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Medicine

The Most Effective Malaria Vaccine Yet Discovered (sciencemag.org) 30

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a Science Magazine blog, written by Derek Lowe: Excellent news today: we have word of the most effective malaria vaccine yet discovered. A year-long trial in Burkina Faso has shown 77% efficacy, which is by far the record, and which opens the way to potentially relieving a nearly incalculable burden of disease and human suffering.

This new vaccine (R21) uses a circumsporozoite protein (CSP) antigen -- that's a highly conserved protein of the parasite, involved in several functions as the parasite makes the move from mosquito to human and into different human tissues such as the salivary glands. This has been a vaccine ingredient before, such as in the RTS,S vaccine (the first one ever licensed), but R21 has a much higher proportion of CSP assembled into a virus-like particle. It also uses the exact same adjuvant from Novavax (Matrix-M) that they are using in their coronavirus vaccine -- you can't keep a good adjuvant down, and this Chilean-soapbark-based one seems to really kick the immune system up under all circumstances.

The higher-adjuvant cohort showed 77% vaccine efficacy, and the lower-adjuvant one showed 74% with (as you'd expect) overlapping confidence intervals. The first group had significantly higher antibody levels, though, and they're currently doing an additional year of follow-up to see how long the protection lasts and if these doses differentiate themselves. The antibody levels at the one-year mark in both groups were significantly higher than with the RTS,S vaccine, and in particular, antibodies against the repeat section in the middle of the circumsporozite protein seemed to correlate strongly with protection. No safety problems so far. The team is now planning a larger Phase III at five different African site, with varying seasonality and malaria loads.

Transportation

Concept Audi A6 E-Tron Has Headlights That Can Project Video Games (tomsguide.com) 71

Audi has revealed its all-electric A6 E-tron concept, a luxury sedan that will come packed with tech including the ability to project video games on to a wall. Tom's Guide reports: The A6 E-tron, which was unveiled at Auto Shanghai 2021 today, is built on the new Premium Platform Electric (PPE) chassis architecture that Audi is developing in collaboration with Porsche. And though a production version of the car isn't likely to be available until later in 2022, its development is well under way; the car you see here shouldn't be miles away from the final version.

The A6 E-tron Concept boasts almost 435 miles of range and comes armed with a 100 kWh battery, which can be replenished from 5 to 80% in under 25 minutes as well as being able to accept fast 270kW charging. Featuring a motor on each axle, with a combined power output of 469 bhp and 590lb ft of torque, the Audi A6 E-tron should be quick, too, with a 0-62 mph time of under 4 seconds. However, Audi also plans PPE-based models with a single motor mounted on the rear axle to keep energy efficiency and prices in check.

Standout cosmetic touches include digital matrix LED headlights, which have the party trick of being able to project images. Audi suggests that owners can park facing a wall during recharging and pass the time playing a video game using the technology, or watch a movie. Audi has even developed a game, which is playable via a smartphone, to show how the concept works. Four more LED projectors are housed in the corners of the car to shine animated turn signals on the road. OLED technology in the taillights promises more electrical trickery and there are additional projectors that switch on when the doors are opened. These, suggest Audi, can be used to issue greetings to passengers or warnings to passing cyclists when the doors are opening.

Biotech

How a Researcher 'Clinging To the Fringes of Academia' Helped Develop a Covid-19 Vaccine (nytimes.com) 64

Long-time slashdot reader destinyland writes: The New York Times tells the story of Hungarian-born Dr. Kariko, whose father was a butcher and who growing up had never met a scientist — but knew they wanted to be one. Despite earning a Ph.D. at Hungary's University of Szeged and working as a postdoctoral fellow at its Biological Research Center, Kariko never found a permanent position after moving to the U.S., "instead clinging to the fringes of academia."

Now 66 years old, Dr. Kariko is suddenly being hailed as "one of the heroes of Covid-19 vaccine development," after spending an entire career focused on mRNA, "convinced mRNA could be used to instruct cells to make their own medicines, including vaccines."

