Monday, 22 April

10:00 EDT

Here’s what we know, and what we don’t, about the Crew Dragon accident [Ars Technica]

SpaceX's Crew Dragon Spacecraft completed a pad abort test in May, 2015. This image shows the vehicle's eight SuperDraco thrusters firing as intended.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon Spacecraft completed a pad abort test in May, 2015. This image shows the vehicle's eight SuperDraco thrusters firing as intended. (credit: SpaceX)

During a series of engine tests of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft this past Saturday, the vehicle experienced what the company has characterized as an "anomaly." Based upon an unauthorized leaked video of the accident, the company was counting down toward a firing of the Dragon's SuperDraco thrusters when the vehicle exploded. SpaceX has not validated the video, but it is consistent with verbal accounts of the failure that have been shared with Ars.

After the accident, large dramatic clouds of orange smoke billowed above "Landing Zone 1," where SpaceX conducted Saturday's engine tests. According to one source, the orange plumes were the result of between one and two tons of nitrogen tetroxide—the oxidizer used by Dragon's SuperDraco engines—burning at the location. After a dramatic weekend, what follows is a summary of what we know, what we don't know, and where SpaceX goes from here.

What was destroyed?

The Crew Dragon capsule in question is the same one that successfully flew a demonstration mission to the International Space Station in March. The spacecraft was being prepared for a launch abort test this summer. During this test, the Dragon would have launched from Florida on a Falcon 9 booster and then fired its powerful SuperDraco engines to show that the Dragon could pull itself safely away from the rocket in case of a problem with the booster before or during flight.

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Galaxy S10+ review: Too many compromises for the sky-high price [Ars Technica]

Samsung's flagship Galaxy S smartphone line is back with the Galaxy S10 and S10+. Since the launch of the Galaxy S8 in 2017, Samsung has stuck with the same basic design for two years across four major devices: the S8, Note8, S9, and Note9. The Galaxy S10 firmly fits into the Galaxy S8 family tree, but with new display and fingerprint technology, the S10 represents the biggest design upgrade since that release in 2017.

As usual, Samsung is gunning for the title of "spec-sheet champion" with the Galaxy S10, and the company is turning in devices with bigger displays, bigger batteries, faster SoCs, more RAM, and more storage. This is one of the first devices that gives us a look at the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC, and it's also one of the first devices with "Wi-Fi 6," aka 802.11ax support. The S10 is also the first device with a Qualcomm-made ultrasonic fingerprint reader, and it features Samsung's new "hole-punch" display tech for the camera cutout. If all that's not enough for you, the Galaxy S10+ can hit even more stratospherically high configurations—and prices—that would rival some laptops, topping out at 12GB of RAM and 1TB of storage for a whopping $1,600.

We reviewed the bigger Galaxy S10+, where even the base configuration results in a $1,000 smartphone. And if spending that much cash, we're not really in the mood for the kinds of excuses and compromises that would be acceptable at a lower price point. When a device manufacturer turns up with sky-high prices like this, it's only fair to go in with sky-high expectations.

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Ars asks: What’s stopping your workplace from adopting newer technology? [Ars Technica]

Artist's impression of some fancy tech that you probably can't have because the company that makes it isn't on your company's list of approved vendors.

Enlarge / Artist's impression of some fancy tech that you probably can't have because the company that makes it isn't on your company's list of approved vendors. (credit: Caiaimage / Robert Daly / Getty)

One of the things I enjoy most about writing for Ars is the opportunity to interact with such an enormous pool of brilliant IT folks. The Ars readership is overflowing with that most valuable of demographics: the proverbial "IT decision maker," or just "ITDM." From the sysadmin trenches to the C-suite, you guys do it all—not just turning the wrenches that keep business operational, but deciding which wrenches to buy, too.

But even while so many of us work at businesses whose products shape the future, as ITDMs we also often find ourselves faced with a tremendous number of obstacles when it comes to modernizing our own business tech and processes. You all know the drill, because you've all been through it—a new vendor shows up with a product that seems like it would solve so many of your problems, and you're interested in evaluating it, but the solution they're pitching gets shot down by a steering committee or design review board because it might require some unforecasted expense to conduct a mandatory IT security audit of the thing. Or because the head of the steering committee once had a bad experience with that vendor three jobs ago. Or simply because it's different, and here at $COMPANY, we do things a certain way.

