Category Archives: Entertainment

To Give Or Not To Give 50% of Earth to Wildlife

By : Robin Mckie

The orangutan is one of our planet’s most distinctive and intelligent creatures. It has been observed using primitive tools, such as the branch of a tree, to hunt food, and is capable of complex social behaviour. Orangutans also played a special role in humanity’s own intellectual history when, in the 19th century, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, co-developers of the theory of natural selection, used observations of them to hone their ideas about evolution.

But humanity has not repaid orangutans with kindness. The numbers of these distinctive, red-maned primates are now plummeting thanks to our destruction of their habitats and illegal hunting of the species. Last week, an international study revealed that its population in Borneo, the animal’s last main stronghold, now stands at between 70,000 and 100,000, less than half of what it was in 1995. “I expected to see a fairly steep decline, but I did not anticipate it would be this large,” said one of the study’s co-authors, Serge Wich of Liverpool John Moores University.

For good measure, conservationists say numbers are likely to fall by at least another 45,000 by 2050, thanks to the expansion of palm oil plantations, which are replacing their forest homes. One of Earth’s most spectacular creatures is heading towards oblivion, along with the vaquita dolphin, the Javan rhinoceros, the western lowland gorilla, the Amur leopard and many other species whose numbers are today declining dramatically. All of these are threatened with the fate that has already befallen the Tasmanian tiger, the dodo, the ivory-billed woodpecker and the baiji dolphin – victims of humanity’s urge to kill, exploit and cultivate.

As a result, scientists warn that humanity could soon be left increasingly isolated on a planet bereft of wildlife and inhabited only by ourselves plus domesticated animals and their parasites. This grim scenario will form the background to a key conference – Safeguarding Space for Nature and Securing Our Future – to be held in London on 27-28 February.

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A.I Recognizes Terrorist Propaganda With 99% Accuracy

By: Kevin Litman-Navarro

The UK-based company ASI Data Science unveiled a machine learning algorithm Wednesday that can identify terrorist propaganda videos with 99 percent accuracy

This development marks one of the first instances of a company successfully using A.I. to flag extremist propaganda. The Islamic State group is notorious for its social media recruiting efforts, and this algorithm could help curtail them.

While the researchers at ASI wouldn’t discuss any technical specifics of the algorithm, it appears to work like other kinds of A.I. recognition software. The algorithm can examine any video and determine the probability that the video is a piece of extremist propaganda. According to the BBC, the algorithm was trained on thousands of hours of terrorist recruiting videos, and it uses characteristics from these videos to assign probability scores.

If a video is marked as very high probability, it is tagged for review by a human content moderator. Because the videos aren’t automatically taken down, any false positive should be caught before the video is wrongfully removed. ASI said that the algorithm could detect up to 94 percent of Islamic State uploads.

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Facebook Loses Millions Of The 25 & Under Market

By: Kurt Wagner & Rani Molla

Facebook is losing young users even quicker than expected, according to new estimates by eMarketer.

The digital measurement firm predicted last year that Facebook would see a 3.4 percent drop in 12- to 17-year-old users in the U.S. in 2017, the first time it had predicted a drop in usage for any age group on Facebook.

The reality: The number of U.S.

Facebook users in the 12- to 17-year-old demographic declined by 9.9 percent in 2017, eMarketer found, or about 1.4 million total users. That’s almost three times the decline expected. There were roughly 12.1 million U.S. Facebook users in the 12- to 17-year-old demographic by the end of the year.

There are likely multiple reasons for the decline. Facebook has been losing its “cool” factor for years, and young people have more options than ever for staying in touch with friends and family. Facebook also serves as a digital record keeper — but many young people don’t seem to care about saving their life online, at least not publicly. That explains why Snapchat and Instagram, which offer features for sharing photos and videos that disappear, are growing in popularity among this demographic.

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Anonymous Website Targeting City Broadband Secretly Operated Bt Telecom

By: Kieren McCarthy of The Register

Cable biz Fidelity Communications has been forced to admit it was behind an astroturfing campaign against a city-run fiber network in America’s Midwest.

The campaign, titled Stop City-Funded Internet, started last month with a website and accompanying social media handles, and has been a persistent critic of efforts by West Plains, Missouri, to expand its homegrown broadband network to include more businesses and even residential customers.

