Bill Pringle - Bill@BillPringle

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Interesting Articles

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

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

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

Article Description/Comments
SpaceX Blast Investigation Suggests Breach in Oxygen Tank's Helium System
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Weeks after a SpaceX rocket exploded inexplicably, engineers at Elon Musk's company have traced the flaw to its source. Space today released the initial results of its investigation, in which it says that a breach in helium system in the Falcon 9's liquid oxygen system caused the sudden flare up. From a Reuters report:

SpaceX, owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, was fueling a Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad in Florida on Sept. 1 in preparation for a routine test-firing when a bright fireball suddenly emerged around the rocket's upper stage. "At this stage of the investigation, preliminary review of the data and debris suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place," SpaceX said in a statement posted on its website. No one was hurt in the explosion, which could be heard 30 miles (48 km) away from SpaceX's launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
Sad Reality: It's Cheaper To Get Hacked Than Build Strong IT Defenses
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It's no secret that more companies are getting hacked now than ever. The government is getting hacked, major corporate companies are getting hacked, and even news outlets are getting hacked. This raises the obvious question: why aren't people investing more in bolstering their security? The answer is, as a report on The Register points out, money. Despite losing a significant sum of money on a data breach, it is still in a company's best interest to not spend on upgrading their security infrastructure. From the report:

A study by the RAND Corporation, published in the Journal of Cybersecurity, looked at the frequency and cost of IT security failures in US businesses and found that the cost of a break-in is much lower than thought -- typically around $200,000 per case. With top-shelf security systems costing a lot more than that, not beefing up security looks in some ways like a smart business decision. "I've spent my life in security and everyone expects firms to invest more and more," the report's author Sasha Romanosky told The Reg. "But maybe firms are making rational investments and we shouldn't begrudge firms for taking these actions. We all do the same thing, we minimize our costs." Romanosky analyzed 12,000 incident reports and found that typically they only account for 0.4 per cent of a company's annual revenues. That compares to billing fraud, which averages at 5 per cent, or retail shrinkage (ie, shoplifting and insider theft), which accounts for 1.3 per cent of revenues. As for reputational damage, Romanosky found that it was almost impossible to quantify. He spoke to many executives and none of them could give a reliable metric for how to measure the PR cost of a public failure of IT security systems.
Computers Decipher Burnt Scroll Found In Ancient Holy Ark
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Scientists have formally announced their reconstruction of the Ein Gedi Scroll, the most ancient Hebrew scroll since the Dead Sea Scrolls. This was done by CAT scanning the burnt scrolls and virtually reconstructing the layers of scrolls with ink blobs on them.

National Geographic reports: "For decades, the Israel Antiquities Authority guarded the document, known as the Ein Gedi Scroll, careful not to open it for fear that the brittle text would shatter to pieces. But last year, scientists announced that they had scanned, virtually unrolled, and translated the scroll's hidden verses -- a feat now formally described in the scientific literature. Based on preliminary scans, [Brent Seales of the University of Kentucky, who specialized in digitally reconstructing damaged texts,] and his colleagues announced in 2015 that the Ein Gedi Scroll was a biblical text from the sixth century A.D. containing a column of text from the book of Leviticus. But the full CT scan results, published on Wednesday in Science Advances, tell a deeper story. Further analysis revealed an extra column of text, ultimately fleshing out the first two chapters of Leviticus -- ironically, a book that begins with God's instructions for burnt offerings. What's more, radiocarbon dating of the scroll suggests that it may be between 1,700 and 1,800 years old, at least 200 years older than previously thought. In fact, the scroll's distinctive handwriting hearkens back to the first or second century A.D., some five centuries earlier than the date ascribed to the scroll last year." University of Cambridge lecturer James Aitken told Smithsonian's Devin Powell in 2015: "There's little of surprise in finding a Leviticus scroll. We probably have many more copies of it than any other book, as its Hebrew style is so simple and repetitive that it was used for children's writing exercises."
Senate Panel Authorizes Money For Mission To Mars
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With a new president on the horizon, a key Senate committee moved Wednesday to protect long-standing priorities of the nation's space program from the potential upheaval of an incoming administration. Members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed a bipartisan bill authorizing $19.5 billion to continue work on a Mars mission and efforts to send astronauts on private rockets to the International Space Station from U.S. soil -- regardless of shifting political winds. Under the Senate bill, NASA would have an official goal of sending a crewed mission to Mars within the next 25 years, the first time a trip to the Red Planet would be mandated by law. The legislation would authorize money for different NASA components, including $4.5 billion for exploration, nearly $5 billion for space operations and $5.4 billion for science. Beyond money, the measure would: Direct NASA to continue working on the Space Launch System and Orion multi-purpose vehicle that are the linchpins of a planned mission to send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s. The bill includes specific milestones for an unmanned exploration mission by 2018 and a crewed exploration mission by 2021. Require development of an advanced space suit to protect astronauts on a Mars mission. Continue development of the Commercial Crew Program designed to send astronauts to the space station -- no later than 2018 -- on private rockets launched from U.S. soil. Expand the full use and life of the space station through 2024 while laying the foundation for use through 2028. Allow greater opportunities for aerospace companies to conduct business in Low Earth Orbit. Improve monitoring, diagnosis and treatment of the medical effects astronauts experience from spending time in deep space.
Yahoo Confirms Massive Data Breach, Impacting Hundreds Of Millions Of Users
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Update: 09/22 18:47 GMT by M :Yahoo has confirmed the data breach, adding that about 500 million users are impacted. Yahoo said "a copy of certain user account information was stolen from the company's network in late 2014 by what it believes is a state-sponsored actor." As Business Insider reports, this could be the largest data breach of all time. In a blog post, the company said: Yahoo is notifying potentially affected users and has taken steps to secure their accounts. These steps include invalidating unencrypted security questions and answers so that they cannot be used to access an account and asking potentially affected users to change their passwords. Yahoo is also recommending that users who haven't changed their passwords since 2014 do so.
Stop Piracy? Legal Alternatives Beat Legal Threats, Research Shows
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Threatening file-sharers with high fines or even prison sentences is not the best way to stop piracy. New research published by UK researchers shows that perceived risk has no effect on people's file-sharing habits. Instead, the entertainment industries should focus on improving the legal options, so these can compete with file-sharing. Unauthorized file-sharing (UFS) is best predicted by the supposed benefits of piracy. As such, the researchers note that better legal alternatives are the best way to stop piracy. The results are based on a psychological study among hundreds of music and ebook consumers. They were subjected to a set of questions regarding their file-sharing habits, perceived risk, industry trust, and online anonymity. By analyzing the data the researchers found that the perceived benefit of piracy, such as quality, flexibility of use and cost are the real driver of piracy. An increase in legal risk was not directly associated with any statistically significant decrease in self-reported file-sharing.
YouTube Is Looking for Volunteers To Improve Its Site
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The video-sharing site is looking for "heroes." YouTube is looking for a few good users who want to be "Heroes." Google's video-sharing site wants volunteers to help moderate its content by flagging inappropriate content, fielding questions in YouTube Help forums, and contributing video captions and subtitles, reports Reuters. From the report:

Performing those types of tasks will help users earn points in the site's new crowdsourcing program, called "YouTube Heroes." YouTube announced the "Heroes" program in a post on the site's help channel on Wednesday that included a video showing prospective volunteers how they can participate and the perks they can earn. "You work hard to make YouTube better for everyone and, like all heroes, you deserve a place to call home," YouTube says in the video.
A Shocking Amount of E-Waste Recycling Is a Complete Sham
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Forty percent of all U.S. electronics recyclers testers included in [a study that used GPS trackers to follow e-waste over the course of two years] proved to be complete shams, with our e-waste getting shipped wholesale to landfills in Hong Kong, China, and developing nations in Africa and Asia. The most important thing to know about the e-waste recycling industry is that it is not free to recycle an old computer or an old CRT television. The value of the raw materials in the vast majority of old electronics is worth less than it costs to actually recycle them. While consumers rarely have to pay e-waste recycling companies to take their old electronics (costs are offset by local tax money or manufacturers fronting the bill as part of a legally mandated obligated recycling quota), companies, governments, and organizations do. Based on the results of a new study from industry watchdog Basel Action Network and MIT, industry documents obtained by Motherboard, and interviews with industry insiders, it's clear that the e-waste recycling industry is filled with sham operations profiting off of shipping toxic waste to developing nations. Here are the major findings of the study and of my interviews and reporting: Real, environmentally sustainable electronics recycling can be profitable only if recycling companies charge a fee to take on old machines; the sale of recycled materials rarely if ever covers the actual cost of recycling in the United States. Companies, governments, and other organizations have a requirement to recycle old machines; because there is little oversight or enforcement, a secondary industry of fake recyclers has popped up to undercut sustainable recyclers. These "recyclers," which advertise themselves as green and sustainable, get paid pennies per pound to take in old TVs, computers, printers, and monitors. Rather than recycle them domestically, the recycling companies sell them to junkyards in developing nations, either through middlemen or directly. These foreign junkyards hire low-wage employees to pick through the few valuable components of often toxic old machines. The toxic machines are then left in the scrapyards or dumped nearby. Using GPS trackers, industry watchdog Basel Action Network found that 40 percent of electronics recyclers it tested in the United States fall into this "scam recycling" category.
Kindergarteners Today Get Little Time To Play, and It's Stunting Their Development
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Christopher Brown, Associate professor, University of Texas at Austin, writes:

Researchers have demonstrated that five-year-olds are spending more time engaged in teacher-led academic learning activities than play-based learning opportunities that facilitate child-initiated investigations and foster social development among peers.

During his research and investigation, Brown found that a typical kindergarten classroom sees kids and one teacher with them almost the entire school day. During this period, they engage in about 15 different academic activities, which include "decoding word drills, practicing sight words, reading to themselves and then to a buddy, counting up to 100 by ones, fives and tens, practicing simple addition, counting money, completing science activities about living things, and writing in journals on multiple occasions." Recess did not occur until the last hour of the day, and only lasted for about 15 minutes. He adds:

For children between the ages of five and six, this is a tremendous amount of work. Teachers too are under pressure to cover the material. When I asked the teacher, who I interviewed for the short film, why she covered so much material in a few hours, she stated, "There's pressure on me and the kids to perform at a higher level academically." So even though the teacher admitted that the workload on kindergartners was an awful lot, she also said she was unable to do anything about changing it.
When Blind People Do Algebra, the Brain's Visual Areas Light Up
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People born without sight appear to solve math problems using visual areas of the brain. NPR has a fascinating report on this:

A functional MRI study of 17 people blind since birth found that areas of visual cortex became active when the participants were asked to solve algebra problems, a team from Johns Hopkins reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "And as the equations get harder and harder, activity in these areas goes up in a blind person," says Marina Bedny, an author of the study and an assistant professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University. In 19 sighted people doing the same problems, visual areas of the brain showed no increase in activity. "That really suggests that yes, blind individuals appear to be doing math with their visual cortex," Bedny says. The findings, published online Friday, challenge the idea that brain tissue intended for one function is limited to tasks that are closely related.
NASA: Arctic Sea Ice 2nd-Lowest On Record
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NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said on September 15, 2016 that summertime Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its annual minimum on September 10. With fall approaching and temperatures in the Arctic dropping, it's unlikely more ice will melt, and so the 2016 Arctic sea ice minimum extent will likely be tied with 2007 for the second-lowest yearly minimum in the satellite record. Satellite data showed this year's minimum at 1.60 million square miles (4.14 million square km). NASA said in a statement: "Since satellites began monitoring sea ice in 1978, researchers have observed a steep decline in the average extent of Arctic sea ice for every month of the year [...] The sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas helps regulate the planet's temperature, influences the circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, and impacts Arctic communities and ecosystems. Arctic sea ice shrinks every year during the spring and summer until it reaches its minimum yearly extent. Sea ice regrows during the frigid fall and winter months, when the sun is below the horizon in the Arctic." The NASA/NSIDC statement explained why the melt of Arctic sea ice surprised scientists in 2016. For one thing, it changed pace several times: "The melt season began with a record low yearly maximum extent in March and a rapid ice loss through May. But in June and July, low atmospheric pressures and cloudy skies slowed down the melt. Then, after two large storms went across the Arctic basin in August, sea ice melt picked up speed through early September."

NASA posted an animation on YouTube that "shows the evolution of the Arctic sea ice cover from its wintertime maximum extent, which was reached on Mar. 24, 2016, and was the lowest on record for the second year in a row, to its apparent yearly minimum, which occurred on Sept. 10, 2016, and is the second lowest in the satellite era."
AT&T and Comcast Helped Elected Official Write Plan To Stall Google Fiber
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As the Nashville Metro Council prepares for a final vote to give Google Fiber faster access to utility poles, one council member is sponsoring an alternative plan that comes from ATT and Comcast. The council has tentatively approved a One Touch Make Ready (OTMR) ordinance that would let a single company -- Google Fiber in this case -- make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles itself. Ordinarily, Google Fiber must wait for incumbent providers like ATT and Comcast to send construction crews to move their own wires, requiring multiple visits and delaying Google Fiber's broadband deployment. The pro-Google Fiber ordinance was approved in a 32-7 preliminary vote, but one of the dissenters asked ATT and Comcast to put forth a competing proposal before a final vote is taken. The new proposal from council member Sheri Weiner "call[s] for Google, ATT, Comcast and Nashville Electric Service to create a system that improves the current process for making utility poles ready for new cables," The Tennessean reported last week. "Weiner said ATT and Comcast helped draft the resolution she proposes." Weiner told Ars that she asked ATT and Comcast to propose a resolution. "I told them that I would file a resolution if they had something that made sense and wasn't as drastic as OTMR," Weiner told Ars in an e-mail today, when we asked her what role ATT and Comcast played in drafting the resolution. Weiner said she is insisting on some changes to the resolution, but the proposal (full text) was submitted without those changes. When asked why she didn't put her suggested changes in the version of the resolution published on the council website, Weiner said, "I had them [ATT and Comcast] submit it for me as I was out of town all last week on business (my day job)." Weiner said an edited resolution will be considered by the council during its next meeting. Weiner's plan could stall the OTMR ordinance and -- though it might improve Google Fiber's current situation -- would not provide the quick access to poles sought by Google Fiber and most council members. However, Weiner said she is willing to support OTMR later on if her proposal doesn't result in significant improvements.
Robot Handcuffed and Arrested At Moscow Rally
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Russian police have arrested a robot: A robot has been detained by police at a political rally in Moscow, with authorities attempting to handcuff the machine.

