The strange, secretive world of North Korean science fiction
Stories often touch on topics like space travel, benevolent robots, disease-curing nanobots, and deep-sea exploration. They lack aliens and beings with superpowers. Instead, the real superheroes are the exceptional North Korean scientists and technologists who carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.
These stories are often rich in political tension, featuring “breathtaking confrontations between North Korea and the United States,” said Jang Hyuk, a young math graduate who defected from North Korea a few years ago. As in Change Course, North Koreans in sci-fi are typically portrayed as trying to save somebody, while the Americans are the villains who want “to monopolize and weaponize [technology] to dominate the world,” he added.
To a Western reader, such plots might seem ludicrous, perhaps designed to boost the confidence of a nation with little contact with the rest of the world. However, exploring them deeper might reveal a more nuanced layer of understanding.
Animal personalities can trip up science, but there’s a solution
Scientists are increasingly realizing that animals, like people, are individuals. They have distinct tendencies, habits and life experiences that may affect how they perform in an experiment. That means, some researchers argue, that much published research on animal behavior may be biased. Studies claiming to show something about a species as a whole—that green sea turtles migrate a certain distance, say, or how chaffinches respond to the song of a rival—may say more about individual animals that were captured or housed in a certain way, or that share certain genetic features. That’s a problem for researchers who seek to understand how animals sense their environments, gain new knowledge and live their lives.
Researchers make their own enzyme pathway to get CO₂ out of the air
Before this century is over, we’re almost certainly going to need to pull massive amounts of carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere. While we already know how to do carbon capture and storage, it takes a fair amount of energy and equipment, and someone has to pay for all that. It would be far more economical to pull CO2 out of the air if we could convert it to a useful product, like jet fuel. But processes like that also take a lot of energy, plus raw materials like hydrogen that take energy to create.
Plants and a huge range of microbes successfully pull carbon dioxide out of the air and use it to produce all sorts of complicated (and valuable!) chemicals. But the pathways they use to incorporate CO2 aren’t very efficient, so they can’t fix enough of the greenhouse gas or incorporate it into enough product to be especially useful. That has led a lot of people to look into re-engineering an enzyme that’s central to photosynthesis. But a team of European researchers has taken a radically different approach: engineering an entirely new biochemical pathway that incorporates the carbon of CO2 into molecules critical for the cell’s basic metabolism.
Over 200 offensive slurs could soon be banned from competitive Scrabble
The North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) seems poised to remove hundreds of offensive slurs from tournament-level Scrabble play.
Words that are “used to cause offense on scatological, prurient, profane or other grounds” are not under discussion this time around. NASPA publishes an obfuscated, anagrammed list of which offensive words fall into each category.
Penguin poop creates a buttload of laughing gas
Gobs of guano from king penguins in the sub-Antarctic give rise to comical clouds of nitrous oxide—aka laughing gas—according to a recent study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
ZFS versus RAID: Eight Ironwolf disks, two filesystems, one winner
We exhaustively tested ZFS and RAID performance on our Storage Hot Rod server.
Researchers find an animal without mitochondria
Mitochondria, previously found in all animals, is now in all animals but one.
The Fairey Rotodyne, the vertical takeoff and landing airliner time forgot
The phrase “Urban Air Mobility” (UAM) seems like it’s been with us for quite a while, but really it’s only been in widespread use for two or three years. NASA officially recognized UAM in 2017, calling for a market study of remotely piloted or unmanned air passenger and cargo transportation around an urban area. Most people would probably call this the “air taxi” idea—a vision of hundreds of small, unmanned electric multi-copters shuttling two or three passengers from nearby suburbs or city spaces to vertiports at about 100 mph (roughly 161 km/h).
But if things had worked out differently in the late 1950s and early 1960s, we might have a very different understanding of UAM—something more like mass-transit. We might have had a city-center to city-center 55-passenger vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) airliner shuttling between urban heliports at 180 mph (289 km/h).
Actually, we did have that, it’s just few people remember. It was called the Fairey Rotodyne.
I broke Giant’s handheld scanner system by only buying two things
The employee interface verified that my cart contained two (2) items. She scanned both. It verified that those two items were ones I had scanned. And then it told her that she needed to scan five more items to complete the audit, because the audit requires seven items to be scanned.
How the scourge of cheating is changing speedrunning
How do you catch fakes when it’s easier than ever to manipulate video?
That time a monkey flew to the edge of space
So when NASA’s young engineers at Langley Research Center in Virginia began testing their new Mercury capsule in flight, they wanted to see whether the accelerations experienced during the abort of a Mercury flight shortly after launch were survivable. Enter Sam, an eight-pound rhesus monkey.
Boosting the Real Time Performance of Gnome Shell 3.34 in Ubuntu 19.10
As you may have read many times, Gnome 3.34 brings much improved desktop performance. In this article we will describe some of the improvements contributed by Canonical, how the problems were surprising, how they were approached and what other performance work is coming in future.
The thing is in the case of Gnome Shell its biggest performance problems of late were not hot spots at all. They were better characterised as cold spots where it was idle instead of updating the screen smoothly. Such cold spots are only apparent when you look at the real time usage of a program, and in not the CPU or GPU time consumed.
Nice write-up on addressing stuttering and lag.
What it was like to fly the baddest airplane the world has ever known
The X-15 was not the first rocket-powered aircraft, but it is probably the best one ever built and flown. Before the first X-15 took flight in the late 1950s, the fastest speed airplanes had reached was Mach 3. The X-15 doubled that. And, remarkably, it also went on to fly into space more than a dozen times.
Wireless nanowire lasers absorb infrared, emit blue light
So, where will these be used? I’ve no idea at this point, and I don’t really care—I just love the physics. More seriously, it takes a very bright light to turn a laser on like this (think ~1TW/cm2), so the applications will certainly be niche.
Nano Letters, 2019, DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.9b00510
Quake II gets free real-time raytracing updates on June 6
Windows and Linux users will be able to download the first three levels of the graphically updated game as shareware starting at 6am Pacific Time on June 6. You can play the remaining levels and multiplayer if you point the installer to a legit copy of the full game on your hard drive. The source code for the Vulkan-based update will be posted on Github as well, though Quake II expansion packs will not be supported without extra effort from the community.
Stealing Downloads from Slack Users
The vulnerability could have allowed a remote attacker to submit a masqueraded link in a slack channel, that “if clicked” by a victim, would silently change the download location setting of the slack client to an attacker owned SMB share. This could have allowed all future downloaded documents by the victim to end up being uploaded to an attacker owned file server until the setting is manually changed back by the victim.