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19/05/2019 08:30:00  

Every generation turns to it in times of political turmoil, and this extract from a new book about the novel examines its relevance in the age of fake news and Trump

Read other extracts from the book:
• David Bowie’s Orwell: how Nineteen Eighty-Four shaped Diamond Dogs
• ‘He typed in bed in his dressing gown’: how Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four

December 1948. A man sits at a typewriter, in bed, on a remote island, fighting to complete the book that means more to him than any other. He is terribly ill. The book will be finished and, a year or so later, so will the man.

January 2017. Another man stands before a crowd, which is not as large as he would like, in Washington DC, taking the oath of office as the 45th president of the United States of America. His press secretary says that it was the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period – both in person and around the globe”. Asked to justify such a preposterous lie, the president’s adviser describes the statement as “alternative facts”. Over the next four days, US sales of the dead man’s book will rocket by almost 10,000%, making it a No 1 bestseller.

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19/05/2019 02:28:49  

An anonymous reader shares an article titled "Does IT Run on Java 8?" "After more than ten years in tech, in a range of different environments, from Fortune 500 companies, to startups, I've finally come to realize that most businesss and developers simply don't revolve around whatever's trending on Hacker News," argues one Python/R/Spark data scientist: Most developers -- and companies -- are part of what [programmer] Scott Hanselman dubbed a while ago as the 99%... "They don't read a lot of blogs, they never write blogs, they don't go to user groups, they don't tweet or facebook, and you don't often see them at large conferences. Lots of technologies don't iterate at this speed, nor should they. "Embedded developers are still doing their thing in C and C++. Both are deeply mature and well understood languages that don't require a lot of churn or panic on the social networks. Where are the dark matter developers? Probably getting work done. Maybe using ASP.NET 1.1 at a local municipality or small office. Maybe working at a bottling plant in Mexico in VB6. Perhaps they are writing PHP calendar applications at a large chip manufacturer." While some companies are using Spark and Druid and Airflow, some are still using Coldfusion... Or telnet... Or Microsoft TFS... There are reasons updates are not made. In some cases, it's a matter of national security (like at NASA). In others, people get used to what they know. In some cases, the old tech is better... In some cases, it's both a matter of security, AND IT is not a priority. This is the reason many government agencies return data in PDF formats, or in XML... For all of this variety of reasons and more, the majority of companies that are at the pinnacle of succes in America are quietly running Windows Server 2012 behind the scenes. And, not only are they running Java on Windows 2012, they're also not doing machine learning, or AI, or any of the sexy buzzwords you hear about. Most business rules are still just that: hardcoded case statements decided by the business, passed down to analysts, and done in Excel sheets, half because of bureacracy and intraction, and sometimes, because you just don't need machine learning. Finally, the third piece of this is the "dark matter" effect. Most developers are simply not talking about the mundane work they're doing. Who wants to share their C# code moving fractions of a cent transactions between banking systems when everyone is doing Tensorflow.js? In a footnote to his essay, Hanselman had added that his examples weren't hypothetical. "These people and companies all exist, I've met them and spoken to them at length." (And the article includes several tweets from real-world developers, including one which claims Tesla's infotainment firmware and backend services were all run in a single-location datacenter "on the worst VMware deployment known to man.") But the data scientist ultimately asks if our online filter bubbles are exposing us to "tech-forward biases" that are "overenthusiastic about the promises of new technology without talking about tradeoffs," leading us into over-engineered platforms "that our companies don't need, and that most other developers that pick up our work can't relate to, or can even work with... "For better or worse, the world runs on Excel, Java 8, and Sharepoint, and I think it's important for us as technology professionals to remember and be empathetic of that."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

17/05/2019 22:28:36  

EONS-19 Amendment 8: Appendix H, MUREP Aerospace High-Volume Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management Cooperative
17/05/2019 22:28:35  

Lunar Science Plans Develop as NASA Pushes for Crewed Landing in 2024
17/05/2019 21:28:28  