Who exactly is behind the campaign has been the subject of intense interest with the campaign’s main website revealing only that it was funded by “a collection of fiscally conservative Missourians.”

However one enterprising local – videographer Isaac Protiva – was able to uncover the truth: cable company Fidelity Communications, which offers internet access in five states including Missouri, and boasts 115,000 customers. The ISP had paid a marketing outfit based in Arizona to carry out the campaign.

How did he figure it out? The marketing company screwed up when it named materials on stopcityfundedinternet.com. Specifically, two images on the site were spotted revealing Fidelity as a client. Incredibly, one was the site’s main header image, called Fidelity_SCFI_Website_V2.jpg. The second image was on a privacy page, and was hosted on a server called fidelity.dmwebtest.com. Talk about a smoking gun.

The server domain revealed the company behind the campaign was DM Web Dev Group, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and owned by marketing veterans Martin Lakin and David Ammerman.

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Falcon Heavy Makes History

By: The BBC

The mammoth vehicle – the most powerful since the shuttle system – lifted clear of its pad without incident to soar high over the Atlantic Ocean.

It was billed as a risky test flight in advance of the lift-off.

The SpaceX CEO said the challenges of developing the new rocket meant the chances of a successful first outing might be only 50-50.

“I had this image of just a giant explosion on the pad, a wheel bouncing down the road. But fortunately that’s not what happened,” he told reporters after the event.

With this debut, the Falcon Heavy aims to become the most capable launch vehicle available.

It is designed to deliver a maximum payload to low-Earth orbit of 64 tonnes – the equivalent of putting five London double-decker buses in space.

Such performance is slightly more than double that of the world’s next most powerful rocket, the Delta IV Heavy – but at one third of the cost, says Mr Musk.

For this experimental and uncertain mission, however, he decided on a much smaller and whimsical payload – his old cherry-red Tesla sports car.

A space-suited mannequin was strapped in the driver’s seat, and the radio set to play David Bowie’s classic hit Space Oddity on a loop.

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Positive Perspective Of The Stock Market Tumble

By: Jay Zagorski of The Conversation

Stocks, which only recently were practically hitting a new record every other day, suddenly seem to be in free fall.

Global stock markets plunged on Feb. 5, continuing the already precipitous decline from the week before. The Dow Jones industrial average, one of the most widely followed indexes, fell by almost 1,200 points, a 4.6 percent loss and the biggest point decline on record. Put another way, the world’s 500 richest people lost about US$114 billion in a single day.

Since the Dow’s record peak of 26,617 on Jan. 26, the index has fallen almost 9 percent. This brings it close to what is known as a “correction,” which is often described as a fall of 10 percent. Corrections are simply a large enough fall in stock prices to get some people to believe the market’s upward trajectory has stopped. We’ll be in a “bear” market if losses reach 20 percent.

What does this mean for investors and the rest of us? In my view, there are three important ideas to keep in mind as we assess the impact of a plunging stock market on the economy and our wallets.

Don’t panic

First, the stock market often makes very dramatic moves in a short period of time, and extreme volatility like Monday’s occasionally occurs. One of the most famous market plunges occurred in 1929, at the start of the Great Depression.

On Oct. 25 1929, a Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average closed at 301. The following Monday, dubbed “Black Monday” in trading lore, the Dow closed at 260, a drop of 13.5 percent. Then the next day, called “Black Tuesday,” the Dow fell to 230 points, a loss of 11.7 percent.

People were in a panic after only two days of steep losses. On Wednesday, which has no moniker, the Dow reversed course and rose up to 259. This rise almost entirely wiped out the previous day’s fall.

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Thwarting Climate Change Denial Will Require More Involvement From The People

By: Dana Nuccitelli of The Guardian

Climate myths are often contradictory – it’s not warming, though it’s warming because of the sun, and really it’s all just an ocean cycle – but they all seem to share one thing in common: logical fallacies and reasoning errors.

John Cook, Peter Ellerton, and David Kinkead have just published a paper in Environmental Research Letters in which they examined 42 common climate myths and found that every single one demonstrates fallacious reasoning. For example, the authors made a video breaking down the logical flaws in the myth ‘climate changed naturally in the past so current climate change is natural.’

