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AI

Japan Unveils Next-Generation, Pascal-Based AI Supercomputer (nextplatform.com) 121

The Tokyo Institute of Technology has announced plans to launch Japan's "fastest AI supercomputer" this summer. The supercomputer is called Tsubame 3.0 and will use Nvidia's latest Pascal-based Tesla P100 GPU accelerators to double its performance over its predecessor, the Tsubame 2.5. Slashdot reader kipperstem77 shares an excerpt from a report via The Next Platform: With all of those CPUs and GPUs, Tsubame 3.0 will have 12.15 petaflops of peak double precision performance, and is rated at 24.3 petaflops single precision and, importantly, is rated at 47.2 petaflops at the half precision that is important for neural networks employed in deep learning applications. When added to the existing Tsubame 2.5 machine and the experimental immersion-cooled Tsubame-KFC system, TiTech will have a total of 6,720 GPUs to bring to bear on workloads, adding up to a total of 64.3 aggregate petaflops at half precision. (This is interesting to us because that means Nvidia has worked with TiTech to get half precision working on Kepler GPUs, which did not formally support half precision.)
Patents

Patent Office Rules CRISPR Patents, Potentially Worth Billions, Belong To Broad Institute (theverge.com) 69

According to a ruling by judges at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the disputed patents on the gene-editing tool CRISPR belong to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. "The ruling comes a little over two months after a high-profile court hearing, during which MIT and University of California, Berkeley heatedly argued about who should own CRISPR," The Verge reports. From their report: STAT News reported that the decision was one sentence long. The three judges decided that the Broad patents are different enough from the ones the University of California applied for that the Broad patents stand. The patent ruling suggests that the work done by Jennifer Doudna of the University of California and her colleagues on CRISPR wasn't so groundbreaking as to make any other advance obvious. But that legal opinion isn't how the science world views her work, STAT points out: "Doudna and her chief collaborator, Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in the life sciences in 2015, the $500,000 Gruber Genetics Prize in 2015, and the $450,000 Japan Prize in 2017," the outlet notes.
Businesses

Delays, Confusion as Toshiba Reports $6 Billion Nuclear Hit and Slides To Loss (reuters.com) 87

Makiko Yamazaki, reporting for Reuters: After a day of delays and confusion, Japan's Toshiba said on Tuesday it expected to book a $6.3 billion hit to its U.S. nuclear unit, a writedown that wipes out its shareholder equity and will drag the group to a full-year loss. Hours earlier on Tuesday, the battered conglomerate rattled investors by failing to release its earnings on schedule, saying initially it was 'not ready' and then announcing later it needed more time to probe its Westinghouse nuclear business after internal reports uncovered potential problems. The figures eventually released were numbers that have yet to be approved by its auditor and Toshiba cautioned investors that a major revision was possible. Fully audited numbers are now not due till March 14 after the firm was granted a reprieve for its formal filing by Japanese regulators. "Finally now people are starting to recognize that internal control problems, the accounting issues and governance issues are very real and no longer abstract," said Zuhair Khan, an analyst at Jefferies in Tokyo. "They impact the viability of the company."
Earth

Can We Pollinate Flowers With Tiny Flying Drones? (economist.com) 130

An anonymous reader writes: An engineer in Japan has built a 1.6-inch "pollinator-bot" and successfully tested it in his lab. The drone's creator "has armed it with paintbrush hairs that are covered in a special gel sticky enough to pick pollen up, but not so sticky that it holds on to that pollen when it brushes up against something else," reports The Economist. They write that his experiments with the tiny drone "show that the drone can indeed carry pollen from flower to flower in the way an insect would -- though he has yet to confirm that seeds result from this pollination." While flown by a human pilot, next he hopes to equip the drones with their own flower-recognizing technology.

The Christian Science Monitor followed up with four experts, asking "Could a fleet of robo-pollinators replace, or at least supplement, the bees?" One said "There is no substitute for bees." Another pointed out that even if robo-bees are developed, some flowers will prove harder to pollinate than others. A third expert thought the technology could scale, though it would need to be mass-produced, and the engineers would need to develop a reusable pollen-collecting gel. But a fourth expert remained worried that it just couldn't scale without becoming too expensive. "I'm not sure that's going to be cheap enough to not make blueberries hundreds of dollars a pint."

