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.

If you are interested in Facebook, you might want to see my Facebook page, which contains suggestions on how to keep your information safe while enjoying Facebook.

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
'Huge Wake Up Call': Third of Central, Northern Great Barrier Reef Corals Dead
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More than one-third of the coral reefs of the central and northern regions of the Great Barrier Reef have died in the huge bleaching event earlier this year , Queensland researchers said. Corals to the north of Cairns -- covering about two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef -- were found to have an average mortality rate of 35 percent, rising to more than half in areas around Cooktown. Bleaching occurs when abnormal conditions, such as warm seas, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae. Corals turn white without these algae and may die if the zooxanthellae do not recolonize them.

"It is fair to say we were all caught by surprise," Professor Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, said. "It's a huge wake up call because we all thought that coral bleaching was something that happened in the Pacific or the Caribbean which are closer to the epicenter of El Nino events." The report says, "The northern end of the Great Barrier Reef was home to many 50- to 100-year-old corals that had died and may struggle to rebuild before future El Ninos push tolerance beyond thresholds."
WWII Code-Breaker Dies At Age 95
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Jane Fawcett, a British code-breaker during World War II who deciphered a key German message that led to the sinking of the battleship Bismarck -- one of Britain's greatest naval victories during the war -- died May 21 at her home in Oxford, England. She was 95 ... Fluent in German and driven by curiosity, Mrs. Fawcett -- then known by her maiden name, Jane Hughes -- found work at Britain's top-secret code-breaking facility at Bletchley Park, about 50 miles northwest of London. Of the 12,000 people who worked there, about 8,000 were women. Bletchley Park later became renowned as the place where mathematician Alan Turing and others solved the puzzle of the German military's "Enigma machine," depicted in the 2014 film "The Imitation Game"...

The sinking of the Bismarck marked the first time that British code-breakers had decrypted a message that led directly to a victory in battle... Mrs. Fawcett's work was not made public for decades. Along with everyone else at Bletchley Park, she agreed to comply with Britain's Official Secrets Act, which imposed a lifetime prohibition on revealing any code-breaking activities.

Meanwhile, volunteers from The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park finally tracked down an original keyboard from the Lorenz machine used to encode top-secret messages between Hitler and his general. It was selling on eBay for 10 pounds, advertised as an old machine for sending telegrams.
Mugger Arrested After Victim Spots Him On Facebook's 'People You May Know'
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In a somewhat bizarre story which proves that truth is often stranger than fiction, a serial mugger in England was arrested after one of his victims spotted him under Facebook's 'People you may know' section. Originally reported by the BBC, 21-year old Omar Famuyide had a long history of theft, muggings and armed robberies to his name. Not too long ago, Famuyide brandished a knife and stole a car.

Flash forward a bit, and the victim of said car robbery was recently shocked to see Famuyide's face pop up as a suggested friend he might want to add on Facebook. The victim promptly called the police who quickly managed to tie him to a large number of other violent crimes. By the time the dust settled and the full extent of Famuyide's criminal rampage was revealed, Famuyide was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

His Facebook profile ultimately led to charges of robbery, attempted robbery, and possessing a firearm.
EFF Warns of Harsher CFAA
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The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is "vague, draconian, and notoriously out of touch with how we use computers today," warns the EFF. But instead of reforming it, two U.S. Senators "are on a mission to make things worse..." The senators' proposed Botnet Prevention Act of 2016 "could make criminals of paid researchers who test access in order to identify, disclose, and fix vulnerabilities," according to the EFF. And the bill would also make it a felony to damage "critical infrastructure," which may include software companies and ISPs (since they're apparently using the Department of Homeland Security's definition).

The harsher penalties would ultimately give prosecutors much more leverage for plea deals. But worst of all, the proposed bill even "empowers government officials to obtain court orders to force companies to hack computer users for a wide range of activity completely unrelated to botnets. What's worse is that the bill allows the government to do this without any requirement of notice to non-suspect or innocent customers or companies, including botnet victims... These changes would only increase -- not alleviate -- the CFAA's harshness, overbreadth, and confusion."
The CFAA was originally written in 1986, and was partly inspired by the 1983 movie "WarGames".
ForcePhone App Uses Ultrasonic Tone To Create Pressure-Sensitive Batphone
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Researchers at the University of Michigan have created an app that makes any smartphone pressure-sensitive without additional hardware. The app, called ForcePhone, uses ultrasonic tones in the existing microphone and speaker hardware that respond to pressure for additional functionality for touchscreens. The app emits a high-frequency ultrasound tone from the device's existing microphone, which is inaudible to humans but can be picked up by the phone. That tone is calibrated to change depending on the pressure that the user gives on the screen or on the body of the phone. This gives users an additional way to interact with their device through the app alone. The additional functionality provided by ForcePhone can be used in a number of ways. Squeezing the body of the phone could take a user back a page, for example; or increased pressure on the touchscreen could act as a 'right-click' function, showing additional information on the app in use. Kan Shin, Professor at the University of Michigan, said, "You don't need a special screen or built-in sensors to do this. Now this functionality can be realized on any phone." He added, "We've augmented the user interface without requiring any special built-in sensors. ForcePhone increases the vocabulary between the phone and the user."
SpaceX Successfully Lands A Falcon 9 Rocket At Sea For The Third Time
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SpaceX has successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean for the third time in a row. The Verge reports: "It was the third time in a row the company has landed a rocket booster at sea, and the fourth time overall. The landing occurred a few minutes before the second stage of the Falcon 9 delivered the THAICOM-8 satellite to space, where it will make its way to geostationary geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). GTO is a high-elliptical orbit that is popular for satellites, sitting more than 20,000 miles above the Earth. The 3,100-kilogram satellite will spend 15 years improving television and data signals across Southeast Asia."

The company landed its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship for the second time earlier this month. UPDATE 5/27/15: Frank249 writes in a comment: "Elon Musk just tweeted: 'Rocket landing speed was close to design max and used up contingency crush core, hence back and forth motion. Prob ok, but some risk of tipping.'" He went on to tweet: "Crush core is aluminum honeycomb for energy absorption in the telescoping actuator. Easy to replace (if Falcon makes it back to port)."
All European Scientific Articles To Be Freely Accessible By 2020
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All scientific articles in Europe must be freely accessible as of 2020 . EU member states want to achieve optimal reuse of research data. They are also looking into a European visa for foreign start-up founders. And, according to the new Innovation Principle, new European legislation must take account of its impact on innovation. These are the main outcomes of the meeting of the Competitiveness Council in Brussels on 27 May. Under the presidency of Netherlands State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science Sander Dekker, the EU ministers responsible for research and innovation decided unanimously to take these significant steps.

Many questions remain unanswered. For instance, it is not clear whether the publishers would be forced to make their papers available for free or whether EU will only allow scientists who are happy to abide by the rules to publish papers. We should have more details on this soon.
Mars Is Coming Out Of An Ice Age
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An analysis of radar images that peered inside the polar ice caps of Mars shows that Earth's neighbor is coming out of an ice age that is part of an ongoing cycle of climate change, scientists said on Thursday. Using images taken by satellites orbiting Mars, the researchers determined that about 20,872 cubic miles (87,000 cubic km) of ice has accumulated at its poles since the end of the ice age, mostly in the northern polar cap. Scientists are keenly interested in piecing together the climate history of Mars, which contains strong evidence that oceans and lakes once pooled on its surface, bolstering the prospects for life. From the perspective of an Earthling, every day on Mars may feel like an ice age. According to NASA, temperatures on Mars may hit a high at noon at the equator in the summer of roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), or a low of about minus-225 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-153 degrees Celsius) at the poles. The Martian ice began its retreat about 370,000 years ago, marking the end of the last ice age, according to the research published in the journal Science
Antibiotic-Resistant E Coli Reaches The US For The First Time
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A woman in Pennsylvania has contracted a strain of E Coli that is unaffected by all known legal antibiotics, including the antibiotics of last resort. We have had bacteria that were resistant, but this is the first bacteria that is completely immune. Such bacteria were known in China, but since the woman has not traveled recently it means she contracted it in the wild in the USA. This is a major step toward the terrifying post-antibiotic world.
China unveils 'straddling bus' design to beat traffic jams
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A Beijing company has unveiled spectacularly futuristic designs for a pollution-busting, elevated bus capable of gliding over the nightmarish mega-jams for which urban China has become notorious.

Those legs allow the TEB's giant frame to glide high above the gridlock at speeds of up to 60km per hour. Equally, vehicles that are less than two metres high will be able to drive freely underneath the bus, even when it is stationary.
Facebook Could Be Eavesdropping On Your Phone Calls
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Facebook is not just looking at user's personal information, interests, and online habits but also to your private conversations , revealed a new report. According to NBC report, this may be the case as Kelli Burns, a professor at University of South Florida states, "I don't think that people realize how much Facebook is tracking every move we're making online. Anything that you're doing on your phone, Facebook is watching." the professor said. Now how do you prove that? Professor Kelli tested out her theory by enabling the microphone feature, and talked about her desire to go on a safari, informing about the mode of transport she would take. "I'm really interested in going on an African safari. I think it'd be wonderful to ride in one of those jeeps," she said aloud, phone in hand. The results were shocking, as less than 60 seconds later, the first post on her Facebook feed was about a safari story out of nowhere, which was then revealed that the story had been posted three hours earlier. And, after mentioning a jeep, a car ad also appeared on her page.

On a support page, Facebook explains how this feature works : "No, we don't record your conversations. If you choose to turn on this feature, we'll only use your microphone to identify the things you're listening to or watching based on the music and TV matches we're able to identify. If this feature is turned on, it's only active when you're writing a status update." I wonder how many people are actually aware of this.
Robot Ranchers Monitor Animals On Giant Australian Farms
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Sheep and cattle farms in the Australian outback are vast as well as remote. For example, the country's most isolated cattle station, Suplejack Downs in the Northern Territory, extends across 4000 square kilometres and takes 13 hours to reach by car from the nearest major town, Alice Springs. But robots are coming to the rescue. A two-year trial, which starts next month, will train a 'farmbot' to herd livestock, keep an eye on their health, and check they have enough pasture to graze on . Sick and injured animals will be identified using thermal and vision sensors that detect changes in body temperature and walking gait, says Salah Sukkarieh of the University of Sydney, who will carry out the trial on several farms in central New South Wales. The robot, which has not yet been named, is a more sophisticated version of an earlier model, Shrimp, which was designed to herd groups of 20 to 150 dairy cows.
Nevada Startup Stores Energy With Trains
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Nevada's Bureau of Land Management has granted a land lease to a $55 million project by Advanced Rail Energy Storage, which "proposes to use excess off-peak energy to push a heavily-loaded train up a grade ," according to Fortune. "Then, when the grid needs that energy back, the cars will be rolled back down the slope...that return trip will generate energy and put it back on the grid."

