Google

Google Enters Race For Nuclear Fusion Technology (theguardian.com) 49

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Google and a leading nuclear fusion company have developed a new computer algorithm which has significantly speeded up experiments on plasmas, the ultra-hot balls of gas at the heart of the energy technology. Tri Alpha Energy, which is backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has raised over $500 million in investment. It has worked with Google Research to create what they call the Optometrist algorithm. This enables high-powered computation to be combined with human judgement to find new and better solutions to complex problems. Working with Google enabled experiment's on Tri Alpha Energy's C2-U machine to progress much faster, with operations that took a month speeded up to just a few hours. The algorithm revealed unexpected ways of operating the plasma, with the research published on Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports. The team achieved a 50% reduction in energy losses from the system and a resulting increase in total plasma energy, which must reach a critical threshold for fusion to occur.
AT&T

AT&T Loses Record Number of Traditional TV Subscribers In Q2, Drops 156,000 DirecTV Satellite Customers (variety.com) 29

According to Variety, AT&T's pay-TV business has lost a record 351,000 traditional video customers in the second quarter, with the internet-delivered DirecTV Now service failing to fully offset the losses. From the report: In Q2, historically a seasonally weak period for the pay-TV business, DirecTV's U.S. satellite division lost 156,000 customers sequentially, dropping to 20.86 million, compared with a gain of 342,000 in the year-earlier quarter. AT&T's U-verse lost 195,000 subs in the quarter, which was actually an improvement over the 391,000 it lost in Q2 of 2016. AT&T touted that it gained 152,000 DirecTV Now customers in Q2, after adding just 72,000 in the first quarter of 2017. Overall, it had signed up 491,000 DirecTV Now subs as of the end of June, after the OTT service launched seven months ago.
Medicine

Sperm Counts Among Western Men Have Halved In Last 40 Years, Says Study (theguardian.com) 205

New submitter flote shares a report from The Guardian: Sperm counts among men have more than halved in the last 40 years, research suggests, although the drivers behind the decline remain unclear. The latest findings reveal that between 1973 and 2011, the concentration of sperm in the ejaculate of men in western countries has fallen by an average of 1.4% a year, leading to an overall drop of just over 52%. The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction Update by an international team of researchers, drew on 185 studies conducted between 1973 and 2011, involving almost 43,000 men. The team split the data based on whether the men were from western countries -- including Australia and New Zealand as well as countries in North America and Europe -- or from elsewhere. After accounting for factors including age and how long men had gone without ejaculation, the team found that sperm concentration fell from 99 million per ml in 1973 to 47.1 million per ml in 2011 -- a decline of 52.4% -- among western men unaware of their fertility. For the same group, total sperm count -- the number of sperm in a semen sample -- fell by just under 60%.
Transportation

India's Transport Minister Vows To Ban Self-Driving Cars To Save Jobs (arstechnica.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Companies in the United States, Germany, Japan, and other countries are racing to develop self-driving cars. But India's top transportation regulator says that those cars won't be welcome on Indian streets any time soon. "We won't allow driverless cars in India," said Nitin Gadkari, India's minister for Road Transport, Highways, and Shipping, according to the Hindustan Times. "I am very clear on this. We won't allow any technology that takes away jobs." Gadkari is taking a very different approach from politicians in the United States, where both the Obama and Trump administrations have been keen to promote the development of self-driving vehicles. "We are bullish on automated vehicles," said Obama Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx last year. His successor, Elaine Chao, has also signaled support for self-driving technology, while also expressing concerns about safety risks and potential job losses.
Businesses

Trump Says Apple's Tim Cook Has Promised Him He'd Build Three US Factories: 'Big, Big, Big' (cnbc.com) 138

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Apple CEO Tim Cook has committed to build three big manufacturing plants in the U.S., a surprising statement that would help fulfill his administration's economic goal of reviving American manufacturing. From a report: Apple CEO Tim Cook called Trump to share that the iPhone-maker would do more manufacturing domestically, Trump told WSJ. "I spoke to [Mr. Cook], he's promised me three big plants -- big, big, big," Trump was quoted as saying. Apple has already said that it would start a $1 billion fund to promote advanced manufacturing jobs in the United States. With its wide network of developers, Apple has already created two million jobs in the United States, according to Cook.
Businesses

Tech Jobs Are Surging in Seattle, Declining in Silicon Valley (axios.com) 120

The number of posted tech jobs rose by 10.7 percent in the first half of the year from 2016 in the Seattle area, as eight tech hubs continue to dominate the U.S. technology industry, according to a new study by Indeed. From a report: But while Silicon Valley retains its spot as the premier technological center in the U.S., tech listings plunged by 5.9 percent in the western and southern valley around San Jose in the first half of the year, and an even higher 7.8 percent in San Francisco and along the eastern Bay Area, Indeed said. Raleigh, NC, saw the largest plummet, with tech listings dropping by 14.6 percent.
Businesses

Roomba's Next Big Step Is Selling Maps of Your Home to the Highest Bidder (gizmodo.com) 108

