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How Should Schools Grade Unexpected-But-Correct Answers On Coding Tests?

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 7:34am
There can be more than one correct answer for academic tests of programming ability, writes long-time Slashdot reader theodp: Take the first of the Free-Response Questions in this year's AP CS A exam, which asked 70,000 college-bound students to "Write the static method numberOfLeapYears, which returns the number of leap years between year1 and year2." The correct answer, according to the CollegeBoard's 2019 Scoring Guidelines, entails iterating over the range of years and invoking a provided helper method called isLeapYear for each year. Which does work, of course, but what if a student instead took an Excel-like approach to the same problem that consists of a (hopefully correct!) single formula with no iteration or isLeapYear helper function? Would that be a worse — or better -- example of computational thinking than the endorsed AP CS A Java-based solution? (Here's a 7-minute AP Conference discussion of how to correctly grade this problem)? So, how have you seen schools and companies deal with unexpected-but-correct approaches to coding test questions?

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'I Want a Super-Smart Chair!'

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 12:34am
Long-time Slashdot reader shanen writes: Imagine you had a perfect chair for using your computer. Also a perfect chair for watching TV. And a chair for listening to music, a chair for reading, a chair for napping, a work chair that keeps you awake, and a perfect chair for dinner. Also a massage chair and a diagnostic chair that checks your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. Is your house full of chairs yet? Wait! what about your spouse's perfect chairs? Need a bigger house? What if you had one chair that could be all nine of those chairs? What if you could teach the super-smart modular chair to be more chairs, too? That's what I want, plus the voodoo chair controller to manipulate and teach the slightly deformable triangular modules (in two or three sizes) that would form all of the virtual chairs for the current real chair. Anyway, this story ticks me off because I sent that idea to a couple of companies, including IKEA. I'm still waiting. Not holding my breath. That article shows Ikea promising a new "smart homes" unit -- but with no mention of investments in wondrous smart chair technologies. So the original submission ends by asking how we can bring about such a smart chair revolution?

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Intel Patches Three High-Severity Vulnerabilities

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 9:34pm
Intel's latest patches "stomped out three high-severity vulnerabilities and five medium-severity flaws," reports Threatpost: One of the more serious vulnerabilities exist in the Intel Processor Identification Utility for Windows, free software that users can install on their Windows machines to identify the actual specification of their processors. The flaw (CVE-2019-11163) has a score of 8.2 out of 10 on the CVSS scale, making it high severity. It stems from insufficient access control in a hardware abstraction driver for the software, versions earlier than 6.1.0731. This glitch "may allow an authenticated user to potentially enable escalation of privilege, denial of service or information disclosure via local access" according to Intel. Users are urged to update to version 6.1.0731. Intel stomped out another high-severity vulnerability in its Computing Improvement Program, which is program that Intel users can opt into that uses information about participants' computer performance to make product improvement and detect issues. However, the program contains a flaw (CVE-2019-11162) in the hardware abstraction of the SEMA driver that could allow escalation of privilege, denial of service or information disclosure... A final high-severity flaw was discovered in the system firmware of the Intel NUC (short for Next Unit of Computing), a mini-PC kit used for gaming, digital signage and more. The flaw (CVE-2019-11140) with a CVSS score of 7.5 out of 10, stems from insufficient session validation in system firmware of the NUC. This could enable a user to potentially enable escalation of privilege, denial of service and information disclosure. An exploit of the flaw would come with drawbacks -- a bad actor would need existing privileges and local access to the victim system. The article notes that the patches "come on the heels of a new type of side-channel attack revealed last week impacting millions of newer Intel microprocessors manufactured after 2012."

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Three Years Later, France's Solar Road is a Flop