Three of those experts also agreed that the best solution is just wild bees, because domesticated or not, "All they have to do is make sure to set aside enough land conducive to the bees' habitat."
Space

Space Junk-Fighting Cable Fails To Deploy (newscientist.com) 55

New Scientist reports: It's a rubbish start for the world's first space clean-up experiment. A cable designed to drag space junk out of orbit has failed to deploy from a Japanese spacecraft... A 700-metre-long metal cable was fitted to an unmanned spacecraft called Kounotori 6, which was on its way back to Earth after delivering supplies to the International Space Station. The cable was meant to unfurl from the spacecraft, at which point an electric current would pass along its length. The idea was that the current would interact with the Earth's magnetic field, creating a drag that pulled the spacecraft out of orbit. The spacecraft would then tumble into our atmosphere and become incinerated... However, Kounotori 6 was unable to release the cable to test its junk-removing potential, and JAXA could not fix the glitch before the spacecraft returned to Earth's atmosphere this morning... "Releasing a cable may seem simple, but nothing in space is simple," says Sean Tuttle at the University of New South Wales in Australia... The test's failure should be seen as a setback rather than a nail in the coffin for junk-removing cables, Tuttle says.
rickyslashdot writes: Because of the simplicity of this system, it is bound to be tested again -- hopefully sooner than later... This process is inherently safer than using rocket engines (to be attached to the junk), and is much less of a 'mass-to-orbit' cost, since it only requires a grappling system, and a spool of wire/cable. Hopefully, there will be a follow-up / re-try in the near future for this orbital debris clean-up process.
Communications

TeraHertz Transmitter Can Push 100Gbps+ Wireless Speeds Via a Single Channel (ispreview.co.uk) 53

Mark.JUK writes: A team of Japanese scientists working jointly for Hiroshima University and Panasonic have managed to develop a TeraHertz (THz) transmitter that is capable of transmitting digital data at a rate of 105 Gbps (gigabits per second) over a single channel using the frequency range from 290GHz to 315GHz. Previously it was only possible to achieve such speeds by harnessing multiple channels at the same time.

Professor Minoru Fujishima, Hiroshima University, said: "This year, we developed a transmitter with 10 times higher transmission power than the previous version's. This made the per-channel data rate above 100 Gbit/s at 300 GHz possible. We usually talk about wireless data rates in megabits per second or gigabits per second. But we are now approaching terabits per second using a plain simple single communication channel."

Japan

Excessive Radiation Inside Fukushima Fries Clean-Up Robot (gizmodo.com) 307

"A remotely-controlled robot sent to inspect and clean a damaged reactor at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant had to be pulled early when its onboard camera went dark, the result of excess radiation," reports Gizmodo. "The abbreviated mission suggests that radiation levels inside the reactor are even higher than was reported last week -- and that robots are going to have a hell of a time cleaning this mess up." From the report: Last week, Gizmodo reported that radiation levels inside the containment vessel of reactor No. 2 at Fukushima reached a jaw-dropping 530 sieverts per hour, a level high enough to kill a human within seconds. Some Japanese government officials questioned the reading because Tokyo Electric Power Company Holding (TEPCO) calculated it by looking at camera interference on the robot sent in to investigate, rather than measuring it directly with a geiger counter or dosimeter. It now appears that this initial estimate may have been too low. Either that, or TEPCO's robot is getting closer to the melted fuel -- which is very likely. High radiation readings near any of the used fuel are to be expected. Yesterday, that same remotely operated robot had to be pulled when its camera began to fail after just two hours of exposure to the radiation inside the damaged reactor. Accordingly, TEPCO has revised its estimate to about 650 sieverts per hour, which is 120 more sieverts than what was calculated late last month (although the new estimate comes with a 30 percent margin of error). The robot is designed to withstand about 1,000 accumulated sieverts, which given the failure after two hours, jibes well with the camera interference. This likely means that the melted fuel burned through its pressure vessel during the meltdown in March of 2011, and is sitting somewhere nearby.
Businesses

