Education

US Defense Budget May Help Fund 'Hacking For Defense' Classes At Universities (ieee.org) 6

According to an instructor at Stanford, eight universities in addition to Stanford will offer a Hacking for Defense class this year: Boise State, Columbia, Georgetown, James Madison, the University of California at San Diego, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Southern California, and the University of Southern Mississippi. IEEE Spectrum reports: The class has spun out Hacking for Diplomacy, Hacking for Energy, and other targeted classes that use the same methodology. The snowballing effort is now poised to get a big push. This month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment originated by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) to support development of curriculum, best practices, and recruitment materials for the program to the tune of $15 million (a drop in the $700 billion defense budget but a big deal for a university program). In arguing for the amendment, Lipinski said, "Rapid, low-cost technological innovation is what makes Silicon Valley revolutionary, but the DOD hasn't historically had the mechanisms in place to harness this American advantage. Hacking for Defense creates ways for talented scientists and engineers to work alongside veterans, military leaders, and business mentors to innovate solutions that make America safer."
Google

Google Enters Race For Nuclear Fusion Technology (theguardian.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Google and a leading nuclear fusion company have developed a new computer algorithm which has significantly speeded up experiments on plasmas, the ultra-hot balls of gas at the heart of the energy technology. Tri Alpha Energy, which is backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has raised over $500 million in investment. It has worked with Google Research to create what they call the Optometrist algorithm. This enables high-powered computation to be combined with human judgement to find new and better solutions to complex problems. Working with Google enabled experiment's on Tri Alpha Energy's C2-U machine to progress much faster, with operations that took a month speeded up to just a few hours. The algorithm revealed unexpected ways of operating the plasma, with the research published on Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports. The team achieved a 50% reduction in energy losses from the system and a resulting increase in total plasma energy, which must reach a critical threshold for fusion to occur.
Medicine

Degenerative Brain Disease Found In Nearly All Donated NFL Player Brains, Says Study (npr.org) 102

A new study published Tuesday in the journal American Medical Association found that 110 out of 111 brains of those who played in the NFL had degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). NPR reports: In the study, researchers examined the brains of 202 deceased former football players at all levels. Nearly 88 percent of all the brains, 177, had CTE. Three of 14 who had played only in high school had CTE, 48 of 53 college players, 9 of 14 semiprofessional players, and 7 of 8 Canadian Football League players. CTE was not found in the brains of two who played football before high school. According to the study's senior author, Dr. Ann McKee, "this is by far the largest [study] of individuals who developed CTE that has ever been described. And it only includes individuals who are exposed to head trauma by participation in football." A CTE study several years ago by McKee and her colleagues included football players and athletes from other collision sports such as hockey, soccer and rugby. It also examined the brains of military veterans who had suffered head injuries. The study released Tuesday is the continuation of a study that began eight years ago. In 2015, McKee and fellow researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University published study results revealing 87 of 91 former NFL players had CTE.
AT&T

AT&T Loses Record Number of Traditional TV Subscribers In Q2, Drops 156,000 DirecTV Satellite Customers (variety.com) 30

According to Variety, AT&T's pay-TV business has lost a record 351,000 traditional video customers in the second quarter, with the internet-delivered DirecTV Now service failing to fully offset the losses. From the report: In Q2, historically a seasonally weak period for the pay-TV business, DirecTV's U.S. satellite division lost 156,000 customers sequentially, dropping to 20.86 million, compared with a gain of 342,000 in the year-earlier quarter. AT&T's U-verse lost 195,000 subs in the quarter, which was actually an improvement over the 391,000 it lost in Q2 of 2016. AT&T touted that it gained 152,000 DirecTV Now customers in Q2, after adding just 72,000 in the first quarter of 2017. Overall, it had signed up 491,000 DirecTV Now subs as of the end of June, after the OTT service launched seven months ago.
Power

Toyota's New Solid-State Battery Could Make Its Way To Cars By 2020 (techcrunch.com) 31

According to the Wall Street Journal, Toyota is in production engineering for a solid state battery, which uses a solid electrolyte instead of the conventional semi-liquid version used in today's lithium-ion batteries. The company said it aims to put the new tech in production electric vehicles as early as 2020. TechCrunch reports: The improved battery technology would make it possible to create smaller, more lightweight lithium-ion batteries for use in EVs, that could also potentially boost the total charge capacity and result in longer-range vehicles. Another improvement for this type of battery would be longer overall usable life, which would make it possible to both use the vehicles they're installed in for longer, and add potential for product recycling and alternative post-vehicle life (some companies are already looking into putting EV batteries into use in home and commercial energy storage, for example).
China

China Forces Muslim Minority To Install Spyware On Their Phones (bleepingcomputer.com) 205

