Category Archives: Science & technology

Amazon launches program to get Alexa in hotel rooms

amazon alexa

Alexa: Always on and always recording…

That device is ALWAYS listening and recording you. Stay clear unless you don’t mind having your conversations recorded.

From Yahoo: Alexa has a new job: hotel concierge. Amazon has launched a version of Alexa for hotels that lets guests order room service through the voice assistant, ask for more towels or get restaurant recommendations without having to pick up the phone and call the front desk.

Marriott has signed up for the service, and will place Amazon Echo smart speakers in 10 hotels this summer, including its Westin and St Regis brands.

It is another way for Amazon to sell its voice assistant and devices to businesses and get Alexa in front of more customers.

Amazon already sells a version of Alexa for workplaces, and has struck deals to place Alexa in cars and fridges.

Alexa has become an important part of Amazon’s business because it keeps users attached to Amazon services, such as music streaming.

Amazon said data from hotel guests will be deleted daily, and Marriott said those who do not want an Echo device in their room can ask to have it removed.

Hotels will be able to customize the responses Alexa gives their guests, such as nearby restaurant recommendations or pool hours.

Other tasks Alexa for Hospitality can do include checking guests out of their room, turning on the lights or playing music to help them fall asleep.

Later this year, Amazon will allow hotel guests to link their Amazon account to Alexa so they can listen to their music playlists or audio books during their stay. Shopping will not be allowed through the hotel version of Alexa, Amazon said.

See also:

DCG

Religious people live 4 years longer than atheists

Four days ago, I posted about church attendance reducing suicide risk by half.

Here is more evidence that being a Christian is good for our health, both mental and physical.

The lonely world of atheists

A study by a team of researchers found a surprising correlation between longevity and religious faith: religious people live up to four years longer than atheists.

Published on June 13, 2018 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, the article “Does Religion Stave Off the Grave? Religious Affiliation in One’s Obituary and Longevity” was authored by:

  1. Laura Wallace, the lead author, is a doctoral student of psychology at Ohio State University (OSU).
  2. Rebecca Anthony, who is in her final year of medical school at OSU.
  3. Dr. Christian End, associate professor of psychology at Xavier University.
  4. Dr. Baldwin Way, associate professor of psychology at OSU.

As summarized by a press release from Ohio State University, the study employed two samples of obituaries;

  1. A first sample of 505 obituaries published in Iowa’s Des Moines Register  in January and February 2012, showed that people with religious affiliations lived 9.45 years longer than atheists. The gap in longevity shrank to 6.48 years when gender and marital status were taken into account.
  2. A second sample of 1,096 obituaries from 42 major U.S. cities published on newspaper websites between August 2010 and August 2011, found that people whose obits mentioned a religious affiliation lived an average of 5.64 years longer than those whose obits did not. That gap shrank to 3.82 years after gender and marital status were considered.

The researchers tried to account for these likely explanatory (or “contaminating”) factors:

  • Many studies have shown that people who volunteer and participate in social groups tend to live longer than others. As an example, attending church regularly increases the odds of becoming friends with other attendees. Wallace et al. combined data from both samples and determined that volunteerism and social engagement only partly accounted for the greater longevity of religious people. Wallace said: “We found that volunteerism and involvement in social organizations only accounted for a little less than one year of the longevity boost that religious affiliation provided. There’s still a lot of the benefit of religious affiliation that this can’t explain.”
  • What about the importance that many religions place on conformity to community values and norms? The researchers found that in highly religious cities where conformity was important, religious people tended to live longer than non-religious people.

Other possible explanatory factors:

  • The researchers allowed that the longevity effect of religious affiliation may have to do with the rules and norms of many religions restricting unhealthy practices such as alcohol, drug use and sexual promiscuity.
  • In addition, Dr. Way said, “many religions promote stress-reducing practices that may improve health, such as gratitude, prayer or meditation.”
  • Way also admitted that the study could not control for important factors related to longevity such as race and health behaviors.

