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Java Programming Language Celebrates Its 25th Birthday. What's Next?

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 18:34
May 23rd marks the 25th anniversary of the day Sun Microsystems introduced Java to the world, notes InfoWorld. Looking at both the present and the future, they write that currently Java remains popular "with enterprises even as a slew of rival languages, such as Python and Go, now compete for the hearts and minds of software developers." Java continues to rank among the top three programming languages in the most prominent language popularity indexes — Tiobe, RedMonk, and PyPL. Java had enjoyed a five-year stint as the top language in the Tiobe index until this month, when it was overtaken by the C language, thanks perhaps to the combination of C's wide use in medical equipment and the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, Java represents a huge ecosystem and source of jobs. There were an estimated nine million Java developers worldwide in 2017, according to Oracle. A recent search of jobs site Dice.com found nearly 12,000 Java-related jobs in the USA, compared to roughly 9,000 jobs in JavaScript and 7,600 in Python. Plus, Java has spawned an enormous ecosystem of tools ranging from the Spring Framework to application servers from companies such as IBM, Red Hat, and Oracle to the JavaFX rich media platform. The developers behind Java — including Oracle and the broader OpenJDK community — have kept the platform moving forward. Released two months ago, Java 14, or Java Development Kit (JDK) 14, added capabilities including switch expressions, to simplify coding, and JDK Flight Recorder (JFR) Event Streaming, for continuous consumption of JFR data. Up next for Java is JDK 15, set to arrive as a production release in September 2020, with capabilities still being lined up for it. So far, the features expected include a preview of sealed classes, which provide more-granular control over code, and records, which provide classes that act as transparent carriers for immutable data. Also under consideration for Java is a plan dubbed Project Leyden, which would address "longterm pain points" in Java including resource footprint, startup time, and performance issues by introducing static images to the platform.

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America's CDC and 11 States Erroneously Conflated Two Kinds of Coronavirus Tests

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 17:34
America's Center for Disease Control "is conflating viral and antibody tests..." writes the Atlantic, "distorting several important metrics and providing the country with an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic." Thelasko shared their report: We've learned that the CDC is making, at best, a debilitating mistake: combining test results that diagnose current coronavirus infections with test results that measure whether someone has ever had the virus. The upshot is that the government's disease-fighting agency is overstating the country's ability to test people who are sick with COVID-19... The widespread use of the practice means that it remains difficult to know exactly how much the country's ability to test people who are actively sick with COVID-19 has improved. "You've got to be kidding me," Ashish Jha, the K. T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard and the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told us when we described what the CDC was doing. "How could the CDC make that mistake? This is a mess...." By combining the two types of results, the CDC has made them both "uninterpretable," he said... [T]he portion of tests coming back positive has plummeted, from a seven-day average of 10 percent at the month's start to 6 percent on Wednesday. "The numbers have outstripped what I was expecting," Jha said. "My sense is people are really surprised that we've moved as much as we have in such a short time period. I think we all expected a move and we all expected improvement, but the pace and size of that improvement has been a big surprise." The intermingling of viral and antibody tests suggests that some of those gains might be illusory. "The CDC is not alone in its errors," notes a Reason article shared by schwit1. "Several states have been blending their test results as well, rendering it difficult to determine the local impact of the virus." But the CDC's role as the officially designated first line of defense makes the agency's failure far more significant. Without clear, reliable, and accurate reporting from the CDC, it becomes nearly impossible to take stock of the pandemic's damage. The virus has upended American life in ways that make it unusually difficult to predict the future. But thanks to the CDC, we have a problem that is even worse: No only do we not know what is going to happen, but we don't know what is happening.

