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Controversial Trial of Genetically Modified Wheat Ends In Disappointment

Fri, 26/06/2015 - 11:24am
sciencehabit writes: A controversial GM wheat trial has failed after more than £2 million of public money was spent protecting it from GM opponents. Researchers had hoped that the wheat modified to produce a warning pheromone would keep aphids away and attract their natural enemies, reducing the need for insecticides. Despite showing promise in the laboratory, the field trial failed to show any effect. “If you make a transgenic plant that produces that alarm continuously, it’s not going to work,” ecologist Marcel Dicke of Wageningen University in the Netherlands says. “You have a plant crying wolf all the time, and the bugs won’t listen to it any longer.”

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OneWeb Secures "Largest Ever" Rocket Acquisition For Satellite Internet Launch

Fri, 26/06/2015 - 9:29am
Mickeycaskill writes: Virgin, Airbus and Qualcomm-backed satellite Internet venture OneWeb has acquired 65 rockets and $500 million in funding to launch its satellites by 2019. OneWeb has partnered with Airbus to produce 900 microsatellites which will provide "affordable", fast, low-latency Internet to remote parts of the world and to ships, planes and oil rigs. It has also been suggested the network will be a cheaper way for mobile operators to expand coverage in rural areas. Other partners include Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat, Coca-Cola and Totalplay, all of whom have committed financial, technical or manufacturing support to the project.

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Students Win Prize For Color-Changing Condoms That Detect STDs

Fri, 26/06/2015 - 7:05am
New submitter PJ6 writes: Three students attending the Isaac Newton Academy in the UK won the Healthcare Category of the Teen Tech Awards, for their idea to use antibodies to create color-changing condoms to recognize STDs. They say the material, which is still in the concept stage, will turn green for chlamydia, yellow for herpes, purple for HPV, and blue for syphilis. The BBC reports: "The boys said they still have to test the science and feasibility of their idea. They want to work with a university on the science and say they've already been contacted by a condom company which is interested in working with them on developing the concept further."

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Put Your Enterprise Financial Data In the Cloud? Sure, Why Not

Fri, 26/06/2015 - 5:30am
jfruh writes: For many, the idea of storing sensitive financial and other data in the cloud seems insane, especially considering the regulatory aspects that mandate how that data is protected. But more and more organizations are doing so as cloud providers start presenting offerings that fulfill regulatory needs — and people realize that information is more likely to be accidentally emailed out to the wrong address than hacked.

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Amazon Opens Up Echo's Alexa To Developers

Fri, 26/06/2015 - 4:25am
mikejuk writes: Amazon announced Echo, a wireless speaker with a built-in, voice-controlled, personal assistant called Alexa last year. Now it appears Alexa will no longer be tied exclusively to Echo. Amazon has announced that the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), the cloud-based service behind Echo, is being made available for free to third party hardware makers who want to integrate Alexa into their devices. To propel developers and hardware manufacturers interest in voice technology and their adoption of Alexa, Amazon has also announced a $100 Million Alexa Fund, open to anyone, startups to established brands, with an innovative idea for using voice technology.

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Stellar Rejuvenation: Some Exoplanets May Get Facelifts

Fri, 26/06/2015 - 2:03am
astroengine writes: Astronomers may have discovered an exoplanet that has found the elixir to planetary youth, knocking billions of years off its age. Until now, stellar rejuvenation has been pure conjecture, but after studying a white dwarf star called PG 0010+280, it turns out that one very interesting explanation for an excess in detected infrared radiation may be down to the presence of an exoplanet that was given a facelift. "When planets are young, they still glow with infrared light from their formation," said Michael Jura of the University of California, Los Angeles, co-author of the study published in The Astrophysical Journal. "But as they get older and cooler, you can't see them anymore. Rejuvenated planets would be visible again." This rejuvenation happens when stellar material shedding from a dying red giant star falls onto an exoplanet, causing heating and making it appear younger.

