While the New England Patriots have absorbed a beating in the press, with many scientists concluding that only the surreptitious hiss of air being released from their footballs could explain the loss of pressure making them easier to handle, James Glanz reports at the NYT that the first detailed, experimental data has concluded that most or all of the deflation could be explained by environmental effects.
[The NFL is investigating whether the New England Patriots intentionally deflated footballs during their victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday's rain-soaked AFC Championship Game.]
“This analysis looks solid to me,” says Max Tegmark, a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who reviewed the paper. “To me, their measurements mean that there’s no evidence of foul play.” Some academic and research physicists now concede that they made a crucial error in their initial calculations, using an equation called the ideal gas law. But applying the equation to real situations can be surprisingly deceptive. When a gauge indicates that the ball contains 12.5 p.s.i. — the minimum allowed by the N.F.L. — the actual pressure is more than twice that amount because the surrounding pressure of the atmosphere must be considered. This roughly doubles how much a dip in temperature can lower the pressure. “I stand corrected,” says Tegman, “It’s pretty funny that the ideal gas law is making headlines."
Thomas Healy measured the pressure drop in 12 footballs when they were moved from a room at 75 degrees to one at 50 degrees (the approximate temperature on the field in the Colts game). In the experiment, the deflation of the footballs was close to the larger, correctly calculated value. When Healy moistened the balls to mimic the effects of the rainy weather that day, the pressure dropped even further, close to the deflation of 2 pounds per square inch that the N.F.L. is believed to have found. Healy, who is from the Boston area, conceded that he would be rooting for the Patriots — whether he gets tickets or not — but says engineers who were not Patriots fans had helped with the experiments. Healy says his interest was just in the science. “It’s bringing science to a really public light, especially when everybody is getting interested in the Super Bowl."
Non-USA readers may wish to refer to our earlier story about the Super Bowl which explains some of the terminology and background on the game.
"I've never been able to work up a fear of the robot apocalypse," admits R.U. Sirius, who more than 20 years after Mondo 2000's original guide to geek culture has again collaborated on a new encyclopedia of emerging technologies. As we progress to a world where technology actually becomes invisible, he argues that "everything about how we will define the future is still in play," suggesting that the transhumanist movement is "a good way to take isolated radical tech developments and bundle them together". While his co-author argues transhumanists "like to solve everything," Sirius points out a much bigger concern is a future of technologies dominated by the government or big capital.
Slightly later than planned (due mostly to the holiday season and people's lives away from SN being hectic) the next bunch of updates for the site is ready to go. It's a bumper crop!
We have some further changes to the moderation system. As before, this is certainly not the end of changes in this area, rather another step along the road of improvement. We will be watching how the changes affect moderation usage with a view to further improvements.
There's also a number of more general improvements and bug fixes.
All being well these changes should go live around 03:00 26th January UTC. So no need for alarm if there's some minor site disruption at that point. Changes went live at approximately 22:00 31st January UTC.
As always, feedback will be welcome once this deployed.
A major thanks to TheMightyBuzzard for the bulk of the work, paulej72 for sanity checking and martyb for testing/QA.
More details after the break....
Admin Note: it looks like we found a late breaking bug that is a blocker for this update. Spam mods are not showing up to the admins with the proper unmodding options. We will update when we find the issue. Hopefully this will be fixed in the next day or so.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has won its four-year Freedom of Information Act lawsuit over secret legal interpretations of a controversial section of the Patriot Act, including legal analysis of law enforcement and intelligence agency access to census records.
The U.S. Department of Justice today filed a motion to dismiss its appeal of a ruling over legal opinions about Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the controversial provision of law relied on by the NSA to collect the call records of millions of Americans. As a result of the dismissal, the Justice Department will be forced to release a previously undisclosed opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) concerning access by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to census data under Section 215.
"The public trusts that information disclosed for the census won't wind up in the hands of law enforcement or intelligence agencies," Staff Attorney Mark Rumold said. "The public has a right to know what the Office of Legal Counsel's conclusions were on this topic, and we're happy to have vindicated that important right."
About a month ago, a story was submitted to another site that the Pirate Bay domain name was back online. That story mentioned a timer, which supposedly showed the time since the police raid on the pirate bay servers. I didn't notice at the time, but a more recent check showed this counter was counting down, not up, with a time to reach zero at the end of January. Sometime around a week ago, the waving pirate flag video changed to a graphic of an orange phoenix, and a disabled search box showed up. I've been watching the site since, and now, about 12 hours before the timer was to reach zero, the site is back up, complete with searches.
