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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 30th Apr 2018



Media captionKyle Jackson says playing games professionally is a "dream for all kids"

A 13-year-old boy from Kent says he is living every child's "dream" after becoming Fortnite's youngest professional player.

Kyle Jackson is part of Team Secret Fortnite, which has four members, playing under the name "Mongraal".

Since launching in July 2017, the survival shooting game, which is free, has been downloaded more than 40 million times.

The teenager, from Sidcup, says he is doing well in most subjects at school.

At the moment, Kyle does not make money from his contract but he will get a share of the prize money from any competitions.

He started gaming at the age of eight, and three years later says he started to realise he was "probably better than the average player".

He says he noticed he was always coming top of the scoreboard for every game and was even finishing above semi-pro players.

But it's not just down to natural ability, Kyle adds. In the school holidays he plays nearly all day and constantly practises to improve.

"If a mistake happens, I will look over it in the replay mode and I'll see what I could have done better, and I'll improve on that next time I play."

Olympic sport?

Kyle's parents are very supportive and his father has agreed to accompany him when he takes part in competitions around the world.

But there are rules. He says he has a curfew of 21:00 BST and there are other times he cannot play.

"Currently, at school I'm doing very well in pretty much every subject so they're not really worried about me playing as much as I do. I still have time to study [and] revise."

Asked if his school friends are jealous of his opportunity, he said: "I guess they are kind of, playing games and travelling all over the world is kind of a dream for all kids."

And his team mates? The 13-year-old said they were shocked to find out his age but that he is treated the same as anyone else.

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What is Fortnite?

Fortnite combines cartoon-like graphics with the challenge of being the last player standing

After six years in development Epic games released Fortnite in July 2017.

It is a co-operative survival shooting game that lets players build structures out of materials they scavenge from the game world.

Its most popular format is the Battle Royale mode which pits 100 players against each other, some of whom are in small teams, to see who is the last person standing.

The game is free but players can spend real money on in-app purchases.

Concerns have been raised about hackers getting access to accounts used for purchases and over the potential dangers of children playing the game online with strangers.

Since last year's release, it has been available to play on gaming devices such as the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, as well as PC and Mac.

It has recently become available on some mobile devices.

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E-sports, the practice of watching people play video games, generated ?350m ($493m) in revenue with a global audience of about 320m people in 2016, the market research firm Newzoo reported last year.

Sponsorship is the biggest revenue stream, bringing in much more than is raised by the media, advertising, merchandise and ticketing.

But there is also prize money for competitions - the winning team at the 2016 League of Legends world championship shared $1m (?725,933).

E-sports will be included in the official sporting programme of the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

Team Secret's Director of Media George Yao said his team did not know Kyle was only 13 when they first watched him play Fortnite online.

"We had no idea. The level of communication they had in the game was at such a professional level, and the sound of his voice is very mature, so we naturally didn't even think he was that young so it took us by surprise.

"It's very rare to find a player that is at that calibre at such a young age."

Mr Yao added no tournaments had been announced yet.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 30th Apr 2018

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Image captionIt is easy to feel overwhelmed by the flood of new privacy policies

Many app users' inboxes are bulging with requests to review new terms of service and privacy conditions.

And it is no coincidence that so many developers have revamped their small print at the same time.

In just under a month, the EU will introduce a new privacy law that gives Europeans new data protection rights and threatens giant fines for organisations that do not comply.

But making sense of the new terms poses a challenge.

Some companies, including Facebook, are asking members to give explicit consent to new features such as facial recognition.

Others - such as Twitter, Fitbit and Yahoo - have told members that simply continuing to use their products will be interpreted as agreement to the tweaked conditions.

The time-strapped public would be forgiven for thinking the easiest thing to do is to tick the necessary boxes and otherwise plough on regardless, despite the advent of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

After all, who normally reads this stuff?

But that would be to pass up an opportunity to understand and place limits on how your personal details are being exploited for profit.

And there is value in knowing what you have signed up for in advance of the next data privacy scandal.

A quick search for key phrases can help users hone in on the key details

Digital rights campaign group Privacy International suggests that one way to handle the deluge of documents is to search for instances of the following terms:

'Data providers'

The phrase may be mentioned in sections that explain what data is being collected and how that is achieved.

In particular, users should watch out for details of personal information being acquired from third parties that could let the services profile them in unexpected ways.

'Location data'

The new law explicitly defines the places a person visits in their past and present as being a type of personal data for the first time.

Organisations are therefore required to detail how such information will be used to identify individuals.

'Affirmative act'

When consent is required, it must now be given via a clear action.

The days of automatically signing up people to a marketing campaign because they did not untick a box are over.

But it's worth double-checking how consent is being sought to avoid clicking a button without realising its consequences.


Users based outside the EU should check where the entity is based. Facebook recently switched millions of its users out of the control of its Irish office, which means they will no longer be protected by the European watchdogs enforcing the new legislation.

