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Updated: 2 hours 15 min ago

Famo.us: Do We Really Need Another JavaScript Framework?

Fri, 04/07/2014 - 20:11
An anonymous reader writes Front-end developer Jaroen Janssen has a post about Famo.us, "a custom built JavaScript 3D rendering and physics engine meant as a replacement for the standard layout engine of the browser." The engine effectively replaces a big chunk of HTML5 in order to render more efficiently by using technology based on WebGL. Janssen questions whether the world really needs another JavaScript framework: "Is it a bad thing that Famo.us replaces major parts of HTML5? To be honest, I'm not sure. As a Front-end developer I have to admit it makes me slightly uneasy to have to use a custom API instead of 'standard' HTML5. On the other hand, like almost everyone that makes web apps for a living, I have been terribly frustrated by some of HTML5 limitations, like slowness and browser incompatibilities. Either way, it might be a good thing to try a fundamentally different approach so I'm keeping an open mind for now. Famo.us chases another holy grail, namely the 'write once, run anywhere' dream. Instead of having to write different code for different platforms, like iOS and Android, developers can write one application that works and looks as good on all platforms, in theory anyway. This of course saves a huge amount of time and resources. Unfortunately, this idea is not without its problems and has never really worked very well with earlier attempts like Java-applets, Flash and Silverlight. In the end native applications have so far always been faster and slicker and I'm pretty skeptical Famo.us will be able to change this."

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Tesla Aims For $30,000 Price, 2017 Launch For Model E

Fri, 04/07/2014 - 15:08
An anonymous reader writes The biggest complaint about Tesla Motors' electric vehicles is that they're far too expensive for the average motorist. The Roadster sold for $109,000, and the Model S for $70,000. Chris Porritt, the company's VP of engineering, says their next model will aim for much broader availability. The compact Model E aims to be competitive with the Audi A4 and BMW 3-series, which both start in the low $30,000 range. To reduce cost, the Model E won't be built mostly with aluminum, like the Model S, and it will be roughly 20% smaller as well. The construction of the "Gigafactory" for battery production will also go a long way toward reducing the price. Their goal for launch is sometime around late 2016 or early 2017

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London Regulator Says Uber Is Operating Legally

Fri, 04/07/2014 - 08:07
An anonymous reader writes London's transportation regulator has ruled private-driver provider Uber is operating within the law. Licensed taxi drivers in London last month staged a protest urging Transport for London to find that Uber's mobile app acts as a taximeter, which is illegal for use by private-hire vehicles. "TfL said in a statement: 'In relation to the way Uber operates in London, TfL is satisfied that based upon our understanding of the relationship between the passenger and Uber London, and between Uber London and Uber UV, registered in Holland, that it is operating under the terms of the 1998 PHV(L) Act.' The decision was welcomed by Uber's general manger in the UK and Ireland Jo Bertram as a 'victory for common sense, technology, innovation — and above all, London.'"

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Researchers Create Walking, Muscle-Powered Biobots

Fri, 04/07/2014 - 05:29
Zothecula writes If you're going to deploy robots in biological settings – for example, inside the body – it makes a lot of sense to build those robots out of actual biological body parts. Muscle, for example, is a very effective, biodegradable replacement for an electric actuator that can run in a nutrient-rich fluid without the need for any other power source. Bio-robotics experts in Illinois have demonstrated a bio-bot built from 3-D printed hydrogel and spinal muscle tissue that can "walk" in response to an electrical signal. Their next step will be trying to incorporate neurons that can get the bot walking in different directions when faced with different stimuli.

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Radar Changing the Face of Cycling

Fri, 04/07/2014 - 03:01
First time accepted submitter Franz Struwig writes "MAKE Magazine has a great review of a bicycle radar product — showing off some of the early prototype innards: "The latest version features a 24 GHz radar antenna — high enough to resolve more targets and small enough to fit on a bike — an ARM processor, and Bluetooth LE to communicate with the front unit. The radar creates a doppler map, and recognizes not only the vehicle, but how far away it is and how quickly it’s approaching. It communicates this to the cyclist by a system of LEDs, and to the car by increasing the rate at which the tail light blinks as the car gets closer."

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Can the NSA Really Track You Through Power Lines?

