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Are You Confused by Scientific Jargon? So Are Scientists

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 21:41
Scientific papers containing lots of specialized terminology are less likely to be cited by other researchers. The New York Times reports: Polje, nappe, vuggy, psammite. Some scientists who study caves might not bat an eye, but for the rest of us, these terms might as well be ancient Greek. Specialized terminology isn't unique to the ivory tower -- just ask a baker about torting or an arborist about bracts, for example. But it's pervasive in academia, and now a team of researchers has analyzed jargon in a set of over 21,000 scientific manuscripts. They found that papers containing higher proportions of jargon in their titles and abstracts were cited less frequently by other researchers. Science communication -- with the public but also among scientists -- suffers when a research paper is packed with too much specialized terminology, the team concluded. These results were published Wednesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Jargon can be a problem, but it also serves a purpose, said Hillary Shulman, a communications scientist at Ohio State University. "As our ideas become more refined, it makes sense that our concepts do too." This language-within-a-language can be a timesaver, a way to precisely convey meaning, she said. However, it also runs the risk of starkly reminding people -- even some well-educated researchers -- that they aren't "in the know." "It's alienating," said Dr. Shulman.

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Categories: Technology

In One Year a Billion Tons of Food Got Wasted

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 21:01
There is something that the average person can do to slow down climate change, and it can be accomplished without leaving the house. Don't waste food. From a report: Some 931 million tons of it went to waste in 2019, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Individual households were responsible for more than half of that, with the rest coming from retailers and the food service industry. New estimates show that about 17% of food available to consumers worldwide that year ended up being wasted. The matter is even more urgent when considered alongside another UN analysis that tracks the problem further up the supply chain, and shows 14% of food production is lost before it reaches stores. Waste is happening at every point, from the field to the dinner table. Food waste and loss are responsible for as much as 10% of global emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If it were a country, this discard would rank third in the ranking of the world's sources of greenhouse gases, after China and the U.S. Among the most effective climate solutions, non-profit Project Drawdown ranks cutting food waste ahead of moving to electric cars and switching to plant-based diets. Thursday's UNEP report suggests the amount of food wasted by consumers could be about double the previous estimate. The analysis conducted by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization in 2011 relied on data from fewer countries.

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Categories: Technology

Drought in Taiwan Pits Chip Makers Against Farmers

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 20:21
smooth wombat writes: Chuang Cheng-deng's modest rice farm is a stone's throw from the nerve center of Taiwan's computer chip industry, whose products power a huge share of the world's iPhones and other gadgets. This year, Mr. Chuang is paying the price for his high-tech neighbors' economic importance. Gripped by drought and scrambling to save water for homes and factories, Taiwan has shut off irrigation across tens of thousands of acres of farmland. The authorities are compensating growers for the lost income. But Mr. Chuang, 55, worries that the thwarted harvest will drive customers to seek out other suppliers, which could mean years of depressed earnings. "The government is using money to seal farmers' mouths shut," he said, surveying his parched brown fields. Officials are calling the drought Taiwan's worst in more than half a century. And it is exposing the enormous challenges involved in hosting the island's semiconductor industry, which is an increasingly indispensable node in the global supply chains for smartphones, cars and other keystones of modern life. Chip makers use lots of water to clean their factories and wafers, the thin slices of silicon that form the basis of the chips. And with worldwide semiconductor supplies already strained by surging demand for electronics, the added uncertainty about Taiwan's water supply is not likely to ease concerns about the tech world's reliance on the island and on one chip maker in particular: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. More than 90 percent of the worldâ(TM)s manufacturing capacity for the most advanced chips is in Taiwan and run by TSMC, which makes chips for Apple, Intel and other big names. The company said last week that it would invest $100 billion over the next three years to increase capacity, which will likely further strengthen its commanding presence in the market. TSMC says the drought has not affected its production so far. But with Taiwan's rainfall becoming no more predictable even as its tech industry grows, the island is having to go to greater and greater lengths to keep the water flowing. In recent months, the government has flown planes and burned chemicals to seed the clouds above reservoirs. It has built a seawater desalination plant in Hsinchu, home to TSMC's headquarters, and a pipeline connecting the city with the rainier north. It has ordered industries to cut use. In some places it has reduced water pressure and begun shutting off supplies for two days each week. Some companies, including TSMC, have hauled in truckloads of water from other areas.

