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DPD’s New Plan for Crime Hot Spots: Virtual Patrols

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The Dallas Police Department plans to address crime problems at convenience stores it's identified as some of the toughest in the city with an extensive package of new technology, according to the department. Three gas stations — a 7-Eleven in Oak Cliff, a Texaco in East Dallas and a 7-Eleven...

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tedgould
9 days ago
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The term "virtual policing" is the new "surveillance state."
Texas, USA
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Climate Change Is Disrupting Centuries-Old Methods Of Winemaking In France

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A vineyard worker drives a grape harvester tractor in the Bordeaux region of southwestern France, where climate change is raising new challenges for winemakers.

Drier, hotter weather — as well as drastic episodes of rain, hail and cold — has affected alcohol levels, weeds and harvest. The government is trying to help, but can France adapt quickly enough?

(Image credit: Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images)

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tedgould
9 days ago
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Perhaps if people won't believe scientists that climate change is happening, they'll believe wine makers having to adjust centuries old processes.
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Ikea tarot cards let you see into the fütüre

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“Everyone has feelings about Ikea—they go there during times of transition, moving, breakups,” says the engineer who came up with the deck.

Over the past few years, products promoting self-care and wellness have flooded the market. Traditional spiritual practices, like burning palo santo and reading the night sky, have also become trendy. And though forcing these indigenous, historically demonized rituals into the mainstream is potentially problematic, the silver lining is that more people are, in theory, equipped to handle life’s inevitable ebbs and flows. Tarot cards and astrology are also experiencing their own renaissance.

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tedgould
11 days ago
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The future is yours, if you can figure out how to build it.
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Rats love driving tiny cars, even when they don’t get treats

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Rats that learn to drive are more able to cope with stress. That might sound like the fever-dream of a former scientist-turned-car writer, but it's actually one of the results of a new study from the University of Richmond. The aim of the research was to see what effect the environment a rat was raised in had on its ability to learn new tasks. Although that kind of thing has been studied in the past, the tests haven't been particularly complicated. Anyone who has spent time around rats will know they're actually quite resourceful. So the team, led by Professor Kelly Lambert, came up this time with something a little more involved than navigating a maze: driving.

If you're going to teach rats to drive, first you need to build them a car (or Rat Operated Vehicle). The chassis and powertrain came from a robot car kit, and a transparent plastic food container provided the body. Explaining the idea of a steering wheel and pedals to rats was probably too difficult, so the controls were three copper wires stretched across an opening cut out of the front of the bodywork and an aluminum plate on the floor. When a rat stood on the plate and gripped a copper bar, a circuit was completed and the motors engaged; one bar made the car turn to the left, one made it turn to the right, and the third made it go straight ahead.

Rat steering compilation.

If proof were needed that many existing psychology tests are too simple, rats did not take long to learn how to drive. The driving was conducted in a closed-off arena (1.5m x 0.6m x 0.5m) where the goal was to drive over to a food treat. Three five-minute sessions a week, for eight weeks, was sufficient for the rats to learn how to do it. The placement of the treat and the starting position and orientation of the car varied throughout, so the rats had more of a challenge each time. At the end of the experiment, each rat went through a series of trials, conducted a day or two apart, where they were allowed to drive around the arena but without any food treats to see if they were only doing it for the food.

The subjects were 11 male rats, five of whom lived together in a large cage with multiple surface levels and objects to play with, and six who lived together in pairs in standard laboratory rat cages. Although both groups of rats learned to drive the car, the ones that lived in the enriched environment were quicker to start driving, and they continued to be more interested in driving even when there was no reward on offer beyond the thrill of the wind in one's fur.

The researchers also collected each rat's droppings at various points during the study to analyze them for metabolites of corticosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone, a pair of hormones. The ratio of these two hormones can show how stressed an animal is, and it changed in a pattern consistent with emotional resilience in all the rats over the course of the study. However, there was no significant difference between the enriched environment and the control group in this regard, which may well mean that the four-month process of teaching the rats to drive was itself a positive enriching environment.

