Tag Archives | Technology

Meet the people who have volunteered to die on Mars


Walker Lamond via BoingBoing:

Thousands of people are competing to be the first humans to travel to Mars and colonize it. The only catch–they can never come back. Ever.

Mars One, an interplanetary travel nonprofit, will soon select the next round of wannabe astronauts from the nearly 700 current finalists. While making a short movie about the competition for The Guardian, we at Stateless Media had a chance to speak to a few people vying for one of the coveted seats on a Mars One Spaceship. I learned the following: they are all really smart, incredibly brave, and a little bit crazy.

Actually, they’re a lot of bit crazy. And that’s a good thing. Because it takes a certain kind of person to choose to live the rest of their lives stranded on a desert planet with no breathable air, no Netflix, no Snapchat, no Game of Thrones, no General Tso’s Chicken, and no long, romantic walks on the beach.

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Experts predict faster pace of robots replacing factory workers

Via Irish Examiner:

Cheaper and better robots will replace humans in the world’s factories at a faster pace over the next decade, a report has said.

The Boston Consulting Group predicts:

* Investment in industrial robots will grow 10% a year in the world’s 25-biggest export nations up to 2025, up from 2% to 3% a year now.

* The investment will pay off in driving down labour costs by 16% and increased efficiency.

* Robots will cut labour costs by 33% in South Korea, 25% in Japan, 24% in Canada and 22% in the United States and Taiwan.

Only 10% of jobs that can be automated have already been taken by robots. By 2025, the machines will have more than 23%, Boston Consulting forecasts.

Robots are getting cheaper, the report says, with the cost of owning and operating a robotic spot welder, for instance, tumbling from US$182,000 in 2005 to $133,000 last year, and will drop to $103,000 by 2025.

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No Big Bang? Quantum equation predicts universe has no beginning

"This is an artist's concept of the metric expansion of space, where space (including hypothetical non-observable portions of the universe) is represented at each time by the circular sections. Note on the left the dramatic expansion (not to scale) occurring in the inflationary epoch, and at the center the expansion acceleration. The scheme is decorated with WMAP images on the left and with the representation of stars at the appropriate level of development." Credit: NASA

“This is an artist’s concept of the metric expansion of space, where space (including hypothetical non-observable portions of the universe) is represented at each time by the circular sections. Note on the left the dramatic expansion (not to scale) occurring in the inflationary epoch, and at the center the expansion acceleration. The scheme is decorated with WMAP images on the left and with the representation of stars at the appropriate level of development.” Credit: NASA

Lisa Zyga via Phys.org:

(Phys.org) —The universe may have existed forever, according to a new model that applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once.

The widely accepted age of the , as estimated by , is 13.8 billion years. In the beginning, everything in existence is thought to have occupied a single infinitely dense point, or .

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Warning: Samsung Smart TVs Are Listening To You

In a remarkably Orwellian admission, Samsung warns owners of its so-called Smart TVs not to talk in front of the TVs, because they are listening to what you say. From BBC News:

Samsung is warning customers to avoid discussing personal information in front of their smart television set.

SamsungSmartTV 

The warning applies to TV viewers who control their Samsung Smart TV using its voice activation feature.

Such TV sets ‘listen’ to every conversation held in front of them and may share any details they hear with Samsung or third parties, it said.

Privacy campaigners said the technology smacked of the telescreens, in George Orwell’s 1984, which spied on citizens.

Data sharing

The warning came to light via a story in online news magazine the Daily Beast which published an excerpt of a section of Samsung’s privacy policy for its net-connected Smart TV sets.

The policy explains that the TV set will be listening to people in the same room to try to spot when commands are issued.

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Youtube Ditches Flash, and it Hardly Matters: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

html5_logo_512Cory Doctorow via EFF:

Last week, Google announced that its Youtube service would default to using HTML5 video instead of Flash. Once upon a time, this would have been cause for celebration: after all, Flash is a proprietary technology owned by one company, a frequent source of critical vulnerabilities that expose hundreds of millions of Internet users to attacks on their computers and all that they protect, and Flash objects can only be reliably accessed via closed software, and not from free/open code that anyone can inspect.

