Geeky Stuff

Ayahuasca Alters Brain Waves To Produce Waking Dream-Like State, Study Finds

Slashdot - 1 hour 36 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: People under the influence of a psychedelic brew known as ayahuasca frequently experience vivid visual and aural hallucinations and also report feeling as if they are in a dream. Now a new study published in Scientific Reports has shown that the drug alters the user's waking brain-wave patterns to produce a mental state that the researchers describe as "dreaming while awake." Ayahuasca is a bitter tea made from the Brazilian vine banisteriopsis caapi, colloquially known as the "spirit vine," used in shaman-led spiritual ceremonies among native people in the Amazon basin. Its primary active ingredient is dimethyltryptamine (DMT). That's the secret to ayahuasca's powerful psychedelic effects, which can also produce feelings of elation and fear or a sense of epiphany or psychological breakthrough. Those mind-altering properties come at a price, however. Participants in the ceremonies are often advised to bring a bucket, since nausea and vomiting (and sometimes diarrhea) are common reactions to the tea. The current paper is the most recent study out of the [Imperial College London's Center for Psychedelic Research]. The study involved 13 subjects fitted with EEG caps and electrodes to monitor their brain activity while being given an IV infusion of DMT. The team found that the DMT caused a marked drop in alpha waves, a mark of wakefulness, along with a corresponding brief increase in theta brain waves, indicative of a dream state. Furthermore, while brain activity has been shown to decrease in subjects under the influence of psilocybin and LSD, the Imperial College researchers found more chaotic brain activity in subjects while under the influence of DMT. That might be why ayahuasca users report more vivid visual effects and a greater sense of immersion than is typically experienced with other psychedelics.

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Google To Limit Targeting of Political Ads

Slashdot - 2 hours 16 min ago
Google said on Wednesday that it will stop giving advertisers the ability to target election ads using data such as public voter records and general political affiliations. Reuters reports: Google said on Wednesday it would start limiting audience targeting for election ads to age, gender and general location at a postal code level. Previously, verified political advertisers could also target ads using data such as whether the users were left-leaning, right-leaning or independent. Google said political advertisers can still do contextual targeting, such as serving ads to people reading a certain story or watching a particular video. The company will begin enforcing the new approach in the United Kingdom within a week, ahead of the country's general election on Dec. 12. It said it would begin enforcing it in the European Union by the end of the year and in the rest of the world starting on Jan. 6, 2020. "Given recent concerns and debates about political advertising, and the importance of shared trust in the democratic process, we want to improve voters' confidence in the political ads they may see on our ad platforms," Scott Spencer, vice president of product management for Google Ads, said in the blog post. Google added examples to its misrepresentation policy to show that it would not allow false claims about election results or the eligibility of political candidates. Google also added examples to its ad policies to clarify that it prohibits doctored and manipulated media.

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System76 Will Start Designing and Building Its Own Linux Laptops Beginning January 2020

Slashdot - 2 hours 56 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Forbes: Denver-based PC manufacturer and Pop!_OS Linux developer System76 plans to follow-up its custom Thelio desktop PC with an in-house laptop beginning next year, according to founder and CEO Carl Richell. During a recent interview, Richell was quick to emphasize that the entire process of designing, prototyping and iterating the final product could take two to three years. But the company is eager to break into this market and put the same signature "stamp" on its laptop hardware that graces its custom-built Thelio desktop. System76 sells an extensive lineup of laptops, but the machines are designed by the likes of Sager and Clevo. The company doesn't merely buy a chassis and slap Pop!_OS on it, but Richell tells me he's confident that with the experience gained from developing Thelio -- and the recent investment into a factory at the company's Denver headquarters -- System76 is capable of building a laptop from the ground up that meets market needs and carries a unique value proposition. Richell says the company's first priority is locking down the aesthetic of the laptop and how various materials look and feel. It will simultaneously begin working on the supply chain aspects and speaking with various display and component manufacturers. System76 will design and build a U-class laptop first (basically an Ultrabook form factor like the existing Darter and Galago) and then evaluate what it might do with higher-end gaming and workstation notebooks with dedicated graphics.

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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Teach Inventing To Kids?

