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Comic for April 08, 2020

Dilbert - April 9, 2020 - 12:59am
Categories: Geek

The Virus Changed the Way We Internet

Slashdot - 1 hour 18 min ago
Categories: Geek, Opinion

Researchers engineer enzyme to break down plastic bottles

Ars Technica - 1 hour 34 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Orange County NC )

Plastics have a lot of properties that have made them fixtures of modern societies. They can be molded into any shape we'd like, they're tough yet flexible, and they come in enough variations that we can tune the chemistry to suit different needs. The problem is that they're tough enough that they don't break down on their own, and incinerating them is relatively inefficient. As a result, they've collected in our environment as both bulk plastics and the seemingly omnipresent microplastic waste.

For natural materials, breaking down isn't an issue, as microbes have evolved ways of digesting them to obtain energy or useful chemicals. But many plastics have only been around for decades, and we're just now seeing organisms that have evolved enzymes to digest them. Figuring they could do one better, researchers in France have engineered an enzyme that can efficiently break down one of the most common forms of plastic. The end result of this reaction is a raw material that can be reused directly to make new plastic bottles.

An unwanted PET

The plastic in question is polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. PET has a variety of uses, including as thin films with very high tensile strength (marketed as mylar). But its most notable use is in plastic drink bottles, which are a major component of environmental plastic waste. First developed in the 1940s, the first living organism that can break down and use the carbon in PET was described in 2016—found in sediment near a plastic recycling facility, naturally.

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Probable Roman shipwrecks unearthed at a Serbian coal mine

Ars Technica - 1 hour 50 min ago

(credit: Uryadovy Courier)

Coal miners in Serbia recently dug up an unexpected surprise: three probable Roman-era ships, buried in the mud of an ancient riverbed for at least 1,300 years. The largest is a flat-bottomed river vessel 15 meters (49 feet) long, which seems to have been built with Roman techniques. Two smaller boats, each carved out from a single tree trunk, match ancient descriptions of dugout boats used by Slavic groups to row across the Danube River and attack the Roman frontier.

The Kostolac surface mine lies near the ancient Roman city of Viminacium, once a provincial capital and the base for a squadron of Roman warships on the Danube River. When the Roman Empire ruled most of Southern Europe, the Danube or one of its larger branches flowed across the land now occupied by the mine. The three ships lay atop a 15-meter- (49-foot-) deep layer of gravel, buried under seven meters (23 feet) of silt and clay, which preserved them for centuries in remarkably good condition—or did until the miners' earthmoving equipment dug into the steep slope to excavate for the mine.

"The [largest] ship was seriously damaged by the mining equipment," archaeologist Miomir Korac, director of the Archaeological Institute and head of the Viminacium Science Project, told Ars in an email. "Approximately 35 percent to 40 percent of the ship was damaged. But the archaeological team collected all the parts, and we should be able to reconstruct it almost in full." With any luck, that reconstruction will help archaeologists understand when the three ships were built and how they came to rest in the riverbed.

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Pandemic hasn’t crushed broadband networks—even rural areas are doing OK

Ars Technica - 2 hours 18 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | metamorworks)

The sharp growth in residential-broadband traffic seen during the pandemic is starting to level off, new data shows. While Internet speeds have slowed somewhat in many parts of the United States, it turns out that even rural-broadband networks are holding up pretty well.

Speeds have dropped in rural areas but are stabilizing, BroadbandNow reported today. Median download speeds in rural areas ranged from 16Mbps to 19.9Mbps in each of the first 11 weeks of 2020. Speeds then fell to 15.5Mbps in March 22 to 28, the lowest recorded all year. But rural speeds went back up to 16.2Mbps in the week of March 29 to April 4.

Median upload speeds in rural areas ranged from 5.5Mbps to 6.3Mbps in the first 11 weeks of 2020 but have been just 5.1Mbps the last two weeks, the same report found:

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HBO’s streaming apps will soon stop working on older Apple TVs

Ars Technica - 2 hours 37 min ago

The fourth-generation Apple TV (left) next to the third-gen model. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Second- and third-generation Apple TV streaming boxes will no longer be able to stream content from HBO Go and HBO Now after the end of April, according to a pair of HBO support documents. The documents were uncovered today by MacRumors.

The two streaming apps affected are HBO Go, the additive over-the-top (OTT) streaming service HBO provides to traditional cable subscribers, and HBO Now, the cable-free streaming platform for cordcutters. The support websites for both were each updated with identical support pages titled "Apple TV (2nd and 3rd gen): Changes to device support," saying:

In order to provide the best streaming experience, we need to make some changes to our supported devices list. Starting on April 30, 2020, HBO GO will no longer be available on the Apple TV (2nd and 3rd generation).

The post goes on to provide instructions that readers can follow to identify which Apple TV model they have, then offers a series of bullet points listing ways to access HBO's content on those devices even though the apps will stop working.

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