Nevertheless, lead author Wallace said that overall, the study provides additional support to the growing number of studies showing that religion does have a positive effect on health.

See also:

~Eowyn

The demasculinization of men rolls on: Male models wear pregnant bellies on the runway

male model pregnant getty image

Celebrating the impossible: Male pregnancy/Getty Image

I won’t celebrate fakery.

From Yahoo: It’s men’s fashion week over in London right now, so there are lots of runway images hitting the wire, but the ones from designer Xander Zhou‘s show on Monday really have people talking. That’s because he had many of his male models walk the catwalk with fake pregnant bellies.

Some wore tight T-shirts lifted up so the prosthetic stomach was in full view, and others clutched their covered gut region with nurturing arms, which, as Fashionista pointed out, helped distinguish their fake preggo stomachs from, like, beer bellies. At least one model wore a shirt that said, “New World Baby.”

As far as the meaning behind the prosthetics, the brand had this to say post-show on Instagram: “At Supernatural, Extraterrestrial & Co., we’re prepared to welcome a future of male pregnancy.

See all the photos here.

See also:

DCG

Intuit credit card service shuts down payments on all gun purchases

intuit

Another anti-Second Amendment company to add to your boycott list.

From NY Post: Several gun-related businesses were suddenly — and without warning — disrupted in recent weeks when Intuit stopped processing credit card payments because sales were gun-related, The Post has learned.

Some of the payments stopped didn’t even involve firearms, but simply T-shirts and coffee mugs and gun safety classes, according to small business owners.

As a result, the businesses had to scramble to track down customers to get them pay their bills after Intuit credited back to customers’ accounts the purchases — even if the T-shirt was already shipped or the class already taken, one businessman told The Post.

At Gunsite Academy, a Paulden, Ariz., company that provides marksmanship training in addition to selling guns that ship to a licensed gun shop near the customer’s home, Ken Campbell was dinged by Intuit’s action.

Campbell, a former Indiana sheriff, had just switched credit card processors this spring — to Intuit, the parent of TurboTax and Quicken software — when the trouble began, he said.

Intuit told Campbell it mistakenly believed firearm sales were being made directly to the customers.

Campbell explained the guns were shipped to a local dealer with a federal firearms license who ran the required background checks. Intuit was unmoved.

Campbell said if he knew of Intuit’s stance, he would have simply moved back to his previous processor. “It’s fine, it’s capitalism, and if you don’t want to do business with us, we don’t want to do business with you,” he said.

Intuit did not return several requests for comment.

Honor Defense, a Georgia firearms maker that ships only to other dealers, had a similar experience with Intuit. Gary Ramey, president of Honor Defense, told Gun Talk radio host Tom Gresham that Intuit “reversed charges” on his customers as well.

Honor Defense could not immediately be reached for comment.

DCG

Actress Jodie Foster is much more comfortable with robots having guns as opposed to “emotional” human beings

jodie foster

Jodie Foster stars in a new movie, Hotel Artemis, which opened June 8. Time for her to make the promotional rounds and say stupid things.

About the movie, from Rotten Tomatoes:

“Set in riot-torn, near-future Los Angeles, HOTEL ARTEMIS is an original, high-octane action-thriller starring Jodie Foster as The Nurse, who runs a secret, members-only hospital for criminals. Jodie Foster is joined by an all-star cast that includes Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, and Dave Bautista.”

The critics consensus:

“Hotel Artemis has a few flashes of wit and an intriguing cast, but mostly it’s just a serviceable chunk of slightly futuristic violence — which might be all its audience is looking for.”

Jodie is all in on gun control yet her movie contains A LOT of gun violence. Shocker, not.

