Wednesday, 30 September

10:00 EDT

Delta IV Heavy rocket delayed again, raising concerns of aging infrastructure [Ars Technica]

United Launch Alliance has been attempting to launch a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office, valued at more than $1 billion, for quite awhile now. On Tuesday evening, just hours before the company's latest attempt to launch the large Delta IV Heavy booster, the mission was scrubbed again.

The weather at the launch site was far from optimal, but the mission was delayed due a technical problem with the launch pad. What is notable is that this is now the third issue that the company, ULA, has experienced with its ground systems equipment at SpaceX Launch Complex-37 in Cape Canaveral, Florida for this flight.

The mission, dubbed NROL-44, was originally due to launch in June. When it was delayed until late August, military officials did not cite a reason for the schedule slip. However, on August 29, everything seemed nominal as the three-core rocket counted down to liftoff from its Florida-based launch pad. The countdown reached zero, the three main RS-68 engines ignited, and the launch conductor said, "Liftoff!"

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Senator asks DHS if foreign-controlled browser extensions threaten the US [Ars Technica]

Photo illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Enlarge / Photo illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images (credit: Getty Images)

A US senator is calling on the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity arm to assess the threat posed by browser extensions made in countries known to conduct espionage against the US.

“I am concerned that the use by millions of Americans of foreign-controlled browser extensions could threaten US national security,” Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, wrote in a letter to Christopher Krebs, director of the DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. “I am concerned that these browser extensions could enable foreign governments to conduct surveillance of Americans.”

Also known as plugins and add-ons, extensions give browsers functionality not otherwise available. Ad blockers, language translators, HTTPS enforcers, grammar checkers, and cursor enhancers are just a few examples of legitimate extensions that can be downloaded either from browser-operated repositories or third-party websites.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dr. Mark Plotkin on Ethnobotany, Real vs. Fake Shamans, Hallucinogens, and the Dalai Lamas of South America (#469) [The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss]

Dr. Mark Plotkin with a Waura shaman, Xingu, Brazil

“Hallucinogens are vegetal scalpels, and scalpels can heal you and scalpels can hurt you. They are the vegetal or fungal two-edged swords.”

— Dr. Mark Plotkin

Dr. Mark Plotkin (@DocMarkPlotkin) is an ethnobotanist who serves as president of the Amazon Conservation Team, which has partnered with 55 tribes to map and improve management and protection of 80 million acres of ancestral rainforests. Educated at Harvard, Yale, and Tufts, Plotkin has since spent much of the past four decades studying the shamans and healing plants of tropical America from Mexico to Argentina, although much of his work focuses on the rainforests of the northeast Amazon. He is best known to the general public as the author of the book Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice, one of the most popular books about the rainforest. His new book from Oxford Press is The Amazon: What Everyone Needs to Know.

His upcoming podcast series is titled Plants of the Gods: Hallucinogens: Culture, Conservation, History and Healing, and it will be coming out in late October. More information will be available on Mark’s website.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.

Brought to you by Wondery PlusFour Sigmatic, and Theragun. More on all three below. 

#469: Dr. Mark Plotkin on Ethnobotany, Real vs. Fake Shamans, Hallucinogens, and the Dalai Lamas of South America
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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…

Want to hear another episode with someone seeking to understand humanity’s relationship with the natural world’s unknown variables? Listen to my conversation with Paul Stamets, an intellectual and industry leader in the habitat, medicinal use, and production of fungi.

#340: Paul Stamets — How Mushrooms Can Save You and (Perhaps) the World
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SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with Dr. Mark Plotkin:

Website | Amazon Conservation Team | Twitter | Facebook

SHOW NOTES

Note from the editor: Timestamps will be added shortly.

