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New York's Uptown Rats Are Genetically Distinct From Downtown Rats

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 08:31 AM PST

What neighborhood is your rat from?

Combs is a graduate student at Fordham University and, like many young people, he came to New York to follow his dreams. His dreams just happened to be studying urban rats. For the past two years, Combs and his colleagues have been trapping and sequencing the DNA of brown rats in Manhattan, producing the most comprehensive genetic portrait [DOI: 10.1111/mec.14437] yet of the city's most dominant rodent population.

As a whole, Manhattan's rats are genetically most similar to those from Western Europe, especially Great Britain and France. They most likely came on ships in the mid-18th century, when New York was still a British colony. Combs was surprised to find Manhattan's rats so homogenous in origin. New York has been the center of so much trade and immigration, yet the descendants of these Western European rats have held on.

When Combs looked closer, distinct rat subpopulations emerged. Manhattan has two genetically distinguishable groups of rats: the uptown rats and the downtown rats, separated by the geographic barrier that is midtown. It's not that midtown is rat-free—such a notion is inconceivable—but the commercial district lacks the household trash (aka food) and backyards (aka shelter) that rats like. Since rats tend to move only a few blocks in their lifetimes, the uptown rats and downtown rats don't mix much.

The researchers found they could tell what neighborhood rats had come from by analysing their DNA.

Original Submission

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Open Yet Closed Is Not OK

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 06:10 AM PST

It's increasingly hard to see how software freedom is present in cases when there's no realistic community access to source code. The barriers these days can come from complex codebases that no single mind can grasp or use of open-but-closed models.

As a consequence, OSI receives more complaints from community members about "open yet closed" than any other topic. Companies of all sizes who loudly tout their love for open source yet withhold source code from non-customers generate the most enquiries of this type. When approached, OSI contacts these companies on behalf of the community but the response is always that they are "within their rights" under the relevant open source licenses and can do what they please.

[...] Interestingly it's common that the companies involved obtained the source code they are monetising under an open source license, while they themselves own the copyrights to a tiny percentage of the code. They can be considered to have enclosed the commons, enjoying the full benefits of open source themselves — and celebrating it — but excluding others from collaboration on the same terms.

Source: Is Open Yet Closed Still OK?

Original Submission

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Wine Robots Are Rolling Into Europe’s Swankiest Vineyards

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 04:48 AM PST

Wine Robots:

Some of the world's most traditional wineries can't resist a reboot.

We've explained in the past that swaths of savvy vineyards in California have embraced tech to boost yields and make better wines. That might not be surprising, given their proximity to Silicon Valley and the fact that many executives have used their tech-boom bucks to invest in Napa and Sonoma wineries.

But it's a whole other story in Europe, where centuries of tradition mean that wine is for the most part made according to good ol' fashioned approaches—especially in exclusive vineyards.

Now, Decanter magazine reports that perhaps the world's most prestigious wine-maker, Château Mouton Rothschild, is giving robots a shot. At its Château Clerc Milon estate, it's been carrying out tests with a robot called TED, pictured above, which roams around on wheels to cultivate soil and uproot weeds.

French vintners going on strike in 3, 2, 1...

Original Submission

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War Criminal Drinks Poison at The Hague, Live Streamed to the World

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 02:27 AM PST

After hearing his guilty sentence upheld, convicted war criminal Slobodan Praljak took out a small bottle of poison and drank it. The act of defiance was streamed live to viewers around the world. Praljak died a few hours later:

It happened in the span of a few confused minutes.

Moments after hearing that his 20-year sentence for war crimes had been upheld, Slobodan Praljak defied the admonitions of his judges, declared his innocence a final time — and with eyes wide, as if shocked himself at what he was doing, put a tiny glass to his lips and gulped deeply. "I just drank poison," he exclaimed after lowering the glass. And the presiding judge asked for the curtains to be closed.

The end came quickly. Praljak died within hours Wednesday. But as Dutch authorities open their investigation into the incident at the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, one difficult question promises to persist much longer: How exactly did the former Bosnian Croat general manage to commit suicide in a high-security courtroom in The Hague, Netherlands, and in front of viewers streaming the video live around the world?

There is reason — besides his swift death — to believe Praljak's declaration that he had indeed taken poison.

"There was a preliminary test of the substance in the container and all I can say for now is that there was a chemical substance in that container that can cause death," Dutch prosecutor Marilyn Fikenscher told The Associated Press. That said, the official cause of death will have to wait until an autopsy is completed.

Slobodan Praljak. The poison is thought to have been cyanide.

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The Reason You Always Plug in USBs the Wrong Way, Revealed

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 12:06 AM PST

So that's why:

The USB paradox is one of the most familiar experiences of the digital age. Every time you try to plug in a USB cord, it seems like you always get it wrong on the first try. It doesn't matter how much attention you pay to the plug or the cord or the icons on the cord. It's always wrong.

And there's a good reason for that! In an interview published Thursday by DesignNews, Intel's Ajay Bhatt spoke at length about why the ubiquitous technology has been so infuriating for so long. Bhatt was a member of the team that developed USB technology. Even at the start of development, they knew that making the connector flippable would be a better user experience in the long run. But doing so would require twice the wiring and more circuitry, which would increase costs.