She recently told IndieWire:

“The institution that’s probably made the most change in terms of gun violence is The Brady [Campaign],” she said, referring to the organization named for James Brady, the White House press secretary shot and paralyzed during the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan assassination in 1981. (Notably, the convicted shooter John Hinckley, Jr. later said the shooting was an attempt to get Foster’s attention.)

Isn’t it possible that we all have that bit of insanity in us? That’s why I’m for gun control,” she said at the time. “Absolutely. Hunting, I get that – let’s protect hunting. But I don’t believe that people should have access to life-or-death situations at any emotional time in their life. I don’t really believe that a human being who feels [things] should have the option at their fingertips.

“I had a lot of thoughts in terms of the power of the instrument and why it’s so problematic that human beings should have an instrument of death at their fingertips so freely when we are emotional human beings,” Foster said. “I mean, I’d be much more comfortable having robots have them, but we are designed to have emotions that overflow and that are not guided by our heads … To have sentient beings that are completely and entirely guided by their emotions have the power to administer life or death using one kilowatt of energy in a nanosecond is just unfathomable with me.”

What could possibly go wrong with a robot having a gun? Remember the malfunctioning robot from Robocop? (Warning, the link to the video is very graphic and violent.)

Another Hollyweird movie I won’t be seeing.

h/t Breitbart

DCG

Stunning new study found human and all animal species today originated only 100,000 to 200,000 years ago

Research by two scientists on DNA and mitochrondria found that over 90% of animal species in existence today — including humans — had originated only 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.

While the two scientists shied away from saying it, their finding that humans and all animals date back to at most only 200,000 years ago is contrary to what evolutionists have been telling us, that the Earth and its life forms had taken millions of years to develop and evolve.

Note: DNA or Deoxyribonucleic acid carries the genetic instructions of all known living organisms. Mitochrondria are structures or organelles located in the cell’s cytoplasm outside the nucleus, responsible for energy production. All mitochondrial chromosomes are inherited from the mother.

The two scientists are:

  • Mark Young Stoeckle, Ph.D. and M.D., Senior Research Associate at the Program for the Human Environment, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY. Email: mark.stoeckle@rockefeller.edu
  • David S. Thaler, Ph.D., who researches and teaches Genetics and Microbiology at the Biozentrum – Center for Molecular Life Sciences at the University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland. Email: david.thaler@unibas.ch; davidsthaler@gmail.com

Their research is published as M.Y. Stoeckle and D. S. Thaler, “Why should mitochondria define species?,” Human Evolution, Vol. 33, n. 1-2, May 2018, pp. 1-30.

Written in a technical and, for non-specialists, arcane language, the article concerns DNA barcoding — a taxonomic method that uses a short genetic marker in an organism’s DNA to identify it as belonging to a particular species. For animals, the preferred barcode regions are in mitochondria — cellular organelles that power all animal life. As the authors wrote (p. 10):

The agreement of barcodes and domain experts implies that explaining the origin of the pattern of DNA barcodes would be in large part explaining the origin of species. Understanding the mechanism by which the near-universal pattern of DNA barcodes comes about would be tantamount to understanding the mechanism of speciation.

For their study, Stoeckle and Thaler relied largely on more than 5 million mitochondrial barcodes from more than 100,000 animal species, assembled by scientists worldwide over the past 15 years in the open access GenBank database maintained by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information. The two scientists used the collection to examine the range of genetic differences within and between animal species ranging from bumblebees to birds. They found surprisingly minute or little genetic variation (between 0.0% and 0.5% variance) within most animal species — but very clear genetic distinction between a given species and all others.

The authors conclude that the surprisingly little genetic variation found within each of nearly all existing animal species can only be explained by the species all being young — no more than 100,000 to 200,000 years old.

