bmearns writes "Over the past few weeks we've been hearing a lot about a possible breakthrough in decoding the infamous Voynich manuscript, made by a team of botanists who suggested that the plants depicted in the manuscript may have been from the New World and the mysterious writing could be a form of an Aztec language. But the latest development comes from linguist Stephen Bax, of Bedfordshire University, who believes he has identified some proper names (including of the constellation 'Taurus') in the manuscript and is using these as a crib to begin deciphering the rest of the text, which he believes comes from the near east or Asia."
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sciencehabit writes "A team of physicists has produced the most precise electron mass measurement ever made. Instead of trying to measure the mass directly, the researchers bound a single electron to a bare carbon nucleus and placed the resulting atom in a uniform electromagnetic field called a Penning trap. The team's new measurement is 13 times more precise than previous efforts, with an uncertainty of just 0.03 parts per billion. The group's precise result will help physicists more accurately calculate the fine-structure constant, an important value in tests of the standard model of particle physics, which shapes our understanding of the basic building blocks of the universe."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Amazon has expanded support for its Amazon Coins from Kindle Fire tablets to Google Android mobile devices.In its press release, Amazon positioned its e-currency as the ultimate in convenience for customers who don't want their credit-card statements riddled with lots of micro-purchases from Amazon's App Store. Expanding the currency's reach is also a potential win for Amazon, which wants to create an end-to-end ecosystem for app developers. But Amazon Coins' existence could alienate the same demographic that made Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies such a hit. The company tethers the Coins to a user identity, and likely keeps significant records on its crypto-currency ecosystem: who buys what when. That concept is anathema to those online denizens who embraced Bitcoin as a way to make purchases without needing to reveal a real-world identity, or deal with a currency tethered to a central repository; genuine crypto-currency can be used to purchase pretty much anything from a purveyor willing to take it, including—in the case of Silk Road and other online bazaars—drugs and weapons. Indeed, Amazon Coins has more to do with a corporate 'currency' like the now-defunct Microsoft Points than an actual crypto-currency like Bitcoin. But that hasn't stopped some people from getting confused about it."
cartechboy writes "Mercedes-Benz has devised a crazy new 360-degree video capture method that allows you to follow live-action video from just about any angle you choose. This new piece of tech will launch with the Mercedes AMG F1 team this year, and gives you the ability to swivel and tilt the camera angle in pretty much any direction as the car speeds around the track. The device uses wide-angle cameras arranged in a ball and then stitched together into a panoramic view. Of course there's an iOS app that lets you watch all this."
Lasrick writes "Chevron hopes that free soda and pizza can extinguish community anger over a fracking well fire in Dunkard Township, Pennsylvania. From the story: 'The flames that billowed out of the Marcellus Shale natural gas well were so hot they caused a nearby propane truck to explode, and first responders were forced to retreat to avoid injury. The fire burned for four days, and Chevron currently has tanks of water standing by in case it reignites. Of the twenty contractors on the well site, one is still missing, and is presumed dead.' The company gave those who live nearby a certificate for a free pizza and some soda."
Zothecula writes "3D Systems, in collaboration with Ekso Bionics, has created a 3D-printed robotic exoskeleton that has restored the ability to walk in a woman paralyzed from the waist down. The Ekso-Suit was trialled and demonstrated by Amanda Boxtel, who was told by her doctor that she'd never walk again after a skiing accident in 1992. 'Designers from 3D Systems scanned her body, digitizing the contours of her spine, thighs, and shins, a process that helped them mold the robotic suit to her. Then they combined the suit with a set of mechanical actuators and controls made by EksoBionics. ... One problem that the designers faced in this case was that a paralyzed person like Boxtel often can't know that bruising is happening because she can't feel it. That's dangerous, Summit said, because undetected bruises or abrasions can become infected. "So we had to be very careful with creating geometry that would dodge the parts of the body that it had to dodge...[designing] parts that wouldn't impede circulation or cause bruising."'"
cold fjord writes "Gamespot reports, 'Remember Doom 4? It's not dead! And it's now just called Doom, presumably. And there's going to be a beta. Anyone who preorders a copy of upcoming Wolfenstein: The New Order will gain access to the Doom beta. But Bethesda isn't saying when that beta might be. Or what platforms it will be on. It is saying, however, that you'll need to be over 18 to participate. Sounds like it might be a bit gory, then. More information can be found on Bethesda's Doom beta site.' Forbes adds that Wolfenstein: The New Order is set for release on May 20th."
Facebook has announced an agreement to buy WhatsApp, the mobile messaging platform used by over 450 million people. The deal involves $4 billion in cash and an additional $12 billion in Facebook stock. They say WhatsApp will remain independent; its headquarters won't move, and it will continue to exist separately from Facebook's Messenger app. Mark Zuckerberg indicated they will focus on growth: 'Over the next few years, we're going to work hard to help WhatsApp grow and connect the whole world. We also expect that WhatsApp will add to our efforts for Internet.org, our partnership to make basic internet services affordable for everyone.' On WhatsApp's blog, they say, "Here’s what will change for you, our users: nothing. WhatsApp will remain autonomous and operate independently."
