Google

On the Google Book Scanning Project and the Library We Will Never See (theatlantic.com) 149

For a decade, Google's enormous project to create a massive digital library of books was embroiled in litigation with a group of writers who say it was costing them a lot of money in lost revenue. Even as Google notched a victory when a federal appeals court ruled that the company's project was fair use, the company quietly shut down the project. From an article published in April this year: Despite eventually winning Authors Guild v. Google, and having the courts declare that displaying snippets of copyrighted books was fair use, the company all but shut down its scanning operation. It was strange to me, the idea that somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25-million books and nobody is allowed to read them. It's like that scene at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie where they put the Ark of the Covenant back on a shelf somewhere, lost in the chaos of a vast warehouse. It's there. The books are there. People have been trying to build a library like this for ages -- to do so, they've said, would be to erect one of the great humanitarian artifacts of all time -- and here we've done the work to make it real and we were about to give it to the world and now, instead, it's 50 or 60 petabytes on disk, and the only people who can see it are half a dozen engineers on the project who happen to have access because they're the ones responsible for locking it up. But Google seems to be thinking ways to make use of it, it appears. Last month, it added a new feature to its search function that instantly connects you with eBook data from libraries near you. From a report: Now, every time you search for a book through Google, information about your local library rental options will be easily available. Yeah, that's right. Your local library not only still exists, but it has eBooks, which are things you can totally borrow (for free) online! Before, this perk was hidden somewhere deep within your local library's website -- assuming it had one -- but now these free literary wonders are all yours for the taking.
Books

Amazon E-Book Buyers Receive Payment From Antitrust Lawsuit Settlement (idropnews.com) 42

If you bought a Kindle e-book between April 2010 and May 2012, you might see some Amazon credit coming your way. The company is reportedly distributing funds from an antitrust lawsuit that it levied at Apple in 2013. From a report: Amazon has set up a website listing the available credits, and it has begun sending out emails this morning to U.S. customers who are eligible for a refund. Apple and a handful of book publishers, including Penguin, HarperCollins, Machete Book Group and Macmillan, were found guilty of conspiring to inflate the prices of e-books in order to weaken Amazon's grip on the market. While the book publishers settled out of court, Apple decided to fight the lawsuit and appealed several times. Eventually, it was ordered to pay a total of $450 million in the protracted antitrust case.

Several refunds have already been distributed because of the lawsuit. In fact, the bulk of credits were sent out in 2014 and 2016. The round of credits being sent out today comes from an earmarked $20 million meant to pay states involved in the suit. The Amazon credits have a six-month shelf life and must be spent by April 20, 2018, or they'll expire. In addition the Amazon credits, customers may also be receiving Apple credits that can be used toward iBooks, iTunes and App Store purchases. Apple is currently notifying eligible customers via email.

Android

Android Oreo Helps Google's Pixel 2 Smartphones Outperform Other Android Flagships (hothardware.com) 86

MojoKid highlights Hot Hardware's review of Google's new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones: Google officially launched it's Pixel 2 phones today, taking the wraps off third-party reviews. Designed by Google but manufactured by HTC (Pixel 2) and LG (Pixel 2 XL), the two new handsets also boast Google's latest Android 8.0 operating system, aka Oreo, an exclusive to Google Pixel and certain Nexus devices currently. And in some ways, this is also a big advantage. Though they are based on the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor as many other Android devices, Google's new Pixel 2s manage to outpace similarly configured smartphones in certain benchmarks by significant margins (Basemark, PCMark and 3DMark). They also boot dramatically faster than any other Android handset on the market, in as little as 10 seconds. Camera performance is also excellent, with both the 5-inch Pixel 2 and 6-inch Pixel 2 XL sporting identical electronics, save for their displays and chassis sizes. Another notable feature built into Android Oreo is Google Now Playing, an always-listening, Shazam-like service (if you enable it) that displays song titles on the lock screen if it picks up on music playing in the room you're in. Processing is done right on the Pixel 2 and it doesn't need network connectivity. Another Pixel 2 Oreo-based trick is Google Lens, a machine vision system that Google notes "can recognize places like landmarks and buildings, artwork that you'd find in a museum, media covers such as books, movies, music albums, and video games..." The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are available now on Verizon or unlocked via the Google Store starting at $649 and $849 respectively for 64GB storage versions, with a $100 up-charge for 128GB variants.
Google