From the article: For many years her career at the University of Pennsylvania was fragile. She migrated from lab to lab, relying on one senior scientist after another to take her in. She never made more than $60,000 a year... She needed grants to pursue ideas that seemed wild and fanciful. She did not get them, even as more mundane research was rewarded. "When your idea is against the conventional wisdom that makes sense to the star chamber, it is very hard to break out," said Dr. David Langer, a neurosurgeon who has worked with Dr. Kariko... Kariko's husband, Bela Francia, manager of an apartment complex, once calculated that her endless workdays meant she was earning about a dollar an hour.
The Times also describes a formative experience in 1989 with cardiologist Elliot Barnathan: One fateful day, the two scientists hovered over a dot-matrix printer in a narrow room at the end of a long hall. A gamma counter, needed to track the radioactive molecule, was attached to a printer. It began to spew data.

Their detector had found new proteins produced by cells that were never supposed to make them — suggesting that mRNA could be used to direct any cell to make any protein, at will.

"I felt like a god," Dr. Kariko recalled.

Yet Kariko was eventually left without a lab or funds for research, until a chance meeting at a photocopying machine led to a partnership with Dr. Drew Weissman of the University of Pennsylvania: "We both started writing grants," Dr. Weissman said. "We didn't get most of them. People were not interested in mRNA. The people who reviewed the grants said mRNA will not be a good therapeutic, so don't bother.'" Leading scientific journals rejected their work. When the research finally was published, in Immunity, it got little attention... "We talked to pharmaceutical companies and venture capitalists. No one cared," Dr. Weissman said. "We were screaming a lot, but no one would listen."

Eventually, though, two biotech companies took notice of the work: Moderna, in the United States, and BioNTech, in Germany. Pfizer partnered with BioNTech, and the two now help fund Dr. Weissman's lab.

Power

Swedish Carbon-Fiber Battery Could Revolutionize Car Design (arstechnica.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Tesla is known to be working on designing new battery modules that also work as structural elements, but the California automaker is fashioning those structural modules out of traditional cylindrical cells. There's a more elegant approach to the idea, though, and a group at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden led by professor Leif Asp has just made a bit of a breakthrough in that regard, making each component of the battery out of materials that work structurally as well as electrically. The structural battery combines a carbon-fiber anode and a lithium-iron phosphate-coated aluminum foil cathode, which are separated by a glass fiber separator in a structural battery electrolyte matrix material. The anode does triple duty, hosting the lithium ions, conducting electrons, and reinforcing everything at the same time. The electrolyte and cathode similarly support structural loads and do their jobs in moving ions.

The researchers tested a couple different types of glass fiber -- both resulting in cells with a nominal voltage of 2.8 V -- and achieved better results in terms of battery performance with thinner, plain weave. The cells using this construction had a specific capacity of 8.55 Ah/kg, an energy density of 23.6 Wh/kg (at 0.05 C), a specific power of 9.56 W/kg (at 3 C), and a thickness of 0.27 mm. To put at least one of those numbers in context, the 4680 cells that Tesla is moving to have an energy density of 380 Wh/kg. However, that energy density figure for the cylindrical cells does not include the mass of the structural matrix that surrounds them (when used as structural panels). Speaking of structural loads, the greatest stiffness was also achieved with plain glass fiber weave, at 25.5 GPa. Again, to put that number into context, it's roughly similar to glass fiber-reinforced plastic, whereas carbon fiber-reinforced plastic will be around 10 times greater, depending on whether it's resin transfer molding or woven sheets pre-impregnated with resin (known as pre-preg). Professor Asp's group is now working to see if swapping the cathode's aluminum foil for carbon fiber will increase both stiffness (which it should) and electrical performance. The group is also testing even thinner separators. He hopes to reach 75 Wh/kg and 75 GPa, which would result in a cell that is slightly stiffer than aluminum (GPa: 68) but obviously much lighter.

