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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Caterpillar May Lead To a 'Plastic Pollution' Solution (bbc.com)

Researchers at Cambridge University have discovered that the larvae of the moth, which eats wax in bee hives, can also degrade plastic.


 Experiments show the insect can break down the chemical bonds of plastic in a similar way to digesting beeswax. 

The plastic is used to make shopping bags and food packaging, among other things, but it can take hundreds of years to decompose completely. 

However, caterpillars of the moth (Galleria mellonella) can make holes in a plastic bag in under an hour. 

They think microbes in the caterpillar -- as well as the insect itself -- might play a role in breaking down plastic.

 If the chemical process can be identified, it could lead to a solution to managing plastic waste in the environment.

***
Actually this problem of plastic breakdown was solved a long time ago. Researchers have discovered that if cornstarch is added to plastic it facilitates the ability of microbes to eat and break down the plastic in landfills.

How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All (theatlantic.com)

The Atlantic, describes how price discrimination is used in online shopping and how businesses like Amazon try to extract consumer surplus:  


Will you pay more for those shoes before 7 p.m.? 

Would the price tag be different if you lived in the suburbs?

 Standard prices and simple discounts are giving way to far more exotic strategies, designed to
extract every last dollar from the consumer. 

We live in the age of the variable airfare, the surge-priced ride, the pay-what-you-want Radiohead album, and other novel price developments. 

 But what was this? Some weird computer glitch?

 More like a deliberate glitch, it seems. "It's most likely a strategy to get more data and test the right price," Guru Hariharan explained, after I had sketched the pattern on a whiteboard. 

The right price -- the one that will extract the most profit from consumers' wallets -- has become the fixation of a large and growing number of quantitative types, many of them economists who have left academia for Silicon Valley.

 It's also the preoccupation of Boomerang Commerce, a five-year-old start-up founded by Hariharan, an Amazon alum.

 He says these sorts of price experiments have become a routine part of finding that right price -- and refinding it, because the right price can change by the day or even by the hour. (Amazon says its price changes are not attempts to gather data on customers' spending habits, but rather to give shoppers the lowest price out there.)

Intel Launches Optane Memory That Makes Standard Hard Drives Perform Like SSDs (hothardware.com)

"This is something many people thought was impossible," exclaimed Intel Senior Vice President Rob Crooke. 

 Rocket speeds......

During an invite-only press conference, Crooke along with Micron CEO Mark Durcan revealed a radically new class of storage and memory architecture called 3D XPoint (pronounced "Cross Point"). To say this is a game-changer would be the understatement of the year.

Get this: 3D XPoint is 1000 times faster than NAND, boasts 1000x the endurance of NAND, and is 10 times more dense than conventional memory.
 
 Consider that existing NAND flash storage is 1000 times faster than traditional mechanical hard drives. We’ll give you a minute to process that. This actually puts 3D XPoint memory about on par with DRAM speeds, only its non-volatile.

Intel has officially launched its Optane memory line of Solid State Drives today, lifting embargo on performance benchmark results as well. 

Optane Memory is designed to accelerate the storage subsystem on compatible machines, to improve transfer speeds, and reduce latency.

 It is among the first products to leverage 3D XPoint memory technology that was co-developed by Intel and Micron, offering many of the same properties as NAND flash memory, but with higher endurance and certain performance characteristics that are similar to DRAM.

 The SSD can be paired to the boot drive in a system, regardless of the capacity or drive type, though Optane Memory will most commonly be linked to slower hard drives.

 Optane Memory is used as a high-speed repository, as usage patterns on the hard drive are monitored and the most frequently accessed bits of data are copied from the boot drive to the Optane SSD. 

 Since the SSD is used as a cache, it is not presented to the end-user as a separate volume and works transparently in the background. 

Paired with an inexpensive SATA hard drive, general system performance is more in line with an NVMe SSD.

 In benchmark testing, Intel Optane Memory delivers a dramatic lift in overall system performance

Boot times, application load time, file searches, and overall system responsiveness are improved significantly. 

Setting up Intel Optane Memory is also quick and easy with "set it and forget it" type of solution. 

Optane Memory modules will hit retail this week in 16GB and 32GB capacities, at $44 and $77, respectively.