Category Archives: Tech

Stanford Shows How Fiber Optics Might Enable Global Quake-Warning Network

STANFORD (KPIX) — A web of fiber optic cables beneath the Stanford University campus is doing more than transferring data — it’s part of an earthquake monitoring network that may help scientists implement a quake early-warning system. Miles of fiber-optic cables have been buried under the Stanford campus for years. They transmit digital data and Internet traffic at high speed to the students and faculty.
Biondo Biondi

Stanford researcher Biondo Biondi has developed a fiber-optic-cable-based seismic detector. (CBS)

Geophysics professor Biondo Biondi repurposed some of those cables, along with an existing underground network of sensors, to create a virtual three-mile-long, figure-eight-shape subterranean seismometer. A breakthrough came when Biondi discovered that the fiber wires themselves could detect seismic vibrations. Last year, Prof. Biondi and graduate assistant Eileen Martin began experimenting with the fiber optic array and they have recorded about 800 seismic events since then. The tremors ranged from imperceptibly-tiny to the major 8.1-magnitude Chiapas quake in Mexico last month. Perhaps the most promising part of their research is the fiber array’s ability to record the faint, fastest waves from a distant quake — called P waves — which arrive before the ground begins shaking. Could this someday become part of a relatively cheap and ubiquitous earthquake early-warning system? Prof. Biondi thinks it’s possible. “The hope for this technology is to have large-scale seismic observatories everywhere in the world,” Biondi said. Fiber-optic networks are being installed across oceans and even in remote jungles — perhaps one day to become part of a global, glass ear always listening for the next quake.

Senators Seek More Transparency In Online Political Ads

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators are moving to boost transparency for online political ads, unveiling on Thursday what could be the first of several pieces of legislation to try to lessen influence from Russia or other foreign actors on U.S. elections. The bill by Democratic Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota would require social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to keep public files of election ads and meet the same disclaimer requirements as political broadcast and print advertising. Federal regulations now require television and radio stations to make publicly available the details of political ads they air. That includes who runs the ad, when it runs and how much it costs. The bill also would require companies to “make reasonable efforts” to ensure that election ads are not purchased directly or indirectly by a foreign national. The move comes after Facebook revealed that ads that ran on the company’s social media platform and have been linked to a Russian internet agency were seen by an estimated 10 million people before and after the 2016 election. Warner is the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 race, and Klobuchar is the top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, which oversees elections. The legislation also has support from Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Lawmakers on the Senate intelligence panel and other committees investigating Russian influence have said one of the main roles of Congress will be to pass legislation to try to stop the foreign meddling. That’s in contrast to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is also investigating and has the ability to prosecute if he finds any criminal wrongdoing. Other lawmakers are working on legislation to help states detect if foreign actors are trying to hack into their systems. That’s after the Department of Homeland Security said that 21 states had their election systems targeted by Russian government hackers. But it’s unclear if Congress will be able to agree on any such legislation amid heightened partisan tensions. Warner and Klobuchar are still trying to woo additional Senate and House Republicans, who have spent much of the year rolling back federal regulations they see as burdensome. McCain, who has for years broken with many of his GOP colleagues on campaign finance laws, said in a statement that he has “long fought to increase transparency and end the corrupting influence of special interests in political campaigns, and I am confident this legislation will modernize existing law to safeguard the integrity of our election system.” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., has said he wants to wait until after an upcoming hearing with social media executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google before weighing in on the legislation. Late last month, after Warner first floated the bill, Burr said it was too soon to discuss legislation and that the hearing will “explore for the first time any holes that might exist in social media platform regulation or campaign law.” Another Republican member of the intelligence panel, Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, said he has concerns about the bill, including that “there is a difference between the public airwaves and privately held fiber, basically, and how it’s managed.” He said the “idea isn’t bad,” but he wants to look at the technical issues. Lankford said he believes there will be several pieces of legislation coming out of the Russia probe, but “whether that’s the first or not, I don’t know.” Announcing the legislation at a news conference, the two Democrats framed the issue as a matter of national security. “Russia attacked us and will continue to use different tactics to undermine our democracy and divide our country, including by purchasing disruptive online political ads,” Klobuchar said. “We have to secure our election systems and we have to do it now.” Warner, who has worked closely with Burr on the intelligence panel, has said repeatedly that he hopes the social media companies will work with them on the legislation, which he calls “the lightest touch possible.” The companies have said very little publicly about the bill or the prospect of regulation. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said his company will now require political ads to disclose who is paying for them, a move that Warner and Klobuchar said their bill would “formalize and expand.” “We stand with lawmakers in their effort to achieve transparency in political advertising,” Erin Egan, Facebook vice president for United States public policy, said in a statement after Warner and Klobuchar introduced their bill. “We have already announced the steps Facebook will take on our own and we look forward to continuing the conversation with lawmakers as we work toward a legislative solution.” Google also said it supports efforts to “improve transparency, enhance disclosures, and reduce foreign abuse.” The company said it is evaluating steps it can take. Twitter would only stay in a statement that “we look forward to engaging with Congress and the FEC on these issues.” The Federal Election Commission regulates campaign finance laws. Lawrence Noble, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan election advocacy group, said that some foreign entities could potentially get around the legislation if it were passed, but it would make it harder for them and put more responsibility on the companies. “There is a difference between them saying they will do something and the law saying they have to do something,” Noble said. © Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