"If you have a lot of cost up front for an unproven technology it might not take off. So that was our fear. You have to be really cost conscious when you start out," Bhatt said.

Original Submission

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Beer Distribution Game

Posted: 02 Dec 2017 09:45 PM PST

[Ed note: I was debating on whether or not to run this submission. It does raise an interesting view of distribution challenges and issues with business forecasting. Also, it is about beer and it is the weekend, so... enjoy!]

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

The beer distribution game (also known as the beer game) is an experiential learning business simulation game created by a group of professors at MIT Sloan School of Management in early 1960s to demonstrate a number of key principles of supply chain management. The game is played by teams of at least four players, often in heated competition, and takes at least one hour to complete. A debriefing session of roughly equivalent length typically follows to review the results of each team and discuss the lessons involved.

The purpose of the game is to understand the distribution side dynamics of a multi-echelon supply chain used to distribute a single item, in this case, cases of beer.

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New NASA Instrument Aboard the ISS Will Analyze Microdebris That Strikes It

Posted: 02 Dec 2017 07:24 PM PST

NASA sensor to study space junk too small to be seen from Earth

[...] NASA hopes to learn more about the dust-size microdebris orbiting Earth with the Space Debris Sensor (SDS), set to be attached to the International Space Station (ISS) following a 4 December cargo launch by SpaceX.

Using ground-based radars, the U.S. Air Force keeps track of about 23,000 objects larger than a baseball, so satellite operators can avoid collisions by maneuvering out of the way. But much less is known about smaller debris, says Brian Weeden, director of program planning for Secure World Foundation, a nonprofit focused on space sustainability, in Washington, D.C. The SDS will study objects smaller than a millimeter—and at high speeds they can still cause real damage, Weeden says. "If a satellite is in orbit for 10 or 15 years, those little abrasions can have an impact by degrading sensors or degrading materials on the satellite," he says.

NASA previously studied microdebris by inspecting the windows and radiators of space shuttles, which returned to Earth pockmarked with tiny impacts. "A detailed ground inspection could estimate what sizes the objects were that impacted it, but there's limited information you can get out of that," says Joseph Hamilton, an orbital debris scientist and SDS principal investigator at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

After it's mounted to the ISS, the new sensor will offer a better handle on the true microdebris population. The 1-square-meter detector on the SDS contains layers of thin sensors embedded within a mesh of fine wires. When debris strikes the surface of the SDS, it will break a number of these wires, which correlate to the particle's size. Damage to layers beneath gives a sense of particle speeds and trajectories. The back plate will measure the intensity of the impact, helping scientists estimate the object's density.

They should put it in front of one of the windows to act as additional space armor.

Original Submission

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Very Large Telescope's MUSE Instrument Studies the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field

Posted: 02 Dec 2017 05:33 PM PST

The Very Large Telescope's (VLT) Multi-unit spectroscopic explorer (MUSE) has been used to study the galaxies in the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field. It has also revealed previously unseen galaxies:

Sometimes, astronomy is about surveying widely to get the big picture. And sometimes it's about looking more and more deeply. First released in 2004, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field is clearly about going deep. It's a composite image of a tiny region of space, located in the direction of the southern constellation Fornax, made from Hubble Space Telescope data gathered over several months. There are an estimated 10,000 galaxies in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, which exist as far back in time as 13 billion years ago (between 400 and 800 million years after the Big Bang). Being able to see galaxies so near the beginning of our universe has been a fantastic tool for understanding how the universe has evolved. And now – thanks to an instrument called MUSE (Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer), astronomers have been able to eke out yet more information – a veritable bonanza of information – from the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. Their work is being published today (November 29, 2017) in a series of 10 papers in a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Also at ESO.

The MUSE Hubble Ultra Deep Field Survey - I. Survey description, data reduction, and source detection (open, DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201730833) (DX)

The rest of the papers are paywalled:

The MUSE Hubble Ultra Deep Field Survey - II. Spectroscopic redshifts and comparisons to color selections of high-redshift galaxies (DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201731195) (DX)

The MUSE Hubble Ultra Deep Field Survey - III. Testing photometric redshifts to 30th magnitude (DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201731351) (DX)

The MUSE Hubble Ultra Deep Field Survey - IV. Global properties of C III] emitters (DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201730985) (DX)

The MUSE Hubble Ultra Deep Field Survey - V. Spatially resolved stellar kinematics of galaxies at redshift 0.2 ≲ z ≲ 0.8 (DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201730905) (DX)

The MUSE Hubble Ultra Deep Field Survey - VI. The faint-end of the Lyα luminosity function at 2.91 (DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201731431) (DX)

The MUSE Hubble Ultra Deep Field Survey - VII. Fe ii* emission in star-forming galaxies (DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201731499) (DX)

The MUSE Hubble Ultra Deep Field Survey - VIII. Extended Lyman-α haloes around high-z star-forming galaxies (DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201731480) (DX)

The MUSE Hubble Ultra Deep Field Survey - IX. Evolution of galaxy merger fraction since z ≈ 6 (DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201731586) (DX)

The MUSE Hubble Ultra Deep Field Survey - X. Lyα equivalent widths at 2.9 (DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201731579) (DX)

Original Submission

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Microsoft to Rebuild its Redmond Headquarters

Posted: 02 Dec 2017 03:12 PM PST

Microsoft to Expand Campus, as Amazon Looks Elsewhere

While Amazon is hunting for a second headquarters away from its hometown, its neighbor in the Seattle area — Microsoft — is doubling down on the region, with plans to invest billions of dollars in redeveloping its existing campus.