Google Photos Now Recognizes Your Pets (techcrunch.com) 60

Today, Google is introducing an easier way to aggregate your pet photos in its Photos app -- by allowing you to group all your pet's photos in one place, right beside the people Google Photos organized using facial recognition. TechCrunch reports: This is an improvement over typing in "dog," or another generalized term, because the app will now only group together photos of an individual pet together, instead of returning all photos you've captured with a "dog" in them. And like the face grouping feature, you can label the pet by name to more easily pull up their photos in the app, or create albums, movies or photo books using their pictures. In addition, Google Photos lets you type in an animal's breed to search for photos of pets, and it lets you search for photos using the dog and cat emojis. The company also earlier this year introduced a feature that would create a mini-movie starring your pet, but you can opt to make one yourself by manually selecting photos then choosing from a half-dozen tracks to accompany the movie, says Google.
Books

Amazon Finally Makes a Waterproof Kindle (theverge.com) 67

After 10 years of Kindles, Amazon has finally made a kindle e-reader with an IPX8 waterproof rating. The new Kindle Oasis features a 7-inch display and aluminum back. The Verge reports: Unlike last year's Kindle Oasis, which used a magnetic case you attached to the e-reader to extend its battery life, the new Oasis relies entirely on its built-in battery. It has a similar physical design, with one thicker side that tapers down on the other side, for one-handed reading. But Amazon has made a point of saying that it managed to fit in a bigger battery, while keeping the tapered side of the device at 3.4 millimeters. The resolution of the e-paper display is the same at 300 ppi, but it has a couple extra LED lights now for a brighter, more even-looking display. And it also has ambient light sensors that adjust the brightness as you move from room to room, or from outdoors to indoors. There are physical page-turn buttons, plus the touchscreen page-turn option; Amazon says it's worked on both the hardware and software side of things to make page-turning feel faster. The new e-reader has been tested in two meters of water for up to 60 minutes. It's also been tested in different water environments, like hot tubs, pools, and bubble baths.
Books

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your Favorite William Gibson Novel? 298

dryriver writes: When I first read William Gibson's Neuromancer and then his other novels as a young man back in the 1990s, I was blown away by Gibson's work. Everything was so fresh and out of the ordinary in his books. The writing style. The technologies. The characters and character names. The plotlines. The locations. The future world he imagined. The Matrix. It was unlike anything I had read before. A window into the far future of humanity. I had great hopes over the years that some visionary film director would take a crack at creating film versions of Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive . But that never happened. All sorts of big budget science fiction was produced for TV and the big screen since Neuromancer that never got anywhere near the brilliance of Gibson's future world. Gibson's world largely stayed on the printed page, and today very few people talk about Neuromancer, even though the world we live in, at times, appears headed in the exact direction Gibson described in his Sprawl trilogy. Why does hardly anybody talk about William Gibson anymore? His books describe a future that is much more technologically advanced than where we are in 2017, so it isn't like his future vision has become "badly dated." To get the conversation going, we rephrased dryriver's question... What is your favorite William Gibson novel?
Microsoft

Microsoft 'Was Sick', CEO Satya Nadella Says In New Book (intoday.in) 241

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has just published a new book called Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone. An anonymous reader quotes India Today: Nadella's push for cultural shift -- and hiring "learn-it-alls" instead of "know-it-alls" -- is largely meant to jolt enthusiasm for a new era of innovation at the company. Microsoft had long depended on the success of its flagship Windows operating system and the royalties it gets for each PC sold with it. But the global PC market is declining, and Microsoft fell behind as Apple and Google led the shift to smartphones. Nadella doesn't take any shots at Microsoft's co-founder and first CEO Bill Gates -- who wrote the book's foreword -- or Ballmer. But he's frank about their disagreements, especially over Ballmer's disastrous $7.3 billion acquisition of Nokia's phone business in 2014.

Nadella also refers to the company's previous organizational structure as a "confederation of fiefdoms" and recounts negative feedback received from employee surveys and emails. "The company was sick," Nadella writes. "Employees were tired. They were frustrated. They were fed up with losing and falling behind despite their grand plans and great ideas. They came to Microsoft with big dreams, but it felt like all they really did was deal with upper management, execute taxing processes and bicker in meetings..." He promises not to squander the new energy felt by employees after years of frustration. So far, it seems to be paying off; Microsoft shares have doubled since he took the top job in early 2014, and the company is attracting buzz for its work in AI, augmented reality and a new effort in futuristic computing.