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Chinese authorities in the province of Xinjiang are forcing locals of the Uyghur Muslim minority to install an app on their phones that will allow the government to scan their device for "terrorist propaganda," local media reports. In reality, the app creates MD5 hashes for the user's files and matches them against a database of known terrorist content. The app also makes copies of the user's Weibo and WeChat databases and uploads it to a government server, along with the user's IMEI, IMSI, and WiFi login information. The app is called Jingwang (Citizen Safety) and was developed by police forces from Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital. Authorities launched the app in April, and also included the ability to report suspicious activity to the police. At the start of July, Xinjiang officials started sending WeChat messages in Uyghur and Chinese to locals, asking them to install the app or face detainment of up to 10 days. Police have also stopped people on the street to check if they installed the app. Several were detained for refusing to install it. Locals are now sharing the locations of checkpoints online, so others can avoid getting arrested.
Medicine

Sperm Counts Among Western Men Have Halved In Last 40 Years, Says Study (theguardian.com) 230

New submitter flote shares a report from The Guardian: Sperm counts among men have more than halved in the last 40 years, research suggests, although the drivers behind the decline remain unclear. The latest findings reveal that between 1973 and 2011, the concentration of sperm in the ejaculate of men in western countries has fallen by an average of 1.4% a year, leading to an overall drop of just over 52%. The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction Update by an international team of researchers, drew on 185 studies conducted between 1973 and 2011, involving almost 43,000 men. The team split the data based on whether the men were from western countries -- including Australia and New Zealand as well as countries in North America and Europe -- or from elsewhere. After accounting for factors including age and how long men had gone without ejaculation, the team found that sperm concentration fell from 99 million per ml in 1973 to 47.1 million per ml in 2011 -- a decline of 52.4% -- among western men unaware of their fertility. For the same group, total sperm count -- the number of sperm in a semen sample -- fell by just under 60%.
Businesses

Cloudflare Wants to Eliminate 'Moot' Pirate Site Blocking Threat (torrentfreak.com) 17

Cloudflare is not happy with the RIAA's efforts to hold the company liable for pirate websites on its network. From a report: Representing various major record labels, the RIAA filed a lawsuit against MP3Skull in 2015. Last year a Florida federal court sided with the RIAA, awarding the labels more than $22 million in damages. In addition, it issued a permanent injunction which allowed the RIAA to take over the site's domain names. Despite the multi-million dollar verdict, MP3Skull continued to operate using a variety of new domain names, which were subsequently targeted by the RIAA's legal team. As the site refused to shut down, the RIAA eventually moved up the chain targeting CDN provider Cloudflare with the permanent injunction. The RIAA argued that Cloudflare was operating "in active concert or participation" with the pirates. Cloudflare objected and argued that the DMCA shielded the company from the broad blocking requirements. However, the court ruled that the DMCA doesn't apply in this case, opening the door to widespread anti-piracy filtering. The court stressed that, before issuing an injunction against Cloudflare, it still had to be determined whether the CDN provider is "in active concert or participation" with the pirate site. [...] Cloudflare now wants the dangerous anti-piracy filtering order to be thrown out. The company submitted a motion to vacate the order late last week, arguing that the issue is moot. In fact, it has been for a while for some of the contended domain names. The CDN provider says it researched the domain names listed in the injunction and found that only three of the twenty domains used Cloudflare's services at the time the RIAA asked the court to clarify its order. Some had never used CloudFlare's services at all, they say.
Android

Motorola Unveils the Moto Z2 Force, a Smartphone With Double the Cameras and a Shatterproof Screen (theverge.com) 27

Motorola has announced a new flagship smartphone that will be available on every major U.S. carrier. Some of the noteworthy specifications include a nearly indestructible screen and dual rear-facing camera sensors. The Verge reports: The Moto Z2 Force is the closest thing to a flagship phone that Motorola has released this year, and it's got all the hardware specs to show for it: inside is Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. It runs Android 7.1 with a promised upgrade to Android O to come. That's all standard fare for an expensive 2017 smartphone, and the Z2 Force is certainly expensive at around $720. It's priced even higher on some carriers like AT&T ($810). This version is much thinner than last year's phone, but that sleek design comes with a significant sacrifice in battery capacity; the Z2 Force has a 2,730mAh battery compared to the 3,500mAh battery in the old Moto Z Force. Between this and the Moto Z2 Play, Motorola sure does seem obsessed with slimming things down lately, and what are we gaining? Oh, there's no headphone jack on this thing either. Be prepared to go wireless or live the dongle life.
Transportation

India's Transport Minister Vows To Ban Self-Driving Cars To Save Jobs (arstechnica.com) 105

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Companies in the United States, Germany, Japan, and other countries are racing to develop self-driving cars. But India's top transportation regulator says that those cars won't be welcome on Indian streets any time soon. "We won't allow driverless cars in India," said Nitin Gadkari, India's minister for Road Transport, Highways, and Shipping, according to the Hindustan Times. "I am very clear on this. We won't allow any technology that takes away jobs." Gadkari is taking a very different approach from politicians in the United States, where both the Obama and Trump administrations have been keen to promote the development of self-driving vehicles. "We are bullish on automated vehicles," said Obama Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx last year. His successor, Elaine Chao, has also signaled support for self-driving technology, while also expressing concerns about safety risks and potential job losses.
Businesses

