Sunday, 05 July

15:00 EDT

How Crowdfunding Transformed Tabletop Board Games [Slashdot]

The board game Frosthaven has become Kickstarter's "most-funded board game on the site ever, with nearly $13 million pledged toward funding the game's development," reports NPR. "Only two projects have ever crowdsourced more funding on the site." NPR sees a larger trend: Frosthaven's success seemed to exemplify a shift that has been happening in the tabletop gaming community for years: toward games that are not only focused on strategy and adventure, but also a new type of funding model where fans have more say than ever in which games move from the idea stage to their living rooms. And hobbyist tabletop games are a different breed of entertainment altogether. For many of these smaller games, funding from fans has proved essential... These makers have become part of one of the country's most popular quarantine hobbies, but they've done so through a mini-economy that relies on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter... Creators use Kickstarter like a social media site, an advertisement and a fundraising tool all in one, and they use it more successfully than nearly any other game creators on the site. In 2019, fans pledged more than $176 million toward tabletop games — up 6.8% over the previous year, according to Kickstarter data gathered by the entertainment site Polygon. In all, more than 1 million people pledged to games on the site last year... "For the board game community, there's a culture of looking on Kickstarter ... and being more willing to fund things," said Isaac Childres, the CEO of Cephalofair Games and creator of Forge War, Gloomhaven and Frosthaven. "It's like a larger avenue for board game creators to use that automatically picks up a following." This is what makes Kickstarter so attractive to individual makers and less attractive to other gaming industries — like video game makers. It takes a lot of startup value to create your own video game, for instance, but for board games, you only need a good enough idea and a well-placed Kickstarter page to gauge public interest... [T]here are drawbacks to the funding technique, too. Creators are responsible for everything if their goals are reached. They have to print the games and send them to their customers on their own — a process that can be grueling, time-consuming and even detrimental. One board game creator miscalculated the amount of money it would cost to ship games and lost his house due to the unexpected financial burden. But, for many creators, the positives outweigh the negatives. Childres said it's hard to imagine where he might be without crowdfunding. Offering his game Forge War as an example, he said had he "somehow found the money to publish it on my own and get it into stores, I don't think anyone would have paid attention to it." Now, he's one of the most successful hobbyist tabletop board game creators in the country.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

14:00 EDT

Is Slashdot the Answer to Facebook's Fake News Problem? [Slashdot]

David Collier-Brown led the Sun Microsystems Canada team specializing in performance and capacity planning. He later becoming a consulting systems programmer and performance engineer, as well as an O'Reilly author (co-authoring the 2003 book Using Samba). He's also davecb, Slashdot reader #6,526, and today submitted a story headlined "Slashdot is the answer to Facebook's 'fake news' problem." "OK, not the whole answer, but I argue that /. is part of a defense in depth against the propagation of lies, sophistries and deliberate disinformation in discussion groups like ours and Facebook's." There's more details on his technical blog: William Gibson once said The future is already here — It's just not very evenly distributed. That also applies to the solutions to problems, like that of finding out who's telling the truth in widespread discussion. By Gibson's dictum, we should expect to find different parts of the solution, but not together, and likely in all sorts of unexpected places. It's up to us to find them all and compose them together... With luck, machine learning (ML) can be trained to recognize minor variants of a banned article, and refer them to the staff to be sure that's what is being recognized. Those can be treated the same way as the original posting. But how can we credibly detect the lies in time? The kind of team a site can afford are always going to be behind. That is solved for a distantly related problem, one that is as as unexpectedly helpful as looking at policing stock trades. Slashdot. The post describes Slashdot as "One of the older big discussion groups" that "from its inception in 1997 needed to deal with overenthusiastic commentators, flamers and trolls. In 2020, it's still easy to 'read at 4 or 5', and see a measured, reasonable and informative discussion of a difficult subject. "Or you could 'read at -1', and listen to the madmen and flamers that elsewhere would drown out the insightful comments." It's an interesting read, and ultimately proposes solving Facbook's "fake news" problem by empowering readers with moderation points, overseen by a staff of double-checking humans who then pass along their conclusions for execution by an automated system. Is Slashdot the answer to Facebook's fake news problem?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Baltimore Protesters Topple Columbus Statue [News : NPR]

Remains of the Christopher Columbus statue near Little Italy in Baltimore after it was ripped from its pedestal by protesters on July 4, 2020.

Demonstrators in Baltimore pulled down the statue and threw it into the harbor, adding it to the growing list of Columbus monuments toppled nationwide in response to his controversial legacy.

(Image credit: Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)

This is not a spider [Pharyngula]

We were exploring our local horticulture garden, and found this little guy hiding between some leaves.

We also found lots of spiders, but my photos didn’t turn out very well. I threw a few onto my Patreon page anyway, but I’ve got to do better.