Here is the article’s “Abstract”:

More than a decade of DNA barcoding encompassing about five million specimens covering 100,000 animal species supports the generalization that mitochondrial DNA clusters largely overlap with species as defined by domain experts. Most barcode clustering reflects synonymous substitutions. What evolutionary mechanisms account for synonymous clusters being largely coincident with species? The answer depends on whether variants are phenotypically neutral. To the degree that variants are selectable, purifying selection limits variation within species and neighboring species may have distinct adaptive peaks. Phenotypically neutral variants are only subject to demographic processes—drift, lineage sorting, genetic hitchhiking, and bottlenecks. The evolution of modern humans has been studied from several disciplines with detail unique among animal species. Mitochondrial barcodes provide a commensurable way to compare modern humans to other animal species. Barcode variation in the modern human population is quantitatively similar to that within other animal species. Several convergent lines of evidence show that mitochondrial diversity in modern humans follows from sequence uniformity followed by the accumulation of largely neutral diversity during a population expansion that began approximately 100,000 years ago. A straightforward hypothesis is that the extant populations of almost all animal species have arrived at a similar result consequent to a similar process of expansion from mitochondrial uniformity within the last one to several hundred thousand years.

And again, Stoeckle and Thaler wrote (p. 22):

More approaches have been brought to bear on the emergence and outgrowth of Homo sapiens sapiens (i.e., modern humans) than any other species including full genome sequence analysis of thousands of individuals and tens of thousands of mitochondria, paleontology, anthropology, history and linguistics [61, 142-144]. The congruence of these fields supports the view that modern human mitochondria and Y chromosome originated from conditions that imposed a single sequence on these genetic elements between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago [145-147]. (p. 22)

The authors wrote in the article’s “Summary and Conclusion” (pp. 22-23):

Mostly synonymous and apparently neutral variation in mitochondria within species shows a similar quantitative pattern across the entire animal kingdom. The pattern is that that most—over 90% in the best characterized groups—of the approximately five million barcode sequences cluster into groups with between 0.0% and 0.5% variance as measured by APD [average pair-wise distance], with an average APD of 0.2%.

Modern humans are a low-average animal species in terms of the APD. The molecular clock as a heuristic marks 1% sequence divergence per million years which is consistent with evidence for a clonal stage of human mitochondria between 100,000-200,000 years ago and the 0.1% APD found in the modern human population [34, 155, 156]. A conjunction of factors could bring about the same result. However, one should not as a first impulse seek a complex and multifaceted explanation for one of the clearest, most data rich and general facts in all of evolution. The simple hypothesis is that the same explanation offered for the sequence variation found among modern humans applies equally to the modern populations of essentially all other animal species. Namely that the extant population, no matter what its current size or similarity to fossils of any age, has expanded from mitochondrial uniformity within the past 200,000 years.

Dr. Thaler observes: “Our paper strengthens the argument that the low variation in the mitochondrial DNA of modern humans also explains the similar low variation found in over 90% of living animal species — we all likely originated by similar processes and most animal species are likely young.

All this is reinforced by The Rockefeller University’s Press Release about Stoeckle and Thaler’s journal article:

Researchers report important new insights into evolution following a study of mitochondrial DNA from about 5 million specimens covering about 100,000 animal species.

Mining “big data” insights from the world’s fast-growing genetic databases and reviewing a large literature in evolutionary theory, researchers at The Rockefeller University in New York City and the Biozentrum at the University of Basel in Switzerland, published several conclusions today in the journal “Human Evolution.” Among them . . .

* The mass of evidence supports the hypothesis that most species, be it a bird or a moth or a fish, like modern humans, arose recently and have not had time to develop a lot of genetic diversity. The 0.1% average genetic diversity within humanity today corresponds to the divergence of modern humans as a distinct species about 100,000 – 200,000 years ago — not very long in evolutionary terms. The same is likely true of over 90% of species on Earth today.

* Genetically the world “is not a blurry place.” Each species has its own specific mitochondrial sequence and other members of the same species are identical or tightly similar. The research shows that species are “islands in sequence space” with few intermediate “stepping stones” surviving the evolutionary process.