Lockheed Martin Screwup Delays Delivery of Air Force GPS Satellites (bloomberg.com) 68

schwit1 writes: Incompetence by a Lockheed Martin subcontractor will delay the delivery of 32 new Air Force GPS satellites and will likely cost the government millions. Bloomberg reports: "Lockheed has a contract to build the first 10 of the satellites designed to provide a more accurate version of the Global Positioning System used for everything from the military's targeting of terrorists to turn-by-turn directions for civilians' smartphones. The program's latest setback may affect a pending Air Force decision on whether to open the final 22 satellites to competition from Lockheed rivals Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. 'This was an avoidable situation and raised significant concerns with Lockheed Martin subcontractor management/oversight and Harris program management,' Teague said in a Dec. 21 message to congressional staff obtained by Bloomberg News. The parts in question are ceramic capacitors that have bedeviled the satellite project. They take higher-voltage power from the satellite's power system and reduce it to a voltage required for a particular subsystem. Last year, the Air Force and contractors discovered that Harris hadn't conducted tests on the components, including how long they would operate without failing, that should have been completed in 2010. Now, the Air Force says it found that Harris spent June to October of last year doing follow-up testing on the wrong parts instead of samples of the suspect capacitors installed on the first three satellites. Harris 'immediately notified Lockheed and the government' after a post-test inspection, Teague said in his message." So, the subcontractor first failed to do the required tests, then they did the tests on the wrong parts. Sounds like the kind of quality control problems we have seen recently in Russia and Japan. The worst part? The contract is a cost-plus contract, which means the U.S. tax payer has to absorb the additional costs for fixing the screw-up, not Lockheed Martin or its subcontractor.
Moon

A Guide To Friday's Comet-Eclipse-Full-Moon Triple Feature (cnet.com) 28

SonicSpike quotes a report from CNET: Even if you aren't a space nerd whose idea of a good time is craning your neck to stare into the vast nothingness of space on a frigid evening, this Friday the heavens will put on a show worth heading outdoors for. A penumbral lunar eclipse, a full "snow moon" and a comet will be spicing up the night sky February 10 in a rare convergence of such celestial happenings. We'll start with our nearest neighbor. February brings the full moon known as the "snow moon" because this month in North America tends to see a lot of the white fluffy stuff. This snow moon will be special though because, well... we'll all get in its way in a sense when the penumbral lunar eclipse takes place Friday. The eclipse will be at least partly visible from most but not all places on Earth (sorry Australia and Japan). The moment of greatest eclipse is at 4:43 p.m. PT and the eclipse will then dissipate until it completes a little over two hours later, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. Next up, Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova has actually been visible with binoculars and telescopes for several weeks already, but it will be at its closest approach to Earth on the morning of February 11 as it passes by at a distance of 7.4 million miles (11.9 million kilometers) or 30 times further away than the moon.
Businesses

'We Need Robots To Take Our Jobs,' Veteran Tech Reporter John Markoff Explains Why (recode.net) 318

Former New York Times technology reporter John Markoff used to think robots taking jobs was cause for alarm. Then, he found out that the working-age population in China, Japan, Korea and the U.S. was declining. From a report on Recode: "We need the robots for two reasons: On the one side, there are not enough workers," Markoff said on the latest episode of Recode Decode. "The demographic trends are more important than the technological trends, and they happen more quickly. On the other side, there's this thing called the dependency ratio, the ratio between caregivers and people who need care," he added. "For the first time last year, there were more people in the world who are over 65 than under five. First time ever in history. By the middle of the century, the number of people over 80 will double. By the end of the century, it'll be up sevenfold, globally."
DRM

DRM Company Denuvo Forgets To Secure Its Server, Leaks Two Years Of Emails (torrentfreak.com) 77

Denuvo "left several private directories on its website open to the public," TorrentFreak wrote Sunday, calling it "an embarrassing blunder" for the digital rights management company. "Members of the cracking community are downloading and scrutinizing the contents," the site reports, with one of the finds being an 11-megabyte text file which apparently contains every message sent through Denuvo's web site since 2014. An anonymous reader writes: There's a message from Google's security team, one from Capcom Japan, and "dozens of emails from angry pirates, each looking to vent their anger," according to TorrentFreak. Ars Technica reports that there's also a 2015 message from Microsoft about "an upcoming initiative," as well as messages several game studios, and even one from the producers of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. "Combing the log file brings up countless spam messages, along with complaints, confused 'why won't this game work' queries from apparent pirates, and even threats (an example: 'for what you did to arkham knight I will find you and I will kill you and all of your loved ones, this I promise you CEO of this SHIT drm')."

"Since Denuvo's contact page does not contain a link to a private e-mail address -- only a contact form and a phone number to the company's Austrian headquarters -- the form appears to also have been used by many game developers and publishers." And in addition, "much of Denuvo's web database content appears to be entirely unsecured, with root directories for 'fileadmin' and 'logs' sitting in the open right now."

