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02/04/2020 19:04:21  

An overview of some of the initiatives to put smiles back on faces in these dark and distressing times

Despite the torrent of sad and unsettling news about the spread of coronavirus around the UK, many people are doing their best to bring cheer – and beer – to those who deserve it most.

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30/03/2020 17:03:52  

As the British people fire up their laptops for virtual hangouts, some obvious personality types have already emerged

It’s hard to tell what day of the lockdown we’re on, but it’s clear that society is in a fascinating moment right now, due to the torrent of Houseparty invites, Zoom notifications and people calling without warning on FaceTime. It’s interesting that millennials – a generation so weaned on text-based communication that about 60% of them have a full panic attack every time they have to phone in a takeaway – have so fully embraced face-to-face video platforms, the “kissing with your eyes open” of communicative mediums, but here we are. The reality is that, between virtual pub quizzes and digital group hangouts, my social calendar is now busier than it was before The Fall of Society, and I don’t actually like it. I want more time to myself.

Early Zoom adopters are offering kitchen cook-alongs. I’m still trying to work out whether to wear trousers on camera

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22/03/2020 09:35:25  

There are few women on the show, and after receiving a torrent of abuse on social media, Lucy Clarke (Jesus, Oxford) isn’t surprised

After my team’s latest episode of University Challenge, I idly scrolled through Twitter. It was much as ever: old men telling me to wipe my nose (I have a septum piercing), some praise, and the usual criticism: “What a mess, did she get dressed in the dark”; “She deserved to mess that up after her poncey Kraftwerk pronunciation”. So far, so much as we’d been warned. But then came the real doozy. A man whose bio proclaimed him to be “grandad of six … married to my lovely teacher wife”, had tweeted: “All these knobs on here saying they got [a question on] massive attack along with everyone else, what other question have you answered ? Plus I’ll guess Clarke sucks like a fucking Dyson.”

I stared at it for a long time, trying to understand the bizarre conjunction of defending me and matter-of-fact sexual objectification.

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20/03/2020 07:34:27  

NASA needs 215 more petabytes of storage by the year 2025, and expects Amazon Web Services to provide the bulk of that capacity. However, the space agency didn't realize this would cost it plenty in cloud egress charges. As in, it will have to pay as scientists download its data. The Register reports: The data in question will come from NASA's Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) program, which collects information from the many missions that observe our planet. NASA makes those readings available through the Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS). To store all the data and run EOSDIS, NASA operates a dozen Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs) that provide pleasing redundancy. But NASA is tired of managing all that infrastructure, so in 2019, it picked AWS to host it all, and started migrating its records to the Amazon cloud as part of a project dubbed Earthdata Cloud. The first cut-over from on-premises storage to the cloud was planned for Q1 2020, with more to follow. The agency expects to transfer data off-premises for years to come. NASA also knows that a torrent of petabytes is on the way. Some 15 imminent missions, such as the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) and the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellites, are predicted to deliver more than 100 terabytes a day of data. We mention SWOT and NISAR because they'll be the first missions to dump data directly into Earthdata Cloud. The agency therefore projects that by 2025 it will have 247 petabytes to handle, rather more than the 32 it currently wrangles. NASA thinks this is all a great idea. And it will -- if NASA can afford to operate it. And that's a live question because a March audit report [PDF] from NASA's Inspector General noticed EOSDIS hadn't properly modeled what data egress charges would do to its cloudy plan. NASA "has not yet determined which data sets will transition to Earthdata Cloud nor has it developed cost models based on operational experience and metrics for usage and egress," the Inspector General's Office wrote. "As a result, current cost projections may be lower than what will actually be necessary to cover future expenses and cloud adoption may become more expensive and difficult to manage." "Collectively, this presents potential risks that scientific data may become less available to end users if NASA imposes limitations on the amount of data egress for cost control reasons."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

17/03/2020 11:34:16  

Canine companions trigger similar neural pathways to the parent-baby bond, and reduce loneliness and depression. Now new pet therapy trials are reporting dramatic effects

What is it about animals? As the bad news about the coronavirus continues, “send me dogs and cats” has become a regular cry on social media, an easy-to-grasp shorthand for “I feel terrible, cheer me up”. The response is always the same: a torrent of pictures of animals doing daft things – but somehow it has a magical, calming effect.

The therapeutic value of our relationship with our pets, particularly dogs, is increasingly recognised by researchers. Cats can be wonderful too – but dogs have been domesticated by humans for much longer, and, as even the most devoted cat lover will admit, dogs are far easier to train for companionship. Most cats, as we know, are admirable for entirely different reasons. Marion Janner, a mental health campaigner and all-round animal lover, says that dogs teach us a whole range of lessons. “Dogs love us unconditionally. They’re the ultimate in equal opportunities – entirely indifferent to race, gender, star sign, CV, clothes size or ability to throw cool moves on the dance floor. The simplicity and depth of this love is a continuous joy, along with the health benefits of daily walks and the social delights of chats with other dog walkers. They teach kids to be responsible, altruistic and compassionate and, valuably but sadly, how to cope when someone you love dies.”