The Internet

On cURL's 23rd Anniversary, Creator Daniel Stenberg Celebrated With 3D-Printed 'GitHub Steel' Contribution Graph (daniel.haxx.se) 25

This week Swedish developer Daniel Stenberg posted a remarkable reflection on the 23rd anniversary of his command-line data tool, cURL: curl was adopted in Red Hat Linux in late 1998, became a Debian package in May 1999, shipped in Mac OS X 10.1 in August 2001. Today, it is also shipped by default in Windows 10 and in iOS and Android devices. Not to mention the game consoles, Nintendo Switch, Xbox and Sony PS5.

Amusingly, libcurl is used by the two major mobile OSes but not provided as an API by them, so lots of apps, including many extremely large volume apps bundle their own libcurl build: YouTube, Skype, Instagram, Spotify, Google Photos, Netflix etc. Meaning that most smartphone users today have many separate curl installations in their phones.

Further, libcurl is used by some of the most played computer games of all times: GTA V, Fortnite, PUBG mobile, Red Dead Redemption 2 etc.

libcurl powers media players and set-top boxes such as Roku, Apple TV by maybe half a billion TVs.

curl and libcurl ships in virtually every Internet server and is the default transfer engine in PHP, which is found in almost 80% of the world's almost two billion websites.

Cars are Internet-connected now. libcurl is used in virtually every modern car these days to transfer data to and from the vehicles.

Then add media players, kitchen and medical devices, printers, smart watches and lots of "smart"; IoT things. Practically speaking, just about every Internet-connected device in existence runs curl.

I'm convinced I'm not exaggerating when I claim that curl exists in over ten billion installations world-wide...

Those 300 lines of code in late 1996 have grown to 172,000 lines in March 2021.

Stenberg attributes cURL's success to persistence. "We hold out. We endure and keep polishing. We're here for the long run. It took me two years (counting from the precursors) to reach 300 downloads. It took another ten or so until it was really widely available and used." But he adds that 22 different CPU architectures and 86 different operating systems are now known to have run curl.

In a later blog post titled "GitHub Steel," Stenberg also reveals that GitHub gave him a 3D-printed steel version of his 2020 GitHub contribution matrix — accompanied by a friendly note. "Please accept this small gift as a token of appreciation on behalf of all of us here at GitHub, and everyone who benefits from your work."
Movies

Warner Bros. Will Return To Theatrical Releases In 2022, Ending Its HBO Max Experiment (theverge.com) 50

According to Deadline, Warner Bros. will return to releasing its theatrical films exclusively in theaters next year, ending the studio's 2021 experiment of releasing major films simultaneously on its HBO Max streaming service and in theaters for the first 30 days they're released. The Verge reports: The news comes as part of an announcement from Warner Bros. of a new deal with Regal cinemas owner Cineworld, the second largest theater chain in the world. After over six months of shutdowns, Regal's theaters will reopen in April, and they'll begin showing Warner Bros. films like Kong vs. Godzilla and Mortal Kombat alongside their HBO Max debuts. When Warner Bros. films come back to theaters in 2022, Regal theaters will once again have full exclusivity (with no HBO Max or paid streaming rental competition). But that exclusivity window will be for a much shorter amount of time: Regal will only have a 45-day theatrical exclusivity window, half of the 90-day standard that existed in years past.
Android

Pebble Founder Says His New App Brings iMessage To Android With a Little 'Trickery' (gizmodo.com) 57

Beeper is a forthcoming app from the founder of Pebble that claims to be a hub for all your messaging services, including support for iMessage on Android. Gizmodo reports: Instead of managing half a dozen apps for keeping in touch with friends, family, and co-workers, Beeper allows you to funnel everything to one interface. According to its website, the app supports 14 external messaging platforms as well as its own Beeper network. But the company's claim that it brings iMessage to Android, Windows, or Linux devices could be a killer feature for anyone who's suffered through the embarrassment of the green bubble.