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 9:34pm
DigressivePoser and schwit1 both submitted the same story. That 1-km ( .62-mile) "solar road" paved with photovoltaic panels in France is "too noisy, falling apart, and doesn't even collect enough solar energy," reports Popular Mechanics: Le Monde describes the road as "pale with its ragged joints," with "solar panels that peel off the road and the many splinters [from] that enamel resin protecting photovoltaic cells." It's a poor sign for a project the French government invested in to the tune of €5 million, or $5,546,750. The noise and poor upkeep aren't the only problems facing the Wattway. Through shoddy engineering, the Wattway isn't even generating the electricity it promised to deliver... Normandy is not historically known as a sunny area. At the time, the region's capital city of Caen only got 44 days of strong sunshine a year, and not much has changed since. Storms have wrecked havoc with the systems, blowing circuits. But even if the weather was in order, it appears the panels weren't built to capture them efficiently... Solar panels are most efficient when pointed toward the sun. Because the project needed to be a road as well as a solar generator, however, all of its solar panels are flat. So even within the limited sun of the region, the Wattway was further limiting itself. The problem-plagued road is producing just half the solar energy expected -- although that's more energy than you'd get from an asphalt road. But Marc Jedliczka, vice president of the Network for Energetic Transition (CLER), which promotes renewable energy, offered this suggestion in the Eurasia Times. "If they really want this to work, they should first stop cars driving on it." He later told Le Monde that the sorry state of the project "confirms the total absurdity of going all-out for innovation to the detriment of solutions that already exist and are more profitable, such as solar panels on roofs." But Futurism adds that the idea of having roadways generate solar power "is far from dead, according to Business Insider. In the Netherlands, a solar bike lane has fared much better, exceeding the expected energy production. A solar panel road is also being tested near Amsterdam's Schiphol airport."

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YouTube's Algorithms Blamed For Brazil's Dangerous Conspiracy Video-Sharing on WhatsApp

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 7:34pm
Sunday the New York Times reported that YouTube "radicalized" Brazil -- by "systematically" diverting users to conspiracy videos. Yet conventional wisdom in Brazil still puts the blame on WhatsApp, the Times reported in a follow-up story on Thursday shared by Slashdot reader AmiMoJo. "Everything began to click into place when we met Luciana Brito, a soft-spoken clinical psychologist who works with families affected by the Zika virus." Her work had put her on the front lines of the struggle against conspiracy theories, threats and hatred swirling on both platforms. And it allowed her to see what we -- like so many observers -- had missed: that WhatsApp and YouTube had come to form a powerful, and at times dangerous, feedback loop of extremism and misinformation. Either platform had plenty of weaknesses on its own. But, together, they had formed a pipeline of misinformation, spreading conspiracy theories, campaign material and political propaganda throughout Brazil. The first breakthrough came when we spoke to Yasodara Cordova, who at the time was a researcher at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Illiteracy remains widespread in some parts of Brazil, she said, ruling out text-based social media or news sources for many people. And TV networks can be low-quality, which has helped drive YouTube's stunning growth in many parts of Brazil, particularly on mobile. But YouTube has had less success in poorer regions of Brazil for one simple reason: Users cannot afford the cellphone data. "The internet in Brazil is really expensive," Ms. Cordova said. "I think it's the fourth or fifth country in terms of internet prices." WhatsApp has become a workaround. The messaging app has a deal with some carriers to offer free data on the app, and poorer users found that this offered them a way around YouTube's unaffordability. They would share snippets of YouTube videos that they found on WhatsApp, where the videos can be watched and shared for free. Ms. Cordova suspected that the WhatsApp-spread misinformation had often come from videos that first went viral on YouTube, where they had been boosted by the extremism-favoring algorithms that we documented in our story earlier this week... It was like an infection jumping from one host to the next. Some of the videos blame the mosquito-bourne Zika virus on vaccines or suggest an international conspiracy, while some were "staged to resemble news reports or advice from health workers," the Times reports -- adding that as of Thursday the videos were still being recommended by YouTube's algorithm. (A spokesperson for YouTube "called the results unintended, and said the company would change how its search tool surfaced videos related to Zika.") Researchers say conspiracy videos were even shown to people who'd searched for reputable information on the virus, the Times reports. "The videos often spread in WhatsApp chat groups that had been set up to share information and news about coping with Zika, turning users' efforts to take control of their families' health against them." YouTube told the Times that their recommendation system now drives 70% of total time spent on YouTube -- and according to their article Thursday, Dr. Brito estimates that she now receives serious threats on her life about once a week.

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Elon Musk Begins Selling $25 'Nuke Mars' T-Shirts

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 6:34pm
"Elon Musk tweeted on Thursday evening 'Nuke Mars.' A few hours later he followed it up with 'T-shirt soon'," writes Business Insider. BGR reports: Musk's tweet is a reference to the theory that by dropping one or more large bombs on Mars' poles, the CO2 locked away in the ice there would be released, giving the Martian atmosphere a much-needed boost... Making the planet's atmosphere denser could help it retain heat and bring it a small step closer to being habitable by human settlers. However, past research has suggested that bombing the planet's poles wouldn't release nearly enough CO2 to be worth the trouble. Elon Musk has publicly disagreed. It's unclear why the SpaceX boss decided to bring this all up again, but he does have a habit of saying whatever he thinks will get a big reaction on Twitter. Oh, and apparently he's hoping to sell some shirts as well. In any case, no space agency is ready to even begin preliminary planning for a crewed Mars mission, much less any long-term efforts to change the climate of the Red Planet. If that ever does happen, bombs may or may not play a role. The article adds that scientists "aren't fully on board" with Musk's line of thinking, but the t-shirts really are available in the online SpaceX store. Late Friday Musk began promoting them with an optimistic tweet. "Nuking Mars one T-shirt at a time."