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06/03/2020 19:56:46  

An anonymous reader shares a report: For those who don't want to dive fully into torrents, Plex is a great alternative for streaming television shows and movies for free. Officially, Plex is a "neutral" media player, and it first became popular with people looking to stream content between devices at home, like from their desktop in the study to their laptop in their bedroom. But, with Plex Media Server, users can also share media with other users to stream, creating a virtual free-for-all, and a serious problem from a copyright perspective. CreativeFuture, a pro-copyright coalition boasting more than 560 members, has taken notice and is calling out the platform, along with rival service Kodi. "Thanks to a rapidly growing media application called Plex, torrent-based piracy is back in vogue, and better than ever (for criminals who have no problem with profiting from content that doesn't belong to them, that is)," the coalition writes in a blog post. Those who pay $4.99 per month for Plex Pass are able to share their libraries with up to 100 users. As Creative Future points out, this isn't always done for the sake of altruism, or so family's can share their legally procured copies of Frozen. Some Plex users actually charge for access to their content -- a more nefarious (though, granted, enterprising) evolution from the totally free world of torrenting. For extra sass, the shared content can be pirated to begin with.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

04/03/2020 10:56:50  

I’ve suffered death threats and racial abuse, but this is my party’s chance to shape policy for the better

Shaking the hand of the Austrian president, Alexander Van der Bellen, during my inauguration as Austria’s justice minister in January was a profoundly moving moment for me and for my family. But it was moving also for a great many people who came to Austria as migrants or refugees. To see a former child refugee from the Bosnian war sworn in as a government minister in the country to which her family fled in 1995 was for many hugely symbolic – a signal that they, too, had now been fully accepted as part of Austrian society, with the right to participate in the country’s politics and even to shape it.

But from day one, becoming the embodiment of this acceptance also unleashed a torrent of hate directed at me from the right and from proponents of the far right in Austria. Resentments that had been held down over years resurfaced. In just two months, the Austrian authorities have recorded more than 25,500 incidents of publicly made hate speech and hate comments directed at or about me, from racist insults to calls to go back where I came from. Because some of these messages included credible death threats, the Austrian security services issued me with 24-hour protection. “A bullet is reserved for you,” one of these messages said.

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14/02/2020 12:49:06  

Benjamin Griveaux condemns a "torrent of mud" after a video is apparently posted by a Russian artist.
05/02/2020 16:50:21  

By exploiting randomness, three mathematicians have proved an elegant law that underlies the chaotic motion of turbulent systems. From a report: Picture a calm river. Now picture a torrent of white water. What is the difference between the two? To mathematicians and physicists it's this: The smooth river flows in one direction, while the torrent flows in many different directions at once. Physical systems with this kind of haphazard motion are called turbulent. The fact that their motion unfolds in so many different ways at once makes them difficult to study mathematically. Generations of mathematicians will likely come and go before researchers are able to describe a roaring river in exact mathematical statements. But a new proof finds that while certain turbulent systems appear unruly, they actually conform to a simple universal law. The work is one of the most rigorous descriptions of turbulence ever to emerge from mathematics. And it arises from a novel set of methods that are themselves changing how researchers study this heretofore untamable phenomenon. "It may well be the most promising approach to turbulence," said Vladimir Sverak, a mathematician at the University of Minnesota and an expert in the study of turbulence. The new work provides a way of describing patterns in moving liquids. These patterns are evident in the rapid temperature variations between nearby points in the ocean and the frenetic, stylized way that white and black paint mix together. In 1959, an Australian mathematician named George Batchelor predicted that these patterns follow an exact, regimented order. The new proof validates the truth of "Batchelor's law," as the prediction came to be known. "We see Batchelor's law all over the place," said Jacob Bedrossian, a mathematician at the University of Maryland, College Park and co-author of the proof with Alex Blumenthal and Samuel Punshon-Smith. "By proving this law, we get a better understanding of just how universal it is."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

05/02/2020 12:51:09  

Royal Opera House, London
The dizzying world of Lewis Carroll is brought to wonderful and touching life, and Gerald Barry’s intense score is marshalled with panache by Thomas Adès

When Alice’s Adventures Under Ground received its European premiere at the Barbican three years ago, it seemed more likely to find a permanent home in the concert hall rather than the opera house. Gerald Barry’s gleeful, picaresque romp through Lewis Carroll’s two Alice books seemed to have produced a work that was more cantata than viable, stageable opera – events and characters almost lifted haphazardly from the texts without much sense of a linear narrative and crammed into a score that lasted a breathless 50 minutes. How could any stage production possibly cope with a piece that zigzagged from one scene to another at such dizzying speed?

Yet Antony McDonald has succeeded in doing just that in a spectacularly successful way. It was McDonald that first released the full operatic potential of Barry’s whirlwind The Importance of Being Earnest with his 2013 production for Northern Ireland Opera, and he applies the same, unfailingly light touch to his staging of Alice for the Royal Opera, with witty designs and pinpoint stagecraft that never seems to put a foot wrong. The speed at which everything happens doesn’t appear to faze him: within seconds of the very start, as the White Rabbit announces his lateness, Alice has tumbled down the rabbit hole with a torrent of coloratura arpeggios, and encountered the all-male chorus of four “Drink me” bottles that swiftly transform into “Eat me” cakes.

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