5 Bay Area Cities Submit Joint Proposal For New Amazon Headquarters

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – The cities of San Francisco, Oakland, Fremont, Concord and Richmond submitted a proposal Thursday to bring online retail giant Amazon’s second corporate headquarters to the Bay Area. Amazon announced plans in early September to invest more than $5 billion in construction costs and operational expenses at what they’re calling “HQ2.” The company is looking for a metropolitan area with a population greater than 1 million people and a stable, business-friendly environment.  They’re also seeking locations with the potential to attract and retain talent in communities that “think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options,” according to a statement issued last month. Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the business advocacy group Bay Area Council, thinks Amazon might find what it’s looking for in the region. “We are the world’s innovation capitol,” Wunderman said in a statement Thursday. “We offer top talent, top universities and large development sites connected by a rich network of mass transit and other transportation systems.” “Our competitive advantages are unparalleled,” Wunderman added. The proposal, which is more than 150 pages in length, features a number of development sites that are accessible by mass transit, including Oakland’s Coliseum City complex, Fremont’s Warm Springs Innovation District, the Concord Naval Weapons Station and San Francisco’s Hunters Point shipyard. The proposal includes plans to build 45,000 housing units over the coming years and decades to accommodate Amazon’s workforce, which is expected to be around 50,000 workers. It also includes a number of local and state tax credits as well as other incentives. According to the Bay Area Council, Amazon already occupies roughly 3 million square feet of real estate in the Bay Area. © Copyright 2017 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Survey Finds Lower-Income Kids Spend More Time On Devices

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Children in lower-income families spend more time watching TV and using electronic devices than kids in more affluent homes, according to a survey released Thursday. The report by the nonprofit group Common Sense Media on the viewing habits of more than 1,400 children nationwide age 8 and under found that less-affluent youngsters spend nearly three-and-a-half hours daily watching TV and using varied devices including smartphones, tablets, laptops and video game players. By comparison, kids in higher-income homes spend just under two hours on such activities. The offspring of better-educated parents also spend less time with media (1 hour, 37 minutes) compared with children of those with less education (2 hours, 50 minutes). “Before we can begin to understand the impact of media and technology on kids and families, we have to better understand their attitudes and behaviors,” James P. Steyer, the nonprofit group’s CEO and founder, and Reveta Franklin Bowers, chair of its board, said in a preface to the report. The survey found that Latino parents expressed the most concern about what their children are exposed to in media, including sex, violence and racial and gender stereotypes. African-American parents voiced somewhat less concern, with white parents expressing the least worry among ethnic groups. But a majority of parents overall said their children’s use of digital media helps boost learning and creativity. The time youngsters spend reading or being read to has remained steady at 30 minutes daily, compared with previous studies in 2011 and 2013. But fewer than half (43 percent) of children under 2 are read to each day, counter to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that reading to kids should begin at infancy to help develop language and literacy skills. Nearly half (49 percent) of children are watching TV or using electronic media shortly before bedtime, contrary to the academy’s recommendation of an hour gap between such activities and sleep. According to its conclusion, the survey “should not be read as a judgment on the quality of children’s time with media; rather, it is a snapshot of how media and technology are infused into daily life. Additional experimental and qualitative work is essential to better understanding the full implications of children’s media use.” Other key findings: — Children 8 and younger spend an average of 2 hours, 19 minutes daily with screen media, about the same as in prior study years. TV gets the lion’s share, 58 minutes, but mobile has risen rapidly from 5 minutes daily in 2011 to 48 minutes in 2017. — The “digital divide” is narrower but still exists between more and less affluent families. Home computers and internet access were found in 72 percent and 74 percent, respectively, of low-income homes, compared with 97 percent and 96 percent for higher-income families. — In a surprising twist, children pick “old-fashioned” paper books over digital reading. Only three of the 29 minutes that kids spend reading each day are on electronic devices. © Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

