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Apple told employees that it's issuing a bonus of $2, 500 of restricted stock units, following the introduction of the new U.S. tax law. "The iPhone maker will begin issuing grants to most employees worldwide in the coming months, " reports Bloomberg. Apple also announced today that it would bring back most of its cash from overseas and spend $30 billion in the U.S. over the next five years. From the report: Apple confirmed the bonuses in response to a Bloomberg inquiry Wednesday. The Cupertino, California-based company joins a growing list of American businesses that have celebrated the introduction of corporate-friendly tax law with one-time bonuses for staff. AT&T, Comcast, JetBlue, and Wal-Mart also said they were giving bonuses. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
There's a fascinating linguistic fight brewing in Kazakhstan, due to the president's decision to adopt a new alphabet for writing their language, Kazakh. The problem? It's got too many apostrophes! For decades, Kazakhs have used the Cyrillic alphabet, which was imposed on them by the USSR back in the 30s. Now that Kazakhstan has started moving away from Russia -- including making Kazakh more central in education and public life -- the president decided he wanted to adopt a new alphabet, too. He wanted it based on the Latin one. But! Kazakh has many unique sounds that can't be easily denoted using a Latin-style alphabet. Kazakhstan's neighbors solved that problem by following the example of Turkey, where they use umlauts and phonetic symbols. But Kazkhstan's president didn't want that -- and instead has pushed for the use of tons of apostrophes instead. Kazakhstan's linguists intellectuals think this is nuts, as the New York Times reports: The Republic of Kazakhstan, for example, will be written in Kazakh as Qazaqstan Respy’bli’kasy. Others complained the use of apostrophes will make it impossible to do Google searches for many Kazakh words or to create hashtags on Twitter. “Nobody knows where he got this terrible idea from,” said Timur Kocaoglu, a professor of international relations and Turkish studies at Michigan State, who visited Kazakhstan last year. “Kazakh intellectuals are all laughing and asking: How can you read anything written like this?” The proposed script, he said, “makes your eyes hurt.” [snip] Under this new system, the Kazakh word for cherry will be written as s’i’i’e, and pronounced she-ee-ye. “When scholars first learned about this, we were all in shock,” Mr. Kazhybek said. What's particularly interesting are the technological and geopolitical reasons behind the president's embrace of apostrophes. He claims it's about making the language easy to type on computers; no need to have a keyboard equipped with umlauts and other special characters. But critics say it's about something else -- the president's desire to not alienate Russia, which doesn't like the idea of the various former Soviet satellites adopting Turkic styles ... The only reason publicly cited by Mr. Nazarbayev to explain why he did not want Turkish-style phonetic markers is that “there should not be any hooks or superfluous dots that cannot be put straight into a computer,” he said in September. He also complained that using digraphs to transcribe special Kazakh sounds would cause confusion when people try to read English, when the same combination of letters designates entirely different sounds. But others saw another possible motivation: Mr. Nazarbayev may be eager to avoid any suggestion that Kazakhstan is turning its back on Russia and embracing pan-Turkic unity, a bugbear for Russian officials in both czarist and Soviet times. Oh, and a director shot a video parodying the apostrophe-ridden words the president's new language would produce . The image above is from it. It's a great story , with fascinating nuance into Kazakhstan's politics; go read it in full! A very good reminder of how deeply political language is, was, and probably always will be. (There's a cool video embedded where you can learn Kazakh phrases , too.)
To celebrate what would have been David Bowie's 71st birthday, Chic's Nile Rodgers shared this newly-mixed demo of the 1983 hit single, "Let's Dance." Rolling Stone reports : "I've been blessed with a wonderful career but my creative partnership with David Bowie ranks very, very, very high on the list of my most important and rewarding collaborations," Rodgers said in a statement. "This demo gives you, the fans, a bird's eye view of the very start of it! I woke up on my first morning in Montreux with David peering over me. He had an acoustic guitar in his hands and exclaimed, 'Nile, darling, I think this is a HIT!'" Bowie was so eager to lay down the track that a makeshift band made up of local musicians was formed specifically for this recording of "Let's Dance"; the identities of the drummer and second guitarist on the recording are still unknown. ("If you played 2nd guitar or drums let us know who you are," Rodgers added.) Thirty-five years after recording the demo, Rodgers unearthed and then mixed the track at his Connecticut studio specifically for its digital-only release. The demo concludes with Bowie exclaiming, "That's it! That's it! Got it," as if he knew he had just recorded one of his biggest hits. The demo was recorded at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland on December 19th and 20th, 1982.