With friends like these: Krauss, Quillette, and systemic racism [Pharyngula]

Krauss & friends

Lawrence Krauss stands exposed as a gullible fool, and it’s sad to see. He’s reduced to publishing in Quillette, of all places, and his claim is that “Racism Is Real. But Science Isn’t the Problem”. He has always had this simplistic view of science as a pure ideal that isn’t touched by, you know, humanity. He’s now irritated that, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, people are turning their eyes towards racism in all kinds of social institutions, and have even dared to demand that the American Physical Society address the failings of physics (I imagine poor Larry stuttering in outrage that I would even write that physics as a discipline has failings). His precious physics doesn’t have a problem!

It sounds laudable. But as argued below, mantras about systemic racism are hard to square with the principles and necessary protocols of academic science. And in any case, overhauling university hiring and promotion aren’t the way to address the fundamental underlying causes of racism in our society. The APS and other scientific organizations have adopted dramatic anti-racist posturing in sudden response to George Floyd’s homicide and the protests that followed. But in so doing, they risk unwittingly demeaning science and scientists, as well as trivializing the broader and more vicious impacts of real racism in our society.

Science has principles! And protocols! Nope, no racism here. The implementation of those principles and protocols is flawless. Nope, no racists in physics (or any other scientific discipline, like biology), and if there were, they certainly wouldn’t be rewarded with the highest honors, like the Nobel prize, for their work. No way. You see, we just apply the Scientific Method, and presto, racism is gone.

Krauss is not alone, but he is certainly relatively rare in that kind of naïve scientific idealism. Most of us are totally aware that science is a human enterprise, constructed and maintained by flawed people, and that we are part of the social structure of the world. Sublime abstractions might be appealing, but they have little to do with the dirty jobs of funding and hiring and interacting with people, all things that Krauss had to have experienced, and must realize have little to do with formulas and recipes and computer programs.

Really, he has this delusional idea that because Scientists do Science, they can’t possibly be racist or sexist. Just possessing the tools of science makes you immune!

Science is furthered by the development of theories that better explain nature, that make correct predictions about the world, and that may help develop new technologies. A scientific theory that can be supported by rigorous empirical observation, theoretical analysis, and experimental results; and which withstands scrutiny and critique from peers; will be adopted by the scientific community, independent of such theories’ origins. If the system is functioning properly, the people who develop these ideas and experiments rise in prominence. The nature of the scientific process requires it to be color-blind, gender-blind, and religion-blind.

This means that science can unite humanity in a way that’s unmatched by any other intellectual endeavor—for it transcends cultures, languages, and geography. Physicists in China and the United States may have vastly different political views and experiences. But at a physics conference, they interact as colleagues.

Somebody should have a word with that Albert Einstein fellow.

The Chinese, Einstein wrote, were “industrious” but also “filthy.” He described them as a “peculiar, herd-like nation often more like automatons than people.” Even though he only spent a few days in China, Einstein felt confident enough to cast judgment on the entire country and its inhabitants, at least in his private journal.

“It would be a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races,” Einstein wrote. “For the likes of us the mere thought is unspeakably dreary.”

The problem is that science isn’t a cure-all. Often it can be used as a tool for rationalizing one’s biases, and one of the great dangers is when some people, like Lawrence Krauss, get it in their head that being a scientist lofts one above the petty problems of the mob. This is not the first time Krauss has made these ridiculous assertions.

Some scientists, especially vociferously atheist scientists like Krauss, pride themselves in their ability to rise above certain biases, in their work and in social systems at large. They believe that science, as a concept, will safeguard against them.“Science itself overcomes misogyny and prejudice and bias. It’s built-in,” Krauss said last year during a promotional event for one of his books.

It’s outrageous to claim scientists, hard as they might try, are immune to biases. In fact, scientists’ fierce belief that they are exempt from such pitfalls risks blinding them to the possibility that there may be a chance, however small, that they’re not. In the wake of the allegations, Krauss acknowledged that his demeanor may have “made people feel intimidated, uncomfortable, or unwelcome,” and recognized that “the current movement makes clear that my sensitivity, like many others’, can be improved.”

Krauss is also good at kicking the blame to someone else. Physics in higher ed is pure and unsullied, therefore any underrepresentation of black physicists must be the fault of the leaky pipeline.

During the academic strike called for by the APS, it was emphasized that the proportion of black physicists in national laboratories such as the Fermi National Laboratory in Illinois (where one #strike4blacklives organizer works) is much smaller than the percentage of blacks in the population at large. It was implied that systematic racism in the profession was responsible for this, although no explicit data supporting this claim was presented.