Slashdot - 3 hours 36 min ago
dryriver writes: Everybody seems to think these days that kids desperately need to learn how to code when they turn six years old. But this ignores a glaring fact -- the biggest shortage in the future labor market is not people who can code competently in Python, Java or C++, it is people who can actually discover or invent completely new and better ways of doing things, whether this is in CS, Physics, Chemistry, Biology or other fields. If you look at the history of great inventors, the last truly gifted, driven and prolific non-corporate inventor is widely regarded to be Nikola Tesla, who had around 700 patents to his name by the time he died. After Tesla, most new products, techniques and inventions have come out of corporate, government or similar structures, not from a good old-fashioned, dedicated, driven, independent-minded, one-person inventor who feverishly dreams up new things and new possibilities and works for the betterment of humanity. How do you teach inventing to kids? By teaching them the methods of Genrikh Altshuller, for example. Seriously, does teaching five to seven year olds 50-year-old CS/coding concepts and techniques do more for society than teaching kids to rebel against convention, think outside the box, turn convention upside down and beat their own path towards solving a thorny problem? Why does society want to create an army of code monkeys versus an army of kids who learn how to invent new things from a young age? Or don't we want little Nikola Teslas in the 21st Century, because that creates "uncertainty" and "risk to established ways of doing things?"

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SpaceX's Prototype Starship Rocket Partially Bursts During Testing In Texas

Slashdot - 4 hours 16 min ago
A test version of SpaceX's next-generation rocket, Starship, partially burst apart during ground tests in Texas today, erupting plumes of gas and sending some pieces of hardware soaring into the sky. The Verge reports: The explosive result occurred while SpaceX was seemingly conducting some pressure tests with the vehicle at the company's test site in Boca Chica, Texas. The local live streams showed the vehicle venting gas periodically throughout the day, indicating that testing was underway. This prototype was meant to test the design of Starship -- a monster spacecraft the company is working on to transport cargo and people to deep space destinations like the Moon and Mars. In fact, this same vehicle is the one that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk showed off to reporters in September. At the time, he claimed the test vehicle could be doing flights to low altitudes within the next couple of months and that some version of Starship could reach Earth orbit within six months. Now, that timeline is almost certain to shift. After the explosion, Musk indicated on Twitter that SpaceX may no longer fly this particular prototype and will instead conduct flight tests with a newer, more up-to-date model that the company planned to build. "This had some value as a manufacturing pathfinder, but flight design is quite different," Musk wrote, referring to the prototype that burst.

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Amazon's Cloud Gaming Service Could Arrive Next Year With Twitch Integration

Slashdot - 4 hours 56 min ago
According to CNET, Amazon is planning to announce a cloud gaming service next year, and it may offer integration with Twitch and its other services. From the report: It's begun recruiting people from large game companies like Microsoft to help with the launch, as well as hiring for jobs in a "new initiative" within its Amazon Web Services team, which sources said is involved in Amazon's future gaming service. "We believe the evolution that began with arcade communities a quarter at a time, growing to the live streams and e-sports of today, will continue to a future where everyone is a gamer and every gamer can create, compete, collaborate and connect with others at massive scales," one job posting this month showed. And in at least one other job posting, the company said it wants to "drive innovative new use cases like machine vision and game streaming." Amazon said in yet another job posting that it plans to integrate its new initiative with Twitch and the company's other services. The Information earlier reported on Amazon's plans, citing a possible launch next year. Industry insiders believe Amazon's plans for a future video game service are a foregone conclusion, despite struggles in its game-making studios, which saw layoffs earlier this year. Instead, these people cite the company's sprawling $119 per year Prime subscription empire, which already includes music streaming, lauded video projects like The Man in the High Castle, free grocery delivery and more.

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Uber To Allow Audio Recording of Rides, Aiming To Launch Feature In US

Slashdot - 5 hours 36 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Associated Press: Uber will allow passengers and drivers in Brazil and Mexico to record audio of their rides as it attempts to improve its safety record and image, and eventually it hopes to launch the feature into other markets including the United States. The ride-hailing company plans to pilot the feature in cities in both countries in December, although it has no timeline for possible expansion in the US and other markets. The feature will allow customers to opt into recording all or select trips. Recordings will be stored on the rider or driver's phone and encrypted to protect privacy, and users will not be able to listen to them. They can later share a recording with Uber, which will have an encryption key, if they want to report a problem. Whether the recording feature will deter violent behavior to help riders and drivers is unknown. But Uber stands to benefit because the recordings could help the company mitigate losses and rein in liability for incidents that flare up between drivers and passengers.

