dryriver writes: The BBC reports: The tail of a feathered dinosaur has been found perfectly preserved in amber from Myanmar. The one-of-a-kind discovery helps put flesh on the bones of these extinct creatures, opening a new window on the biology of a group that dominated Earth for more than 160 million years. Examination of the specimen suggests the tail was chestnut brown on top and white on its underside. "This is the first time we've found dinosaur material preserved in amber," co-author Ryan McKellar, of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada, told the BBC News website. Co-author Prof Mike Benton, from the University of Bristol, added: "It's amazing to see all the details of a dinosaur tail — the bones, flesh, skin, and feathers — and to imagine how this little fellow got his tail caught in the resin, and then presumably died because he could not wrestle free."
dryriver writes: Phys.org reports: A key glacier in Antarctica is breaking apart from the inside out, suggesting that the ocean is weakening ice on the edges of the continent. The Pine Island Glacier, part of the ice shelf that bounds the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is one of two glaciers that researchers believe are most likely to undergo rapid retreat, bringing more ice from the interior of the ice sheet to the ocean, where its melting would flood coastlines around the world. A nearly 225-square-mile iceberg broke off from the glacier in 2015, but it wasn't until Ohio State University researchers were testing some new image-processing software that they noticed something strange in satellite images taken before the event. "It's generally accepted that it's no longer a question of whether the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will melt, it's a question of when," said study leader Ian Howat, associate professor of earth sciences at Ohio State. "This kind of rifting behavior provides another mechanism for rapid retreat of these glaciers, adding to the probability that we may see significant collapse of West Antarctica in our lifetimes."
dryriver writes: The website propornot.com (as in 'propaganda or not') has created an experimental Chrome browser extension that flags links on websites which originate from known Russian or pro-Russian-viewpoint propaganda or fake news sites with 3 red 'YYY' letters. The Chrome extension is a real eye opener — try installing it in Chrome, then browsing a website like rense.com, where the browser extension flags a massive number of news links with red YYYs. This, and similar digital tools, could be the beginning of internet browsers being able to warn users against propaganda and fake news content.
dryriver writes: The Guardian reports: Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said. Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century. This would mean the elimination of Nasa’s world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena. Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said as Nasa provides the scientific community with new instruments and techniques, the elimination of Earth sciences would be “a major setback if not devastating”.“It could put us back into the ‘dark ages’ of almost the pre-satellite era,” he said. “It would be extremely short sighted".
dryriver writes: CNN reports: For what appears to be the first time since scientists began keeping track, sea ice in the Arctic and the Antarctic are at record lows this time of year. "It looks like, since the beginning of October, that for the first time we are seeing both the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice running at record low levels," said Walt Meier, a research scientist with the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, who has tracked sea ice data going back to 1979. While it is too early to know if the recent, rapid decline in Antarctic sea ice is going to be a regular occurrence like in the Arctic, it "certainly puts the kibosh on everyone saying that Antarctica's ice is just going up and up," Meier said. The decline of sea ice has been a key indicator that climate change is happening, but its loss, especially in the Arctic, can mean major changes for your weather, too.
dryriver writes: Scientists have produced the first global maps of human emissions of carbon dioxide ever made solely from satellite observations of the greenhouse gas. The maps, based on data from NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite and generated with a new data-processing technique, agree well with inventories of known carbon dioxide emissions. No satellite before OCO-2 was capable of measuring carbon dioxide in fine enough detail to allow researchers to create maps of human emissions from the satellite data alone. Instead, earlier maps also incorporated estimates from economic data and modeling results. The new (OCO-2 based) maps show widespread carbon dioxide across major urban areas and smaller pockets of high emissions. Human emissions of carbon dioxide have grown at a significant rate since the Industrial Revolution, and the greenhouse gas lingers in the atmosphere for a century or more.
dryriver writes: According to ABC, back in 2006, Buma/Stemra (Dutch Music Royalties Collection Agency) approached a Dutch musician, Melchior Reitveldt, to write some music for an anti-piracy ad, with the strict proviso that this music would be played only and exclusively at a local film festival. Mr. Reitveldt wrote the music, it was played, he got paid and all was well. But then, in 2007, he bought a Harry Potter DVD and to his surprise, there was his music in the anti-piracy ad at the beginning. His composition had been taken and used without his permission. In fact, it had been illegally used on dozens of movie DVDs, both in Holland and overseas. So Mr. Reitveldt went to the Buma/Stemra music royalty collection agency to clear up this misunderstanding, and ran into a brick wall. Nothing happened for a long time, and then pathetically small refunds were offered, and then they weren't paid in full, and the delaying tactics went on and on.The breakthrough came in 2011, 5 years later, when he secretly recorded a Buma director cynically telling him that "things could be sped up" if he let them "buy the music" for 1 Million Euros. The director had to resign in disgrace. In June 2012, a court ordered Buma/Stemra to repay the money.
