Shared posts

13 Nov 00:02

God of Death deployed to enforce railway laws in India

by David Pescovitz

In Mumbai, India, the Western Railway deployed a police officer dressed as Yamarāja, a Hindu god of death, to educate commuters about railway safety and enforce the laws. From Zee News:

Railway Ministry's handle warned the people in Hindi, "Do not cross the track in an unauthorised manner, it can be fatal."

"If you cross the track in an unauthorized way, then Yamraj will be standing in front of you," Railway Ministry added.

In 2018, as many as seven people on an average lost their lives on a daily basis due to carelessness in crossing railway tracks illegitimately. At least 1,476 people had lost their lives while crossing the railway tracks while over 650 people died after falling off the trains.

11 Nov 17:54

“The Mandalorian” as a Wernor Herzog documentary

by Thom Dunn

The Mandalorian is the new Star Wars TV show premiering on Disney Plus+. Werner Herzog is the famous filmmaker who will also be appearing as an actor on the show.

It was only a matter of time before someone mashed-up The Mandalorian’s trailer footage with Herzog’s iconic documentarian voiceover. It’s not Grizzly Man, but it’s close.

11 Nov 17:54

The long-term benefits of losing, according to science

by Dashun Wang

We’ve heard winning isn’t everything, but new research proves that “losing” might boost your success in the long run.

After three years of pursuing an ambitious project to understand what kinds of teams promote optimal innovation, my colleagues and I were nearing the finish line. The resulting paper was nearing long-awaited publication. The journal we’d targeted had put the paper through several review rounds, we’d addressed all comments, and the editor had revised the paper to meet the journal’s stringent space requirement. So when we left for the year-end holidays, we felt great.

Read Full Story

07 Nov 20:07

OpenAI Has Published the Text-Generating AI it Said Was Too Dangerous To Share

by msmash
The research lab OpenAI has released the full version of a text-generating AI system that experts warned could be used for malicious purposes. From a report: The institute originally announced the system, GPT-2, in February this year, but withheld the full version of the program out of fear it would be used to spread fake news, spam, and disinformation. Since then it's released smaller, less complex versions of GPT-2 and studied their reception. Others also replicated the work. In a blog post this week, OpenAI now says it's seen "no strong evidence of misuse" and has released the model in full. GPT-2 is part of a new breed of text-generation systems that have impressed experts with their ability to generate coherent text from minimal prompts. The system was trained on eight million text documents scraped from the web and responds to text snippets supplied by users. Feed it a fake headline, for example, and it will write a news story; give it the first line of a poem and it'll supply a whole verse. It's tricky to convey exactly how good GPT-2's output is, but the model frequently produces eerily cogent writing that can often give the appearance of intelligence (though that's not to say what GPT-2 is doing involves anything we'd recognize as cognition).

Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

07 Nov 20:07

Bille Lourd Talks About Mom Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia, and Her Connection to Star Wars

by Rachel Leishman

carrie fisher and billie lourd on the star wars set.

I grew up never really caring about Princess Leia in the way that everyone else did. Sure, I loved her and wanted to be like her, but Chewbacca was my favorite because he was furry. (I was like 5; let me be.) But as I got older, I realized that my hero was not, in fact, any of the Star Wars characters, but instead Carrie Fisher herself.

The aspects of Leia that everyone clung to were aspects that I never understood. Carrie? Her love of writing and sharing her struggles? That I could understand. It took me meeting Carrie Fisher to realize that I didn’t want to be Princess Leia because I didn’t think I could be—I never got the guy, I could never lead a revolution, etc.—but Carrie Fisher looked at me and told me that she was Leia and Leia was her, and that I could too be both the blaster-wielding princess who falls in love with the scoundrel and the brilliant story-teller. She also told me I was pretty, but that’s a gloat for another day.

Often, I forget about this story because I find it deeply personal, but today, it came back to me because of an essay that Billie Lourd (Fisher’s real-life daughter) wrote about her struggle with Princess Leia.

Lourd, who writes about how she was constantly told by her parents to do anything with her life other than acting, came into the Star Wars world as Lt. Connix in The Force Awakens and discovered that this is what she wanted to do as a career, something that Fisher also realized when seeing her daughter on set. But while that part of the story is important for Lourd now, the essay holds a bigger significance to her relationship with Star Wars as a child.

Talking about everyone’s love of Leia and how she didn’t understand it, Lourd goes into watching the series for the first time and realizing why Leia (and her mother) was so important to fans.

I realized then that Leia is more than just a character. She’s a feeling. She is strength. She is grace. She is wit. She is femininity at its finest. She knows what she wants, and she gets it. She doesn’t need anyone to defend her, because she defends herself. And no one could have played her like my mother. Princess Leia is Carrie Fisher. Carrie Fisher is Princess Leia. The two go hand in hand.

What hurts about this entire story the most, the truth of Leia getting to have her moment, is the fact that Carrie Fisher was so excited about it:

One of the last times we spoke on the phone, she talked about how excited she was that the next movie in the trilogy was going to be Leia’s movie. Her movie.

