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Interesting Articles

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

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

Article Description/Comments
Robobug: Scientists Clad Bacterium With Graphene To Make a Working Cytobot
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By cladding a living cell with graphene quantum dots, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) claim to have created a nanoscale biomicrorobot (or cytobot) that responds electrically to changes in its environment. This work promises to lay the foundations for future generations of bio-derived nanobots, biomicrorobotic-mechanisms, and micromechanical actuation for a wide range of applications. "UIC researchers created an electromechanical device — a humidity sensor — on a bacterial spore. They call it NERD, for Nano-Electro-Robotic Device. The report is online at Scientific Reports, a Nature open access journal."
Elon Musk's SolarCity Offering To Build Cities, Businesses Their Own Grids
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Rooftop solar distributor SolarCity announced a new service where it will build a centrally-controllable power grid for cities, business campuses and even islands. Marketing its GridLogic service by calling attention to the recent uptick in natural disasters and the extended power outages that resulted from them, SolarCity said its "microgrids" are fully independent power infrastructures fed by solar panels with lithium-ion backup batteries (courtesy of Tesla). SolarCity claims its GridLogic program can provide electricity to communities and businesses for less than they pay for utility power and the facilities can still be connected to their area's utility power grid as an added backup.
First Prototype of a Working Tricorder Unveiled At SXSW
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The $10 million Tricorder X-prize is getting to the "put up or shut up" stage: The 10 finalists must turn in their working devices on June 1st for consumer testing. At SXSW last week, the finalist team Cloud DX showed off its prototype, which includes a wearable collar, a base station, a blood-testing stick, and a scanning wand. From the article: "The XPrize is partnering with the medical center at the University of California, San Diego on that consumer testing, since it requires recruiting more than 400 people with a variety of medical conditions. Grant Campany, director of the Tricorder XPrize, said he’s looking forward to getting those devices into real patients hands. 'This will be a practical demonstration of what the future of medicine will be like,' said Campany at that same SXSW talk, 'so we can scale it up after competition.'"
New Alzheimer’s treatment fully restores memory function for mice
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Australian researchers have come up with a non-invasive ultrasound technology [abstract] that clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques — structures that are responsible for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer's patients.

Publishing in Science Translational Medicine, the team describes the technique as using a particular type of ultrasound called a focused therapeutic ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue. By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves are able to gently open up the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to move in. Microglila cells are basically waste-removal cells, so once they get past the blood-brain barrier, they’re able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps before the blood-brain barrier is restored within a few hours. The team reports fully restoring the memories of 75 percent of the mice they tested it on, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. They found that the treated mice displayed improved performance in three memory tasks - a maze, a test to get them to recognise new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.
How Space Can Expand Faster Than the Speed of Light
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You know the fundamental principle of special relativity: nothing can move faster than the speed of light. But space itself? That's not a "thing" in the conventional sense. Two years after coming up with special relativity, Einstein devised the equivalence principle, and thus began the development of general relativity, where space itself would have properties that changed over time, responding to changes in matter and energy. This includes the ability for it to expand, even faster than the speed of light, if the conditions are right.
New Jersey Removes Legal Impediment To Direct Tesla Sales
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Almost exactly one year after it was banned from selling its cars directly in New Jersey, Tesla will be back in business in the Garden State. Governor Chris Christie signed into law a bill this afternoon that reversed last year's ban. The new legislation comes with some limits. Tesla can only open a total of four direct sale dealerships and has to operate at least one service center. But it's a major win following a heated war of words that saw Tesla CEO Elon Musk compare local dealers to a mafia protection racket subverting the democratic process.
Gates: Large Epidemics Need a More Agile Response
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Writing in the NY Times about the recent Ebola crisis, Bill Gates says this disease has made the world realize we are not properly prepared to deal with a global epidemic. Even if we signed up lots of experts right away, few organizations are capable of moving thousands of people, some of them infected, to different locations on the globe, with a week's notice. Data is another crucial problem. During the Ebola epidemic, the database that tracks cases has not always been accurate. This is partly because the situation is chaotic, but also because much of the case reporting has been done first on paper.

There's also our failure to invest in effective medical tools like tests, drugs and vaccines. On average, it has taken an estimated one to three days for test results to come back — an eternity when you need to quarantine people. Drugs that might help stop Ebola were not tested in patients until after the epidemic had peaked, partly because the world has no clear process for expediting drug approvals. Compare all of this to the preparation that nations put into defense, which has high-quality mobile units ready to be deployed quickly.
Speaking a Second Language May Change How You See the World
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Where did the thief go? You might get a more accurate answer if you ask the question in German. How did she get away? Now you might want to switch to English. Speakers of the two languages put different emphasis on actions and their consequences, influencing the way they think about the world, according to a new study (abstract). The work also finds that bilinguals may get the best of both worldviews, as their thinking can be more flexible.
"Hello Barbie" Listens To Children Via Cloud
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For a long time we have had toys that talk back to their owners, but a new "smart" Barbie doll's eavesdropping and data-gathering functions have privacy advocates crying foul. Toymaker Mattel bills Hello Barbie as the world's first "interactive doll" due to its ability to record children's playtime conversations and respond to them, once the audio is transmitted over WiFi to a cloud server. In a demo video, a Mattel presenter at the 2015 Toy Fair in New York says the new doll fulfills the top request that Mattel receives from girls: to have a two-way dialogue. "They want to have a conversation with Barbie," she said, adding that the new toy will be "the very first fashion doll that has continuous learning, so that she can have a unique relationship with each girl." Susan Linn, the executive director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, has written a statement in which she says how the product is seriously creepy and creates a host of dangers for children and families. She asks people to join her in a petition under the proposal of Mattel discontinuing the toy.
NASA Wants Your Help Hunting For Asteroids
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"Since the early 20th century, astronomers have relied on the same technique to detect asteroids — they take images of a section in the sky and look for star-like objects that move between frames. However, with an increase in sensitivity of ground-based telescopes, it has become increasingly difficult for astronomers to sift through the massive pile of data and verify every single detection. In order to increase the frequency of asteroid detection, including of those bodies that could be potential threats to our planet, NASA has released new software, developed in collaboration with Planetary Resources, Inc., capable of running on any standard PC. The software, which can be downloaded for free, will accept images from a telescope and run an algorithm on them to determine celestial bodies that are moving in a manner consistent with an asteroid."
NASA Launches Four Spacecraft To Study Earth-Sun Magnetism
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Late Thursday NASA used an Atlas rocket to put four new, identical spacecraft into orbit. "The quartet of observatories is being placed into an oblong orbit stretching tens of thousands of miles into the magnetosphere — nearly halfway to the moon at one point. They will fly in pyramid formation, between 6 miles and 250 miles apart, to provide 3-D views of magnetic reconnection on the smallest of scales. Magnetic reconnection is what happens when magnetic fields like those around Earth and the sun come together, break apart, then come together again, releasing vast energy. This repeated process drives the aurora, as well as solar storms that can disrupt communications and power on Earth. Data from this two-year mission should help scientists better understand so-called space weather."
Huge Ocean Confirmed Underneath Solar System's Largest Moon
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The solar system's largest moon, Ganymede, in orbit around Jupiter, harbors an underground ocean containing more water than all the oceans on Earth, according to new observations by the Hubble Space Telescope. Ganymede now joins Jupiter's Europa and two moons of Saturn, Titan and Enceladus, as moons with subsurface oceans—and good places to look for life. Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt, may also have a subsurface ocean. The Hubble study suggests that the ocean can be no deeper than 330 kilometers below the surface.
Earth Newly Discovered Sea Creature Was Once the Largest Animal On Earth
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Almost half a billion years ago, the largest animal on Earth was a 2-meter-long, helmet-headed sea creature that fed on some of the ocean's tiniest prey. The newly described species is one of the largest arthropods yet discovered, a class of animals that includes spiders and crabs. The well-preserved remains of the multisegmented creature are providing clues about how subsequent arthropods' legs may have evolved from the dozens of stubby flaps used to propel this beast through the water.
Billionaire Teams Up With NASA To Mine the Moon
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Moon Express, a Mountain View, California-based company that's aiming to send the first commercial robotic spacecraft to the moon next year, just took another step closer toward that lofty goal. Earlier this year, it became the first company to successfully test a prototype of a lunar lander at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The success of this test—and a series of others that will take place later this year—paves the way for Moon Express to send its lander to the moon in 2016. Moon Express conducted its tests with the support of NASA engineers, who are sharing with the company their deep well of lunar know-how. The NASA lunar initiative—known as Catalyst—is designed to spur new commercial U.S. capabilities to reach the moon and tap into its considerable resources.
New Evidence Strengthens NSA Ties To Equation Group Malware
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When researchers from Kaspersky Lab presented the Equation Group espionage malware, many in the security community were convinced it was part of an NSA operation. Now, Kaspersky has released new evidence that only strengthens those suspicions. In a code sample, they found a string named BACKSNARF_AB25, which happens to be the name of a project in the NSA's Tailored Access Operations. Further, when examining the metadata on the malware files, they found the modification timestamps were almost always consistent with an 8-5 workday in the UTC-3 or UTC-4 timezones, consistent with work based in the eastern United States. The authors also tended to work Monday through Friday, and not on the weekends, suggesting a large, organized development team. "Whereas before the sprawling Equation Drug platform was known to support 35 different modules, Kaspersky has recently unearthed evidence there are 115 separate plugins. The architecture resembles a mini operating system with kernel- and user-mode components alike."
Dry-ice Heat Engines For Martian Colonists
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Heat engines using the "Leidenfrost effect" can exploit the gas expansion as CO2 sublimates to drive turbines. "The technique has exciting implications for working in extreme and alien environments, such as outer space, where it could be used to make long-term exploration and colonisation sustainable by using naturally occurring solid carbon dioxide as a resource rather than a waste product. If this could be realised, then future missions to Mars, such as those in the news recently, may not need to be ‘one-way’ after all.

Dry ice may not be abundant on Earth, but increasing evidence from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) suggests it may be a naturally occurring resource on Mars as suggested by the seasonal appearance of gullies on the surface of the red planet. If utilised in a Leidenfrost-based engine dry-ice deposits could provide the means to create future power stations on the surface of Mars. " The research was published in Nature Communications, and one of the researchers published an explanatory article at The Conversation.
The Milky Way May Be 50 Percent Bigger Than Previously Thought
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A ring-like filament of stars wrapping around the Milky Way may actually belong to the galaxy itself, rippling above and below the relatively flat galactic plane. If so, that would expand the size of the known galaxy by 50 percent and raise intriguing questions about what caused the waves of stars. Scientists used data collected by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to reanalyze the brightness and distance of stars at the edge of the galaxy. They found that the fringe of the disk is puckered into ridges and grooves of stars, like corrugated cardboard. "It looks to me like maybe these patterns are following the spiral structure of the Milky Way, so they may be related," said astronomer Heidi Newberg.

In other Milky Way new, a Cambridge team has found nine new dwarf satellites orbiting our galaxy. Some of them are definitely dwarf galaxies, and the others may be the same, or globular clusters.
Sugar Industry Shaped NIH Agenda On Dental Research
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The sugar industry convinced the U.S. National Institutes of Health that studies that might persuade people to cut back on sugary foods should not be part of a national plan to fight childhood tooth decay, a new study of historical documents argues. The authors say the industry's activities, which occurred more than 40 years ago, are reminiscent of the tobacco companies' efforts to minimize the risks of smoking.
Mental Health Experts Seek To Block the Paths To Suicide
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Experts and laymen have long assumed that people who died by suicide will ultimately do it even if temporarily deterred. Now Celia Watson Seupel reports at the NY Times that a growing body of evidence challenges this view, with many experts calling for a reconsideration of suicide-prevention strategies to stress "means restriction." Instead of treating individual risk, means restriction entails modifying the environment by removing the means by which people usually die by suicide. The world cannot be made suicide-proof, of course. But, these researchers argue, if the walkway over a bridge is fenced off, a struggling college freshman cannot throw herself over the side. If parents leave guns in a locked safe, a teenage son cannot shoot himself if he suddenly decides life is hopeless.

Reducing the availability of highly lethal and commonly used suicide methods has been associated with declines in suicide rates of as much as 30%–50% in other countries (PDF). According to Cathy Barber, people trying to die by suicide tend to choose not the most effective method, but the one most at hand. Some methods have a case fatality rate as low as 1 or 2 percent," says Barber. "With a gun, it's closer to 85 or 90 percent. So it makes a difference what you're reaching for in these low-planned or unplanned suicide attempts." Ken Baldwin, who jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in 1985 and lived, told reporters that he knew as soon as he had jumped that he had made a terrible mistake. "From the instant I saw my hand leave the railing, I knew I wanted to live. I was terrified out of my skull." Baldwin was lucky to survive the 220 foot plunge into frigid waters. Ms. Barber tells another story: On a friend's very first day as an emergency room physician, a patient was wheeled in, a young man who had shot himself in a suicide attempt. "He was begging the doctors to save him," she says. But they could not.
Mars "Webcam" To Be Made Available For Public Use
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If your group can make a good use case you can control of the ESA's Mars Express webcam. Proposals by schools, youth groups and astronomy clubs are due by March 27. The Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC), is a low-resolution camera intended for visuals of the Beagle lander separation. In May, Mars will be in solar conjunction. Signals between Earth and Mars Express will be disrupted by the sun so for three days the VMC camera can be freely pointed at almost any target in its orbit.
Solar Impulse Plane Begins Epic Global Flight
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A record-breaking attempt to fly around the world in a solar-powered plane has got under way from Abu Dhabi. The aircraft — called Solar Impulse-2 — took off from the Emirate, heading east to Muscat in Oman. Over the next five months, it will skip from continent to continent, crossing both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the process. Andre Borschberg was at the controls of the single-seater vehicle as it took off at 07:12 local time (03:12 GMT). He will share the pilot duties in due course with fellow Swiss, Bertrand Piccard. The plan is to stop off at various locations around the globe, to rest and to carry out maintenance, and also to spread a campaigning message about clean technologies.
The Origin of Life and the Hidden Role of Quantum Criticality
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One of the great puzzles of biology is how the molecular machinery of life is so finely coordinated. Even the simplest cells are complex three dimensional biochemical factories in which a dazzling array of machines pump, push, copy, and compute in a dance of extraordinarily detailed complexity. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how the ordinary processes of electron transport allow this complexity to emerge given the losses that arise in much simpler circuits. Now a group of researchers led by Stuart Kauffmann have discovered that the electronic properties of biomolecules are entirely different to those of ordinary conductors. It turns out that most biomolecules exist in an exotic state called quantum criticality that sits on the knife edge between conduction and insulation. In other words, biomolecules belong to an entirely new class of conductor that is not bound by the ordinary rules of electron transport. Of course, organic molecules can be ordinary conductors or insulators and the team have found a few biomolecules that fall into these categories. But evolution seems to have mainly selected biomolecules that are quantum critical, implying that that this property must confer some evolutionary advantage. Exactly what this could be isn't yet clear but it must play an important role in the machinery of life and its origin.
New Images From Mangalyaan
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Indian scientists have released a new set of color images taken by their Mars orbiter, Mangalyaan. Arsia Mons is one of the three giant volcanoes to the east of Mars' biggest volcano, Olympus Mons. Arsia Mons is important for future manned colonization, as there are known caves on its western flanks. In addition, those western flanks show solid evidence of past glaciers, which means that it is very likely that those caves will harbor significant quantities of water-ice, making settlement much easier.
Tiny pop-up "cell playgrounds" fold themselves
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US researchers are building tiny, 3D electronic scaffolds with an unusual new technique, aimed at combining biological and electronic systems.
Oldest Human Fossil Fills In 2.8-Million-Year-Old Gap In Evolution
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Archaeologists have unearthed a human jawbone—with teeth-- that is believed to be the oldest remains ever found from early humans. It belonged to the earliest specimen of Homo and dates back 2.8 million years. From NPR: "Although it's risky to say you've got the first or oldest of anything, Brian Villmoare, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is sure he and his team have the earliest specimen of Homo, the human genus. 'Oh, yeah, it definitely is,' he says. 'We were looking for it — and by miraculous chance we happened to find it.' Villmoare and an international team from the U.S. and Ethiopia found a lower jaw with five teeth in a region of Ethiopia called Afar. They were working a hill that was full of fossils. 'I was on the other side of the hill,' he recalls, 'and they said, 'Brian! Brian! Come over here.' The partial jawbone — just the left side – was lying on the ground, having eroded out of the hill. Several dating methods confirmed its age as roughly 400,000 years older than the previous record for a human-related fossil."
Hubble Discovers Quadruple Lensed Ancient Supernova
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Astronomer Patrick Kelly, with the University of California Berkeley, and colleagues report this week about four different routes light from an ancient supernova took to reach the Hubble telescope after being deflected around an intervening elliptical galaxy. The phenomenon is known as an Einstein cross. "Basically, we get to see the supernova four times and measure the time delays between its arrival in the different images, hopefully learning something about the supernova and the kind of star it exploded from, as well as about the gravitational lenses," Kelly said in a statement. The supernova will appear again in the next 10 years, as its light takes different paths around and through the gravitational lens.
Inside the Weird World of 3D Printed Body Parts
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Last November a news report in Russia Today sent a shudder of excitement through the tech blogs that cover 3D printing: an eccentric Russian provocateur claimed he would this month start printing functioning thyroids. Tech reporter Andrew Leonard set out to fact-check that claim, and along the way discovered an unlikely relationship between a Russian mad scientist and the U.S.'s most advanced, most respected 3d bioprinting companies—TeVido, which aims to 3D print custom nipples, and Organovo, which sells samples of 3D printed liver tissue. In the field of 3D printing, the line between science fiction and peer-reviewed research is very, very thin.
NASA Ames Reproduces the Building Blocks of Life In Laboratory
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Scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center have reproduced non-biologically the three basic components of life found in both DNA and RNA — uracil, cytosine, and thymine. For their experiment scientists deposited an ice sample containing pyrimidine — a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen — on a cold substrate in a chamber with space-like conditions such as very high vacuum, extremely low temperatures, and irradiated the sample with high-energy ultraviolet photons from a hydrogen lamp. Researchers discovered that such an arrangement produces these essential ingredients of life. "We have demonstrated for the first time that we can make uracil, cytosine, and thymine, all three components of RNA and DNA, non-biologically in a laboratory under conditions found in space," said Michel Nuevo, research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California. "We are showing that these laboratory processes, which simulate conditions in outer space, can make several fundamental building blocks used by living organisms on Earth.
Massive Exoplanet Evolved In Extreme 4-Star System
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"For only the second time, an exoplanet living with an expansive family of four stars has been revealed. The exoplanet, which is a huge gaseous world 10 times the mass of Jupiter, was previously known to occupy a 3-star system, but a fourth star (a red dwarf) has now been found, revealing quadruple star systems possessing planets are more common than we thought. "About four percent of solar-type stars are in quadruple systems, which is up from previous estimates because observational techniques are steadily improving," said co-author Andrei Tokovinin of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The whole 4-star family is collectively known as 30 Ari, located some 136 light-years from Earth — in our interstellar backyard. The exoplanet orbits the primary star of the system once every 335 days. The primary star has a new-found binary partner (which the exoplanet does not orbit) and this pair are locked in an orbital dance with a secondary binary, separated by a distance of 1,670 astronomical unit (AU), where 1 AU is the average distance between the Earth and sun.
US Air Traffic Control System Is Riddled With Vulnerabilities
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A recently released report (PDF) by the U.S. Government Accountability Office has revealed that despite some improvements, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) still needs to quash significant security control weaknesses that threaten the agency's ability to ensure the safe and uninterrupted operation of the national airspace system (NAS). The report found that while the "FAA established policies and procedures for controlling access to NAS systems and for configuring its systems securely, and it implemented firewalls and other boundary protection controls to protect the operational NAS environment [...] a significant number of weaknesses remain in the technical controls—including access controls, change controls, and patch management—that protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of its air traffic control systems."
Magic 'metamaterials' storm physics
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The hot topic at a major US conference is materials that can be designed with surprising properties, from programmable rubber to springy ceramics.
Supreme Court Gives Tacit Approval To Warrantless DNA Collection
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On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a case involving the conviction of a man based solely on the analysis of his "inadvertently shed" DNA. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argues that this tacit approval of the government's practice of collecting anyone's DNA anywhere without a warrant will lead to a future in which people's DNA are "entered into and checked against DNA databases and used to conduct pervasive surveillance."
Astronomers Find an Old-Looking Galaxy In the Early Universe
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news that a team of astronomers has studied one of the most distant galaxies ever observed and found puzzling results. The light we're seeing from this galaxy comes from roughly 700 million years after the Big Bang, so on the cosmic scale, it's quite young. But the galaxy appears much older than astronomers expected. Their paper was published today in Nature.