The maker of the Roomba robotic vacuum, iRobot -- which we have talked about several times in the past -- has found itself embroiled in a privacy row after its chief executive suggested it may begin selling floor plans of customers' homes, derived from the movement data of their autonomous servants. From a report: While it may seem like the information that a Roomba could gather is minimal, there's a lot to be gleaned from the maps it's constantly updating. It knows the floor plan of your home, the basic shape of everything on your floor, what areas require the most maintenance, and how often you require cleaning cycles, along with many other data points. [...] If a company like Amazon, for example, wanted to improve its Echo smart speaker, the Roomba's mapping info could certainly help out. Spatial mapping could improve audio performance by taking advantage of the room's acoustics. Do you have a large room that's practically empty? Targeted furniture ads might be quite effective. The laser and camera sensors would paint a nice portrait for lighting needs that would factor into smart lights that adjust in real time. Smart AC units could better control airflow. And additional sensors added in the future would gather even more data from this live-in double agent.
Businesses

Amazon Jacked Up Prime Day Prices, Misleading Consumers, Says Vendor (foxbusiness.com) 207

An anonymous reader shares a report: A Charlotte-based startup says e-commerce king Amazon jacked up their suggested retail price during the company's annual discount event -- Prime Day -- to deceive consumers into thinking that they were getting a deal, when in reality, they weren't. Jason Jacobs, founder of Remodeez, a small company that specializes in non-toxic foot deodorizers and other odor stoppers, says he had an agreement with Amazon since 2015 on a suggested retail price of $9.99 for his products and was shocked after the tech giant almost doubled that on Prime Day to make it look like people were getting a discount, when they were actually paying full price. "They showed the product at $15.42 and then exed it out to put '$9.99 for Amazon Prime Day.' And on the final day, the price was like $18.44. So, we put a support ticket in right away and I rallied some friends through social media to go to their complaint board and complain," Jacobs tells FOX Business.
Moon

A New Study Shows the Moon's Interior Could Contain Water (npr.org) 65

A new study from Brown University shows the moon might be flowing with more water than we thought, thanks to ancient volcanic deposits. NPR reports: Using satellite data, scientists from Brown University studied layers of rock on the moon that likely formed from large volcanic eruptions, called lunar pyroclastic deposits. The magma created by these eruptions has been carried to the moon's surface from very deep within its interior, the study showed. What's interesting about this new study, though, is that it shows the water is far more than just ice hiding in shadowy areas of the moon. In fact, there are likely pools of water in the moon's mantle, as well. If there's water in the moon's mantle, that suggests that the water was delivered to the moon very early in its formation, before it fully solidified, the study's lead author, Ralph Milliken told Space.com. Because the magma originally comes from deep within the lunar interior, Milliken explains, "the deep interior of the moon must also contain water."
Earth

World's First Floating Wind Farm Emerges Off Coast of Scotland (bbc.co.uk) 235

AmiMoJo writes: The world's first full-scale floating wind farm has started to take shape off the north-east coast of Scotland. The revolutionary technology will allow wind power to be harvested in waters too deep for the current conventional bottom-standing turbines. The manufacturer hopes to cash in on a boom in the technology, especially in Japan and the west coast of the U.S., where waters are deep. The tower, including the blades, stretches to 175m and weighs 11,500 tons. The price of energy from bottom-standing offshore wind farms has plummeted 32% since 2012, and is now four years ahead of the government's expected target. Another big price drop is expected, taking offshore wind to a much lower price than new nuclear power.
Security

Fourth Ethereum Platform Hacked This Month: Hacker Steals $8.4 Million From Veritaseum Platform (bleepingcomputer.com) 96

An anonymous reader writes: "Veritaseum has confirmed today that a hacker stole $8.4 million from the platform's ICO on Sunday, July 23," reports Bleeping Computer. "This is the second ICO hack in the last week and the fourth hack of an Ethereum platform this month. An ICO (Initial Coin Offering) is similar to a classic IPO (Initial Public Offering), but instead of stocks in a company, buyers get tokens in an online platform. Users can keep tokens until the issuing company decides to buy them back, or they can sell the tokens to other users for Ethereum. Veritaseum was holding its ICO over the weekend, allowing users to buy VERI tokens for a product the company was preparing to launch in the realm of financial services." The hacker breached its systems, stole VERI tokens and immediately dumped them on the market due to the high-demand. The hacker made $8.4 million from the token sale, which he immediately started to launder. In a post-mortem announcement, Middleton posted online today, the Veritaseum CEO said "the amount stolen was miniscule (less than 00.07%) although the dollar amount was quite material." The CEO also suspects that "at least one corporate partner that may have dropped the ball and [might] be liable." Previous Ethereum services hacks include Parity, CoinDash, and Classic Ether Wallet.
Democrats

Democrats Propose New Competition Laws That Would 'Break Up Big Companies If They're Hurting Consumers' (arstechnica.com) 313

