it became clear it wasn't working.
Media

AV1 Beats x264 and Libvpx-Vp9 in Practical Use Case (facebook.com) 96

An anonymous reader shares a blog post by Facebook engineer: We tested AV1 (a new open-source, royalty-free media codec) under conditions that closely match the most common real-world use cases for Facebook video. Our test examined AV1's performance vs. practical open source video encoders that can be deployed to a practical production system, rather than merely testing efficiency vs. standard reference software encoders (i.e., H.264/AVC Joint Model or JM). By structuring the test this way, we were able to show how the codec will perform in a true production environment compared with current widely used alternatives, such as x264 and libvpx-vp9.

Our testing shows AV1 surpasses its stated goal of 30% better compression than VP9, and achieves gains of 50.3%, 46.2% and 34.0%, compared to x264 main profile, x264 high profile and libvpx-vp9, respectively. The new codec requires longer encoding times vs. current alternatives, however, due to increased complexity. Our tests were conducted primarily with Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD) video files, because those are currently the most popular video formats on Facebook. But because AV1's performance increased as video resolution increased, we conclude the new compression codec will likely deliver even higher efficiency gains with UHD/4K and 8K content.

Transportation

Dual-Motor Tesla Model 3 Possibly Coming In July (electrek.co) 71

According to Elon Musk, the dual-motor Tesla Model 3 is expected to be released in July. "Musk linked the release of the new Model 3 powertrain with the automaker achieving a production rate of 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week," reports Electrek. From the report: Earlier this year, we reported on Tesla registering 19 Model 3 VINs with dual motor powertrain with NHTSA in the latest batch of new VINs. It happened right after the Tesla Model 3 dual motor powertrain design leaked in the latest design studio update. Then in February, Tesla registered a new batch of Model 3 VINs, including two dozen Model 3 VINs with the dual motor powertrain. It raised Model 3 reservation holders' hope that the new configuration could soon become available, but now Musk confirmed that it is still a few months away in a series of tweets last night. The CEO also linked the timing with the release of the Model 3 white interior. Tesla currently only offers a single interior option with black upholstery. The dual motor Model 3 is expected to deliver a slightly longer range and offer a quicker acceleration than the current single motor rear-wheel-drive version.
Businesses

Engineer Develops Sonar Alarm System To Monitor Kids In the Pool (newatlas.com) 230

British electrical engineer John Barstead created a sonar alarm system that will warn parents or nearby sunbathers if a small child has accidentally fallen into a pool. The Dolphin Alarm, as it is called, is currently raising production funds on Kickstarter. New Atlas explains how it works: When small children who have no business going into the pool on their own are out playing near it, they wear a special wristband. If they should fall in, the wristband will generate a three-tone sonar signal as soon as it's immersed in the water. That signal will be detected by a hydrophone contained within a receiver unit that floats in the pool. When that happens, the unit will emit a 131-decibel alarm. It will also transmit an alert to an indoor remote unit located up to 150 m away (170 ft), which will likewise sound an alarm of its own. While there are other child-in-the-pool alarms, most of them are wave-activated and have to be shut off when other people are using the pool.
Science

Humans Produce New Brain Cells Throughout Their Lives, Say Researchers (theguardian.com) 57

An anonymous reader shares a report: Humans continue to produce new neurons in a part of their brain involved in learning, memory and emotion throughout adulthood, scientists have revealed, countering previous theories that production stopped after adolescence. The findings could help in developing treatments for neurological conditions such as dementia. Many new neurons are produced in the hippocampus in babies, but it has been a matter of hot debate whether this continues into adulthood -- and if so, whether this rate drops with age as seen in mice and nonhuman primates. Although some research had found new neurons in the hippocampus of older humans, a recent study scotched the idea, claiming that new neurons in the hippocampus were at undetectable levels by our late teens.
Intel

Intel Says Some CPU Models Will Never Receive Microcode Updates (bleepingcomputer.com) 213

An anonymous reader writes: Intel released an update to the Meltdown and Spectre mitigation guide, revealing that it stopped working on mitigations for some processor series. The Meltdown and Spectre mitigation guide is a PDF document that Intel published in February. The file contains information on the status of microcode updates for each of Intel's CPU models released in the past years. Intel has constantly updated the document in the past weeks with new information about processor series and the microcode firmware version number that includes patches for the Meltdown and Spectre flaws.

