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January 11, 2014

Nauru raises media visa application fee from AU$200 to $8,000

Nauru raises media visa application fee from AU$200 to $8,000

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Nauru
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Nauru offshore processing facility in 2012.
Image: Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).

Nauru offshore processing facility in 2012.
Image: DIAC.

The cabinet of the island nation of Nauru endorsed rise of the cost of an application for single-entry three-month media visa from AU$200 to $8,000 last Thursday.

The rise followed a scandal last weekend involving 60 Lebanese asylum seekers voluntarily deciding to return home from the Nauru offshore processing facility, an Australian immigration detention facility, after facing harsh physical conditions and disorientation.

Nauru’s Government Information Office Director Joanna Olsson appeared to be unaware that the new visa fee had yet to take effect, writing an email to a visa applicant about the new fee last Tuesday: “Sorry for the late response but yes we are granting media visas. The fee is $8000 per visa, single entry valid for 3 months. The visa fee is not refundable if the application is not successful.” She also claimed the new fee had been implemented “a couple [of] months ago”, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

On the contrary, on Thursday during a meeting, Nauru’s Principal Immigration Officer Ernest Stephen said the price change was “not official” and the price rise had not yet passed into law through the Parliament. Stephen said only three or four Nauru media visas were granted last year.

A member of Nauru Opposition Group, Mathew Batsiua, claimed the move was an oppression of journalistic freedom. “They [the Nauru authorities] certainly bully our local media in terms of what they can show, who they can interview, and this is another illustration of that kind of behaviour in terms of bullying media and avoiding accountability. … This hiking up of fees for journalists coming in to Nauru is a step in that direction, and we think that it’s the wrong move and we’re certainly opposing it.”

The rise of the visa fee followed a recent scandal involving the majority of 60 Lebanese asylum seekers, targeted by people smugglers, deciding to return home from the Nauru and neighbouring Manus Island detention centres after a discussion with Australian government adviser Jamal Rifi on the weekend of January 4.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reviewed the detention centre in December 2012, reporting poor physical conditions:

The conditions at the closed and congested detention centre [are] harsh, with little natural shelter from the heat during the day. These conditions are aggravated by noise and dust from the construction of the permanent facility.

– UNHCR, 2012

The UNHCR has also cited delays processing the refugee applications, lack of legal counseling, health issues including trauma and mental health cases, and responsibility of both Australia and Nauru for the treatment. In another review in November last year, UHCR reported improved physical conditions while criticizing progress on reception conditions and refugee applications processing.

Yesterday Australian officials told a Pakistani refugee living in Australia that a refugee application could take up to ten years to process, while he was applying for refuge for his brothers following death of his parents and wife in Pakistan.



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January 6, 2014

Wikinews interviews on contributions to open-source: Opera

Wikinews interviews on contributions to open-source: Opera

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Monday, January 6, 2014 File:BRUCE LAWSON OPERA.png

Bruce Lawson.
Image: Bruce Lawson.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Wikinews interviewed Opera, a Norwegian software company, about its contributions to open-source, such as software. Questions discussed current workflow, dynamics of contributions, and background.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What caused your initial interest in open-source software?

Bruce Lawson: Opera has long been involved in open source software — we’ve often used open-source software, enhanced it and committed it back before including it in products. Opera began the specification that’s now called HTML5, bringing rich internet capabilities that were previously only available in proprietary plugins such as Flash and Silverlight into the open standard that is HTML.
Most recently, we’ve moved to using the open-source Blink rendering engine and have established a team dedicated to enhancing Blink and Chromium so that it’s better for everyone.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What is your current workflow regarding open-source contributions?

Bruce Lawson: Branch, commit, rinse and repeat.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What would you say had changed during your contributions to open-source projects throughout the years?

Bruce Lawson: The power and popularity of Github.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How would you describe the role of open-source software today?

Bruce Lawson: Open source or closed source are equally valid; the vital glue is open standards for data interchange so that a user isn’t locked into one vendor.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What effort do you put into localisation of your products? both open and not?

Bruce Lawson: Opera is available in 54 different languages. So, a lot of effort!

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you hire people for work remotely? How would you describe the dynamics of such trend over the years?

Bruce Lawson: No; we have offices in Norway, Poland, and Sweden but find it works best with everyone being physically close.



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August 31, 2013

Hawaiian Airlines announces iPad mini in-flight service

Hawaiian Airlines announces iPad mini in-flight service

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hawaii
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File:Ipad mini.jpg

An iPad mini.
Image: Chris Kelly.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

A Boeing 767-300 of Hawaii Airlines in 2003.
Image: Aero Icarus.

On Thursday Hawaiian Airlines announced all their Boeing 767-300 aircraft would be fitted with iPad mini tablets made by Apple for in-flight entertainment from September 1. The new gadget would be served on 14 routes connecting Hawaii with mainland USA, Asia, and the South Pacific.