Or perhaps you work in a large company with a tremendous amount of "IT inertia," and change happens as slowly as steering the Titanic. Maybe your company sees current and future IT trends like "edge computing" or the "hybrid cloud" not as desirable directions but as enormous security and regulatory nightmares waiting to be unleashed. Maybe you work in an industry with iron-clad change control requirements; maybe you're at a Fortune 100 company that is just now starting to consider alternatives to the traditional "datacenter full of servers and SANs" architecture.

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Platform cooperativism (or, how to turn gig-economy jobs into $22.25/hour jobs) [Boing Boing]

Frequent Boing Boing contributor Clive Thompson (previously) has a great short piece in this month's Wired about platform cooperativism: replacing parasitical Silicon Valley companies that sit between workers and their customers with worker-owned co-ops that take the smallest commission possible in order to maintain the apps that customers and workers use to find each other.

Thompson tells the story of Up & Go, a worker-owned co-op for house cleaners where the average worker earns $22.25/hour. The Up & Go app does all the things that other gig economy apps do: makes it easy for workers and customers to find each other, contract for services and pay for them -- but because "there's no venture capitalist demanding hockey-stick growth or profits," the workers get to keep all the money.

Platform cooperativism has been popularized by the New School's Trebor Scholz, who leads a team writing free/open source code that groups of workers can set up and run in the field.

The lesson here? If we want better gig labor, the hard part isn't the code. It's the social stuff—getting workers together to form a co-op and setting up rules for selling their labor and resolving disagreements. An app can help things along, but it's humans who really change the world.

When Workers Control the Code [Clive Thompson/Wired]

German model brilliantly pranks lewd and sexist Instagram commenters [Boing Boing]

German actress-model Palina Rojinski responded to the lewd and rude commenters on her Instagram by delivering a perfect prank. With help from German TV show Late Night Berlin, Rojinski turned the sexist creeps into the, er, butt of a joke. The image above that she posted brought out the usual male buffoonery but, as you can see below, all was not quite what it seemed.

(via PetaPixel)

Trucks vs. Tree stumps [Boing Boing]

It's Monday again, and I am here to provide the content you crave.

WHO WILL WIN? Best of Trucks vs Stumps. Toughest Dodge, Ford, Chevy Trucks and more pulling out tree stumps. Cool and funny ways to remove tree stumps with trucks. Some win and some fail when trucks take on stumps.

If you've only got time for one, 0:55 is pretty good, but this one at 7:34 is best.

Men arrested for stealing shed by trying to drag it down the road behind a truck

Wow! Free Advertising for Jesus! [Pharyngula]

Fox & Friends (blechh, ick) ran a special feature on the Ark Encounter (puke) last week. Ken Ham is thrilled. Wouldn’t you be, if your cheesy sideshow got a free national promotion on the channel that directly targets your target demographic of yokels and dumbasses?

Answers in Genesis writer and speaker Bodie Hodge was recently interview by Todd Piro from FOX & Friends (on the FOX News channel) down at the Ark Encounter. The resulting 3-minute video on the life-size Ark attraction was phenomenal. Bodie not only explained this world-class attraction but clearly gave its biblical and evangelistic message. How often do you get to hear the gospel on national television?

All the time, Ken, all the time. I’m an American. Evangelical christianity is constant low-level stench that permeates the whole country.

You can watch the whole thing, and the commentary from the low-wattage bulbs sitting on the couch. You learn that Todd Piro is really easily impressed.

This really is life-size of the ark, he says. I don’t know what that means. The Bible gives some rough dimensions, that’s it, so they filled a rectangle of that size with wood and concrete and steel, does that mean it was real? No, it does not. Also, later, when Todd is asked what most impresses him about the ark, he answers that it was the Big Door. It was really big, you know. Therefore, the Bible is true.

Bogus Hodge is asked why the Ark is so successful (is it?) when religion is in decline all across the country, and he gives a dishonest answer: because it’s non-sectarian and appeals to people of all faiths, with even non-believers coming in droves. That is not true. The Ark Encounter is extremely sectarian, building on an extremely narrow subset of Protestant, evangelical Christianity that likes to pretend that it is universal. It isn’t. I can’t speak for people of other faiths, but I know the non-believers are showing up for the spectacle of stupidity, and to laugh at it.

