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Updated: 11 min 28 sec ago

Consumers Are Holding Off On Buying Smart-Home Gadgets Due To Security, Privacy Fears

Thu, 16/11/2017 - 10:00am
According to a new survey from consulting firm Deloitte, consumers are uneasy about being watched, listened to, or tracked by devices they place in their homes. The firm found that consumer interest in connected home technology lags behind their interest in other types of IoT devices. Business Insider reports: "Consumers are more open to, and interested in, the connected world," the firm said in its report. Noting the concerns about smart home devices, it added: "But not all IoT is created equal." Nearly 40% of those who participated in the survey said they were concerned about connected-home devices tracking their usage. More than 40% said they were worried that such gadgets would expose too much about their daily lives. Meanwhile, the vast majority of consumers think gadget makers weren't doing a good job of telling them about security risks. Fewer than 20% of survey respondents said they were very well informed about such risks and almost 40% said they weren't informed at all.

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Astronomers Find An Earth-Size World Just 11 Light Years Away

Thu, 16/11/2017 - 7:00am
Astronomers have discovered a planet 35 percent more massive than Earth in orbit around a red dwarf star just 11 light years from the Sun. "The planet, Ross 128 b, likely exists at the edge of the small, relatively faint star's habitable zone even though it is 20 times closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun," reports Ars Technica. "The study in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics finds the best estimate for its surface temperature is between -60 degrees Celsius and 20 degrees Celsius." From the report: This is not the closest Earth-size world that could potentially harbor liquid water on its surface -- that title is held by Proxima Centauri b, which is less than 4.3 light years away from Earth and located in the star system closest to the Sun. Even so, due to a variety of factors, Ross 128 b is tied for fourth on a list of potentially most habitable exoplanets, with an Earth Similarity Index value of 0.86. In the new research, astronomers discuss another reason to believe that life might be more likely to exist on Ross 128 b. That's because its parent star, Ross 128, is a relatively quiet red dwarf star, producing fewer stellar flares than most other, similar-sized stars such as Proxima Centauri. Such flares may well sterilize any life that might develop on such a world.

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Researchers Analyze DNA From 'Supercentenarians' Aged 110+ To Discover Secret To Longevity

Thu, 16/11/2017 - 3:30am
biobricks writes: Scientists looking for clues to healthy longevity in people in their 90s and 100s haven't turned up a whole lot. It is thought that the DNA of the very old may be a good place to look, but people over 110 are one in five million in the United States. The New York Times chronicles one scientific quest to collect their DNA (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). From the report: "James Clement, a self-described 'citizen-scientist,' has collected blood, skin and saliva samples from individuals aged 110-plus in 14 states and seven countries during the past six years, The New York Times reports. Mr. Clement has detected 2,500-plus differences between supercentenarian DNA and the general population. However, with a sample size of only some three dozen genomes, his team is still working to determine which genes are significant. One analysis suggested supercentenarians tended to inherit fewer genetic variations related to conditions like heart disease and Alzheimer's disease. However, since supercentenarians also tend to be more healthy than the general population, some researchers hypothesize there are other genetic benefits at play. For example, supercentenarians may boast genes that protect them from aspects of aging." Mr. Clement plans to release DNA sequences from the project, called the New England Centenarian Study, this month.

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Twitter Bans, Removes Verified Status of White Supremacists

Thu, 16/11/2017 - 2:10am
After updating the rules of its verification program on Wednesday, Twitter has begun banning and removing verified check marks from white supremacist accounts. For example, white supremacists Richard Spencer and Charlottesville "Unite The Right" protest creator Jason Kessler had their verified statuses revoked today. The Daily Beast reports: The verified check mark was meant to denote "that an account of public interest is authentic," the company said in a series of tweets on Wednesday, but that "verification has long been perceived as an endorsement." "This perception became worse when we opened up verification for public submissions and verified people who we in no way endorse," a company spokesperson tweeted. Users can now lose their blue checkmarks for "inciting or engaging in harassment of others," "promoting hate and/or violence against, or directly attacking or threatening other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease," supporting people who promote those ideas, and a slew of other reasons.

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League of Legends Rank Predicts IQ, Study Finds

Thu, 16/11/2017 - 1:30am
limbicsystem writes: A new publication in the journal PLOS ONE shows that your rank in League of Legends (LoL) correlates with your intelligence quotient (IQ). Games like LoL and DOTA II apparently depend on the same cognitive resources that underlie tests of fluid intelligence. That means that proficiency in those games peaks at the same age as raw IQ -- about 25 -- while scores in more reaction-time based games like Destiny or Battlefield seem to decline from the teens onwards. The researchers suggest that the massive datasets from these online games could be used to assess population-level cognitive health in real-time across the globe. The authors have a nice FAQ (and open datasets) here.

