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Earth

Hyperloop One Announces Opening of Its First Manufacturing Plant (techcrunch.com) 4

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Hyperloop One is today announcing the opening of its first manufacturing plant. Called Hyperloop One Metalworks, the 105,000 square-foot building in North Las Vegas will be the new professional home of many of the company's 170 employees, including engineers, machinists and welders. These folks will build and test a number of components for the DevLoop, a full-system prototype of the Hyperloop, set for testing in 2017. The project, if successful, promises a half-hour travel time between Stockholm and Helsinki, which is the equivalent of about 300 miles. The company plans to have a working prototype of the Hyperloop by 2017 thanks to this new plant."Hyperloop One Metalworks is the first Hyperloop manufacturing plant in the world," said co-founder and President of Engineering Josh Giegel in a press release. "The ability to have a world-class machine shop in-house gives us an advantage to build rapidly and develop the Hyperloop in real-time."
Medicine

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Funding Leads To New Genetic Findings (yahoo.com) 6

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers are crediting the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a fundraiser for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis that went viral in 2014, for funding a new study that has possibly identified a common gene that contributes to the nervous system disease. Yahoo reports via Good Morning America: "In a study published in The Nature Genetics Journal, researchers from various institutions, including the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the University Medical Center Utrecht, identified the gene NEK1 as a common gene that could have an impact on who develops the disease. Variants of the gene appear to lead to increased risk of developing ALS, according to preliminary findings. Researchers in 11 countries studied 1,000 families in which a family member developed ALS and conducted a genome-wide search for any signs that a gene could be leading to increased ALS risk. After identifying the NEK1 gene, they also analyzed 13,000 individuals who had developed ALS despite no family history and found they had variants in that same gene, again linking that gene with increased ALS risk. Starting in the summer of 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge led to 17 million videos made and $220 million raised, according to the ALS Association -- $115 million of which went to the association."
Government

Florida Regulators OK Plan To Increase Toxins In Water (washingtontimes.com) 167

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Times: Despite the objection of environmental groups, state environmental regulators voted Tuesday to approve new standards that will increase the amount of cancer-causing toxins allowed in Florida's rivers and streams under a plan the state says will protect more Floridians than current standards. The Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 to approve a proposal that would increase the number of regulated chemicals from 54 to 92 allowed in rivers, streams and other sources of drinking water, news media outlets reported. The Miami Herald reports that under the proposal, acceptable levels of toxins will be increased for more than two dozen known carcinogens and decreased for 13 currently regulated chemicals. State officials back the plan because it places new rules on 39 other chemicals that are not currently regulated. The standards still must be reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but the Scott administration came under withering criticism for pushing the proposal at this time. That's because there are two vacancies on the commission, including one for a commissioner who is supposed to represent the environmental community.
Television

Subscribers Pay 61 Cents Per Hour of Cable, But Only 20 Cents Per Hour of Netflix (allflicks.net) 171

An anonymous reader writes from a math-heavy report via AllFlicks: The folks at AllFlicks decided to crunch some numbers to determine just how much more expensive cable is than Netflix. They answered the question: how much does Netflix cost per hour of content viewed, and how does that compare with cable's figures? AllFlicks reports: "We know from Netflix's own numbers that Netflix's more than 75 million users stream 125 million hours of content every day. So that's (roughly) 100 minutes per user, per day. Using the price of Netflix's most popular plan ($9.99) and a 30-day month, we can say that the average user is paying about 0.33 cents per minute of content, or 20 cents an hour. Not bad! But what about cable? Well, Nielsen tells us that the average American adult cable subscriber watches 2,260 minutes of TV per week (including timeshifted TV). That's equivalent to 5.38 hours per day, or 161.43 hours per 30-day month. Thanks to Leichtman Research, we know that the average American pays $99.10 per month for cable TV. That means that subscribers are paying a whopping 61.4 cents per hour to watch cable TV -- more than three times as much as users pay per hour of Netflix!"
Biotech

