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Is Python the Future of Programming?

The Economist argues that Guido Van Rossum resembled the reluctant Messiah in Monty Python's Life of Brian. An anonymous reader quotes their report: "I certainly didn't set out to create a language that was intended for mass consumption," he explains. But in the past 12 months Google users in America have searched for Python more often than for Kim Kardashian, a reality-TV star. The rate of queries has trebled since 2010, while inquiries after other programming languages have been flat or declining. The language's popularity has grown not merely among professional developers -- nearly 40% of whom use it, with a further 25% wishing to do so, according to Stack Overflow, a programming forum -- but also with ordinary folk. Codecademy, a website that has taught 45 million novices how to use various languages, says that by far the biggest increase in demand is from those wishing to learn Python. It is thus bringing coding to the fingertips of those once baffled by the subject. Pythonistas, as aficionados are known, have helped by adding more than 145,000 packages to the Cheese Shop, covering everything from astronomy to game development.... Python was already the most popular introductory language at American universities in 2014, but the teaching of it is generally limited to those studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A more radical proposal is to catch 'em young by offering computer science to all, and in primary schools. Hadi Partovi, the boss of Code.org, a charity, notes that 40% of American schools now offer such lessons, up from 10% in 2013. Around two-thirds of 10- to 12-year-olds have an account on Code.org's website. Perhaps unnerved by a future filled with automated jobs, 90% of American parents want their children to study computer science. "The CIA has employed Python for hacking, Pixar for producing films, Google for crawling web pages and Spotify for recommending songs," notes the Economist. Though Van Rossum was Python's Benevolent Dictator For Life, "I'm uncomfortable with that fame," he tells the magazine. "Sometimes I feel like everything I say or do is seen as a very powerful force."

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Equador Will Be Handing Assange Over To UK Authorities 'In Coming Weeks Or Days': RT

Ecuador is planning to hand over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to UK authorities in the "coming weeks or even days," RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said, citing her own sources. Simonyan reported the news in a recent tweet, which was reposted by WikiLeaks. Slashdot reader Okian Warrior first shared the news. Daily Express reports: Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan is said to be involved in the diplomatic effort, which has come weeks ahead of a visit by new Ecuadorian president, Lenin Moreno, who called Mr Assange an "inherited problem." He also referred to the exiled WikiLeaks founder as a "stone in the shoe." Sources close to Assange claim he was not aware of the talks, but believe America is piling "significant pressure" on Ecuador to give him up, according to the Sunday Times. The sources claim that America has threatened to block a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if he is not removed from the embassy, based in Knightsbridge, west London.

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Nanoengineer Finds New Way To Recycle Lithium-Ion Batteries

Zheng Chen, a 31-year-old nanoengineer at UC San Diego, says he has developed a way to recycle used cathodes from spent lithium-ion batteries and restore them to a like-new condition. The cathodes in some lithium-ion batteries are made of metal oxides that contain cobalt, a metal found in finite supplies and concentrated in one of the world's more precarious countries. Los Angeles Times reports how it works: The process takes degraded particles from the cathodes found in a used lithium-ion battery. The particles are then pressurized in a hot alkaline solution that contains lithium salt. Later, the particles go through a short heat-treating process called annealing, in which temperatures reach more than 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. After cooling, Chen's team takes the regenerated particles and makes new cathodes. They then test the cathodes in batteries made in the lab. The new cathodes have been able to maintain the same charging time, storage capacity and battery lifetime as the originals did. Details of the recycling method were recently published in the research journal Green Chemistry, submitted by Chen and two colleagues.

