French Priest Beheaded by Two ISIS Followers in Church

July 26th, 2016

Strategy of Tension?

Via: Guardian:

The murder of a priest and the wounding of one of his parishioners in Normandy was an act of terrorism carried out by two followers of Islamic State, the French president, François Hollande, has said.

A witness to the attack has described how the two men forced the 86-year-old priest, Father Jacques Hamel, to his knees, slit his throat and filmed themselves appearing to preach in Arabic at the altar.


Clinton Cash

July 26th, 2016

Based on: Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich by Peter Schweizer

Via: YouTube:


Breast-Feeding the Microbiome

July 26th, 2016

Via: The New Yorker:

Human milk is a particular marvel. Every mammal mother produces complex sugars called oligosaccharides, but human moth­ers, for some reason, churn out an exceptional variety: so far, scientists have identified more than two hundred human milk oligosaccharides, or H.M.O.s. They are the third-most plentiful ingredient in human milk, after lactose and fats, and their structure ought to make them a rich source of energy for growing babies—but babies cannot digest them. When German first learned this, he was gobsmacked. Why would a mother expend so much energy manufacturing these complicated chemicals if they were apparently useless to her child? Why hasn’t natural selection put its foot down on such a wasteful practice? Here’s a clue: H.M.O.s pass through the stom­ach and the small intestine unharmed, landing in the large intestine, where most of our bacteria live. What if they aren’t food for babies at all? What if they are food for microbes?


Who Gets Your Vote for U.S. President?

July 25th, 2016

Let’s assume everyone reading this is eligible to vote in the upcoming election.

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Artificial Intelligence Swarms Silicon Valley on Wings and Wheels

July 24th, 2016

See artificial intelligence winters and hype cycles.

Via: New York Times:

For more than a decade, Silicon Valley’s technology investors and entrepreneurs obsessed over social media and mobile apps that helped people do things like find new friends, fetch a ride home or crowdsource a review of a product or a movie.

Now Silicon Valley has found its next shiny new thing. And it does not have a “Like” button.

The new era in Silicon Valley centers on artificial intelligence and robots, a transformation that many believe will have a payoff on the scale of the personal computing industry or the commercial internet, two previous generations that spread computing globally. Computers have begun to speak, listen and see, as well as sprout legs, wings and wheels to move unfettered in the world.

The shift was evident in a Lowe’s home improvement store here this month, when a prototype inventory checker developed by Bossa Nova Robotics silently glided through the aisles using computer vision to automatically perform a task that humans have done manually for centuries.

The robot, which was skilled enough to autonomously move out of the way of shoppers and avoid unexpected obstacles in the aisles, alerted people to its presence with soft birdsong chirps. Gliding down the middle of an aisle at a leisurely pace, it can recognize bar codes on shelves, and it uses a laser to detect which items are out of stock.

Silicon Valley’s financiers and entrepreneurs are digging into artificial intelligence with remarkable exuberance. The region now has at least 19 companies designing self-driving cars and trucks, up from a handful five years ago. There are also more than a half-dozen types of mobile robots, including robotic bellhops and aerial drones, being commercialized.

“We saw a slow trickle in investments in robotics, and suddenly, boom — there seem to be a dozen companies securing large investment rounds focusing on specific robotic niches,” said Martin Hitch, chief executive of Bossa Nova, which has a base in San Francisco.

Funding in A.I. start-ups has increased more than fourfold to $681 million in 2015, from $145 million in 2011, according to the market research firm CB Insights. The firm estimates that new investments will reach $1.2 billion this year, up 76 percent from last year.


Self Driving Car Company Asks People to Generate Data with Mobile Phones

July 24th, 2016

But what I really thought was interesting was the inducement to get people to do this: Comma Points and a scoreboard.

In other words, Hotz turned this into a game. I wonder if he plans to use the Chffr app to offer bonus points to get people to drive on roads that present particularly difficult challenges to the AI? See: Pokemon Go/Soft Control.

Via: cnet:

You don’t have to be a billionaire investor to get involved with the development of self-driving cars. Thanks to George Hotz and his company, Comma.ai, all you need is a cell phone, a windshield mount and Hotz’s own Chffr app.

Chffr is available only for Android phones at the moment. After downloading it, mount your camera on the windshield and open the app. Chffr records your drive and watches along as you navigate around bicyclists, wait for cars at stop signs and other daily traffic-related occurrences. It uploads that data to Comma.ai’s servers, which compiles all the data it receives to help its autonomous-driving kit learn to mimic human behavior.

