posted 5 days ago on slashdot
MTorrice writes: An international research team has built electronic, flexible patches that can measure the mechanical properties of skin and other biological tissue. The sensors consist of nanoribbons of a piezoelectric material, lead zirconate titanate, which deforms when jolted with electrical energy and, conversely, produces electricity when it's deformed. The researchers mapped the skin elasticity of dozens of patients in the clinic, building up quantitative data on healthy and damaged tissue. The information could help doctors better assess conditions such as dermatitis and skin cancer. The team believes that similar sensors could be implanted inside the body to monitor blood vessels and other soft tissue for damage or dysfunction.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
StartsWithABang writes: The Universe had two periods where light was abundant, separated by the cosmic dark ages. The first came at the moment of the hot Big Bang, as the Universe was flooded with (among the matter, antimatter and everything else imaginable) a sea of high-energy photons, including a large amount of visible light. As the Universe expanded and cooled, eventually the cosmic microwave background was emitted, leaving behind the barely visible, cooling photons. It took between 50 and 100 million years for the first stars to turn on, so in between these two epochs of the Universe being flooded with light, we had the dark ages. Yet the dark ages may not be totally invisible, as the forbidden spin-flip-transition of hydrogen may illuminate this time period after all.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
BarbaraHudson writes: CBC reports that Canadian scientists are turning blood into nerve cells. They do so by manipulating stem cells that have been taken from a patient's blood, eventually switching them into neural stem cells (abstract). These can then give rise to multiple different nerve cells suitable for use in the rest of the body. Team leader Mick Bhatia said, "We can actually take a patient's blood sample, as routinely performed in a doctor's office, and with it we can produce one million sensory neurons. We can also make central nervous system cells." They're working on turning the neural stem cells into motor neurons for treatment of diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory have successfully uploaded and applied a software patch to NASA's Curiosity Rover on Mars. The patch fixes a focusing problem that cropped up in November when the laser that helps to focus one of its cameras failed. "Without this laser rangefinder, the ChemCam instrument was somewhat blind," said Roger Wiens, ChemCam principal investigator at Los Alamos. "The main laser that creates flashes of plasma when it analyzes rocks and soils up to 25 feet [7.6 meters] from the rover was not affected, but the laser analyses only work when the telescope projecting the laser light to the target is in focus." Before the fix, scientists had to shoot images at nine different focus settings to distill a decent set of data. Now, they say the new software results in better images in a single shot than even before the laser broke down. The program that runs the instrument is only 40 kilobytes in size.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
Mark Wilson sends word that Amazon will begin paying corporate taxes on profits made in the UK. The company had previously been recording most of its UK sales as being in Luxembourg, which let them avoid the higher taxes in the UK. But at the end of last year, UK regulators decided they were losing too much tax revenue because of this practice, so they began implementing legislation that would impose a 25% tax on corporations routing their profits elsewhere. Amazon is the first large corporation to make the change, and it's expected to put pressure on Google, Microsoft, Apple, and others to do the same.

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
sciencehabit sends news of a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology which found that science is still perceived as a predominantly male profession across the world. The results were broken out by country, and while the overall trend stayed consistent throughout (PDF), there were variations in perception. For explicit bias: "Countries where this association was strongest included South Africa and Japan. The United States ranked in the middle, with a score similar to Austria, Mexico, and Brazil. Portugal, Spain, and Canada were among the countries where the explicit bias was weakest." For implicit bias: "Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, and Sweden were among the countries with the highest implicit bias scores. The United States again came in at the middle of the pack, scoring similarly to Singapore. Portugal, Spain, and Mexico had among the lowest implicit bias scores, though the respondents still associated science more with men than with women."