A former Microsoft board member says Nadella "has made people believe in the future of Microsoft in a way that neither Bill nor Steve really did."
ISS

Astronaut Scott Kelly Describes One Year In Space -- And Its After Effects (brisbanetimes.com.au) 200

53-year-old astronaut Scott Kelly shared a dramatic excerpt from his new book Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery in the Brisbane Times, describing his first 48 hours back on earth and what he'd learned on the mission: I push back from the table and struggle to stand up, feeling like a very old man getting out of a recliner... I make it to my bedroom without incident and close the door behind me. Every part of my body hurts. All my joints and all of my muscles are protesting the crushing pressure of gravity. I'm also nauseated, though I haven't thrown up... When I'm finally vertical, the pain in my legs is awful, and on top of that pain I feel a sensation that's even more alarming: it feels as though all the blood in my body is rushing to my legs, like the sensation of the blood rushing to your head when you do a handstand, but in reverse. I can feel the tissue in my legs swelling... Normally if I woke up feeling like this, I would go to the emergency room. But no one at the hospital will have seen symptoms of having been in space for a year...

Our space agencies won't be able to push out farther into space, to a destination like Mars, until we can learn more about how to strengthen the weakest links in the chain that make space flight possible: the human body and mind... [V]ery little is known about what occurs after month six. The symptoms may get precipitously worse in the ninth month, for instance, or they may level off. We don't know, and there is only one way to find out... On my previous flight to the space station, a mission of 159 days, I lost bone mass, my muscles atrophied, and my blood redistributed itself in my body, which strained and shrank the walls of my heart. More troubling, I experienced problems with my vision, as many other astronauts had. I had been exposed to more than 30 times the radiation of a person on Earth, equivalent to about 10 chest X-rays every day. This exposure would increase my risk of a fatal cancer for the rest of my life.

Kelly says the Space Station crew performed more than 400 experiments, though about 25% of his time went to tracking his own health. "If we could learn how to counteract the devastating impact of bone loss in microgravity, the solutions could well be applied to osteoporosis and other bone diseases. If we could learn how to keep our hearts healthy in space, that knowledge could be useful on Earth." Kelly says he felt better a few months after returning to earth, adding "It's gratifying to see how curious people are about my mission, how much children instinctively feel the excitement and wonder of space flight, and how many people think, as I do, that Mars is the next step... I know now that if we decide to do it, we can."
AI

Tim O'Reilly: Don't Fear AI, Fear Ourselves (wired.com) 72

Tim O'Reilly, publisher of geeky books, "seizes on this singular moment in history" for a futuristic new book of his own, according to this interview with Steven Levy. An anonymous reader writes: When it comes to artificial intelligence, O'Reilly sees a reason for optimism in the fact that we're already discussing biased algorithms. ("We had plenty of bias before but we couldn't see it.") O'Reilly ultimately believes AI won't take away our jobs, and even argues that we're defining it all wrong. "What we now call AI is just the next stage of us weaving our intelligence together into a greater whole. If you think about the internet as weaving all of us together, transmitting ideas, in some sense an AI might be the equivalent of a multi-cellular being and we're its microbiome, as opposed to the idea that an AI will be like the golem or the Frankenstein. If that's the case, the systems we are building today, like Google and Facebook and financial markets, are really more important than the fake ethics of worrying about some far future AI.

"We tend to be afraid of new technology and we tend to demonize it, but to me, you have to use it as an opportunity for introspection. Our fears ultimately should be of ourselves and other people."

O'Reilly calls financial markets "the first rogue AI," while also priasing innovators like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos for moving humankind in new and positive directions. And he also calls Uber "a good metaphor for what's right and wrong in tech" because of its clashes with both its drivers and city governments.