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Star Trek: Discovery's Season 2 Trailer Teases Spock, Christopher Pike, and Tig Notaro

CBS has released a "Season Two Premiere" for Star Trek Discovery, offering the first look at the upcoming season of the show on CBS All Access. The first season launched late last year and finished up in February after a brief hiatus. The Verge reports of what to expect from the upcoming season, which is expected to premiere sometime in early 2019: [It] appears to begin with Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) coming aboard and taking control of the USS Discovery after a series of mysterious "red bursts" are detected, simultaneously spread out across 30,000 light years. Burnham later claims "Spock is linked to these signals." New series guest star Tig Notaro makes a very Tig Notaro joke, Pike encourages the crew to "have a little fun," Tilly yells about "the power of math" -- a good time, in other words. (After all, the whole thing is set the tune of Lenny Kravitz's "Fly Away," so you know it's real.) Bonus: at the end we meet another, very sniffly alien Discovery crew member, proving Saru and the bridge androids aren't the sole non-humans aboard the ship, as we once feared. At the Discovery panel at San Diego Comic Con's Hall H, a new Star Trek series was announced, called Star Trek: Short Treks. It is "a series of monthly short-form stories that will function like bonus content and air on CBS All Access in conjunction with the larger Star Trek: Discovery series," reports The Verge. "CBS says Short Treks, which will air in installments of about 10 to 15 minutes, is 'an opportunity for deeper storytelling and exploration of key characters and themes that fit into... the expanding Star Trek universe.'"

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ADHD Drugs Aren't Doing What You Think, Scientists Warn

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse: The study authors Lisa Weyandt, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Rhode Island, and Tara White, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Brown University, started out investigating the effects of ADHD medications in students that actually have a diagnosable attention deficit disorder. They showed that in these students, there is decreased activity in the areas of the brain controlling "executive functions," which can make it hard for them to stay organized or focused. But because both authors work with college students, they soon became more interested in the misuse of Adderall. In students whose brains aren't affected by ADHD, does Adderall act as a supercharger? Does it make those areas fly into overdrive and unlock otherwise untapped intellectual ability, as all pill-popping students hope? Weyant and White's double-blind, placebo-controlled study on 13 college students was a small sample, they admit, but their experiment had a rigorous study design. Neither the students nor the researchers knew who was getting Adderall and who was getting placebo sugar pill. The six tests evaluated different aspects of cognition, like working memory, reading ability and reaction time. While students on Adderall did make fewer errors on a reaction time test, it actually worsened working memory, as shown by a decline in performance on a task where they had to repeat sequences of numbers. In short, Adderall improved focus and attention -- but it didn't actually make anyone smarter. The research has been published in the journal Pharmacy.

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Social Media Manipulation Rising Globally, New Oxford Report Warns

A new report from Oxford University found that manipulation of public opinion over social media platforms is growing at a large scale, despite efforts to combat it. "Around the world, government agencies and political parties are exploiting social media platforms to spread junk news and disinformation, exercise censorship and control, and undermine trust in media, public institutions and science," reports Phys.Org. From the report: "The number of countries where formally organized social media manipulation occurs has greatly increased, from 28 to 48 countries globally," says Samantha Bradshaw, co-author of the report. "The majority of growth comes from political parties who spread disinformation and junk news around election periods. There are more political parties learning from the strategies deployed during Brexit and the U.S. 2016 Presidential election: more campaigns are using bots, junk news, and disinformation to polarize and manipulate voters." This is despite efforts by governments in many democracies introducing new legislation designed to combat fake news on the internet. "The problem with this is that these 'task forces' to combat fake news are being used as a new tool to legitimize censorship in authoritarian regimes," says Professor Phil Howard, co-author and lead researcher on the OII's Computational Propaganda project. "At best, these types of task forces are creating counter-narratives and building tools for citizen awareness and fact-checking." Another challenge is the evolution of the mediums individuals use to share news and information. "There is evidence that disinformation campaigns are moving on to chat applications and alternative platforms," says Bradshaw. "This is becoming increasingly common in the Global South, where large public groups on chat applications are more popular."

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FCC Opens Public Comments On T-Mobile-Sprint Merger

Now is your chance to voice your opinion on the $26 billion merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. The FCC is now accepting comments as well as formal petitions to deny the merger until August 27th. The companies and supporters of the deal can then file oppositions to those petitions by September 17th, while a final round of replies has a deadline of October 9th. Engadget reports: Anyone can file petitions to deny, and you might expect to see some from consumer advocacy groups and industry experts who may be concerned over the reduction in the number of national carriers from four to three. The FCC has laid out a 180-day review timeline to determine whether the merger is in the public interest, but that's more of a guideline and there's no required deadline for the agency to issue a decision.