Passengers in business class would be able to use the tablet for free while economy class passengers would need to pay $15 when purchasing the service before boarding (or $17 if purchased during the flight). The airline offered such price with the help of Bluebox Avionics, a company specializing in in-flight services.

The airline has purchased 1,500 iPad minis to replace old in-flight entertainment devices. Each tablet would have at least 100 hours of new Hollywood movies.

The new service was planned to be introduced on flights connecting Honolulu with Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento, Seattle, Phoenix, Fukuoka, Sendai, Seoul, Brisbane, Papeete, and Pago Pago; and Kahului with San Jose, Oakland, and Seattle.

The carrier becomes the first US airline to offer iPads as an in-flight service. In 2010 Jetstar, a subsidiary of Qantas, became the first airline in the world to introduce such a service in a test pilot on two services from Melbourne. During the next few years Iceland Express, airBaltic, and British Airways joined in. In March Qantas began offering iPads on flights connecting Honolulu and Sydney.



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June 12, 2013

Wikinews interviews biologist Chris Simon about periodical cicadas

Wikinews interviews biologist Chris Simon about periodical cicadas

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chris Simon
Image: Stephen Chiswell.

In May, periodical cicadas with 17 years life cycle emerged on the East Coast of the USA after underground development as juveniles since 1996. Researchers and scientists worked to map and study the rare wave, and the locals prepared for the noisy event. First recorded in 1666, the Magicicada septendecim species recently emerged in 1979, 1996, this year, with a next wave due in 2030.

This week, Wikinews interviewed Chris Simon, an ecology and evolutionary biologist at University of Connecticut, about the cicadas.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What caused your initial interest in periodical cicadas?

Chris Simon: As an undergraduate student, I was interested in the formation of species so when I went to graduate school I looked for a study organism that was likely to be in the process of forming new species. I chose periodical cicadas because they are broken up into reproductively isolated broods (or year classes). Reproductive isolation leads to speciation so I planned to study biochemical differences among the broods.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png You study the emergence of the periodical cicadas. What do you study? What observations are you making?

CS: We record exactly where each cicada population emerges (using GPS automated mapping and crowd sourcing). We record the presence or absence of each of the three morphologically distinct species groups of periodical cicadas (Decim group, Cassini group, and Decula group). We collect specimens for DNA analysis. We look for cicadas coming up one and four years early and late. We dig up cicada nymphs and monitor their growth rates.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What equipment do you use?

CS: Nets, shovels, automated GPS recorders, cameras, laptop computers, automated DNA sequencers.

Magicicada septendecim headshot
Image: Chris Simon.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you study the periodical cicadas with anyone else? What is their role?

CS: Yes, there are a large number of people studying periodical cicadas in my lab and in other labs. My lab is made up of Research Scientists, Postdoctoral Researchers, a technician, graduate students, and undergraduates. Research Scientist John Cooley is the leader of the GPS mapping project; he invented the automated GPS recorder; he built our crowd-sourcing website, and he is instrumental in public outreach. Postdoctoral research David Marshall also participates in the mapping project and leads the part of the research related to the mapping of stragglers. John and Dave and Technician Kathy Hill all study periodical cicada mating behavior and conduct mating and hybridization experiments. One of my graduate students Beth Wade has participated in the nymph collections and will soon start genetic work involving genome wide association mapping designed to locate genes related to life cycle. My graduate student Russ Meister is studying the genes of the bacterial endosymbionts of cicadas. My current undergraduate honors student Erin Dwyer is also studying the development of Magicicada nymphs and is helping to design a lab exercise for college students around the eastern US to do the same. Many of my past undergraduate students have studied the biochemical genetics and development of periodical cicadas. See the Simon Lab website.
CS: We are collaborating with Teiji Sota at the University Kyoto and Jin Yoshimura at Shizuoka University in Japan. They are studying the phylogeography of Magicicada. We are collaborating with John McCutcheon of the University of Montana who is studying the endosymbiont genomes.
CS: We are also collaborating with ecologists Rick Karban and Louie Yang, both professors at UC Davis who have an interest in cicada population dynamics and nutrient cycling in the ecosystem.

Transformation of the periodical cicada from the mature nymph to the adult.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png You studied the periodical cicadas in 1979 and 1996 too. What changes with time?

CS: I have studied periodical cicadas since I was a student back in 1974. What changes with time is increased human development constantly shrinking the patch size of cicada populations.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What are your thoughts on the long life span of the periodical cicadas? Why could it be so? What advantages and what disadvantages does it have?