The company claims its solution is about 50% cheaper than other storage technologies, according to Fortune, and boasts an 80% efficency in energy reclamation, "similar to or slightly above typical hydro-storage efficiency." Citing Tesla's factory, the magazine callsthe project "further evidence for Nevadaâ(TM)s emergence as a leading region for innovative transportation and energy projects."
Researchers Generate Electricity Using Seawater and Sunlight
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Scientists at Osaka University have created a new method to use sunlight to turn seawater into hydrogen peroxide which can then be used in fuel cells to generate electricity. It's the first photocatalytic method of H2O2 production that achieves a high enough efficiency so that the H2O2 can be used in a fuel cell.

It's easier and safer to transport liquid H2O2, according to the article, and while its total efficiency is much lower than conventional solar cells, the researchers hope to get better results by using better materials.
IMAX Embraces Virtual Reality, To Open Six VR Theaters This Year
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IMAX is getting into the virtual reality business. Tthe company has announced that it is teaming up with Google to build cinema-quality virtual reality video cameras. It is also planning to launch virtual reality "locations." The cinemas will be opened in shopping malls, much like traditional movie theatres. There are six reportedly planned for this year, including in Los Angeles and China.

From the Verge report:
IMAX chief executive Richard Gelfond told The WSJ that he imagined that the VR content would be tied to existing movie franchises, that they would last around 10 minutes and cost between $7 and $10. The idea, suggests Gelfond, is to create a VR experience that's better than what you can get at home -- the same way that a movie theater is better than your living room TV.
There Were Mega-Tsunamis On Mars
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from Popular Mechanics: Today, a team of scientists has announced the first discovery of extraterrestrial tsunamis. A team of astronomers and geologists led by J. Alexis Rodriguez at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona has uncovered evidence of massive tsunamis on Mars billions of years ago. As Rodriguez reports, two separate mega-tsunamis tore across the red planet around 3.4 billion years ago, a time when Mars was a mere 1.1 billion years old and nearby Earth was just cradling its first microbial lifeforms. The two tsunamis created 150-foot-high shore-break waves on average, and some absolutely monster waves up to 400 feet tall. Rodriguez and his colleagues outline their tsunami findings today in the journal Scientific Reports. From the report: "Rodriquez and his colleagues stumbled across evidence of these tsunamis while scouring over images of Mars' relatively flat northern planes. Two regions called Chryse Planitia and Arabia Terra. Using detailed infrared maps rendered by the thermal camera on the 15-year-old Mars Odyssey orbiter, the scientists identified the high water marks of the tsunamis -- features that look a lot like ancient ocean coastlines." Within the last year alone, scientists have spotted the signs of flowing water on Mars, recently discovering how water flows on the red planet. NASA has detected atomic oxygen in the atmosphere of the planet, too.
Federal Judge Says Internet Archive's Wayback Machine A Perfectly Legitimate Source Of Evidence
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reporting for TechDirt (condensed): Those of us who dwell on the internet already know the Internet Archive's "Wayback Machine" is a useful source of evidence. So, it's heartening to see a federal judge arrive at the same conclusion, as Stephen Bykowski of the Trademark and Copyright Law blog reports.

From the report:
The potential uses of the Wayback Machine in IP litigation are powerful and diverse. Historical versions of an opposing party's website could contain useful admissions or, in the case of patent disputes, invalidating prior art. Date-stamped websites can also contain proof of past infringing use of copyrighted or tradem content.

From TechDirt:
The defendant tried to argue that the Internet Archis pag weren't admissible because the Wayback Machine doesn't capture everything on the page or update every page from a website on the same date. The judge, after receiving testimony from an Internet Archive employee, disagreed. He found the site to a credible source of preserved evidence -- not just because it captures (for the most part) sites as they were on relevant dates but, more importantly, it does nothing to alter the purity of the preserved evidence.
Pfizer Blocks The Use Of Its Drugs In Executions
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Erik Eckholm reports in the NYT that the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has announced that it has imposed sweeping controls on the distribution of its products to ensure that none are used in lethal injections, a step that closes off the last remaining open-market source of drugs used in executions. "Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve," the company says, and "strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment." "With Pfizer's announcement, all F.D.A.-approved manufacturers of any potential execution drug have now blocked their sale for this purpose," says Maya Foa. "Executing states must now go underground if they want to get hold of medicines for use in lethal injection." The mounting difficulty in obtaining lethal drugs has already caused states to furtively scramble for supplies. Some states have used straw buyers or tried to import drugs from abroad that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, only to see them seized by federal agents. Other states have experimented with new drug combinations, sometimes with disastrous results, such as the prolonged execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona in 2014, using the sedative midazolam. A few states have adopted the electric chair, firing squad or gas chamber as an alternative if lethal drugs are not available. Since Utah chooses to have a death penalty, "we have to have a means of carrying it out," said State Representative Paul Ray as he argued last year for authorization of the firing squad.
Nintendo May Start Selling 'Computer Software'
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Nintendo's most recent fiscal-year disclosure made headlines for announcing a release window for the new "Nintendo NX" console and yet another Zelda game delay, but it also included news of serious corporate restructuring. The short version: Nintendo will soon involve a supervisory committee in making top-level executive decisions. A Tuesday announcement included the company's amended articles of incorporation, expected to be approved by shareholders this June, and it included three new entries in its "business engagement" list: restaurants, medical and health devices, and "computer software." The choice of adding "computer software" to that list, on the other hand, seems particularly curious -- especially since Nintendo's existing list of engaged businesses includes terms that sound very much like computer software, particularly the broad term of "contents such as games, images, and music." That list also revised an entry that used to say that the company would license the "use or reproduction of copyrighted works" and "trademarks." Now, Nintendo will license its "intellectual property rights." That shift to the term "intellectual property" includes copyrighted works and trademarks in an umbrella that also may include such Nintendo-owned concepts as patents.
Communications Highly-Conductive Shark Jelly Could Inspire New Tech
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Researchers from UC Santa Cruz, the University of Washington, and the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason found shark jelly to have the highest proton conductivity ever seen in a biological material. The jelly's conductivity begins to approach that of leading proton-conducting polymers. Tiny organs in the skin of sharks, skates and rays, called the ampullae of Lorenzini, are key to the ability. Scientists believe that the jelly is what has been able to allow these animals to detect weak electric fields produced by their prey, as the organs, which are visible as pores in the skin, are connected to electrosensory cells via long, jelly-filled canals. Marco Rolandi, a co-author on a paper detailing the findings in Science Advances, sees potential use for the "shark jelly" in the development of new or enhanced materials or even the creation of new sensor technology. "The observation of high proton conductivity in the jelly is very exciting," Rolandi said. "We hope that our findings may contribute to future studies of the electrosensing function of the ampullae of Lorenzini and the organ overall, which is itself rather exceptional."
Disney Research Leverages RFID Tech For Low Cost Interactive Games With Physical Objects
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Researchers at Disney Researchand Carnegie Mellon University have been toying around with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. RFID tags are typically used for high-tech inventory management in a variety of industries, but researchers concocted a way to make RFID technology feasible for interactive games using physical objects. Using a framework the researchers developed called RapID, they showed how inexpensive RFID tags can sense when a physical object is moved or touched in near real-time. The research team demonstrated a handful of use case scenarios. One included a tic-tac-toe board that mirrors the physical game on a computer monitor with added sound effects, while another demonstration showed users playing a Pong clone using real wooden sliders to control the onscreen action. What the researchers have done is no small feat. RFID was never intended for interactive toys, and wasn't built for real-time or near real-time responsiveness. RapID interprets the signals by weighing possibilities instead of waiting on confirmation from RFID tags. Most importantly, it reduces typical lag times from 2 seconds all the way down to 200 milliseconds.
A master teacher went to court to challenge her low evaluation. What her win means for her profession.
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A judge in New York has ruled in favor of a master teacher who went to court to challenge the validity of her evaluation. The following post explains what the ruling means and why it matters to more than Sheri Lederman, the teacher who filed the suit in an effort to challenge not only her own evaluation but assessment systems that use"value-added modeling," or VAM, which purports to be able to use student standardized test scores to determine the "value" of a teacher while factoring out every other influence on a student (including, for example, hunger, sickness, and stress).
YouTube: Our Primetime Audience Is Bigger Than the Top 10 TV Shows Combined
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uTube CEO Susan Wojcicki: "Today, I'm happy to announce that on mobile alone YouTube now reaches more 18-49-year-olds than any network -- broadcast or cable. In fact, we reach more 18-49-year-olds during primetime than the top 10 TV shows combined. At a time when TV networks are losing audiences, YouTube is growing in every region and across every screen." Ben Popper, writing for The Verge:

Those numbers are a bit vague. We don't know exactly how many people are watching, or whether any individual channel comes close to matching the reach of network TV programming. Most importantly, that doesn't break out what percentage of the audience is watching Google Preferred content, the pre-approved brand-safe stuff that nets big ad dollars, versus the long tail of cat videos and home movies that have steadily dwindling value. Still, it seemed clear that YouTube's clout was not lost on the agencies handling big budgets. Wojcicki used her time on stage to announce that Interpublic Group, one of the world's largest ad holding companies, planned to shift $250 million from traditional TV networks to YouTube over the next year.
Facebook's Newest Privacy Problem: 'Faceprint' Data
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Facebook knows you so well these days that it can recognize you just by seeing your face. You may not have a problem with this, but that doesn't mean it's all good in the eyes of the law. The social network lost the first round of a lawsuit on Thursday in which it is accused of "unlawfully" storing biometric data mined from people's photographs. The company was seeking to have the suit dismissed, but a federal judge in California rejected the request. Facebook taps into its photo-tagging system to build up a geometric representation of people's faces to create something called a faceprint for each of its users. Faceprints are then used to suggest tags for people when new photos are uploaded to the network. One could argue that the clue is in the name, but many Facebook users probably don't know that they agree to having data about their face stored when they sign up.
SpaceX Successfully Lands Its Rocket On A Floating Drone Ship Again
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Early Friday morning, SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship at sea for the second time. The company has recovered the post-launch vehicle a total of three times, two of which involved the rocket landing on a floating drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Before the launch, the landing was deemed unlikely as the rocket would be "subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating" in its attempt to launch a Japanese communications satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit high above Earth. Elon Musk tweeted: "Rocket reentry is a lot faster and hotter than last time, so odds of making it are maybe even, but we should learn a lot either way." As a result of the successful mission, Musk followed up with, "May need to increase size of rocket storage hangar." The first successful launch was in December, when the rocket landed at a ground-based spaceport in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The second landing occurred in April on a floating drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
India Plans To Spend $6 Billion On Creating New Forests
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The Narendra Modi government plans to spend $6.2 billion to create new forests through the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015, which has been passed by lawmakers in India's lower house this week. The bill aims to increase India's forest cover from 21.34% of the total land to 33%. Where does the money come from? It comes from private companies and various "other entities" who paid fees to the Indian government since 2006 for allowing them to set up projects on forest land. The bill proposes local state governments be provided 90% of the accumulated funds, with 10% left with the central government. "Our forest cover will dramatically increase and it will result in achieving our target 33% of tree cover and most importantly 2.5 billion tonne of carbon sink as we have indicated in our intended nationally determined contributions (INDC)," India's environmental minister, Prakash Javadekar said on May 3rd. Naturally, some experts are concerned with how appropriately the funds will be used, as well as how exactly the government will develop forests on alternate land. According to Quartz, "Since 1980, the environment ministry has approved the diversion of 1.29 million hectares of forestlands for non-forestry purposes, according to a study by CSE." India's comptroller and auditor general has expressed his dissatisfaction with the ministry's failure to grow forests on alternative land in a report in 2013.
Scientists Grow Two-Week-Old Human Embryos In Lab For The First Time
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According to Reuters, "Using a culture method previously tested to grow mouse embryos outside of a mother, the teams were able to conduct almost hour by hour observations of human embryo development to see how they develop and organize themselves up to day 13."