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US Navy Tests WWII-ERA Messaging Tech: Dropping Bean Bags Onto Ships

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 5:34pm
Long-time Slashdot reader davidwr writes: In World War II, pilots would air-drop messages onto ships using bean-bags. Just as with sextants a few years ago, the Navy is bringing back old tech, because it works. Just as during the Doolittle Raid of Tokyo, the purpose is to prevent eavesdropping. You can read more about the modern bean-bag-drop on Military.com or Popular Mechanics. There's a video about the Doolittle Raid hosted at archive.org with bean-bag-drops at 2:39 and 5:19 into the video. I wonder how many high-density SSD drives fit in a standard Navy bean-bag? "In a future conflict with a tech-savvy opponent, the U.S. military could discover even its most advanced, secure communications penetrated by the enemy," notes Popular Mechanics. "Secure digital messaging, voice communications, video conferencing, and even chats could be intercepted and decrypted for its intelligence value. "This could give enemy forces an unimaginable advantage, seemingly predicting the moves and actions of the fleets at sea with uncanny accuracy."

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Can JPEG XL Become the Next Free and Open Image Format?

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 4:34pm
"JPEG XL looks very promising as a next gen replacement for JPEG, PNG and GIF," writes icknay (Slashdot reader #96,963): JPEG was incredibly successful by solving a real problem with a free and open format. Other formats have tried to replace it, notably HEIF which will never by universal due to its patent licensing. JPEG XL combines all the modern features, replacing JPEG PNG and GIF and has free and open licensing. The linked slides from Jon Sneyers review the many other attempts at replacing JPEG plus the obligatory XKCD standards joke.

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Google Criticized For Vulnerability That Can Trick Its AI Into Deactivating Accounts

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 3:34pm
In July Google was sued by Tulsi Gabbard, one of 23 Democrats running for president, after Google mistakenly suspended her advertising account. "I believe I can provide assistance on where to focus your discovery efforts," posted former YouTube/Google senior software engineer Zach Vorhies (now a harsh critic of Google's alleged bias against conservatives). He says he witnessed the deactivation of another high-profile Google account triggered by a malicious third party. I had the opportunity to inspect the bug report as a full-time employee. What I found was that Google had a technical vulnerability that, when exploited, would take any gmail account down. Certain unknown 3rd party actors are aware of this secret vulnerability and exploit it. This is how it worked: Take a target email address, change exactly one letter in that email address, and then create a new account with that changed email address. Malicious actors repeated this process over and over again until a network of spoof accounts for Jordan B. Peterson existed. Then these spoof accounts started generating spam emails. These email-spam blasts caught the attention of an AI system which fixed the problem by deactivating the spam accounts... and then ALSO the original account belonging to Jordan B. Peterson! To my knowledge, this bug has never been fixed. "Gabbard, however, claims the suspension was based on her criticism of Google and other major tech companies," reports the Verge. But they also quote the campaign as saying that Gmail "sends communications from Tulsi into people's Spam folders at a disproportionately high rate." "Google may blame this on automated systems, but the reality is that there is no transparency whatsoever, which makes it difficult to determine the truth."

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Dreams of Offshore Servers Haunt The Ocean-Based Micronation of 'Sealand'

