China’s latest luxury phone packs a massive 7,000mAh battery

Many luxury smartphone makers see their work mainly as a matter of wrapping an ordinary device in upscale materials, maybe adding a concierge service and calling it a day. Gionee, however, is taking a different approach: it’s giving you one huge feature that gives you a clear reason to pay a premium. It just launched the M2017, a metal-and-leather 5.7-inch phone whose centerpiece is its enormous 7,000mAh battery. Yes, there’s a real chance that it has a larger power pack than your tablet. The company estimates that it’ll last for nearly 32 hours of talk time and 26 hours of non-stop video, or enough to get you through a few days of moderate use. If you’re a jetsetting business type (Gionee’s target market), you might never need to plug in during that all-important day trip.

Thankfully, the M2017 is (mostly) above-average beyond its epic longevity. It packs a curved quad HD AMOLED screen that’s bound to be noticed, a hefty 6GB of RAM, at least 128GB of storage, a front 8-megapixel camera and two rear cameras (12MP and 13MP) that promise an iPhone 7 Plus-style 2X optical zoom. You get a front-facing fingerprint reader, too. About the only major head-scratcher is the use of a mid-range Snapdragon 653 processor. While that’s not a slow part by any stretch, it probably wouldn’t have killed Gionee to include a Snapdragon 821 and deliver performance that matches the battery life.

When the M2017 goes on sale in China on January 6th (an international release isn’t likely), it’ll start at RMB 6,999 (about $1,007) for a 128GB version and jump to RMB 16,999 ($2,446) for a 256GB model. This isn’t the most expensive phone on the market by any means — it’s closer to mainstream devices than the several thousand dollars you typically pay for posh handsets from the likes of Vertu and Lamborghini. It’s far from a trivial purchase, however, and Gionee is clearly betting that you’re willing to spend a lot to both flaunt your success and use your phone non-stop.

Via: Engadget Chinese (translated)

Source: Gionee

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Samsung’s Galaxy S8 reportedly uses AI across all its apps

Samsung has been eager to drum up attention for the Galaxy S8’s AI assistant, but just how is it going to work, exactly? We still don’t have the clearest picture, but some details might be coming to light. A SamMobile source claims that the Viv-based, voice-guided helper (reportedly named Bixby) will have a presence in all the of the phone’s included Samsung-made apps. You could use it in the Gallery app to show you photos of the beach, for example. This isn’t a radical development when both Google Photos and iOS 10 can accomplish similar feats, but remember that Bixby is likely replacing S Voice, Samsung’s aging in-house software — the point is to offer software smart enough that you don’t need to turn to another assistant.

The Korean tech giant had already hinted that you won’t need to dive into specific apps to perform many tasks, and that it’ll offer support for third-party apps. Again, these aren’t new to Bixby, but they represent a big leap over what S Voice can do.

As SamMobile suggests, the big question is how Google will react to this new AI. After all, Google is making a big push for Assistant. What happens when its largest Android hardware partner builds technology that effectively replaces its pride and joy? The two companies are on friendlier terms than they were a couple of years ago, but something tells us that Google won’t be all that enthusiastic.

Source: SamMobile

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Long-lasting sound waves in glass could lead to better tech

Sound lasts for a long time when traveling through glass (just hit a wine glass with your cutlery if you need proof), but controlling the lifetime of that sound? Not so easy. Yale scientists, however, have discovered a way to extend the lifespan of sound waves that could be tremendously helpful for technology. The team shot a laser into a glass-based fiber optic waveguide, giving it the ability to both generate a sound at one frequency and extend it by creating a strong acoustic wave at another — as Yale notes, it’s like switching on your stereo to introduce a new frequency and prolong a ringing sound.

Since glass is the key to fiber optic data lines and other forms of tech, the implications are significant. They could introduce new approaches to "high-precision sensing and information processing," according to Yale — say, using sound instead of light for processors or network links. While it’s far, far too early for this sound wave tech to find its way into a product you can buy, it won’t be surprising if you hear about additional breakthroughs stemming from the work you see here.

Source: Yale News

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Simple breath test can detect cancer and 16 other diseases

Ancient Greek physicians figured that our breath was a strong health indicator, but researchers from the Israel Institute of Technology have proven just how true that is. They developed a device that uses nanoparticles to identify 17 different diseases, including lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease, from just a single breath. While the machine isn’t accurate enough yet for real-life clinical diagnoses, it shows high promise as a quick, non-invasive test that could catch diseases in their early stages

The team tested breath samples from more than 1,400 patients and identified 13 chemicals found in eight types of cancers, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, pulmonary hypertension and other diseases. Each of those volatile organic compounds is present in varying amounts, forming a distinctive "fingerprint" for each ailment. "These odor signatures are what enables us to identify the diseases using the technology that we developed," says research lead Prof. Hossam Haick.

To pick up the presence and ratio of the chemicals, the team built an "artificially intelligent nanoarray" called the Na-Nose. It uses specific sensors, like one made from gold nanoparticles and another that uses a network of carbon nanotubes, to sense the different compounds. The data is then analyzed by an artificial intelligence system, which takes into account age, gender and other factors, picking out the right affliction 86 percent of the time.

That’s not enough accuracy for clinical diagnosis, but it could eventually be used as a routine test to catch diseases in their early phases when they’re much more treatable. "For example, in the case of lung cancer we can increase the survival rate from 10 to 70 percent by early diagnosis," Haick said in a video (above). It could even be used to identify people who aren’t sick yet, but have a higher risk than others for certain conditions. Moreover, Haick adds, "it is available without the need for invasive and unpleasant procedures, it’s not dangerous, and you can sample it again and again if necessary."

