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Earth

Global Warming Started 180 Years Ago Near Beginning of Industrial Revolution, Says Study (smh.com.au) 73

New research led by scientists at the Australian National University's Research School of Earth suggests that humans first started to significantly change the climate in the 1830s, near the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The findings have been published in the journal Nature, and "were based on natural records of climate variation in the world's oceans and continents, including those found in corals, ice cores, tree rings and the changing chemistry of stalagmites in caves." Sydney Morning Herald reports: "Nerilie Abram, another of the lead authors and an associate professor at the Australian National University's Research School of Earth Sciences, said greenhouse gas levels rose from about 280 parts per million in the 1830s to about 295 ppm by the end of that century. They now exceed 400 ppm. Understanding how humans were already altering the composition of the atmosphere through the 19th century means the warming is closer to the 1.5 to 2 degrees target agreed at last year's Paris climate summit than most people realize." "It was one of those moments where science really surprised us," says Abram. "But the results were clear. The climate warming we are witnessing today started about 180 years ago."
Robotics

'Octobot' Is The World's First Soft-Bodied Robot (sciencemag.org) 19

sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Researchers have created the first completely soft-bodied robot, dubbed the 'octobot.' The palm-sized machine's exterior is made of silicone. And whereas other soft robots have had at least a few hard parts, such as batteries or wires, the octobot uses a small reservoir of hydrogen peroxide as fuel. The basic design can be scaled up or down, increasing or decreasing fuel capacity depending on the robot's job. As the field of soft robotics advances, the scientists envision these robots being used for marine search and rescue, oceanic temperature sensing, and military surveillance. The report adds: "When the hydrogen peroxide washes over flecks of platinum embedded within the octobot, the resulting chemical reaction produces gas that inflates and flexes the robot's arms. As described online today in Nature, the gas flows through a series of 3D-printed pneumatic chambers that link the octobot's eight arms; their flexing propels it through water."
The Almighty Buck

'Legalist' Startup Automates The Lawsuit Strategy Peter Thiel Used To Bankrupt Gawker (gizmodo.com) 92

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Gizmodo: "Two Harvard undergraduates have created a service called Legalist that uses what they call 'data-backed litigation financing,' analyzing civil lawsuits with an algorithm to predict case outcomes and determine which civil lawsuits are worth investing in," reports Gizmodo. The process is very similar to what billionaire Peter Thiel did when he secretly funded a lawsuit from Hulk Hogan against Gawker Media. "Legalist says it uses an algorithm of 58 different variables including, as [Legalist cofounder] Eva Shang told the Silicon Valley Business Journal, who the presiding judge is and the number of cases the judge is currently working on. The algorithm has been fed cases dating back to 1989 and helps people figure out how long a case will last and the risks associated with it. In a presentation at Y Combinator's Demo Day on Tuesday [Legalist was developed as part of Y Combinator's Summer 2016 class], the founders claimed that the startup funded one lawsuit for $75,000 and expects a return of more than $1 million. Shang says the $1.40 is earned for every $1 spent in litigation financing, which can prove to be a profitable enterprise when you're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars." Shang told Business Insider in reference to the Gawker lawsuit, "That's the kind of thing we're staying away from here." The company will supposedly be focusing on commercial and small-business lawsuits, and will not be backing lawsuits by individuals.
Social Networks

YouTube Plans To Bring Photos, Polls, and Text To Its Video Service (venturebeat.com) 15

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: YouTube is developing a feature internally called Backstage where users can share photos, polls, links, text posts, and videos with their subscribers. Backstage is expected to launch by the end of the year, possibly this fall, on mobile and desktop, initially with select popular YouTube accounts and with limited features, VentureBeat has learned. Akin to a Facebook Timeline or Twitter profile, Backstage will live alongside the Home and Videos tabs within individual YouTube channels. Posts shared to Backstage will appear in reverse chronological order, and, crucially, will also appear in subscribers' feeds and notifications, making them highly visible to fans. While Backstage is expected to introduce entirely new types of content to YouTube, including tweet-like text posts and topical polls, it also presents new opportunities for video sharing. Backstage will eventually enable users to share both traditional YouTube videos and Backstage-only videos, possibly creating an opportunity for more intimate, or even ephemeral, video sharing between YouTubers and their fans.
Transportation