U Of I, U Of C Plan Public-Private Research Center In South Loop

CHICAGO (CBS) — The University of Illinois and the University of Chicago have teamed up to create what they hope will become the next big think tank in Chicago. The center, which will be formally announced Thursday morning, would be built on a vacant 62-acre site in the South Loop, south of Roosevelt Road between Clark Street and the Chicago River. According to the Chicago Tribune, Related Midwest, which owns the land, has agreed to donate part of its investment in order to help launch the project, which would be used for specialized research in computing, big data, food and agriculture, and health and wellness. Dubbed the Discovery Partners Institute, project leaders envision the center as an innovation hub where students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Chicago would team up with corporate partners to create the breakthrough technologies of tomorrow. The project has been patterned after similar public-private partnerships in Silicon Valley and in the Boston area near Harvard University. The expected price tag is expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Gov. Bruce Rauner has backed the project and earlier this week said the cost will be money well spent to invest in the jobs of the future. “Growing manufacturing is the key to greater economic prosperity; good paying jobs, higher family incomes by growing manufacturing,” he said. The governor said the state would help bankroll the project by selling the Thompson Center.

San Francisco Supervisor Seeks Permit Program For Delivery Robots

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Legislation that would have banned delivery robots from San Francisco’s sidewalks has been reframed as a permitting and regulatory scheme and sent back to committee for further review. Supervisor Norman Yee on Tuesday introduced the changes to his legislation after hearings in which the legislation drew strong support from pedestrian advocacy groups but opposition from business groups including the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. “I resolutely believe that our sidewalks should be prioritized for humans, which seems like a ridiculous argument for us to be having but this is where we find ourselves here today,” Yee said. “We do not allow bicycles and Segways on our sidewalks and the protection of our public spaces is our highest priority.” The amended legislation would create a limited permit program that will allow autonomous robots to be tested and developed in certain parts of the city. Similarly to the permits now issued for self-driving cars, it will require that the robots be accompanied by a human who can take control quickly. Yee’s legislation was introduced with the backing of groups including Walk SF and Senior Disability Action following the launch of delivery robots in San Francisco last year by at least one company. Cathy DeLuca, interim executive director of WalkSF, said the amended legislation was “not a perfect solution” but would still be the strongest regulations on sidewalk robots in the country. “I think the people have spoken loud and clear that our sidewalks are not for sale,” DeLuca said. “We are eager to continue these discussions with tech companies to ensure that the rollout of these permits will uphold the highest safety measures for pedestrians.” The amendments were introduced Tuesday with the support of the Teamsters Joint Council 7 and Marble, a San Francisco manufacturer of delivery robots based in Potrero Hill. CEO Matt Delaney said the company supports “a framework that allows for the manufacturing or testing of autonomous delivery systems.” Business groups opposed the proposed ban as harmful to innovation.  Supervisor Mark Farrell on Tuesday echoed those concerns, saying it was a mistake to “ban things and stick our heads in the sand.” “We want to be first and foremost in public safety, and our sidewalks are a big part of that, but I also think we should be embracing change and looking for ways to do that as a city,” Farrell said. “If we don’t do that, the reality is that the technology world is going to innovate around us as a city government.” Supervisor Aaron Peskin, however, warned that public sentiment against the delivery robots could lead to a ballot measure. “I don’t think the vast majority of San Franciscans want robots on our sidewalks, and if we don’t do our job here I imagine the citizens of San Francisco will do it right,” he said. The revised legislation will be heard in committee on Oct. 25, according to Yee. Yee also introduced a resolution on Tuesday calling for the city to develop a comprehensive framework and permitting process for future emerging technologies. “San Francisco is a leader in innovation and ideas and will continue to be so,” Yee said. “However we need to be mindful of impacts, we need to be strategic in our policies.” © Copyright 2017 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Twitter Vows New Crackdown On Hateful, Abusive Tweets