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APKPure App Contained Malicious Adware, Say Researchers

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 19:40
Security researchers say APKPure, a widely popular app for installing older or discontinued Android apps from outside of Google's app store, contained malicious adware that flooded the victim's device with unwanted ads. From a report: Kaspersky Lab said that it alerted APKPure on Thursday that its most recent app version, 3.17.18, contained malicious code that siphoned off data from a victim's device without their knowledge, and pushed ads to the device's lock screen and in the background to generate fraudulent revenue for the adware operators. But the researchers said that the malicious code had the capacity to download other malware, potentially putting affected victims at further risk.

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JPMorgan Chase CEO Says Fintech is an 'Enormous Competitive' Threat To Banks

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 19:05
Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO, listed fintech as one of the "enormous competitive threats" to banks in his annual shareholder letter released this week. From a report: "Banks ... are facing extensive competition from Silicon Valley, both in the form of fintechs and Big Tech companies," like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Walmart, Dimon wrote, and "that is here to stay." Fintech companies, in particular, "are making great strides in building both digital and physical banking products and services," Dimon said. "From loans to payment systems to investing, they have done a great job in developing easy-to-use, intuitive, fast and smart products." This, in part, is why "banks are playing an increasingly smaller role in the financial system," he said. Fintechs, like Stripe, Robinhood and PayPal, have seen a lot of growth and success in recent years, which may present challenges to traditional banks. While traditional banks have "significant strengths," like "brand, economies of scale, profitability and deep roots with their customers," Dimon also acknowledged their weaknesses. Things like "inflexible 'legacy systems'" along with "extensive regulations," can hinder innovation within banks, though they can arguably also make banks a "safer" option for consumers, too.

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A Third of Antarctic Ice Shelf Risks Collapse as Our Planet Warms

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 18:27
More than a third of the Antarctic ice shelf risks collapsing into the sea if global temperatures reach 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels as climate change warms the world, a new study from the UK's University of Reading has warned. From a report: In a forecasting study, scientists found that 34% of the area of all Antarctic ice shelves, measuring some half a million square kilometers, could destabilize if world temperatures were to rise by 4 degrees. Some 67% of the ice shelf area on the Antarctic Peninsula would be at risk of destabilization under this scenario, researchers said. Ice shelves are permanent floating platforms of ice attached to areas of the coastline, formed where glaciers flowing off the land meet the sea. They can help limit the rise in global sea levels by acting like a dam, slowing the flow of melting ice and water into the oceans. Each summer, ice at the surface of ice shelves melts and runs into smaller gaps in the snow below, where it usually refreezes. But when there is a lot of melting and little snowfall, this water instead pools onto the ice's surface or flows into crevasses. This deepens and widens the crevasses, causing the shelf to fracture and collapse into the sea.

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W3C Slaps Down Google's Proposal To Treat Multiple Domains as Same Origin