Brave new world, here we come

From the report: "The work, covered in two studies published on Wednesday in the journal Nature and Nature Cell Biology, showed how the cells that will eventually form the human body self-organize into the basic structure of a post-implantation human embryo. As well as advancing human biology expertise, the knowledge gained from studying these developments should help to improve in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments and further progress in the field of regenerative medicine, the researchers said. But the research also raises the issue of an international law banning scientists from developing human embryos beyond 14 days, and suggests this limit may have to be reviewed. 'Longer cultures could provide absolutely critical information for basic human biology,' said researcher Zernicka-Goetz. 'But this would of course raise the next question - of where we should put the next limit.'"
Half Of Teens Think They're Addicted To Their Smartphones
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A new poll confirms just how much teens depend on their phones. Fifty percent of teens feel they are addicted to their mobile devices, according to the poll, which was conducted for Common Sense Media, a nonprofit focused on helping children, parents, teachers and policymakers negotiate media and technology. A larger number of parents, 59%, said their teens were addicted. The poll involved 1,240 interviews with parents and their children, ages 12 to 18. "Technological addiction can happen to anyone," said digital detox expert Holland Haiis. "If your teens would prefer gaming indoors, alone, as opposed to going out to the movies, meeting friends for burgers or any of the other ways that teens build camaraderie, you may have a problem."
Medical Errors Are Number 3 Cause of US Deaths, Researchers Say
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A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine says medical errors should rank as the third-leading cause of death in the United States -- and highlights how shortcomings in tracking vital statistics may hinder research and keep the problem out of the public eye. The authors, led by Johns Hopkins surgeon Dr. Martin Makary, call for changes in death certificates to better tabulate fatal lapses in care. In an open letter, they urge the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to immediately add medical errors to its annual list reporting the top causes of death. Based on an analysis of prior research, the Johns Hopkins study estimates that more than 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. On the CDC's official list, that would rank just behind heart disease and cancer, which each took about 600,000 lives in 2014, and in front of respiratory disease, which caused about 150,000 deaths. Medical mistakes that can lead to death range from surgical complications that go unrecognized to mix-ups with the doses or types of medications patients receive. The study was published Tuesday in The BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal.
Biotech Company To Attempt Revitalizing Nervous Systems of Brain-Dead Patients
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A groundbreaking trial to see if it is possible to regenerate the brains of dead people, has won approval from health watchdogs. A biotech company called BioQuark in the U.S. has been granted ethical permission to recruit 20 patients who have been declared clinically dead from a traumatic brain injury, to test whether parts of their central nervous system can be brought back to life. Scientists will use a combination of therapies, which include injecting the brain with stem cells and a cocktail of peptides, as well as deploying lasers and nerve stimulation techniques which have been shown to bring patients out of comas. The trial participants will have been certified dead and only kept alive through life support. They will be monitored for several months using brain imaging equipment to look for signs of regeneration, particularly in the upper spinal cord -- the lowest region of the brain stem which controls independent breathing and heartbeat.
Oceans Could Soon Not Have Enough Oxygen To Support Marine Life
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As the climate continues to change in response to the increasing amount of carbon humans pump into the atmosphere, the oceans are being particularly hard hit from melting Arctic sea ice, acidification, and warming surface temperatures. Yet those are not the only difficulties that marine life has to deal with, as a new study reports that the oceans are also losing oxygen. As the majority of marine life relies on the oxygen dissolved in the oceans, it is worrying that noticeable differences have been observed in the gas concentrations in the world's waters. The reduction in oxygen will have profound effects on ocean biodiversity, though as the study published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles shows, not all regions will be affected in the same way or over the same period of time.

"Loss of oxygen in the ocean is one of the serious side effects of a warming atmosphere, and a major threat to marine life," said lead author Matthew Long of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "Since oxygen concentrations in the ocean naturally vary depending on variations in winds and temperature at the surface, it's been challenging to attribute any deoxygenation to climate change. This new study tells us when we can expect the impact from climate change to overwhelm the natural variability."
Australia: VPN Users Aren't Breaching Copyright
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The Australian Government Productivity Commission in a draft report recommended that Australian consumers should be able to legally circumvent geoblocking restrictions that have prevented them from using foreign online streaming services like Netflix, and that the Australian Government needs to send a clear message that it is not an infringement of copyright for consumers to be able evade geoblocking technology. Karen Chester, a commissioner with the Productivity Commission, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that geoblocking restrictions have the opposite effect of encouraging internet piracy. "Making copyright material more accessible and more competitively priced online, and not geoblocking, is the best antidote to copyright infringement."

In probably related news, Australia topped the list of countries who illegally downloaded the Game Of Thrones season six premiere, this week.
House Passes Email Privacy Act, Requiring Warrants For Obtaining Emails
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The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 699, the Email Privacy Act, sending it on to the Senate and from there, hopefully anyhow, to the President. The yeas were swift and unanimous. The bill, which was introduced in the House early last year and quickly found bipartisan support, updates the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, closing a loophole that allowed emails and other communications to be obtained without a warrant. It's actually a good law, even if it is arriving a couple of decades late. "Under current law, there are more protections for a letter in a filing cabinet than an email on a server," said Congresswoman Suzan Delbene during the debate period. An earlier version of the bill also required that authorities disclose that warrant to the person it affected within 10 days, or 3 if the warrant related to a government entity. That clause was taken out in committee -- something trade groups and some of the Representatives objected to as an unpleasant compromise.
Half Of Americans Think Presidential Nominating System 'Rigged'
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More than half of American voters believe that the system U.S. political parties use to pick their candidates for the White House is "rigged" and more than two-thirds want to see the process changed. The results echo complaints from Republican front-runner Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders that the system is stacked against them in favor of candidates with close ties to their parties -- a critique that has triggered a nationwide debate over whether the process is fair. The United States is one of just a handful of countries that gives regular voters any say in who should make it onto the presidential ballot. But the state-by-state system of primaries, caucuses and conventions is complex. The contests historically were always party events, and while the popular vote has grown in influence since the mid-20th century, the parties still have considerable sway.
US Begins Dropping 'Cyberbombs' On ISIS
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In what appears to be a significant shift in its tactic to battle against the terrorist organization, the U.S. has begun launching cyberattacks against ISIS (non-paywall link). The New York Times reports that the Department of Defense's Cyber Command unit is mounting cyberattacks against the terrorist organization. The Cyber Command unit aims to stop the organization from spreading its message. The Times reports:

The goal of the new campaign is to disrupt the ability of the Islamic State to spread its message, attract new adherents, circulate orders from commanders and carry out day-to-day functions, like paying its fighters. A benefit of the administration's exceedingly rare public discussion of the campaign, officials said, is to rattle the Islamic State's commanders, who have begun to realize that sophisticated hacking efforts are manipulating their data. Potential recruits may also be deterred if they come to worry about the security of their communications with the militant group. "We are dropping cyberbombs," Robert O. Work, deputy secretary of defense said. "We have never done that before."
British Astronaut Competes in London Marathon from ISS
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British astronaut Tim Peake became the first man to complete a marathon in space on Sunday, running the classic 26.2 mile distance while strapped to a treadmill aboard the International Space Station..." reports Reuters. "The 44-year-old spaceman saw London's roads under his feet in real time on an iPad as, 250 miles below him, more than 37,000 runners simultaneously pounded the streets." Meanwhile, in a show of solidarity, two earth-bound runners ran the marathon wearing space suits.

CNN notes that Peake "ran the race for real in 1999," but this time competed with avatars that represented actual runners who were using the Run Social app. His zero-gravity run took longer -- more than three and a half hours -- while a Kenyan runner ultimately won the race, completing the whole 26.2-mile course in just two hours, three minutes and four seconds, the second-fastest time ever recorded.
Drone Fire-Fighting Tested in Nebraska
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Friday Researchers at the University of Nebraska flew a drone over a prairie test site, dropping small containers the size of ping-pong balls to ignite controlled fires. "The fires clear out brush to make it easier to control wildfires on the prairie," reports the Associated Press, citing a National Park Service spokesperson who believes it could help clear overgrown vegetation in hard-to-reach areas. "The technology is already used by helicopters to start controlled burns," reports the AP, "but researchers note that the drone is cheaper and more portable. 'You could afford one of these on the back of your fire truck, whereas you probably can't afford to have a full-sized helicopter parked at your fire station,' said Carrick Detweiler, a member of the Nebraska research team."

One engineering professor tells the AP, "Imagine them having this in their backpack, pulling it out and telling it, 'Hey, go scout out there. Check whether it's hot. Check whether it's safe..." And this Omaha news site has video footage of the drone fire-fighting test.
Drones are the new UFOs.
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The drone that reportedly hit a British Airways jet earlier this week may have actually been a plastic bag, a minister has said. Transport minister Robert Goodwill admitted authorities had not yet confirmed whether what struck the Airbus A320 was a remote-controlled device. The collision on Sunday night is believed to have been at around 1,700 ft near Richmond Park in south west London, over four times higher than the legal height limit. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch is investigating, alongside the Metropolitan Police. But following his comments today, Mr Goodwill also dismissed calls for tighter rules on drone use to protect against terror threats insisting current rules governing drone use were strong enough.

