Bill Pringle - Bill@BillPringle

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Interesting Articles

This page contains links to interesting articles about computers and other stuff. Please let me know if you find any broken links. I may or may not agree with the opinions expressed in any of these articles.

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I found many of these on SlashDot, and used their descriptions. The nice thing about the Slashdot articles is that you can learn more information from the discussions.

Article Description/Comments
Amateur Astronomer Spots Supernova Right As It Begins
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Amateur astronomer Victor Buso was testing his camera-telescope setup in Argentina back in September 2016, pointing his Newtonian telescope at a spiral galaxy called NGC613. He collected light from the galaxy for the next hour and a half, taking short exposures to keep out the Santa Fe city lights. When he looked at his images, he realized he'd captured a potential supernova -- an enormous flash of light an energy bursting off of a distant star.
US Border Officials Haven't Properly Verified Visitor Passports For More Than a Decade Due To Improper Software
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U.S. border officials have failed to cryptographically verify the passports of visitors to the U.S. for more than a decade -- because the government didn't have the proper software.
Antarctica Is Losing Ice Faster Every Year
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A survey of satellite data published in the journal Cryosphere confirms what scientists have suspected for a while now: ice loss from the critical region of Antarctica is happening at an increasingly fast pace.
Game Industry Pushes Back Against Efforts To Restore Gameplay Servers
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A group of video game preservationists wants the legal right to replicate "abandoned" servers in order to re-enable defunct online multiplayer gameplay for study. The game industry says those efforts would hurt their business, allow the theft of their copyrighted content, and essentially let researchers "blur the line between preservation and play."
Barbie Will Be Used To Teach Kids To Code
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Mattel and Tynker are teaming up to launch seven new Barbie-themed coding lessons this coming summer. "The curriculum, aimed at teaching girls about computer programming, will also expose them to potential careers like becoming a veterinarian, astronaut, or robotics engineer," reports Engadget. "The larger goal is to introduce coding to 10 million kids by 2020."
Jeff Bezos Shares Video of 10,000-Year Clock Project
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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shared a video on Tuesday of his latest project: a giant clock designed to keep time for 10,000 years. Buried deep in a west Texas mountain, the project is in partnership with San Francisco-based group The Long Now Foundation, which grew out of an idea for a 10,000 year clock that co-founder Danny Hillis proposed back in the '90s. Now, the 500-foot tall mechanical wonder is finally undergoing installation.
Lawmakers Worry About Rise of Fake Video Technology
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Lawmakers are concerned that advances in video manipulation technology could set off a new era of fake news. Now legislators say they want to start working on fixes to the problem before it's too late.
Ocean-wide Sensor Array Provides New Look at Global Ocean Current
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he North Atlantic Ocean is a major driver of the global currents that regulate Earth's climate, mix the oceans and sequester carbon from the atmosphere -- but researchers haven't been able to get a good look at its inner workings until now. The first results from an array of sensors strung across this region reveal that things are much more complicated than scientists previously believed.
Scientists Grow Sheep Embryos Containing Human Cells
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Scientists say growing human organs inside animals could not only increase supply, but also offer the possibility of genetically tailoring the organs to be compatible with the immune system of the patient receiving them, by using the patient's own cells in the procedure, removing the possibility of rejection. "Even today the best matched organs, except if they come from identical twins, don't last very long because with time the immune system continuously is attacking them," said Dr Pablo Ross from the University of California, Davis, who is part of the team working towards growing human organs in other species. Ross added that if it does become possible to grow human organs inside other species, it might be that organ transplants become a possibility beyond critical conditions.
New Scanning Technique Reveals Secrets Behind Great Paintings
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Researchers in the US have used a new scanning technique to discover a painting underneath one of Pablo Picasso's great works of art, the Crouching Woman (La Misereuse Accroupie).
73 Percent of Fish In the Northwestern Atlantic Have Microplastics In Their Guts
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According to a new study published today in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, microplastics have been found in the stomachs of nearly three out of every four mesopelagic fish caught in the Northwest Atlantic. "These findings are worrying, as the affected fish could spread microplastics throughout the ocean," reports Phys.Org. "The fish are also prey for fish eaten by humans, meaning that microplastics could indirectly contaminate our food supply through the transfer of associated microplastic toxins."
China Reassigns 60,000 Soldiers To Plant Trees In Bid To Fight Pollution
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According to The Independent, citing the Asia Times, China has reassigned over 60,000 soldiers to plan trees in a bid to combat pollution by increasing the country's forest coverage. The soldiers are from the People's Liberation Army, along with some of the nation's armed police force.
The Next Falcon Heavy Will Carry the Most Powerful Atomic Clock Ever Launched
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This isn't your average timekeeper. The so-called Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC) is far smaller than Earth-bound atomic clocks, far more precise than the handful of other space-bound atomic clocks, and more resilient against the stresses of space travel than any clock ever made.
Many ID-Protection Services Fail Basic Security
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For a monthly fee, identity-protection services promise to do whatever they can to make sure your private personal information doesn't fall into the hands of criminals. Yet many of these services -- including LifeLock, IDShield and Credit Sesame -- put personal information at risk, because they don't let customers use two-factor authentication (2FA).
25 Years of Satellite Data Shows Global Warming Is Accelerating Sea Level Rise
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Melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are speeding up the already fast pace of sea level rise, new satellite research shows. At the current rate, the world's oceans on average will be at least 2 feet (61 centimeters) higher by the end of the century compared to today, according to researchers who published in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.
In the Wake of Fake News, Several Universities Including MIT and Harvard Introduce New Course On Ethics and Regulation of AI
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The medical profession has an ethic: First, do no harm. Silicon Valley has an ethos: Build it first and ask for forgiveness later. Now, in the wake of fake news and other troubles at tech companies, universities that helped produce some of Silicon Valley's top technologists are hustling to bring a more medicine-like morality to computer science, the New York Times reporter.
Consumers Prefer Security Over Convenience For the First Time Ever, IBM Security Report Finds
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A new study by IBM Security surveying 4,000 adults from a few different regions of the world found that consumers are now ranking security over convenience. For the first time ever, business users and consumers are now preferring security over convenience.
How the First Open Source Software and Hardware Satellite UPSat Was Built
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UPSat is the first open source -- both hardware and software -- satellite to have ever been launched in orbit. Pierros Papadeas, the Director of Operations for Libre Space Foundation, which helped build the UPSat, talked about the project at FOSDEM, a non-commercial, volunteer-organized European event focused on free and open-source software development.
Where Old, Unreadable Documents Go to Be Understood
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Watson's company, Transcription Services, has a rare specialty -- transcribing historical documents that stump average readers. Once, while talking to a client, she found the perfect way to sum up her skills.
Researchers Discover Efficient Way To Filter Salt, Metal Ions From Water
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A report on a new study, published in Sciences Advances, that offers a new solution to providing clean drinking water for billions of people worldwide.
YouTube Will Remove Ads, Downgrade Discoverability of Channels Posting Offensive Videos
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YouTube barred Logan Paul from serving ads on his video channel in response to a "recent pattern of behavior" from him. Now, YouTube has announced a more formal and wider set of sanctions it's prepared to level on any creator that starts to post videos that are harmful to viewers, others in the YouTube community, or advertisers.
Firefly Canon To Expand With Series of Original Books
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EW can exclusively report that Titan Books and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products have teamed up to publish an original range of new fiction tying in to Joss Whedon's beloved but short-lived TV series Firefly. The books will be official titles within the Firefly canon, with Whedon serving as consulting editor.
Spread of Breast Cancer Linked To Compound In Asparagus and Other Foods
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Asparagus and other foods like potatoes, nuts, legumes and soy contain a compound known as asparagine, which researchers believe helps drive the spread of breast cancer to other organs. "When scientists reduced asparagine in animals with breast cancer, they found that the number of secondary tumors in other tissues fell dramatically,"
Elon Musk Explains Why SpaceX Prefers Clusters of Small Engines
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For computers, Musk said, using large numbers of small computers ends up being a more efficient, smarter, and faster approach than using a few larger, more powerful computers. So it was with rocket engines. "It's better to use a large number of small engines," Musk said. With the Falcon Heavy rocket, he added, up to half a dozen engines could fail and the rocket would still make it to orbit.
Researchers Create Simulation Of a Simple Worm's Neural Network
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When this simple reflex network is recreated on a computer, the simulated worm reacts in exactly the same way to a virtual stimulation -- not because anybody programmed it to do so, but because this kind of behavior is hard-wired in its neural network."
Police In China Are Scanning Travelers With Facial Recognition Glasses
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Police in China are now sporting glasses equipped with facial recognition devices and they're using them to scan train riders and plane passengers for individuals who may be trying to avoid law enforcement or are using fake IDs. So far, police have caught seven people connected to major criminal cases and 26 who were using false IDs while traveling, according to People's Daily.
Samsung and Roku Smart TVs Vulnerable To Hacking, Consumer Reports Finds
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Consumer Reports has found that millions of smart TVs can be controlled by hackers exploiting easy-to-find security flaws. The problems affect Samsung televisions, along with models made by TCL and other brands that use the Roku TV smart-TV platform, as well as streaming devices such as the Roku Ultra. We found that a relatively unsophisticated hacker could change channels, play offensive content, or crank up the volume, which might be deeply unsettling to someone who didn't understand what was happening. This could be done over the web, from thousands of miles away.
The Arctic is Full of Toxic Mercury, and Climate Change is Going To Release it
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Permafrost, the Arctic's frozen soil, acts as a massive ice trap that keeps carbon stuck in the ground and out of the atmosphere -- where, if released as carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas would drive global warming. But as humans warm the climate, they risk thawing that permafrost and releasing that carbon, with microbial organisms becoming more active and breaking down the ancient plant life that had previously been preserved in the frozen earth. That would further worsen global warming, further thawing the Arctic -- and so on. That cycle would be scary enough, but U.S. government scientists on Monday revealed that the permafrost also contains large volumes of mercury, a toxic element humans have already been pumping into the air by burning coal. There are 32 million gallons worth of mercury, or the equivalent of 50 Olympic swimming pools, trapped in the permafrost
Scientists Create a New Form of Matter: Superionic Water Ice
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According to The New York Times, scientists created a new form of water that simultaneously acts like a solid and liquid. "The substance, which consists of a fluid of hydrogen ions running through a lattice of oxygen, was formed by compressing water between two diamonds and then zapping it with a laser," reports Science Magazine. "That caused pressures to spike to more than a million times those of Earth's atmosphere and temperatures to rise to thousands of degrees, conditions scientists had predicted may lead to the formation of superionic ice. This kind of water doesn't exist naturally on Earth, the scientists report in Nature Physics, but it may be present in the mantles of icy planets like Neptune and Uranus."
Scientists May Have Discovered the First Planets Outside the Milky Way
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Using data from a NASA X-ray laboratory in space, Xinyu Dai, an astrophysicist and professor at the University of Oklahoma, detected a population of planets beyond the Milky Way galaxy. The planets range in size from Earth's moon to the massive Jupiter.
Tesla Will Sell Solar Panels, Powerwalls At Home Depot
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Tesla is bringing photovaltaic panels and Powerwall batteries to U.S. retail giant Home Depot. According to Bloomberg, "The tech pioneer is beginning to roll out Tesla-branded selling spaces at 800 of the retailer's locations. The areas, which will be outfitted during the first half of this year, are staffed by Tesla employees and can demonstrate its solar panels and Powerwall battery."
