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Submission + - Insurance Startup Uses Behavioral Science To Keep Customers Honest (

tedlistens writes: at FastCo, Ainsley O'Connell writes:

Insurance startup Lemonade won itself headlines in January with the boast that it had successfully approved a claim in just three seconds. In that time, Lemonade’s software had run 18 anti-fraud algorithms and sent a payment to the lucky customer’s bank account—a process that would have taken a traditional property and casualty insurer days, if not weeks.

But it’s what happened before Lemonade’s artificial intelligence kicked into gear that makes the renegade insurer so potentially disruptive to this trillion-dollar industry, for which premiums alone comprise 7% of U.S. GDP. The customer, Brooklyn educator Brandon Pham, opened Lemonade’s mobile app, signed an “honesty pledge” to attest to the truth of his claim, and then recorded a short video explaining that his Canada Goose parka, worth nearly $1,000, had been stolen.

That deceptively simple claims process is the byproduct of academic research on psychology and behavioral economics conducted by Dan Ariely, one of the field’s most prominent voices and Lemonade’s chief behavioral officer.... “There’s a lot of science about when people behave and misbehave that has not been put to use,” says Lemonade cofounder and CEO Daniel Schreiber.

Submission + - New 360 Video Inside Bertha, World's Largest Tunnel Boring Machine (

tedlistens writes: Bertha, the huge machine currently boring a two-mile tunnel 200 feet beneath Seattle, returned to work this week after surveyors discovered that it was "several inches" off course. But that's not completely unusual, apparently, and at least it sounds pretty tiny compared to the scale of the project. Just look at this thing.

Submission + - Ancient Technique Can Dramatically Improve Memory, Research Suggests (

An anonymous reader writes: After spending six weeks cultivating an internal “memory palace," people more than doubled the number of words they could retain in a short time period and their performance remained impressive four months later. The technique, which involves conjuring up vivid images of objects in a familiar setting, is credited to the Greek poet Simonides of Ceos, and is a favored method among so-called memory athletes. The study also revealed that after just 40 days of training, people’s brain activity shifted to more closely resemble that seen in some of the world’s highest ranked memory champions, suggesting that memory training can alter the brain’s wiring in subtle but powerful ways. The study, published in the journal Neuron, recruited 23 of the 50 top-scoring memory athletes in an annual contest called the World Memory Championships. The athletes were given 20 minutes to recall a list of 72 random nouns and they scored, on average, nearly 71 of the 72 words. By contrast, an untrained control group recalled an average of 26 words. This group then followed a daily 30-minute training regime where they practiced walking through a chosen familiar environment, such as their own home, and placing objects in specific locations. After 40 days of 30-minute training sessions, the participants who had average memory skills at the start more than doubled their memory capacity, recalling 62 words on average – and four months later, without continued training, they could remember 48 words from a list of 72.

Submission + - Vault 7: CIA seems to be making America unsafe again (

troublemaker_23 writes: While US President Donald Trump is working to make America great again, the CIA appears to be hard at work to make the country unsafe again. No other conclusion can be drawn following the massive data dump by WikiLeaks overnight on Tuesday US time that contained details of exploits for numerous common operating systems – Windows, macOS, OS X, Android, iOS, Linux, and others.

Submission + - Living in Space Has Unexpected Effects on Twins 1

slavdude writes: Identical astronaut twins Mark and Scott Kelly participated in a study to compare the effects of living in space for a year (Scott) with those of remaining on Earth (Mark). The preliminary results of the study are quite surprising.

nstead of shrinking, Scott’s telomeres grew longer in-flight. “It was exactly the opposite of what we thought, but that’s what science is all about, right?” said Bailey, with the rueful smile of a seasoned scientist. “We were wrong, that was the first reaction. We now need to correlate our findings with some of the results from other investigations to give us confidence that what we are seeing is real,” she said. Even at this early stage, a whole new set of questions is emerging.

