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How Donald Trump Is Playing a Dangerous Game of Nuclear Poker

Posted on February 3rd, 2018 at 17:59 by John Sinteur in category: News

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The Trump Administration, by contrast, is convinced that the best way to limit the spreading nuclear danger is to expand and advertise its ability to annihilate its enemies. In addition to putting the Nevada testing ground on notice, he has signed off on a $1.2 trillion plan to overhaul the entire nuclear-weapons complex. Trump has authorized a new nuclear warhead, the first in 34 years. He is funding research and development on a mobile medium-range missile. The new weapon, if tested or deployed, would be prohibited by a 30-year-old Cold War nuclear-forces agreement with Russia (which has already violated the agreement). And for the first time, the U.S. is expanding the scenarios under which the President would consider going nuclear to “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks”, including major cyberattacks.

Trump’s new plan also expands the President’s “first use” of nuclear weapons to circumstances that include “non-nuclear strategic attacks” against the U.S. or its allies. That could mean cyberattacks on nuclear command and control systems or civilian infrastructure, like the electricity grid or air-traffic-control system, arms-control experts have concluded. Previous Administrations limited the threat of a nuclear response to mass-casualty events, like chemical- and biological-weapon attacks. Stephen Schwartz, a nuclear weapons policy expert, said the key concern is the expansion of the nuclear umbrella to “include these new and not extreme possibilities, thus dramatically lowering the threshold for nuclear use.”.


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  1. Always wondered where “Resident Evil” got the Umbrella corporate name from.

How to Be a Responsible Music Fan in the Age of Streaming

Posted on February 3rd, 2018 at 17:58 by John Sinteur in category: News

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For years, disruptive digital businesses have countered complaints like mine with assurances that everything will be different in the future, once millions and millions of people around the world adopt their application. Well, here we are. Spotify now claims 140 million active users, 70 million of whom are paid subscribers, and the total consumption of audio streams in the U.S. jumped by an estimated 50 percent last year. But while it’s clear that some are earning significant paychecks from streaming as a result—“Happy days are here again,” Billboard gushed last March, reporting the fastest growth for the industry in decades—most musicians are not.

The basic reason is simple: According to the data trackers at BuzzAngle Music, more than 99 percent of audio streaming is of the top 10 percent most-streamed tracks. Which means less than 1 percent of streams account for all other music.

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Consider the dominant streaming video service, Netflix, which now has more subscribers than all cable providers combined. While Netflix has grown more popular, it has diminished its content to the point where it recently hosted only 25 movies made before 1950, as Zach Schonfeld pointed out in Newsweek. “It’s the sort of classics selection you’d expect to find in a decrepit video store in 1993,” Schonfeld wrote, “not on a leading entertainment platform that serves some 100 million global subscribers.”

The streaming music catalog is currently in a much better state. But it could only be a matter of time until these companies lose interest in the 90 percent of music that doesn’t return even 1 percent of their gross. It seems likely that they will eventually jettison these less-played tracks for different content—just look at Netflix.

Or look now at how badly their applications already serve entire genres of less popular music. Spotify lists recordings by song title, album title, or featured artist name. But that information is so limited it leaves out even the other performers on a recording, a crucial aspect to classical and jazz. For that matter, performers are kind of important to rock, too! Not to mention songwriters, producers, engineers, publishers, record labels—almost all the labor that goes into making recordings is erased from the databases used by the major streaming services.

Why hide all that information, all that context to each recording? Digital services are so good at handling massive amounts of data—just think how much Spotify knows about each of us. And yet they can’t bring themselves to specify which of the radically different Miles Davis Quintets played on which album—is it the one with John Coltrane and Philly Joe Jones, or the one with Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams?


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An Ancient Virus May Be Responsible for Human Consciousness

Posted on February 3rd, 2018 at 17:38 by John Sinteur in category: News

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You’ve got an ancient virus in your brain. In fact, you’ve got an ancient virus at the very root of your conscious thought.

According to two papers published in the journal Cell in January, long ago, a virus bound its genetic code to the genome of four-limbed animals. That snippet of code is still very much alive in humans’ brains today, where it does the very viral task of packaging up genetic information and sending it from nerve cells to their neighbors in little capsules that look a whole lot like viruses themselves. And these little packages of information might be critical elements of how nerves communicate and reorganize over time — tasks thought to be necessary for higher-order thinking, the researchers said.

Though it may sound surprising that bits of human genetic code come from viruses, it’s actually more common than you might think: A review published in Cell in 2016 found that between 40 and 80 percent of the human genome arrived from some archaic viral invasion.

That’s because viruses aren’t just critters that try to make a home in a body, the way bacteria do. Instead, as Live Science has previously reported, a virus is a genetic parasite. It injects its genetic code into its host’s cells and hijacks them, turning them to its own purposes — typically, that means as factories for making more viruses. This process is usually either useless or harmful to the host, but every once in a while, the injected viral genes are benign or even useful enough to hang around. The 2016 review found that viral genes seem to play important roles in the immune system, as well as in the early days of embryo development.

But the new papers take things a step further. Not only is an ancient virus still very much active in the cells of human and animal brains, but it seems to be so important to how they function that processes of thought as we know them likely never would have arisen without it, the researchers said.


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The Amazing Dinosaur Found (Accidentally) by Miners in Canada

Posted on February 3rd, 2018 at 12:43 by John Sinteur in category: News

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Some 110 million years ago, this armored plant-eater lumbered through what is now western Canada, until a flooded river swept it into open sea. The dinosaur’s undersea burial preserved its armor in exquisite detail. Its skull still bears tile-like plates and a gray patina of fossilized skins.


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  1. Amazing. Poor beast.

‘Fiction is outperforming reality’: how YouTube’s algorithm distorts truth

Posted on February 3rd, 2018 at 12:41 by John Sinteur in category: News

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There are 1.5 billion YouTube users in the world, which is more than the number of households that own televisions. What they watch is shaped by this algorithm, which skims and ranks billions of videos to identify 20 “up next” clips that are both relevant to a previous video and most likely, statistically speaking, to keep a person hooked on their screen.

Company insiders tell me the algorithm is the single most important engine of YouTube’s growth. In one of the few public explanations of how the formula works – an academic paper that sketches the algorithm’s deep neural networks, crunching a vast pool of data about videos and the people who watch them – YouTube engineers describe it as one of the “largest scale and most sophisticated industrial recommendation systems in existence”.

Lately, it has also become one of the most controversial. The algorithm has been found to be promoting conspiracy theories about the Las Vegas mass shooting and incentivising, through recommendations, a thriving subculture that targets children with disturbing content such as cartoons in which the British children’s character Peppa Pig eats her father or drinks bleach.

Lewd and violent videos have been algorithmically served up to toddlers watching YouTube Kids, a dedicated app for children. One YouTube creator who was banned from making advertising revenues from his strange videos – which featured his children receiving flu shots, removing earwax, and crying over dead pets – told a reporter he had only been responding to the demands of Google’s algorithm. “That’s what got us out there and popular,” he said. “We learned to fuel it and do whatever it took to please the algorithm.”


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