  • Who is Richard Evans Schultes, how does his story cross paths with Mark’s, and what is ethnobotany?
  • When and how did Mark’s interest in ethnobotany begin? When was the moment he knew he was hooked?
  • What was the next step for Mark in making a career out of this interest?
  • In what way was Schultes a “trickster” in the shamanic tradition, and was he the template for Indiana Jones?
  • There are between three- to five-hundred indigenous cultures in the Amazon, with an equally diverse array of healing traditions. Here’s how a shaman in the northeastern part of the Amazon cured Mark’s foot pain instantly when no one else could.
  • What does Mark see as the “holes” in Western medicine’s understanding?
  • On electric eels, pink dolphins, fires in the Amazon, and an urgency to protect the unknown before we destroy it forever — whether or not it has practical applications.
  • Ayahuasca may get all the hype, but it’s only used by a small percentage of shamans in the Amazon. Mark talks about hallucinogenic frogs used for hunting magic and a psychedelic snuff called yopo.
  • Mark considers yopo his favorite Amazonian hallucinogen, but how does it compare to ayahuasca?
  • To Mark, what qualifies someone as a “shaman?”
  • What has compelled Mark’s 87 experiences with ayahuasca? What’s to be learned beyond the first few times of trying it?
  • What are the risks of doing ayahuasca and other Amazon-derived hallucinogens? Aren’t they all natural and harmless?
  • That time Mark got bitten by a vampire bat and bled like a stuck pig thanks to an anticoagulant in its saliva called — no kidding — draculin.
  • How the Amazon Conservation Team’s Shaman’s Apprentice clinics aim to preserve knowledge of obscure compounds (and their sources) when traditions are eclipsed by the temptations of the outside world for younger people among indigenous populations.
  • How Mark and his team have used technology to help the indigenous people of the Amazon protect their land, resources, health, and culture rather than entice them away from them.
  • What Mark did to illustrate for the chief of a tribe the importance of keeping a written record of their collective knowledge for future generations, and why he insists on leaving it untranslated from their native language.
  • When Western expertise insisted that there was no such thing as a male aphrodisiac, but shamans in the Amazon knew otherwise.
  • Do indigenous tribes ever profit from introducing their knowledge of preciously guarded compounds to the outside world?
  • Mark details two common failures in sustainable development, and one success story.
  • Is there anything in Mark’s experience in the Amazon that might help prevent future pandemics? What do the people who live there and in other remote areas know that we in the West haven’t seemed to wrap our heads around?
  • What official policies would Mark like to see put in place to protect the world’s remaining wildlife, natural resources, and indigenous people?
  • Does Mark see the Amazon rainforest as a glass that’s half-empty, or half-full?
  • As a boundary walker who’s been good at finding common ground between disparate causes, what does Mark see as the way toward bipartisan support for the Amazon Conservation Team’s mission?
  • How common are matriarchal societies and female shaman among the Amazon’s indigenous people?
  • Among tribes with which Mark has spent time, how often are hallucinogens used specifically for hunting and/or warfare?
  • How can those of us in the West who benefit from compounds derived from the Amazon ensure they’re sourced responsibly and not being outright stolen from the people who live there without any type of reciprocation? How can we help people who don’t necessarily benefit from just having a bunch of money thrown at their problems?
  • Mark shares the story of how a shaman healed one of his old wounds 13 years ago with no recurrence — where Western physicians had only failed before.
  • Parting thoughts.

PEOPLE MENTIONED

Dual-Flush Toilets 'Wasting More Water Than They Save' [Slashdot]

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Toilets specially designed to save water are wasting more than they conserve, the UK's largest water firm has warned. Campaigners have warned for years that dual-flush toilets, introduced as more efficient alternatives that were expected to use less than half the amount of water per flush, are more prone to leaks. The problem is said to be so great that the costs are outweighing the benefits. "Because there's so many loos that continuously flow all through the day and night, collectively that water loss is now exceeding the amount of water the dual-flush design should be saving," said Andrew Tucker, water efficiency manager at Thames Water. "The volume of water loss is getting bigger every day as more people refurbish and retrofit older toilets and as more homes are built, so it's a growing problem." Thames Water said poor design and materials cause water to flow continuously into the bowl. And, according to the BBC, the Bathroom Manufacturers Association has acknowledged that the design of many dual-flush toilets is inherently more prone to leakage. "The majority of them use the drop valve system, which sits at the bottom of the cistern and opens to allow the water to flow out when the flush is pressed," reports The Guardian. "Debris and other issues can cause the mechanism to fail to close, meaning water continually flows from the cistern and into the bowl." "Older cisterns tend to use a siphon system, which works by pushing water upwards until it reaches a point at which it can flow into the bowl. Because that point is above the waterline when the toilet is not being flushed, the system is less likely to develop the same sort of leak." Jason Parker, the managing director of Thomas Dudley Ltd, one of the UK's largest plumbing manufacturers, told the BBC: "If we're serious about wasting water and we want to stop it, the only way to do that is put a siphon back in."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Pantone adds a blood red color to end menstruation stigma [Boing Boing]