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Google Asks Android Developers To Show Sensitivity To Disasters and Atrocity

Fri, 26/06/2015 - 12:31am
Mark Wilson writes: Today Google revealed an updated version of its Google Play Developer Program Policies. There aren't actually all that many changes or additions, but those that are present are quite interesting. Google is clamping down on the problem of impersonation, making it clearer that it is not permissible to mislead users by imitating other apps, making false claims, or suggesting endorsements that do not exist. One of the more intriguing changes to the document sees Google calling on developers to show sensitivity to evens such as natural disasters, war, and death. Any apps or other content that attempt to benefit by exploiting such events are explicitly banned.

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WiFi Offloading is Skyrocketing

Thu, 25/06/2015 - 11:50pm
dkatana writes: WiFi Offloading is skyrocketing. This is the conclusion of a new report from Juniper Research, which points out that the amount of smartphone and tablet data traffic on WiFi networks will will increase to more than 115,000 petabytes by 2019, compared to under 30,000 petabytes this year, representing almost a four-fold increase. Most of this data is offloaded to consumer's WiFi by the carriers, offering the possibility to share your home internet connection in exchange for "free" hotspots. But this article on InformationWeek Network Computing also warns that "The capacity of the 2.4GHz band is reaching its limit. [...] the growing number of WiFi devices using unlicensed bands is seriously affecting network efficiency. Capacity is compromised by the number of simultaneously active devices, with transmission speeds dropping as much as 20% of the nominal value. With the number of IoT and M2M applications using WiFi continuously rising, that could become a serious problem soon."

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DARPA Is Already Working On Designer Organisms To Terraform Mars

Thu, 25/06/2015 - 11:08pm
MarkWhittington writes: Space visionaries dream of a time when human beings will not only settle Mars, but will terraform the Red Planet into something more Earth-like, with a breathable atmosphere, running water, and a functioning biosphere. Evidence exists that Mars was more or less Earth-like billions of years ago before the atmosphere leached away into space and the water became frozen under the ground and at the poles. Terraforming Mars is decades away from the beginning and probably centuries away from the end. But DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is already genetically engineering organisms that will help turn the Red Planet blue, according to a story in Motherboard.

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Average Duration of Hiring Process For Software Engineers: 35 Days

Thu, 25/06/2015 - 10:24pm
itwbennett writes: Despite the high demand for tech workers of pretty much all stripes, the hiring process is still rather drawn out, with the average time-to-hire for Software Engineers taking 35 days. That's one of the findings of a new study from career site Glassdoor. The study, led by Glassdoor's Chief Economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, analyzed over 340,000 interview reviews, covering 74,000 unique job titles, submitted to the site from February 2009 through February 2015. Glassdoor found that the average time-to-hire for all jobs has increased 80% (from 12.6 days to 22.9 days) since 2010. The biggest reason for this jump: The increased reliance on screening tests of various sorts, from background checks and skills tests to drug tests and personality tests, among others.

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Google Tests Code Repository Service

Thu, 25/06/2015 - 9:41pm
An anonymous reader writes: VentureBeat notes that Google has begun testing an unannounced service to host and edit source code repositories as part of its cloud platform. It's called Cloud Source Repositories, and it's currently being beta-tested. "Google is taking a gradual approach with the new service: It can serve as a 'remote' for Git repositories sitting elsewhere on the Internet or locally. Still, over time the new tool could help Google become more of an all-in-one destination for building and deploying applications."

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Editor of 'Reason' Discusses Federal Subpoena To Unmask Commenters

Thu, 25/06/2015 - 9:00pm
mi points out an article from Nick Gillespie, editor of libertarian website Reason, who was recently asked by the federal government to provide identifying information on anonymous commenters from one of the site's blog posts. Not only was Reason issued a subpoena for the commenters's identities, but they were also placed under a gag order, preventing them from even mentioning it to somebody who wasn't their lawyer. Gillespie says the comments in question were "hyperbolic, in questionable taste–and fully within the norms of Internet commentary." He continues: To the extent that the feds actually thought these were serious plans to do real harm, why the hell would they respond with a slow-moving subpoena whose deadline was days away? By spending five minutes doing the laziest, George Jetson-style online "research" (read: Google and site searches), they would have found publicly available info on some of the commenters. I'm talking things like websites and Google+ pages. One of the commenters had literally posted thousands of comments at Reason.com, from which it is clear that he (assuming it is a he) is not exactly a threat to anyone other than common decency."