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Trump Administration Mulls First US Nuclear Test in Decades

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 17:04
The Trump administration "has discussed whether to conduct the first U.S. nuclear test explosion since 1992," reports the Washington Post, "in a move that would have far-reaching consequences for relations with other nuclear powers and reverse a decades-long moratorium on such actions, said a senior administration official and two former officials familiar with the deliberations." The matter came up at a meeting of senior officials representing the top national security agencies last Friday, following accusations from administration officials that Russia and China are conducting low-yield nuclear tests — an assertion that has not been substantiated by publicly available evidence and that both countries have denied. A senior administration official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive nuclear discussions, said that demonstrating to Moscow and Beijing that the United States could "rapid test" could prove useful from a negotiating standpoint as Washington seeks a trilateral deal to regulate the arsenals of the biggest nuclear powers. The meeting did not conclude with any agreement to conduct a test, but a senior administration official said the proposal is "very much an ongoing conversation." Another person familiar with the meeting, however, said a decision was ultimately made to take other measures in response to threats posed by Russia and China and avoid a resumption of testing... During the meeting, serious disagreements emerged over the idea, in particular from the National Nuclear Security Administration, according to two people familiar with the discussions. The Post points out that since 1945 "at least eight countries have collectively conducted about 2,000 nuclear tests, of which more than 1,000 were carried out by the United States. "The environmental and health-related consequences of nuclear testing moved the process underground, eventually leading to near-global moratorium on testing in this century with the exception of North Korea."

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America Makes a Big Investment In Next-Gen Nuclear Power

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 16:34
America's Department of Energy "has started a new Office of Nuclear Energy projects called the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program" (or ARDP) reports Popular Mechanics: "The $230 million program will give $160 million to scientists working on two reactor designs that 'can be operational' in the very near future." The "Advanced" part of ARDP is an industry term for the generation of reactors we have today... Generation IV — the super advanced reactors? — are in the research phase, but the ARDP statements mention development into the mid 2030s and likely includes generation IV. So the technical difference may be arbitrary, but the advanced reactors are often safer, smaller in overall form factor, and more standardized in order to be easier to install and scale. Most existing power plants are idiosyncratic, built on a case-by-case basis to suit individual communities or use cases. A more uniform process means plants that are easier to secure, support, and regulate. One of the leading projects the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) mentions may sound familiar: "NuScale Power LLC is expected to receive the first small modular reactor design certification from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission later this year," the NEI reports. NuScale's tiny modular reactor is designed to be deployed for small communities with lower power needs and embodies advanced reactor values. (NuScale received previous funding and is not eligible for this program.)

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Lockdown-Ignoring Sweden Now Has Europe's Highest Per-Capita Death Rate

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 15:34
Sweden's death rate per million (376) "is far in advance of Norway's (44), Denmark's (96) and Finland's (55) — countries with similar welfare systems and demographics, but which imposed strict lockdowns..." reports the Guardian, "raising concerns that the country's light-touch approach to the coronavirus may not be helping it build up broad immunity." "According to the scientific online publication Ourworldindata.com, Covid-19 deaths in Sweden were the highest in Europe per capita in a rolling seven-day average between 12 and 19 May. The country's 6.25 deaths per million inhabitants a day was just above the UK's 5.75." Slashdot reader AleRunner writes: Immunity levels in Sweden, which were expected to reach 33% by the start of May have been measured at only 7.3%, suggesting that Sweden's lighter lockdown may continue indefinitely whilst other countries begin to revive their economies. Writing about new Swedish antibody results in the Guardian Jon Henley goes on to report that other European countries like Finland are already considering blocking travel from Sweden which may increase Sweden's long term isolation. We have discussed before whether Sweden, which locked down earlier than most but with fewer restrictions could be a model for other countries. As it is, now, the country is looking more like a warning to the rest of the world. The Guardian concludes that the Swedish government's decision to avoid a strict lockdown "is thought unlikely to spare the Swedish economy. Although retail and entertainment spending has not collapsed quite as dramatically as elsewhere, analysts say the country will probably not reap any long-term economic benefit."

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Firefox 78 To Prevent Websites From Forcing Users To Save PDF Documents

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 14:34
"Firefox will prevent websites from forcing users to directly save PDFs without opening them in the web browser window," reports The Windows Club. "Mozilla is rolling out this feature to the masses with the stable release of Firefox 78." Right now, Mozilla has added this feature to Firefox 78 in the Nightly channel. The issue was first raised in 2011, and it took Mozilla 9 years to fix it. Many websites host and offer PDF documents with the following HTTP header: Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="whatever.pdf." This is an indication to the web browser that the PDF file should be saved with the specified name rather than try opening it in the web browser window. But since Firefox has a built-in PDF viewer, it should be for users to decide whether they want to view or save PDF documents.