Beating myths with critical thinking

Cook has previously published research on using ‘misconception-based learning’ to dislodge climate myths from peoples’ brains and replace them with facts, and beating denial by inoculating people against misinformers’ tricks. The idea is that when people are faced with a myth and a competing fact, the fact will more easily win out if the fallacy underpinning the myth is revealed. In fact, these concepts of misconception-based learning and inoculation against myths were the basis of the free online Denial101x course developed by Cook and colleagues.

The new paper published today suggests an even more proactive approach to defeating myths. If people can learn to implement a simple six-step critical thinking process, they’ll be able to evaluate whether climate-related claims are valid.

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Ever Wanted To Pay Someone To Live Your Life, Heard of ‘ Human Uber / Chameleon Mask’

By: Andrew Griffin

A new “human Uber” could let you pay someone to live your life for you.

Japanese researcher Jun Rekimoto has developed a special screen that can be strapped to a person’s face and allow them to live on your behalf. By dressing up as you and having your face shown where theirs usually is, you’ll be able to pay someone to go about your life instead.

The technology is aimed at allowing someone – a “surrogate” – to live your life for you, wearing your clothes and behaving on your instruction. You, on the other hand, would be able to lounge at home, watching events through your laptop and using its camera to communicate with people your surrogate meets.

“To do this, a surrogate user wears a mask-shaped display that shows a remote user’s live face, and a voice channel transmits a remote user’s voice,” a page describing the tool, known as ChameleonMask, reads. “A surrogate user mimics a remote user by following the remote user’s directions.

“This design is based on our hypothesis assuming physical and social telepresence can be embodied by such a surrogate human who imitates the remote user.”

“This design is based on our hypothesis assuming physical and social telepresence can be embodied by such a surrogate human who imitates the remote user.”

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Scientist Figure Solar Panel Problem Winning Another Battle Over Coal

By: CleanTechnica

Remember back when plastic was a new and exciting thing? That’s more or less where we are with that other p-word, perovskites. Legions of scientists around the world have been trying to tease a durable solar cell out of this optically-promising but fussy material, and it looks like a team from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has put its finger on the solution.

Did we mention that perovskites are cheap and could be manufactured at high volume, too? Until recently natural gas was the main driver pushing coal out of the power generation business, but renewable energy is also becoming a force to be reckoned with, and its influence will grow stronger as the cost of photovoltaic modules continues to drop.

Another Perovskite Solar Cell Breakthrough

Perovskite is a natural occurring mineral with good optical properties, and its crystalline structure can be replicated with relative ease. NREL, for one, is a huge fan of synthetic perovskites for the low cost solar cells of the future, but the problem is that they deteriorate quickly when exposed to ambient air.

That’s quite an Achilles heel, right?

In the latest perovskite development, the NREL team seems to have solved that little thing about air. Here’s the teaser from the lab:

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) created an environmentally stable, high-efficiency perovskite solar cell, bringing the emerging technology a step closer to commercial deployment.

Do tell! The research team successfully tested a perovskite solar cell in ambient conditions without protection for 1,000 hours, and it retained 94% of its conversion efficiency.

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Amazon’s Bidding War

By: Damir Mujezinovic of Inquisitr

In September 2017, the e-commerce giant Amazon announced it would be building a second headquarters, dubbed HQ2. In a blog post published on their official website, the company details its needs and goals, claiming the second headquarters will include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs. This maneuver is meant to supplement the existing Seattle headquarters.

According to Quartz, Amazon received 238 bids to host its new headquarters.

However, on January 18, the tech giant narrowed the list down to twenty cities. Toronto, Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago, Denver, Nashville, Los Angeles, Dallas, Austin, Boston, New York City, Newark, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Washington DC, Raleigh, Northern Virginia, Atlanta and Miami are now the candidates.

Amazon’s HQ2 project seems to have caused a bidding war of sorts, The Intercept reported. Cities are competing, state governments are offering different taxpayer giveaways to reel Amazon in and intensifying their roles in the bidding process. They are actively competing to win the affection of the tech giant and its tycoon owner Jeff Bezos.

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