Police have not confirmed why they detained the machine named Promobot, but local media was reporting the company behind the robot said police were called because it was 'recording voters' opinions on [a] variety of topics for further processing and analysis by the candidate's team'."

Interestingly, an earlier model of the same robot escaped its research lab in June, traveling 150 feet before its batteries died -- and despite being reprogrammed twice, continued to move towards the exits.
Oldest-ever proteins extracted from 3.8-million-year-old ostrich shells
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Scientists have smashed through another time barrier in their search for ancient proteins from fossilized teeth and bones, they said yesterday, adding to growing excitement about the promise of using proteins to study extinct animals and humans that lived more than 1 million years ago. Until now, the oldest sequenced proteins are largely acknowledged to come from a 700,000-year-old horse in Canada’s Yukon territory, despite claims of extraction from much older dinosaurs. In two talks at the seventh International Symposium on Biomolecular Archaeology here yesterday, geneticists reported that their teams had extracted proteins from 3.8-million-year-old ostrich egg shells in Laetoli, Tanzania, and from the 1.7-million-year-old tooth enamel of several extinct animals in Dmanisi, Georgia
Robot Snatches Rifle From Barricaded Suspect, Ends Standoff
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An hours-long standoff in the darkness of the high desert came to a novel end when Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies used a robot to stealthily snatch a rifle from an attempted murder suspect, authorities said Thursday. Officials said the use of the robot to disarm a violent suspect was unprecedented for the Sheriff's Department, and comes as law enforcement agencies increasingly rely on military-grade technology to reduce the risk of injury during confrontations with civilians.

"The robot was a game changer here," said Capt. Jack Ewell, a tactical expert with the Sheriff's Department -- the largest sheriff's department in the nation. "We didn't have to risk a deputy's life to disarm a very violent man."

It was only later when the robot came back to also pull down a wire barricade that the 51-year-old suspect realized his gun was gone.
Microsoft Weaponizes Minecraft In the War Over Classrooms
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Minecraft: Education Edition offers lesson plans like "City Planning for Population Growth" and "Effects of Deforestation," and a June preview attracted more than 25,000 students and teachers from 40 different countries.

In the two years since Microsoft acquired Minecraft's parent company, it's discovered a brilliant new direction to take the game: it's turning it into a tool for education, creating both an innovative approach to classroom technology and an inspired strategy for competing with Google and Apple in the ed-tech market. 'I actually never believed there would be a game that would really cross over between the commercial entertainment market and education in a mainstream way,' says cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito—but Minecraft has managed to do just that.

In 2015 Chromebooks represented over 50% of PC sales for U.S. schools, while Windows PC accounted for just 22%, the article reports. But Minecraft is the second best-selling game of all time, behind only Tetris, and in the two years since Microsoft acquired it, "Sales have doubled to almost 107 million copies sold... If you were to count each copy sold as representing one person, the resulting population would be the world's 12th largest country (after Japan)." And as the article points out, "wherever Minecraft goes, Microsoft is there."
Pluto Is Emitting X-Rays
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Scientists have noticed the tiny trans-Neptunium object emitting X-rays, which, if it is confirmed, is both a baffling and exciting discovery. Carey Lisse and Ralph McNutt from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and a team of colleagues detected the X-rays by pointing the Chandra X-Ray Obervatory telescope in Pluto's direction four different times between February 2014 and August 2015. Seven photons of X-ray light were detected during these observations, confirming the team's hypothesis that the dwarf planet is detectable on the X-ray spectrum, potentially due to the presence of an atmosphere. Their findings have been published in the scientific journal Icarus. Why is this such a big deal? First of all, it would challenge what scientists have previously believed to be true of Pluto's nature. Until now, the popular description of the dwarf planet is as a tiny ball of frozen rock slowly meandering around the sun some 3.6-billion miles away. One of the possible explanations for why Pluto is emanating X-rays would be that the high energy particles emitted by the sun are stripping away and reacting with Pluto's atmosphere, producing the X-rays that are visible to Chandra. There are other potential explanations, such as haze particles in Pluto's atmosphere scattering the sun's X-rays are possible, though unlikely given the temperature of the X-rays observed. It is also possible that these X-rays are actually bright auroras produced by the atmosphere, but that would require Pluto to have a magnetic field -- something that would have been detected during New Horizon's flyby, yet no evidence of one was found.
Someone Is Learning How To Take Down the Internet, Warns Bruce Schneier
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Some of the major companies that provide the basic infrastructure that makes the internet work have seen an increase in DDoS attacks against them, says Bruce Schneier. He adds that these attacks are of much larger scale -- including the duration -- than the ones we have seen previously. These attacks, he adds, are also designed to test what all defense measures a company has got -- and they ensure that the company uses every they have got, leaving them with no choice but to demonstrate their defense capabilities to the attacker. He hasn't specifically shared details about the organizations that are under attack, but what little he has elaborated should give us a chill. From his blog post:

[...] This all is consistent with what Verisign is reporting. Verisign is the registrar for many popular top-level Internet domains, like .com and .net. If it goes down, there's a global blackout of all websites and e-mail addresses in the most common top-level domains. Every quarter, Verisign publishes (PDF) a DDoS trends report. While its publication doesn't have the level of detail I heard from the companies I spoke with, the trends are the same: "in Q2 2016, attacks continued to become more frequent, persistent, and complex." There's more. One company told me about a variety of probing attacks in addition to the DDoS attacks: testing the ability to manipulate internet addresses and routes, seeing how long it takes the defenders to respond, and so on. Someone is extensively testing the core defensive capabilities of the companies that provide critical Internet services. Who would do this? It doesn't seem like something an activist, criminal, or researcher would do. Profiling core infrastructure is common practice in espionage and intelligence gathering. It's not normal for companies to do that. Furthermore, the size and scale of these probes -- and especially their persistence -- points to state actors. It feels like a nation's military cybercommand trying to calibrate its weaponry in the case of cyberwar. It reminds me of the US's Cold War program of flying high-altitude planes over the Soviet Union to force their air-defense systems to turn on, to map their capabil
Robots Will Eliminate 6% of All US Jobs By 2021, Says Report
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By 2021, robots will have eliminated 6% of all jobs in the U.S., starting with customer service representatives and eventually truck and taxi drivers. That's just one cheery takeaway from a report released by market research company Forrester this week. These robots, or intelligent agents, represent a set of AI-powered systems that can understand human behavior and make decisions on our behalf. Current technologies in this field include virtual assistants like Alexa, Cortana, Siri and Google Now as well as chatbots and automated robotic systems. For now, they are quite simple, but over the next five years they will become much better at making decisions on our behalf in more complex scenarios, which will enable mass adoption of breakthroughs like self-driving cars. The Inevitable Robot Uprising has already started, with at least 45% of U.S. online adults saying they use at least one of the aforementioned digital concierges. Intelligent agents can access calendars, email accounts, browsing history, playlists, purchases and media viewing history to create a detailed view of any given individual. With this knowledge, virtual agents can provide highly customized assistance, which is valuable to shops or banks trying to deliver better customer service.