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PayPal To Acquire Shopping and Rewards Program Honey For $4 Billion

Slashdot - Thu, 21/11/2019 - 00:50
PayPal announced today it has agreed to acquire Honey Science Corporation, the makers of a deal-finding browser add-on and mobile application, for $4 billion, mostly cash. TechCrunch reports: The acquisition, which is PayPal's largest to date, will give the payments giant a foothold earlier in the customer's shopping journey. Instead of only competing on the checkout page against credit cards or Apple Pay, for example, PayPal will leap ahead to become a part of the deal discovery process, as well. Currently, Honey's 17 million monthly active users take advantage of its suite of money-saving tools to track prices, get alerts, make lists, browse offers and participate in an Ebates-like rewards program called Honey Gold. Its users tend to be younger, millennial shoppers, both male and female. PayPal aims to add Honey's technology to its own product line, expanding its reach to PayPal's 300 million users. In addition, PayPal's network of 24 million merchant partners will gain the ability to offer targeted and more personalized promotions to consumers as a means of acquiring new business and driving increased sales. PayPal Credit may also be integrated into Honey to help finance larger purchases. [...] As a result of the acquisition, Honey co-founders George Ruan and Ryan Hudson will join PayPal where they'll work on product integrations and scaling the technology to a much larger user base. Also joining is Honey's predominantly L.A.-based team of 350 employees. The Honey team and headquarters will remain in L.A., where they've just signed a lease on a new office space with expansion goals in mind.

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Amazon and Code.org Tap Lil Nas X and Katy Perry To Teach Children To Code

Slashdot - Thu, 21/11/2019 - 00:10
theodp writes: To help Prince Charles quickly learn the Welsh Language, viewers of The Crown learned this week, Labour prime minster Harold Wilson engaged Welsh nationalist Dr. Edward "Tedi" Millward as his reluctant tutor. To help U.S. children quickly learn to code, readers of Medium learned this week, Code.org and Amazon have engaged Lil Nas X and Katy Perry to be their Hour of Code tutors this December (guess the pair aced their interview with Jeff Bezos!). Last year's signature Hour of Code tutorial Dance Party , Code.org explains, has been given a facelift -- "New backgrounds and foregrounds!" "New songs!" "A brand new character!" -- to yield this year's signature Hour of Code tutorial, Dance Party (2019 Remix) . Separately, the AWS Public Sector Blog Team just announced it's teamed up with the MIT Media Lab on a Scratch-based Hour of Code activity to introduce AWS cloud computing technologies to kids 7 and up. AWS Educate also recently announced it's out to connect the K12 crowd to AWS cloud services, offering free capped AWS Educate Starter Accounts as well as look-Ma-no-limit credit-card backed regular AWS accounts to the 570,000+ students and 300,000+ volunteers participating in the FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge.

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Google Earth Gets Content Creation Tools For Geography-Focused Presentations

Slashdot - Wed, 20/11/2019 - 23:31
Google Earth is getting a new content creation feature set. From a report: You'll now be able to make presentations using Google's vast 3D Earth imagery and point-of-interest information. It's sort of like a geography-focused Powerpoint. Back in 2017, Google Earth was completely rebuilt from a desktop application to a WebGL-based browser app at earth.google.com/web. Starting today, on the left side of the website, you'll see a new "Projects" button, which will let you create a presentation. Just like a Google Doc or Sheet or Slide, these Google Earth Projects get saved as files on your Google Drive. And like a normal presentation, you can create slides and attach text, images, and videos.

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Humans Placed in Suspended Animation For the First Time

Slashdot - Wed, 20/11/2019 - 22:51
Doctors have placed humans in suspended animation for the first time, as part of a trial in the US that aims to make it possible to fix traumatic injuries that would otherwise cause death. From a report: Samuel Tisherman, at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told New Scientist that his team of medics had placed at least one patient in suspended animation, calling it "a little surreal" when they first did it. He wouldn't reveal how many people had survived as a result. The technique, officially called emergency preservation and resuscitation (EPR), is being carried out on people who arrive at the University of Maryland Medical Centre in Baltimore with an acute trauma -- such as a gunshot or stab wound -- and have had a cardiac arrest. Their heart will have stopped beating and they will have lost more than half their blood. There are only minutes to operate, with a less than 5 per cent chance that they would normally survive. EPR involves rapidly cooling a person to around 10 to 15C by replacing all of their blood with ice-cold saline. The patient's brain activity almost completely stops. They are then disconnected from the cooling system and their body -- which would otherwise be classified as dead -- is moved to the operating theatre. A surgical team then has 2 hours to fix the person's injuries before they are warmed up and their heart restarted. Tisherman says he hopes to be able to announce the full results of the trial by the end of 2020.