Hoping That Sucking CO2 From the Air Will Fix the Climate? Good Luck
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From a study published on Thursday by scientists on the European Academies Science Advisory Council:
Senior scientists from across Europe have evaluated the potential contribution of negative emission technologies (NETs) to allow humanity to meet the Paris Agreement's targets of avoiding dangerous climate change. They find that NETs have "limited realistic potential" to halt increases in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at the scale envisioned in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios.
NASA Poised To Topple a Planet-Finding Barrier
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Babak Saif and Lee Feinberg at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, have shown for the first time that they can dynamically detect subatomic- or picometer-sized distortions -- changes that are far smaller than an atom -- across a five-foot segmented telescope mirror and its support structure. Collaborating with Perry Greenfield at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, the team now plans to use a next-generation tool and thermal test chamber to further refine their measurements. The measurement feat is good news to scientists studying future missions for finding and characterizing extrasolar Earth-like planets that potentially could support life.
AI May Have Finally Decoded the Mysterious 'Voynich Manuscript'
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Since its discovery over a hundred years ago, the 240-page Voynich manuscript, filled with seemingly coded language and inscrutable illustrations, of has confounded linguists and cryptographers. Using artificial intelligence, Canadian researchers have taken a huge step forward in unraveling the document's hidden meaning.
Researchers Find More Evidence For the Strange Link Between Sugar and Alzheimer's
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People with high blood sugar stand to experience worse long-term cognitive decline than their healthy peers, even if they're not technically type 2 diabetic, new research suggests. The findings are not the first linking diabetes with impaired cognitive functions, but they're some of the clearest yet showing blood sugar isn't just a marker of our dietary health -- it's also a telling predictor of how our brains may cope as we get older.
Streaming Services Must Hike Songwriter Payments Nearly 50%, Court Rules
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Songwriters will get a larger cut of revenue from streaming services after a court handed technology companies a big defeat. The Copyright Royalty Board ruled that songwriters will get at least a 15.1 percent share of streaming revenues over the next five years, from a previous 10.5 percent. That's the largest rate increase in CRB history, according to a statement from the National Music Publishers' Association. The decision is a major victory for songwriters, who have long complained they are insufficiently uncompensated by on-demand music services like Spotify and YouTube.
A Single Line of Computer Code Put Thousands of Innocent Turks in Jail
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Can a single pixel cost you your livelihood and/or freedom? Apparently, this has already happened in Turkey to thousands of people and their relatives. It all stems from the purge by president Edrogan following a failed coupe. The result is that many innocent people lost their jobs (and source of income), their freedom, their reputation, and more.
Scientists Discover the Oldest Human Fossils Outside Africa
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Archaeologists in Israel have discovered the oldest fossil of a modern human outside Africa, suggesting that humans first migrated out of the content much earlier than previously believed.
Amateur Astronomer Discovers Long-Dead NASA Satellite Has Come Back To Life
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In his hunt to locate Zuma, an amateur astronomer has discovered that a long-dead NASA satellite, designed to study the magnetosphere, has come back to life. IMAGE went dead in 2005, and though NASA thought it might come back to life after experiencing a total eclipse in 2007 that would force a reboot, no evidence of life was seen then. It now appears that the satellite came to life sometime between then and 2018, and was chattering away at Earth waiting for a response. NASA is now looking at what it must do to take control of the spacecraft and resume science operations.
ICE Is About To Start Tracking License Plates Across the US
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The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has officially gained agency-wide access to a nationwide license plate recognition database, according to a contract finalized earlier this month. The system gives the agency access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking, raising significant concerns from civil libertarians.
Tech Firms Let Russia Probe Software Widely Used by US Government
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The practice potentially jeopardizes the security of computer networks in at least a dozen federal agencies, U.S. lawmakers and security experts said. It involves more companies and a broader swath of the government than previously reported. In order to sell in the Russian market, the tech companies let a Russian defense agency scour the inner workings, or source code, of some of their products. Russian authorities say the reviews are necessary to detect flaws that could be exploited by hackers. But those same products protect some of the most sensitive areas of the U.S government, including the Pentagon, NASA, the State Department, the FBI and the intelligence community, against hacking by sophisticated cyber adversaries like Russia.
Trump Administration Wants To End NASA Funding For ISS By 2025
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According to budget documents seen by The Verge, the Trump administration is preparing to end support for the International Space Station program by 2025. As a result, American astronauts could be grounded on Earth for years with no destination in space until NASA develops new vehicles for its deep space travel plans.
1.7-Billion-Year-Old Chunk of North America Found Sticking To Australia
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Geologists matching rocks from opposite sides of the globe have found that part of Australia was once attached to North America 1.7 billion years ago. Researchers from Curtin University in Australia examined rocks from the Georgetown region of northern Queensland. The rocks -- sandstone sedimentary rocks that formed in a shallow sea -- had signatures that were unknown in Australia but strongly resembled rocks that can be seen in present-day Canada. The researchers, who described their findings online Jan. 17 in the journal Geology, concluded that the Georgetown area broke away from North America 1.7 billion years ago. Then, 100 million years later, this landmass collided with what is now northern Australia, at the Mount Isa region.
The US Drops Out of the Top 10 In Innovation Ranking
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The U.S. dropped out of the top 10 in the 2018 Bloomberg Innovation Index for the first time in the six years the gauge has been compiled. South Korea and Sweden retained their No. 1 and No. 2 rankings.
More Than 750 American Communities Have Built Their Own Internet Networks
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According to a freshly updated map of community-owned networks, more than 750 communities across the United States have embraced operating their own broadband network, are served by local rural electric cooperatives, or have made at least some portion of a local fiber network publicly available.
Vaping Can Be Addictive and May Lure Teenagers to Smoking, Science Panel Concludes
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A national panel of public health experts concluded in a report released on Tuesday that vaping with e-cigarettes that contain nicotine can be addictive and that teenagers who use the devices may be put at higher risk of switching to traditional smoking.
Walter Jehne- Cooling The Climate and Restoring Ecosystems with Water Restoration
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Water vapor is the planet?s most important and most abundant greenhouse gas, and part of a positive feedback loop; as air gets hotter it is able to hold more moisture, which in turn allows for the air to get warmer as more water allows it to hold more thermal heat. This is one of the fundamental concepts of the new water paradigm, which is being championed by a variety of scientists and authors. This Thursday we will have soil microbiologist Walter Jehne presenting on how agriculture can be a tool for restoring healthy water cycles. ??
Mysterious Dead Sea Scroll deciphered in Israel
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One of the last remaining obscure parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been deciphered by researchers in Israel. Sixty tiny fragments were pieced together over a period of a year, identifying the name of a festival marking the changes between seasons. It also revealed a second scribe corrected mistakes made by the author.
Facebook Reopens Probe Into Russian Involvement in Brexit
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Facebook has said it will conduct a wider investigation into whether there was Russian meddling on its platform relating to the 2016 Brexit referendum vote in the UK. Wednesday its UK policy director Simon Milner wrote to a parliamentary committee that's been conducting a wide-ranging enquiry into fake news -- and whose chair has been witheringly critical of Facebook and Twitter for failing to co-operate with requests for information and assistance on the topic of Brexit and Russia -- saying it will widen its investigation, per the committee's request. Though he gave no firm deadline for delivering a fresh report -- beyond estimating "a number of weeks".
Rocket Lab has successfully launched its second Electron rocket
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This mission was nicknamed "Still Testing," but unlike the first mission, the objective was not merely to test Rocket Lab's hardware. The rocket had the additional task of putting three nanosatellites in orbit: an Earth-imaging Dove satellite for Planet, and two Lemur-2 satellites that the Spire space venture would use for tracking ships and monitoring weather... The price tag for a mission is as low as $5 million, thanks to streamlined hardware production techniques. The Electron makes use of carbon composite materials for its rocket core, and 3-D printing techniques for its Rutherford rocket engines.
New Antifungal Provides Hope in the Fight Against Superbugs
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But in a recent Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy study, researchers confirmed a new drug compound kills drug-resistant C. auris, both in the laboratory and in a mouse model that mimics human infection. The drug works through a novel mechanism. Unlike other antifungals that poke holes in yeast cell membranes or inhibit sterol synthesis, the new drug blocks how necessary proteins attach to the yeast cell wall. This means C. auris yeast can't grow properly and have a harder time forming drug-resistant communities that are a stubborn source of hospital outbreaks... The drug is first in a new class of antifungals, which could help stave off drug resistance.
A Cheap and Easy Blood Test Could Catch Cancer Early
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The new test, developed at Johns Hopkins University, looks for signs of eight common types of cancer. It requires only a blood sample and may prove inexpensive enough for doctors to give during a routine physical. "The idea is this test would make its way into the public and we could set up screening centers," says Nickolas Papadopoulos, one of the Johns Hopkins researchers behind the test. "That's why it has to be cheap and noninvasive." Although the test isn't commercially available yet, it will be used to screen 50,000 retirement-age women with no history of cancer as part of a $50 million, five-year study with the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, a spokesperson with the insurer said. The test, detailed today in the journal Science, could be a major advance for "liquid biopsy" technology, which aims to detect cancer in the blood before a person feels sick or notices a lump. That's useful because early-stage cancer that hasn't spread can often be cured.
You Could Soon Be Manufacturing Your Own Drugs -- Thanks To 3D Printing
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Forget those long lines at the pharmacy: Someday soon, you might be making your own medicines at home. That's because researchers have tailored a 3D printer to synthesize pharmaceuticals and other chemicals from simple, widely available starting compounds fed into a series of water bottle -- size reactors. The work, they say, could digitize chemistry, allowing users to synthesize almost any compound anywhere in the world.
US Tests Nuclear Power System To Sustain Astronauts On Mars
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National Aeronautics and Space Administration and U.S. Department of Energy officials, at a Las Vegas news conference, detailed the development of the nuclear fission system under NASA's Kilopower project. Months-long testing began in November at the energy department's Nevada National Security Site, with an eye toward providing energy for future astronaut and robotic missions in space and on the surface of Mars, the moon or other solar system destinations. A key hurdle for any long-term colony on the surface of a planet or moon, as opposed to NASA's six short lunar surface visits from 1969 to 1972, is possessing a power source strong enough to sustain a base but small and light enough to allow for transport through space. NASA's prototype power system uses a uranium-235 reactor core roughly the size of a paper towel roll. The technology could power habitats and life-support systems, enable astronauts to mine resources, recharge rovers and run processing equipment to transform resources such as ice on the planet into oxygen, water and fuel. It could also potentially augment electrically powered spacecraft propulsion systems on missions to the outer planets.
2017 Among Warmest Years On Record
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The planet's global surface temperature last year was second warmest since 1880, NASA says. NOAA calls it the third warmest year on record, due to slight variation in the ways that they analyze temperatures. Both put 2017 behind 2016's record temperatures. And "both analyses show that the five warmest years on record have all taken place since 2010," NASA said in a press release. The trend is seen most dramatically in the Arctic, NASA says, as sea ice continues to melt.
No More Pancake Syrup? Climate Change Could Bring an End To Sugar Maples
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Savor that sticky, slightly nutty sweetness drenching your Sunday morning pancakes now. The trees that make maple syrup will struggle to survive climate change, a new study reveals. Researchers had thought that pollution from cars, factories, and agriculture might buffer sugar maples against an increasingly warm and dry climate by supplying soils with fertilizing nitrogen. But the new analysis, which examined 20 years of tree and soil data in four Michigan locations, finds that extra boost of nitrogen won't be enough. Instead, the researchers report today in Ecology, a lack of water will stunt the trees' growth.