eggboard writes "Jen A. Miller has an egg allergy of a variety that her doctor has told her could produce a severe reaction if she were vaccinated for the flu, as flu vaccines are grown from viral strains incubated in chicken eggs. But, she explains, two new approaches have been approved by the FDA and are in production that don't use eggs at all; they're on the market in small amounts already, but will be available in much larger quantities soon. It's not just about egg allergies: the new vaccine types (one relying in insect proteins and the other on animal proteins) provide a much faster turnaround time in response to flu pandemics — as little as two to three months from isolation of a strain to mass production instead of at least six months with eggs."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "About 252 million years ago, cracks in the Earth's crust in Siberia caused vast amounts of lava to spill out and blanket the region with about 6,000,000 cubic kilometers of molten material—enough to cover the continental U.S. at a one mile depth. It triggered a huge change in climate, causing a mass extinction event that killed roughly 90 percent of life on earth. Now Helen Thompson writes in the Smithsonian that a team at MIT has focused its efforts on this major extinction event, which marks the end of the Permian period and the beginning of the Triassic period. Their results suggest that the die-out happened a lot faster than previously thought — perhaps over a span of only 60,000 years. The shorter time scale means that organisms would have had less time to react and adapt to changes in climate, atmospheric CO2 and ocean acidity. Without the ability to adapt, they died. Other mass extinction events have also been narrowed down to short timeframes. The asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period only took about 32,000 years. A similar study of another mass extinction triggered by volcanic eruptions at the end of the Triassic period suggests it lasted less than 5,000 years. Even though all of these extinction events were caused by different things, the ecosystem collapse happened very quickly. 'Whatever the causes of the extinctions may be, and it looks like there are very different causes for some of them, the biosphere may collapse in very similar ways once it gets beyond a tipping point,' says Doug Erwin. Some scientists see the end of the Permian as a lesson for the 21st century (PDF) and say that understanding the conditions leading up to, within, and after a mass extinction event may help us to avoid human-induced ecosystem collapses in the future. As Erwin puts it, 'you don't want to start a mass extinction, because once a mass extinction begins, the prognosis is pretty grim.'"
New submitter GreyWanderingRogue writes "Google is looking to expand beyond the three current cities using Google Fiber. They're currently still in the discussion stages, but they've invited 34 cities in 9 major metropolitan areas to talk about deployment. They'll need to study 'topography (e.g. hills, flood zones), housing density, and the condition of local infrastructure' in each of the cities, so it will be interesting to see how many make it to completion. Check the map to see if you're one of the lucky few. The Atlanta, Portland and Raleigh-Durham areas each have a cluster of cities being considered. Not in one of these cities? It might be a while yet..."
Karl C writes "In a statement issued today, FCC commissioner Tom Wheeler announced that the commission will begin a rule-making process to re-impose Net Neutrality, which was recently struck down in Federal court. Among the standards Wheeler intends to pursue are vigorous enforcement of a requirement for transparency in how ISPs manage traffic, and a prohibition on blocking (the 'no blocking' provision.) This seems like exactly what net neutrality activists have been demanding: Total prohibition of throttling, and vigorous enforcement of that rule, and of a transparency requirements so ISPs can't try to mealy-mouth their way around accusations that they're already throttling Netflix. Even before the court decision overturning net neutrality, Comcast and Verizon users have been noting Netflix slowdowns for months."
Trailrunner7 writes: "AT&T, in its first transparency report, said it received at least 2,000 National Security Letters and nearly 38,000 requests for location data on its subscribers in 2013. The new report from AT&T is the latest in a growing list of publications from telecom companies, Web providers and cell phone carriers who have been under pressure from privacy advocates and security experts in the wake of the Edward Snowden NSA surveillance revelations. AT&T's report shows a higher number of NSLs and subpoenas in 2013 than its most relevant competitor, Verizon. In January, Verizon's first transparency report showed that the company received between 1,000 and 1,999 NSLs in 2013 and 164,000 subpoenas. AT&T said it got 2,000-2,999 NSLs and 248,343 subpoenas last year. AT&T also received nearly 37,000 court orders and more than 16,000 search warrants."
An anonymous reader writes in about a possible game changer in wireless technology that embraces interference with great results: "It's one of those elegant inventions that only surface maybe once a decade. If it works at scale, according to IEEE Spectrum, it could 'radically change the way wireless networks operate, essentially replacing today's congested cellular systems with an entirely new architecture that combines signals from multiple distributed antennas to create a tiny pocket of reception around every wireless device.' This scheme could allow each device to use the full bandwidth of spectrum available to the network, which would 'eliminate network congestion and provide faster, more reliable data connections.' And the best part? It's compatible with 4G LTE phones, which means it could be deployed today." The idea is that an array of dumb antennas are deployed and a very powerful cluster computes signals that are sent from all of them which then appear to be a single coherent signal to only a single device. There's a short paper on the Distributed In Distributed Out technique, but it is a bit light on the mathematical details.
An anonymous reader writes "Mark Shuttleworth just had a conference call with the press where he announced Canonical has partnered with BQ in Europe and Meizu in China to manufacture Ubuntu phones that will ship in 2014. By the time devices ship, the hope is to have ports of the top 50 Android and iOS apps available on Ubuntu." Mark Shuttleworth notes "The mobile industry has long been looking for a viable alternative to those that reign today. Ubuntu puts the control back into the hands of our partners and presents an exciting platform for consumers, delivering an experience which departs from the tired app icon grid of Android and iOS and provides a fluid, content-rich experience for all."