'Sister Clones' Of Dolly The Sheep Have Aged Like Any Other Sheep, Study Says (npr.org) 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: About four years ago, Kevin Sinclair inherited an army of clones. "Daisy, Debbie, Denise and Diana," says Sinclair, a developmental biologist at the University of Nottingham in England. "'Sister clones' probably best describes them," Sinclair says. "They actually come from the exactly the same batch of cells that Dolly came from." In an article out Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, Sinclair and his colleagues write that the ewes' age, along with their strapping health, might be a reason for people to start feeling more optimistic about what cloning can do. Dolly's life did not turn out as scientists in the cloning field hoped it would. She died young -- 6 1/2 -- with a nasty lung virus. "That was really just bad luck," Sinclair says, and had "nothing to do" with the fact that Dolly was a clone. It was a daunting concept for those in the cloning field, because, says Sinclair, "If you're going to create these animals, they should be normal in every respect. They should be just as healthy as any other animal that's conceived naturally. If that is not the case, then it raises serious ethical and welfare concerns about creating these animals in the first place." But, the good health of the 13 clones in the Nottingham herd suggest better prospects for the procedure. Sinclair and his colleagues evaluated the animals' blood pressure, metabolism, heart function, muscles and joints, looking for signs of premature aging. They even fattened them up (since obesity is a risk factor for metabolic problems including diabetes) and gave them the standard tests to gauge how their bodies would handle glucose and insulin. The results? Normal, normal, normal. "There is nothing to suggest that these animals were anything other than perfectly normal," says Sinclair. They had slight signs of arthritis (Debbie in particular), but not enough to cause problems. "If I put them in with a bunch of other sheep, you would never be able to identify them," he says.
Software

Tesla Model S In Fatal Autopilot Crash Was Going 74 MPH In a 65 Zone, NTSB Says (latimes.com) 559

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: The Tesla car involved in a fatal crash in Florida this spring was in Autopilot mode and going about 10 miles faster than the speed limit, according to safety regulators, who also released a picture of the mangled vehicle. Earlier reports had stated the Tesla Model S struck a big rig while traveling on a divided highway in central Florida, and speculated that the Tesla Autopilot system had failed to intervene in time to prevent the collision. The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report Tuesday that confirms some details of the May 7 collision, along with a photo that shows the car with its windshield flattened and most of its roof sheared off. The federal agency also included a photo of the big rig, circling an area on the right side of the tractor-trailer that showed the light damage the truck received from the collision. The 2015 Model S was moving at 74 mph, above the posted 65 mph speed limit, when it struck a 53-foot trailer being pulled by a Freightliner Cascadia truck. Tesla's semi-autonomous Autopilot driving feature was engaged, the report says.
Businesses

Highest-Paid CEOs Run Worst-Performing Companies, Research Finds (independent.co.uk) 166

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Independent: According to a study carried out by corporate research firm MSCI, CEO's that get paid the most run some of the worst-performing companies. It found that every $100 invested in companies with the highest-paid CEOs would have grown to $265 over 10 years. However, the same amount invested in the companies with the lowest-paid CEOs would have grown to $367 over 10 years. The report, titled "Are CEOs paid for performance? Evaluating the Effectiveness of Equity Incentives," looked at the salaries of 800 CEOs at 429 large and medium-sized U.S. companies between 2005 and 2014 and compared it with the total shareholder return of the companies. Senior corporate governance research at MSCI, Ric Marshall, said in a statement: "The highest paid had the worse performance by a significant margin. It just argues for the equity portion of CEO pay to be more conservative."
Transportation

Norway Is Building The World's First 'Floating' Underwater Tunnels (thenextweb.com) 77

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Next Web: Norway plans to build "submerged floating bridges" to allow drivers to cross its bodies of water. The Next Web reports: "The 'submerged floating bridges' would consist of large tubes suspended by pontoon-like support structures 100 feet below water. Each will be wide enough for two lanes of traffic, and the floating structures should ease the congestion on numerous ferries currently required to get commuters from Point A to Point B. Each support pontoon would then be secured to a truss or bolted to the bedrock below to keep things stable." A trip from Kristiansand to Trondheim is roughly 680 miles and could take as long as 21 hours due to the seven ferry trips required along the way. While building normal bridges would cost significantly less than the $25 billion in funds required for the tunnel project, the fjords and difficult terrain make them unsuitable candidates. The pricey tunnel project could cut the trip time to just 10 hours when it's expected to be finished in 2035.
Star Wars Prequels