In fact, there is a simpler explanation. There are fewer tenured black physicists at universities and laboratories because there are fewer black PhD physicists. There are fewer black PhD physicists because there are fewer black physics graduate students. There are fewer black graduate students because there are fewer black undergraduates who major in physics. This latter fact is a cause for concern. But the root cause lies in inequities that arise far earlier in the education process. These cannot be addressed by affirmative action policies at the upper levels of practicing professional scientists.

He doesn’t cite any explicit data supporting his claim, either. Because he didn’t look, however, doesn’t mean the data negating his assertion isn’t there; the sociology of science gets studied out the wazoo, it’s just that some scientists let their biases dictate what they see. Here’s one example.

Women and men of color represent growing populations of the undergraduate and graduate student populations nationwide; however, in many cases, this growth has not translated to greater faculty representation. Despite student demands, stated commitments to diversity, and investments from national organizations and federal agencies, the demographic characteristics of the professoriate look remarkably similar to the faculty of 50 years ago. Many strategies to increase faculty diversity focus on increasing representation in graduate education, skill development, and preparation for entry into faculty careers. While these needs and strategies are important to acknowledge, this chapter primarily addresses how institutions promote and hinder advances in faculty diversity. Specifically, extant literature is organized into a conceptual framework (the Institutional Model for Faculty Diversity) detailing how institutional structures, policies, and interactions with faculty colleagues and students shape access, recruitment, and retention in the professoriate, focusing on the experiences of women and men of color. A failure to address these challenges has negative implications for teaching, learning, and knowledge generation; consequently, this review also presents research documenting how women and men of color uniquely contribute to the mission and goals of US higher education.

If it were just a leaky pipeline, then increases in recruitment at lower educational levels ought to translate into increasing proportions of minority employment at the topmost levels. It doesn’t. It’s almost as if there is some invisible force suppressing minority participation at the level of practicing professional scientists…I wonder what it could be? Some kind of invisible dark energy? I wonder what we should call it?

Of course, this is Larry Krauss, whose powers of discernment are remarkably limited…while at the same time, he argues that the powers of science are so great that he’d be able to see such a limiting factor. He’s notorious as the persistent defender of Jeffrey Epstein — man, that position hasn’t aged well — who claimed that Science would enable him to instantly detect pedophiles.

“If anything, the unfortunate period he suffered has caused him to really think about what he wants to do with his money and his time, and support knowledge,” says Krauss. “Jeffrey has surrounded himself with beautiful women and young women but they’re not as young as the ones that were claimed. As a scientist I always judge things on empirical evidence and he always has women ages 19 to 23 around him, but I’ve never seen anything else, so as a scientist, my presumption is that whatever the problems were I would believe him over other people.” Though colleagues have criticized him over his relationship with Epstein, Krauss insists, “I don’t feel tarnished in any way by my relationship with Jeffrey; I feel raised by it.”

Apparently, his racism-detection sense is just as finely honed and acute as his underage-girl sense. It was that sense of what is right and proper and just that seems to have gotten him fired from a prestigious position, after all. It has now led him to write an essay denying racism in Quillette.

I wonder if he now feels raised by his association with Quillette? He doesn’t have a very good track record in his friendships.

The evolving science of herd immunity from coronaplague [Philip Greenspun’s Weblog]

Back in March, the best scientists, including one with a Ph.D. in physics who happens to run Germany (see “60% to 70% of the German population will be infected by the coronavirus, Merkel says”) believed that the majority of a population would have to become infected with coronaplague before herd immunity would would kick in.

“The progress of the COVID-19 epidemic in Sweden: an analysis” does a region-by-region analysis of Sweden, in which plague mitigation efforts among the non-elderly have been minimal, and concludes that when 6 percent test positive for antibodies, herd immunity may be reached among a population that is taking only voluntary precautions:

Notwithstanding that a month ago antibodies were only detected in 6.3% of the Swedish population, the declining death rate since mid-May strongly suggests that the herd immunity threshold had been surpassed in the three largest regions, and in Sweden as a whole, by the end of April. … The herd immunity threshold is likely lower at present than it would be if people were behaving completely normally; it may also be seasonally lower.

Here’s a June 30 article from Quanta, “The Tricky Math of Herd Immunity for COVID-19”:

But on a larger scale, heterogeneity typically lowers the herd immunity threshold. At first the virus infects people who are more susceptible and spreads quickly. But to keep spreading, the virus has to move on to people who are less susceptible. This makes it harder for the virus to spread, so the epidemic grows more slowly than you might have anticipated based on its initial rate of growth.

The above paragraph could have come from a 100-year-old epidemiology text. Thus, it is a example of one of the few bright spots in my coronaplague experience, i.e., seeing how Americans pitch the near-universal failure of “scientists” (except for the MD/PhDs who work for the Swedish government) to predict the likely trajectory and death rate of the epidemic as a success for “science”: Yes, we got everything wrong by a factor of 5-40X, but that just proves how quickly progress can be made in Science with sufficient funding and the right leadership in the White House.

