Monthly Archives: February 2016

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Linguists Not Exactly Wow About Facebook’s New Reaction When my 4-month-old son is angry he turns bright red. When he finds something funny, he makes an alarming gurgling sound. When something surprises him, he says “Ah!”You know: Like Facebook.The introduction of Reactions, a set of five new “graphicons” with assigned textual meanings, probably isn’t supposed to be infantilizing. The social network just wants people to do more than “Like” someone else’s post. The new kids: Love, Sad, Angry, Wow, and Haha. What do those words have in common? Not a lot, actually. To a grammar purist, that’s annoying. “These words are in radically different categories,” says Geoff Pullum, a linguist at the University of Edinburgh and contributor to the blog Language Log. “It looks like syntax is being thrown out the window here and being replaced by grunts like animals would make.” Syntax, as you might remember, is the organization […]

Apple May Use a First Amendment Defense in That FBI Case. And It Just Might Work Apple’s lawyers indicated yesterday that they plan to use a First Amendment defense in the San Bernardino iPhone case, arguing that if code is speech, then the government is compelling the company to say something it doesn’t want to by forcing it to cooperate in cracking the phone’s password. That might sound like a weak argument on which to hang a critical data privacy case. But, as Motherboard previously pointed out, experts say the company might actually be onto something. Here’s why: a court has ordered Apple to assist the FBI in cracking the password on an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooting suspects, but in order to do so, the FBI wants Apple to write a new software tool—essentially a crippled version of its iOS software—to eliminate specific security protections […]

 The Electric Car Revolution Is Now Scheduled for 2022 Chevrolet The long-awaited, oft-delayed electric car revolution is now scheduled for 2022.That’s according to a report from research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which posits that in just six years, the biggest obstacle to the sale of EVs—they cost too much—will be obliterated and cars that run on electricity will cost less than those that run on dead dinosaurs.“By 2022,” the report says, “the unsubsidized total cost of ownership of BEVs [battery electric vehicles] will fall below that of an internal combustion engine vehicle.” From there, the report projects a steadily increasing rate of adoption, reaching global sales of 41 million—25 percent of total market share—by 2040.That’s a remarkable prediction given that today, EVs make up less than 1 percent of new car sales in the US. Government subsidies and mandates are largely responsible for what consumer interest and R&D investment seen […]

Song Exploder: Rap Trio Clipping Proves a Beer Can Works as an Instrument Cristopher Cichocki/Sub Pop On the Song Exploder podcast, host Hrishikesh Hirway talks to musicians who take apart their songs and, piece by piece, tell the stories of how they were made. Listen below.Clipping is a trio made up of rapper Daveed Diggs and producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes. You might be familiar with Diggs’ voice from his roles as Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway musical Hamilton. But in Clipping, the whole band takes on different roles, playing with various themes and genres within hip-hop. In this episode, the three of them break down how they made their song “Work Work,” featuring guest vocals from rapper Cocc Pistol Cree. Diggs discusses all of the rap tropes he cited in his lyrics, and producers Hutson and Snipes talk about building the […]

Excruciating New Credit Cards Finally Give Apple Pay a Problem to Solve If you want high comedy, try buying something at my local drugstore.As you wait in line with your razor blades and Softsoap, some other poor soul will swipe their credit card through the reader on the counter—and nothing will happen, because it’s one of those new chip cards designed for better security. Then, a (slightly exasperated) cashier will tell this poor soul to push the card into a slot at the front of the reader. The poor soul will do this—and nothing will happen again, because the new chip tech is horribly slow.Just when it looks like the reader is about to die—strange pixelations appearing on the screen—a legible message will finally appear, asking the poor soul to approve the transaction—and nothing will happen yet again, because the new chip tech is even slower than anyone remembers. Then […]

IBM and Microsoft Will Let You Roll Your Own Blockchain They call it the Hyperledger. And it can be yours.In late December, several big-name companies from across both the tech and financial industries—including IBM, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and the London Stock Exchange—unveiled a new open source software project based on the blockchain, the global online ledger that underpins the bitcoin digital currency. The project aims to build blockchain-like software that can more efficiently, reliably, and openly track the exchange of financial assets, including stocks, bonds, futures, houses, and car titles. And considering the names involved—particularly the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, or DTCC, which oversees Wall Street’s stock settlement system—it’s an enormously significant undertaking. Ideas can be very powerful. Once an idea gets out there—at least in today’s world—you’re not going to stop it from propagating. Arvind Krishna, IBM Unlike the blockchain itself, the Hyperledger software isn’t battle-tested. In […]

New Clues to the Mystery of How Our Brains Keep Time Quanta Our brains have an extraordinary ability to monitor time. A driver can judge just how much time is left to run a yellow light; a dancer can keep a beat down to the millisecond. But exactly how the brain tracks time is still a mystery. Researchers have defined the brain areas involved in movement, memory, color vision and other functions, but not the ones that monitor time. Indeed, our neural timekeeper has proved so elusive that most scientists assume this mechanism is distributed throughout the brain, with different regions using different monitors to keep track of time according to their needs. Over the last few years, a handful of researchers have compiled growing evidence that the same cells that monitor an individual’s location in space also mark the passage of time. This suggests that two brain regions—the hippocampus […]

Giving Your Boo Your Password Is Dumb. Do This Instead You love your significant other. You trust them. You want to share your life, laughter, and digital subscriptions with them. That’s great! Just don’t share your password while you’re at it. This should go without saying, but even if you’re absolutely confident in your relationship’s longevity, there are some things best kept to yourself. That’s partly for the sanity that comes with a modicum of privacy, but even more because passwords are already one of the least secure protections we have available to us. There’s every chance you’re bad at them to begin with, and the more people who have the key to your alphanumerical digital lock, the more potentially exposed you become. If your shared Netflix password also happens to be your banking password, and your significant other gets hacked, you’re suddenly in a heap of trouble as well. […]

The NBA All-Star Game’s 24 Superstars Get Their Very Own Emoji Twitter may not be having the best week—its latest earnings call revealed that it lost 2 million users—but there are at least two things people still flock to Twitter for: custom emoji, and hashtag-based voting. This weekend, basketball fans are getting both.For this year’s NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto, the league has debuted custom emoji that correspond to each player on the East and West rosters, activated by users tweeting a hashtag with that player’s first and last name. For example: #stephcurry gets you the smiling face of the Bay Area’s hero (though we think maybe a chef-based emoji may have been warranted, given the game’s location in Toronto), while #draymondgreen gets a flexing bicep with the number 23 to correspond to his signature move and uniform number, and #kobebryant gets a black mamba for his nickname. The East has the requisite Cleveland crown for LeBron […]

Even Obama’s Cray Cray Gas Tax Can’t Fix Our Roads President Obama wants to slap a $10 tax on every barrel of oil and use the money to pay for more public transit, robo-car research, and to start tackling the $740 billion backlog in repairs to the country’s roads, highways, and bridges. Before you get apoplectic, this would represent the first increase in the national gas tax since 1993, raising it from 18.4 cents a gallon to a whopping 24 cents a gallon. Of course, the idea, included in Obama’s upcoming budget proposal, has approximately zero chance of passing because, ya know, this is Congress we’re talking about. But even if the stars aligned and the tax increase became law, it wouldn’t be nearly enough to do what needs doing. Simply put, American roads and bridges are a disaster—and getting worse. In its most recent infrastructure “report card,” the American Society of […]