CS: Most or all cicadas have long life cycles compared to your typical annual insect. Examples have been found of two-year to 9-year cycles in different species. Periodical cicadas evolved an even-longer life cycle and I think that part of this relates to the evolution of their synchronized life cycles and peculiar safety-in-numbers strategy for survival. To become synchronized, periodical cicadas had to evolve an exact length life cycle and all adults would have to appear in the same year. Because the nymphs grow at different rates underground, a longer life cycle and a way of counting years must have evolved so that the individuals that get to the last nymphal (underground juvenile) stage first would wait long enough for all other individuals in the population to become ready to emerge.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png News reports mention this is ‘Brood II’ of the periodical cicadas. What are the distinctive features of this specific species and what is its full scientific name?

CS: The same species exist in multiple broods. No species is restricted to Brood II. The three species present in Brood II are: Magicicada septendecim, M. cassini, and M. septendecula. These same three species are found in every 17-year brood (except the farthest north which only has M. septendecim).

Three Magicicada septendecim eggs
Image: Chris Simon.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png At what depth do the cicadas juveniles live underground?

CS: Most live within the top foot of soil but some have been found deeper. We do not know if they go deeper in winter. We need to do much more digging to understand the nymphs.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How do people prepare for the cicada emergence?

CS: Of course various people prepare in different ways. Ideally, everyone prepares by studying information available on the web (especially on our websites Magicicada Central and Magicicada.org).

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do cicadas affect transport in the local area?

CS: No, not really. Occasionally individuals can be seeing flying across highways and sometimes they smash into cars.

Group of Magicicada septendecim
Image: Chris Simon.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do cicadas usually stay outside or do they also invade houses too?

CS: They stay outside. One might accidentally fly in through an open window but that would be rare.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What do the cicadas eat?

CS: Cicadas suck xylem fluid (the watery fluid coming up from the roots of plants) in deciduous forest trees and herbs. Essential amino acids in the cicada diet are supplied by their bacterial endosymbionts. There are two species of endosymbionts. One makes 8 essential amino acids and one makes two essential amino acids.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do cicadas damage crops or city vegetation? What damage?

CS: Cicadas do not chew leave so they do not damage crops like other insects. They can inflict some damage by their egg laying. Cicadas lay eggs in pencil-sized tree branches. If there are not enough branches available, too many female cicadas may lay eggs in a single branch weakening it and making it susceptible to breakage by wind. This can sometimes cause damage in fruit orchards. If the branches break, the eggs die so this behavior is selected against by natural selection.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Thank you.

CS: You’re welcome. I am happy to have this opportunity to communicate with your readers!



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April 17, 2013

High Court of Australia dismisses appeal against conviction, compulsory voting

High Court of Australia dismisses appeal against conviction, compulsory voting

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Australian coat of arms, used as the High Court logo.

Last Friday, following over two years of lawsuit over failure to participate in general election, Anders Holmdahl attended a High Full Court of Australia hearing with an audio-link from Canberra to Adelaide, South Australia, claiming voting is a right, not a duty, citing the Australian constitution. However the Justices dismissed the application for leave to appeal against conviction, ruling it had “no prospect of success” over a point that the Commonwealth Electoral Act was enacted within power.

Anders Holmdahl was represented by Kevin Borick, QC, the president of the Australian Criminal Lawyers Association, throughout the process.

Anders Holmdahl cited “fundamental distinction” between the words vote, which he defined as “exercise of free will”; right, “something you are privileged to be granted”; and duty, “something you are required to do”. After a 20-minute discourse with the lawyer representing the applicant, Justice Kenneth Hayne said, “An appeal to this Court would enjoy no prospect of success. Special leave to appeal is refused.” and adjourned the Court. Justices Stephen Gageler, Patrick Keane were also present at the hearing and participated in the verbal discourse, also enquiring the lawyer about their reasoning but not specifying reasons other than what Hayne J said. Wikinews contacted both Anders Holmdahl and the High Court and confirmed there was no other documentation of reasons behind the judgment.

The standard High Court procedures involve hearing each matter by a single Justice and only escalating it after a special leave to appeal is granted. The current case had been irregular, as the matter had been escalated to the Full Court (three Justices) directly.

The appeal also had exhausted lower means of appeal before being lodged in High Court; the Supreme Court of South Australia had dismissed it on September 24, 2012. It cited that the Australian Constitution allows each state to enact their own election laws, and the Federal Parliament has the power to make laws “with respect to … matters in respect of which this Constitution makes provision until the Parliament otherwise provides”. The Court concluded that the Commonwealth Electoral Act was legislation enacted within power.

Prior to escalation to the Supreme Full Court of South Australia, in May 2012, a single Justice Gray had forwarded the matter for consideration of Full Court (three Judges) at his discretion. This happened several months after a Magistrate had recorded the conviction following a trial in February 2012. Anders Holmdahl originally pleaded not guilty during his first Magistrates court appearance in December 2011 regarding the August 21, 2010 election.