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 2:34pm
Late Christmas Eve, 1966, a retired British army major named Paddy Roy Bates piloted a motorboat seven miles off the coast of England to an abandoned anti-aircraft platform "and declared it conquered," writes Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ian Urbina. Bates used it as a pirate radio station, sometimes spending several months there while living on tins of corned beef, rice pudding, flour, and scotch. But then he declared it to be the world's tiniest maritime nation, writes Urbina, adding that in the half-century to come, "Sealand" was destined to become "a thumb in the eye of international law." Though no country formally recognizes Sealand, its sovereignty has been hard to deny. Half a dozen times, the British government and assorted other groups, backed by mercenaries, have tried and failed to take over the platform by force. In virtually every instance, the Bates family scared them off by firing rifles in their direction, tossing gasoline bombs, dropping cinder blocks onto their boats, or pushing their ladders into the sea. Britain once controlled a vast empire over which the sun never set, but it's been unable to control a rogue micronation barely bigger than the main ballroom in Buckingham Palace.... In recent years, its permanent citizenry has dwindled to one person: a full-time guard named Michael Barrington... In the decades since its establishment, Sealand has been the site of coups and countercoups, hostage crises, a planned floating casino, a digital haven for organized crime, a prospective base for WikiLeaks, and myriad techno-fantasies, none brought successfully to fruition, many powered by libertarian dreams of an ocean-based nation beyond the reach of government regulation, and by the mythmaking creativity of its founding family. I had to go there. The article also acknowledges the Seasteading Institute founded by Google software engineer Patri Friedman and backed by Peter Thiel -- as well as the idea of offshore-but-online services in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon and Google's real-world plans for offshore data centers cooling their servers with seawater. Urbina also tells the story of HavenCo, a grand plan for a Sealand-based data empire which ultimately had trouble powering their servers, alienating their gambling-industry customers with frequent outages. And in addition, one of the Bates' family says that "we also didn't see eye to eye with the computer guys about what sort of clients we were willing to host" -- and they objected to plans to illegally rebroadcast DVDs. "For all their daring, the Bates family was wary of antagonizing the British and upsetting their delicately balanced claim to sovereignty." The article is adapted from Urbina's upcoming book The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier (to be released Tuesday).

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'Futurefon' Crowdfunded on Indiegogo Was Part Of a Multimillion-dollar Scam

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 1:34pm
"The crowdfunded phone of the future was a multimillion-dollar scam," reports the Verge: In 2014, Jeffrey Tschiltsch opened an email from Indiegogo and saw the future of computing. The email showed something called the "Dragonfly Futurefon," a kind of computer-phone hybrid. The Futurefon's page showed a sleek, palm-sized touchscreen that slotted into a laptop dock, then folded flat and flipped open again, revealing a second screen and a full-sized laptop keyboard. It could run both Windows and Android, and its creator, a startup called IdealFuture, promised to replace your phone, laptop, and tablet at an incredible price of $799. Dubious but intrigued, Tschiltsch put down a $200 deposit. Five years later, Tschiltsch still wouldn't have a Futurefon. Instead, he'd be sitting in an Illinois courthouse testifying at the behest of the FBI, which claimed the device was the last step in a decade-long fraud operation that cost victims nearly $6 million. "I always thought it was ambitious," Tschiltsch says now. "It didn't occur to me that the guy had just taken the money." Tschiltsch is just one of many angry Indiegogo backers who say Futurefon creator Jeff Batio strung them along with lies, excuses, and faked product updates. But the backers aren't just angry with Batio. They're frustrated by how easily a scammer could flourish in the high-risk world of gadget crowdfunding -- and how poorly Indiegogo was equipped to deal with it. The Futurefon raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, the article reports, adding that Batio also apparently raised $5 million for another dual-screen project. Unfortunately, investors later found out that Batio "had been indicted on fraud charges that spanned 13 years..." Nobody ever got a Futurefon, and "A jury convicted Batio of 12 mail and wire fraud counts, each carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison."

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June Windows Security Patch Broke Many EMF Files

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 1:04pm
reg (Slashdot user #5,428) writes: A Windows security patch in June broke the display of many Windows Metafile graphics across all supported versions of Windows, resulting in many old PowerPoint files and Word documents not displaying figures, and graphics from some popular applications not displaying, including at least some ESRI GIS products and files created using the devEMF driver in R. This likely also impacts EMF files created with Open Source Office suites. While the problem can be fixed by recreating the files using a newer set of options, or resorting to using bitmaps, it means that presentations or documents that used to display perfectly no longer do. Microsoft promised a fix in July, but there is still no news of when it will be available.