And honestly, how can he claim it’s designed to appeal to all faiths when he flat out declares that the purpose of the “Ark” is to show the message of Jesus Christ is true? That nonsense is only topped by Todd Piro’s assertion that kids visiting the “Ark” will get a sense of history.

Fox is the propaganda channel, and now they’re promoting the state religion. This isn’t good because, unfortunately, Fox is effective at poisoning brains.

One problem is that once someone gets pulled into the Fox News vortex it naturally leads to other scummier enterprises. You might start out signing up for a Fox email list or one from the president then quickly find your email being sold far and wide to increasingly less reputable charlatans. “The thing that makes me maddest about this is that it’s about money,” one correspondent said. His dad had been diagnosed with prostate cancer a year ago. “I guess Mike Huckabee has been selling his email to fucking everybody, including one list I noticed when I was getting his email set up called Beyond Chemo. They are selling him his own anger and a bunch of mushroom pills for all the money he doesn’t have anymore,” he said. “He’s gonna die destitute because of this shit and people belong in prison for seeing this as a business opportunity.”

Religion is already a potent brainwashing agent, seeing it team up with an effective disseminator of lies makes for a chilling combination. I’m beginning to think all the zombie movies and TV shows are reflecting a genuine concern that is in the air.

Nurses play cards, cops eat donuts, and other stereotypes [Pharyngula]

You’ll have to excuse my home state. Walla Walla is a lovely town in a beautiful part of the country, but it is in the eastern half of Washington, which has more than its fair share of rural ignoramuses.

I understand… making sure that we have ‘rest breaks’ and things like that. But I also understand that we need to care for patients first and foremost… I would submit to you that those [critical access hospital] nurses probably do get breaks! They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day!

Sen. Maureen Walsh (R), Walla Walla

I’ve known a few nurses in my time. What I don’t get is why, if they’re spending most of their time playing cards all day, they come home with aching backs and sore feet all the time? I’ve been in hospitals before, and I’m the one who is lying in bed the whole time, while the nurses are all hustling about on tight schedules, getting the work done. What card game is this that can be done in short bursts and is physically demanding?

I must also beg to differ. This Republican is defending an exemption that benefits hospitals, allowing them to demand mandatory overtime from the nursing staff rather than hiring enough nurses to do the job without overworking them, and that means that care for patients is not first and foremost — hospital profits are. Understandably, that is a very Republican position to take.

Damn, but American health care is such a chaotic mess, thanks to capitalism.

Pin Locks Enamel Pin Keepers [Cool Tools]

If you wear enamel pins, particularly pins that have any kind of sentimental value to you, I highly recommend a set of pin locks.  ($6 for 12) I picked up a set of ten pin locks similar to these at Disneyland last year for $9.99 in the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit store near the entrance to Disney’s California Adventure, because I had already lost one Tomorrowland enamel pin from a shirt while I was at the parks a couple of years ago and another (also Tomorrowland!) from the backpack I carry during my daily commute via train and foot and because the other pins I have on the bag constantly needed to be pushed back onto the simple tension-style pin backs that enamel pins typically come with.

The Disney pins currently come with a rubber Mickey-shaped pin back, but they still essentially work using tension. The way this tool works is that there is a metal sleeve that you put over the sharp end of the pin with a threaded hole in the side and a small set screw that screws into that hole. The set screw is tightened down using the included hex wrench, and then your pin is not going anywhere. I have used these for about six months now and they show no sign of becoming loose. The only drawback is that the locks stick out a little bit further than the typical pin backs that come with the pins, so if you’re wearing a pin on a shirt with nothing underneath the lock itself might be uncomfortable, but not much more so than the pin back itself. One caution is that the set screws are also really tiny so you need to be careful – I dropped one at work and it disappeared forever into the dark carpet.

-- Steven Coallier

Pin Locks Enamel Pin Keepers ($6 for 12)

Available from Amazon

Russian hackers are targeting US embassies, according to new report [The Verge - All Posts]

Russian hackers recently attacked a number of US embassies around the world by emailing malicious attachments disguised as official State Department documents to officials, according to a new report from Check Point Research.

