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In Science and Technology….

The Free Press WV

►  Is That Mystery Number a Scammer? Galaxy S7 Knows

About to buy the new Galaxy S7? Your contact list just got a whole lot bigger. Samsung and Whitepages are announcing a partnership that packs caller ID, spam and scam detection, and even a nearby business search directly into the native dialer, reports Engadget. This means that an incoming call will automatically reveal any info Whitepages has on the number—meaning unknown numbers you’d formerly be wary of should be more obviously pick-up worthy (it’s your dentist) or ignore-at-all-costs (that IRS scam everybody’s been talking about). And it’s about time, with Whitepages tracking a 34% jump in spam and scam calls between 2014 and 2015, the Seattle-based tech company reported in a December Business Wire news release.

Caller ID, of course, isn’t new, and Whitepages already boasts Android and iPhone apps. Whitepages inked a similar deal with T-Mobile in 2014, but Engadget observes that “it’s rare for such a service to be integrated into a flagship phone.“ It makes sense, given Whitepages has info on some 1.5 billion numbers worldwide, 600 million of which are US-based, reports GeekWire. The days of pretending you don’t know who’s calling when you answer your cellphone appear to be numbered.


►  Surprise: Dodos Were Actually Pretty Smart

The poor dodo bird. It wasn’t enough that the humans who happened upon the exotic creatures on the island of Mauritius in the late 1500s slaughtered them for food and brought about their extinction less than 100 years later, but we then started using their name to be synonymous with stupid. This appears to be an unfair indignity, natural scientists report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. A CT scan of a well-preserved skull at the Natural History Museum in London in fact indicates that the dodo appears to have been rather intelligent. Using the brains and bodies of seven species of closely related pigeons as a guide, one researcher says the brains of dodos are “right on the line,“ reports Phys.org.

“It is really amazing what new technologies can bring to old museum specimens,“ says a study co-author. The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) was a large and flightless bird last seen in 1662. Stony Brook University researchers also report another surprising finding: the bird had a large olfactory bulb quite unusual among most birds, who tend to have exceptional eyesight. This could be related to the amount of time they spent close to the ground, likely sniffing around for food such as fruits, small land vertebrates, and marine animals like shellfish. The researchers also noted an unusual curve to the dodo’s semicircular ear canal, which governs balance, but they have yet to devise a working hypothesis.


►  Facebook’s ‘Reactions’ Buttons Are Here

The long-coveted “dislike” button hasn’t arrived, but Facebook’s newest enhancement may appease those who’ve been clamoring for more than the ubiquitous thumbs-up icon. There are five new “reactions” buttons joining the like symbol, TechCrunch reports: love, haha, wow, sad, and angry, all accessible when you hover over the like button. Users will now see a count for the most popular reactions chosen for each post on their news feeds (click on any one of the icons to get the total count for all reactions). In two blog posts announcing Wednesday’s rollout, a Facebook product manager explains how to use the different reactions and how the tool will help the site “learn how the different Reactions should be weighted differently by News Feed to do a better job of showing everyone the stories they most want to see.“ She notes they researched for a year or so to see which reactions people would most use, checking out surveys, comments, and virtual stickers to find the most common emotions.

Those emotions had to resonate with people around the globe: USA Today notes the five reactions were universally understood, and a sixth—a “yay”—was dumped because it wasn’t. TechCrunch—which points out Facebook basically copied the emotions concept from the Path sharing site—notes that “standardizing emotions” could prove helpful when communicating across languages. For instance, a user may know enough of a foreign language to read a post but not be able to write a fluent comment in response. These new reactions would therefore allow users to give more nuanced feedback on posts where a generic like doesn’t feel right—the sad reaction seems more appropriate in response to a death, for instance.


►  Meteor Plowed Into Earth, We Failed to Notice

Earth recently saw its largest meteor impact since the Chelyabinsk incident. Missed it? So did everyone else. While the Chelyabinsk impact shattered windows and injured more than 1,000 people, an impact more than 600 miles off the coast of Brazil on February 6 was relatively quiet in comparison. For one thing, the space rock was only about a third of the size of the Chelyabinsk asteroid, though it was still the size of a large living room, astronomer Phil Plait writes for Slate. The impact about 20 miles above Earth did release the equivalent energy yield of 13,000 tons of TNT—the same amount of energy as the first atomic bomb, per the Independent—but Chelyabinsk’s meteor impact, with the equivalent of 500,000 tons of TNT, puts that in better perspective.

Had the impact been in a populated area, people might have simply felt their windows shake, Plait says. It isn’t clear how the impact—first reported by a NASA astronomer and recorded in NASA’s fireball reports—was detected; Plait notes most impacts are detected by satellites, seismic monitors, and atmospheric microphones. Some outlets, including the Mirror, have questioned why NASA didn’t “warn the world,“ but Plait notes 100 tons of space debris hit Earth’s atmosphere each day. NASA estimates about 30 space rocks burn up in the atmosphere each year in “impacts,“ per Forbes, and rare pieces that make it to the surface tend to fall into the ocean. In other words, this impact wasn’t the end of the world.

Watch 100 Drones Fly in Sync in Germany

Apple: Feds Want To Circumvent Security On Other Phones, Too

The Free Press WV

Apple is challenging government efforts to overcome encryption on at least 14 electronic devices nationwide in addition to the phone of a San Bernardino, California, shooter, its lawyers say.

Lawyers told U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein in Brooklyn that Apple is opposing relinquishing information on at least 15 devices in a dozen court cases in California, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York.

In a February 17 letter unsealed Tuesday, the Cupertino, California-based company described fighting the government in criminal cases after first opposing the government in a request to extract information from the phone of a drug dealer in Brooklyn federal court in October.