At this age it would be expected to display a lack of heavier chemical elements — anything heavier than hydrogen and helium, defined in astronomy as metals. These are produced in the bellies of stars and scattered far and wide once the stars explode or otherwise perish. This process needs to be repeated for many stellar generations to produce a significant abundance of the heavier elements such as carbon, oxygen and nitrogen. Surprisingly, the galaxy A1689-zD1 seemed to be emitting a lot of radiation in the far infrared, indicating that it had already produced many of its stars and significant quantities of metals, and revealed that it not only contained dust, but had a dust-to-gas ratio that was similar to that of much more mature galaxies.
World's First Lagoon Power Plants Unveiled In UK
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Plans to generate electricity from the world's first series of tidal lagoons have been unveiled in the UK. The six lagoons — four in Wales and one each in Somerset and Cumbria — will capture incoming and outgoing tides behind giant sea walls, and use the weight of the water to power turbines. The series of six lagoons could generate 8% of the UK's electricity for an investment of £12bn. Tidal Lagoon Power wants £168 per MWh hour for electricity in Swansea, reducing to £90-£95 per MWh for power from a second, more efficient lagoon in Cardiff. The £90 figure compares favorably with the £92.50 price for power from the planned Hinkley nuclear station, especially as the lagoon is designed to last 120 years — at a much lower risk than nuclear. Unlike power from the sun and wind, tidal power is predictable. Turbines capture energy from two incoming and two outgoing tides a day, and are expected to be active for an average of 14 hours a day. Friends of the Earth Cymru, said the group is broadly in favor of the Swansea lagoon.
SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches Dual Satellite Mission
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SpaceX successfully launched two satellites towards Geosynchronous Orbit. There's already a video of one deployment. Word is the launch went very smoothly and bodes well for their next launch in three weeks, as they work to fulfill what is now a very full launch manifest. In addition Elon had one more thing to share: "Upgrades in the works to allow landing for geo missions: thrust +15%, deep cryo oxygen, upper stage tank vol +10%."
Mysterious Siberian Crater Is Just One of Many
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A Washington Post report: In the middle of last summer came news of a bizarre occurrence no one could explain. Seemingly out of nowhere, a massive crater appeared in one of the planet's most inhospitable lands. Early estimates said the crater, nestled in a land called "the ends of the Earth" where temperatures can sink far below zero, yawned nearly 100 feet in diameter. The saga deepened. The Siberian crater wasn't alone. There were two more, ratcheting up the tension in a drama that hit its climax as a probable explanation surfaced. Global warming had thawed the permafrost, which had caused methane trapped inside the icy ground to explode.

Now, however, researchers fear there are more craters than anyone knew — and the repercussions could be huge. Russian scientists have now spotted a total of seven craters, five of which are in the Yamal Peninsula. Two of those holes have since turned into lakes. And one giant crater is rimmed by a ring of at least 20 mini-craters, the Siberian Times reported.
Portland Now Generates Electricity From Turbines Installed In City Water Pipes
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You’d be forgiven if the phrase “Portland goes green with innovative water pipes” doesn’t immediately call to mind thoughts of civil engineering and hydro-electric power. And yet, that’s exactly what Oregon’s largest city has done by partnering with a company called Lucid Energy to generate clean electricity from the water already flowing under its streets and through its pipes.
Lawmakers Seek Information On Funding For Climate Change Critics
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John Schwartz reports at the NY Times that prominent members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are demanding information from universities, companies and trade groups about funding for scientists who publicly dispute widely held views on the causes and risks of climate change. In letters sent to seven universities, Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who is the ranking member of the House committee on natural resources, sent detailed requests to the academic employers of scientists who had testified before Congress about climate change. "My colleagues and I cannot perform our duties if research or testimony provided to us is influenced by undisclosed financial relationships." Grijalva asked for each university's policies on financial disclosure and the amount and sources of outside funding for each scholar, "communications regarding the funding" and "all drafts" of testimony. Meanwhile Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. sent 100 letters to fossil fuel companies, trade groups and other organizations asking about their funding of climate research and advocacy asking for responses by April 3. "Corporate special interests shouldn't be able to secretly peddle the best junk science money can buy," said Senator Markey, denouncing what he called "denial-for-hire operations."

The letters come after evidence emerged over the weekend that Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, had failed to disclose the industry funding for his academic work. The documents also included correspondence between Dr. Soon and the companies who funded his work in which he referred to his papers and testimony as "deliverables." Soon accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work. "What it shows is the continuation of a long-term campaign by specific fossil-fuel companies and interests to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change," says Kert Davies.
12-Billion-Solar-Mass Black Hole Discovered
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A team of astronomers has discovered what is, in galactic terms, a monstrous baby: a gigantic black hole of 12 billion solar masses in a barely newborn galaxy, just 875 million years after the big bang. It's roughly 3000 times the size of our Milky Way's central black hole. To have grown to such a size in so short a time, it must have been munching matter at close to the maximum physically possible rate for most of its existence. Its large size and rate of consumption also makes it the brightest object in that distant era, and astronomers can use its bright light to study the composition of the early universe: how much of the original hydrogen and helium from the big bang had been forged into heavier elements in the furnaces of stars.
The Peculiar Economics of Developing New Antibiotics
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Every year at least two million people are infected with bacteria that can't be wiped out with antibiotics but the number of F.D.A.-approved antibiotics has decreased steadily in the past two decades. Now.Ezekiel J. Emanuel writes at the NYT that the problem with the development of new antibiotics is profitability. "There's no profit in it, and therefore the research has dried up, but meanwhile bacterial resistance has increased inexorably and there's still a lot of inappropriate use of antibiotics out there," says Ken Harvey. Unlike drugs for cholesterol or high blood pressure, or insulin for diabetes, which are taken every day for life, antibiotics tend to be given for a short time so profits have to be made on brief usage. "Even though antibiotics are lifesaving, they do not command a premium price in the marketplace," says Emanuel. "As a society we seem willing to pay $100,000 or more for cancer drugs that cure no one and at best add weeks or a few months to life. We are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for knee surgery that, at best, improves function but is not lifesaving. So why won't we pay $10,000 for a lifesaving antibiotic?"

Emanuel says that we need to use prize money as an incentive. "What if the United States government — maybe in cooperation with the European Union and Japan — offered a $2 billion prize to the first five companies or academic centers that develop and get regulatory approval for a new class of antibiotics?" Because it costs at least $1 billion to develop a new drug, the prize money could provide a 100 percent return — even before sales. "From the government perspective, such a prize would be highly efficient: no payment for research that fizzles. Researchers win only with an approved product. Even if they generated just one new antibiotic class per year, the $2-billion-per-year payment would be a reasonable investment for a problem that costs the health care system $20 billion per year." Unless payers and governments are willing to provide favorable pricing for such a drug, the big companies are going to focus their R&D investments in areas like cancer, depression, and heart disease where the return-on-investments are much higher.
It's Official: NSA Spying Is Hurting the US Tech Economy
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China is backing away from U.S. tech brands for state purchases as NSA revelations, according to Reuters, which confirms what many US technology companies have been saying for the past year: the activities by the NSA are harming their businesses in crucial growth markets, including China. From the article: "A new report confirmed key brands, including Cisco, Apple, Intel, and McAfee -- among others -- have been dropped from the Chinese government's list of authorized brands, a Reuters report said Wednesday. The number of approved foreign technology brands fell by a third, based on an analysis of the procurement list. Less than half of those companies with security products remain on the list."
Republicans Back Down, FCC To Enforce Net Neutrality Rules
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Republican resistance has ended for the FCC's plans to regulate the internet as a public utility. FCC commissioners are working out the final details, and they're expected to approve the plan themselves on Thursday. "The F.C.C. plan would let the agency regulate Internet access as if it is a public good.... In addition, it would ban the intentional slowing of the Internet for companies that refuse to pay broadband providers. The plan would also give the F.C.C. the power to step in if unforeseen impediments are thrown up by the handful of giant companies that run many of the country's broadband and wireless networks." Dave Steer of the Mozilla Foundation said, "We've been outspent, outlobbied. We were going up against the second-biggest corporate lobby in D.C., and it looks like we've won."
Giant Asian Gerbils May Have Caused the Black Death
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Rats, long believed to be the scourge that brought the Black Death to 14th-century Europe, may not be the disease-bearing scoundrels we thought they were. Scientists have shifted blame for the medieval pandemic responsible for millions of deaths to a new furry menace: giant gerbils from Asia. University of Oslo researchers, working with Swiss government scientists, say a "pulse" of bubonic plague strains arrived sporadically from Asia. They posit the Yersinia pestis bacterium was likely carried over the Silk Road via fleas on the giant gerbils during intermittent warm spells. The fleas could have then transmitted the disease to humans. The Black Death is believed to have killed up to 200 million people in Europe. Though very rare today, cases of the plague still arise in Africa, Asia, the Americas and parts of the former Soviet Union, with the World Health Organization reporting 783 cases worldwide in 2013, including 126 deaths.
Mummified Monk Found Inside 1,000-Year-Old Buddha Statue
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Using a CT scanner, scientists and hospital staff at the Meander Medical Center in the Netherlands have discovered the mummified body of a Chinese monk inside a statue of Buddha. The monk is believed to have lived around the year 1100. From the article: "Glowing through the statue's golden cast, the human skeleton is believed to belong to Buddhist master Liu Quan, a member of the Chinese Meditation School. To further investigate the mummy, the researchers took the statue to the Meander Medical Center in Amersfoort and carried out an endoscopy and additional CT scans. They found out that Liu Quan's internal organs had been removed and replaced with scripts covered in Chinese writing. The museum speculates Liu Quan may have 'self-mummified' in order to become a 'living Buddha.'
Ancient and Modern People Followed Same Mathematical Rule To Build Cities
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A study of archeological data from ancient Mexican settlements reveals remarkable similarities between pre-Colombian cities and modern ones, lending support to the idea that urban spaces are shaped by universal social behaviors. Sure, each city has its own local quirks, architecture, language and cuisine. But recently, some theoretical scientists have started to find there are universal laws that shape all urban spaces. And a new study suggests the same mathematical rules might apply to ancient settlements, too. Using archaeological data from the ruins of Tenochtitlan and thousands of other sites around it in Mexico, researchers found that private houses and public monuments were built in predictable ways.
Samsung Smart TVs Don't Encrypt the Voice Data They Collect
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A week ago, the revelation that Samsung collects words spoken by consumers when they use the voice recognition feature in their smart TVs enraged privacy advocates, since according to Samsung's own privacy policy those words can in some cases include personal or sensitive information. Following the incident, David Lodge, a researcher with a U.K.-based security firm called Pen Test Partners, intercepted and analyzed the Internet traffic generated by a Samsung smart TV and found that Samsung does send captured voice data to a remote server using a connection on port 443, a port typically associated with encrypted HTTPS, but that the data was not encrypted. "It's not even HTTP data, it's a mix of XML and some custom binary data packet," said Lodge in a blog post.
Researchers Block HIV Infection In Monkeys With Artificial Protein
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Immunologists have developed a synthetic molecule that's able to attach to HIV and prevent it from interacting with healthy cells. "HIV infects white blood cells by sequentially attaching to two receptors on their surfaces. First, HIV's own surface protein, gp120, docks on the cell's CD4 receptor. This attachment twists gp120 such that it exposes a region on the virus that can attach to the second cellular receptor, CCR5. The new construct combines a piece of CD4 with a smidgen of CCR5 and attaches both receptors to a piece of an antibody. In essence, the AIDS virus locks onto the construct, dubbed eCD4-Ig, as though it were attaching to a cell and thus is neutralized." The new compound was tested in monkeys. After successively higher injections of HIV, all four monkeys who received the compound beforehand stayed from free infection. Any potential medical treatment is still a ways off — the researchers plan more trials in monkeys before involving humans in the testing.
Oxford University Researchers List 12 Global Risks To Human Civilization
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The 12 greatest threats to civilization have been established by Oxford University scientists, with nuclear war and extreme climate change topping the list. Published by the Global Challenges Foundation, the report explores the 12 most likely ways civilization could end. "[This research] is about how a better understanding of the magnitude of the challenges can help the world to address the risks it faces, and can help to create a path towards more sustainable development," the study's authors said. "It is a scientific assessment about the possibility of oblivion, certainly, but even more it is a call for action based on the assumption that humanity is able to rise to challenges and turn them into opportunities."
Mysterious Martian Plumes Discovered By Amateur Astronomers
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Amateur astronomers have spotted two clouds coming from the surface of Mars that are a mystery to the professionals. From Discovery: "The plumes extended over 500- to 1,000 kilometers (311- to 621 miles) in both north-south and east-west directions and changed in appearance daily. They were detected as the sun breached Mars' horizon in the morning, but not when it set in the evening. 'Remarkably ... the features changed rapidly, their shapes going from double blob protrusions to pillars or finger-plume-like morphologies,' scientists investigating the sightings wrote in a paper published in this week's Nature."
Drones and Satellites Spot Lost Civilizations In Unlikely Places
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What do the Sahara desert and the Amazon rainforest have in common? Until recently, archaeologists would have told you they were both inhospitable environments devoid of large-scale human settlements. But they were wrong. Here today at the annual meeting of the AAAS, two researchers explained how remote sensing technology, including satellite imaging and drone flights, is revealing the traces of past civilizations that have been hiding in plain sight."
Tesla Factory Racing To Retool For New Models
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A story about what Tesla will have to do in order to double production every year for the next several years as Elon Musk intends.

"Having just reported a $107.6-million fourth-quarter loss that sent its stock tumbling, Tesla Motors Inc. intends to double vehicle production in the next year as it finally introduces its Model X sport utility vehicle — after about two years of delays. Meanwhile, Tesla is racing to finish the design of its Model 3, the "affordable" Tesla, expected to sell in the $30,000 range after government subsidies. Musk's company is chasing General Motors Co., which plans a 2017 release of its all-electric Bolt, with a similar price and 200-mile driving range between charges."
Elon Musk To Write a Book About Earth Sustainability and Mars Colonization
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Elon Musk has taken on quite a number of projects with a goal of changing the world while making lots of money doing so. He proposes to revolutionize space travel through his commercial launch company, SpaceX. His more earthly endeavors have included electric cars, home solar power, a transportation system called the Hyperloop, a space based Internet and, most recently, a battery that can power a house. Now, according to a story in Business Insider, Musk will open his mind on his views on "sustainability" was well as Mars colonization in book form.
Time-Lapse of Pluto and Charon Produced By New Horizons
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Cool images! Using New Horizons' long range camera, scientists have compiled a movie showing Charon and Pluto orbiting each other during the last week of January 2015. "Pluto and Charon were observed for an entire rotation of each body; a "day" on Pluto and Charon is 6.4 Earth days. The first of the images was taken when New Horizons was about 3 billion miles from Earth, but just 126 million miles (203 million kilometers) from Pluto — about 30% farther than Earth's distance from the Sun. The last frame came 6.5 days later, with New Horizons more than 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) closer." The wobble easily visible in Pluto's motion is due to the gravity of Charon, about one-eighth as massive as Pluto and about the size of Texas. Our view of Pluto and Charon is only going to get better as New Horizons zooms towards its July fly-by.
Bank Hackers Steal Millions Via Malware
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When cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab was called in to investigate ATMs that had begun dispensing cash without input from users, they expected to find a simple problem. Instead, they found the ATMs were just the tip of the iceberg. The bank's internal computer systems were completely compromised, and in addition to the slow but steady siphoning of funds through physical machines, a criminal group was quietly transferring millions of dollars into foreign bank accounts. A report set to be published on Monday shows the attack extended to over 100 banks in 30 nations.

"Kaspersky Lab says it has seen evidence of $300 million in theft from clients, and believes the total could be triple that. But that projection is impossible to verify because the thefts were limited to $10 million a transaction, though some banks were hit several times. In many cases the hauls were more modest, presumably to avoid setting off alarms." Kaspersky Lab is unable to name the banks involved because of non-disclosure agreements, and no banks have come forward to acknowledge the breach. "The silence around the investigation appears motivated in part by the reluctance of banks to concede that their systems were so easily penetrated, and in part by the fact that the attacks appear to be continuing."
Smoking Is Even Deadlier Than Previously Thought
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Who still smokes?" as Denise Grady reports at the NYT that however bad you thought smoking was, it's even worse. A new study has found that in addition to the well-known hazards of lung cancer, artery disease, heart attacks, chronic lung disease and stroke, researchers found that smoking was linked to significantly increased risks of infection, kidney disease, intestinal disease caused by inadequate blood flow, and heart and lung ailments not previously attributed to tobacco. "The smoking epidemic is still ongoing, and there is a need to evaluate how smoking is hurting us as a society, to support clinicians and policy making in public health," says Brian D. Carter, an author of the study. "It's not a done story." Carter says he was inspired to dig deeper into the causes of death in smokers after taking an initial look at data from five large health surveys being conducted by other researchers. As expected, death rates were higher among the smokers but diseases known to be caused by tobacco accounted for only 83 percent of the excess deaths in people who smoked. "I thought, 'Wow, that's really low,' " Mr. Carter said. "We have this huge cohort. Let's get into the weeds, cast a wide net and see what is killing smokers that we don't already know." The researchers found that, compared with people who had never smoked, smokers were about twice as likely to die from infections, kidney disease, respiratory ailments not previously linked to tobacco, and hypertensive heart disease, in which high blood pressure leads to heart failure. "The Surgeon General's report claims 480,000 deaths directly caused by smoking, but we think that is really quite a bit off," concludes Carter adding that the figure may be closer to 540,000.
NASA: Increasing Carbon Emissions Risk Megadroughts
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Droughts in the western U.S. have been bad recently, but not as bad as they could be. Researchers from NASA, Cornell, and Columbia are now warning that if we don't slow the rate at which we produce greenhouse gases, then we're dramatically increasing our odds of a drought that lasts upwards of three decades. "The scientists were interested in megadroughts that took place between 1100 and 1300 in North America. These medieval-period droughts, on a year-to-year basis, were no worse than droughts seen in the recent past. But they lasted, in some cases, 30 to 50 years. When these past megadroughts are compared side-by-side with computer model projections of the 21st century, both the moderate and business-as-usual emissions scenarios are drier, and the risk of droughts lasting 30 years or longer increases significantly."
Study: 8 Million Metric Tons of Plastic Dumped Into Oceans Annually
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According to a new study (abstract) that tracked marine debris from its source, roughly 8 million metric tons of plastic gets dumped into the world's oceans annually. Plastic waste is a global problem, and until now, there wasn't a comprehensive study that highlighted how much plastic waste was making it into the oceans. "The research also lists the world's 20 worst plastic polluters, from China to the United States, based on such factors as size of coastal population and national plastic production. According to the estimate, China tops the list, producing as much as 3.5 million metric tons of marine debris each year. The United States, which generates as much as 110,000 metric tons of marine debris a year, came in at No. 20."
Oldest Twin Remains Found In Siberia
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A team of Canadian and Russian researchers investigating an early Neolithic cemetery in Siberia have identified the world's oldest set of human twins, buried with their young mother. The skeleton of the woman was exhumed in 1997 from a hunter-gatherer cemetery in south-eastern Siberia. Found with 15 marmot teeth — decorative accessories which were probably attached to clothing — the remains were photographed and labelled, but were not investigated by anthropologists. Now Angela Lieverse, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and colleagues Andrzej Weber from the University of Alberta, Canada, and Vladimir Bazaliiskii from Irkutsk University, Russia, have examined the skeleton and found remains of twin fetuses nestled between the pelvis and upper legs. The twins, about 36 to 40 weeks old, probably suffocated during their mother's troubled labor nearly 8,000 years ago. "This is not only one of the oldest archaeologically documented cases of death during childbirth, but also the earliest confirmed set of human twins in the world," Lieverse said.
SpaceX Signs Lease Agreement With Air Force For Landing Pad
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Space News reports that SpaceX has signed a historic agreement to allow construction of a landing pad for Falcon 9 booster stages. From the article: "The U.S. Air Force announced Feb. 10 that SpaceX has signed a five-year lease for Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 13, which was used to launch Atlas rockets and missiles between 1956 and 1978. In its new role, it will serve as a landing pad for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy booster cores launched from Florida, the Air Force said. Financial terms of the lease were not disclosed." Patrick Air Force Base also provides the documentation used for the environmental impact study which details out how the landing pad will be constructed.
ESA Complete Spaceplane Test Flight; IXV Safely Returns To Earth
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The European Space Agency has successfully completed the first test flight of its Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV), as planned, wherein it saw the wingless spaceplane land in one piece in the Pacific Ocean. A Vega VV04 rocket took the IXV to an altitude of 340 km, from which it separated and continued up to 412 km. Reentering from this suborbital path, it recorded a vast amount of data from more than 300 advanced and conventional sensors. According to ESA the spaceplane few east around the globe during its descent and finally landed safely in the the Pacific Ocean west of the Galapagos Islands at about 15:20 GMT.
NASA Releases Details of Titan Submarine Concept
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Now that NASA has got the hang of planetary rovers, the space agency is looking at sending submarines into space around the year 2040. At the recent 2015 NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts Symposium, NASA scientists and engineers presented a study of the Titan Submarine Phase I Conceptual Design (PDF), which outlines a possible mission to Saturn's largest moon, Titan, where the unmanned submersible would explore the seas of liquid hydrocarbons at the Titanian poles.