I’ve been well aware of the fact that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is going to be hard for me. It’s going to be hard for all of us who have looked to Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia as a beacon of strength. To read Billie Lourd’s words on it, to hear her story and her own journey of having Carrie as a mother and what Leia now means to her, as she is her “keeper,” drives home the importance of this story.

You can read Lourd’s entire piece at Time and I highly suggest you do.

(via Time, image: Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

 —The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

07 Nov 19:10

Why We Need to Map the Ocean Floor - Facts So Romantic

by Sam Goldman

Seabed 2030 uses multibeam bathymetry data collection. “You can get very high resolution, down to centimeters, if you bring the sonar very close to the bottom,” says Larry Mayer.GEBCO

Larry Mayer, a marine geophysicist, gets shivers when he looks at a night sky of stars. He understands why we explore outer space and NASA has spent billions mapping our extraterrestrial neighbors—the moon, Mars, Venus. But Mayer also get shivers looking at Earth’s oceans. So why haven’t we invested in mapping its depths? “You’d think you’d be able to convince people willing to spend so many billions of dollars to map Mars to map our own planet,” Mayer says. “And I think it’s wonderful to map Mars, but I’ve asked myself and others that question, and I think part of it is that NASA has a much better PR and outreach machine. A colleague of mine, Bob Ballard, is always saying, “Well, people always look up and think ‘good,’ and they look down and think ‘bad.’”

Mayer, a professor and the director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire, is now embarked on a journey to make people look down and think good. He’s part of…
Read More…

07 Nov 19:05

The case for breaking up Disney

by Cory Doctorow

Disney has always been a problematic company, from its crypto-minstrelsy (and not-so-crypto-minstrelsy) to its perpetual copyright extensions to its censorship activities to its gender stereotyping to its anti-union work and so on, but, as anti-monopoly activist Matt Stoller (previously) writes, under CEO Bob Iger the company has changed into an entirely different kind of corporate menace: a monopolist committed to crushing competition, rather than an entertainment company that -- whatever its other sins -- was ferociously committed to making movies, TV shows, theme parks, art and toys.

Stoller points to Iger's acquisition spree -- ABC, ESPN, Marvel, Lucas, Pixar, Fox, Maker Media (and licenses for Muppets, Avatar, etc) -- as the key to understanding the change in the company's nature. Where once Disney was a powerhouse of proprietary, studio-created stories and characters (albeit many of them based on public domain fairy tales), under Iger the main sources of new Disney products and stories has been other companies that it purchased. And of course, none of those purchases would have been permitted under the version of antitrust law that led to the founding and growth Disney -- it wasn't until Ronald Reagan, Robert Bork, and every US president since systematically dismantled antitrust that these kind of acquisitions became possible.

This growth strategy warps the competitive landscape in all kinds of ways (not just would would-be animation studio founders, who are now gasping for market oxygen in a monopolized marketplace). Disney is now reportedly insisting on "block booking" from cinema owners -- that's the (once) illegal practice whereby a movie studio only permits cinemas to exhibit its top films if they also agree to take its turkeys -- while simultaneously clawing back all of its (and now, Fox's) old films from exhibition in the nation's 600 struggling independent cinemas. This could push these indies -- already struggling with the hyper-concentrated, monopolized movie theater market, which underwent massive concentration thanks to lax antitrust enforcement -- over the edge, meaning that the kinds of movies that depend on these theaters for exhibition would have nowhere to go.

Then there's Disney's new streaming service, Disney+, which is priced at $6.99, below the rate of any of the other streaming services -- a price that Iger himself admits will lose the company money -- with the goal of acquiring more customers than any of the other streaming services, cross-subsidizing the service with it studios and theme-parks, until they can be crushed or acquired by Disney as well.

This has lots of economic consequences for other sectors as well, but the most obvious one is what it will do to creators, whose contractual royalties for re-releases and TV/cable will simply vanish, basically re-creating the old studio system in which actors and other creators were treated as property by the studios, literally bought and rented out or sold to other studios. After all, Disney has always used the existence of new distribution channels to weasel out of its obligations to pay its talent, and this could be the mother of all royalty-dodges.

As Stoller points out, this isn't just bad for artists, it's bad for audiences. Markets depend on customers making choices to discipline sellers who provide substandard or overpriced goods. But if Disney is able to establish and then maintain a monopoly on both home entertainment and theatrical exhibition, it needn't fear the market -- it can dictate to its audience what they will watch.

There are some important tech policy implications of all this: first is that as streaming becomes the key battleground for the entertainment giants, we're going to see a redoubled effort to ban DRM circumvention, redesigning the entire home computing ecosystem to resist user-modification, shutting out new market entrants who want to serve the demand for more flexible devices and systems (and there will be lots of collateral damage to streamrippers, file-hosting services, source-code repositories, security research, etc).

The second -- and even more dramatic -- implication of all this is that in a non-neutral internet environment, Disney is going to have to contend with the fact that its two major competitors have merged with monopolistic telcoms/cable companies: Universal/Comcast and Time-Warner/AT&T. These companies have both the technical capacity and -- thanks to Trump and his FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai -- the legal right to degrade or cap their customers' connections to Disney+, adding $10 or even $20/month to the priced-to-move $6.99 subscription fee.