'Purposes' and 'Recipients'

These terms are often used to inform users what a business will do with their data and with whom they will share it.

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The UK's Consumers' Association - known more commonly as Which? - has published its own guide to GDPR.

It highlights some of the ways you can take advantage of GDPR's new rights.

These include the right to object to any decisions taken by organisations based solely on algorithms having analysed your personal data. For instance, you can appeal against a decision to refuse you a job interview based solely on computer analysis of your CV.

You can also request a copy of the personal data being processed to make software-driven decisions.

Which's computing editor told the BBC that people should be aware that if they are unhappy at how their personal information is being used to target ads at them, they can now demand part or all of it to be erased.

She added that people should also watch out for illegitimate enticements.

"I saw on Twitter the other day somebody share an email... saying you'd get a free pizza if/when you consented," commented Kate Bevan.

"That is a big fat nope - consent can't be bundled with something else."

You may need to ask follow-up questions to get the answers you want

Those that take the time to wade through all the paperwork may still have questions.

For example, while an app might have to disclose that it shares data with third parties, it does not necessarily have to name them unless a user personally requests the information.

"They should always give you a point of contact," explained Nicola Fulford, head of data protection and privacy at the law firm Kemp Little.

"If they sent you an email and you have questions, then they should respond to it, although obviously at the moment they may be very busy."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 30th Apr 2018

Criticism, Write A Review, Review, Star

Fake online reviews are being openly traded on the internet, a BBC investigation has found.

BBC 5 live Investigates was able to buy a false, five-star recommendation placed on one of the world's leading review websites, Trustpilot.

It also uncovered online forums where Amazon shoppers are offered full refunds in exchange for product reviews.

Both companies said they do not tolerate false reviews.

'Trying to game the system'

The popularity of online review sites mean they are increasingly relied on by both businesses and their customers, with the government's Competition and Markets Authority estimating such reviews potentially influence £23 billion of UK customer spending every year.

Maria Menelaou, whose Yorkshire Fisheries chip shop is the top-ranked fish and chip shop in Blackpool on several review sites, said the system has replaced traditional advertising.

"It brings us a lot of customers ... It really does make a difference. We don't do any kind of advertising," Mrs Menelaou said.

While three quarters of UK adults use online review websites, almost half of those believe they have seen fake reviews, according to a survey of 1500 UK residents conducted by the Chartered Institute of Marketing and shared with BBC 5 live Investigates.

Some US analysts estimate as many as half of the reviews for certain products posted on international websites such as Amazon are potentially unreliable.

"Sellers are trying to game the system and there's a lot of money on the table," said Tommy Noonan, who runs ReviewMeta, a US-based website that analyses online reviews.

"If you can rank number one for, say, bluetooth headsets and you're selling a cheap product, you can make a lot of money," he said.

Fake online review on website

'5 star is better for us'

In 2016, Amazon introduced a range of measures prohibiting what it called "incentivised reviews", where businesses offered customers free goods in exchange for positive reviews.

Mr Noonan said this effectively drove the problem underground, leading to the emergence of Facebook groups where potential Amazon customers were encouraged to buy a product and post a review in return for a full refund.

BBC 5 live Investigates identified several of these groups and, within minutes of joining, was approached with offers of full refunds on products bought on Amazon in exchange for positive reviews.

"5 star is better for us" said one person making such an offer, in an exchange of messages with the BBC. "We value our brand, will refund you as we promised ... All my company do in this way."

It was not possible to identify the people making these offers, nor contact the businesses whose products they were seeking reviews for.

"We do not permit reviews in exchange for compensation of any kind, including payment. Customers and Marketplace sellers must follow our review guidelines and those that don't will be subject to action including potential termination of their account," Amazon said in a statement.

Responding to adverts posted on eBay, the BBC was also able to purchase a false 5-star review on Trustpilot, an online review website that describes itself as "committed to being the most trusted online review community on the market".

"Dan Box is one of the most respected professionals I have dealt with. It was a pleasure doing business with him," this review said - word for word as requested by 5 live Investigates.

Trustpilot, whose platform allows anyone to post a review, said they have "a zero-tolerance policy towards any misuse".

"We have specialist software that screens reviews against 100's of data points around the clock to automatically identify and remove fakes," the company said.

In a statement, eBay said the sale of such reviews is banned from its platform "and any listings will be removed".

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 25th Apr 2018

New data protection rules will come into force in the UK in May.

The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will change how companies and individuals collect, store and share data.

With the biggest change to data privacy in the UK since 1998 coming up, Reality Check explains what you need to know.

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1. What is the GDPR?

The GDPR will give people more control over how organisations use their personal information, or data.

It's a piece of EU legislation that was passed in 2016. It aims to create identical data privacy laws across all EU countries.

