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Submission + - Humans, not climate change, wiped out Australian megafauna (phys.org)

schwit1 writes: New evidence involving the ancient poop of some of the huge and astonishing creatures that once roamed Australia indicates the primary cause of their extinction around 45,000 years ago was likely a result of humans, not climate change.

Led by Monash University in Victoria, Australia and the University of Colorado Boulder, the team used information from a sediment core drilled in the Indian Ocean off the coast of southwest Australia to help reconstruct past climate and ecosystems on the continent. The core contains chronological layers of material blown and washed into the ocean, including dust, pollen, ash and spores from a fungus called Sporormiella that thrived on the dung of plant-eating mammals, said CU Boulder Professor Gifford Miller.

Miller, who participated in the study led by Sander van der Kaars of Monash University, said the sediment core allowed scientists to look back in time, in this case more than 150,000 years, spanning Earth's last full glacial cycle. Fungal spores from plant-eating mammal dung were abundant in the sediment core layers from 150,000 years ago to about 45,000 years ago, when they went into a nosedive, said Miller, a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences.

"The abundance of these spores is good evidence for a lot of large mammals on the southwestern Australian landscape up until about 45,000 years ago," he said. "Then, in a window of time lasting just a few thousand years, the megafauna population collapsed."

Submission + - Atomic clocks on 9 of 72 European GPS satellites have failed (yahoo.com)

schwit1 writes: The atomic clocks on 9 of the 72 European Galileo GPS satellites, designed to compete with the American, Russian, and Chinese GPS satellites, have failed.

No satellite has been declared “out” as a result of the glitch. “However, we are not blind If this failure has some systematic reason we have to be careful” not to place more flawed clocks in space, [ESA director general Jan Woerner] said.

Each Galileo satellite has four ultra-accurate atomic timekeepers — two that use rubidium and two hydrogen maser. Three rubidium and six hydrogen maser clocks are not working, with one satellite sporting two failed timekeepers. Each orbiter needs just one working clock for the satnav to work — the rest are spares.

The question now, Woerner said, is “should we postpone the next launch until we find the root cause?”

That they are even considering further launches with so many failures of the same units seems absurd. They have a systemic problem, and should fix it before risking further launches.

Submission + - Google Uses Its Search Engine to Hawk Its Products (wsj.com)

schwit1 writes: A Wall Street Journal analysis found that ads for products sold by Google and its sister companies appeared in the most prominent spot in 91% of 25,000 recent searches related to such items; and 43% of the time, the top two ads both were for Google-related products.

The analysis, run by search-ad-data firm SEMrush, examined 1,000 searches each on 25 terms, from "laptops" to "speakers" to "carbon monoxide detectors." SEMrush ran the searches Dec. 1 on a desktop computer, blocking past web-surfing history that could influence results.

The results show how Google uses its dominant search engine to boost other parts of its business and give it an edge over competitors, which include some of its biggest advertising customers.

A Google spokesman said the company has "consciously and carefully designed" its marketing programs not to affect other advertisers.

The Journal's analysis highlights a rarely discussed apparent conflict of interest in the $187 billion digital-advertising industry: The leading sellers of online ad space, including Google, Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp., also compete with their customers for that space.

Google searches for "phones" virtually always began with three consecutive ads for Google's Pixel phones. All 1,000 searches for "laptops" started with a Chromebook ad. "Watches" began with an Android smartwatch ad 98% of the time. And "smoke detector" led with back-to-back ads for internet-connected alarms made by Nest, a company owned by Google parent Alphabet. In all instances, the stores these ads pointed to were also owned by Alphabet.

Submission + - CIA publishes its history, nearly 13 million pages of documents online (cnn.com)

schwit1 writes: “Access to this historically significant collection is no longer limited by geography,” said Joseph Lambert, the CIA’s information management director in a press release.

The agency hoped in October 2016 to have the archive publicly available online by the end of 2017, according to a source with knowledge of the agency’s effort. The work was labor intensive, but the agency was able to complete this ahead of schedule as a result of significant advancements in technology and data management.

The archive touches on the CIA extensive history as an organization, from its inception up through the 1990s.

“None of this is cherry-picked,” said CIA spokesperson Heather Fritz Horniak. “It’s the full history. It’s good and bads.”

https://www.cia.gov/library/re...

Submission + - World's 8 Richest Have as Much Wealth as Bottom Half (nytimes.com)

schwit1 writes: Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, led the list with a net worth of $75 billion. He is scheduled to speak at the forum in Davos this year.
Amancio Ortega Gaona, the Spanish founder of the fashion company Inditex, best known for its oldest and biggest brand, Zara, has a net worth of $67 billion.
Warren E. Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, $60.8 billion.
Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecommunications magnate, $50 billion.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, $45.2 billion.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s creator, $44.6 billion.
Lawrence J. Ellison, the founder of Oracle, $43.6 billion.
Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and founder of the media and financial-data giant Bloomberg L.L.P., $40 billion.

Submission + - New York driver groups push for a ban on autonomous cars (autoblog.com)

schwit1 writes: It's no secret that ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft dream of a day when they can depend solely on self-driving cars, and that's making driver organizations more than a little nervous. New York's Upstate Transportation Association and Independent Drivers Guild are both pressing for bans on autonomous vehicles in the state out of concern that they'll ultimately cost thousands of transportation jobs. The IDG believes that it only needs to preserve existing laws to guarantee a ban, but the UTA is considerably more aggressive — it wants a 50-year ban on self-driving cars. Yes, there's a real chance you wouldn't even be alive to see the day when driverless rides hit New York roads.

