Power

UCLA Researchers Use Solar To Create and Store Hydrogen (phys.org) 38

UCLA researchers have designed a device that can use solar energy to inexpensively and efficiently create and store energy, which could be used to power electronic devices, and to create hydrogen fuel for eco-friendly cars. Phys.Org reports: The device could make hydrogen cars affordable for many more consumers because it produces hydrogen using nickel, iron and cobalt -- elements that are much more abundant and less expensive than the platinum and other precious metals that are currently used to produce hydrogen fuel. Traditional hydrogen fuel cells and supercapacitors have two electrodes: one positive and one negative. The device developed at UCLA has a third electrode that acts as both a supercapacitor, which stores energy, and as a device for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, a process called water electrolysis. All three electrodes connect to a single solar cell that serves as the device's power source, and the electrical energy harvested by the solar cell can be stored in one of two ways: electrochemically in the supercapacitor or chemically as hydrogen. The device also is a step forward because it produces hydrogen fuel in an environmentally friendly way. Currently, about 95 percent of hydrogen production worldwide comes from converting fossil fuels such as natural gas into hydrogen -- a process that releases large quantities of carbon dioxide into the air, said Maher El-Kady, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher and a co-author of the research. The technology is described in the journal Energy Storage Materials.
Transportation

Uber Expands Driverless-Car Push With Deal For 24,000 Volvos (bloomberg.com) 133

Uber agreed to buy 24,000 sport utility vehicles from Volvo to form a fleet of driverless autos. According to Bloomberg, "The XC90s, priced from $46,900 at U.S. dealers, will be delivered from 2019 to 2021 in the first commercial purchase by a ride-hailing provider." Uber will add its own sensors and software to permit pilot-less driving. From the report: Uber's order steps up efforts to replace human drivers, the biggest cost in its on-demand taxi service. The autonomous fleet is small compared with the more than 2 million people who drive for Uber but reflects dedication to the company's strategy of developing self-driving cars. "This new agreement puts us on a path toward mass-produced, self-driving vehicles at scale," Jeff Miller, Uber's head of auto alliances, told Bloomberg News. "The more people working on the problem, we'll get there faster and with better, safer, more reliable systems."
iMac

iMac Pro Will Have An A10 Fusion Coprocessor For 'Hey, Siri' Support and More Secure Booting, Says Report (theverge.com) 108

According to Apple firmware gurus Steven Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo, the upcoming iMac Pro will feature an A10 Fusion coprocessor to enable two interesting new features. "The first is the ability for the iMac Pro to feature always-on 'Hey, Siri' voice command support, similar to what's currently available on more recent iPhone devices," reports The Verge. "[T]he bigger implication of the A10 Fusion is for a less user-facing function, with Apple likely to use the coprocessor to enable SecureBoot on the iMac Pro." From the report: In more practical terms, it means that Apple will be using the A10 Fusion chip to handle the initial boot process and confirm that software checks out, before passing things off to the regular x86 Intel processor in your Mac. It's not something that will likely change how you use your computer too much, like the addition of "Hey, Siri" support will, but it's a move toward Apple experimenting with an increased level of control over its software going forward.
Cloud

Amazon Launches a Cloud Service For US Intelligence Agencies (cnbc.com) 52

Amazon Web Services on Monday introduced cloud service for the CIA and other members of the U.S. intelligence community. From a report: The launch of the so-called AWS Secret Region comes six years after AWS introduced GovCloud, its first data center region for public sector customers. AWS has since announced plans to expand GovCloud. The new Secret Region signals interest in using AWS from specific parts of the U.S. government. In 2013 news outlets reported on a $600 million contract between AWS and the CIA. That event singlehandledly helped Amazon in its effort to sign up large companies to use its cloud, whose core services have been available since 2006.
Hardware

The Secret to Tech's Next Big Breakthroughs? Stacking Chips (wsj.com) 108

Christopher Mims, writing for the Wall Street Journal: A funny thing is happening to the most basic building blocks of nearly all our devices. Microchips, which are usually thin and flat, are being stacked like pancakes (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled). Chip designers -- now playing with depth, not just length and width -- are discovering a variety of unexpected dividends in performance, power consumption and capabilities. Without this technology, the Apple Watch wouldn't be possible. Nor would the most advanced solid-state memory from Samsung, artificial-intelligence systems from Nvidia and Google, or Sony's crazy-fast next-gen camera. Think of this 3-D stacking as urban planning. Without it, you have sprawl -- microchips spread across circuit boards, getting farther and farther apart as more components are needed. But once you start stacking chips, you get a silicon cityscape, with everything in closer proximity.

