The Life-Saving Gifts of the World's Most Venomous Animal ( 10

tedlistens writes: It was a terrible sting off the coast of Hawaii that inspired Angel Yanagihara, a biology researcher, to spend her life studying the bizarre culprit. Comprising some 50 species, box jellyfish are not like other jellyfish: they have 24 eyes, can move with intention and at surprising speed, and have something resembling a brain. They are also considered to be among the most venomous animals on Earth, killing more people every year than sharks do. Once inside the body, its venom acts "like buckshot" on blood cells. One species, the four-pound, nine-foot-long sea wasp, is said to have enough venom at any one time to kill ninety to one hundred and twenty humans.

As ocean currents and biomes change, various species of dangerous box jellyfish have shown up in places where they have not recently been abundant, including Japan, India, Israel, Florida, and the Jersey Shore. But compared to other venoms, research on jellyfish has remained in the dark ages. New methods for collecting venom—including one that relies on beer—along with a better understanding of box-jelly biochemistry may point to better non-antibiotic protections from them, and to novel defenses for humans against other fatal infections from anthrax and the antibiotic-resistant "superbug" MRSA, says Yanagihara. (Venoms are already the basis of a handful of FDA-approved drugs that have generated billions for the pharma industry.) Now the U.S. military is helping to fund Yanagihara's research, and applying a cream she developed to thwart box jellyfish, which have already left serious stings on a dozen Army divers at a training facility in Florida, and forced one diver out of the program.


Happy Ada Lovelace Day ( 125

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a time to celebrate the achievements of women in STEM fields. Several publications have put together lists of notable women to commemorate the day, such as tech pioneers, robotics experts, and historical engineers and scientists. Other are taking the opportunity to keep pushing against the elements of tech culture that remain sexist. From the BBC: On Ada Lovelace Day, four female engineers from around the world share their experiences of working in male-dominated professions. When Isis Anchalee's employer OneLogin asked her to take part in its recruitment campaign, she didn't rush to consult the selfie-loving Kardashian sisters for styling tips. "I was wearing very minimal make-up. I didn't brush my hair that day," she said. But the resulting image of Ms Anchalee created a social media storm when it appeared on Bart, the San Francisco metro. Lots of people questioned whether she really was an engineer. "It was not just limited to women — it resonates with every single person who doesn't fit with what the stereotype should look like," she said.

"My parents, my brother, my community, all were against me," said Sovita Dahal of her decision to pursue a career in technology. "I was going against traditional things. In my schooldays I was fascinated by electronic equipment like motors, transformers and LED lights. Later on this enthusiasm became my passion and ultimately my career," she said.


Treat Computer Science As a Science: It's the Law 181

theodp writes: Last week, President Obama signed into law H.R. 1020, the STEM Education Act of 2015, which expands the definition of STEM to include computer science for the purposes of carrying out education activities at the NSF, DOE, NASA, NOAA, NIST, and the EPA. The Bill was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Rep. Elizabeth Etsy (D-CT). Smith's February press release linked to letters of support from tech billionaire-backed (whose leadership includes Microsoft President Brad Smith), and the Microsoft-backed STEM Education Coalition (whose leadership includes Microsoft Director of Education Policy Allyson Knox).

Hi-Tech Body Implants and the Biohacker Movement ( 67

szczys writes: Body modification has been growing in popularity. It's pretty common to see people with multiple piercings or stretched earlobes (called gauging). With this wider acceptance has risen a specific subset of Biohacking that seeks to add technology to your body through implants and other augmentation. The commonly available tech right now includes the addition of a magnet in your fingertip, or an RFID chip in your hand to unlock doors and start your car. Cameron Coward looked into this movement — called Grinding — to ask what it's like to live with tech implants, and where the future will take us.

Can a New Type of School Churn Out Developers Faster? ( 236

Nerval's Lobster writes: Demand for software engineering talent has become so acute, some denizens of Silicon Valley have contributed to a venture fund that promises to turn out qualified software engineers in two years rather than the typical four-year university program. Based in San Francisco, Holberton School was founded by tech-industry veterans from Apple, Docker and LinkedIn, making use of $2 million in seed funding provided by Trinity Ventures to create a hands-on alternative to training software engineers that relies on a project-oriented and peer-learning model originally developed in Europe. But for every person who argues that developers don't need a formal degree from an established institution in order to embark on a successful career, just as many people seem to insist that a lack of a degree is an impediment not only to learning the fundamentals, but locking down enough decent jobs over time to form a career. (People in the latter category like to point out that many companies insist on a four-year degree.) Still others argue that lack of a degree is less of an issue when the economy is good, but that those without one find themselves at a disadvantage when the aforementioned economy is in a downturn. Is any one group right, or, like so many things in life, is the answer somewhere in-between?