Under the new rules, companies won't be allowed to collect someone's personal details without their consent. Companies must also report any data breaches to authorities within 72 hours.

Individuals will be able to request information about how a company might be using their data, what data it collects, and why.


2. Why does it matter?

In the UK, the GDPR will replace the Data Protection Act 1998.

Today, we create a huge amount of data - from watches tracking calories and sleep, to apps for managing finances or messaging friends.

So, the GDPR was created to bring data protection rules up to date with how much data we produce, and how companies are using it.

With recent data breaches at companies such as Facebook, Uber and MyFitnessPal, the regulation will also give companies tougher guidelines on how they can use data.


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3. When is it coming in?

The new law will apply in all EU states from 25 May 2018.


4. Who does it apply to?

The GDPR will apply to all data "controllers" or "processers".

Controllers give direction on how and why personal data is processed (such as a company), while a processor carries out the action of collecting the data (such as an IT apprentice).

The regulation will also apply to individuals. For example, a hairdresser who collects email addresses of customers to send a newsletter to needs to comply with the new rules.

The GDPR will apply to anyone offering services in the EU, regardless of where it is headquartered.


5. What does personal data mean?

The GDPR applies to all personal data. That means any information that could identify a living person, directly or indirectly.

This could include their name, location or their phone number.

Some personal information is classed as sensitive by the GDPR, and needs more protection. That could include ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religious belief, trade union membership and more.

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6. Can I access data about myself?

Anyone can ask a company to confirm what personal data it has about them.

That person has the right to be provided with a copy of the information - as well as the reason for that company collecting their personal data and who gets to see it.

The company must supply this free of charge and in an accessible way, such as on email, within 30 days of the request, under the GDPR.

Individuals can also ask for data to be corrected, if it's not accurate.


7. What is the right to be forgotten?

People can also ask for their personal data to be deleted at any time - if it's no longer relevant. This is known as the right to be forgotten.

This right also applies online. Someone could ask a company that has made their personal data available online - such as a search engine - to delete it, for example.

Those companies are obligated to inform others that the owner of the personal data has requested the right to be forgotten. The data, links to it and copies of it, must be deleted.


8. How will the GDPR affect my business?

Companies with more than 250 employees must document all of the data they are processing, including why, how customers opted in, who can see the data, and a description of their security measures.

Smaller companies might need only to document data they process on a regular basis, or data they process that is sensitive.

Some business groups have raised concerns about the impact the new rules could have, saying many companies are unaware of the changes, and that recording this additional information will be a burden.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is responsible for enforcing the GDPR in the UK. It has published a 12-step guide on how businesses can get ready.


9. Can I be fined for failing to comply?

Yes - the GDPR allows the ICO to issue fines to anyone failing to comply.

The ICO can issue fines of up to about £17.5m, or 4% of a company's global turnover, whichever is higher.

Fines can be issued for misusing data, data breaches, or failing to process an individual's data correctly.


10. Will it still apply after the UK leaves the EU?

GDPR rules will continue to apply after the UK leaves the EU.

The government's Data Protection Bill, means that GDPR rules will essentially be replicated in UK law.

The bill also adds the ability for individuals to request that social media companies delete any posts they made when they were a child, and expands the definition of personal data to include IP addresses, internet cookies - and even DNA.

Read the ICO's full guide to the GDPR here.



Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 25th Apr 2018

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Popular messaging service WhatsApp is banning under-16s from using its platform in the European Union.

Users must currently be at least 13, but the firm is changing the rules ahead of the introduction of new EU data privacy regulations in May.

The app, which is owned by Facebook, will ask users to confirm their age when prompted to agree new terms of service in the next few weeks.

It has not said how the age limit will be enforced.

At present, WhatsApp does not ask users their age when they join, nor does it cross-reference their Facebook or Instagram accounts to find out.

About a third of all UK-based 12- to 15-year-olds active on social media use WhatsApp, according to a 2017 report by the media regulator Ofcom.

That made it the fifth most popular social network with the age group after Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube.

Data privacy

The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on 25 May, will give people much more control over how companies use their information.

They will also have the right to have personal data erased.

It also includes specific rules to protect children from having their personal data collected for marketing purposes, or to create user profiles.

WhatsApp, which has faced scrutiny for its data sharing practices in the past, said its move would help it meet the "new high standards of transparency" in the EU.

However, the app plans to keep its age limit at 13 in the rest of the world.

