CO₂ benefits of regrowing forests nothing to shake a stick at

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Source: Ars Technica – CO₂ benefits of regrowing forests nothing to shake a stick at

Make your Stranger Things binge a little gooier with our baked treat ideas

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

I love October. As an avid baker and Halloween reveler, I usually spend the whole month whipping up my favorite fall desserts and packing in as many gnarly sci-fi and horror flicks as possible. It’s just not October without the smell of spiced apples baking in the oven, knife-wielding serial killers, sage and sausage stuffing, flesh-eating zombies, pumpkin bread, and ferocious aliens.

But this year—this October—is extra special. With the upcoming release of the much anticipated second season of Stranger Things, I, along with some folks at Ars, thought we should go a little bigger. I’ve spliced together my two favorite pastimes to create sci-fi inspired treats that can fuel a lengthy, nostalgia-fueled Netflix binge.

I could pull out a themed recipe or two that would provide adequate sustenance for a binge of the entire new season plus a full re-watching of the first season. But this isn’t amateur hour. There’s just so much amazing sci-fi to celebrate.

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Source: Ars Technica – Make your Stranger Things binge a little gooier with our baked treat ideas

Artificial eye dominance may speed reading for people with dyslexia

Enlarge / Things tend to be a bit out of focus for my kids. (credit: Baruk Feddabonn)

I have to admit that my only experience of dyslexia is via family members. My youngest daughter has just started high school, and she’s struggling with all the reading associated with three languages, an issue that bleeds over into all the other subjects. In testing, she scores high on reading comprehension but really low on reading speed. My oldest son reads and reads and reads… but cannot write worth a damn. Both have trouble internalizing spelling rules and multiplication tables.

These all standard symptoms of dyslexia. Dyslexia is a spectrum disorder, one that covers many aspects of reading and writing, so when people start touting single causes, my skepticism goes into overdrive. But it turns out that new research on its causes is reasonably solid, and it raises some interesting questions.

Your brain in the mirror

When the brain creates an image, it’s faced with a problem. The two eyes report two images that are extremely similar, but shifted with respect to each other. The displacement is awesome, because it provides us with better depth perception. However, in the absence of a large amount of alcohol, the brain still has to decide on a single coherent image so it has something to present to our consciousness. To do that, the two images are melded into one, which is fine for displacement. But for mirror images, the brain must choose a single image.

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Source: Ars Technica – Artificial eye dominance may speed reading for people with dyslexia

Gran Turismo Sport review: A brilliant, but very new, direction for the series

Gran Turismo Sport is a great racing game. What it’s not is a simple PS4 port of the last GT game. Almost everything about this latest release is different from every game that has come before it in the series. There are way fewer selectable cars than the competition (and previous GT games). There aren’t many tracks. You won’t spend hours buying new parts for your car or taking it for an oil change or a car wash. Gran Turismo Sport might not be the world’s most accurate driving simulation, but it’s fun—a lot of fun, particularly with a steering wheel. And refreshingly, it doesn’t try to make you open your wallet to unlock anything.

But if racing against other humans online isn’t something you care for, GTS is not the game for you. Unlike GT games of old, GTS is all about racing online, and maybe—just maybe—becoming a real racing driver at the end.

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Source: Ars Technica – Gran Turismo Sport review: A brilliant, but very new, direction for the series

Key e-mail from feds got caught in body-cam maker’s spam filter

Enlarge / A Los Angeles police officer wear an AXON body camera during the Immigrants Make America Great March to protest actions being taken by the Trump administration on February 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Axon, the largest manufacturer of body-worn cameras, said Thursday that it had missed e-mails from the agency due to “miscommunication issues.”

According to Bloomberg, the snafu was due to an e-mail that the SEC sent on August 10 to the company’s new chief financial officer—however those messages were quarantined in a spam filter, and he seemingly did not see them.

The SEC was seeking clarification about the company’s financial disclosures, particularly surrounding its 2016 financial report and its first quarter 2017 report.

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Source: Ars Technica – Key e-mail from feds got caught in body-cam maker’s spam filter

Report: Twitter CEO took a Russian impostor’s bait in 2016

Enlarge / Jack Dorsey, co-founder and chief executive officer of Twitter. (credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

As the public learns more about confirmed Russian troll accounts on social media platforms over the past few years, reporters have begun digging into any ties they may have with major political or tech voices. The Daily Beast found a pretty big one on Friday, when it confirmed via Internet archives that Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey unwittingly retweeted posts from a phony Black Lives Matter advocate.

In fact, the example Daily Beast reporter Ben Collins found was a single account, @crystal1johnson, getting two juicy retweets from Twitter’s very own “@jack.” The discovered posts (which are now archive-only, thanks to the account being deleted in August) date back to March 2016. Both revolve around black identity in the United States.

