Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for May 12th, 2017

The Ocean Cleanup , a Dutch foundation that aims to deal with plastics polluting our seas, says it’s finally ready to put its technology to work. In a statement released today, the organization has revealed that it plans to start cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in early 2018 using its newly redesigned cleaning system. That garbage patch is the biggest collection of debris in the ocean, a massive soup of visible and microscopic plastic particles poisoning marine life. The ship captain who discovered it in 2003 said he “never found a clear spot” in the week it took to cross the region. While Boyan Slat (the organization’s founder) originally envisioned trapping plastic trash with one large screen tethered to the ocean floor, the new design is smaller, sturdier and can save the group a ton of money. Instead of deploying a 60-mile stationary screen, they plan on releasing 50 smaller ones that measure 0.6 miles in length. They’ll weigh the floating screens down with anchor, so they can move with the currents like plastics do, albeit a bit slower in order to trap debris. Slat told FastCompany that he expected the original design to clean up half of the massive garbage patch in 10 years for $320 million. Now, he expects the new design to cut that timespan in half and to cost the group significantly less than that amount. Since he and his team still need to fund the project, though, they plan to use the plastic they collect to make items they can sell, such as sunglasses, chairs and car bumpers. Source: The Ocean Cleanup

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A one-of-a-kind Harry Potter prequel has been stolen, and author J.K. Rowling is eager to get it back in the right hands. Read more…

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Something unusual happens when a drop of molten glass falls into water. As it cools, it creates a crystal clear tadpole-like droplet that’s bulletproof on one end, but impossibly fragile on the other. We’ve known about these droplets for 400 years, but scientists have only recently figured out what makes them almost… Read more…

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Enlarge (credit: Health Service Journal) A large number of hospitals, GPs, and walk-in clinics across England have been locked down by a ransomware attack, reports suggest. There are also some reports of a ransomware attack hitting institutions in Portugal and Spain, though it isn’t known if the incidents are connected. NHS England says it is aware of the issue, but hasn’t yet issued an official statement. At this point it isn’t clear whether a central NHS network has been knocked offline by the ransomware, or whether individual computers connected to the network are being locked out. In any case, some hospitals and clinics are reporting that their computer systems are inaccessible and some telephone services are down too. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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SEATTLE—At its Build developer conference, Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 has now passed 500 million monthly active devices. Little over a year ago, the company said that the operating system had reached 300 million systems . As the operating system nears the end of its second full year on the market, it’s clear that it’s going to fall a long way short of the company’s original estimates. At launch, the ambition was to reach 1 billion devices over the first two to three years of availability, but this estimate assumed that Windows 10 Mobile would be a going concern, selling something of the order of 50 million or more devices a year. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Mozilla) The Thunderbird e-mail client still has its supporters, but for the past couple of years, Mozilla has been making moves to distance itself from the project . In late 2015, Mozilla announced that it would be looking for a new home for Thunderbird, calling its continued maintenance “a tax” on Firefox development. Yesterday, Mozilla Senior Add-ons Technical Editor Philipp Kewisch announced Mozilla’s future plans for Thunderbird—the Mozilla Foundation will “continue as Thunderbird’s legal, fiscal, and cultural home,” but on the condition that the Thunderbird Council maintains a good working relationship with Mozilla leadership and that Thunderbird works to reduce its “operational and technical” reliance on Mozilla. As a first step toward operational independence, the Thunderbird Council has been soliciting donations from users, which Kewisch says has become “a strong revenue stream” that is helping to pay for servers and staff. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Astronomy needs expensive things, and lots of them. You might remember that astronomers almost literally turned the Earth into a telescope just to see a black hole, by combining lots of existing radio telescope dishes. Read more…

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Illustration by Danielle Dufault The armored beasts of the Cretaceous known as ankylosaurine dinosaurs don’t get as much love as the charismatic T. rex . But now, one of the world’s only complete ankylosaurid skeletons has been acquired and analyzed by the Royal Ontario Museum—and the artifact even has a significant amount of mummified tissues like skin. At this point, there’s no denying that this creature, whose body was covered in spikes, horns, and scales like a medieval dragon, has earned the wholly scientific designation of “badass.” In a paper for the Royal Society Open Science , Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists Victoria Arbour and David Evans describe the 75 million-year-old creature, a new species they dubbed Zuul crurivastator . Yes, its name is a reference to the demon Zuul from the original Ghostbusters movie. “Crurivastator” means “crusher of shins,” which is exactly what this creature could do with its spiked, hammer-tipped tail. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Anyone with a color printer knows that selling replacement ink cartridges is the quickest way to become a millionaire. But what if your printer never needed a single drop of ink to produce color images at impossibly high resolutions? A new laser printer can already do that by etching microscopic patterns onto sheets… Read more…

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Enlarge / Tesla is starting pre-orders on smooth and textured black glass solar roofs. (credit: Tesla) Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter on Wednesday that the company’s solar roof panels would be available for pre-order that afternoon. In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Tesla and SolarCity executives said the roof would be cheaper, on the whole, than installing a regular tile roof (although not cheaper than an asphalt roof). Pre-orders require a $1,000 payment to secure a place on the list. Tesla also rolled out a calculator on its website using data from Google Sunroof , a 2015 project from the search giant that used 3D modeling to map out every house’s potential for solar panel output. Tesla’s calculator factors in the cost of a 14kWh Powerwall, although purchase of a Powerwall is not required to get a solar roof, as well as any tax incentives that a customer might receive in their state. The “energy value” number featured most prominently is calculated over 30 years, which is the length of the warranty covering power production from the tiles. (Tesla is offering an “infinity warranty” on the tiles themselves.) Tesla Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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