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Windows Update To Fix Critical 'Wormable' Flaws May Break VB Apps

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 12:34pm
"This week's Windows updates fix critical 'wormable' [Bluekeep] flaws but may also break Visual Basic apps, macros, and scripts," warns ZDNet: "After installing this update, applications that were made using Visual Basic 6 (VB6), macros using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), and scripts or apps using Visual Basic Scripting Edition (VBScript) may stop responding and you may receive an 'invalid procedure call error'," Microsoft says. The issue affects all supported versions of Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and their corresponding server versions. "Microsoft is presently investigating this issue and will provide an update when available," the company said. Microsoft didn't offer an explanation for the problem but it did flag earlier this month that it will move ahead with sunsetting VBScript, by disabling it in IE11 by default via an update in this week's patch. "The change to disable VBScript will take effect in the upcoming cumulative updates for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 on August 13, 2019," Microsoft warned in a blog post. The change brought these versions of Windows in line with Windows 10. However, it's not clear that the issues under investigation are related to this measure. Regardless of the cause, the error could be a hassle for organizations that rely on Microsoft's various incarnations of Visual Basic... In a blog post shared by Slashdot reader CaptainDork, Microsoft warned that "any future malware that exploits these could propagate from vulnerable computer to vulnerable computer without user interaction." "The affected versions of Windows are Windows 7 SP1, Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Windows Server 2012, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, and all supported versions of Windows 10, including server versions."

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'Mining Bitcoin On a 1983 Apple II: a Highly Impractical Guide'

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 11:34am
option8 ((Slashdot reader #16,509) writes: TL;DR: Mining Bitcoin on a 1MHz 8-bit processor will cost you more than the world's combined economies, and take roughly 256 trillion years. "But it could happen tomorrow. It's a lottery, after all," explains the blog post (describing this mad scientist as a hardware hacker and "self-taught maker", determined to mine bitcoin "in what must be the slowest possible way. I call it 8BITCOIN....") There's also a Twitch.TV stream, with some appropriate 8-bit music, and the blog post ends by including his own bitcoin address, "If you feel like you absolutely must throw some money at me and this project." "Upon doing some research, I found that, not only were other 8-bit platforms being put to the task, but other, even more obscure and outdated hardware. An IBM 1401 from the 1960s, a rebuilt Apollo Guidance Computer, and even one deranged individual who demonstrated the hashing algorithm by hand. It turns out, those examples all come from the same deranged individual, Ken Shirriff."

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Chrome and Firefox Changes Spark the End of 'Extended Validation' Certificates

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 10:34am
"Upcoming changes in Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox may finally spark the end for Extended Validation certificates as the browsers plan to do away with showing a company's name in the address bar," reports Bleeping Computer. When connecting to a secure web site, an installed SSL/TLS certificate will encrypt the communication between the browser and web server. These certificates come in a few different flavors, with some claiming to offer a more thorough verification process or extra perks. One certificate, called EV Certificates, are known for having a browser display the owner of the certificate directly in the browser's address bar. This allegedly makes the site feel more trustworthy to a visitor. In reality, the different types of SSL/TLS certificates all serve a single purpose and that is to encrypt the communication between a browser and web site. Anything extra is seen by many as just a marketing gimmick to charge customers for a more expensive "trustworthy" certificate. In numerous blog posts, security researcher Troy Hunt has stated that EV Certificates will soon be dead as more and more sites switch away from them, because they are much harder to manage due to extra verification times, and because people have become to associate a padlock with a secure site rather than a company name. With Safari already removing EV Certificate company info from the address bar, most mobile browsers not showing it, and Chrome and Mozilla desktop browsers soon to remove it, Hunt's predictions are coming true. EV Certificates will soon be dead. AmiMoJo shared this post from Google's Chromium blog: Through our own research as well as a survey of prior academic work, the Chrome Security UX team has determined that the EV UI does not protect users as intended. Users do not appear to make secure choices (such as not entering password or credit card information) when the UI is altered or removed, as would be necessary for EV UI to provide meaningful protection. Further, the EV badge takes up valuable screen real estate, can present actively confusing company names in prominent UI, and interferes with Chrome's product direction towards neutral, rather than positive, display for secure connections. Because of these problems and its limited utility, we believe it belongs better in Page Info.

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US Set To Give Huawei Another 90 Days To Buy From American Suppliers

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 9:00am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. Commerce Department is expected to extend a reprieve given to Huawei Technologies that permits the Chinese firm to buy supplies from U.S. companies so that it can service existing customers, two sources familiar with the situation said. The "temporary general license" will be extended for Huawei for 90 days, the sources said. Commerce initially allowed Huawei to purchase some American-made goods in May shortly after blacklisting the company in a move aimed at minimizing disruption for its customers, many of which operate networks in rural America. An extension will renew an agreement set to lapse on August 19, continuing the Chinese company's ability to maintain existing telecommunications networks and provide software updates to Huawei handsets. The situation surrounding the license, which has become a key bargaining chip for the United States in its trade negotiations with China, remains fluid and the decision to continue the Huawei reprieve could change ahead of the Monday deadline, the sources said.