For more than three decades, Stephen Wolfram, a 59-year-old scientist, software designer and entrepreneur, has built software that has attracted an avid following among mathematicians and scientists. His Mathematica program for symbolic mathematical computation and its programming language, Wolfram Language, are favorites of the intelligentsia of the quant world in universities and corporations. Wolfram Alpha, one of his creations, is a unique search engine that does not forage the web, but culls its own painstakingly curated database to find answers. This week, the search engine turned 10. On the big occasion, Mr. Wolfram has shared some insight: It was a unique and surprising achievement when it first arrived, and over its first decade it's become ever stronger and more unique. It's found its way into more and more of the fabric of the computational world, both realizing some of the long-term aspirations of artificial intelligence, and defining new directions for what one can expect to be possible. Oh, and by now, a significant fraction of a billion people have used it. And we've been able to keep it private and independent, and its main website has stayed free and without external advertising. As the years have gone by, Wolfram Alpha has found its way into intelligent assistants like Siri, and now also Alexa. It's become part of chatbots, tutoring systems, smart TVs, NASA websites, smart OCR apps, talking (toy) dinosaurs, smart contract oracles, and more. It's been used by an immense range of people, for all sorts of purposes. Inventors have used it to figure out what might be possible. Leaders and policymakers have used it to make decisions. Professionals have used it to do their jobs every day. People around the world have used it to satisfy their curiosity about all sorts of peculiar things. And countless students have used it to solve problems, and learn. The footage of the launch of Alpha, from 10 years ago.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

17/05/2019 20:28:42  

Proposal Due Data Approaching for NASA Research Announcement (NRA) NNH19ZHA001N: NASA Fellowship Activity 2019
17/05/2019 16:28:44  

NASA Spaceline Current Awareness List #849 17 May 2019 (Space Life Science Research Results)
17/05/2019 16:28:40  

Upcoming Science Program Management (Program Scientist) Positions at NASA HQ
17/05/2019 16:28:38  

NASA Invites Media to See How Michigan Supports Moon, Mars Missions
17/05/2019 16:28:38  

NASA SMD Update on Mission Principal Investigator Development Initiative
17/05/2019 16:28:37  

NASA Spaceline Current Awareness List #849 17 May 2019 (Space Life Science Research Results)
17/05/2019 16:28:36  

Texas Students to Speak with NASA Astronaut on International Space Station
17/05/2019 14:25:28  

A single mother almost missed out on a coveted Nasa internship until strangers stepped in to help.
17/05/2019 09:24:59  

BBC Click's Jen Copestake looks at some of the week's best technology stories.
17/05/2019 07:28:29  

China's Chang'e-4 mission to the dark side of the moon has discovered signs of mantle material at the moon's surface, "effectively setting an 'X' on lunar maps for future explorers seeking this not-so-buried geological treasure," reports Scientific American. From the report: China's Chang'e-4 mission touched down near the south pole on the lunar far side on January 3, 2019, the first spacecraft ever to land intact on this largely unexplored region of the moon. Consisting of a lander and rover, the mission is still going strong today, with the rover -- called Yutu-2 -- continuing its journey across the surface. On board are a variety of instruments, and today in Nature scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing report the mission's first scientific results, suggesting lunar mantle material has at last been located. "We found that the material of the Chang'e-4 landing site is mainly composed of olivine and low-calcium pyroxene," says Dawei Liu, one of the paper's co-authors. "This mineral combination is the candidate mantle-derived material." Chang'e-4 rests inside the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin, which, at 2,500 kilometers across, is one of the solar system's oldest and largest known impact craters. Specifically, the mission touched down in the 186-kilometer-wide Von Karman crater within this larger basin. Von Karman was produced billions of years ago by the impact of a large comet or asteroid; such collisions can excavate mantle material from deep underground, allowing it to be scattered across the surface by subsequent impacts. The mantle material was discovered using the Visible and Near Infrared Spectrometer on Yutu-2, which can ascertain the chemical composition of rocks by studying their reflected light. Both olivine and pyroxene are believed to be among the first minerals that froze out from the moon's magma ocean as it cooled, falling to its solid base deeper in the mantle. Because previous surveys from orbit have revealed much of Von Karman's floor to be composed of lava from volcanic eruptions rather than excavated mantle, the paper's authors suspect the material detected by Yutu-2 was actually blasted into Von Karman from the upper mantle beneath another nearby impact structure, the 72-kilometer-wide Finsen crater.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

17/05/2019 06:28:59  

A terrible fire left Vicky Knight physically and mentally scarred. Now a film role as the victim of an acid attack has changed her life – and led her to love her body

Vicky Knight smiles, shakes my hand and sits down to talk. But she doesn’t remove her coat. It is a spring day and the cafe is warm, yet she leaves her parka zipped to the neck.

Knight is the star of Dirty God, the new feature film from the Dutch director Sacha Polak. She plays Jade, a young mother who is the victim of an acid attack perpetrated by an ex-boyfriend. In the opening scene, we are witness to widescreen closeups of Knight’s scarred body. Her skin is shot to resemble the surface of Mars, all ridges and rivulets, craters and pocks.