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Slashdot Asks: Have You Switched To Firefox 57?

Thu, 16/11/2017 - 12:50am
Yesterday, Mozilla launched Firefox 57 for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. It brings massive performance improvements as it incorporates the company's next-generation browser engine called Project Quantum; it also features a visual redesign and support for extensions built using the WebExtension API. Have you used Firefox's new browser? Does it offer enough to make you switch from your tried-and-true browser of choice? We'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Walmart Is Raising Prices Online To Increase In-Store Traffic

Thu, 16/11/2017 - 12:10am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Walmart is taking a bit of an nontraditional approach to boost sales ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events by raising prices for products sold online and discounting those same items in physical retail stores. According to The Wall Street Journal, the big-box store has quietly raised prices for household and food items such as toothbrushes, macaroni and cheese, and dog food on its website while the prices in stores remained the same. If there are price discrepancies between online and in-store purchases, Walmart will now highlight this on the product's web listing to encourage customers to buy them from their local stores. It's all part of an effort to increase foot traffic as Walmart continues to compete with Amazon just about everywhere else. With the new pricing strategy, a twin-pack of Betty Crocker Hamburger Helper costs $3.30 on Walmart.com, but goes as low as $2.50 if purchased at a store in Illinois. The aim is to also help reduce processing costs and increase online sales margins, since driving customers to stores means less shipping costs for the retailer. Shipping one box of instant macaroni and cheese from Chicago to Atlanta could cost Walmart as much as $10, reports the WSJ.

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Russia Posts Video Game Screenshot As 'Irrefutable Proof' of US Helping IS

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 11:30pm
Plus1Entropy shares a report from BBC, adding: "But when I asked Putin, he said they didn't do it": Russia's Ministry of Defense has posted what it called "irrefutable proof" of the U.S. aiding so-called Islamic State -- but one of the images was actually taken from a video game. The ministry claimed the image showed an IS convoy leaving a Syrian town last week aided by U.S. forces. Instead, it came from the smartphone game AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron. The ministry said an employee had mistakenly attached the photo. The Conflict Intelligence Team fact-checking group said the other four provided were also errors, taken from a June 2016 video which showed the Iraqi Air Force attacking IS in Iraq. The video game image seems to be taken from a promotional video on the game's website and YouTube channel, closely cropped to omit the game controls and on-screen information. In the corner of the image, however, a few letters of the developer's disclaimer can still be seen: "Development footage. This is a work in progress. All content subject to change."

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TechShop Announces Chapter 7 Bankruptcy; Closes All Locations

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 10:50pm
ewhac writes: To the shock and dismay of many, TechShop today announced the immediate closure of all of its U.S. locations and is entering Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. Their homepage has been replaced with a PDF relating TechShop's history, and detailing the circumstances leading to shutting down the company. First launched ten years ago, TechShop was one of the first "shared maker spaces," a members-only machine and work shop where tinkerers, makers, inventors, and innovators were able to prototype their ideas, launch products, or even just fix their own stuff. Its closing will be a huge loss to the tech and maker communities.

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FCC Plans December Vote To Kill Net Neutrality Rules

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 10:10pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission under its Republican chairman plans to vote in December to kill the net neutrality rules passed during the Obama era, said two people briefed on the plans. Chairman Ajit Pai in April proposed gutting the rules that he blamed for depressing investment in broadband, and said he intended to "finish the job" this year. The chairman has decided to put his proposal to a vote at the FCC next month, said the people. The agency's monthly meeting is to be held Dec. 14. The people asked not to be identified because the plan hasn't been made public. It's not clear what language Pai will offer to replace the rules that passed with only Democratic votes at the FCC in 2015. He has proposed that the FCC end the designation of broadband companies such as AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. as common carriers. That would remove the legal authority that underpins the net neutrality rules. One of the people said Pai may call for vacating the rules except for portions that mandate internet service providers inform customers about their practices. The current regulations forbid broadband providers from blocking or slowing web traffic, or from charging higher fees in return for quicker passage over their networks.