Lily Hay Newman reports at Future Tense that the police department in Columbia, Missouri, recently announced that its lobby will be open 24/7 for people making Craigslist transactions or any type of exchange facilitated by Internet services following a trend begun by police stations in Virginia Beach, East Chicago and Boca Raton. Internet listings like Craigslist are, of course, a quick and convenient way to buy, sell, barter, and generally deal with junk. But tales of Craigslist-related assaults, robberies, and murders where victims are lured to locations with the promise of a sale, aren’t uncommon, an item being sold could be broken or fake, and the money being used to buy it could be counterfeit. "Transactions should not be conducted in secluded parking lots, behind a building, in a dark location especially when you’re dealing with strangers. Someone you’ve never met before – you have no idea what their intentions are – whether they have evil intent or the best of intentions,” says Officer James Cason Jr. With surveillance cameras running 24 hours a day, plus the obvious bonus of a constant police presence, meeting in the lobby of the police department can help weed out people trying to rip others off. "People with stolen items may not want to meet at the police department," says Bryana Maupin.
Video game creators from across the world are emerging from a 48-hour programming frenzy in which they create games from scratch as part of a global creativity project. The games were uploaded to the Global Game Jam's [GGJ] website at the end of the "lock-in". Organisers of the event said the jam was an intellectual challenge designed to "stimulate collaboration" but it was not a competition.
According to Global Game Jam's official site:
We had another record-breaking year at Global Game Jam. 28,837 people registered for 518 jam sites in 78 countries and 5438 games were produced. We estimate actual in-person participation to be about 21,000 people, based on registered team members and known number of organizers.
Their FAQ notes:
The GGJ brings together talented individuals from within your community. It is a unique opportunity for people to push their skills and challenge their way of working. Participants work concurrently with developers around the globe; we rally around a central theme, and then have 48 hours to create a game. It's our hope that we will see some very experimental realized prototypes that you can continue to work on after the jam. Many games developed in previous Game Jams have become fully realized games. The GGJ is open source, hardware & software agnostic and all projects are protected under a Creative Commons license. We encourage people to try out new ideas and push themselves, within reason. We also strongly encourage participants to remember to eat and sleep, to stay at their best!
Now that the game jam has completed, you can just go to their games page and check out the new games, yourself!
The Journal Science is reporting on a study of anonymized data sets by a team from MIT, Arhus (Denmark) and Rutgers Universities detailing just how easy it is to "de-anonymize" data given just a few data points.
From the study's abstract (full article paywalled):
Large-scale data sets of human behavior have the potential to fundamentally transform the way we fight diseases, design cities, or perform research. Metadata, however, contain sensitive information. Understanding the privacy of these data sets is key to their broad use and, ultimately, their impact. We study 3 months of credit card records for 1.1 million people and show that four spatio-temporal points are enough to uniquely re-identify 90% of individuals. We show that knowing the price of a transaction increases the risk of re-identification by 22%, on average. Finally, we show that even data sets that provide coarse information at any or all of the dimensions provide little anonymity and that women are more re-identifiable than men in credit card metadata.
How concerned are you about maintaining your privacy? What steps do you take to keep your activities and expenditures private?
What steps (if any) should governments take to help you secure your data and privacy?
Stanford anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann found that voice-hearing experiences of people with serious psychotic disorders are shaped by local culture – in the United States, the voices are harsh and threatening; in Africa and India, they are more benign and playful. This may have clinical implications for how to treat people with schizophrenia, she suggests.
For the research, Luhrmann and her colleagues interviewed 60 adults diagnosed with schizophrenia – 20 each in San Mateo, California; Accra, Ghana; and Chennai, India. Overall, there were 31 women and 29 men with an average age of 34. They were asked how many voices they heard, how often, what they thought caused the auditory hallucinations, and what their voices were like.
The Americans experienced voices as bombardment and as symptoms of a brain disease caused by genes or trauma.
One participant described the voices as "like torturing people, to take their eye out with a fork, or cut someone's head and drink their blood, really nasty stuff." Other Americans (five of them) even spoke of their voices as a call to battle or war – "'the warfare of everyone just yelling.'"
Moreover, the Americans mostly did not report that they knew who spoke to them and they seemed to have less personal relationships with their voices, according to Luhrmann.
Among the Indians in Chennai, more than half (11) heard voices of kin or family members commanding them to do tasks. "They talk as if elder people advising younger people," one subject said. That contrasts to the Americans, only two of whom heard family members. Also, the Indians heard fewer threatening voices than the Americans – several heard the voices as playful, as manifesting spirits or magic, and even as entertaining. Finally, not as many of them described the voices in terms of a medical or psychiatric problem, as all of the Americans did.
In Accra, Ghana, where the culture accepts that disembodied spirits can talk, few subjects described voices in brain disease terms. When people talked about their voices, 10 of them called the experience predominantly positive; 16 of them reported hearing God audibly. "'Mostly, the voices are good,'" one participant remarked.