Now that the plague has run its course (for at least Wave #1) here in Maskachusetts, my Facebook feed is packed with people congratulating themselves:

Tremendous achievement in Massachusetts. Not easy. And not free of tremendous costs. But it works and is saving lives ! [over “Mass. Reports 0 New Coronavirus Deaths — and Its Death Toll Drops in Data Cleanup”, regarding a day in which state workers apparently decided to take a mini vacation and not report any deaths]

(A self-proclaimed “data scientist” also posted this as evidence of a grand achievement. The next day, at which point the reported deaths were back to the trend, I ingenuously asked “What happened today? Were there zero deaths again?” He defriended me, thus contributing to my effort to be the most defriended person in the history of Facebook.)

Some data: the July 2 report from MA, population 7 million, with 51 reported deaths. From Texas, population 29 million, 44 reported deaths for the same day:

Florida, population 21 million, suffered 67 deaths on July 2, according to the failing New York Times:

So my friends here in Maskachusetts were celebrating the triumph of humans over a virus despite a death rate vastly higher than the states they explicitly describe as “disasters” and a death rate vastly higher than Belarus, for example, which did not bother to shut down schools, mass gatherings, or anything else. It is a little strange to me, since every year the influenza epidemic winds down and we don’t, every year, celebrate our success in making influenza go away. Example from the CDC of human triumph over the influenza virus:

The smart American humans wiped this virus out back in 2009 (thanks to excellent leadership from President Obama?)!

I wonder if the Facebook and media celebration of a zero-death data anomaly in Maskachusetts is a guide to how Americans will process their months (or years?) of shutdown when coronaplague does finally burn itself out. They will simply assert that the sacrifices that they made prevented the virus from killing millions of people, just as the Flagellants believed that they ended the Black Death. And then there will be a twist in which people will assert that things being taught in epidemiology skool back in the 1800s (e.g., Farr’s law) were newly discovered by heroic “scientists” in mid-2020.

Robot overlords versus dog with upset tummy [Philip Greenspun’s Weblog]

We are told that we will soon be replaced by robots. An account of one of our future overlords cleaning the house…

So … one [of] my dogs had a BAD accident and then my Roomba went off at 4 am as scheduled. After cleaning up for 2 hours and tossing the disgusting Roomba, I need to replace it. It was 5 years old so I am sure there are new features out there. Any specific recs? I’m not married to the brand but I did love it. Until today.

Our manual vacuum cleaner doesn’t seem so bad after reading this.

Go read this Daily Beast story about a new online school Elon Musk helped start [The Verge - All Posts]

Back in 2015, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said he had started a school to teach his five kids, eventually expanding it as a non-profit school for some children of SpaceX employees. He said at the time that his kids’ school wasn’t “doing things I thought should be done,” so he hired away his kids’ teacher to help found the Ad Astra School. It did away with formal grade structures and put a focus on problem solving, per Musk’s direction, and he paid for all the costs involved.

Now, he’s given an initial donation to a new online, for-profit school in Los Angeles, according to an investigation by The Daily Beast. According to business filings uncovered by The Daily Beast, the Astra Nova School, which plans to open in September was...

Continue reading…

13:00 EDT

New Mac ransomware is even more sinister than it appears [Ars Technica]

Scrabble letters sitting atop laptop computer spell Ransomware.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

The threat of ransomware may seem ubiquitous, but there haven't been too many strains tailored specifically to infect Apple's Mac computers since the first full-fledged Mac ransomware surfaced only four years ago. So when Dinesh Devadoss, a malware researcher at the firm K7 Lab, published findings on Tuesday about a new example of Mac ransomware, that fact alone was significant. It turns out, though, that the malware, which researchers are now calling ThiefQuest, gets more interesting from there. (Researchers originally dubbed it EvilQuest until they discovered the Steam game series of the same name.)

In addition to ransomware, ThiefQuest has a whole other set of spyware capabilities that allow it to exfiltrate files from an infected computer, search the system for passwords and cryptocurrency wallet data, and run a robust keylogger to grab passwords, credit card numbers, or other financial information as a user types it in. The spyware component also lurks persistently as a backdoor on infected devices, meaning it sticks around even after a computer reboots, and could be used as a launchpad for additional, or "second stage," attacks. Given that ransomware is so rare on Macs to begin with, this one-two punch is especially noteworthy.

"Looking at the code, if you split the ransomware logic from all the other backdoor logic the two pieces completely make sense as individual malware. But compiling them together you're kind of like what?" says Patrick Wardle, principal security researcher at the Mac management firm Jamf. "My current gut feeling about all of this is that someone basically was designing a piece of Mac malware that would give them the ability to completely remotely control an infected system. And then they also added some ransomware capability as a way to make extra money."