Apple likes to keep its in-house products exclusive to its own hardware, so this claim is a bit surprising, but Beeper says it's figured out a workaround. On its website, it explains: "Beeper has two ways of enabling Android, Windows and Linux users to use iMessage: we send each user a Jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed which bridges to iMessage, or if they have a Mac that is always connected to the internet, they can install the Beeper Mac app which acts as a bridge. This is not a joke, it really works!"

Okay, the part about using an always-connected Mac as a bridge is not unprecedented, but the idea of sending users jailbroken upcycled iPhones is a little bonkers. Eric Migicovsky, founder of the Pebble smartwatch company and partner at Beeper, took to Twitter to insist that the jailbreak plan is legit and that he currently has 50 iPhone 4s ready for the task.
In an update, Migicovsky tells Gizmodo that "Beeper encrypts all messages on the client before they reach our servers. We cannot decrypt any message contents."

The services compatible with Beeper include: Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, Android Messages (SMS), Telegram, Twitter, Slack, Hangouts, Instagram, Skype, IRC, Matrix, Discord, Signal, and Beeper network.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

ExamSoft Flags One-Third of California Bar Exam Test Takers For Cheating (eff.org) 82

The California Bar released data last week confirming that during its use of ExamSoft for the October Bar exam, over one-third of the nearly nine-thousand online examinees were flagged by the software. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is concerned that the exam proctoring software is incorrectly flagging students for cheating "due either to the software's technical failures or to its requirements that students have relatively new computers and access to near-broadband speeds." From the report: This is outrageous. It goes without saying that of the 3,190 applicants flagged by the software, the vast majority were not cheating. Far more likely is that, as EFF and others have said before, remote proctoring software is surveillance snake oil -- you simply can't replicate a classroom environment online, and attempting to do so via algorithms and video monitoring only causes harm. In this case, the harm is not only to the students who are rightfully upset about the implications and the lack of proper channels for redress, but to the institution of the Bar itself. While examinees have been searching for help from other examinees as well as hiring legal counsel in their attempt to defend themselves from potentially baseless claims of cheating, the California Committee of Bar Examiners has said "everything is going well" and called these results "a good thing to see" (13:30 into the video of the Committee meeting).

That is not how we see it. These flags have triggered concern for hundreds, if not thousands, of test takers, most of whom had no idea that they were flagged until recently. Many only learned about the flag after receiving an official "Chapter 6 Notice" from the Bar, which is sent when an applicant is observed (supposedly) violating exam conduct rules or seen or heard with prohibited items, like a cell phone, during the exam. In a depressingly ironic introduction to the legal system, the Bar has requested that students respond to the notices within 10 days, but it would appear that none of them have been given enough information to do so, as Chapter 6 Notices contain only a short summary of the violation. These summaries are decidedly vague: "Facial view of your eyes was not within view of the camera for a prolonged period of time"; "No audible sound was detected"; "Leaving the view of the webcam outside of scheduled breaks during a remote-proctored exam." Examinees do not currently have access to the flagged videos themselves, and are not expected to receive access to them, or any other evidence against them, before they are required to submit a response.
The report goes on to say that some of these flags are technical issues with ExamSoft. For example, Lenovo laptops appear to have been flagged en masse for an issue with the software's inability to access the internal microphone.

Other flags are likely due to the inability of the software to correctly recognize the variability of examinees' demeanors and expressions. "We implore the California Bar to rethink its plans for remotely-proctored future exams, and to work carefully to offer clearer paths for examinees who have been flagged by these inadequate surveillance tools," the EFF says in closing. "Until then, the Bar must provide examinees who have been flagged with a fair appeals process, including sharing the videos and any other information necessary for them to defend themselves before requiring a written response."
Movies

Is Warner Bros' Shift To Streaming New Movies 'A Great Danger'? (npr.org) 93

Christopher Nolan isn't too happy with Warner Bros' decision to send all 17 of its films slated for release in 2021 to HBO Max on the same day they're released. Nolan, whose blockbuster movies for Warner Bros have made billions, called HBO Max "the worst streaming service," adding that this shift in Hollywood is "a sign of great danger for the people who work in the movie industry." NPR reports: Nolan was asked whether the move to streaming is really about the pandemic or something bigger — Netflix had more 2020 Oscar nominations than any other studio. "There is this idea that that's been sort of put forward a lot, that the pandemic is sort of accelerating a trend that was already happening," he said. "But 2019 was the biggest year ever for movies financially. That doesn't suit the narrative that the tech companies or the big corporations kind of want to put out there right now.