As a way to end the stigma of menstruation, Pantone has added a new red to its color matching system. The new shade is described as "an active and adventurous red hue," created to "embolden people who menstruate to feel proud of who they are. — Read the rest

Generating Pac-Man mazes is harder than you might think [Boing Boing]

Shaun LeBron set out to generate legit Pac Man mazes, but it turns out their simplicity and elegance concealed unexpectedly hard work: "Generating random Pac-Man mazes is a deceptively difficult problem that I spent some months working on. It is not easy to describe clearly. Read the rest

Facebook launches cross-platform messaging on Instagram and Messenger [The Verge - All Posts]

Facebook has taken its biggest step yet in integrating its various messaging platforms, allowing select users on Messenger and Instagram to message one another app to app. In addition to the launch of cross-platform messaging, Instagram is also getting a major overhaul of its DM system, which will be expanded with features taken from Messenger.

New Instagram messaging tools include vanishing messages, selfie stickers, custom emoji, chat colors, new ways to block unwanted messages, and the introduction of Messenger’s Watch Together feature, which lets you watch videos with friends during a video call.

Users will be able to reject the update if they choose, but Facebook will no...

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Fat Bear Week is the matchup 2020 needs [The Verge - All Posts]

Brown Bear, Ursos arctos, relaxing near creek Katmai, Alaska Brown Bear, Ursos arctos, relaxing near creek Katmai, Alaska. | Photo by: David Tipling/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Sometimes, we need to appreciate the really big things in life — like the fact that even in 2020, Fat Bear Week has arrived right on schedule. The annual tournament kicks off today with head-to-head matchups continuing until October 6th. Anyone with an internet connection can tune into Katmai National Park’s live Bearcam to watch the behemoths binge on salmon, and viewers can vote each day for their favorite big beasts.

Image: Katmai National Park and Preserve
The Fat Bear Week 2020 bracket

Fat bears are healthy bears. So Katmai National Park and Preserve started the tradition six years ago to celebrate its bears, who are likely among the fattest (and healthiest) of their species in the world. The Brooks...

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09:00 EDT

HP G2 Omnicept: Enterprise-grade VR whose sensors can read “cognitive load” [Ars Technica]

We're still waiting to test out HP's next PC-VR headset, the $600 HP G2, but before it begins shipping to preorder customers in November, HP has already unveiled its next VR sales pitch. And it's a biometric-tracking doozy.

The HP G2 Omnicept Edition delivers everything you'll find in the G2, including a pair of high-res, fast-switching LCD panels; an "inside-out" tracking solution; lenses, speakers, and other optimizations borrowed from Valve Index; and HP's updated version of the Windows Mixed Reality controllers.

But this higher-tier version, which has a vague "Spring 2021" launch window and no price yet, is aimed squarely at enterprise customers with a wealth of built-in sensors. These include: eye-tracking and pupillometry sensors, to separately determine your gaze and your moment-to-moment dilation; a heart rate sensor; and a facial-capture camera, to translate how you look to other users. (HP has not yet shown us how that facial-capture system will work, and they've confirmed that some of its features will not be part of the Omnicept's launch SDK.)

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

This Florida Budweiser House could be yours for just $100,000 [Boing Boing]

From the listing on Realtor.com:

Budweiser's biggest fan meticulously adorned the walls and ceilings with Budweiser beer cans to display and showcase their intense love for one of America's favorite domestic brews! Whether you keep the current decor for your Youtube beer show or decide to renovate the home, this property offers tons of entertainment potential!