The electoral system of Australia requires all citizens to enroll. Then they must vote at each general election — election of members of the House of Representatives and Senate of the Parliament of Australia. At the time of the election, Anders Holmdahl was enrolled as an elector on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll for the Division of Hindmarsh.

The High Full Court hearing was a last instance of appeal with further escalation only possible at international level. Anders Holmdahl had decided to take the case before the United Nations Human Rights Council.



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March 29, 2013

Wikinews interviews American zoologists about pirate perches\’ chemical camouflage

Wikinews interviews American zoologists about pirate perches’ chemical camouflage

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Friday, March 29, 2013

William Resetarits and a pool
Image: Resetarits Lab.

Christopher A. Binkley collecting beetles
Image: Resetarits Lab.

Pools for studying beetle colonization
Image: Resetarits Lab.

A pirate perch
Image: Resetarits Lab.

American zoologists, William Resetarits and Christopher Binckley, have discovered chemical camouflage in pirate perches. The researchers experimented with common predatory fish victims, such as tree frogs and aquatic beetles, which avoid places where fishes live. However these victims didn’t avoid pirate perches. On March 7, the American Naturalist published the researchers’ paper.

Today, Wikinews interviewed one of the researchers, William J Resetarits, about the study.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What caused your initial interest in Pirate perches?

William J Resetarits: Pirate perch are quite common at our field site in Virginia and we were looking to include as much breadth of diversity as possible in our experiments to see whether the avoidance response we were seeing was a generalized response to fish. So, we used fish that were both phylogenetically and ecologically diverse. Pirate perch are in their own taxonomic family, and represent a different taxonomic order, which includes the Amblyopsid cavefish. So, they have some unique aspects to their morphology and life history, but they are generalist predators and so should have be avoided like all the other fish tested.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you have a photo of a Pirate perch, and of the environment you conducted experiments in (the pools)? What lab were the experiments carried out in?

WJR: We don’t have a great photo ourselves, but there are several available in the public domain. We do have photos of the pools, which I will send.
WJR: All of the experiments (11 in total) were carried out in the field, rather than in the lab, with natural populations of colonizing organisms. Work was conducted at several sites over the years, including the Duke Zoology Field Station, University of Illinois Experimental Pond Facility, Grice Marine Lab (College of Charleston), Naval Security Activity Northwest (Virginia) and Tyson Research Center (Washington University in St. Louis).

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png As far as I could see from the news and Abstract, the prey species avoided pirate perches. What prey species did you test?

WJR: Over the 11 experiments we have used three species of treefrogs (gray treefrogs, Hyla chrysoscelis, squirrel treefrogs, H. squirrella, and pine woods treefrogs, H. femoralis), as well as a total of about 45 species of Dytiscid and Hydrophilid beetles – the two largest families of aquatic beetles. Quite a diverse group, and obviously the shared ancestor of treefrogs and beetles is quite far back in evolutionary history, so these groups have separately evolved avoidance responses to fish.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What makes you confident that the camouflage has a chemical nature?

WJR: Well, just to clarify a bit, we use the term camouflage, because it is readily understandable, but what we really are dealing with is some form of “chemical deception”. The actual mechanism may be camouflage, which makes an organism difficult to detect, mimicry, which make an organism difficult to correctly identify, or cloaking, in which the organism simply does not produce a signal detectable to the receiver. We are all familiar with visual camouflage, chameleons being a great example, or a deer fawn in the underbrush. Mimicry, flies that look like bees, or harmless snakes that look like highly venomous ones, is also familiar and common. But an organism can’t evolve practical invisibility, like Harry Potter‘s invisibility cloak, or the Romulan cloaking device. However, an organism COULD conceivably be chemically “invisible”, either by not producing a signal or producing a second chemical that masks the signal. So, the general term “chemical deception” applies until we tease out the specific mechanism.
WJR: Because fish cues appear highly volatile, lasting only a few days if the fish are removed, and colonization/oviposition is highly unpredictable in time, we really couldn’t simply use fish conditioned water. So, in our early experiments, we went to considerable pains to isolate the fish in terms of visual and movement cues, so that only chemical cues were available. Sound production is rare in fishes, and none of the fish tested are known to produce sounds. We placed fish inside 115 opaque plastic trash cans with opaque lids and each can had two 25×50 cm sections on opposite sides (and entirely below water-level) removed and replaced with one layer of 99% shade cloth over one layer of no-see-um netting ( 1 mm x 1mm mesh). When submerged in larger tanks light penetration was essentially zero and motion cues were eliminated, but water (and chemical cues) were exchanged.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What equipment was used during the study? Do you have photos?