From a Quartz report:

Motherboard's Jason Koebler dove into the data the FAA released last August dove into the data the FAA released last August, and found that, among other things, "a 'large vulture,' a 'fast moving gray object,' a 'mini blimp,' a 'red UAS or balloon,' and 'a UFO' were all classified as drones in the FAA's report." This led him to decide that, when it comes to verifiable sightings -- even from trained pilots -- "drones are the new UFOs."
Tubman replacing Jackson on the $20 a deeply symbolic move
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Growing up in Oklahoma, Becky Hobbs noticed some of her Cherokee elders wouldn't even touch a $20 bill because they so despised Andrew Jackson. To this day, the 66-year-old songwriter pokes him in the face whenever she gets one.

For Hobbs and many other Native Americans, the U.S. Treasury's decision to replace Jackson's portrait with Harriet Tubman's is a hugely meaningful change.
VC, Entrepreneur Says Basic Income Would Work Even If 90% People 'Smoked Pot' and Didn't Work
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The chief complaint people lodge at universal basic income -- a form of income distribution that gives people money to cover basic needs regardless of whether they work or not -- is that it'll make them lazy. Sam Altman doesn't buy it. In a recent episode of the Freakonomics podcast, entitled "Is the World Ready for a Guaranteed Basic Income?" Altman argued basic income could support huge amounts of productivity loss and still carry the economy on its shoulders. "Maybe 90% of people will go smoke pot and play video games, but if 10% of the people go create incredible new products and services and new wealth, that's still a huge net-win," Altman says. "And the American puritanical ideal that hard work for its own sake is valuable -- period -- and that you can't question that, I think that's just wrong." [...] The complaint Altman addressed on the Freakonomics podcast is a common one. Study after study, however, has shown that giving people extra money makes them feel financially secure. That security ends up leading to empowerment, not de-motivation.
US Treasury To Feature Harriet Tubman On $20 Bill
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Harriet Tubman will become the first African-American woman to be featured on the face of U.S. paper currency in more than a century. Tubman was born a slave and went on to become an anti-slavery crusader. Ironically, she will be replacing Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the U.S. and a slave owner. According to Wikipedia, "Jackson held as many as 44 [slaves] by 1820, and later held up to 150 slaves, making him among planter elite. Throughout his lifetime Jackson may have owned as many as 300 slaves." The decision to feature a woman on a bill started in part from a young girl's letter to President Obama about the lack of women on U.S. currency. A social media campaign "Women on 20s" then began pushing for a woman to replace Jackson on the currency early last year. Originally, the department announced it would feature a woman on the $10 bill instead of Alexander Hamilton. Now it's being reported Hamilton will stay on the front of the bill with a group of women on the back of it. Civil rights era leaders will reportedly be depicted in the new $5 bill.
Senate Passes Bipartisan Energy Bill To Develop New Technologies, Improve Cybersecurity
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The U.S. Senate acted in a bipartisan fashion to pass a sweeping energy bill, touching on everything from cybersecurity for power plants to the future of the grid. The bill resulted from collaboration between Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell. The bill, if it merges with House legislation and becomes law, would unleash billions in research and development on new energy technologies, including energy storage, hydrokinetic and marine energy and advancing the electric grid. Many of these initiatives have substantial aisle-crossing appeal, and some could, at least indirectly, help address the problem of climate change. The bill also reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and contains provisions promoting more research on the sequestering of carbon emissions from coal burning and hastening the approval of pipelines and liquefied natural gas exports. The bill, said Alliance to Save Energy president Kateri Callahan, "not only saves homeowners and businesses money and creates jobs, but it also has a huge environmental return by avoiding 1.5 billion tons of carbon emissions. Energy efficiency truly is a win-win-win for our country, making our economy more energy productive, protecting our environment and enhancing our energy security."
Almost Nothing About the 'Apple Harvests Gold From iPhones' Story Is True
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You may have seen a viral headline floating around over the last few days: Apple recycled $40 million worth of gold last year, which was extracted from iPhones. Almost none of what was reported is true. [...] Here is the truth: Apple paid independent recyclers to recycle old electronics -- which were almost never Apple products, by the way -- because it's required by law to do so. Far from banking $40 million on the prospect, Apple likely ended up taking an overall monetary loss. This is not because Apple is a bad actor or is hiding anything, it's simply how the industry works. All electronics manufacturers that sell products in the United States are required to do e-waste recycling under laws enacted in 25 states. The laws are different in each state, but none of them require Apple to recycle Apple products. Instead, they usually require manufacturers to recycle a certain amount of pounds of e-waste, which is linked to either their market share or to the overall weight of products they sell. That's why you see Apple noting that it recycled "71 percent of the total weight of products we sold seven years earlier."
Ford Spent $200,000 To Dissect a Limited-Edition Tesla Model X
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Ford Motor paid a sum of $199,950 ($55,000 more than the retail price) to buy one of the first sport utility vehicles made by Tesla Motors, reports Bloomberg, citing vehicle registration documents. The white Model X is a Founders Series with a vehicle identification number indicating it was the 64th one made at Tesla's factory in Fremont, California. The vehicle, with Michigan plates, has been spotted recently in the Detroit area. Automakers often buy cars made by competitors for road testing and for 'tear-downs' to reveal components and materials and how they're put together. But it's unusual to pay such a high price -- almost $212,000 after Michigan sales tax and title -- for such an early model.

Well, this $200,000 could shave off hundreds of thousands of dollars in research and development.
Can Switzerland Become a Safe Haven For the World's Data?
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An article on Daily Dot which lists a number of reasons why Switzerland should be deemed as the nation for storing all of your data. The article reads: As United States and European Union regulators debate a sweeping new data-privacy agreement, Switzerland is presenting itself as a viable neutral location for storing the world's data thanks to strict privacy laws and ideal infrastructure. The Swiss constitution guarantees data privacy under Article 13. The country's laws protecting privacy are similar to those enacted by the E.U. Swiss data protections are also, in some cases, much stricter than those of the E.U., according to Nicola Benz, attorney at Swiss law firm Froriep. And since Switzerland is not part of the E.U., data stored there remains outside the reach of the union's authorities. [...] The country's tight privacy laws could make the small nation more attractive to privacy-focused start-ups. And it already has that momentum. After the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden 2013 revelations about the National Security Agency's secret surveillance activities, Switzerland witnessed something of a boom in its data-center business. Phil Zimmermann, creator of the popular PGP encryption protocol and founder of Silent Circle, even left the U.S. for Switzerland last year, citing the overreach of American authorities. Andy Yen, CEO of Swiss-based encrypted email service Protonmail, said that the country has robust processes in how it carries out data requests from authorities. Data requests have to go through a court like in most countries, said Yen, but "the person that's having their data requested needs to be notified eventually about the request happening and there's an opportunity to fight it in an open court. This is quite different than the U.S., where things can go through a so-called FISA court."
Court Troubled By Surveillance Excesses At FBI, NSA
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In a just-released court opinion, a federal court judge overseeing government surveillance programs said he was "extremely concerned" about a series of incidents in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency deviated from court-approved limits on their snooping activities. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge Thomas Hogan sharply criticized the two agencies over the episodes, referred to by intelligence gatherers as "compliance incidents." He also raised concerns that the government had taken years to bring the NSA-related issues to the court's attention and he said that delay might have run afoul of the government's duty of candor to the court. Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice to reveal whether or not they ever forced a company to provide technical surveillance assistance in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Warmest March In Global Recordkeeping
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March 2016 was by far the planet's warmest March since record keeping began in 1880. In the NOAA database, March 2016 came in a full 1.22C (2.20F) warmer than the 20th-century average for March, as well as 0.32C (0.58F) above the previous record for March, set in 2010. This is a huge margin for breaking a monthly global temperature record, as they are typically broken by just a few hundredths of a degree. Global satellite-measured temperatures also found this March to be the warmest -- the sixth consecutive monthly record in the UAH satellite data set. Gavin Schmidt, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies has estimated that 2016 already has over a 99% chance of being the hottest year on record, based on the first three months alone.
Netflix Has Twice As Many US Subscribers As Comcast
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You want to hear a staggering statistic? Netflix has more than twice as many U.S. subscribers as Comcast. Netflix USA writes, "According to [Comcast's] Q4 report, Comcast ended 2015 with 22,347,000 video subscribers. Netflix's own shareholder report listed their U.S. membership base at 44,740,000 strong. That's 100.2% more than Comcast -- a staggering statistic." It's impressive to see how quick the Netflix subscriber base has grown just in the past five years from around 20 million subscribers to nearly 45 million subscribers. What's also interesting to reflect on is the two different business models. Netflix USA writes, "Netflix makes its money off of a lot of subscribers paying about $10 a month each, while Comcast charges far fewer customers far more."
Obama Urges Opening Cable TV Boxes To Competition
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President Obama is publicly supporting the FCC's proposal to help viewers buy cable boxes to spur competition and help subscribers save money. Basically, the proposal would require TV channels to sell their content to third-party groups, like Google and others who would sell their own devices. The president's backing of the FCC proposal is part of a broader White House initiative to spur competition. In a Yahoo News interview, Obama compared the cable box issue to earlier moves by the government to open up the telephone system in the 1980's. Obama said, "Across the board, if we have more players who can potentially participate, fewer barriers to entry, the rules aren't rigged, then you get more people trying to get your business and you get better products at cheaper prices."
Apple's Recycling Initiatives Recover $40 Million In Gold
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Apple released its latest annual environmental report yesterday with numbers detailing how much the company has been able to recover from old devices. Business Insider notes that Apple was able to recover over 61 million pounds of steel, aluminum, glass, and other materials from its computers and iPhones. This includes a total of 2,204 pounds of gold worth $40 million at current prices ($1,229.80 per troy ounce of gold). Cult of Mac ran the figures quoted by Apple through today's metal prices, and came up with individual figures for copper ($6.4 million), aluminum ($3.2 million), silver ($1.6 million), nickel ($160,426), zinc ($109,503), and lead ($33,999).

Last month, Apple unveiled an iPhone recycling robot, named Liam, that salvages old parts.
Billions of Cicadas Are About to Invade the Northeast
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Northeast residents may feel like they've been waiting forever for temperatures to rise enough so they can finally put away their winter coats. But that's nothing compared to the billions of Brood V cicadas that have been waiting since 1999 for the spring of 2016 to arrive, so they can finally emerge from the ground and start making some noise. Expect the ruckus to begin next month and last several weeks.
Report: US Government Worse Than All Major Industries On Cyber Security
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U.S. federal, state and local government agencies rank in last place in cyber security when compared against 17 major private industries, including transportation, retail and healthcare, according to a new report released Thursday. The analysis, from venture-backed security risk benchmarking startup SecurityScorecard, measured the relative security health of government and industries across 10 categories, including vulnerability to malware infections, exposure rates of passwords and susceptibility to social engineering, such as an employee using corporate account information on a public social network. Educations, telecommunications and pharmaceutical industries also ranked low, the report found. Information services, construction, food and technology were among the top performers. And we are supposed to trust them with healthcare?

