Metformin could be the first FDA approved antiaging drug

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For the last two decades, researchers started comparing the health of diabetics on metformin to those taking other diabetes drugs. Metformin-takers tended to be healthier in all sorts of ways. They…

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Amazon might take on Ticketmaster with concert and sports ticket sales

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Amazon has held talks directly with the owners of major venues in the US about potentially entering the business of ticket sales, according to a report from Reuters. If Amazon were to proceed, it could significantly disrupt an industry that is largely dominated by Ticketmaster. But as an alternative to competing, Amazon has also considered partnering with Ticketmaster on a ticketing effort. Those discussions “have stalled over who would control customer data” according to Reuters.

The report claims that Amazon views ticketing as “ripe for attack” and as a potential source of profit. The company already operates Amazon Tickets overseas, but hasn’t launched that business at home in the United States yet.

But Ticketmaster, owned by Live Nation, has a seemingly unbreakable grip on the box office at many of the largest and most popular venues. In an attempt to give itself an opening, Amazon has reportedly “offered to write sponsorship checks worth millions of dollars to the venues” according to one of Reuters’ sources. The online retail giant has also discussed a StubHub-like model of reselling tickets with one unspecified sports league.

It would take a company of Amazon’s stature to have any real chance of overcoming the long-running business ties between Ticketmaster and big event venues in cities around the country. But many consumers likely have a more positive opinion of Amazon than they do of Ticketmaster and its added processing fees that get tacked onto already-expensive ticket prices. (Remember that class action lawsuit settlement and all the free tickets people got?) And it’s not hard to see the appeal and convenience — and money to be made — if you could get tickets and merchandise together. Ticketmaster was acquired by Live Nation in 2009 for $2.5 billion.

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The first Apple-compatible cochlear implant sound processor was announced today

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Apple and hearing assistance company Cochlear have teamed up to launch the first iPhone-compatible cochlear implant sound processor. The processor will accompany an implant. (The processor isn’t what’s implanted inside the body; it’s what you see outside and what gathers audio to then send to the implant.)

Lots of Apple-compatible hearing products already exist. Apple lists them all on its "Made for iPhone hearing aids" page. These devices directly pair with an iOS device (running iOS 7 or later) over Bluetooth to receive audio, and users can control their hearing aids from their phone’s accessibility settings. Most have compatible apps, like Cochlear, but they aren’t necessary for using the device. Cochlear’s app features a "Find My Processor" function that lets users hunt down the processor’s location through Apple’s Location Services feature, which will probably be especially useful for kids.

Cochlear plans to launch the processor in September for people in the US and Canada. It’ll be available as an upgrade for qualifying cochlear implant owners in October.

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IBM scientists have captured 330TB of uncompressed data into a tiny cartridge

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In a new world record, scientists at IBM have captured 330 terabytes of uncompressed data — or the equivalent of 330 million books — into a cartridge that can fit into the palm of your hand. The record of 201 gigabits per square inch on prototype sputtered magnetic tape is more than 20 times the areal density currently used in commercial tape drives. Areal recording density is the amount of information that can be stored on a given area of surface.

Tape drives were invented over 60 years ago and were traditionally used for archiving tax documents and health care records. IBM’s first tape unit used reels of half-inch-wide tape that could only hold about 2 megabytes.



A cross section of the prototype sputtered magnetic tape.

Image: Sony

The magnetic tape was developed by Sony Storage Media Solutions, and the milestone indicates the viability of continuing to scale up storage on tapes for another decade, IBM said.

“Tape has traditionally been used for video archives, back-up files, replicas for disaster recovery and retention of information on premise, but the industry is also expanding to off-premise applications in the cloud,” said IBM fellow Evangelos Eleftheriou in a statement. “While sputtered tape is expected to cost a little more to manufacture than current commercial tape, the potential for very high capacity will make the cost per terabyte very attractive, making this technology practical for cold storage in the cloud.”

In order for researchers to achieve the 201 gigabits per square inch, IBM researchers had to develop several new technologies. IBM worked closely with Sony for several years, particularly on enabling increased areal recording densities. “The results of this collaboration have led to various improvements in the media technology, such as advanced roll-to-roll technology for long sputtered tape fabrication and better lubricant technology, which stabilizes the functionality of the magnetic tape.”



Image: IBM

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Facebook enlists AI in war on fake news

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Facebook enlists AI in war on fake news

Facebook today revealed it was escalating its battle against fake news using machine learning.

Back in April, Facebook announced it’d be using Related Articles as a way of combating the influx of dubious articles. When you clicked on a post sharing an article, the Related Articles section directly below would show articles with different takes on the same topic. These would frequently include articles from third-party fact-checker sites, including the beleaguered Snopes.

Today, Facebook says it’s using its updated machine learning to filter out more suspect stories. Now the Related Articles are more likely to show the fact-checker’s account of the same topic. According to a spokesperson:

In addition to seeing which stories are disputed by third-party fact checkers, people want more context to make informed decisions about what they read and share.

