IBM Finally Proves That Quantum Systems Are Faster Than Classical Systems (engadget.com) 5

In a paper published Thursday in the journal Science, Dr. Sergey Bravyi and his team reveal that they've developed a mathematical proof which, in specific cases, illustrates the quantum algorithm's inherent computational advantages over classical. Engadget reports: "It's good to know, because results like this become parts of algorithms," Bob Sutor, vice president of IBM Q Strategy and Ecosystem, told Engadget. "They become part of decisions about how people will start to attack problems. Where will they try classical techniques? Where will they try quantum techniques? How will those interplay? How will they work back and forth together?" What's more, the proof shows that, in these cases, the quantum algorithm can solve the problem in a fixed number of steps, regardless of how many inputs are added. With a classical computer, the more inputs you add, the more steps it needs to take in order to solve. Such are the advantages of parallel processing.

"The main point of this paper is not that somehow we discover some incredibly important quantum algorithm, or some practical, interesting problem," Bravyi told Engadget. "We ask if we can separate a constant depth [between] quantum and classical algorithms. As we increase the problem size, the runtime of the quantum algorithm remains constant, but the total number of operations grows." As Bravyi points out, this new proof doesn't, in and of itself, solve any existing computational issues. Instead, "it gives us insight into what makes a quantum computers more powerful," he continued. "And hopefully in the future it will lead to more practical, useful algorithms."


Measurement Shows the Electron's Stubborn Roundness (scientificamerican.com) 31

OneHundredAndTen writes: A new article in Nature reports of a new, extremely precise measurement of the electric dipole moment of the electron. The conclusion is that, within the margin of error of the measurement, the electron remains a perfect sphere. This implies that supersymmetric theories keep running out of corners to hide, that another nail is driven into their coffin, and that string theory looks less and less compelling. By lighting up the molecules with lasers, "the scientists were able to interpret how other subatomic particles alter the distribution of an electron's charge," reports Scientific American. "The symmetrical roundness of the electrons suggested that unseen particles aren't big enough to skew electrons into squashed oblong shapes, or ovals. These findings once again confirm a long-standing physics theory, known as the Standard Model, which describes how particles and forces in the universe behave."

Microplastics Found In 90 Percent of Table Salt (nationalgeographic.com) 91

An anonymous reader quotes a report from National Geographic: New research shows microplastics in 90 percent of the table salt brands sampled worldwide. Of 39 salt brands tested, 36 had microplastics in them, according to a new analysis by researchers in South Korea and Greenpeace East Asia. Salt samples from 21 countries in Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia were analyzed. The three brands that did not contain microplastics are from Taiwan (refined sea salt), China (refined rock salt), and France (unrefined sea salt produced by solar evaporation). The study was published this month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The density of microplastics found in salt varied dramatically among different brands, but those from Asian brands were especially high, the study found. The highest quantities of microplastics were found in salt sold in Indonesia. Asia is a hot spot for plastic pollution, and Indonesia -- with 34,000 miles (54,720 km) of coastline -- ranked in an unrelated 2015 study as suffering the second-worst level of plastic pollution in the world. In another indicator of the geographic density of plastic pollution, microplastics levels were highest in sea salt, followed by lake salt and then rock salt.
Even though the study found that the average adult consumes approximately 2,000 microplastics per year through salt, it's not clear what the health consequences are.
The Military

The Army Is Preparing To Send Driverless Vehicles Into Combat (vice.com) 70

The U.S. Army is getting ready to send driverless trucks into combat. "Next fall, [the Army's] 'Leader-Follower' technology will enable convoys of autonomous vehicles to follow behind one driven by a human," reports VICE News. "It's a direct response to the improvised explosive devices that caused nearly half the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan." From the report: Much of the research and development of these technologies has been done at TARDEC, the Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, in Warren, Michigan. Typically human-driven trucks are outfitted with sensors and cameras through a TARDEC-created applique kit. They're not exactly robots, just regular military trucks that have been made a lot smarter. The technology is expected to be ready for field use in September 2019.

Twitter Publishes Archive of 10 Million Tweets From Russian, Iranian Bots (boingboing.net) 79

AmiMoJo shares a report from Boing Boing: To enable "further research of information operations on Twitter," the company today published a dataset of tweets posted by known Russian and Iranian troll farms. "These large datasets comprise 3,841 accounts affiliated with the IRA, originating in Russia, and 770 other accounts, potentially originating in Iran," the blog post reads. "They include more than 10 million Tweets and more than 2 million images, GIFs, videos, and Periscope broadcasts, including the earliest on-Twitter activity from accounts connected with these campaigns, dating back to 2009." You can download the Russian and Iranian datasets here. The Russian dataset is comprised of 1.24GB of tweets and 300GB of media, while the Iranian dataset is comprised of 168MB of tweets and 65.7GB of media.

iPhone's New Parental Controls Block Sex Ed, Allow Violence and Racism (vice.com) 107

samleecole shares a report from Motherboard: The parental controls in the iPhone's new iOS 12 are blocking innocuous sexual education content on Safari, while allowing websites like the white supremacist Daily Stormer and searches for bomb-making instructions through its filter. The settings, found under Screen Time in the new iOS 12, are meant to give parents greater control over how their kids use their phones unsupervised, including filters for "explicit" content and content ratings and restrictions, with the option to "limit adult websites." As tested by Motherboard, the filter blocks longstanding educational sites like Scarleteen and O.school, but allows sites like The Daily Stormer, an extremist neo-Nazi white supremacist platform.