Harrison Ford Could Have Died In Star Wars Set Incident, Court Hears (theguardian.com) 146

An anonymous reader writes: While filming Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Harrison Ford almost died when he was crushed by a hydraulic door on the set of the Millennium Falcon. He was reportedly knocked to the ground and crushed beneath the heavy door when he walked on to the set not believing it to be live. The 71-year-old actor suffered a broken left leg. Prosecutor Andrew Marshall said the door "could have killed somebody. The fact that it didn't was because an emergency stop was activated," he said. The company responsible, Foodles Production, pleaded guilty to two breaches under health and safety legislation, one count under section two of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which related to a breach of duty in relation to employees, and a second under section three, a breach over people not employed by the company. The lawyer for Foodles Production, which is owned by Disney, said the company would contest the level of risk involved on August 22nd at Aylesbury crown court.
Earth

54C Recorded In Kuwait Likely Hottest On Record In Asia (foxnews.com) 344

An anonymous reader writes from an Associated Press report: The UN weather agency said it suspects that the 54C temperature recorded in Kuwait has set a record for the eastern hemisphere. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said Tuesday it is setting up a committee to look into whether the temperature recorded last Thursday in Mitrabah, Kuwait, was a new high for the eastern hemisphere and in Asia. WMO's Omar Baddour said it is "likely" to be an eastern hemisphere record. Last week, swathes of the Middle East and North Africa and were hit by heatwaves that have become more frequent over the last half-century, and Earth is fresh off the hottest six months on record. WMO says the world record high of 56.7C was recorded at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, California, in 1913. In the UAE, highs of 49C are expected inland on Wednesday. Last year, the mercury rose above 50C in Sweiham, near Al Ain.An article on Citylab, citing NOAA's latest analysis notes that it was the warmest June in the modern history and also the 14th consecutive month of unprecedented hotness.
China

Chinese State Company Unveils World's Largest Seaplane (theguardian.com) 154

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: China has completed production of the world's largest amphibious aircraft, state media has said, the latest effort in the country's program to wean itself off dependence on foreign aviation firms. The state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) unveiled the first of the new planes, dubbed the AG600, Saturday in the southern port city of Zhuhai, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The aircraft, which has a maximum range of 4,500 km (2,800 miles), is intended for fighting forest fires and performing marine rescues, it said. At around the size of a Boeing 737, it is far larger than any other plane built for marine take off and landing, Xinhua quoted AVIC's deputy general manager Geng Ruguang as saying. The AG600 could potentially extend the Asian giant's ability to conduct a variety of operations in the South China Sea, where it has built a series of artificial islands featuring air strips, among other infrastructure with the potential for either civilian or military use.
Earth

Feds To Deploy Anti-Drone Software Near Wildfires (thehill.com) 167

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: Federal officials are launching a new "geofencing" program to alert drone pilots when they're flying too close to wildfire prevention operations. The Department of Interior said Monday it would deploy software warnings to pilots when their drones pose a risk to the aircraft used by emergency responders fighting wildfires. The agency said there have been 15 instances of drones interfering with firefighter operations this year, including several leading to grounded aircraft. Drone-related incidents doubled between 2014 and 2015, the agency said. Officials built the new warning system with the drone industry, and the agency said manufacturers could eventually use it to build drones that automatically steer away from wildfire locations. The program is in its pilot phase, the agency said; officials hope to have a full public release in time for next year's wildfire season. "No responsible drone operator wants to endanger the lives of the men and women who work to protect them and we believe this program, which uses the global positioning system to create a virtual barrier, will move us one step closer to eliminating this problem for wildfire managers," Mark Bathrick, the director of the Interior Department's Office of Aviation Service, said in a statement.
Movies