"But the reality is there was enormous success in 2019 and 2018 wasn't bad either. If you're asking where moviegoing is going, I think the long-term health of the movie business depends on people's desire to get together and experience a story together. And I don't see any signs that that's going anywhere anytime soon."
Would you agree with Nolan, or do you applaud Warner Bros' embrace of streaming?
Television

Warner Bros. To Debut Entire 2021 Film Slate, Including 'Dune' and 'Matrix 4,' Both on HBO Max and In Theaters (variety.com) 97

When Warner Bros. announced that "Wonder Woman 1984" would land on the streaming service HBO Max on Christmas, the same time it debuts in theaters, many expected it to be an isolated case in response to an unprecedented pandemic. From a report: Instead, the studio will deploy a similar release strategy for the next twelve months. In a surprising break from industry standards, Warner Bros.' entire 2021 slate -- a list of films that includes "The Matrix 4," Denis Villeneuve's "Dune" remake, Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical adaptation of "In the Heights," Sopranos prequel "The Many Saints of Newark," and "The Suicide Squad" -- will debut both on HBO Max and in theaters on their respective release dates. The shocking move to simultaneously release movies day-and-date underscores the crisis facing movie theaters and the rising importance of streaming services in the wake of a global health crisis that's decimated the film exhibition community.
AI

Amazon Begins Shifting Alexa's Cloud AI To Its Own Silicon (arstechnica.com) 19

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Thursday, an Amazon AWS blogpost announced that the company has moved most of the cloud processing for its Alexa personal assistant off of Nvidia GPUs and onto its own Inferentia Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC). Amazon dev Sebastien Stormacq describes the Inferentia's hardware design as follows: "AWS Inferentia is a custom chip, built by AWS, to accelerate machine learning inference workloads and optimize their cost. Each AWS Inferentia chip contains four NeuronCores. Each NeuronCore implements a high-performance systolic array matrix multiply engine, which massively speeds up typical deep learning operations such as convolution and transformers. NeuronCores are also equipped with a large on-chip cache, which helps cut down on external memory accesses, dramatically reducing latency and increasing throughput."

When an Amazon customer -- usually someone who owns an Echo or Echo dot -- makes use of the Alexa personal assistant, very little of the processing is done on the device itself. [...] According to Stormacq, shifting this inference workload from Nvidia GPU hardware to Amazon's own Inferentia chip resulted in 30-percent lower cost and 25-percent improvement in end-to-end latency on Alexa's text-to-speech workloads. Amazon isn't the only company using the Inferentia processor -- the chip powers Amazon AWS Inf1 instances, which are available to the general public and compete with Amazon's GPU-powered G4 instances. Amazon's AWS Neuron software development kit allows machine-learning developers to use Inferentia as a target for popular frameworks, including TensorFlow, PyTorch, and MXNet.

Mars

Chitin Could Be Used To Build Tools and Habitats On Mars, Study Finds (arstechnica.com) 84

A team of scientists from the Singapore University of Technology and Design discovered that, using simple chemistry, the organic polymer chitin -- contained in the exoskeletons of insects and crustaceans -- can easily be transformed into a viable building material for basic tools and habitats. The findings have been published in the journal PLOS ONE. Ars Technica reports: "The technology was originally developed to create circular ecosystems in urban environments," said co-author Javier Fernandez. "But due to its efficiency, it is also the most efficient and scalable method to produce materials in a closed artificial ecosystem in the extremely scarce environment of a lifeless planet or satellite." [T]he authors of the current paper point out that most terrestrial manufacturing strategies that could fit the bill typically require specialized equipment and a hefty amount of energy. However, "Nature presents successful strategies of life adapting to harsh environments," the authors wrote. "In biological organisms, rigid structures are formed by integrating inorganic filler proceed from the environment at a low energy cost (e.g., calcium carbonate) and incorporated into an organic matrix (e.g., chitin) produced at a relatively high metabolic cost."