I think this may be related to how we deal (or don't deal) with mental healthcare in this country. There's such a stigma attached that people with mental health issues start to think the worst of themselves and it creates a feedback loop of destructive thoughts. Whereas in Africa and India where it's not such a big deal, people don't get worked up about it and just take it for what it is. Just my theory anyway.
Media and social media followers are invited to watch as NASA tests the largest, most powerful booster ever built March 11 at ATK Aerospace System's test facility in Promontory, Utah. The booster will power NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which will be used to help send humans to deep space destinations including an asteroid and Mars.
The two-minute, full-duration static test is a significant milestone in the development of the SLS and comes after years of development to qualify the booster design performance at the highest end of the booster’s accepted temperature range. Once this test and a second, low-temperature test planned for early 2016, are complete, the hardware will be ready to help send the rocket, with NASA’s Orion spacecraft atop it, on its first flight test.
NASA has further details on this test in a press release as well as on the SLS itself.
The quintessential feature of a black hole is its "point of no return," or what is more technically called its event horizon. When anything—a star, a particle, or wayward human—crosses this horizon, the black hole's massive gravity pulls it in with such force that it is impossible to escape. At least, this is what happens in traditional black hole models based on general relativity. In general, the existence of the event horizon is responsible for most of the strange phenomena associated with black holes.
In a new paper, physicists Ahmed Farag Ali, Mir Faizal, and Barun Majunder have shown that, according to a new generalization of Einstein's theory of gravity called "gravity's rainbow," it is not possible to define the position of the event horizon with arbitrary precision. If the event horizon can't be defined, then the black hole itself effectively does not exist.
"In gravity's rainbow, space does not exist below a certain minimum length, and time does not exist below a certain minimum time interval," Ali, a physicist at the Zewail City of Science and Technology and Benha University, both in Egypt, told Phys.org. "So, all objects existing in space and occurring at a time do not exist below that length and time interval [which are associated with the Planck scale]. As the event horizon is a place in space which exists at a point in time, it also does not exist below that scale."
Charles Townes, often cited as the inventor of the laser (though it took multiple decades to settle patent claims with Gordon Gould), passed away on January 27 at the age of 99. He shared the 1964 Nobel Prize for Physics with Nicolay Basov and Aleksandr Prokhorov for the development of the maser.
The Associated Press and ABC report on a new poll by the Pew Research Center.
From the Article:
Scientists are far less worried about genetically modified food, pesticide use, and nuclear power than is the general public, according to matching polls of both the general public and the country's largest general science organization. Scientists were more certain that global warming is caused by man, evolution is real, overpopulation is a danger and mandatory vaccination against childhood diseases is needed.
These tend to all be topics of interest here on Soylent. Also interesting is that the opinions of the scientists don't appear to follow policital lines.
The gaps didn't correlate to any liberal-conservative split; the scientists at times take more traditionally conservative views and at times more liberal.
Technology companies that want to sell equipment to Chinese banks will have to submit to extensive audits, turn over source code, and build “back doors” into their hardware and software, according to a copy of the rules obtained by foreign companies already doing billions of dollar worth of business in the country. The new rules were laid out in a 22-page document from Beijing, and are presumably being put in place so that the Chinese government can peek into computer banking systems.
Details about the new regulations, which were reported in The New York Times today ( http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/29/technology/in-china-new-cybersecurity-rules-perturb-western-tech-companies.html?_r=1 ), are a cause for concern, particularly to Western technology companies.
In 2015, the China tech market is expected to account for 43 percent of tech-sector growth worldwide ( http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/12/02/in-2015-technology-shifts-accelerate-and-china-rules-idc-predicts/ ). With these new regulations, foreign companies and business groups worry that authorities may be trying to push them out of the fast-growing market. According to the Times, the groups—which include the US Chamber of Commerce—sent a letter Wednesday to a top-level Communist Party committee, criticizing the new policies that they say essentially amount to protectionism.
The CBC has an article about a Danish student who has responded to the theft of her nude photos in a very interesting way, by releasing images of her own.
Danish student Emma Holten felt violated when a hacker raided her email and posted her private nude photos for thousands to see online.
In a surprising twist, however, she took a step which she said was empowering—though it may sound counterproductive at first blush.
"I took new photos of myself topless in everyday situations," she told CBC Radio's The Current, explaining the images were "un-sexualized," as a way to "challenge the way with which we see the female body, and accentuate the difference between consent and non-consent."
Holten wrote an accompanying essay, titled Consent, in which she argued that nudity was not the major issue.
Part of the thrill, she learned, was with the "sexualization of non-consent," in which online tormentors and attempted blackmailers "enjoyed that I was in pain and that it was humiliating for me."
"I don't see a problem with being naked on the internet, that's not where the problem lies," Holten explained. "The problem lies with the fact that my consent has been violated."
The Guardian has a video of her explaining her project [NSFW]
You can read her essay here [NSFW]