The first congratulated musician and actor Rihanna for winning a Humanitarian of the Year award from Harvard (dead link here, proof of its content here). The second shared a now-dead image of what may have been children of different races having fun together, with the description reading, “Nobody is born a racist. This picture is so sweet! Teach your children to judge others by the kind of person they are inside.” (Archived link of Dorsey’s retweet [RT], found by Collins, is here.)

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Source: Ars Technica – Report: Twitter CEO took a Russian impostor’s bait in 2016

Elon Musk’s Boring Company is digging a 10-mile tunnel in Maryland

Enlarge / A hyperloop test track built outside SpaceX headquarters. (credit: Megan Geuss)

On Thursday, Maryland officials gave Elon Musk’s Boring Company permission to dig a 10.1-mile tunnel “beneath the state-owned portion of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, between the Baltimore city line and Maryland 175 in Hanover,” according to the Baltimore Sun.

According to Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, The Boring Company (which Tesla and SpaceX CEO Musk founded to advance tunneling technology) wants to build two 35-mile tunnels between Baltimore and Washington, DC. The federal government owns about two-thirds of the land that Musk’s company would need to dig underneath. As of Friday, it was unclear whether that permission had been granted. (A Department of Transportation spokeswoman told Ars that the land in question was owned by the National Park Service, which did not immediately respond to request for comment.)

But the 10 miles that have been approved by the state of Maryland will for the first leg of an underground system that could contain a Hyperloop system. Musk first floated the idea of a Hyperloop—which would ferry passengers through a low-pressure tube in levitating pods floating above a track using air-bearings—in 2013. But the CEO determined that he didn’t have time to see his idea through to fruition, so he issued a white paper and challenged startups and students alike to make headway on the concept.

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Source: Ars Technica – Elon Musk’s Boring Company is digging a 10-mile tunnel in Maryland

Archaeologists are mystified by ancient “gates” in Saudi lava fields

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Source: Ars Technica – Archaeologists are mystified by ancient “gates” in Saudi lava fields

50-year-old research issue still biting biologists

Enlarge / HeLa cells, long after it was apparent they were trying to take over the world. (credit: Tom Deerinck/NIH)

Normally, news involves something that is, as the name implies, new. But this week, attention was given to a problem in biology that is anything but new. There have been decades of warnings that researchers sometimes perform studies using cells that have been misidentified—presented as liver cells when in fact they’re derived from the spleen, for example. As cell lines are shared and studies build on earlier work, this misidentification has the potential to cause wider problems in the scientific record.

Despite decades of warnings and the existence of a database of problematic cell lines, the problem isn’t going away, as emphasized by a study released last week. The new analysis estimates that as much as 10 percent of the papers in the biological sciences may be influenced by cases of mistaken cellular identity. And it’s hard to ascribe this to anything other than carelessness and overconfidence on the part of biologists.

Mistaken identity

How do you end up with the wrong cells? There are a variety of ways. Often, new cell lines are made from tumor or tissue samples. If the sample is not 100-percent pure, there’s a chance that something other than what you expect could grow out. In addition, some tumors can be misidentified—assumed to be lung if they’re found there, but the tumor may actually represent a metastasis of a cancer that started in some other tissue. While there are ways of identifying a cell’s source (typically, checking the battery of genes active in the cells will indicate its origin), this hasn’t been done as consistently as it should be.

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Source: Ars Technica – 50-year-old research issue still biting biologists

Uber, Intel, and other tech firms will urge Congress to let “Dreamers” stay

Enlarge / Protesters shout slogans against US President Donald Trump during a demonstration in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), also known as the Dream Act, near the Trump Tower in New York on October 5, 2017. (credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

A slew of major companies—including tech giants Uber, Intel, Facebook, and Google—are forming a bloc to seek Congressional immigration reform.

According to Reuters, which first reported the news late Thursday evening, the companies will band together under the name “Coalition for the American Dream” and seek support to extend Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

This Obama-era executive action allowed “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who arrived as minors, to register with the government and legally study or work without fear of deportation. The newly organized Coalition appears to be unrelated to an Oklahoma-based group founded in 2006 that shares the same name: Coalition for the American Dream. (The Oklahoma group also “advocate[s] for and protect[s] the rights of disenfranchised immigrants and new Americans from all nations.”)

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Source: Ars Technica – Uber, Intel, and other tech firms will urge Congress to let “Dreamers” stay

Verizon’s live TV streaming service is reportedly coming next spring

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Scott Olson)

Verizon’s long-rumored live TV streaming service appears to be having some issues.