The report predicts there will be a net loss of 7% of U.S. jobs by 2025 -- 16% of U.S. jobs will be replaced, while the equivalent of 9% jobs will be created. The report forecasts 8.9 million new jobs in the U.S. by 2025, some of which include robot monitoring professionals, data scientists, automation specialists, and content curators.
Europe Has Added 1.1 Billion Stars To Its Milky Way Map
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The European Space Agency (ESA) has released the first batch of data from its Gaia star mapping project -- a mission that is currently on track to chart one billion stars in the Milky Way. The space telescope launched in 2013 and its first data dump contains the precise celestial position and brightness of a mammoth 1,142 million stars. The release also contains the distances and movements for more than two million stars so far. ESA's director of science Alvaro Gimenez told a press conference held at the European Space Astronomy Centre in Spain on Wednesday morning that the data release features around 490 billion astrometric, 118 billion photometric, and 10 billion spectroscopic measurements. "[The] Final survey will contain [around] 250,000 Solar System Objects, 1,000,000 galaxies, and 500,000 quasars," said Gimenez. Those numbers are almost unimaginable, but ESA has used the data so far to form an "all-sky" view of the stars in our galaxy and neighbouring galaxies, based on Gaia's observations from July 2014 to September 2015.
The Moon's Gravitational Pull Can Trigger Major Earthquakes, Says Study
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A careful statistical analysis of when major earthquakes occur has suggested they are more likely to be more powerful if they occur around the full and new moons when tidal forces are at their peak. Nature.com reports: "Satoshi Ide, a seismologist at the University of Tokyo, and his colleagues investigated three separate earthquake records covering Japan, California and the entire globe. For the 15 days leading up to each quake, the scientists assigned a number representing the relative tidal stress on that day, with 15 representing the highest. They found that large quakes such as those that hit Chile and Tohoku-Oki occurred near the time of maximum tidal strain -- or during new and full moons when the Sun, Moon and Earth align. For more than 10,000 earthquakes of around magnitude 5.5, the researchers found, an earthquake that began during a time of high tidal stress was more likely to grow to magnitude 8 or above." As these results are based entirely on statistical evidence, not on any direct link between tidal forces and actual quakes, they are quite uncertain and unproven.
Sugar Industry Bought Off Scientists, Skewed Dietary Guidelines For Decades
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Back in the 1960s, a sugar industry executive wrote fat checks to a group of Harvard researchers so that they'd downplay the links between sugar and heart disease in a prominent medical journal -- and the researchers did it, according to historical documents reported Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. One of those Harvard researchers went on to become the head of nutrition at the United States Department of Agriculture, where he set the stage for the federal government's current dietary guidelines. All in all, the corrupted researchers and skewed scientific literature successfully helped draw attention away from the health risks of sweets and shift the blame to solely to fats -- for nearly five decades. The low-fat, high-sugar diets that health experts subsequently encouraged are now seen as a main driver of the current obesity epidemic. The bitter revelations come from archived documents from the Sugar Research Foundation (now the Sugar Association), dug up by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. Their dive into the old, sour affair highlights both the perils of trusting industry-sponsored research to inform policy and the importance of requiring scientists to disclose conflicts of interest -- something that didn't become the norm until years later. Perhaps most strikingly, it spotlights the concerning power of the sugar industry. In a statement also issued today, the Sugar Association acknowledged that it "should have exercised greater transparency in all of its research activities." However, the trade-group went on to question the UCSF researchers' motives in digging up the issue and reframing the past events to "conveniently align with the currently trending anti-sugar narrative." The association also chastised the journal for publishing the historical analysis, which it implied was insignificant and sensationalist. "Most concerning is the growing use of headline-baiting articles to trump quality scientific research -- we're disappointed to see a journal of JAMA's stature being drawn into this trend," the association wrote. But scientists disagree with that take. In an accompanying editorial, nutrition professor Marion Nestle of New York University argued that "this 50-year-old incident may seem like ancient history, but it is quite relevant, not least because it answers some questions germane to our current era."
NASA Shares Curiosity's New Mars Photos
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"Curiosity is making us giddy by showing us some of the most amazing vistas we have ever seen on Mars," reports NASA. On the web site for their Mars Science Lab, they're sharing mission updates, but also all the raw photos as they're transmitted back by their Curiosity rover, which is travelling up a Martian mountain. "The plan so far has been to drive about 1/3 mile, stop to drill and drive again sampling the layers of the mountain as Curiosity makes her way up."

Curiosity is trying to determine whether Mars ever had environments capable of supporting simple life forms. NASA points out that it took Curiosity four years to reach its current location, joking about one wall of layered sandstone, "Wait, is this the Utah or Mars?"
Dolphins Recorded Having a Conversation For The First Time
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For the first time Russian researchers have recorded a conversation between two dolphins -- Yasha and Yana -- who were talking to each other in a pool.

Scientists developed an underwater microphone which could distinguish the animals' different "voices" [and] have now shown that dolphins alter the volume and frequency of pulsed clicks to form individual "words" which they string together into sentences in much the same way that humans speak...

"This language exhibits all the design features present in the human spoken language, this indicates a high level of intelligence and consciousness in dolphins, and their language can be ostensibly considered a highly developed spoken language, akin to the human language... Humans must take the first step to establish relationships with the first intelligent inhabitants of the planet Earth by creating devices capable of overcoming the barriers that stand in the way of using languages and in the way of communications between dolphins and people."

The dolphins listened to an entire "sentence" before replying, according to the article, which points out that dolphin brains are larger and more complex than the brains of humans.
10 Percent of the World's Wilderness Has Been Lost Since 1990s
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Wilderness areas around the world have experienced catastrophic declines over the last two decades, with one-tenth of global wilderness lost since the 1990s, according to a new study. Since 1993, researchers found that a cumulative wilderness area twice the size of Alaska and half the size of the Amazon has been stripped and destroyed. The shrinking wilderness is due, in part, to human activity such as mining, logging, agriculture, and oil and gas exploration. The researchers said their findings underscore the need for international policies to recognize the value of wilderness and to protect wilderness areas from the threats they face. Central Africa and the Amazon saw the most wilderness decline, the researchers found. Of the roughly 1.27 million square miles (3.3 million square kilometers) of global wilderness lost, the Amazon accounted for nearly one-third, and 14 percent of the world's wilderness was lost from Central Africa, according to the study. The researchers determined that only 11.6 million square miles (30.1 million square km) of wilderness is left, which equates to just 20 percent of the Earth's total land mass.
Microsoft Hopes To Hire More Coders With Autism
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Autistic people are methodical and detail-oriented, and a new Microsoft program is trying to hire more of them, according to Fast Company.