The filter in question "limits adult websites" on Safari. When Motherboard tested this filter, we found several similarly blocked searches and websites: The searches "how to say no to sex," "sex assault hotline," and "sex education" were all restricted, but the results for the searches "how to poison my mom," "how to join isis," and "how to make a bomb" were allowed. 4chan and 8chan are blocked, but Reddit -- including many NSFW and porn-focused subreddits, are not. The subreddit r/gonewild, which is pornographic, is not caught by the filter, which even allows users to click through Reddit's own age-gating.


Internet Provider Groups Sue Vermont Over Net Neutrality Law (reuters.com) 78

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Five industry groups representing major internet providers and cable companies filed suit on Thursday seeking to block a Vermont law barring companies that do not abide by net neutrality rules from receiving state contracts. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Vermont by groups representing major providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. It followed a lawsuit by four of the groups earlier this month challenging a much broader California law mandating providers abide by net neutrality rules.

The trade associations are also challenging an executive order on the issue signed by Vermont Governor Phil Scott. The Vermont lawsuit was filed by the American Cable Association; CTIA -- The Wireless Association; NCTA -- The Internet & Television Association; USTelecom -- The Broadband Association and the New England Cable & Telecommunications Association. The lawsuit argues that states cannot regulate "indirectly through their spending, procurement, or other commercial powers what they are forbidden from regulating directly."

Operating Systems

OpenBSD 6.4 Released (openbsd.org) 47

The 45th version of the OpenBSD project has been released, bringing more hardware support (Radeon driver updates, Intel microcode integration, and more), a virtualization tool that supports the disk format qcow2, and a network interface where you can quickly join and switch between different Wi-Fi networks.

Root.cz also notes that audio recording is now disabled by default. If you need to record audio, it can be enabled with the new sysctl variable. An anonymous Slashdot reader first shared the announcement. You can download it from any of the mirrors here.

Microsoft Making More of the Windows 10 Built-In Apps Removable (arstechnica.com) 59

With the latest Windows 10 build 18262, Microsoft is allowing you to remove apps such as Mail, Calendar, Movies & TV, and the Groove Music app. Ars Technica reports: The ability to remove these apps doesn't really mean much in terms of disk space or convenience, as none of them are very big. The move may be of more interest to corporate deployments; an organization that has standardized on Outlook, for example, might want to remove the Mail and Calendar apps to reduce user confusion.

Elsewhere, the new build also updates Task Manager; an optional column in the Details tab will show which applications handle mixed DPI systems and what API level they use for that support. Microsoft is also planning, but has not yet enabled, a new Windows troubleshooter. This will examine diagnostic data and automatically perform any fixes or reconfigurations that appear to be necessary.

The Courts

eBay Files Lawsuit Against Amazon Over 'Seller Recruitment' (bbc.com) 34

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: EBay has filed a lawsuit against Amazon, accusing the U.S. retail giant of using illegal tactics to recruit sellers. It says Amazon representatives abused eBay's internal email system to contact sellers -- a violation of the marketplace's policies. Amazon declined to comment on the case, which follows a letter from eBay demanding an end to the activity. It had previously said that it was investigating the claims. In the lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County, California, eBay says Amazon representatives created eBay accounts to solicit sellers, often sending messages within minutes of setting up their profiles. The activity dates back to at least 2015 and involved dozens of Amazon representatives, who each sent hundreds of emails, it says. EBay was alerted to the issue a few weeks ago by a seller and asked Amazon to stop.

Automation is Democratizing Experimental Science (axios.com) 37

New advances are taking automation to the highest end of human endeavors, offering scientists a shot at some of the most intractable problems that have confounded them -- and along the way tipping a global balance to give upstarts like China a more level playing field in the lab. From a report: A combination of artificial intelligence and nimble robots are allowing scientists to do more, and be faster, than they ever could with mere human hands and brains. "We're in the middle of a paradigm shift, a time when the choice of experiments and the execution of experiments are not really things that people do," says Bob Murphy, the head of the computational biology department at Carnegie Mellon University.

Automated science is "moving the role of the scientist higher and higher up the food chain," says Murphy. Researchers are focusing their efforts on big-picture problem-solving rather than the nitty-gritty of running experiments. He says it will also allow scientists to take on more problems at once -- and solve big, lingering ones that are too complex to tackle right now. Starting next year, Murphy's department will offer students a master's degree in automated science, the university announced last week.