Read the rest

How Google Search Trends for "white supremacists" and "Antifa" have changed in the last 4 years [Boing Boing]

Social Media Researcher Erin Gallagher put this short video together, showing when Google Trends have spiked for "white nationalists" and "white supremacists," and comparing that to national interest in "Antifa" — the umbrella term for a loose affiliation of anti-fascist activists, which has been appropriated by Trump and Fox News and turned into shorthand for a fictional group of highly-organized Black Bloc terrorists funded and trained by George Soros, the Democratic Party, and the "Deep State." — Read the rest

A Calvinesque and Hobbesian look at a potential transfer of power [Boing Boing]

The two Tom the Dancing Bug books, Tom the Dancing Bug: Into the Trumpverse, and The Super-Fun-Pak Comix Reader, are now available. Information about the books, including how to order, and special offers here.

"Behold the wondrous, whimsical, witty world that is Tom the Dancing Bug! — Read the rest

In 1913, New York publicist John Duval Gluck proposed to answer Santa's mail [Boing Boing]

In 1913, New York publicist John Duval Gluck founded an association to answer Santa's mail. For 15 years its volunteers fulfilled children's Christmas wishes, until Gluck's motivation began to shift. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the rise and fall of "Santa's Secretary" in New York City. — Read the rest

This was the first baseball season in 4 years with no homophobic slurs on the field [Boing Boing]

OutSports reports:

Major League Baseball ended its regular season on Sunday after a COVID-shortened 60 games and for the first time since the 2016 season, there were no players involved in any recorded, on-field anti-gay controversies.

Granted, the season was 102 games shorter than normal and we still have the playoffs to go, but it's refreshing nonetheless that we heard no mentions of players using gay slurs.

Read the rest

A member of the Breonna Taylor Grand Jury has successfully pressured the Kentucky AG into releasing the deliberation tapes [Boing Boing]

Many of us were disappointed — though sadly not surprised — when the Grand Jury for the Breonna Taylor case declined to indict the officers who killed her. The fact that one officer would be charged for stray bullets that didn't kill anyone only added insult to injury. — Read the rest

Lynk & Co’s compact SUV costs €500 a month but might earn you a profit [The Verge - All Posts]

Image: Lynk & Co

Car company Lynk & Co has finally revealed the details of its hybrid ownership model, which lets people subscribe to its Lynk & Co 01 compact SUV for €500 per month, with the option of renting the vehicle to other Lynk & Co members to begin earning that fee back.

At a launch event today, the company said customers could even make a profit on their €500 a month subscription if they’re able to rent out their vehicle with enough frequency. The company’s 01 hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars will begin shipping to European members in April.

The Lynk & Co brand was first announced in 2016 in Gothenburg, Sweden as a “born digital” alternative to Volvo, the company that spawned Lynk & Co with help from their Chinese parent Geely. Lynk & Co CEO...

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Google’s Pixel 5 event: how to watch today’s live stream [The Verge - All Posts]

Google Pixel 5 WinFuture

Google isn’t known for keeping secrets, especially about the phones they plan to introduce. In the case of Google’s upcoming Launch Night In event, we’re looking forward to two new Pixel phones: the Pixel 5 and the Pixel 4A 5G. But who knows? It’s possible that Google may be keeping some surprises up its corporate sleeve.

There have, of course, been the usual leaks. For the 5.8-inch Pixel 4A 5G, the follow-up to Google’s popular mid-priced Pixel 4A, there is talk about a Snapdragon 765G processor, a dual-camera system with a 12.2MP main lens and a 16MP ultrawide lens, and an 8MP front camera — all similar to what is being said about the Pixel 5. The latter will (possibly) add wireless charging, more RAM, and a higher IP rating among...

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08:00 EDT

Trump To Appeal Removal Of 'Polarizing' Public Lands Chief [News : NPR]

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director William "Perry" Pendley speaks at a conference for journalists in Fort Collins, Colo., last year.

The White House says it will appeal a federal court ruling ousting William Perry Pendley, who led the Bureau of Land Management for more than 400 days without Senate confirmation.