World's Largest Aircraft Crashes Its Second Flight (theverge.com) 87

Not too long after it completed its first test flight, the Airlander 10 -- the world's largest aircraft -- has crashed its second test flight. Since the 300-foot long aircraft contains 38,000 cubic meters of helium inside its hull, the crash was all but sudden. You can see in a video posted to YouTube from witnesses on the ground that the aircraft slowly descended to the ground, nose first. The BBC has published some close-up photos of the cockpit, which sustained damages. There were no injuries in the crash, according to a tweet from Hybrid Air Vehicles. The company did also deny eyewitness reports of the aircraft being damaged in a collision with a telegraph pole.
HP

HP Hit With Age-Discrimination Suit Claiming Old Workers Purged (mercurynews.com) 103

Hewlett-Packard started laying off workers in 2012, before it separated into HP Inc. and HP Enterprise last year. The company has continued to cut thousands of jobs since. As a result of the "restructuring," an age discrimination lawsuit has been filed by four former employees of HP alleging they were ousted amid a purge of older workers. The Mercury News reports: "The goal 'was to make the company younger,' said the complain filed Aug. 18 in U.S. District Court in San Jose. 'In order to get younger, HP intentionally discriminated against its older employees by targeting them for termination [...] and then systematically replacing them with younger employees. HP has hired a disproportionately large number of new employees under the age of 40 to replace employees aged 40 and older who were terminated.' Arun Vatturi, a 15-year Palo Alto employee at HP who was a director in process improvement until he was laid off in January at age 52, and Sidney Staton, in sales at HP in Palo Alto for 16 months until his layoff in April 2015 at age 54, have joined in the lawsuit with a former employee from Washington, removed at age 62, and one from Texas, out at age 63. The group is seeking class-action status for the court action and claims HP broke state and federal laws against age discrimination." The lawsuit also alleges that written guidelines issued by HP's human resources department mandated that 75 percent of all hires outside of the company be fresh from school or "early career" applicants.
Earth

Earth-Like Planet, With Ambitious Life Possibility, Found Orbiting the Star Next Door (nature.com) 173

There's another Earth out there. For real, this time. Astronomers announced on Wednesday that they had detected a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest neighbor to our solar system. Intriguingly, the planet is in the star's "Goldilocks zone," they said, a place that hints that it may not be too hot nor too cold. Which in turn means that liquid water could exist at the surface, and by extension, it raises the possibility of life. Nature reports:"The search for life starts now," says Guillem Anglada-Escude, an astronomer at Queen Mary University of London and leader of the team that made the discovery. Humanity's first chance to explore this nearby world may come from the recently announced Breakthrough Starshot initiative, which plans to build fleets of tiny laser-propelled interstellar probes in the coming decades. Travelling at 20% of the speed of light, they would take about 20 years to cover the 1.3 parsecs from Earth to Proxima Centauri. Proxima's planet is at least 1.3 times the mass of Earth. The planet orbits its red-dwarf star -- much smaller and dimmer than the Sun -- every 11.2 days. "If you tried to pick the type of planet you'd most want around the type of star you'd most want, it would be this," says David Kipping, an astronomer at Columbia University in New York City. "It's thrilling."Much about the planet is still unknown. Astronomers have some ideas about its size and distance from its parent star. Scientists say they are working off computer models that offer mere hints of what's possible. Also, there's no picture available for this planet as of yet.
Communications

Facebook Is Testing Autoplaying Video With Sound (thenextweb.com) 140

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook is testing a "feature" that autoplays video clips on your feed with sound. It's not a very big test, but there's a possibility the company could roll it out to a larger group of users. The Next Web reports: "The company is currently trying two methods of getting people to watch video with sound in Australia: the aforementioned autoplaying, and an unmute button on the lower right corner of videos, like Vine videos on a desktop. The latter certainly sounds more reasonable; the last thing you want is to be checking Facebook quickly during a meeting or class, and suddenly have your phone blaring out an advert because you happened to stop on a video. Thankfully, you can disable the 'feature' from your settings, but the point is there's nothing wrong with the current opt-in approach, especially considering how many companies are embracing video captioning, and that Facebook even has its own auto-caption tool for advertisers." "We're running a small test in News Feed where people can choose whether they want to watch videos with sound on from the start," a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable Australia. "For people in this test who do not want sound to play, they can switch it off in Settings or directly on the video itself. This is one of several tests we're running as we work to improve the video experience for people on Facebook."
AI