An update published on Monday includes for the first time a "Stopped" production status. Intel says that processors with a "Stopped" status will not receive microcode updates. The reasons basically vary from "redesigning the CPU micro-architecture is impossible or not worth the effort" to "it's an old CPU" and "customers said they don't need it." The following Intel processor products received a "Stopped" status marker: Bloomfield, Bloomfield Xeon, Clarksfield, Gulftown, Harpertown Xeon C0, Harpertown Xeon E0, Jasper Forest, Penryn/QC, SoFIA 3GR, Wolfdale C0, Wolfdale M0, Wolfdale E0, Wolfdale R0, Wolfdale Xeon C0, Wolfdale Xeon E0, Yorkfield, and Yorkfield Xeon.

Transportation

Tesla Is Making Over 2,000 Model 3s a Week, Falling Just Short of Its Goal (theverge.com) 233

According to an email from Elon Musk, Tesla has increased its production of its mass-market electric Model 3 to over 2,000 units per week. "It's an impressive ramp up of production, but it still falls short of Musk's goal of 2,500 Model 3s per week by the end of the first quarter of 2018," reports The Verge. From the report: In the companywide email (which was obtained by Jalopnik, Electrek, and Autonocast host Ed Niedermeyer), Musk sounds a celebratory note on the 2,000-vehicle per week benchmark, while ignoring the larger issue of missed deadlines: "It has been extremely difficult to pass the 2,000 cars per week rate for Model 3, but we are finally there. If things go as planned today, we will comfortably exceed that number over a seven-day period! Moreover, the whole Tesla production system is now on a firm foundation for that output, which means we should be able to exceed a combined Model S, X, and 3 production rate of 4,000 vehicles per week and climbing rapidly. This is already double the pace of 2017! By the end of this year, I believe we will be producing vehicles at least four times faster than last year." With Q1 now behind us, we can expect to see Tesla report its official production numbers to investors sometime this week.
Advertising

MailChimp Bans Emails Promoting Cryptocurrency (gizmodo.com) 48

"MailChimp to Cryptocurrency Promoters: Your Fake Money's No Good Here," jokes the headline at Gizmodo. The mass emailing service -- which sends over a billion emails a day -- just updated its Acceptable Use Policy to warn users that MailChimp "does not allow businesses involved in any aspect of the sale, transaction, exchange, storage, marketing, or production of cryptocurrencies, virtual currencies, and any digital assets related to an Initial Coin Offering, to use MailChimp to facilitate or support any of those activities."

An anonymous reader quotes Gizmodo: The ban on cryptocurrency promotion isn't out of the blue so much as a clarification of existing use policies... In a statement to Gizmodo, MailChimp further clarified: "We recognize that blockchain technology is in its infancy and has tremendous potential. Nonetheless, the promotion and exchange of cryptocurrencies is too frequently associated with scams, fraud, phishing, and potentially misleading business practices at this time..." MailChimp previously held policies prohibiting multi-level marketing, "make money online" businesses, and "industries hav[ing] higher-than-average abuse complaints," and earmarked "online trading, day trading tips, or stock market related content" for "additional scrutiny..."

This follows similar, though less restrictive bans by Facebook (and Instagram by extension), Google, Linkedin, Twitter, and Snapchat on ICO ads, and country-wide bans in China and South Korea.