"It's interesting that Lyft, which has been both more cooperative in general and better to drivers, is gaining share. That indicates there's a competitive advantage in doing it right, and you can only go so far being an ass."
Security

DDoS Attacks Will Now Be 'Something You Only Read About In The History Books', Says Cloudflare CEO (vice.com) 100

Louise Matsakis, writing for Motherboard: Cloudflare, a major internet security firm, is on a mission to render distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks useless. The company announced Monday that every customer -- including those who only use its free services -- will receive a new feature called Unmetered Mitigation, which protects against every DDoS attack, regardless of its size. Cloudflare believes the move is set to level the internet security playing field: Now every website will be able to fight back against DDoS attacks for free. "The standard practice in the industry for some time has been to charge more if you come under attack," Matthew Prince, the CEO of Cloudflare, told me on a phone call last week. Firms often "fire you as a customer if you're not sort of paying enough and you get a large attack," he explained. "That's kind of gross."
Books

'Banned Books Week' Recognizes 2016's Most-Censored Books (and Comic Books) (newsweek.com) 166

An anonymous reader quotes Newsweek: The American Library Association's yearly Banned Books Week, held this year between Sunday September 24 and Saturday September 30, is both a celebration of freedom and a warning against censorship. Launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries, the event spotlights the risk of censorship still present... "While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read," the ALA stated.
"This Banned Books Week, we're asking people of all political persuasions to come together and celebrate Our Right to Read," says a coalition supporting the event. The ALA reports that half of the most frequently challenged books were in fact actually banned last year, according to the library group's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), which calculates there were 17% more attempts to censor books in America in 2016. The five most-challenged books all contained LGBT characters, and the most common phrase used to complain about books is "sexually explicit," the OIF told Publisher's Weekly -- perhaps reflecting a change in targets. He believes one reason is that most challenges now are reported not for books in the library but against books in the advanced English curricula of some schools. This change also represents a shift upward in the age of the readers of the most challenged books. "We've moved from helicopter parenting, where people were hovering over their kids, to Velcro parenting," LaRue says. "There's no space at all between the hand of the parent and the head of the child. These are kids who are 16, 17; in one year they're going to be old enough to sign up for the military, get married, or vote, and their parents are still trying to protect them from content that is sexually explicit. I think that's a shift from overprotectiveness to almost suffocating."
Three of the 10 most-challenged books were graphic novels, so the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is sharing their own list of banned and challenged comics.

Their list includes two Neil Gaiman titles, Sandman and The Graveyard Book , as well two popular Batman titles -- Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Strikes Again and Alan Moore's The Killing Joke -- plus Moore's graphic novel Watchmen, Maus by Art Spiegelman, and even Amazing Spider-Man: Revelations by J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita, Jr.
AI

A New Zealand Company Built An AI Baby That Plays the Piano (bloomberg.com) 87

pacopico writes: A New Zealand company called Soul Machines has built a disturbingly lifelike virtual baby powered by artificial intelligence software. According to a Bloomberg story, the baby has learned to read books, play the piano and draw pictures. The work is built off the research of Mark Sagar, the company's CEO, who is on a quest to mimic human consciousness in a machine. Sagar used to work at Weta creating lifelike faces for films like King Kong and Avatar and is now building these very realistic looking virtual avatars and pumping them full of code that not only handles things like speech but that also replicates the nervous system and brain function. The baby, for example, has virtual dopamine receptors that fire when it feels joy from playing the piano. What could go wrong?
DRM

Corporations Just Quietly Changed How the Web Works (theoutline.com) 248

Adrianne Jeffries, a reporter at The Outline, writes on W3C's announcement from earlier this week: The trouble with DRM is that it's sort of ineffective. It tends to make things inconvenient for people who legitimately bought a song or movie while failing to stop piracy. Some rights holders, like Ubisoft, have come around to the idea that DRM is counterproductive. Steve Jobs famously wrote about the inanity of DRM in 2007. But other rights holders, like Netflix, are doubling down. The prevailing winds at the consortium concluded that DRM is now a fact of life, and so it would be be better to at least make the experience a bit smoother for users. If the consortium didn't work with companies like Netflix, Berners-Lee wrote in a blog post, those companies would just stop delivering video over the web and force people into their own proprietary apps. The idea that the best stuff on the internet will be hidden behind walls in apps rather than accessible through any browser is the mortal fear for open web lovers; it's like replacing one library with many stores that each only carry books for one publisher. "It is important to support EME as providing a relatively safe online environment in which to watch a movie, as well as the most convenient," Berners-Lee wrote, "and one which makes it a part of the interconnected discourse of humanity." Mozilla, the nonprofit that makes the browser Firefox, similarly held its nose and cooperated on the EME standard. "It doesn't strike the correct balance between protecting individual people and protecting digital content," it said in a blog post. "The content providers require that a key part of the system be closed source, something that goes against Mozilla's fundamental approach. We very much want to see a different system. Unfortunately, Mozilla alone cannot change the industry on DRM at this point."
Google