"At its heart, the submarine would use a 1 kW radiothermal Stirling generator. This would not only provide power to propel the craft, but it would also keep the electronics from freezing. Unfortunately, Titan is so cold that it's almost a cryogenic environment, so the waste heat from the generator would cause the liquids around it to boil and this would need be taken into account when designing the sub to minimize interference. However, NASA estimates that the boat could do about one meter per second (3.6 km/h, 2.2 mph)."
Homemade RC Millennium Falcon Is the Drone You've Always Dreamed of Flying
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Here's a dose of Rebel goodness to tide you over while you wait for the next Star Wars trailer. A drone enthusiast in France recently graced the web with a few videos of a self-built quadcopter with a shell designed to look like the Millennium Falcon. It's enough to make a Star Wars fan tear up. The drone features a blue thruster light, just like the real Millennium Falcon, and has bright front lights as well. Its creator, who goes by "Oliver C", has some serious modding skills. The shape of the Millennium Falcon presented Oliver with some challenges, but he has the balance more or less handled by the time the spaceship (or quadcopter) takes its first flight outside.
The Strangest Moon In the Solar System
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Moons in our Solar System — at least the ones that formed along with the planets — all revolve counterclockwise around their planetary parents, with roughly uniform surfaces orbiting in the same plane as their other moons and rings. Yet one of Saturn's moon's, Iapetus, is unique, with a giant equatorial ridge, an orbital plane that doesn't line up, and one half that's five times brighter than the other. While the first two are still mysteries, the last one has finally been solved.
Female-Run Companies Often do Better Than Male-Run Ones (Video)
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Viktoria Tsukanov, is one of the executives at predictive marketing company Mintigo who did a study in January, 2015 that seemed to show that large companies with female CEOs "achieve up to 18% higher revenue per employee than male CEOs." The study, titled "She’s the CEO and She’s Sensational," used financial data Mintigo collected on 20 million companies, and determined CEOs' genders by analyzing first names, so it was not subject to survey vagaries but was a straight data analysis job. Could this be a case of correlation and causation being unrelated? It's possible. It's also possible that the revenue per employee figures are affected by the fact that female CEOs are more common in healthcare and non-profit organizations, while men dominate manufacturing and construction -- and, as Viktoria pointed out in a blog post headlined "Women Just Raised the Bar. Big Time." there may be other factors at work as well.

The "18% higher revenue" figure specifically applies to companies with more than 1000 workers, while companies with fewer workers may average more revenue per employee if they have male CEOs. Besides discussing the study itself, in our interview Viktoria talks about how male employees might want to alter (or not alter) their behavior if they find themselves working for a female boss for the first time. She also discusses challenges a woman might face if she is suddenly put in charge of a heavily male IT or programming staff. Other thoughts she shares have to do with finding mentors and dealing with negative people, both of which apply to people of all genders. Interesting food for thought all around
Major Record Labels Keep 73% of Spotify Payouts
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New record company figures out of France suggest that artists are being paid just 68 cents from every €9.99 monthly music streaming subscription – as major labels keep hold of 73% of payouts from the likes of Spotify. They’re followed by writers/publishers with a 16% share, and then artists – mostly paid by their labels – who get 11%.
Scientists discover organism that hasn’t evolved in more than 2 billion years
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Evolution is a natural process — everything evolves over a period of time, depending on the environment. But now scientists have discovered an organism which hasn't evolved for over more than 2 billion years. That's almost the half of the life of the Earth. "The scientists examined sulfur bacteria (abstract), microorganisms that are too small to see with the unaided eye, that are 1.8 billion years old and were preserved in rocks from Western Australia’s coastal waters. Using cutting-edge technology, they found that the bacteria look the same as bacteria of the same region from 2.3 billion years ago — and that both sets of ancient bacteria are indistinguishable from modern sulfur bacteria found in mud off of the coast of Chile." Scientists say the extreme stability of the environment around the organisms made further adaptations unnecessary.
Astronomers Find Vast Ring System Eclipsing a Distant Star
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Astronomers from the Leiden Observatory, Netherlands, and the University of Rochester, New York, have discovered a massive ring system obscuring the light of the young star J1407b. It is believed that the rings belong to a massive planet or possibly a brown dwarf, with an orbital period of roughly 10 years. The giant planet boasts a ring system around 200 times larger than that of Saturn, the only planet in our solar system hosting a ring system of its own."
One Man's Quest To Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake
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Fascinating profile of one particular Wikipedia editor Giraffedata (a 51-year-old software engineer named Bryan Henderson), who has spent the last seven years correcting only the incorrect use of "comprised of" on Wikipedia. Using a code to crawl for uses of "comprised of" throughout all of Wiki's articles, he'll then go in and manually corrects them (for example, using "consists of" or "composed of") and has made over 47,000 edits to date.
Big Telecoms Strangling Municipal Broadband, FCC Intervention May Provide Relief
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With limited choice and often dismal upstream speeds, it's no wonder many people are excited to hear that newcomers like Google Fiber are expanding super-fast gigabit internet across the country. But some Americans also have access to other high-speed fiber internet options that compete with the big guys like Comcast and Time Warner Cable: municipal internet. In the case of the small town of Wilson, NC, town officials first approached Time Warner Cable and Embarq, requesting faster Internet access for their residents and businesses. Both companies, likely not seeing a need to "waste" resources on a town of just 47,000 residents, rebuffed their demands. So what did Wilson do? It spent $28 million dollars to build its own high-speed Internet network, Greenlight, for its residents, offering faster speeds and lower prices than what the big guys could offer. And wouldn't you know it; that finally got the big telecoms to respond.

However, the response wasn't to build-out infrastructure in Wilson or compete on price; it was to try and kill municipal broadband efforts altogether in NC, citing unfair competition. NC's governor at the time, Bev Perdue, had the opportunity to veto the House bill that was introduced, but instead allowed it to become law. However, a new report indicates that the FCC is prepared to side with these smaller towns that ran into roadblocks deploying and maintaining their own high-speed Internet networks. The two towns in question include aforementioned Wilson, and Chattanooga, TN. Action by the FCC would effectively strike down the laws — like those that strangle Greenlight in Wilson — which prevent cities from undercutting established players on price.

The FCC is also expected to propose regulating internet service as a utility later this week.
Sony Sells Off Sony Online Entertainment
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Sony Online Entertainment is to become Daybreak Game Company and turn its focus to multi-platform gaming. The company has been acquired by Columbus Nova and is now an indie studio. "We will continue to focus on delivering exceptional games to players around the world, as well as bringing our portfolio to new platforms, fully embracing the multi-platform world in which we all live," said Daybreak president John Smedley. But why did Sony shed SOE? Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter believes an online gaming company "isn't a great fit, particularly as games are shifting increasingly to a free-to-play mobile model."
The "Cool Brick" Can Cool Off an Entire Room Using Nothing But Water
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Emerging Objects, a company which experiments with 3D printing technology, has created what they call the "Cool Brick." Using basic concepts of evaporation, it holds water like a sponge, takes in hot dry air and converts it into cool moist air. 3D-printed with a specially engineered lattice using ceramics, it can be formed into entire walls which could be placed in different rooms of a house or building, thus replacing the need for air conditioning in hot, dry climates such as deserts.
DARPA-Funded Robots Learning To Cook By Watching YouTube Videos
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Once you've built humanoid-shaped robots, how do you get them to move and act like humans? Well, one way to teach them how to do it is to have them watch one of the greatest repository of recorded human experience ever: YouTube. Robots in a Maryland lab have learned how to prepare meals by watching and processing a slew of cooking videos, one of YouTube's most popular genres.
NASA Launches Satellite To Observe Soil Moisture
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NASA has launched an Earth-observing satellite, which will measure the amount of moisture in soil. "In one of the space agency's bolder projects, a newly launched NASA satellite will monitor western drought and study the moisture, frozen and liquid in Earth's soil. It's true that a satellite can't possibly fix the devastating drought that has been plaguing the American West for the last years. It is also true that it can't possibly change the fact that California has just gone through the driest month in recorded history. But what NASA plans to do is to provide the possibility of understanding the patterns of this extreme weather and, perhaps, foresee how much worse it could actually become. Called the SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive Satellite), this new, unmanned project was successfully launched on Saturday atop the United Launch Alliance Delta II Rocket. The launch took place at the California Vandenberg Air Force base at exactly 9:22 AM EST. With the successful launch, NASA just kick started a three year, $916 million mission focused on measuring and forecasting droughts, floods and other possible natural disasters that might come our way in the future."
Police Stations Increasingly Offer Safe Haven For Craigslist Transactions
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Lily Hay Newman reports at Future Tense that the police department in Columbia, Missouri recently announced its lobby will be open 24/7 for people making Craigslist transactions or any type of exchange facilitated by Internet services. This follows a trend begun by police stations in Virginia Beach, East Chicago and Boca Raton. Internet listings like Craigslist are, of course, a quick and convenient way to buy, sell, barter, and generally deal with junk. But tales of Craigslist-related assaults, robberies, and murders where victims are lured to locations with the promise of a sale, aren't uncommon. Also, an item being sold could be broken or fake, and the money being used to buy it could be counterfeit.

"Transactions should not be conducted in secluded parking lots, behind a building, in a dark location especially when you're dealing with strangers. Someone you've never met before – you have no idea what their intentions are – whether they have evil intent or the best of intentions," says Officer James Cason Jr. With surveillance cameras running 24 hours a day, plus the obvious bonus of a constant police presence, meeting in the lobby of the police department can help weed out people trying to rip others off. "People with stolen items may not want to meet at the police department," says Bryana Maupin.
Most Americans Support Government Action On Climate Change
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An overwhelming majority of the American public, including nearly half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future. In a finding that could have implications for the 2016 presidential campaign, the poll also found that two-thirds of Americans say they are more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change. They are less likely to vote for candidates who question or deny the science of human-caused global warming.

Among Republicans, 48 percent said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change, a result that Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of political science at Stanford University and an author of the survey, called "the most powerful finding" in the poll. Many Republican candidates either question the science of climate change or do not publicly address the issue.
'Anonymized' Credit Card Data Not So Anonymous, MIT Study Shows
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Scientists showed they can identify you with more than 90 percent accuracy by looking at just four purchases, three if the price is included — and this is after companies "anonymized" the transaction records, saying they wiped away names and other personal details. The study out of MIT, published Thursday in the journal Science, examined three months of credit card records for 1.1 million people. "We are showing that the privacy we are told that we have isn't real," study co-author Alex "Sandy" Pentland of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in an email.
Scientists 3D-Printing Cartilage For Medical Implants
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Scientists and physicians at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have discovered a way to use MakerBot's 3D-printing technologies to create cartilage and repair tissue damage in the trachea. From the article: "Researchers found that it’s possible to use the MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental 3D Printer to print what’s called 'scaffolding,' made up of PLA, a bioplastic commonly used in in surgical implant devices. The team customized the printer so that living cells could be printed onto the scaffolding. The 3D-printed mixture of healthy cells found in cartilage, and collagen, eventually grew into the shape of a trachea that could be implanted into a patient."
The American App Economy Is Now "Bigger Than Hollywood"
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Technology business analyst Horace Deidu found an interesting nugget while closely examining an Apple press release from earlier this year: "The iOS App Store distributed $10 billion to developers in 2014, which, Deidu points out, is just about as much as Hollywood earned off U.S. box office revenues the same year." That means the American app industry is poised to eclipse the American film industry. Additionally, Apple says its App Store has created 627,000 jobs, which Deidu contrasts with the 374,000 jobs Hollywood creates
Justice Department: Default Encryption Has Created a 'Zone of Lawlessness'
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Leslie Caldwell, an assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, said Tuesday that the department is "very concerned" by the Google's and Apple's decision to automatically encrypt all data on Android and iOS devices.

"We understand the value of encryption and the importance of security," she said. "But we're very concerned they not lead to the creation of what I would call a 'zone of lawlessness,' where there's evidence that we could have lawful access through a court order that we're prohibited from getting because of a company's technological choices.
Comcast Pays Overdue Fees, Offers Freebies For TWC Merger Approval
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In seeking more support for its mega-merger with Time-Warner Cable, Comcast has been going across the country giving local governments a chance to ask for favors in exchange for approving a franchise transfer. In Minneapolis, this turned up an unpaid bill of $40,000 in overdue franchise fees, so Comcast will have to pay the city money it already owed in order to get the franchise transfer. Comcast will also throw in $50,000 worth of free service and equipment.

"Thirty Minneapolis city buildings will get free basic cable for the next seven years as part of a package of concessions (PDF) the city wrung out of Comcast in exchange for blessing its proposed merger with fellow cable giant Time Warner," Minnesota Public Radio reported. The article notes that getting any kind of refund out of a cable company is not easy.

Part of the deal with Minneapolis involves the spinoff of a new cable company called GreatLand Connections that will serve 2.5 million customers in the Midwest and Southeast, including Minnesota. After the deal, Comcast's franchises in those areas would be transferred to GreatLand. Such goodwill concessions may seem impressive as Comcast seeks to foster goodwill, but one wonders how Comcast/Time Warner will behave after the merger.
Kepler Discovers Solar System's Ancient 'Twin'
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Astronomers have found a star system that bears a striking resemblance to our inner solar system. It's a sun-like star that plays host to a system of five small exoplanets — from the size of Mercury to the size of Venus. But there's something very alien about this compact 'solar system'; it formed when the universe was only 20 percent the age it is now, making it the most ancient star system playing host to terrestrial sized worlds discovered to date.
New Google Fiber Cities Announced
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Google has announced the next group of cities set to receive gigabit fiber infrastructure. They're concentrating on cities around four metro areas: Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, and Raleigh-Durham. "We’ve been working closely with city leaders over the past year on a joint planning process to get their communities ready for Google Fiber—and now the really hard work begins. Our next step is to work with cities to create a detailed map of where we can put our thousands of miles of fiber, using existing infrastructure such as utility poles and underground conduit, and making sure to avoid things like gas and water lines. Then a team of surveyors and engineers will hit the streets to fill in missing details. Once we’re done designing the network (which we expect to wrap up in a few months), we’ll start construction." Google also said they're currently looking into Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, and San Jose.
Scientists Determine New Way To Untangle Proteins By Unboiling an Egg
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Univ. of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) and Australian chemists have figured out how to unboil egg whites—an innovation that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the $160 billion global biotechnology industry, according to findings published in ChemBioChem. 'Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg,' said Gregory Weiss, UCI professor of chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry. 'In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold. We start with egg whites boiled for 20 min at 90 C and return a key protein in the egg to working order.'
How Do We Know the Timeline of the Universe?
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The history of the Universe happened in a well-known order: inflation ends, matter wins out over antimatter, the electroweak symmetry breaks, antimatter annihilates away, atomic nuclei form, then neutral atoms, stars, galaxies, and eventually us. But scientists and science magazines often publish timelines of the Universe with incredibly precise times describing when these various events occur. Here's how we arrive at those values, along with the rarely-publicized uncertainties.
At Oxford, a Battery That's Lasted 175 Years -- So Far
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There sits, in the Clarendon Laboratory at Oxford University, a bell that has been ringing, nonstop, for at least 175 years. It's powered by a single battery that was installed in 1840. Researchers would love to know what the battery is made of, but they are afraid that opening the bell would ruin an experiment to see how long it will last. The bell's clapper oscillates back and forth constantly and quickly, meaning the Oxford Electric Bell, as it's called, has rung roughly 10 billion times, according to the university. It's made of what's called a "dry pile," which is one of the first electric batteries. Dry piles were invented by a guy named Giuseppe Zamboni (no relation to the ice resurfacing company) in the early 1800s. They use alternating discs of silver, zinc, sulfur, and other materials to generate low currents of electricity.
10 New Rosetta Images Reveal Comet 67P In All Its Glory
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The first scientific results from Rosetta at comet 67P have been published, and they detail a surprising diversity of features on the 4-kilometer-long duck-shaped comet. The discoveries include images from Rosetta's main science camera, OSIRIS, which reveal 67P to be a far more varied place than anyone expected. The article summarizes a trove of scientific papers that were published today about comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The best part? They're all freely available.
Verizon About To End Construction of Its Fiber Network
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If you've been holding out hope that FiOS would rescue you from your local cable monopoly, it's probably time to give up. Making good on their statements five years ago, Verizon announced this week it is nearing "the end" of its fiber construction and is reducing wireline capital expenditures while spending more on wireless.

The expense of replacing old copper lines with fiber has allegedly led Verizon to stop building in new regions and to complete wiring up the areas where it had already begun. The fiber network was profitable, but nowhere near as profitable as their wireless network. So, if Verizon hasn't started in your neighborhood by now, they never will, and you'd best ignore all those ads for FiOS.
U.S. Gas Stations Vulnerable To Internet Attacks
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Automated tank gauges (ATGs), which are used by gas stations in the U.S. to monitor their fuel tank levels can be manipulated over the Internet by malicious attackers, according to security firm Rapid7. "An attacker with access to the serial port interface of an ATG may be able to shut down the station by spoofing the reported fuel level, generating false alarms, and locking the monitoring service out of the system," said HD Moore, the chief research officer at Rapid7.
Data Encryption On the Rise In the Cloud and Mobile
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Overall, demand for encryption is growing. Cloud encryption services provider CipherCloud recently received a $50 million investment by Deutsche Telekom, which the company said positions it for "explosive growth" this year. The services are designed to allow corporations to benefit from the cost savings and elasticity of cloud-based data storage, while ensuring that sensitive information is protected.

Now, both Apple and Google are providing full encryption as a default option on their mobile operating systems with an encryption scheme they are not able to break themselves, since they don't hold the necessary keys.

Some corporations have gone as far as turning to "zero-knowledge" services, usually located in countries such as Switzerland. These services pledge that they have no means to unlock the information once the customer has entered the unique encryption keys. This zero-knowledge approach is welcomed by users, who are reassured that their information is impossible to retrieve — at least theoretically — without their knowledge and the keys.
Facebook Will Let You Flag Content As 'False'
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If you're tired of seeing fake or misleading news articles posted by your friends to Facebook and then spreading like wildfire, you might be in luck. In a system that's something like Slashdot comment moderation on a grand scale, you'll now be able to flag a story as false. Links that have been flagged this way by many users will appear less frequently in people's newsfeeds, or with a disclaimer attached.
X-ray technique reads burnt Vesuvius scroll
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For the first time, words have been read from a burnt, rolled-up scroll buried by Mount Vesuvius in AD79.
Microbots Deliver Medical Payload In Living Creature For the First Time
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Researchers working at the University of California, San Diego have claimed a world first in proving that artificial, microscopic machines can travel inside a living creature and deliver their medicinal load without any detrimental effects. Using micro-motor powered robots propelled by gas bubbles made from a reaction with the contents of the stomach in which they were deposited, these miniature machines have been successfully deployed in the body of a live mouse.
Astronomers Record Mystery Radio Signals From 5.5 Billion Light Years Away
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For the first time ever, astronomers have captured an enormous radio wave burst in real time, bringing us one step closer to understanding their origins. These fleeting eruptions, called blitzars or FRBs (Fast Radio Bursts), are truly bizarre cosmic phenomena. In the span of a millisecond, they emit as much radiation as the Sun does over a million years. But unlike other super-luminous events that span multiple wavelengths—gamma ray bursts or supernovae, for example—blitzars emit all that energy in a tiny band of the radio light spectrum. Adding to the mystery is the rarity of blitzar sightings. Since these bursts were first discovered in 2007 with Australia's Parkes Telescope, ten have been identified, the latest of which was the first to be imaged in real time.
Mummy Mask May Reveal Oldest Known Gospel
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A text that may be the oldest copy of a gospel known to exist — a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that was written during the first century, before the year 90 — is set to be published.
Elon Musk's Proposed Internet-by-Satellite System Could Link With Mars Colonies
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You have to hand it to Elon Musk who has occasionally be referred to as a real life "Tony Stark." The man helped to co-found PayPal and Tesla Motors. Musk also helms SpaceX, which just recently made its fifth successful trip the International Space Station (ISS) to deliver supplies via the Dragon capsule. The secondary mission of the latest ISS launch resulted in the "successful failure" of the Falcon 9 rocket, which Musk described as a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly (RUD) event. In addition to his Hyperloop transit side project, Musk is eyeing a space-based Internet network that would be comprised of hundred of micro satellites orbiting roughly 750 miles above Earth. The so-called "Space Internet" would provide faster data speeds than traditional communications satellites that have a geosynchronous orbit of roughly 22,000 miles. Musk hopes that the service will eventually grow to become "a giant global Internet service provider," reaching over three billion people who are currently either without Internet service or only have access to low-speed connections. And this wouldn't be a Musk venture without reaching for some overly ambitious goal. The satellite network would truly become a "Space Internet" platform, as it would form the basis for a direct communications link between Earth and Mars.
Republican Bill Aims To Thwart the FCC's Leaning Towards Title II
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U.S. congressional Republicans on Friday proposed legislation that would set "net neutrality" rules for broadband providers, aiming to head off tougher regulations backed by the Obama administration. Republican lawmakers hope to counter the Federal Communications Commission's vote on Feb. 26 for rules that are expected to follow the legal path endorsed by President Barack Obama, which Internet service providers (ISPs) and Republicans say would unnecessarily burden the industry with regulation. Net neutrality activists, now with Obama's backing, have advocated for regulation of ISPs under a section of communications law known as Title II, which would treat them more like public utilities. The White House on Thursday said legislation was not necessary to settle so-called "net neutrality" rules because the Federal Communications Commission had the authority to write them.
Hibernation Protein May Halt Alzheimer's
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The BBC is reporting that tests show a protein called RBM3, involved in hibernation, may hold the key to regenerating synapses. In the early stages of Alzheimer's, and other neurodegenerative disorders, synapses are lost. This inevitably progresses to whole brain cells dying. But during hibernation, 20-30% of the connections in the brain — synapses — are culled as the body preserves resources over winter, and are reformed in the spring, with no loss of memory. Memories can be restored after hibernation as only the receiving end of the synapse shuts down. In a further set of tests, the team showed the brain cell deaths from prion disease and Alzheimer's could be prevented by artificially boosting RBM3 levels. Prof Mallucci was asked if memories could be restored in people if their synapses could be restored: "Absolutely, because a lot of memory decline is correlated with synapse loss, which is the early stage of dementia, so you might get back some of the synapse you've lost."
Analysis Suggests Solar System Contains Massive Trans-Neptunian Objects
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NBC News reports that at least two planets larger than Earth likely lurk far beyond Pluto, just waiting to be discovered, a new analysis of the orbits of "extreme trans-Neptunian objects" (ETNOs) suggests. The potential undiscovered worlds would be more massive than Earth and would lie about 200 AU or more from the sun — so far away that they'd be very difficult, if not impossible, to spot with current instruments. "The exact number is uncertain, given that the data that we have is limited, but our calculations suggest that there are at least two planets, and probably more, within the confines of our solar system," lead author Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, of the Complutense University of Madrid, said.
NASA, NOAA: 2014 Was the Warmest Year In the Modern Record
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NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration both announced today that 2014 was the warmest year in the instrumental temperature record, surpassing the prior winners, 2010 and 2005. NASA also released a short video. They said, "Since 1880, Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius), a trend that is largely driven by the increase in carbon dioxide and other human emissions into the planet’s atmosphere. The majority of that warming has occurred in the past three decades. ... While 2014 temperatures continue the planet’s long-term warming trend, scientists still expect to see year-to-year fluctuations in average global temperature caused by phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña. These phenomena warm or cool the tropical Pacific and are thought to have played a role in the flattening of the long-term warming trend over the past 15 years. However, 2014’s record warmth occurred during an El Niño-neutral year."
SpaceX Landing Attempt Video Released
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Last week, SpaceX attempted to land a Falcon 9 rocket on an autonomous ocean platform after successfully launching supplies to the ISS. It didn't work, but Elon Musk said they were close. Now, an amazing video has been recovered from an onboard camera, and it shows just how close it was. You can see the rocket hitting the platform while descending at an angle, then breaking up. Musk said a few days ago that not only do they know what the problem was, but they've already solved it. The rocket's guiding fins require hydraulic fluid to operate. They had enough fluid to operate for 4 minutes, but ran out just prior to landing. Their next launch already carries 50% more hydraulic fluid, so it shouldn't be an issue next time.
Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says
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A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.