What's more, 5G is total bullshit, and will not save them. Verizon has proven itself catastrophically bad at being an online service provider, so maybe they're ripe for a merger, acquisition or joint venture.

Given the abysmal state of competition law enforcement in America, they'd probably get away with it.

It's Time to Break Up Disney: Part One [Matt Stoller/Big]

(via Naked Capitalism)

07 Nov 19:05

Dread Scott’s “Slave Rebellion” Promises an Empowering Take on the Historical Reenactment Trope

by William C. Anderson
Costumes for the Slave Rebellion Reenactment were designed by Alison L. Parker (all images courtesy of the Slave Rebellion Reenactment)

In a large uprising less known to many than Nat Turner’s rebellion or the Amistad, hundreds of enslaved people in Louisiana took up arms. The event known as the German Coast Uprising took place in 1811, not long after the New Year had begun. As many as 500 enslaved people marched from LaPlace, Louisiana towards New Orleans with tools like sugar cane-harvesting knives, clubs, and guns in hand, chanting “freedom or death.” This is regarded by some as the largest revolutionary insurrection to be led by enslaved Africans in US history. Now, this historical event is being brought to life through reenactment.

This month, 500 people will take on the role of those who marched toward New Orleans demanding freedom. According to its website, the Slave Rebellion Reenactment is a “community-engaged artist performance and film production that […]  will reimagine the German Coast Uprising of 1811, which took place in the river parishes just outside of New Orleans.” The project is the brainchild of the artist Dread Scott, who’s been working on its development and planning it for six years. It will come to fruition on November 8 and 9, 2019.

Scott first came across the history of the German Coast Uprising while working on another project for the McColl Center, an artist residency in Charlotte, North Carolina. When Scott was there in 2013, the manager of the residency program became aware of the book On to New Orleans!: Louisiana’s heroic 1811 slave revolt by Robert Thrasher. This text would be a motivating factor in bringing this reenactment to life, but it took more than just inspiration.

Illustration by Dan Bejar for the Slave Rebellion Reenactment guidebook

Speaking to Hyperallergic, Dread Scott said for “a project of this scale and of this nature, there’s a lot of behind the scenes that’s a really important component of the project that will enable it to happen successfully.” Scott’s vision of his work is about drawing on the past to help people realize how it connects to the present. He spoke of reenactors — the makeup of which will be entirely “Black or indigenous,” according to Scott — feeling empowered and “forging a liberating army.” These hundreds of people will march some 26 miles, retracing lands where people once languished in bondage on plantations. This massive undertaking comes complete with a costume department, an “un-bibliography,” rebellion merch, and a walking training guide.

Antenna, a New Orleans based multi-arts organization, is producing the reenactment, which has a wide array of backers both big and small. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Ford Foundation, and Open Society Foundation are just a few of the bigger name supporters that have come together to fund what’s going to cost upwards of one million dollars to make happen. Not to mention, individual donors came together to contribute tens of thousands, too. Thanks to the efforts of reenactors, planners, and other artists that believe in the vision coming to life, it will play out on a grand scale.

An activist-oriented approach to recreating this revolt sets it apart from other reenactments like those that recreate Civil War Battles or otherwise. For Scott, this is the opportunity to raise awareness around an event that was not only suppressed through violence, but by white supremacist erasure from the pages of history as well. This is where he hopes to invite people to feel motivated. In addition to the march itself, filmmaker John Akomfrah will be documenting everything to give Scott’s artistic rebirth another extension through a film installation for others to bear witness. This multi-channel installation is a collaboration that will bring the two together for the first time after knowing one another for some 15 years. They’re anticipating it taking about a year to create, but no venue has committed to exhibiting the film at the moment.

Dread Scott is choosing not to reanimate or play out how the revolt ultimately ended, a massacre and gross atrocity. “The fact that white people and particularly enslavers did horrific things during the times of enslavement, that’s not news. What is news, is that Black people had self-determination and agency and were fighting to create a new world. That’s not well known,” Scott said. He wants to keep the focus there, saying, “When we get to Congo Square we’re going to flip from a military campaign to a cultural celebration.” Congo Square, a point of origin for Black music all across the United States, is where a historical intervention will occur to spare a recreation of the historical ending that was filled with terror.

Scott said he wanted people to walk away understanding “a liberating vision of enslaved people from the past that had self-determination and agency. And that can inspire us in the present.” The artist went on to say, “This is a project about freedom and emancipation and hopefully people will rethink the history of enslavement both looking at the horror and brutality, but even much more looking at the agency and self-determination and fighting spirit and resistance that happened all along the way.”

This article precedes a longer essay about Dread Scott’s Slave Rebellion Reenactment that will be released in the days following the performance. Check Hyperallergic’s Twitter and Instagram November 8 and 9 for firsthand footage and images of the experience.

07 Nov 19:01

You can now wear the work of Ada Lovelace, Rachel Carson, and Mae Jemison

by Elizabeth Segran

Giorgia Lupi created a wearable tribute to trailblazing female scientists.