The hackers targeted US embassies in Nepal, Guyana, Kenya, Italy, Liberia, Bermuda, and Lebanon, among others. They typically emailed the officials Microsoft Excel sheets with malicious macros that appeared to have originated from the State Department. Once opened, the hackers were able to gain full control of the infected computer by weaponizing installed software called TeamViewer, a popular remote access service.

“It is hard to tell if there are geopolitical motives behind this campaign by looking solely at the...

Continue reading…

The OnePlus 7 Pro will have a ‘breakthrough’ display and 5G [The Verge - All Posts]

Speaking exclusively with The Verge in the buildup to his company’s next flagship phone launch, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau has confirmed some rumors and hinted at what we should expect from the next device. The big strategic change is that the OnePlus 7 will be arriving with a plus-one: a super flagship, which will be called the OnePlus 7 Pro and will feature 5G and a significant display upgrade. While OnePlus isn’t yet disclosing pricing, that model can be expected to cost somewhere close to the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S10, Huawei’s P30 Pro, and Apple’s iPhone XS. It will mark OnePlus’ most direct challenge to the top tier of phones, building on the apparent success of the specced-up OnePlus 6T McLaren edition.

Continue reading…

09:00 EDT

Partially Reviving Dead Pig Brains [NeuroLogica Blog]

I turns out they were only “mostly dead.” Well, it depends on your definition of death.

This is an interesting study that has been widely reported, with a surprisingly small amount of hype. The New York Times writes:

‘Partly Alive’: Scientists Revive Cells in Brains From Dead Pigs
In a study that upends assumptions about brain death, researchers brought some cells back to life — or something like it.

All the reporting I have seen so far has appropriate caveats, but they are really trying hard to maximize the sensational aspects of this study. I actually wrote about this study one year ago when the data was first presented. Now it has been published, so there is another round of reporting (which interestingly ignores the prior reporting).

The quick version is that Yale neuroscientists collected decapitated pig brains four hours after death and then tried to keep the brain cells alive in order to see what would happen. It’s actually a great real-life Frankenstein type experiment, a fact not missed by some outlets. Here is what they did:

We have developed an extracorporeal pulsatile-perfusion system and a haemoglobin-based, acellular, non-coagulative, echogenic, and cytoprotective perfusate that promotes recovery from anoxia, reduces reperfusion injury, prevents oedema, and metabolically supports the energy requirements of the brain.

So they basically gave it artificial blood in a pulsatile fashion, like a beating heart.  They perfused the brains with nutrients, oxygen, and also drugs to minimize the processes that happen after death. They found:

With this system, we observed preservation of cytoarchitecture; attenuation of cell death; and restoration of vascular dilatory and glial inflammatory responses, spontaneous synaptic activity, and active cerebral metabolism in the absence of global electrocorticographic activity.

What this basically means is that some cell function was still able to be active, and the small blood vessels were intact enough to allow for the perfusion of the brain. However they did not see any evidence of the kind of electrical activity that a living brain would produce. They were also giving the brains a sedative to make sure, in an excess of ethical caution, that the pig brains did not regain even a flicker of conscious awareness.

Were these pig brains alive? No, not in any meaningful sense. When an animal dies, that usually means their heart stops beating (not counting brain death patients where the heart is still going) and all major functions of the body also stop. However, the cells in the body do not instantly die. They take minutes to hours to die. By 72 hours pretty much all the cells are dead.

So it is not surprising or “stunning” or any of the other hype words that the press is using to find that four hours after death there are cells in the body that are still clinging to life. It is a little surprising that brain cells are alive after four hours, because the brain is especially susceptible to a lack of oxygen and brain damage starts to occur within a few minutes of interruption of blood flow.

What this does mean is that the process of brain cell death is longer and more complicated than we previously appreciated. There are still some functions occurring even after four hours, and these can be maintained at least for a little while by providing oxygen and nutrients. But these flickers of cell activity were not nearly enough for the brain cells to actually function. Those pigs were brain dead and nothing the researchers did changed that.

What this research does mean is that it takes at least four hours for all aspects of brain cell function to completely stop after death. This gives scientists the potential opportunity to study the brain in greater detail, by keeping the brain going for a little bit before it turns to mush. Certainly we can learn more about the process of brain cell death itself, and who knows if there will be any fallout from this information. Best case, it may lead to an experimental model for treating brains after stroke or cardiac arrest to reduce damage or promote recovery.