“We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.
Lost Beagle2 Probe Found 'Intact' On Mars
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The missing Mars robot Beagle2 has been found on the surface of the Red Planet, apparently intact. High-resolution images taken from orbit have identified its landing location, and it looks to be in one piece. The UK-led probe tried to make a soft touchdown on the dusty world on Christmas Day, 2003, using parachutes and airbags — but no radio contact was ever made with the probe. Many scientists assumed it had been destroyed in a high-velocity impact.

The new pictures, acquired by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, give the lie to that notion, and hint at what really happened to the European mission. Beagle's design incorporated a series of deployable "petals," on which were mounted its solar panels. From the images, it seems that this system did not unfurl fully. "Without full deployment, there is no way we could have communicated with it as the radio frequency antenna was under the solar panels," explained Prof Mark Sims, Beagle's mission manager from Leicester University.
Where Cellular Networks Don't Exist, People Are Building Their Own
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According to a story at Wired, towns in Mexico that aren't served by the nation's telecom monopoly are taking matters in their own hands with the help of a non-profit and open source technology. "Strategically ignored by Mexico's major telecoms, Yaee is putting itself on the mobile communications grid with the help of a Oaxaca-based telecommunications non-profit called Rhizomatica." A locally-made tower is the backbone of Yaee's first cellular network. The town's network is composed of two antennas and an open-source base station from a Canadian company called NuRAN. Once Yaee gets the tower installed and the network online, its 500 citizens will, for the first time, be able to make cell phone calls from home, and for cheaper rates than almost anywhere else in Mexico.
UK Computing Teachers Concerned That Pupils Know More Than Them
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A survey of UK schools carried out by Microsoft and Computing at School reveals some worrying statistics that are probably more widely applicable. The survey revealed that (68%) of primary and secondary teachers are concerned that their pupils have a better understanding of computing than they do. Moreover, the pupils reinforced this finding with 47% claiming that their teachers need more training. Again to push the point home, 41% of pupils admitted to regularly helping their teachers with technology. This isn't all due to the teachers being new at the task — 76% had taught computing before the new curriculum was introduced. It seems that switching from an approach that emphasised computer literacy to one that actually wants students to do more difficult things is the reason for the problem.
Short-Term Exposure To Diesel Fumes Causes Changes In Gene Expression
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The Vancouver Sun is reporting on experiments using human volunteers showing that just two hours of exposure to diesel exhaust fumes led to biological changes; some genes were switched on while others turned off. The air quality during the diesel fume exposures is said to be comparable to a Beijing highway or shipping ports in British Columbia. The next step is for researchers to study how changes in gene expression from air pollution affect the human body over the long term, since the study shows genes may be vulnerable to pollution without producing any obvious or immediate symptoms of ill health."
The Little Question That Fueled Alan Alda's Big Push For Plain-Spoken Science (PODCAST)
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Alan Alda became famous for his film and television roles, including Hawkeye Pierce in the long-running TV series M*A*S*H*. In recent years, however, the 78-year-old actor-writer-director has taken on a new role--as a high-profile champion of science literacy.
SpaceX Rocket Launch Succeeds, But Landing Test Doesn't
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A Falcon 9 rocket built by SpaceX successfully launched a Dragon cargo ship toward the International Space Station early Saturday— and then returned to Earth, apparently impacting its target ocean platform during a landing test in the Atlantic.

"Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho," Elon Musk tweeted shortly after the launch. He added that they didn't get good video of the landing attempt, so they'll be piecing it together using telemetry and debris. "Ship itself is fine. Some of the support equipment on the deck will need to be replaced."
NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission May Not Actually Redirect an Asteroid
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When President Obama first proposed visiting an asteroid in his 2010 speech at the Kennedy Space Center, many assumed that the mission would be a deep space mission to an Earth-approaching asteroid in its "native orbit" in voyage taking weeks. Then, NASA dropped the idea in 2013 favor of the Asteroid Redirect Mission in which a tiny asteroid would be diverted to lunar orbit to be visited by astronauts. Now, according to a Thursday story in Space News, the ARM might take place without redirecting an asteroid.
Study: 15 Per Cent of Business Cloud Users Have Been Hacked
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Recent research has identified that only one in ten cloud apps are secure enough for enterprise use. According to a report from cloud experts Netskope, organizations are employing an average of over 600 business cloud apps, despite the majority of software posing a high risk of data leak. The company showed that 15% of logins for business apps used by organizations had been breached by hackers. Over 20% of businesses in the Netskope cloud actively used more than 1,000 cloud apps, and over 8% of files in corporate-sanctioned cloud storage apps were in violation of DLP policies, source code, and other policies surrounding confidential and sensitive data. Google Drive, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and Gmail were among the apps investigated in the Netskope research.
Unbundling Cable TV: Be Careful What You Wish For
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Consumers have long complained about the practice of "bundling" cable services and forcing customers to pay for channels they don't want — and an increasing number of "cord cutters" are voting with their wallets. But an article in the New York Times suggests that if cable companies are finally forced to unbundle their services it may actually result in higher prices and worse service. From the article: "there's another, more subjective dimension in which the rise of unbundled cable service may make us worse off. It's possible for a market to become more economically efficient while becoming less pleasant for consumers. For a prime example, head to your nearest airport."
SpaceX One Step Closer To Launching Astronaut
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SpaceX has passed NASA's "certification baseline review," which required the company to outline exactly how it plans to ferry crews to and from the International Space Station using the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket under SpaceX's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract with NASA. The contract will include at least one test flight with an astronaut in the spacecraft.
The Downside of Connected Healthcare: Cyberchondria
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Like hypochondria, cyberchondria is simply a more elegant way of saying "it's all in your head" — only in this case the people self-diagnosing are using tenuous data gleaned from the Internet and our ever-connected gadgets to support their hypotheses. Virtually everyone who has put the Microsoft Band through its paces has come away with the claim that its heart rate monitor is simply bad. ... The Moto 360’s heart rate monitor doesn’t fare much better, and in only the most perfect, motionless conditions will it provide anything close to an accurate reading. These are horribly inaccurate health tools, yet they are used as bullet points for would-be buyers to cling to. ... Even WebMD—the service that has given so many cyberchondriacs the fuel to continue guessing—has a note on every single one of its countless pages that states the site “does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.” And yet, that’s the one and only thing most people use WebMD for.
Hubble Takes Amazing New Images of Andromeda, Pillars of Creation
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The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in April, 1990. In 1995, it presented us with one of its most iconic images: a close-up of gas pillars in the Eagle Nebula, dubbed the "Pillars of Creation." Now, as HST approaches its 25th anniversary, astronomers have re-shot the pillars at a much higher resolution. Here are direct images links: visible light, comparison with old image, near-infrared light. "The infrared view transforms the pillars into eerie, wispy silhouettes seen against a background of myriad stars. That's because the infrared light penetrates much of the gas and dust, except for the densest regions of the pillars. Newborn stars can be seen hidden away inside the pillars."

That's not the only new image from Hubble today: NASA has also released the most high definition view of the Andromeda Galaxy that we've ever seen. Here's a web-friendly image, but that doesn't really do it justice. The full image is 69,536 px by 22,230 px. To see Andromeda in all its glory, visit the ESA's dedicated, zoomable site that contains all the image data. At the highest zoom levels, you can make out a mind-blowing number of individual stars. Andromeda is over 2 million light-years distant.
How Galaxies Are Disappearing From Our Universe
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You've heard of dark energy before, and you know that it causes the expansion of our Universe to be accelerating. Instead of slowing down, distant galaxies are speeding up in their recession from us, rendering them unreachable from our point of view. But even though we can't see the light emitted from them today, we can still see the galaxies themselves! This article explains how this works, how no information gets lost, and what it means for the Big Bang.
Quileute Petroglyph Confirms Connection to Oral Histories
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A pre-contact Quileute petroglyph that depicts K’wati, or the Transformer’s, killing of a monster that terrorized the Quileute people is considered by Quileute officials to be the most significant archaeological find to date. The pre-contact petroglyph, which is set in stone, also confirms the antiquity of an important story that has been passed down as a spoken teaching from generation to generation.
10 Years In, Mars Rover Opportunity Suffers From Flash Memory Degradation
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Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been exploring the Martian surface for over a decade — that's an amazing ten years longer than the 3-month primary mission it began in January 2004. But with its great successes, inevitable age-related issues have surfaced and mission engineers are being challenged by an increasingly troubling bout of "amnesia" triggered by the rover's flash memory. "The problems started off fairly benign, but now they've become more serious — much like an illness, the symptoms were mild, but now with the progression of time things have become more serious," Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News.
5,200 Days Aboard ISS, and the Surprising Reason the Mission Is Still Worthwhile
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Spaceflight has faded from American consciousness even as our performance in space has reached a new level of accomplishment. In the past decade, America has become a truly, permanently spacefaring nation. All day, every day, half a dozen men and women, including two Americans, are living and working in orbit, and have been since November 2000. Charles Fishman has a long, detailed article about life aboard the ISS in The Atlantic that is well worth the read; you are sure to learn something you didn't already know about earth's permanent outpost in space.
Hubble Reveals a Previously Unknown Dwarf Galaxy Just 7 Million Light Years Away
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The L.A. Times reports that the Hubble Space Telescope's ongoing survey work has discovered a dwarf universe a mere 7 million light years away:

While only just recently discovered using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, the galaxy known as KKs3 has been around for a long while. Astronomers led by Igor Karachentsev of the Special Astrophysical Observatory in Karachai-Cherkessia, Russia, showed that some 74% of KKs3’s star mass was formed in the universe’s early years, at least 12 billion years ago. Most of the tiny galaxy’s stars are old and dim, making it a fascinating fossil that could help astronomers understand what ancient galactic environments looked like
300 Million Year Old Fossil Fish Likely Had Color Vision
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Nature is reporting the discovery of mineralized rods and cones in a 300 million year old fossil fish found in Kansas. The soft tissues of the eye and brain decay rapidly after death, within 64 days and 11 days, respectively, and are almost never preserved in the fossil record making this is the first discovery of fossil rods and cones in general and the first evidence for color vision in a fossilized vertebrate eye.
NuSTAR Takes Beautiful X-ray Image of Sol
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a new image release from NASA, the first taken of the Sun by its Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR). It's the most sensitive shot ever taken in the high-energy X-ray range of the spectrum.

While the sun is too bright for other telescopes such as NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, NuSTAR can safely look at it without the risk of damaging its detectors. The sun is not as bright in the higher-energy X-rays detected by NuSTAR, a factor that depends on the temperature of the sun's atmosphere. ... With NuSTAR's high-energy views, it has the potential to capture hypothesized nanoflares -- smaller versions of the sun's giant flares that erupt with charged particles and high-energy radiation. Nanoflares, should they exist, may explain why the sun's outer atmosphere, called the corona, is sizzling hot, a mystery called the "coronal heating problem." The corona is, on average, 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit (1 million degrees Celsius), while the surface of the sun is relatively cooler at 10,800 Fahrenheit (6,000 degrees Celsius). It is like a flame coming out of an ice cube. Nanoflares, in combination with flares, may be sources of the intense heat.
The World Is Not Falling Apart
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As much as we like complaining, and as much as the big media stations like to focus on the most horrible news of the day, the world is actually becoming a better place . Stephen Pinker and Andrew Mack have an article in Slate going through many of the statistics for things like homicide rates, child abuse, wars, and even autocracy vs. democracy. They're all trending in the right direction. Maybe not fast, or even fast enough, but it's getting better.

They say, "Too much of our impression of the world comes from a misleading formula of journalistic narration. Reporters give lavish coverage to gun bursts, explosions, and viral videos, oblivious to how representative they are and apparently innocent of the fact that many were contrived as journalist bait. Then come sound bites from "experts" with vested interests in maximizing the impression of mayhem: generals, politicians, security officials, moral activists. The talking heads on cable news filibuster about the event, desperately hoping to avoid dead air. Newspaper columnists instruct their readers on what emotions to feel. There is a better way to understand the world. ... An evidence-based mindset on the state of the world would bring many benefits."
Study: Red Light Cameras Don't Improve Safety
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Ars Technica summaries a study by the Chicago Tribune (paywalled) that found red light cameras do not improve driver safety. "[W]hile right angle crash incidents have been reduced, rear-end crashes that resulted in injuries went up 22 percent." Chicago officials recently claimed that the cameras led to a 47% reduction "T-bone" injury crashes, using that statistic as evidence that the program is worthwhile. But the study's authors, who "accounted for declining accident rates in recent years as well as other confounding factors, found cameras reduced right-angle crashes that caused injuries by just 15 percent."

They also noted that the city chose to install many cameras at intersections where crashes were rare to begin with. Chicago has raised roughly $500 million from red light camera tickets since 2002. "[O]fficials recently admitted to the city inspector general that they had quietly dropped the threshold for what constitutes a red light camera ticket, allowing the tickets even when cameras showed a yellow light time just under the three-second federal minimum standard. That shift earlier this year snared 77,000 more drivers and $7.7 million in ticket revenue before the city agreed to change the threshold back.
Scientists Discover That Exercise Changes Your DNA
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The human genome is astonishingly complex and dynamic, with genes constantly turning on or off, depending on what biochemical signals they receive from the body. Scientists have known that certain genes become active or quieter as a result of exercise but they hadn't understood how those genes knew how to respond to exercise. Now the NYT reports that scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have completed a study where they recruited 23 young and healthy men and women, brought them to the lab for a series of physical performance and medical tests, including a muscle biopsy, and then asked them to exercise half of their lower bodies for three months. The volunteers pedaled one-legged at a moderate pace for 45 minutes, four times per week for three months. Then the scientists repeated the muscle biopsies and other tests with each volunteer. Not surprisingly, the volunteers' exercised leg was more powerful now than the other, showing that the exercise had resulted in physical improvements. But there were also changes within the exercised muscle cells' DNA. Using technology that analyses 480,000 positions throughout the genome, they could see that new methylation patterns had taken place in 7,000 genes (an individual has 20–25,000 genes).

In a process known as DNA methylation, clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach to the outside of a gene like microscopic mollusks and make the gene more or less able to receive and respond to biochemical signals from the body. In the exercised portions of the bodies, many of the methylation changes were on portions of the genome known as enhancers that can amplify the expression of proteins by genes. And gene expression was noticeably increased or changed in thousands of the muscle-cell genes that the researchers studied. Most of the genes in question are known to play a role in energy metabolism, insulin response and inflammation within muscles. In other words, they affect how healthy and fit our muscles — and bodies — become. Many mysteries still remain but the message of the study is unambiguous. "Through endurance training — a lifestyle change that is easily available for most people and doesn't cost much money," says Sara Lindholm, "we can induce changes that affect how we use our genes and, through that, get healthier and more functional muscles that ultimately improve our quality of life."
Curiosity Detects Mysterious Methane Spikes On Mars
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A gas strongly associated with life on Earth has been detected again in the Martian atmosphere, opening a new chapter in a decade-old mystery about the on-again, off-again appearance of methane on Mars. The latest discovery comes from NASA's Curiosity rover, which in addition to analyzing rocks and soil samples, is sniffing the air at its Gale Crater landing site. A year ago, scientists reported that Curiosity had come up empty-handed after an eight-month search for methane in the atmosphere, leaving earlier detections by ground-based telescopes and Mars-orbiting spacecraft an unexplained anomaly. "We thought we had closed the book on methane. It was disappointing to a lot of people that there wasn't significant methane on Mars, but that's where we were," Curiosity scientist Christopher Webster with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News.
Eric Schmidt: To Avoid NSA Spying, Keep Your Data In Google's Services
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Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told a conference on surveillance at the Cato Institute that Edward Snowden's revelations on NSA spying shocked the company's engineers — who then immediately started working on making the company's servers and services more secure. Now, after a year and a half of work, Schmidt says that Google's services are the safest place to store your sensitive data.
The Shale Boom Won't Stop Climate Change; It Could Make It Worse
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Energy expert H-Holger Rogner walks through the realities of the shale-gas boom, the 'game-changer' that has brought about a drop in energy prices and greatly reduced carbon emissions. But despite the positive impact on carbon emissions, Rogner points out that the cheap gas brought about by fracking shale may already be affecting investments into renewable energy, nuclear energy, and energy efficiency by offering more attractive investment opportunities: 'At today's prices of $4 to $5 per million British thermal units, gas-fired electricity holds a definite competitive advantage over new nuclear construction and unsubsidized renewables.' But natural gas is still a fossil fuel that emits carbon dioxide. 'A much higher share of natural gas in the energy mix would eventually raise emissions again, especially if gas not only displaces coal but also non-fossil energy sources. Moreover, methane, the chief component of natural gas, is itself a heat-trapping greenhouse gas with 25 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide. If total methane leakage—from drilling through end use—is greater than about 4 percent, that could negate any climate benefits of switching from coal and oil to gas.' Terrific information.
Doctors Replace Patient's Thoracic Vertebrae With 3D-Printed Replica
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Earlier this month, surgeons at Zhejiang University in China performed a surgery to remove two damaged vertebrae from a 21-year-old patient. In their place they inserted a 3D printed titanium implant which was shaped to the exact size needed for the patient's body. The surgery, which took doctors much less time and provided significantly less risk [than conventional surgery] was completely successful and the patient is expected to make a full recovery. This is said to be the first ever surgery involving 3D printing vertebrae in order to replace a patient's thoracic vertebrae.
Possible Dark Matter Signal Spotted
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Astronomers may finally have detected a signal of dark matter, the mysterious and elusive stuff thought to make up most of the material universe. While poring over data collected by the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton spacecraft, a team of researchers spotted an odd spike in X-ray emissions coming from two different celestial objects — the Andromeda galaxy and the Perseus galaxy cluster.

"The signal's distribution within the galaxy corresponds exactly to what we were expecting with dark matter — that is, concentrated and intense in the center of objects and weaker and diffuse on the edges," [assuming that dark matter consists of sterile neutrinos] study co-author Oleg Ruchayskiy, of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, said in a statement. "With the goal of verifying our findings, we then looked at data from our own galaxy, the Milky Way, and made the same observations," added lead author Alexey Boyarsky, of EPFL and Leiden University in the Netherlands. The decay of sterile neutrinos is thought to produce X-rays, so the research team suspects these may be the dark matter particles responsible for the mysterious signal coming from Andromeda and the Perseus cluster."
Congress Passes Bill Allowing Warrantless Forfeiture of Private Communications
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Congress has quietly passed an Intelligence Authorization Bill that includes warrantless forfeiture of private communications to local law enforcement. Representative Justin Amash unsuccessfully attempted a late bid to oppose the bill, which passed 325-100. According to Amash, the bill "grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American."

