Biotech

Want To Fight Climate Change? Stop Cows From Burping 84 84

sciencehabit writes: A simple supplement to a cow's feed could substantially decrease a major source of methane, a planet-warming greenhouse gas, a new study suggests. Each year worldwide, the methane produced by cud-chewing livestock warms Earth's climate by the same amount as 2.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide, a little more than 4% of the greenhouse gas emissions related to human activity. That makes cows tempting targets for methane reduction efforts. In a new study, researchers added the chemical 3-nitrooxypropanol, also known as 3NOP, to the corn-and-alfalfa-based feed of 84 milk-producing Holsteins and monitored their methane production for 12 weeks—the largest and longest such trial of its type in lactating cows, the scientists say. For cows whose feed included 3NOP, methane emissions dropped, on average, by 30%.
Earth

Researchers Find That Queen Bees Vaccinate Their Offspring 23 23

The Washington Post reports that a team of researchers have discovered a previously unrecognized behavior in bees which gives the insects an extra layer of protection against certain diseases. Though the analogy to human-style vaccination is not perfect, it's close enough to make sense. Queen bees, the group found, break down some disease-causing pathogens found in the pollen and nectar brought to them by worker bees, but do not simply destroy them. Instead, after they are partly broken down, Bits of the pathogens are then transferred to the queen's "fat body," an organ similar to a liver, where they are packaged onto a protein called vitellogenin and delivered to eggs through the queen's blood stream. The result: newly hatched bee larvae that are already immune to the nasty germs that could have plagued the colony. The article notes that "the discovery could extend to other species throughout the animal kingdom," because all egg-laying animals have the same protein.
Microsoft

Microsoft Taps PBS To Advance Its National Talent Strategy With 'Code Trip' 37 37

theodp writes: You don't have to be Mitt Romney to question PBS's announcement that it will air the Microsoft-funded 'reality' show Code Trip, in which Roadtrip Nation and Microsoft YouthSpark will send students across the U.S. for a "transformative journey into computer science." Of the partnership, Roadtrip Nation co-founder Mike Marriner said, "Roadtrip Nation is proud to partner with Microsoft's YouthSpark initiative not only to inform others of the many career routes one can take with a computer science background, but also to engage in the much-needed conversation of diversifying the tech field with more pluralistic perspectives." YouthSpark is part of Microsoft's National Talent Strategy (pdf), which the company describes as "a two-pronged approach that will couple long-term improvements in STEM education in the United States with targeted, short-term, high-skilled immigration reforms." The Official Microsoft Blog reports that filming of Code Trip began this week, with the three students traveling around the country to speak with leaders including Hadi Partovi, the co-founder of Code.org and 'major supporter' of FWD.us, who coincidentally once reported to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and is the next door neighbor of Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith and a jogging partner of Steve Ballmer.
Bitcoin

Japanese Police Arrest Mount Gox CEO Mark Karpeles 90 90

McGruber writes with the news as carried (paywalled) by the Wall Street Journal that Mark Karpeles, who headed bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, has been arrested by Japanese police: In February 2014, Mount Gox filed for bankruptcy, saying it had lost 750,000 of its customers' bitcoins as well as 100,000 of its own, worth some $500 million at the time. A police spokesman said Mr. Karpelès is suspected of manipulating his own account at the company by making it appear that $1 million was added to it. The BBC reports the arrest as well, and notes that the coins missing from Mt. Gox represent 7% of all Bitcoins in circulation.
Businesses

Silicon Valley's Big Lie 117 117

HughPickens.com writes: Danny Crichton writes at TechCrunch that startups in Silicon Valley run on an alchemy of ignorance and amnesia and that lying is a requisite and daily part of being a founder, the grease that keeps the startup flywheel running. Most startups fail. The vast, vast majority of startup employees will never exercise their options, let alone become millionaires while doing it. But founders have little choice as they sell their company to everyone, whether investors, employees, potential employees, or clients. "Founders have to tell the lie – that everything is fine, that a feature is going to launch even though the engineer for that feature hasn't been hired yet, that payroll will run even though the VC dollars are still nowhere on the horizon," writes Crichton. "For one of the most hyper-rational populations in the world, Silicon Valley runs off a myth about startup success, of the lowly founder conquering the world."
China

China's Island-Building In Pictures 130 130

An anonymous reader writes: The South China Sea is just small enough to have high strategic value for military operations and just large enough to make territorial claims difficult. For over a year now, the world has been aware that China is using its vast resources to try and change that. Instead of fighting for claims on existing islands or arguing about how far their sovereignty should extend, they simply decided to build new islands. "The islands are too small to support large military units but will enable sustained Chinese air and sea patrols of the area. The United States has reported spotting Chinese mobile artillery vehicles in the region, and the islands could allow China to exercise more control over fishing in the region." The NY Times has a fascinating piece showing clear satellite imagery of the new islands, illustrating how a fleet a dredgers have dumped enormous amounts of sand on top of existing reefs. "Several reefs have been destroyed outright to serve as a foundation for new islands, and the process also causes extensive damage to the surrounding marine ecosystem." We can also see clear evidence of airstrips, cement plants, and other structures as the islands become capable of supporting them.
The Almighty Buck