Fernandez and his colleagues maintain that chitin is likely to be part of any planned artificial ecosystem because it is so plentiful in nature. It's the primary component of fish scales and fungal cell walls, for example, as well as the exoskeletons of crustaceans and insects. In fact, insects have already been targeted as a key source of protein for a possible Martian base. And since the chitin component of insects has limited nutritional value for humans, extracting it to make building materials "does not hamper or compete with the food supply," the authors wrote. "Rather, it is a byproduct of it."

The Matrix

Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode Display On Human Skin (phys.org) 36

In a new report on Science Advances, Minwoo Choi and a team of scientists in Electronic Engineering and Materials Science in the Republic of Korea, developed a wearable, full-colour OLED display using a two-dimensional (2-D) material-based backplane transistor. Phys.Org reports: They engineered an 18-by-18 thin-film transistor array on a thin molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) film and transferred it to an aluminium oxide (Al2O3)/polyethylene terephthalate (PET) surface. Choi et al. then deposited red, green and blue OLED pixels on the device surface and observed excellent mechanical and electrical properties of the 2-D material. The surface could drive circuits to control the OLED pixels to form an ultrathin, wearable device.

In this work, Choi et al. developed a large-area MoS2 TFT array to operate 324 pixels in a 2-inch RGB OLED, in which the full-color display demonstrated an active-matrix configuration. The RGB OLEDs were made of different optoelectronic characteristics, therefore the team designed the backplane TFTs to control each color pixel. The experimental setup was promising as a wearable display and functioned steadily on human skin without adverse effects. The team used heterogenous material designs to form optoelectronics in the present work. [...] The low stiffness of the ultrathin device prevented the deterioration of optical and electrical properties during substantial mechanical deformation reflexes -- after its transfer to a human hand. Based on the current-voltage characteristics (I-V), the current level did not change during skin shrinkage or skin stretching exercises and the on-state also did not fluctuate during active-matrix display operation. While the device stability is still in development, the team aim to conduct further engineering to improve the MoS2 film for practical applications as a wearable, full-color AMOLED display.

Television

Grant Imahara, Host of 'MythBusters' and 'White Rabbit Project,' Dies At 49 (hollywoodreporter.com) 81

Grant Imahara, an electrical engineer and roboticist who hosted the popular science show MythBusters and Netflix's White Rabbit Project, has died suddenly following a brain aneurysm. He was 49. From The Hollywood Reporter: An electrical engineer and roboticist by training, he joined Discovery's MythBusters in its third season, replacing Scottie Chapman and was with the show until 2014 when he left with with co-hosts Kari Byron and Tory Belleci. The trio would reunite in 2016 for Netflix's White Rabbit Project which lasted for one season. On MythBusters, Imahara used his technical expertise to design and build robots for the show and also operated the computers and electronics needed to test myths.

Born in Los Angeles, Imahara studied electrical engineering at the University of Southern California (though he briefly had doubts and wanted to become a screenwriter) before combining the two passions and landing a post-graduation gig at Lucasfilm-associated THX labs. In his nine years at Lucasfilm, he worked for the company's THX and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) divisions. In his years at ILM he became chief model maker specializing in animatronics and worked on George Lucas' Star Wars prequels, as well as The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, Galaxy Quest, XXX: State of the Union, Van Helsing, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. [...] Imahara also starred in several episodes of the fan-made web series Star Trek Continues. He played Hikaru Sulu, a lieutenant, helmsman and third officer on the USS Enterprise, in the show that was an unofficial continuation of Star Trek: The Original Series.
"We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Grant. He was an important part of our Discovery family and a really wonderful man. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family," a representative for Discovery said in a statement on Monday.
Bug

