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United States

Google Wi-Fi Kiosks in New York Promise No Privacy, 'Can Collect Anything' (observer.com) 34

Here's the thing about those wi-fi kiosks replacing New York City's public payphones. They're owned by Google/Alphabet company Sidewalk Labs, they're covered with ads, and if you read the privacy policy on its web site, "it's not that one." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes an article from the Observer: Columbia professor Benjamin Read got a big laugh at this weekend's Hackers on Planet Earth XI conference in Manhattan when he pointed out that the privacy policy on LinkNYC's website only applies to the website itself, not to the actual network of kiosks.
The web page points out that it has two separate privacy policies in an easily-missed section near the top, and for their real-world kiosks, "They essentially have a privacy policy that says, 'we can collect anything and do anything' and that sets the outer bound'," says New York Civil Liberties Union attorney Mariko Hirose.

The Observer reports that the policy "promises not to use facial recognition... however, nothing stops the company from retracting that guarantee. In fact, Hirose said that she's been told by the company that the kiosk's cameras haven't even been turned on yet, but it is also under no obligation to tell the public when the cameras go live." The article concludes that in general the public's sole line of defense is popular outrage, and that privacy policies "have been constructed primarily to guard companies against liability and discourage users from reading closely."
Australia

Australia Has Moved 1.5 Metres, So It's Updating Its Location For Self-Driving Cars (cnet.com) 126

An anonymous reader shares a CNET report: Australia is changing from "down under" to "down under and across a bit". The country is shifting its longitude and latitude to fix a discrepancy with global satellite navigation systems. Government body Geoscience Australia is updating the Geocentric Datum of Australia, the country's national coordinate system, to bring it in line with international data. The reason Australia is slightly out of whack with global systems is that the country moves about 7 centimetres (2.75 inches) per year due to the shifting of tectonic plates. Since 1994, when the data was last recorded, that's added up to a misalignment of about a metre and a half. While that might not seem like much, various new technology requires location data to be pinpoint accurate. Self-driving cars, for example, must have infinitesimally precise location data to avoid accidents. Drones used for package delivery and driverless farming vehicles also require spot-on information.ABC has more details.
Earth

Study: Astronauts Who Reach Deep Space 'Far More Likely To Die From Heart Disease' (independent.co.uk) 156

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Astronauts who venture into deep space appear to be much more likely to die from heart disease, according to a new study. In another sign that leaving planet Earth is fraught with danger and a potential blow to hopes of establishing a colony on Mars, researchers discovered deep space radiation appears to damage the body's cardiovascular system. They reported that three out of the seven dead Apollo astronauts died as a result of a cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or stroke. Although the numbers are small, that rate of 43 percent is four to five times higher than found among astronauts who flew in low Earth orbit or who did not actually go into space, according to a paper in the journal Scientific Reports. In an attempt to test whether the higher numbers of cardiovascular deaths were simply a statistical blip or a genuine sign of the effect of traveling into deep space, the scientists exposed mice to the same type of radiation that the astronauts would have experienced. After six months, which is the equivalent of 20 human years, the mice showed damage to arteries that is known to lead to the development of cardiovascular disease in humans.
Earth

54C Recorded In Kuwait Likely Hottest On Record In Asia (foxnews.com) 353

An anonymous reader writes from an Associated Press report: The UN weather agency said it suspects that the 54C temperature recorded in Kuwait has set a record for the eastern hemisphere. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said Tuesday it is setting up a committee to look into whether the temperature recorded last Thursday in Mitrabah, Kuwait, was a new high for the eastern hemisphere and in Asia. WMO's Omar Baddour said it is "likely" to be an eastern hemisphere record. Last week, swathes of the Middle East and North Africa and were hit by heatwaves that have become more frequent over the last half-century, and Earth is fresh off the hottest six months on record. WMO says the world record high of 56.7C was recorded at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, California, in 1913. In the UAE, highs of 49C are expected inland on Wednesday. Last year, the mercury rose above 50C in Sweiham, near Al Ain.An article on Citylab, citing NOAA's latest analysis notes that it was the warmest June in the modern history and also the 14th consecutive month of unprecedented hotness.
China

China Releases Test Footage of Ballistic Missile Defense System (mirror.co.uk) 68

