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Switzerland Calls On UN To Explore Possibility of Solar Geoengineering

Slashdot - 2 hours 33 min ago
Switzerland is advocating for a United Nations expert group to explore the merits of solar geoengineering. The proposal seeks to ensure multilateral oversight of solar radiation modification (SRM) research, amidst concerns over its potential implications for food supply, biodiversity, and global inequalities. The Guardian reports: The Swiss proposal, submitted to the United Nations environment assembly that begins next week in Nairobi, focuses on solar radiation modification (SRM). This is a technique that aims to mimic the effect of a large volcanic eruption by filling the atmosphere with sulphur dioxide particles that reflect part of the sun's heat and light back into space. Supporters of the proposal, including the United Nations environment program (UNEP), argue that research is necessary to ensure multilateral oversight of emerging planet-altering technologies, which might otherwise be developed and tested in isolation by powerful governments or billionaire individuals. Critics, however, argue that such a discussion would threaten the current de-facto ban on geoengineering, and lead down a "slippery slope" towards legitimization, mainstreaming and eventual deployment. Felix Wertli, the Swiss ambassador for the environment, said his country's goal in submitting the proposal was to ensure all governments and relevant stakeholders "are informed about SRM technologies, in particular about possible risks and cross-border effects." He said the intention was not to promote or enable solar geoengineering but to inform governments, especially those in developing countries, about what is happening. The executive director of the UNEP, Inger Andersen, stressed the importance of "a global conversation on SRM" in her opening address to delegates at a preliminary gathering in Nairobi. She and her colleagues emphasized the move was a precautionary one rather than an endorsement of the technology.

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Facial-Recognition System Passes Test On Michelangelo's David

Slashdot - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 10:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Facial recognition is a common feature for unlocking smartphones and gaming systems, among other uses. But the technology currently relies upon bulky projectors and lenses, hindering its broader application. Scientists have now developed a new facial recognition system that employs flatter, simpler optics that also require less energy, according to a recent paper published in the journal Nano Letters. The team tested their prototype system with a 3D replica of Michelangelo's famous David sculpture and found it recognized the face as well as existing smartphone facial recognition can. [...] Wen-Chen Hsu, of National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University and the Hon Hai Research Institute in Taiwan, and colleagues turned to ultrathin optical components known as metasurfaces for a potential solution. These metasurfaces can replace bulkier components for modulating light and have proven popular for depth sensors, endoscopes, tomography. and augmented reality systems, among other emerging applications. Hsu et al. built their own depth-sensing facial recognition system incorporating a metasurface hologram in place of the diffractive optical element. They replaced the standard vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) with a photonic crystal surface-emitting laser (PCSEL). (The structure of photonic crystals is the mechanism behind the bright iridescent colors in butterfly wings or beetle shells.) The PCSEL can generate its own highly collimated light beam, so there was no need for the bulky light guide or collimation lenses used in VCSEL-based dot projector systems. The team tested their new system on a replica bust of David, and it worked as well as existing smartphone facial recognition, based on comparing the infrared dot patterns to online photos of the statue. They found that their system generated nearly one and a half times more infrared dots (some 45,700) than the standard commercial technology from a device that is 233 times smaller in terms of surface area than the standard dot projector. "It is a compact and cost-effective system, that can be integrated into a single chip using the flip-chip process of PCSEL," the authors wrote. Additionally, "The metasurface enables the generation of customizable and versatile light patterns, expanding the system's applicability." It's more energy-efficient to boot.

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Vice Media cuts jobs and stops publishing on site

BBC Tech News - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 9:11pm
Vice Media Group filed for bankruptcy in May and was bought by Fortress Investment Group.

Crypto company to pay state for violating security laws

Portland Press Herald Business - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 8:47pm
Maine's payout, part of a $3 million settlement being divided among 26 states, will go into the state's Securities Restitution Assistance Fund for investors who have lost money because of securities violations.