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Can Nike's $250 Running Shoes Make You Run Faster? NYT Analysis Says Yes

Last year, Nike released a new pair of running shoes that claim to make you run 4% faster, thanks to its proprietary sole technology. The new "Vaporfly 4%" shoes would, in theory, "be enough to help a runner break the mythical two-hour marathon barrier for the first time," Fast Company points out. The New York Times decided to put the shoes to the test through an intensive analysis of 500,000 marathon and half marathon running times, culled from the social network Strava. Nike's claims apparently check out. Fast Company reports the findings: We know a lot about the runners in our data set, including their age, gender, race history and, in some cases, how much training they've done in the months before a race. We also know about the races themselves, including the distribution of runners' times and the weather that day. We can put all of this information into a model to try to estimate the change in runners' time from their previous races. After controlling for all of these variables, our model estimates that the shoes account for an expected improvement of about 4 percent over a runner's previous time. Including the uncertainty around the estimates, the Vaporflys are a clear outlier, one of the only popular shoes we can really say makes any difference at all.

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New Wearable Sensor Detects Stress Hormone In Sweat

An anonymous reader quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: Today, a team of researchers at Stanford, led by materials science and engineering associate professor Alberto Salleo and postdoctoral research fellow Onur Parlak, announced in Science Advances that they've developed a wearable patch that can determine how much cortisol someone is producing in seconds, using sweat drawn from the skin under the patch. [Cortisol, a steroid hormone, goes up when a person is under physical or emotional strain.] The stretchy patch pulls in the sweat through perforations to a reservoir. A membrane on top of the reservoir allows charged ions, like sodium and potassium, to pass through. Cortisol, which has no charge, can't pass, and instead blocks the charged ions. Signals sent from an electrical sensor in the patch can be used to detect these backups and determine how much cortisol is in the sweat. The prototype cortisol detection patch channels sweat into a reservoir; a membrane selectively lets charged ions through, and the amount of these ions detected can be translated into a reading of cortisol levels in the sweat. Parlak tested the prototype on several runners, and reported that the cortisol levels detected by the wearable sensor patch matched those obtained by running samples of the runners' sweat through an ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test that takes several hours.

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PeerTube, the 'Decentralized YouTube,' Succeeds In Crowdfunding

A crowdfunded project, known as "PeerTube," has blown through its initial goal with 53,100 euros collected in forty-two days. The project aims to be "a fully decentralized version of YouTube, whose computer code is freely accessible and editable, and where videos are shared between users without relying on a central system." The goal is PeerTube to officially launch by October. Quariety reports: PeerTube relies on a decentralized and federative system. In other words, there is no higher authority that manages, broadcasts and moderates the content offered, as is the case with YouTube, but a network of "instances." Created by one or more administrators, these communities are governed according to principles specific to each of them. Anyone can freely watch the videos without registering, but to upload a video, you must choose from the list of existing instances, or create your own if you have the necessary technical knowledge. At the moment, 141 instances are proposed. Most do not have specifics, but one can find communities centered on a theme or open to a particular region of the world. In all, more than 4,000 people are currently registered on PeerTube, for a total of 338,000 views for 11,000 videos. The project does not display ads, unlike YouTube. "In terms of monetization, we wanted to make a neutral tool," says Pouhiou, communication officer for Framasoft, the origin of PeerTube. The site will rely on a "support" button at the start, but "people will be able to code their own monetization system" in the future.

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Waymo's Autonomous Vehicles Are Driving 25,000 Miles Every Day

With Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval at the National Governors Association, Waymo CEO John Krafcik announced a huge milestone: Waymo's fleet of self-driving vehicles are now logging 25,000 miles every day on public roads. The company reportedly has 600 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans on the road in 25 cities. Waymo has also driven 8 million miles on public roads using its autonomous vehicles, "meaning the comopany has been able to double the number of autonomous miles driven on public roads in just eight months," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The company also relies on simulation as it works to build an AI-based self-driving system that performs better than a human. In the past nine years, Waymo has "driven" more than 5 billion miles in its simulation, according to the company. That's the equivalent to 25,000 virtual cars driving all day, everyday, the company says. This newly shared goal signals Waymo is getting closer to launching a commercial driverless transportation service later this year. More than 400 residents in Phoenix have been trialing Waymo's technology by using an app to hail self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. The company says it plans to launch its service later this year.

