Researchers 3D Print Custom-Sized Lithium-Ion Batteries

21 hours 42 minutes ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: [N]ew research published in ACS Applied Energy Materials shows that it's possible to 3D-print lithium-ion batteries into whatever shape you need. The problem that has stood in the way of 3D-printed lithium-ion batteries (at least, until now) is that the polymers traditionally used in this kind of printing aren't ionic conductors. The goal was to find a way to print custom-sized lithium-ion batteries in a cost-effective way using a regular, widely available 3D printer. In order to make the batteries conductive, the team led by Christopher Reyes and Benjamin Wiley infused the polylactic acid (PLA) usually used in 3D printing with an electrolyte solution. The researchers also incorporated graphene and carbon nanotubes into the design of the case to help increase conductivity. After these design modifications, the team was able to 3D print an LED bracelet, complete with a custom-sized lithium-ion battery. The battery was only able to power the bracelet for about 60 seconds, but the researchers have ideas for how to improve the capacity. For those interested, Engadget has a short video on the subject.

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Ask Slashdot: Should Open-Source Developer Teams Hire Professional UI/UX Designers?

22 hours 22 minutes ago
OpenSourceAllTheWay writes: There are many fantastic open-source tools out there for everything from scanning documents to making interactive music to creating 3D assets for games. Many of these tools have an Achilles heel though -- while the code quality is great and the tool is fully functional, the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are typically significantly inferior to what you get in competing commercial tools. In an nutshell, with open source, the code is great, the tool is free, there is no DRM/activation/telemetry bullshit involved in using the tool, but you very often get a weak UI/UX with the tool that -- unfortunately -- ultimately makes the tool far less of a joy to use daily than should be the case. A prime example would be the FOSS 3D tool Blender, which is great technically, but ultimately flops on its face because of a poorly designed UI that is a decade behind commercial 3D software. So here is the question: should open-source developer teams for larger FOSS projects include a professional UI/UX designer who does the UI for the project? There are many FOSS tools that would greatly benefit from a UI re-designed by a professional UI/UX designer.

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Facebook Lured Advertisers By Inflating Ad-watch Times Up To 900 Percent

23 hours 2 minutes ago
Zorro shares a report from The Mercury News: Not only did Facebook inflate ad-watching metrics by up to 900 percent (Warning: source may be paywalled, alternative source), it knew for more than a year that its average-viewership estimates were wrong and kept quiet about it, a new legal filing claims. A group of small advertisers suing the Menlo Park social media titan alleged in the filing that Facebook "induced" advertisers to buy video ads on its platform because advertisers believed Facebook users were watching video ads for longer than they actually were. That "unethical, unscrupulous" behavior by Facebook constituted fraud because it was "likely to deceive" advertisers, the filing alleged. The latest allegations arose out of a lawsuit that the advertisers filed against Mark Zuckerberg-led Facebook in federal court in 2016 over alleged inflation of ad-watching metrics. "Suggestions that we in any way tried to hide this issue from our partners are false," the company told The Wall Street Journal. "We told our customers about the error when we discovered it -- and updated our help center to explain the issue." "The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status to bring other advertisers into the legal action, plus unspecified damages," reports The Mercury News. "They also want the court to order a third-party audit of Facebook's video-ad metrics."

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Amazon Doles Out Freebies To Juice Sales of Its Own Brands