(Image credit: Matthew Brown/AP)

The Google Pixel couldn’t win at the high end, but the midrange isn’t any easier [The Verge - All Posts]

Image: OnLeaks/PriceBaba

Today, Google will announce the Pixel 5 and 4A 5G. Well, not so much “announce” as launch, since the company already told us these phones were coming when it announced the Pixel 4A in early August. We know what to expect because these phones have leaked every which way but Sunday. And Google has already told us what the Pixel 4A 5G will cost, too: $499.

About the only thing that isn’t widely confirmed as of this writing (late last night) is the pricing for the Pixel 5. There are strong rumors that it will clock in at $699, which lines up with the big takeaway I expect to come away with today. That would be this: Google is retrenching into the midrange this year instead of directly trying to compete with the flagships from Apple and...

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07:00 EDT

Conservative unease with science is global, but extreme in the US [Ars Technica]

Stock photo of an array of test tubes.

Nothing says "scientist" like test tubes. (credit: Håkan Dahlström / Flickr)

On Tuesday, the Pew Research Center released survey results that represent a picture of how the publics of 20 different countries view science and the technologies it enables—or at least how those countries viewed science and tech immediately before the pandemic struck. The good news is that there's widespread trust in scientists and a strong desire to act on their findings on issues like climate change.

But the results also contain plenty of reasons for concern. Some of the outcomes of scientific development, such as genetically modified foods, are widely mistrusted by the public in most countries. And, in many countries, there's a large partisan divide in views of scientists—and the divide is the most extreme in the United States.

Respect

Normally, we'd spend some time discussing the details of how survey data was gathered. But with 20 countries, each with its own independent surveys, we'll just link you to the details and note that at least 1,000 people were surveyed in the following countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Intel, Heidelberg University team up to bring Radeon GPU support to AI [Ars Technica]

A smiling robot looks at the camera.

Enlarge / Machine learning doesn't actually have a face. But if it ever does, we'd like that face to look something like this. (credit: Alex Knight)

We've been following Intel's oneAPI—an artificial intelligence development platform designed to abstract hardware away from the task of developing AI code—with great interest since its launch last November. This week, Intel and the Heidelberg University Computing Center (URZ) announced a new Academic Center of Excellence (CoE), which will support and conduct research on the oneAPI platform.

The new collaboration immediately followed Intel's own announcement of the oneAPI specification reaching 1.0 status. The 1.0 milestone is significant, since it enables collaborators to focus on adapting hardware to a standard, fixed implementation, worrying about the specification itself shifting rapidly beneath their feet.

URZ's own announcement of the oneAPI Center of Excellence begins by reiterating the raison d'etre of oneAPI itself:

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

'I Monitor My Staff With Software That Takes Screenshots' [Slashdot]

AmiMoJo shares a report from the BBC: Shibu Philip admits he knows what it's like to "maybe waste a bit of time at work." Shibu is the founder of Transcend -- a small London-based firm that buys beauty products wholesale and re-sells them online. For the last year and a half he has used Hubstaff software to track his workers' hours, keystrokes, mouse movements and websites visited. With seven employees based in India, he says the software ensures "there is some level of accountability" and helps plug the time difference. "I know myself. [You can] take an extra 10-minute break here or there. It's good to have an automatic way of monitoring what [my employees] are up to," says Shibu. "By looking at screenshots and how much time everyone is taking on certain tasks, I know if they're following procedures. "And, if they're doing better than I expected, I also study the photos and ask them to share that knowledge with the rest of the team so we can all improve," he says. US-based Hubstaff says its number of UK customers is up four times year-on-year since February. Another company called Sneek offers technology that takes photos of workers through their laptop and uploads them for colleagues to see. Photos can be taken as often as every minute, although it describes itself as a communication platform. Its co-founder, Del Currie, told the BBC that it had seen a five-fold increase in its number of users during lockdown, taking the firm to almost 20,000 in total.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Graham Plans New Political Offensive In Hearing With Old Foe Comey [News : NPR]

Former FBI Director James Comey arrives to testify during a closed House Judiciary Committee meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, December 17, 2018.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee doesn't only intend to grill Republicans' least favorite ex-G-Man. He's also working with administration allies to surface unverified new allegations.