Most of the reporting did a fair job of getting this aspect of the study correct. Where the hype came in mostly was about “redefining life and death.” There already was a fuzzy boundary between life and death, and I don’t think this study does anything to change that. These pigs were only “partly alive” in the same way that all animals are still “partly alive” four hours after they die. Some of their cells are still alive until the cell death phase is complete.

We also can already bring people back from the dead in that we can restart their hearts, and we have treatments to minimize cell damage in such cases. If we get to people quickly enough, and do CPR to get at least some blood flow to their vulnerable brain, we can bring people back. The longer they are out, the more damage there is, however. Prolonged CPR, more than 20-30 minutes, has a terrible prognosis for recovery.

The study does raise the interesting question of the ethics of doing research on intact brains in which the cells are still alive. These pig brains did not get anywhere close to having consciousness, and I don’t think the sedatives were necessary but a follow up study would be necessary to definitively demonstrate that. But it is not inconceivable, if brains are harvested immediately after death, for example, and the technology to provide artificial life support improves, that there may be a day that we can keep a pig brain alive in a vat with sufficient activity that it can be conscious on some level.

The legitimate question is – what are the ethics of doing just that, of keeping brains alive and functional enough to be conscious outside their bodies? I don’t think we are close to that situation, but it is not a bad idea to have the conversation before we are. We have to be careful, however, not to be so overly cautious that we stifle valid and ethical research.

I do think we need to assume that being an extracorporeal awake brain would not be a pleasant experience. Who knows, but it may certainly be cruel in the extreme, meanwhile we would have no real way of knowing. The good news is that we can easily monitor electrical activity (with an EEG) and make sure any extracorporeal brains, even if they are alive at a cellular level, are permanently asleep or comatose.

So while this study is extremely interesting, it is not the game-changer the media would have us believe in terms of life and death. But it does point to future research in which we may need to develop new ethical rules for researchers.

Generative Art gets its due [Boing Boing]

Jason Bailey is curating a show of generative art, among the first major retrospectives of computer-mediated work. It comes at an important time, too, as the art business's Morf Vandewalts fuss over machine learning as if it were born yesterday.

In the last twelve months we have seen a tremendous spike in the interest of “AI art,” ushered in by Christie’s and Sotheby’s both offering works at auction developed with machine learning. Capturing the imaginations of collectors and the general public alike, the new work has some conservative members of the art world scratching their heads and suggesting this will merely be another passing fad. What they are missing is that this rich genre, more broadly referred to as “generative art,” has a history as long and fascinating as computing itself. A history that has largely been overlooked in the recent mania for “AI art” and one that co-curators Georg Bak and Jason Bailey hope to shine a bright light on in their upcoming show Automat und Mensch (or Machine and Man) at Kate Vass Galerie in Zurich, Switzerland.

1981's 1K Sinclair Chess vs a modern PC running StockFish [Boing Boing]

How does the amazingly concise 1-kilobyte chess program that came with 1981's Sinclair ZX81 fare against a modern PC armed with the powerful StockFish chess engine? Ha ha, it gets its ass kicked!

The game of chess is an ancient one, dating back to sometime around the 6th century. While the Sinclair ZX81 isn't quite that old, it is now 37 years old. Standard ZX81 models came with only 1KB of RAM, but somehow David Horne managed to squeeze a playable chess game into that space. The question is, can 1K ZX81 chess compete with a more modern chess engine, in this computer vs computer chess game.

Social media "influencer" sent gunman to steal domain name [Boing Boing]

Rossi Lorathio Adams II, a social media "influencer", built a brand around "State Snaps." Telling people to "Do it for State" became a catchphrase in the comments. The owner of was not interested in selling the domain, however, so Adams sent his cousin to force the owner to transfer the domain at gunpoint. The owner disarmed the intruder, shot him several times with the weapon, then called the police. Now Adams and his cousin are going to jail.

"Between 2015 and 2017, Adams repeatedly tried to obtain ',' but the owner of the domain would not sell it. Adams also threatened one of the domain owner's friends with gun emojis after the friend used the domain to promote concerts," court records show. Then he had an idea: Why not take it by force?

Human composting may soon be legal in Washington state [Boing Boing]

On Friday, the Washington state legislature passed a bill legalizing the "recomposition" of human remains, defined as the "contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil." If signed by Governor Jay Inlee, the bill will become law next year. From CNN:

Katrina Spade is the CEO of the human composting company, Recompose, and told CNN affiliate KIRO-TV she is hoping her company can be one of the first to build a facility for the practice...