MIT Developed A Movie Screen That Brings Glasses-Free 3D To All Seats (techcrunch.com) 98

An anonymous reader writes from a report via TechCrunch: MIT has developed a glasses-less 3D display for movie theaters. The Nintendo 3DS is one of a handful of devices to feature glasses-less 3D, but it is designed for a single users where the user is looking at the display head-on at a relatively specific angle. It's not something made for a movie theater with hundreds of seats, each of which would have a different viewing angle. What's neat about MIT's 3D display is that it doesn't require glasses and it lets anyone see the 3D effect in a movie theater, no matter where they are sitting. The MIT Computers Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) created the prototype display called 'Cinema 3D' that uses a complex arrangement of lenses and mirrors to create a set number of parallax barriers that can address every viewing angle in the theater based on seat locations. It works in a movie theater because the seats are in fixed locations, and people don't tend to move around, change seats or alter their viewing angle too much. What's also neat about the Cinema 3D is that is preserves resolution, whereas other glasses-less 3D displays carry cots in terms of image resolution. The prototype is about the size of a letter-sized notepad, and it needs 50 sets of mirrors and lenses. It should be ready for market once researchers scale it up to a commercially viable product.
Biotech

Kurzweil Argues Technology Improves The World, Compares DNA to Code (geekwire.com) 203

Futurist Ray Kurzweil told a Seattle conference specific ways in which technology is already improving our lives. For example, while there's a general perception that the world's getting worse, "What's actually happening is our information about what's wrong in the world is getting better. A century ago, there would be a battle that wiped out the next village, you'd never even hear about it." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes two of Kurzweil's other interesting insights: "We're only crowded because we've crowded ourselves into cities. Try taking a train trip across the United States, or Europe or Asia or anywhere in the world. Ninety-nine percent of the land is not used... we don't want to use it because you don't want to be out in the boondocks if you don't have people to work and play with. That's already changing now that we have some level of virtual communication..."

[And on the potential of human genomics] "It's not just collecting what is basically the object code of life that is expanding exponentially. Our ability to understand it, to reverse-engineer it, to simulate it, and most importantly to reprogram this outdated software is also expanding exponentially. Genes are software programs. It's not a metaphor. They are sequences of data. But they evolved many years ago, many tens of thousands of years ago..."

Medicine

Can Computerized Brain Training Prevent Dementia? (newyorker.com) 49

"Researchers believe they have found a link between speed-of-processing training and a reduction in cognitive decline among the elderly," reports the New Yorker. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes an article about how this new long-term study actually contradicts much of the previous science. In October of 2014 a group of more than seventy academics published what they called a consensus statement, asserting that playing brain games had been shown to improve little more than the ability to play brain games... no brain game, nor any drug, dietary supplement, or lifestyle intervention, had ever been shown in a large, randomized trial to prevent dementia...until today, when surprising new results were announced at the Alzheimer's Association annual meeting, in Toronto.
Nearly 3,000 participants with an average age of 73.6 participated in the study, with some receiving "speed of processing" training -- and some later receiving four hours of additional training. "The researchers calculated those who completed at least some of these booster sessions were 48% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia after ten years than their peers in the control group." Signatories of the 2014 consensus statement panning brain games are now calling these new results "remarkable" and "spectacular".
Mars

Laser-Armed Martian Robot Now Vaporizing Targets of Its Own Free Will (dailymail.co.uk) 73

Slashdot reader Rei writes: NASA -- having already populated the Red Planet with robots and armed a car-sized nuclear juggernaut with a laser -- have now decided to grant fire control of that laser over to a new AI system operating on the rover itself. Intended to increase the scientific data-gathering throughput on the sometimes glitching rover's journey, the improved AEGIS system eliminates the need for a series of back-and-forth communication sessions to select targets and aim the laser.
Rei's original submission included a longer riff on The War of the Worlds, ending with a reminder to any future AI overlords that "I have a medical condition that renders me unfit to toil in any hypothetical subterranean lithium mines..."
Security

Can Iris-Scanning ID Systems Tell the Difference Between a Live and Dead Eye? (ieee.org) 93

the_newsbeagle writes: Iris scanning is increasingly being used for biometric identification because it's fast, accurate, and relies on a body part that's protected and doesn't change over time. You may have seen such systems at a border crossing recently or at a high-security facility, and the Indian government is currently collecting iris scans from all its 1.2 billion citizens to enroll them in a national ID system. But such scanners can sometimes be spoofed by a high-quality paper printout or an image stuck on a contact lens.