US Doctors Plan To Treat Cancer Patients Using CRISPR
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The first human test in the U.S. involving the gene-editing tool CRISPR could begin at any time and will employ the DNA cutting technique in a bid to battle deadly cancers. Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania say they will use CRISPR to modify human immune cells so that they become expert cancer killers, according to plans posted this week to a directory of ongoing clinical trials. The study will enroll up to 18 patients fighting three different types of cancer -- multiple myeloma, sarcoma, and melanoma -- in what could become the first medical use of CRISPR outside China, where similar studies have been under way. An advisory group to the National Institutes of Health initially gave a green light to the Penn researchers in June 2016, but until now it was not known whether the trial would proceed.
Amazon Won't Say If It Hands Your Echo Data To the Government
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Amazon has a transparency problem. Amazon has been downright deceptive in how it presents the data, obfuscating the figures in its short, but contextless, twice-yearly reports. Not only does Amazon offer the barest minimum of information possible, the company has -- and continues -- to deliberately mislead its customers by actively refusing to clarify how many customers, and which customers, are affected by the data demands it receives.
Meteor Lights Up Southern Michigan
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Amidst fake missile reports in Hawaii and Japan, Michigan gets hit by something real. From a report via Ars Technica: "Early last night local time, a meteor rocketed through the skies of southern Michigan, giving local residents a dramatic (if brief) light show. It also generated an imperceptible thump, as the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed that there was a coincident magnitude 2.0 earthquake. The American Meteor Society has collected more than 350 eyewitness accounts, which ranged from western Pennsylvania out to Illinois and Wisconsin. They were heavily concentrated over southern Michigan, notably around the Detroit area. A number of people have also posted videos of th
Turning Soybeans Into Diesel Fuel Is Costing Us Billions
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The law is the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. For some, especially Midwestern farmers, it's the key to creating clean energy from American soil and sun. For others -- like many economists -- it's a wasteful misuse of resources. And the most wasteful part of the RFS, according to some, is biodiesel. It's different from ethanol, a fuel that's made from corn and mixed into gasoline, also as required by the RFS.
Salmonella Probably Killed the Aztecs
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In 1545 disaster struck Mexico's Aztec nation when people started coming down with high fevers, headaches and bleeding from the eyes, mouth and nose. Death generally followed in three or four days. Within five years as many as 15 million people -- an estimated 80% of the population -- were wiped out in an epidemic the locals named "cocoliztli." The word means pestilence in the Aztec Nahuatl language. Its cause, however, has been questioned for nearly 500 years. On Monday scientists swept aside smallpox, measles, mumps, and influenza as likely suspects, identifying a typhoid-like "enteric fever" for which they found DNA evidence on the teeth of long-dead victims.
America's Fastest Spy Plane May Be Back -- And Hypersonic
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Referring to detailed specifics of company design and manufacturing, Jack O'Banion, a Lockheed vice president, said a "digital transformation" arising from recent computing capabilities and design tools had made hypersonic development possible. Then -- assuming O'Banion chose his verb tense purposely -- came the surprise. "Without the digital transformation, the aircraft you see there could not have been made," O'Banion said, standing by an artist's rendering of the hypersonic aircraft. "In fact, five years ago, it could not have been made." Hypersonic applies to speeds above Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. The SR-71 cruised at Mach 3.2, more than 2,000 mph, around 85,000 feet.
Now Hiring For a Fascinating New Kind of Job That Only a Human Can Do: Babysit a Robot
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Book a night at LAX's Residence Inn and you may be fortunate enough to meet an employee named Wally. His gig is relatively pedestrian -- bring you room service, navigate around the hotel's clientele in the lobby and halls -- but Wally's life is far more difficult than it seems. If you put a tray out in front of your door, for instance, he can't get to you. If a cart is blocking the hall, he can't push it out of the way. But fortunately for Wally, whenever he gets into a spot of trouble, he can call out for help. See, Wally is a robot -- specifically, a Relay robot from a company called Savioke. And when the machine finds itself in a particularly tricky situation, it relies on human agents in a call center way across the country in Pennsylvania to bail it out. [...]
SpaceX and Boeing Slated For Manned Space Missions By Year's End
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SpaceX's crewed test flight is slated for December, after an uncrewed flight in August. Boeing will also be demonstrating its CST-100 Starliner capsule, with a crewed flight in November following an uncrewed flight in August. NASA's goal is to launch crews to the ISS from U.S. soil, a task that has fallen to Russia's space program since the retirement of the U.S. Space Shuttle program in 2011. NASA began looking for private launch companies to take over starting in 2010, and contracted both SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to pursue crewed launches.
Renewable Energy Set To Be Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels By 2020, Says Report
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Continuous technological improvements have led to a rapid fall in the cost of renewable energy in recent years, meaning some forms can already comfortably compete with fossil fuels. The report suggests this trend will continue, and that by 2020 "all the renewable power generation technologies that are now in commercial use are expected to fall within the fossil fuel-fired cost range." Of those technologies, most will either be at the lower end of the cost range or actually undercutting fossil fuels.
'Very High Level of Confidence' Russia Used Kaspersky Software For Devastating NSA Leaks
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Three months after U.S. officials asserted that Russian intelligence used popular antivirus company Kaspersky to steal U.S. classified information, there are indications that the alleged espionage is related to a public campaign of highly damaging NSA leaks by a mysterious group called the Shadow Brokers. In August 2016, the Shadow Brokers began leaking classified NSA exploit code that amounted to hacking manuals. In October 2017, U.S. officials told major U.S. newspapers that Russian intelligence leveraged software sold by Kaspersky to exfiltrate classified documents from certain computers.
City-Owned Internet Services Offer Cheaper and More Transparent Pricing, Says Harvard Study
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Municipal broadband networks generally offer cheaper entry-level prices than private Internet providers, and the city-run networks also make it easier for customers to find out the real price of service, a new study from Harvard University researchers found. Researchers collected advertised prices for entry-level broadband plans -- those meeting the federal standard of at least 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload speeds -- offered by 40 community-owned ISPs and compared them to advertised prices from private competitors.
FDA Approves First Drug Aimed at Women With Inherited Breast Cancer
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The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved AstraZeneca PLC's Lynparza for patients with inherited BRCA gene mutations who have undergone chemotherapy. The drug has been on the market since 2014 for ovarian cancer, and is the first in a new class of medicines called PARP inhibitors to be approved for breast cancer. PARP inhibitors prevent cancer cells from fixing problems in their DNA. Lynparza will cost $13,886 per month without insurance, according to AstraZeneca. The company is offering patients financial assistance.
Russian Military Base Attacked By Drones
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A Russian military base in Syria was recently attacked -- 20 miles from the frontline. The only video of the attack is from a Facebook group for a nearby town, which identifies the noises as an "anti-aircraft response to a remote-controlled aircraft," while the Russian Ministry of Defence claims at least 13 drones were involved in the attack, displaying pictures of drones with a wingspan around 13 feet (four meters).
Scientists Think They've Discovered Lava Tubes Leading To the Moon's Polar Ice
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Small pits in a large crater on the Moon's North Pole could be "skylights" leading down to an underground network of lava tubes -- tubes holding hidden water on Earth's nearest neighbour, according to new research. There's no lava in them now of course, though that's originally how the tubes formed in the Moon's fiery past. But they could indicate easy access to a water source if we ever decide to develop a Moon base sometime in the future.
Will Facial Recognition in China Lead To Total Surveillance?
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A new Washington Post article about China's police and security state -- including the facial recognition cameras allow access to apartment buildings. "If I am carrying shopping bags in both hands, I just have to look ahead and the door swings open," one 40-year-old woman tells the Post. "And my 5-year-old daughter can just look up at the camera and get in. It's good for kids because they often lose their keys."
Sea Turtles Under Threat As Climate Change Turns Most Babies Female
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A new study published in the journal Current Biology found that as much as 99 percent of baby green sea turtles in warm equatorial regions are being born female. "The study took a look at turtle populations at nesting sites at Raine Island and Moulter Cay in the northern Great Barrier Reef, an area plagued with unprecedented levels of coral bleaching from high temperatures," reports Futurism. "The researchers compared these populations with sea turtles living at sites in the cooler south."
Ice Cliffs Spotted On Mars
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Scientists have discovered eight cliffs of nearly pure water ice on Mars, some of which stand nearly 100 meters tall. The discovery points to large stores of underground ice buried only a meter or two below the surface at surprisingly low martian latitudes, in regions where ice had not yet been detected. Each cliff seems to be the naked face of a glacier, tantalizing scientists with the promise of a layer-cake record of past martian climates and space enthusiasts with a potential resource for future human bases.
Hackers Could Blow Up Factories Using Smartphone Apps
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Two security researchers, Alexander Bolshev of IOActive and Ivan Yushkevich of Embedi, spent last year examining 34 apps from companies including Siemens and Schneider Electric. They found a total of 147 security holes in the apps, which were chosen at random from the Google Play Store. Bolshev declined to say which companies were the worst offenders or reveal the flaws in specific apps, but he said only two of the 34 had none at all.
FCC Undoing Rules That Make It Easier For Small ISPs To Compete With Big Telecom
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The Federal Communications Commission is currently considering a rule change that would alter how it doles out licenses for wireless spectrum. These changes would make it easier and more affordable for Big Telecom to scoop up licenses, while making it almost impossible for small, local wireless ISPs to compete. The Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum is the rather earnest name for a chunk of spectrum that the federal government licenses out to businesses.
When It Comes to Gorillas, Google Photos Remains Blind
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In 2015, a black software developer embarrassed Google by tweeting that the company's Photos service had labeled photos of him with a black friend as "gorillas." Google declared itself "appalled and genuinely sorry." An engineer who became the public face of the clean-up operation said the label gorilla would no longer be applied to groups of images, and that Google was "working on longer-term fixes." More than two years later, one of those fixes is erasing gorillas, and some other primates, from the service's lexicon. The awkward workaround illustrates the difficulties Google and other tech companies face in advancing image-recognition technology, which the companies hope to use in self-driving cars, personal assistants, and other products. WIRED tested Google Photos using a collection of 40,000 images well-stocked with animals. It performed impressively at finding many creatures, including pandas and poodles. But the service reported "no results" for the search terms "gorilla," "chimp," "chimpanzee," and "monkey."
Top US Government Computers Linked to Revenge-Porn Site
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Data obtained by a security analyst and shared with The Daily Beast reveals the behind-the-scenes of the epicenter of revenge porn: a notorious image board called Anon-IB, where users constantly upload non-consensual imagery, comment on it, and trade nudes like baseball cards. The data shows Anon-IB users connecting from U.S. Senate, Navy, and other government computers, including the Executive Office of the President, even as senators push for a bill that would further combat the practice, and after the military's own recent revenge-porn crisis. "Wow tig ol bitties. You have any nudes to share?" someone wrote in November, underneath a photo of a woman who apparently works in D.C., while connecting from an IP address registered to the U.S. Senate.
The Invented Language That Found a Second Life Online
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Since it [Esperanto] was first proposed in a small booklet written by Ludwik L Zamenhof in 1887, it has evolved into the quintessential invented language, the liveliest and most popular ever created. But, many would tell you, Esperanto is a failure. More than a century after it was created, its current speaker base is just some two million people -- a geeky niche, not unlike the fan base of any other obscure hobby.
Astronomers May Be Closing in on Source of Mysterious Fast Radio Bursts
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"Our preferred model is that they are coming from a neutron star ... that could be just 10 or 20 years old in an extreme magnetic environment," said Jason Hessels, a co-author of the new paper and astronomer at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy in the Dutch town of Dwingeloo. Fast radio bursts have perplexed astronomers ever since the signals were discovered in 2007 in earlier observation data from the Parkes radio telescope in Australia.