This still might not be enough to pop a reader’s filter bubble, but it’s another step in the right direction.


Facebook to step up fact-checking in fight against fake news
on Reuters

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Facebook’s smart speaker sounds even creepier than we thought

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Facebook’s smart speaker sounds even creepier than we thought

Image: Camus/AP/REX/Shutterstock

We now know a lot more about Facebook’s hardware ambitions.

The social network is working not one, but two, connected speakers for the home, including one equipped with cameras, microphones, and a feature that will “scan for people,” according to a new report in Bloomberg. 

The device, which Facebook is reportedly testing, is a touchscreen-enabled speaker meant to help people make video calls from their house. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports the gadget will come with a large touchscreen between 12 and 15 inches and will be equipped with an array of speakers, microphones, and a wide-angle camera to enable video calling. 

The story also notes that it’s not clear what the underlying software will be — Facebook has apparently considered using a version of Android and building its own operating system. 

Here’s how Bloomberg describes the software [emphasis ours]:

Facebook is testing a feature that would allow the camera to automatically scan for people in its range and lock onto them, one of the people said. For example, the camera could zoom onto a painting that a child brought home from school to show to a parent away on a business trip. Facebook has also been developing a 360 degree camera for the device, but people familiar with the matter say it’s unlikely to be ready in time for the initial launch.

Combine that with the voice recognition capabilities described in an earlier report on the device from DigiTimes and, well, it sounds more than a little creepy. 

Separate from that, the report says the social network is also developing a standalone speaker similar to the Amazon Echo and Google Home. 

Facebook wants to sell the gadget “in the low $100 range” according to the story in order to be more competitive with Amazon and Google. (Amazon’s full-sized Echo costs $179.99 and Google sells its Home speaker for $129.)

Both devices are being developed by Facebook’s Building 8, the social network’s new divisions being lead by former Googler Regina Dugan, who previously lead the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group at the search giant. 

The report says Facebook plans to announce the larger touchscreen device next spring, but that the company could still kill the smaller standalone speaker before then.

A spokesperson for Facebook declined to comment on the report.

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Facebook and Google had 99% of online ad growth

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Facebook’s and Alphabet Inc.’s Google took 99% of the online ad industry’s growth last year, according to Pivotal Research. Facebook predicted that growth would slow in the second half of 2017.

This month, Facebook started showing ads in its Messenger chat app and introducing ads in Marketplace, a Craigslist-like feature in the core Facebook app. Facebook has also been testing “ad breaks” in the middle of Facebook videos and ramping up ads in its photo-sharing app Instagram.

Facebook is also investing in more lucrative ad products to help the company generate more money from every ad unit sold. In the quarter, Facebook debuted several new products to help advertisers more finely target their desired audience, such as one that aims to show ads to all the members of a particular household. Such highly targeted ads tend to be more lucrative for Facebook, analysts say.

Facebook net profit was $3.9 billion in the second quarter, up from $2.3 billion a year ago. Facebook profit rose 71% in the second quarter.

Quarterly revenue rose 45% to $9.3 billion from the prior year’s $6.4 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet expected Facebook to record quarterly revenue of $9.2 billion.

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Are we made of atoms from distant galaxies?

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New research suggests that up to half of the matter in the Milky Way may come from galaxies far, far away. Scientists say this could mean that each of us is made, in part, from extragalactic matter.

Using supercomputer simulations, researchers found a major and unexpected new mode for how galaxies, including our own Milky Way, acquired their matter: intergalactic transfer.

“This study transforms our understanding of how galaxies formed from the Big Bang…”

The simulations show that supernova explosions eject copious amounts of gas from galaxies, which causes atoms to be transported from one galaxy to another via powerful galactic winds. Intergalactic transfer is a newly identified phenomenon, which simulations indicate will be critical for understanding how galaxies evolve.

“Given how much of the matter out of which we formed may have come from other galaxies, we could consider ourselves space travelers or extragalactic immigrants,” says Daniel Anglés-Alcázar, a postdoctoral fellow at the CIERA (Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics) at Northwestern University.

“It is likely that much of the Milky Way’s matter was in other galaxies before it was kicked out by a powerful wind, traveled across intergalactic space and eventually found its new home in the Milky Way,” he says.

Galaxies are far apart from each other, so even though galactic winds propagate at several hundred kilometers per second, the process occurred over several billion years.

“This study transforms our understanding of how galaxies formed from the Big Bang,” says Claude-André Faucher-Giguère, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy and coauthor of the study that appears in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“What this new mode implies is that up to one-half of the atoms around us—including in the solar system, on Earth, and in each one of us—comes not from our own galaxy but from other galaxies, up to one million light years away.”

Faucher-Giguère and colleagues developed numerical simulations that produced realistic 3D models of galaxies, following formation from just after the Big Bang to the present day. Anglés-Alcázar then developed algorithms to mine the data and quantify how galaxies acquire matter from the universe.

