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Comic for May 22, 2019

Dilbert - 0 sec ago
Categories: Geek

Billion-year-old fossils may be early fungus

Ars Technica - 1 hour 30 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Loron, et. al.)

When did the first complex multicellular life arise? Most people, being a bit self-centered, would point to the Ediacaran and Cambrian, when the first animal life appeared and then diversified. Yet studies of DNA suggest that fungi may have originated far earlier than animals.

When it comes to a fossil record, however, things are rather sparse. No unambiguous evidence of a fungus appears in fossils until after the Cambrian was over. A few things from earlier may have looked fungus-like, but the evidence was limited to their appearance. It could be that fungi branched off at the time suggested by the DNA but didn't evolve complex, multicellular structures until later. Alternatively, the fossils could be right, and there's something off about the DNA data. Or, finally, it could be that we simply haven't found old enough fossils yet.

A new paper out in today's Nature argues strongly for the last option. In it, a small team of researchers describe fossils of what appear to be fungi that could be up to a billion years old. And the researchers back up the appearance with a chemical analysis.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Anti-abortion clinics that try to trick women face new Google ad policy

Ars Technica - May 22, 2019 - 10:38pm

Enlarge / MONTGOMERY, Ala. - MAY 19, 2019: A protestor dressed as a character from the Hulu TV show The Handmaid's Tale, based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood, walks back to her car after participating in a rally against one of the nation's most restrictive bans on abortions. (credit: Getty | Julie Bennett)

Google will roll out a policy next month to crack down on deceptive advertisements dealing with abortion—a topic rife with misleading and false health information.

The policy changes come amid backlash from a report in The Guardian saying that the tech giant granted $150,000 worth of free advertisements to The Obria Group, which runs a network of clinics across the United States that are funded by Catholic organizations. Obria's advertisements have suggested that the clinics (aka Crisis Pregnancy Centers) provide abortions and other medical services. But the clinics are in fact opposed to abortion and all forms of contraception, including condoms. According to The Guardian, the misleading advertisements are an attempt to bait "abortion-minded women" so that the clinics can then deter them from terminating their pregnancies.

To ostensibly address this problem, Google will now require all advertisers in the United States, Ireland, and the United Kingdom who run abortion-related ads to submit to a pre-certification. The process is intended to identify the types of services that the advertisers provide. All of their subsequent advertising will then be automatically and clearly labeled with either "Provides abortions" or "Does not provide abortions."

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Amazon made video games for its workers to reduce tedium of warehouse jobs

Ars Technica - May 22, 2019 - 10:22pm

Enlarge / Workers and packages inside an Amazon warehouse. (credit: Getty Images | Macduff Everton)

Amazon has created video games that its warehouse workers can "play" while they fill customer orders in an effort to speed up fulfillment and relieve the tedium of packing products into boxes.

The Washington Post described the warehouse games in a report yesterday:

Developed by Amazon, the games are displayed on small screens at employees' workstations. As robots wheel giant shelves up to each workstation, lights or screens indicate which item the worker needs to pluck to put into a bin. The games simultaneously register the completion of the task, which is tracked by scanning devices, and can pit individuals, teams or entire floors against one another to be fastest, simply by picking or stowing real Lego sets, cellphone cases or dish soap. Game-playing employees are rewarded with points, virtual badges and other goodies throughout a shift.

Think Tetris, but with real boxes.

Amazon has deployed the games in "five warehouses from suburban Seattle to near Manchester in Britain, after starting to offer them at a lone warehouse in late 2017," the Post wrote. The games ratchet up workplace competition, while "slyly pushing workers to raise the stakes among themselves to pack more boxes bound for customer homes," the Post wrote. (The Washington Post is owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.)

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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