AI Researchers Create Testing Tool To Find Bugs in NLP From Amazon, Google, and Microsoft (venturebeat.com) 10

AI researchers have created a language-model testing tool that discovers major bugs in commercially available cloud AI offerings from Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Yesterday, a paper detailing the CheckList tool received the Best Paper award from organizers of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) conference. From a report: NLP models today are often evaluated based on how they perform on a series of individual tasks, such as answering questions using benchmark data sets with leaderboards like GLUE. CheckList instead takes a task-agnostic approach, allowing people to create tests that fill in cells in a spreadsheet-like matrix with capabilities (in rows) and test types (in columns), along with visualizations and other resources. Analysis with CheckList found that about one in four sentiment analysis predictions by Amazon's Comprehend change when a random shortened URL or Twitter handle is placed in text, and Google Cloud's Natural Language and Amazon's Comprehend makes mistakes when the names of people or locations are changed in text. "The [sentiment analysis] failure rate is near 100% for all commercial models when the negation comes at the end of the sentence (e.g. 'I thought the plane would be awful, but it wasn't'), or with neutral content between the negation and the sentiment-laden word," the paper reads.
Printer

The Cutting Edge of 3D Printing: Chemicals Within Chemicals, and Printing Tissue In Bodies (ucdavis.edu) 4

Engineers at the University of California, Davis, have developed a new approach to 3D printing with potential applications in tissue engineering, soft robotics, and wearable technology — by repurposing the glass capillary microfluidic devices used in their lab to encapsulate one chemical inside droplets of another: The resulting structure looks like a Pac-Man maze, with little dots of PEGDA droplets surrounded by PDMS. Once the PEGDA diffuses out of the droplets, it chemically softens the PDMS, making the structure more flexible. "You can also encapsulate other chemicals in the droplets to make the overall matrix much softer or harder," said Jiandi Wan, assistant professor of chemical engineering at UC Davis. The team also showed that droplet-based 3D printing can be used to produce flexible porous objects, and constructs with encapsulated polymer particles and metal droplets.

In addition, structure flexibility can be easily tuned by changing the droplet size and flow rate. This gives researchers a wide range of options to truly design their structure and vary flexibility to fit their needs in a way that's difficult with the conventional nozzle-based method. Though microfluidic-based 3D printing has been done before, Wan's group is the first to use this droplet-based multiphase emulsion approach. The team is already looking into potential applications and learning what other combinations of materials they can use to change the mechanical or chemical properties of 3D printed products. They think the work could have applications in bioprinting and wearable electronics, like smart fabrics.

Long-time slashdot reader mi also notes there's been recent interest in 3D-printing living tissue — and then shares an even more interesting recent paper on "biomaterial formulation and robotic methods" for "the biofabrication of 3D tissue-engineered scaffolds inside of a living patient." In other words, 3D-printing tissue directly into the body.
Robotics

Lego Unveils New 'Robot Inventor' Mindstorms Kit (pcmag.com) 42

After seven years, Lego has finally unveiled a new Mindstorms kit, reports PC Magazine -- the Lego Mindstorms Robot Inventor, available this fall for $359: The Robot Inventor kit lets kids (or adults) build five different robot models out of 949 pieces, ranging from a four-legged walker to a bipedal wheeled robot that can give high-fives. All of these robots can be programmed to perform different tricks, like grabbing items, firing plastic projectiles, avoiding obstacles, and playing various sports with a ball.

The kit includes four low-profile, medium-angular motors; a color and light sensor; and a distance sensor, which work together with the Intelligent Hub block to power these robots and execute commands. Of course, like all Mindstorms kits, you can build your own robotic creations with the tools at hand, and add Lego Technic and System pieces for more complex projects.