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
Dave Knott writes: Fans of 1980s cinema were disappointed when the year 2015 arrived without a practical version Marty McFly's hoverboard. Now, a Montréal-based man has brought it closer to reality by setting a new record for longest "flight" by hoverboard. In a filmed test recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records, Catalin Alexandru Duru pilots his somewhat cumbersome looking rig for 250 meters — five times the previous record — at a height of five meters above Quebec's Lake Ouareau. Duru and his business partner "hope to have a new prototype finished by the end of the year and then have hoverboards available for purchase across the country. He wouldn't say how much the prototype cost to build, but said that the first generation of the machine will likely be 'quite expensive.'" "This thing is still quite dangerous," he added, explaining that the pilot uses only his or her feet to fly the contraption. The commercial version's software will limit it to flying below a height of about one-and-a-half meters above the ground.

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: A new report from The Information (paywalled) says Google is working on an operating system called "Brillo" that would be a platform for Internet-of-things devices. It's supposedly a lightweight version of Android, capable of running on devices with extremely limited hardware — as little as 32 MB of RAM, for example. The company is expected to launch the code for Brillo at its I/O event next week. This is particularly relevant now that Google has acquired Nest, Dropcam, and Revolv — a trio of "smart home" companies whose devices could potentially by unified by Brillo.

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Palmer Luckey, founder of VR headset-maker Oculus, has been sued by a company accusing him of taking their confidential information and passing it off as his own. Total Recall Technologies, based in Hawaii, claims it hired Luckey in 2011 to build a head-mounted display. Part of that employment involved Luckey signing a confidentiality agreement. In August, 2012, Luckey launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Oculus Rift headset, and Facebook bought his company last year for $2 billion. TRT is seeking compensatory and punitive damages (PDF).

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
BarbaraHudson writes: Reuters is reporting that the citizens of Ireland voted overwhelmingly to legalize same-sex marriages. While it's also legal in 19 other countries, Ireland was the first to decide this by putting the question to the citizens. "This has really touched a nerve in Ireland," Equality Minister Aodhan O'Riordain said at the main count center in Dublin. "It's a very strong message to every LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) young person in Ireland and every LGBT young person in the world." Observers say the loss of moral authority of the Catholic church after a series of sex scandals was a strong contributing factor, with priests limiting their appeals to the people sitting in their pews. In contrast, the "Yes" side dominated social media.

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: The CTO behind Lucidchart, an online diagramming app, recently cited the open source rbush project as an invaluable tool for helping implement an "in-memory spatial index" that "increased spatial search performance by a factor of over 1,000 for large documents." My question is this: what risks does a SaaS company like Lucidchart face in making most of their own code public, like Google's recent move with Chrome for Android, and what benefits might be gained by doing so? Wouldn't sharing the code just generate more users and interest? Even if competitors did copy it, they'd always be a step behind the latest developments.

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
theodp writes: "There you are watching another death on video," writes the NY Times' Teju Cole. "In the course of ordinary life — at lunch or in bed, in a car or in the park — you are suddenly plunged into someone else's crisis, someone else's horror. It arrives, absurdly, in the midst of banal things. That is how, late one afternoon in April, I watched Walter Scott die. The footage of his death, taken by a passer-by, had just been published online on the front page of The New York Times. I watched it, sitting at my desk in Brooklyn, and was stunned by it." Cole continues, "For most of human history, to see someone die, you had to be there. Depictions of death, if there were any, came later, at a certain remove of time and space." Disturbing as they may be (Cole notes he couldn't bear to watch the ISIS beheading videos), such images may ultimately change things for the better. Is it better to publish them than sweep them under the carpet?

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: According to an article in ReadWrite, a team of British and American researchers have developed a hacker resistant process for online voting called Du-Vote. It uses a credit card-sized device that helps to divide the security-sensitive tasks between your computer and the device in a way that neither your computer nor the device learns how you voted (PDF). If a hacker managed to control the computer and the Du-Vote token, he still can't change the votes without being detected.

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
jan_jes writes: UC Berkeley researchers turned to a branch of artificial intelligence known as deep learning for developing algorithms that enable robots to learn motor tasks through trial and error. It's a process that more closely approximates the way humans learn, marking a major milestone in the field of artificial intelligence. Their demonstration robot completes tasks such as "putting a clothes hanger on a rack, assembling a toy plane, screwing a cap on a water bottle, and more" without pre-programmed details about its surroundings. The challenge of putting robots into real-life settings (e.g. homes or offices) is that those environments are constantly changing. The robot must be able to perceive and adapt to its surroundings, so this type of learning is an important step.