North Carolina Congressional Map Ruled Unconstitutionally Gerrymandered
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A panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina's congressional map on Tuesday, condemning it as unconstitutional because Republicans had drawn the map seeking a political advantage (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source). The ruling was the first time that a federal court had blocked a congressional map because of a partisan gerrymander, and it instantly endangered Republican seats in the coming elections.
Tesla's New York Gigafactory Kicks Off Solar Roof Production
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Tesla started production of solar cells and panels about four months ago at its Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo. New York committed $750 million to help build the 1.2 million-square-foot factory, which currently employs about 500 people. The plant will eventually create nearly 3,000 jobs in Western New York and nearly 5,000 statewide, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in 2015.
Super-Black Is the New Black
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Blackbirds, it turns out, aren't actually all that black. Their feathers absorb most of the visible light that hits them, but still reflect between 3 and 5 percent of it. For really black plumage, you need to travel to Papua New Guinea and track down the birds of paradise. Although these birds are best known for their gaudy, kaleidoscopic colors, some species also have profoundly black feathers. The feathers ruthlessly swallow light and, with it, all hints of edge or contour. By analyzing museum specimens, Dakota McCoy, from Harvard University, has discovered exactly how the birds achieving such deep blacks. It's all in their feathers' microscopic structure.
FBI Chief Calls Unbreakable Encryption 'Urgent Public Safety Issue'
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The inability of law enforcement authorities to access data from electronic devices due to powerful encryption is an "urgent public safety issue," FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday in remarks that sought to renew a contentious debate over privacy and security.
Ibuprofen Linked To Male Infertility, Study Says
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Men who take high doses of ibuprofen for months at a time may be at greater risk of fertility issues and also other health problems, such as muscle wastage, erectile dysfunction and fatigue, scientists have found. Research on healthy young men who took the common painkiller for up to six weeks showed that the drug disrupted the production of male sex hormones and led to a condition normally seen in older men and smokers. The 18 to 35-year-olds who took part in the study developed a disorder called "compensated hypogonadism" within two weeks of having 600mg of ibuprofen twice a day. The condition arises when the body has to boost levels of testosterone because normal production in the testes has fallen. Doctors in Copenhagen who led the study said that while the disorder was mild and temporary in the volunteers, they feared it could become permanent in long-term ibuprofen users. This would lead to continuously low levels of testosterone, because the body could no longer compensate for the fall.
Western Digital 'My Cloud' Devices Have a Hardcoded Backdoor
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The My Cloud Storage devices affected by this backdoor include: MyCloud, MyCloudMirror, My Cloud Gen 2, My Cloud PR2100, My Cloud PR4100, My Cloud EX2 Ultra, My Cloud EX2, My Cloud EX4, My Cloud EX2100, My Cloud EX4100, My Cloud DL2100, and My Cloud DL4100. Firmware 2.30.172 reportedly fixes the bug, so make sure your device is updated before reconnecting to the internet.
SpaceX Completes First Launch of 2018: Secretive 'Zuma' Spacecraft
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SpaceX's first launch of 2018 was "a secretive spacecraft commissioned by the U.S. government for an undisclosed mission," reports TechCrunch.
NASA Tests a Drone To Explore Jupiter's Moon in Antarctica
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The waters beneath our planet's ice sheet are fascinating, turning up species few people have ever laid eyes on. But they are not the final target of this chase. Icefin [a 10-foot-long subsea drone] is meant to search for alien life -- a "bug hunt," as some scientists cheerfully call it. It is bound for the icy waters of Jupiter's moon, Europa, possibly as soon as 2030...
A Popular Sugar Additive May Have Fueled the Spread of Two Superbugs
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Two bacterial strains that have plagued hospitals around the country may have been at least partly fueled by a sugar additive in our food products, scientists say. Trehalose, a sugar that is added to a wide range of food products, could have allowed certain strains of Clostridium difficile to become far more virulent than they were before, a new study finds. The results, described in the journal Nature, highlight the unintended consequences of introducing otherwise harmless additives to the food supply.
The Orange Goo Used In Everything From Armor To Football Helmets
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CNN has a story about a slimy, gooey orange gel developed by British company D3O as far back as 1999 that is very soft and fluid-like normally, but that hardens immediately when it receives an impact: It's a gel that acts as both a liquid and a solid. When handled slowly the goo is soft and flexible but the moment it receives an impact, it hardens. It's all thanks to the gel's shock-absorbing properties... Felicity Boyce, a material developer at D3O, told CNN, "if you hit it with great force, it behaves more like a solid that's absorbing the shock and none of that impact goes through my hand."
Ancient DNA Reveals a Completely Unknown Population of Native Americans
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Sunrise girl-child ("Xach'itee'aanenh T'eede Gaay") lived some 11,500 years ago in what is now called Alaska, and her ancient DNA reveals not only the origins of Native American society, but reminds the world of a whole population of people forgotten by history millennia ago. "We didn't know this population existed," says anthropologist Ben Potter from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "It would be difficult to overstate the importance of this newly revealed people to our understanding of how ancient populations came to inhabit the Americas." In a new study published this week, the team reports that a genetic analysis of sunrise girl-child's DNA shows she belonged to a forgotten people called the Ancient Beringians, unknown to science until now.
Don't Pirate Or We'll Mess With Your Connected Thermostats, Warns East Coast ISP
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Internet service provider Armstrong Zoom has roughly a million subscribers in the Northeastern part of the U.S. and is keen to punish those it believes are using file-sharing services. According to Engadget, "the ISP's response to allegedly naughty customers is bandwidth throttling, which is when an ISP intentionally slows down your internet service based on what you're doing online. Armstrong Zoom's warning letter openly threatens its suspected file-sharing customers about its ability to use or control their webcams and connected thermostats."
NASA Launches a Mission To Study the Border of Earth and Space
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A new NASA mission, the first to hitch a ride on a commercial communications satellite, will examine Earth's upper atmosphere to see how the boundary between Earth and space changes over time. GOLD stands for Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, and the mission will focus on the temperature and makeup of Earth's highest atmospheric layers.
HP Recalls 50,000 Lithium-Ion Laptop Batteries Over Fire Risk
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HP announced this week that it is recalling the lithium-ion batteries in more than 50,000 laptops because of the danger of fire in cases of battery malfunction.
The FCC Is Preparing To Weaken the Definition of Broadband
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Under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, the FCC is required to consistently measure whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans uniformly and "in a reasonable and timely fashion." If the FCC finds that broadband isn't being deployed quickly enough to the public, the agency is required by law to "take immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market." Unfortunately whenever the FCC is stocked by revolving door regulators all-too-focused on pleasing the likes of AT&T, Verizon and Comcast -- this dedication to expanding coverage and competition often tends to waver.
SpaceX's Latest Advantage? Blowing Up Its Own Rocket, Automatically
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SpaceX has reportedly worked with the Air Force to develop a GPS-equipped on-board computer, called the "Automatic Flight Safety System," that will safely and automatically detonate a Falcon 9 rocket in the sky if the launch threatens to go awry. Previously, an Air Force range-safety officer was required to be in place, ready to transmit a signal to detonate the rocket.
Largest Prime Number Discovered With More Than 23m Digits
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Persistence pays off. Jonathan Pace, a GIMPS volunteer for over 14 years, discovered the 50th known Mersenne prime, 2^77,232,917 -- 1 on December 26, 2017. The prime number is calculated by multiplying together 77,232,917 twos, and then subtracting one. It weighs in at 23,249,425 digits, becoming the largest prime number known to mankind. It bests the previous record prime, also discovered by GIMPS, by 910,807 digits. You can read a little more in the press release.
Oceans Suffocating as Huge Dead Zones Quadruple Since 1950, Scientists Warn
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Ocean dead zones with zero oxygen have quadrupled in size since 1950, scientists have warned, while the number of very low oxygen sites near coasts have multiplied tenfold.
After Beating Cable Lobby, Colorado City Moves Ahead With Muni Broadband
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Last night's city council vote came after residents of Fort Collins approved a ballot question that authorized the city to build a broadband network. The ballot question, passed in November, didn't guarantee that the network would be built because city council approval was still required, but that hurdle is now cleared. Residents approved the ballot question despite an anti-municipal broadband lobbying campaign backed by groups funded by Comcast and CenturyLink. The Fort Collins City Council voted 7-0 to approve the broadband-related measures, a city government spokesperson confirmed to Ars today.
2 Years Later, Security Holes Linger In GPS Services Used By Millions of Devices
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Security researchers say that serious security vulnerabilities linger in GPS software by the China-based firm ThinkRace more than two years after the hole was discovered and reported to the firm, The Security Ledger reports. Data including a GPS enabled device's location, serial number, assigned phone number and model and type of device can be accessed by any user with access to the GPS service. In some cases, other information is available including the device's location history going back 1 week. In some cases, malicious actors could also send commands to the device via SMS including those used to activate or deactivate GEO fencing alarms features, such as those used on child-tracking devices.
New Bill Could Finally Get Rid of Paperless Voting Machines
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A bipartisan group of six senators has introduced legislation that would take a huge step toward securing elections in the United States. Called the Secure Elections Act, the bill aims to eliminate insecure paperless voting machines from American elections while promoting routine audits that would dramatically reduce the danger of interference from foreign governments. "With the 2018 elections just around the corner, Russia will be back to interfere again," said co-sponsor Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). So a group of senators led by James Lankford (R-Okla.) wants to shore up the security of American voting systems ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections. And the senators have focused on two major changes that have broad support from voting security experts.
First Blue Moon Total Lunar Eclipse in 150 Years Coming This Month
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The first eclipse of 2018 will be a lunar one that comes at the very end of the month, on Jan. 31. It will be a total eclipse that involves the second full moon of the month, popularly referred to as a Blue Moon. Such a skywatching event hasn't happened for more than 150 years. The eclipse will take place during the middle of the night, and the Pacific Ocean will be turned toward the moon at the time. Central and eastern Asia, Indonesia, New Zealand and most of Australia will get a fine view of this moon show in the evening sky. Heading farther west into western Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, the eclipse will already be underway as the moon rises.
UK 'Faces Build-up of Plastic Waste'
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Britain has been shipping up to 500,000 tonnes of plastic for recycling in China every year, but now the trade has been stopped. At the moment the UK cannot deal with much of that waste, says the UK Recycling Association. Its chief executive, Simon Ellin, told the BBC he had no idea how the problem would be solved in the short term. "It's a huge blow for us... a game-changer for our industry," he said. "We've relied on China so long for our waste... 55% of paper, 25% plus of plastics. "We simply don't have the markets in the UK. It's going to mean big changes in our industry." China has introduced the ban from this month on "foreign garbage" as part of a move to upgrade its industries.
Louisana Police Bust an Infamous Nigerian Email Spam Scammer
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You have probably at some point been contacted via email spam by someone claiming you are the beneficiary in a will of a Nigerian prince. As the scam goes, all you have to do is submit your personal information and Western Union some funds to process the necessary paperwork, and in return you will receive millions of dollars. One of the people behind the popular scam, Michael Neu, has been arrested by police in Slidell, Louisiana.
How Big Tech is Getting Involved in Your Health Care
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As consumers, medical centers and insurers increasingly embrace health-tracking apps, tech companies want a bigger share of the more than $3 trillion spent annually on health care in the United States, too... The companies are accelerating their efforts to remake health care by developing or collaborating on new tools for consumers, patients, doctors, insurers and medical researchers. And they are increasingly investing in health startups. In the first 11 months of this year, 10 of the largest tech companies in the United States were involved in health care equity deals worth $2.7 billion, up from just $277 million for all of 2012, according to data from CB Insights, a research firm that tracks venture capital and startups.