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Senate and House Democratic leaders today proposed new antitrust laws that could prevent many of the biggest mergers and break up monopolies in broadband and other industries. "Right now our antitrust laws are designed to allow huge corporations to merge, padding the pockets of investors but sending costs skyrocketing for everything from cable bills and airline tickets to food and health care," US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote in a New York Times opinion piece. "We are going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they're hurting consumers and to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition." The "Better Deal" unveiled by Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was described in several documents that can be found in an Axios story. The plan for "cracking down on corporate monopolies" lists five industries that Democrats say are in particular need of change, specifically airlines, cable and telecom, the beer industry, food, and eyeglasses. The Democrats' plan for lowering the cost of prescription drugs is detailed in a separate document. The Democrats didn't single out any internet providers that they want broken up, but they did say they want to stop AT&T's proposed $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner: "Consolidation in the telecommunications is not just between cable or phone providers; increasingly, large firms are trying to buy up content providers. Currently, AT&T is trying to buy Time Warner. If AT&T succeeds in this deal, it will have more power to restrict the content access of its 135 million wireless and 25.5 million pay-TV subscribers. This will only enable the resulting behemoths to promote their own programming, unfairly discriminate against other distributors and their ability to offer highly desired content, and further restrict small businesses from successfully competing in the market."
Books

United Airlines Claims TSA Banned Comic Books In Checked Luggage For Comic-Con, TSA Denies It (boardingarea.com) 106

schwit1 shares a report: San Diego Comic-Con has become so much more than just a comic book convention. But comic books remain the heart and soul of Comic-Con. In addition to attendees being there to buy comic books, vendors flock to Comic-Con to sell their comic books as well. That's why participants in Comic-Con were shocked to find a notice waiting for them at the San Diego airport after Comic-Con: "COMIC-CON ATTENDEES: REMOVE ALL BOOKS FROM CHECKED BAGS." On Twitter, United Airlines confirmed the ban: "The restriction on checking comic books applies to all airlines operating out of San Diego this weekend and is set by the TSA. ^MD" Consumerist reached out to TSA and were told by a spokeswoman that the warnings about not allowing comic books -- or any kind of book -- in checked bags were simply not true. There is "no restriction on anything related to putting comics or any type of books" in baggage, and TSA never put out any guidance to that effect, she said. "In fact, they are allowed in both checked and carry-on baggage," the spokeswoman told Consumerist, adding that there were no delays in the processing of checked bags out of San Diego yesterday.
Businesses

Unemployment in the UK is Now So Low It's in Danger of Exposing the Lie Used To Create the Numbers (businessinsider.com) 357

Unemployment in Britain is now just 4.5 percent. There are only 1.49 million unemployed people in the UK, versus 32 million people with jobs. This is almost unheard of. Unemployment was most recently this low in December 1973, when the UK set an unrepeated record of just 3.4 percent. From a report: The problem with this record is that the statistical definition of "unemployment" relies on a fiction that economists tell themselves about the nature of work. As the rate gets lower and lower, it tests that lie. Because -- as anyone who has studied basic economics knows -- the official definition of unemployment disguises the true rate. In reality, about 21.5 percent of all working-age people (defined as ages 16 to 64) are without jobs, or 8.83 million people, according to the Office for National Statistics. That's more than four times the official number. For decades, economists have agreed on an artificial definition of what unemployment means. Their argument is that people who are taking time off, or have given up looking for work, or work at home to look after their family, don't count as part of the workforce.
Businesses

Pittsburgh Gets a Tech Makeover (nytimes.com) 40

An anonymous reader shares a report: In 2015, Monocle magazine, a favorite read of the global hipsterati, published an enthusiastic report on Lawrenceville, the former blue-collar neighborhood here filled with cafes, hyped restaurants and brick rowhouses being renovated by flippers. Last year, in a much-publicized development, Uber began testing self-driving cars on the streets, putting this city at the forefront of the autonomous-vehicle revolution. Also last year, in a less publicized development, Jean Yang, 30, returned to this city after more than a decade of living in Boston, finding a Pittsburgh she hardly recognized from her 1990s childhood. And four months ago, Caesar Wirth, a 28-year-old software engineer, moved from Tokyo to work for a local tech start-up, Duolingo. These seemingly unrelated events have one thing in common: Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science. Much has been made of the "food boom" in Pittsburgh, and the city has long had a thriving arts scene. But perhaps the secret, underlying driver for both the economy and the cool factor -- the reason Pittsburgh now gets mentioned alongside Brooklyn and Portland, Ore., as an urban hot spot for millennials -- isn't chefs or artists but geeks. In a 2014 article in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mayor Bill Peduto compared Carnegie Mellon, along with the University of Pittsburgh, to the iron ore factories that made this city an industrial power in the 19th century. The schools are the local resource "churning out that talent" from which the city is fueled. Because of the top students and research professors at Carnegie Mellon, tech companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Uber have opened offices here. The big tech firms, along with their highly skilled, highly paid workers, have made Pittsburgh younger and more international and helped to transform once-derelict neighborhoods like Lawrenceville and East Liberty. Indeed, East Liberty has become something of a tech hub, said Luis von Ahn, the co-founder and chief executive of Duolingo, a language-learning platform company with its headquarters in that neighborhood. Google Pittsburgh, with its more than 500 employees, also has part of its offices in East Liberty, as does AlphaLab, a start-up accelerator.

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