Reddit Files To Go Public

Slashdot - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 8:40pm
Reddit has filed its initial public offering (IPO) with the SEC on Thursday. "The company plans to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol 'RDDT,'" reports CNBC. From the report: Its market debut, expected in March, will be the first major tech initial public offering of the year. It's the first social media IPO since Pinterest went public in 2019. Reddit said it had $804 million in annual sales for 2023, up 20% from the $666.7 million it brought in the previous year, according to the filing. The social networking company's core business is reliant on online advertising sales stemming from its website and mobile app. The company, founded in 2005 by technology entrepreneurs Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman, said it has incurred net losses since its inception. It reported a net loss of $90.8 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2023, compared with a net loss of $158.6 million the year prior. [...] Reddit said it plans to use artificial intelligence to improve its ad business and that it expects to open new revenue channels by offering tools and incentives to "drive continued creation, improvements, and commerce." It's also in the early stages of developing and monetizing a data-licensing business in which third parties would be allowed to access and search data on its platform. For example, Google on Thursday announced an expanded partnership with Reddit that will give the search giant access to the company's data to, among other uses, train its AI models. "In January 2024, we entered into certain data licensing arrangements with an aggregate contract value of $203.0 million and terms ranging from two to three years," Reddit said, regarding its data-licensing business. "We expect a minimum of $66.4 million of revenue to be recognized during the year ending December 31, 2024 and the remaining thereafter." On Wednesday, Reddit said it plans to sell a chunk of its IPO shares to 75,000 of its most loyal users.

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Yale Reinstates Standardized Test Requirement For Admission

Slashdot - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 8:02pm
Stephanie Saul reports via the New York Times: Yale University will require standardized test scores for admission for students applying to enter for the class entering in the fall of 2025, becoming the second Ivy League university to abandon test-optional policies that had been widely embraced during the Covid pandemic. Yale officials said in an announcement on Thursday that the shift to test-optional policies might have unwittingly harmed students from lower-income families whose test scores could have helped their chances. While it will require standardized tests, Yale said its policy would be "test flexible," permitting students to submit scores from subject-based Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests in lieu of SAT or ACT scores. The decision follows a similar decision in February from Dartmouth College. MIT also announced that it had reinstated its testing requirement in 2022.

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US Lands Unmanned 'Odysseus' Spacecraft On Moon

Slashdot - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 7:25pm
The first privately built spacecraft has successfully landed on the lunar surface on Thursday. "We can confirm, without a doubt, that our equipment is on the surface of the moon," said Stephen Altemus, CEO of Intuitive Machines, the Houston-based company that operated the Odysseus spacecraft. "Welcome to the moon." From a report: As it approached the surface of the moon, Odysseus lost contact with NASA, resulting in several anxious minutes for those who worked on the joint project. But after approximately 15 minutes of searching, officials confirmed that they were once again receiving signals from the spacecraft. "A commercial lander named Odysseus, powered by a company called Intuitive Machines, launched up on a Space X rocket, carrying a bounty of NASA scientific instruments and bearing the dream of a new adventure, a new adventure in science, innovation and American leadership, well, all of that aced the landing of a lifetime," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said after contact had been reestablished. "Today for the first time in more than a half century, the U.S. has returned to the moon." Altemus had estimated that Odysseus had an 80% chance of successfully landing on the moon, citing previous failed attempts as an advantage. "We've stood on the shoulders of everybody who's tried before us," Altemus said. It was the first American mission to land on the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972 and the first private spacecraft ever to make a soft landing there. While it was a private mission, NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to deliver six instruments to the moon. And the U.S. space agency provided streaming video of the landing.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Why some cyber-attacks hit harder than others

BBC Tech News - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 7:07pm
The British Library has been hobbled for months by a cyber-attack and experts warn of similar damage ahead.

The 'mind-bending' bionic arm powered by AI

BBC Tech News - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 7:07pm
BBC Click reporter Paul Carter tries out a high-tech prosthetic promising a 'full range of human motion'.