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Uber Drivers 'Employees' For Unemployment Purposes, New York Labor Board Says

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: New York City's largest taxi driver advocacy group is hailing a legal decision by the New York State Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, which ruled last Friday that three out-of-work Uber drivers can be considered employees for the purpose of unemployment benefits. The decision was first reported Thursday by Politico. In other words, three men -- and possibly other "similarly situated" Uber drivers who had quit over low pay or who were deactivated from the Uber platform -- can get paid. "The decision means that New York Uber drivers can file for unemployment insurance and likely receive it," Veena Dubal, a labor law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, emailed Ars. "Uber may appeal the decision to state court, but for now, it's good law."

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Containers or Virtual Machines: Which is More Secure?

Are virtual machines (VM) more secure than containers? You may think you know the answer, but IBM Research has found containers can be as secure, or more secure, than VMs. From a report: James Bottomley, an IBM Research Distinguished Engineer and top Linux kernel developer, writes: "One of the biggest problems with the current debate about Container vs Hypervisor security is that no-one has actually developed a way of measuring security, so the debate is all in qualitative terms (hypervisors 'feel' more secure than containers because of the interface breadth) but no-one actually has done a quantitative comparison." To meet this need, Bottomley created Horizontal Attack Profile (HAP), designed to describe system security in a way that it can be objectively measured. Bottomley has discovered that "a Docker container with a well crafted seccomp profile (which blocks unexpected system calls) provides roughly equivalent security to a hypervisor."

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Who Owns the Moon? A Space Lawyer Answers

An anonymous reader shares a report: While the legal status of the Moon as a "global commons" accessible to all countries on peaceful missions did not meet any substantial resistance or challenge, the Outer Space Treaty left further details unsettled. Contrary to the very optimistic assumptions made at the time, so far humankind has not returned to the moon since 1972, making lunar land rights largely theoretical. That is, until a few years ago when several new plans were hatched to go back to the moon. In addition at least two U.S. companies, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, which have serious financial backing, have started targeting asteroids for the purpose of mining their mineral resources. Geek note: Under the aforementioned Outer Space Treaty, the moon and other celestial bodies such as asteroids, legally speaking, belong in the same basket. None of them can become the "territory" of one sovereign state or another. The very fundamental prohibition under the Outer Space Treaty to acquire new state territory, by planting a flag or by any other means, failed to address the commercial exploitation of natural resources on the moon and other celestial bodies. This is a major debate currently raging in the international community, with no unequivocally accepted solution in sight yet. Roughly, there are two general interpretations possible.

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Droppers Is How Android Malware Keeps Sneaking Into the Play Store

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: For the past year, Android malware authors have been increasingly relying on a solid trick for bypassing Google's security scans and sneaking malicious apps into the official Play Store. The trick relies on the use of a technique that's quite common in desktop-based malware, but which in the last year is also becoming popular on the Android market. The technique involves the usage of "droppers," a term denoting a dual or multiple-stage infection process in which the first stage malware is often a simplistic threat with limited capabilities, and its main role is to gain a foothold on a device in order to download more potent threats. But while on desktop environments droppers aren't particularly efficient, as the widespread use of antivirus software detects them and their second-stage payloads, the technique is quite effective on the mobile scene.

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Microsoft PowerShell Core For Linux Now Available as a Snap

Canonical announced on Friday that Microsoft's PowerShell Core is now available on Linux platform as a Snap. From a report: If you aren't familiar, a Snap is essentially a packaged version of a program that can be easily installed on many Linux distributions. Many see it as the future of Linux, as it has the potential to reduce fragmentation. "Built on the .NET Framework, PowerShell is an open source task-based command-line shell and scripting language with the goal of being the ubiquitous language for managing hybrid cloud assets. It is designed specifically for system administrators and power-users to rapidly automate the administration of multiple operating systems and the processes related to the applications that run on those operating systems," says Canonical.