23 hours 41 minutes ago
An anonymous reader shares a report: Amazon cracked down on fake reviews two years ago by prohibiting shoppers from getting free products directly from merchants in exchange for writing reviews. It was a major turning point for the world's largest online retailer, which had previously seen "incentivized reviews" as a key way for consumers to discover new products. Amazon changed course because it realized some merchants were using such reviews to game its search algorithm, undermining faith in the customer feedback that helps drive e-commerce. Amazon instead used its "Vine" program, in which Amazon serves as a middleman between prolific Amazon reviewers and vendors eager for exposure. Amazon would still allow freebies in exchange for feedback so long as there was no direct contact between its retail partners and reviewers, theoretically lessening the chance of quid-pro-quo. Amazon would select shoppers eligible for the program, and Amazon vendors would pay a fee and provide free products to participate. But there was an important group excluded from the Vine program: independent merchants who supply about half the goods sold on the site. Now those excluded merchants and review watchdogs are alleging Amazon is guilty of the review manipulation the company said it was trying to prevent. Amazon uses Vine extensively to promote a fast-growing assortment of its own private-label products, distributing free samples to quickly accumulate the reviews needed to rise in search results and boost shopper faith in making a purchase. It gives Amazon a big advantage when introducing its own brands over third-party merchants who are more vulnerable to Amazon's private-label competition than prominent brands already in stores.

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Apple Launches Portal For US Users To Download Their Data

1 day ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Apple on Wednesday began allowing users in the U.S. to download a copy of all of the data that they have stored with the company from a single online portal. U.S. users will be able to download data such as all of their address book contacts, calendar appointments, music streaming preferences and details about past Apple product repairs. Previously, customers could get their data by contacting Apple directly. In May, when Apple first launched the online privacy portal, it only allowed U.S. users to either correct their data or delete their Apple accounts.

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Facebook Posts May Point To Depression, Study Finds

1 day 1 hour ago
People's Facebook posts might predict whether they are suffering from depression, researchers reported this week. From a report: The researchers found that the words people used seemed to indicate whether they would later be diagnosed with depression. The findings offer a way to flag people who may be in need of help, but they also raise important questions about people's health privacy, the team reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. People who were later clinically diagnosed with depression used more "I" language, according to Johannes Eichstaedt of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues. They also used more words reflecting loneliness, sadness and hostility. "We observed that users who ultimately had a diagnosis of depression used more first-person singular pronouns, suggesting a preoccupation with the self," they wrote. That is an indicator of depression in some people. The team recruited 683 people who visited an emergency room for their study and asked to see their Facebook pages. Most were not depressed, but 114 had a depression diagnosis in their medical records.

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Former Top Waymo Engineer Altered Code To Go on 'Forbidden Routes', Report Says

1 day 1 hour ago
In the early days of what ultimately became Waymo, Google's self-driving car division (known at the time as "Project Chauffeur"), there were "more than a dozen accidents, at least three of which were serious," according to a new article in The New Yorker . From a report: The magazine profiled Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer who was at the center of the Waymo v. Uber trade secrets lawsuit. According to the article, back in 2011, Levandowski also modified the autonomous software to take the prototype Priuses on "otherwise forbidden routes." Citing an anonymous source, The New Yorker reports that Levandowski sat behind the wheel as the safety driver, along with Isaac Taylor, a Google executive. But while they were in the car, the Prius "accidentally boxed in another vehicle," a Camry. As The New Yorker wrote: "A human driver could easily have handled the situation by slowing down and letting the Camry merge into traffic, but Google's software wasn't prepared for this scenario. The cars continued speeding down the freeway side by side. The Camry's driver jerked his car onto the right shoulder. Then, apparently trying to avoid a guard rail, he veered to the left; the Camry pinwheeled across the freeway and into the median. Levandowski, who was acting as the safety driver, swerved hard to avoid colliding with the Camry, causing Taylor to injure his spine so severely that he eventually required multiple surgeries." This was apparently just one of several accidents in Project Chauffeur's early days.

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Driverless Car Hype Gives Way To E-Scooter Mania Among Technorati