The project, which Microsoft plans to announce at its annual meeting of shareholders on Wednesday, amounts to a major overhaul of the company's 500-acre campus in Redmond, Wash., the leafy Seattle suburb that it has called home since 1986.

The company will take a wrecking ball to 12 old buildings, replacing them with 18 taller ones with more open work environments. The construction will add about 2.5 million square feet of new space to the roughly 15 million it has in the area, enough room for an additional 8,000 employees.

Microsoft's redevelopment, which will take five to seven years to complete, would not ordinarily stand out — lots of technology companies outgrow their offices and need new space. But this is Microsoft, a company that spent years fumbling new initiatives, laying off employees and retrenching from key markets. The bet on a bigger, more modern campus is a symbol of its resurgence over the past few years under its chief executive, Satya Nadella, who has made invigorating Microsoft's culture one of his top priorities.

It is also hard not to notice the contrast to Amazon, the area's younger and buzzier technology company. After Amazon announced its plans for a second headquarters, cities and regions laid out tax breaks and other promises to lure the planned 50,000 high-paying jobs to town.

Also at VentureBeat and The Verge.

Related: Cities Desperate to Become the Location of Amazon's "Second Headquarters"
Is A Mega-Deal Like Amazon's HQ2 Always Worth It?
Amazon Receives 238 Proposals for HQ2, Including Multi-Billion Dollar Incentive Offers

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Prehistoric Women Were Really Strong

Posted: 02 Dec 2017 12:51 PM PST

A study has compared the bones of Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age women to those of modern female athletes:

Grinding grain for hours a day gave prehistoric women stronger arms than today's elite female rowers, a study suggests. The discovery points to a "hidden history" of gruelling manual labour performed by women over millennia, say University of Cambridge researchers. The physical demands on prehistoric women may have been underestimated in the past, the study shows. In fact, women's work was a crucial driver of early farming economies.

"This is the first study to actually compare prehistoric female bones to those of living women," said lead researcher, Dr Alison Macintosh. "By interpreting women's bones in a female-specific context we can start to see how intensive, variable and laborious their behaviours were, hinting at a hidden history of women's work over thousands of years."

Also at Science Magazine, The Guardian, WUNC, and The Verge.

Prehistoric women's manual labor exceeded that of athletes through the first 5500 years of farming in Central Europe (open, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao3893) (DX)

Related: Divergence in Male and Female Manipulative Behaviors with the Intensification of Metallurgy in Central Europe (open, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0112116) (DX)

Lower limb skeletal biomechanics track long-term decline in mobility across ∼6150 years of agriculture in Central Europe (DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2014.09.001) (DX)

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Review and Teardown of a Cheap GPS Jammer

Posted: 02 Dec 2017 10:30 AM PST

Anatomy of a "signal generator":

Generally, "jammers" — which are also commonly called signal blockers, GPS jammers, cell phone jammers, wifi jammers, etc. are radio frequency transmitters that are designed to block, jam, or otherwise interfere with radio communications.

A jammer can block radio communications on devices that operates on a given radio frequencies within its range (i.e., within a certain distance of the jammer) by emitting a noise radio carrier. A GPS jammer generates a 1575.42 Mhz interference to prevent your GPS unit from receiving correct positioning signals. The GPS jammer is typically a small, self-contained, battery powered and transmit signal over a small radius. Though illegal to use, these low-tech devices can be bought on the internet for as little as $25. Since they can block devices that record a vehicle's movements, they're popular with truck drivers who don't want an electronic spy in their cabs. They can also block GPS-based road tolls that are levied via an on-board receiver. GPS jamming technology will also disable autopilot in drones to protect individuals' privacy.

In the US federal law prohibits the sale or use of a transmitter (e.g., a jammer) designed to block, jam, or interfere with wireless communications. For this reason some jammer retailers now label jammers as "signal generator kit" so it will just slip through customs and them is to purchaser sole responsibility for ensuring that the operation complies with the applicable laws. One of these "GPS signal generator kit" is the Dealextreme QH-1 Professional GPS Signal Generator Module (It seems that the QH-1 GPS jammer ran out of stock and will not be manufactured anymore, but you can still find HJ-3A GPS and cell phone jammer.). I've always wondered what's inside these jammers, given their cost, so i purchased one "signal generator module" and put under test with RF laboratory equiment, disassembled and photographed them for all to enjoy.

But is it cheaper than tinfoil?

[Ed note: typos and grammatical errors copied from source document, intact. Also note that it is illegal to operate one of these jammers in the US.]

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