WJR: This is pretty simple stuff, from the perspective of equipment. Not much fancy “science gear” involved. We use cattle tanks or kiddie wading pools, window screen, aquarium nets and turkey basters to collect beetles and eggs, and then dissecting microscopes to identify beetles. The “rocket science” part of it comes in the careful experimental design, the meticulous set up of the experiments and data collection, and then the analysis. Of course, our current work trying to identify the active compound(s) in fish kairomones (odor) uses much more sophisticated analytical equipment.

An array of pools
Image: Resetarits Lab.

A block of pools
Image: Resetarits Lab.

A second array of pools
Image: Resetarits Lab.

A third array of pools
Image: Resetarits Lab.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What were the roles of the people involved in the research? What activity was most time-consuming?

WJR: Across the entire 11 experiments, Chris and I did the bulk of the work, along with help from a variety of field assistants and grad students along the way, particularly Joe Rieger and Dave Chalcraft, who also contributed data to the paper.
WJR: This is VERY tedious work. Setup of the experiments is tough physically, and quite elaborate and time consuming, but the toughest part was collecting the frog eggs and beetles, which involves long hours bending over tanks in the hot sun. Counting eggs also takes considerable time, but the most time consuming aspect was sorting and identifying beetles, which was done by Chris and Joe with help from folks at the Smithsonian.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How do you plan to investigate the chemistry of the phenomenon? How would you like to check what exactly happens?

WJR: We are using an approach developed by my current post doc, Alon Silberbush, who identified and characterized the kairomone produced by a predatory insect Notonecta. This process involves chemical analysis using gas chromatography. We have an advantage over others who have tried unsuccessfully to identify fish kairomones because we essentially have a control – a fish (pirate perch) that does everything a fish does, but does not “smell” like a fish. So, we can use chemical differences between pirate perch and other fish to guide us in identifying the active compounds in fish kairomones, as well as the mechanism of chemical deception in pirate perch.
WJR: Once we have identified candidate compounds, we then take it back to the field to test with the same organisms which alerted us to the phenomenon originally, treefrogs and beetles, as well as other organisms known to respond to fish chemical cues, such as mosquitoes and water fleas (Daphnia). This allows us to iteratively verify that we have the right compound(s), as well as further test the generality of the response to fish and the chemical deception of pirate perch. We will also test whether this chemical deception works against the pirate perch’s own predators.
WJR: Of course, other critical questions that we are working on include just how much advantage in terms of prey acquisition do pirate perch gain as a result of chemical deception, does this phenomenon occur in closely related species, like the cavefish, and are there prey species that have found a way around the chemical deception? There is lots to do and I think we have just scratched the surface.



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March 25, 2013

Wikinews interviews co-discoverers of Ziegler\’s crocodile newt

Wikinews interviews co-discoverers of Ziegler’s crocodile newt

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Monday, March 25, 2013

A Tylototriton ziegleri male
Image: Nguyen Thien Tao.

A Tylototriton ziegleri female
Image: Nguyen Thien Tao.

The species natural habitat
Image: Nguyen Thien Tao.

Black knobby newt larvae
Image: Nguyen Thien Tao.

DNA sequencers

A curved calipers

A photo of the field study
Image: Nguyen Thien Tao.

In February, Japanese herpetologists Kanto Nishikawa, Masafumi Matsui (of the Kyoto University), and Tao Thien Nguyen (of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology) discovered Ziegler’s crocodile newt in Vietnam. The new species, called Tylototriton ziegleri, is characterised by a unique morphology, most noticeably the rough skin. The researchers noticed the new set of species features when examining a specimen in National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo and confirmed the species after a field study and DNA analysis.

On February 18, the researchers successfully published the paper at Current Herpetology,published by the Herpetological Society of Japan.

Masafumi Matsui asked Kanto Nishikawa to identify the species from the museum. After a discussion with Tao Thien Nguyen, younger brother of T. Q. Nguyen, co-author of an existing Tylototriton vietnamensis species, Kanto Nishikawa identified the species as a new one.

Last Friday, Wikinews interviewed the research team about the study.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What is most particular in the new species morphology?

Kanto Nishikawa: Very rough skin.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What kind of environments do the newts live in?

KN: Secondary and primary forest, near wet land.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What do the newts eat?

KN: Probably small invertebrates, like earthworms, insect, and snails…

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What equipment was used during the research?

KN: Calipers for measuring specimens, DNA sequencer and PC for molecular analysis.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What were the roles of the people involved in the research? What activity was most time-consuming?

KN: Collecting in the wild, analysis of data, and getting research permission.
Tao Thien Nguyen: I am also co-author of paper.
TTN: I was conducted survey in Hagiang and Cao Bang provinces during two year 2010 and 2011. I collected total 10 samples of Tylototriton in the nature habitat for our research,
TTN: I like Nikon camera very much and the photos taken by Nikon D300 body with Macro-len 60:2.8,

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Who did you have to get research permission from?