dryriver writes: There is no shortage of internet websites these days that peddle "information", "knowledge", "analysis", "explanations" or even supposed "facts" that don't hold up to even the most basic scrutiny — one quick trip over to Wikipedia, Snopes, an academic journal or another reasonably factual/unbiased source, and you realize that you've just been fed a tripple dose of factually inaccurate horsecrap masquerading as "fact". Unfortunately, many millions of more naive internet users appear to frequent sites daily that very blatantly peddle "untruths", "pseudo-facts" or even "agitprop-like disinformation", the latter sometimes paid for by someone somewhere. No small number of these more gullible internet users then wind up believing just about everything they read or watch on these sites, and in some cases cause other gullible people in the offline world to believe in them too. Now here is an interesting idea: What if your internet browser — whether Edge, Firefox, Chrome, Opera or other — was able provide an "information accuracy rating" of some sort when you visit a certain URL. Perhaps something like "11,992 internet users give this website a factual accuracy rating of 3.7/10. This may mean that the website you are visiting is prone to presenting information that may not be factually accurate." You could also take this 2 steps further. You could have a small army of "certified fact checkers" — people with scientific credentials, positions in academia or similar — provide a rolling "expert rating" on the very worst of these websites, displayed as "warning scores" by the web browser. Or you could have a keyword analysis algorithm/AI/web crawler go through the webpage you are looking at, try to cross-reference the information presented to you against a selection of "more trusted sources" in the background, and warn you if information presented on a webpage as "fact" simply does not check out. Example: "Only 14 Million Ameristanis do not currently have health insurance." Or "98% of Astaburghians currently have well paid full-time jobs." Your browser might warn you that in actual fact "42 Million Ameristanis currently do not have health insurance", and that "the real unemployment rate amongst Astaburghians is almost 27%, with over 45% working jobs that do not qualify as 'well paid'". Is this a good idea? Could it be made to work technically? Might a browser feature like this make the internet as a whole a "more factually accurate place" to get information from?
dryriver writes: National Geographic's Climate Change movie "Before The Flood", featuring actor-activist Leonardo DiCaprio, can now be viewed freely on Youtube. URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... One of the most interesting points in the movie comes at around the 23 minute mark. At 23 minutes, scientist Michael E. Mann, famous for co-discovering the "hockey stick graph" via eigenvector based climate field reconstruction (CFR), recounts how media like the Wall Street Journal demonized him for his research, how he received death threats from unknown sources, how Congress grilled him about whether his scientific methods are credible, and how he even received an envelope in the mail with strange white powder in it. The movie is worth watching because it shows very clearly that a) man-made Climate Change is happening and that b) the negative effects of Climate Change are already impacting many areas of the world.
dryriver writes: Graphics cards manufacturers like Nvidia and AMD have gone to great pains recently to point out that to experience Virtual Reality with a VR headset properly, you need a GPU capable of pushing at least a steady 90 FPS per eye, or a total of at least 180 FPS for both eyes, and at high resolutions to boot. This of course requires the purchase of the latest, greatest high-end GPUs made by these manufacturers, alongside the money you are already plonking down for your new VR headset and a good, fast gaming-class PC. This raises an interesting question: virtually every LCD/LED TV manufactured in the last 5 — 6 years has a "Realtime Motion Compensation" feature built in. This is the not-so-new-at-all technique of taking, say, a football match broadcast live at 30 FPS or Hz, and algorithmically generating extra in-between frames in realtime, thus giving you a hypersmooth 200 — 400 FPS/Hz image on the TV set, with no visible stutter or strobing whatsoever. This technology is not new. It is cheap enough to include in virtually every TV set at every price level (thus the hardware that performs the realtime motion compensating cannot cost more than a few dollars total). And the technique should, in theory, work just fine with the output of a GPU trying to drive a VR headset. Now suppose you have a entry level or mid-range GPU capable of pushing only 40 — 60 FPS in a VR application (or a measly 20 — 30 FPS per eye, making for a truly terrible VR experience). You could, in theory add some cheap Motion Compensation circuitry to that GPU and get 100 — 200 FPS or more per eye. Heck, you might even be able to program a few GPU cores to run the motion compensating as a realtime GPU shader as the rest of the GPU is rendering a game or VR experience. So my question: Why don't GPUs for VR use Realtime Motion Compensation techniques to increase the FPS pushed into the VR headset? Would this not make far more financial sense for the average VR user than having to buy a monstrously powerful GPU to experience VR at all?
dryriver writes: The BBC writes: Sir Richard Branson freely admits that he would be a difficult employee for any boss to manage. One of the UK's best-known and wealthiest entrepreneurs, he says that if he were a member of staff at another business, his line manager would have to "accept that I might not do things exactly as he'd like me to do them". But Sir Richard adds that the company in question would still need "to be nice to me", despite the disruption he would inevitably cause. While Sir Richard might sound like many managers' idea of a nightmare member of staff, he wants companies — of all sizes — to hire more independently minded, rule-breaking, stubborn people like himself. His argument is that the new ideas and drive that such mavericks bring to a business far outweigh the fact they may often be difficult to work with. In a world that already has plenty of business buzzwords and phrases, a new one has now been coined to describe such people — "disruptive talent". The description has been developed by business psychologists OE Cam, which recently held a discussion on the topic in London. Martyn Sakol, managing partner of OE Cam, says that a person with disruptive talent has a multitude of positive attributes that they can bring to a business. "I would define disruptive talent as individuals who think and act differently, innovate, challenge conventional wisdom, spot trends, see commercial opportunities, and tenaciously find ways to achieve success," he says. But once you have recruited self-consciously idiosyncratic talent, how do you integrate them into your workforce? And crucially, how do you make sure existing employees are not annoyed or upset by the influx of awkward people? Mr Yiend says you simply keep them apart. "The point is you don't integrate as such," he says. "You manage individuals differently, but with everyone working towards a set of common goals. "It is vital that everyone's clear on what the company's vision is, and then as a team you can succeed."