To those of us who aren’t well-versed in data or computer science, data can seem foreign and intimidating. But Giorgia Lupi has devoted her career to making statistics accessible to everyone by transforming them into visually stunning patterns that tell engaging stories about the knowledge and the people behind the data. In the past, she’s run a data visualization company, and most recently, she joined the design firm Pentagram as a partner. But in her spare time, she’s been moonlighting as a fashion designer.

Read Full Story

07 Nov 18:42

Petrobras CEO Blames High Price Tag for Auction Flop

Brazil had its second failed oil auction in two days, prompting government officials and the head of the state-run producer to criticize bidding rules.
05 Nov 19:02

Trump's probably jealous of the cheers this cat got after crashing last night's Cowboys-Giants game

by Andrew Paul on News, shared by Andrew Paul to The A.V. Club

Sporting events have long been seen as microcosms of our country’s emotional state—a mishmash of people from various walks and stations of life, all crammed together in small areas that inevitably results in us yelling expletives at each other. Perhaps this is why we’re still basking in a single, fleeting moment of…


04 Nov 21:14

Adobe Photoshop Finally Arrives on the iPad

by msmash
Adobe Photoshop is now available for iPads. From a report: The release follows an official announcement at Adobe's MAX event last year. The app is free to download and use for 30 days, but you'll need a Creative Cloud subscription to continue using it after that. If you already have a subscription for Adobe's desktop apps that covers Photoshop, you should be good to go -- you just need to log in with your paid account credentials. The app has full support for Apple Pencil, and lets you work on full PSD files -- layers and all. The company has also modified oft-used Photoshop functions for touchscreen interfaces, such as quick selection and paintbrush.

Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

04 Nov 21:13

Researchers hack Siri, Alexa, and Google Home by shining lasers at them

by Dan Goodin
Researchers hack Siri, Alexa, and Google Home by shining lasers at them

Enlarge (credit: Sugawara et al.)

Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are vulnerable to attacks that use lasers to inject inaudible—and sometimes invisible—commands into the devices and surreptitiously cause them to unlock doors, visit websites, and locate, unlock, and start vehicles, researchers report in a research paper published on Monday. Dubbed Light Commands, the attack works against Facebook Portal and a variety of phones.

Shining a low-powered laser into these voice-activated systems allows attackers to inject commands of their choice from as far away as 360 feet (110m). Because voice-controlled systems often don’t require users to authenticate themselves, the attack can frequently be carried out without the need of a password or PIN. Even when the systems require authentication for certain actions, it may be feasible to brute force the PIN, since many devices don’t limit the number of guesses a user can make. Among other things, light-based commands can be sent from one building to another and penetrate glass when a vulnerable device is kept near a closed window.

The attack exploits a vulnerability in microphones that use micro-electro-mechanical systems, or MEMS. The microscopic MEMS components of these microphones unintentionally respond to light as if it were sound. While the researchers tested only Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Facebook Portal, and a small number of tablets and phones, the researchers believe all devices that use MEMS microphones are susceptible to Light Commands attacks.

Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

04 Nov 21:13

Splatter master Jackson Pollock avoided “coiling” when creating his paintings

by Jennifer Ouellette
Jackson Pollock working in his Long Island studio adjacent to his home in 1949.

Enlarge / Jackson Pollock working in his Long Island studio adjacent to his home in 1949. (credit: Martha Holmes/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Image)

Famed abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock notoriously relied on non-traditional painting techniques to create his masterpieces. Physicists have pondered the presence of curls and coils in his work, and whether the artist deliberately exploited a well-known fluid dynamics effect to achieve them. Now a recent paper in PLOS One is claiming the opposite: Pollock deliberately avoided so-called "coiling instabilities" as he worked.

For the last few years, Roberto Zenit, a physicist with the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Brown University, has been studying the physics of fluids at work in novel painting techniques like those used by Pollock and Mexican muralist David A. Siqueiros. Pollock, for instance, early on employed a "flying filament" or "flying catenary" technique before he perfected his dripping methods. The paint forms various viscous filaments, which are thrown against a vertical canvas. Zenit and several colleagues were able to recreate the fluid action by mounting a paint-filled brush on a rapidly rotating mechanical arm.

Pollock's dripping technique involved laying a canvas flat on the floor and then pouring paint on top of it. Sometimes he poured it directly from a can, sometimes he used a stick, knife, or brush, and sometimes he used a syringe. The artist usually "rhythmically" moved around the canvas as he worked. His style has long fascinated physicists, such as the controversy surrounding the question of whether or not Pollock's paintings show evidence of fractal patterns.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

04 Nov 21:12

Vincent Price and Boris Karloff both used some weird ingredients in their homemade guacamole recipes

by Thom Dunn

Boris Karloff and Vincent Price are perhaps the two most well-known horror movie actors in history. But that's not all they had in common—they were, apparently, both fans of homemade guacamole.

Karloff's recipe was originally published in a newspaper (I couldn't track the original source, but the earliest date the image appears online is from November 2013). I personally prefer a squeeze of lime, rather than lemon juice, in my guacamole, but otherwise this is pretty straight-forward—except for that little touch of sherry. I've never tried that myself, but I bet it's worth a shot.