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Microsoft is Testing Gmail Integration in Outlook.com

Slashdot - Wed, 20/11/2019 - 22:11
Microsoft seems to be testing a new feature that lets users add Google services to their Outlook accounts. From a report: If available on your account, you should see a pop-up that says, "Add your Google Mail and Calendar to Outlook and easily manage everything in one place." Doing so allows you to switch between your Outlook and Gmail inboxes (though this causes the entire browser tab to refresh) and browse your Drive files. It's not clear how Google Calendar is integrated into Outlook. At the moment, you can only select a single Gmail account to sync with Outlook, which could be frustrating since so many people use multiple Gmail addresses.

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Senators Press Amazon For Answers On Ring's Sloppy Security Practices

Slashdot - Wed, 20/11/2019 - 21:30
New submitter BeerF writes: This past year has been chock full of uncomfortable revelations about Ring, the surveillance social network and home security hardware company acquired by Amazon for a reported $800 million, including reports of potentially disastrous internal security practices, an apparent disregard for user privacy, and wave after wave of detail on secret partnerships with local police. Today, in a letter addressed to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, five Democratic senators are asking for an explanation, citing potential threats to U.S. national security. Much of the letter focuses on allegations that Ring's Ukrainian office, where it conducts much of its research and development operation, allowed employees across the company to access customer video data whether they had any real need to or not. In January, The Intercept reported that this loose security atmosphere at Ring meant "if [someone] knew a reporter or competitor's email address, [they] could view all their cameras," per one source, who also recalled Ring engineers casually spying on and "teasing each other about who they brought home" after dates. "If hackers or foreign agents were to gain access to this data," the letter states, "it would not only threaten the privacy and safety of the impacted Americans; it could also threaten U.S. national security."

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Ctrl-labs CEO: We'll Have Neural Interfaces In Less Than 5 Years

Slashdot - Wed, 20/11/2019 - 20:51
An anonymous reader writes: It can be a bit difficult to wrap your brain around what exactly neural interface startup Ctrl-labs is doing with technology. That's ironic, given that Ctrl-labs wants to let your brain directly use technology by translating mental intent into action. We caught up with Ctrl-labs CEO Thomas Reardon at Web Summit 2019 earlier this month to understand exactly how the brain-machine interface works. Founded in 2015, Ctrl-labs is a New York-based startup developing a wristband that translates musculoneural signals into machine-interpretable commands. But not for long -- Facebook acquired Ctrl-labs in September 2019. The acquisition hasn't closed yet, so Reardon has not spoken to anyone at the social media giant since signing the agreement. He was, however, eager to tell us more about the neural interface technology so we could glean why Facebook (and the tech industry at large) is interested.

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Researchers Warn That Your Political Ideology May Affect Job Offers

Slashdot - Wed, 20/11/2019 - 20:12
dcblogs writes: Employees are discussing national politics in the workplace now more than ever, according to two new surveys. Politics has been on the rise since the 2016 election. But political leanings may be more than an office irritation. Managers tend to hire people of similar ideology, and doing so could create a hiring bias, according to researchers at Texas A&M. "It is becoming more common to learn and make inferences about an applicant's political ideology, particularly given information sources such as social media," said Andrew Johnson, assistant professor of management in the College of Business at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi. It's easy to separate those perceived as "different," he said. Hiring managers may not feel hiring this is wrong. There are employment discrimination protections for gender, race, religion and other characteristics. But political affiliations are not a protected class under the law.

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Google Wants Android To Use Regular Linux Kernel

Slashdot - Wed, 20/11/2019 - 19:32
Android is built on top of the Linux kernel, but it has always used a heavily-modified version with changes from OEMs, chip manufacturers like Qualcomm and MediaTek, and Google. There have been efforts over the years to close the gap between the two kernels, but now Google is getting more serious about it. From a report: At this year's Linux Plumbers Conference, Google engineers held talks about the company's efforts to get Android as close as possible to the mainline Linux kernel. Not only would this reduce technical overhead for Google and other companies, because they would no longer have to merge thousands of changes into each new Linux kernel version (and Google would no longer have to support Linux kernel versions for six years), but it could also benefit the Linux project as a whole. For example, the growing number of ARM-based Linux phones and computers could see improved performance and battery life. The first stage of this process is merging as many of Android's modifications as possible back into the mainline Linux kernel. As of Feburary 2018, the Android common kernel (which OEMs make additional changes to) has over 32,000 insertions and over 1,500 deletions compared to mainline Linux 4.14.0. That's an improvement from a few years ago, when Android added over 60,000 lines of code on top of Linux. To show off how much progress has been made, Tom Gall, the director of the Linaro Consumer Group, brought a Xiaomi Pocophone on stage that was running Android 10 on top of a mainline Linux kernel. He told the audience, "there are major, major props to be given to the Google Kernel Team in particular for getting their code upstream so that we can boot devices with a mainline kernel." It's likely that some of the phone's features were non-functional (the battery percentage in the picture reads as 0%), but it's still impressive.