Skip Twitter post by @bellabo

Gavin Blair@bellabo

@rachelburden casually mentioned that WhatsApp are changing their their T&C and under 16's being banned from the platform to my teenage daughter. Massive sobs and snot bubbles for the last 1/2hr

7:12 AM - Apr 25, 2018

Twitter Ads info and privacy


End of Twitter post by @bellabo

Skip Twitter post by @HellyB1972

Helen Buchanan@HellyB1972

Very pleased today to hear WhatsApp is raising the age of use from 13 to 16. At last someone is doing something to protect teenage minds & self esteem. Come on Facebook get your act together

8:43 AM - Apr 25, 2018

Twitter Ads info and privacy


End of Twitter post by @HellyB1972

Skip Twitter post by @julietb3


Replying to @ckkrisshnakumar and 5 others

All very valid points but my 13 year old daughter is part of a form WhatsApp group where they check in with how they are feeling and also what lessons they have, homework that's due, they help each other with homework. So increasing the age limit would be detrimental for her.

8:27 AM - Apr 25, 2018

Twitter Ads info and privacy


End of Twitter post by @julietb3

Most social media apps - including Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Musical.ly and Reddit - are restricted to those aged 13 and over.

This is in part because a US law - the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule(Coppa) - bans online services from collecting personal information about younger children.

Facebook did, however, launch Messenger Kids, which is targeted at children as young as six, last December. It is an ad-free service designed to be compliant with Coppa.

Different approach

WhatsApp will also be allowing all users to download a report detailing the data it holds on them as part of its new terms of service.

That could include the make and model of the device they use, their contacts and groups and any blocked numbers.

Facebook, which has also been criticised for its handling of personal data, is taking a different approach to younger users on its main service.

To comply with GDPR, the social network is asking those aged 13 to 15 to nominate a parent or guardian to give permission for them to share information on the platform.

If they do not, they will not see a fully personalised version of the platform.

In a related development, Facebook's Instagram service has also launched a "data download" tool that provides a file containing the photos, comments, archived Stories, contacts and other personal data a user had posted to the service in the past.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 24th Apr 2018


coolest eco friendly technology frieght farms tech

Freight Farms

We love when technology gives us new gadgets or entertaining features, but it’s even better when scientists get together and use technology for more noble pursuits… like saving the planet. That’s right: From biodegradable bullets to robot bees, today’s eco-friendly creations are literally changing the world for the better.

If you need a more optimistic look at the future, check out these promising pieces of modern tech, each of which is greening up everyday activities and fixing a problem we once thought unsolvable.


ocean clean up garbage patch cleanup boylan slat

For those who don’t know, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a giant collection of trash — one made primarily of plastics and other materials that don’t disintegrate in water — that’s currently adrift in the middle of the Pacific. If you want to get technical, it’s called a marine trash vortice, and it’s larger than many countries.

Ocean Cleanup is an organization dedicated to finding innovative waves of getting rid of the GPGP before it gets even worse. Do you remember those floating, connected markers at the public pool? Ocean Cleanup has devised a heavy-duty version of those lines, except each float is actually a polyurethane trash collector that filters out and captures pieces of the GPGP.

The goal is to attach these lines to sea vessels and have them pass in and out of the garbage patch to help clean it up. Simulations show that this could reduce the GPGP’s size by almost 50 percent in five years, thus reducing its impact on aquatic life.


The severe water shortages facing many parts of the world could be solved if there was an easy way to filter salt out of seawater and make it drinkable. Desalination plants do exist, but they are complex, expensive to build, and can’t be used everywhere. Now a team of scientists in the U.K. thinks it has a solution that could transform the world’s water needs.

Enter a carefully designed graphene filter made from a single layer of carbon atoms in a hexagonal lattice. This type of graphene layer can do all kinds of cool stuff, but scientists are currently using it to develop a graphene oxide sieve that could filter out salts — and can do it far more effectively than current desalinization plants, at a fraction of the cost.


darpa self guiding bullets exacto bullet

In addition to all the other problems with war, bullets are actually really bad for the environment; they can leach toxic metals into the soil that can kill plants, harm animals, and build up in nearby communities, eventually causing medical problems.

Enter the U.S. Army’s plan to create biodegradable bullets. Basically, they want to use bullets made out of composite materials that can act as much like real bullets as possible, and can be fired using current weaponry. This will allow soldiers posted around the world to conduct typical training regimens without worrying about the impact of the bullets on the surrounding environment.

Even better, the final bullets chosen for the project may include hibernating seeds, which are designed to take root in the soil months later and sprout into environmentally-beneficial plants. How crazy would that be?


China has been hard at work trying to reduce its sizable pollution problem and make cities safer to live in for years now. This involves traditional solutions such as solar and wind power, along with more innovative approaches — like this 200-foot chimney in Xi’an.

The chimney’s genius design uses solar heating to warm pollution particles drawn in at the chimney’s base, forcing them into a network of filters housed within the shaft. The particles are then trapped as the warm air continues to rise, creating a healthy cycle that pushes clean air into the city. The chimney can currently handle particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, which is particularly impressive for this kind of project. If the creation is deemed a success, these towers could appear in cities around China.