Microsoft Buys AI-Powered Scheduling App Genee (thestack.com) 28

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: Microsoft has announced that it has completed its acquisition of artificial intelligence-based scheduling app Genee for an undisclosed amount. The app, which was launched in beta last year, uses natural language processing tools and decision-making algorithms to allow users to schedule appointments without having to consult a calendar. Prior to the acquisition, Genee supported scheduling across Facebook, Twitter, Skype, email, and via SMS. From September 1, Genee will close its own service and will officially join Microsoft, supposedly the Office 365 team. Microsoft believes the addition will help it "further [its] ambition to bring intelligence into every digital experience."
Space

NASA Reconnects With 'Lost' STEREO-B Satellite (businessinsider.com) 93

NASA lost contact with its STEREO-B spacecraft twenty-two months ago during a routine 72-hour test. On Sunday, the spacecraft reconnected with NASA roughly 189 million miles away from Earth. While that would seem like a cause for celebration, "the very hard and scary work is just the beginning, says Stereo project scientist Joe Gurman, as the agency has to turn on the computer to learn more about the current state of the spacecraft -- a process that may make the craft lose contact with them again. Slashdot user bongey writes: NASA may have only two minutes or less to fix a STEREO-B satellite before the computer causes it to lose contact again. NASA lost contact with their STEREO-B satellite nearly twenty-two months ago when performing a routine test. NASA scientists are afraid to turn on the computer at this point because it may cause them to lose contact again. A more detailed technical summary can be found here. "We have something like two minutes between when STEREO-B receives the command to boot up one of its computers and when it starts doing what we don't want it to do," Gurman said. Business Insider writes, "Making matters worse, it takes about 20 seconds to send commands to the spacecraft -- a data rate that makes a dial-up modem seem lightning fast."
Businesses

Pinterest Acquires Instapaper (theverge.com) 17

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Instapaper, a pioneering app for saving articles to read later, has been acquired -- again. The app, which was created by developer Marco Arment and sold to Betaworks in 2013, has found a new home at Pinterest. The goal is "to accelerate discovering and saving articles on Pinterest," the company said in a statement. It will continue to operate as a standalone app, and the Instapaper team will work on both that app and on Pinterest generally. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. As a visual search engine, Pinterest isn't often thought of as a place to bookmark written content. But in 2013 the company introduced article pins, a format that creates rich bookmarks complete with a photo and a preview of the text. The acquisition of Instapaper suggests the company believes there is more to be done there -- although it's not certain how valuable that will be for Pinterest. Instapaper can be used for free or in a $30-a-year premium version; the company has never said how many subscribers it has.
PlayStation (Games)

Sony Tries To Remove News Articles About PlayStation 4 Slim Leak From The Internet (techdirt.com) 80

Sony is expected to announce two new PlayStation 4 consoles at a scheduled event on September 7th in New York City, but as that date nears more leaks of the consoles have emerged. The most recent leak appears to show the upcoming PlayStation 4 Slim, which Sony is trying to remove from the internet by taking down news articles from social media accounts about the leak. Erik Kain via @erikkain on Twitter tweeted (Tweet no longer exists): "Sony issued a takedown and had this post removed from my Facebook page: https://t.co/fIjP0buTdY (Warning: may be paywalled)." Techdirt reports: "[The Forbes post] references the work Eurogamer did in visiting the leaker of the image to confirm the console is for real (it is), as well as generating its own image and even video of the console working for its story on the leak. But if you go today to the Eurogamer post about the leak, the video has been replaced by the following update. UPDATE, 7.30pm: Upon taking legal advice, we have removed the video previously referenced in this article. Left unsaid is whether or not any contact had been made by Sony with Eurogamer, thus prompting this 'legal advice,' but one can imagine that being the case, particularly given Sony's threats to social media users sharing images and reporting of Sony leaks and, more to the point, threats against any media that might report on those leaks."
Patents

US Trade Judge Clears Fitbit of Stealing Jawbone's Trade Secrets (reuters.com) 13

