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Submission + - Caterpillars Munch Plastic Bags. An Insect Solution to the Problem of Landills. (

Yergle143 writes: We live in an age of plastic. Finding uses at every level of human enterprise and industry, our plastic polymer refuse will be the unmistakable signature of our civilization. The chemically inert nature of plastics is the feature that makes recycling difficult. Someday enriched deposits of Prell bottles and Saran Wrap may decorate a geologic layer that defines us as clearly as the calcium carbonate exoskeleton of extinct bivalves. As reported in the Journal Current Biology a serendipitous discovery may form the basis for a biological remedy to our plastic waste problem. While purging empty bee hives of an infestation by the larvae of the greater wax moth (Galleria mellonell) who dine on beeswax, researchers at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria in Spain, found that caterpillars that had been placed in a an ordinary plastic grocery bag were able to rapidly eat their way out. They report that these voracious wax worms, due to the action of their own suite of enzymes or that of their microflora, can breakdown polyethylene to polyethylene glycol, a substance found in antifreeze and one that is easily metabolized. While other reports on the bioremediation of polyethylene plastics have appeared, the wax worm seems to exhibit a special processivity for this intractable polymeric material. Is our age of plastic at wax?

Comment Re:Pilots don't work (but people are shortsighted) (Score 1) 348

I get habituiated to things fairly quickly, bit I'm still amazed at what my colleagues think is going to go on forever. A while ago it included falling temperatures and more people from Canada spending time in Florida. We even went and visited some friends down there who were going to stay, or did stay. Oddly enough, that's _not_ what Environment Canada was worried about at the time. They seemed to think it was getting hotter, not colder (;-))

One year is probably enough for 99% of the people involved to think of it as "normal".

Submission + - Quick Tutorial: Deleting Your Data Using Google's "My Activity" (

Lauren Weinstein writes: Since posting "The Google Page That Google Haters Don’t Want You to Know About" last week, I’ve received a bunch of messages from readers asking for help using Google’s “My Activity” page to control, inspect, and/or delete their data on Google. The My Activity portal is quite comprehensive and can be used in many different ways, but to get you started I’ll briefly outline how to use My Activity to delete activity data.

Submission + - How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All (

Thelasko writes: Will you pay more for those shoes before 7 p.m.? Would the price tag be different if you lived in the suburbs? Standard prices and simple discounts are giving way to far more exotic strategies, designed to extract every last dollar from the consumer.

Submission + - Getting North Korea wrong (

Dan Drollette writes: "When will the two Koreas unify?" is something that's been asked of this noted Asian history scholar for over four decades. His answer: Don't hold your breath. After 70 years, the North shows no sign of folding. And this is the third generation of the Kim family to run the North. In fact, modern North Korea is a 21-st century Asian monarchy based on the template of the 500-year-long reign of the Choson Dynasty and ancient Neo-Confucianism: emphasizing clearly defined hierarchies, centralized bureaucracy, obedience to the state, and social stability—elements of great use to modern despots.

Submission + - Light Sail propulsion could reach Sirius sooner than Alpha Centauri (

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 + - Neuroscientists offer a reality check on Facebook's "typing by brain" project (

the_newsbeagle writes: Yesterday Facebook announced that it's working on a "typing by brain" project, promising a non-invasive technology that can decode signals from the brain's speech center and translate them directly to text (see the video beginning at 1:18:00). What's more, Facebook exec Regina Dugan said, the technology will achieve a typing rate of 100 words per minute.

Here, a few neuroscientists are asked: Is such a thing remotely feasible? One neuroscientist points out that his team set the current speed record for brain-typing earlier this year: They enabled a paralyzed man to type 8 words per minute, and that was using an invasive brain implant that could get high-fidelity signals from neurons. To date, all non-invasive methods that read brain signals through the scalp and skull have performed much worse.

Submission + - Apple Forces Recyclers To Shred All iPhones and MacBooks (

An anonymous reader writes: Apple released its Environmental Responsibility Report Wednesday, an annual grandstanding effort that the company uses to position itself as a progressive, environmentally friendly company. Behind the scenes, though, the company undermines attempts to prolong the lifespan of its products. Apple's new moonshot plan is to make iPhones and computers entirely out of recycled materials by putting pressure on the recycling industry to innovate. But documents obtained by Motherboard using Freedom of Information requests show that Apple's current practices prevent recyclers from doing the most environmentally friendly thing they could do: Salvage phones and computers from the scrap heap. Apple rejects current industry best practices by forcing the recyclers it works with to shred iPhones and MacBooks so they cannot be repaired or reused—instead, they are turned into tiny shards of metal and glass.

Submission + - SPAM: Toyota is testing heavy-duty hydrogen trucks at the Port of Long Beach

randomErr writes: Toyota is powering an 80,000 lbs (36,288kg) Class-8 tractor-trailer combo using a development fuel cell drivetrain from two small Toyota Mirai sedans.Toyota's future-trucking idearesides at California's Port of Long Beach, where 18,630 shipping container units get processed per day. Two years ago, Toyota began secretly testing a hydrogen fuel cell system alternative to the conventional diesel powertrain for heavy Class-8 trucks. Called "Project Portal," this system is intended for drayage (short-haul movements), shuttling shipping containers between Los Angeles and Long Beach ports plus other freight depots.Though other companies have researched either electric or fuel cell heavy-duty trucking—Mercedes placed medium-duty trucks in controlled fleets this year in Europe, for example—none have pulled the fuel cell trigger in the US.

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