The Pepsi P1 Smartphone Takes Consumer Lock-In Beyond the App ( 153

An anonymous reader writes: On the 20th of October Pepsi will launch its own smartphone in China. The P1 is not just a cowling brand, but a custom-made device running Android 5.1 and costing approximately $205. At that price it's almost a burner, but even so it represents new possibilities for a brand to truly control the digital space for its eager consumers in a period where mobile content-blocking is becoming a marketing obstruction, and where there is increasing resistance on Google's part to allow publishers to push web-users from the internet to 'the app'.

Fenno-German 'Sea Lion' Telecom Cable Laying Begins ( 39

jones_supa writes: A couple of years ago, details began to unfold of a government-backed high capacity data cable between Germany and Finland, which would be routed through the Baltic Sea. The cable has now been nicknamed "Sea Lion," and the work started Monday in Santahamina coastal area, outside Helsinki. The cable was built by Alcatel Lucent and is operated by the Finnish firm Cinia Group. The Finnish government, along with the banking and insurance sector, have together invested €100M into the project. That investment is expected to pay for itself many times over once the business sector gets a boost from the new telecom jump. The new cable also makes Finland independent of the Øresund Bridge, through which all of the country's Internet traffic is currently routed, via Denmark and Sweden. Eventually the new link can reach Asia as well, via the Northeast Passage shipping route.

Chinese Company To Sell Genetically Modified Micro Pigs as Pets ( 137

An anonymous reader writes: Tyne McConnon from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that a research firm in China plans to"sell its 'micro pig' as a pet after it successfully edited the DNA of the animal to stunt its growth. Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) created the pig, which grows to weigh between 14 and 20 kilograms, by changing the DNA responsible for its growth. The company originally genetically modified the Bama pig breed for research but announced at a Bio Tech Leader summit in China recently their plans to sell it."

There Is No .bro In Brotli: Google/Mozilla Engineers Nix File Type As Offensive 766

theodp writes: Several weeks ago, Google launched Brotli, a new open source compression algorithm for the web. Since then, controversy broke out over the choice of 'bro' as the content encoding type. "We are hoping to establish a file ending .bro for brotli compressed files, a command line tool 'bro' for compressing and uncompressing brotli files, and a accept/content encoding type 'bro'," explained Google software engineer Jyrki Alakuijala. "Can I talk you out of it?," replied Mozilla SW engineer Patrick McManus. "'bro' has a gender problem, even though the dual meaning is unintentional. It comes of[f] misogynistic and unprofessional due to the world it lives in." Despite some pushback from commenters, a GitHub commit made by Google's Zoltan Szabadka shows that there will be no '.bro' in Brotli. "I have asked a feminist friend from the North American culture-sphere, and she advised against bro," explained Alakuijala. "We have found a compromise that satisfies us, so we don't need to discuss this further. Even if we don't understand why people are upset from our cultural standpoint, they would be (unnecessarily) upset and this is enough reason not to use it."
First Person Shooters (Games)

Open-Source Doom 3 Advances With EAX Audio, 64-bit ARM/x86 Support ( 37

An anonymous reader writes: Dhewm3, one of the leading implementations of the Doom 3 engine built off the open-source id Tech 4 engine, has released a new version of the GPL-licensed engine that takes Doom 3 far beyond where it was left off by id Software. The newest code has full SDL support, OpenAL + OpenAL EFX for audio, 64-bit x86/ARM support, better support for widescreen resolutions, and CMake build system support on Linux/Windows/OSX/FreeBSD. This new open-source code can be downloaded from Dhewm3 on GitHub but continues to depend upon the retail Doom 3 game assets.

Scientists Control a Fly's Heartbeat With a Laser ( 17

the_newsbeagle writes: Researchers have demonstrated a laser-based pacemaker in fruit flies, and say that a human version is "not impossible."

The invention makes use of optogenetics, a technique in which the DNA that codes for a light-sensitive protein is inserted into certain cells, enabling those cells to be activated by pulses of light. Researchers often use this method to study neurons in the brain, but in this case the researchers altered flies' heart cells. Then they activated those cardiac cells using pulses of light, causing them to contract in time with the pulses (abstract). Voila, they had an optical pacemaker that worked on living adult fruit flies.

Don't worry, no one can control your heartbeat with a laser just yet. That would require inserting foreign DNA into your heart cells, and also finding a way to shine light through the impediment of your flesh and bones. But lead researcher Chao Zhou of Lehigh University is working on it.