Better ‘baby pictures’ from Milky Way nursery

By tracking in detail the complex flows of matter in the simulations, researchers found that gas flows from smaller galaxies to larger galaxies, such as the Milky Way, where the gas forms stars. This transfer of mass through galactic winds can account for up to 50 percent of matter in the larger galaxies.

“In our simulations, we were able to trace the origins of stars in Milky Way-like galaxies and determine if the star formed from matter endemic to the galaxy itself or if it formed instead from gas previously contained in another galaxy,” says Anglés-Alcázar, the study’s corresponding author.

“Our origins are much less local than we previously thought.”

In a galaxy, stars are bound together: a large collection of stars orbiting a common center of mass. After the Big Bang 14 billion years ago, the universe was filled with a uniform gas—no stars, no galaxies. But there were tiny perturbations in the gas, and these started to grow by force of gravity, eventually forming stars and galaxies. After galaxies formed, each had its own identity.

“Our origins are much less local than we previously thought,” Faucher-Giguère says. “This study gives us a sense of how things around us are connected to distant objects in the sky.”

The findings open a new line of research in understanding galaxy formation and opens the door to test the prediction of intergalactic transfer. The team plans to collaborate with observational astronomers who are working with the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories to test the simulation predictions.

Vast halo of hydrogen surrounds Milky Way

NASA, the National Science Foundation, and CIERA funded the work. The simulations were run and analyzed using NSF’s Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment supercomputing facilities and Northwestern’s Quest high-performance computer cluster.

Other authors are from the University of California, San Diego; Caltech; the University of California, Berkeley; and the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics.

Source: Northwestern University

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Roombas have been busy mapping our homes, and now that data could be up for sale

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Over the past couple of years, Roombas haven’t just been picking up dust and chauffeuring cats around, they’ve also been mapping the layout of your home. Now, Colin Angle, the chief executive of Roomba maker iRobot, has said he wants to sell the data from these maps in order to improve the future of smart home technology.

In 2015, iRobot introduced the Roomba 980, its first W-Fi-connected model. This meant that while a Roomba was quietly whirring around your floors, it was also collecting spacial data using visual localization, sensors, and more. This data helps the Roomba figure out how your home is laid out and adjust cleaning patterns on-the-fly to deal with things like moved furniture. But Angle thinks it could be put to use by more devices.

"There’s an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared," Angle told Reuters. Angle says that this data won’t be sold without permission, but Reuters says he thinks “most would give their consent in order to access the smart home functions.”

According to Reuters, iRobot hopes to reach a deal to sell these maps to Google, Apple, or Amazon within the next couple of years. Roomba is already compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home — Apple’s HomePod speaker is also on the way — and all could greatly benefit from the data within these home maps as they vie to offer the smart home assistant of choice.

Roomba owners can opt out of cloud-sharing functions within the iRobot Home app, but technically, the iRobot terms of service and privacy policy say they have the right to share your personal information. The information is buried, laden in legal language, and, as Gizmodo points out, includes this clause which could allow iRobot to sell the information without consent:

[We may share your personal information with] other parties in connection with any company transaction, such as a merger, sale of all or a portion of company assets or shares, reorganization, financing, change of control or acquisition of all or a portion of our business by another company or third party or in the event of bankruptcy or related or similar proceeding.

Most don’t thoroughly comb over entire terms of service agreements and privacy policies before agreeing to use apps and products. While blame could easily be placed on the user, the power dynamic between service and consumer gives tech companies leverage to exploit their customers. This was recently demonstrated when the CEO of email service Unroll.me said he was “heartbroken” that users were upset it sold their data to Uber for an undisclosed fee. “Sure we have a Terms of Service Agreement and a plain-English Privacy Policy,” said the CEO in the apology post, “but the reality is most of us — myself included — don’t take the time to thoroughly review them.”

Will people buy into iRobot’s vision of a smart home utopia and give up data maps of their home? Will that data actually be used to make home assistants work smarter for you, or just give them more advanced and targeted ways to sell you things? Perhaps the most important question is: do we ultimately value utility over privacy? It seems iRobot and its CEO are betting the answer to that is yes.

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You can now buy Snapchat Spectacles on Amazon

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If you’ve wanted to buy Snap’s Spectacles but can’t bear the thought of waiting more than two days for shipping, now’s your chance. The Snapchat-video-recording glasses have recently shown up on Amazon, available in a multitude of colors for $130. Spetacles were originally only available at special yellow kiosks, but they’ve since been sold on Snap’s website. Yet even after all these months, Snapchat gives an estimated delivery date of 5-10 days, so Amazon is probably your best bet if you want the glasses in just a day or two. That’ll let Spectacles reach a much wider audience, which will help…

This story continues at The Next Web

Or just read more coverage about: Amazon,Snapchat

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