Fuel Cell Plane

Here’s a crash course (no pun intended) on the fuel cell: It creates an electrical current by utilizing a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. Stack enough of these fuel cells together, and they become powerful enough to operate larger machines, including vehicles. The only byproduct of a fuel cell is, famously, water.

The problem is that fuel cells are difficult and expensive, at least when you’re dealing with larger vehicles. Plus, you need a handy source of hydrogen gas to keep the vehicle powered. That’s why you don’t see too many fuel cell cars on the road, though, there are a handful of car manufacturers that offer fuel cell variants.

All this makes this German plane even more impressive, because it manages to carry several passengers while running on nothing by fuel cells. In many ways, this four-seater is more suited for fuel cells than cars are, especially when it comes to refueling. The creators are hopeful that these planes could be used as eco-friendly taxis between nearby cities.


Freight Farms

Freight Farms, by themselves, are already impressive eco-friendly constructs; these little grow rooms are manufactured using recycled freight crates with advanced hydroponics that allow them to grow racks of farm-fresh produce even in the middle of the city. Companies like Freight Farms are currently mass producing these “Leafy Green Machines,” providing cities that receive little daylight or currently face produce shortages with a better method for growing crops.

That’s already cool, but it gets cooler! NASA has given Freight Farms and Clemson University a grant to study how the Leafy Green Machines could be used in space travel. Basically, NASA wants to take these freight gardens to the next level and see if they can become entirely independent. If they can run on renewable energy and produce enough food to support humans, they may be ideal for growing in-flight produce.


The Reborn Light

Electric cars are becoming more and more common, but there are some issues when it comes time to replace their batteries, which often need to be swapped out while they’re still operational. Note: Electric cars require their batteries to be in peak condition in order to operate correctly.

Rather than let these batteries go to waste, Nissan decided to do something with them, and created The Reborn Light project. The project’s aim is to take used batteries from electric cars and attach them to LED-equipped streetlights, allowing them to run for years with little maintenance. Early reports say they can provide the same sort of visibility as traditional streetlights, though, they capitalize on a planet-saving approach we can all get behind.


top tech stories tesla solar roof header

Quick! What’s the big problem people have with installing solar roofs? For the average homeowner, the short answer is either “installation” or “appearance.” Most people simply don’t want a cumbersome solar panel on their roof, especially when it comes with additional structural concerns.

Thankfully, Tesla has developed a more discrete type of solar roof. The intuitive design utilizes tiles that look like shiny, ultra-modern versions of the same clay or stone tiles luxury homes have used for decades. Not only do these solar panels protect your roof from rain, pests, and so on, they are also great at producing energy. In fact, they are more efficient than the average solar panel that’s often marketed toward consumers, and they’re cheaper than a normal roof.

Although Tesla’s solar panels are only available under limited conditions in a few markets, there are plans to expand into new territories in the near future, and to offer a greater variety of tile appearances.


Reykjavik Energy geothermal power plant

The biggest problem with greenhouse gases is that once they’re out and about, it’s really hard to do anything about them. Carbon capture and storage is, at least currently, notoriously difficult and often temporary. Luckily, a startup called Climeworks and an Icelandic project called CarbFix have teamed up to change all of that.

Together, these researchers have developed a machine that has been attached to the Hellisheidi Power Station, which is being hailed as the greenest power plant in the world. In addition to using geothermal energy, the plant now takes in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and injects it into the basalt rocks beneath the plant. CO2 and basalt combine to form permanent carbonate rocks, which will house the carbon permanently. It’s still something of a prototype, though, so here’s hoping larger versions can be developed soon!


Cyborg Bacteria

Yes, the field of “cyborg bacteria” is now a real thing. The term essentially refers to bacteria that have been engineered to coat themselves with nanocrystals. These nanocrystals are grown from cadmium and cysteine that scientists feed to the new bacteria, and they function as little solar cells that turn sunlight into energy.

The bacteria, in turn, use this solar energy to turn carbon dioxide and water into acetic acid, which they can use as a food source. Not only is this process more efficient than the chlorophyll-based method used by plants, it also shows great potential as a new C02-removal system, one that could help scrub our atmosphere and oceans. Scientists are also looking into ways to use the bacteria as a major energy producer, which, down the line, could lead to some exciting advancements in the solar field.



If you’re up to speed on your ecology news, then you’re probably already aware that bees are dying off at an unprecedented rate. Whether the cause is a changing climate, new diseases, pesticides, or a combination thereof, it’s bad news for anyone who depends on bees for pollination.

The good news is that this has led to some serious innovation, including the development of robotic bees, aka B-Droids. These robots aren’t just lab drawings, either. Prototypes were developed and launched in 2014, and more advanced versions of the B-Droid have continued to appear in the years since. The latest version functions like a mini quadcopter, and has successfully pollinated both garlic and strawberries via a set of cameras and algorithms that coordinate flight paths between flowers. Thanks for saving the planet, robots!