Dutch Utility Plans Massive Wind Farm Island In North Sea
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Britain's homes could be lit and powered by wind farms surrounding an artificial island deep out in the North Sea, under advanced plans by a Dutch energy network. The radical proposal envisages an island being built to act as a hub for vast offshore wind farms that would eclipse today's facilities in scale. Dogger Bank, 125km (78 miles) off the East Yorkshire coast, has been identified as a potentially windy and shallow site. The power hub would send electricity over a long-distance cable to the UK and Netherlands, and possibly later to Belgium, Germany, and Denmark. TenneT, the project's backer and Dutch equivalent of the UK's National Grid, recently shared early findings of a study that said its plan could be billions of euros cheaper than conventional wind farms and international power cables. The sci-fi-sounding proposal is sold as an innovative answer to industry's challenge of continuing to make offshore wind cheaper, as turbines are pushed ever further off the coast to more expensive sites as the best spots closer to land fill up.
The Biggest Rocket Launches and Space Missions We're Looking Forward To in 2018
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Next year is already overflowing with exciting missions to space. NASA is launching a new lander to Mars, as well as a spacecraft that will get closer to the Sun than ever before. And two of NASA's vehicles already in space will finally arrive at their intended targets: one will rendezvous with a nearby asteroid, while another will pass by a distant space rock billions of miles from Earth. But it's not just NASA that has a busy year ahead; the commercial space industry has a number of significant test flights planned, and the launch of one of the world's most anticipated rockets, the Falcon Heavy, is slated for early 2018. And if all goes well, people may finally ride to space on private vehicles.
FBI Software For Analyzing Fingerprints Contains Russian-Made Code, Whistleblowers Say
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The fingerprint-analysis software used by the FBI and more than 18,000 other U.S. law enforcement agencies contains code created by a Russian firm with close ties to the Kremlin, according to documents and two whistleblowers. The allegations raise concerns that Russian hackers could gain backdoor access to sensitive biometric information on millions of Americans, or even compromise wider national security and law enforcement computer systems. The Russian code was inserted into the fingerprint-analysis software by a French company, said the two whistleblowers, who are former employees of that company. The firm -- then a subsidiary of the massive Paris-based conglomerate Safran -- deliberately concealed from the FBI the fact that it had purchased the Russian code in a secret deal, they said.
Empirical Research Reveals Three Big Problems With How Patents Are Vetted
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If you've read our coverage of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's "Stupid Patent of the Month" series, you know America has a patent quality problem. People apply for patents on ideas that are obvious, vague, or were invented years earlier. Too often, applications get approved and low-quality patents fall into the hands of patent trolls, creating headaches for real innovators. Why don't more low-quality patents get rejected? A recent paper published by the Brookings Institution offers fascinating insights into this question. Written by legal scholars Michael Frakes and Melissa Wasserman, the paper identifies three ways the patent process encourages approval of low-quality patents:
NASA Begins Planning For An Interstellar Mission In 2069
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During the 2017 Geophysical Union Conference, scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory revealed that they are planning an interstellar exploration mission for the year 2069. The goal is to send a probe to Alpha Centauri, some 4.3 light years away. NASA is working on technology to allow a spacecraft to reach 10% of the speed of light, which might allow them to reach Alpha Centauri in as soon as 44 years.
CMU Researchers Reveal How Their AI Beat The World's Top Poker Players
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The AI was created by a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University and his Ph.D. student, who argue in a new paper that "The techniques that we developed are largely domain independent and can thus be applied to other strategic imperfect-information interactions, including non-recreational applications."
SpaceX Rocket Stuns Californians As It Carries 10 Satellites Into Space
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The Falcon 9 booster lifted off from coastal Vandenberg air force base, carrying the latest batch of satellites for Iridium Communications. The launch in the setting sun created a shining, billowing streak that was widely seen throughout southern California and as far away as Phoenix, Arizona. Calls came in to TV stations as far afield as San Diego, more than 200 miles south of the launch site, as people puzzled about what caused the strange sight. Cars stopped on freeways in Los Angeles so drivers and passengers could take pictures and video. The Los Angeles fire department issued an advisory that the "mysterious light in the sky" was from the rocket launch. The same rocket carried Iridium satellites into orbit in June. That time, the first stage landed on a floating platform in the Pacific ocean. This time, the rocket was allowed to plunge into the sea. It was the 18th and final launch of 2017 for SpaceX, which has contracted to replace Iridium's system with 75 updated satellites. SpaceX has made four launches and expects to make several more to complete the job by mid-2018. The satellites also carry payloads for global aircraft tracking and a ship-tracking service.
Russian Hackers Targeted More Than 200 Journalists Globally
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Russian television anchor Pavel Lobkov was in the studio getting ready for his show when jarring news flashed across his phone: Some of his most intimate messages had just been published to the web. Days earlier, the veteran journalist had come out live on air as HIV-positive, a taboo-breaking revelation that drew responses from hundreds of Russians fighting their own lonely struggles with the virus. Now he'd been hacked. The Associated Press found that Lobkov was targeted by the hacking group known as Fancy Bear in March 2015, nine months before his messages were leaked. He was one of at least 200 journalists, publishers and bloggers targeted by the group as early as mid-2014 and as recently as a few months ago. The AP identified journalists as the third-largest group on a hacking hit list obtained from cybersecurity firm Secureworks, after diplomatic personnel and U.S. Democrats. About 50 of the journalists worked at The New York Times. Another 50 were either foreign correspondents based in Moscow or Russian reporters like Lobkov who worked for independent news outlets. Others were prominent media figures in Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltics or Washington.
How Facebook's Political Unit Enables the Dark Art of Digital Propaganda
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Under fire for Facebook Inc.'s role as a platform for political propaganda, co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has punched back, saying his mission is above partisanship. "We hope to give all people a voice and create a platform for all ideas," Zuckerberg wrote in September after President Donald Trump accused Facebook of bias. Zuckerberg's social network is a politically agnostic tool for its more than 2 billion users, he has said. But Facebook, it turns out, is no bystander in global politics. What he hasn't said is that his company actively works with political parties and leaders including those who use the platform to stifle opposition -- sometimes with the aid of "troll armies" that spread misinformation and extremist ideologies.
Facial Scans at US Airports Violate Americans' Privacy, Report Says
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A new report concludes that a Department of Homeland Security pilot program improperly gathers data on Americans when it requires passengers embarking on foreign flights to undergo facial recognition scans to ensure they haven't overstayed visas. The report, released on Thursday by researchers at the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University's law school, called the system an invasive surveillance tool that the department has installed at nearly a dozen airports without going through a required federal rule-making process.
Where in the World is Mars' Water?
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In the beginning, Mars was a water world. But at some point in Mars' distant past, much of that water disappeared, leaving behind polar ice caps and a complex geology. Figuring out just where it went has been a major priority for scientists -- life as we know it can't exist without water, and any future settlers would need a steady supply. A new study, published Wednesday in Nature, suggests that much of what remains might in inaccessible. Some went into space, but even more of it may have sunk into the ground like a sponge, only to become bound up in minerals deep within the planet. "Mars, by virtue of its chemistry, was doomed from the start," study author Jon Wade, of Oxford University, tells Axios.
FDA Approves First-Ever Gene Therapy For Inherited Form of Blindness
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In a historic move, the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved a pioneering gene therapy for a rare form of childhood blindness, the first such treatment cleared in the United States for an inherited disease. The approval signals a new era for gene therapy, a field that struggled for decades to overcome devastating setbacks but now is pushing forward in an effort to develop treatments for haemophilia, sickle-cell anaemia, and an array of other genetic diseases. Yet the products, should they reach patients, are likely to cost as much as $1 million for both eyes.
Interstellar Object 'Oumuamua' Appears To Be Wrapped In An Organic Insulation Layer
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Oumuamua is the cigar-shaped object -- about 400 meters long and only 40 meters in the other dimensions -- that originated from somewhere else in the Galaxy and visited our Solar system while moving at nearly 130,000 miles per hour. Scientists do not know where Oumuamua came from or what it is made of -- it is not shaped like commonly seen asteroids, and unlike comets, it does not leave a trail behind it, not even when it flew past the Sun. Oumuamua seems to be wrapped in a strange organic coat made of carbon-rich gunk that it likely picked up on its long travels through space.
Cloud-Based Repository Leak Exposes 123 Million American Households
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"An Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3 cloud storage bucket containing information from data analytics firm Alteryx has been found publicly exposed, comprising the personal information of 123 million U.S. households," reports ZDNet. "The S3 bucked, located at the subdomain 'alteryxdownload,' was found by California cybersecurity firm UpGuard, with its Cyber Risk Team discovering the leak on October 6, 2017."
Scientists Confirm There Was Life On Earth 3.5 Billion Years Ago
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The research, led by paleobiologist William Schopf of the University of California-Los Angeles and geoscientist John Valley of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been in the works for what seems a long time to most, but which the academics know is merely a blink of the eye in terms of life on Earth. The specimens in question, mostly now-extinct bacteria and microbes, were found in 1982 at the Apex Chert, a rock formation in Western Australia, in a piece of rock. In 1993, based on radiometric analyses of the rock, and the shape of fossils, Schopf dated them as biological beings that existed 3.45 billion years ago. The rock held the earliest direct evidence of life, Schopf thought, and inferred from it that creatures existed over a billion years earlier than anyone previously believed. But some scientists argued that this claim was too speculative and that the microfossils, invisible to the naked eye, were really just weirdly-shaped bits of rock, strange minerals that only seem to contain biological specimens but do not.
Older Adults' Forgetfulness Tied To Faulty Brain Rhythms In Sleep, Study Says
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Older brains may forget more because they lose their rhythm at night. During deep sleep, older people have less coordination between two brain waves that are important to saving new memories, a team reports in the journal Neuron. The finding appears to answer a long-standing question about how aging can affect memory even in people who do not have Alzheimer's or some other brain disease. The study was the result of an effort to understand how the sleeping brain turns short-term memories into memories that can last a lifetime, says Matt Walker, the author of the book Why We Sleep.
Google Reveals the Most-Trending Searches of 2017
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This year, you wanted to know more about one of the most powerful storms on record, the devastating Hurricane Irma. But you were also curious about [hip hop artist] Cardi B. and Unicorn Frappuccinos... Like 2017 itself, this year's top searches skew a little darker than usual, but are punctuated with some whimsy and positive moments. The top trending searches in the U.S. were Irma, Matt Lauer, Tom Petty, the Super Bowl and the Las Vegas shooting.
Facial Recognition Algorithms -- Plus 1.8 Billion Photos -- Leads to 567 Arrests in China
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Yitu's Dragonfly Eye generic portrait platform already has 1.8 billion photographs to work with: those logged in the national database and you, if you have visited China recently... 320 million of the photos have come from China's borders, including ports and airports, where pictures are taken of everyone who enters and leaves the country. According to Yitu, its platform is also in service with more than 20 provincial public security departments, and is used as part of more than 150 municipal public security systems across the country, and Dragonfly Eye has already proved its worth. On its very first day of operation on the Shanghai Metro, in January, the system identified a wanted man when he entered a station. After matching his face against the database, Dragonfly Eye sent his photo to a policeman, who made an arrest. In the following three months, 567 suspected lawbreakers were caught on the city's underground network. The system has also been hooked up to security cameras at various events; at the Qingdao International Beer Festival, for example, 22 wanted people were apprehended.
NASA Uses Its First Recycled SpaceX Rocket For a Re-Supply Mission
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SpaceX racked up another first on Friday, launching a recycled rocket with a recycled capsule on a grocery run for NASA. The unmanned Falcon rocket blasted off with a just-in-time-for-Christmas delivery for the International Space Station, taking flight again after a six-month turnaround. On board was a Dragon supply ship, also a second-time flier. It was NASA's first use of a reused Falcon rocket and only the second of a previously flown Dragon.