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

As COVID-19 spreads, researchers tracking an influenza virus nervously [Ars Technica]

Image of pigs snuggling.

Enlarge (credit: Liz West / Flickr)

SARS-CoV-2 wasn't the first coronavirus that spawned fears of a pandemic; there were worries about SARS and MERS before it arrived. But influenza viruses have also been a regular source of worries, as they can often spread from agricultural animals to us. Earlier this week, a report was released that described an influenza virus with what the researchers who identified it called "pandemic potential." The virus is currently jumping from agricultural animals to us, but it is not currently able to spread between humans.

Under surveillance

The institutions that some of these researchers are affiliated with—the Key Laboratory of Animal Epidemiology and Zoonosis, the Chinese National Influenza Center, and the Center for Influenza Research and Early-Warning—provide some indication of how seriously China has been taking the risk of the newly evolved influenza strain.

For seven years, these centers supported the researchers as they did something that makes whatever you did for your thesis research seem pleasant: taking nasal swabs from pigs. Nearly 30,000 of these swabs came from random pigs showing up at slaughterhouses, plus another 1,000 from pigs brought in to veterinary practices with respiratory problems. Why pigs? Well, for one, some historic pandemics, named for their species of origin, are called swine flu. And there's a reason for this: pigs are known to be infected by influenza viruses native to other pigs, to birds, and to us humans—who they often find themselves in close proximity to.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Linus Torvalds Likes His New AMD Threadripper System [Slashdot]

This week Linus Torvalds and Dirk Hohndel re-created their keynote conversation for a special all-virtual edition of the Open Source Summit and Embedded Linux Conference North America. ZDNet reports: While COVID-19 has slowed down many technologies, while speeding up other tech developments, it hasn't affected Linux development much at all. "None of my co-developers have been hugely impacted either. I was worried for a while because one of our developers was offline for a month or two.... [But,] it turned out that it was just RSI [repetitive strain injury], and RSI is kind of an occupational hazard to deal with." He added. "One of the things that is so interesting about the Linux community is how much it has always been email-based and remote, how rarely we get together in person...." Torvalds trusts this new build. Indeed, he ran his end of the videoconference from his new developer machine running the first release candidate of 5.8. Thinking of his new AMD Threadripper 3970x-based processor-powered developer desktop, Torvalds later added that, although he had been concerned about its fan noise it actually works well for him. Torvalds moved to this new homebrew computer because he needed the speed. "My 'allmodconfig' test builds are now three times faster than they used to be." That's important because Torvalds "strives to do about 20 to 30 [pull requests] a day, which is above my limit, ... [but] in order to do that, [he needs] a lot of computing power.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Burner Mail/Black Imagination/Untangling knots [Cool Tools]

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Burner email addresses
I started using Burner Mail a couple of months ago and bought a premium subscription because I find it so useful. The basic concept is simple: it’s a service that generates unique email addresses that get forwarded to your regular email inbox. You can use a burner email address to sign up for newsletters or register a new online account. If you decide you don’t want email from a burner address (or if you start getting spam), it’s a simple matter of flipping a switch and you will never get email from that address again. Best of all, it has a browser extension so you can generate a new burner from the dashboard with one click and it will appear in the email field of any web site form. You can also use Burner Mail to send email anonymously.  — MF

Black Voices on Black Futures
Black Imagination is a collection of voices curated by conceptual artist Natasha Marin, who sought out Black individuals, including youth, LGBTQ+, incarcerated, and unsheltered people and asked them three questions: What is your origin story? How do you heal yourself? and Describe a world where you are loved, safe and valued. The result of which are these deeply moving testimonies/prose/dreams/poetry. This book has cracked my heart wide open and I’m honored to experience this literary space that expands beyond its bound pages. Here are three excerpts or three possible worlds from Black Imagination. — CD

Untangling knots
The best way to untangle a knotty tangle is to not to “untie” the knots, but to keep pulling the loops apart wider and wider. Just make the mess as big, loose and open as possible. As you open up the knots they will unravel themselves. Works on cords, strings, hoses, yarns, or electronic cables. — KK

Silicone basting brush
Sometimes a recipe will call for me to “drizzle” olive oil on chicken or a vegetable before putting it in the oven or grill. I’ve been drizzling for years, and got resigned to the fact that most of the olive oil would end up on the bottom of the pan and not on the food. Recently I found a silicone basting brush in a kitchen drawer, which my wife bought a couple of years ago when she made a pastry and it has turned out to be a game-changer. Now I just pour a little olive oil, or other sauce, into a small bowl and use the brush to paint it on the meat or vegetable before cooking. This brush gives me much more control, and there’s less waste. My drizzling days are over. — MF