This report comes after President Obama recently unveiled a commission of private, public and academic experts to bolster the U.S. cyber security sector.
Microsoft Sues US Justice Department, Asks Court To Declare Secrecy Orders Unconstitutional
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Microsoft is suing the U.S. Justice Department, asking a federal judge to declare unconstitutional a provision of U.S. law that lets the government keep Microsoft and other tech companies from informing their customers when investigators seek access to emails and other cloud data. The suit, filed moments ago in U.S. District Court in Seattle, targets Section 2705(b) of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which allows the government to seek and obtain secrecy orders preventing companies from letting their customers know when their data is the target of a federal warrant, subpoena or court order. Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, recently criticized the 30-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act as outdated during his testimony in February before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee -- bringing along IBM's first laptop, released the same year, to help illustrate his point.

Microsoft argues that these "indefinite gag orders" violate the First Amendment rights to inform customers. Furthermore, the company adds that the law also "flouts" the Fourth Amendment, which requires the government to give a notice to the concerned person when his or her property is being searched or seized. "This is a First Amendment fight that needed to get picked and I'm glad Microsoft picked it. Just as in the real world with physical seizures, secrecy in digital seizures should be the exception and not the rule. Yet as the Microsoft complaint shows, it's receiving thousands of law enforcement gag orders every year and more than two-thirds of them are eternal gags with no end data," said Kevin Bankston, internet freedom advocate and digital rights lawyer. "This is clearly unconstitutional, yet with so many orders per year, it makes sense to strike at the root with a facial challenge to the law rather than try and challenge them all individually. And based on previous similar cases around gag orders in national security cases, I think they'll succeed in striking this overbroad law down."
Consensus On Consensus: Climate Experts Agree On Human-Caused Global Warming
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There is an overwhelming expert scientific consensus on human-caused global warming. Authors of seven previous climate consensus studies -- including Naomi Oreskes, Peter Doran, William Anderegg, Bart Verheggen, Ed Maibach, J. Stuart Carlton, John Cook, [Dana Nuccitelli] and six of her colleagues -- have co-authored a new paper that should settle this question once and for all. The two key conclusions from the paper are: 1) Depending on exactly how you measure the expert consensus, it's somewhere between 90% and 100% that agree humans are responsible for climate change, with most of our studies finding 97% consensus among publishing climate scientists. 2) The greater the climate expertise among those surveyed, the higher the consensus on human-caused global warming.

Quoted from IOPscience:
Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming. The consensus that humans are causing recent global warming is shared by 90%-100% of publishing climate scientists according to six independent studies by co-authors of this paper. Those results are consistent with the 97% consensus reported by Cook et al based on 11 944 abstracts of research papers, of which 4014 took a position on the cause of recent global warming. A survey of authors of those papers also supported a 97% consensus. Tol comes to a different conclusion using results from surveys of non-experts such as economic geologists and a self-selected group of those who reject the consensus. We demonstrate that this outcome is not unexpected because the level of consensus correlates with expertise in climate science. At one point, Tol also reduces the apparent consensus by assuming that abstracts that do not explicitly state the cause of global warming ('no position') represent non-endorsement, an approach that if applied elsewhere would reject consensus on well-established theories such as plate tectonics. We examine the available studies and conclude that the finding of 97% consensus in published climate research is robust and consistent with other surveys of climate scientists and peer-reviewed studies.
'Neural Bypass' Links Brain To Hand To Get Around Paralysis
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People who are paralyzed from a spinal cord injury still generate movement commands in their brains, but those commands can't travel down their spinal cords and peripheral nerves to reach their muscles. So biomedical engineers came up with a "neural bypass" to route brain signals around the roadblock. The system has just been demonstrated by a human patient for the first time. The patient has a brain implant to record signals from his motor cortex which are sent to a computer, where a decoder algorithm figures out which signals correspond to which specific imagined movements. It then sends a command to a sleeve of electrodes the patient wears on his forearm, which stimulates his muscles in precise patterns to produce the desired hand movement. The patient has already poured from a bottle, stirred with a swizzle stick, swiped a credit card, and played Guitar Hero.
Dream job alert: Legoland is hiring model builders
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Do you have "LEGO building experience" and "a good knowledge of LEGO parts"? Then you might qualify for the job of your childhood dreams: building stuff for Legoland attractions around the world.
House Panel Approves Bill To Protect Older Email From Gov't Snooping
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A key House panel voted Wednesday to pass an email privacy bill that would stop the government from being able to read Americans' old emails without a warrant. The House Judiciary Committee voted 28-0 to approve the Email Privacy Act, a bipartisan bill that would replace a 1986 law that allows government investigators to peruse emails at will if the communications are at least six months old. The bill would require federal officials to obtain a warrant before they can read or view emails, texts, photos or instant messages -- regardless of when the data was sent. "Today is a great day for not only the Fourth Amendment advocates who have fought long and hard to move the Email Privacy Act, but also for all Americans, who are one step closer to having private and secure digital communications," said Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., the lead sponsor of the bill along with Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo.
Surveillance Cameras Sold On Amazon Found Infected With Malware
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Security researcher Mike Olsen has warned that some products sold through the Amazon marketplace are harboring a dark secret -- malware. Olsen said in a blog post that while scouring Amazon for a decent set of outdoor surveillance cameras for a friend, he came across a deal for 6 PoE cameras and recording equipment. The seller, Urban Security Group, had generally good reviews and was offering a particular Sony setup on sale. After purchasing the kit, Olsen started setting up the surveillance system, logging into the administrator panel to configure it. [...] Upon investigation, Olsen found that the device was talking to a server with hostname, which is linked to malware distribution. If the device's firmware links to this domain, malware can be downloaded and installed, potentially leading to unlawful surveillance and data theft.

Perhaps the company which made the device didn't realize its source code was compromised. While the aforementioned incident should serve as a reminder to people on why they need to be wary of the product they are purchasing, this isolated occurrence doesn't prove in any way that "plenty" of cameras on Amazon are also infected, as the article and the original blog post are subtly trying to imply.
SpaceX Delivers World's First Inflatable Room For Astronauts
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The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship which launched from Cape Canaveral on Friday delivered the world's first inflatable room for astronauts. It arrived at the ISS on Sunday after station astronauts used a robot arm to capture the Dragon, orbiting 250 miles above Earth. The compartment should swell to the size of a small bedroom once filled with air next month. It will be attached to the space station this Saturday, but won't be inflated until the end of May. NASA envisions inflatable habitats in a couple decades at Mars, while Bigelow Aerospace aims to launch a pair of inflatable space stations in just four years for commercial lease. Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) will be restricted from the six on-board astronauts while NASA tests the chamber to see how it performs.

The rocket used to launch the cargo ship successfully landed on a floating drone ship for the first time ever. It was the second time SpaceX successfully landed one of its rockets post-launch; the first time was in December, when the company's Falcon 9 rocket touched down at a ground-based landing site at Cape Canaveral, Florida, after putting a satellite into space.
New Bipedal Robot Demoed by Google X Company
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SCHAFT, one of eight robotic companies in the Alphabet/Google X research facility, has unveiled a new armless bipedal robot which can climb stairs and carry up to 132 pounds, reports The one-meter tall robot "is essentially a pair of almost entirely straight legs which pivot from the top," and the robot can walk on snow or uneven surfaces, even staying upright while researchers tried to trip it. The as-yet-unnamed robot was introduced during a keynote address at the New Economic Summit in Tokyo given by Android Inc. co-founder Andy Rubin (who left Google 18 months ago). A SCHAFT spokesperson later added that the presentation wasn't a product announcement. "The team was simply delighted to have a chance to show their latest progress."
PlayStation Employee Designs Custom Controller For Gamer With Cerebral Palsy
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A Sony employee created a custom PlayStation controller for a 21-year-old gamer with cerebral palsy. "I honestly got choked up reading the letter..." gamer Peter Byrne told 9News. "Mr Nawabi really cared about my situation and did this on his own time to make my experience better." On his old PlayStation 4 controller, Byrne kept inadvertently pausing the game whenever his left hand hit the touchpad. "It killed me to hear how something you used to enjoy thoroughly was being ruined because of our new controller design," Sony's Alex Nawabi wrote back in a letter, including a new controller with the original touchpad re-rerouted to the back. Nawabi spent 10 hours assembling parts from three different controllers, adding "Since I've torn the controller apart to modify it, the warranty is no longer valid... I'm not sure how long this will last." But Nawabi promised that he's already planning to also build one more replacement controller.
Making Salt Water Drinkable Just Got 99 Percent Easier
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Access to steady supplies of clean water is getting more and more difficult in the developing world, especially as demand skyrockets. In response, many countries have turned to the sea for potable fluids but existing reverse osmosis plants rely on complicated processes that are expensive and energy-intensive to operate. Good thing, engineers at Lockheed Martin have just announced a newly-developed salt filter that could reduce desalinization energy costs by 99 percent.
Despite Lean Space Budgets Russia Is Headed For the Moon
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Thanks to the collapse of oil prices that has ravaged the Russian economy, dependent as it is on fossil fuel exports, Russia's space program is facing draconian budget cuts... Still, the country that lost the race to the moon still has ambitious plans for Earth's closest neighbor... The Russians even have hopes of landing cosmonauts on the lunar surface by the end of the 2020s.

New evidence of subsurface ice helped fuel their interest in human moon landings, according to Science magazine, which reports that Russia is first planning five robotic missions to the moon over the next nine years. Three of these will be conducted with the European Space Agency, including one which will drill for underground samples in the new areas of the lunar surface, and the director of Russia's space agency says "the next decade will be quite busy for us."
Senate Bill Draft Would Prohibit Unbreakable Encryption
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A draft version of a Senate bill would effectively prohibit unbreakable encryption and require companies to help the government access data on a computer or mobile device with a warrant."

The two Senators finalizing the bill announced "No individual or company is above the law," saying their goal is to ensure compliance with court orders to help law enforcement or to provide decrypted information. The ACLU's legislative counsel argued the drafted legislation represents a "clear threat to everyone's privacy and security," and the bill is opposed by another member of the Senate committee, Ron Wyden, who says it would require "American companies to build a backdoor... They would be required by federal law per this statute to decide how to weaken their products to make Americans less safe."
Every Voter In The Philippines Exposed In Massive Data Breach
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The database of the Philippine Commission on Elections has been breached and the personal information of 55 million voters potentially exposed in what could rank as the worst ever government data breach anywhere," according to Infosecurity Magazine.