Modern Meadows Leather

Human fabrics are rarely eco-friendly — leather, in particular. Unlike cotton or wool, animal skin isn’t exactly renewable, which means it takes a serious ecological toll to produce. And anyone who has tried cheap pleather products knows that the synthetic version isn’t exactly satisfying, especially in the long term.

Thankfully, Modern Meadow’s has developed a new solution. After years of research and millions of dollars in investment, the company has officially created a biofabrication technique that results in animal-free leather. How does this miracle work? It uses yeast cultures that are engineered to create collagen, the biological material that skin is formed from. Scientists then take that collagen and process it into leather, basically in the same way that real leather is created.

Not only is the new leather poised to revolutionize the clothing industry, it also apparently feels and acts just like the real thing. Scientists can even switch up the processing method to create different colors, new textures, or entirely new fabric types that rely on cotton and other materials.


Lego plants sugarcane plastic

At first, “bioplastic” sounds like an oxymoron: How can plastic be biological or eco-friendly when it’s famously not? That said, Lego has found a way. The iconic company — you know, the one behind those colorful blocks you always step on in your living room — has just introduced a new line made entirely from biodegradable materials.

The secret is a new process that turns sugar cane into a plant-based plastic, one that acts like traditional plastic with a few advantages. The new Legos are eco-friendly and just as durable as the older models, for instance, and they’re softer to the touch.

Source: digitaltrends.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 23rd Apr 2018

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Google’s effort to come to grips with Android’s messaging problem has arrived via “Chat,” a consumer-friendly name for the Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging standard.

RCS, which we’ve looked at before, is an evolution of SMS. It introduces many features that have previously been unavailable through texting: Better group messaging, read receipts, typing indicators, animated stickers, and more — things that have long-been available on Internet Protocol apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Apple’s iMessage. Chat isn’t a new app from Google, rather the technology based on the Universal Profile for RCS. It will be supported in Android Messages, the default texting app on many Android phones.

Chat, first reported by The Verge, is a carrier service. That means Google worked with more than 50 carriers around the world and almost a dozen manufacturers to support the standard. Sent messages will be inked to your data plan instead of your SMS plan, and charges — set by the carrier — should be minimal.

The idea is for Chat to offer modern messaging features to the default texting app on all Android phones. So it doesn’t matter if you use AT&T, Verizon, or Samsung’s messaging app, you’ll still be able to see read receipts, typing indicators, and more with someone using Android Messages. All these messaging apps will be on the same platform, so everyone will (hopefully) have a modern, seamless experience.

Google is so serious about moving ahead with Chat, that it has suspended development of Allo.

Google expects the Chat standard to be switched on for most Android users some time this year, though the precise timing will be decided by each carrier and region. It already works between Sprint users, and T-Mobile said it will flip the switch on in the second quarter of this year.

If you send a message to someone without Chat enabled, or a non-Android user, the message will be sent as an SMS. The sooner carriers turn on Chat, the better for everyone. It won’t work with iPhone users until Apple supports Chat. At the moment, The Verge reports Google and a group of mobile operators are in talks with the Cupertino company to support the platform.

Google is so serious about moving ahead with Chat, that it has suspended development of Allo, a messaging app it launched two years ago. The team is now focusing exclusively on Android Messages. The default texting app will get a web version very soon, so you can send and receive messages from a desktop. Then expect the Android Messages app to gain a host of features, including Smart Replies, Google Assistant, Google Photos integration, and more.

The drawback is Chat or Android Messages won’t be end-to-end encrypted, therefore it won’t be as secure as iMessage or Signal.

Google’s interest in persuading carriers to turn on Chat is obvious. Its Allo messaging app has failed to build a user base that can compete with the likes of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, so the company has switched the team to focus on incorporating the app’s best features into Google’s Android Messages, which is preinstalled on most Android devices and has more than 100 million active monthly users.

Anil Sabharwal, the executive leading the team and whose track record includes Google Photos, points out that Android Messages is where all the users are, so it makes perfect sense to divert its efforts toward the app.

The bottom line is that Chat hopes to banish the limitations of SMS to give users a much more enjoyable messaging experience, with support for a wide range of features at little to no cost. What does that mean for Hangouts? Google intends to turn it exclusively into a corporate messaging service — a competitor to Slack — and it’s likely that Allo will be put on the chopping block in the future.

Source: digitaltrends.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 23rd Apr 2018

Image result for martin lewis

 "Any advert with my name and face in it is fake"

Consumer campaigner Martin Lewis is to launch UK High Court proceedings in a bid to sue Facebook for defamation.

The MoneySavingExpert founder says at least 50 fake ads bearing his name have appeared on the social media platform, causing reputational damage to him.

Many of the adverts show his face alongside endorsements that he has not actually made, and often link to articles carrying false information.