The Intelligent Hub serves as the brain of Lego Mindstorms, and the block that houses the Mindstorms Robot Inventor Kit is the most advanced one yet. It features six input/output ports for sensors and motors, a six-axis gyro/accelerometer, a speaker, and a five-by-five LED matrix. The Intelligent Hub and all robots built with it can be controlled wirelessly over Bluetooth with the Lego Mindstorms Robot Inventor app for Android, iOS, Windows 10, and macOS. The app supports programming in both the tile-based Scratch language and in Python, for more complex projects that require the precision of written code.

The Matrix

'The Matrix' Co-Founder Slams Ivanka Trump and Elon Musk (theguardian.com) 483

Andrew Pulver writes via The Guardian: Film-maker Lilly Wachowski has responded to Elon Musk and Ivanka Trump after the pair bantered on social media using a phrase from the Wachowskis' hit 1999 film, The Matrix. After Musk tweeted "Take the red pill" -- referring to a key scene in The Matrix, which subsequently gave rise to the phrase "redpilling" as an alt-right, misogynist meme, along with a red rose emoji normally associated with the Democratic Socialists of America, the party to which Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib belong -- Trump replied: "Taken!"

Wachowski then pithily responded, "Fuck both of you," before following up with a tweet supporting the Brave Space Alliance, which describes itself as "the first Black and trans led LGBTQIA center located on the South Side of Chicago." Musk, the South African-born entrepreneur who is CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, posted his original tweet with no other comment, but it is thought to refer to his clash with authorities in California over his plans to reopen the Tesla factory in Fremont, in which he was supported by Donald Trump.

Software

Moscow To Launch Mandatory Surveillance App To Track Residents In Coronavirus Lockdown (npr.org) 77

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: City authorities in Moscow are rolling out new digital "social monitoring" tools targeting the public, after what officials say were constant violations of the city's quarantine imposed this week to fight the spread of the new coronavirus. Under restrictions in place since Monday, most of the city's 12 million residents must remain indoors, barring a few exceptions -- like trips to the supermarket or pharmacy, taking out the trash or briefly walking the dog. But starting Thursday, Muscovites will have their movements tracked through a mandatory app required on their smartphones. Don't have one? The city says it will lend out devices.

In addition, Moscow residents will be obligated to register for a government-issued QR code -- a small square matrix bar code containing personal data. What information the codes will hold isn't yet clear. But Russians must present it on their smartphones or carry a printout of their QR profiles to present to police, when requested. (City officials say they're also preparing to educate the public -- and elder Russians, in particular -- on what a QR code actually is.) The new tools will merge with existing street cameras and face recognition software to quickly identify residents who stray from their homes and/or quarantines, say authorities.
President Putin also signed a bill into law on Wednesday that introduces criminal penalties for skipping quarantine and infecting others. They include fines and up to seven years in prison.
Businesses

Investors Tell Indian Startups To 'Prepare For the Worst' as Covid-19 Uncertainty Continues (techcrunch.com) 9

Just three months after capping what was the best year for Indian startups, having raised a record $14.5 billion in 2019, they are beginning to struggle to raise new capital as prominent investors urge them to "prepare for the worst" and cut spending. From a report: In an open letter to startup founders in India, ten global and local private equity and venture capitalist firms including Accel, Lightspeed, Sequoia Capital and Matrix Partners cautioned that the current changes to the macro environment could make it difficult for a startup to close their next fundraising deal. The firms, which included Kalaari Capital, SAIF Partners, and Nexus Venture Partners -- some of the prominent names in India to back early-stage startups -- asked founders to be prepared to not see their startups' jump in the coming rounds and have a 12-18 month runway with what they raise.

"Assumptions from bull market financings or even from a few weeks ago do not apply. Many investors will move away from thinking about 'growth at all costs' to 'reasonable growth with a path to profitability.' Adjust your business plan and messaging accordingly," they added. Signs are beginning to emerge that investors are losing appetite to invest in the current scenario. Indian startups participated in 79 deals to raise $496 million in March, down from $2.86 billion that they raised across 104 deals in February and $1.24 billion they raised from 93 deals in January this year, research firm Tracxn told TechCrunch.

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