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After 37 Years Microsoft Open Sources GW-BASIC

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 13:34
"Having re-open-sourced MS-DOS on GitHub in 2018, Microsoft has now released the source code for GW-BASIC, Microsoft's 1983 BASIC interpreter," reports ZDNet, adding that GW-BASIC "can trace its roots back to Bill Gates' and Paul Allen's implementation of Microsoft's first product, the BASIC interpreter for the Altair 8800 computer." "Interested to look at thousands of lines of glorious 8088 assembly code for the original 1983 GW-BASIC...?" writes Slashdot reader sonofusion82, adding "there are not Makefiles or build scripts, just a bunch of 8088 ASM files." Or as Hackaday jokes, "Microsoft releases the source code you wanted almost 30 years ago." In the late 1970s and early 1980s, if you had a personal computer there was a fair chance it either booted into some version of Microsoft Basic or you could load and run Basic... Now you can get the once-coveted Microsoft Basic source code... They put up a read only GW-BASIC repository, presumably to stop a flood of feature requests for GPU acceleration... From what we understand, GW-Basic was identical to IBM's BASICA, but didn't require certain IBM PC ROMs to operate. Of course, BASICA, itself, came from MBASIC, Microsoft's CP/M language that originated with Altair Basic... We did enjoy the 1975 copyright message, though: ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ON THE PDP-10 FROM FEBRUARY 9 TO APRIL 9 1975 BILL GATES WROTE A LOT OF STUFF. PAUL ALLEN WROTE A LOT OF OTHER STUFF AND FAST CODE. MONTE DAVIDOFF WROTE THE MATH PACKAGE (F4I.MAC). Bill Gates was 19 years old, Paul Allen was 22.

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Public Release of Newest Imperial College Report for the UK Delayed By 'Politicized Nature' of Lockdown Debate

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 13:04
"The publication of a long-awaited report from Imperial College London that models the impact of coming out of lockdown has been delayed for several weeks, following criticism of the team's methods, as the debate around the UK's coronavirus restrictions has become increasingly politicised," reports the Financial Times: The report has yet to be released, although its findings have been shared with government, according to two people associated with the Imperial team. The delay comes as the rightwing press and some Conservative politicians question the need for such stringent lockdown measures in the UK. A number of Tory figures, including former minister David Davis and Eurosceptic MP Steve Baker, have cast doubt on the Imperial team. They accuse the scientists of using an outdated computer code in an influential March report that predicted the UK could suffer 500,000 deaths during the pandemic if the government failed to take action. The Telegraph newspaper suggested last week that Imperial's modelling could be "the most devastating software mistake of all time..." A senior member of the team told the Financial Times, "Given the increasingly politicised nature of debate around the science of Covid-19, we have decided to prioritise submitting this research for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and will release it publicly at that time...." Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, Britain's senior scientific body, added that the public had a false impression that the Imperial model dominated government decision-making in mid-March, when ministers decided to impose a lockdown. "Theirs was not the only model considered," he said, "and we didn't need a model to know what would happen when this highly infectious virus arrived. Italy's healthcare system had already reached its limits and they were begging us to act."

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New Imperial College Research Estimates Coronavirus Still Spreading Uncontrolled in 24 US States