The advantage is simple physics: When electrons have to travel long distances through copper wires, it takes more power, produces heat and reduces bandwidth. Stacked chips are more efficient, run cooler and communicate across much shorter interconnections at lightning speed, says Greg Yeric, director of future silicon technology for ARM Research, part of microchip design firm ARM.

Japan

Six Years After Fukushima, Robots Finally Find Its Reactors' Melted Uranium Fuel (gizmodo.com) 200

An anonymous reader quotes Gizmodo: Earlier this year, remotely piloted robots transmitted what officials believe was a direct view of melted radioactive fuel inside Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant's destroyed reactors [YouTube] -- a major discovery, but one that took a long and painful six years to achieve... Japanese officials are now hoping that they can convince a skeptical public that the worst of the disaster is over, the New York Times reported, but it's not clear whether it's too late despite the deployment of 7,000 workers and massive resources to return the region to something approaching normal.

Per the Times, officials admit the recovery plan -- involving the complete destruction of the plant, rather than simply building a concrete sarcophagus around it as the Russians did in Chernobyl -- will take decades and tens of billions of dollars. Currently, Tepco plans to begin removing waste from one of the three contaminated reactors at the plant by 2021, "though they have yet to choose which one"... Currently, radiation levels are so high in the ruined facility that it fries robots sent in within a matter of hours, which will necessitate developing a new generation of droids with even higher radiation tolerances.

Friday a group of Japanese businesses and doctors sued General Electric of behalf of 150,000 Japanese citizens, saying their designs for the Fukushima reactors were reckless and negligent.
AI

Musk-Backed 'Slaughterbots' Video Will Warn the UN About Killer Microdrones (space.com) 245

An anonymous reader quotes Space.com: A graphic new video posits a very scary future in which swarms of killer microdrones are dispatched to kill political activists and U.S. lawmakers. Armed with explosive charges, the palm-sized quadcopters use real-time data mining and artificial intelligence to find and kill their targets. The makers of the seven-minute film titled Slaughterbots are hoping the startling dramatization will draw attention to what they view as a looming crisis -- the development of lethal, autonomous weapons, that select and fire on human targets without human guidance.

The Future of Life Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mitigating existential risks posed by advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence, commissioned the film. Founded by a group of scientists and business leaders, the institute is backed by AI-skeptics Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, among others. The institute is also behind the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of non-governmental organizations which have banded together to call for a preemptive ban on lethal autonomous weapons... The film will be screened this week at the United Nations in Geneva during a meeting of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons... The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is hosting a series of meetings at this year's event to propose a worldwide ban on lethal autonomous weapons, which could potentially be developed as flying drones, self-driving tanks, or automated sentry guns.

"This short film is more than just speculation," says Stuart Russell, a U.C. Berkeley considered an expert in artificial intelligence.

"It shows the results of integrating and miniaturizing technologies we already have."
Power

Could a Helium-Resistant Material Usher In an Age of Nuclear Fusion? (sciencealert.com) 126

Researchers working with a team at the Los Alamos National Lab tested a new way to build material for nuclear fusion reactors, "and found that it could eliminate one of the obstacles preventing humanity from harnessing the power of fusion energy." schwit1 quotes Science Alert: A collaboration of engineers and researchers has found a way to prevent helium, a byproduct of the fusion reaction, from weakening nuclear fusion reactors. The secret is in building the reactors using nanocomposite solids that create channels through which the helium can escape... Not only does the fusion process expose reactors to extreme pressure and temperatures, helium -- the byproduct of fusion between hydrogen atoms -- adds to the strain placed on reactors by bubbling out into the materials and eventually weakening them...

In a study published in the journal Science Advances, the researchers overview how they tested the behavior of helium in nanocomposite solids, materials made from thick metal layer stacks. They found that the helium didn't form bubbles in these nanocomposite solids like it did in traditionally used materials. Instead, it formed long, vein-like tunnels. "We were blown away by what we saw," said Demkowicz. "As you put more and more helium inside these nanocomposites, rather than destroying the material, the veins actually start to interconnect, resulting in kind of a vascular system."