Submission + - Air Force Dogfighting Russian Aircraft over Area 51 (dailymail.co.uk)

schwit1 writes: The US Air Force conducted a mock dogfight using a Russian fighter jet above Area 51 in Nevada. The 'enemy' jet was a single-seat Sukhoi SU-27P, which is used by the Russian and Chinese air forces. The Sukhoi was intercepted by an F-16 fighter operating out of the nearby Nellis Air Force Base. The two jets fought each other for 25 minutes at altitudes ranging between 20,000 and 30,000 feet.

This Flanker was in the classic 1990's two-tone blue colour scheme, with white nose and white fin tips. A very different aeroplane. There had been rumours that the US had obtained two single seat Flankers from Belarus in 1996 or 1997.

Submission + - Gambler Phil Ivey Sued For Being Too Good (thefederalist.com) 2

schwit1 writes: “The Borgata alleged that Ivey’s actions, which the casino agreed to in advance, constitute cheating. In fact, they merely constitute a gambler getting a legitimate advantage over the casino. In this age of cozy cooperation between the state and the gaming industry, that’s something that’s just not allowed.”

Submission + - Driverless electric shuttle being tested in downtown Vegas (yahoo.com)

schwit1 writes: There's a new thrill on the streets of downtown Las Vegas, where high- and low-rollers alike are climbing aboard what officials call the first driverless electric shuttle operating on a public U.S. street.

The oval-shaped shuttle began running Tuesday as part of a 10-day pilot program, carrying up to 12 passengers for free along a short stretch of the Fremont Street East entertainment district.

The vehicle has a human attendant and computer monitor, but no steering wheel and no brake pedals. Passengers push a button at a marked stop to board it.

The shuttle uses GPS, electronic curb sensors and other technology, and doesn't require lane lines to make its way.

Submission + - California's bullet train is hurtling toward a multibillion-dollar overrun (latimes.com)

schwit1 writes: California’s bullet train could cost taxpayers 50% more than estimated — as much as $3.6 billion more. And that’s just for the first 118 miles through the Central Valley, which was supposed to be the easiest part of the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

A confidential Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis, obtained by the Times, projects that building bridges, viaducts, trenches and track from Merced to Shafter, just north of Bakersfield, could cost $9.5 billion to $10 billion, compared with the original budget of $6.4 billion.

The federal document outlines far-reaching management problems: significant delays in environmental planning, lags in processing invoices for federal grants and continuing failures to acquire needed property.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority originally anticipated completing the Central Valley track by this year, but the federal risk analysis estimates that that won’t happen until 2024, placing the project seven years behind schedule.

Submission + - Creepy genealogy site knows a lot about you. (washingtonpost.com)

schwit1 writes: There are many “people search” sites and data brokers out there, like Spokeo, or Intelius, that also know a lot about you. This is not news, at least for the Internet-literate. And the information on FamilyTreeNow comes largely from the public records and other legally accessible sources that those other data brokers use. What makes FamilyTreeNow stand out on the creepy scale, though, is how easy the site makes it for anyone to access that information all at once, and free.

Profiles on FamilyTreeNow include the age, birth month, family members, addresses and phone numbers for individuals in their system, if they have them. It also guesses at their “possible associates,” all on a publicly accessible, permalink-able page. It’s possible to opt out, but it’s not clear whether doing so actually removes you from their records or (more likely) simply hides your record so it’s no longer accessible to the public.

Submission + - Georgia Tech's Model Expands (insidehighered.com)

schwit1 writes: Three years after its low-cost MOOC-inspired master’s degree program in computer science launched, the institute announces a new program in analytics priced at less than $10,000.

“The announcement is perhaps the clearest indication yet that Georgia Tech views its online master’s degree program in computer science as a successful model for delivering graduate education. The program hasn’t lived up to best-case projections — early on, the institute said it could grow to as many as 10,000 students in its third year — but it has generated a positive cash flow, positive evaluations and plenty of buzz in higher education circles.”

Submission + - Parents View New Peanut Guidelines With Guilt and Skepticism (nytimes.com) 1

schwit1 writes: When Nicole Lepke’s son was born, she listened to her pediatrician and kept peanuts away until the age of 2, but the toddler still developed a severe peanut allergy when he finally tried them.

Now, 12 years later, health experts have reversed their advice on peanuts, urging parents to begin feeding foods containing peanut powder or extract during infancy in hopes of reducing a child’s risk for allergy.

The about-face on peanuts has stunned parents around the country who are coping with the challenges of severe peanut allergies. Like many parents, Ms. Lepke is now plagued with guilt. By restricting peanuts early, did she inadvertently cause the very allergy she was trying to prevent?

Submission + - Eggs from Skin Cells? Why the Next Fertility Technology Will Open Pandora's Box (technologyreview.com)

schwit1 writes: Imagine you are Brad Pitt. After you stay one night in the Ritz, someone sneaks in and collects some skin cells from your pillow.

But that’s not all. Using a novel fertility technology, your movie star cells are transformed into sperm and used to make a baby. And now someone is suing you for millions in child support.

Such a seemingly bizarre scenario could actually be possible, say three senior medical researchers who today have chosen to alert the public to the social risks of in vitro gametogenesis, a technique they say could allow any type of cell to be reprogrammed into a sperm or egg.

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