Now, new research has shown that post-mortem eyes can be used for biometric identification for hours or days after death, despite the decay that occurs. This means an eye could theoretically be plucked from someone's head and presented to an iris scanner. The same researcher who conducted that post-mortem study is also looking for solutions, and is working on iris scanners that can detect the "liveness" of an eye. His best method so far relies on the unique way each person's pupil responds to a flash of light, although he notes some problems with this approach.

China

CRISPR: Chinese Scientists To Pioneer Gene-Editing Trial On Humans (theguardian.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A team of Chinese scientists will be the first in the world to apply the revolutionary gene-editing technique known as CRISPR on human subjects. Led by Lu You, an oncologist at Sichuan University's West China hospital in Chengdu, China, the team plan to start testing cells modified with CRISPR on patients with lung cancer in August, according to the journal Nature. CRISPR is a game-changer in bioscience; a groundbreaking technique which can find, cut out and replace specific parts of DNA using a specially programmed enzyme named Cas9. Its ramifications are next to endless, from changing the color of mouse fur to designing malaria-free mosquitoes and pest-resistant crops to correcting a wide swath of genetic diseases like sickle-cell anaemia in humans. The Sichuan University trial, it is important to note, does not edit the germ-line; its effects will not be hereditary. What the researchers plan to do is enroll patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, Nature reported, and for whom other treatment options -- including chemotherapy and radiotherapy -- have failed. They will then extract immune cells from the patients' blood and use CRISPR to add a new genetic sequence which will help the patient's immune system target and destroy the cancer. The cells will then be re-introduced into the patients' bloodstream. The Guardian does note that CRISPR was approved for human trials in the U.S., but if it begins on schedule in August the Sichuan University study will beat them to the punch of being the first of its kind.
Government

Issa Bill Would Kill A Big H-1B Loophole (computerworld.com) 248

ErichTheRed writes: This isn't perfect, but it is the first attempt I've seen at removing the "body shop" loophole in the H-1B visa system. A bill has been introduced in Congress that would raise the minimum wage for an H-1B holder from $60K to $100K, and place limits on the body shop companies that employ mostly H-1B holders in a pass-through arrangement. Whether it's enough to stop the direct replacement of workers, or whether it will just accelerate offshoring, remains to be seen. But, I think removing the most blatant and most abused loopholes in the rules is a good start. "The high-skilled visa program is critical to ensuring American companies can attract and retain the world's best talent," said Issa in a statement. "Unfortunately, in recent years, this important program has become abused and exploited as a loophole for companies to replace American workers with cheaper labor from overseas."
Science

Scientists' Biggest Search For Dark Matter To Date Just Turned Up Nothing (sciencealert.com) 157

Peter Dockrill, reporting for ScienceAlert: For something that's hypothesised to make up more than 80 percent of the mass of the entire universe, it's no easy thing to detect the existence of dark matter. That's the conclusion the world is coming to today, after scientists announced that a massive $10 million experiment to find traces of elusive dark matter particles had failed after an exhaustive 20-month search. "We've probed previously unexplored regions of parameter space with the aim of making the first definitive discovery of dark matter," said physicist Cham Ghag from University College London in the UK, one of the scientists who took part in the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) project based in South Dakota. "Though a positive signal would have been welcome, nature was not so kind! Nonetheless, a null result is significant as it changes the landscape of the field by constraining models for what dark matter could be beyond anything that existed previously."Ars Technica has more details.

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