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Companies Wake Up To the Problem of Bullies At Work

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 9:30pm
Reader cdreimer writes: According to a report in The Wall Street Journal (possibly paywalled), two-thirds of Americans have reported being bullied in the workplace in the last year (up from half in 1989) and boorish behavior by bosses and coworkers are causing companies in lost productivity. The report reads: One of the first things visitors notice when they enter the Irvine, Calif., offices of Bryan Cave LLP is the granite plaque etched with the law firm's 10-point code of civility. The gray slab, displayed in the law firm's reception area, proclaims that employees always say please and thank you, welcome feedback and acknowledge the contributions of others. Such rules may seem more at home in a kindergarten than a law firm, but Stuart Price, a longtime partner, says they serve as a daily reminder to keep things civil at work. Incivility -- and its more extreme cousin, bullying -- is becoming a bigger problem in workplaces. Nearly two-thirds of Americans reported that they were bullied at work last year, up from roughly half of workers in 1998, according to research conducted by Christine Porath, a management professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. These people reported they were "treated rudely at least once a month" by bosses or co-workers in the past year -- which Prof. Porath defined as being bullied.Bullying costs companies in ways large and small, cutting into productivity and turning off customers, management experts say. Workplace behavior is under the microscope after recent allegations of sexual harassment in Hollywood, technology and media. Some companies have found, as a result of investigations into harassment claims, that bullying and boorish behavior are more common than suspected.

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Hoverboards Recalled For Fire and Explosion Risks -- Again

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 8:50pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: The Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled hoverboards from several companies over concerns the devices could catch fire or explode. The series of recalls affects roughly 16,000 hoverboards from brands including iHoverspeed, Sonic Smart Wheels, Tech Drift, iLive, Go Wheels, Drone Nerds, LayZ Board and Smart Balance Wheel. All the brands of self-balancing scooters share a common problem: lithium-ion batteries that could potentially overheat and cause a fire or explode. The agency is advising owners to stop using the hoverboards immediately and return them to the appropriate company for a replacement. Consumers can visit the CPSC website for details on the recalls and how to contact companies for replacements.

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Amazon Is Cutting Prices at Whole Foods Again

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 8:10pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Amazon is giving Whole Foods shoppers an early gift for the holidays. The grocer announced Wednesday it's slashing prices again, this time on several "holiday staples," including sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin and turkey. If you're an Amazon Prime member, you'll pay even less for turkey: Whole Foods slashed turkey prices to $1.99 per pound (compared to $2.49 for non-Prime members), or $2.99 per pound for an organic turkey ($3.49 for non-Prime members).

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US Scientists Try 1st Gene Editing in the Body

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 7:30pm
Marilynn Marchione, reporting for Associated Press: Scientists for the first time have tried editing a gene inside the body in a bold attempt to permanently change a person's DNA to cure a disease. The experiment was done Monday in California on 44-year-old Brian Madeux. Through an IV, he received billions of copies of a corrective gene and a genetic tool to cut his DNA in a precise spot. "It's kind of humbling" to be the first to test this, said Madeux, who has a metabolic disease called Hunter syndrome. "I'm willing to take that risk. Hopefully it will help me and other people." Signs of whether it's working may come in a month; tests will show for sure in three months.

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Elon Musk's 'Scientific Method'

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 6:50pm
From a new wide-ranging interview of Elon Musk: An unfortunate fact of human nature is that when people make up their mind about something, they tend not to change it -- even when confronted with facts to the contrary. "It's very unscientific," Musk says. "There's this thing called physics, which is this scientific method that's really quite effective for figuring out the truth." The scientific method is a phrase Musk uses often when asked how he came up with an idea, solved a problem or chose to start a business. Here's how he defines it for his purposes, in mostly his own words: 1. Ask a question. 2. Gather as much evidence as possible about it. 3. Develop axioms based on the evidence, and try to assign a probability of truth to each one. 4. Draw a conclusion based on cogency in order to determine: Are these axioms correct, are they relevant, do they necessarily lead to this conclusion, and with what probability? 5. Attempt to disprove the conclusion. Seek refutation from others to further help break your conclusion. 6. If nobody can invalidate your conclusion, then you're probably right, but you're not certainly right.

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Technology Invading Nearly All US Jobs, Even Lower Skilled, Study Finds

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 6:10pm
An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: Forget robots. The real transformation taking place in nearly every workplace is the invasion of digital tools. The use of digital tools has increased, often dramatically, in 517 of 545 occupations since 2002, with a striking uptick in many lower-skilled occupations, according to a study released Wednesday by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. The report underscores the growing need for workers of all types to gain digital skills and explains why many employers say they struggle to fill jobs, including many that in the past required few digital skills. There is anxiety about automation displacing workers and in many cases, new digital tools allow one worker to do work previously done by several. Those 545 occupations reflect 90 percent of all jobs in the economy. The report found that jobs with greater digital content tend to pay more and are increasingly concentrated in traditional high-tech centers like Silicon Valley, Seattle and Austin, Texas.