KN: From local government or national museum where Mr. Tao belongs to. We need many permissions not only for conducting research, but also exporting (= borrowing) specimens. This is common for researchers.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What was the purpose of the field study? Is an alive individual required for DNA analysis, for species description and depiction, or for something else?

KN: Yes, for collecting alive one for DNA, and compiling information on habitat, ecology, breeding sites of the species.



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March 21, 2013

Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters awards Belgian mathematician Pierre Deligne with Abel prize of 2013

Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters awards Belgian mathematician Pierre Deligne with Abel prize of 2013

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mirrored photo of Pierre Deligne in 2005
Image: Eecc (original); Gryllida (mirror).

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters awarded Belgian mathematician Pierre Deligne with Abel prize of 2013 for his contributions toward shaping algebraic geometry. The award includes a 6 million Norwegian kroner (US$1,026,000, 793,000) prize. Timothy Gowers, a mathematician from Cambridge University, announced the award in Oslo yesterday.

The Academy gave the award to Deligne for “seminal contributions to algebraic geometry and for their transformative impact on number theory, representation theory, and related fields”.

For example, in 1974, Pierre Deligne did a mathematical proof of fourth Weil conjecture, one of properties of Riemann zeta function. This concept is related to analysis of the prime-counting function and the currently unsolved Riemann’s hypothesis. During the proof of the Weil conjecture, a concept of l-adic cohomology was introduced.

Pierre Deligne said, “The nice thing about mathematics is doing mathematics. The prizes come in addition”.



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February 24, 2013

Wikinews interviews British sensory biologist Dominic Clarke about floral electric fields and bees

Wikinews interviews British sensory biologist Dominic Clarke about floral electric fields and bees

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Last Thursday, British sensory biologist Dominic Clarke and other authors published research about detection of floral electric fields by bees in journal Science. The research involved studying bees’ reaction to flowers with different electric fields. The researches concluded that bees can choose flowers based on their electric fields, and remember them as they do with color and other characteristics of flowers.

This Friday Wikinews interviewed Dominic Clarke about the research.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What caused your initial interest in electric fields of flowers?

Dominic Clarke: There has been a considerable amount of speculation in the scientific literature since the 60s about the role of electric fields in pollination. It has been suggested that the electric field that arises between a charged bee and a grounded flower may be responsible for increasing the efficiency of pollen transfer between the two. We looked at this literature as sensory biologists and naturally formed the question ‘can bees sense these fields?’. Since we couldn’t find any answers to that question in the literature, we decided to find out for ourselves.

Flower Potentials And Fields
Image: Dominic Clarke.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How was the new phenomenon discovered?

DC: We use what’s called ‘differential conditioning’, where bees are trained to find a sucrose reward from an array of flowers, where only half of the flowers contain the reward. In our experiment, the flowers that were rewarded (with a sugary solution) were marked with a small electric field (about the same strength as around a flower in the wild). The ones that were not rewarded were not marked with fields. Since the electric field is the only thing that differs between the two flowers, we know that if the bees can learn to tell them apart, they can sense the electric field. Our bees were able to pick the rewarded flower 80% of the time when the electric field was present as a cue. When the electric field was switched off, they could only get it right half the time, which is the same as if they were just picking flowers at random.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How many species of flowers and bees did you study during your research?

DC: We focus on one species of bee, the bumblebee Bombus terrestris. And we look mainly at Petunia flowers (P. integrifolia). These two species provide the bulk of our data, but we do consider other flowers like geraniums, daisies, clematis and foxglove, and other species of bee (particularly the honeybee Apis mellifera).

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you have diagrams, sketches, or drawings of electric field around a bee and a flower?

DC: I have attached a picture of a computer model of the electric field around a flower called “Flower Potentials and Fields”.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Was it known that bees have a charge before?

DC: Yes, reports as early as the 70s have measured electrical charge on bees, but it was not known before whether or not they could sense such charges.

A marked bee on a feeder
Image: Dominic Clarke.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What environment did you study the flowers and bees in? A laboratory? A garden? Natural environment?

DC: The behavioural tests were carried out in a laboratory because we needed to be able to precisely control the environment in which the bees were tested. Future work will be aimed at trying to get out into the bees’ natural environment and trying to figure out exactly what role(s) this sense plays in their lives.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What equipment was used during the research? How did you measure the charge?

DC: Charge was measured using a device called a “Faraday Pail”. It is basically an electrically shielded metal cup, the voltage of which changes according to how much charge is inside it. We can measure this voltage when a bee flies in and so measure its charge. We did this with 51 individual bees.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What were the roles of the people involved in the research? What activity was most time-consuming?