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 17:51
A Google proposal which enables a web browser to treat a group of domains as one for privacy and security reasons has been opposed by the W3C Technical Architecture Group (TAG). From a report: Google's First Party Sets (FPS) relates to the way web browsers determine whether a cookie or other resource comes from the same site to which the user has navigated or from another site. The browser is likely to treat these differently, an obvious example being the plan to block third-party cookies. The proposal suggests that where multiple domains owned by the same entity -- such as google.com, google.co.uk, and youtube.com -- they could be grouped into sets which "allow related domain names to declare themselves as the same first-party." The idea allows for sites to declare their own sets by means of a manifest in a known location. It also states that "the browser vendor could maintain a list of domains which meet its UA [User Agent] policy, and ship it in the browser." In February 2019, Google software engineer Mike West requested a TAG review and feedback on the proposal was published yesterday. "It has been reviewed by the TAG and represents a consensus view," the document says. According to the TAG, "the architectural plank of the origin has remained relatively steady" over the last 10 years, despite major changes in web technology. It added: "We are concerned that this proposal weakens the concept of origin without considering the full implications of this action." The group identified some vagueness in the proposal, such as whether FPS applies to permissions such as access to microphone and camera. A Google Chrome engineering manager has stated: "No, we are not proposing to change the scope for permissions. The current scope for FPS is only to be treated as a privacy boundary where browsers impose cross-site tracking limitations." But the TAG reckons that the precise scope of FPS should be laid out in the proposal. A second concern is over the suggestion that browser vendors would ship their own lists. "This could lead to more application developers targeting specific browsers and writing web apps that only work (or are limited to) those browsers, which is not a desirable outcome," said the TAG.

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Google Urges Biden To Work With EU on Tech and Trade

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 17:04
Google is signaling to the White House that a lack of coordination on tech and trade policy across the Atlantic is hurting business. From a report: Google's head of global policy and government affairs, Karan Bhatia, is urging the Biden administration to accept an invitation from the European Commission to form an EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council, according to a post shared exclusively with Axios. Around the world, different countries are proposing and enacting trade, tax, privacy and moderation rules impacting U.S. tech companies. On Thursday, the Biden administration proposed a tax agreement for very large multinational companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, the Wall Street Journal reports. Today's global regulatory patchquilt is a legacy of trade wars launched intermittently during the Trump administration plus aggressive moves aimed at U.S. tech companies from overseas. "Trans-Atlantic coordination has largely become an afterthought, if itâ(TM)s thought of at all," Bhatia wrote in a blog post. "These policy trends hurt both the U.S. and European economies, risking the 16 million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic linked to transatlantic trade and investment," he wrote. "They also make it harder for the U.S. and the EU to address new global technology challenges and partner with emerging economies in Asia." Bhatia says the Biden administration should opt to participate in the proposed Trade and Technology Council to avoid "unilateral approaches" on data flows between the U.S. and Europe and regulation of digital platforms.

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Amazon Workers Vote Down Alabama Union Campaign

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 16:21
Amazon employees at a Bessemer, Alabama warehouse have voted against unionizing the facility's roughly 5,800-person workforce. From a report: The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has tallied 1,700 "no" votes on the measure, more than half of the 3,215 ballots cast by employees at the BHM1 fulfillment center. Roughly 700 votes that have been counted voted in favor of the union, and approximately 500 of the total ballots were contested, mostly by Amazon. Workers voted in February and March by mail over whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), a possibility Amazon fought with anti-union meetings and other aggressive measures. BHM1 is only the second US Amazon facility to hold a union vote, following a far smaller group of warehouse technicians in Delaware. If workers had approved the union, it would have become the largest group to gain representation in a single NLRB election since 1991. Amazon workers outside BHM1 have carried out more informal activism, including during the coronavirus pandemic, when employees claimed that Amazon had failed to reveal COVID-19 cases and provide adequate protective measures. In complaints obtained by news outlets, the NLRB determined that Amazon illegally retaliated against some of these workers. The NLRB also found that Amazon acted illegally in firing two workers who pushed it to address its climate impact. Amazon has long resisted unionization and waged an aggressive campaign in Bessemer. The company brought in expensive anti-union consultants and held so-called "captive audience" meetings, which are mandatory workplace lectures where unions are presented in a negative light.