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 12:34
New research from Imperial College London suggests the coronavirus "may still be spreading at epidemic rates" in 24 different states in America, reports the Washington Post: Some states have had little viral spread or "crushed the curve" to a great degree and have some wiggle room to reopen their economies without generating a new epidemic-level surge in cases. Others are nowhere near containing the virus. The model, which has not been peer reviewed, shows that in the majority of states, a second wave looms if people abandon efforts to mitigate the viral spread. "There's evidence that the U.S. is not under control, as an entire country," said Samir Bhatt, a senior lecturer in geostatistics at Imperial College.... The Imperial College researchers found in 24 states, the model shows a reproduction number over 1 [suggesting the virus is not waning]. Texas tops the list, followed by Arizona, Illinois, Colorado, Ohio, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, Alabama, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, New Mexico, Missouri, Delaware, South Carolina, Massachusetts, North Carolina, California, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Maryland.... This has become a geographically complex pandemic, one that will evolve, especially as people increase their movements in coming weeks. Laws and health regulations vary from state to state, county to county and city to city. There are communities where wearing facial coverings is culturally the norm, while in other places it is rejected on grounds of personal liberty or as refutation of the consensus view of the hazards posed by the virus... Experts in Tennessee are also concerned about people from other states beginning to flock to Nashville and Memphis on summer vacations. If a surge happens, said David Aronoff, director of the Vanderbilt University infectious disease division, "the tricky part will be putting the toothpaste back in the tube" by shutting down again. In addition to "behavioural precautions," the researchers recommend rapid testing and contact tracing. But If there's no change in the relationship between mobility and transmission, their report states bluntly that "We predict that deaths over the next two-month period will exceed current cumulative deaths by greater than two-fold... "We predict that increased mobility following relaxation of social distancing will lead to resurgence of transmission, keeping all else constant."

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Pandemic Brings Huge Spike In Demand For Plant-Based Meat Alternatives

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 11:34
Food safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic, along with "changing consumer preferences," are "contributing to a shift toward plant-based food options," reports CNBC, citing alternative meat makers in Asia. The New York Times shares some specifics, including statistics from Nielsen showing that from April 12 to May 9, demand for uncooked vegan products jumped 53%. To meet the demand, Impossible Foods has been hiring more workers, increasing pay and adding more shifts. Beyond Meat reported record sales in the first quarter of this year... [F]or the first time, plant-based meats are often competitive in price with ground beef, and sometimes easier to find, as fears of meat shortages prompt bulk buying... Impossible Foods, which before the pandemic sold more of its products in restaurants than in grocery stores, has expanded its retail footprint. Chief executive, Pat Brown said his products are now sold in more than 3,000 stores, up from fewer than 200 in January. In the first quarter of the year, Beyond Meat, whose stock is publicly traded, reported net revenue of $97.1 million, an increase of 141 percent over last year. Its products are now in 25,000 grocery stores nationwide, and the company recently expanded into China. "We were saying that by 2030, Beyond Meat could have a $1 billion in sales," said Alexia Howard, the senior research analyst of U.S. food at Bernstein, an equity research group. "Now, we're saying by the end of 2020, which is only 18 months later."

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Study of 96,000 Covid-19 Patients Finds Hydroxychloroquine Increased Their Risk of Dying

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 10:34
"The drug US President Donald Trump said he was taking to ward off Covid-19 actually increases the risk of patients with the disease dying from it," reports the BBC, citing a new study published Friday in the Lancet. "The study said there were no benefits to treating patients with the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine..." Hydroxychloroquine is safe for malaria, and conditions like lupus or arthritis, but no clinical trials have recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus. The Lancet study involved 96,000 coronavirus patients, nearly 15,000 of whom were given hydroxychloroquine — or a related form chloroquine — either alone or with an antibiotic. The study found that the patients were more likely to die in hospital and develop heart rhythm complications than other Covid patients in a comparison group. The death rates of the treated groups were: hydroxychloroquine 18%; chloroquine 16.4%; control group 9%. Those treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine in combination with antibiotics had an even higher death rate. The researchers warned that hydroxychloroquine should not be used outside of clinical trials. The BBC also reports that a separate trial involving over 40,000 healthcare workers around the world is now testing whether hydroxychloroquine could prevent infection.

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As Demand Plummets This Weekend, UK Renewable Energy Projects May Be Asked To Turn Off

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 09:34
"Hundreds of renewable energy projects may be asked to turn off this weekend," reports the Guardian, "to avoid overloading the grid as the UK's electricity demand plummets to record lows." Britain's demand for electricity is forecast to tumble to a fifth below normal levels due to the spring bank holiday and the shutdown of shops, bars and restaurants mandated by the coronavirus lockdown... Meanwhile, the sunny weather is expected to generate more renewable electricity than the UK needs... The National Grid control room plans to use a new scheme this weekend that will pay small wind turbines and solar installations to stop generating electricity if the UK's renewable energy sources threaten to overwhelm the energy system. About 170 small-scale renewable energy generators have signed up to the scheme, with a total capacity of 2.4GW. This includes 1.5GW of wind power and 700MW of solar energy. Other companies have also signed up to boost their electricity use when demand falls too low.