(The newspaper article also refers to this as a "sauce," which is…not how I tend to think of my guac?)

• 2 avocados
• 1 med. tomato, chopped fine
• 1 small onion, minced
• 1 tbsp. chopped canned green chiles
• 1 tbsp. lemon juice
• 1 tsp sherry
• Dash cayenne, optional
• Salt, pepper

Peel and mash avocados. Add onion, tomato and chiles, then stir in lemon juice, sherry and seasonings to taste, blending well. Serve as a dip for tortilla pieces or corn chips or as a canape spread. Makes 10 to 12 appetizer servings.Peel and mash avocados. Add onion, tomato and chiles, then stir in lemon juice, sherry and seasonings to taste, blending well. Serve as a dip for tortilla pieces or corn chips or as a canape spread. Makes 10 to 12 appetizer servings.

It was much easier to trace the source for Vincent Price's recipe, which was published in a cookbook that he and his wife put out in 1965. He prefers his guac with coriander as well as…Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise?

• avocados
• onion
• Worcestershire sauce (optional)
• ground coriander
• salt
• garlic
• tomato
• mayonnaise
• lemon
• cayenne pepper (optional)

1. Peel and seed: 2 large avocados. Save the seeds. Mash avocados with a fork.

2. Add: 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 small onion, chopped fine, 1 small green chili, chopped fine, 1/8 teaspoon of ground coriander, salt to taste, 1/2 clove garlic, minced, 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional), and a dash of cayenne pepper (optional).
3. Leave the avocado seeds in the mixture until ready to serve, and they will prevent discoloration. If you like a very smooth guacamole, remove the seeds and put mixture into blender container and blend on high speed for about 8 seconds before you are ready to serve it.

I can imagine a world where this is fine, in that overly-smooth-store-bought kind of way. I just personally prefer not to live in that world. Kat Kinsman at Extra Crispy tried to re-create both recipes, and said of Price's mayo-slop: "If I'd been served this blindfolded, I'd have assumed that someone was shoveling Big Mac Secret Sauce onto my tongue, and that's just horrifying when you've been promised guacamole."

04 Nov 21:12

Buying Fitbit Won't Save Google's Failing Wear OS

by msmash
David Ruddock of AndroidPolice technology blog tries to make sense of last week's $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit by Google. He argues that Fitbit's offerings -- hardware, software, engineering talent, or even patent wall -- can't save Google's wearable operating system Wear OS. From his column: Hardware is what Google is after, with a blog post cleatly stating its acquisition of Fitbit is about future Wear OS devices, meaning you can probably kiss Fitbit's unloved smartwatch OS goodbye. So, that means we can count on Google leveraging Fitbit's renowned hardware to finally give Wear OS the horsepower and capabilities it needs to compete with Apple, right? Well, no. Fitbit's smartwatches have been most lauded for their long battery life, which has historically been enabled by extremely slow but highly power-efficient processors. The Versa 2 allegedly comes with significant performance improvements, but as a smartwatch, it just isn't very... smart. Michael Fisher points out in his review that the Versa 2's near week-long life on a single charge is only impressive when looked at in a very generous light. The Versa 2 doesn't have GPS, the battery only lasts that long when not using the always-on display (with AoD, it's closer to 3 days), the watch itself doesn't work for almost anything but fitness tracking on its own, and most of your interactions with it end up happening on your smartphone anyway. I can also tell you from experience that the Apple Watch Series 5 lasts about two days on a charge with the always-on display enabled (and Samsung's watches last even longer), so Fitbit managing a day more which a much less useful watch isn't exactly game-changing technology. In short, Fitbit's products are not ones Google should be excited about buying. The hardware is nothing special, and the software is clearly going in the dumpster. What has Google bought, then? The sad, very practical truth is probably patents and engineers. Fitbit does develop at least some of its hardware in-house, and likely has a decent number of patents related to fitness tracking and basic wearable technology, including those stemming from its acquisition of Pebble. Its product engineers would receive resources and tools at Google that Fitbit may not have afforded them. In short: Google's purchase is almost certainly a speculative one. Google is hoping that Fitbit's technology portfolio and its engineering talent can create a better, faster, stronger Wear OS watch. That isn't the kind of acquisition that screams "our product is successful," it's one that looks far more like a Hail Mary from a company that is rapidly losing any hope of remaining relevant in the wearables space. A more cynical view of Google's acquisition might argue that this is more about Fitbit's brand and users than anything else. If Google simply markets its in-house smartwatches as Fitbits running Wear OS, it would be more able to tap into Fitbit's existing customer base and retail relationships. Customer base is something Wear OS is sorely missing at the moment, and Fitbit is a brand that many consumers recognize, albeit mostly for the company's "dumb" fitness trackers, not its smartwatches. Speaking of, given Google's focus on Wear OS as part of this acquisition, my guess is that those more popular but very basic trackers will be discontinued.

Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

01 Nov 19:26

No, a genetic study didn’t pinpoint the ancestral homeland of all humans

by Kiona N. Smith
200,000 years ago, parts of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa looked a lot like the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

Enlarge / 200,000 years ago, parts of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa looked a lot like the Okavango Delta in Botswana. (credit: Gorgo / Wikimedia)

A study published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature earlier this week supposedly determined that a particular region of southern Africa gave rise to modern humans 200,000 years ago. But, shockingly, it turns out that a single genomic study can't instantly resolve one of the biggest questions in human evolution.

The Nature paper's claim has drawn criticism from people in the field, in part because it contradicts a heap of other evidence—and it doesn't offer any explanation. And the actual emergence of our species is much older, much messier, and much more interesting.

Is this the homeland of modern humans?

Geneticist Eva Chan of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia and her colleagues say that mitochondrial DNA can be used to trace the origins of modern humanity to an area spanning the borders of Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. This place is a dry landscape dotted with salt pans that hint at a former wetland paradise. Because mitochondrial DNA is passed directly from mother to child, the study claims that this is where the maternal ancestors of modern humans—6,500 generations removed—once lived.

Read 28 remaining paragraphs | Comments

01 Nov 18:22

Deadspin is Dead After Refusing To 'Stick To Sports'

by msmash
Everyone on Deadspin's staff -- nearly 20 writers and editors -- resigned this week after the site's interim editor-in-chief, Barry Petchesky, was fired for refusing to "stick to sports." Axios reports: In the last month alone, two prominent American sports publications have been gutted and look destined to become shells of their former selves. A few weeks ago, Sports Illustrated's new owners laid off half the newsroom -- the first step in their plan to turn it into a rickety old content mill staffed by contributors making as little as $25,000 a year. Deadspin was founded as a sports blog in 2005 and was originally part of Gawker Media, which was sued out of existence thanks to a lawsuit brought by Hulk Hogan (and funded by Peter Thiel). After bouncing between a few owners, Deadspin and its sibling sites like Gizmodo, Jezebel and The Onion were acquired by private equity firm Great Hill Partners earlier this year. Since then, new ownership has tried to change the tone of the site on the fly, urging writers to avoid hot-button issues or polarized political topics. The New York Times explains the tension between the management and editorial staff: While largely focused on sports, Deadspin for years had delved into a broad range of topics in a voice that was sometimes rude, often funny and always conversational. On Tuesday, the site's top editor, Barry Petchesky, was fired after refusing to go along with the order. The departures shocked fans of the site, which put a new spin on sports coverage for a generation of digital natives. But they were the result of a long buildup of resentment between the journalists and their new bosses, according to interviews with 13 current and former employees of Deadspin and G/O Media. The main topic of discussion at the Wednesday meeting was the stick-to-sports memo, which was signed by Paul Maidment, the editorial director of G/O Media, the company that became the owner of Deadspin and sibling sites like Jezebel and Gizmodo six months ago. Stories that showed the intersection of sports and other topics were fair game, Mr. Maidment wrote in the memo. He said at the meeting that he had enjoyed a recent post about President Trump getting booed at a World Series game. But purely non-sports content was forbidden. Deadspin writers and editors considered that to be meddling. [...] G/O Media installed Jim Spanfeller, a digital media executive who had previously run, as its head. Mr. Spanfeller promptly got rid of some top editors and made Mr. Maidment the editorial director. Signs of tensions between the irreverent journalists and the management team came quickly. They were not helped by an Aug. 2 Deadspin article whose reporting was critical of G/O Media, Mr. Spanfeller and his executive team. The piece took issue with their "lack of knowledge about" the sites now in their portfolio and "their seeming unwillingness or inability to get up to speed." A few weeks later, Deadspin's top editor, Megan Greenwell, resigned, saying in a farewell post that her job had become untenable, given management's demands.The next major event at G/O Media occurred on Oct. 10, with the shuttering of its politics site, Splinter. Further reading: Thank You (Deadspin); The Mavening of Sportswriting (The Ringer). Bernie Sanders said in a statement Thursday evening, "I stand with the former Deadspin workers who decided not to bow to the greed of private equity vultures like Jim Spanfeller. This is the kind of greed that is destroying journalism across the country, and together we are going to take them on."

Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

01 Nov 17:20

The Science Of Scary: Why It's So Fun To Be Freaked Out

by Madeline K. Sofia
Psychologist Ken Carter studies why some people seek out haunted houses and other thrills — even though he

When it comes to hair-raising experiences, why do some of us cower while others can't get enough? Ken Carter, an expert on adrenaline junkies, reveals what makes them tick.

(Image credit: Kay Hinton/Emory University)

01 Nov 17:19

Giant Offshore Brazil Oil Discovery May Be Expensive for Exxon

Exxon Mobil Corp. could take a pass on what it considers the world's top deepwater oil discovery when Brazil puts the giant Buzios field up for auction next week.
01 Nov 17:10

Become an In-Demand Machine Learning and AI Pro with This 8-Course Training Bundle

by Michael Justin Allen Sexton

As the driving forces behind everything from Google algorithms to self-driving cars, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be found at the heart of today’s most exciting and important innovations.

The Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence Certification Bundle will get you up to speed with the field’s most essential and powerful techniques and platforms, so you’ll be ready to break into the field as an in-demand pro. It’s currently available for over 95 percent off at just $29.

With 8 courses and over 400 lessons, this bundle will help you land the best and most lucrative careers of both today and tomorrow.

You’ll learn how to gain valuable insights from complex sets of data, how to build powerful programs using in-demand programming languages like Python, how to create in-depth statistical models, and more.

There’s also instruction that teaches you how to use go-to platforms like Tensorflow.

Get the skills you need to succeed in an increasingly data-driven world with the Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence Certification Bundle for just $29—over 95 percent off its usual price for a limited time.

Note: Terms and conditions apply. See the relevant retail sites for more information. For more great deals, go to our partners at

Now read:

31 Oct 17:08

Why you should start a weekly planning session (and how to do it effectively)

by Kelly Nolan

You can eliminate a lot of unexpected stress by doing a little bit of advance planning.

I’m a time management strategist who, last week, skipped the very same planning session I make my clients work through each week. I assured myself it would be fine to skip it just this once and in the process, took for granted the benefits of planning.

Read Full Story

31 Oct 16:58

Here’s why you should never use decorative contact lenses—in graphic pictures

by Beth Mole
Closeup image of man wearing scary contact lenses.

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich Lawson)

Unless you’d like to keep the pirate look going, it’s best to avoid costume contact lenses this Halloween.

Like every October, health authorities and medical organizations want to remind you that the decorative, over-the-counter lenses are not only illegal, they’re also terrible for your eyes. And they're not telling tall tales. The lenses can cause infections, sores, scratches, vision-impairing scars, and even blindness. It’s easy to find eye-related horror stories from people who turned to black-market lenses to change the color, shape, or look of their eyes (some lenses even add logos to your eyeballs).

Just on Tuesday, USA Today reported the case of a Cleveland woman who got decorative lenses stuck to her eyeballs. The lenses were supposed to turn her brown eyes blue but instead made them swollen and red. She had to have them removed in an emergency room.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

31 Oct 16:51

AI May Not Kill Your Job—Just Change It

by Sara Harrison
Don't fear the robots, according to a report from MIT and IBM. Worry about algorithms replacing any task that can be automated. 
31 Oct 16:15

Astronomers catch wind rushing out of galaxy

Exploring the influence of galactic winds from a distant galaxy called Makani, UC San Diego's Alison Coil, Rhodes College's David Rupke and a group of collaborators from around the world made a novel discovery. Published in Nature, their study's findings provide direct evidence for the first time of the role of galactic winds—ejections of gas from galaxies—in creating the circumgalactic medium (CGM). It exists in the regions around galaxies, and it plays an active role in their cosmic evolution. The unique composition of Makani—meaning wind in Hawaiian—uniquely lent itself to the breakthrough findings.
31 Oct 16:14

Edith Wharton’s Ghosts

by Morgan Meis

J. Nicole Jones at The Paris Review:

In a preface to her ghost stories, Wharton writes, “I do not believe in ghosts, but I am afraid of them.” Following an attack of typhoid as a child, Wharton writes in her autobiography, A Backward Glance, that she returned from the brink of death with “chronic fear” that felt like a “choking agony of terror.” Well into young adulthood, she would not sleep without a light and a maid present in her room. “It was like some dark, indefinable menace, forever dogging my steps, lurking, and threatening,” she writes, and I could not help but think of Hilary Mantel’s childhood encounter with an indescribable evil in her family’s garden. Must all women be visited by terror so consistently and from such a young age? The rumors of paranormal activity at the Mount began after the house become an all-girls school in the forties, and intensified when the theater troupe Shakespeare and Company took residence there in the seventies. The performers were kicked out more than a decade ago in a landlord-tenant dispute that seemed, publicly, not related to the supernatural. Even so, nothing attracts the devil more than a group of adolescent girls, except for maybe a group of actors.

more here.

31 Oct 16:09

What Happens to the Clothes We Throw Away?: Watch Unravel, a Short Documentary on the Journey Our Waste Takes

by Ted Mills

When we throw our clothes away in the West, they don’t all go to a thrift store or to a recycling center or a local landfill. Instead, every year 100,000 tons of clothes make their way across the ocean to India. In this awareness raising short doc from UK-based filmmaker Meghna Gupta, we see the end point of these bales and bales of Western fashion, and the women and men who turn our waste back into thread. The thread then begins its own journey, inevitably winding back up as cheap imported clothes. And the cycle begins again.

Gupta lets the women speak for themselves, in particular Reshma, a young mother and wife who works in one such recycling center in Panipat, North India. We see her daily life as well as the process turning our castoffs into thread. Upon entering the country, the clothes are cut so they can’t be re-sold. Then women like Reshma remove buttons, zippers, and any other non-cloth component.

Far, far away from even a passing encounter with a Westerner (apart from what they’ve seen on the Discovery Channel), Reshma and her co-workers create a narrative and an image of the people sending all these clothes. The West must have a water shortage, Reshma says, that is stopping people from washing their clothes. The West also must have a very strange diet to produce the plus-size garments they keep coming across.