1 day 2 hours ago
Millions of dollars in funding and billions of dollars in valuations have made scooters the next big thing since the last big thing. From a report: When Michael Ramsey, an analyst for technology research firm Gartner, started in February to put together his 2018 "hype cycle" report for the future of transportation, he had plenty of topics to choose from: electric vehicles, flying cars, 5G, blockchain, and, of course, autonomous vehicles. But one type of transportation is conspicuously absent from the results of the report: electric scooters. "At the time, outside of California, these scooters were really not that common," Ramsey said. "That's how much has happened." As for autonomous vehicles, which have enjoyed years of hype as the next big thing, Ramsey labeled them sliding into "the trough of disillusionment," which Ramsey described as "when expectations don't meet the truth." In a matter of months, electric scooter startups have gone from tech oddity to global phenomenon. In some cities, hundreds of scooters suddenly showed up on streets from companies including Bird and Lime, leaving municipalities to figure out how to handle the sudden influx of two-wheeled travelers. The concept behind the scooters is simple: A user can grab any available scooter, unlock it with an app, ride to their destination, and leave the scooter there for someone else to use. Even by the hyper-growth expectations of Silicon Valley, the rise of scooter companies has been dizzying. Scooters can be found in more than 125 cities in the U.S. and more than 10 across the globe. In the year after their launch, both Lime and Bird said their scooters had been used for more than 10 million rides.

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Researcher Finds Simple Way of Backdooring Windows PCs and Nobody Notices for Ten Months

1 day 3 hours ago
A security researcher from Colombia has found a way of gaining admin rights and boot persistence on Windows PCs that's simple to execute and hard to stop -- all the features that hackers and malware authors are looking for from an exploitation technique. From a report: What's more surprising, is that the technique was first detailed way back in December 2017, but despite its numerous benefits and ease of exploitation, it has not received either media coverage nor has it been seen employed in malware campaigns. Discovered by Sebastian Castro, a security researcher for CSL, the technique targets one of the parameters of Windows user accounts known as the Relative Identifier (RID). The RID is a code added at the end of account security identifiers (SIDs) that describes that user's permissions group. There are several RIDs available, but the most common ones are 501 for the standard guest account, and 500 for admin accounts. Castro, with help from CSL CEO Pedro Garcia, discovered that by tinkering with registry keys that store information about each Windows account, he could modify the RID associated with a specific account and grant it a different RID, for another account group. The technique does not allow a hacker to remotely infect a computer unless that computer has been foolishly left exposed on the Internet without a password. But in cases where a hacker has a foothold on a system -- via either malware or by brute-forcing an account with a weak password -- the hacker can give admin permissions to a compromised low-level account, and gain a permanent backdoor with full SYSTEM access on a Windows PC.

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Someone Used a Deep Learning AI To Perfectly Insert Harrison Ford Into "Solo: A Star Wars Story"

1 day 3 hours ago
Andrew Liszewski, writing for io9: Casting anyone other than Harrison Ford in the role of Han Solo just feels like sacrilege, but since Ford is now 76 years old, playing a younger version of himself would be all but impossible. Or at least impossible if you rely on the standard Hollywood de-aging tricks like makeup and CG. Artificial intelligence, it turns out, does a pretty amazing job at putting Ford back into the role of Solo. The YouTube channel "derpfakes" has been posting videos that demonstrate the impressive, and at times frightening, capabilities of image processing using artificial intelligence. Using a process called deep learning, an AI analyzes a large collection of photos of a given person, creating a comprehensive database of them in any almost any position and pose. It then uses that database to intelligently perform an automatic face replacement on a source clip, in this case replacing actor Alden Ehrenreich's face with Harrison Ford's.

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GPU-Z Can Now Detect Fake NVIDIA Graphics Cards

1 day 4 hours ago
An anonymous reader shares a report: Sellers have been modifying lower end NVIDIA graphics cards and selling them more powerful cards online. In a recent version of the GPU-Z graphics card information utility, TechPowerUp has added the ability to now detect these fake NVIDIA cards. This new feature allows buyers of cards to detect if the card is actually a relabled NVIDIA G84, G86, G92, G94, G96, GT215, GT216, GT218, GF108, GF106, GF114, GF116, GF119, or GK106 GPU by displaying an exclamation point where the NVIDIA logo would normally appear and also prepends the string "[FAKE]" before the card's name.