Astronomers Have Come Up With a Better Way To Weigh Millions of Solitary Stars
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Stevenson Professor of Physics and Astronomy Keivan Stassun says, "First, we use the total light from the star and its parallax to infer its diameter. Next, we analyze the way in which the light from the star flickers, which provides us with a measure of its surface gravity. Then we combine the two to get the star's total mass." Stassun and his colleagues describe the method and demonstrate its accuracy using 675 stars of known mass in an article titled "Empirical, accurate masses and radii of single stars with TESS and GAIA" accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.
Google Is Using Light Beam Tech To Connect Rural India To the Internet
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The firm is working with a telecom operator in Indian state Andhra Pradesh, home to over 50 million people, to use Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC), a technology that uses beams of light to deliver high-speed, high-capacity connectivity over long distances. Now partner AP State FiberNet will introduce 2,000 FSOC links starting from January to add additional support to its network backbone in the state. The Google project is aimed at "critical gaps to major access points, like cell-towers and WiFi hotspots, that support thousands of people," Google said. The initiative ties into a government initiative to connect 12 million households to the internet by 2019, the U.S. firm added.
NASA, Google Spot Eighth Planet in Solar System Rivaling Ours
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Google isn't just good for finding cat videos on the internet. The search giant's machine learning technology is also helping search the universe for planets outside our solar system. NASA on Thursday revealed the discovery of blazing-hot exoplanet Kepler-90i thanks to the use of a Google neural network trained to identify planets from the NASA Kepler space telescope's data. It's the eighth planet discovered in the Kepler-90 system, which ties it with our own solar system for the most known planets around a single star. Kepler-90 is a sun-like star located around 2,545 light-years from us.
Medieval secrets uncovered in cemetery excavation
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A medieval burial marker uncovered in a Dundee graveyard has been described by an archaeologist as a mystery that keeps "giving and giving".
Paris Summit Finds New Money, Tech To Fight Climate Change
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World leaders, investment funds and energy magnates promised Tuesday to devote new money and technology to slow global warming at a summit in Paris that President Emmanuel Macron hopes will rev up the Paris climate accord that U.S. President Donald Trump has rejected. Trump wasn't invited to the event but his name was everywhere. One by one, top world diplomats, former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, business leaders like Michael Bloomberg and even former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that the world will shift to cleaner fuels and reduce emissions regardless of whether the Trump administration pitches in or not. Central to Tuesday's summit was countering Trump's main argument that the 2015 Paris accord on reducing global emissions would hurt U.S. business. Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker, argues that the big businesses and successful economies of the future will be making and using renewable energy instead of pumping oil. Macron's office announced a dozen international projects emerging from the summit that will inject hundreds of millions of dollars in efforts to curb climate change. "The United States did not drop out of the Paris agreement. Donald Trump got Donald Trump out of the Paris agreement," Schwarzenegger said. The projects also aim to speed up the end of the combustion engine to reduce the emissions that contribute to global warming. With that aim, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced that his agency would stop financing oil and gas projects in two years, except in special circumstances for very poor nations.
Synthetic DNA-Based Drug Is First To Slow Progress of Huntington's Disease
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The Guardian reports of early success in the trial of a synthetic DNA based drug, Ionis-HTTRx, at University College London's Huntington's Disease Center. Bionews explains that this gene silencing drug binds to the RNA transcript of the faulty huntingtin gene, triggering its destruction before it can go on to make the huntingtin protein. There's much excited speculation that the same technique could be used for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, once people know which genes to target.
FCC Explains How Net Neutrality Will Be Protected Without Net Neutrality Rules
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The Federal Communications Commission is still on track to eliminate net neutrality rules this Thursday, but the commission said today that it has a new plan to protect consumers after the repeal. The FCC and Federal Trade Commission released a draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) describing how the agencies will work together to make sure ISPs keep their net neutrality promises. After the repeal, there won't be any rules preventing ISPs from blocking or throttling Internet traffic. ISPs will also be allowed to charge websites and online services for faster and more reliable network access. In short, ISPs will be free to do whatever they want -- unless they make specific promises to avoid engaging in specific types of anti-competitive or anti-consumer behavior. When companies make promises and break them, the FTC can punish them for deceiving consumers. That's what FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Acting FTC Chair Maureen Ohlhausen are counting on. "Instead of saddling the Internet with heavy-handed regulations, we will work together to take targeted action against bad actors," Pai said in a joint announcement with the FTC today.
New Satellite Experiment Helps Confirm Einstein's Equivalence Principle
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Part of Einstein's theory of general relativity posits that gravity equals inertial mass -- and for the first time in 10 years, there's new evidence that he's right.
"The FCC Still Doesn't Know How the Internet Works"
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The EFF describes the FCC's official plan to kill net neutrality as "riddled with technical errors and factual inaccuracies," including, for example, a false distinction between "Internet access service" and "a distinct transmission service" which the EFF calls "utterly ridiculous and completely ungrounded from reality."
Almost All Bronze Age Artifacts Were Made From Meteorite Iron
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According to a new study, it's possible that all iron-based weapons and tools of the Bronze Age were forged using metal salvaged from meteorites. The finding has given experts a better insight into how these tools were created before humans worked out how to produce iron from its ore. While previous studies had found specific Bronze Age objects to be made from meteoric metal -- like one of the daggers buried with King Tutankhamun -- this latest research answers the question of just how widespread the practice was. Albert Jambon, from the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, studied museum artifacts from Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and China, analyzing them using an X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometer to discover they all shared the same off-world origins. "The present results complementing high quality analyses from the literature suggest that most or all irons from the Bronze Age are derived from meteoritic iron," writes Jambon in his published paper. "The next step will be to determine where and when terrestrial iron smelting appeared for the first time."
What It Looks Like When You Fry Your Eye In An Eclipse
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Doctors in New York say a woman in her 20s came in three days after looking at the Aug. 21 eclipse without protective glasses. She had peeked several times, for about six seconds, when the sun was only partially covered by the moon. Four hours later, she started experiencing blurred and distorted vision and saw a central black spot in her left eye. The doctors studied her eyes with several different imaging technologies, described in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, and were able to observe the damage at the cellular level.
Keylogger Found On Nearly 5,500 WordPress Sites
(Click Nearly 5,500 WordPress sites are infected with a malicious script that logs keystrokes and sometimes loads an in-browser cryptocurrency miner. The malicious script is being loaded from the "cloudflare.solutions" domain, which is not affiliated with Cloudflare in any way, and logs anything that users type inside form fields as soon as the user switches away from an input field. The script is included on both the sites' frontends and backends, meaning it can steal both admin account credentials and credit card data from WP sites running e-commerce stores. According to site source code search engine PublicWWW, there are 5,496 sites running this keylogger. The attacker has been active since April.for story)
Keylogger Found On Nearly 5,500 WordPress Sites
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New Evidence Points To Icy Plate Tectonics On Europa
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According to new research published today in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, Europa has what it takes to support plate tectonics. "Using computer models, a team lead by Brown University planetary scientist Brandon Johnson was able to demonstrate the physical feasibility of icy plates driving deep into the icy interior in a processes similar to what's seen on Earth," reports Gizmodo. "Excitingly, this same process could be delivering important minerals to the ocean below, heightening the moon's status a potentially habitable world."
PayPal Says 1.6 Million Customer Details Stolen In Breach At Canadian Subsidiary
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PayPal says that one of the companies it recently acquired suffered a security incident during which an attacker appears to have accessed servers that stored information for 1.6 million customers. The victim of the security breach is TIO Networks, a Canadian company that runs a network of over 60,000 utility and bills payment kiosks across North America. PayPal acquired TIO Networks this past July for $238 million in cash.
Google's AI Built an AI that Outperforms Any Made By Humans
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In May 2017, researchers at Google Brain announced the creation of AutoML, an artificial intelligence (AI) that's capable of generating its own AIs. More recently, they decided to present AutoML with its biggest challenge to date, and the AI that can build AI created a 'child' that outperformed all of its human-made counterparts... For this particular child AI, which the researchers called NASNet, the task was recognising objects -- people, cars, traffic lights, handbags, backpacks, etc. -- in a video in real-time. AutoML would evaluate NASNet's performance and use that information to improve its child AI, repeating the process thousands of times.
China's Dark Matter Probe Detects Tantalizing Signal
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Results reported by a China-led space science mission provide a tantalizing hint -- but not firm evidence -- for dark matter. In its first 530 days of scientific observations, China's Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE) detected 1.5 million cosmic ray electrons and positrons above a certain energy threshold. When researchers plot of the number of particles against their energy, they saw hints of an anomalous break in the curve. Now, DAMPE has confirmed that deviation. "It may be evidence of dark matter," but the break in the curve "may be from some other cosmic ray source," says astrophysicist Chang Jin, who leads the collaboration at the Chinese Academy of Science's Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing. DAMPE's life span will be extended to 5 years given the excellent conditions of this Chinese spacecraft, then it can record over 10 billion cosmic events, allowing researchers to confirm if it is indeed dark matter. Perhaps more significantly, the first observational data produced by China's first mission dedicated to astrophysics shows that the country is set to become a force in space science, says David Spergel, an astrophysicist at Princeton University. China is now "making significant contributions to astrophysics and space science," he says.
Volunteers Around the World Build Surveillance-Free Cellular Network Called 'Sopranica'
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Motherboard's Daniel Oberhaus spoke to Denver Gingerich, the programmer behind Sopranica, a DIY, community-oriented cell phone network. "Sopranica is a project intended to replace all aspects of the existing cell phone network with their freedom-respecting equivalents," says Gingerich. "Taking out all the basement firmware on the cellphone, the towers that track your location, the payment methods that track who you are and who owns the number, and replacing it so we can have the same functionality without having to give up all the privacy that we have to give up right now. At a high level, it's about running community networks instead of having companies control the cell towers that we connect to." Motherboard interviews Gingerich and shows you how to use the network to avoid cell surveillance.
Bacteria Found On ISS May Be Alien In Origin, Says Cosmonaut
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Lots of buzz around this. Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov took routine samples from the outside of the International Space Station during a spacewalk. These samples were analyzed and found to contain bacteria that must have come from somewhere other than Earth or the ISS itself.
AI Goes Bilingual -- Without a Dictionary
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Automatic language translation has come a long way, thanks to neural networks -- computer algorithms that take inspiration from the human brain. But training such networks requires an enormous amount of data: millions of sentence-by-sentence translations to demonstrate how a human would do it. Now, two new papers show that neural networks can learn to translate with no parallel texts -- a surprising advance that could make documents in many languages more accessible.
Scientists Have Built Robot Muscles That Can Lift 1,000 Times Their Own Weight
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Researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute and MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) announced today (Nov. 27) that they've created robotic "muscles" that can lift up to 1,000 times their own weight. The simple objects are constructed out of metal or plastic "skeletons" that are covered in either a liquid or air, and then sealed in plastic or fabric "skins." The muscle pulls taught when a vacuum is created inside the skin, and goes slack when the vacuum is released. By folding the skeletons in different ways, the vacuum can pull the muscle in different directions. "Vacuum-based muscles have a lower risk of rupture, failure, and damage, and they don't expand when they're operating, so you can integrate them into closer-fitting robots on the human body," Daniel Vogt, a research engineer at the Wyss Institute, said in a release.