Fri, 04/07/2014 - 00:25
mask.of.sanity writes Forensics and industry experts have cast doubt on an alleged National Security Agency capability to locate whistle blowers appearing in televised interviews based on how the captured background hum of electrical devices affects energy grids. Divining information from electrified wires is a known technique: Network Frequency Analysis (ENF) is used to prove video and audio streams have not been tampered with, but experts weren't sure if the technology could be used to locate individuals.

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New Class of Stars Are Totally Metal, Says Astrophysicist

Thu, 03/07/2014 - 23:38
KentuckyFC writes Stars form when clouds of gas and dust collapse under their own gravity, generating enough heat and pressure to fuse the atoms inside them together. When this cloud of dust and gas is the remnants of a supernova, it can contain all kinds of heavy elements in addition to primordial hydrogen, helium and lithium. Now one astrophysicist has calculated that a recently discovered phenomenon of turbulence, called preferential concentration, can profoundly alter star formation. He points out that turbulence is essentially vortices rotating on many scales of time and space. On certain scales, the inertial forces these eddies create can push heavy particles into the calmer space between the vortices, thereby increasing their concentration. In giant clouds of interstellar gas, this concentrates heavy elements, increasing their gravitational field, attracting more mass and so on. The result is the formation of a star that is made entirely of heavy elements rather than primordial ones. Astrophysicists call the amount of heavy elements in a star its "metallicity". Including preferential concentration in the standard model of star formation leads to the prediction that 1 in 10,000 stars should be totally metal. Now the race is on to find the first of this new class of entirely metal stars.

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Duolingo is a Free, Crowdsourced Language Learning App (Video)

Thu, 03/07/2014 - 22:07
This is an interview with Duolingo engineer Franklin Ditzler. He's not a smooth marketing guy getting all rah-rah about the company and what it does, just a coder who enjoys his job and seems to like where he works and what he's doing. Note that Duolingo is a free language teaching tool, and they seem determined to keep it free for language students by selling crowdsourced translation services to companies like CNN and BuzzFeed. Duolingo founder and CEO Luis von Ahn is an associate professor in the Carnegie Mellon University Computer Science Department, and was one of the original developers behind reCAPTCHA. Google acquired ReCAPTCHA in 2009 for "an undisclosed sum," a bit of history that led TechCrunch to speculate back in 2011 that Google would buy Duolingo within six months -- which didn't happen. But don't despair. It's still possible that Google (or another big company) might absorb Duolingo. We'll just have to wait and see -- and possibly improve our foreign language skills while we wait. (Alternate Video Link)

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Researchers Disarm Microsoft's EMET

Thu, 03/07/2014 - 20:38
wiredmikey (1824622) writes "Security researchers have found a way to disable the protection systems provided by the latest version of Microsoft's Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET), a software tool designed to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited by using various mitigation technologies. Others have managed to bypass EMET in the past, but researchers from Offensive Security have focused on disarming EMET, rather than on bypassing mitigations, as this method gives an attacker the ability use generic shellcodes such as the ones generated by Metasploit. The researchers managed to disarm EMET and get a shell after finding a global variable in the .data section of the EMET.dll file. Initially, they only managed to get a shell by executing the exploit with a debugger attached, due to EMET's EAF checks. However, they've succeeded in getting a shell outside the debugger after disarming EAF with a method described by security researcher Piotr Bania in January 2012. The researchers tested their findings on Windows 7, Internet Explorer 8 and EMET 4.1 update 1."

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IeSF Wants International Game Tournaments Segregated By Sex

Thu, 03/07/2014 - 15:10
RockDoctor (15477) writes The Guardian is reporting that a Finnish heat of an international gaming competition is being segregated into male and female branches in accordance to international rules. The International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) want "eSports" to be recognised as equivalent to physical sports. And that, it seems, requires that competitors be segregated on grounds of sex. Which may be appropriate for pole vaulters, but not necessarily appropriate for ePole vaulters. This leaves the organisers of national heats of eSports in a rather invidious position of having (in this case) a tournament only open to "Finnish male players."