In other words, Stoeckle and Thaler did not find the “missing links” — the intermediate forms that, according to the theory of evolution, developed when one species evolved into another distinct species. As Dr. Thaler notes, “Darwin struggled to understand the absence of intermediates and his questions remain fruitful [i.e., unanswered].”

Allow me to rephrase Stoeckle and Thaler’s stunning study:

  1. When a species began, its members are characterized by genetic sameness (“mitochondrial or sequence uniformity”).
  2. In the natural course of time, members of a species would develop genetic differences (“mitochrondrial variation”) at a rate (“molecular clock”) of 1% variation per million years.
  3. Using a data base of the DNA barcodes of more than 100,000 animals species, the two scientists found very little genetic variation — between 0.0% to 0.5% variance — within each species. The average intra-species genetic variation is only 0.2%. The genetic variation within the human species is even less — 0.1% — which means the human species is about 100,000 years old, younger than most other animal species.
  4. Appealing to Occam’s Razor, a simple explanation for the paucity (0.0% to 0.5%) of intra-species genetic variation is that all animal species, including humans, are very young — no more than 100,000 to 200,000 years old — and therefore did not have the millions of years to develop genetic divergence or variation.
  5. If the theory of evolution is true, we would expect to find a wide range of points-of-origin of animal species — from 100,000 years to millions of years. Instead, Stoeckle and Thaler found that all existing animal species date back no more than 200,000 years ago, which means that they share a similar originating point-in-time — “the extant populations of almost all animal species have arrived at a similar result consequent to a similar process of expansion from mitochondrial uniformity within the last one to several hundred thousand years”.
  6. Lastly, the scientists found that each species is distinct from other species, but could not find intermediate forms (“stepping stones” or missing links) between species.

Note that points 4, 5 and 6 all contradict the theory of evolution, but support the Theory of Creation —

  • That there was a point in time when God created all living things as distinct species (“after their kind” – Genesis 1:21).
  • That man was the last living thing to be created and therefore the human species is younger than other species.
  • All of which means humans and other species had not evolved over the course of millions of years;
  • Which would explain why there are no intermediate forms or missing links.

Genesis 1

21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness

~Eowyn

Fight for $15! McDonald’s to add self-order kiosks to 1,000 stores each quarter

robot

From MSN: As McDonald’s seeks to modernize its business, the company is placing a big bet on mobile and other tech platforms.

McDonald’s has been systematically adding self-service ordering kiosks and table service to stores as it works to “build a better McDonald’s.”

“What we’re finding is when people dwell more, they select more,” CEO Steve Easterbrook told CNBC on “Squawk on the Street” Monday. “There’s a little bit of an average check boost.”

In fact, the company plans to upgrade 1,000 stores with this technology every quarter for the next eight to nine quarters.

“If you think about only two years ago, if you were a customer there were two ways you can get served at McDonald’s,” Easterbrook said. “You walked to the front counter and line up and take your drink and find a table or you go through the drive through. We’re introducing many options. They can order through mobile, they can come curbside and we’ll run it out as well as the existing traditional ways. You can pay in different ways and customize your food in different ways. I think we’re trying to add more choice and variety.

International markets like Canada, Australia and the U.K. are already fully integrated with kiosk service and mobile ordering. Locations in France and Germany, too, are almost completely transformed with this new technology.

“The U.S. is a little bit behind,” Easterbrook said.

The burger giant has also been exploring delivery in the U.S. in an attempt to meet customer demand and changes in how consumers want to get their food.

McDonald’s already has a large delivery presence in Asia, which accounts for 10 percent of system sales in that market, and is hoping to capitalize on the growing industry demand by offering delivery in America. It is currently testing out several models, both in-house and via third-party providers.

The company has previously stated that 75 percent of the population in its top five markets — the U.S., France, the U.K., Germany and Canada — are within three miles of a McDonald’s and 85 percent are within five miles of a chain.

DCG