Google's New Payment App For India Transfers Money Via Ultrasound (buzzfeed.com) 37

Pranav Dixit, writing for BuzzFeed News: Google's goal for the brand-new payments app it launched in India on Monday is simple yet ambitious: to get in on the action each time someone sends or receives money in its largest market outside the United States. The app is called Tez -- Hindi for "fast" -- and it lets users do three things: send money to people in their phones' address books, make payments to businesses (both online as well as in real-world mom-and-pop stores), and zap cash to anyone around them -- all without knowing bank account numbers or personal details. Tez is powered by UPI, short for Unified Payments Interface, a Indian government-backed payments standard that lets users transfer money directly into each other's bank accounts using just their mobile numbers, or a bank-issued payment ID that looks like an email address. It works a lot like Venmo does in the US, except that anyone can build their own payments app on top of UPI. Once you hit Pay or Receive, Tez detects other Tez users around you with a proprietary technology called Audio QR based on ultrasound, and pairs with their phones. Once a sender puts in the amount and authenticates with a preset PIN to confirm who they're sending money to, a transaction happens in seconds.
Power

Samsung Unveils New Electric Car Batteries For Up To 430 Miles of Range (electrek.co) 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: At the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA Cars 2017) this week, Samsung's battery division, Samsung SDI, showcases a new "Multifunctional battery pack" solution to enable more range in electric vehicles as the Korean company tries to carve itself a bigger share of the growing automotive battery market. Most established automakers, like Nissan with the LEAF or even GM with the more recent Chevy Bolt EV, have been using large prismatic cells to build their electric vehicle battery packs. Tesla pioneered a different approach using thousands of individual smaller cylindrical li-ion battery cells in each pack. Earlier this year, Samsung unveiled its own '2170' battery cell to compete with Tesla/Panasonic. Now they are claiming that they can reach an impressive energy density by using those cells in new modules: "'Multifunctional battery pack' of Samsung SDI attracted the most attention. Its users can change the number of modules as they want as if they place books on a shelf. For example, if 20 modules are installed in a premium car, it can go 600 to 700 kilometers. If 10 to 12 modules are mounted on a regular sedan, it can run up to 300 kilometers. This pack is expected to catch the eyes of automakers, because they can design a car whose mileage may vary depending on how many modules of a single pack are installed."
Books

Ask Slashdot: What Are You Reading This Month? 312

An anonymous reader writes: Hey folks! Could you share what are some books (or book) you're reading this month? Maybe it's the book you've already started, or you intend to begin or resume later this month? Thanks!
Science

A Few Bad Scientists Are Threatening To Topple Taxonomy (smithsonianmag.com) 79

From a report: To study life on Earth, you need a system. Ours is Linnaean taxonomy, the model started by Swedish biologist Carl Linnaeus in 1735. Linnaeus's two-part species names, often Latin-based, consist of both a genus name and a species name, i.e. Homo sapiens. Like a library's Dewey Decimal system for books, this biological classification system has allowed scientists around the world to study organisms without confusion or overlap for nearly 300 years. But, like any library, taxonomy is only as good as its librarians -- and now a few rogue taxonomists are threatening to expose the flaws within the system. Taxonomic vandals, as they're referred to within the field, are those who name scores of new taxa without presenting sufficient evidence for their finds. Like plagiarists trying to pass off others' work as their own, these glory-seeking scientists use others' original research in order to justify their so-called "discoveries." "It's unethical name creation based on other people's work," says Mark Scherz, a herpetologist who recently named a new species of fish-scaled gecko. "It's that lack of ethical sensibility that creates that problem." The goal of taxonomic vandalism is often self-aggrandizement. Even in such an unglamorous field, there is prestige and reward -- and with them, the temptation to misbehave. "If you name a new species, there's some notoriety to it," Thomson says. "You get these people that decide that they just want to name everything, so they can go down in history as having named hundreds and hundreds of species." The problem may be getting worse, thanks to the advent of online publishing and loopholes in the species naming code. With vandals at large, some researchers are less inclined to publish or present their work publicly for fear of being scooped, taxonomists told me. "Now there's a hesitation to present our data publically, and that's how scientists communicate," Thomson says. "The problem that causes is that you don't know who is working on what, and then the scientists start stepping on each other's toes."
Books