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
Andy Smith writes: Here's another company that just doesn't get security research. White hat hacker Egor Homakov found a security flaw in Starbucks gift cards which allowed people to steal money from the company. He reported the flaw to Starbucks, but rather than thank him, the company accused him of fraud and said he had been acting maliciously.

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
onproton writes: The Senate voted yesterday to reauthorize the controversial Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which expedites, or 'Fast Tracks,' the passage of trade agreements through Congress. If also approved by the House, it will grant the authority to decide and negotiate the terms of agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the executive branch, significantly limiting congressional involvement and leaving little room for debate. Proponents of the bill, namely the USTR, claim that Fast Tracking the TPP is critical to successfully negotiating its terms internationally, and will "ensure that Congress, stakeholders and the public are closely involved before, during and after the conclusion of trade agreement negotiations." Though in reality, it does not introduce significant changes in the transparency or reporting requirements that are currently in place, which have allowed the negotiations of this deal to be held in secret since 2009. With concerns being raised about the deal's impacts on everything from intellectual property rights to government sovereignty, it is surprising to many that Congress would abdicate their role in determining the specifics of agreements that may have far reaching implications for their constituents.

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
HughPickens.com writes: Time Magazine reports that Google has designed and patented an "anthropomorphic device" that could take the form of a "doll or toy" and interact both with people as well as tech gadgets echoing the "super toy" teddy bear featured in Stephen Spielberg's 2001 movie AI. This could be one of Google's creepiest patents yet — especially if movies like "Chuckie" still give you nightmares. The patent filing diagrams a stuffed teddy bear and a bunny rabbit outfitted with microphones, speakers, cameras and motors as well as a wireless connection to the internet. If it senses you're looking at it, the fuzzy toy will rotate its head and look back at you. Once it receives and recognizes a voice command prompt, you can then tell it to control media devices in your home (e.g. turn on your music or TV). According to the patent filing: "To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head, and/or focus its gaze on the user or object of its interest. To express curiosity, an anthropomorphic device may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm. To express boredom, an anthropomorphic device may defocus its gaze, direct its gaze in a downward fashion, tap its foot, and/or close its eyes. To express surprise, an anthropomorphic device may make a sudden movement, sit or stand up straight, and/or dilate its pupils." The patent adds that making the device look "cute" should encourage even the youngest members of a family to interact with it. But Mikhail Avady, from SmartUp, said he thought it belonged in "a horror film", and the campaign group Big Brother Watch has also expressed dismay. "When those devices are aimed specifically at children, then for many this will step over the creepy line," says Avady. "Children should be able to play in private and shouldn't have to fear this sort of passive invasion of their privacy."

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
schwit1 writes: The first rule of "Project Bookend" is that you don't talk about "Project Bookend." In retrospect, maybe the first rule should have been "you don't accidentally e-mail 'Project Bookend' to a news agency," because as the Guardian reports, one of its editors opened his inbox and was surprised to find a message from the BOE's Head of Press Jeremy Harrison outlining the UK financial market equivalent of the Manhattan project. Project Bookend is a secret (or 'was' a secret) initiative undertaken by the BOE to study what the fallout might be from a potential 'Brexit', but if anyone asked what Sir Jon Cunliffe and a few senior staffers were up to, they were instructed to say that they were busy investigating "a broad range of European economic issues." And if you haven't heard the term before, "Brexit" refers to the possibility of Britain leaving the EU -- one of the possible outcomes of an upcoming referendum.