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Making a Birdhouse is Like 'Hello World' for a Versatile Factory Robot (2 Videos)

Thu, 25/06/2015 - 8:17pm
Many millions of American students have been called on to construct a wooden birdhouse as part of a middle- or high-school shop class. To make a birdhouse from wood and nails may not requite advanced carpentry, but it does take eye-hand coordination, object recognition, the ability to lift constituent pieces, and to grasp and wield tools -- and each of those can be broken down further into smaller tasks and skills of the kind that we as humans don't generally have to think about. ("Rotate wrist slightly to account for board angle.") For robots, it's another story: like the computers that run them, robots generally only do what they're told. Industrial robots can do some complex tasks, but they're expensive and complex to program. Benjamin Cohen is a Ph.D candidate at the University of Pennsylvania working under adviser Maxim Likhachev with a real-world, cheap way to make robots to accomplish a multi-step project with minimal human intervention, which he calls "autonomous robotic assembly." Project Birdhouse -- part of his Ph.D. work, along with teammates Mike Phillips and Ellis Ranter -- is Cohen's effort to create a sort of "Hello, World" for robots. With a combination of a research-platform robot base, off-the-shelf parts, like a nail gun (read: "One not built for robot use"), and software to squeeze greater accuracy out of the system as a whole, he and his colleagues have come up with a robot that can grab a selection of parts, align them properly, and assemble them with nails into a functional birdhouse. QR codes let the robot give the robot a sort of recipe to follow, and the system is smart enough to squawk if it doesn't have the right parts to complete the task. (Check out more video with the robot in action, and a great many photos, sketches, and diagrams illustrating the project's evolution.) NOTE: We split today's video in half, with both halves running right here, today. This way, if you watch the first video and and want to learn more, you can move on to the second one. And the transcript not only covers both videos, but has "bonus" material that isn't in either one.

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Wi-Fi Router's 'Pregnant Women' Setting Sparks Vendor Rivalry In China

Thu, 25/06/2015 - 7:27pm
colinneagle writes: When one Chinese technology vendor, Qihoo, launched a new Wi-Fi router with a safety setting for "pregnant women," a rival vendor took offense to the implication that their routers might be dangerous. Xiamo, which also sells Wi-Fi routers, took to its page on Chinese social media site Weibo to denounce Qihoo's pregnant women mode as a "marketing tactic," and clarify that "Wi-Fi usage is safe." Zhou Hongyi, chief executive and president of Qihoo, acknowledged in a statement to the South China Morning Post that there is no evidence supporting claims that Wi-Fi routers pose a risk for birth defects. But he said the company is appealing to consumers' beliefs, whether they are supported by science or not. "We are targeting people who are afraid of radiation," Hongyi said. "We aren't scientists. We haven't done many experiments to prove how much damage the radiation from Wi-Fi can cause. We leave the right of choice to our customers."

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Supreme Court Upholds Key Obamacare Subsidies

Thu, 25/06/2015 - 6:45pm
HughPickens.com writes: Retuers reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 6 — 3 in favor of the nationwide availability of tax subsidies that are crucial to the implementation of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, handing a major victory to the president. It marked the second time in three years that the high court ruled against a major challenge to the law brought by conservatives seeking to gut it. "Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," wrote Chief Justice Roberts in the majority opinion (PDF). He added that nationwide availability of the credits is required to "avoid the type of calamitous result that Congress plainly meant to avoid." The ruling will come as a major relief to Obama as he seeks to ensure that his legacy legislative achievement is implemented effectively and survives political and legal attacks before he leaves office in early 2017. Justice Antonin Scalia took the relatively rare step of reading a summary of his dissenting opinion from the bench. "We really should start calling the law SCOTUScare," said Scalia referencing the court's earlier decision upholding the constitutionality of the law.