The article points out that nuclear fusion generates four times the energy of nuclear fission.
Medicine

Study of 500,000 Teens Suggests Association Between Excessive Screen Time and Depression (vice.com) 127

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Depression and suicide rates in teenagers have jumped in the last decade -- doubling between 2007 and 2015 for girls -- and the trend suspiciously coincides with when smartphones became their constant companions. A recent study places their screen time around nine hours per day. Another study, published on Tuesday, suggests that suicide and depression could be connected to the rise of smartphones, and increased screen time. Around 58 percent more girls reported depression symptoms in 2015 than in 2009, and suicide rates rose 65 percent. Smack in the middle of that window of time, smartphones gained market saturation.

In Twenge's new study, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, the researchers looked at two samples: a nationally representative survey by ongoing study "Monitoring the Future" out of the University of Michigan, which is administered annually to 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, and the Centers for Disease Control's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a sample of high school students administered by the CDC every other year. (Both surveys began in 1991.) Altogether, over 500,000 young people were included. The study authors examined trends in how teens used social media, the internet, electronic devices (including gaming systems and tablets), and smartphones, as well as how much time they spent doing non-screen activities like homework, playing sports, or socializing. Comparing these to publicly available data on mental health and suicide for these ages between 2010 and 2017 showed "a clear pattern linking screen activities with higher levels of depressive symptoms/suicide-related outcomes and non-screen activities with lower levels," the researchers wrote in the study. All activities involving screens were associated with higher levels of depression or suicide and suicidal thinking, and activities done away from a screen were not.

Businesses

Walmart Says It's Preordered 15 of Tesla' New Semi Trucks (theverge.com) 176

Soon after Tesla unveiled its new electric Semi Truck and Roadster 2.0, Walmart says it has preordered 15 of the trucks. The Verge notes that the deal was "likely in the works before Tesla unveiled its new truck to the public." From the report: The pilot is planned for the U.S. and Canada. Five of the preordered vehicles will be for Walmart's U.S. business, and 10 will be for its Canadian routes, the company said. Walmart's fleet has about 6,000 trucks. "We have a long history of testing new technology -- including alternative-fuel trucks -- and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle," the company said in a statement. "We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions." Musk said the truck would enter production in 2019. JB Hunt Transport Services, a 56-year-old company based in Arkansas, also reserved "multiple" new Tesla trucks as well.
Robotics

'Robots Are Not Taking Over,' Says Head of UN Body of Autonomous Weapons (theguardian.com) 77

An anonymous reader writes: Robots are not taking over the world," the diplomat leading the first official talks on autonomous weapons assured on Friday, seeking to head off criticism over slow progress towards restricting the use of so-called "killer robots." The United Nations was wrapping up an initial five days of discussions on weapons systems that can identify and destroy targets without human control, which experts say will soon be battle ready. "Ladies and gentlemen, I have news for you: the robots are not taking over the world. Humans are still in charge," said India's disarmament ambassador, Amandeep Gill, who chaired the CCW meeting. "I think we have to be careful in not emotionalizing or dramatizing this issue," he told reporters in response to criticism about the speed of the conference's work. Twenty-two countries, mostly those with smaller military budgets and lesser technical knowhow, have called for an outright ban, arguing that automated weapons are by definition illegal as every individual decision to launch a strike must be made by a human. Gill underscored that banning killer robots, or even agreement on rules, remained a distant prospect.
Graphics

NVIDIA Launches Modded Collector's Edition Star Wars Titan Xp Graphics Card (hothardware.com) 44

MojoKid writes: NVIDIA just launched its fastest graphics card yet and this GPU is targeted at Star Wars fans. In concert with EA's official launch today of Star Wars Battlefront II, NVIDIA unveiled the new Star Wars Titan Xp Collector's Edition graphics card for enthusiast gamers. There are two versions of the cards available -- the Galactic Empire version and a Jedi Order version. Both of the cards feature customized coolers, shrouds, and lighting, designed to mimic the look of a lightsaber. They also ship in specialized packaging that can be used to showcase the cards if they're not installed in a system. The GPU powering the TITAN Xp Collector's Edition has a base clock of 1,481MHz and a boost clock of 1,582MHz. It's packing a fully-enabled NVIDIA GP102 GPU with 3,840 cores and 12GB of GDDR5X memory clocked at 5.5GHz for an effective data rate of 11Gbps, resulting in 547.2GB/s of peak memory bandwidth. At those clocks, the card also offers a peak texture fillrate of 379.75 GigaTexels/s and 12.1TFLOPs of FP32 compute performance, which is significantly higher than a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. In the benchmarks, it's the fastest GPU out there right now (it better be for $1200), but this card is more about nostalgia and the design customizations NVIDIA made to the cards that should appeal to gamers and Star Wars fans alike.
Music