Futurism reports that the first victims are "responding in kind by attempting to read the riot act to a Twitter account whose avatar is a monkey with a hat," strongly informing that monkey that "Centralized capricious power is exactly why we need blockchains."
Security

Boeing Hit By WannaCry Virus, Fears It Could Cripple Some Jet Production (seattletimes.com) 122

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Seattle Times: Boeing was hit Wednesday by the WannaCry computer virus, raising fears within the company that it could cripple some vital airplane production equipment. Mike VanderWel, chief engineer at Boeing Commercial Airplane production engineering, sent out an alarming memo calling for "All hands on deck." "It is metastasizing rapidly out of North Charleston and I just heard 777 (automated spar assembly tools) may have gone down," VanderWel wrote, adding that he's concerned the virus will hit equipment used in functional tests of airplanes ready to roll out and potentially "spread to airplane software." Indicating widespread alarm within the company at the potential impact, VanderWel said the attack required "a battery-like response," a reference to the 787 in-flight battery fires in 2013 that grounded the world's fleet of Dreamliners and led to an extraordinary three-month-long engineering effort to find a fix.
Windows

Microsoft Releases New Tool To Get More Distros on Windows (zdnet.com) 216

Microsoft has released a tool to help Linux distribution maintainers bring their distros to the Windows Store to run on Windows 10's Windows Subsystem for Linux. From a report: Microsoft describes the tool as a "reference implementation for a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) distribution installer application," which is aimed at both distribution maintainers and developers who want to create custom Linux distributions for running on WSL. "We know that many Linux distros rely entirely on open-source software, so we would like to bring WSL closer to the OSS community," said Tara Raj of Microsoft's WSL team. "We hope open-sourcing this project will help increase community engagement and bring more of your favorite distros to the Microsoft Store." WSL helps programmers build a full Linux development environment for testing production code on a Windows machine.
Earth

More Than 75 Percent of Earth's Land Areas Are 'Broken,' Major Report Finds (vice.com) 145

Like a broken cell phone that can only text or take pictures, but not make a single call, more than 75 percent of the Earth's land areas have lost some or most of their functions, undermining the well-being of the 3.2 billion people that rely on them to produce food crops, provide clean water, control flooding and more. From a report: These once-productive lands have either become deserts, are polluted, or have been deforested and converted for unsustainable agricultural production. This is a major contributor to increased conflict and mass human migration, and left unchecked, could force as many as 700 million to migrate by 2050, according to the world's first comprehensive evidence-based assessment of land degradation, released today in MedellÃn, Colombia.

Land degradation -- including deforestation, soil erosion, and salinity and pollution of fresh water systems -- is also driving species to extinction and aggravating the effects of climate change, the report concludes. It was written by more than 100 leading experts from 45 countries for the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). IPBES is the 'IPCC for biodiversity,' a scientific assessment of the status of non-human life that makes up the Earth's life support system.

Java

Oracle Releases Java 10, Promises Much Faster Release Schedule (adtmag.com) 134

An anonymous reader quotes Application Development Trends: Oracle announced the general availability of Java SE 10 (JDK 10) this week. This release, which comes barely six months after the release of Java SE 9, is the first in the new rapid release cadence Oracle announced late last year. The new release schedule, which the company is calling an "innovation cycle," calls for a feature release every six months, update releases every quarter, and a long-term support (LTS) release every three years. Java 10 is a feature release that obsoletes Java 9. The next LTS release will be Java 11, expected in September. The next LTS version after that will be Java 17, scheduled for release in September 2021...

The six-month feature release cadence is meant to reduce the latency between major releases, explained is Sharat Chander, director of Oracle's Java SE Product Management group, said in a blog post. "This release model takes inspiration from the release models used by other platforms and by various operating-system distributions addressing the modern application development landscape," Chander wrote. "The pace of innovation is happening at an ever-increasing rate and this new release model will allow developers to leverage new features in production as soon as possible. Modern application development expects simple open licensing and a predictable time-based cadence, and the new release model delivers on both."