Enlarge / Nanoparticles (black dots) sit in the remains of a cell they've helped kill. (credit: University of Michigan ) One of the ways to kill a cancer is to cook it, since heat can kill cells. The trick, of course, is to only cook the cancer and not the surrounding tissue. To do this, you need to have an accurate idea of the extent of a tumor, a precise mechanism for delivering heat, and a damn good thermometer. It may surprise you to learn that gold nanoparticles do a pretty good job of achieving the first two. The third—a good thermometer—has eluded researchers for quite some time. But, now it seems that gold nanoparticles may provide the full trifecta . Drowning a tumor in molten gold Some cancers—the ones most people imagine when they think of cancer—form lumps of tissue. At some point, these lumps require a blood supply. Once supplied with blood vessels, the tumor can not only grow, but it has a readily available transport system to deliver the cells that can spread the cancer throughout the body. For the patient, this is not good news. The development of a blood supply opens up new imaging and treatment options, though. Cancer tumors are not well-organized tissues compared to healthy tissue like muscle or kidney tissue. So there are lots of nooks and crannies in a tumor that can trap small particles. And this disorganization is exactly what researchers hope to take advantage of. Gold nanoparticles are injected into the blood stream; these exit the blood supply, but, in most of the body, they get rapidly cleaned out. Except that, inside tumors, the nanoparticles lodge all over the place. Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments
Enlarge / The Google Home Mini, the original Google Home, and the Google Home Max. (credit: Google ) Update: Google has posted a support page for this issue promising a fix tomorrow (1/18). The page says the issue is limited to "People with an Android phone and a Chromecast built-in device (such as a Chromecast or Google Home device) on the same Wi-Fi network" and that a fix will be rolling out via Play Services. The original story is below. Users on the Google help forums and Reddit are reporting that Google Home and Google Chromecast devices are causing issues with their Wi-Fi networks. Users say hooking up these Google hardware products leads to an unstable Wi-Fi network or a network that goes down entirely. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments
Enlarge / That's no moon! Early last night local time, a meteor rocketed through the skies of Southern Michigan, giving local residents a dramatic (if brief) light show. it also generated an imperceptible thump, as the UG Geological Survey confirmed that there was a coincident magnitude 2.0 earthquake. The American Meteor Society has collected over 350 eyewitness accounts , which ranged from western Pennsylvania out to Illinois and Wisconsin. They were heavily concentrated over southern Michigan, notably around the Detroit area. A number of people have also posted videos of the fireball online; one of the better compilations is below. A compilation of several videos from Syracuse.com. The American Meteor Society estimates that the rock was relatively slow-moving at a sedate 45,000km an hour. Combined with its production of a large fireball, the researchers conclude it was probably a big rock. NASA's meteorwatch Facebook page largely agrees and suggests that this probably means that pieces of the rock made it to Earth. If you were on the flight path, you might want to check your yard. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments
A Lockheed Skunk Works executive implied last week at an aerospace conference that the successor to one of the fastest aircraft the world has seen, the SR-71 Blackbird, might already exist. Previously, Lockheed officials have said the successor, the SR-72, could fly by 2030. Bloomberg reports: Referring to detailed specifics of company design and manufacturing, Jack O'Banion, a Lockheed vice president, said a "digital transformation" arising from recent computing capabilities and design tools had made hypersonic development possible. Then -- assuming O'Banion chose his verb tense purposely -- came the surprise. "Without the digital transformation, the aircraft you see there could not have been made, " O'Banion said, standing by an artist's rendering of the hypersonic aircraft. "In fact, five years ago, it could not have been made." Hypersonic applies to speeds above Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. The SR-71 cruised at Mach 3.2, more than 2, 000 mph, around 85, 000 feet. "We couldn't have made the engine itself -- it would have melted down into slag if we had tried to produce it five years ago, " O'Banion said. "But now we can digitally print that engine with an incredibly sophisticated cooling system integral into the material of the engine itself and have that engine survive for multiple firings for routine operation." The aircraft is also agile at hypersonic speeds, with reliable engine starts, he said. A half-decade before, he added, developers "could not have even built it even if we conceived of it." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Enlarge / The Settings app is gaining new powers to control your PC's settings. (credit: Thurrott.com ) The Windows user interface has a certain archaeological quality to it. While the upper layers tend to be new—using the styling and conventions of the day—dig a little deeper and you can find elements that are decades old. With each Windows release, Microsoft has heaped new stuff onto the pile, but it hasn't spent much time going back and revamping the old bits. Very occasionally, the relics of yesteryear are identified and excised, but more often than not, they're left alone. One area where this is particularly plain is Control Panel. Control Panel spans many eras of Windows development, and so Windows' settings are spread across three different styles of interface. The very oldest are the individual Control Panel applets in their tabbed dialog boxes; more recent are the Explorer-based Control Panels. The very newest is the Settings app. With Windows 10, the company has, for the first time ever, taken serious strides toward modernizing even old parts of the operating system. With each new update, more and more settings are being moved from Control Panel into the Settings app. This creates the possibility that perhaps one day Windows will have a single application that is used for all its major settings and configurations. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments
The South China Morning Post shares an update on the status of an experimental tower in northern China, dubbed the world's biggest air purifier by its operators. According to the scientist leading the project, the tower -- which stands over 328 feet (100 meters) tall -- has brought a noticeable improvement in air quality. From the report: The head of the research, Cao Junji, said improvements in air quality had been observed over an area of 10 square kilometers (3.86 square miles) in the city over the past few months and the tower has managed to produce more than 10 million cubic meters (353 million cubic feet) of clean air a day since its launch. Cao added that on severely polluted days the tower was able to reduce smog close to moderate levels. The system works through greenhouses covering about half the size of a soccer field around the base of the tower. Polluted air is sucked into the glasshouses and heated up by solar energy. The hot air then rises through the tower and passes through multiple layers of cleaning filters. The average reduction in PM2.5 -- the fine particles in smog deemed most harmful to health -- fell 15 per cent during heavy pollution. Cao said the results were preliminary because the experiment is still ongoing. The team plans to release more detailed data in March with a full scientific assessment of the facility's overall performance. Read more of this story at Slashdot.