Microsoft's Mission To Reignite the PC Sector ( 266 writes: Sales of personal computers have been declining for so long — 14 consecutive quarters — that it's hard remember a time when PCs ruled the tech world. Now Nick Wingfield writes in the NY Times that Microsoft is leading the way on a mission to re-ignite the PC market by taking the once-unthinkable step of competing with its hardware partners. This week, Microsoft dived even further into the business with a laptop device, the Surface Book. The stated reason that Microsoft got into the PC hardware business three years ago, with the original Surface, was not to put PC companies out of business — but to better illustrate the capabilities of its software, providing devices that would inspire PC makers to be more innovative.

One of the most remarkable things about Microsoft's growing presence in the hardware business is that it has not led to open revolt among its partners. Initially, many of them were not happy about Microsoft's moves, complaining in private. "It's positioned as a laptop, very squarely against the MacBook Pro as an example. But that could also be extended to a Dell XPS 13, or an HP x360," says Patrick Moorhead. One reason there hasn't been more pushback from OEMs is that Microsoft's Surface business is still relatively small. Another is that the money Microsoft has poured into marketing Surface has raised the broader profile of Windows PCs. While Microsoft obviously risks alienating its partners, it's doing so with a much bigger fight in mind. "Right now Microsoft really believes that it has to have a combined hardware, software, and services play to go up against the likes of Apple," says Moorhead. "That's why it's doing this. That's why it's taking such an aggressive stance now, moving to laptops."


US Government Will Not Force Companies To Decode Encrypted Data... For Now ( 108

Mark Wilson writes: The Obama administration has announced it will not require companies to decrypt encrypted messages for law enforcement agencies. This is being hailed as a "partial victory" by the Electronic Frontier Foundation; partial because, as reported by the Washington Post, the government "will not — for now — call for [such] legislation." This means companies will not be forced to build backdoors into their products, but there is no guarantee it won't happen further down the line. The government wants to continue talks with the technology industry to find a solution, but leaving things in limbo for the time being will create a sense of unease on both sides of the debate. The EFF has also compiled a report showing where the major tech companies stand on encryption.

Emissions Scandal Expands: Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Mazda, and Mitsubishi ( 416

An anonymous reader writes: Volkswagen has taken some serious heat for deliberately circumventing emissions tests with "defeat devices" in some of their vehicles. While no other cars have been found to use specific devices to fool tests in the same way, we're now learning that many manufacturers still mysteriously perform worse in the real world. Last week, the Guardian revealed that diesel cars from Nissan, Hyundai, Citroen, Fiat, Volvo, and Renault emitted significantly more pollution in realistic driving conditions than the tests supposedly allow. Now, we learn that vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Mazda, and Mitsubishi emit substantially more than they should as well. For example: "Mercedes-Benz's diesel cars produced an average of 0.406g/km of NOx on the road, at least 2.2 times more than the official Euro 5 level and five times higher than the Euro 6 level. Honda's diesel cars emitted 0.484g/km of NOx on average, between 2.6 and six times the official levels." This provides clear evidence that the automotive industry is designing its cars to follow the letter of the law (passing tests), but not the spirit (actually reducing pollution).

In Midst of a Tech Boom, Seattle Tries To Keep Its Soul 392 writes: Nick Wingfield has an interesting article in the NYT about how Seattle, Austin, Boulder, Portland, and other tech hubs around the country are seeking not to emulate San Francisco where wealth has created a widely envied economy, but housing costs have skyrocketed, and the region's economic divisions have deepened with rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco at more than $3,500 a month, the highest in the country. "Seattle has wanted to be San Francisco for so long," says Knute Berger. "Now it's figuring out maybe that it isn't what we want to be." The core of the debate is over affordable housing and the worry that San Francisco is losing artists, teachers and its once-vibrant counterculture. "It's not that we don't want to be a thriving tech center — we do," says Alan Durning. "It's that the San Francisco and Silicon Valley communities have gotten themselves into a trap where preservationists and local politics have basically guaranteed buying a house will cost at least $1 million. Already in Seattle, it costs half-a-million, so we're well on our way."

Seattle mayor Ed Murray says he wants to keep the working-class roots of Seattle, a city with a major port, fishing fleet and even a steel mill. After taking office last year, Murray made the minimum-wage increase a priority, reassured representatives of the city's manufacturing and maritime industries that Seattle needed them., and has set a goal of creating 50,000 homes — 40 percent of them affordable for low-income residents — over the next decade. "We can hopefully create enough affordable housing so we don't find ourselves as skewed by who lives in the city as San Francisco is," says Murray. "We're at a crossroads," says Roger Valdez. "One path leads to San Francisco, where you have an incredibly regulated and stagnant housing economy that can't keep up with demand. The other path is something different, the Seattle way."