Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for December 25, 2019 (Christmas Edition)

in rsslog •  2 months ago 

An argument that Bitcoin has not lived up to its promise of decentralization; A possible risk of electrical shock for lunar astronauts; LibreOffice 6.4 is due out in January, and 2020 is the product's 10th anniversary; Results from an ethical stress test for scientific journals; and a Steem essay on the topic of cloning

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate the holiday today!

Fresh and Informative Content Daily: Welcome to my little corner of the blockchain

* Note that due to holiday activities, posting for this series may be irregular for some time *

Straight from my RSS feed
Whatever gets my attention

Links and micro-summaries from my 1000+ daily headlines. I filter them so you don't have to.


pixabay license: source.

  1. Bitcoin's Path From Insurgents’ Talisman to Tool of Big Tech - Comparing bitcoin to the California Gold Rush, this author points out that during the course of the last decade, Bitcoin's increasing value elevated it from an opportunity for hobbyists to an enterprise-class investment where financial institutions are investing in it and governments are subsidizing mining efforts. Gone, it says, is most of the opportunity for small-scale players. In this author's view, the decentralized space has now been dominated and controlled by centralized players, including Facebook and possibly Twitter, who seem to be plowing their own cryptocurrency inroads. Next, the author adds that we've seen this story before when the Internet lost its decentralized allure and became dominated by a handful of big-tech's centralized silos. The author concludes by noting that although blockchain may not be the decentralized utopia of our dreams, it's anti-corruption and peer to peer mechanisms still have the potential to change the world's technology landscape for the better.

  2. Why the Next Lunar Astronauts May Have to Worry About Electric Shocks - According to Joseph Wang and his team, there is a theoretical possibility that astronauts on the moon could experience electrical shocks in the lunar environment. This is because the ground is under constant bombardment by charged particles arriving in the flow of the solar wind. These charged particles, coupled with the dust that coats everything on the lunar surface could lead to an exchange of electricity that is similar to the static electrical shocks that we have all felt here on earth. Wang's team did some testing with the Gore-Tex fabric that is used in astronauts' suits. They placed samples of the fabric in a vacuum chamber and coated some samples with dust while leaving others clean, then blasted the samples with plasma to see which would conduct electricity. As expected, the dusty samples experienced more arcing than the clean ones. The article notes that astronauts in the 1970s did not report this phenomenon, although they were deployed and active on the moon for days at a time, but those astronauts were in direct sunlight. Wang suggests that future missions destined for regions near the south pole may encounter different conditions that are more conducive to arcing. It is not known whether the possibility of arcing on the moon would be dangerous to the astronauts or damaging to their suits. The team's results were presented to the American Geophysical Meeting in San Francisco. Based on past missions, Jim Rice thinks the risk is low, but he concedes that there is uncertainty, especially if astronauts are moving material around with equipment like a bulldozer. h/t RealClear Science

  3. LibreOffice 6.4 nearly done as open-source office software project prepares for 10th anniversary - I have been using LibreOffice, OpenOffice, or StarOffice, off and on since the latter was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 1999. Observing that the next release of LibreOffice, version 6.4, is set for the end of January, this article notes that LibreOffice has been largely unsuccessful at dethroning Microsoft's Office product, but also notes that - as an open source project - it has seen substantial adoption, operates better than Office in the Linux environment, and offers a form of "digital sovereignty" by freeeng users from Microsoft's proprietary document format and letting them make use of the OpenDocument Format (ODF) instead. Some features that are set to be included in version 6.4 include the ability to embed QR codes in documents, and the ability to automatically size spread-sheets to fit onto a page when printed. The article notes that 2020 is LibreOffice's tenth anniversary, and the organization is planning a year of celebratory activities.

  4. A ‘stress test’ for journals: What happened when authors tried to republish a Nature paper more than 600 times? - In a recent paper, Kelly Cobey, David Moher and colleagues took a paper that had already been published in Nature, submitted it to 602 journals, and rigorously tracked the results. Their protocol was posted in advance of the study, but embargoed so that journal editors would not be on the lookout for their submissions. The authors received permission to use deception - they lied during the submission process - from their research institute, and they had permission from Nature to use the paper. Of the 602 journals, responses were received from 308 journals, and only four accepted the paper for publication. All four were already considered "predatory journals". Another thirteen journals requested revisions, of which one is considered predatory. 40% of journals rejected the paper as "out of scope" - which may or may not be a way to avoid problems without making plagiarism accusations. Only a very-small number of journal editors contacted the research institution to report plagiarism. The authors suggest that journals should make more use of plagiarism detection software, launch training initiatives for their editors, and adopt open science protocols.

  5. STEEM DNA TECHNOLOGY: Carbon Copy Cat And Cloning - In this post, @loveforlove discusses some aspect of modern cloning research. The post begins with the case of cc, who - in 2002 - was the world's first cloned cat. The case showed that although the cat was genetically identical to her gene donor, she was different in a variety of ways, including fur coloring, because of environmental differences. The case also illustrated the difficulty and inefficiency of cloning, where 188 dna transfers and 87 cloned embryos were required to produce just a single viable offspring. The essay moves on to discuss the tradeoffs of identifying genes that place people at risk for a variety of diseases, including the possibility of knowing, but also the ethics of telling someone potentially catastrophic and irreversible news. In addition to cc the cat, some of the other animals that have been cloned include sheep, dogs, pigs, rats, goats, ferrets, rabbits, and deer. In the future, animal cloning is expected to focus on two purposes: (i) preservation of endangered species; and (ii) creation of organs for implantation in humans. Additional topics that are covered include creation of transgenic organisms, whole organism cloning, stem cell cloning, genetic screening, enzyme-based manipulation of DNA, techniques for locating genes, gene sequencing, and more. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @loveforlove.)

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