Bloomberg reported this past March that the telecom giant was planning to launch an online TV service that would ostensibly compete with the likes of Dish’s Sling TV and AT&T’s DirecTV Now over the summer. A couple months later, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam seemed to confirm that the company had its eyes on an over-the-top service, one that may use its new Oath brand.

But no new service ever came to pass, and now Bloomberg reports that Verizon is targeting next spring to try its luck in the growing online TV market. The report cites technical issues, staff turnover, and complications in programming rights negotiations as reasons for the delay, and the story notes that this is “at least” the second time the Web-based service has been delayed internally.

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Source: Ars Technica – Verizon’s live TV streaming service is reportedly coming next spring

EPA says it won’t cut biofuel quotas after corn states push back

Enlarge / Ethanol Plant, Milton, Wisconsin. (Photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

In an October 19 letter to corn-belt lawmakers, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt said that he won’t seek any rollback to biofuel blending rules, according to Reuters.

The agency had been considering some changes to rules set by the Obama administration that ratchet up the amount of renewable biofuel that refineries must blend into the gas and diesel they sell. According to Bloomberg, the EPA had specifically been considering “a possible reduction in biodiesel requirements” as well as “a proposal to allow exported renewable fuel to count toward domestic quotas.” In early October, the EPA asked for public comment on cutting biodiesel quotas.

The Bloomberg story cited unnamed sources who said President Trump personally directed Pruitt to back off any proposals that would relax biofuel quotas after pressure from lawmakers from corn-producing states like Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois. Trump, who courted both fossil fuel interests and corn-belt states in his campaign, has had pressure from each side on this debate. Uncertainty surrounding the future of biofuel use during Trump’s administration has caused volatility in biofuels markets for months, Reuters notes.

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Source: Ars Technica – EPA says it won’t cut biofuel quotas after corn states push back

Big brains come with big social groups in whales and dolphins

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Source: Ars Technica – Big brains come with big social groups in whales and dolphins

NASA chooses not to tell Congress how much deep space missions cost

How much will the second flight of the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft cost? We don’t know. (credit: NASA)

This week, the US Government Accountability Office reported on progress the space agency is making to prepare the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, and launch systems at Kennedy Space Center for future missions. NASA is making progress on these complex integration activities, the report finds, but the space agency has a long ways to go to make a test flight in late 2019 or early 2020.

One surprise in the report is that NASA still has not provided Congress (or anyone else) with cost estimates for the first crewed mission of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft, which could occur in 2023 or later. This “Exploration Mission 2,” which would entail flying a crew of four into deep space and possibly delivering the first component of a space station into lunar orbit, would mark the first human mission after 12 years of development of the rocket and nearly two decades of work on Orion.

“Establishing a cost and schedule baseline for NASA’s second mission is an important initial step in understanding and gaining support,” the report states of NASA’s exploration plans, which include building the deep space station and then going to the lunar surface or on to Mars. “NASA’s ongoing refusal to establish this baseline is short-sighted, because EM-2 is part of a larger conversation about the affordability of a crewed mission to Mars.”

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Source: Ars Technica – NASA chooses not to tell Congress how much deep space missions cost

In its new timeline, Twitter will end revenge porn next week, hate speech in two

Enlarge (credit: Thomas Trutschel / Getty Images)

In the beginning of 2017, Twitter said it would take on harassment and hate speech. CEO Jack Dorsey said the company would embrace a “completely new approach to abuse on Twitter” with open dialogue along the way.

For months, though, the company has offered few details about what it would do, or when. That changed late yesterday, when Twitter posted a timeline with specific promises on actions it will take.

The changes begin next week. On October 27, Twitter will expand what types of “non-consensual nudity” (aka “revenge porn”) that it takes action against. The company will already act when a victim complains, but Twitter will soon act even in cases where the victims may not be aware images were taken, instance like upskirt photos and hidden webcams. “Anyone we identify as the original poster of non-consensual nudity will be suspended immediately,” the October entry reads.

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Source: Ars Technica – In its new timeline, Twitter will end revenge porn next week, hate speech in two

Microsoft rolls out system-level anti-cheating tech for Windows devs

Enlarge (credit: //cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/game-cheating.jpg)

Developers that want to stop cheaters in their Windows games are getting a little additional system-level help from Microsoft via TruePlay, a new API being rolled out through Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update.

The feature, which is now documented on the Windows Dev Center lets developers easily prioritize a game as a protected process, cutting off some of the most common cheating methods by essentially preventing outside programs from looking at or altering the game’s memory. TruePlay also “monitor[s] gaming sessions for behaviors and manipulations that are common in cheating scenarios,” looking at usage patterns on a system level to find likely cheaters.