Time machine for music
If you pick a year from your past (1951-2015), The Nostalgia Machine will warp you back musically and link you to videos of the top Billboard Hits of that time. 1996 takes me back to sixth grade and TLC and Alanis Morissette and a lot of weekend nights spent at the rollerskating rink. (Note: Some readers replied that this website did not work for them. One reader suggested that that if you type in “year:1992″ in Spotify, you’ll get hits from that year.) — CD

Entertaining whodunnit
For sheer summer-movie enjoyment, we really liked Knives Out. This is a fun murder mystery, constructed with fantastic, vivid characters, great acting, with clever plotting and pitch-perfect editing. It’s a real page turner, if you know what I mean. Now streaming on Amazon Prime. — KK

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson

Streaming this week: Babysitters’ Club and The Old Guard on Netflix, Palm Springs on Hulu [The Verge - All Posts]

Palm Springs movie image Photo: Hulu

If you have spent the holiday weekend watching the Hamilton movie on repeat, let’s just say I’m not judging you. At all. Polygon has an interesting analysis about how different the musical is on film.

But if you’re looking for a break from Lin Manuel & co. and want something a little different to watch this week however, there are a few new originals on Netflix and Hulu worth checking out.

The Baby-Sitters Club (Netflix, now playing)

OK so maybe we’re not quite the target audience for The Baby-Sitters Club, but there is a great deal of nostalgia around this new show based on the beloved Ann M. Martin book series (that’s right, I said “beloved”). Polygon says the production meets the challenge of setting the series in 2020 “updating...

Continue reading…

12:00 EDT

200 Scientists Say WHO Ignores the Risk That Coronavirus 'Aerosols' Float in the Air [Slashdot]

"Six months into a pandemic that has killed over half a million people, more than 200 scientists from around the world are challenging the official view of how the coronavirus spreads," reports the Los Angeles Times: The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain that you have to worry about only two types of transmission: inhaling respiratory droplets from an infected person in your immediate vicinity or — less common — touching a contaminated surface and then your eyes, nose or mouth. But other experts contend that the guidance ignores growing evidence that a third pathway also plays a significant role in contagion. They say multiple studies demonstrate that particles known as aerosols — microscopic versions of standard respiratory droplets — can hang in the air for long periods and float dozens of feet, making poorly ventilated rooms, buses and other confined spaces dangerous, even when people stay six feet from one another. "We are 100% sure about this," said Lidia Morawska, a professor of atmospheric sciences and environmental engineering at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. She makes the case in an open letter to the WHO accusing the United Nations agency of failing to issue appropriate warnings about the risk. A total of 239 researchers from 32 countries signed the letter, which is set to be published next week in a scientific journal. In interviews, experts said that aerosol transmission appears to be the only way to explain several "super-spreading" events, including the infection of diners at a restaurant in China who sat at separate tables and of choir members in Washington state who took precautions during a rehearsal... The proponents of aerosol transmission said masks worn correctly would help prevent the escape of exhaled aerosols as well as inhalation of the microscopic particles. But they said the spread could also be reduced by improving ventilation and zapping indoor air with ultraviolet light in ceiling units. The Times also got a response from Dr. Benedetta Allegranzi, a top WHO expert on infection prevention and control, who argued the group only presented theories based on experiments rather than actual evidence from the field. Allegranzi also added that in weekly teleconferences, a large majority of a group of more than 30 international experts advising the WHO had "not judged the existing evidence sufficiently convincing to consider airborne transmission as having an important role in COVID-19 spread."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

11:00 EDT

Homebound with EarthBound [Ars Technica]

EarthBound got a nice Nintendo Power push. But in retrospect, Nintendo of America, you could've tried a lot harder with this trailer.

Give me 10 minutes. I need to defeat five giant moles so the miner can find the gold... which I need to get $1 million and bail out the rock band... who can arrange a meeting with the evil real-estate-developer-turned-mayor I need to beat down.

My partner doesn't get it, which I completely understand. When I first tried EarthBound, I didn't either. The now-cult-classic SNES title first arrived in the United States in June 1995. And I, a nine-year-old, had no chance. I craved action as a kid gamer, and that largely meant co-op, multiplayer, and sports titles (a lot of NBA Jam, Street Fighter, and Turtles in Time). Nothing about EarthBound, particularly when only experienced piecemeal through a weekend rental window, would ever speak to me. As one of the most high-profile JRPGs of the early SNES era, it embodied all the stereotypes eventually associated with the genre: at-times batshit fantastical storylines; slow, s l o w pacing; virtually non-existent action mechanics.