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Goldman Sachs Demands Google Unsend One of Its E-mails

Thu, 03/07/2014 - 14:26
rudy_wayne (414635) writes A Goldman Sachs contractor was testing internal changes made to Goldman Sachs system and prepared a report with sensitive client information, including details on brokerage accounts. The report was accidentally e-mailed to a 'gmail.com' address rather than the correct 'gs.com' address. Google told Goldman Sachs on June 26 that it couldn't just reach into Gmail and delete the e-mail without a court order. Goldman Sachs filed with the New York Supreme Court, requesting "emergency relief" to avoid a privacy violation and "avoid the risk of unnecessary reputational damage to Goldman Sachs."

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Senate Budgetmakers Move To End US Participation In ITER

Thu, 03/07/2014 - 13:45
Graculus (3653645) writes Budgetmakers in the U.S. Senate have moved to halt U.S. participation in ITER, the huge international fusion experiment now under construction in Cadarache, France, that aims to demonstrate that nuclear fusion could be a viable source of energy. Although the details are not available, Senate sources confirm a report by Physics Today that the Senate's version of the budget for the Department of Energy (DOE) for fiscal year 2015, which begins 1 October, would provide just $75 million for the United States' part of the project. That would be half of what the White House had requested and just enough to wind down U.S. involvement in ITER. According to this story from April, the U.S. share of the ITER budget has jumped to "$3.9 billion — roughly four times as much as originally estimated." (That's a pretty big chunk; compare it, say, to NASA's entire annual budget.)

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Facebook Fallout, Facts and Frenzy

Thu, 03/07/2014 - 13:04
redletterdave (2493036) writes Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said the company's experiment designed to purposefully manipulate the emotions of its users was communicated "poorly". Sandberg's public comments, which were the first from any Facebook executive following the discovery of the one-week psychological study, were made while attending a meeting with small businesses in India that advertise on Facebook. "This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was," Sandberg said. "It was poorly communicated. And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you." anavictoriasaavedra points out this article that questions how much of this outrage over an old press release is justified and what's lead to the media frenzy. Sometimes editors at media outlets get a little panicked when there's a big story swirling around and they haven't done anything with it. It all started as a largely ignored paper about the number of positive and negative words people use in Facebook posts. Now it's a major scandal. The New York Times connected the Facebook experiment to suicides. The story was headlined, Should Facebook Manipulate Users, and it rests on the questionable assumption that such manipulation has happened. Stories that ran over the weekend raised serious questions about the lack of informed consent used in the experiment, which was done by researchers at Cornell and Facebook and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But to say Facebook’s slight alteration of news feeds caused people to suffer depression seems to be unsupported by any kind of data or logic.

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Site of 1976 "Atomic Man" Accident To Be Cleaned

Thu, 03/07/2014 - 10:38
mdsolar writes with news about the cleanup of the site that exposed Harold McCluskey to the highest dose of radiation from americium ever recorded. Workers are finally preparing to enter one of the most dangerous rooms in the world — the site of a 1976 blast in the United States that exposed a technician to a massive dose of radiation and led to his nickname: the "Atomic Man." Harold McCluskey, then 64, was working in the room at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation when a chemical reaction caused a glass glove box to explode. He was exposed to the highest dose of radiation from the chemical element americium ever recorded — 500 times the occupational standard. Hanford, located in central Washington state, made plutonium for nuclear weapons for decades. The room was used to recover radioactive americium, a byproduct of plutonium. Covered with blood, McCluskey was dragged from the room and put into an ambulance headed for the decontamination center. Because he was too hot to handle, he was removed by remote control and transported to a steel-and-concrete isolation tank. During the next five months, doctors laboriously extracted tiny bits of glass and razor-sharp pieces of metal embedded in his skin. Nurses scrubbed him down three times a day and shaved every inch of his body every day. The radioactive bathwater and thousands of towels became nuclear waste.

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Tibetans Inherited High-Altitude Gene From Ancient Human

Thu, 03/07/2014 - 05:32
sciencehabit writes A "superathlete" gene that helps Sherpas and other Tibetans breathe easy at high altitudes was inherited from an ancient species of human. That's the conclusion of a new study, which finds that the gene variant came from people known as Denisovans, who went extinct soon after they mated with the ancestors of Europeans and Asians about 40,000 years ago. This is the first time a version of a gene acquired from interbreeding with another type of human has been shown to help modern humans adapt to their environment.

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