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Breathing Habits Are Related To Physical and Mental Health

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 08:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal, written by James Nestor: Breathing is a missing pillar of health, and our attention to it is long overdue. Most of us misunderstand breathing. We see it as passive, something that we just do. Breathe, live; stop breathing, die. But breathing is not that simple and binary. How we breathe matters, too. Inside the breath you just took, there are more molecules of air than there are grains of sand on all the world's beaches. We each inhale and exhale some 30 pounds of these molecules every day -- far more than we eat or drink. The way that we take in that air and expel it is as important as what we eat, how much we exercise and the genes we've inherited. This idea may sound nuts, I realize. It certainly sounded that way to me when I first heard it several years ago while interviewing neurologists, rhinologists and pulmonologists at Stanford, Harvard and other institutions. What they'd found is that breathing habits were directly related to physical and mental health. Today, doctors who study breathing say that the vast majority of Americans do it inadequately. [...] But it's not all bad news. Unlike problems with other parts of the body, such as the liver or kidneys, we can improve the airways in our too-small mouths and reverse the entropy in our lungs at any age. We can do this by breathing properly. [...] [T]he first step in healthy breathing: extending breaths to make them a little deeper, a little longer. Try it. For the next several minutes, inhale gently through your nose to a count of about five and then exhale, again through your nose, at the same rate or a little more slowly if you can. This works out to about six breaths a minute. When we breathe like this we can better protect the lungs from irritation and infection while boosting circulation to the brain and body. Stress on the heart relaxes; the respiratory and nervous systems enter a state of coherence where everything functions at peak efficiency. Just a few minutes of inhaling and exhaling at this pace can drop blood pressure by 10, even 15 points. [...] [T]he second step in healthy breathing: Breathe through your nose. Nasal breathing not only helps with snoring and some mild cases of sleep apnea, it also can allow us to absorb around 18% more oxygen than breathing through our mouths. It reduces the risk of dental cavities and respiratory problems and likely boosts sexual performance. The list goes on.

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Bumblebees' 'Clever Trick' Fools Plants Into Flowering

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 05:00
Scientists found that when deprived of pollen, bumblebees will nibble on the leaves of flowerless plants to trick them into flowering, sometimes up to 30 days earlier than normal. The BBC reports: Writing in the journal Science, the scientists say they have struggled to replicate the bees' trick in the laboratory. Scientists in Switzerland found that when the bees were deprived of pollen, they started to nibble on the leaves of plants that hadn't yet flowered. The bees used their proboscises and mandibles (mouthparts) to cut distinctively-shaped holes in the leaves. But the creatures didn't eat the material or use it in their nests. The damaged plants responded by blooming earlier than normal - in some cases up to 30 days ahead of schedule. When the researchers tried to emulate the damage done to the plants by the bumblebees they weren't able to achieve the same results. The bee-damaged plants flowered 30 days earlier than undamaged plants and 25 days earlier than ones damaged by the scientists. The research team believes there may be something else going on here apart from nibbles. [...] The researchers say that when pollen is available the bees don't damage plants. They've also found this behavior is in wild bees. However the team are keeping an open mind on whether the plants might be the ones in the driving seat. It could be that some plants have evolved a strategy to push out their flowers when they recognize the bee doing damage to their leaves.