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Fitbit did not steal rival Jawbone's trade secrets, a U.S. International Trade Commission judge ruled on Tuesday, dashing Jawbone's hopes of securing an import ban against Fitbit's wearable fitness tracking devices. The judge, Dee Lord, said that there had been no violation of the Tariff Act, which gives the commission the power to block products that infringe U.S. intellectual property, because "no party has been shown to have misappropriated any trade secret." The ruling means Jawbone comes away with nothing from a complaint it filed with the trade agency in July 2015, accusing Fitbit of infringing six patents and poaching employees who took with them confidential data about Jawbone's business, such as plans, supply chains and technical details. Jawbone first sued Fitbit last year over trade secret violations in California state court, where the case is still pending. The companies, both based in San Francisco, are also litigating over patents in federal court.
Google

Google Search Removes 'Mobile-Friendly' Label, Will Tackle Interstitials Next (venturebeat.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today announced two updates to mobile search results: an aesthetic one rolling out now and an algorithmic one coming next year. The former consists of removing the "mobile-friendly" label in search results and the latter will punish mobile sites that use interstitials. The goal is to "make finding content easier for users," though as always, the company didn't share exactly how much of an impact users and webmasters can expect. The report adds: "If your site is in the 15 percent group, here's a quick recap. A webpage is considered 'mobile friendly' if it meets the following criteria, as detected in real time by Googlebot: Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash; Uses text that is readable without zooming; Sizes content to the screen so users don't have to scroll horizontally or zoom; Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped. The company now wants to tackle 'intrusive interstitials' as they 'provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible.' After January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible when coming from mobile search results 'may not rank as highly.' Interstitials that Google doesn't like include showing a popup that covers the main content (immediately or delayed), displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content, and using a layout where the above-the-fold portion is similar to a standalone interstitial but the original content is inlined underneath. Interstitials that Google deems OK include legal obligations (cookie usage or for age verification), login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable, and banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible."
Crime

FBI Authorized Informants To Break The Law 22,800 Times In 4 Years (dailydot.com) 98

blottsie quotes a report from the Daily Dot: Over a four-year period, the FBI authorized informants to break the law more than 22,800 times, according to newly reviewed documents. Official records obtained by the Daily Dot under the Freedom of Information Act show the Federal Bureau of Investigation gave informants permission at least 5,649 times in 2013 to engage in activity that would otherwise be considered a crime. In 2014, authorization was given 5,577 times, the records show. USA Today previously revealed confidential informants engaged in "otherwise illegal activity," as the bureau calls it, 5,658 times in 2011. The figure was at 5,939 the year before, according to documents acquired by the Huffington Post. In total, records obtained by reporters confirm the FBI authorized at least 22,823 crimes between 2011 and 2014. Unfortunately, many of those crimes can have serious and unintended consequences. One of the examples mentioned in the Daily Dot's report was of an FBI informant who "was responsible for facilitating the 2011 breach of Stratfor in one of the most high-profile cyberattacks of the last decade. While a handful of informants ultimately brought down the principal hacker responsible, the sting also caused Stratfor, an American intelligence firm, millions of dollars in damages and left and estimated 700,000 credit card holders vulnerable to fraud."
Canada

Ashley Madison Security Protocols Violated Canada, Austrialia Privacy Laws (www.cbc.ca) 26

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said Tuesday that the Canada-based online dating and social networking service Ashely Madison used inadequate privacy and security technology while marketing itself as a discreet and secure way for consenting adults to have affairs. CBC.ca reports: "In a report Tuesday, the privacy watchdog says the Toronto-based company violated numerous privacy laws in Canada and abroad in the era before a massive data breach exposed confidential information from their clients to hackers. The hack stole correspondence, identifying details and even credit card information from millions of the site's users. The resulting scandal cost the company about a quarter of its annual revenues from irate customers who demanded refunds and cancelled their accounts. Working with a similar agency in Australia, the privacy group says the company knew that its security protocols were lacking but didn't do enough to guard against being hacked. The company even adorned its website with the logo of a 'trusted security award' -- a claim the company admits it fabricated." The report found that "poor habits such as inadequate authentication processes and sub-par key and password management practices were rampant at the company" and that "much of the company's efforts to monitor its own security were 'focused on detecting system performance issues and unusual employee requests for decryption of sensitive user data.'" What's more is that Ashley Madison continued to store personal information of its users even after some of which had deleted or deactivated their account(s). These people then had their information included in databases published online after the hack.
Android

Hey Google, Want To Fix Android Updates? Hit OEMs Where It Hurts (arstechnica.com) 183