Frankly, I wasn't alone. Based on its sales, not many gamers seemed to understand EarthBound, and it's not clear Nintendo did, either. What on Earth does the trailer above say to you? In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the company again and again (and again) tried to find a hit JRPG in the States without much success. Nintendo literally gave away games like Dragon Warrior—as a Nintendo Power pack-in—and still couldn't find an audience. Even the heralded Final Fantasy franchise struggled initially, as Nintendo brought it stateside with a big, splashy map-filled box that no one seemed to care about in the moment.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

NASA’s most iconic building is 55 years old and just getting started [Ars Technica]

NASA's Kennedy Space Center is now nearly six decades old—it was formally created on July 1, 1962 as a separate entity from Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. Construction began soon after.

At the time, the "Launch Operations Directorate" under Wernher von Braun and his team of German scientists was based at Marshall. But NASA's leaders realized they would need their own facilities in Florida alongside the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. So they created a new "Launch Operations Center" on nearby Merritt Island. President Lyndon B. Johnson would rename the facility Kennedy Space Center a week after President John F. Kennedy's November 1963 assassination in Dallas.

As plans for the Apollo Program developed, NASA also soon realized it would need a large building in which to assemble the Saturn V rocket that would power the Moon landings. Work began on what was then known as the Vertical Assembly Building (VAB), where the big rocket would be stacked in a vertical configuration before rolling out to the launch pad.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ask Slashdot: Could We Not Use DNS For a Certificate Revocation Mechanism? [Slashdot]

Long-time Slashdot reader dhammabum writes: As reported in the recent slashdot story, starting in September we system admins will be forced into annually updating TLS certificates because of a decision by Apple, abetted by Google and Mozilla. Supposedly this measure somewhat rectifies the current ineffective certificate revocation list system by limiting the use of compromised certificates to one year... But in an attempt to prevent this pathetic measure, could we instead use DNS to replace the current certificate revocation list system? Why not create a new type of TXT record, call it CRR (Certificate Revocation Record), that would consist of the Serial Number (or Subject Key ID or thumbprint) of the certificate. On TLS connection to a website, the browser does a DNS query for a CRR for the Common Name of the certificate. If the number/key/thumbprint matches, reject the connection. This way the onus is on the domain owner to directly control their fate. The only problem I can see with this is if there are numerous certificate Alternate Names — there would need to be a CRR for each name. A pain, but one only borne by the hapless domain owner. Alternatively, if Apple is so determined to save us from ourselves, why don't they fund and host a functional CRL system? They have enough money. End users could create a CRL request via their certificate authority who would then create the signed record and forward it to this grand scheme. Otherwise, are there any other ideas?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

33 powerful Black Lives Matter murals [The Verge - All Posts]

Artist(s) unknown, Oakland, CA | Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Artists have turned boarded-up businesses into powerful Black Lives Matter art

Continue reading…

10:00 EDT

Body Cam with Military Police Footage Sold on Ebay [Slashdot]

"A security researcher was able to access files on a Axon body-worn camera he purchased from eBay that had video files of Fort Huachuca Military Police officers conducting investigations and filling out paperwork," reports the Arizona Mirror: The files were able to be extracted after the researcher, who goes by KF on Twitter, was able to remove a microSD card from the body-worn camera. KF was then able to extract the un-encrypted files, which were not protected by a password, using a tool called Foremost. KF shared screenshots of the footage he was able to pull from the cards that appeared to show members of the Fort Huachuca Military Police entering a person's home and filling out paperwork. "We are aware of this issue and have launched an investigation looking into the matter," a statement from Scottsdale-based Axon said to Arizona Mirror. "We are also reevaluating our processes to better emphasize proper disposal procedures for our customers." The camera that was purchased by KF was an Axon Body 1, one of the company's earliest generation models that launched in 2013. The company said it stopped the model in 2015. "Our latest generation camera, Axon Body 3, offers enhanced security measures such as storage encryption to protect video from being retrieved from lost or improperly disposed cameras," the statement said. Friday the original security researcher posted an update on Twitter, saying he'd offered to send the body cam's SD card back to the military police -- an offer that was eventually accepted by Axon itself -- and "I only listened to a few seconds of audio merely to verify its presence. I've since removed all extracted data in full." In an earlier tweet he'd added, "Those of you asking... NO, I won't dump the card for you. Procure your own BWC (Body Worn Cam), and dump it yourself " But it looks like they already are. Earlier on Twitter, one Security Operations Center analyst posted, "I just ordered two myself. "I'd actually really like to get a fund going to buy literally all of them and dump them to an open cloud storage bucket... Freedom of Information Act through the secondhand market."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

08:00 EDT

The WHO Announces End of Its Testing of Hydroxychloroquine [Slashdot]