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SEC Accuses Actor of $690 Million Fraud Based on Fake Netflix Deal

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 15:40
Zachary Horwitz never made it big on the Sunset Strip -- there was the uncredited part in Brad Pitt's "Fury" and a host of roles in low-budget thrillers and horror flicks. But federal charges suggest he had acting talent, duping several financial firms out of hundreds of millions of dollars and enabling him to live the Hollywood dream after all. From a report: That meant chartered flights and a $6 million mansion -- replete with wine cellar and home gym. Horwitz even included a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, which retails for more than $200, as a gift to investors along with his company's "annual report." The claims are outlined in legal documents that U.S. prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission released this week alleging Horwitz, 34, was running a massive Ponzi scheme. His scam: a made-up story that he had exclusive deals to sell films to Netflix and HBO. Dating back to 2014, the SEC said he raised a shocking $690 million in fraudulent funds. On Tuesday, Horwitz was arrested. Horwitz, who went by the screen name "Zach Avery," used fabricated contracts and fake emails to swindle at least five firms, according to the government. Investors were issued promissory notes through his firm 1inMM Capital to acquire the rights to movies that would be sold to Netflix and HBO for distribution in Latin America, Australia, New Zealand and other locations.

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Apple Says iMessage on Android 'Will Hurt Us More Than Help Us'

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 15:00
Apple knows that iMessage's blue bubbles are a big barrier to people switching to Android, which is why the service has never appeared on Google's mobile operating system. From a report: That's according to depositions and emails from Apple employees, including some high-ranking executives, revealed in a court filing from Epic Games as part of its legal dispute with the iPhone manufacturer. Epic argues that Apple consciously tries to lock customers into its ecosystem of devices, and that iMessage is one of the key services helping it to do so. It cites comments made by Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services Eddie Cue, senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi, and Apple Fellow Phil Schiller to support its argument. "The #1 most difficult [reason] to leave the Apple universe app is iMessage ... iMessage amounts to serious lock-in," was how one unnamed former Apple employee put it in an email in 2016, prompting Schiller to respond that, "moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us, this email illustrates why." "iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones," was Federighi's concern according to the Epic filing. Although workarounds to using iMessage on Android have emerged over the years, none have been particularly convenient or reliable.

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Facebook Hopes Tiny Labels On Posts Will Stop Users Confusing Satire With Reality

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 14:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Facebook is adding additional labels to posts from Pages that appear in users' News Feeds in a bid to reduce confusion about their origin. These labels will include "public official," "fan page," and "satire page." The company says it's already started testing the deployment of these labels in the US, and will gradually add them to more posts. Facebook hasn't offered any explanation as to why it's adding these labels, but identifying satire seems particularly important. Take a look at the social shares for any news articles written by well-known satirical sites like The Onion or The Babylon Bee and you'll find plenty of people taking these stories at face value. In such a context these posts are essentially a type of misinformation, even if their creators did not intend this. Even high profile figures like former president Donald Trump have mistaken these stories for real reports.

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Microsoft Is Finally Releasing a 64-Bit Version of OneDrive For Windows

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 11:00
Microsoft is finally releasing a 64-bit version of OneDrive, roughly 14 years after the first 64-bit version of Windows was released. Engadget reports: In an announcement spotted by Windows guru Paul Thurrott, the company says the new version of OneDrive will help those who need to transfer large files or many files at the same time since 64-bit systems can access more resources than their 32-bit counterparts. "We know this has been a long-awaited and highly requested feature, and we're thrilled to make it available for early access," the company said. "You can now download the 64-bit version for use with OneDrive work, school, and home accounts." One thing to note is the preview is currently only available on x64 installs of Windows. If you own a computer like the Surface Pro X -- and therefore have Windows 10 on ARM installed on your system -- you'll have to wait. Microsoft recommends you continue using the 32-bit version for the time being.

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Studies That Add Human Cells To Animal Brains Are Ethical, Panel Says

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 08:00
sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: Experiments that create tiny brainlike structures from human stem cells or transplant human cells into an animal's brain have made some scientists, ethicists, and religious leaders uneasy in recent years. And the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has restricted some of this research. Now, a U.S. scientific panel has weighed in with advice about how to oversee this controversial and fast-moving area of neuroscience. The panel finds little evidence that brain "organoids" or animals given human cells experience humanlike consciousness or pain, and concludes current rules are adequate for overseeing this work. But they caution that could change, particularly as experiments move into nonhuman primates. "The rationale for the report is to get out ahead of the curve," says Harvard University neuroscientist Joshua Sanes, co-chair of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee that released its report today.