Will Autonomous Cars Be the Insurance Industry's Napster Moment? 215 215

An anonymous reader writes: Most of us are looking forward to the advent of autonomous vehicles. Not only will they free up a lot of time previously spent staring at the bumper of the car in front of you, they'll also presumably make commuting a lot safer. While that's great news for the 30,000+ people who die in traffic accidents every year in the U.S. alone, it may not be great news for insurance companies. Granted, they'll have to pay out a lot less money with the lower number of claims, but premiums will necessarily drop as well and the overall amount of money within the car insurance system will dwindle.

Analysts are warning these companies that their business is going to shrink. It will be interesting to see if they adapt to the change, or cling desperately to an outdated business model like the entertainment industry did. "One opportunity for the industry could be selling more coverage to carmakers and other companies developing the automated features for cars. ... When the technology fails, manufacturers could get stuck with big liabilities that they will want to cover by buying more insurance. There's also a potential for cars to get hacked as they become more networked."
Mozilla

Mozilla CEO: Windows 10 Strips User Choice For Browsers and Other Software 355 355

puddingebola writes: Mozilla CEO Chris Beard has sent an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella complaining about the default settings in Windows 10. Users who upgrade to 10 will have their default browser automatically changed to the new Edge browser. Beard said, "We appreciate that it’s still technically possible to preserve people’s previous settings and defaults, but the design of the whole upgrade experience and the default settings APIs have been changed to make this less obvious and more difficult. It now takes more than twice the number of mouse clicks, scrolling through content and some technical sophistication for people to reassert the choices they had previously made in earlier versions of Windows. It’s confusing, hard to navigate and easy to get lost. ... We strongly urge you to reconsider your business tactic here and again respect people’s right to choice and control of their online experience by making it easier, more obvious and intuitive for people to maintain the choices they have already made through the upgrade experience.
Earth

Google Straps Aclima Sensors To Street View Cars To Map Air Pollution 64 64

Eloking writes: Google and a San Francisco-based Aclima have equipped Google's Street View cars with environmental sensors in order to map urban air quality. The project aims to create high resolution maps of air quality across cities by measuring carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, Volatile Organic Compounds, and other pollutants. “We have a profound opportunity to understand how cities live and breathe in an entirely new way by integrating Aclima’s mobile sensing platform with Google Maps and Street View cars,” said Davida Herzl, co-founder and CEO of Aclima. “With more than half of the world’s population now living in cities, environmental health is becoming increasingly important to quality of life. Today we’re announcing the success of our integration test with Google, which lays the foundation for generating high resolution maps of air quality in cities.”
United Kingdom

Cameron Tells Pornography Websites To Block Access By Children Or Face Closure 371 371

An anonymous reader writes: Prime Minister David Cameron says that if online pornographers don't voluntarily install effective age-restricted controls on their websites he'll introduce legislation that will close them down altogether. A recent Childline poll found nearly 10% of 12-13-year-olds were worried they were addicted to pornography and 18% had seen shocking or upsetting images. The minister for internet safety and security, Joanna Shields, said: “As a result of our work with industry, more than 90% of UK consumers are offered the choice to easily configure their internet service through family-friendly filters – something we take great pride in having achieved. It’s a gold standard that surpasses those of other countries. “Whilst great progress has been made, we remain acutely aware of the risks and dangers that young people face online. This is why we are committed to taking action to protect children from harmful content. Companies delivering adult content in the UK must take steps to make sure these sites are behind age verification controls.”
United States

Germany Won't Prosecute NSA, But Bloggers 104 104

tmk writes: Despite plenty of evidence that the U.S. spied on German top government officials, German Federal Prosecutor General Harald Range has declined to investigate any wrongdoings of the secret services of allied nations like the NSA or the British GCHQ. But after plans of the German secret service "Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz" to gain some cyper spy capabilities like the NSA were revealed by the blog netzpolitik.org, Hange started an official investigation against the bloggers and their sources. They are now being probed for possible treason charges.
Japan

Japanese Scientists Fire the Most Powerful Laser On the Planet 116 116

Sepa Blackforesta writes: Scientist from University of Osaka claim have fired the world's most powerful laser. The beam was intact for 2-petawatt, pulse lasted just one picosecond. While it produced a huge amount of power, the energy required for the beam itself is equivalent to that needed to power a microwave for two seconds. An associate professor of electrical engineering at Osaka University Junji Kawanaka says “With heated competition in the world to improve the performance of lasers, our goal now is to increase our output to 10 petawatts.”
GNU is Not Unix

Video Purism Offers Free (as in Freedom) Laptops (Video) 75 75

Purism uses its own OS, PureOS, which is a Debian derivative by way of Ubuntu and other members of the Debian-derivative family, but with no taint of proprietary code. Now imagine all the binaries stripped out of the Linux kernel, making it closer to the FSF ideal of a 100% free operating system than the Linux kernel in use almost everywhere else.