(Image credit: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump Derails 1st Presidential Debate With Biden, And 5 Other Takeaways [News : NPR]

President Trump ran roughshod over debate moderator Chris Wallace and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden — and crossed many lines in the process.

The president ran roughshod over debate moderator Chris Wallace and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden — and crossed many lines in the process.

(Image credit: Patrick Semansky/AP)

Juggling Financial Stress And Caregiving, Parents Are 'Very Not OK' In The Pandemic [News : NPR]

The majority of families with children are facing serious financial problems, according to a new poll by NPR and Harvard. And 35% say it

The pandemic economy is squeezing families with kids: 74% of those earning less than $100,000 report serious financial woes, in an NPR poll. Experts worry about lasting impacts on kids' mental health.

(Image credit: Nicole Xu for NPR)

Disney Lays Off 28,000 Workers, 67% Are Part-Time Employees [News : NPR]

A visitor wears a mask while walking by Mickey Mouse at Hong Kong Disneyland.

The Walt Disney Company's theme parks, resorts and cruises have been devastated by COVID-19. Disney announced it is laying off the workers from its Parks, Experiences and Products division.

(Image credit: Lam Yik/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

7-inch Sidewalk Scraper [Cool Tools]

I just moved from California to Rochester, New York, and am suddenly experiencing all the joys and tribulations of winter. One of the unexpected effects of snow is that, over the months, my driveway built up a thick coating of compressed snow which turned into ice.

I picked up a sidewalk scraper at my local hardware store to help deal with the problem. It’s basically a 7″ piece of hard, straight metal attached to the end of a stick, and it allows me to jab, whack, scrape and lever the packed-on ice. It’s hard work to clear a whole driveway, but much better than my previous attempts with a snow shovel and a garden shovel. Now I can slam it straight down on thick swathes of ice to break it up a bit and then wedge the scraper in between the ice and the driveway. There’s something very satisfying about prying up a huge, 4″ thick piece of ice all in one go. The tool also turned out to be extremely useful when the snowplow laid an 18″ thick pile of rock-hard slush at the bottom of the driveway – I used the scraper to quickly break it up into manageable pieces which I could easily clear with the snow shovel.

-- Daniel Ashbrook

[This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2016]

AMES 2683100 Forged Steel Sidewalk Scraper with Hardwood Handle, 54-Inch

Available from Amazon

Samsung’s Premiere 4K laser projector now available, starting at $3,499 [The Verge - All Posts]

The Premiere promises a big screen even when placed right up against a wall. | Image: Samsung

The Premiere, a 4K laser projector from Samsung that’s designed as an alternative to its high-end QLED TVs, is now available to order. There are two models: the $3,499 LSP7T which gives you up to an 120-inch projection, and the $6,499 LSP9T which goes up to 130-inches. Samsung describes both as “ultra short throw” projectors, meaning you get massive projection sizes even when the unit is placed directly in front of your wall or screen.

Maximum projection sizes aren’t the only thing separating the two projectors. The LSP9T is brighter at 2,800 ANSI lumens, compared to 2,200 ANSI lumens for the cheaper model. This obviously means it provides a brighter image, but it also means its image should be clearer when there’s more ambient light in...

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Why Coinbase will struggle to ban politics from the workplace [The Verge - All Posts]

Illustration by William Joel / The Verge

Programming note: There’s a presidential debate tonight! Here’s how to watch it online. And here’s Politico’s handy “pre-bunk” of 10 lies you’re likely to hear at the debate.

If there is a manager in your life, there is a good chance that they are miserable right now.

They are miserable for the reasons everyone is miserable: the pandemic; quarantine; the challenges of working from home while raising children; the steady erosion of American democracy. But unlike us working stiffs, managers are miserable for another reason: their employees are miserable, too — and worse, they expect the managers to do something about it.

In July I wrote about how a surge of employee activism inside tech companies was beginning to remake the relationship...