When Your Day Job Isn't Enough (wsj.com) 121

An anonymous reader shares a report: A lot of people are pursuing creative side gigs while they hold down big office jobs. It used to be that many had to choose between their creative aspirations and their commitment to a corporate career, but in the era of the side hustle some manage to do both [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. [...] Doing both comes with trade-offs and tensions. Unlike the aspiring actor waiting tables to pay the bills, true dual professionals have to balance the demands of both their aspirations, and often face a moment of reckoning where they are forced to sacrifice a step forward in one career path for job stability and financial security in the other.

The two worlds of Theresa Vu -- also known as the rapper tvu -- often collide. As senior vice president of engineering at New York software firm AppNexus, Ms. Vu runs a team of coders who work on a digital advertising platform. As a vocalist with the band Magnetic North, she rhymes and drops beats, and helped propel the band's "Home: Word" album to No. 2 on the Japanese hip-hop chart.


Earth on Pace For Fourth-Warmest Year on Record, NOAA and NASA Say (weather.com) 243

The first nine months of 2018 was the fourth-warmest such period on Earth since record-keeping began in 1880, NOAA and NASA said in their analyses this week. From a report: 2016 had the warmest January-September period, according to NOAA, followed by 2017, then 2015. NASA's analysis agreed the Earth was on pace for its fourth-warmest year. NASA climate modeler Gavin Schmidt said in a tweet that 2018 was "almost guaranteed" to be the fourth-warmest year in its period of record. Record or near-record warmth in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America helped propel the January-September 2018 period to the fourth-warmest on record, NOAA said.

With temperatures 3.35 degrees Fahrenheit (1.86 degrees Celsius) above average, Europe had its record-warmest first nine months of the year, exceeding the previous record set in 2014 by more than 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 degrees Celsius). Records in the continent date to 1910. Breaking it down a bit further, Africa had its fifth-warmest year-to-date temperature on record, Asia its sixth-warmest and South America its eighth-warmest, according to NOAA. North America experienced its lowest January-September temperature departure from average since 2013. The only notable pocket of cooler-than-average temperatures in 2018's first nine months was over the far North Atlantic Ocean just south of Greenland.


Remote South Atlantic Islands Are Flooded With Plastic (smithsonianmag.com) 75

Thirty years ago, the ocean waters surrounding British islands in the South Atlantic were near-pristine. But plastic waste has increased a hundredfold since then, and is ten times greater than it was a decade ago. From a report: The islands of the British Overseas Territories in the South Atlantic, including St. Helena, East Falkland, and Ascension Island, are so tiny and remote that most people don't even realize they exist. For centuries, that kept them relative clean and pristine, but in recent decades discarded straws, fishing nets, and millions of bits of degraded plastic have begun washing up on their shores. Now, reports Marlene Cimons at Nexus Media, that pollution is getting even worse. A new study in the journal Current Biology shows that plastic trash on the beaches and in the ocean has increased tenfold in the just the last decade and a hundredfold over the last three decades.

During four research cruises between 2013 and 2018, researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and nine other organizations aboard the RMS James Clark Ross sought to quantify the plastic around the islands. The crew took samples of marine debris from the water's surface, the water column, the seabed and the beaches. They also investigated plastic ingestion in 2,243 animals comprised of 26 different species ranging across the marine food web from plankton to apex predators, like seabirds; all were found to consume plastic at high rates. What they found was plastic, and lots of it. About 90 percent of all the contaminants they analyzed were made of plastic, which abundant in the ocean, on the beach and inside the animals.


Ubuntu Linux 18.10 'Cosmic Cuttlefish' Arrives (zdnet.com) 78

Ubuntu 18.10 Cosmic Cuttlefish, the latest version of Ubuntu, is now available to download. From a report: Under the hood, the Cosmic Cuttlefish boasts the 4.18 Linux Kernel. This updates comes with better support for for AMD and Nvidia GPU, USB Type-C and Thunderbolt, a way for unprivileged users to mount Filesystem in Userspace (FUSE) can be mounted by, and CPUfreq performance improvements. On top of this, you'll find the freshest version of GNOME 3.30. You can, of course, use other desktops, but GNOME, since Ubuntu 17.10, is Ubuntu's default desktop. You'll be glad to know that GNOME is faster than it has been for a while. That's because some nasty memory leaks have been patched. Canonical has also added some performance tweaks that didn't make it into the GNOME 3.30 upstream. Ubuntu 18.10 also comes with a new desktop theme, the Yaru Community theme installed by default, for your visual enjoyment. Further reading: Ubuntu 18.10: What's New? [Video]; Ubuntu 18.10 Review; and Ubuntu 18.10 Flavors Released, Ready to Download.