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mirror.co.uk: China has released footage of its first interception test of a mid-air ballistic missile, destroying a target miles above Earth. Footage of the experiment, which took place in 2010, has never been made public until now. According to Chinese news agency CCTV, Xu Chunguang, an expert working at a military base in northwest China, said: "All of our research is meant to solve problems that may crop up in future actual combats." It reportedly took researchers another three years to develop the core technologies to improve the system. A second successful test was reportedly conducted in January 2013. China's decision to finally release the footage could be seen as a warning shot to the U.S., which was critical of China for not notifying the Pentagon of the tests at the time. In May, China announced it would send submarines armed with nuclear missiles into the Atlantic Ocean, arguing it had little choice if America continued to advance its weapons systems. China has recently denounced South Korea's decision to deploy a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system to counter threats from North Korea, saying that it harmed the foundation of their mutual trust.
Moon

47 Years Ago Today, Apollo 11 Landed On the Moon (foxnews.com) 185

An anonymous reader writes: At this point 47 years ago we had begun our orbit around the Moon," writes Buzz Aldrin in a tweet. Today, Wednesday, July 20th, 2016, marks the 47th anniversary of when NASA astronauts landed on the moon for the very first time. Fox News reports: "Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins blasted off from Earth on a massive Saturn V rocket on July 16, 1969. Four days later, the Eagle module landed on the surface with Aldrin and Armstrong inside; Collins stayed behind in the orbiting Columbia craft. Millions of people back on Earth watched, captivated, as Armstrong was the first down the ladder, then uttered his now-famous line: 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.' The astronauts eventually returned to Earth, splashing down four days later in the Pacific. On the moon, an American flag and a plaque that read, in part, 'We came in peace for all mankind,' remained." To this day, only 12 people have ever walked on the moon. Hopefully, that number will increase within the next decade. NASA is also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Viking 1 lander's arrival on Mars. Viking 1 was the first American craft to land on the red planet on July 20, 1976.
NASA

Kepler Confirms 100+ New Exoplanets (phys.org) 37

schwit1 writes: Astronomers have confirmed another 100 of Kepler's more than 3,000 candidate exoplanets. Phys.org reports: "One of the most interesting set of planets discovered in this study is a system of four potentially rocky planets, between 20 and 50 percent larger than Earth, orbiting a star less than half the size and with less light output than the Sun. Their orbital periods range from five-and-a-half to 24 days, and two of them may experience radiation levels from their star comparable to those on Earth. Despite their tight orbits -- closer than Mercury's orbit around the sun -- the possibility that life could arise on a planet around such a star cannot be ruled out, according to Crossfield." Because the host star as well as many of these other confirmed exoplanets are red dwarf stars, the possibility of life is reduced because the star and its system is likely to have a less rich mix of elements compared to our yellow G-type Sun. In May, Kepler added a record 1,284 confirmed planets, nine of which orbit in their sun's habitable zone.
Government

Russia Is Building a Nuclear Space Bomber (thedailybeast.com) 256

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Beast: The Russian military claims it's making progress on a space plane similar to the U.S. Air Force's secretive X-37B robotic mini-shuttle. The tech is pretty basic. But alone among space-plane developers, the Kremlin is proposing to arm its space plane. With nukes. Lt. Col. Aleksei Solodovnikov, a rocketry instructor at the Russian Strategic Missile Forces Academy in St. Petersburg who is overseeing the space plane's development, said the orbital bomber would be flight-ready by 2020. It's unclear how much money the Kremlin is investing in the project, and how serious senior officers are about actually deploying the space plane, if and when Solodovnikov and his team finish it. In any event, the military space plane could give Russia a potentially history-altering nuclear first-strike capability. "The idea is that the bomber will take off from a normal home airfield to patrol Russian airspace," Solodovnikov said, according to Sputnik, a government-owned news site. "Upon command, it will ascend into outer space, strike a target with nuclear warheads and then return to its home base." Thanks to its orbital capability, the bomber would be able to nuke any target on Earth no longer than two hours after taking off, Solodovnikov claimed.
Earth

Null Island: The Land of Lousy Directional Data (vice.com) 91

An anonymous reader writes: Null Island is one of the world's most visited places for directional data that doesn't exist in real life. The Wall Street Journal reports (Warning: source may be paywalled): "In the world of geographic information systems, the island is an apparition that serves a practical purpose. It lies at 'zero-zero,' a mapper's shorthand for zero degrees latitude and zero degrees longitude. By a programming quirk introduced by developers, those are the default coordinates where Google maps and other digital Global Positioning System applications are directed to send the millions of users who make mistakes in their searches. [About seven years ago, Mr. Kelso, who had heard the phrase used by other cartographers, encoded Null Island as the default destination for mistakes into a widely used public-domain digital-mapping data set called Natural Earth, which has been downloaded several million times. On a whim, he made the location at zero-zero appear as a tiny outcrop one-meter square. In no time at all, other mappers gave the 'island' its own natural geography, created a website, and designed T-shirts and a national flag.]" If you're feeling cognitively lazy, you can watch the short animated YouTube video explaining Null Island.
Medicine