Serious scientists usually refrain from imputing any further emotion onto research animals, but I'm no longer a serious scientist, so I'm happy saying that learning to drive made the rats more well-adjusted. And the study has further value; these complex activities may be more useful tests in rat models of neuropsychiatry than those in current use.

Behavioural Brain Research, 2019. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2019.112309 (About DOIs).

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tedgould
12 days ago
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Act like you care about the science while you're just looking at cute pictures of rats in cars.
Texas, USA
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California fires: Goats help save Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

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The 500 goats - including Vincent van Goat and Selena Goatmez - ate the flammable scrub nearby.
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tedgould
14 days ago
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You know it is serious when they bring in goats.
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Bonnen regrets comments about Texas cities and counties — yet also says urban governments have "run amok"

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Dallas city skyline at sunset.
Dallas city skyline at sunset. Getty Images/iStockphoto

On Monday, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen publicly defended — and expressed regret for — comments he made about local governments that were captured in a secret recording released last week.

Bonnen took to Twitter to clarify the point he said he was trying to make when he told hardline conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan during a meeting in June that he wanted this year’s legislative session to be difficult for local leaders — and hopes the 2021 session is even harder.

“I have great respect & admiration for our city & county officials,” Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, said in the 12-part thread. “Understand why I said what I did. I am NOT anti local govt, but I AM a pro-taxpayer conservative. It is the large, progressive, urban local govts that have been working against TX taxpayers for years.”

Sullivan, who secretly recorded the June meeting with Bonnen and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, released the audio last week. That audio largely confirmed allegations Sullivan first made against the speaker and Burrows in late July.

“Any mayor, county judge that was dumb ass enough to come meet with me,” Bonnen said during the meeting, “I told them with great clarity, my goal is for this to be the worst session in the history of the legislature for cities and counties.”

Burrows, who at the time chaired the House GOP Caucus, said he hoped “the next session is even worse” — to which the speaker said he was “all in for that.”

Those comments, along with other remarks made by Bonnen during the meeting, have set off a political controversy for the first-term speaker, who was widely lauded during the 2019 legislative session for his leadership. Over the past several days, a host of local officials and House members have condemned the speaker for his remarks, with some even asking Bonnen to resign from his post.

Bonnen on Monday did not address other details of the recording, such as his offering Sullivan’s organization media access to the lower chamber and suggesting the group, Empower Texans, should politically target 10 sitting House Republicans. The speaker’s response also did not include any mention of various disparaging remarks he made about Democrats, though he apologized in August for saying “terrible things” during the June meeting with Sullivan.

In his explanation Monday, Bonnen said he regretted “what I said & how I said it" — though he cast local governments in urban areas of the state as having “run amok” by using local control as cover to pass ordinances of their choosing, such as “permitting homeless camping” and “mandating paid sick leave.”

“The list goes on and on,” Bonnen said Monday. “When [large urban cities] exceed their jurisdiction, the state is obligated to keep them in check.”

Bonnen then listed various pieces of legislation he said local governments actively opposed at the Capitol this year, including a bill to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying. That measure did not pass, but Burrows labeled it as a “benchmark” for the 2021 session during the June meeting that was recorded. Bonnen on Monday also pointed to taxpayer-funded lobbyists as opponents to Senate Bill 2, which was the Legislature’s landmark property tax reform bill.

“It was the taxpayer-funded lobbyists for the big cities/counties who fought to stop us from increasing transparency in the [state’s property tax system],” Bonnen said. “The big cities have had countless opportunities to come to the table & identify solutions that work for everyone. As prop tax issues grew worse & worse, they continuously refused the chance to be a part of the solution.”

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tedgould
24 days ago
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This attitude of undermining local government that has overtaken many state (and even county) politicians aggravates me.

Not only is it trying to enact their will against the will of the local voters, but it is the same people who argue "state's rights" when the federal government does the same thing.

It is intellectually inconsistent and antidemocratic.

Texas, USA
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