Big Tobacco Loses 11-Year Fight, Forced To Broadcast 'Dangers of Smoking' Ads
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NBC News:
Smoking kills 1,200 people a day. The tobacco companies worked to make them as addictive as possible. There is no such thing as a safer cigarette. Ads with these statements hit the major television networks and newspapers this weekend, but they are not being placed by the American Cancer Society or other health groups. They're being placed by major tobacco companies, under the orders of the federal courts.

The ads will inform American TV viewers that "More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined," according to one of the ads." Besides $170 billion every year in medical costs - plus another $156 billion in lost productivity - roughly one in five deaths in America are smoking-related, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with cigarettes killing 480,000 Americans every year.
How Coral Researchers Are Coping With the Death of Reefs
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The continuing desecration has taken an immense toll on the mental health of people like Colton, a director at Coral Reef Alliance, who have devoted their lives to studying and saving these ecosystems. How do you get up and go to work every day when every day brings fresh news of loss? "Are we going to lose an entire ecosystem on my watch? It's demoralizing. It's been really hard to find the optimism," she says. "I think Miss Enthusiasm has gone away." There was a time, just a few decades ago, when this crisis seemed unimaginable, when reefs seemed invincible. This catastrophe has unfolded slowly. [...] But she also recognizes that she and other scientists are privileged. They care about reefs, but they're not like the 450 million people around the world who rely on reefs for tourism revenue, food from fish, and protection against storms. For them, the losses are a daily reality. The last time Bette Willis, from James Cook University, went out to the Great Barrier Reef, the woman who ran her boat "would alternate between rants and depression," she recalls. "She's out there several times a week. She knows each coral. She could see her whole livelihood go down the drain." Everyone I spoke to talked about becoming very good at compartmentalizing -- at acknowledging the scale of the tragedy, but also putting it aside to focus on their work. "I don't find it productive to be angry or depressed all the time. It's corrosive, and it isn't going to solve the problem," says Knowlton. She is perhaps the poster child for ocean optimism, having created a movement called ... Ocean Optimism.
Firefox Will Warn Users When Visiting Sites That Suffered a Data Breach
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Mozilla engineers are working on a notifications system for Firefox that shows a security warning to users visiting sites that have suffered data breaches. The notifications system will use data provided by Have I Been Pwned?, a website that indexes public data breaches and allows users to search and see if their details have been compromised in any of these incidents. Work on this project has only recently started. The code to show these warnings is not even in the Firefox codebase but managed separately as an add-on available (on GitHub). The alert also includes an input field. In the add-ons current version this field doesn't do anything, but we presume it's there to allow users to search and see if their data was exposed during that site's security breach. Troy Hunt, Have I Been Pwned's author has confirmed his official collaboration with Mozilla on this feature.
Facebook Still Lets Housing Advertisers Exclude Users By Race
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In February, Facebook said it would step up enforcement of its prohibition against discrimination in advertising for housing, employment, or credit. Last week, ProPublica bought dozens of rental housing ads on Facebook but asked that they not be shown to certain categories of users, such as African-Americans,mothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews, expats from Argentina, and Spanish speakers. All of these groups are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act. Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Every single ad was approved within minutes. The only ad that took longer than three minutes to be approved by Facebook sought to exclude potential renters 'interested in Islam, Sunni Islam, and Shia Islam.' It was approved after 22 minutes.
Over 400 of the World's Most Popular Websites Record Your Every Keystroke
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The idea of websites tracking users isn't new, but research from Princeton University released last week indicates that online tracking is far more invasive than most users understand. In the first installment of a series titled "No Boundaries," three researchers from Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) explain how third-party scripts that run on many of the world's most popular websites track your every keystroke and then send that information to a third-party server. Some highly-trafficked sites run software that records every time you click and every word you type. If you go to a website, begin to fill out a form, and then abandon it, every letter you entered in is still recorded, according to the researchers' findings. If you accidentally paste something into a form that was copied to your clipboard, it's also recorded. These scripts, or bits of code that websites run, are called "session replay" scripts. Session replay scripts are used by companies to gain insight into how their customers are using their sites and to identify confusing webpages. But the scripts don't just aggregate general statistics, they record and are capable of playing back individual browsing sessions. The scripts don't run on every page, but are often placed on pages where users input sensitive information, like passwords and medical conditions. Most troubling is that the information session replay scripts collect can't "reasonably be expected to be kept anonymous," according to the researchers.
UCLA Researchers Use Solar To Create and Store Hydrogen
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UCLA researchers have designed a device that can use solar energy to inexpensively and efficiently create and store energy, which could be used to power electronic devices, and to create hydrogen fuel for eco-friendly cars.
We Can't Trust Facebook To Regulate Itself, Says Former Operations Manager (
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Sandy Parakilas led Facebook's efforts to fix privacy problems on its developer platform in advance of its 2012 initial public offering. What I saw from the inside was a company that prioritized data collection from its users over protecting them from abuse. As the world contemplates what to do about Facebook in the wake of its role in Russia's election meddling, it must consider this history. Lawmakers shouldn't allow Facebook to regulate itself. Because it won't
Could a Helium-Resistant Material Usher In an Age of Nuclear Fusion?
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In a study published in the journal Science Advances, the researchers overview how they tested the behavior of helium in nanocomposite solids, materials made from thick metal layer stacks. They found that the helium didn't form bubbles in these nanocomposite solids like it did in traditionally used materials. Instead, it formed long, vein-like tunnels. "We were blown away by what we saw," said Demkowicz. "As you put more and more helium inside these nanocomposites, rather than destroying the material, the veins actually start to interconnect, resulting in kind of a vascular system."
Mystery at the new Bible museum: Are its Dead Sea Scrolls fake?
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Some scholars say they?re pieces of the renowned Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish texts that date to the days of Jesus. Others suspect the fragments are expensive forgeries meant to dupe American evangelicals, including the family behind the splashy new Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC.
Tim Berners-Lee on the Future of the Web: 'The System is Failing'
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The inventor of the world wide web always maintained his creation was a reflection of humanity -- the good, the bad and the ugly. But Berners-Lee's vision for an "open platform that allows anyone to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographical boundaries" has been challenged by increasingly powerful digital gatekeepers whose algorithms can be weaponised by master manipulators. "I'm still an optimist, but an optimist standing at the top of the hill with a nasty storm blowing in my face, hanging on to a fence," said the British computer scientist. "We have to grit our teeth and hang on to the fence and not take it for granted that the web will lead us to wonderful things," he said. The spread of misinformation and propaganda online has exploded partly because of the way the advertising systems of large digital platforms such as Google or Facebook have been designed to hold people's attention. "People are being distorted by very finely trained AIs that figure out how to distract them," said Berners-Lee. In some cases, these platforms offer users who create content a cut of advertising revenue. The financial incentive drove Macedonian teenagers with "no political skin in the game" to generate political clickbait fake news that was distributed on Facebook and funded by revenue from Google's automated advertising engine AdSense. "The system is failing. The way ad revenue works with clickbait is not fulfilling the goal of helping humanity promote truth and democracy. So I am concerned," said Berners-Lee, who in March called for the regulation of online political advertising to prevent it from being used in "unethical ways."
Report Claims That 18 Nation's Elections Were Impacted By Social Engineering Last Year
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Independent watchdog group Freedom House released a report that claims that 18 nation's elections were "hacked." Of the 65 countries that Freedom House monitors, 30 appear to be using social media in order to affect elections by attempting to control online discussions. The report covers fake news posts, paid online opinion writers and trolling tactics. Other items in the report speak to online censorship and VPN blocking that blocks information within countries to interfere with elections.
FCC Repeals Decades-Old Rules Blocking Broadcast Media Mergers
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Federal regulators rolled back decades-old rules on Thursday, making it far easier for media outlets to be bought and sold -- potentially leading to more newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasters being owned by a handful of companies. The regulations, eliminated in a 3-to-2 vote by the Federal Communications Commission, were first put in place in the 1970s to ensure that a diversity of voices and opinions could be heard on the air or in print. But now those rules represent a threat to small outlets that are struggling to survive in a vastly different media world, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. One long-standing rule repealed Thursday prevented one company in a given media market from owning both a daily newspaper and a TV station. Another rule blocked TV stations in the same market from merging with each other if the combination would leave fewer than eight independently owned stations. The agency also took aim at rules restricting the number of TV and radio stations that any media company could simultaneously own in a single market. A major beneficiary of the deregulatory moves, analysts say, is Sinclair, a conservative broadcasting company that is seeking to buy up Tribune Media for $3.9 billion.
Consumers Are Holding Off On Buying Smart-Home Gadgets Due To Security, Privacy Fears
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"Consumers are more open to, and interested in, the connected world," the firm said in its report. Noting the concerns about smart home devices, it added: "But not all IoT is created equal." Nearly 40% of those who participated in the survey said they were concerned about connected-home devices tracking their usage. More than 40% said they were worried that such gadgets would expose too much about their daily lives. Meanwhile, the vast majority of consumers think gadget makers weren't doing a good job of telling them about security risks. Fewer than 20% of survey respondents said they were very well informed about such risks and almost 40% said they weren't informed at all.
Transportation Boeing 757 Testing Shows Airplanes Vulnerable To Hacking, DHS Says
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A team of government, industry and academic officials successfully demonstrated that a commercial aircraft could be remotely hacked in a non-laboratory setting last year, a DHS official said Wednesday at the 2017 CyberSat Summit in Tysons Corner, Virginia. "We got the airplane on Sept. 19, 2016. Two days later, I was successful in accomplishing a remote, non-cooperative, penetration. [Which] means I didn't have anybody touching the airplane, I didn't have an insider threat. I stood off using typical stuff that could get through security and we were able to establish a presence on the systems of the aircraft." Hickey said the details of the hack and the work his team are doing are classified, but said they accessed the aircraft's systems through radio frequency communications, adding that, based on the RF configuration of most aircraft, "you can come to grips pretty quickly where we went" on the aircraft. Patching avionics subsystem on every aircraft when a vulnerability is discovered is cost prohibitive, Hickey said. The cost to change one line of code on a piece of avionics equipment is $1 million, and it takes a year to implement. For Southwest Airlines, whose fleet is based on Boeing's 737, it would "bankrupt" them. Hickey said newer models of 737s and other aircraft, like Boeing's 787 and the Airbus Group A350, have been designed with security in mind, but that legacy aircraft, which make up more than 90% of the commercial planes in the sky, don't have these protections.
Investigation Finds Security Flaws In 'Connected' Toys
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A consumer group is urging major retailers to withdraw a number of "connected" or "intelligent" toys likely to be popular at Christmas, after finding security failures that it warns could put children's safety at risk. Tests carried out by Which? with the German consumer group Stiftung Warentest, and other security research experts, found flaws in Bluetooth and wifi-enabled toys that could enable a stranger to talk to a child. The investigation found that four out of seven of the tested toys could be used to communicate with the children playing with them. Security failures were discovered in the Furby Connect, i-Que Intelligent Robot, Toy-Fi Teddy and CloudPets. With each of these toys, the Bluetooth connection had not been secured, meaning the researcher did not need a password, pin or any other authentication to gain access. Little technical knowhow was needed to hack into the toys to start sharing messages with a child.