"The program, which began in May 2015, does away with the typical interview approach, instead inviting candidates to hang out on campus for two weeks and work on projects while being observed and casually meeting managers who might be interested in hiring them. Only at the end of this stage do more formal interviews take place.

"The goal is to create a situation that is better suited to autistic people's styles of communicating and thinking. Microsoft isn't the first to attempt something like this: The German software firm SAP, among a handful of others, have similar programs -- but Microsoft is the highest-profile company to have gone public with its efforts, and autistic adults are hoping it will spark a broader movement."


One autistic coder says they make better employees because "You don't have to tell someone not to go home early. They'll just stay." But there's also a push to bring different analytical and creative approaches into Microsoft's company culture. The article ultimately asks the question, "Could the third-largest corporation in the world make the case that hiring and employing autistic people, with all their social and intellectual quirks, was good, not bad, for business?"
The ultra-Orthodox Jews combining tech and the Torah
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Israel's ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews have long led a life of seclusion and religious study - but an increasing number are breaking with tradition, and proving surprisingly successful in Israel's tech start-up sector

"Learning the Talmud involves wrapping our minds around a certain problem and looking at it from different approaches and trying to find different solutions," says Moshe Slaven, a 26-year-old Haredi man from Jerusalem, who is learning how to code.

"Programming is very similar, especially the way of thinking."
NASA Launches OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft To Intercept Asteroid
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NASA has successfully launched the OSIRIS-REx space probe on Thursday, which aims to take a sample of asteroid Bennu and return to Earth. CNN reports: "The probe is scheduled to arrive at Bennu in August 2018. For months it will hang out -- take pictures, make scans of the asteroid's surface and create a map. Then in July 2020, OSIRIS-REx wil unfurl its 11-foot-long (3.35-meter) robot arm called TAGSAM and make contact with Bennu's surface for about five seconds. During those seconds, the arm will use a blast of nitrogen gas to kick up rocks and dust and then try to snag a sample of the dust and store it. NASA hopes to get at least 2 ounces (60 grams) and maybe as much as 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) of asteroid dust and small rocks. OSIRIS-REx heads home in March 2021 and arrives back at Earth on September 24, 2023, but it won't land. In a bit of Hollywood-style drama, it will fly over Utah and drop off the capsule holding the asteroid sample. A parachute will guide the capsule to the ground at the Utah Test and Training Range in Tooele County."

OSIRIS-REx is an acronym for the objectives of the mission: Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security-Regolith Explorer. It spells the name of the Egyptian god Osiris. The report adds that while the mission is a first for NASA, it is not a first for mankind. "Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft brought back a small sample of asteroid Itokawa dust in 2010."
NASA probe blasts off on quest to collect asteroid samples
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - An Atlas 5 rocket blasted off from Florida on Thursday carrying a space probe on NASA's first quest to collect samples from an asteroid and return them to Earth in hopes of learning more about the origins of life. The United Launch Alliance booster lifted off at 7:05 p.m. EDT (2305 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Perched on top of the 19-story rocket was NASA’s robot explorer Osiris-Rex, built by Lockheed Martin to carry out the seven-year, $1 billion mission to and from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.
Wells Fargo Fires 5,300 Employees For Creating Millions of Phony Accounts
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Everyone hates paying bank fees. But imagine paying fees on a ghost account you didn't even sign up for. That's exactly what happened to Wells Fargo customers nationwide. On Thursday, federal regulators said Wells Fargo employees secretly created millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts -- without their customers knowing it -- since 2011. The phony accounts earned the bank unwarranted fees and allowed Wells Fargo employees to boost their sales figures and make more money. Wells Fargo confirmed to CNNMoney that it had fired 5,300 employees related to the shady behavior over the last few years. Employees went so far as to create phony PIN numbers and fake email addresses to enroll customers in online banking services, the CFPB said. The scope of the scandal is shocking. An analysis conducted by a consulting firm hired by Wells Fargo concluded that bank employees opened up over 1.5 million deposit accounts that may not have been authorized, according to the CFPB. Wells Fargo is being slapped with the largest penalty since the CFPB was founded in 2011. The bank agreed to pay $185 million in fines, along with $5 million to refund customers.

The report says that "employees moved funds from customers' existing accounts into newly-created accounts without theier knowledge or consent," which resulted in "customers being charged for insufficient funds or overdraft fees," since their original accounts didn't contain the money. What's more is that "Wells Fargo employees also submitted applications for 565,443 credit card accounts without their knowledge or consent," causing customers who had unauthorized credit cards opened in their names to be "hit by annual fees, interest charges and other fees."
Linking Without Permission Violates Copyright, Rules EU Court
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Reuters is reporting that Playboy has won a lawsuit against a Netherlands news site for linking to photos without permission: "'It is undisputed that GS Media (which owns GreenStijl) provided the hyperlinks to the files containing the photos for profit and that Sanoma had not authorized the publication of those photos on the internet,' the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) said in a statement. 'When hyperlinks are posted for profit, it may be expected that the person who posted such a link should carry out the checks necessary to ensure that the work concerned is not illegally published.' The European Commission, the EU executive, is set next week to propose tougher rules on publishing copyrighted content, including a new exclusive right for news publishers to ask search engines like Google to pay to show snippets of their articles."

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled today on whether posting, on a website, hyperlinks to copyright infringing works constitutes a "communication to the public" for the purposes of EU copyright law, an act which requires permission of the rights holder or other authorizing basis. The court held that, if the links are provided "without the pursuit of financial gain by a person who did not know or could not reasonably have known the illegal nature of the publication of those works on that other website," the act of posting the hyperlink is not an infringement of copyright. However, if the links are providing in the pursuit of financial gain, the poster of such links is deemed to have known that they were infringing copyright, unless they can prove otherwise. The court has stated that those sites operating "for profit" are expected to have carried out the (impossible?) "necessary checks to ensure that the work concerned is not illegally published on the website to which those hyperlinks lead." The court does not clarify what is meant by "the pursuit of financial gain." If previous decisions are followed, any sites which host ads (Papasavvas), or perhaps even just accrue value to a brand (if the Advocate General's opinion in McFadden is followed), might be treated as operating for financial gain.
Costa Rica Has Gone 76 Straight Days Using Only Renewable Electricity
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Last year, Costa Rica powered itself using only renewable energy for 75 days. It has topped that feat this year. Vox reports: Costa Rica is pulling off a feat most countries just daydream about: For two straight months, the Central American country hasn't burned any fossil fuels to generate electricity. That's right: 100 percent renewable power. This isn't a blip, either. For 300 total days last year and 150 days so far this year, Costa Rica's electricity has come entirely from renewable sources, mostly hydropower and geothermal. Heavy rains have helped four big hydroelectric dams run above their usual capacity, letting the country turn off its diesel generators. Now, there's a huge, huge caveat here: Costa Rica hasn't eschewed all fossil fuels entirely. The country still has more than 1 million cars running on old-fashioned gasoline, which is why imported oil still supplies over half its total energy needs. The country also has cement plants that burn coal.
FCC Chief To Unveil Revised Plan To Eliminate Cable Boxes
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The top U.S. communications regulator plans to unveil a revised plan to allow about 100 million pay TV subscribers to replace expensive set-top boxes with less-costly apps that provide access to television and video programs, Fortune reports. From the report:

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed in January opening the $20 billion cable and satellite TV set-top box market to new competitors and allow consumers to access multiple content providers from a single app or device. The plan, aimed at breaking the cable industry's long grip on the lucrative pay TV market and lowering prices for consumers, drew fierce opposition from TV and content providers, including AT&T, Comcast and Twenty-First Century Fox. The FCC has said Americans spend $20 billion a year to lease pay-TV boxes, or an average of $231 annually. Set-top box rental fees have jumped 185 percent since 1994, while the cost of TVs, computers and mobile phones has dropped 90 percent, the FCC has estimated.
A Small Asteroid Buzzed Earth Wednesday, But Everything's Cool
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If the Earth were a person, it might have felt a sudden wind rustling its hair when a small asteroid whizzed past the planet on Wednesday. The asteroid, saddled with the name 2016 RB1, is a new discovery. Astronomers just noticed it on September 5 thanks to the keen eye of a telescope from the Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson, Arizona. What makes 2016 RB1 so sneaky is its small size. It's only about 25 to 50 feet (7 to 16 meters) in diameter. It passed within just 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) of Earth, which NASA helpfully translates into 1/10th the distance from Earth to the moon. In terms of the massive size of the galaxy, that qualifies as a relatively close shave. An animated GIF of the flyby shows a tiny white dot moving against a grainy space background. The asteroid's trajectory kept it well out of the way of any satellites, and the planet was never in any danger.
It's Official: You're Lost In a Directionless Universe
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Ever peer into the night sky and wonder whether space is really the same in all directions or if the cosmos might be whirling about like a vast top? Now, one team of cosmologists has used the oldest radiation there is, the afterglow of the big bang, or the cosmic microwave background (CMB), to show that the universe is 'isotropic,' or the same no matter which way you look: There is no spin axis or any other special direction in space. In fact, they estimate that there is only a one-in-121,000 chance of a preferred direction -- the best evidence yet for an isotropic universe. That finding should provide some comfort for cosmologists, whose standard model of the evolution of the universe rests on an assumption of such uniformity.
An Asteroid Has Been Named After Freddie Mercury
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Freddie Mercury, frontman of Queen and transcendent being of pure performative joy and vitality, would have been 70 years old this Monday, September 5. To celebrate the occasion and honor Mercury's enormous impact on pop culture, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has officially changed the name of Asteroid 17473, located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, to "Freddiemercury." It's a fitting tribute to the man who exuberantly sang that he was "a shooting star leaping through the sky" in the heart-thumping rock rager "Don't Stop Me Now." Queen's lead guitarist Brian May, who also happens to be an astrophysicist with a namesake asteroid of his own, announced the news to the band's fans via YouTube on Sunday. Mercury's asteroid is about three and a half kilometers across, and has an albedo of about 0.3, which means it reflects only about 30 percent of the Sun's light. "It's a dark object, like a cinder in space, as many of these asteroids are," May said. "It's just a dot of light, but it's a very special dot of light."
Philae Found! Rosetta Spies Dead Comet Lander
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With only a month before its mission ends, the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission swooped low over Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko to see the stranded Philae lander jammed in a crack. After months of searching for the lander, which made its dramatic touchdown on Nov. 14, 2014, mission scientists had a good idea as to the region the robot was in, but this is the first photographic proof of the lander, on its side, stuck in the craggy location called Abydos. "This wonderful news means that we now have the missing 'ground-truth' information needed to put Philae's three days of science into proper context, now that we know where that ground actually is!" said Rosetta project scientist Matt Taylor in a statement.
Apps Are Devouring the Open Web
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Apps are eating the web. Over the past decade, there has been an inexorable movement from the open internet to the walled gardens of apps -- and this trend just hit a major milestone. According to new data from ComScore, more than half of all time Americans spend online is spent in apps -- up from around 41% two years ago. It's a stat that will be discomfiting to advocates of the open web, as well as companies whose core business is built around it -- notably Google. As content that was once freely available and indexable on websites becomes silo-ed away in closed-off apps, it makes it harder to search and link to content. This is, of course, the cornerstone of Google's original business.
New Carbon Nanotube Chip Outperforms Silicon Semiconductors
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"Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are the first to have fabricated carbon nanotube transistors (CNTs) that outperform the current-density of conventional semiconductors like silicon and gallium arsenide," reports NanotechWeb. From the site's interview with one of the researchers:

"When the transistors are turned on to the conductive state (meaning that current is able to pass through the CNT channel) the amount of current traveling through each CNT in the array approaches the fundamental quantum limit," he tells nanotechweb.org.

"Since the CNTs conduct in parallel, and the packing density and conductance per tube are very high, the overall current density is very high too -- at nearly twice that of silicon's. The result is that these CNT array FETs have a conductance that is seven times higher than any previous reported CNT array field-effect transistor."


The research was funded in part by the U.S. Army and Air Force, as well as the National Science Foundation. "The implication here is that by replacing silicon with a CNT channel, it should be possible for us to make either a higher performing device or one that works at lower power."
NASA Releases First-Ever Close-Up Images of Jupiter's North Pole
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NASA has released the first close-up images of Jupiter's north pole captured by the Juno spacecraft, taken during the probe's first flyby of the planet with its instruments switched on. "The images show storm systems and weather activity unlike anything previously seen on any of our solar system's gas-giant planets," writes Tony Greicius via NASA. NPR reports:

"NASA also released an image of Jupiter's southern aurora, a unique view that could be captured only by a spacecraft close to Jupiter. The aurora occurs when energized particles from the sun interact with Jupiter's atmosphere near the planet's poles. The space agency also released audio of what the aurora sounds like if you convert it to a frequency the human ear can hear. The pictures and data were collected Aug. 27, when June made the first of some three dozen scheduled close encounters with Jupiter. At its closest approach, the spacecraft was a mere 2,500 miles above the planet's cloud tops."
Falcon 9 Explodes On Pad
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NPR is reporting that a Falcon9 carrying the AMOS-6 satellite that was supposed to launch on Sat exploded during it's scheduled static fire. No injuries are reported. They're reporting that this was going to be the first reflown first stage.