Obesity Is Three Times As Deadly For Men Than Women, Says Study (telegraph.co.uk) 202

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Telegraph: Researchers at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard universities found in the biggest ever study into weight and death that obesity is three times more deadly for men than women, and that being slightly overweight raises the risk of dying early. Telegraph reports: "Obese people can expect to lose three years of life while the average overweight person will die 12 months sooner than they would have if they were a healthy size. Usually fewer than one in five men will die before the age of 70, but that jumps to nearly one in three for the moderately obese, and eight in 10 for the morbidly obese. In contrast around one in 10 women can expect to die early, with obesity raising the risk to one in seven. While obesity raises the risk of early death by just three per cent for women, it is 10 per cent for men, more than three times as much. Around 61 per cent of adults are currently overweight or obese and the average weight of Britons has been steadily increasingly since the 1970s. In 1975 the average Briton had a BMI of 23, which is considered a healthy weight. But today that has risen to 27, with the average person now overweight. It means that since the 1970s, every person in Briton has roughly gained more than three pounds (1.5kg) per decade. Ten types of cancer are linked to excess weight which can also lead to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and a range of other health problems. Researchers compiled data from 10.6 million people who took part in 239 studies between 1970 and 2015, in 32 different countries. The study found an increased risk of premature death for people who were underweight, as well as for people classed as overweight." According to a study published in the Lancet in April, obese people now outnumber the underweight population for perhaps the first time in history.
NASA

NASA's Juno Spacecraft Sends First Images From Jupiter (sciencedaily.com) 77

An anonymous reader writes: After its patriotic arrival at Jupiter on July 4th, the Juno spacecraft has sent its first images of the planet back to earth via the JunoCam. The visible-light camera aboard Juno was first turned on roughly six days ago after Juno placed itself into orbit. "This scene from JunoCam indicates it survived its first pass through Jupiter's extreme radiation environment without any degradation and is ready to take on Jupiter," said Scott Bolton, principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "We can't wait to see the first view of Jupiter's poles." The color image, which was obtained on July 10th when the spacecraft was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter, shows atmospheric features on Jupiter, including the famous Great Red Spot, and three of the massive planet's four largest moons -- Io, Europa and Ganymede. "JunoCam will continue to take images as we go around in this first orbit," said Candy Hansen, Juno co-investigator from the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona. "The first high-resolution images of the planet will be taken on August 27 when Juno makes its next close pass to Jupiter."
Earth

Honda Unveils First Hybrid Motor Without Heavy Rare Earth Metals (engadget.com) 108

An anonymous reader writes: Honda has unveiled its new hybrid motor this week that doesn't use heavy rare earth metals like dysprosium and terbium -- though it still does contain neodymium. The motor was co-developed alongside Daido Steel and will use their magnets in replace of the rare earth metals because they cost 10 percent less and weigh 8 percent less. Honda is the first automaker to develop a hybrid motor that doesn't use heavy rare earth metals. The company says the new engines will reduce its reliance on the metals that are primarily supplied by China. They're expected to make their debut in the compact Freed minivan this fall, a vehicle that is already on the road in Asia.
Government

Warner Bros. Settles FTC Charge For Not Disclosing Payments To YouTubers For Positive Reviews (theverge.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement with Warner Bros. over claims that the publisher failed to disclose that it had paid prominent YouTubers for positive coverage of one of its video games. The FTC charge stated that Warner Bros. deceived customers by paying thousands of dollars to social media "influencers," including YouTube megastar PewDiePie, to cover Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor without announcing that money had changed hands. Under the terms of the agreement, Warner Bros. is banned from failing to disclose similar deals in the future, and cannot pretend that sponsored videos and articles are actually the work of independent producers. Warner Bros.' deal with the influencers involved stated that they had to make at least one tweet or Facebook post about the game, as well as produce videos with a string of caveats to avoid showing it in a negative light. Those videos could not express negative opinions about the game or Warner Bros. itself, could not show any glitches or bugs, and must include "a strong verbal call-to-action to click the link in the description box for the viewer to go to the [game's] website to learn more about the [game], to learn how they can register, and to learn how to play the game," according to Ars Technica. Influencers were advised to disclose the video's sponsored status under YouTube's "Show More" section, but some did not, and the FTC says this would not have been enough to skirt the rules anyway, as the disclaimer would not have been visible on videos watched through Twitter, Facebook, or other social media sources.
United States