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Facebook Notification Spam Has Crossed the Line

Facebook has always nudged truant users back to its platform though emails and notifications. But recently, those prods have evolved beyond comments related to activity on your own profile. From a report: Now Facebook will nag you when an acquaintance comments on someone else's photo, or when a distant family member updates their status. The spamming has even extended to those who sign up for two-factor authentication -- which is a great way to turn people off to that extra layer of security. "The part of it that bugs me is that two-factor authentication is something [Facebook] should be encouraging people to use, but instead the way this is working here is that they're driving people away from two-factor and making people less secure," says Matt Green, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute, who has done contracted security work for Facebook in the past. "It's abusive, people's attention is deliberately tweaked by what looks like a two-factor authentication message." Green says he's received near-daily SMS messages from Facebook since January alerting him that one of his friends performed some action on the platform. Before he started receiving the messages, Green says he hadn't logged into Facebook for a long time and had actually forgotten his password. The weirdest part about the SMS notifications is what happens if you reply to them. If you respond, your message is posted to your own profile. Further reading: Facebook Really Wants You To Come Back, Facebook Is Spamming Users Via Their 2FA Phone Numbers, and Facebook Makes Moves On Instagram's Users.

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Why London's Heathrow Airport Sometimes Hosts 'Ghost Flights' With No One on Them

An anonymous reader writes: Six times per week, an empty plane used to fly from London's Heathrow Airport to Cardiff, Wales. The next day, the plane would make the return trip without a single passenger. Half As Interesting, the second channel from Planelopnik-approved Wendover Productions, details why ghost flights like this sometimes operate from Britain's biggest airport in his new video. Despite being one of the most crowded airports in the world, Heathrow operates with only two runways. As a result, it's extremely difficult to get a "slot pair" -- rights for airlines to land and take off at a certain time. Only 650 slot pairs exist per day, so airlines are prepared to drop massive cash in order to get prime slot pairs. And they can trade and sell them, too. [...] Should an airline fail to use their slot at least 80 percent of the time, Heathrow will reassign it to the next company on the waiting list.

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Venmo Refuses To Say Why Transactions Are Public By Default

Venmo, the mobile payments app, won't say why it exposes users' data to the world whenever they make a transaction. ZDNet: Hang Do Thi Duc, a Berlin-based privacy researcher found that every time someone sent or received money using the PayPal-owned mobile app (which had over seven million users in 2017), the transaction was "public" by default and was broadcast on Venmo's API. In other words, everyone can see your transactions -- even without the app. The company did not respond to ZDNet's queries, but in a blanket statement said it takes privacy of users seriously. Further reading: People Are Using Venmo To Spy On Cheating Spouses.

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Google, Which Owns Duck.com, Confuses Users Searching For Its Rival DuckDuckGo and Redirects Them Back To Google

Commenting on the record $5 billion fine on Google by the European Commission, privacy focused search engine DuckDuckGo said this week it welcomes the decision as it has "felt [Google's] effects first hand for many years and has led directly to us having less market share on Android vs iOS and in general mobile vs desktop." The company said: Up until just last year, it was impossible to add DuckDuckGo to Chrome on Android, and it is still impossible on Chrome on iOS. We are also not included in the default list of search options like we are in Safari, even though we are among the top search engines in many countries. The Google search widget is featured prominently on most Android builds and is impossible to change the search provider. For a long time it was also impossible to even remove this widget without installing a launcher that effectively changed the whole way the OS works. Their anti-competitive search behavior isn't limited to Android. Every time we update our Chrome browser extension, all of our users are faced with an official-looking dialogue asking them if they'd like to revert their search settings and disable the entire extension. Google also owns http://duck.com and points it directly at Google search, which consistently confuses DuckDuckGo users. "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is google," wrote security researcher Mikko Hypponen, summing up the story.

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