For using Chffr, you’ll earn something called “Comma Points.” Nobody’s really sure what the points are for, but for the time being, they’re reflected on a leaderboard on Comma.ai’s site, so you can see who’s doing the best job at contributing. Right now, friend of Roadshow Alex Roy is in second place, and George Hotz himself is down in ninth.


Super-Hard Metal ‘Four Times Tougher Than Titanium’

July 24th, 2016

Via: BBC:

A super-hard metal has been made in the laboratory by melting together titanium and gold.

The alloy is the hardest known metallic substance compatible with living tissues, say US physicists.

The material is four times harder than pure titanium and has applications in making longer-lasting medical implants, they say.

Conventional knee and hip implants have to be replaced after about 10 years due to wear and tear.

Details of the new metal – an alloy of gold and titanium – are revealed in the journal, Science Advances.


Germany: Several Dead, Injured After Shots Fired at Munich Shopping Center

July 22nd, 2016

Gunman Found Dead

Via: CNN:

At least nine people were killed and 21 others hurt Friday in a shooting rampage at a busy shopping district in Munich, Germany, police said. Police searched for attackers, thinking there might be three, and found a man who’d killed himself on a side street near Olympia shopping mall, police Chief Hubertus Andrae said.

Based on surveillance video and witness statements, police concluded he was the sole gunman, Andrae said. The unidentified attacker was an 18-year-old German-Iranian who had lived in Munich for more than two years. The man was not known to police and his motives are unclear, authorities said. No group has claimed responsibility. Many children were among the casualties. Police said 16 people remain hospitalized.

AFP: Three Suspected Gunmen in German Shooting

Update: GSG9 Has Responded

On this Daily Mail article, I’m pretty sure the guys in the dark green are GSG9.

Via: NBC:

Several people were dead or injured after shots rang out at a shopping center Friday evening in Munich, Germany, police said. Multiple gunmen were believed to be on the loose.

“At the moment we don’t know where the perpetrators are. Take care and avoid public places,” Munich police tweeted.

Munich police confirmed to NBC News that there were casualties, but didn’t give an exact number.

According to a police spokesperson, the shooting started at a McDonald’s attached to the mall before the shooters made their way into the mall.


Inside the Test Flight of Facebook’s First Internet Drone

July 21st, 2016

Via: The Verge:

In its first flight, Aquila exceeded engineers’ expectations for its energy efficiency. More test flights are planned, aimed at flying Aquila “faster, higher, and longer,” says Jay Parikh, Facebook’s vice president of engineering, in a blog post today. And then Aquila will have its next big test: flying with the “payload,” as Facebook calls the laser communication system that a team is building in Woodland Hills, CA. In July 2015, the team announced that its lasers could deliver data at tens of gigabytes per second, about 10 times faster than the previous standard. And the lasers are quite precise, able to target an area the size of a dime from 10 miles away. (The lasers connect with base stations on the ground to supply internet access.) Facebook says the system has performed well in independent tests.

When will a fleet of Aquila drones bring data to the world? Facebook won’t say. There are several technical challenges remaining in getting Aquila to reliably fly 90-day stretches. The team hasn’t yet implemented solar panels on the prototype — the test flight plane ran using batteries only. The team is still working out how to build batteries with a density high enough to sustain lengthy missions. Then there’s the cost — Facebook says Aquila needs to be much cheaper if the world is going to deploy a fleet of them. “We need to develop more efficient on-board power and communication systems; ensure the aircraft are resilient to structural damage to reduce maintenance costs and able to stay aloft for long periods of time to keep fleet numbers low; and minimize the amount of human supervision associated with their operation,” Cox wrote in a blog post today.

Aquila is also likely to face regulatory obstacles, which could rival the laws of physics in terms of the challenges they present.


$13 Billion Aircraft Carrier Struggles with Air Operations, Can’t Defend Itself, Systems ‘Likely Require Redesigning’

July 21st, 2016

Well, the good news is that $13 billion looks like pocket lint compared to the cost of the F-35 catastrophe.

Have a nice day.

Via: Bloomberg:

The U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier isn’t ready for warfare.

The $12.9 billion USS Gerald R. Ford — the most expensive warship ever built — may struggle to launch and recover aircraft, mount a defense and move munitions, according to the Pentagon’s top weapons tester. On-board systems for those tasks have poor or unknown reliability issues, according to a June 28 memo obtained by Bloomberg News.

“These four systems affect major areas of flight operations,” Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, wrote Pentagon and Navy weapons buyers Frank Kendall and Sean Stackley. “Unless these issues are resolved, which would likely require redesigning” of the aircraft launch and recovery systems “they will significantly limit the CVN-78’s ability to conduct combat operations,” Gilmore wrote, using a technical name for the carrier.


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