It's not clear yet what caused the lengthening of Scott Kelly's telomeres, though

“Radiation would have to be at the top of my list,” Bailey said. “You might say, ‘Oh this is a great thing, his telomeres are longer, maybe he’ll live longer.’ And yet, like most things, there’s an opposite side of that coin. The opposite side is that’s exactly what cancers do. They turn on telomerase and they maintain their telomere length.” Other possibilities include changes in metabolic rate due to the regimented space diet and intense exercise on-station. Scott Kelly lost 15 pounds in his year on the station. “One big aspect is that nutrition and exercise can positively affect your telomere length, which can be a great predictor of aging,” McKenna said. There is also support for the view that positive attitudes and mindfulness – perhaps as in living out a lifetime dream or goal – can influence telomeres for the better.

Submission + - The Rocket Science Of Designing Future Jet Engines (

dryriver writes: The BBC has a very insightful article detailing the current and future challenges of designing efficient jet engines. An excerpt: "Jet engine design will face changes in the future. One new potential science, which several companies and research institutions are currently studying, is called the Rotating Detonation Engine. Essentially, this works by creating a series of small detonations and using the supersonic wave that a detonation generates to keep combustion going continuously. Theoretically, if the system works, it would require significantly less fuel to get the engine moving and keep it moving. And even with less fuel the engine would also theoretically produce significantly more energy. “The trick of the engine is containing [the detonation], making it stable, and having it operate at conditions you want,” says Dean. “Will it operate well, will it be durable, can it have low emissions, and what fuel can I burn with such an engine? We’re in the middle of the science phase.”"

Submission + - The Russian Utopian Designs That Never Became Reality (

dryriver writes: The BBC reports: Had Tatlin's Tower been built, its spiral steel frame would have stood taller than the Eiffel Tower, at that time — 1919 — the world’s tallest manmade structure, by some 91m (299 ft). And its record as the world’s tallest building would have gone unsurpassed for over half a century, until the construction of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, which opened for business in 1973. The steel frame would contain three glass units: a cube, a cylinder and a cone. These would rotate once a year, once a month and once a day respectively, and house a conference hall, a legislative chamber and an information and propaganda centre for the Third Communist International (also known as the Comintern – the organisation that advocated world communism). It would stand at just over 396 m (1,306 ft). But for reasons of cost (Russia was bankrupt and in the middle of a civil war) and practicality (was its realisation even structurally possible, and where, after all, would they get all that steel?) this staggeringly audacious symbol of modernity was never built.

Submission + - Feature Creep? Police Body Cameras Will Livestream And Recognize Your Face (

tedlistens writes: At Fast Company, a close look at the future of wearable cameras:

Police cameras are generally thought of as a tool for building trust with the communities they serve, but they are also being touted as tools for police work too, to be used in evidence gathering, investigations, and, some worry, generalized surveillance. Rick Smith, the founder and CEO of Taser, the stun gun maker and leader in a bustling body camera market, envisions body-worn and dash cameras as the eyes of a modernized, automated police reporting system, capable of streaming video from the field and identifying persons of interest in a crowd. Civil rights groups and some police are concerned; the Justice Dept. has urged caution before police departments begin to upgrade their cameras with technologies like face recognition. Yet, there are no national guidelines for cameras: localities are responsible for developing local privacy rules. And there are virtually no laws about the use of biometrics, even though it's estimated that the faces of half of the U.S. adult population are stored in a government database. The fast-advancing biometrics industry is growing in influence too, underscored by its ties with the Trump administration.

Submission + - Elon Musk Agrees To Hold Contest For Fan-Made Tesla Ads, At Urging of 5th Grader (

An anonymous reader writes: Elon Musk is well aware that Tesla’s superfans love to make unauthorized commercials for the brand, given that Tesla doesn’t make its own (and, given the power of word of mouth, doesn’t really need to). But it has taken a fifth-grade girl to convince him to actually run a fan-made ad. “Dear Elon Musk, I’m Bria from Ms. Esparza’s 5th grade class,” she wrote to the Tesla founder in a letter that her father (a writer for also posted to Twitter. “I have noticed that you do not advertise, but many people make homemade commercials for Tesla and some of them are very good, they look professional and they are entertaining. So, I think that you should run a competition on who can make the best homemade Tesla and the winners will get their commercial aired.” Within an hour of the Twitter post, Musk—who apparently is as smart as a fifth grader—brightened to the idea. “Thank you for the lovely letter. That sounds like a great idea. We’ll do it!” he wrote.