In addition, there's also a slideshow -- which has since been uploaded to Imgur -- bragging that "With over 300 man years of development experience among us, we clearly know what we're doing."
Japan

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Medals To Be Made From Recycled Phones (silicon.co.uk) 56

Mickeycaskill quotes a report from Silicon.co.uk: The medals for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be made from recycled mobile phones in an effort to engage the Japanese nation and meet sustainability criteria. The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee has called on the Japanese public to donate their "discarded or obsolete electronic devices" to provide the eight tonnes of metal required for the production of the medals. The production process will reduce this eight tonnes down to around two, enough to produce 5,000 Olympic and Paralympic medals. Collection boxes will be installed in the stores of partner organizations NTT DOCOMO and the Japan Environmental Sanitation Center (JESC) from April, with the collection ending when the eight-tonne target is reached.
Software

'Father of Pac-Man,' Masaya Nakamura, Dies At Age 91 (japantimes.co.jp) 39

AmiMoJo writes from a report via The Japan Times: Masaya Nakamura, the founder of game developer Namco and known as "the father of Pac-Man," has died at age 91. He founded Nakamura Seisakusho in 1955, which was renamed Namco in 1977. The company developed numerous hit video games, including "Galaxian," "Pac-Man" and "Ridge Racer." "Pac-Man," designed by Namco's inhouse video game maker Toru Iwatani, is one of the most recognizable and popular video games in history. In 2005 it was listed by Guinness World Records as the "most successful coin-operated arcade machine."
Japan

Japanese Government Requires Java and Internet Explorer 11 X86 81

Long time reader AmiMoJo writes: Japan has introduced "My Number", a social security number assigned to citizens and used to access government services. Unfortunately, the My Number management web portal requires the Java plug-in. Because this plug-in is deprecated in many browsers, only Internet Explorer 11 (32 bit) and Safari on Mac are supported. The explanation (translated) given for this is that in order to access My Number contactless card readers Java is the only option. Some browsers support IC card access but it seems that it is not mature enough to be viable.
Medicine

Scientists Cure Mice of Diabetes Using Cells Grown Inside Rats (qz.com) 72

In a process that could transform organ transplantation, scientists in Japan and the U.S. have reportedly cured mice of diabetes by transplanting mouse cells grown in rats. The study has been published in the journal Nature. Quartz reports: To achieve this feat, researchers injected mouse pluripotent stem cells into a rat embryo. As the name suggests, these pluripotent stem cells are able to transform themselves into all types of cells. The mouse cells intermingled with rat cells, and created a chimera whose organs and tissues were almost all created from a mix of mouse and rat cells. Crucially, however, they had modified the rat to not produce pancreatic cells. They achieved this by knocking out a gene called Pdx1. The upshot was that the pancreas in the chimera was almost completely made of mouse cells. When the rat-mouse chimeras became adults, the researchers removed the animals' pancreases and from them, isolated endocrine islets, which contain B-cells that produce insulin. The B-cells were then transplanted to diabetic mice that had lost all their native B-cells. The mice that received the transplant were put on mild immunosuppressant drugs. However, the scientists found they only needed to administer the drugs for five days after transplantation. Surprisingly, the few rat cells that came along during the transplant (mostly in the blood vessels in the islets) had been destroyed and replaced by the mouse's own cells. The B-cells in mice that got the transplants functioned just as they would in a healthy mouse for more than a year, which was the complete observation period. These lab mice only live for two to three years, which makes a one-year observation fairly long. The research opens up the door for growing human organs inside, say, a pig, using the patient's own stem cells and then transplanting the organ when it's mature and ready.
Businesses

Foxconn Considers $7 Billion Screen Factory In US, Which Could Create Up To 50,000 Jobs (arstechnica.com) 381

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Foxconn, the Taiwanese contract manufacturing company best known for its partnership with Apple, has said that it is mulling a $7 billion investment in U.S. manufacturing that could create between 30,000 and 50,000 jobs. According to The Wall Street Journal, Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou says the company is talking with the state of Pennsylvania among others about getting the land and electricity subsidies it would need to build a factory. "If U.S. state governments are willing to provide these terms, and we calculate and it is cheaper than shipping from China or Japan, then why wouldn't Sharp build a factory in the U.S.?" said Gou. The factory would build flat-panel screens under the Sharp name -- Foxconn bought Sharp around this time last year for $5.1 billion. Sharp President Tai Jeng-wu hinted in October of 2016 that U.S. manufacturing could be a possibility for Sharp, and he also indicated that Apple could begin using OLED display panels in future iPhones. Apple currently uses OLED in the Apple Watch and in the new MacBook Pro's Touch Bar, but otherwise it hasn't pushed to adopt the technology as some Android phone manufacturers have.
Japan