"(The) body is covered in natural materials, like straw or wood chips, and over the course of about three to seven weeks, thanks to microbial activity, it breaks down into soil," she said.

While the dead body is being broken down, Spade said families of the deceased will be able to visit her facility and will ultimately receive the soil that remains of their loved. It is up to the family how they want to use that soil, Spade said.

"And if they don't want that soil, we'll partner with local conservation groups around the Puget Sound region so that that soil will be used to nourish the land here in the state," she said.

image: "Vision of a Future Recompose Facility" by MOLT Studios

08:00 EDT

Supercooled water in “snowball chamber” might be able to find dark matter [Ars Technica]

Still photograph of supercooled water turning into snow, shot on an iPhone camera at 120 FPS slow-motion.

Enlarge / Still photograph of supercooled water turning into snow, shot on an iPhone camera at 120 FPS slow-motion. (credit: Matthew M. Szydagis)

Like many people, physicist Matthew Szydagis has been amused by all those YouTube videos showing people banging on a bottle filled with water, causing it to quickly freeze in response to the blow. The trick is to supercool the water beforehand—that is, cool it below the freezing point without the water actually freezing. (Yes, it's possible.) But when he saw the same phenomenon depicted in Disney's 2013 animated film Frozen, he realized he might be able to exploit the effect to hunt for dark matter, that most elusive of substances.

The result is his so-called "snowball chamber," which relies on a newly discovered property of supercooled water. A professor at SUNY's University of Albany, Szydagis gave an overview of this research at the American Physical Society's annual April meeting, held earlier this month in Washington, DC. A draft paper can be found on arXiv, and a final version is being prepared for journal submission.

“All of my work is motivated by the search for dark matter, a form of matter we’re sure is out there because we can observe its indirect gravitational effects,” Szydagis said. “It makes up a significant fraction of the universe, but we have yet to uncover direct, conclusive and unambiguous evidence of it within the lab.” The detector could also be useful for detecting nuclear weapons in cargo, for understanding cloud formation, and for studying how certain mammals supercool their blood when they hibernate.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Comedian Wins Ukrainian Presidency In Landslide [News : NPR]

Ukrainian comedian and president-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy, center right, and his wife Olena Zelenska, center left, greet supporters at his headquarters on Sunday.

Other than playing a teacher-turned-president on TV, Volodymyr Zelenskiy has no political experience. He defeated incumbent Petro Poroshenko in a landslide.

(Image credit: Vadim Ghirda/AP)

Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton Joins Democratic Race For President [News : NPR]

Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., seen being questioned by reporters on Capitol Hill last year, is joining the large field of Democratic presidential candidates.

Moulton is the fourth House Democrat to join the 2020 campaign. A critic of party leadership, the Marine Corps veteran also adds to the share of 40-and-under candidates in the race.

(Image credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

07:00 EDT

DNA from medieval Crusader skeletons suggests surprising diversity [Ars Technica]

DNA from medieval Crusader skeletons suggests surprising diversity

Enlarge (credit: Claude Doumet-Serhal)

European soldiers and civilians poured into the Levant in the 12th and 13th centuries, often killing or displacing local Muslim populations and establishing their own settlements in an effort to seize control of sites sacred to three major religious groups.

But in a new study, DNA from the skeletons of nine soldiers hints that the armies of the Crusades were more diverse and more closely linked with local people in Lebanon than historians previously assumed. The genetic evidence suggests that the Crusaders also recruited from among local populations, and European soldiers sometimes married local women and raised children, some of whom may have grown up to fight in later campaigns.