"The World Health Organization announced Saturday that it discontinued its trial on hydroxychloroquine's effect on COVID-19 patients in hospitals," reports UPI: WHO said in a statement that it accepted a recommendation from the Solidarity Trial's International Steering Committee that it stop the testing of the drug. The decision to cease the trial came after interim trial results showed that the anti-malaria drug had little or no reduction in mortality of patients hospitalized for the novel coronavirus... The National Institute of Health similarly halted a hydroxychloroquine trial last month after a study showed no harm or benefit from the anti-malaria drug's use in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Last month, British researchers similarly found no benefit of hydroxychloroquine.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Watch Jeanette go from pills to reefer to heroin in this 1961 anti-drug film [Boing Boing]

In "Seduction Of The Innocent," the inimitable Sid Davis tells the harrowing tale of Jeanette, who falls in with the bad crowd and through peer pressure gets into marijuana, pills, and ultimately sells her body for heroin.

Sid's most famous film is "Boys Beware," the anti-gay scare film made the same year, also with the help of the Santa Monica Police and the same deadpan narrator.

Voa A/V Geeks

The Kung Fu Nuns Of Kathmandu [News : NPR]

Nuns practice kung fu as a part of their daily routine at Druk Amitabha Mountain nunnery in Kathmandu, Nepal.

They call themselves the "fearless ones." They've built a reputation not just for their martial arts prowess but for teaching girls to stand up for their rights. And they love watching horror movies.

(Image credit: Uma Bista/ For NPR)

Despite Rising Coronavirus Cases, Trump's Focus Appears To Be Elsewhere [News : NPR]

President Trump had little to say about the coronavirus pandemic during remarks Friday at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota.

The president has focused on the economy and the culture wars, but these days he says little about the pandemic that has killed 130,000 Americans.

(Image credit: Alex Brandon/AP)

My Gym Is Reopening. Is It Safe To Work Out There? [News : NPR]

Peet Sapsin directs clients inside custom built "Gainz Pods", during his HIIT class, (high intensity interval training), at Sapsins Inspire South Bay Fitness, Redondo Beach, California, Wednesday, June 17, 2020.

As gyms open for business, new rules aim to limit the spread of COVID-19, including spacing equipment, regular cleanings and limiting attendance. But experts say it's still safer to exercise at home.

(Image credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Delusional [Pharyngula]

This is how you get lunatics in high office. Do you want more delusional politicians with selfish, unrealistic ideas running the country?

This is where we’re at. Those two grossly wealthy clowns probably actually believe they understand the qualifications for the office, and it’s something stupid like Instagram popularity or how many records you’ve sold or how full of yourself you are.

06:00 EDT

Study Finds Hydroxychloroquine May Have Boosted Survival. Other Researchers Have Doubts [Slashdot]

"A surprising new study found the controversial antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine helped patients better survive in the hospital," reports CNN. "But the findings, like the federal government's use of the drug itself, were disputed." A team at Henry Ford Health System in southeast Michigan said Thursday their study of 2,541 hospitalized patients found that those given hydroxychloroquine were much less likely to die. Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of infectious disease for Henry Ford Health System, said 26% of those not given hydroxychloroquine died, compared to 13% of those who got the drug. The team looked back at everyone treated in the hospital system since the first patient in March. "Overall crude mortality rates were 18.1% in the entire cohort, 13.5% in the hydroxychloroquine alone group, 20.1% among those receiving hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin, 22.4% among the azithromycin alone group, and 26.4% for neither drug," the team wrote in a report published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases. It's a surprising finding because several other studies have found no benefit from hydroxychloroquine, a drug originally developed to treat and prevent malaria... "Our results do differ from some other studies," Zervos told a news conference. "What we think was important in ours ... is that patients were treated early. For hydroxychloroquine to have a benefit, it needs to begin before the patients begin to suffer some of the severe immune reactions that patients can have with Covid," he added. The Henry Ford team also monitored patients carefully for heart problems, he said... Researchers not involved with the study were critical. They noted that the Henry Ford team did not randomly treat patients but selected them for various treatments based on certain criteria. "As the Henry Ford Health System became more experienced in treating patients with COVID-19, survival may have improved, regardless of the use of specific therapies," Dr. Todd Lee of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, Canada, and colleagues wrote in a commentary in the same journal. "Finally, concomitant steroid use in patients receiving hydroxychloroquine was more than double the non-treated group. This is relevant considering the recent RECOVERY trial that showed a mortality benefit with dexamethasone." The steroid dexamethasone can reduce inflammation in seriously ill patients... Eli Rosenberg [lead author of a New York study of hydroxychloroquine], also pointed out that the Detroit paper excluded 267 patients — nearly 10% of the study population — who had not yet been discharged from the hospital. He said this might have skewed the results to make hydroxychloroquine look better than it really was. "There's a little bit of loosey-goosiness here in all this," he told CNN.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


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