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
New submitter Steven King writes with a link to The Daily Dot's report that the U.S. Senate has rejected a controversial bill, thus "all but guaranteeing that key provisions of the USA Patriot Act will expire"; had it passed, the bill would have allowed continued use of some mass data-collection practices, but with the addition of stronger oversight. From the article: The Senate failed to reach agreement on passage of the USA Freedom Act, a bill to reauthorize and reform Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which the government has used to conduct bulk surveillance of Americans' phone records. The House of Representatives passed the bill last week by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, but Senate Democrats, who unified behind the bill, did not get enough Republican votes to assure passage. The linked piece also mentions that the EFF shifted its position on this bill, after a panel of Federal judges ruled that the Feds at the NSA had overstepped their bounds in collecting a seemingly unlimited trove of metadata relating to American citizen's phone calls.

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Windows 3.0 was launched on 22 May 1990 — I know, 'coz I was there as a SDE on the team. I still have, um, several of the shrink-wrapped boxes of the product — with either 3.5 inch and 5.25 floppies rattling around inside them — complete with their distinctive 'I witnessed the event' sticker! It was a big deal for me, and I still consider Win 3 as *the* most significant Windows' release, and I wonder what other Slashdotters think, looking back on Win 3?

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Originally created as a Unreal Engine 4 demo scene to push the limits of VR-capable graphics on the Oculus Rift 'Crescent Bay' prototype VR headset, Showdown is now running flawlessly at 60 FPS on Morpheus, Sony's PS4 VR headset. The demo was previously only able to run at Oculus' 90 FPS target VR framerate on the Nvidia GTX 980, a GPU which costs nearly $200 more than the PS4 itself. To the delight of UE4 developers, the performance improvement comes from general optimizations to UE4 on PS4, rather than specific optimizations to Showdown.

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posted 7 days ago on slashdot
New submitter Kristine Lofgren writes: The California Assembly just passed a vote to ban toxic microbeads, the tiny flecks found in toothpastes and exfoliants. Microbeads cause a range of problems, from clogging waterways to getting stuck in gums. The ban would be the strictest of its kind in the nation. As the article notes, the California Senate would need to pass a bill as well, for this ban to take effect, and if that happens, the resulting prohibition will come into place in 2020. From the article: Last year, Illinois became the first state in the U.S. to pass a ban on the usage of microbeads in cosmetics, approving a law that will go into effect in 2018, and earlier this year two congressmen introduced a bipartisan bill to outlaw the use of microbeads nationwide. And for exceptionally good reason; the beads, which serve as exfoliants and colorants are a massive source of water pollution, with scientists estimating that 471 million plastic microbeads are released into San Francisco Bay alone every single day.

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posted 7 days ago on slashdot
PvtVoid writes: The Wall Street Journal now has a page up that encourages readers to sift through and tag Hillary Clinton's emails on Benghazi. Users can click on suggested tags such as "Heated", "Personal", "Boring", or "Interesting", or supply their own tags. What could possibly go wrong? I'm tagging this story "election2016."

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posted 7 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes to let everyone know the LHC has now smashed protons together at 13 TeV, the highest energy level yet achieved. They've posted the first images captured from the collisions, and explained the testing process as well. Jorg Wenninger of the LHC Operations team says, "When we start to bring the beams into collision at a new energy, they often miss each other. The beams are tiny – only about 20 microns in diameter at 6.5 TeV; more than 10 times smaller than at 450 GeV. So we have to scan around – adjusting the orbit of each beam until collision rates provided by the experiments tell us that they are colliding properly." Spokesperson Tiziano Camporesi adds, "The collisions at 13 TeV will allow us to further test all improvements that have been made to the trigger and reconstruction systems, and check the synchronisation of all the components of our detector."

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posted 7 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Maxis, the studio behind SimCity, was shuttered earlier this year. Fortunately, another studio has taken up its mantle. The small team at Colossal Order has already won acclaim for city-builder game Cities: Skylines (and sold millions), earning a great reputation with the modding community by avoiding all the mistakes the last SimCity release made, such as enforced online/multiplayer. A new behind the scenes feature looks at how the game came about — it was not a response to SimCity, surprisingly — as well as what's next from the studio. "We are planning to start another game project sometime soon," says Colossal CEO Mariina Hallikainen. "We definitely want to focus on old-school simulator games and definitely PC. PC, Mac and Linux, those are our 'thing.' But I think we're maybe going to do something a little bit different."

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