Insect-Devouring Bats Now Welcomed in New York (nytimes.com) 115

Slashdot reader HughPickens.com shares an article from the New York Times: The town of North Hempstead on Long Island has approved the construction of bat houses in several parks to attract more bats to the area because despite their less-than-desirable reputation, bats possess a remarkable ability to control insects, especially disease-carrying mosquitoes. "Bats can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes per hour," says Judi Bosworth. "That's extraordinary. A pesticide couldn't do that." As mosquito season heats up, bringing with it the threat of the West Nile and Zika viruses, the bats make very welcome neighbors.

[T]he Asian tiger mosquito is found on Long Island and is capable of transmitting Zika in a laboratory setting, and as of October, 490 cases of West Nile and 37 deaths resulting from it have been recorded in New York since 2000. "If you minimize the mosquito population you minimize the possible incidence of the Zika virus," says Larry Schultz. "If you reduce the mosquito population, you make parks more accessible."

"Bats really have been very maligned," says Bosworth -- noting they don't really swoop down on your head and get tangled in your hair.
NASA

First Water Clouds Reported Outside The Solar System (scientificamerican.com) 41

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American: For the first time ever, astronomers have found strong evidence of water clouds on a body outside the solar system. New observations of a frigid object called WISE 0855, which lies 7.2 light-years from Earth, suggest that the "failed star" has clouds of water, or water ice, in its atmosphere, the researchers said. "We would expect an object that cold to have water clouds, and this is the best evidence that it does," study lead author Andrew Skemer, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a statement released by the university. Scientists discovered WISE 0855 in 2014, using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. A later paper in 2014 (co-authored by Skemer) uncovered some evidence of water clouds in the object's atmosphere, based on limited photometric data (how bright the object is in specific light wavelengths). In the new study, Skemer and his colleagues used the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii to study the brown dwarf for 13 nights. Gemini North is located on the highest Hawaiian mountain (Mauna Kea), at an altitude with little water vapor to interfere with telescopic observations. These observations allowed the astronomers to make the first spectroscopy (light fingerprint) measurements of WISE 0855. The team found water vapor and also confirmed the object's temperature, which is about minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 degrees Celsius, or 250 kelvins).
NASA

NASA's Juno Space Probe Enters Orbit Around Jupiter (cnn.com) 131

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: NASA says it has received a signal from 540 million miles across the solar system, confirming its Juno spacecraft has successfully started orbiting Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. "Welcome to Jupiter!" flashed on screens at mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. The probe had to conduct a tricky maneuver to slow down enough to allow it to be pulled into orbit: It fired its main engine for 35 minutes, effectively hitting the brakes to slow the spacecraft by about 1,212 miles per hour (542 meters per second). Juno was launched nearly five years ago on a mission to study Jupiter's composition and evolution. It's the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter since Galileo. The largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter is a huge ball of gas 11 times wider than Earth and 300 times more massive than our planet. Researchers think it was the first planet to form and that it holds clues to how the solar system evolved. Juno is a spinning, robotic probe as wide as a basketball court. It will circle Jupiter 37 times for 20 months, diving down to about 2,600 miles (4,100 kilometers) above the planet's dense clouds. The seven science instruments on board will study Jupiter's auroras and help scientists better understand the planet's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere. An onboard color camera called JunoCam will take "spectacular close-up, color images" of Jupiter, according to NASA. Juno launched from Cape Canaveral on August 5, 2011, which is some 445 million miles (716 million kilometers) away from Jupiter. Juno has however traveled a total distance of 1,740 million miles (2,800 million kilometers) to reach Jupiter as it had to make a flyby of Earth to help pick up speed. "After a 1.7 billion mile journey, we hit our burn targets within one second, on a target that was just tens of kilometers large," said Nybakken, Juno Project Manger. "That's how well the Juno spacecraft performed tonight."
Moon

United Launch Alliance Plans For 1,000 People Working In Space By 2045 (blastingnews.com) 135