According to the article, a provision in the bill allows
“the acquisition, retention, and dissemination” of Americans’ communications without a court order or subpoena. That type of collection is currently allowed under an executive order that dates back to former President Reagan, but the new stamp of approval from Congress was troubling, Amash said. Limits on the government’s ability to retain information in the provision did not satisfy the Michigan Republican."
Rosetta Results: Comets "Did Not Bring Water To Earth
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findings from the Rosetta mission which suggests water on Earth probably came from asteroids, and not comets.

"Scientists have dealt a blow to the theory that most water on Earth came from comets. Results from Europe's Rosetta mission, which made history by landing on Comet 67P in November, shows the water on the icy mass is unlike that on our planet. The results are published in the journal Science. The authors conclude it is more likely that the water came from asteroids, but other scientists say more data is needed before comets can be ruled out."
Feds Plan For 35 Agencies To Collect, Share, Use Health Records of Americans
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The Weekly Standard reports, "This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the release of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020, which details the efforts of some 35 departments and agencies of the federal government and their roles in the plan to 'advance the collection, sharing, and use of electronic health information to improve health care, individual and community health, and research.' ... Now that HHS has publicly released the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, the agency is seeking the input from the public before implementation. The plan is subject to two-month period of public comment before finalization. The comment period runs through February 6, 2015." Among the many agencies that will be sharing records besides Health and Human Services are: Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Justice and Bureau of Prison, Department of Labor, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of Personnel Management, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Warmer Pacific Ocean Could Release Millions of Tons of Methane
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Off the U.S. West Coast, methane gas is trapped in frozen layers below the seafloor. New research from the University of Washington shows that water at intermediate depths is warming enough to cause these carbon deposits to melt, releasing methane into the sediments and surrounding water. Researchers found that water off the coast of Washington is gradually warming at a depth of 500 meters (about a third of a mile down), the same depth where methane transforms from a solid to a gas. The research suggests that ocean warming could be triggering the release of a powerful greenhouse gas (abstract).

Scientists believe global warming will release methane from gas hydrates worldwide, but most of the focus has been on the Arctic. The new paper estimates that, from 1970 to 2013, some 4 million metric tons of methane has been released from hydrate decomposition off Washington's coast. That's an amount each year equal to the methane from natural gas released in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout off the coast of Louisiana, and 500 times the rate at which methane is naturally released from the seafloor.
Tour the Vintage Radio and Communications Museum (Video)
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"Welcome to the Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of Connecticut," is the headline on the museum's website. The site also says, "Our volunteers are happy to give personal tours," and that's what today's two videos (and two more we'll run tomorrow or later in the week) are: personal tours of the museum conducted by volunteer Bernie Michaels, known in ham radio circles as W2LFV. (Alternate Video Link 1) (Alternate Video Link 2)
Ralph H. Baer, a Father of Video Gaming, Dies At 92
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"At the dawn of the television age in 1951, a young engineer named Ralph Baer approached executives at an electronics firm and suggested the radical idea of offering games on the bulky TV boxes. 'And of course,' he said, 'I got the regular reaction: "Who needs this?" And nothing happened.' It took another 15 years before Mr. Baer, who died Dec. 6 at 92, developed a prototype that would make him the widely acknowledged father of video games. His design helped lay the groundwork for an industry that transformed the role of the television set and generated tens of billions of dollars last year. Mr. Baer 'saw that there was this interesting device sitting in millions of American homes — but it was a one-way instrument,' said Arthur P. Molella, director of the Smithsonian Institution's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. 'He said, "Maybe there's some way we can interact with this thing."'"
Economist: US Congress Should Hack Digital Millennium Copyright Act
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This week's print edition of The Economist has an essay on the Right to Tinker with hardware. From the story: "Exactly why copyright law should be involved in something that ought to be a simple matter of consumer rights is hard to fathom. Any rational interpretation would suggest that when people buy or pay off the loan on a piece of equipment—whether a car, a refrigerator or a mobile phone—they own it, and should be free to do what they want with it. Least of all should they have to seek permission from the manufacturer or the government."
Using Discarded Laptop Batteries To Power Lights
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an IBM study (PDF) which found that discarded laptop batteries could be used to power lights in areas where there's little or no electrical grid. Of the sample IBM tested, 70% of the used batteries were able to power an LED light for more than four hours every day throughout an entire year.

The concept was trialed in the Indian city of Bangalore this year. The adapted power packs are expected to prove popular with street vendors, who are not on the electric grid, as well as poor families living in slums. The IBM team created what they called an UrJar — a device that uses lithium-ion cells from the old batteries to power low-energy DC devices, such as a light. The researchers are aiming to help the approximately 400 million people in India who are off grid.
Sony Employees Receive Email Threat From Hackers: 'Your Family Will Be In Danger
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Things are going from bad to worse when it comes to the recent Sony Pictures Entertainment breach. Not only has sensitive financial information been released — including the salaries of high-ranking Sony executives — but more damaging personal information including 47,000 Social Security numbers of employees and actors have been leaked to the internet. We're now learning some even more disturbing details, unfortunately. Guardians of Peace (GOP), the hackers claiming responsibility for infiltrating Sony's computer network, are now threatening to harm the families of Sony employees. GOP reportedly sent Sony employees an email, which just so happened to be riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, that read in part, "your family will be in danger."
Comet Dust Found In Antarctica
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Researchers have discovered comet dust preserved in the ice and snow of Antarctica, the first time such particles have been found on Earth's surface (abstract). The discovery unlocks a promising new source of this material. The oldest astronomical particles available for study, comet dust can offer clues about how our solar system formed.
Why Elon Musk's Batteries Frighten Electric Companies
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The publicized goal of Tesla's "gigafactory" is to make electric cars more affordable. However, that benefit may soon be eclipsed by the gigafactory's impact on roof-top solar power storage costs, putting the business model of utilities in peril. "The mortal threat that ever cheaper on-site renewables pose" comes from systems that include storage, said physicist Amory Lovins. "That is an unregulated product you can buy at Home Depot that leaves the old business model with no place to hide."
How Astronomers Will Take the "Image of the Century": a Black Hole
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Researchers studying the universe are ramping up to take the image of the century — the first ever image of a supermassive black hole. While the evidence for the existence of black holes is compelling, Scientists will continue to argue the contrary until physical, observational evidence is provided. Now, a dedicated team of astrophysicists armed with a global fleet of powerful telescopes is out to change that. If they succeed, they will snap the first ever picture of the monstrously massive black hole thought to live at the center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. This ambitious project, called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), is incredibly tricky, but recent advances in their research are encouraging the team to push forward, now. The reason EHT needs to be so complex is because black holes, by nature, do not emit light and are, therefore, invisible. In fact, black holes survive by gobbling up light and any other matter — nearby dust, gas, and stars — that fall into their powerful clutches. The EHT team is going to zoom in on a miniscule spot on the sky toward the center of the Milky Way where they believe to be the event horizon of a supermassive black hole weighing in at 4 million times more massive than our sun. We can still see the material, however, right before it falls into eternal darkness. The EHT team is going to try and glimpse this ring of radiation that outlines the event horizon. Experts call this outline the "shadow" of a black hole, and it's this shadow that the EHT team is ultimately after to prove the existence of black holes.
Every Weapon, Armored Truck, and Plane the Pentagon Gave To Local Police
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You may have heard that the image-conscious Los Angeles Unified School District chose to return the grenade launchers it received from the Defense Department's surplus equipment program. You probably have not heard about some of the more obscure beneficiaries of the Pentagon giveaway, but now you can after MuckRock got the Department of Defense to release the full database, letting anyone browse what gear their local department has received.
Ultrasound Used To Create Haptics That Can Be Touched and Felt
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Bristol University used ultrasound focused to create 3d objects out of the thin air. The research, led by Dr Ben Long and colleagues Professor Sriram Subramanian, Sue Ann Seah and Tom Carter from the University of Bristol's Department of Computer Science, could change the way 3D shapes are used. The new technology could enable surgeons to explore a CT scan by enabling them to feel a disease, such as a tumor, using haptic feedback. The method uses ultrasound, which is focused onto hands above the device and that can be felt. By focussing complex patterns of ultrasound, the air disturbances can be seen as floating 3D shapes. Visually, the researchers have demonstrated the ultrasound patterns by directing the device at a thin layer of oil so that the depressions in the surface can be seen as spots when lit by a lamp. "In the future, people could feel holograms of objects that would not otherwise be touchable, such as feeling the differences between materials in a CT scan or understanding the shapes of artifacts in a museum.
Apple Accused of Deleting Songs From iPods Without Users' Knowledge
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During in-court proceedings of Apple's iPod/iTunes antitrust lawsuit on Wednesday, plaintiffs' lawyers claimed Apple surreptitiously deleted songs not purchased through the iTunes Music Store from users' iPods. Attorney Patrick Coughlin, representing a class of individuals and businesses, said Apple intentionally wiped songs downloaded from competing services when users performed a sync with their iTunes library, reports The Wall Street Journal. As explained by the publication, users attempting to sync an iPod with an iTunes library containing music from a rival service, such as RealNetworks, would see an ambiguous error message without prompting them to perform a factory reset. After restoring the device, users would find all non-iTunes music had disappeared. ... It is unclear if iTunes or iPod encountered a legitimate problem, though Coughlin seems to be intimating Apple manufactured the error message as part of a supposed gambit to stop customers from using their iPod to play back music from stores other than iTunes. For its part, Apple said the system was a safety measure installed to protect users
'Moneyball' Approach Reduces Crime In New York City
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The NYT reports that NY County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s most significant initiative has been to transform, through the use of data, the way district attorneys fight crime. "The question I had when I came in was, Do we sit on our hands waiting for crime to tick up, or can we do something to drive crime lower?" says Vance. "I wanted to develop what I call intelligence-driven prosecution." When Vance became DA in 2009, it was glaringly evident that assistant D.A.s fielding the 105,000-plus cases a year in Manhattan seldom had enough information to make nuanced decisions about bail, charges, pleas or sentences. They were narrowly focused on the facts of cases in front of them, not on the people committing the crimes. They couldn't quickly sort minor delinquents from irredeemably bad apples. They didn't know what havoc defendants might be wreaking in other boroughs.
Why Pluto Still Matters
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Nearly a century ago, Pluto was discovered, and for 48 years it remained the only known object whose orbit takes it beyond the gravitational pull of Neptune. In a single generation, we've now discovered more than 1,000 additional objects in the Kuiper Belt, but does that make Pluto any less special? Here's a strong argument for why Pluto might matter now more than ever.
Scientists Have Finally Sampled the Most Abundant Material On Earth
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The most abundant material on Earth didn't have a name, and, in fact, hadn't been seen — until now. For the first time ever, scientists have gotten their hands on a sample of bridgmanite, a mineral that is believed to make up more than a third of the volume of the Earth. In a new paper published in Science late last week, Oliver Tschauner of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and his team describe bridgmanite for the first time.
Google, National Parks Partner To Let Girls Program White House Xmas Tree Lights
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The Washington Post reports the White House holiday decor is going digital this year, with dog-bots and crowdsourced tree lights. "Thanks to Google's Made with Code initiative," reports a National Park Foundation press release, "girls across the country will experience the beauty of code by lighting up holiday trees in President's Park, one of America's 401 national parks and home to the White House." Beginning on December 2, explains the press release, girls can head over to Google's madewithcode.com (launched last June by U.S. CTO Megan Smith, then a Google X VP), to code a design for one of the 56 state and territory trees. Girls can select the shape, size, and color of the lights, and animate different patterns using introductory programming language and their designs will appear live on the trees. "Made with Code is a fun and easy way for millions of girls to try introductory code and see Computer Science as a foundation for their futures. We're thrilled that this holiday season families across the country will be able to try their hands at a fun programming project," said former Rep. Susan Molinari, who now heads Google's lobbying and policy office in Washington, DC.
Who Needs NASA? Exoplanet Detected Using a DSLR
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Until 20 years ago even the best telescopes in the world could not detect a planet outside our solar system. Now, with the aid of a basic DSLR, low cost lens and some DIY magic, you just might be able to "see" ET's home planet for yourself. Your DSLR can do much more than just take a few nice portraits or the occasional vacation photos – if you have some DIY experience (O.K. a bit more than just "some"), you might be able to repeat what David Schneider was recently been able to do — that is, building his own planet finder using only inexpensive photo gear, low cost electronics, the right kind of software and a lot of patience. Although Schneider was "only" able to rediscover an already known exsoplanet (some 63 light-years away from us), what he did — and more importantly how he did it — might allow planet hunting to become closer to SETI@home than NASA's 550,000 million dollar Kepler space telescope project.
In UK Study, Girls Best Boys At Making Computer Games
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Researchers in the University of Sussex's Informatics department asked pupils at a secondary school to design and program their own computer game using a new visual programming language.

The young people, aged 12-13, spent eight weeks developing their own 3D role-playing games. The girls in the classroom wrote more complex programs in their games than the boys and also learnt more about coding. The girls used seven different triggers – almost twice as many as the boys – and were much more successful at creating complex scripts with two or more parts and conditional clauses. Boys nearly always chose to trigger their scripts on when a character says something, which is the first and easiest trigger to learn.
Swiss Scientists Discover DNA Remains Active After Space Journey and Re-entry
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It may sound like the first chapter of a Quatermass thriller, but scientists from the University of Zurich have discovered that DNA can survive not only a flight through space, but also re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere and still remain active. The findings are based on suborbital rocket flights and could have considerable impact on questions about the origins of life on Earth and the problems of terrestrial space probes contaminating other planets.
Researchers Discover an "Off Switch" For Pain In the Brain
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Scientists working together from several international universities have discovered that it is possible to block a pathway in the brain of animals suffering from neuropathic pain, which could have a huge impact on improving pain relief in humans. So far, the most successful ways to treat chronic pain from a pharmacological point of view are to create drugs that that interact or interfere with various channels in the brain to decrease pain, including adrenergic, opioid and calcium receptors. However, there is another way – a chemical stimulator called adenosine that binds to brain receptors to trigger a biological response. Adenosine has shown potential for killing pain in humans, but so far, no one has managed to harness this pain pathway successfully without causing a myriad of side effects. Led by Dr Daniela Salvemini of SLU, the researchers discovered that by activating the A3 adenosine receptor in the rodents' brains and spinal cords, the receptor was able to prevent or reverse pain from nerve damage (the cause of chronic pain).
Scientists Develop "Paint" To Help Cool the Planet
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Engineers at Stanford University have developed an ultrathin, multilayered, nanophotonic material that not only reflects heat away from buildings but also directs internal heat away using a system called "photonic radiative cooling." The coating is capable of reflecting away 97% of incoming sunlight and when combined with the photonic radiative cooling system it becomes cooler than the surrounding air by around 9F (5C). The material is designed to radiate heat into space at a precise frequency that allows it to pass through the atmosphere without warming it.
Edsac Goes Live, At UK's National Museum of Computing
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Britain's National Museum of Computing has flipped the switch on the venerable Edsac computer. The arduous task of reconstructing the 1949 behemoth, fraught with little in terms of the original hardware or documentation, was brought to fruition on Wednesday. As project lead, Andrew Herbert, is quoted as saying, "We face the same challenges as those remarkable pioneers who succeeded in building a machine that transformed computing." A remarkably shaky video of the event, replete with excellent views of the floor at the videographer's feet, can be found here."
"Advanced Life Support" Ambulances May Lead To More Deaths
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Jason Kane reports at PBS that emergency treatments delivered in ambulances that offer "Advanced Life Support" for cardiac arrest may be linked to more death, comas and brain damage than those providing "Basic Life Support." "They're taking a lot of time in the field to perform interventions that don't seem to be as effective in that environment," says Prachi Sanghavi. "Of course, these are treatments we know are good in the emergency room, but they've been pushed into the field without really being tested and the field is a much different environment." The study suggests that high-tech equipment and sophisticated treatment techniques may distract from what's most important during cardiac arrest — transporting a critically ill patient to the hospital quickly.

Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulances stick to simpler techniques, like chest compressions, basic defibrillation and hand-pumped ventilation bags to assist with breathing with more emphasis placed on getting the patient to the hospital as soon as possible. Survival rates for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients are extremely low regardless of the ambulance type with roughly 90 percent of the 380,000 patients who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year not surviving to hospital discharge. But researchers found that 90 days after hospitalization, patients treated in BLS ambulances were 50 percent more likely to survive than their counterparts treated with ALS. Not everyone is convinced of the conclusions. "They've done as much as they possibly can with the existing data but I'm not sure that I'm convinced they have solved all of the selection biases," says Judith R. Lave. "I would say that it should be taken as more of an indication that there may be some very significant problems here."
Sony Pictures Computer Sytems Shut Down After Ransomware Hack
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It appears that Sony Pictures has become the victim of a massive ransomware hack, which has resulted in the company basically shutting down its IT infrastructure. According to an unnamed source, every computer in Sony's New York Office, and every Sony Pictures office across the nation, bears an image from the hacker with the headline "Hacked By #GOP" which is then followed by a warning. The hacker, or group, claims to have obtained corporate secrets and has threatened to reveal those secrets if Sony doesn't meet their demands.
US Attracting Fewer Educated, Highly Skilled Migrants
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The U.S. economy has long been powered in part by the nation's ability to attract the world's most educated and skilled people to its shores. But a new study of the worldwide migration of professionals to the U.S. shows a sharp drop-off in its proportional share of those workers – raising the question of whether the nation will remain competitive in attracting top talent in an increasingly globalized economy. The study, which used a novel method of tracking people through data from the social media site LinkedIn, is believed to be the first to monitor global migrations of professionals to the U.S., said co-author Emilio Zagheni, a University of Washington assistant professor of sociology and fellow of the UW eScience Institute. Among other things, the study, presented recently in Barcelona, Spain, found that just 13 percent of migrating professionals in the sample group chose the U.S. as a destination in 2012, down from 27 percent in 2000.
Highly Advanced Backdoor Trojan Cased High-Profile Targets For Years
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Researchers have unearthed highly advanced malware they believe was developed by a wealthy nation-state to spy on a wide range of international targets in diverse industries, including hospitality, energy, airline, and research. Backdoor Regin, as researchers at security firm Symantec are referring to the trojan, bears some resemblance to previously discovered state-sponsored malware, including the espionage trojans known as Flame and Duqu, as well as Stuxnet, the computer worm and trojan that was programmed to disrupt Iran's nuclear program. Regin likely required months or years to be completed and contains dozens of individual modules that allowed its operators to tailor the malware to individual targets.
NASA Remasters 20-Year-Old Galileo Photographs of Jupiter's Moon, Europa
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Scientists have produced a new version of what is perhaps NASA's best view of Jupiter's ice-covered moon, Europa. The mosaic of color images was obtained in the late 1990s by NASA's Galileo spacecraft. This is the first time that NASA is publishing a version of the scene produced using modern image processing techniques. This view of Europa stands out as the color view that shows the largest portion of the moon's surface at the highest resolution. An earlier, lower-resolution version of the view, published in 2001, featured colors that had been strongly enhanced. The new image more closely approximates what the human eye would see. Space imaging enthusiasts have produced their own versions of the view using the publicly available data, but NASA has not previously issued its own rendition using near-natural color.
Extreme Shrimp May Hold Clues To Alien Life On Europa
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Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are studying a mysterious ecosystem at one of the world's deepest undersea hydrothermal vents to get clues about what life could be like on other planetary bodies, such as Jupiter's icy moon Europa, which has a subsurface ocean. At the vents, tiny shrimp are piled on top of each other, layer upon layer, crawling on rock chimneys that spew hot water. "You go along the ocean bottom and there's nothing, effectively," says Max Coleman. "And then suddenly we get these hydrothermal vents and a massive ecosystem. It's just literally teeming with life." Bacteria, inside the shrimps' mouths and in specially evolved gill covers, produce organic matter that feed the crustaceans. The particular bacteria in the vents are able to survive in extreme environments because of chemosynthesis, a process that works in the absence of sunlight and involves organisms getting energy from chemical reactions. In this case, the bacteria use hydrogen sulfide, a chemical abundant at the vents, to make organic matter. The temperatures at the vents can climb up to a scorching 842 degrees Fahrenheit (450 degrees Celsius), but waters just an inch away are cool enough to support the shrimp. The shrimp are blind, but have thermal receptors in the backs of their heads.

According to the exobiologists, these mysterious shrimps and its symbiotic bacterium may hold clues "about what life could be like on other planetary bodies." It's life that may be similar—at the basic level—to what could be lurking in the oceans of Europa, deep under the icy crust of the Jupiter moon. According to Emma Versteegh "whether an animal like this could exist on Europa heavily depends on the actual amount of energy that's released there, through hydrothermal vents." Nobody is seriously planning a landing mission on Europa yet. But the European Space Agency aims to launch its JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission (JUICE) to make the first thickness measurements of Europa's icy crust starting in 2030 and NASA also has begun planning a Europa Clipper mission that would study the icy moon while doing flybys in a Jupiter
Amnesty International Releases Tool To Combat Government Spyware
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Human rights charity Amnesty International has released Detekt to tool which finds and removes known government spyware programs. Describing the free software as the first of its kind, Amnesty commissioned the tool from prominent German computer security researcher and open source advocate Claudio Guarnieri, aka 'nex'. While acknowledging that the only sure way to prevent governments surveillance of huge dragnets of individuals is legislation, Marek Marczynski of Amnesty nevertheless called the tool ( downloadable here ) a useful countermeasure versus spooks. According to the app's instructions, it operates similarly to popular malware or virus removal suites, though systems must be disconnected from the Internet prior to it scanning.
Polyphonic Overtone Singing Explained Visually With Spectrograms
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If you have visited my web page on Balkan Music ( http://billpringle.com/wrp/balkan.html), you are familiar with polyphonic choir performances. Here is a single singer demonstration that explains how this singing works.