Trump Says Apple's Tim Cook Has Promised Him He'd Build Three US Factories: 'Big, Big, Big' (cnbc.com) 143

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Apple CEO Tim Cook has committed to build three big manufacturing plants in the U.S., a surprising statement that would help fulfill his administration's economic goal of reviving American manufacturing. From a report: Apple CEO Tim Cook called Trump to share that the iPhone-maker would do more manufacturing domestically, Trump told WSJ. "I spoke to [Mr. Cook], he's promised me three big plants -- big, big, big," Trump was quoted as saying. Apple has already said that it would start a $1 billion fund to promote advanced manufacturing jobs in the United States. With its wide network of developers, Apple has already created two million jobs in the United States, according to Cook.
Businesses

Tech Jobs Are Surging in Seattle, Declining in Silicon Valley (axios.com) 120

The number of posted tech jobs rose by 10.7 percent in the first half of the year from 2016 in the Seattle area, as eight tech hubs continue to dominate the U.S. technology industry, according to a new study by Indeed. From a report: But while Silicon Valley retains its spot as the premier technological center in the U.S., tech listings plunged by 5.9 percent in the western and southern valley around San Jose in the first half of the year, and an even higher 7.8 percent in San Francisco and along the eastern Bay Area, Indeed said. Raleigh, NC, saw the largest plummet, with tech listings dropping by 14.6 percent.
Businesses

Roomba's Next Big Step Is Selling Maps of Your Home to the Highest Bidder (gizmodo.com) 113

The maker of the Roomba robotic vacuum, iRobot -- which we have talked about several times in the past -- has found itself embroiled in a privacy row after its chief executive suggested it may begin selling floor plans of customers' homes, derived from the movement data of their autonomous servants. From a report: While it may seem like the information that a Roomba could gather is minimal, there's a lot to be gleaned from the maps it's constantly updating. It knows the floor plan of your home, the basic shape of everything on your floor, what areas require the most maintenance, and how often you require cleaning cycles, along with many other data points. [...] If a company like Amazon, for example, wanted to improve its Echo smart speaker, the Roomba's mapping info could certainly help out. Spatial mapping could improve audio performance by taking advantage of the room's acoustics. Do you have a large room that's practically empty? Targeted furniture ads might be quite effective. The laser and camera sensors would paint a nice portrait for lighting needs that would factor into smart lights that adjust in real time. Smart AC units could better control airflow. And additional sensors added in the future would gather even more data from this live-in double agent.
NASA

NASA Has a Way to Cut Your Flight Time in Half (bloomberg.com) 203

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg Businessweek article: For almost a half-century there's been a clear speed limit on most commercial air travel: 660 miles per hour, the rate at which a typical-size plane traveling at 30,000 feet breaks the sound barrier and creates a 30-mile-wide, continuous sonic boom. That may be changing. In August, NASA says, it will begin taking bids for construction of a demo model of a plane able to reduce the sonic boom to something like the hum you'd hear inside a Mercedes-Benz on the interstate. The agency's researchers say their design, a smaller-scale model of which was successfully tested in a wind tunnel at the end of June, should cut the six-hour flight time from New York to Los Angeles in half. NASA proposes spending $390 million over five years to build the demo plane and test it over populated areas. The first year of funding is included in President Trump's 2018 budget proposal. Over the next decade, growth in air transportation and distances flown "will drive the demand for broadly available faster air travel," says Peter Coen, project manager for NASA's commercial supersonic research team. "That's going to make it possible for companies to offer competitive products in the future." NASA plans to share the technology resulting from the tests with U.S. plane makers, meaning a head start for the likes of Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing, and startups such as Boom Technology and billionaire Robert Bass's Aerion. [...] NASA is targeting a sound level of 60 to 65 A-weighted decibels (dBa), Coen says. That's about as loud as that luxury car on the highway or the background conversation in a busy restaurant. Iosifidis says that Lockheed's research shows the design can maintain that sound level at commercial size and his team's planned demo will be 94 feet long, have room for one pilot, fly as high as 55,000 feet, and run on one of the twin General Electric engines that power Boeing Co.'s F/A-18 fighter jet.
The Internet

House Panel Wants Google, Facebook, AT&T CEOs To Testify On Internet Rules (reuters.com) 31

The chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday asked the chief executives of Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon.com, AT&T, Verizon Communications and other companies to testify at a Sept. 7 hearing on the future of net neutrality rules. From a report: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is considering tossing out 2015 Obama administration net neutrality rules that reclassified internet service like a public utility. The rules bar providers from blocking, slowing or offering paid prioritization of websites. Many internet providers want Congress to step in and write permanent rules. Other chief executives asked to testify include the heads of Comcast, Netflix and Charter. Some companies including Facebook said they were reviewing the letter but none immediately said if they will testify.

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