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Seattle Startup Vets Takes on Google with Helm, a New $499 Personal Email Server

1 day 4 hours ago
A Seattle-area startup is aiming to take on giants such as Google and change the way we do email with a new physical personal email server. From a report: Helm today unveiled its $499 device that lets consumers send and receive email from their own domain, in addition to saving contacts and calendar events. It's a bold bet that aims to provide comfort at a time when privacy and security issues related to personal data hosted by big tech companies in the cloud are top of mind. The idea comes from Giri Sreenivas and Dirk Sigurdson, two entrepreneurs who already sold a security startup and raised a $4 million seed round from top venture capital firms last year. The device is about the size of a router and looks like an upside-down book placed on a table. It connects to a home network and pairs with a mobile app that lets users create their own domain name, passwords, and recovery keys. Helm support standard protocols and works with regular email clients such as Outlook or the Mail app, with encryption protecting connection between the device and the apps.

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The Results of Your Genetic Test Are Reassuring. But That Can Change.

1 day 5 hours ago
Laboratories frequently "reclassify" genetic mutations. But there is no reliable system for telling patients or doctors that the results of their genetic tests are no longer valid. From a report: The results of a genetic test may seem final -- after all, a gene mutation is present or it is not. That mutation increases the risk of a disease, or it does not. In fact, those findings are not as straightforward as they might seem, and the consequences may have grave implications for patients. While a person's genome doesn't change, the research linking particular bits of DNA to disease is very much in flux. Geneticists and testing labs constantly receive new information that leads them to reassess genetic mutations. As a result, a mutation seen as benign today may be found dangerous tomorrow. And vice versa. But there is no good way to get the new information to doctors and patients. The result: The gene test you had a few years ago might yield a startlingly different result now. The problem affects a minority of patients, mostly people with unusual mutations. The more common disease-causing mutations -- like those that predispose you to breast or colon cancer -- are so well studied that their meaning is not in doubt. In a recent study, researchers at Myriad Genetics, a diagnostic company, reviewed data on 1.45 million patients who had genetic tests from 2006 to 2016 to see if the results originally reported still held true. The lab issued new reports for nearly 60,000 of them, meaning the old results had been superseded by new data. But many patients who carry mutations that have been reclassified remain in the dark.

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Actors Are Digitally Preserving Themselves To Continue Their Careers Beyond the Grave

1 day 6 hours ago
Improvements in CGI mean neither age nor death need stop some performers from working. From a report: From Carrie Fisher in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to Paul Walker in the Fast & Furious movies, dead and magically "de-aged" actors are appearing more frequently on movie screens. Sometimes they even appear on stage: next year, an Amy Winehouse hologram will be going on tour to raise money for a charity established in the late singer's memory. Some actors and movie studios are buckling down and preparing for an inevitable future when using scanning technology to preserve 3-D digital replicas of performers is routine. Just because your star is inconveniently dead doesn't mean your generation-spanning blockbuster franchise can't continue to rake in the dough. Get the tech right and you can cash in on superstars and iconic characters forever. [...] For celebrities, these scans are a chance to make money for their families post mortem, extend their legacy -- and even, in some strange way, preserve their youth. Visual-effects company Digital Domain -- which has worked on major pictures like Avengers: Infinity War and Ready Player One -- has also taken on individual celebrities as clients, though it hasn't publicized the service. "We haven't, you know, taken out any ads in newspapers to 'Save your likeness,'" says Darren Hendler, director of the firm's Digital Humans Group. The suite of services that the company offers actors includes a range of different scans to capture their famous faces from every conceivable angle -- making it simpler to re-create them in the future. Using hundreds of custom LED lights arranged in a sphere, numerous images can be recorded in seconds capturing what the person's face looks like lit from every angle -- and right down to the pores.

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Will Compression Be Machine Learning's Killer App?