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter vowed to crack down further on hate speech and sexual harassment, days after CEO Jack Dorsey said in a tweet-storm that the company was “still” not doing enough to protect its users. The policy changes were specifically aimed at protecting women who unknowingly or unwillingly had nude pictures of themselves distributed online or were subject to unwanted sexual advances. They would also aim to shield groups subject to hateful imagery, symbols and threats of violence. In an email Twitter shared with The Associated Press Tuesday, Twitter’s head of safety policy outlined the new guidelines to the company’s Trust and Safety Council, a group of outside organizations that advises the company on its policies against abuse. The company said it would enact the changes in the weeks ahead. News of the policy changes was first reported by Wired. Among the changes, Twitter said it would immediately and permanently suspend any account it identifies as being the original poster of “non-consensual nudity,” including so-called “creep shots” of a sexual nature taken surreptitiously. Previously, the company treated the original poster of the content the same as those who re-tweeted it, and it resulted only in a temporary suspension. It said it would also develop a system allowing bystanders to report unwanted exchanges of sexually charged content, whereas in the past it relied on one of the parties involved in the conversation to come forward before taking action. Twitter also said it would take new action on hate symbols and imagery and “take enforcement action against organizations that use/have historically used violence as a means to advance their cause,” though it said more details were to come. While it already takes action against direct threats of violence, the company said it would also act against tweets that glorify or condone violence. On Friday, Dorsey foreshadowed the coming policy changes in a series of tweets, saying the company’s efforts over the last two years were inadequate. “Today we saw voices silencing themselves and voices speaking out because we’re (asterisk)still(asterisk) not doing enough,” Dorsey tweeted. The moves also come amid intense scrutiny from congressional investigators into how Russian agents used Twitter, Facebook and Google to influence last year’s U.S. election. Twitter has said it would appear at a public congressional hearing on Nov. 1 after already briefing a Senate committee. The company has handed over the handles of 201 accounts it believes were linked to Russia. It has also said at least $274,000 in U.S. ads were bought by Russia Today, a Russian-government-linked media outlet, last year. © Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

U.S. Takes On Japan In Highly-Anticipated Giant Robot Battle

CBS Local — In a scene that will likely be mistaken for a Transformers movie, the United States is going toe-to-toe with Japan in a battle of giant robots. The titanic fight will finally be aired after an American team of engineers challenged their Japanese opponents to the duel in 2015.

The giant, mechanical gladiators were designed by U.S. engineering company Megabots and Japanese rival Suidobashi Heavy Industry. According to Megabots’ website, the company uses cutting-edge technology to create giant, piloted fighting machines used for video games and movies. Their 16-foot creation, called “Eagle Prime,” took on Japan’s 13-foot “Kuratas” robot in a multi-day competition of metal-bending destruction. The fight was recently completed and is now set to stream on Twitch on October 17. The life-size “Rock’em Sock’em Robots” battle was held in an abandoned steel mill in Japan with two announcers but no crowd. Now for the first, the world will find out which metal monster was left standing. Officials from Megabots say viewers can expect massive metal carnage but likely won’t see any giant swords or chain saws come out. “As the robots battle, armor panels shear off and litter the field, smoke and sparks pour out of the chassis, massive robotic limbs tear off, and robots crumple to the ground until only one is left standing,” the American team said.