The overtone singer Anna-Maria Hefele can sing two notes at the same time. In her latest video, spectrograms and frequency filters are used to explain how she can produce two melody lines at the same time, and how she uses her mouth to filter the frequencies of her voice. When the voice produces a sound, many harmonics (or overtones) sound at the same time, and we normally hear this as a single tone. In overtone singing, the mouth filters out all harmonics but one, and the one that remains is amplified to become louder. This is then perceived as a separate tone, next to the fundamental. In her video, Anna-Maria shows techniques that become increasingly advanced. She shows the overtone scale (steady fundamental, moving overtone), the undertone scale (steady overtone, moving fundamental), parallel movement and opposing movement of overtone and fundamental, and even complex compositions with two separate melody lines.
Robots Put To Work On E-Waste
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Australian researchers have programmed industrial robots to tackle the vast array of e-waste thrown out every year. The research shows robots can learn and memorize how various electronic products — such as LCD screens — are designed, enabling those products to be disassembled for recycling faster and faster. The end goal is less than five minutes to dismantle a product.
Military Laser/Radio Tech Proposed As Alternative To Laying Costly Fiber Cable
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I worked on a project with a company who offered something like this. They joked that the only problem was birds. ;^) < br />
Californian comm-tech company Aoptix is testing new laser+radio hybrid communications technology with three major U.S. internet carriers. The equipment required can be bolted onto existing infrastructure, such as cell-tower masts, and can communicate a 2gbps stream over 6.5 miles. The system was developed over 10 years at a cost of $100 million in conjunction with the Air Force Research Laboratory, and the military implementation of it is called Aoptix Enhanced Air Ground Lasercom System (EAGLS). The laser component of the technology uses a deformable mirror to correct for atmospheric distortion over the mast-hop, in real-time. The laser part of the system is backed-up by a redundant radio transmitter. The radio component has low attenuation in rainy conditions with large refracting raindrops, while the laser is more vulnerable to dense fog. The system, which features auto-stabilization to compensate for cell-tower movement and is being proposed as an alternative to the tremendous cost p/m of laying fiber cable, is being tested in Mexico and Nigeria in addition to the three ISP trials.
MARS, Inc: We Are Running Out of Chocolate
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There's no easy way to say this: You're eating too much chocolate, all of you. And it's getting so out of hand that the world could be headed towards a potentially disastrous (if you love chocolate) scenario if it doesn't stop. ... Chocolate deficits, whereby farmers produce less cocoa than the world eats, are becoming the norm. Already, we are in the midst of what could be the longest streak of consecutive chocolate deficits in more than 50 years. It also looks like deficits aren't just carrying over from year-to-year—the industry expects them to grow. Last year, the world ate roughly 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than it produced. By 2020, the two chocolate-makers warn that that number could swell to 1 million metric tons, a more than 14-fold increase; by 2030, they think the deficit could reach 2 million metric tons.
How To Mathematically Predict Lightning Strikes
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Soon, it's very possible that when you say something like "you have better odds of being struck by lightning," that won't necessarily mean it's all that rare. And there's a good chance that you'll be able to tell that person (roughly) what the odds of that happening are. Research published this week in Nature provides an equation that is reasonably accurate at mathematically predicting lightning strikes. From the article:

"There's not a whole lot of noise in Romps's estimates: CAPE [Convective Available Potential Energy] is something that can be predicted out fairly easily: "All [models] in our ensemble predict that [the United State's] mean CAPE will increase over the 21st century, with a mean increase of 11.2 percent per degree Celsius of global warming," he wrote. "Overall, the [models] predict a ~50 percent increase in the rate of lightning strikes in the United States over the 21st century."
Researchers Develop $60 Sonar Watch To Aid the Visually Impaired
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Biology and computer science students and professors at Wake Forest University have teamed up to develop a device to assist the visually impaired. Following the principles of echolocation used by bats and moths, the interdisciplinary team has developed a watch-like unit that allows the wearer to navigate their environment using sonar. To make the project even more remarkable, all the parts and materials for the prototype cost less than $60.
Department of Justice Harvests Cell Phone Data Using Planes
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The US Department of Justice has been using fake communications towers installed in airplanes to acquire cellular phone data for tracking down criminals, reports The Wall Street Journal. Using fix-wing Cessnas outfitted with DRT boxes produced by Boeing, the devices mimic cellular towers, fooling cellphones into reporting "unique registration information" to track down "individuals under investigation." The program, used by the U.S. Marshals Service, has been in use since 2007 and deployed around at least five major metropolitan areas, with a flying range that can cover most of the US population. As cellphones are designed to connect to the strongest cell tower signal available, the devices identify themselves as the strongest signal, allowing for the gathering of information on thousands of phones during a single flight. Not even having encryption on one's phone, like found in Apple's iPhone 6, prevents this interception. While the Justice Department would not confirm or deny the existence of such a program, Verizon denies any involvement in this program, and DRT (a subsidiary of Boeing), AT&T, and Sprint have all declined to comment.
Study Shows How Humans Can Echolocate
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Blind from infancy, Daniel Kish learned as a young boy to judge his height while climbing trees by making rapid clicking noises and listening for their echoes off the ground. No one taught him the technique, which is now recognized as a human form of echolocation. Like Kish, a handful of blind echolocators worldwide have taught themselves to use clicks and echoes to navigate their surroundings with impressive ease — Kish can even ride his bike down the street. A study of sighted people newly trained to echolocate now suggests that the secret to Kish's skill isn't just supersensitive ears. Instead, the entire body, neck, and head are key to 'seeing' with sound — an insight that could assist blind people learning the skill.
Philae Lands Successfully On Comet
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The European Space Agency has confirmed that the Philae probe has successfully landed on the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and established contact with headquarters. The harpoons have deployed and reeled in the slack, and the landing gear has retracted. (Edit: They're now saying the harpoons didn't fire after all.) There are no photos from the surface yet, but the Rosetta probe snapped this picture of Philae after initial separation, and Philae took this picture of Rosetta. Emily Lakdawalla has a timeline of the operation (cached). She notes that there was a problem with the gas thruster mounted on top of the lander. The purpose of the thruster was to keep the lander on the comet after landing, since there was a very real possibility that it could bounce off. (The comet's local gravity is only about 10^-3 m/s^2.) The pins that were supposed to puncture the wax seal on the jet were unable to do so for reasons unknown. Still, the jet did not seem to be necessary. The official ESA Rosetta site will be continually updating as more data comes back.
ISPs Removing Their Customers' Email Encryption
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Recently, Verizon was caught tampering with its customer's web requests to inject a tracking super-cookie. Another network-tampering threat to user safety has come to light from other providers: email encryption downgrade attacks. In recent months, researchers have reported ISPs in the U.S. and Thailand intercepting their customers' data to strip a security flag — called STARTTLS — from email traffic. The STARTTLS flag is an essential security and privacy protection used by an email server to request encryption when talking to another server or client.

By stripping out this flag, these ISPs prevent the email servers from successfully encrypting their conversation, and by default the servers will proceed to send email unencrypted. Some firewalls, including Cisco's PIX/ASA firewall do this in order to monitor for spam originating from within their network and prevent it from being sent. Unfortunately, this causes collateral damage: the sending server will proceed to transmit plaintext email over the public Internet, where it is subject to eavesdropping and interception.
President Obama Backs Regulation of Broadband As a Utility
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In a move that is sure to generate controversy, the President has announced his support for regulation of broadband connections, including cellular broadband, under Title 2 of the Telecommunications Act. Reclassification of broadband in this way would treat it as a utility, like landline telephones, subject providers to new regulations governing access, and would allow the FCC to easily impose net neutrality requirements.
Report: Federal Workers, Contractors Behind Half of Government Cyber Breaches
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Federal employees and contractors are unwittingly undermining a $10 billion-per-year effort to protect sensitive government data from cyberattacks, according to a published report. The AP says that workers in more than a dozen agencies, from the Defense and Education departments to the National Weather Service, are responsible for at least half of the federal cyberincidents reported each year since 2010, according to an analysis of records.
Scientists Discover a Virus That Changes the Brain To "Make Humans More Stupid"
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"Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Medical School and the University of Nebraska have discovered an algae virus that makes us more stupid by infecting our brains . The researchers were conducting a completely unrelated study into throat microbes when they realized that DNA in the throats of healthy people matched the DNA of a chlorovirus virus known as ATCV-1. ATCV-1 is a virus that infects the green algae found in freshwater lakes and ponds. It had previously been thought to be non-infectious to humans, but the scientists found that it actually affects cognitive functions in the brain by shortening attention span and causing a decrease in spatial awareness. For the first time ever, the researchers proved that microorganisms have the ability to trigger delicate physiological changes to the human body, without launching a full-blown attack on the human immune system."
When We Don't Like the Solution, We Deny the Problem
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A new study (abstract) from Duke University tested whether the desirability of a solution affects beliefs in the existence of the associated problem. Researchers found that 'yes, people will deny the problem when they don't like the solution. Quoting: "Participants in the experiment, including both self-identified Republicans and Democrats, read a statement asserting that global temperatures will rise 3.2 degrees in the 21st century. They were then asked to evaluate a proposed policy solution to address the warming. When the policy solution emphasized a tax on carbon emissions or some other form of government regulation, which is generally opposed by Republican ideology, only 22 percent of Republicans said they believed the temperatures would rise at least as much as indicated by the scientific statement they read.

But when the proposed policy solution emphasized the free market, such as with innovative green technology, 55 percent of Republicans agreed with the scientific statement. The researchers found liberal-leaning individuals exhibited a similar aversion to solutions they viewed as politically undesirable in an experiment involving violent home break-ins. When the proposed solution called for looser versus tighter gun-control laws, those with more liberal gun-control ideologies were more likely to downplay the frequency of violent home break-ins."
Elon Musk's Next Mission: Internet Satellites
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According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Elon Musk is looking at a new project: smaller, cheaper satellites that can provide internet access for people all across the world. "Mr. Musk is working with Greg Wyler, a satellite-industry veteran and former Google Inc. executive, these people said. Mr. Wyler founded WorldVu Satellites Ltd., which controls a large block of radio spectrum. In talks with industry executives, Messrs. Musk and Wyler have discussed launching around 700 satellites, each weighing less than 250 pounds, the people said. That is about half the size of the smallest communications satellites now in commercial use. The satellite constellation would be 10 times the size of the largest current fleet, managed by Iridium Communications Inc. ... The smallest communications satellites now weigh under 500 pounds and cost several million dollars each. WorldVu hopes to bring the cost of manufacturing smaller models under $1 million, according to two people familiar with its plans."
Soft robotic arm developed at CMU inspires Disney's animated feature
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The main character in “Big Hero 6” has its roots in Carnegie Mellon University’s soft robotic arm designed to brush people’s teeth.
Revolutionary New View of Baby Planets Forming Around a Star
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Welcome to HL Tauri — a star system that is just being born and the target of one of the most mind-blowing astronomical observations ever made. Observed by the powerful Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, this is the most detailed view of the proto-planetary disk surrounding a young star 450 light-years away. And those concentric rings cutting through the glowing gas and dust? Those, my friends, are tracks etched out by planets being spawned inside the disk. In short, this is the mother of all embryonic star system ultrasounds. But this dazzling new observation is so much more — it's a portal into our solar system's past, showing us what our system of planets around a young sun may have looked like over 4 billion years ago. And this is awesome, because it proves that our theoretical understanding about the evolution of planetary systems is correct. However, there are some surprises. "When we first saw this image we were astounded at the spectacular level of detail," said Catherine Vlahakis, ALMA Deputy Program Scientist. "HL Tauri is no more than a million years old, yet already its disc appears to be full of forming planets. This one image alone will revolutionize theories of planet formation."
Ebola Nose Spray Vaccine Protects Monkeys
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A new needle-free vaccine has proven to be 100% effective at stopping the transmission of Ebola in monkeys, and it could spell a breakthrough in the battle against the disease. The vaccine is administered through a nasal spray using a common cold virus genetically engineered to carry Ebola DNA. From NBC: "The vaccine uses a common cold virus genetically engineered to carry a tiny piece of Ebola DNA. Sprayed up the nose, it saved all nine monkeys tested for infection. But now the research is dead in the water without funding, Maria Croyle of the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy said. 'Now we are at the crossroads, trying to figure out where to get the funding and resources to continue,' Croyle told NBC News."
Internet Archive Launches Arcade of Classic Games In the Browser
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The Internet Archive has launched the "Internet Arcade," a collection of over 900 arcade games from the '70s, '80s, and '90s that are free to play in an emulated, browser-based environment. The Arcade makes use of JavaScript Mess, which the crew at the Archive has been working on for several years.

Obviously, a lot of people are going to migrate to games they recognize and ones that they may not have played in years. They’ll do a few rounds, probably get their @$%^& kicked, smile, and go back to their news sites. A few more, I hope, will go towards games they've never heard of, with rules they have to suss out, and maybe more people will play some of these arcades in the coming months than the games ever saw in their "real" lifetimes. And my hope is that a handful, a probably tiny percentage, will begin plotting out ways to use this stuff in research, in writing, and remixing these old games into understanding their contexts.
UN Climate Change Panel: It's Happening, and It's Almost Entirely Man's Fault
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The UN released a new climate change report which concludes that it is indeed happening, and it's almost entirely man's fault. From the article: "The IPCC was set up in 1988 to assess global warming and its impacts. The report released Sunday caps its latest assessment, a mega-review of 30,000 climate change studies that establishes with 95-percent certainty that nearly all warming seen since the 1950s is man-made." However, the report isn't entirely dire. It goes on to say: "To get a good chance of staying below 2C, the report's scenarios show that world emissions would have to fall by between 40 and 70 percent by 2050 from current levels and to 'near zero or below in 2100.'" Below zero of course means mining existing CO2 out of the atmopshere somehow.
China Completes Its First Lunar Return Mission
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China's Chang'e 5-T1 mission to the moon has not only taken some beautiful pictures of the Earth from the craft's perspective (hat tip to reader Taco Cowboy) but as of Friday evening (continental U.S. time) returned a capsule to Earth. (The capsule landed in Inner Mongolia.) From the linked article:

Prior to re-entering the Earths atmosphere, the unnamed probe was travelling at 11.2 kilometres per second (25,000 miles per hour), a speed that can generate temperatures of more than 1,500 degrees Celsius (2,700 degrees Fahrenheit), the news agency reported. To slow it down, scientists let the craft "bounce" off Earths atmosphere before re-entering again and landing. ... The module would have been 413,000 kilometres from Earth at its furthest point on the mission, SASTIND said at the time. The mission was launched to test technology to be used in the Change-5, Chinas fourth lunar probe, which aims to gather samples from the moons surface and will be launched around 2017, SASTIND previously said.
Rosetta Probe Reveals What a Comet Smells Like
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If you like the smell of rotten eggs, horse urine, formaldehyde, bitter almonds, alcohol, vinegar with a hint of sweet ether, you'd love the smell of a comet . Researchers at the University of Bern, in Switzerland, determined the odor of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet by analyzing the chemicals in its coma, the fuzzy head surrounding the nucleus. The molecules were collected by an instrument aboard the Rosetta spacecraft, which has been flying in tandem with the comet.
Law Lets IRS Seize Accounts On Suspicion, No Crime Required
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The IRS admits to seizing hundreds of thousands of dollars of private assets , without any proof of illegal activity, merely because there is a law that lets them do it. From the article: "Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up and settle the case for a portion of their money.

'They're going after people who are really not criminals,' said David Smith, a former federal prosecutor who is now a forfeiture expert and lawyer in Virginia. 'They're middle-class citizens who have never had any trouble with the law.'" The article describes several specific cases, all of which are beyond egregious and are in fact entirely unconstitutional. The Bill of Rights is very clear about this: The federal government cannot take private property without just compensation."
Cancer-killing stem cells engineered in lab
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Scientists from Harvard Medical School have discovered a way of turning stem cells into killing machines to fight brain cancer.

In experiments on mice, the stem cells were genetically engineered to produce and secrete toxins which kill brain tumours, without killing normal cells or themselves.

Researchers said the next stage was to test the procedure in humans.

A stem cell expert said this was "the future" of cancer treatment.
Verizon Injects Unique IDs Into HTTP Traffic
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Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest wireless carrier, is now also a real-time data broker. According to a security researcher at Stanford, Big Red has been adding a unique identifier to web traffic. The purpose of the identifier is advertisement targeting, which is bad enough. But the design of the system also functions as a 'supercookie' for any website that a subscriber visits. "Any website can easily track a user, regardless of cookie blocking and other privacy protections. No relationship with Verizon is required. ...while Verizon offers privacy settings, they dont prevent sending the X-UIDH header. All they do, seemingly, is prevent Verizon from selling information about a user."
Just like they said they would.
Decades-old Scientific Paper May Hold Clues To Dark Matter
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Here's one reason libraries hang on to old science journals: A paper from an experiment conducted 32 years ago may shed light on the nature of dark matter, the mysterious stuff whose gravity appears to keep the galaxies from flying apart. The old data put a crimp in the newfangled concept of a 'dark photon' and suggest that a simple bargain-basement experiment could put the idea to the test. The data come from E137, a "beam dump" experiment that ran from 1980 to 1982 at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California. In the experiment, physicists slammed a beam of high-energy electrons, left over from other experiments, into an aluminum target to see what would come out. Researchers placed a detector 383 meters behind the target, on the other side of a sandstone hill 179 meters thick that blocked any ordinary particles.
Stem Cells Grown From Patient's Arm Used To Replace Retina
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The Globe and Mail is reporting the success of a procedure to implant a replacement retina grown from cells from the patient's skin. Quoting: "Transplant doctors are stepping gingerly into a new world, one month after a Japanese woman received the first-ever tissue transplant using stem cells that came from her own skin, not an embryo. On Sept. 12, doctors in a Kobe hospital replaced the retina of a 70-year-old woman suffering from macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the developed world. The otherwise routine surgery was radical because scientists had grown the replacement retina in a petri dish, using skin scraped from the patient's arm.