This release finally adds var to the Java language (though its use is limited to local variables with initializers or declared in a for-loop). It's being added "to improve the developer experience by reducing the ceremony associated with writing Java code, while maintaining Java's commitment to static type safety, by allowing developers to elide the often-unnecessary manifest declaration of local variable type."
Businesses

BMW Says Electric Car Mass Production Not Viable Until 2020 (reuters.com) 142

BMW will not mass produce electric cars until 2020 because its current technology is not profitable enough to scale up for volume production, the chief executive said on Thursday. From a report: Munich-based BMW unveiled its first battery electric car in 2013, and has been working on different generations of battery, software and electric motor technology since then. The i8 Roadster model, due to hit showrooms in May, is equipped with what BMW calls its fourth-generation electric drive technology. Advances in battery raw materials and chemistry has increased its range by 40 percent over the previous version, BMW said. BMW is working to make electric car technology more modular and scalable to make mass production commercially viable. "We wanted to wait for the fifth generation to be much more cost competitive," Chief Executive Harald Krueger told analysts in Munich. "We do not want to scale up with the fourth generation."
Youtube

YouTube To Follow Amazon By Screening Its Movies Inside Theaters (engadget.com) 36

An anonymous reader shares a report: Following YouTube's announcement last month that it intends to spend "hundreds of millions" on original content for Red, it's just unveiled plans for a YouTube-made movie that'll also be released in theaters. And unlike its previous effort, 2016's widely-regarded flop Lazer Team, this project has a serious name attached to it: Susan Sarandon. The film, Vulture Club, is already in post-production. It stars Oscar-winning Susan Sarandon as an emergency room nurse whose son has been kidnapped by terrorists, and after being abandoned by the government, finds help in the unlikeliest of places. The thriller also stars Edie Falco of The Sopranos and Matt Bomer of Magic Mike, and is directed by Iranian-American Maryam Keshavarz, of Circumstance fame. Despite being slated for theatrical release, details on YouTube's plans to actually get the movie into theaters are scarce.
Data Storage

Power Outage At Samsung's Fab Destroys 3.5 Percent of Global NAND Flash Output (anandtech.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from AnandTech: A half-hour power outage at Samsung's fab near Pyeongtaek, South Korea, disrupted production and damaged tens of thousands of processed wafers. Media reports claim that the outage destroyed as much as 3.5% of the global NAND supply for March, which may have an effect on flash memory pricing in the coming weeks. The outage happened on March 9 and lasted for about 30 minutes, according to a news story from Taiwain-based TechNews that cites further South Korean reports. The report claims that the outage damaged 50,000 to 60,000 of wafers with V-NAND flash memory, which represent 11% of Samsung's monthly output. The report further estimates that the said amount equates to approximately 3.5% of global NAND output, but does not elaborate whether it means wafer output or bit output. Samsung uses its fab near Pyeongtaek to produce 64-layer V-NAND chips used for various applications. The fab is among the largest flash production facilities in the world and therefore any disruption there has an effect on the global output of non-volatile memory. Meanwhile, since production lines have not been damaged and the fab is back online, the significance of such an effect is limited.
Transportation

Tesla Employees Say Automaker Is Churning Out a High Volume of Flawed Parts (cnbc.com) 150

Several current and former employees of Tesla said that the automaker is manufacturing a surprisingly high ratio of flawed parts and vehicles, leading to more rework and repairs than can be contained at its factory in Fremont, California. CNBC reports: One current Tesla engineer estimated that 40 percent of the parts made or received at its Fremont factory require rework. The need for reviews of parts coming off the line, and rework, has contributed to Model 3 delays, the engineer said. Another current employee from Tesla's Fremont factory said the company's defect rate is so high that it's hard to hit production targets. Inability to hit the numbers is in turn hurting employee morale. To deal with a backlog of flawed parts and vehicles, said these current and former employees, Tesla has brought in teams of technicians and engineers from its service centers and remanufacturing lines to help with rework and repairs on site in Fremont. They also said that sometimes the luxury EV maker has taken the unusual measure of sending flawed or damaged parts from Fremont to its remanufacturing facility in Lathrop, California, about 50 miles away, instead of fixing those parts "in-line." Tesla flatly denies that its remanufacturing teams engage in rework. "Our remanufacturing team does not 'rework' cars," a spokesperson said. The company said the employees might be conflating rework and remanufacturing. It also said every vehicle is subjected to rigorous quality control involving more than 500 inspections and tests. The report from CNBC has caused Tesla's stock to tumble today. You can read Tesla's full statement about the CNBC report here.

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