Wednesday, September 02, 2015
Wednesday Wakerife Wallfish
Google's autonomous cars have a very good safety record so far — the accidents they've been involved in weren't the software's fault. But that doesn't mean the cars are blending seamlessly into traffic.
A NY Times article explains how doing the safest thing sometimes means doing something entirely unexpected to real, human drivers — which itself can lead to dangerous situations.
"One Google car, in a test in 2009, couldn't get through a four-way stop because its sensors kept waiting for other (human) drivers to stop completely and let it go. The human drivers kept inching forward, looking for the advantage — paralyzing Google's robot."
There are also situations in which the software's behavior may be so incomprehensible to human passengers that they end up turning it off. "In one maneuver, it swerved sharply in a residential neighborhood to avoid a car that was poorly parked, so much so that the Google sensors couldn't tell if it might pull into traffic."
I pay for top tier Bandwidth speeds and rarely ever see those speeds over here at Time Warner.
For some time, Comcast has been testing 300 GB monthly data caps in certain markets.
An anonymous reader notes a policy change unveiled today that gives customers in those markets the ability to switch back to unlimited data for $30 extra.
Previously (and currently, for customers who don't pay the extra $30), Comcast would charge $10 per 50GB above the cap. "Comcast's intent on this front has been clear for some time.
Comcast lobbyist and VP David Cohen last year strongly suggested that usage caps would be arriving for all Comcast customers sooner or later.
The idea of charging users a premium to avoid arbitrary usage restrictions has been a pipe dream of incumbent ISP executives for a decade." The new policy goes into effect on October 1.
Google Chrome Just Got better...
Google today launched Chrome 45 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android with some expected changes and new developer tools.
First and foremost, Chrome now automatically pauses less important Flash content (rolling out gradually, so be patient).
This has been a longtime coming from both Google and Adobe, with the goal to make Flash content more power-efficient in Chrome: In March, a setting was introduced to play less Flash content on the page, but it wasn't turned on by default, and in June, the option was enabled in the browser's beta channel.
Now it's being turned on for everyone.
ghacks and Ars Technica are providing more detail about Windows 10's telemetry and "privacy invasion" features being backported to Windows 7 and 8.
The articles list and explain some of the involved updates by number (e.g., KB3068708, KB3022345, KB3075249, and KB3080149).
The Ars article says the Windows firewall can block the traffic just fine, and the service sending the telemetry can be disabled.
"Additionally, most or all of the traffic appears to be contingent on participating in the CEIP in the first place. If the CEIP is disabled, it appears that little or no traffic gets sent. This may not always have been the case, however; the notes that accompany the 3080149 update say that the amount of network activity when not part of CEIP has been reduced."
The ghacks article explains other ways to block the unwanted traffic and uninstall the updates.
Do not give yourself permission to only get a few hours of sleep each night!
Moms and sleep researchers alike have stressed the importance of solid shuteye for years, especially when it comes to fighting off the common cold.
Their stance is a sensible one—skimping on sleep weakens the body's natural defense system, leaving it more vulnerable to viruses.
But the connection relied largely on self-reported, subjective surveys—until now (abtract).
For the first time, a team of scientists reports that they have locked down the link experimentally, showing that sleep-deprived individuals are more than four times more likely to catch a cold than those who are well-rested.
Never been to this event. But I hear it is becoming increasingly more expensive to attend.
The 29th annual Burning Man festival kicks off this week in Nevada's Black Rock Desert.
Among those paying close attention to the festivities will be the FBI's Special Events Management unit, who have kept files on "burners" since at least 2010.
One of the more interesting things in those, files, however, is a lengthy, heavily redacted paragraph detailing that the FBI's Special Events Management Unit gave Las Vegas Police Department some specialized equipment for monitoring the week-long event, as long as LVPD provided follow up reports.
And just for the fun of it, let's take a look at what they have been taking a look at...
The uncertainty of some religious text
Brian Booker writes at Digital Journal that carbon dating suggests the Koran, or at least portions of it, may actually be older than the prophet Muhammad himself, a finding that if confirmed could rewrite early Islamic history and shed doubt on the "heavenly" origins of the holy text.