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ALMA Discovers Massive Rotating Disk In Early Universe

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 02:00
Iwastheone shares a report from Phys.Org: In our 13.8 billion-year-old universe, most galaxies like our Milky Way form gradually, reaching their large mass relatively late. But a new discovery made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) of a massive rotating disk galaxy, seen when the universe was only ten percent of its current age, challenges the traditional models of galaxy formation. Galaxy DLA0817g, nicknamed the Wolfe Disk after the late astronomer Arthur M. Wolfe, is the most distant rotating disk galaxy ever observed. The unparalleled power of ALMA made it possible to see this galaxy spinning at 170 miles (272 kilometers) per second, similar to our Milky Way. The discovery of the Wolfe Disk provides a challenge for many galaxy formation simulations, which predict that massive galaxies at this point in the evolution of the cosmos grew through many mergers of smaller galaxies and hot clumps of gas. In most galaxy formation scenarios, galaxies only start to show a well-formed disk around 6 billion years after the Big Bang. The fact that the astronomers found such a disk galaxy when the universe was only ten percent of its current age, indicates that other growth processes must have dominated. "We think the Wolfe Disk has grown primarily through the steady accretion of cold gas," said J. Xavier Prochaska, of the University of California, Santa Cruz and coauthor of the paper. "Still, one of the questions that remains is how to assemble such a large gas mass while maintaining a relatively stable, rotating disk." "The star formation rate in the Wolfe Disk is at least ten times higher than in our own galaxy," adds Prochaska. "It must be one of the most productive disk galaxies in the early universe." The findings have been published in the journal Nature.

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It's Official: SpaceX Is a 'Go' To Launch NASA Astronauts On Crew Dragon Spaceship

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 22:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: No showstoppers were found during a crucial flight readiness review (FRR) for SpaceX's Demo-2 mission, keeping the company's first-ever crewed flight on track for a May 27 liftoff, NASA officials announced today (May 22). "The Flight Readiness Review has concluded, and NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 mission is cleared to proceed toward liftoff on the first crewed flight of the agency's Commercial Crew Program," NASA officials wrote in an update today. Demo-2 will send NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, which will launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The mission will be the first orbital human spaceflight to depart from American soil since NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in July 2011. Ever since then, the space agency has relied completely on Russian Soyuz rockets and spacecraft to get its astronauts to and from the orbiting lab. The FRR began yesterday (May 21) at KSC and stretched into this afternoon. During the meeting, NASA, ISS and SpaceX managers discussed in detail "the readiness of the Crew Dragon and systems for the Demo-2 mission; the readiness of the International Space Station Program and its international partners to support the flight; and the certification of flight readiness," NASA officials wrote in an update yesterday. And everything went very well, NASA officials said. "It was an excellent review," NASA associate administrator Steve Jurczyk said during a teleconference with reporters today. "There are no significant open issues, I am happy to report." There are still some boxes to tick before Demo-2 can get off the ground. "For example, this afternoon, SpaceX will conduct a 'static fire' of the Falcon 9 that will launch the mission, testing out its first-stage engines while the rocket remains tethered to the ground," reports Space.com. "And tomorrow (May 23), the teams will hold a 'dry dress' exercise, during which Behnken and Hurley will suit up and the teams will run through many of the procedures that will occur on launch day." "Data from these two tests, as well as other information, will then be analyzed in detail on Monday (May 25) during a final launch readiness review."

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Scientists Find Brain Center That 'Profoundly' Shuts Down Pain

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 21:02
A research team from Duke University has found a small area of the brain in mice that can profoundly shut down pain. "It's located in an area where few people would have thought to look for an anti-pain center, the amygdala, which is often considered the home of negative emotions and responses, like the fight or flight response and general anxiety," reports ScienceDaily. From the report: The researchers found that general anesthesia also activates a specific subset of inhibitory neurons in the central amygdala, which they have called the CeAga neurons (CeA stands for central amygdala; ga indicates activation by general anesthesia). Mice have a relatively larger central amygdala than humans, but [senior author Fan Wang, the Morris N. Broad Distinguished Professor of neurobiology in the School of Medicine] said she had no reason to think we have a different system for controlling pain. Using technologies that Wang's lab has pioneered to track the paths of activated neurons in mice, the team found the CeAga was connected to many different areas of the brain, "which was a surprise," Wang said. By giving mice a mild pain stimulus, the researchers could map all of the pain-activated brain regions. They discovered that at least 16 brain centers known to process the sensory or emotional aspects of pain were receiving inhibitory input from the CeAga. Using a technology called optogenetics, which uses light to activate a small population of cells in the brain, the researchers found they could turn off the self-caring behaviors a mouse exhibits when it feels uncomfortable by activating the CeAga neurons. Paw-licking or face-wiping behaviors were "completely abolished" the moment the light was switched on to activate the anti-pain center. When the scientists dampened the activity of these CeAga neurons, the mice responded as if a temporary insult had become intense or painful again. They also found that low-dose ketamine, an anesthetic drug that allows sensation but blocks pain, activated the CeAga center and wouldn't work without it. Now the researchers are going to look for drugs that can activate only these cells to suppress pain as potential future pain killers, Wang said. The study has been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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Nvidia's AI Recreates 'Pac-Man' For 40th Anniversary