Before that, the government says, Apple had helped it retrieve information from at least 70 devices since 2008.

Apple’s opposition began after Orenstein invited the company to challenge the government’s use of a 1789 law, the All Writs Act, which the government cited in the Brooklyn case.

Apple said the government was trying to use the law more aggressively in its effort to look inside the iPhone of a shooter in the December 02 massacre in San Bernardino that killed 14 people.

In the California case, Apple was being asked “to perform even more burdensome and involved engineering ... to create and load Apple-signed software onto the subject iPhone device to circumvent the security and anti-tampering features of the device in order to enable the government to hack the passcode to obtain access to the protected data,“ the letter signed by Apple attorney Marc Zwillinger said.

Zwillinger said the California case was proof that “the issue remains quite pressing” since Orenstein first raised questions about the applicability of the All Writs Act.

Apple and the U.S. government have asked Orenstein to continue to rule in the case even though the defendant whose phone was at issue has since pleaded guilty.

At an October hearing, Zwillinger said Apple feared the government would try “pushing the law to a new frontier” by forcing the company to modify software or change its products.

“We’re being forced to become an agent of law enforcement, and we cannot be forced to do that with our old devices or with our new devices,“ he said.

In a letter Monday to Orenstein, federal prosecutors noted that numerous judges nationwide have found it appropriate under the All Writs Act to require Apple, when presented with a search warrant, to assist in extracting information from its products.

Prosecutors said Apple was being misleading in the list submitted to Orenstein by claiming it objected to the court orders.

They said Apple “simply deferred complying with them, without seeking appropriate judicial relief.“

“Apple’s position has been inconsistent at best,“ prosecutors wrote. They suggested in a footnote that Apple was even cooperating in the Brooklyn case until Orenstein made its cooperation public with an October court order.

In Science and Technology….

The Free Press WV

►  Amelia Earhart’s Plane Found… in Old Romantic Comedy

The plane Amelia Earhart was flying when she disappeared over the Pacific has been discovered … in a 1936 Clark Gable film. Discovery News reports that researchers with the International Group of Historic Aircraft Recovery spotted Earhart’s Lockheed Electra—given away by the registration number on its wing—in the 1936 film Love on the Run. It appears that even official Earhart biographers were unaware of the famous plane’s star turn. In the film, the Lockheed carrying Gable and Joan Crawford narrowly avoids running into a crowd of spectators during a comically rough takeoff. (“I wonder what all those gadgets are for?“ asks Gable upon surveying the cockpit.) You can watch the scene H E R E .

“It is little wonder that this bizarre and undignified use of Earhart’s vaunted new ‘Flying Laboratory’ was kept quiet,“ the group known as TIGHAR states on its Facebook page. Love on the Run debuted about eight months before Earhart’s disappearance in July 1937. Stunt pilot Paul Mantz, who also served as Earhart’s technical adviser, performed the takeoff in the film. The plane was delivered to Earhart on her 39th birthday on July 24, 1936, within weeks of the scene being filmed. It’s unclear if she knew it was used in the movie. TIGHAR, meanwhile, is preparing a new submersible-led mission to find Earhart’s plane in the summer of 2017.


►  Why You Think Your Phone Is Buzzing When It’s Not

You’d have sworn your phone was buzzing, but when you check there’s no text, no call, no email, nothing. What gives with the phantom vibration? Maybe you wanted, or even needed, the phone to buzz. Researchers at the University of Michigan have found that people with attachment anxiety—those insecure about friendships and other relationships—are much more likely to feel such phantom buzzes than those who’d prefer to be left alone, reports Michigan Daily. The researchers dubbed the problem “ringxiety.“ Someone susceptible might feel something on their skin, for instance, but because they’re so primed to get a message, the sensation ends up feeling like a vibrating phone. Some even hear a phantom ring.

“It’s a cultural phenomenon—so many people do experience it, and it’s significant in the sense that we found personality traits that influence this phenomenon,“ says one of the researchers. The work builds on a study out of Georgia Tech estimating that 90% of us have experienced the issue to some extent, mistaking “tiny muscle spasms” for an incoming text, reports the Telegraph. And a post at Van Wrinkles notes that research at the Dow International Medical School suggests that a lack of sleep can make the problem worse. It finds the new study intriguing. Phantom buzzes are generally dismissed as minor annoyances, but “they could be a sign of underlying issues with our friendships,“ writes Jeremy Grossman. “Now that’s something worth examining.“


►  Reaction to Smelly Shirts Reveals Our Own Prejudices

There’s no stink like our own stink: We are more forgiving of the disgusting smells of those we have been told are members of our own group than of outsiders. So say researchers at St. Andrews University after pushing stinky gym shirts into the noses of people who were told the garments belonged to either their own college or a nearby one. Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they find that people are far less tolerant when the stench comes from outsiders, which they say has implications for not just social exclusion but even prejudice and discrimination. “We are looking at what makes group cohesion possible,“ social psychologist Stephen Reicher tells the Guardian. “In many ways, disgust is the social ordering emotion. It’s the emotion that keeps people apart, and if you want people to come together, you have to attenuate disgust.“

To put it to the test, the scientists stuffed T-shirts that had been worn at the gym into sealed bags, and the shirts “are pretty revolting, I tell you,“ Reicher adds. They measured disgust by asking directly in the first study. In the second recording, they inquired how long it took for students to wash their hands, and how much soap they used when they did; students were quicker and more thorough when they thought the shirts came from students of a different college. “It helps us to understand how group behavior becomes possible,“ says another social psychologist. “Essentially, it frees people to cooperate with each other, and to work together effectively.“ Little did the participants know that all the shirts belonged to one research assistant, who put them through especially sweaty one-hour workouts, notes Ars Technica.

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