Facebook says misleading ads are not allowed and any reported are removed.

On Monday, Mr Lewis is due to lodge court papers at the High Court for a defamation case against Facebook.

He is seeking damages but has pledged that any money he receives will go to anti-scam charities.

Several of the adverts tout schemes with titles such as Bitcoin code and Cloud Trader which, according to Mr Lewis, are fronts for binary trading firms outside the EU.

Binary trading is a form of financial transaction which the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has warned consumers against.Martin Lewis said he found at least 50 fake adverts featuring himself

Mr Lewis is a high profile campaigner who has used his own prime-time show on ITV to take on banks and utility companies among others.

His legal action is significant not only because of the high degree of public attention it is likely to win, but because it shows him turning his sights against big technology firms.

The Advertising Standards Authority has previously upheld Mr Lewis' complaints against adverts saying the promotions made it falsely appear as if the expert had endorsed the advertised services.

When I spoke to Mr Lewis last week, he made clear his belief that this is a widespread phenomenon on Facebook, where celebrity endorsements are often seen on adverts, even though the celebrities have not consented.

Martin Lewis said he found a fake version of a BBC article which was created and posted on Facebook

Facebook denies that, saying: "We do not allow adverts which are misleading or false on Facebook and have explained to Martin Lewis that he should report any adverts that infringe his rights, and they will be removed."

The company adds: "We are in direct contact with his team, offering to help and promptly investigating their requests, and only last week confirmed that several adverts and accounts that violated our advertising policies had been taken down."

That's not how Mr Lewis sees it.

Martin Lewis is the founder of MoneySavingExpert and often appears on TV to offer advice

He says that the company's response has been consistently ineffective, and that he is only taking legal action after repeated demands for more to be done.

Legally, there are several issues at stake here. One is the perennial issue of whether Facebook has legal responsibility for the content that appears under its banner - whether it is a publisher or a platform.

Another question concerns the legal jurisdiction in which Facebook operates.

Mark Lewis, the campaigner's solicitor, says: "Facebook is not above the law - it cannot hide outside the UK and think that it is untouchable."

Doubtless Martin Lewis, who was awarded an OBE for his remarkably effective campaigning, calculates that the publicity around his case will alert some Facebook users to the fact that these false adverts are rife on the social network.

It's been a difficult few months for Facebook. Now Martin Lewis is about to give them another big headache.


Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 23rd Apr 2018

Related image

Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo, displays a mud sample extracted from the depths of about 4,000 metres (13,123 ft) below the Pacific ocean surface where rare earth elements were found, at his laboratory in Tokyo July 5, 2011. 

  • Scientists found a deposit of rare-earth minerals off the coast of Japan.
  • It could be a huge boon to the country's economy. 
  • Because China has tightly controlled the world's supply of these minerals — which are used in everything from smartphones to electric car batteries — the discovery could be a "game-changer" for Japan, according to an analyst. 

Researchers have found a deposit of rare-earth minerals off the coast of Japan that could supply the world for centuries, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Nature on Tuesday, says the deposit contains 16 million tons of the valuable metals.

Rare-earth minerals are used in everything from smartphone batteries to electric vehicles. By definition, these minerals contain one or more of 17 metallic rare-earth elements (for those familiar with the periodic table, those are on the second row from the bottom).  

These elements are actually plentiful in layers of the Earth's crust, but are typically widely dispersed. Because of that, i t is rare to find any substantial amount of the elements clumped together as extractable minerals, according to the USGS. Currently, there are only a few economically viable areas where they can be mined and they're generally expensive to extract.

China has tightly controlled much of the world's supply of these minerals for decades. That has forced Japan — a major electronics manufacturer — to rely on prices dictated by their neighbour.

A new finding that could change the global economy

The newly discovered deposit is enough to "supply these metals on a semi-infinite basis to the world," the study's authors wrote in the study. 

There's enough yttrium to meet the global demand for 780 years, dysprosium for 730 years, europium for 620 years, and terbium for 420 years.

The cache  lies off of Minamitori Island, about 1,150 miles southeast of Tokyo. It's within Japan's exclusive economic zone, so the island nation has the sole rights to the resources there.

"This is a game changer for Japan," Jack Lifton, a founding principal of a market-research firm called Technology Metals Research, told The Wall Street Journal. "The race to develop these resources is well underway."

Japan started seeking its own rare-earth mineral deposits after China withheld shipments of the substances amid a dispute over islands that both countries claim as their own, Reuters reported in 2014.

Previously, China reduced its export quotas of rare earth minerals in 2010, pushing prices up as much as 10%, The Journal reports.  China was forced to start exporting more of the minerals again after the dispute was taken up at the World Trade Organization. 

Rare-earth minerals can be formed by volcanic activity, but many of the minerals on our planet were formed initially by supernova explosions before Earth came into existence. When Earth was formed, the minerals were incorporated into the deepest portions of the planet's mantle, a layer of rock beneath the crust.