DC: It was very collaborative in all aspects of the research. I carried out the bulk of the experimental work and data analysis, but the process of designing the experiment, figuring out how to do the analysis, choosing which ideas to follow and which to put on the shelf etc., that is highly collaborative. Then of course comes the long period of writing, re-writing, re-re-writing, sending out to colleagues for feedback, re-re-re-writing, submission, peer-review, editing re-submission etc. which is also a collaboration between all the authors. A large part of doing science is talking as well; meeting, planning brainstorming. It feels to me like putting together the paper took the longest, but perhaps that’s just because it’s the most fresh in my mind.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What do you see as possible directions for future research in this field? What do you think possible applications of the discovery can be?

DC: The two big questions now are “how do the bees do this?” and “why do they do this?”. The first is a case of pinning down the sensory mechanism used by the bees to detect the fields, and the second will involve a great deal of field-based experiments. We need to get out of the laboratory and understand the role this phenomenon plays in the lives of bees in the wild.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Thank you for sharing your insight and details. Have a good time.



Sources

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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.


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February 5, 2013

Wikinews interviews DuckDuckGo, Opera, Mozilla, Wikimedia about DoNotTrack feature

Wikinews interviews DuckDuckGo, Opera, Mozilla, Wikimedia about DoNotTrack feature

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Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Following the introduction of a “Do Not Track” feature in modern browsers at the end of last year, Wikinews interviewed several companies and groups about the feature.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg
Image: Gabriel Weinberg.

DuckDuckGo logo
Image: Gabriel Weinberg.

DuckDuckGo office
Image: Gabriel Weinberg.

A crowdsourced search engine DuckDuckGo reviewed the feature and launched a whatisDNT microsite in December. The review involved checking answers to basic questions such as whether websites stop shaping a user profile based on users’ online actvitity or stop displaying targeted advertising. Wikinews interviewed DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg about the microsite launch and the DuckDuckGo opinion on the feature.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What prompted the launch of DuckDuckGo (I think it was around 2006?)?

Gabriel Weinberg: We launched on Sep 25, 2008, though I had been working on it for about a year prior. The initial motivation was to try a search engine with a different UI that did a better job of using more structured content (like from Wikipedia) and also more aggressively removed spam.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What does the DuckDuckGo Team use instead of Gmail?

GW: We do not have company mail accounts (beyond forwarding ones), so everyone uses what they want. I personally use outlook.com right now.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png When and how did DuckDuckGo start using Perl? What influenced this decision and language choice?

GW: We started out in Perl. I picked it up at MIT where it was prevalent in the late 90s, and pretty much never looked back. It worked really well for a project like this that is text heavy and can use a lot of existing helper (CPAN) libraries.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png How did you first hear about “DoNotTrack” feature?

GW: I do not remember, but it was a long time ago :). The Do Not Track concept was proposed many years ago.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png When did you launch http://whatisDNT.com/ ? Who worked on it? What researches, tests and studies did it involve?

GW: We launched the What Is Do Not Track micro-site on Dec 19, 2012, and various members of the DuckDuckGo Team worked on it (including myself). We had been following it closely for a while, and so have been up to date on everything that is going on with it. It honestly doesn’t take any tests to prove its ineffectiveness since companies like Google tell you straight up they don’t honor it.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png A search engine that does not track users sounds good. What do you recommend users to do to not be tracked by *other* websites, such as blogs with targeted ads in sidebar?

GW: It depends on the Web browser you are using for specifics, but for each major Web browser there are tools you can install (besides DuckDuckGo extensions) to protect you in various scenarios. Some of those that are available in multiple browsers are Ghostery, DoNotTrackMe, and HTTPS Everywhere. Those help protect you while not really changing your browsing experience. Other tools do more, but do impact your browsing experience, like Tor and NoScript.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What is your opinion of ad block tools such as AdBlockPlus and NoScript that ideally aim to block third-party js?

GW: I think they are effective at doing what they set out to do, and that is great if you are a consumer who wants that experience. However, they are not for everyone because they do degrade browsing ability, especially NoScript.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Do you think that DoNotTarget option should exist (if consistendly adhered to)?

GW: Absolutely. My main problem with the DoNotTrack setting right now is it is misleading. If you use a major Web browser, you have this Do Not Track setting within it, but it really does next to nothing. It is a false sense of security.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What do you see the ideal behaviour of companies when it comes to making a user’s profile? Would you like to ideally prohibit such activity entirely using legislative regulations in the long run?

GW: Yes, I think an analogy to the Do Not Call list is apt. Applying that analogy, if you were on a Do Not Track list then companies shouldn’t track you unless you explicitly ask them to, e.g. by logging in and consenting to Terms of Service. That will only happen via legislative means, however.

Opera

Flage Bratsberg, Product Counsel, Opera Software ASA

Wikinews also interviewed Haakon Flage Bratsberg, Product Counsel from Opera Software, the corporation behind Opera web browser.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Have you heard of “Do Not Track” feature support in modern browsers? What do you think about it?