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'Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is a Coward'

Slashdot - Wed, 20/11/2019 - 18:53
The streaming service is happy to pretend it's a moral force bringing the power of documentary filmmaking to new markets. Until that becomes inconvenient. The Outline: This past January, at the request of the Saudi Arabian government, Netflix spiked an episode of its comedy news show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, owing to the subject matter, which was the Saudi Arabian government's murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Speaking at the New York Times's DealBook conference in New York earlier this month, Hastings affirmed the company's decision in no uncertain terms: "We're not in the news business," Hastings said, according to Variety. "We're not trying to do 'truth to power.' We're trying to entertain... We don't feel bad about [pulling the 'Patriot Act' episode in Saudi Arabia] at all." A few days ago, Netflix did the same thing again. A new (apparently good) documentary on the web streaming service about John Demanjajuk, a Ukrainian guard at Treblinka who was caught decades after the Holocaust while living a quiet suburban life in Ohio, drew the ire of Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki. "Central to [Morawiecki's] complaint were maps seen in the series that place Nazi concentration camps such as Auschwitz within the borders of modern-day Poland," again, according to Variety. "The U.S. streamer now says that it will amend the series by adding on-screen text, likely below the maps, to spell out the fact that the death camps sat in territory occupied by the Nazis." The basis for why Saudi Arabia and Poland would whine to Netflix is straightforward enough. Saudi Arabia wants to bury, as quickly possible, any memory of the time that it botched the Khashoggi cover-up, and had to eat international crow for a few months before most of the world moved on. Poland, meanwhile, is presently led by right-wing politicians who believe that Poland gets an excessively bad rap for helping to carry out the Holocaust, so much so that these politicians attempted last year to pass a law that could impose prison time on people who accused the Polish nation of complicity in the Holocaust. If one really wanted to, you could make a by-the-numbers case for why Hastings has decided to cave to these foreign governments.

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Apple Tells Congress It Hasn't Been Profiting From Repairs in Response To Antitrust Probe

Slashdot - Wed, 20/11/2019 - 18:15
As part of an antitrust probe, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Apple in September with questions about its policies for the App Store, product repairs, and more. Apple has since responded, and while many of the responses are predictable, the letter reveals a few noteworthy details. From a report: For example, when asked to identify the total revenue that it has derived from repair services since 2009, Apple said "the costs of providing repair services has exceeded the revenue generated by repairs" in each year over that period.

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New York State Attorney General Investigating WeWork

Slashdot - Wed, 20/11/2019 - 17:40
The New York State Attorney General (NYAG) is investigating WeWork, Reuters is reporting, citing people familiar with the matter, adding to a mounting series of problems that have turned the workspace provider from a Wall Street darling to a pariah in a matter of weeks. From the report: The company, which is expected to lay off thousands of employees beginning this week as it faces ballooning losses, confirmed on Monday that it had been contacted by the office of the NYAG, Letitia James. "We received an inquiry from the office of the New York State Attorney General and are cooperating in the matter," said a WeWork spokeswoman when contacted by Reuters.

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Zero-Commission Trading is Coming To Crypto

Slashdot - Wed, 20/11/2019 - 17:10
Zero-fee trading first came to exchanged-traded funds and then to online stock and option transactions. Now the strategy is spreading into the cryptocurrency sphere. From a report: Seen as the most profitable sector of digital-asset world, trading platforms are feeling the pressure as industry heavyweights such as Binance and BitMex grab market share with both trading volume and coin prices sagging. ShapeShift, which has operated an exchange since 2014, said Wednesday it's begun offering free "perpetual" trades. "Free trading has become a feature of all fintech direct trading offerings, from Robinhood to SoFi and even JPMorgan," said Lex Sokolin, global financial technology co-head at ConsenSys, which offers blockchain technology. "So it's not surprising that in a digital race to acquire the most users, execution prices are starting to collapse." The practice turned out to be a catalyst for Charles Schwab, which recently reported it opened 142,000 new trading accounts in October, a 31% jump from September, after the brokerage offered zero fees. Fresh income is being generated from interest earned on client cash holdings. Firms in the crypto world are taking notice.

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