The magazine attributes an initial web site breach to Anonymous, who were reportedly trying to persuade the commission to enable more security features on their automated vote-counting system before upcoming national elections on May 9. A second group named LulzSec Pilipinas then later posted the entire voter database online.

Trend Micro wrote that "Every registered voter in the Philippines is now susceptible to fraud and other risks after a massive data breach leaked the entire database of the Philippines' Commission on Elections." They report that the breached data even included 15.8 million fingerprint records, as well as 1.3 million records for overseas Filipino voters, including their passports' numbers and expiration dates, all stored in plain text.
New Metal Foam Armor Obliterates Bullets To Dust On Impact
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Discovery Magazine reports that researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a super strong armor material that literally turns bullets to dust upon impact. The armor plating is made in part from composite metal foams, or CMFs, which are both lighter and stronger than traditional metal plating used in body and vehicle armor. The armor -- only an inch thick -- features a ceramic strike face, Kevlar backing, and CMFs in the energy-absorbing middle layer. "We could stop the bullet at a total thickness of less than an inch, while the indentation on the back was less than 8 millimeters," says Afsaneh Rabiei. "To put that in context, the NIJ standard allows up to 44 millimeters indentation in the back of an armor." CMFs are very effective at shielding X-rays, gamma rays and neutron radiation. Other applications include space exploration and shipping nuclear waste which both require a material to be not only light and strong, but also capable of withstanding extremely high temperatures and blocking radiation. A video shows a 7.62 x 63 millimeter M2 armor-piercing projectile that was fired using standard testing procedures established by the Department of Justice for evaluating armor types
CIA's Venture Capital Arm Is Funding Skin Care Products That Collect DNA
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The Intercept reports that Skincential Sciences, whose main product line is Clearista, has attracted media coverage because its "innovative line of cosmetic products marketed as a way to erase blemishes and soften skin" are funded by In-Q-Tel, a venture capital arm of the CIA. According to Russ Lebovitz, the chief executive of Skincential Sciences, the CIA fund told him they share an interest in looking at DNA extraction from "normal skin" using the method pioneered by his company.

Lebovitz said he was unsure of the intent of the CIA's use of the technology, but the fund was "specifically interested in the diagnostics, detecting DNA from normal skin." He added, "There's no better identifier than DNA, and we know we can pull out DNA." Perhaps law enforcement could use the biomarker extraction technique for crime scene identification or could conduct drug tests, Lebovitz suggested.
SpaceX Successfully Lands Its Rocket On A Floating Drone Ship For The First Time
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SpaceX has finally landed its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship at sea, after launching the vehicle into space this afternoon. It's the first time the company has been able to pull off an ocean landing, after four previous attempts ended in failure. This is the second time SpaceX has successfully landed one of its rockets post-launch; the first time was in December, when the company's Falcon 9 rocket touched down at a ground-based landing site in Cape Canaveral, Florida, after putting a satellite into space. Now that SpaceX has demonstrated it can do both types of landings, the company can potentially recover and reuse even more rockets in the future. And that could mean much greater cost savings for SpaceX.
Most Netflix Customers Don't Realize Prices Will Increase Next Month
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Millions of Netflix customers are about to start paying more to stream their favorite movies and TV shows -- and chances are, they don't even realize it. In May 2014, Netflix raised the price of its standard streaming plan for new subscribers, to $9.99 a month. However, the price hike did not apply to existing customers, who were grandfathered into their current rates of $7.99 a month for a two-stream, HD plan, Business Insider reported. Unfortunately, the good times are about to end for this customer base, which analysts estimate at about 17 million people, or 37% of Netflix's U.S. subscribers. In May, all grandfathered customers will be required to fork over $9.99 to continue to watch Netflix. Even worse, about 80% of those who will be affected by the price increase did not realize it was coming, according to research from JP Morgan.
Monster Black Holes May Lurk All Around Us
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Astronomers have stumbled upon a supermassive black hole in an unexpected corner of the Universe, implying these galactic monsters are much more common than once thought, a study said Wednesday. The giant, with an estimated mass 17 billion times that of our Sun, was discovered in a relative desert, astronomers from the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in the journal Nature. "While finding a gigantic black hole in a massive galaxy in a crowded area of the Universe is to be expected -- like running across a skyscraper in Manhattan -- it seemed less likely they could be found in the Universe's small towns," said a university statement. Big, star-rich galaxies where supermassive black holes had previously been found, are very rare. Smaller ones like the NGC 1600 galaxy housing the newly-discovered whopper, are much more common, but were not previously thought to be appropriate host. "So the question now is: 'Is this the tip of an iceberg?'" said study co-author Chung-Pei Ma. "Maybe there are a lot more monster black holes out there that don't live in a skyscraper in Manhattan, but in a tall building somewhere in the Midwestern plains." The largest supermassive black hole spotted to date tipped the scales at about 21 billion solar masses, said the study authors.
Quanta LTE Router May Be Most Unsecure Router Ever Made
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LTE routers made by Quanta Computer Incorporated, a Taiwanese hardware manufacturer, are plagued by over twenty major security flaws ranging from backdoor accounts to remote code execution bugs, from hardcoded SSH keys to undocumented diagnostics pages, and from weak WPS PINs to network eavesdropping functions. As the researcher explains: "A personal point of view: at best, the vulnerabilities are due to incompetence; at worst, it is a deliberate act of security sabotage from the vendor." The vendor has not fixed any of these issues even after almost four months.
New State of Matter Detected in a Two-Dimensional Material
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An international team of researchers have found evidence of a mysterious new state of matter, first predicted 40 years ago, in a real material. This state, known as a quantum spin liquid, causes electrons -- thought to be indivisible building blocks of nature -- to break into pieces. The researchers, including physicists from the University of Cambridge, measured the first signatures of these fractional particles, known as Majorana fermions, in a two-dimensional material with a structure similar to graphene. Their experimental results successfully matched with one of the main theoretical models for a quantum spin liquid, known as a Kitaev model. The results are reported in the journal Nature Materials. Quantum spin liquids are mysterious states of matter which are thought to be hiding in certain magnetic materials, but had not been conclusively sighted in nature. The observation of one of their most intriguing properties -- electron splitting, or fractionalisation -- in real materials is a breakthrough. The resulting Majorana fermions may be used as building blocks of quantum computers, which would be far faster than conventional computers and would be able to perform calculations that could not be done otherwise.
The Spread of Ignorance
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BBC Future has just published an interesting article on Robert Proctor, a science historian from Stanford University, who studies how people or companies with vested interests spread ignorance and obfuscate knowledge. The spread of ignorance follows certain patterns, whether it is about tobacco or climate change. 'Proctor found that ignorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups -- like a commercial firm or a political group - then work hard to create confusion about an issue. In the case of ignorance about tobacco and climate change, a scientifically illiterate society will probably be more susceptible to the tactics used by those wishing to confuse and cloud the truth.'
On Cybersecurity, Execs Are Burying Their Heads In the Sand
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Despite increased spending on cybersecurity, most executives are unprepared, even willfully ignorant, of the threats that could damage their businesses. A survey of 1,530 C-level executives across of range of industries found a widespread feeling that cybersecurity is an "IT problem," even as CEOs personally shoulder the consequences for breaches. "The Target breach was one of the more significant ones: Executives can be held accountable," says David Damato, chief security officer at Tanium. "But there's still that disconnect. Executives still struggle with: 'What should I be looking for?'"
AT&T Caps Are A Giant Con And An Attack On Cord-Cutters
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Following a report from DSLReports that ATT would be imposing usage caps on the company's U-Verse broadband customers, ATT has announced it would now be following Comcast's lead by "allowing" users to pay $30 more a month if they wanted to avoid usage caps entirely. However, ATT has taken it to a new level by "allowing" users to graciously avoid the $30 fee -- if they subscribe to DirecTV or U-Verse TV service. These data caps allow ISPs like ATT and Comcast to cash in on internet video and make cord-cutting less viable by making streaming more expensive. And now, ATT is using caps to force users to subscribe to traditional TV if they want their broadband connection to work like it used to.
Toshiba Recalls More Than 100,000 Faulty Laptop Batteries
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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a recall for over 100,000 Toshiba laptop battery packs after several serious reports. Toshiba, which says it shipped the affected battery module in 39 models of Toshiba Protege, Satellite, Tecra between mid-2011 and early 2016, urges users to check the model number of the battery on their laptop. Defective battery packs have part numbers beginning with G71C (G71C*******). The company has also issued battery replacement instructions for the recall, as well as made available a tool which will help you determine if your battery is part of the recall.
Over 1,400 Vulnerabilities Found In Automated Medical Supply System
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Security researchers have discovered 1,418 vulnerabilities in CareFusion's Pyxis SupplyStation system -- automated cabinets used to dispense medical supplies -- that are still being used in the healthcare and public health sectors in the US and around the world. The vulnerabilities can be exploited remotely by attackers with low skills, and exploits that target these vulnerabilities are publicly available.