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 20:25
Nvidia recently taught its AI system to recreate the game Pac-Man just by watching it being played. Hypebeast reports: No coding or pre-rendered images were used for the software to base the recreation on. The AI model was simply fed visual data of the game being played alongside controller inputs. From there, the AI recreated what it saw frame by frame, resulting in a playable version of Bandai Namco's most recognizable title. Although it's not a perfect recreation of the title and all its assets, all the mechanics and gameplay goals are the same. NVIDIA even believes this is how AI will be applied to game creation in the future. [Rev Lebaredian, Nvidia's vice president of simulation technology] notes the experiment was done in collaboration with Bandai Namco as it celebrates the 40th anniversary of the classic arcade game. The artificial intelligence program is called GameGAN, with GAN standing for "generative adversarial network," which is a common architecture used in machine learning. GAN works by attempting to replicate input data while also comparing its work to the original source. If the two don't match, the data is rejected and the program looks for improvements and tries again. Although AI programs have generated virtual gaming spaces before, GameGAN is able to use a "memory module" that allows the program to store an internal map of the digital space it's trying to recreate, leading to a more consistent copy. The AI was trained on over 50,000 episodes and almost never died, the company says. Nvidia will be releasing the recreated game online in the near future.

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Researchers Claim New Internet Speed Record of 44.2 Tbps

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 19:45
Researchers based out of Australia's Monash, Swinburne, and RMIT universities say they've set a new internet speed record of 44.2 Tbps, according to a paper published in the open-access journal Nature Communications. That's theoretically enough speed to download the contents of more than 50 100GB Ultra HD Blu-ray discs in a single second. The Verge reports: What's interesting about the research is that it was achieved over 75km of standard optical fiber using a single integrated chip source, meaning it has the potential to one day benefit existing fiber infrastructure. The test fiber connection ran between RMIT's Melbourne City campus and Monash University's Clayton campus, and the researchers say it mirrors infrastructure used by Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN). The findings represent a "world-record for bandwidth," according to Swinburne University Professor David Moss, one of the team members responsible. Those speeds were achieved, thanks to a piece of technology called a micro-comb, which offers a more efficient and compact way to transmit data. This micro-comb was placed within the cable's fibers in what the researchers say is the first time the technology has been used in a field trial. Now, the researchers say the challenge is to turn the technology into something that can be used with existing infrastructure. "Long-term, we hope to create integrated photonic chips that could enable this sort of data rate to be achieved across existing optical fiber links with minimal cost," RMIT's Professor Arnan Mitchell says.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci Says Staying Closed For Too Long Could Cause 'Irreparable Damage'

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 19:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Stay-at-home orders intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus could end up causing "irreparable damage" if imposed for too long, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNBC on Friday. "I don't want people to think that any of us feel that staying locked down for a prolonged period of time is the way to go," Fauci said during an interview with CNBC's Meg Tirrell on "Halftime Report." He said the U.S. had to institute severe measures because Covid-19 cases were exploding then. "But now is the time, depending upon where you are and what your situation is, to begin to seriously look at reopening the economy, reopening the country to try to get back to some degree of normal." However, Fauci also cautioned states against reducing social distancing measures too quickly, adding they must take "very significant precautions." "In general, I think most of the country is doing it in a prudent way," he said. "There are obviously some situations where people might be jumping over that. I just say please proceed with caution if you're going to do that." In regard to a coronavirus vaccine, Dr. Fauci told NPR that it remains "conceivable" that a vaccine for the deadly pathogen could be available by the end of the year.

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