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Ant Responses To Social Isolation Resemble Those of Humans

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 04:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Ants react to social isolation in a similar way as do humans and other social mammals. A study by an Israeli-German research team has revealed alterations to the social and hygienic behavior of ants that had been isolated from their group. The research team was particularly surprised by the fact that immune and stress genes were downregulated in the brains of the isolated ants. [...] While the effects of isolation have been extensively studied in social mammals such as humans and mice, less is known about how social insects respond in comparable situations -- even though they live in highly evolved social systems. Ants, for instance, live their entire lives as members of the same colony and are dependent on their colony mates. The worker ants relinquish their own reproductive potential and devote themselves to feeding the larvae, cleaning and defending the nest, and searching for food, while the queen does little more than just lay eggs. The research team looked at the consequences of social isolation in the case of ants of the species Temnothorax nylanderi. These ants inhabit cavities in acorns and sticks on the ground in European forests, forming colonies of a few dozen workers. Young workers engaged in brood care were taken singly from 14 colonies and kept in isolation for varying lengths of time, from one hour to a maximum of 28 days. The study was conducted between January and March 2019 and highlighted three particular aspects in which changes were observed. After the end of their isolation, the workers were less interested in their adult colony mates, but the length of time they spent in brood contact increased; they also spent less time grooming themselves. [...] While the study revealed significant changes in the behaviors of the isolated insects, its findings with regard to gene activity were even more striking: Many genes related to immune system function and stress response were downregulated. In other words, these genes were less active. "This finding is consistent with studies on other social animals that demonstrated a weakening of the immune system after isolation," said Professor Inon Scharf. The study has been published in the journal Molecular Ecology.

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Adding Is Favored Over Subtracting In Problem Solving

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 03:02
A series of problem-solving experiments reveal that people are more likely to consider solutions that add features than solutions that remove them, even when removing features is more efficient. Nature reports: Across a series of [...] experiments, the authors observe that people consistently consider changes that add components over those that subtract them -- a tendency that has broad implications for everyday decision-making. For example, Adams et al. and colleagues analyzed archival data and observed that, when an incoming university president requested suggestions for changes that would allow the university to better serve its students and community, only 11% of the responses involved removing an existing regulation, practice or program. Similarly, when the authors asked study participants to make a 10 x 10 grid of green and white boxes symmetrical, participants often added green boxes to the emptier half of the grid rather than removing them from the fuller half, even when doing the latter would have been more efficient. Adams et al. demonstrated that the reason their participants offered so few subtractive solutions is not because they didn't recognize the value of those solutions, but because they failed to consider them. Indeed, when instructions explicitly mentioned the possibility of subtractive solutions, or when participants had more opportunity to think or practice, the likelihood of offering subtractive solutions increased. It thus seems that people are prone to apply a 'what can we add here?' heuristic (a default strategy to simplify and speed up decision-making). This heuristic can be overcome by exerting extra cognitive effort to consider other, less-intuitive solutions.

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Verizon Recalls 2.5 Million Hotspot Devices Due To Fire Hazard

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 02:25
Verizon is recalling 2.5 million hotspot devices after discovering that the lithium ion battery can overheat, creating a fire and burning hazard. CNBC reports: The recall impacts Ellipsis Jetpack mobile hotspots imported by Franklin Wireless Corp and sold between April 2017 and March 2021. The affected models are labeled: MHS900L, MHS900LS and MHS900LPP. Verizon disclosed the recall Thursday alongside a notice from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). A Verizon spokesperson said just over 1 million of the recalled devices are currently in use, meaning currently or recently used by customers. According to the recall notice posted by the CPSC, Verizon had received 15 reports of the hotspots overheating. Six of those reports included incidents of fire damage to bedding or flooring and two involved minor burn injuries. Some of the hotspots were supplied to students by their schools to continue remote learning, according to the recall notice. Parents who received hotspots from their children's schools are advised to contact the schools about receiving a replacement. Other customers can request a replacement by going to ellipsisjetpackrecall.expertinquiry.com or calling 855-205-2627.