Snapchat Isn't Liable For Connecting 12-Year-Old To Convicted Sex Offenders

Slashdot - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 7:02pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A judge has dismissed (PDF) a complaint from a parent and guardian of a girl, now 15, who was sexually assaulted when she was 12 years old after Snapchat recommended that she connect with convicted sex offenders. According to the court filing, the abuse that the girl, C.O., experienced on Snapchat happened soon after she signed up for the app in 2019. Through its "Quick Add" feature, Snapchat "directed her" to connect with "a registered sex offender using the profile name JASONMORGAN5660." After a little more than a week on the app, C.O. was bombarded with inappropriate images and subjected to sextortion and threats before the adult user pressured her to meet up, then raped her. Cops arrested the adult user the next day, resulting in his incarceration, but his Snapchat account remained active for three years despite reports of harassment, the complaint alleged. Two years later, at 14, C.O. connected with another convicted sex offender on Snapchat, a former police officer who offered to give C.O. a ride to school and then sexually assaulted her. The second offender is also currently incarcerated, the judge's opinion noted. The lawsuit painted a picture of Snapchat's ongoing neglect of minors it knows are being targeted by sexual predators. Prior to C.O.'s attacks, both adult users sent and requested sexually explicit photos, seemingly without the app detecting any child sexual abuse materials exchanged on the platform. C.O. had previously reported other adult accounts sending her photos of male genitals, but Snapchat allegedly "did nothing to block these individuals from sending her inappropriate photographs." Among other complaints, C.O.'s lawsuit alleged that Snapchat's algorithm for its "Quick Add" feature was the problem. It allegedly recklessly works to detect when adult accounts are seeking to connect with young girls and, by design, sends more young girls their way -- continually directing sexual predators toward vulnerable targets. Snapchat is allegedly aware of these abuses and, therefore, should be held liable for harm caused to C.O., the lawsuit argued. Although C.O.'s case raised difficult questions, Judge Barbara Bellis ultimately agreed with Snapchat that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act barred all claims and shielded Snap because "the allegations of this case fall squarely within the ambit of the immunity afforded to" platforms publishing third-party content. According to Bellis, C.O.'s family had "clearly alleged" that Snap had failed to design its recommendations systems to block young girls from receiving messages from sexual predators. Specifically, Section 230 immunity shields Snap from liability in this case because Bellis considered the messages exchanged to be third-party content. Snapchat designing its recommendation systems to deliver content is a protected activity, Bellis ruled. Despite a seemingly conflicting ruling in Los Angeles that found that "Section 230 didn't protect Snapchat from liability for allegedly connecting teens with drug dealers," Bellis didn't appear to consider it persuasive. She did, however, critique Section 230's broad application, suggesting courts are limited without legislative changes, despite the morally challenging nature of some cases.

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The Justice Department Gets a Chief AI Officer

Slashdot - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 6:20pm
Princeton professor and technology law researcher Jonathan Mayer has been appointed as the Justice Department's first chief AI officer. The Verge reports: Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that appointing an AI officer was important for the department to "keep pace with rapidly evolving scientific and technological developments." One of Mayer's responsibilities will be to build a team of technical and policy experts around cybersecurity and AI. Mayer will also serve as the department's chief science and technology advisor and help recruit tech talent. Mayer held technology roles in government before his new Justice Department gig, according to his bio in Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy. He served as an adviser on technology law and policy to Vice President Kamala Harris when she was still in the Senate. Mayer was also the chief technologist in the enforcement office of the Federal Communications Commission.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Bluesky Now Open To Federation

Slashdot - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 5:40pm
Longtime Slashdot reader Rei writes: In a blog post today, Bluesky, the social media network founded by Jay Graber, announced that they have finally opened to federation. Users can now operate their own PDS (backend) servers. How to do so is discussed on the developers' blog and a new Discord channel for PDS administrators. As the blog notes, there are key differences between the AT Protocol/Bluesky federation and ActivityPub/Mastodon federation, including: global conversation (rather than local-server based with remote content only brought in from follows); a decentralized user account not bound to a specific host; user-composable moderation lists not inherently tied to a specific server, offsetting the need for defederation; user-composable feeds/algorithms, not tied to servers; and full account portability, without the need to be initiated by your server, protecting users from rogue admins or servers that disappear. Despite the difference, a number of projects, such as Bridgy-Fed, plan to bridge Bluesky and Mastodon together, with all of Bluesky appearing as a single Mastodon server on ActivityPub, and Mastodon users being translated to a decentralized identifier (DID) for AT Protocol (atproto) calls.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Tiny homes meant for displaced Maui fire survivors are sitting empty

Portland Press Herald Business - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 5:31pm
Fire survivors are now suffering from Maui’s notoriously long permitting process and a thicket of regulations that has stalled island projects for decades.

Reddit moves forward with share listing plan

BBC Tech News - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 5:25pm
The filing offers a glimpse of the company's efforts to turn online popularity into profit.

On Wall Street, Nvidia shares surge amid AI boom, setting off a rally across tech

Portland Press Herald Business - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 5:13pm
Nvidia's stock price surged after delivering another blowout quarter, setting off a rally in other technology companies that carried Wall Street to another record high.