TruePlay is only available to developers using the somewhat controversial Universal Windows Platform, which Microsoft has been encouraging developers to embrace for a while now. The anti-cheat system can be applied across an entire game or only certain portions, so developers can monitor cheating only in multiplayer matches, for example.

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Source: Ars Technica – Microsoft rolls out system-level anti-cheating tech for Windows devs

Nightmare fuel: Trapped in airplane seat crawling with bedbugs

Enlarge / Bed bug feeding on human skin. (credit: Getty | VW Pics)

British Airways has apologized to a Canadian family who reported being feasted upon by a pack of bedbugs during an overnight flight from Vancouver to London earlier this month, CTV Vancouver reported.

Passenger Heather Szilagyi was flying with her fiancé and eight-year-old daughter when she says she spotted several of the bugs on the seat in front of her. Szilagyi said that as someone who had worked in the hotel industry, she was primed to identify them. But when she flagged the flight attendant and asked to be moved, she got no help.

“She was like, ‘Oh ok, sorry about that. We’re sold out. We don’t have anywhere to move you’,” Szilagyi told CTV.

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Source: Ars Technica – Nightmare fuel: Trapped in airplane seat crawling with bedbugs

NYPD can’t get story straight on evidence system backups

Enlarge (credit: Oliver Morris/Getty Images))

In response to an Ars report on a court hearing in New York on October 17, New York City and New York City Police Department officials attempted to clarify the nature of the issues surrounding a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit legal defense organization Bronx Defenders. In response to reporting that the Property and Evidence Tracking System (PETS) did not have database backups, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Stephen Davis said via e-mail, “Contrary to some published reports suggesting that NYPD does not electronically back up the data in its Property and Evidence Tracking System (PETS), all such data is backed up continuously in multiple data centers.”

That statement would appear to be in direct conflict with an affidavit filed by city attorneys (PDF) in the case, in which NYPD Director of Strategic Technology Programs Christian Schnedler stated, “Currently, there is no secondary or back-up system, and no repository of the data in PETS outside of PETS itself.”

Schindler’s affidavit, which is part of the NYPD’s effort to block an external audit of cash-seizure data recorded in PETS, claims that the system is so fragile that even just using a “Web scraping” tool to retrieve cash-seizure data could collapse the whole system. “The risk of introducing and running a generic Web scraping tool into a complex, functioning law enforcement database, which has no backup system, is to risk disrupting NYPD operations, corrupting and/or losing some or all of the data, without a way to retrieve it,” Schnedler testified under oath.

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Source: Ars Technica – NYPD can’t get story straight on evidence system backups

Thousands of DIY foodies sickened in outbreak from poor agricultural practices

(credit: PROUnknownNet Photography)

As the trend of backyard flock tending skyrocketed in recent years, so has deadly infections, the Associated Press reports.

Since 2015, the number of Salmonella infections from contact with backyard poultry has quadrupled across the nation. This year, nearly every state has been pecked by outbreak strains; only Alaska and Delaware can crow about dodging them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 1,120 cases. Nearly 250 of those involved hospitalization, and one person died.

But that is likely just scratching the surface of the real numbers, according to CDC veterinarian Megin Nichols. “For one Salmonella case we know of in an outbreak, there are up to 30 others that we don’t know about,” she told the AP.

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Source: Ars Technica – Thousands of DIY foodies sickened in outbreak from poor agricultural practices

VW boss attacks Tesla for “barely selling 80,000 cars a year”

Enlarge / Matthias Müller, CEO of Volkswagen, at the Volkswagen Preview Night prior to the 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show. (credit: Sean Gallup | Getty Images)

Well, this one will certainly set the cat among the pigeons. Via the Daily Kanban, we came across this video of Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller ripping Tesla during a panel discussion on the future of the automotive industry. Prompted by a comment from the moderator, Müller laid into the electric car company for its small production volumes, regular quarterly losses, and for firing hundreds of workers.

Per Daily Kanban’s translation:

Now I really need to say a few words about Tesla: With all respect, there are some world champions of big announcements in this world—I don’t want to name names. There are companies that barely sell 80,000 cars a year. Then there are companies like Volkswagen that sell 11 million cars this year, and produce a profit of 13 or 14 billion euro. If I am correctly informed, Tesla each quarter destroys millions of dollars in the three digits, and it willy-nilly fires its workers. Social responsibility? Please. We should not not get carried away and compare apples with oranges.

The attack comes at a tough time for Tesla. The Model 3, the company’s new mass-market EV, is mired in “production hell,” with Tesla having little chance of meeting its goal of building 20,000 in the month of December. And there has been a spate of allegations of harassment at the company’s factory, with workers reporting racial and now anti-LGBT abuse.

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Source: Ars Technica – VW boss attacks Tesla for “barely selling 80,000 cars a year”