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Google, Apple, and Others Remove Content Related To the Confederate Flag

Thu, 25/06/2015 - 5:59pm
davek writes with news that Google is removing results related to the Confederate Flag from Google Shopping, the company's online marketplace. They're also blocking advertisements involving the flag. They say, "We have determined that the Confederate flag violates our Ads policies, which don't allow content that's generally perceived as expressing hate toward a particular group." At the same time, Apple is removing from the App Store any games or other software featuring the Confederate Flag. This, of course, follows the recent shooting in South Carolina, which triggered a nationwide debate over whether the flag should be flown at government buildings (or anywhere). Major online merchant websites like eBay and Amazon have already taken the step of banning merchandise relating to the flag.

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Interview: Ask Linus Torvalds a Question

Thu, 25/06/2015 - 5:17pm
samzenpus writes: Linus Torvalds, the man behind the development of the Linux kernel, needs no introduction to Slashdot readers. Recently, we talked about his opinion on C++, and he talked about the future of Linux when he's gone. It's been a while since we sat down with Linus to ask him questions, so he's agreed to do it again and answer any you may have. Ask as many questions as you'd like, but please keep them to one per post.

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New Manufacturing Technique Halves Cost of Lithium-Ion Batteries

Thu, 25/06/2015 - 4:35pm
An anonymous reader writes: Experts in materials science at MIT have developed a new process for creating lithium-ion batteries that will drop the associated production costs by half. The researchers say fundamental battery construction techniques have been refined over the past two decades, but not re-thought. "The new battery design is a hybrid between flow batteries and conventional solid ones: In this version, while the electrode material does not flow, it is composed of a similar semisolid, colloidal suspension of particles. Chiang and Carter refer to this as a 'semisolid battery.' This approach greatly simplifies manufacturing, and also makes batteries that are flexible and resistant to damage, says Chiang. ... Instead of the standard method of applying liquid coatings to a roll of backing material, and then having to wait for that material to dry before it can move to the next manufacturing step, the new process keeps the electrode material in a liquid state and requires no drying stage at all. Using fewer, thicker electrodes, the system reduces the conventional battery architecture's number of distinct layers, as well as the amount of nonfunctional material in the structure, by 80 percent."

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Anti-Uber Taxi Protest Blocks Access To Airports In France

Thu, 25/06/2015 - 3:54pm
An anonymous reader writes: Taxi drivers in France have been complaining that a recently passed law against unlicensed commercial drivers is being flouted by Uber, and going relatively unenforced by authorities. They claim to have lost 30% of their income to Uber over the past two years, and they've become fed-up with the situation. The taxi drivers have now started an indefinite, nation-wide strike in protest. Part of that strike involves blocking access to Paris's Roissy airport as well as the main road encircling the city. Protesters have also blocked access to train stations in Merseille and Aix. "The drivers — who have to pay thousands of euros for a license — say they are being unfairly undercut by Uber, which is not licensed by the authorities. Prosecutors have cracked down on Uber, filing almost 500 legal cases involving complaints about UberPOP. About 100 attacks on Uber drivers and passengers have been reported in recent weeks."

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New Google and CMU Moonshot: the 'Teacherless Classroom'

Thu, 25/06/2015 - 3:11pm
theodp writes: At the behest of Google, Carnegie Mellon University will largely replace formal lectures in a popular introductory Data Structures and Algorithms course this fall with videos and a social networking tool to accommodate more students. The idea behind the multi-year research project sponsored by Google — CMU will receive $200,000 in the project's first year — is to find a way to leverage existing faculty to meet a growing demand for computer science courses, while also expanding the opportunities for underrepresented minorities, high school students and community college students, explained Jacobo Carrasquel, associate teaching professor of CS. "As we teach a wider diversity of students, with different backgrounds, we can no longer teach to 'the middle,'" Carrasquel said. "When you do that, you're not aiming at the 20 percent of the top students or the 20 percent at the bottom." The move to a "teacherless classroom" for CS students at CMU [tuition $48K] comes on the heels of another Google CS Capacity Award-inspired move at Stanford [tuition $45K], where Pair Programming was adopted in a popular introductory CS class to "reduce the increasingly demanding workload for section leaders due to high enrollment and also help students to develop important collaboration skills."

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