Apple's HomePod Gets Delayed Until 2018 (theverge.com) 48

Apple has reportedly delayed the release of its HomePod smart speaker until 2018. In a statement to The Verge, Apple says that it needs more time to work on the device. "We can't wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple's breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it's ready for our customers," an Apple spokesperson said. "We'll start shipping in the U.S., UK and Australia in early 2018." From the report: The speaker was originally set to be released in December. Priced at $349, the HomePod is slated to take on higher-end sound systems like Sonos, as well as smart assistants like the Amazon Echo and Google Home. The cylindrical speaker features a seven-speaker array of tweeters, a four-inch subwoofer, and a six-microphone array, which puts it right on par spec-wise with the best speakers in its price range, but where it may fall short is Siri, which isn't really in the same class as Alexa or Google Assistant. That challenge is likely why Apple's focus at the launch of the HomePod back at WWDC in June was music first and smart features second.
Power

Tesla Is Rethinking the Rest Stop For California Road Trips (bloomberg.com) 109

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: In-N-Out Burgers has some new competition for attracting drivers on two heavily traveled stretches of California freeways that help link Los Angeles to Las Vegas and San Francisco: Tesla's biggest Supercharger stations yet. The charging stations in Kettleman City, off Interstate 5, and Baker, near Interstate 15, each have 40 stalls, making them the largest among more than 1,000 in North America, according to an emailed statement Wednesday. If filling up your Tesla takes half an hour, you might as well get comfortable. The Kettleman City station north of Bakersfield has a play wall for kids, a pet relief area and outdoor space for families. It's open round-the-clock, there's wi-fi and there will be food as well. But if you want to stretch your legs, the nearest In-N-Out is just across the street. And there are inevitable Tesla touches at both: solar-covered parking and Tesla Powerpacks.
Security

Bluetooth Hack Affects 20 Million Amazon Echo, Google Home Devices (thehackernews.com) 40

In September, security researchers discovered eight vulnerabilities -- codenamed collectively as BlueBorne -- in the Bluetooth implementations used by over 5.3 billion devices. We have now learned that an estimated 20 million Amazon Echo and Google Home devices are also vulnerable to attacks leveraging the BlueBorne vulnerabilities. The Hacker News reports: Amazon Echo is affected by the following two vulnerabilities: a remote code execution vulnerability in the Linux kernel (CVE-2017-1000251); and an information disclosure flaw in the SDP server (CVE-2017-1000250). Since different Echo's variants use different operating systems, other Echo devices are affected by either the vulnerabilities found in Linux or Android. Whereas, Google Home devices are affected by one vulnerability: information disclosure vulnerability in Android's Bluetooth stack (CVE-2017-0785). This Android flaw can also be exploited to cause a denial-of-service (DoS) condition. Since Bluetooth cannot be disabled on either of the voice-activated personal assistants, attackers within the range of the affected device can easily launch an attack. The security firm [Armis, who disclosed the issue] notified both Amazon and Google about its findings, and both companies have released patches and issued automatic updates for the Amazon Echo and Google Home that fixes the BlueBorne attacks.
Android

OnePlus 5T Featuring 6-inch AMOLED Display, 3.5mm Headphone Jack Launched (wired.com) 54

Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus, which has been lauded by consumers for offering phones with top-of-the-line specs at a reasonably affordable price range, on Thursday at an event in New York announced its newest flagship smartphone. Called the OnePlus 5T, the handset sports a 6.01-inch AMOLED screen (screen resolution 1080 x 2160) manufactured by Samsung in a body that is roughly of the same size as the 5.5-inch display-clad predecessor OnePlus 5. The secret sauce is, much like Samsung, LG and Apple, OnePlus has moved to a near bezel-less design. The company is not getting rid of the fingerprint scanner though, which it has pushed to the back side. The front-facing camera, additionally, OnePlus says, can be used to unlock the device. Other features include a 3,300mAh battery with the company's proprietary Dash Charge fast-charging tech (no wireless charging support -- the company says at present wireless charging doesn't really add much value to the device), top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with Adreno 540, 6GB of RAM with 64GB of storage (there is another variant of the phone which offers 8GB of RAM with 128GB of space). As for camera, we are looking at a dual 16-megapixel and 20-megapixel setup in the back. One more thing: the phone has a headphone jack and it runs Android 7.1 out of the box. The OnePlus 5T will go on sale in Europe, India, and the United States starting November 21st, with the base model priced at Euro 499, INR 32,999, and $499, respectively. The high-end variant is priced at Euro 559, INR 37,999, and $559. Wired has more details.
Privacy