1 day 7 hours ago
Pete Warden, an engineer and CTO of Jetpac, writes: When I talk to people about machine learning on phones and devices I often get asked "What's the killer application?". I have a lot of different answers, everything from voice interfaces to entirely new ways of using sensor data, but the one I'm most excited about in the near-team is compression. Despite being fairly well-known in the research community, this seems to surprise a lot of people, so I wanted to share some of my personal thoughts on why I see compression as so promising. I was reminded of this whole area when I came across an OSDI paper on "Neural Adaptive Content-aware Internet Video Delivery". The summary is that by using neural networks they're able to improve a quality-of-experience metric by 43% if they keep the bandwidth the same, or alternatively reduce the bandwidth by 17% while preserving the perceived quality. There have also been other papers in a similar vein, such as this one on generative compression [PDF], or adaptive image compression. They all show impressive results, so why don't we hear more about compression as a machine learning application? All of these approaches require comparatively large neural networks, and the amount of arithmetic needed scales with the number of pixels. This means large images or video with high frames-per-second can require more computing power than current phones and similar devices have available. Most CPUs can only practically handle tens of billions of arithmetic operations per second, and running ML compression on HD video could easily require ten times that. The good news is that there are hardware solutions, like the Edge TPU amongst others, that offer the promise of much more compute being available in the future. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to apply these resources to all sorts of compression problems, from video and image, to audio, and even more imaginative approaches.

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Australian Federal Court Grants Publisher of GTA V Game Right To Search Homes of Five People Accused of Making Cheat Software

1 day 7 hours ago
The publisher of video game Grand Theft Auto V has been granted the right to search the homes of five people accused of making cheat software. From a report: The court order allowed Rockstar Games and its parent company, Take-Two Interactive, to search two properties in Melbourne, Australia, for evidence related to a cheat known as Infamous. The Australian federal court has also frozen the assets of the five, who have not yet filed a defence. The cheat went offline six months ago. It allowed players who paid about $40 to manipulate the gaming environment, generate virtual currency and use a "god mode" feature that makes players invincible.

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Some Electric Car Drivers Might Spew More CO2 Than Diesel Cars, New Research Shows

1 day 8 hours ago
bricko shares a report from Bloomberg with the caption, "Making batteries is a mess": Beneath the hoods of millions of the clean electric cars rolling onto the world's roads in the next few years will be a dirty battery. Every major carmaker has plans for electric vehicles to cut greenhouse gas emissions, yet their manufacturers are, by and large, making lithium-ion batteries in places with some of the most polluting grids in the world. By 2021, capacity will exist to build batteries for more than 10 million cars running on 60 kilowatt-hour packs, according to data of Bloomberg NEF. Most supply will come from places like China, Thailand, Germany and Poland that rely on non-renewable sources like coal for electricity. An electric vehicle in Germany would take more than 10 years to break even with an efficient combustion engine's emissions. "We're facing a bow wave of additional CO2 emissions," said Andreas Radics, a managing partner at Munich-based automotive consultancy Berylls Strategy Advisors, which argues that for now, drivers in Germany or Poland may still be better off with an efficient diesel engine. The findings, among the more bearish ones around, show that while electric cars are emission-free on the road, they still discharge a lot of the carbon-dioxide that conventional cars do. Just to build each car battery -- weighing upwards of 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) in size for sport-utility vehicles -- would emit up to 74 percent more C02 than producing an efficient conventional car if it's made in a factory powered by fossil fuels in a place like Germany, according to Berylls' findings. Yet regulators haven't set out clear guidelines on acceptable carbon emissions over the life cycle of electric cars, even as the likes of China, France and the U.K. move toward outright bans of combustion engines. It all has to do with manufacturing. According to estimates of Mercedes-Benz's electric-drive system integration department, manufacturing an electric car pumps out "significantly" more climate-warming gases than a conventional car, which releases only 20 percent of its lifetime CO2 at this stage. "Just switching to renewable energy for manufacturing would slash emissions by 65 percent, according to Transport & Environment," reports Bloomberg. "In Norway, where hydro-electric energy powers practically the entire grid, the Berylls study showed electric cars generate nearly 60 percent less CO2 over their lifetime, compared with even the most efficient fuel-powered vehicles."

