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The cable lobby is opposed to a Federal Communications Commission plan to define "broadband" as speeds of at least 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps up. Customers do just fine with lower speeds, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) wrote in an FCC filing Thursday (thanks to the Washington Post's Brian Fung for pointing it out). 25Mbps/3Mbps isn't necessary to meet the legal definition of "high-speed, switched, broadband telecommunications capability that enables users to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications using any technology," the NCTA said. "Notably, no party provides any justification for adopting an upload speed benchmark of 3Mbps," NCTA Counsel Matthew Brill wrote. "And the two parties that specifically urge the Commission to adopt a download speed benchmark of 25 Mbps—Netflix and Public Knowledge—both offer examples of applications that go well beyond the 'current' and 'regular[]' uses that ordinarily inform the Commission’s inquiry under Section 706" of the Telecommunications Act. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The New York Times Magazine recently ran a cover article about mapping the connectome, all of the connections that link all of the neurons in someone's brain. Many of these connections are formed and reinforced as a result of our experiences, and their sum total constitutes everything about our personalities: the memories we've formed, the skills we've learned, the passions that drive us. There is even data suggesting that some neurological disorders are in fact "connectopathies," characterized by either aberrant connections or an unusual extent of connections among neurons. Some studies have found that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is associated with decreased functional connectivity in the brain, but other experiments have found increased connectivity in autistic brains. A new study may have reconciled these contradictory findings. Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel determined that brain regions with high interconnectivity in controls have reduced connectivity in ASD, and regions with lower connectivity in controls have elevated connectivity in people with ASD. The scientists analyzed fMRI scans from high functioning autistic adults and controls, obtained from five different data sets. When the scans from the controls were superimposed upon each other, a typical, canonical template of connectivity was clear. Certain regions had high inter hemispheric (between the right and left sides) connectivity: primary sensory-motor regions like the sensorimotor cortex and the occipital cortex. Others showed low interhemispheric connectivity: regions like the frontal cortex and temporal cortex, which are involved in higher order association. Overall, the control brain scans looked pretty much the same as each other. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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On Friday, public radio series This American Life dedicated an episode to stories that revolved around anonymous Internet complaints and abuse. Titled "If You Don't Have Anything Nice To Say, SAY IT IN ALL-CAPS," the episode touched upon online feedback in various forms: some sent to the operators of a "momzilla" zoo webcam, some sent to This American Life's producers, and some sent by a robot to its creator. Most of the stories focused on the recipients of "bile and hate," but one turned the tables by calling an apologetic ex-troll on the phone, at which point he catalogued and apologized for his use of anonymous, hurtful speech. In 2013, author and former Jezebel columnist Lindy West wrote an article about Internet trolling—an issue she said is "part of her job" due to responses to articles about such topics as feminism and rape jokes—that included an intense accusation: Someone had gone to the trouble of creating a fake Twitter profile for her recently deceased father. Her segment on Friday's TAL episode explained that she'd received at least one tweet from that fake account. "I didn’t keep a copy for my scrapbook, but it was mean, and my dad was never mean, so it couldn’t be from him," West said. "Also, he was dead." Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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How can you not cry at the end of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge!, when the courtesan Satine passes away in her lover Christian's arms after he throws money at her and calls her a whore in front of a packed theater only to then learn that she really does love him and had to break up with him to save his life from the wealthy but evil Duke who had sworn to kill him? Yes, it's been foreshadowed by the fact that she had been coughing up blood for the past two hours, but still—it's tragic. Satine died of consumption—tuberculosis—which was the big microbial menace of the mid-to-late nineteenth century Western world. Why that particular bug, at that particular time and place? Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, can remain latent inside of an infected person for decades. When humans lived in small, isolated bands—as they did until the Neolithic Revolution made agriculture widespread—this was a very effective means of transmission for the bacteria. Once it infected everyone in the group, it had no new victims; so it just hung out, dormant, in the same group of people until those people reproduced. Voila—new victims! Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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This week, a study was released by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania that found a surprising correlation when studying two kinds of maps: those that mapped the county-level frequency of cardiac disease, and those that mapped the emotional state of an area's Twitter posts. In all, researchers sifted through over 826 million tweets, made available by Twitter's research-friendly "garden hose" server access, then narrowed those down to roughly 146 million tweets that had been posted with geolocation data from over 1,300 counties (each county needed to have at least 50,000 tweets to sift through to qualify). The team then measured an individual county's expected "health" level based on frequency of certain phrases, using dictionaries that had been put through scrutiny over their application to emotional states. Negative statements about health, jobs, and attractiveness—along with a bump in curse words—would put a county in the "risk" camp, while words like "opportunities," "overcome," and "weekend" added more points to a county's "protective" rating. Not only did this measure correlate strongly with age-adjusted heart disease rate data, it turned out to be a more efficient predictor of higher or lower disease likelihood than "ten classical predictors" combined, including education, obesity, and smoking. Twitter beat that data by a rate of 42 percent to 36 percent. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Windows Phone users are understandably a little nervous about the release of Windows 10 for phones later this year. Windows Phone 7 devices couldn't be upgraded to Windows Phone 8, and the fear is that history is going to repeat itself, leaving current Windows Phone 8 handsets, many of which aren't very old, stranded. Microsoft has, of course, been asked about this. Back in November, the Lumia Twitter account announced "We plan to upgrade all Windows Phone 8 devices to Windows 10 in the future :)" That was an encouraging sign, but one that earned a little skepticism. Company Twitter accounts, like corporate support forums, are rarely staffed by people who lack the authority to set corporate policy or make official pronouncements of this kind. Indeed, those asking for a statement from Microsoft's PR team were told something a little more guarded: "It's our intention to enable a Windows 10 upgrade for Lumia Windows Phone 8 smartphones. At this early stage in the development process, and given the vast portfolio of Windows devices worldwide, we can't predict that all devices will be upgradeable, but it is our intention that the Lumia smartphone line be upgradeable to Windows 10." Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Google is holding events in Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte, North Carolina, next week and is reportedly planning to begin Google Fiber construction in the state as early as April. There's no official announcement, but WRAL TechWire quoted "industry sources" as saying that Google Fiber is coming to the Research Triangle area in Raleigh and Durham. "A formal announcement might come as early as next week at Google events in Raleigh and Durham, but the company won't say what those events are about," WRAL reported today. "Speaking to WRAL TechWire, a source who asked to remain anonymous said Google is seeking bids to begin building a fiber network as early as April. 'Drill crews' have been sought for the fiber-laying process." Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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During our recent travels to China, we took a lot of pictures. And, as with our visit to New York City's recycling center, those pictures tell stories that are difficult to capture in text. We focused on the research when we wrote about our visit, but we also went to Shanghai to meet the researchers and see first hand what they were working on. So, we've put together a photo essay to give you the chance to see a bit more of what we got to view, as well as share in the experience of the travel and reporting a bit. Or, rather, we put together several photo essays. Since different aspects of the trip will appeal to different people, we've broken this down into several sections, so you can focus on the parts that appeal to you. We'll start, naturally, with the research. Modeling labs We went into excessive detail about the importance GE assigns to developing physics-based models of the systems it produces, and why that could be so valuable for the performance of its equipment. The person who introduced us to the topic was Xu Fu, who started at GE after getting a PhD by writing an autopilot program for a small drone (he had two drones in his office, one with his autopilot installed). Our conversation mostly focused on the physics-based models of actual hardware—gas turbines, wind turbines, jet engines, and so on. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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AT&T and T-Mobile both recently began offering rollover data options to their postpaid subscribers, but Verizon Wireless apparently has no such plans. Verizon CFO Fran Shammo "said the nation's largest wireless carrier by subscribers would not follow its rivals and allow consumers to move unused data into future billing cycles," CNET reported yesterday."We're a leader, not a follower," Shammo said in an interview with CNET. Verizon didn't match AT&T's 2007 decision to offer voice minute rollovers to customers, either. "We did not go to places where we did not financially want to go to save a customer," Shammo said. "And there's going to be certain customers who leave us for price, and we are just not going to compete with that because it doesn't make financial sense for us to do that." Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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SkyMall LLC, the company behind those absurd in-flight shopping catalogs that are often stuffed in the seat-back pocket on many airlines, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Phoenix on Thursday. SkyMall is owned by Xhibit Corp., whose CEO Scott Wiley said that the growth of electronic devices and in-flight Wi-Fi threatened the profitability of the marketing rag. Most people know SkyMall as a catalog full of wacky or ridiculous products to flip through while you're trapped in a tube hurtling through the air at hundreds of miles per hour. Some of the products made dubious claims (like this hiccup stick), others were fantastic and borderline nuts/genius (like the SkySaver). Other things were really only for the tackiest person you know (like this NFL high heel wine holder). Some of the electronic stuff was actually kind of neat, though (in recent years I noted an uptick in robots and drones in SkyMall's illustrious pages). In its bankruptcy filing (PDF), Xhibit wrote, “Historically, the SkyMall catalog was the sole in-flight option for potential purchasers of products to review while traveling. With the increased use of electronic devices on planes, fewer people browsed the SkyMall in-flight catalog.” The company added that the Federal Aviation Administration's recent decision to allow gadget use during takeoff and landing exacerbated the problem, as did the increasing number of airlines that offer in-flight Wi-Fi. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The top American automobile regulator added two important advancements in braking technology to a list of recommended safety measures, likely paving the way for making these braking features mandatory in cars sold in the United States. In a statement released Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that it would add crash imminent braking and dynamic brake support to its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). The program is designed to help consumers make better choices about choosing safer cars. Crash imminent braking, as the name implies, uses on-board sensors to detect when a crash is about to happen and then deploy the brakes if the drive has not already done so. Similarly, dynamic brake support increases the braking power if the driver hasn’t depressed the braking pedal sufficiently. These features are already available in some high-end cars. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The January update to the Windows 10 Insider Program is now out. If you haven't signed up for it, you can do so here. Existing installs, both on the fast and slow track, will update automatically. Where first Windows 10 Technical Preview releases were barebones with a new Start menu and not a whole lot else, the new builds are much more complete, including the Continuum feature to adapt the user interface on 2-in-1 devices and Cortana on the desktop. Microsoft's new Web browser codenamed Project Spartan isn't in this build; it will be coming in a future update. System requirements remain modest, as Microsoft continues to work to make an operating system that's a good match even for $100 tablets. Any Windows 8.1-spec system should work, and that means 1GB RAM (for 32-bit) or 2GB RAM (for 64-bit), 16GB permanent storage, and DirectX 9 graphics. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Nicholas Geroge. ACLU A former college student detained for hours at Philadelphia International Airport because he was carrying Arabic flashcards has settled his lawsuit against the US government, according to court papers the American Civil Liberties Union unveiled Friday. The $25,000 settlement (PDF)—dated Wednesday—ends five years of litigation that commenced after Nicholas George was detained for having Arabic-English flashcards with words like "terrorist" and bomb." He was 21 at the time and on his way to California, where he was a senior at Pomona College majoring in physics and Middle Eastern studies. "At the metal detector at airport security, Transportation Security Administration agents asked me to empty my pockets. I took the set of flashcards from my pocket and handed them to the officers. After I cleared the metal detector, they asked me to step aside for additional screening," he wrote in a blog post Friday. "One of them started rifling through the cards, and another took the book out of my carry-on. The minutes ticked by, and I got more confused about why I was being detained and more concerned that I would miss my flight. One of them called a supervisor." Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre is definitely a hot commodity in the gaming industry. Every brand and publisher seems to be dipping its toes into the waters plumbed by League of Legends and Dota 2. The genre didn’t spring fully formed from those modern games, though; its current success owes a debt to a genre that has largely fallen away in the interim—the real-time strategy (RTS) game. To remembers how big RTS games were, you need to have been playing games since before Blizzard added “World of” to its Warcraft franchise. That moment was the beginning of the RTS decline; even Starcraft 2, one of Blizzard's RTS pillars, has seen its popularity plunge in favor of MOBAs' free-to-play pastures. But the RTS genre is now getting some new attention in the form of Grey Goo. This indie outing comes courtesy of Petroglyph Studios, a developer made up from remnants of the old RTS masters at Westwood Studios (Command and Conquer, Dune II). While Petroglyph has been around for more than a decade, its last notable creation was Universe at War: Earth Assault, a 2007 release that was a flagship of Games for Windows Live (remember that?). Can Grey Goo revitalize a genre? Simple story, enhanced interface Grey Goo is a throwback to the simplistic storylines of the RTS games of old. You have your three warring factions, a sci-fi super-substance that fuels everyone's economies, and the promise of a greater, fourth threat that just might bring them all together in the end. "Grey goo" might as well describe the game's premise, given that it's an indistinguishable glob of science fiction game tropes catalyzed by some surprisingly plentiful (and gorgeous) cutscenes. Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The wheels of the American justice system turn slowly, but they've finally ground out some compensation for those affected by the 2011 PlayStation Network hack and the resulting service outage. Thanks to a legal settlement resulting from a class-action lawsuit, US residents who were a member of PlayStation Network, owned a Sony Online Entertainment game, or subscribed to music service Qriocity between January 1 and May 15, 2011 can now file a claim for compensation. For most users, that compensation will come in the form of digital goods, including a free PS3 theme, three months of PlayStation Plus (only available to new subscribers), and/or a downloadable code for one of the following PS3/PSP games. Dead Nation (PS3) Infamous (PS3) LittleBigPlanet (PS3) Super Stardust HD (PS3) rain (PS3) Puppeteer (PS3) Invizimals: Lost Kingdom (PS3) God of War® HD (PS3) Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror (PSP) LittleBigPlanet (PSP) ModNation Racers (PSP) Patapon 3 (PSP) WipEout Pure (PSP) Users who previously took a free game from Sony's "Welcome Back" promotion, when PSN service returned in 2011, will be able to choose from one of the digital reward options. Others will be able to choose up to two. Users can get an additional digital reward if they can prove that they had no way to access Netflix or Hulu Plus subscriptions during the 23 days PSN was out of service. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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It's been nearly five years since Verizon decided to stop expanding its FiOS fiber network into new cities and towns, so this week's news won't come as a huge surprise: Verizon is nearing "the end" of its fiber construction and is reducing wireline capital expenditures while spending more on wireless. "I have been pretty consistent with this in the fact that we will spend more CapEx in the Wireless side and we will continue to curtail CapEx on the Wireline side. Some of that is because we are getting to the end of our committed build around FiOS, penetration is getting higher," Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said yesterday in the Q4 2014 call with investors. Wireline capital spending totaled $1.6 billion in the most recent quarter and $5.8 billion for 2014, down 7.7 percent from 2013, Verizon said. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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We’ve been unapologetic about our love for the Bloodhound SSC project, which hopes to make a new land speed record attempt by clearing 1,000 mph. Education is also key to the project, as the Rolls Royce EJ200 jet engine came from the UK government with the proviso that the record attempt incorporate a strong STEM education aspect to it. The result, for us, has been a steady stream of updates as the car takes shape in its English workshop. But the action isn’t just confined to dear old Blightly. The land speed record attempt will take place on the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa, where an advance team is already working hard to make sure everything goes to plan. The latest update involves the team's custom communications set up, which will allow Bloodhound SSC to stream telemetry and video data back to mission control as the car blasts past at 1,000 mph. The communications system, built by MTN and Poynting Antennas, a pair of South African telecoms companies, is a custom 4G LTE network that is focused on a ground-based antenna. It provides 4MB/s bandwidth, which should be sufficient for Bloodhound’s three 720p video feeds as well as more than 300 different sensors on the vehicle. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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From observations of the Milky Way galaxy, we’ve learned that in any given cubic meter of space, even the particular cubic meter that snugly fits your seated form as you read this article, there’s a small amount of matter—only about 50 proton masses worth—passing through in any given moment. But unlike the particles that make up your seated form, this matter doesn’t interact. It doesn’t reflect light, it isn’t repelled by solid objects, it passes right through walls. This mysterious substance is known as dark matter. Since there’s so little of it in each cubic meter, you would never notice its presence. But over the vast distances of space, there’s a lot of cubic meters, and all that dark matter adds up. It’s only when you zoom out and look at the big picture that dark matter’s gravitational influence becomes apparent. It’s the main source of gravity holding every galaxy together; it binds galaxies to one another in clusters; and it warps space around galaxy clusters, creating a lensing effect. But despite its importance to the large-scale structure of the Universe, we still don’t know what dark matter really is. Currently, the best candidate is WIMPs, or Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (Which makes sense, now that we know it’s not MAssive Compact Halo Objects, or MACHOs). But WIMPs are not the only option—there are quite a few other possibilities being investigated. Some of them are other kinds of massive particles, which would constitute cold dark matter, while others aren’t particles at all. Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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When Sony launched its PlayStation Now service as a beta last year, the ridiculous per-game rental pricing structure stopped us from giving it any serious consideration almost immediately. Last week, though, the service graduated from beta with a more feasible all-you-can-play subscription plan. Suddenly this was an opportunity. Has the idea of running games on remote servers advanced at all since OnLive's ahead-of-its-time launch back in 2010? We've been kicking the tires on the service for about a week now, and what we've found is a surprisingly compelling addition to the pay-per-game ownership model of retail discs and downloads. If you have the bandwidth and a yearning to sample some PS3 classics among the service's somewhat limited initial selection on your PlayStation 4, PlayStation Now is well worth checking out. Performance When initially reviewing OnLive back in 2010, running a game through the offering's remote servers was a noticeably worse experience than running that same game locally. Even with a 20Mbps FiOS connection, our reviewer "could tell that the game was not running natively" thanks to "framerate bumps, sudden resolution drops, and gameplay blips." Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Don't look now, but Google's Project Zero vulnerability research program may have dropped more zero-day vulnerabilities—this time on Apple's OS X platform. In the past two days, Project Zero has disclosed OS X vulnerabilities here, here, and here. At first glance, none of them appear to be highly critical, since all three appear to require the attacker to already have some access to a targeted machine. What's more, the first vulnerability, the one involving the "networkd 'effective_audit_token' XPC," may already have been mitigated in OS X Yosemite, but if so the Google advisory doesn't make this explicit and Apple doesn't publicly discuss security matters with reporters. Still, the exploits could be combined with a separate attack to elevate lower-level privileges and gain control over vulnerable Macs. And since the disclosures contain proof-of-concept exploit code, they provide enough technical detail for experienced hackers to write malicious attacks that target the previously unknown vulnerabilities. The security flaws were privately reported to Apple on October 20, October 21, and October 23, 2014. All three advisories appear to have been published after the expiration of the 90-day grace period Project Zero gives developers before making reports public. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Raphael Pirker Official Leweb Photos Flight regulators and a drone pilot have settled litigation that was at the center of an ongoing battle over whether the Federal Aviation Administration may bar the commercial use of drones in the US. Raphael Pirker was fined $10,000 in 2011 in the government's first legal action against an on-the-ground pilot. Piker was operating a 4.5-pound drone and was cited for illegally operating the plane for commercial purposes and operating it in a "wreckless manner" while filming a commercial over the University of Virginia. He fought the citation, claiming that the government was enforcing a law against the commercial application of drones when there was no such law, among other things. In March, he prevailed before an administrative law judge, a decision that was reversed in November. Along the way, the government began opening the door, albeit slightly, to the commercial use of drones, allowing them on a case-by-case basis. Hollywood, for example, was granted the right to make movies with drones last year. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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With Lee Hutchinson about to grab the mic and tell us about visiting Munich, we're wrapping up my time in the spotlight by doing a live Q&A. At 1pm Eastern tomorrow, I'll set up a live chat and field questions about anything that interests you, from sichuan peppers to real-time control software. I'd also be happy to talk a bit about the differences between academic and commercial research, as well as the challenges of making sure that the results of your research can be mass produced. If people have questions about science, or the challenges of writing about it, I'd be happy to field those, too. So stop by tomorrow and say hi. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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NEW YORK—"Did the defendant share a secret with you?" prosecutor Timothy Howard asked the gaunt computer engineer on the stand. If he wanted to stay out of prison, 31-year-old Richard Bates, once a close friend of Ross Ulbricht's, had no choice but to answer. "Yes, he did," Bates answered, his voice quaking. "He revealed that he created and ran the Silk Road website." Ulbricht was on trial in federal court on Thursday, accused of running the Silk Road drug-trafficking website. If convicted, he faces a potential sentence of life in prison. It's the second week of a trial expected to last two to four weeks. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A device used to monitor the gasoline levels at refueling stations across the United States—known as an automated tank gauge or ATG—could be remotely accessed by online attackers, manipulated to cause alerts, and even set to shut down the flow of fuel, according to research to be published on Thursday. The security weakness—identified by Jack Chadowitz, a former process control engineer and founder of control-system monitoring service BostonBase—could theoretically affect the devices at many of the approximately 115,000 fueling stations in the United States, but only a small fraction of those systems—about 5,300—appear to be vulnerable to an Internet attack, according to security firm Rapid7, which conducted a scan for such devices on January 10. While automated tank gauges are typically accessed to monitor fuel inventories, so as to know when to order gasoline, attackers could also access the settings, Chadowitz said. “One could change the calibration and make the tank report full or empty,” he told Ars. “If you report the tank is full, no one is going to order fuel.” Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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While visiting GE's China Technology Center, we got to take a look at reverse osmosis membranes. Reverse osmosis is the most energy-efficient means of removing dissolved substances from water. It's what's used commercially for desalination, the process of producing drinking water from seawater. The term "membrane" is typically used to mean a thin sheet of some material (in fact, the word "sheet" appears in the definition of the term). But for some of the things GE is using it for, the membranes were thin yet robust tubes, each one capable of supporting the weight of a bowling ball. Despite that toughness, features on the tubes are so fine that they can allow water molecules to pass through but reject many things that are roughly the same size, such as the salt ions found in seawater. This all raises an obvious question: how do you actually produce anything like that? We decided to look into the process of making reverse osmosis membranes. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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