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Submission + - Microsoft Research's DeepCoder AI may put programmers out of a job

jmcbain writes: Are you a software programmer who voted in a recent Slashdot poll that a robot/AI would never take your job? Unfortunately, you're wrong. Microsoft, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, is developing such an AI. This software "can turn your descriptions into working code in seconds. Called DeepCoder, the software can take requirements by the developer, search through a massive database of code snippets and deliver working code in seconds, a significant advance in the state of the art in program synthesis." Another article describes program synthesis as "creating new programs by piecing together lines of code taken from existing software — just like a programmer might. Given a list of inputs and outputs for each code fragment, DeepCoder learned which pieces of code were needed to achieve the desired result overall." The original research paper can be read online.

Submission + - Startup Gamalon gives AI bots a head start without Google-level resources. (

tmarkovich writes: Gamalon machine intelligence has developed a Bayesian Program Synthesis (BPS) system to succinctly express probabilistic models for use in machine learning. The BPS system allows the user to bypass the need for significant amounts of training data when the user has domain specific knowledge, thereby making machine intelligence more available to users without terabytes of cleaned, labeled, data points.

Submission + - NASA Plans to Drill Into Europa's Crust In Search of Life (

An anonymous reader writes: NASA Plans to Drill Into Europa's Crust In Search of Life

Rae Paoletta
Yesterday 6:25pm
Filed to: EUROPA

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Since early 2016, a NASA-employed Science Definition Team (SDT) of 21 researchers has been crafting a plan to send a robotic probe to Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter, located over 390 million miles from Earth. On February 7th, that team delivered their first report to NASA, detailing their recommendations for that future mission, which will search for life by drilling toward the subterranean ocean scientists strongly suspect to exist beneath the icy moonâ(TM)s surface. The team hopes to launch as soon as 2031.

Submission + - Prosthetic Arm Control Improved Using Spinal Nerve Signals

CanadianRealist writes: Current prosthetic arms are usually controlled by detecting signals from the user twitching muscles in the shoulder or arm. This allows only a limited number of possible movements, such as grasp and release. Researchers have developed a new technique that interprets signals from motor neurons in the spinal cord, allowing for a greater range of control of an arm. Signals from nerves associated with hand and arm movements were mapped to the corresponding movements. Test subjects were able to move a virtual prosthetic arm with greater freedom than has been achieved with muscle-controlled prosthetics. (A virtual prosthetic arm was used rather than a real one as this work is still in the early stages.)

Submission + - Virtual Reality Kills 22,000 Arcades In China (

All You Can Arcade writes: VR is looking less like a boom and more like a bust in Asia. Over the last 12 months, it's estimated that there have been 35,000 VR arcades that have opened up in China. A year later 22,000 of them have already closed. As arcade operators are taking on debt to invest in the latest fad, it appears that it's turning around and killing their businesses. The problem . . . people simply aren't willing to pay cinema and bowling alley prices, to play in public. With the VR industry pushing the hard sale on North American operators right now, we could see even more arcades closing down, if operators can't recoup their investments.

Submission + - Earthworks resembling Stonehenge found in Amazon rainforest. (

turkeydance writes: Hundreds of ancient earthworks resembling those at Stonehenge were built in the Amazon rainforest, scientists have discovered after flying drones over the area.

The findings prove for the first time that prehistoric settlers in Brazil cleared large wooded areas to create huge enclosures meaning that the 'pristine' rainforest celebrated by ecologists is actually relatively new.

Submission + - Let a Robot Carry Your Stuff

R3d M3rcury writes: Have you always wanted a lackey who will follow you around and carry your stuff? Well, Piaggio Fast Forward (PFF) may have the next best thing: Gita, a cargo-carrying robot. From TechCrunch:

It can follow a person, or roll autonomously in an environment it has already mapped. At 26 inches tall, the Gita can carry up to 40 pounds at a time and has a maximum speed of 22 miles per hour, so it can keep up with a person on foot or riding a bike. It can run for about 8 hours of continuous use, the company said.

In the next six months, Piaggio Fast Forward plans to run pilot tests with Gita on different college campuses and in towns in the U.S. The company is not thinking about delivering burritos or groceries, so much. It envisions the Gita assisting maintenance, gardening and custodial workers, and others who must cart heavy things around to get their jobs done on a given day, especially at resorts, senior living and school campuses.

So if you're in the Boston area for the next six months, keep an eye out for one of these.

Submission + - Scientists Finally Turn Hydrogen Into a Metal, Ending a 80-Year Quest (

An anonymous reader writes: In 1935, scientists predicted that the simplest element, hydrogen, could also become metallic under pressure, and they calculated that it would take 25 GigaPascals to force this transition (each Gigapascal is about 10,000 atmospheres of pressure). That estimate, in the words of the people who have finally made metallic hydrogen, "was way off." It took until last year for us to reach pressures where the normal form of hydrogen started breaking down into individual atoms—at 380 GigaPascals. Now, a pair of Harvard researchers has upped the pressure quite a bit more, and they have finally made hydrogen into a metal. All of these high-pressure studies rely on what are called diamond anvils. This hardware places small samples between two diamonds, which are hard enough to stand up to extreme pressure. As the diamonds are forced together, the pressure keeps going up. Current calculations suggested that metallic hydrogen might require just a slight boost in pressure from the earlier work, at pressures as low as 400 GigaPascals. But the researchers behind the new work, Ranga Dias and Isaac Silvera, discovered it needed quite a bit more than that. In making that discovery, they also came to a separate realization: normal diamonds weren't up to the task. "Diamond failure," they note, "is the principal limitation for achieving the required pressures to observe SMH," where SMH means "solid metallic hydrogen" rather than "shaking my head." The team came up with some ideas about what might be causing the diamonds to fail and corrected them. One possibility was surface defects, so they etched all diamonds down by five microns to eliminate these. Another problem may be that hydrogen under pressure could be forced into the diamond itself, weakening it. So they cooled the hydrogen to slow diffusion and added material to the anvil that absorbed free hydrogen. Shining lasers through the diamond seemed to trigger failures, so they switched to other sources of light to probe the sample. After loading the sample and cranking up the pressure (literally—they turned a handcrank), they witnessed hydrogen's breakdown at high pressure, which converted it from a clear sample to a black substance, as had been described previously. But then, somewhere between 465 and 495 GigaPascals, the sample turned reflective, a key feature of metals