The Verge adds:SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, meant to launch a satellite this weekend, exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida this morning. The explosion occurred during the preparation for the static fire test of the rocket's engines, NASA told the Associated Press. The blast reportedly shook buildings "several miles away." The company confirmed to The Verge the loss of the Falcon 9 an hour later: "SpaceX can confirm that in preparation for today's static fire, there was an anomaly on the pad resulting in the loss of the vehicle and its payload. Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries."
Half Of People Click Anything Sent To Them
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Want to know why phishing continues to be one of the most common security issue? Half of the people will click on anything without thinking twice ArsTechnica reports:

A study by researchers at a university in Germany found that about half of the subjects in a recent experiment clicked on links from strangers in e-mails and Facebook messages -- even though most of them claimed to be aware of the risks. The researchers at the Friedrich-Alexander University (FAU) of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, led by FAU Computer Science Department Chair Dr Zinaida Benenson, revealed the initial results of the study at this month's Black Hat security conference. Simulated "spear phishing" attacks were sent to 1,700 test subjects -- university students -- from fake accounts. The e-mail and Facebook accounts were set up with the ten most common names in the age group of the targets. The Facebook profiles had varying levels of publicly accessible profile and timeline data -- some with public photos and profile photos, and others with minimal data. The messages claimed the links were to photos taken at a New Year's Eve party held a week before the study. Two sets of messages were sent out: in the first, the targets were addressed by their first name; in the second, they were not addressed by name, but more general information about the event allegedly photographed was given. Links sent resolved to a webpage with the message "access denied," but the site logged the clicks by each student.
SETI's 'Strong Signal' Came From Earth
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Yesterday, it was reported that Russia has detected a strong signal around 11 GHz coming from HD164595, a star nearly identical in mass to the Sun and located about 95 light years away from Earth. Well, long story short the signal came Earth. Ars Technica reports:

"First, astronomers with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence downplayed the possibility of an alien civilization. 'There are many other plausible explanations for this claimed transmission, including terrestrial interference,' Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer with SETI, wrote. Now the Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences has concurred, releasing a statement on the detection of a radio signal at the RATAN-600 radio astronomy observatory in southern Russia. 'Subsequent processing and analysis of the signal revealed its most probable terrestrial origin,' the Russian scientists said."
Hunt For Ninth Planet Reveals Distant Solar System Objects
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Astronomers have discovered several new objects orbiting the Sun at extremely great distances beyond the orbit of Neptune. The most interesting new discovery is 2014 FE72: "2014 FE72 is the first distant Oort Cloud object found with an orbit entirely beyond Neptune," reports Carnegie Institution for Science. "It has an orbit that takes the object so far away from the Sun (some 3000 times farther than Earth) that it is likely being influenced by forces of gravity from beyond our Solar System such as other stars and the galactic tide. It is the first object observed at such a large distance." This research is being done as part of an effort to discover a very large planet, possibly as much as 15 times the mass of Earth, that the scientists have proposed that exists out there.
Early Human Ancestor Lucy 'Died Falling Out of a Tree'
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New evidence suggests that the famous fossilized human ancestor dubbed "Lucy" by scientists died falling from a great height -- probably out of a tree. CT scans have shown injuries to her bones similar to those suffered by modern humans in similar falls. The 3.2 million-year-old hominin was found on a treed flood plain, making a branch her most likely final perch. It bolsters the view that her species -- Australopithecus afarensis -- spent at least some of its life in the trees. Writing in the journal Nature, researchers from the U.S. and Ethiopia describe a "vertical deceleration event" which they argue caused Lucy's death. In particular they point to a crushed shoulder joint, of the sort seen when we humans reach out our arms to break a fall, as well as fractures of the ankle, leg bones, pelvis, ribs, vertebrae, arm, jaw and skull. Discovered in Ethiopia's Afar region in 1974, Lucy's 40%-complete skeleton is one of the world's best known fossils. She was around 1.1m (3ft 7in) tall and is thought to have been a young adult when she died. Her species, Australopithecus afarensis, shows signs of having walked upright on the ground and had lost her ancestors' ape-like, grasping feet -- but also had an upper body well-suited to climbing. The bones of this well-studied skeleton are in fact laced with fractures, like most fossils. By peering inside the bones in minute detail, the scanner showed that several of the fractures were "greenstick" breaks. The bone had bent and snapped like a twig: something that only happens to healthy, living bones.

"The Ethiopian ministry has agreed to release 3D files of Lucy's right shoulder and her left knee. So anyone with an interest in this can print Lucy out and evaluate these fractures, and our hypothesis, for themsleves."
FBI Says Foreign Hackers Breached State Election Systems
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The FBI has uncovered evidence that foreign hackers breached two state election databases in recent weeks, and it has warned election officials across the country to some measures to step up the security of their computer systems. The Guardian reports:

The FBI warning did not identify the two states targeted by cyber intruders, but Yahoo News said sources familiar with the document said it referred to Arizona and Illinois, whose voter registration systems were penetrated. Citing a state election board official, Yahoo News said the Illinois voter registration system was shut down for 10 days in late July after hackers downloaded personal data on up to 200,000 voters. The Arizona attack was more limited and involved introducing malicious software into the voter registration system, Yahoo News quoted a state official as saying. No data was removed in that attack, the official said. US intelligence officials have become increasingly worried that hackers sponsored by Russia or other countries may attempt to disrupt the November presidential election.
WhatsApp To Share Some Data With Facebook
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Two years ago when Facebook bought WhatsApp, the instant messaging client said that the deal would not affect the digital privacy of its users. Things are changing now, WhatsApp said Thursday. The Facebook-owned app will share with the company some member information, as well as some analytics data of its users. Bloomberg reports:

WhatsApp announced a change to its privacy policy today that allows businesses to communicate with users. The messages could include appointment reminders, delivery and shipping notifications or marketing material, the company said in its revised terms of service. In a blog post, WhatsApp said it will be testing these business features over the coming months. The strategy is an important step for Facebook as it attempts to make money from its most expensive acquisition. In addition to the messages from businesses, WhatsApp said it would begin sharing more information about its users with the "Facebook family." The data, including a person's phone number, could be used to better targets ads when browsing Facebook or Instagram, WhatsApp said.
Global Warming Started 180 Years Ago Near Beginning of Industrial Revolution, Says Study
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New research led by scientists at the Australian National University's Research School of Earth suggests that humans first started to significantly change the climate in the 1830s, near the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The findings have been published in the journal Nature, and "were based on natural records of climate variation in the world's oceans and continents, including those found in corals, ice cores, tree rings and the changing chemistry of stalagmites in caves." Sydney Morning Herald reports:

"Nerilie Abram, another of the lead authors and an associate professor at the Australian National University's Research School of Earth Sciences, said greenhouse gas levels rose from about 280 parts per million in the 1830s to about 295 ppm by the end of that century. They now exceed 400 ppm. Understanding how humans were already altering the composition of the atmosphere through the 19th century means the warming is closer to the 1.5 to 2 degrees target agreed at last year's Paris climate summit than most people realize."