dryriver writes: The BBC reports: A French health watchdog has recommended that children under the age of six should not be allowed access to 3D content. The Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (Anses) added that access for those up to the age of 13 should be 'moderate'. It follows research into the possible impact of 3D imaging on still-developing eyes. Few countries currently have guidelines about 3D usage. According to Anses, the process of assimilating a three-dimensional effect requires the eyes to look at images in two different places at the same time before the brain translates it as one image. 'In children, and particularly before the age of six, the health effects of this vergence-accommodation conflict could be much more severe given the active development of the visual system at this time,' it said in a statement.
dryriver writes: The American Civil Liberties Union has created a fun to watch — and admittedly somewhat scary — 3 minute animation titled 'Invasion Of The Data Snatchers' that is intended to demonstrate to the perhaps not very computer literate laypersons just what kind of level of mass surveillance the rapidly approaching 'Internet Of Things' may bring with it. The Youtube link to the animation is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... The animation starts with Google ('Ogle' in the animation), CCTV cameras, Facebook, Social Media and Smartphones spying on people. It laments that 'people allowed this', because they 'thought they could always log off again'. Then it fast forwards to the 2020s where the 'Internet Of Things' has put computing power, networking capability and with that potential 'stealth surveillance' capability into everything from smart fridges and smart toasters, to smart toilets and smart showerheads. The animation concludes on a grim note — the central female character is punished for her 'divergent showering habits'. All in all, the ACLU commissioned animation may be a great way to explain to the layperson, in just 3 minutes, why the 'Internet Of Things' may perhaps not be such a good idea from a privacy rights protection standpoint.
dryriver writes: The BBC reports: 'It's more than 110 years since mankind first took to the air in a powered aircraft. During that time, certain designs have become lauded for their far-sighted strengths – the Supermarine Spitfire; Douglas DC-3 Dakota; or the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic airliner, to name a few. But then there are planes like the Christmas Bullet. Designed by Dr William Whitney Christmas, who was described by one aviation historian as the "greatest charlatan to ever see his name associated with an airplane", this ”revolutionary” prototype biplane fighter had no struts supporting the wings; instead, they were supposed to flap like a bird’s. Both prototypes were destroyed during their first flights – basically, because Christmas's "breakthrough" design was so incapable of flight that the wings would twist off the airframe at the first opportunity. Just as many of the world's most enduring designs share certain characteristics, the history of aviation is littered with disappointing designs. Failures like Christmas's uniquely unflyable aircraft often overlooked some fairly simple rules: The Douglas TBD Devastator was a death-trap; it could only release its torpedo flying in a straight line whilst dawdling at 115mph – making it easy to shoot down. The short-lived Brewster Buffalo was shot down in droves when it encountered Japanese fighters in the early years of World War II, proving too slow and cumbersome. The Fairey Albacore was intended to become the Royal Navy’s standard torpedo bomber; it ended up being edged out by the plane it was supposed to replace. A flaw in the design of the De Havilland Comet’s cabin windows led to several crashes which ended the plane’s promising airline career. The Douglas DC-10 suffered several early crashes due to the flawed design of its cargo doors, which caused them to open mid-flight.'
dryriver writes: Chinese technology startup ANTVR (http://www.antvr.com/) is raising funds on Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/805968217/antvr-kit-all-in-one-universal-virtual-reality-kit) for a new, gaming oriented VR Headset capable of rivalling FaceBook's Oculus Rift VR Headset technologically speaking. The ANTVR headset features a full HD screen (1920 x 1080, 1 megapixel per eye), 100 degrees of FOV, 9-axis motion detect with low latency (1 ms), wireless communication, support for Playstation, Xbox, PC, Android gaming platforms, as well as an interesting "virtual gun" type controller that can be folded open into a steering wheel or gamepad-type controller, and also holds batteries that can power the ANTVR for 3 — 8 hours. Interesting technical features include being able to detect whether the ANTVR wearer steps forward, backwards, to the left or to the right, and also whether the wearer crouches or jumps. The ANTVR headset also comes with a viewing window at the bottom of the unit that can be opened, so you can glance down and see your hands and keyboard and mouse for example. What makes ANTVR interesting is that it isn't a "cheap Chinese knockoff of Oculus Rift". A lot of original thought seems to have gone into making ANTVR a "significantly different from a design standpoint" competitor to Oculus Rift. It now remains to be seen how much money ANTVR can raise on Kickstarter, and how many real world users/gamers opt for this new Chinese VR kit over the older — and currently — more famous Oculus Rift.