Submission + - US Government Employees Banned from Sharing Publicly Funded Science ( 1

Layzej writes: Popular Science reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now barred from communicating with the public and The US Department of Agriculture has banned scientists and other employees from sharing the results of its taxpayer-funded research with the broader public.
The memo outlining these new rules has not been made public, but the ban reportedly includes everything from summaries of scientific papers to USDA-branded tweets. Scientists are still able to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals, but they are unable to talk about that research without prior consent from their agency.
This is not the first time that public science has been hamstrung by a gag order. To this day, the quantity of oil spewed into the ocean during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill remains something of a mystery. Many of the scientists who worked on the spill were hired by BP and barred from speaking on it. But gag orders—while always troublesome—have usually been limited to one specific issue. Right now, the EPA and USDA have been forbidden to speak about all of their scientific research. It means that many of the kinds of stories we now cover will never see the light of day.

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Which, In Your Opinion, Are The BEST Tech Companies? 1

dryriver writes: Everybody knows who "the biggest tech companies" are — Sony, Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Facebook, Intel and so forth. It is no big mystery who makes the most annual revenue/profits or employs the most people or files the most patents every year or has the highest stock price. But this is a different question entirely: Which tech companies, in your opinion, are the BEST at what they do? Who makes the best products in tech? Whose tech products or services would you not want to live without? Whose products would you take on a deserted island with you? If you could pick just 5 — 10 tech companies that are absolutely essential to you as a tech nerd, tech enthusiast or other, which companies would those be? And why?

Submission + - JetBlue giving all passengers free in-flight Fly-Fi high-speed Wi-Fi (

BrianFagioli writes: Today, JetBlue announces something miraculous for travelers. Every one of its passengers will have access to free in-flight high-speed Wi-Fi, which it calls 'Fly-Fi'. This is on every single aircraft in its fleet. In other words, if you are flying JetBlue, you get free high-speed internet

Submission + - A Case of Legalized Software Vulerability Exploitation? (

Required Snark writes: CIO Magazine reports that a venture capital firm teamed up with a medical software security company to monetize a flaw they found in a medical device. The security company is MedSec, and the device is a pacemaker manufactured by St. Jude Medical. The venture capital firm is unnamed.

For better or worse, a security firm’s attempt to cash in on software bugs — by shorting a company’s stock and then publicizing the flaws — might have pioneered a new approach to vulnerability disclosure.

Last August, security company MedSec revealed it had found flaws in pacemakers and other healthcare products from St. Jude Medical, potentially putting patients at risk.

However, the controversy came over how MedSec sought to cash in on those bugs: it did so, by partnering with an investment firm to bet against St. Jude’s stock.

Is this a good development or another litigation nightmare that will consume resources and deter innovation? Given that companies find critical flaws and never disclose (or even fix) them, is the legal system and effecting stock values a reasonable remedy?

This is the first instance of clearly explosive trend. One security researcher said “Every single hedge fund has reached out to me.”

Submission + - What is the most useful nerd watch today?

students writes: For about 20 years I have used Casio Databank 150 watches. They were handy because they kept track of my schedule and the current time. They were very cheap. They require very little maintenance, since the battery lasts more than a year and the bands last even longer. Since they were waterproof, I do not even have to take them off (or remember where I put them!). They were completely immune to malicious software, surveillance, and advertising. However, their waterproof gaskets have worn out so they no longer work for me. Casio no longer makes them or any comparable product (their website is out of date). I don't want a watch that duplicates the function of my cell phone or computer. What is the best choice now?

Submission + - Ultrasound Tracking Could Be Used to Deanonymize Tor Users (

An anonymous reader writes: Ultrasounds emitted by ads or JavaScript code hidden on a page accessed through the Tor Browser can deanonymize Tor users by making nearby phones or computers send identity beacons back to advertisers, data which contains sensitive information that state-sponsored actors can easily obtain via a subpoena.

The attack relies on the practice of ultrasound cross-device tracking (uXDT) that allows advertisers to link users to different devices by using inaudible ultrasounds secretly emitted via their ads. Nearby devices pick up these sounds and ping the advertisers' server with details about the user's devices. In tests, the research team has intercepted some of the traffic these ultrasound beacons trigger on behalf of the phone, traffic which contains details such as the user's real IP address, geo-location coordinates, telephone number, Android ID, IMEI code, and device MAC address.

Submission + - Ringing in 2017 With 90 Hacker Friendly Single Board Computers (

DeviceGuru writes: HackerBoards has just published its annual New Year's round-up of Linux- and Android-friendly single board computers. This time around, there are 90 boards in the list, all of which are briefly profiled with links to their sources. There's also a big Google Docs spreadsheet that compares the key specs of all 90 boards, which range in price from $5 to $199 for their lowest cost models. "Community backed, open spec single board computers running Linux and Android... play a key role in developing the Internet of Things devices that will increasingly dominate our technology economy in the coming years," says the post.

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