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US is World's Most Competitive Economy for First Time in a Decade

1 day 9 hours ago
schwit1 shares a report: The U.S. is back on top as the most competitive country in the world, regaining the No. 1 spot for the first time since 2008 in an index produced by the World Economic Forum [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], which said the country could still do better on social issues. America climbed one place in the rankings of 140 countries, with the top five rounded out by Singapore, Germany, Switzerland and Japan. All five countries' scores rose from 2017, with the U.S. notching the second-biggest gain after Japan's. [...] The Global Competitiveness Report this year assessed 140 countries on 98 indicators that measure business investment and productivity. The indicators are organized into 12 main drivers of productivity including the nations' institutions, tech savvy, infrastructure, education systems, market size and innovation.

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Professional Videogamers Are Working Out

1 day 11 hours ago
Hoping to avoid injuries, gamers get physical training; squat jumps, ginger smoothies and yoga. From a report: Esports, the world of professional videogaming, is looking more and more like other sports, with big sponsors, prize money, fan bases -- and player injuries. In response, teams are educating players on ergonomics, hiring personal chefs and sending gamers to the gym [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. Sweden's Ninjas in Pyjamas, one of esports' most accomplished teams, distributes an illustrated fitness guide to players with nearly two dozen recommended "core" exercises like burpees, Superman lifts and squat jumps. It has also instituted a "no pizza" rule before morning matches and mandated teams take pregame walks. Before matches, hand-warming packets are doled out to its two dozen players. "If you have warm hands, you reduce the risk of injury versus cold hands," says Hicham Chahine, Ninjas' chief executive. The potential for injuries -- most frequently in the wrists, hands and fingers -- is rising due to the popularity of the $900 million esports universe. With new leagues and a proliferation of competitions, for some games, tournaments are popping up nearly every other week. "Everyone is susceptible to injuries in everything that is done to an extreme," says Veli-Matti Karhulahti, of Finland's University of Turku, who along with co-author Tuomas Kari, has published peer-reviewed research on physical activity in esports. South Korean team KT Rolster hired a nutritionist two years ago who dictates breakfast, lunch and dinner. Brown rice was substituted for white rice. Players craving fast food or instant ramen must now make a special request to do so, says Jeong Je-seung, KT Rolster's coach and a former professional gamer. In his playing days, Mr. Jeong says low salaries meant "if you could eat three times a day as an esports player back then it was enough." Top players can now earn millions of dollars annually in prize money and sponsorships. The 2018 world championship for "Dota 2," a game where teams raid opponents' bases, carried a purse of nearly $25 million.

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How Paul Allen Saved the American Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence

1 day 14 hours ago
dmoberhaus writes: Paul Allen died on Monday evening at the age of 65. Motherboard spoke with SETI researchers about how the Microsoft co-founder single-handedly saved the American Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence by building the first dedicated SETI radio telescope and its legacy one decade later. Less than a year after NASA's SETI program started, it was shut down by members of Congress who didn't want to spend money on the "great Martian chase." In order for the program to continue, it needed private funding. "Fortunately, one of the earliest SETI Institute supporters was Barney Oliver, who founded and directed Hewlett Packard laboratories," reports Motherboard. "So in 1993 Oliver called Bill Hewlett and David Packard of Hewlett Packard, Intel founder Gordon Moore, and Paul Allen to ask for their support." They supported Project Phoenix, a SETI program that ran from 1995 to 1998. SETI astronomers then realized that they needed a dedicated SETI radio telescope, or array of small telescopes, if the search were to have any chance of success. Allen was able to foot the $25-million bill required to build this array of telescopes. The telescope array was built in northern California, "the first facility specifically built for SETI in the U.S.," Motherboard notes. "The cost of building a 350-telescope array ended up being far more expensive than anyone at the SETI Institute had anticipated, however. By the time the Allen Telescope Array came online in 2007, only 42 telescopes had been built and Allen's donation had largely been consumed." The report notes that the Allen Telescope Array "has analyzed 200 million signals from thousands of stars, studied unusual high-energy radio emissions, and even scanned the "spliff-shaped" Oumuamua asteroid for signs of intelligent life."

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