The Japanese woman is fine and her retinal implant remains in place. Researchers around the world are now hoping to test other stem-cell-derived tissues in therapy. Dr. Jeanne Loring from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., expects to get approval within a few years to see whether neurons derived from stem cells can be used to treat Parkinson's disease."
6,000 Year Old Temple Unearthed In Ukraine
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A massive archaeological dig of an ancient Ukrainian village first begun in 2009 has yielded a discovery that I sort of hope ends up inspiring a video game: a massive, scary-sounding temple. From the article: "Inside the temple, archaeologists found the remains of eight clay platforms, which may have been used as altars, the finds suggested. A platform on the upper floor contains "numerous burnt bones of lamb, associated with sacrifice," write Burdo and Videiko, of the Institute of Archaeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. The floors and walls of all five rooms on the upper floor were "decorated by red paint, which created [a] ceremonial atmosphere." Maybe this is what Putin has been after.
Oldest Human Genome Reveals When Our Ancestors Mixed With Neanderthals
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DNA recovered from a femur bone in Siberia belongs to a man who lived 45,000 years ago, according to a new study. His DNA was so well preserved that scientists were able to sequence his entire genome, making his the oldest complete modern human genome on record. Like present-day Europeans and Asians, the man has about 2% Neanderthal DNA . But his Neanderthal genes are clumped together in long strings, as opposed to chopped up into fragments, indicating that he lived not long after the two groups swapped genetic material. The man likely lived 7000 to 13,000 years after modern humans and Neanderthals mated, dating the mixing to 52,000 to 58,000 years ago, the researchers conclude. That's a much smaller window than the previous best estimate of 37,000 to 86,000 years ago.
Astronomers Find Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed
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Astronomers using the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the NuSTAR satellite have discovered a pulsar so bright that it challenges how scientists think pulsars work. While observing galaxy M82 in hopes of spotting supernovae, the researchers found an unexpected source of X-rays very close to the galaxy's core. It was near another source, thought to be a black hole. But the new one was pulsing, which black holes don't do. The trouble is that according to known pulsar models, it's about 100 times brighter than the calculated limits to its luminosity (abstract). Researchers used a different method to figure out its mass, and the gap shrank, but it's still too bright to fit their theories.
What It Took For SpaceX To Become a Serious Space Company
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The Atlantic has a nice profile of SpaceX's rise to prominence how a private startup managed to successfully compete with industry giants like Boeing in just a decade of existence. "Regardless of its inspirations, the company was forced to adopt a prosaic initial goal: Make a rocket at least 10 times cheaper than is possible today. Until it can do that, neither flowers nor people can go to Mars with any economy. With rocket technology, Musk has said, "you're really left with one key parameter against which technology improvements must be judged, and that's cost." SpaceX currently charges $61.2 million per launch. Its cost-per-kilogram of cargo to low-earth orbit, $4,653, is far less than the $14,000 to $39,000 offered by its chief American competitor, the United Launch Alliance. Other providers often charge $250 to $400 million per launch; NASA pays Russia $70 million per astronaut to hitch a ride on its three-person Soyuz spacecraft. SpaceX's costs are still nowhere near low enough to change the economics of space as Musk and his investors envision, but they have a plan to do so (of which more later)."
Cell Transplant Allows Paralyzed Man To Walk
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A breakthrough medical treatment that has restored the ability to walk to a man who was paralyzed from the chest down after his spinal cord was severed in a knife attack. A research team from the UK, led by Professor Geoff Raisman, transplanted cells from the patient's nose, along with strips of nerve tissue from his ankle, to the place where the spine was severed. This allowed the fibers in the spinal cord to gradually reconnect. The treatment used olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) - specialist cells that form part of the sense of smell. ... In the first of two operations, surgeons removed one of the patient's olfactory bulbs and grew the cells in culture. Two weeks later they transplanted the OECs into the spinal cord, which had been cut through in the knife attack apart from a thin strip of scar tissue on the right. They had just a drop of material to work with - about 500,000 cells. About 100 micro-injections of OECs were made above and below the injury. Four thin strips of nerve tissue were taken from the patient's ankle and placed across an 8mm (0.3in) gap on the left side of the cord. ... Two years after the treatment, he can now walk outside the rehabilitation center using a frame.
Your Online TV Watching Can Now Be Tracked Across Devices
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A partnership between TV measurement company Nielsen and analytics provider Adobe, announced today, will let broadcasters see (in aggregate and anonymized) how people interact with digital video between devices — for example if you begin watching a show on Netflix on your laptop, then switch to a Roku set-top box to finish it. The information learned will help broadcasters decide what to charge advertisers, and deliver targeted ads to viewers. Broadcasters can use the new Nielsen Digital Content Ratings, as they're called, beginning early next year. Early users include ESPN, Sony Pictures Television, Turner Broadcasting and Viacom.
Mars Orbiter Beams Back Images of Comet's Surprisingly Tiny Nucleus
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The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has become the first instrument orbiting Mars to beam back images of comet Siding Spring's nucleus and coma. And by default, it has also become the first ever mission to photograph a long-period comet's pristine nucleus on its first foray into the inner solar system. Interestingly, through analysis of these first HiRISE observations, astronomers have determined that the icy nucleus at the comet's core is much smaller than originally thought. "Telescopic observers had modeled the size of the nucleus as about half a mile, or one kilometer, wide," writes a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory news release. "However, the best HiRISE images show only two to three pixels across the brightest feature, probably the nucleus, suggesting a size less than half that estimate."
32 Cities Want To Challenge Big Telecom, Build Their Own Gigabit Networks
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More than two dozen cities in 19 states announced today that they're sick of big telecom skipping them over for internet infrastructure upgrades and would like to build gigabit fiber networks themselves and help other cities follow their lead. The Next Century Cities coalition, which includes a couple cities that already have gigabit fiber internet for their residents, was devised to help communities who want to build their own broadband networks navigate logistical and legal challenges to doing so.
China Staging a Nationwide Attack On iCloud and Microsoft Accounts
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According to The Verge and an original report from the site that monitor's China's Great Firewall activity, China is conducting a large-scale attack on iCloud and Microsoft accounts using its government firewall software. Chinese users may be facing an unpleasant surprise as they are directed to a dummy site designed to look like an Apple login page (or a Microsoft one, as appropriate).
The Woman Who Should Have Been the First Female Astronaut
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We like to think of the Mercury 7 — the very first group of NASA astronauts — as the "best of the best," having been chosen from a pool of over 500 of the top military test pilots after three rounds of intense physical and mental tests. Yet when women were allowed to take the same tests, one of them clearly distinguished herself, outperforming practically all of the men. If NASA had really believed in merit, Jerrie Cobb would have been the first female in space, even before Valentina Tereshkova, more than 50 years ago. She still deserves to go.
Court Rules Parents May Be Liable For What Their Kids Post On Facebook
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Parents can be held liable for what their kids post on Facebook, a Georgia appellate court ruled in a decision that lawyers said marked a legal precedent on the issue of parental responsibility over their children's online activity. The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that the parents of a seventh-grade student may be negligent for failing to get their son to delete a fake Facebook profile that allegedly defamed a female classmate.
Trans-Pacific Partnership May Endanger World Health, Newly Leaked Chapter Shows
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WikiLeaks has released an updated version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) chapter on intellectual property. The new version of the texts, dated May 2014, show that little improvement has been made to sections critics say would hurt free speech online. Further, some of the TPP's stipulations could have dire consequences for healthcare in developing nations. The Daily Dot reports: "Nearly all of the changes proposed by the U.S. advantage corporate entities by expanding monopolies on knowledge goods, such as drug patents, and impose restrictive copyright policies worldwide. If it came into force, TPP would even allow pharmaceutical companies to sue the U.S. whenever changes to regulatory standards or judicial decisions affected their profits. Professor Brook K. Baker of Northeastern U. School of Law [said] that the latest version of the TPP will do nothing less than lengthen, broaden, and strengthen patent monopolies on vital medications."
How Nigeria Stopped Ebola
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Americans need only look to Nigeria to calm their fears about an Ebola outbreak in the US. Nigeria is much closer to the West Africa outbreak than the US is, yet even after Ebola entered the country in the most terrifying way possible — via a visibly sick passenger on a commercial flight — officials successfully shut down the disease and prevented widespread transmission. If there are still no new cases on October 20, the World Health Organization will officially declare the country "Ebola-free." Here's how Nigeria did it.

The first person to bring Ebola to Nigeria was Patrick Sawyer, who left a hospital in Liberia against the wishes of the medical staff and flew to Nigeria. Once Sawyer arrived, it became obvious that he was ill when he passed out in the Lagos airport, and he was taken to a hospital in the densely packed city of 20 million. Once the country's first Ebola case was confirmed, Port Health Services in Nigeria started a process called contact tracing to limit the spread of the disease and created an emergency operations center to coordinate and oversee the national response. Health officials used a variety of resources, including phone records and flight manifests, to track down nearly 900 people who might have been exposed to the virus via Sawyer or the people he infected. As soon as people developed symptoms suggestive of Ebola, they were isolated in Ebola treatment facilities. Without waiting to see whether a "suspected" case tested positive, Nigeria's contact tracing team tracked down everyone who had had contact with that patient since the onset of symptoms making a staggering 18,500 face-to-face visits.

The US has many of these same procedures in place for containing Ebola, making the risk of an outbreak here very low. Contact tracing is exactly what is happening in Dallas right now; if any one of Thomas Eric Duncan's contacts shows symptoms, that person will be immediately isolated and tested. "That experience shows us that even in the case in Nigeria, when we found out later in the timeline that this patient had Ebola, that Nigeria was able to identify contacts, institute strict infection control procedures and basically bring their outbreak to a close," says Dr. Tom Inglesby. "They did a good job in and of themselves. They worked closely with the U.S. CDC. If we can succeed in Nigeria I do believe we will stop it here."
If Your Cloud Vendor Goes Out of Business, Are You Ready?
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With Amazon Web Services losing an estimated $2 billion a year, it's not inconceivable that the cloud industry could go the way of storage service providers (remember them?). So any plan for cloud services must include a way to retrieve your data quickly in case your cloud service provider goes belly up without much notice (think Nirvanix). In an article at Enterprise Storage Forum, Henry Newman notes that recovering your data from the cloud quickly is a lot harder than you might think. Even if you have a dedicated OC-192 channel, it would take 11 days to move a petabyte of data – and that's with no contention or other latency. One possible solution: a failover agreement with a second cloud provider – and make sure it's legally binding.
MAVEN Spies Mars' Atmosphere Leaching Out Into Space
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Early results from NASA's recently arrived MAVEN Mars spacecraft show an extensive, tenuous cloud of hydrogen surrounding the red planet, the result of water breaking down in the atmosphere, scientists said Tuesday. MAVEN, an acronym for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, arrived on Sept. 21 to help answer questions about what caused a planet that was once warm and wet to turn into the cold, dry desert that appears today. "It's measurements like these that will allow us to estimate the escape rate of hydrogen from the Martian atmosphere to space today. It's an important measurement to make because the hydrogen ... comes from water lower down in the atmosphere," MAVEN scientist Mike Chaffin, with the University of Colorado, Boulder, told reporters on a conference call.
Wind Power Is Cheaper Than Coal, Leaked Report Show
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A leaked report shows wind is the cheapest energy source in Europe, beating the presumably dirt-cheap coal and gas by a mile. Conventional wisdom holds that clean energy is more expensive than its fossil-fueled counterparts. Yet cost comparisons show that renewable energy sources are often cheaper than their carbon-heavy competition. The report (PDF) demonstrates that if you were to take into account mining, pollution, and adverse health impacts of coal and gas, wind power would be the cheapest source of energy.
VeraCrypt Is the New TrueCrypt -- and It's Better
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If you're looking for an alternative to TrueCrypt, you could do worse than VeraCrypt, which adds iterations and corrects weaknesses in TrueCrypt's API, drivers and parameter checking. According to the article, "In technical terms, when a system partition is encrypted, TrueCrypt uses PBKDF2-RIPEMD160 with 1,000 iterations. For standard containers and other (i.e. non system) partitions, TrueCrypt uses at most 2,000 iterations. What Idrassi did was beef up the transformation process. VeraCrypt uses 327,661 iterations of the PBKDF2-RIPEMD160 algorithm for system partitions, and for standard containers and other partitions it uses 655,331 iterations of RIPEMD160 and 500,000 iterations of SHA-2 and Whirlpool, he said. While this makes VeraCrypt slightly slower at opening encrypted partitions, it makes the software a minimum of 10 and a maximum of about 300 times harder to brute force."
First Man To Walk In Space Reveals How Mission Nearly Ended In Disaster
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Nearly fifty years after the first spacewalk by soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, he's given a rare interview to the BBC revealing how the mission very nearly ended in disaster. Minutes after he stepped into space, Leonov realised his suit had inflated like a balloon, preventing him from getting back inside. Later on, the cosmonauts narrowly avoided being obliterated in a huge fireball when oxygen levels soared inside the craft. And on the way back to Earth, the crew was exposed to enormous G-forces, landing hundreds of kilometres off target in a remote corner of Siberia populated by wolves and bears.
Independent Researchers Test Rossi's Alleged Cold Fusion Device For 32 Days
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The E-Cat (or "Energy Catalyzer") is an alleged cold fusion device that produces heat from a low-energy nuclear reaction where nickel and hydrogen fuse into copper. Previous reports have tended to suggest the technology is a hoax, and the inventor Andrea Rossi's reluctance to share details of the device haven't helped the situation. ExtremeTech now reports that "six (reputable) researchers from Italy and Sweden" have "observed a small E-Cat over 32 days, where it produced net energy of 1.5 megawatt-hours, "far more than can be obtained from any known chemical sources in the small reactor volume."... "The researchers, analyzing the fuel before and after the 32-day burn, note that there is an isotope shift from a "natural" mix of Nickel-58/Nickel-60 to almost entirely Nickel-62 — a reaction that, the researchers say, cannot occur without nuclear reactions (i.e. fusion)." The paper (PDF) linked in the article concludes that the E-cat is "a device giving heat energy compatible with nuclear transformations, but it operates at low energy and gives neither nuclear radioactive waste nor emits radiation. From basic general knowledge in nuclear physics this should not be possible. Nevertheless we have to relate to the fact that the experimental results from our test show heat production beyond chemical burning, and that the E-Cat fuel undergoes nuclear transformations. It is certainly most unsatisfying that these results so far have no convincing theoretical explanation, but the experimental results cannot be dismissed or ignored just because of lack of theoretical understanding. Moreover, the E-Cat results are too conspicuous not to be followed up in detail. In addition, if proven sustainable in further tests the E-Cat invention has a large potential to become an important energy source."

The observers understandably hedge a bit, though:

The researchers are very careful about not actually saying that cold fusion/LENR is the source of the E-Cat’s energy, instead merely saying that an “unknown reaction” is at work. In serious scientific circles, LENR is still a bit of a joke/taboo topic. The paper is actually somewhat comical in this regard: The researchers really try to work out how the E-Cat produces so much darn energy — and they conclude that fusion is the only answer — but then they reel it all back in by adding: “The reaction speculation above should only be considered as an example of reasoning and not a serious conjecture.”
How Spurious Wikipedia Edits Can Attach a Name To a Scandal, 35 Years On
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For more than six years, Wikipedia named an innocent man as a key culprit in the 1978/79 Boston College point shaving scandal. The name Joe Streater was inserted into Wikipedia by an anonymous user in August 2008. The unsourced insertion was never challenged or deleted, and over time, Streater became widely associated with the scandal through newspaper and TV reports as well as countless blogs and fan sites, all of which directly or indirectly copied this spurious fact from Wikipedia. Yet research shows that Streater, whose present whereabouts are unknown, did not even play in the 1978/79 season. Before August 2008, his name was never mentioned in connection with the scandal. As journalists have less and less time for in-depth research, more and more of them seem to be relying on Wikipedia instead, and the online encyclopedia is increasingly becoming a vector for the spread of spurious information.
Indonesian Cave Art May Be World's Oldest
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The world's oldest cave art may not lie in Europe but rather halfway around the globe in Indonesia, according to a new study. The images date to around 40,000 years ago, making them a similar age to cave paintings from Western Europe that represent the world's oldest known cave art. The findings suggest that humans were producing figurative art by around 40,000 years ago at opposite ends of the Pleistocene Eurasian world. Further research is needed to investigate whether rock art was an integral part of the cultural repertoire of the first modern human populations to reach Southeast Asia from Africa, or whether these practices developed independently in different regions.
Eric Schmidt: Anxiety Over US Spying Will "Break the Internet"
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Oregon Senator Ron Wyden gathered a group of tech luminaries to discuss the implications of U.S. surveillance programs, and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt didn't mince words. He said that worries over U.S. surveillance would result in servers with different sets of data for users from different countries multiplying across the world. "The simplest outcome is that we're going to end up breaking the Internet."
Why America Won't Match Sweden's Cheap, Fast, Competitive Internet Services
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Swedish Internet services run both cheaper and faster than American ones. For example, many Swedes can pay about $40 a month for 100/100 mbps, choosing between more than a dozen competing providers. It's all powered by a nationwide web of municipal networks in direct competition with ex-government telecom Telia's fiber backbone. The presence of regional government in the Swedish data stream makes many Americans uncomfortable, to say nothing of the very different histories between these backbone buildouts. The Motley Fool explains how the Swedish model developed, and why the U.S. is unlikely ever to follow suit.
Killer Whales Caught On Tape Speaking Dolphin
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Two years ago, scientists showed that dolphins imitate the sounds of whales. Now, it seems, whales have returned the favor. Researchers analyzed the vocal repertoires of 10 captive orcas, three of which lived with bottlenose dolphins and the rest with their own kind. Of the 1551 vocalizations these seven latter orcas made, more than 95% were the typical pulsed calls of killer whales. In contrast, the three orcas that had only dolphins as pals busily whistled and emitted dolphinlike click trains and terminal buzzes, the scientists report in the October issue of The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. The findings make orcas one of the few species of animals that, like humans, is capable of vocal learning (video)—a talent considered a key underpinning of language."
Infected ATMs Give Away Millions of Dollars Without Credit Cards
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Kaspersky Lab performed a forensic investigation into cybercriminal attacks targeting multiple ATMs around the world. During the course of this investigation, researchers discovered the Tyupkin malware used to infect ATMs and allow attackers to remove money via direct manipulation, stealing millions of dollars. The criminals work in two stages. First, they gain physical access to the ATMs and insert a bootable CD to install the Tyupkin malware. After they reboot the system, the infected ATM is now under their control and the malware runs in an infinite loop waiting for a command. To make the scam harder to spot, the Tyupkin malware only accepts commands at specific times on Sunday and Monday nights. During those hours, the attackers are able to steal money from the infected machine.
Adobe Spies On Users' eBook Libraries
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Nate at the-digital-reader.com reports that Adobe is spying on any computer that runs Digital Editions 4, the newest version of Adobe's Epub app. They are collecting data about what users are reading, and they're also searching users' computers for e-book files and sending that information too. That includes books not indexed in DE4. All of the data is sent in clear text. This is just another example of DRM going south.
Complain About Comcast, Get Fired From Your Job
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When you complain to your cable company, you certainly don't expect that the cable company will then contact your employer and discuss your complaint. But that's exactly what happened to one former Comcast customer who says he was fired after the cable company called a partner at his accounting firm. Be careful next time when you exercise your first amendment rights.

From the article:
At some point shortly after that call, someone from Comcast contacted a partner at the firm to discuss Conal. This led to an ethics investigation and Conal’s subsequent dismissal from his job; a job where he says he’d only received positive feedback and reviews for his work. Comcast maintained that Conal used the name of his employer in an attempt to get leverage. Conal insists that he never mentioned his employer by name, but believes that someone in the Comcast Controller’s office looked him up online and figured out where he worked. When he was fired, Conal’s employer explained that the reason for the dismissal was an e-mail from Comcast that summarized conversations between Conal and Comcast employees. But Conal has never seen this e-mail in order to say whether it’s accurate and Comcast has thus far refused to release any tapes of the phone calls related to this matter.
First Teleportation of Multiple Quantum Properties of a Single Photon
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Photons have many properties, such as their frequency, momentum, spin and orbital angular momentum. But when it comes to quantum teleportation, physicists have only ever been able to to transmit one of these properties at a time. So the possibility of teleporting a complete quantum object has always seemed a distant dream. Now a team of Chinese physicists has worked out how to teleport more than one quantum property. The team has demonstrated it by teleporting both the spin and orbital angular momentum of single photons simultaneously. They point out that there is no reason in principle why the technique cannot be generalized to include other properties as well, such as a photon's frequency, momentum and so on. That's an important step towards teleporting complex quantum objects in their entirety, such as atoms, molecules and perhaps even small viruses.
AIDS Origin Traced To 1920s Kinshasa
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A new study published in Science (abstract) has traced the origin of HIV/AIDS back to Kinshasa in the 1920s. The authors say Kinshasa, now in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was then undergoing explosive population growth while supporting an abundant sex trade. These factors, combined with the use of unsterilized needles at health clinics and the railways moving a million people in and out of the city each year, conspired to start the pandemic. "HIV is a mutated version of a chimpanzee virus, known as simian immunodeficiency virus, which probably made the species-jump through contact with infected blood while handling bush meat. The virus made the jump on multiple occasions. One event led to HIV-1 subgroup O which affects tens of thousands in Cameroon. Yet only one cross-species jump, HIV-1 subgroup M, went on to infect millions of people across every country in the world."
First Birth From Human Womb Transplant
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The headline sounds like something from the tabloids — "Woman becomes first to give birth from transplanted womb — using one donated from her own mother.'" But it's from The National Post, quoting The Lancet: "The breakthrough was reported by The Lancet medical journal on its website last night. It is thought the birth occurred within the last month after doctors transplanted wombs into several women who had a rare genetic condition that meant they were born without their own womb. In January, one of the patients underwent in-vitro fertilization treatment that resulted in an embryo being transferred to her new womb. The donated womb came from the woman's own mother, so the baby is also the first born to a woman using the same womb from which she emerged herself. In wake of the Lancet article, the Swedish team refused to confirm a baby had been born, saying: "As soon as there is a scientific peer-reviewed paper, we will comment on this. I will provide you with information as soon as we have some." Eight of Dr. Brannstrom's patients received their wombs from close relatives, reducing the risk of their bodies rejecting them." There's nothing at The Lancet online yet."
It's Not Just How Smart You Are: Curiosity Is Key To Learning
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Scientific American reports that a UC Davis study (paywalled) on how learning interacts with curiosity indicates that curiosity can lead to demonstrably better recall.