Living and dying side by side

For centuries, the mingled, charred bones of at least 25 soldiers lay buried in two mass graves near the ruins of the Castle of St. Louis, a 12th- to 13th-century Crusader stronghold near Sidon, in south Lebanon. Several of the skeletons (all apparently male) bore the marks of violent death, and the artifacts mingled with the bones—buckles of medieval European design, along with a coin minted in Italy in 1245 to commemorate the Crusades—mark the pit's occupants as dead Crusader soldiers, burned and buried in the aftermath of a battle. From nine of them, geneticist Marc Haber and his colleagues at the Wellcome Sanger Institute obtained usable DNA sequences, which offer a rare look into the ranks of the soldiers who fought on one side of the 200-year series of wars.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Scientists Create 'Living' Machines That Eat, Grow, and Evolve [Slashdot]

elainerd (Slashdot reader #94,528) shares an article from The Next Web: Scientists from Cornell University have successfully constructed DNA-based machines with incredibly life-like capabilities. These human-engineered organic machines are capable of locomotion, consuming resources for energy, growing and decaying, and evolving. Eventually they die. That sure sounds a lot like life, but Dan Luo, professor of biological and environmental engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell, who worked on the research, says otherwise. He told The Stanford Chronicle, "We are introducing a brand-new, lifelike material concept powered by its very own artificial metabolism. We are not making something that's alive, but we are creating materials that are much more lifelike than have ever been seen before." Just how lifelike? According to the research they're on par with biologically complex organisms such as mold.... "Dynamic biomaterials powered by artificial metabolism could provide a previously unexplored route to realize 'artificial' biological systems with regenerating and self-sustaining characteristics." Basically, the Cornell team grew their own robots using a DNA-based bio-material, observed them metabolizing resources for energy, watched as they decayed and grew, and then programmed them to race against each other... Lead author on the team's paper, Shogo Hamada, told The Stanford Chronicle that "ultimately, the system may lead to lifelike self-reproducing machines."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Beyond Annoying: How To Identify The Sounds of A Troublesome Snore [News : NPR]

When is a snore just annoying and when is it a sign of sleep apnea? Luckily, they sound pretty different.

Most snoring is harmless, aside from the misery it might cause your bed mate. In some cases though, it's a sign of sleep apnea, a serious condition. Here's how to know the difference.

(Image credit: Aleksandra Shutova / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm)

Scientists Dig Into Hard Questions About The Fluorinated Pollutants Known As PFAS [News : NPR]

Parts of the Cape Fear River near Fayetteville, N.C., are contaminated with a PFAS compound called GenX. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is surveying residents in the area about their health.

PFAS are a family of chemicals accumulating in the soil, rivers, drinking water and the human body. How much exposure to these substances in clothes, firefighting foam and food wrap is too much?

(Image credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

After Democrats Surged In 2018, Republican-Run States Eye New Curbs On Voting [News : NPR]

A sign directs voters to a polling station on Nov. 8, 2016, in Cave Creek, Arizona. The state is one of several considering new voting laws that could make it more complicated to vote in 2020.

After high turnout in the 2018 midterms gave Democrats big gains, several Republican-controlled states are considering changing the rules around voting in ways that might reduce future turnout.

(Image credit: Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

Most Teachers Don't Teach Climate Change; 4 In 5 Parents Wish They Did [News : NPR]

More than 80% of parents in the U.S. support the teaching of climate change, according to a new NPR/Ipsos poll.

As students around the globe participate in Earth Day, a new NPR/Ipsos poll finds 55% of teachers don't teach or talk about climate change and 46% of parents haven't discussed it with their kids.

(Image credit: Angela Hsieh/NPR)

'Game Of Thrones' Season 8, Episode 2: 'Think Back To Where We Started' [News : NPR]

Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) in his cups (well, goblets, technically) on Game of Thrones.

On the eve of the biggest battle yet, the series pauses for an episode that delivers old-school Game of Thrones thrills: characters talking in rooms — including a milestone Jaime/Brienne moment.

(Image credit: HBO)

04:00 EDT

Kansas Towns 'Rebel' Against Zuckerberg-Funded School Programs [Slashdot]