Consumers Are Holding Off On Buying Smart-Home Gadgets Due To Security, Privacy Fears (businessinsider.com) 143

According to a new survey from consulting firm Deloitte, consumers are uneasy about being watched, listened to, or tracked by devices they place in their homes. The firm found that consumer interest in connected home technology lags behind their interest in other types of IoT devices. Business Insider reports: "Consumers are more open to, and interested in, the connected world," the firm said in its report. Noting the concerns about smart home devices, it added: "But not all IoT is created equal." Nearly 40% of those who participated in the survey said they were concerned about connected-home devices tracking their usage. More than 40% said they were worried that such gadgets would expose too much about their daily lives. Meanwhile, the vast majority of consumers think gadget makers weren't doing a good job of telling them about security risks. Fewer than 20% of survey respondents said they were very well informed about such risks and almost 40% said they weren't informed at all.
China

All 500 of the World's Top 500 Supercomputers Are Running Linux (zdnet.com) 287

Freshly Exhumed shares a report from ZDnet: Linux rules supercomputing. This day has been coming since 1998, when Linux first appeared on the TOP500 Supercomputer list. Today, it finally happened: All 500 of the world's fastest supercomputers are running Linux. The last two non-Linux systems, a pair of Chinese IBM POWER computers running AIX, dropped off the November 2017 TOP500 Supercomputer list. When the first TOP500 supercomputer list was compiled in June 1993, Linux was barely more than a toy. It hadn't even adopted Tux as its mascot yet. It didn't take long for Linux to start its march on supercomputing.

From when it first appeared on the TOP500 in 1998, Linux was on its way to the top. Before Linux took the lead, Unix was supercomputing's top operating system. Since 2003, the TOP500 was on its way to Linux domination. By 2004, Linux had taken the lead for good. This happened for two reasons: First, since most of the world's top supercomputers are research machines built for specialized tasks, each machine is a standalone project with unique characteristics and optimization requirements. To save costs, no one wants to develop a custom operating system for each of these systems. With Linux, however, research teams can easily modify and optimize Linux's open-source code to their one-off designs.
The semiannual TOP500 Supercomputer List was released yesterday. It also shows that China now claims 202 systems within the TOP500, while the United States claims 143 systems.
Software

Apple Is Back To Being the World's Top Wearable Maker (techcrunch.com) 48

Apple is once again the biggest selling producer of wearables after its third-generation Apple Watch, released in September, helped it pip China's Xiaomi to the post. TechCrunch reports: The new device, Apple's first that connects to the internet without being tethered to a smartphone, took the U.S. mobile giant to 3.9 million shipments in the recent Q3 2017, according to new data from Canalys. The firm estimates that the gen-three version accounted for just 800,000 shipments, due to supply issues, which bodes well for Apple coming into the lucrative holiday season. That figure was a big jump on 2.8 million shipments one year previous. It also gave Apple 23 percent of the market, putting it fractionally ahead of the 21 percent for Xiaomi, the Chinese firm that was briefly top of the industry for the first time in the previous quarter. Apple's wearable division has enjoyed something of a renaissance this year, grabbing the top spot in Q1 for overall wearables the first time since Q3 2015. CEO Tim Cook said in Apple's most recent earnings report that Watch sales were up by 50 percent for the third consecutive quarter thanks to a focus on health services. As for the others: Fitbit took third in Q3 2017 for 20 percent, while phone makers Huawei (six percent) and Samsung (five percent) were some way behind in rounding out the top five. In proof of considerable fragmentation within the industry, "other brands" accounted for a dominant 25 percent, according to Canalys' figures.
Communications

Investigation Finds Security Flaws In 'Connected' Toys (theguardian.com) 32

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A consumer group is urging major retailers to withdraw a number of "connected" or "intelligent" toys likely to be popular at Christmas, after finding security failures that it warns could put children's safety at risk. Tests carried out by Which? with the German consumer group Stiftung Warentest, and other security research experts, found flaws in Bluetooth and wifi-enabled toys that could enable a stranger to talk to a child. The investigation found that four out of seven of the tested toys could be used to communicate with the children playing with them. Security failures were discovered in the Furby Connect, i-Que Intelligent Robot, Toy-Fi Teddy and CloudPets. With each of these toys, the Bluetooth connection had not been secured, meaning the researcher did not need a password, pin or any other authentication to gain access. Little technical knowhow was needed to hack into the toys to start sharing messages with a child.

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