As tectonic activity has moved portions of the mantle around, rare earth minerals have found their way closer to the surface. The process of weathering — in which rocks break down into sediment over millions of years — spread these rare minerals all over the planet. 

The only thing holding Japan back from using its newly found deposit to dominate the global market for rare-earth minerals is the challenge involved in extracting them. The process is expensive, so more research needs to be done to determine the cheapest methods, Yutaro Takaya, the study's lead author, told The Journal. 

Rare-earth minerals are likely to remain part the backbone of some the fastest-growing sectors of the global tech economy. Japan now has the opportunity to control a huge chunk of the global supply, forcing countries that manufacture electronics, like China and the US, to purchase the minerals on Japan's terms.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 18th Apr 2018

Image result for revising for exams on laptop

Can you really revise for exams at the same time as conducting multiple simultaneous conversations on social media?

Have teenagers really developed such skills of multi-tasking that they can respond to Snapchat, WhatsApp and Instagram, answer texts, and watch funny videos of pets on YouTube, at the same time as studying?

It's peak season for revision for exams in schools and universities, and parents will be trying to give their own advice, confident in the knowledge that whatever they say is likely to start an argument.

And high on the list of easy ways to get a door slammed in your face is to suggest, ever so carefully, that they should just switch off the mobile phone for five minutes and focus on the text books.

'Myth' of multi-tasking

But are young people really able to respond to so many different stimulations at the same time? Wouldn't Pavlov's dog be dead with exhaustion if it had to keep responding like this?

Young people are showing "addictive behaviour" when it comes to using smartphones

Tom Bennett, a teacher, parent and the UK government's adviser on behaviour in school, says it's a complete "myth" that teenagers can multi-task between social media and online entertainment and still keep studying.

Mr Bennett is the director and founder of the ResearchEd group, which spreads education research among the teaching profession, and he says all the evidence points to online distractions harming learning.

Revision needs focus and concentration, he says, but this is going to be scuppered by the relentless, attention-seeking demands of social media.

"It's a very serious concern for educators and parents," he says.

Teenagers can have an "addictive response" to smartphones, says Mr Bennett, constantly checking for updates and responses.

Phone bans

Schoolwork is one casualty, alongside disrupted sleep and anxiety from an online culture that never switches off, says Mr Bennett.

"The children affected most are already likely to be the furthest behind," he says.

It's peak revision season - but can students avoid the distractions as they work on their laptops

There is international research to back his concerns.

A study of pupils in the Boston area, carried out by a research team including academics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found "a link between greater media multi-tasking and worse academic outcomes in adolescents".

US academics also found similar results when they looked at achievement in schools in England that had banned mobile phones and so created at least part of the day away from messaging and social media.

Louis Philippe Beland, from Louisiana State University, and Richard Murphy, from the University of Texas at Austin, concluded that "not only does pupil achievement improve as a result of a ban, but also that low achieving and low income pupils gain the most".

An earlier study at Stanford University indicated that bombarding people with multiple online distractions didn't make them quicker to react, it made them less productive and lowered performance in memory tests.

'Don't just tell them to turn off'

But is that going to make any impression on a tech-addicted teenager who would need to be surgically detached from their mobile?

Part of the problem is that when a student is revising online, work and play are a click away from each other.

Tensions will be rising as the summer exams are approaching

Social media is waiting on the same screen as the revision. The playground and library are in the same place.

YouTube might be a soundtrack for putting off working, but it must also be one of the biggest unofficial revision services on the planet.

Google can be a starting point for websites stuffed full of free educational materials and online tutorials.

Dr Sandra Leaton Gray, senior lecturer in education at the UCL Institute of Education, says it's a mistake for parents to barge in and just say "turn it off".

"The clever way round it is to say, 'How are things going online?' Ask them if they're being distracted," she says, suggesting that teenagers need to be cajoled rather than confronted with the dangers of online time-wasting.

'Evil and wonderful'

They might be mixing up chat about exam revision with socialising, she says, so it's not always a clear separation between studying and responding to the next social media message.

But she also sees the constant diet of social media as adding to stress, rather than offering a relaxation during the exams.

She likens it to a "fast-food mentality", with an instant reward and then a longer-term sense of "dissatisfaction" and pressure from having to fit in with the "tribalism" of other teenagers.

This online culture is both "evil and wonderful at the same time" for teenagers, says Dr Leaton Gray.

But media habits have changed. An annual report this year indicated how much of children's media time was now spent alone and through a computer device.

Tom Bennett says parents are still trying to catch up with such changes.

But he says there is a growing awareness of the problems of too much time spent online - which is brought into sharper focus during the high-pressure weeks approaching exams.

"Maybe we're reaching a turning point," he says.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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