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Driver Stranded After Connected Rental Car Can't Call Home

Over the weekend, tech reporter Kari Paul from The Guardian got stuck in the California boonies by the Internet of Things. Ars Technica's Jonathan M. Gitlin reports: Paul had rented a car through a local car-sharing service called GIG Car Share, which offers a fleet of hybrid Toyota Priuses and electric Chevrolet Bolt EVs in the Bay Area and Sacramento, with plans to spend the weekend in a more rural part of the state about three hours north of Oakland. But on Sunday, she was left stranded on an unpaved road when the car's telematics system lost its cell signal. Without being able to call home, the rented Prius refused to move. Adding insult to injury, Paul's cellphone was not similarly troubled by the remote location, allowing her to express her frustration, but also to talk to GIG's customer service to try to get the car back in motion. At first, the company's plan was to send a tow truck to tow the Prius a few miles closer to civilization, but that would be too easy. It appears GIG's customer service unhelpfully suggested Paul and her companion spend the night sleeping in the car and trying to start the car again the next morning. Instead, after a six-hour wait and not one but two tow trucks -- the second of which Paul called herself -- plus 20 (!) calls to GIG, the problem was finally solved in the early hours of Monday morning.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Researchers Combine Lasers and Terahertz Waves In Camera That Sees 'Unseen' Detail

A team of physicists at the University of Sussex has successfully developed the first nonlinear camera capable of capturing high-resolution images of the interior of solid objects using terahertz (THz) radiation. Phys.Org reports: Led by Professor Marco Peccianti of the Emergent Photonics (EPic) Lab, Luana Olivieri, Dr. Juan S. Totero Gongora and a team of research students built a new type of THz camera capable of detecting THz electromagnetic waves with unprecedented accuracy. Images produced using THz radiation are called 'hyperspectral' because the image consists of pixels, each one containing the electromagnetic signature of the object in that point. The EPic Lab team used a single-pixel camera to image sample objects with patterns of THz light. The prototype they built can detect how the object alters different patterns of THz light. By combining this information with the shape of each original pattern, the camera reveals the image of an object as well as its chemical composition. Sources of THz radiation are very faint and hyperspectral imaging had, until now, limited fidelity. To overcome this, The Sussex team shone a standard laser onto a unique non-linear material capable of converting visible light to THz. The prototype camera creates THz electromagnetic waves very close to the sample, similar to how a microscope works. As THz waves can travel right through an object without affecting it, the resulting images reveal the shape and composition of objects in three dimensions.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Why Are HIV Drugs Being Used To Treat the New Coronavirus?

Gizmodo's Ed Cara explains why HIV drugs are being used to treat the new coronavirus. An anonymous reader shares the report: On Tuesday, the Japanese government announced it will begin clinical trials to test treatments for the deadly new coronavirus that's engulfed China and spread to over two dozen countries. Rather than new drugs, they'll be studying existing medications already used to treat HIV and other viral diseases. But why exactly are researchers hopeful that these drugs can be repurposed for the new coronavirus, and how likely are they to work? The new coronavirus, recently named SARS-CoV-2 due to its close genetic ties to the SARS coronavirus, is made out of RNA. Other RNA viruses include the ones that cause Ebola, hepatitis C, and yes, HIV/AIDS. RNA viruses come in all shapes and sizes, and those that infect humans can do so in different ways. But many of the drugs that go after HIV and the hepatitis C virus broadly target weaknesses found in all sorts of viruses. The approved hepatitis C drug ribavirin, for instance, interferes with something called the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, an enzyme essential for many viruses -- including coronaviruses -- to produce more of themselves inside a cell. HIV drugs like lopinavir inhibit other enzymes that allow viruses to break down certain proteins, which cripples their ability to infect cells and replicate. Broad antiviral drugs like lopinavir should be able to work against SARS-CoV-2, scientists theorize. And there's already some circumstantial evidence they do. Some of these drugs have been successfully tested out for SARS and MERS, for instance, two other nasty coronaviruses that have emerged in recent years.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Protein-Powered Device Creates Electricity From Moisture In the Air

Slashdot readers fahrbot-bot and operator_error share a report from Phys.Org: Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a device that uses a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air, a new technology they say could have significant implications for the future of renewable energy, climate change and in the future of medicine. As reported today in Nature, the laboratories of electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovley at UMass Amherst have created a device they call an "Air-gen," or air-powered generator, with electrically conductive protein nanowires produced by the microbe Geobacter. The Air-gen connects electrodes to the protein nanowires in such a way that electrical current is generated from the water vapor naturally present in the atmosphere. The new technology developed in Yao's lab is non-polluting, renewable and low-cost. It can generate power even in areas with extremely low humidity such as the Sahara Desert. It has significant advantages over other forms of renewable energy including solar and wind, Lovley says, because unlike these other renewable energy sources, the Air-gen does not require sunlight or wind, and "it even works indoors." The Air-gen device requires only a thin film of protein nanowires less than 10 microns thick, the researchers explain. The bottom of the film rests on an electrode, while a smaller electrode that covers only part of the nanowire film sits on top. The film adsorbs water vapor from the atmosphere. A combination of the electrical conductivity and surface chemistry of the protein nanowires, coupled with the fine pores between the nanowires within the film, establishes the conditions that generate an electrical current between the two electrodes. "We are literally making electricity out of thin air," says Yao. "The Air-gen generates clean energy 24/7." Lovely adds, "It's the most amazing and exciting application of protein nanowires yet." The current generation of Air-gen devices can power small electronics, and they are expected to be brought to commercial scale soon.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Redbox Enters the Free, Ad-Supported Streaming Market

Redbox has entered the ad-supported streaming market with the launch of Redbox Free Live TV. "But despite its name, Redbox's new streaming service isn't offering 'live TV' similar to what you'd get on a TV streaming service like YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV," reports TechCrunch. "Instead, the new service offers a curated set of ad-supported movies and TV shows, similar to The Roku Channel, IMDb TV or TiVo Plus, for example." The news was first reported by Cord Cutters News. From the report: The service, which began rolling out last week, expands on Redbox's earlier efforts in streaming, known as Redbox on Demand. Launched publicly in 2017, Redbox on Demand is the company's online marketplace for movies and TV for rental and purchase. Those titles can then be saved in your Redbox On Demand library and watched on a compatible smart TV, media streaming device, PC, tablet or phone. They also can be cast to a TV by way of AirPlay, Chromecast, Miracast or Screencast. Redbox Free Live TV, meanwhile, is currently available on iPhone, iPad and Android devices, in addition to the web. However, the company says the service is "only available to a select audience" at this time, but will soon be offered nationwide. (Perhaps as soon as this week.) Like other free, ad-supported streaming services on the market, Redbox Free Live TV doesn't require users to subscribe, but instead runs commercial breaks as a means of generating revenue. On top of that, the content on Redbox Free Live TV is fairly niche -- news and entertainment, but limited to older shows and movies, for the most part, along with content from digital brands.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.



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