What if you could produce rocket fuel in outer space -- making it 83% cheaper? One company sees this as the basis a self-sustaining "space economy" based on refueling Earth-orbiting spaceships. Slashdot reader MarkWhittington writes: Jeff Bezos, of both Amazon and Blue Origin, may ruminate about moving a lot of industry off the planet, but the United Launch Alliance, that joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, has a concrete plan to do so. ULA is working on an idea to have 1,000 people operating in Earth-moon space by 2045, less than 30 years away...
Businesses

Amazon Gobbles Downtown Seattle, Builds Biospheres (bloomberg.com) 91

Amazon has grabbed more than 15% of Seattle's office space inventory, which a local book author is describing as "the Amazocalypse". And now Amazon is building three "gigantic spheres resembling melted-together Milk Duds in the shadow of their new 500-foot-tall office tower," according to Bloomberg: The 100-foot-tall orbs -- Amazon calls them Biospheres -- will host more than 300 plant species from around the world, creating what the company sees as the workplace of the future. Amazonians will be able to break from their daily labors to walk amid the greenery along suspension bridges and climb into meeting spaces resembling bird nests perched in mature trees... Many of the plants are endangered species, meaning that the spheres double as a conservation project.
Bloomberg talks about the desire of Amazon and other tech companies to stay -- and grow -- in the popular cities "where millennials prefer to live". While the owners of Seattle's Space Needle complain that all the new office towers are blocking views of their tourist attraction, the article also describes how Amazon leased the ground floors of its office buildings to "hand-picked bars, restaurants and coffee shops," transforming it from "a hodgepodge of car dealerships and second-hand stores."
Earth

Scientists Say The Asteroid That Killed The Dinosaurs Almost Wiped Us Out Too (theweek.com) 265

HughPickens.com writes: Conventional wisdom states that mammalian diversity emerged from the ashes of the Cretaceous/Tertiary mass extinction event, ultimately giving rise to our own humble species. But Joshua A. Krisch writes at This Week that the asteroid that decimated the dinosaurs also wiped out roughly 93 percent of all mammalian species. "Because mammals did so well after the extinction, we have tended to assume that it didn't hit them as hard," says Nick Longrich. "However our analysis shows that the mammals were hit harder than most groups of animals, such as lizards, turtles, crocodilians, but they proved to be far more adaptable in the aftermath." Mammals survived, multiplied, and ultimately gave rise to human beings. So what was the great secret that our possum-like ancestors knew that dinosaurs did not? One answer is that early mammals were small enough to survive on insects and dying plants, while large dinosaurs and reptiles required a vast diet of leafy greens and healthy prey that simply weren't available in the lean years, post-impact. So brontosauruses starved to death while prehistoric possums filled their far smaller and less discerning bellies. "Even if large herbivorous dinosaurs had managed to survive the initial meteor strike, they would have had nothing to eat," says Russ Graham, "because most of the earth's above-ground plant material had been destroyed." Other studies have suggested that mammals survived by burrowing underground or living near the water, where they would have been somewhat shielded from the intense heatwaves, post-impact. Studies also suggest that mammals may have been better spread-out around the globe, and so had the freedom to recover independently and evolve with greater diversity. "After this extinction event, there was an explosion of diversity, and it was driven by having different evolutionary experiments going on simultaneously in different locations," Longrich says. "This may have helped drive the recovery. With so many different species evolving in different directions in different parts of the world, evolution was more likely to stumble across new evolutionary paths."
Earth

Researchers Find Game-Changing Helium Reserve In Tanzania (cnn.com) 190

An anonymous reader writes from a report via CNN: Helium is an incredibly important element that is used in everything from party balloons to MRI machines -- it's even used for nuclear power. For many years, there have been global shortages of the element. For example, Tokyo Disneyland once had to suspend sales of its helium balloons due to the shortages. The shortages are expected to come to an end now that researchers from Oxford and Durham universities have discovered a "world-class" helium gas field in Tanzania's East African Rift Valley. They estimate that just one part of the reserve in Tanzania could be as large as 54 billion cubic feet (BCf), which is enough to fill more than 1.2 million medical MRI scanners. "To put this discovery into perspective, global consumption of helium is about 8 billion cubic feet (BCf) per year and the United States Federal Helium Reserve, which is the world's largest supplier, has a current reserve of just 24.2 BCf," said University of Oxford's Chris Ballentine, a professor with the Department of Earth Sciences. "Total known reserves in the USA are around 153 BCf. This is a game-changer for the future security of society's helium needs and similar finds in the future may not be far away," Ballentine added.

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