"I want to just take my Chromebook back and tell them I'm not doing it anymore," said Kallee Forslund, 16, a 10th grader in Wellington. The New York Times reports on a "rebellion" that started in Kansas against an online "personalized learning" program funded by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, and developed by Facebook engineers -- including a classroom walk-out, a sit-in, and parent protests at public school board meetings. Read the Times' pay-walled original article or this free alternate version. Some highlights: Eight months earlier, public schools near Wichita had rolled out a web-based platform and curriculum from Summit Learning... Many families in the Kansas towns, which have grappled with underfunded public schools and deteriorating test scores, initially embraced the change. Under Summit's program, students spend much of the day on their laptops and go online for lesson plans and quizzes, which they complete at their own pace. Teachers assist students with the work, hold mentoring sessions and lead special projects. The system is free to schools. The laptops are typically bought separately. Then, students started coming home with headaches and hand cramps. Some said they felt more anxious. One child began having a recurrence of seizures. Another asked to bring her dad's hunting earmuffs to class to block out classmates because work was now done largely alone. "We're allowing the computers to teach and the kids all looked like zombies," said Tyson Koenig, a factory supervisor in McPherson, who visited his son's fourth-grade class. In October, he pulled the 10-year-old out of the school. In a school district survey of McPherson middle school parents released this month, 77 percent of respondents said they preferred their child not be in a classroom that uses Summit. More than 80 percent said their children had expressed concerns about the platform... The resistance in Kansas is part of mounting nationwide opposition to Summit, which began trials of its system in public schools four years ago and is now in around 380 schools and used by 74,000 students. In Brooklyn, high school students walked out in November after their school started using Summit's platform. In Indiana, Pa., after a survey by Indiana University of Pennsylvania found 70 percent of students wanted Summit dropped or made optional, the school board scaled it back and then voted this month to terminate it. And in Cheshire, Conn., the program was cut after protests in 2017... By [this] winter, many McPherson and Wellington students were fed up. While Summit's program asks schools to commit to having students meet weekly in person with teachers for at least 10 minutes, some children said the sessions lasted around two minutes or did not happen. The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy says the program also "demands an extraordinary amount of personal information about each student and plans to track them through college and beyond." But the real concern is whether the programs are effective. The Times also spoke to a senior scientist at the RAND corporation who's studied digital customized learning programs, who acknowledges "There has not been enough research." And a Wellington city councilman told them that 12 parents actually pulled their children out of the school system after this year's first semester -- and nearly 40 more plan to do so by summer vacation. One church secretary (with two school-age children) even coined a pithy slogan for her yard sign: "Don't Plummet With Summit."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

A day working at Rustler Steak House (1977) [Boing Boing]

"Back in 1976/77, I worked at the Rustler Steak House in Alameda, California," writes Take2MarkTV. "One night, I took my Super 8 camera with me to document a typical shift."

Growing up, my family preferred the local Ponderosa Steakhouse over Rustler, and even Bonanza and Sizzler for that matter. That said, I'm sure the employee experience was similar at all four establishments.

(r/ObscureMedia, thanks UPSO!)

03:00 EDT

Here’s why Sansa and Theon’s reunion was so emotional [The Verge - All Posts]

Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 2, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”

Reunions have been a major feature of the final season of Game of Thrones as the main characters gather for an epic battle against the undead. But one reunion in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” is exceptionally emotional: the one between Sansa Stark and Theon Greyjoy. “I want to fight for Winterfell, Lady Sansa. If you’ll have me,” Theon says. Sansa visibly tears up as she rushes to hug Theon. Over the past two seasons, we’ve watched Sansa reunite with her long-lost siblings Arya, Jon, and Bran, but she didn’t weep when she saw any of them. Her reunion with Theon has a more dramatic impact because of their shared past.

To understand Sansa’s...

Continue reading…

02:00 EDT

Inside The Mueller Report, This Man Saw A Photo Of His Dad Being Used By Russians [News : NPR]

When the Mueller report was released, Ronnie Hipshire was surprised to find a photo of his father Lee on a poster to support President Trump that was created by Russians.

Coal miner Lee Hipshire was photographed in 1976 emerging from a mine after a long day's work. Years after his father's death, his son found out the photo was used by Russian trolls to support Trump.

(Image credit: Screenshot by NPR)

Tormund Giantsbane’s ridiculous origin story is different in the Game of Thrones books [The Verge - All Posts]

Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 2, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”

Tormund Giantsbane, Game of Thrones’ resident comic relief character, has a weird idea about what counts as a pickup line. In season 8’s second episode, when he finally reunites with Brienne of Tarth, who he’s been nursing a crush on for a while now, he tells her what sounds like a tall tale, claiming it’s the true story of how he got his nickname. The story he tells is an embellished version of the one he tells in George R.R. Martin’s source books, and both versions sound pretty unlikely. Is there any way that the facts he states line up?

In “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” Tormund asks Brienne, “They call me Giantsbane. Want to know why?” When...

Continue reading…


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