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Impossible Foods In Talks To Go Public

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 01:45
According to Reuters, Impossible Foods is preparing for a public listing which could value the U.S. plant-based burger maker at around $10 billion or more. From the report: This would be substantially more than the $4 billion the company was worth in a private funding round in 2020. It would highlight growing demand for plant-based meat products, driven by environmental and ethical concerns among consumers. Impossible Foods is exploring going public through an initial public offering (IPO) in the next 12 months or a merger with a so-called special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), the sources said. The Redwood City, California-based company has worked with a financial adviser to help manage discussions with SPACs after receiving offers at a lucrative valuation, the sources said. Going public through a SPAC could dilute existing Impossible Foods shareholders, however, by a greater extent than an IPO, the sources added. The sources, who requested because the discussions are private, cautioned that the deliberations are subject to market conditions and the company may opt to pursue another private fundraising round.

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Proctorio Is Using Racist Algorithms To Detect Faces

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 01:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Students of color have long complained that the facial detection algorithms Proctorio and other exam surveillance companies use fail to recognize their faces, making it difficult if not impossible to take high-stakes tests. Now, a software researcher, who also happens to be a college student at a school that uses Proctorio, says he can prove the Proctorio software is using a facial detection model that fails to recognize Black faces more than 50 percent of the time. Akash Satheesan, the researcher, recently published his findings in a series of blog posts. In them, he describes how he analyzed the code behind Proctorio's extension for the Chrome web browser and found that the file names associated with the tool's facial detection function were identical to those published by OpenCV, an open-source computer vision software library. Satheesan demonstrated for Motherboard that the facial detection algorithms embedded in Proctorio's tool performed identically to the OpenCV models when tested on the same set of faces. Motherboard also consulted a security researcher who validated Satheesan's findings and was able to recreate his analysis. [...] Satheesan tested the models against images containing nearly 11,000 faces from the FairFaces dataset, a library of images curated to contain labeled images representative of multiple ethnicities and races. The models failed to detect faces in images labeled as including Black faces 57 percent of the time. Some of the failures were glaring: the algorithms detected a white face, but not a Black face posed in a near-identical position, in the same image. The pass rates for other groups were better, but still far from state-of-the-art. The models Satheesan tested failed to detect faces in 41 percent of images containing Middle Eastern faces, 40 percent of those containing white faces, 37 percent containing East Asian faces, 35 percent containing Southeast Asian or Indian faces, and 33 percent containing Latinx faces.

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Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Nano Weighs Only 1.99 Pounds and Is Powered By Intel Tiger Lake CPUs

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 00:20
MojoKid writes: The new 13-inch ThinkPad X1 Nano is the thinnest and lightest Lenovo ThinkPad ever in the brand's history. The machine weighs just 1.99 pounds (907 grams), while still sporting a fairly powerful Intel Core i7-1160G7 Tiger Lake quad-core CPU, up to a 1TB NVMe SSD, 16GB of 4267MHz LPDDR4X RAM and a 48 Whr battery. In the benchmarks, the machine holds its own for productivity and content creation tasks as well as a bit of light-duty gaming, versus heavier machines in its peer group. In terms of battery life, the new ThinkPad X1 Nano hangs pretty tough as well, offering about 7.5 hours of constant use up-time with HD video playback. With its 2K (2160X1350 -- 16:10) IPS Dolby Vision-certified display and top tier configuration, it doesn't come cheap, as you might imagine. The ThinkPad X1 Nano has a current starting price of $1,289 and tops out at $2,231 for its most powerful configuration with 1TB of fast SSD storage. Regardless, it's impressive what the machine can deliver in terms of features and performance in its weight class.

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