Now, the West doesn’t have a water shortage, but according to EDGE (Emerging Designers Get Exposed), the clothing and textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world, second only to oil, producing 20 percent of global waste water, and a global waste total of nearly 13 million tons of fabric. Producing cotton is water-intensive—with 5,000 gallons needed just to make a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

Recycling is important—it’s been a constant message to the public since the 1970s. But the global footprint that this film hints at, all those cargo ships, all those trucks, all that fuel and those miles traveled…is this really a solution? How do we stop the demand and the disposability?

The doc doesn’t answer those questions, and doesn’t mean to do so. It just wants you to see a small family in the middle of a large global machine. They seem happy enough. But they also see their fate as God-given, at least in this life this time 'round.

“You tend to get dressed for other people,” Reshma’s husband says. “But at the end of the day you’ll be as beautiful as God made you. All people have a natural beauty.”

via Aeon

Related Content:

M.I.T. Computer Program Alarmingly Predicts in 1973 That Civilization Will End by 2040

Watch Oscar-Nominated Documentary Universe, the Film that Inspired the Visual Effects of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and Gave the HAL 9000 Computer Its Voice (1960)

Google Creates a Digital Archive of World Fashion: Features 30,000 Images, Covering 3,000 Years of Fashion History

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

What Happens to the Clothes We Throw Away?: Watch Unravel, a Short Documentary on the Journey Our Waste Takes is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

30 Oct 20:57

Conscientiousness may matter less if you’re a lawyer than if you’re in sales

by Cathleen O'Grady
Image of wooden puzzle pieces

Enlarge (credit: Thanee Hengpattanapong / EyeEm)

Personality tests are two a penny, and most of them are no more meaningful than astrology (spoken like a true Capricorn). But there are ways to study personality empirically—they just involve accepting a lot of imperfection and fuzziness.

The "Big Five" personality traits do seem to get at something meaningful about human personality. They certainly don't capture everything, but Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism are traits that can be measured with a high degree of stability from one test to the next. They change in predictable ways across people's lifespans and with therapy, and they seem to be related in measurable ways to people's lives outside the context of a personality test.

One of those traits—conscientiousness—is, unsurprisingly, strongly related to how people perform at work. But why, and in what settings? A paper published this week in PNAS used the data from more than 2,500 studies to summarize what we know about conscientiousness. Unexpectedly, the authors find that conscientiousness scores make less of a difference to people's performance when they're in high-complexity careers. Instead, they mainly seems to matter in low- or moderate-complexity jobs.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

30 Oct 18:26

Gen Z Has Given Us New Fighting Words: Ok Boomer

by Rachel Leishman

Old man yells at cloud from The Simpsons

Boomers love to cry and then pretend like they’re not crying and blame other generations (of “snowflakes”) for their tears. Tis the way of the generation after World War II. They think they’ve had it tough and so they throw their lack of student loan debt in our face and mock our 80-hour work weeks by saying that, in their day, the television sets were in black and white.

The problem with the modern era is that the Baby Boomer generation, and just anyone who is older or nearing retirement, loves to call anyone younger than them a millennial, which isn’t the case. We have distinct generational divides, always have. The problem now is that by generalizing generations, you’re insulting everyone all at once and forcing a wave of unnecessary anger between them. So how is Gen Z combating that? By saying “Ok boomer” as a generalization for anyone older who is criticizing the youths.

Talking to NBC News, Sam Harman, a 17-year-old who took part in an iconic “Ok boomer” picture, discussed why the phrase has become so prominent:

I think a big part of why it has caught on is just, like, baby boomers and older people in general love to complain about younger people on the whole. They’ll call anyone younger than them ‘millennials,’ and doing the same thing to older people by calling them ‘boomers’ is kind of a push back to that.

With sweatshirts for sale (I already bought one) and a Twitter campaign that is spreading at a rapid pace, we’re all learning of the power that Gen Z has. The Ok Boomer trend started when one group of kids realized that their favorite sentiment to say to one another was “Ok Boomer” and has now grown into songs, tweet threads, and sweatshirt sales, so we have to give it up to Gen Z.


View this post on Instagram


Let’s get it trending #okboomer

A post shared by Sam Hughes (@god_damn_sam) on

There’s a level of dedication to this trend that I truly appreciate. Basically anyone over the age of 39 likes to just throw everyone younger than them into the same generational label. The labels mean nothing except when someone wants to blame them for something. “Millennials” are lazy, “Gen Z” is entitled, and both of us are fed up. It was just Gen Z who found a way to make it a movement online, and we, as millennials, must support. (Hence my purchasing of a sweatshirt I most definitely do not need but definitely want.)

So now, we get to explore the songs and tweets of the youths and thrive in their comedic wit. Here, please listen to this song titled “ok, boomer” while we look at some of the best tweets about this movement.


The children really are our future and I can’t wait to be cozy in my “Ok boomer” sweatshirt all winter long.

(via NBC News, image: Fox)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

 —The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

30 Oct 16:30

Wave tank simulation of coastal defenses

by Rob Beschizza

"It's really complicated." The action begins 3 minutes in.