Yesterday we talked about some of Nexus devices, including 2013's Nexus 5 not receiving an update, because it has been more than two years since the launch of the phone. But as you may know, this commitment to keeping the devices up to date is even worse when you look at what other Android OEMs are doing. ArsTechnica's Ron Amadeo has a solution: Google keeps missing the point when it comes to addressing Android's update situation. It keeps coming up with strategies to make updating "easier" for OEMs, but I don't think the problem is "ease of updating" -- it's creating any incentive for OEMs to update at all. Google seems to think that its partners will update phones because it's The Right Thing To Do by their customers and that handing out gold stars will send them scrambling to produce updates for their devices. I don't think that's ever going to happen. Google actually already tried the "shame" tactic and it didn't work. When Google-owned Motorola, Moto's update speed went through the roof. Motorola was achieving near-Nexus-like update speeds on many of its phones and was definitely putting other manufacturers to shame. But the increased update competition never really spurred other OEMs to start competing on update speeds. The bottom line is that Android partners only care about, well, the bottom line -- money. These companies already have your money, so updating a device that's already been sold is a needless expense. There's also a good argument to be made that updating a device hurts future sales. If your phone isn't updated, it will start to feel old, so you're more likely to buy a new phone sooner.
The Almighty Buck

Pokemon Go Daily Active Users, Downloads, Engagement Are Dropping (bloomberg.com) 186

An anonymous reader writes:Pokemon Go is starting to lose the battle for mobile mindshare, according to Axiom Capital Management. As such, investors and executives at Facebook Inc., Instagram, Tinder (Match Group Inc.), Twitter Inc., and Snapchat can breathe a sigh of relief, says Senior Analyst Victor Anthony. "Given the rapid rise in usage of the Pokemon Go app since the launch in July, investors have been concerned that this new user experience has been detracting from time spent on other mobile focused apps," he writes. Enthusiasm about the potential for Pokemon Go (and augmented reality gaming in general) to improve Nintendo Co Ltd.'s financial performance sent shares parabolic after the app launched in the U.S., and even spurred rallies in secondary plays linked to the success of the game. Data from Sensor Tower, SurveyMonkey, and Apptopia, however, show that Pokemon Go's daily active users, downloads, engagement, and time spent on the app per day are all well off their peaks and on a downward trend.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

US Customs and Border Protection Wants To Know Who You Are On Twitter (eff.org) 344

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electronic Frontier Foundation: U.S. border control agents want to gather Facebook and Twitter identities from visitors from around the world. But this flawed plan would violate travelers' privacy, and would have a wide-ranging impact on freedom of expression -- all while doing little or nothing to protect Americans from terrorism. A proposal has been issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to collect social media handles from visitors to the United States from visa waiver countries. The Electronic Frontier Foundation opposes the proposal and has commented on it individually and as part of a larger coalition. "CBP specifically seeks 'information associated with your online presence -- Provider/Platform -- Social media identifier' in order to provider DHS 'greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections' for 'vetting purposes,'" reports EFF. "In our comments, we argue that would-be terrorists are unlikely to disclose social media identifiers that reveal publicly available posts expressing support for terrorism." They say this plan "would unfairly violate the privacy of innocent travelers," would cause "innocent travelers" to "engage in self-censorship, cutting back on their online activity out of fear of being wrongly judged by the U.S. government," and would lead to a "slippery slope, where CBP would require U.S. citizens and residents returning home to disclose their social media handles, or subject both foreign visitors and U.S. persons to invasive device searches at ports of entry with the intent of easily accessing any and all cloud data."
Cellphones

Samsung Plans To Sell Refurbished High-End Smartphones In 2017 (reuters.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd plans to launch a program to sell refurbished used versions of its premium smartphones as early as next year, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The world's top smartphone maker will refurbish high-end phones returned to the company by users who signed up for one-year upgrade programs in markets such as South Korea and the United States. Samsung would then re-sell these phones at a lower price, the person said, declining to be identified as the plan was not yet public. The person declined to say how big a discount the refurbished phones would be sold at, which markets the phones would be sold in or how many refurbished devices Samsung could sell. It was not clear to what extent the phones would be altered, but refurbished phones typically are fitted with parts such as a new casing or battery. Refurbished phones could help vendors such as Samsung boost their presence in emerging markets such as India, where high-end devices costing $800 or so are beyond most buyers. Samsung's refurbishment program, details of which the person said could be finalized as early as 2017, could help the firm generate revenue from dated high-end smartphones returned by users upgrading to newer versions.

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