Haakon Flage Bratsberg: Opera browser for desktop computers has built in support for Do Not Track since version 12, and Opera Software participates in the W3C Tracking Protection Working Group.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Given that not all companies respect this setting, do you feel its name misleading? Do you think it could better be named “Do Not Target” instead?

HFB: This is our major concern about the DNT functionality: Users can be given a false sense of security.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Do you think that all websites should respect DNT users’ preferences in the long run?

HFB: In general we think websites should comply with web standards, including the current proposal for DNT.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Would you ideally see the respect for DNT users’ preferences legally enforced?

HFB: There are obvious limitations to a pure self regulatory approach, but our hope is that self regulation will provide a sufficient good outcome in this case.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What do you see as an ideal solution to resolve the misleading situation with DoNotTrack that you acknowledged in your response to the second question?

HFB: First of all, I personally do not think the name of DoNotTrack is misleading. However, the challenge is to have a meaningful standard that users can still be aware of the risks of that may be involved without giving a false sense of security. For example “private mode” in your browser does not prevent that your internet access provider can still keep track of what websites you visit, websites can collect information about you and so on. It only removes the trace of the sites you visited in your “browser”. Similarly, the websites can by accident or intention to be set up in a way so they do not comply with the DNT signal. There is always a risk of rouge agents.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png How do you envision the “self regulatory” approach? How would it work?

HFB: Self regulation basically means that the different stakeholders without having a legal obligation to do so, comply with a set of rules, for example an industry technical specification as W3C tracking protection standards. My take is that DNT would be a success if all major stakeholders involved in the process would comply with the standards. It is more an open question to what extent compliance to the technical standard is sufficient to comply with applicable laws in its respective country, for instance, in EU, or in the USA.

Mozilla

Wikinews contacted the Mozilla press office and got replies on behalf of the Mozilla Corporation.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png When and why did you decide to start supporting the Do Not Track feature?

Mozilla: Mozilla introduced Do Not Track in the desktop Firefox browser in January 2011, and in June 2011 Firefox for Android became the first mobile browser to support Do Not Track.
M: We support Do Not Track because we believe it is crucial to put users in control of their online experience. Do Not Track is intended to give users choice and control in a persistent, accessible way without preventing the customization and valuable advertising that powers the Web economy. We are seeking ways to give users better insight and control into the ways their personal information is collected, used, stored and shared.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Do you think that all websites should respect DNT users’ preferences in the long run?

M: Mozilla is actively working with companies that have started to implement Do Not Track and with others who have committed to doing so. Ultimately, the goal is for all industry stakeholders to trust and respect the signal in the long run.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png The mobile Firefox attitude to DNT is …interesting! Thank you for the replies.

Wikimedia

Wikinews contacted the Wikimedia press office and got replies from Jay Walsh, senior director of communications at the Wikimedia Foundation.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Have you heard of “Do Not Track” feature support in modern browsers? What do you think about it?

Portrait of Jay Walsh, 2008
Image: Lane Hartwell.

Jay Walsh: We’re familiar with this feature of browsers. This provides the user with the option to remove user tracking, including cookies. It disrupts a lot of the technology used by digital ad services to follow users across sites etc. For the most part any users of the Foundation’s projects would have no issues using the projects if they had Do Not Track enabled on their browser. The only issue they might have is in dismissing message banners on the projects (such as the fundraising banner) may not be completely predictable – banners may reappear after dismissing.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Given that not all companies respect this setting, do you feel its name misleading? Do you think it could better be named “Do Not Target” instead?

JW: I’m not sure if you mean browser-making companies or web companies. Many users who activate this service are aware that by disabling user tracking they are effectively preventing ad or content targeting. We’re not a browser software organization, so it’s not a topic we spend a lot of time considering. However I think it’s safe to say that our community (who are very active, opensource and free knowledge advocates) would like the maximum amount of transparency and clarity in these kinds of features for users.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Do you think that all websites should respect DNT users’ preferences in the long run?

JW: That’s not really a question we’re in the best position to answer. Obviously we take this kind of thing pretty seriously. From a software development perspective we would never want to confuse or frustrate a user by side-stepping a feature like do not track. We’d like all websites to honor a web user’s preferences and desire for privacy of course. Obviously we’re all looking at an Internet that relies increasingly on tracking technology to support commercial goals.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Would you ideally see the respect for DNT users’ preferences legally enforced?

JW: That would be a question for our legal counsel. But I’m sure it’s a topic we’d want to research in more detail before reflecting on, and given that we’re a non profit and we have pretty limited resources it’s not always possible for us to have legal opinions on all matters.



Sources

Wikinews
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

External links

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This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.
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