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Amazon starts offering virtual classes and sightseeing tours via new Explore platform [The Verge - All Posts]

Image: Amazon

Amazon has launched Explore, a new platform which it promises will let you “explore anything from lessons to landmarks.” It works via a video stream, with tour guides, instructors, and personal shoppers providing one-on-one sessions. Amazon says the video is one-way, meaning only the host is on camera during the virtual experience, but the audio is two-way so you can ask questions and make requests.

The Explore page provides an idea of the range of experiences on offer. These include relatively cheap sessions like a $10, 40-minute virtual shopping experience in Ridgeland, USA, to a 45-minute virtual tour of a mansion in Lima, Peru for $70, or a $129 bagel cooking class. In some cases Amazon lists ingredients and supplies to buy before a...

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04:00 EDT

Great North Air Ambulance Trials Paramedic Jet Suit [Slashdot]

A jet suit for paramedics which would see patients reached in minutes by a "flying" medic has been tested by the Great North Air Ambulance Service. The BBC reports: After a year of talks between GNAAS and Gravity Industries, a first test flight was carried out in the Lake District. Andy Mawson, director of operations at GNAAS, came up with the idea and described seeing it as "awesome." He said it meant a paramedic could "fly" to a fell top in 90 seconds rather than taking 30 minutes on foot. The test flight was carried out by Richard Browning, founder of Gravity Industries. He said the suits had two mini engines on each arm and one on the back allowing the paramedic to control their movement just by moving their hands. "The biggest advantage is its speed," Mr Mawson said. "If the idea takes off, the flying paramedic will be armed with a medical kit, with strong pain relief for walkers who may have suffered fractures, and a defibrillator for those who may have suffered a heart attack. In a jet pack, what might have taken up to an hour to reach the patient may only take a few minutes, and that could mean the difference between life and death."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

03:00 EDT

On the Neurochemistry of Deep Work [Blog – Cal Newport]

Andrew Huberman is a neurobiologist at Stanford Medical School. His lab specializes in neuroplasticity, the process by which the human brain changes its neuronal connections.

A reader recently brought to my attention a fascinating discussion about learning. It’s from a podcast episode Huberman recorded with Joe Rogan back in July.

Around the two minute mark of the clip, Rogan provides Huberman with a hypothetical scenario: “You’re 35, and want to learn a new skill, what is the best way to set these patterns?”

As someone who is in my thirties and makes a living learning hard things, I was, as you might imagine, interested to hear what Dr. Huberman had to say on this issue. Which is all to preface that I was gratified to hear the following reply:

“If you want to learn and change your brain as an adult, there has to be a high level of focus and engagement. There’s no way around this…you have to lean in and focus extremely hard.”

As longtime readers know, I made this same argument in Deep Work, where I noted that “the ability to learn hard things quickly” was one of the two main advantages of training your ability to concentrate.

But Huberman blows past my simplistic explanations and dissects the complex neurochemistry behind learning. I won’t try to replicate all the details of his impromptu lecture, but I’ll elaborate one particularly interesting point.

Huberman notes that to attain significant brain rewiring requires that you induce a sense of “urgency” that leads to the release of norepinephrine. This hormone, however, will make you feel “agitated,” like you need to get up and go do something. It’s here that you must apply intense focus to fight that urge, ultimately leading to the release of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that in combination with the norepinephrine can induce brain growth.

I’m probably bastardizing some of these biological details, but regardless, they point to a narrow example of a broader point. The ability to focus is more than just an anachronistic novelty. It’s at the core of how us humans adapt and thrive in a complex world.

#####

Speaking of Deep Work, as I write this, it’s currently one of Amazon’s Daily Deals, meaning that the Kindle version is available for only $3.99. If you haven’t yet taken a deep dive into deep work, now is a great time to do so!

The post On the Neurochemistry of Deep Work first appeared on Cal Newport.

02:00 EDT

From Debate Stage, Trump Declines To Denounce White Supremacy [News : NPR]

President Trump participates in the first presidential debate, held on Tuesday evening in Cleveland at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic.

Asked to disavow white supremacists, President Trump addressed the Proud Boys directly, telling them to "stand back and stand by." He did not expand on what he meant.

(Image credit: Olivier Douliery/AP)

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