Scholars believe that a copy of the Koran held by the Birmingham Library was actually written sometime between 568 AD and 645, while the Prophet Mohammad was believed to have been born in 570 AD and to have died in 632 AD.
It should be noted, however, that the dating was only conducted on the parchment, rather than the ink, so it is possible that the Koran was simply written on old paper. '
Some scholars believe, however, that Muhammad did not receive the Koran from heaven, as he claimed during his lifetime, but instead collected texts and scripts that fit his political agenda.
"This gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Koran's genesis, like that Muhammad and his early followers used a text that was already in existence and shaped it to fit their own political and theological agenda, rather than Muhammad receiving a revelation from heaven," says Keith Small, from the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library. "
'It destabilizes, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Koran emerged," says Historian Tom Holland. "and that in turn has implications for the history of Muhammad and the Companions."
There was a typo in the dates used by the original linked article — in the press release from the University of Birmingham, the date range given for the parchment is between 568 AD and 645 AD, which overlaps more closely with Muhammad's lifetime.
The dates and link have been fixed now in the summary.
Historians say this new information highlights the uncertainty surrounding the emergence of such religious texts, rather than being a major upheaval.
This is truly cool
Developed by Yale engineer Adam Spiers, the Animotus is a wirelessly-connected, 3D printed cube that changes shape to help direct you like a haptic compass.
Gizmag reports: " Spiers designed Animotus when he was involved in a performance of Flatland, an interactive play based on Edwin A. Abbott's 1884 story of a two-dimensional world. As part of the stage production, audience members – both sighted and visually impaired – were kept in complete darkness and walked four at a time though the performance space with narrative voice overs and sound effects telling the story as they wandered through.
In their hands, each participant held an Animotus that guided them by changing shape to point them in the right direction. With a multi-sectioned body created in a 3D printer, that Animotus alters shape in response to wireless instructions to indicate the user’s position in their environment.
To do this, the top half of the cube twists around to point users toward their next destination and then slides forward to give a relative indication of the distance to get there. As a result, rather than having to look at a device, such as the screen of a smartphone, the user was able to determine their path by touch."
Seabirds Have Been Diminishing On The West Coast Of USA
Radioactivity from Japan is polluting the pacific ocean and killing off seabirds.
According to a new study almost every ocean-foraging species of birds may be eating plastic by 2050. In the five large ocean areas known as "garbage patches," each square kilometer of surface water holds almost 600,000 pieces of debris.
Sciencemag reports: "By 2050, about 99.8% of the species studied will have eaten plastic, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Consuming plastic can cause myriad problems, Wilcox says. For example, some types of plastics absorb and concentrate environmental pollutants, he notes.
After ingestion, those chemicals can be released into the birds’ digestive tracts, along with chemicals in the plastics that keep them soft and pliable.
But plastic bits aren’t always pliable enough to get through a gull’s gut. Most birds have trouble passing large bits of plastic, and they build up in the stomach, sometimes taking up so much room that the birds can’t consume enough food to stay healthy."
This is going to be really cool to see
The Department of Energy has approved the construction of the Large Synoptic Survey Telecscope's 3.2-gigapixel digital camera, which will be the most advanced in the world.
When complete the camera will weigh more than three tons and take such high resolution pictures that it would take 1,500 high-definition televisions to display one of them.
According to SLAC: "Starting in 2022, LSST will take digital images of the entire visible southern sky every few nights from atop a mountain called Cerro Pachón in Chile.
It will produce a wide, deep and fast survey of the night sky, cataloging by far the largest number of stars and galaxies ever observed. During a 10-year time frame, LSST will detect tens of billions of objects—the first time a telescope will observe more galaxies than there are people on Earth – and will create movies of the sky with unprecedented details.
Funding for the camera comes from the DOE, while financial support for the telescope and site facilities, the data management system, and the education and public outreach infrastructure of LSST comes primarily from the National Science Foundation (NSF)."