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Submission + - Apple Is Losing Its Shine in China (backchannel.com)

mirandakatz writes: Until recently, Apple led an unusually charmed existence in China: Where Google and Facebook were sent into exile and Uber conceded defeat to a Chinese rival after a long and costly battle, Apple seemed to be flourishing. But now the company is on the outs—and not because of Beijing’s meddling. Rather, it's because Apple has failed to innovate or pay attention to the desires of its Chinese users. At Backchannel, Jeremy Hsu unpacks the tech giant's decline in China, arguing that "the Cupertino company hasn’t been a victim to regulation so much as a victim of its own failure of imagination."

Submission + - Light Sail propulsion could reach Sirius sooner than Alpha Centauri (arxiv.org)

RockDoctor writes: A recent proposition to launch probes to other star systems driven by lasers which remain in the Solar system has garnered considerable attention. But recently published work suggests that there are unexpected complexities to the system.

One would think that the closest star systems would be the easiest to reach. But unless you are content with a fly-by examination of the star system, with much reduced science returns, you will need to decelerate the probe at the far end, without any infrastructure to assist with the braking.

By combining both light-pressure braking and gravitational slingshots, a team of German, French and Chilean astronomers discover that the brightness of the destination star can significantly increase deceleration, and thus travel time (because higher flight velocities can be used. Sling-shotting around a companion star to lengthen deceleration times can help shed flight velocity to allow capture into a stable orbit.

The 4.37 light year distant binary stars Alpha Centauri A and B could be reached in 75 years from Earth. Covering the 0.24 light year distance to Proxima Centauri depends on arriving at the correct relative orientations of Alpha Centauri A and B in their mutual 80 year orbit for the sling shot to work. Without a companion star, Proxima Centauri can only absorb a final leg velocity of about 1280km/s, so that leg of the trip would take an additional 46 years.

Using the same performance characteristics for the light sail the corresponding duration for an approach to the Sirius system, almost twice as far away (8.58ly), is a mere 68.9 years, making it (and it's white dwarf companion) possibly a more attractive target.

Of course, none of this addresses the question of how to get any data from there to here. Or, indeed, how to manage a project that will last longer than a working lifetime. There are also issues of aiming — the motion of the Alpha Centauri system isn't well-enough known at the moment to achieve the precise manoeuvring needed without course corrections (and so, data transmission from there to here) en route.

Submission + - SPAM: New Moto Mods on the way

kiwix writes: Motorola is working with makers to bring new mods to the modular Moto Z family. After the Transform the smartphone challenge, they have selected a few mods that will receive funding and support, including an e-paper secondary screen and a solar charger.

My personal favorite is the slider keyboard, ideal for writing long emails, or hacking on the go. The projects are also looking for crowdfunding on Indigogo, so support them if you like those ideas!

Engadget reports:

In its continuing bid to stay relevant in a competitive market, Motorola is trying to build up a community of hardware designers for the Moto Z's modular add-ons. Yesterday, the company brought together several winners of regional hackathons to a pitch event in Chicago, hoping to find the best of these innovative, indie creations. The judging panel — which includes execs from Lenovo and Verizon — selected two teams for up to $1 million in investment funding from Lenovo Capital, as well as eventual distribution by Verizon.


Link to Original Source

Submission + - Massachusetts Prepares to Vacate Nearly 24,000 Tainted Drug Convictions (reason.com)

schwit1 writes: Massachusetts prosecutors will move in mid-April to vacate nearly all of the roughly 24,000 drug convictions tainted by a single corrupt forensic lab chemist, The Boston Globe reported Saturday, marking the denouement of one of the largest drug lab scandals in U.S. history.

A Massachusetts prosecutor told the state's Supreme Judicial Court last week that D.A.'s would seek to keep fewer than 1,000 of the 24,000 convictions tainted by drug lab chemist Annie Dookahn, who pled guilty in 2012 to falsifying test results in favor of law enforcement and tampering with evidence over a nine-year period starting in 2003.

Submission + - Robots could solve the Lionfish ecological disaster (mashable.com)

SkinnyGuy writes: Lionfish are an invasive species that are destroying our coral reefs ans fisheries. The non-profit RISE (from iRobot's Colin Angle) has a plan to use robots to fish these Lionfish and serve them up to us on a delicious, golden platter.

Submission + - Climate Change Is Altering Global Air Currents (independent.co.uk)

An anonymous reader writes: One of the scientists who demonstrated conclusively that global warming was an unnatural event with the famous “hockey stick” graph is now warning that giant jetstreams which circle the planet are being altered by climate change. Jetstreams are influenced by the difference in temperatures between the Arctic and the equator. But the Arctic has been warming much faster than tropical climates – the island of Svalbard, for example was 6.5 degrees celsius warmer last year compared to the average between 1961 and 1990. The land has also been warming faster than the sea. Both of those factors were changing the flow of these major air currents to create “extreme meanders” which were helping to cause “extreme weather events”, Professor Michael Mann said. In a paper in the journal Scientific Reports, Professor Mann and other researchers wrote that evidence of the effect of climate change on the jetstreams had “only recently emerged from the background noise of natural variability." They said that projections of the effect on the jetstreams in “state-of-the-art” climate models were “mirrored” in “multiple” actual temperature measurements. The jetstream normally flows reasonably consistently around the planet, but can develop loops extending north and south. The researchers, who studied temperature records going back to 1870 as well as satellite data, said these loops could grow “very large” or even “grind to a halt” rather than moving from west to east. The effect has been most pronounced during the past 40 years, they found.