Japan is Testing USB Phone Charging Stations in Public Transport Buses (thenextweb.com) 71

According to Japanese news outlet IT Media, a public transport bus in the Tokyo area has introduced, and is currently testing, USB charging stations for commuter phones and tablets. From a report: While the local Bureau of Transportation hasn't formally announced or confirmed the trials, numerous passengers so far have reported seeing the charging ports. The service runs free of charge, with at least five of these wall-mounted charging hotspots placed inside the bus. According to reports, the service is currently available solely in a single bus. It remains unclear how long testing will continue or whether it will eventually roll out to more buses. Japan isn't the only country to have offered phone charging stations in public transport vehicles. Last September, London also equipped a limited number of busses with USB chargers. Similarly, Singapore ran trials with wall-mounted phone chargers on at least 10 buses in September last year.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Japan To End Tourists' Toilet Trouble With Standardised Buttons (theguardian.com) 187

The Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association, a consortium of companies producing plumbing products has agreed to unify the iconography used on the often baffling control panels for Japanese toilets. From a report on The Guardian: Navigating the array of buttons on Japan's high-tech toilets can be a disconcerting experience for the uninitiated, who, expecting to hear a familiar flushing sound, are instead subjected to a sudden, and unwanted, cleansing of the nether regions. As Japan prepares for an influx of overseas visitors during the 2019 rugby World Cup and the Tokyo Olympics the following year, the country's sanitation industry has agreed to standardize pictograms on toilets so users know for certain if they are about to receive a blast of warm air or a jet of water. Nine manufacturers belonging to the Japan sanitary equipment industry association will soon start using the same eight symbols to explain the buttons found on their state-of-the-art WCs. At a launch event this week, the firms said they had agreed to simplify the pictography in response to complaints from tourists that they are confused by symbols that differ depending on the make of toilet. In a survey of 600 foreign visitors, a quarter said they could not understand some of the symbols that appear on the toilet buttons.
Space

Japanese Spacecraft Spots Massive Gravity Wave In Venus' Atmosphere (theverge.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The Japanese probe Akatsuki has observed a massive gravity wave in the atmosphere of Venus. This is not the first time such a wave was observed on the Solar System's second planet, but it is the largest ever recorded, stretching just over 6,000 miles from end to end. Its features also suggest that the dynamics of Venus' atmosphere are more complex than previously thought. An atmospheric gravity wave is a ripple in the density of a planet's atmosphere, according to the European Space Agency. Akatsuki spotted this particular gravity wave, described in a paper published today in Nature Geoscience, when the probe arrived at the planet on December 7th, 2015. The spacecraft then lost sight of it on December 12th, 2015, because of a change in Akatsuki's orbit. When the probe returned to a position to observe the bow-shaped structure on January 15th, 2016, the bright wave had vanished. What sets the huge December wave apart from previously discovered ones is that it appeared to be stationary above a mountainous region on the planet's surface, despite the background atmospheric winds. The study's authors believe that the bright structure is the result of a gravity wave that was formed in the lower atmosphere as it flowed over the planet's mountainous terrain. It's not clear how the wave exactly propagates to the planet's upper atmosphere, where clouds rotate faster than the planets itself -- four days instead of the 243 days it takes Venus to rotate once.
Robotics

Half the Work People Do Can Be Automated, Says McKinsey (techinasia.com) 409

Half the work people do in their jobs can be automated, according to a study published by McKinsey Global Institute. From a report: Instead of assessing the impact of automation on specific jobs, the study went to a more granular level by looking at the activities involved in various jobs. The logic is that every occupation has a range of activities, each with varying potential for automation. McKinsey found that 49 percent of the activities people are paid to do in the global economy can be automated with "currently demonstrated technology." That involves US$11.9 trillion in wages and touches 1.1 billion people. The study encompassed over 50 countries and 80 percent of the world's workers. China, India, Japan, and the US accounted for half of the total wages and employees. Not surprisingly, the two most populous countries, China and India, could see the largest impact of automation, potentially affecting 600 million workers -- which is twice the population of the US.

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