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Why Are There No Huge Leaps Forward In CPU/GPU Power? 2

dryriver writes: We all know that CPUs and GPUs and other electronic chips get a little faster with each generation produced. But one thing never seems to happen — a CPU/GPU manufacturer suddenly announcing a next generation chip that is, say, 4 — 8 times faster than the fastest model they had 2 years ago. There are moderate leaps forward all the time, but seemingly never a HUGE leap forward due to, say, someone clever in R&D discovering a much faster way to process computing instructions. Is this because huge leaps forward in computing power are technically or physically impossible/improbable? Or is nobody in R&D looking for that huge leap forward, and rather focused on delivering a moderate leap forward every 2 years? Maybe striving for that "rare huge leap forward in computing power" is simply too expensive for chip manufacturers? Precisely what is the reason that there is never a next-gen CPU or GPU that is — say — advertised as being 16 times faster than the one that came 2 years before it due to some major breakthrough in chip engineering and manufacturing?

Submission + - Can Technology Prevent Cops From Forgetting To Turn On Their Body Cameras? (

tedlistens writes: Stun gun maker Taser's growing police camera division has announced a new wireless sensor for gun and Taser holsters that can detect when a weapon is drawn and automatically activate all nearby cameras. The sensor, Signal Sidearm, is part of a suite of products aimed at reducing the possibility that officers will fail to switch on their cameras during encounters with the public. It happens more than it should: Last year in Chicago, for instance, an officer apparently forgot to turn on his camera before shooting and killing an unarmed 18-year-old named Paul O'Neal. Taser isn't alone in trying to address this and other technical and procedural issues with cameras, but reformers emphasize that just as body cameras won't solve problems with policing, new sensors won't prevent officers from failing to record.

Submission + - Court Throws Out $533 Million Verdict Against Apple Over Data Storage Patent (

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit made a decision today to throw out the verdict of a two-year old legal case against Apple based on data storage patents. The original verdict reached by a Texas jury stuck Apple with $533 million in damages. Smartflash LLC targeted game developers who largely all settled out of court in 2014, but Apple defended its use of data storage management and payment processing technology in court. Reuters has more on the new developments: "The trial judge vacated the large damages award a few months after a Texas federal jury imposed it in February 2015, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said on Wednesday the judge should have ruled Smartflash’s patents invalid and set aside the verdict entirely. A unanimous three-judge appeals panel said Smartflash’s patents were too 'abstract' and did not go far enough in describing an actual invention to warrant protection."

Submission + - White House Supports Renewal of Spy Law Without Reforms (

An anonymous reader writes: The Trump administration does not want to reform an internet surveillance law to address privacy concerns, a White House official told Reuters on Wednesday, saying it is needed to protect national security. The announcement could put President Donald Trump on a collision course with Congress, where some Republicans and Democrats have advocated curtailing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, parts of which are due to expire at the end of the year. The FISA law has been criticized by privacy and civil liberties advocates as allowing broad, intrusive spying. It gained renewed attention following the 2013 disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the agency carried out widespread monitoring of emails and other electronic communications. Portions of the law, including a provision known as Section 702, will expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress reauthorizes them. Section 702 enables two internet surveillance programs called Prism and Upstream, classified details of which were revealed by Snowden. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have said reforms to Section 702 are needed, in part to ensure the privacy protections on Americans are not violated. The U.S. House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee met Wednesday to discuss possible changes to the law.

Submission + - Researcher Breaks reCAPTCHA Using Google's Speech Recognition API (

An anonymous reader writes: A researcher has discovered what he calls a "logic vulnerability" that allowed him to create a Python script that is fully capable of bypassing Google's reCAPTCHA fields using another Google service, the Speech Recognition API. The attack is incredibly simple and works by downloading a version of the reCAPTCHA audio challenge, feeding it into Google's Speech Recognition API, getting the text-version of the audio challenge, and feeding it back into the reCAPTCHA field.

Proof-of-concept code is available on GitHub, and the researcher says Google has failed to patch the issue, albeit it's unclear if he ever notified the company. The attack also only works against reCAPTCHA v2, not other versions like v1, or the upcoming Invisble reCAPTCHA (v3).

Because the source code for the exploit is available online, security experts expect to see it ported to JavaScript and used to create browser extensions that bypass reCAPTCHA fields, especially when using the Tor Browser.

Submission + - How I Stopped Trying to Upgrade My Life ( 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."

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