Things already seem to be getting out hand.
Preterm Births Linked To Air Pollution Cost Billions In The US
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Air pollution leads to 16,000 premature births in the United States each year, leading to billions of dollars in economic costs, according to new research. Researchers behind the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that preterm births associated with particulate matter -- a type of pollutant -- led to more than $4 billion in economic costs in 2010 due to medical care and lost productivity that results from disability. And, like many other public health issues, affected populations tend to be concentrated in low-income areas home to large numbers of minorities. "This is another piece of the evidentiary pie about why we should really be doing something about air pollution," says Tracey Woodruff, a professor who studies reproductive health and the environment at the University of California, San Francisco. "When you reduce air pollution you get lots of different health benefits." Countless studies have shown the effect of air pollution on cardiovascular and respiratory health -- killing millions each year. Air pollution leads to inflammation in blood vessels and contributes to lung cancer, asthma and a slew of other disorders. The effect on pregnancy may in some ways be an extension of those effects as air pollution disrupts the way a pregnant woman delivers oxygen to the fetus. Air pollution may also disrupt the endocrine system, keeping women from producing a protein needed to regulate pregnancy, researchers say.
Slaughter At The Bridge: Uncovering A Colossal Bronze Age Battle
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A report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science via About 3200 years ago, two armies clashed at a river crossing near the Baltic Sea. The confrontation can't be found in any history books -- the written word didn't become common in these parts for another 2000 years -- but this was no skirmish between local clans. Thousands of warriors came together in a brutal struggle, perhaps fought on a single day, using weapons crafted from wood, flint, and bronze, a metal that was then the height of military technology. "If our hypothesis is correct that all of the finds belong to the same event, we're dealing with a conflict of a scale hitherto completely unknown north of the Alps," says dig co-director Thomas Terberger, an archaeologist at the Lower Saxony State Service for Cultural Heritage in Hannover. "There's nothing to compare it to." It may even be the earliest direct evidence -- with weapons and warriors together -- of a battle this size anywhere in the ancient world.
Atari Vault Hits Steam, Play 100 Classic Games On PC
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Classic and retro video game fans will be eager to hear that Atari Vault has just landed on PC via Steam, making it the easiest way possible to enjoy 100 of the most iconic arcade and home console titles from the early generation of gaming. This eliminates the need to use emulators and ROMs to enjoy games like Asteroids, Centipede, Pitfall, and Pong, not to mention it being cheaper than buying several included titles individually.
Fish Walks, Climbs Waterfalls Like a Salamander
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A species of cavefish in Thailand has been documented walking and climbing waterfalls in a manner similar to four-footed creatures such as salamanders, in a find researchers call "huge" in evolutionary terms. In a press release Brooke E. Flammang, an assistant professor of biological sciences at NJIT, said that the fish has anatomical features previously known only in tetrapods -- four-limbed vertebrates that include amphibians and reptiles. "What these fish do, in complete darkness, is stick to the rock and climb waterfalls, completely underwater."
Kentucky Hospital Calls State of Emergency In Hack Attack
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A Kentucky hospital is operating in an internal state of emergency following an attack by cybercriminals on its computer network, Krebs on Security reported. Methodist Hospital, based in Henderson, Kentucky, is the victim of a ransomware attack in which hackers infiltrated its computer network, encrypted files and are now holding the data hostage, Krebs reported Tuesday. The criminals reportedly used new strain of malware known as Locky to encrypt important files. The malware spread from the initial infected machine to the entire internal network and several other systems, the hospital's information systems director, Jamie Reid, told Krebs. The hospital is reportedly considering paying hackers the ransom money of four bitcoins, about $1,600 at the current exchange rate, for the key to unlock the files.
Rockefeller Fund Dumping Fossil Fuels, Hits Exxon On Climate Issues
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The Rockefeller Family Fund said on Wednesday it will divest from fossil fuels as quickly as possible and "eliminate holdings" of Exxon Mobil, chiding the oil company for allegedly misleading the public about the threat of climate change. The move by the U.S. based charity, which will also include coal and Canadian oil sands holdings, is especially notable because a century ago John D. Rockefeller Sr. made a fortune running Standard Oil, a precursor to Exxon Mobil.

Given the threat posed to the survival of human and natural ecosystems, "there is no sane rationale for companies to continue to explore for new sources of hydrocarbons," the fund said. Exxon did not immediately comment. In a letter posted on its website, the Rockefeller Family Fund said Exxon's conduct on climate issues appears to be "morally reprehensible."
Whistleblower: NSA Is So Overwhelmed With Data, It's No Longer Effective
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William Binney, a former NSA official who spent more than three decades at the agency, said the US government's mass surveillance programs have become so engorged with data that they are no longer effective, losing vital intelligence in the fray. That, he said, can -- and has -- led to terrorist attacks succeeding. Binney said that an analyst today can run one simple query across the NSA's various databases, only to become immediately overloaded with information. With about four billion people -- around two-thirds of the world's population -- under the NSA and partner agencies' watchful eyes, according to his estimates, there is too much data being collected.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons why NSA wants to dump the phone records it gathered over the past 14 years.
Radio Attack Lets Hackers Steal 24 Different Car Models
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A group of German vehicle security researchers has released new findings about the extent of a wireless key hack, and their work ought to convince hundreds of thousands of drivers to keep their car keys next to their Pudding Pops. The Munich-based automobile club ADAC recently made public a study it had performed on dozens of cars to test a radio 'amplification attack' that silently extends the range of unwitting drivers' wireless key fobs to open cars and even start their ignitions (in German). The ADAC researchers say that 24 different vehicles from 19 different manufacturers were all vulnerable, allowing them to not only reliably unlock the target vehicles but also immediately drive them away. "This clear vulnerability in [wireless] keys facilitates the work of thieves immensely," reads the post. "The radio connection between keys and car can easily be extended over several hundred meters, regardless of whether the original key is, for example, at home or in the pocket of the owner." [...] Here's the full list of vulnerable vehicles from their findings, which focused on European models: the Audi A3, A4 and A6, BMW's 730d, Citroen's DS4 CrossBack, Ford's Galaxy and Eco-Sport, Honda's HR-V, Hyundai's Santa Fe CRDi, KIA's Optima, Lexus's RX 450h, Mazda's CX-5, MINI's Clubman, Mitsubishi's Outlander, Nissan's Qashqai and Leaf, Opel's Ampera, Range Rover's Evoque, Renault's Traffic, Ssangyong's Tivoli XDi, Subaru's Levorg, Toyota's RAV4, and Volkswagen's Golf GTD and Touran 5T.
How Space-Based Solar Power Plants Could Be Built By Robots On the Moon
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The concept of space based solar power has been around for decades. The late Gerard K. O'Neill proposed building them as a way to finance space colonies in the 1970s. Recently Popular Science reported on a modern approach to building space based solar energy stations. Instead of relying on massive, orbiting space colonies filled with construction workers to put the plants together, why not automate the entire process?
Facebook Exec Explains Why Technical Skills Aren't Enough To Be a Great Engineer
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Facebook's Regina Wallace-Jones, who is in charge of protecting 1.6 billion people on the social network, says math and science skills aren't enough to tackle challenges at a firm. "Don't let anyone tell you that engineering is only about math and science or that engineering expertise is all you have to offer the world. Your experiences and your perspectives can help inspire a company to find a different approach to a problem or encourage someone else to speak up," she said. "The impact of engineers goes well beyond the mobile apps, the gadgets, and the security systems that we build. The quest to engineer meaningful solutions... is not just about math and science, it's about making amazing solutions for real people in the real world. It's about pushing mankind to its outer limits by inspiring the world to imagine bigger solutions than our hands can hold."
FBI Warns That Car Hacking Is a Real Risk
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The FBI and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are voicing their concerns about the potential risk of cars being hacked. In an advisory note, they urge the public to be aware of cyber-security threats revolving around connected vehicles. From the advisory, "Modern motor vehicles often include new connected vehicle technologies that aim to provide benefits such as added safety features, improved fuel economy, and greater overall convenience. Aftermarket devices are also providing consumers with new features to monitor the status of their vehicles. However, with this increased connectivity, it is important that consumers and manufacturers maintain awareness of potential cyber security threats." They are also advising drivers and manufacturers to ensure the vehicle software is up-to-date, and keeping an eye out for recalls.
Anonymous Declare 'Total War' On Donald Trump, Threaten To 'Dismantle His Campaign'
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Hackers affiliated with the Anonymous hacktivist collective have vowed to relaunch cyber-operations against US presidential candidate Donald Trump [on April Fools' Day]. They threaten to "dismantle his campaign" by taking his election websites offline in a large-scale and orchestrated distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. In December 2015, Anonymous officially "declared war" on Trump after a radical speech in which he said Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. The operation at the time resulted in a number of websites being targeted by hackers, but failed to have lasting impact. A new video statement has been posted to YouTube which claims the "loyalists and veterans" of Anonymous have decided to ramp up cyber-operations against Trump -- dubbed #OpTrump -- on a far larger scale than ever before. "Dear Donald Trump, we have been watching you for a long time and what we see is deeply disturbing. Your inconsistent and hateful campaign has not only shocked the United States of America [but] you have shocked the entire planet with your appalling actions and ideas. You say what your audience wants to hear but in reality you don't stand for anything except for your personal greed and power."

The websites targeted in the attack (so far) include,, and In addition, the hacktivists are also planning to release some of Donald Trump's personal information including a SSN, phone number, and contact information of his agent and legal representative.
6 Tiny Robotic Ants, Weighing 3.5 Oz. In Total, Pull a 3900-lb. Car
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MicroTug, a team of six microrobots that weigh just 3.5 ounces (99 grams), and can move a car: Researchers at Standford University's Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Lab have developed six miniature robots that have the pulling-power to move objects 2,000 times of their own body weight. The tiny robots and their inter-coordination are based on that of ants. The microrobot uses a special kind of glue on its feet that make them serve as sticky gecko toes. "Their new demonstration is the functional equivalent of a team of six humans moving a weight equivalent to that of an Eiffel Tower and three Statues of Liberty," said David Christensen, a graduate student who is one of the authors of "Let's All Pull Together: Principles for Sharing Large Loads in Microrobot Teams paper.