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16/05/2019 23:28:37  

NASA Administrator to Speak at Florida Institute of Technology Event
16/05/2019 23:28:36  

NASA Invites Media to Watch Drone Traffic Management Testing
16/05/2019 21:28:38  

Taron Egerton does a good impression of the flamboyant musician in this sucrose treatment, a by-the-numbers approach authorised by Elton himself

Dexter Fletcher’s rousingly good natured Rocketman is the authorised-version movie about the legendary singer-songwriter Elton John: written by Lee Hall, produced by David Furnish and exec produced by the man himself. It’s had to follow the John Lewis Christmas TV ad that everyone loved, which delivered a very similar narrative in a miniaturised version; in fact there’s a moment here with Elton musingly picking out a single-finger tune that even appears to allude to that small-screen gem. Rocketman has also, in a way, had the burden of following or living up to Elton John’s sensational songs, the masterpieces which each seem like mini-movies in themselves – or at the very least the euphoric accompaniment to the most moving final montage you’ve ever seen.

Rocketman is a sucrose-enriched biopic-slash-jukebox-musical hybrid which sometimes feels like it should be on the Broadway or London West End stage – and very possibly will. Sometimes the songs are woven realistically into the action, with Elton performing one of his nuclear-payload belters live on stage, or sometimes musingly trying out a song on the keyboard, giving us all goosebumps as we recognise a prototype of Candle in the Wind. But sometimes the songs are part of a fantasy sequence, choreographed in such a way as takes us close to Lloyd Webber territory.

As Elton John, Taron Egerton gamely does a middleweight impersonation, more comfortable with the lighter side: better at the tiaras than the tantrums. The story takes us from the world of Reg Dwight, a bright, shy kid in Pinner, living with his mum (Bryce Dallas Howard) and emotionally stilted dad (Steven Mackintosh) who without knowing it is sowing the seeds of creative pain and rage. There’s also his adoring gran (Gemma Jones) who encourages his music.

Then there’s the miraculous meeting with lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), the gruff philistine-yet-shrewd promoter Dick James (Stephen Graham) – inventor of the “old grey whistle test” for determining a hit – and finally his devastatingly handsome lover and manager John Reid (a toxically sexy Richard Madden) with whom he falls out horribly. It skates us through the glory days of the 70s, the astronomic record-sales, the coke and booze, the misjudged straight marriage and perhaps equally misjudged purchase of Watford FC, concluding with rehab and a 12-step meeting from which the movie is recounted in piously conceived flashback.

The movie disconcertingly ends before he meets the true love of his life David Furnish; there’s no mention of Princess Di, and nothing about his mum’s legendary 90th birthday when they weren’t speaking and she hired an Elton John impersonator to come to her party instead.

Egerton looks the part and carries off the costumes and glasses, the sequinned baseball costumes and jaunty bowlers well enough, but I felt he never quite delivers John’s woundedness when those he loved let him down; he couldn’t quite do the lower-lip-trembling humiliation and hurt which fed into the rage and the fear. I found myself wondering what Bell would have been like in the role.

Of course, this Rocketman resembles the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody in a dozen different ways, although these are arguably genetic music-biopic standards: the poor upbringing, the manager, the scene in the record studio, the fateful first encounter with drugs and the joyful montage as the first hit climbs up the charts. Rocketman is candid enough about John’s identity as a gay man.

I didn’t think this is a case of straightwashing: more unenjoymentwashing, a refusal to portray hedonism in any terms other than doomy disapproval. Elton himself is shown defiantly saying he loved every minute, but the film can’t help tacitly tutting and shaking its head at scenes of him going wild – they lead here to a gesture of attempted suicide. And of course Elton’s indulgences and abuse were dangerous, but they were also part of his creative genius.

There is no central love story here: Bernie Taupin, despite his central importance to Elton life and art, isn’t in the action much and it is not easy to invest in Reid either as a lost love or a bad guy who broke Elton’s heart. Lee Hall’s dialogue, robust enough, is often a bit on the nose, making sure we know what we’re supposed to be thinking and feeling. It’s a bit by-the-numbers – but again, it could well sound better on stage

What the movie made an honest job of, was conveying the meaning of the song itself: the rocket pilot who is afraid and lonely and for whom the apparently mind-blowing business of space travel is all in a day’s work. Rocketman is an honest, heartfelt tribute to Elton John’s music and his public image. But the man itself eluded it.

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16/05/2019 21:28:21  

NASA Taps 11 American Companies to Advance Human Lunar Landers
16/05/2019 14:34:18  

Vanderbilt University Wins NASA’s 2019 Student Launch Competition
16/05/2019 13:29:02  

Maxar Selected by NASA to Study Future Space Communications Architecture and Services
15/05/2019 21:28:13  

Media Invited to SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch of Four NASA Missions
15/05/2019 17:28:10  

Chairwomen Johnson and Horn Question Funding Plan for NASA’s Accelerated Moon Landing Program
15/05/2019 16:28:20