Via: Quartz

Source: ACS Nano

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Obesity-linked genetic variant changes brain’s response to food cues

Genes and sensitivity to environmental cues both contribute to obesity, but the relationship between these two is not well understood. A recent paper published in PNAS shows that children who have a genetic predisposition for obesity have a different neurological response to food, as well as larger reward centers. These two findings suggest that at least some of the genetic predisposition for obesity works by altering brain structures that respond to food.

The study looked at children who have a genetic variant that’s been associated with obesity risk. People with this genetic variant tend to have a high body fat percentage and BMI. Scientists suspect that the gene also influences food intake and choices, but not exercise habits. Based on previous work, the researchers behind the new paper theorize that this gene influences brain functions.

The authors recruited 78 children between the ages of nine and 12 for their study. These participants were all screened for the obesity-related genetic variant. Nineteen of the participants were considered high-risk because they had two copies of the variant. Thirty-seven had only one copy, and 22 did not have it at all; both of these groups were considered low-risk. The children were all asked to watch-age appropriate television which was interrupted with both regular and food-related commercials.

While the participants were watching these videos, the researchers used functional MRI (fMRI) to measure the responsiveness of the brain’s reward center to the food commercials. Using an Analysis of Variance comparison technique (ANOVA), they found that the children with the obesity-linked genetic variation had significantly stronger activation of reward centers in the brain when they saw the food-related commercials. This was true even among normal weight children who had the obesity-linked variant.

The researchers did not see the same association when they looked at the difference between overweight children and normal-weight children independent of the gene variant. In other words, when the gene variant was not present, this test couldn’t distinguish between overweight children and normal-weight children. This finding suggests that increased activation of reward centers is only linked to the obesity gene and not to the actual weight or body fat percentage of the children.

Structural MRI showed that portions of the reward center of the brain were significantly larger in children with the obesity-linked genetic variant when compared to controls.

Taken together, this work shows an association between one genetic risk for obesity and heightened reward responses to food cues, as well as an enlargement of the reward center in the brain. This suggests that overeating might be an ongoing risk for healthy weight children who have this obesity-linked variant.

Nature Human Behavior, 2016. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1605548113 (About DOIs)

from Ars Technica

DoJ vs banks: $60B in fines for toxic mortgages

Since the global financial crisis, the world’s largest banks have agreed to pay close to $60 billion in fines just to the U.S. Department of Justice for creating and selling toxic mortgage-backed investments.

These don’t include the tens of billions that the banks have also paid in connection with lawsuits from investors or other federal agencies.

The web of complex mortgage-based financial products they created are largely to blame for creating the global financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, which ultimately led to the Great Recession.

The latest banks to be fined just in the last 24 hours are Germany’s Deutsche Bank (DB) and Switzerland’s Credit Suisse (CS), which agreed to multi-billion dollar settlements with the U.S. Department of Justice, worth a combined $12.5 billion.

A majority of that money will go directly towards programs designed to help homeowners and borrowers.

The Justice Department announced Thursday that its next target is British bank Barclays (BCS). It’s accusing the bank of fraudulently selling shady mortgage-backed securities that left its clients with billions of losses.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the biggest banks and their settlements with the Justice Department in the last few years, ordered from oldest to newest:

The fines were the result of investigations into widespread fraud and abuse in the mortgage market and were pursued by multiple U.S. government agencies.

The DoJ has said that the banks packaged poor-quality mortgages into investments and sold them to clients globally. When the mortgages soured, investors lost billions.

“Abuses in the mortgage-backed securities industry helped turn a crisis in the housing market into an international financial crisis,” said Benjamin Wagner in 2013, when he was the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.

But these settlements don’t paint the whole picture. Banks have also paid out billions more to settle other mortgage-related lawsuits from that period.

For example, Bank of America paid nearly $12 billion in 2012 to help settle lawsuits over wrongful foreclosures.

Earlier this year, Wells Fargo (WFC) agreed to pay $1.2 billion for shady mortgage lending practices between 2001 to 2008. This deal was also settled with the Justice Department.

from Business and financial news –

Cassini captures Titan’s mysterious clouds on cam

It’s business as usual for the Cassini spacecraft until it’s time to say goodbye in September 2017, and some of the latest images it captured tell us more about Saturn’s moons. The spacecraft’s cameras, for one, produced two very different views of Titan’s high northern latitudes. As you can see in the image after the break, one (the black-and-white photo) clearly shows the surface features of Saturn’s largest moon. The other shows a moon whose surface is obscured by bright clouds. These were taken within the same period during the spacecraft’s Titan flybys on June 7th and July 25th.

[Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho]

So if the images were taken within the same period, how come one has clouds while the other has none? According to the Cassini team, the answer lies with Titan’s hazy atmosphere and the spacecraft’s two different cameras: the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) and the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS). The clouds are supposed to be there, because computer models show they should be present when the northern summer approaches. However, they’re not visible in the black-and-white image captured by ISS, because they appear thinner than the haze at the shorter, near-infrared wavelength the instrument uses. On the other hand, they look thicker at the longer infrared wavelengths used by VIMS, which took the other photo.

In addition to confirming that clouds hover over the northern part of Titan when summer approaches, Cassini also recently took one of the highest-resolution images of another Saturn moon called Pandora. The spacecraft snapped the photo during its closest ever Pandora flyby on December 18th, 2016.

Source: NASA (1), (2)

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