Researchers' fascination with gecko adhesive is nothing new. In 2010, Stanford mechanical engineer Mark Cutkosky developed a Stickybot that could climb walls. A similar robot that could roll up on smooth as well rough surfaces was demonstrated by a group of researchers in Canada in 2011.
Personalized Learning: the Best Education Or the Worst?
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In an exclusive interview with Education Week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talked about why he is shifting his K-12 giving priorities to personalized learning. While acknowledging that there's not yet any independent, large-scale research to show personalized learning's effectiveness, Zuck argues that "the model just intuitively makes sense." But just days later, Fordham University professor Mark Naison wrote in the Washington Post about why the personalized learning efforts of 'a growing number of those with investment capital seeking profitable outlets,' which presumably includes Zuck, make him 'incredibly pessimistic' about the future of public education. That Zuck - like fellow personalized learning cheerleaders/funders Bill Gates and former U.S. Education Chief Arne Duncan - seemed to be unaware of studies on personalized learning studies that date back to the '70s is troubling. But people don't "Like" 40+ year-old papers, so Zuck could be forgiven for not seeing them and, as a result, believing that the personalized learning plan dashboard his Facebook engineers knocked out truly is the ground-breaking solution to 'one of education's biggest problems' that Melinda Gates cracks it up to be.
Thanks For the Memories: Touring the Awesome Random Access of Old
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The RAM we use today is truly amazing in all respects: performance, reliability, price; all have been optimized to the point you can consider memory a solved problem. Equally fascinating is the meandering path that we've taken over the last half century to get here. Drums, tubes, mercury delay lines, dekatrons, and core memory. They're still as interesting as the day electrons first ran through their circuits. Perhaps most amazing is the cost and complexity, both of which make you wonder how they ever manage to be used in production machines. But here's the clincher: despite being difficult and costly to manufacture, they were all very reliable
This Was America's Warmest Winter On Record
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its official assessment of December, January, and February's temperatures across the United States, and the results are striking: Not a single state in the U.S. had a cooler than average winter. (NOAA treats Alaska and Hawaii separately, due to shorter weather data records there -- though both states were significantly warmer than normal this winter. Weather records for the contiguous United States go back to 1895.) NOAA blames the recent warm weather on a record-strength El Nino "and other climate patterns," most notably, global warming. As a whole, this winter in the lower 48 was about 4.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century average: a sharp contrast to the previous back-to-back frigid polar vortex winters, especially in the Northeast.
Scientists To Drill Into 'Ground Zero' of the Impact That Killed the Dinosaurs
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This month, a drilling platform will rise in the Gulf of Mexico, but it won't be aiming for oil. Scientists will try to sink a diamond-tipped bit into the heart of Chicxulub crater - the buried remnant of the asteroid impact 66 million years ago that killed off the dinosaurs, along with most other life on the planet. They hope that the retrieved rock cores will contain clues to how life came back in the wake of the cataclysm, and whether the crater itself could have been a home for novel microbial life. And by drilling into a circular ridge inside the 180-kilometer-wide crater rim, scientists hope to settle ideas about how such 'peak rings,' hallmarks of the largest impact craters, take shape.
SpaceX's Latest Launch Successful, But Ends With a "Hard Landing"
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SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket into space this afternoon, but - as expected - failed to land the vehicle on a drone ship at sea afterward. CEO Elon Musk said the rocket 'landed hard' on the drone ship. The mission requirements made a successful landing unlikely. This was SpaceX's fourth attempt to land the Falcon 9 post-launch on an autonomous drone ship floating in the ocean. All of the previous sea landings failed too, though the third attempt came very close. The company had low hopes of a successful landing from the start of this mission, since the rocket had to send a heavy satellite into a high orbit. That requires a lot of fuel for the launch itself, so there wasn't much fuel left for the rocket's return to Earth and powered landing
Hubble Shatters the Cosmic Distance Record
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One of the holy grails of cosmology is to measure, directly, exactly when the first stars and galaxies formed in our Universe. The Hubble Space Telescope has been pushing the distance record farther and farther back, with its measurements typically confirmed by ground-based, spectroscopic follow-ups. This time, however, the new record-holder was so distant that confirmation needed to be done from space: by Hubble itself. The result? A galaxy at a redshift of z=11.1, from when the Universe was just 400 million years old, or a mere 3% of its current age. This is a record that will likely stand until the James Webb Space Telescope launches, as it took a combination of incredible work and incredible luck to find a galaxy this far back with our current technology.
Scientists May Have Found Molecular Gatekeeper Of Long-Term Memory
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While the general steps of forming a long-term memory are clear, the details, such as how exactly the molecular signals get shuttled to the command center, which generally has tight security, are unclear. A new study, led by neuroscientist Yi Zhong of Tsinghua University in Beijing, may finally have that answer. In the tiny minds of fruit flies, a protein called importin-7 acts to shuttle the memory-triggering signal into the nucleus with its top-level clearance to the restricted area, researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. With genetic tweaking, the researchers dialed up and down the amount of importin-7 in the flies and then put them through the memory training and test. They found that cranking up levels of the shuttle protein strengthened the long-term memories of the flies, while turning it off weakened their memory. "The current work confirms that [importin-7] is indeed critical at the behavioral level in mediating [long-term memory] consolidation," the authors concluded.
Renewable Energy Shows Strong Gain In U.S.
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According to the US Energy Information Administration, solar, wind, and gas dominate new US generating capacity in 2016. This year is notable because it will see the first new nuclear plant brought online in 20 years, contributing 1.1 GigaWatts to the grid. But that contribution will be dwarfed by renewable power sources, which together account for nearly two-thirds of 2016's new capacity. Part of the boom in renewables came because the tax incentives for their installation were in danger of expiring, so utilities rushed to get projects through the pipeline ahead of the end of the year. 9.5GW of capacity is expected to come online from solar -- more than the past three years combined. Another 6.8GW is expected from planned additions of wind power, largely spread across the Great Plains. Of new fossil fuel plants, the vast majority are going to be burning natural gas; there are no planned additions of coal plants.
John McAfee: NSA's Back Door Has Given Every US Secret To Enemies
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John McAfee, American computer programmer and contributing editor of Business Insider, explains how the NSA's back door has given every U.S. secret to its enemies. He begins by mentioning the importance of software, specifically meta- software, which contains a high level set of principles designed to help a nation survive in a cyberwar. Such software must not contain any back doors under any circumstances, otherwise it can and may very likely allow perceived enemies of the U.S. to have access to top-secret information. For example, the Chinese used the NSA's back door to hack the Defense Department last year and steal 5.6 million fingerprints of critical personnel. "Whatever gains the NSA has made through the use of their back door, it cannot possibly counterbalance the harm done to our nation by everyone else's use of that same back door." McAfee believes the U.S. has failed to grasp the subtle implications of technology and, as a result, is 20 years behind the Chinese, and by association, the Russians as well.
Pentagon Research Could Make 'Brain Modem' A Reality
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The Pentagon is attempting what was, until recently, an impossible technological feat -- developing a high-bandwidth neural interface that would allow people to beam data from their minds to external devices and back. That's right -- a brain modem. One that could allow a soldier to, for example, control a drone with his mind. On Feb. 8, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) -- the US military's fringe-science wing -- announced the first successful tests, on animal subjects, of a tiny sensor that travels through blood vessels, lodges in the brain and records neural activity. The so-called "stentrode," a combination stent and electrode, is the size of a paperclip and flexible. The tiny, injectable machine -- the invention of neurologist Tom Oxley and his team at the University of Melbourne in Australia -- could help researchers solve one of the most vexing problems with the brain modem: how to insert a transmitter into the brain without also drilling a hole in the user's head, a risky procedure under any circumstances.
'Moth Eye' Graphene Breakthrough Could Create Indoor Solar Cells
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A scientific breakthrough with the "wonder material" graphene has opened up the possibility of indoor solar cells that capture energy from indirect sunlight, as well as ambient energy from household devices. Researchers from the University of Surrey in the U.K. studied the eyes of moths to create sheets of graphene that they claim is the most light-absorbent material ever created. "We realized that the moth's eye works in a particular way that traps electromagnetic waves very efficiently," Professor Ravi Silva, head of the Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey, tells Newsweek. "As a result of our studies, we've been able to mimic the surface of a moth's eye and create an amazingly thin, efficient, light-absorbent material made of graphene."
NASA's New Horizons Returns Images of the Canyons of Pluto's North Pole
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NASA's New Horizon space probe, which flew by Pluto last July, continues to send data and images that amaze and awe. The space agency released an image of Pluto's North Pole taken by the probe's Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The image shows, as has previous images of other regions of the so-called dwarf planet, that Pluto is a diverse world with an active geology. The North Pole of Pluto is characterized by long canyons that are covered in yellow methane ice. The canyons show how the dwarf planet had, and perhaps still has active tectonics.
Rare clay used by B.C. aboriginals found to kill bacteria resistant to antibiotics, say UBC researchers
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Researchers at the University of B.C. have discovered that a rare clay used as medicine by aboriginals in northern B.C. contains antibacterial properties that could be used to treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Some 400 kilometres north of Vancouver, on the Heiltsuk First Nation's traditional territory, sits a 400-million kilogram deposit of glacial clay in Kisameet Bay that scientists believe was formed near the end of the last Ice Age, approximately 10,000 years ago.
Patient Monitors Altered, Drug Dispensary Popped In Collosal Hospital Hack Test
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Security researchers have exploited notoriously porous hospital networks to gain access to, and tamper with, critical medical equipment in attacks they say could put lives in danger. In tests, hospital hackers from the Independent Security Evaluators research team popped patient monitors, making them display false readings which could result in medical responses that injury or kill patients. Full paper here.
New Fast Radio Burst Discovery Finds 'Missing Matter' In the Universe
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According to a study published today, an international team of scientists has for the first time managed to identify the location of a fast radio burst. FRBs are bright radio flashes that generally last for a few milliseconds. While their origin is unknown, the results are a missing distribution of matter in the universe. Now, using a combination of radio and optical telescopes, scientists have found the FRB. According to Benjamin Stappers, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Manchester, "Discovering more FRBs will allow us to do even more detailed studies of the missing matter and perhaps even study dark energy."
President Obama Nominates New Librarian of Congress Who Supports Open Access
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Dr. Carla Hayden, CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore and a former president of the American Library Association, is President Obama's nominee for Librarian of Congress. What a contrast to long-time LoC Librarian James Billington, a stuffy old academic who hated e-books and was so far out of touch that he liked faxing more than e-mail. According to President Obama, "Dr. Hayden has devoted her career to modernizing libraries so that everyone can participate in today's digital culture." Dr. Hayden was a fierce opponent of the Patriot Act and believes strongly in speaking out against surveillance. What's more, she would be the 14th Librarian of Congress, in charge of the Copyright Office, and the first woman and first African-American to hold the position.
The man who made 'the worst video game in history'
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The video game of Steven Spielberg's ET is considered to be one of the worst of all time and has even been blamed for triggering the collapse of Atari. Howard Scott Warshaw, the gifted programmer who made it, explains how it was rushed out in a matter of weeks - and how he feels about those events in California now.
Large-ish Meteor Hits Earth... But No One Notices
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According to data released by the Fireball and Bolide Reports page of NASA's Near Earth Object Program, a large meteor exploded far off the coast of Brazil on February 6, 2016. The meteor was the largest atmospheric impact recorded since the famous Chelyabinsk bolide that exploded over Russia in 2013. Although the Feb 6 meteor didn't cause any structural damage, the meteor unleashed an energy equivalent of 13,000 tons of TNT exploding instantaneously.
Cheap, high-performance green battery runs on rotten apples
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Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have repurposed discarded apples to build cheap and high-performance sodium-ion batteries, making a green technology even greener. The advance could find use in grid storage and, after further development, compete with lithium-ion cells to power portable electronics and low-end electric cars.
This Incredible 'Boiling River' Is A Scientific Enigma
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When geoscientist and National Geographic explorer Andrés Ruzo was growing up in Lima, Peru, his grandfather used to tell him wild stories of Spanish conquistadors, cities of gold, and an Amazonian river so hot it could boil men alive.

But it wasn't until Ruzo was studying geothermal energy that he decided to look into this mythical boiling river -- and, much to his surprise, actually found it. While boiling rivers do exist in the world, they are usually found close to active volcanos. This river is especially remarkable because it runs more than 400 miles from the nearest active volcano -- the only non-volcanic river known to boil on Earth.

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