Submission + - Why You Should Care About The Supreme Court Case On Toner Cartridges (consumerist.com)

rmdingler writes: A corporate squabble over printer toner cartridges doesn’t sound particularly glamorous, and the phrase “patent exhaustion” is probably already causing your eyes to glaze over. However, these otherwise boring topics are the crux of a Supreme Court case that will answer a question with far-reaching impact for all consumers: Can a company that sold you something use its patent on that product to control how you choose to use after you buy it?

Here’s the background: Lexmark makes printers. Printers need toner in order to print, and Lexmark also happens to sell toner.

Then there’s Impression Products, a third-party company makes and refills toner cartridges for use in printers, including Lexmark’s.

Submission + - Call For Engineers To Act On Climate Change (phys.org)

dryriver writes: Phys.org reports: "Discussion around limiting climate change primarily focuses on whether the best results can be gained by individuals changing how they act, or governments introducing new legislation. Now though, University of Leeds academics Dr Rob Lawlor and Dr Helen Morley from the Inter-Disciplinary Ethics Applied Centre suggest engineering professionals could also play a pivotal role, and could provide a co-ordinated response helping to mitigate climate change. Writing in the journal Science and Engineering Ethics, they say engineering professional institutions could take a stand in tackling climate change by developing a declaration imposing restrictions and requirements on members. "A strong and coordinated action by the engineering profession could itself make a significant difference in how we respond to climate change," they said. Quoting 2014 research by Richard Heede from the Climate Accountability Institute, they say nearly two-thirds of historic carbon dioxide and methane emissions could be attributed to crude oil and natural gas producers, coal extractors, and cement producers. These are industries typically enabled by the engineering profession. They argue that the profession could take a more active role and have a positive impact in reducing the level of damaging emissions by proposing environmental restrictions or encouraging engineers to think how the resources and processes they use could be as environmentally friendly as possible.

Submission + - U.S. to Temporarily Suspend Expediting for H-1B Visas (uscis.gov) 1

elrous0 writes: According to an U.S. Immigration Services press release:

Starting April 3, 2017, USCIS will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions. This suspension may last up to 6 months. While H-1B premium processing is suspended, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker which requests the H-1B nonimmigrant classification. We will notify the public before resuming premium processing for H-1B petitions.

While the ostensible reason given for this suspension is to "help us to reduce overall H-1B processing times," there is little doubt that this move is tied to President Trump's ongoing efforts to curb abuses in the controversial H-1B program.

Submission + - How I Stopped Trying to Upgrade My Life (backchannel.com) 3

mirandakatz writes: In our upgrade-obsessed world, it’s easy to conclude that happiness comes from new and shiny things. As Google X's Hans Peter Brondmo writes, that sort of thinking is wrong. At Backchannel, he details his path toward accepting "Life 1.0," rather than constantly chasing the next upgrade. He writes, "My perceived need for an upgrade was driven by data that reinforced, everywhere I turned, that upgrades are it. More, newer, ever-shinier things will make you even happier. Upgrade your life to Life 7.0 and THAT will bring you the joy and happiness you think others have. I mostly knew it was bullshit, but when the stimuli is overwhelming and it’s continuously training your learners that upgrades in their many forms lead to greater happiness, then after a while it messes with your algorithms, skewing your truth and values."

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Why Are Many Products Deliberately Aimed At Younger Consumers? 4

dryriver writes: Everyone who is currently over 35 or so is familiar with a certain phenomenon: You've spent your childhood, teens and twenties buying everything "cool" — music, films, books, toys, clothing, computer games, comic books, PC hardware, game consoles, software, all sorts of consumer electronics. During this time, you and the rest of your generation kept the companies that produce this stuff flush with cash — it was your steady buying and consuming that allowed these companies to grow really big and thrive in financial terms. Now, suddenly, you are outside the target demographic for these same companies — they are still producing "stuff", but it is now aimed at new children, teens and tweens. When you look around for products made for a 35+ year old person, you find that almost everybody producing stuff is obsessed with serving a younger, less discerning demographic that is spending its parents' cash, just as you once spent your parents' cash. Why is this? Shouldn't products you "grew up with" also "grow with you as you grow" — accompany you into older age in a more mature, developed and sophisticated form in other words? Or is commerce all about get-their-money-while-they-are-young-and-impressionable?

Submission + - SPAM: Risk Of Cascadia Quake Elevated As Puget Sound 'Slow Slip' Event Begins 1

schwit1 writes: On Wednesday, the semi-annual "slow slip" event began, according to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) at the University of Washington. The event happens about every 14 months deep underneath the Puget Sound area and is essentially a slow earthquake that takes place over the course of two weeks.

During a slow-slip event, after 14 months of moving eastward, the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate stalls and moves westward, which puts stress on the Cascadia subduction zone.

Seismologists often refer to this as a "straw that broke the camel's back" scenario.

"It's loading up the edge of the lock zone of the Cascadia subduction zone more rapidly than normal tectonic processes would do," explained Bill Steele, director of communications at the PNSN. "You're getting seven months of strain accumulation applied to the back edge of the fault over a week."

Link to Original Source

Submission + - The Alternate Facts of Cable Companies (backchannel.com) 1

mirandakatz writes: New York's attorney general sued Spectrum earlier this month, essentially alleging that the cable company had blatantly lied about the internet speeds it was providing to customers. At Backchannel, Susan Crawford offers some much-need analysis of why this happened in the first place, and what if all means. Crawford writes that "in a world in which Spectrum faces little to no competition, now expects even less regulation than before, and has no need to spend money on better services, the lawsuit won’t by itself make much of a difference. But maybe the public nature of the AG’s assault—charging Spectrum for illegal misconduct—will lead to a call for alternatives...We’d get honest, straightforward, inexpensive service, rather than the horrendously expensive cable bundles we’re stuck with today."

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