They're still using a proprietary BIOS, but have people working on a Free one. The main thing, though, is that Purism is working to give you all the privacy and freedom they can -- with more coming as they keep working to replace proprietary bits of the OS, BIOS, and hardware drivers with Free Software. Best of all, even if you don't need a new laptop right now, you can download PureOS and run it on any compatible hardware you already own.
Piracy

Interviews: Kim Dotcom Answers Your Questions 88 88

Kim Dotcom was the founder of Megaupload, its successor Mega, and New Zealand's Internet Party. A while ago you had a chance to ask him about those things as well as the U.S. government charging him with criminal copyright violation and racketeering. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.
Power

Britain Shuts Off 750,000 Streetlights With No Impact On Crime Or Crashes 293 293

Flash Modin writes: English cities are hard up for cash as the national government dolls out cuts. And in response, the country's councils — local governing bodies — have slashed costs by turning off an estimated 750,000 streetlights. Fans of the night sky and reduced energy usage are happy, but the move has also sparked a national debate. The Automobile Association claims six people have died as a direct result of dimming the lights. But a new study released Wednesday looked at 14 years of data from 63 local authorities across England and Wales and found that residents' chances of being attacked, robbed, or struck by a car were no worse on the darker streets.
Graphics

On Linux, $550 Radeon R9 Fury Competes With $200~350 NVIDIA GPUs 81 81

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this month AMD released the air-cooled Radeon R9 Fury graphics card with Fury X-like performance, but the big caveat is the bold performance is only to be found on Windows. Testing the R9 Fury X on Linux revealed the Catalyst driver delivers devastatingly low performance for this graphics card. With OpenGL Linux games, the R9 Fury performed between the speed of a GeForce GTX 960 and 970, with the GTX 960 retailing for around $200 while the GTX 970 is $350. The only workloads where the AMD R9 Fury performed as expected under Linux was the Unigine Valley tech demo and OpenCL compute tests. There also is not any open-source driver support yet for the AMD R9 Fury.
Shark

Researchers Demonstrate the World's First White Lasers 118 118

An anonymous reader writes: Scientists and engineers at Arizona State University, in Tempe, have created the first lasers that can shine light over the full spectrum of visible colors. The device's inventors suggest the laser could find use in video displays, solid-state lighting, and a laser-based version of Wi-Fi. Although previous research has created red, blue, green and other lasers, each of these lasers usually only emitted one color of light. Creating a monolithic structure capable of emitting red, green, and blue all at once has proven difficult because it requires combining very different semiconductors. Growing such mismatched crystals right next to each other often results in fatal defects throughout each of these materials. But now scientists say they've overcome that problem. The heart of the new device is a sheet only nanometers thick made of a semiconducting alloy of zinc, cadmium, sulfur, and selenium. The sheet is divided into different segments. When excited with a pulse of light, the segments rich in cadmium and selenium gave off red light; those rich in cadmium and sulfur emitted green light; and those rich in zinc and sulfur glowed blue.
Medicine

Beyond Safety: Is Robotic Surgery Sustainable? 54 54

Hallie Siegel writes: The release last week of the study on adverse events in robotic surgery led to much discussion on the safety and effectiveness of robotic surgical procedures. MIT Sloane's Matt Beane argues that while the hope is that this dialogue will mean safer and more effective robotic procedures in the future, the intense focus on safety and effectiveness has compromised training opportunities for new robotic surgeons, who require many hours of 'live' surgical practice time to develop their skills. Beane says that robotic surgery will likely continue to expand in proportion to other methods, given that it allows fewer surgeons to perform surgery with less trauma to the patient, but no matter how safe we make robotic surgical procedures, they will become a luxury available to a very few if we fail to address the sustainability of the practice.
Supercomputing

Obama's New Executive Order Says the US Must Build an Exascale Supercomputer 219 219

Jason Koebler writes: President Obama has signed an executive order authorizing a new supercomputing research initiative with the goal of creating the fastest supercomputers ever devised. The National Strategic Computing Initiative, or NSCI, will attempt to build the first ever exascale computer, 30 times faster than today's fastest supercomputer. Motherboard reports: "The initiative will primarily be a partnership between the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and National Science Foundation, which will be designing supercomputers primarily for use by NASA, the FBI, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Homeland Security, and NOAA. Each of those agencies will be allowed to provide input during the early stages of the development of these new computers."
Biotech

Genetically Modified Rice Makes More Food, Less Greenhouse Gas 292 292

Applehu Akbar writes: A team of researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences has engineered a barley gene into rice, producing a variety that yields 50% more grain while producing 90% less of the powerful greenhouse gas methane. The new rice pulls off this trick by putting more of its energy into top growth. In countries which depend on rice as a staple, this would add up to a really large amount of increased rice and foregone methane.