Study Finds SpaceX Investment Saved NASA Hundreds of Millions
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When a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft connected with the International Space Station on May 25, 2012, it made history as the first privately-built spacecraft to reach the ISS. The Dragon was the result of a decision 6 years prior -- in 2006, NASA made an "unprecedented" investment in SpaceX technology. A new financial analysis shows that the investment has paid off, and the government found one of the true bargains of the 21st century when it invested in SpaceX. A new research paper by Edgar Zapata, who works at Kennedy Space Center, looks closely at the finances of SpaceX and NASA. "There were indications that commercial space transportation would be a viable option from as far back as the 1980s," Zapata writes. "When the first components of the ISS were sent into orbit 1998, NASA was focused on "ambitious, large single stage-to-orbit launchers with large price tags to match." For future commercial crew missions sending astronauts into space, Zapata estimates that it will cost $405 million for a SpaceX Dragon crew deployment of 4 and $654 million for a Boeing Starliner, which is scheduled for its first flight in 2019. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but Zapata estimates that its only 37 to 39 percent of what it would have cost the government.
Amazon Is Making a 'Lord of the Rings' Prequel Series
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It's possible the new series will mine the ponderous but rich Silmarillion for material, as fan fiction writers and lore aficionados have done for decades. The exploits of the Elf-Lords of old would make for a stirring epic, while many would thrill at the possibility of seeing Moria at the height of its grandeur. So much depends on the quality of the adaptation, though. Amazon has been pretty good about its Originals, but this will be an undertaking far beyond the scope of anything its studios and partners have yet attempted. Amazon is partnering with New Line Cinema, which of course was the film company behind the much-loved trilogy that began in 2001, and the Tolkien Estate, as well as HarperCollins for some reason. The deal also "includes a potential additional spin-off series," presumably if it's popular enough.
More Than 15,000 Scientists From 184 Countries Issue 'Warning To Humanity'
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More than 15,000 scientists around the world have issued a global warning: there needs to be change in order to save Earth. It comes 25 years after the first notice in 1992 when a mere 1,500 scientists issued a similar warning. This new cautioning -- which gained popularity on Twitter with #ScientistsWarningToHumanity -- garnered more than 15,000 signatures. William Ripple of Oregon State University's College of Forestry, who started the campaign, said that he came across the 1992 warning last February, and noticed that this year happened to mark the 25th anniversary. Together with his graduate student, Christopher Wolf, he decided to revisit the concerns raised then, and collect global data for different variables to show trends over the past 25 years. Ripple found: A decline in freshwater availability; Unsustainable marine fisheries; Ocean dead zones; Forest losses; Dwindling biodiversity; Climate change; Population growth. There was one positive outcome, however: a rapid decline in ozone depletion. One of the potential solutions is to stabilize the population. If we reduce family size, consumption patterns don't rise as much. And that can be done by empowering girls and women, providing sexual education and education on family planning.
Study Finds Robot Surgeons Are Actually Slower and More Expensive
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In a study of almost 24,000 laparoscopic surgeries just published in The Journal of American Medicine, researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine analyzed data from 416 hospitals around the U.S. from 2003 to 2015. Robotic assistance provides 3D-visualization, a broader range of motion for instruments, and better ergonomics for physicians, according to the study. While it has advantages in scenarios where a high-degree of precision is required or where improved outcomes have been demonstrated (like radical prostatectomy), it appears to be a waste of resources for the two operations examined... But the patient outcomes were more or less the same.
NASA Discovers Mantle Plume That's Melting Antarctica From Below
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Researchers at NASA have discovered a huge upwelling of hot rock under Marie Byrd Land, which lies between the Ross Ice Shelf and the Ross Sea, is creating vast lakes and rivers under the ice sheet. The presence of a huge mantle plume could explain why the region is so unstable today, and why it collapsed so quickly at the end of the last Ice Age, 11,000 years ago. Mantle plumes are thought to be part of the plumbing systems that brings hot material up from Earth's interior. Once it gets through the mantle, it spreads out under the crust, providing magma for volcanic eruptions. The area above a plume is known as a hotspot.
Ford Pilots a New Exoskeleton To Lessen Worker Fatigue
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Ford is partnering with California-based exoskeleton maker Ekso Bionics to trial a non-powered upper body exoskeletal tool called EksoVest in two of the carmaker's U.S. plants. The goal is to lessen the fatigue factory workers experience in Ford's car manufacturing plants.
Human Mini-Brains Growing Inside Rat Bodies Are Starting To Integrate
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At the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience starting November 11 in Washington D.C., two teams of scientists plan to present previously unpublished research on the unexpected interaction between human mini-brains and their rat and mouse hosts. "In the new papers, according to STAT, scientists will report that the organoids survived for extended periods of time -- two months in one case -- and even connected to lab animals' circulatory and nervous systems, transferring blood and nerve signals between the host animal and the implanted human cells," reports Inverse. "This is an unprecedented advancement for mini-brain research."
Monopoly Critics Decry 'Amazon Amendment'
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The amendment, Section 801 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), would help Amazon establish a tight grip on the lucrative, $53 billion government acquisitions market, experts say. The provision, dubbed the "Amazon amendment" by experts, according to an article in The Intercept, would allow for the creation of an online portal that government employees could use to purchase everyday items such as office supplies or furniture. This government-only version of Amazon, which could potentially include a few other websites, would give participating companies direct access to the $53 billion market for government acquisitions of commercial products. "It hands an enormous amount of power over to Amazon," said Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a research group that advocates for local businesses. Mitchell said that the provision could allow Amazon to gain a monopoly or duopoly on the profitable world of commercial government purchases, leaving smaller businesses behind and further consolidating the behemoth tech firm's power.
Google Says Hackers Steal Almost 250,000 Logins Each Week
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For one year, Google researchers investigated the different ways hackers steal personal information and take over Google accounts. Google published its research, conducted between March 2016 and March 2017, on Thursday. Focusing exclusively on Google accounts and in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley, researchers created an automated system to scan public websites and criminal forums for stolen credentials. The group also investigated over 25,000 criminal hacking tools, which it received from undisclosed sources. Google said it is the first study taking a long term and comprehensive look at how criminals steal your data, and what tools are most popular. [...] Google researchers identified 788,000 potential victims of keylogging and 12.4 million potential victims of phishing. These types of attacks happen all the time. For example on average, the phishing tools Google studied collect 234,887 potentially valid login credentials, and the keylogging tools collected 14,879 credentials, each week.
Cities Are Scolding Countries at UN Climate Conference To Cut Emissions
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An alliance of major cities including New York, Toronto, and London challenged nation states attending the United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany this week "to kick dirty carbon to the curb" and immediately "commit and work straightaway towards carbon neutrality, 100 percent renewable energy, zero-waste and zero-carbon." The Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance is a new collaboration of 20 international cities (other members include Washington DC, San Francisco, Oslo, and Sydney). All are striving for carbon neutrality and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050. "Dirty fuels and climate disruption are killing and displacing millions of citizens around the world," the Alliance stated in a strongly-worded letter sent to every country's delegation at climate talks, known as COP 23. "Cities are on the frontline of climate impacts. We see the urgency of climate action and need nation-states to be as committed as we are," Johanna Partin, the director of the Alliance and former advisor to the mayor of San Francisco, told Motherboard by phone.
Sean Parker Unloads on Facebook 'Exploiting' Human Psychology
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Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, spoke to news outlet Axios about the ways social networks have made hundreds of millions of users addicted to their platforms.
EPA Approves Release of Bacteria-Carrying Mosquitoes To 20 States
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the use of a common bacterium to kill wild mosquitoes that transmit viruses such as dengue, yellow fever and Zika, Nature's news team has learned. On November 3rd, the agency told biotechnology start-up MosquitoMate that it could release the bacterium Wolbachia pipientis into the environment as a tool against the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). Lab-reared mosquitoes will deliver the bacterium to wild mosquito populations. The decision -- which the EPA has not formally announced -- allows the company, which is based in Lexington, Kentucky, to release the bacteria-infected mosquitoes in 20 U.S. states and Washington DC.
'Quark Fusion' Produces Eight Times More Energy Than Nuclear Fusion
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This new source of energy, according to researchers Marek Karliner and Jonathan Rosner, comes from the fusion of subatomic particles known as quarks. These particles are usually produced as a result of colliding atoms that move at high speeds within the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), where these component parts split from their parent atoms. It doesn't stop there, however, as these disassociated quarks also tend to collide with one another and fuse into particles called baryons. It is this fusion of quarks that Karliner and Rosner focused on, as they found that this fusion is capable of producing energy even greater than what's produced in hydrogen fusion. In particular, they studied how fused quarks configure into what's called a doubly-charmed baryon. Fusing quarks require 130 MeV to become doubly-charmed baryons, which, in turn, releases energy that's 12 MeV more energy. Turning their calculations to heavier bottom quarks, which need 230 MeV to fuse, they found that a resulting baryon could produce approximately 138 MeV of net energy -- about eight times more than what hydrogen fusion releases.
Florida Attempts the Largest Hydraulic Restoration Project In the World To Save the Everglades
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Florida is defined by its water -- the water flowing around it, through it, increasingly over it. But throughout the twentieth century, its major arteries of fresh water, which flowed from the Kissimmee River south of Orlando to Lake Okeechobee and down to the swampy Everglades, were permanently rerouted by the federal government and landowners to stop flooding, and make room for agriculture and housing in the southern part of the state. Now the state is working with the Army Corps of Engineers -- the government agency partly responsible for rerouting and draining water to begin with -- and the South Florida Water Management District to attempt the largest hydraulic restoration project in the world. And while some say the effort has turned Florida into a battleground, pitting sugar farmers against legislators and environmentalists, others are hoping this will finally right certain man-made wrongs and restore some balance to the state. If the government is able to fully fund the plan, and should dozens of contractors and state forces successfully carry it out, it could permanently change Florida. And set a precedent for inevitable restoration projects around the world, which are becoming increasingly crucial as climate change manifests in stronger storms and sea level rise.
Sleep Deprivation Disrupts Brain-Cell Communication, Study Finds
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A new study published in the journal Nature Medicine found that sleep deprivation causes the bursts of electrical activity that brain cells use to communicate to become slower and weaker. "The finding could help explain why a lack of sleep impairs a range of mental functions, says Dr. Itzhak Fried, an author of the study and a professor of neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles," reports NPR.
Paradise Papers: Apple's secret tax bolthole revealed
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The world's most profitable firm has a secretive new structure that would enable it to continue avoiding billions in taxes, the Paradise Papers show. They reveal how Apple sidestepped a 2013 crackdown on its controversial Irish tax practices by actively shopping around for a tax haven. It then moved the firm holding most of its untaxed offshore cash, now $252 billion, to the Channel Island of Jersey. Apple said the new structure had not lowered its taxes. It said it remained the world's largest taxpayer, paying about $35 billion in corporation tax over the past three years, that it had followed the law and its changes "did not reduce our tax payments in any country."
Amazon (and Netflix) Pursue a 'Lord of The Rings' TV Series
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Amazon Studios has been looking for a way to duplicate HBO's success with Game of Thrones, and the company may have found a solution: adapting J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings into a TV series. Variety reports that the company is currently in talks with Warner Bros. Television and the late author's estate, and while discussions are said to be in "very early stages," it is clearly a high priority, with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos himself involved in the negotiations.
The US Has Destroyed A Critical Sea Ice-Measuring Satellite
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"A key polar satellite used to measure the Arctic ice cap failed a few days ago, leaving the U.S. with only three others, and those have lived well beyond their shelf lives," writes long-time Slashdot reader edibobb. The Guardian reports that all three of the remaining satellites "are all beginning to drift out of their orbits over the poles" and will no longer be operational by 2023. This could put an end to nearly 40 years of uninterrupted data on polar ice, notes the original submission, adding "It seems like there would be a backup satellite, right?
'Panama Papers' Group Strikes Again with 'Paradise Papers'
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The material, which has come from two offshore service providers and the company registries of 19 tax havens, was obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with partners including the Guardian, the BBC and the New York Times. The project has been called the Paradise Papers.

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