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An Inside Look At the First Church of Artificial Intelligence

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 5:30pm
mirandakatz writes: This summer, Backchannel reported that Anthony Levandowski, the controversial engineer at the heart of the Uber/Waymo lawsuit, had filed paperwork for a new religion called the Way of the Future. Today, investigative reporter Mark Harris has all the details on what that AI-based religion actually likes -- and Levandowski granted him his first interview about the new religion and his only public interview since Waymo filed its suit in February. As Levandowski tells him, we can see a hint of how a superhuman intelligence might treat humanity in our current relationships with animals -- and that's why it's so important that we treat AI as a god, not a demon to be warded off. "Do you want to be a pet or livestock?" he asks. "We give pets medical attention, food, grooming, and entertainment. But an animal that's biting you, attacking you, barking and being annoying? I don't want to go there."

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What Did 17th Century Food Taste Like?

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 4:40pm
Benjamin Breen, an assistant professor of history at UC Santa Cruz, looks at art history to figure out what people cooked in the 1600s, and wonders whether it is possible to ascertain the taste of food. From a blog post: What can we learn about how people ate in the seventeenth century? And even if we can piece together historical recipes, can we ever really know what their food tasted like? This might seem like a relatively unimportant question. For one thing, the senses of other people are always going to be, at some level, unknowable, because they are so deeply subjective. Not only can I not know what Velazquez's fried eggs tasted like three hundred years ago, I arguably can't know what my neighbor's taste like. And why does the question matter, anyway? A very clear case can be made for the importance of the history of medicine and disease, or the histories of slavery, global commerce, warfare, and social change. By comparison, the taste of food doesn't seem to have the same stature. Fried eggs don't change the course of history. But taste does change history. Fascinating read.

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Forbes '30 Under 30' Conference Website Exposed Attendees' Personal Information

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 4:03pm
An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard report: Every year, Forbes' 30 Under 30 list recognizes people blessed with both youth and exceptional talent in their field -- including celebrities, startup founders, doctors, and artists. These are smart, savvy professionals -- and when some of them include information security pros, they're bound to go poking around for vulnerabilities. That's what Yan Zhu, a privacy engineer who made the 2015 list, was doing when she found a gaping privacy hole in the way Forbes handles recipients' personal information. Once you make the list, Yan told me in a Twitter direct message, Forbes asks you to register for its annual Under 30 Summit conference. "They send you a link for conference registration, but it's not tied to your email address," she said. "So you can literally enter anyone's email address who is also a 30 Under 30 member and it shows you their personal info." That information carries over into all future years, she said.

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Is American English Going To Take Over British English Completely?

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 3:20pm
Paul Baker, writing for The Conversation: Brits can get rather sniffy about the English language -- after all, they originated it. But a Google search of the word "Americanisms" turns up claims that they are swamping, killing and absorbing British English. If the British are not careful, so the argument goes, the homeland will soon be the 51st State as workers tell customers to "have a nice day" while "colour" will be spelt without a "u" and "pavements" will become "sidewalks." My research examined how both varieties of the language have been changing between the 1930s and the 2000s and the extent to which they are growing closer together or further apart. So do Brits have cause for concern? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, most of the easily noticeable features of British language are holding up. Take spelling, for example -- towards the 1960s it looked like the UK was going in the direction of abandoning the "u" in "colour" and writing "centre" as "center." But since then, the British have become more confident in some of their own spellings. In the 2000s, the UK used an American spelling choice about 11% of the time while Americans use a British one about 10% of the time, so it kind of evens out. Automatic spell-checkers which can be set to different national varieties are likely to play a part in keeping the two varieties fairly distinct. [...] But when we start thinking of language more in terms of style than vocabulary or spelling, a different picture emerges. Some of the bigger trends in American English are moving towards a more compact and informal use of language. American sentences are on average one word shorter in 2006 than they were in 1931. Americans also use a lot more apostrophes in their writing than they used to, which has the effect of turning the two words "do not" into the single "don't." They're getting rid of certain possessive structures, too -- so "the hand of the king" becomes the shorter "the king's hand." Another trend is to avoid passive structures such as "a paper was written," instead using the more active form, "I wrote a paper."

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