A year ago, the largest video site on the net ditching Flash would have been a blow for Internet freedom. Today, it’s a bitter reminder of how the three big commercial browser vendors—Apple, Microsoft and Google—Netflix, the BBC, and the World Wide Web Consortium sold the whole Internet out.

In spring 2013, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) abandoned its long-term role as the guardian of the open Web, and threw its support at the highest level behind EME, an attempt to standardize Flash-style locks on browsers.

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How Technicolor Changed Storytelling

Via Adrienne LaFrance at The Atlantic:

In the dawn of the age of cinema, adding color to black-and-white films was something like “putting lip rouge on Venus de Milo.” That is to say, it had the potential for disastrous, garish results. And that’s how the legendary director Albert Parker referred to the process of colorizing motion pictures in 1926, according to The New York Times that year.

Parker’s lipstick-on-the-Venus de Milo line wasn’t originally his—it was the same comparison famously used by silent film star Mary Pickford to lament the rise of talkies. As with sound, adding color to motion pictures represented a revolutionary shift in onscreen storytelling—and not everyone was convinced that change was worthwhile. Even those who were excited about color filmmaking felt trepidation.

“The color must never dominate the narrative,” Parker told the Times. “We have tried to get a sort of satin gloss on the scenes and have consistently avoided striving for prismatic effects… We realize that color is violent and for that reason we restrained it.”

Today, we’re accustomed to seeing color choices set the tone for a scene, a film—even an entire body of work.

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The World’s Email Encryption Software Relies on One Guy, Who is Going Broke

Via Julia Angwin at ProPublica:

Update, Feb. 5, 2015, 8:10 p.m.: After this article appeared, Werner Koch informed us that last week he was awarded a one-time grant of $60,000 from Linux Foundation’s Core Infrastructure Initiative. Werner told us he only received permission to disclose it after our article published. Meanwhile, since our story was posted, donations flooded Werner’s website donation page and he reached his funding goal of $137,000. In addition, Facebook and the online payment processor Stripe each pledged to donate $50,000 a year to Koch’s project.

The man who built the free email encryption software used by whistleblower Edward Snowden, as well as hundreds of thousands of journalists, dissidents and security-minded people around the world, is running out of money to keep his project alive.

Werner Koch wrote the software, known as Gnu Privacy Guard, in 1997, and since then has been almost single-handedly keeping it alive with patches and updates from his home in Erkrath, Germany.

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Late 19th-Century Maps Show Measles Mortality Before Vaccines

1MeaslesMap.jpg.CROP.original-original

Via Rebecca Onion at Slate:

These maps of measles mortality appeared in three late-19th-century statistical atlases published by the Census Office. Experiments in data visualization, the atlases are modern in their scope and ambition. Since they were compiled in a time before the availability of vaccines for most childhood diseases (with smallpox being the exception), they are a good record of the former pervasiveness of measles.

In a brief history of the disease, the Centers for Disease Control writes that between 1953 and 1963, when the measles vaccine became available, “nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age.” Yearly, “400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 4,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain) from measles.” (Writer Roald Dahl’s daughter, who died in 1962 and is the subject of this 1988 Dahl letter urging parents to vaccinate, was afflicted by this complication.)

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This Book Uses Facial Recognition to Judge Whether You Deserve to Read It

Can books afford to be so picky about who reads them? Yahoo investigates:

You might not want to admit it, but deep down every bookstore shopper knows that picking a new book to read is a fairly superficial process. We’re tuned to judge books by their covers, despite the advice of clichés. But what happens when the tables are turned, and the covers are judging us?

This is the question at hand for Thijs Biersteker, a Dutch artist who created a book that uses facial recognition to decide whether you are worthy of reading it. As demonstrated in the video below, the book scans your face for your emotional state; if it senses that you are either too excited or in a sour mode, it will lock itself shut, preventing you from reading in the wrong frame of mind.

It works like this: You first align your face with the book’s built-in screen, which intentionally resembles the face of a robot out of Fritz Lang‘s 1927 dystopian film Metropolis.

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