From the SciAm article: Neuroscientist Charan Ranganath and his fellow researchers asked 19 participants to review more than 100 questions, rating each in terms of how curious they were about the answer. Next, each subject revisited 112 of the questions—half of which strongly intrigued them whereas the rest they found uninteresting—while the researchers scanned their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). During the scanning session participants would view a question then wait 14 seconds and view a photograph of a face totally unrelated to the trivia before seeing the answer. Afterward the researchers tested participants to see how well they could recall and retain both the trivia answers and the faces they had seen. Ranganath and his colleagues discovered that greater interest in a question would predict not only better memory for the answer but also for the unrelated face that had preceded it. A follow-up test one day later found the same results—people could better remember a face if it had been preceded by an intriguing question. Somehow curiosity could prepare the brain for learning and long-term memory more broadly."
Marriott Fined $600,000 For Jamming Guest Hotspots
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Marriott will cough up $600,000 in penalties after being caught blocking mobile hotspots so that guests would have to pay for its own Wi-Fi services, the FCC has confirmed today. The fine comes after staff at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee were found to be jamming individual hotspots and then charging people up to $1,000 per device to get online. Marriott has been operating the center since 2012, and is believed to have been running its interruption scheme since then. The first complaint to the FCC, however, wasn't until March 2013, when one guest warned the Commission that they suspected their hardware had been jammed.
Satellites Reveal Hidden Features At the Bottom of Earth's Seas
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Oceanographers have a saying: Scientists know more about the surface of Mars than they do about the landscape at the bottom of our oceans. But that may soon change. Using data from satellites that measure variations in Earth's gravitational field, researchers have found a new and more accurate way to map the sea floor. The improved resolution has already allowed them to identify previously hidden features—including thousands of extinct volcanoes more than 1000 meters tall—as well as piece together some lingering uncertainties in Earth's ancient history.
End of an Era: After a 30 Year Run, IBM Drops Support For Lotus 1-2-3
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Although it has been fading for years, the final death knell came recently for the iconic Lotus 1-2-3. In many ways, Lotus 1-2-3 launched the PC era (and ensured the Apple II success), and once was a serious competitor for Excel (and prior to that Multiplan and VisiCalc). Although I doubt if anyone is creating new Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheets, I'm sure there are spreadsheets still being used who trace their origin to Lotus 1-2-3, and even Office 2013 still has some functions and key compatibility with Lotus 1-2-3. Oh, how far the mighty have fallen.
35,000 Walrus Come Ashore In Alaska
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Lack of sea ice in the Arctic has forced record numbers of walrus to come ashore in Alaska. The walrus, looking for a place to rest have come ashore in Point Lay Alaska. The walrus normally rest on floating ice. "We are witnessing a slow-motion catastrophe in the Arctic," Lou Leonard, vice president for climate change at the World Wildlife Fund, said in a statement that was reported by CNN. "As this ice dwindles, the Arctic will experience some of the most dramatic changes our generation has ever witnessed. This loss will impact the annual migration of wildlife through the region, threaten the long-term health of walrus and polar bear populations, and change the lives of those who rely on the Arctic ecosystem for their way of life.
Obama Administration Argues For Backdoors In Personal Electronics
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Attorney General Eric Holder called it is "worrisome" that tech companies are providing default encryption on consumer electronics, adding that locking authorities out of being able to access the contents of devices puts children at risk. “It is fully possible to permit law enforcement to do its job while still adequately protecting personal privacy,” Holder said at a conference on child sexual abuse, according to a text of his prepared remarks. “When a child is in danger, law enforcement needs to be able to take every legally available step to quickly find and protect the child and to stop those that abuse children. It is worrisome to see companies thwarting our ability to do so.”
Back To Faxes: Doctors Can't Exchange Digital Medical Records
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Doctors with one medical records system can't exchange information with systems made by other vendors, including those at their own hospitals, according to the New York Times. One ophthalmologist spent half a million dollars on a system, but still needs to send faxes to get the information where it needs to go. The largest vendor is Epic Systems, Madison, WI, which holds almost half the medical records in the U.S. A report from RAND described Epic as a "closed" platform that made it "challenging and costly" for hospitals to interconnect.

The situation is bad for patients and costly for medical works: if doctors can't exchange records, they'll face a 1% Medicare penalty, and UC Davis alone has a staff of 22 dedicated to communication. On top of that, Epic charges a fee to send data to some non-Epic systems. Congress has held hearings on the matter, and Epic has hired a lobbyist. Epic's founder, billionaire computer science major Judith Faulkner, said that Epic was one of the first to establish code and standards for secure interchange, which included user authentication provisions and a legally binding contract. She said the federal government, which gave $24 billion in incentive payments to doctors for computerization, should have done that. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology said that it was a "top priority" and just recently wrote a 10-year vision statement and agenda for it.
Antarctic Ice Loss Big Enough To Cause Measurable Shift In Earth's Gravity
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Contrary to what we were sometimes taught in high school physics, the Earth's gravity is not constant. It actually shows slight variations on different parts of the Earth's surface, and the variations correlate with the density of the material on that surface. The European Space Agency has been measuring gravity for four years, mapping these variations and recording the changes those variations have undergone. Its data indicates "a significant decrease [in gravity] in the region of Antarctica where land ice is melting fastest. Further analysis is, of course, planned so that the whole of Antarctica can be taken into account and "the clearest picture yet of the pace of global warming" can be determined on that continent.
Medical Records Worth More To Hackers Than Credit Cards
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Reuters reports that your medical information including names, birth dates, policy numbers, diagnosis codes and billing information is worth 10 times more than your credit card number on the black market. Fraudsters use this data to create fake IDs to buy medical equipment or drugs that can be resold, or they combine a patient number with a false provider number and file made-up claims with insurers, according to experts who have investigated cyber attacks on healthcare organizations. Medical identity theft is often not immediately identified by a patient or their provider, giving criminals years to milk such credentials. That makes medical data more valuable than credit cards, which tend to be quickly canceled by banks once fraud is detected. Stolen health credentials can go for $10 each, about 10 or 20 times the value of a US credit card number says Don Jackson, director of threat intelligence at PhishLabs, a cyber crime protection company. He obtained the data by monitoring underground exchanges where hackers sell the information. Plus "healthcare providers and hospitals are just some of the easiest networks to break into," says Jeff Horne. "When I've looked at hospitals, and when I've talked to other people inside of a breach, they are using very old legacy systems — Windows systems that are 10 plus years old that have not seen a patch."
Facebook's Atlas: the Platform For Advertisers To Track Your Movements
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In its most direct challenge to Google yet, Facebook plans to sell ads targeted to its 1.3 billion users when they are elsewhere on the Web. The company is rolling out an updated version of Atlas that will direct ads to people on websites and mobile apps. From the article: "The company said Atlas has been rebuilt 'from the ground up' to cater for today's marketing needs, such as 'reaching people across devices and bridging the gap between online impressions and offline purchases.'"
Researchers Develop Purely Optical Cloaking
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Researchers at the University of Rochester have developed a remarkably effective visual cloak using a relatively simple arrangement of optical lenses. The method is unique in that it uses off-the-shelf components and provides cloaking through the visible spectrum. Also, it works in 3-D. As one researcher put it, "This is the first device that we know of that can do three-dimensional, continuously multidirectional cloaking, which works for transmitting rays in the visible spectrum." Bonus: The article includes instructions to build your own.
The Secret Goldman Sachs Tapes
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The radio program "This American Life" has published an extraordinary investigative report on how the U.S. government regulators in charge of keeping an eye on the banks actually interact with powerful financial institutions (podcast here). Financial journalist Michael Lewis describes the report thus: "The Fed failed to regulate the banks because it did not encourage its employees to ask questions, to speak their minds or to point out problems. Just the opposite: The Fed encourages its employees to keep their heads down, to obey their managers and to appease the banks. That is, bank regulators failed to do their jobs properly not because they lacked the tools but because they were discouraged from using them. The report quotes Fed employees saying things like, 'until I know what my boss thinks I don't want to tell you,' and 'no one feels individually accountable for financial crisis mistakes because management is through consensus.'"
DHL Goes Live With 'Parcelcopter' Drone Delivery Service
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In December, Amazon announced it intends to deliver packages to customers using drones. But its initiative was widely ridiculed for being an over-hyped announcement with little to show for it. This summer, Google demonstrated its own drone-based delivery service, using a fixed-wing aircraft to deliver little packages to farmers in the Australian outback. But now, German delivery firm DHL has beaten the tech firms to the punch, announcing a regular drone delivery service for the first time, nine months after it launched its "parcelcopter" research project in December 2013. The service will use an quadcopter to deliver small parcels to the German island of Juist, a sandbar island 12km into the North Sea from the German coast, inhabited by 2,000 people. Deliveries will include medication and other urgently needed goods. Flying below 50 meters to avoid entering regulated air traffic corridors, the drone takes a fully automated route, carrying a special air-transport container that is extremely lightweight as well as weatherproof.
Flurry of Scans Hint That Bash Vulnerability Could Already Be In the Wild
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The recently disclosed bug in bash was bad enough as a theoretical exploit; now, reports Ars Technica, it could already be being used to launch real attacks. In a blog post yesterday, Robert Graham of Errata Security noted that someone is already using a massive Internet scan to locate vulnerable servers for attack. In a brief scan, he found over 3,000 servers that were vulnerable "just on port 80"—the Internet Protocol port used for normal Web Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) requests. And his scan broke after a short period, meaning that there could be vast numbers of other servers vulnerable. A Google search by Ars using advanced search parameters yielded over two billion web pages that at least partially fit the profile for the Shellshock exploit.
More bad news: "[T]he initial fix for the issue still left Bash vulnerable to attack, according to a new US CERT National Vulnerability Database entry." And CNET is not the only one to say that Shellshock, which can affect Macs running OS X as well as Linux and Unix systems, could be worse than Heartbleed.
Why India's Mars Probe Was So Cheap
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Alan Boyle has some interesting thoughts on why it cost India so little, less than the budget of the movie Gravity, to build and send its probe Mangalyaan to Mars: 'The $74 million Mars Orbiter Mission, also known by the acronym MOM or the Hindi word Mangalyaan ("Mars-Craft"), didn't just cost less than the $100 million Hollywood blockbuster starring Sandra Bullock. The price tag is a mere one-ninth of the cost of NASA's $671 million Maven mission, which also put its spacecraft into Mars orbit this week. The differential definitely hints at a new paradigm for space exploration — one that's taking hold not only in Bangalore, but around the world. At the same time, it hints at the dramatically different objectives for MOM and Maven, and the dramatically different environments in which those missions took shape.' Read it all. It gives us a hint at the future of space exploration.
Water Discovered In Exoplanet Atmosphere
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Astronomers have detected water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet that orbits a star far beyond our solar system. Observations of the Neptune-sized planet, which lies 120 light years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus, revealed that its atmosphere was mostly hydrogen with around 25% made up from water va-pour. Until now, researchers have been frustrated in their efforts to study the atmospheres of planets much smaller than Jupiter because their skies were thick with clouds. The problem was so persistent that astronomers had begun to think that all warm, small planets formed with substantial cloud cover. But writing in the journal Nature, scientists in the U.S. describe how they found a Neptune-sized planet with cloud-free skies, enabling them to make detailed measurements of a small planet's atmosphere for the first time.
Depression and Suicide: A Personal Blog
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A friend of mine wrote this excellent article. Please share this with anybody who might benefit.

This is the first of three blogs on this topic. Robin Williams committed suicide during the writing of these blogs. This blog is dedicated to him.
Physicist Claims Black Holes Mathematically Don't Exist
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Black holes, the stellar phenomena that continue to capture the imagination of scientists and science fiction authors, may not actually exist. According to a paper published by physics professor Laura Mersini-Houghton at the University of North Carolina and Mathematics Professor Harald Pfeiffer of the University of Toronto, as a collapsing star emits Hawking radiation, it also sheds mass at a rate that suggests it no longer has the density necessary to become a black hole the singularity and event horizon never form. While the arXiv paper with the exact solution has not yet been peer reviewed, the preceding paper by Mersini-Houghton with the approximate solutions was published in Physics Letters B.

"I'm still not over the shock," said Mersini-Houghton. "We've been studying this problem for a more than 50 years and this solution gives us a lot to think about... Physicists have been trying to merge these two theories Einstein's theory of gravity and quantum mechanics for decades, but this scenario brings these two theories together, into harmony."
Physicist Claims Black Holes Mathematically Don't Exist
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Black holes, the stellar phenomena that continue to capture the imagination of scientists and science fiction authors, may not actually exist. According to a paper published by physics professor Laura Mersini-Houghton at the University of North Carolina and Mathematics Professor Harald Pfeiffer of the University of Toronto, as a collapsing star emits Hawking radiation, it also sheds mass at a rate that suggests it no longer has the density necessary to become a black hole the singularity and event horizon never form. While the arXiv paper with the exact solution has not yet been peer reviewed, the preceding paper by Mersini-Houghton with the approximate solutions was published in Physics Letters B.

"I'm still not over the shock," said Mersini-Houghton. "We've been studying this problem for a more than 50 years and this solution gives us a lot to think about... Physicists have been trying to merge these two theories Einstein's theory of gravity and quantum mechanics for decades, but this scenario brings these two theories together, into harmony."
Russia Pledges To Go To the Moon
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Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, has announced it intends to bring humans to the Moon by roughly 2030. Russia plans a full-scale exploration of the Moon's surface. Agency head Oleg Ostapenko said that by the end of the next decade, "based on the results of lunar surface exploration by unmanned space probes, we will designate [the] most promising places for lunar expeditions and lunar bases.
Octopus-Inspired Robot Matches Real Octopus For Speed
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Underwater vehicles have never matched the extraordinary agility of marine creatures. While many types of fish can travel at speeds of up to 10 body lengths per second, a nuclear sub can manage a less than half a body length per second. Now a team of researchers has copied a trick used by octopuses to build an underwater robot capable of matching the agility of marine creatures. This trick is the way an octopus expands the size of its head as it fills with water and then squirts it out to generate propulsion. The team copied this by building a robot with a flexible membrane that also expands as it fills with water.

The fluid then squirts out through a rear-facing nozzle as the membrane contracts. To the team's surprise, the robot reached speeds of 10 body lengths per second with a peak acceleration of 14 body lengths per second squared. That's unprecedented in an underwater vehicle of this kind. What's more, the peak force experienced by the robot was 30 per cent greater than the thrust generated by the jet. The team think they know why and say the new technique could be used to design bigger subs capable of even more impressive octopus-like feats.
Mangalyaan Successfully Put Into Mars Orbit
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India's Mars satellite Mangalyaan was successfully placed into orbit around Mars early on Wednesday following a 10-month journey from Earth. India thus joins the U.S., the European Space Agency and the former Soviet Union in having successfully completed a Mars mission. It is, however, the only one to have done so on the first attempt. Headed by the Indian space agency ISRO, Mangalyaan was made in 15 months at a cost of just around 74 million USD the cheapest inter-planetary mission ever to be undertaken.
2 Mars Missions Set For Arrival, Both Prepare for Orbital Maneuvers
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As reported by the BBC, NASA's Maven Mars orbiter has nearly reached the red planet, and will undergo a 33-minute rocket burn to slow its course.

Monday's big manoeuvre on Maven's engines will place the satellite in a high, elliptical, 35-hour orbit around the planet. Confirmation of capture should be received on Earth shortly after 0220 GMT (2220 EDT Sunday; 0320 BST). "We should have a preliminary answer within just a few minutes after the end of the burn," said [principal investigator professor Bruce] Jakosky. In the coming weeks, engineers will then work to bring Maven into a regular 4.5-hour, operational orbit that takes the probe as close as 150km to Mars but also sends it out to 6,200km.

India's first mission to Mars faces a critical test as it does a similar maneuver -- firing of a rocket to slow its travel as it approaches Mars orbit.
TrueCrypt Gets a New Life, New Name
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Amid ongoing security concerns, the popular open source encryption program TrueCrypt may have found new life under a new name. Under the terms of the TrueCrypt license — which was a homemade open source license written by the authors themselves rather than a standard one — a forking of the code is allowed if references to TrueCrypt are removed from the code and the resulting application is not called TrueCrypt. Thus, CipherShed will be released under a standard open source license, with long-term ambitions to become a completely new product.
Europeans Came From Three Ancestry Groupings
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A recent study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of Tübingen in Germany has found that present day Europeans are descendants of three different groups of people — A near east farmer group, an indigenous hunter gatherer group, and an ancient North Eurasian group from Siberia. "Nearly all Europeans have ancestry from all three ancestral groups," said Iosif Lazaridis, a research fellow in genetics in Reich's lab and first author of the paper. "Differences between them are due to the relative proportions of ancestry. Northern Europeans have more hunter-gatherer ancestry — up to about 50 percent in Lithuanians — and Southern Europeans have more farmer ancestry." The most surprising part of the project, however, was the discovery of the Basal Eurasians. Before Australian Aborigines, New Guineans, South Indians, Native Americans and other indigenous hunter-gatherers split, they split from Basal Eurasians. The study also found that Mediterranean groups such as the Maltese, as well as Ashkenazi Jews, had more Near East ancestry than anticipated, while far northeastern Europeans such as Finns and the Saami, as well as some northern Russians, had more East Asian ancestry in the mix.
Farmers Carry Multidrug-Resistant Staph For Weeks Into Local Communities
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Fresh research out of the UNC Gillings and JHU Bloomberg schools of public health shows industrial farm workers are carrying livestock-associated, multidrug-resistant staph into local communities for weeks at a time. "Among the [22 people tested], 10 workers carried antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacteria in their noses for up to four days. Another six workers were intermittent carriers of the bacteria. The 10 workers found to carry the bacteria persistently had strains associated with livestock that were resistant to multiple drugs, and one also carried MRSA. Three more of the workers tested positive for strains of S. aureus that were not resistant to antibiotics. So in total, 86 percent of the workers in the study carried the S. aureus bacteria, compared with about one-third of the population at large, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." This problem has grown since its last mention on Slashdot. Unfortunately, massive industrial lobbying continues to neuter government action.
NASA's Manned Rocket Contract: $4.2 Billion To Boeing, $2.6 Billion To SpaceX
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NASA has chosen two companies to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, and those companies are Boeing and SpaceX. This decision confirms that SpaceX is ready to go and gives the company the opportunity to finish the job, while also giving Boeing the chance to show that it can still compete. After NASA has certified that each company has successfully built its spacecraft, SpaceX and Boeing will each fly two to six missions. The certification process will be step-by-step, similar to the methods used in the cargo contracts, and will involve five milestones. The contracts will be paid incrementally as they meet these milestones. One milestone will be a manned flight to the ISS, with one NASA astronaut on board. Boeing will receive $4.2 billion, while SpaceX will get $2.6 billion. These awards were based on what the companies proposed and requested.
FBI Completes New Face Recognition System
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According to a report from Gizmodo, "After six years and over one billion dollars in development, the FBI has just announced that its new biometric facial recognition software system is finally complete. Meaning that, starting soon, photos of tens of millions of U.S. citizen's faces will be captured by the national system on a daily basis. The Next Generation Identification (NGI) program will logs all of those faces, and will reference them against its growing database in the event of a crime. It's not just faces, though. Thanks to the shared database dubbed the Interstate Photo System (IPS), everything from tattoos to scars to a person's irises could be enough to secure an ID. What's more, the FBI is estimating that NGI will include as many as 52 million individual faces by next year, collecting identified faces from mug shots and some job applications." Techdirt points out that an assessment of how this system affects privacy was supposed to have preceded the actual rollout. Unfortunately, that assessment is nowhere to be found.

Two recent news items are related. First, at a music festival in Boston last year, face recognition software was tested on festival-goers. Boston police denied involvement, but were seen using the software, and much of the data was carelessly made available online. Second, both Ford and GM are working on bringing face recognition software to cars. It's intended for safety and security — it can act as authentication and to make sure the driver is paying attention to the road.
Astronomers Find Star-Within-a-Star, 40 Years After First Theorized
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After 40 years, astronomers have likely found a rather strange celestial body known as a Thorne–Zytkow object (TZO), in which a neutron star is absorbed by a red supergiant. Originally predicted in the 1970s, the first non-theoretical TZO was found earlier this year, based on calculations presented in a paper forthcoming in MNRAS.

TZOs were predicted by astronomer Kip Thorne and Anna Zytkow, who wasthen postdoctoral fellow at CalTech. The pair imagined what might happen if a neutron star in a binary system merged with its partner red supergiant. This wouldn't be like two average stars merging. Neutron stars are the ancient remnants of stars that grew too big and exploded. Their cores remain small — about 12.5 miles across — as they shed material out into space. Red supergiants are the largest stars in the galaxy, with radii up to 800 times that of our sun, but they aren't dense.
New Global Plan Would Crack Down On Corporate Tax Avoidance
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Reuters reports that plans for a major rewriting of international tax rules have been unveiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that could eliminate structures that have allowed companies like Google and Amazon to shave billions of dollars off their tax bills. For more than 50 years, the OECD's work on international taxation has been focused on ensuring companies are not taxed twice on the same profits (and thereby hampering trade and limit global growth). But companies have been using such treaties to ensure profits are not taxed anywhere. A Reuters investigation last year found that three quarters of the 50 biggest U.S. technology companies channeled revenues from European sales into low tax jurisdictions like Ireland and Switzerland, rather than reporting them nationally.

For example, search giant Google takes advantage of tax treaties to channel more than $8 billion in untaxed profits out of Europe and Asia each year and into a subsidiary that is tax resident in Bermuda, which has no income tax. "We are putting an end to double non-taxation," says OECD head of tax Pascal Saint-Amans.For the recommendations to actually become binding, countries will have to encode them in their domestic laws or amend their bilateral tax treaties. Even if they do pass, these changes are likely 5-10 years away from going into effect.
Schizophrenia Is Not a Single Disease
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New research from Washington University has found that the condition known as schizophrenia is not just a single disease, but instead a collection of eight different disorders. For years, researchers struggled to understand the genetic basis of schizophrenia. This new method was able to isolate and identify the different conditions (each with its own symptoms) currently classified under the same heading (abstract, full text). "In some patients with hallucinations or delusions, for example, the researchers matched distinct genetic features to patients' symptoms, demonstrating that specific genetic variations interacted to create a 95 percent certainty of schizophrenia. In another group, they found that disorganized speech and behavior were specifically associated with a set of DNA variations that carried a 100 percent risk of schizophrenia." According to one of the study's authors, "By identifying groups of genetic variations and matching them to symptoms in individual patients, it soon may be possible to target treatments to specific pathways that cause problems."

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