Amazon Tries To Snuff Out a Bunch of Kindle Publishing Scams (cnet.com) 16

Amazon has been working for years to clean its sites of fake reviews and fake products. It's still got work to do. From a report: The online retailer on Wednesday filed five separate legal actions through the American Arbitration Association to cut down on a variety of alleged scams used to make money on Amazon's Kindle self-publishing service, according to documents obtained by CNET. "Today's news reflects yet another step in our ongoing efforts to protect readers and authors from individuals who violate our terms of service and manipulate programs readers and authors rely on," an Amazon spokesman said in a statement. He added that only a "small minority" of those using Kindle Direct Publishing engage in such scams. Amazon since 2015 has been using these kinds of legal actions to fight against scams and already sued over 1,000 entities involved in allegedly creating fake product reviews on its sites. The company last year also sued alleged counterfeiters. As part of Wednesday's filings, one alleged scammer used a novel approach to try making money through Amazon. The man named in the filing, Nilmer Rubio, of Olongapo City in the Philippines, allegedly reached out to authors who used the Kindle self-publishing platform and told them he could artificially inflate the number of pages customers read of their books in two Kindle programs. He apparently did this with the use of hundreds of Amazon accounts he created.
Google

Google Fiber Cuts Kansas City Resident's Internet Access Over 12 Cent Dispute (kansascity.com) 191

New submitter twentysixV writes: Google Fiber offered a seven-year internet service if you pay upfront for connecting to your house, including taxes and fees. Victoria Tane signed this deal: $300 to connect, plus $25.08 for taxes and fees. Google Fiber internally accounts it as ongoing recurring payments. Kansas then raises taxes. Instead of absorbing the tax increase for customers who paid upfront, Google Fiber books it to the customers. To punish the customer for now being late on paying 12 cents she was not aware she now owed for additional taxes, Google then cut her internet access. According to Kansas City News, Tane tried to pay but Google wouldn't take checks for less than $10. Google reportedly tried contacting her via emails and voice messages, but Tane never saw them. When asked about the incident, Google Fiber issued a statement: "As with any customer who has a balance due, we made repeated attempts to reach Ms. Tane to resolve the matter. Google Fiber values our customers, and we have since worked with Ms. Tane to restore her Fiber service." Google forgave the total, restored Tane's service in less than an hour and credited her account for $30, reports Kansas City News.
Books

Lost Languages Discovered in One of the World's Oldest Continuously Run Libraries (smithsonianmag.com) 164

Saint Catherine's Monastery, a sacred Christian site nestled in the shadow of Mount Sinai, is home to one of the world's oldest continuously used libraries. Thousands of manuscripts and books are kept there -- some of which contain hidden treasures. An anonymous reader shares a report: Now, a team of researchers is using new technology to uncover texts that were erased and written over by the monks who lived and worked at the monastery. Many of these original texts were written in languages well known to researchers -- Latin, Greek, Arabic -- but others were inscribed in long-lost languages that are rarely seen in the historical record. Manuscripts with multiple layers of writing are known as palimpsests, and there are about 130 of them at St. Catherine's Monastery, according to the website of the Early Manuscript Electronic Library, which has been leading the initiative to uncover the original texts. With the rise of Islam in the 7th century, Christian sites in the Sinai Desert began to disappear, and Saint Catherine's found itself in relative isolation. Monks turned to reusing older parchments when supplies at the monastery ran scarce. To uncover the palimpsests' secret texts, researchers photographed thousands of pages multiple times, illuminating each page with different-colored lights. They also photographed the pages with light shining onto them from behind, or from an oblique angle, which helped "highlight tiny bumps and depressions in the surface," Gray writes. They then fed the information into a computer algorithm, which is able to distinguish the more recent texts from the originals.

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