AT&T Restores Service After Massive, Nationwide Outage

Slashdot - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 5:02pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN Business: AT&T's network went down for many of its customers across the United States Thursday morning, leaving customers unable to place calls, text or access the internet. By a little after 3 pm ET, roughly 11 hours after reports of the outage first emerged, the company said that it had restored service to all impacted customers. "We have restored wireless service to all our affected customers. We sincerely apologize to them," AT&T said in a statement. The company added that it is "taking steps to ensure our customers do not experience this again in the future." The Federal Communications Commission confirmed Thursday afternoon that it is investigating the outage. The White House says federal agencies are in touch with AT&T about network outages but that it doesn't have all the answers yet on what exactly led to the interruptions. Although Verizon and T-Mobile customers reported some network outages, too, they appeared far less widespread. T-Mobile and Verizon said their networks were unaffected by AT&T's service outage and customers reporting outages may have been unable to reach customers who use AT&T. Thursday morning, more than 74,000 AT&T customers reported outages on digital-service tracking site DownDetector, with service disruptions beginning around 4 am ET. That's not a comprehensive number: It tracks only self-reported outages. Reports had been rising steadily throughout the morning but leveled off in the 9 am ET hour. By 12:30 pm ET, the DownDetector data showed some 25,000 AT&T customers still reporting outages. By 2 pm ET, fewer than 5,000 customers were still reporting issues. Earlier Thursday, AT&T acknowledged that it had a widespread outage but did not provide a reason for the system failure. By late morning, AT&T said most of its network was back online, and it confirmed Thursday afternoon that service was fully restored. According to an anonymous industry source, the issue for the outage appears to be related to how cellular services hand off calls from one network to the next, a process known as peering. They said there's no indication that it was the result of a cyberattack or other malicious activity. The FCC confirmed that it is investigating the incident. "We are aware of the reported wireless outages, and our Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is actively investigating," the FCC said in a statement posted on X. "We are in touch with AT&T and public safety authorities, including FirstNet, as well as other providers."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Wall Street sees a solid year ahead for homebuilders, though mortgage rates remain a wild card

Portland Press Herald Business - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 4:55pm
The average long-term U.S. mortgage rate rose this week for the third time in as many weeks, driving up home loan borrowing costs just as the spring homebuying season ramps up.

China tech firm claimed it could hack Foreign Office

BBC Tech News - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 4:46pm
A Chinese company claimed it had the ability to hack the UK's Foreign Office, leaked documents suggest.

Can Any English Word Be Turned Into a Synonym For 'Drunk'? Not All, But Many Can.

Slashdot - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 4:20pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: British comedian Michael McIntyre has a standard bit in his standup routines concerning the many (many!) slang terms posh British people use to describe being drunk. These include "wellied," "trousered," and "ratarsed," to name a few. McIntyre's bit rests on his assertion that pretty much any English word can be modified into a so-called "drunkonym," bolstered by a few handy examples: "I was utterly gazeboed," or "I am going to get totally and utterly carparked." It's a clever riff that sparked the interest of two German linguists. Christina Sanchez-Stockhammer of Chemnitz University of Technology and Peter Uhrig of FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg decided to draw on their expertise to test McIntyre's claim that any word in the English language could be modified to mean "being in a state of high inebriation." Given their prevalence, "It is highly surprising that drunkonyms are still under-researched from a linguistic perspective," the authors wrote in their new paper published in the Yearbook of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association. Bonus: the authors included an extensive appendix of 546 English synonyms for "drunk," drawn from various sources, which makes for entertaining reading. There is a long tradition of coming up with colorful expressions for drunkenness in the English language, with the Oxford English Dictionary listing a usage as early as 1382: "merry," meaning "boisterous or cheerful due to alcohol; slight drunk, tipsy." Another OED entry from 1630 lists "blinde" (as in blind drunk) as a drunkonym. Even Benjamin Franklin got into the act with his 1737 Drinker's Dictionary, listing 288 words and phrases for denoting drunkenness. By 1975, there were more than 353 synonyms for "drunk" listed in that year's edition of the Dictionary of American Slang. By 1981, linguist Harry Levine noted 900 terms used as drunkonyms.

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How startups consider whether big Super Bowl ad costs will pay off

Mass High Tech News - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 4:02pm
Running a Super Bowl ad is a major expense, with no guarantee for success. Is it worth it for startups to pony up big bucks during the big game?

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