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YouTube To Allow Everyone To Watch YouTube Originals For Free

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 6:00am
Last November, YouTube announced that it would be removing the paywall for its original programming starting in 2019. Now, we have more details on exactly how and when this will work. Android Central reports: Per a statement sent out by the YouTube team: "New YouTube Originals series, movies, and live events released after September 24, 2019 will be made available to non-members to watch for free, with ads. For series, members will get immediate access to every episode of a new season, while non-members will have to wait for each new episode to be released." It appears that YouTube Originals content released prior to that September 24 date will remain exclusive to Premium subscribers, but going forward, it'll be fair game for everyone. While that does slightly water-down the perks of being a YouTube Premium subscriber, it's also noted that paying customers will gain access to additional footage that won't be available for free users: "In most cases, where available, Director's cuts and bonus footage for YouTube Originals movies and live events will be exclusive to members like you, as well."

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A New Species of Leech Is Discovered Near Washington, D.C.

Sat, 08/17/2019 - 3:00am
schwit1 shares a report from Smithsonian: In the summer of 2015, when Smithsonian research zoologist Anna Phillips and other scientists were standing in slow-moving swamp water, letting leeches latch onto their bare legs or gathering them up in nets from muddy pond bottoms, they didn't realize that some of the bloodsuckers they'd collected belonged to an entirely new species. But in a just-published paper in the Journal of Parasitology, Phillips and her colleagues from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and the Royal Ontario Museum report that a previously unknown leech species, Macrobdella mimicus, is the first to be discovered on the continent in more than 40 years. Parasitologists typically rely on the arrangement of pores on the bottom of leeches' bodies to help distinguish species. With a close inspection, the researchers noticed a subtle difference in the spacing of the leeches' accessory pores. (While leeches are hermaphrodites, they mate with other leeches, and accessory pores secrete mucus that allows the mating leeches to stick together.) M. decora had four accessory pores grouped in two rows of two, just like the outlier group, but the new species had a set of pores located several millimeters farther back on their body. The similar pore pattern, however, led Phillips and the other scientists to name the new species Macrobdella mimicus, after the Greek word for "imitator" or "actor." The new species is olive-green with orange spots, about as long as a cigarette and as wide as two. It has three jaws, each containing 56 to 59 teeth (fewer than M. decora), which it can use to bite and siphon blood from humans. Leeches like this species can suck two to five times their body weight in blood thanks to expandable pockets in their intestines, explains Phillips.

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Researchers Build a Heat Shield Just 10 Atoms Thick To Protect Electronic Devices

Fri, 08/16/2019 - 11:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Excess heat given off by smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices can be annoying, but beyond that it contributes to malfunctions and, in extreme cases, can even cause lithium batteries to explode. To guard against such ills, engineers often insert glass, plastic or even layers of air as insulation to prevent heat-generating components like microprocessors from causing damage or discomforting users. Now, Stanford researchers have shown that a few layers of atomically thin materials, stacked like sheets of paper atop hot spots, can provide the same insulation as a sheet of glass 100 times thicker. In the near term, thinner heat shields will enable engineers to make electronic devices even more compact than those we have today, said Eric Pop, professor of electrical engineering and senior author of a paper published Aug. 16 in Science Advances. "To make nanoscale heat shields practical, the researchers will have to find some mass production technique to spray or otherwise deposit atom-thin layers of materials onto electronic components during manufacturing," adds Phys.Org. "But behind the immediate goal of developing thinner insulators looms a larger ambition: Scientists hope to one day control the vibrational energy inside materials the way they now control electricity and light. As they come to understand the heat in solid objects as a form of sound, a new field of phononics is emerging, a name taken from the Greek root word behind telephone, phonograph and phonetics."

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Huawei Is Working On Its Own Version of Google Maps

Fri, 08/16/2019 - 10:02pm
According to the state-owned China Daily, Huawei is working on a Google Maps alternative with Yandex and Booking.com. The service is expected to be unveiled in October. CNET reports: It's apparently designed to use a tool for software developers to create apps based around its mapping capabilities, rather than for consumer use. It'll connect to local mapping services, cover 150 countries and regions, and be available in 40 languages, the report said. Huawei didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but the company's ability to access Google's services has been threatened since President Trump blacklisted it in May. That came as a result of U.S. lawmakers' concerns about Huawei's tight relationship with the Chinese government and fears that its equipment could be used for spying. Trump has since said the ban will be eased.

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