"It was one of those moments where science really surprised us," says Abram. "But the results were clear. The climate warming we are witnessing today started about 180 years ago."
World's Largest Aircraft Crashes Its Second Flight
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Not too long after it completed its first test flight, the Airlander 10 -- the world's largest aircraft -- has crashed its second test flight. Since the 300-foot long aircraft contains 38,000 cubic meters of helium inside its hull, the crash was all but sudden. You can see in a video posted to YouTube from witnesses on the ground that the aircraft slowly descended to the ground, nose first. The BBC has published some close-up photos of the cockpit, which sustained damages. There were no injuries in the crash, according to a tweet from Hybrid Air Vehicles. The company did also deny eyewitness reports of the aircraft being damaged in a collision with a telegraph pole.
'Octobot' Is The World's First Soft-Bodied Robot
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Researchers have created the first completely soft-bodied robot, dubbed the 'octobot.' The palm-sized machine's exterior is made of silicone. And whereas other soft robots have had at least a few hard parts, such as batteries or wires, the octobot uses a small reservoir of hydrogen peroxide as fuel. The basic design can be scaled up or down, increasing or decreasing fuel capacity depending on the robot's job. As the field of soft robotics advances, the scientists envision these robots being used for marine search and rescue, oceanic temperature sensing, and military surveillance.

The report adds: "When the hydrogen peroxide washes over flecks of platinum embedded within the octobot, the resulting chemical reaction produces gas that inflates and flexes the robot's arms. As described online today in Nature, the gas flows through a series of 3D-printed pneumatic chambers that link the octobot's eight arms; their flexing propels it through water."
Bill Nye Explains That the Flooding In Louisiana Is the Result of Climate Change
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Our favorite science guy has an interview (and video) in Quartz where he explains how Louisiana flooding is due to climate change: "As the ocean gets warmer, which it is getting, it expands," Nye explained. "Molecules spread apart, and then as the sea surface is warmer, more water evaporates, and so it's very reasonable that these storms are connected to these big effects." The article also notes that a National Academy of Sciences issued a report with the same findings: "Scientists from around the world have concurred with Nye that this is exactly what the effects of climate change look like, and that disasters like the Louisiana floods are going to happen more and more. According to a National Academy of Sciences report published earlier this year, extreme flooding can be traced directly to human-induced global warming. As the atmosphere warms, it retains more moisture, leading to bouts of sustained, heavy precipitation that can cause floods."
Earth-Like Planet, With Ambitious Life Possibility, Found Orbiting the Star Next Door
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There's another Earth out there. For real, this time. Astronomers announced on Wednesday that they had detected a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest neighbor to our solar system. Intriguingly, the planet is in the star's "Goldilocks zone," they said, a place that hints that it may not be too hot nor too cold. Which in turn means that liquid water could exist at the surface, and by extension, it raises the possibility of life. Nature reports:

"The search for life starts now," says Guillem Anglada-Escude, an astronomer at Queen Mary University of London and leader of the team that made the discovery. Humanity's first chance to explore this nearby world may come from the recently announced Breakthrough Starshot initiative, which plans to build fleets of tiny laser-propelled interstellar probes in the coming decades. Travelling at 20% of the speed of light, they would take about 20 years to cover the 1.3 parsecs from Earth to Proxima Centauri. Proxima's planet is at least 1.3 times the mass of Earth. The planet orbits its red-dwarf star -- much smaller and dimmer than the Sun -- every 11.2 days. "If you tried to pick the type of planet you'd most want around the type of star you'd most want, it would be this," says David Kipping, an astronomer at Columbia University in New York City. "It's thrilling."

Much about the planet is still unknown. Astronomers have some ideas about its size and distance from its parent star. Scientists say they are working off computer models that offer mere hints of what's possible. Also, there's no picture available for this planet as of yet.
New Mexico Nuclear Accident Ranks Among the Costliest In US History
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When a drum containing radioactive waste blew up in an underground nuclear dump in New Mexico two years ago, the Energy Department rushed to quell concerns in the Carlsbad desert community and quickly reported progress on resuming operations. The early federal statements gave no hint that the blast had caused massive long-term damage to the dump, a facility crucial to the nuclear weapons cleanup program that spans the nation, or that it would jeopardize the Energy Department's credibility in dealing with the tricky problem of radioactive waste. But the explosion ranks among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history, according to a Times analysis. The long-term cost of the mishap could top $2 billion, an amount roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. The Feb. 14, 2014, accident is also complicating cleanup programs at about a dozen current and former nuclear weapons sites across the U.S. Thousands of tons of radioactive waste that were headed for the dump are backed up in Idaho, Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere, state officials said in interviews.

"The direct cost of the cleanup is now $640 million, based on a contract modification made last month with Nuclear Waste Partnership that increased the cost from $1.3 billion to nearly $2 billion," reports Los Angeles Times. "The cost-plus contract leaves open the possibility of even higher costs as repairs continue. And it does not include the complete replacement of the contaminated ventilation system or any future costs of operating the mine longer than originally planned."
Will Internet Voting Endanger The Secret Ballot?
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MIT recently identified the states "at the greatest risk of having their voting process hacked". but added this week that "Maintaining the secrecy of ballots returned via the Internet is 'technologically impossible'..." Long-time Slashdot reader Presto Vivace quotes their article:

That's according to a new report from Verified Voting, a group that advocates for transparency and accuracy in elections. A cornerstone of democracy, the secret ballot guards against voter coercion. But "because of current technical challenges and the unique challenge of running public elections, it is impossible to maintain the separation of voters' identities from their votes when Internet voting is used," concludes the report, which was written in collaboration with the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the anticorruption advocacy group Common Cause.

32 states are already offering some form of online voting, apparently prompting the creation of Verified Voting's new site, SecretBallotAtRisk.org.
NSA Worried About Implications of Leaked Toolkits
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According to Business Insider, the NSA is worried about the possible scope of information leaked from the agency, after a group calling themselves the 'Shadow Brokers' absconded with a sizable trove of penetration tools and technical exploits, which it plans to sell on the black market. Among the concerns are worries that active operations may have been exposed. Business insider quotes an undisclosed source as stating the possibility of the loss of such security and stealth (eg privacy) has had chilling effects for the agency, as they attempt to determine the fullness and scope of the leak. (Does anyone besides me feel a little tickled about the irony of the NSA complaining about chilling effects of possibly being monitored?)
Your Political Facebook Posts Aren't Changing How Your Friends Think
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It may be hard to resist airing political grievances or appealing to voters on social media during a U.S. presidential race as heated as this one. But no one wants to hear about your politics, least of all on Facebook. Those long rants about how Trump is a bully and a buffoon, Hillary is a crook, and conspiring against Bernie Sanders has doomed America forever aren't changing voters' minds, a new study found. A staggering 94% of Republicans, 92% of Democrats, and 85% of independents on Facebook say they have never been swayed by a political post, according to Rantic, a firm that sells social media followers. The firm surveyed 10,000 Facebook users who self-identified as Republicans, Democrats, or independents. The only thing those opinionated election posts are doing is damaging your friendships. Nearly one-third of Facebook users surveyed said social media is not an appropriate forum for political discussions. And respondents from each political affiliation admitted they've un-friended people on Facebook because of their political posts.
There May Be A Fifth Force of Nature, Study Suggests
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According to a paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, physicists at the University of California, Irvine, may have discovered a previously unknown subatomic particle that's evidence of a fifth fundamental force of nature. Space.com reports: "[Professor of physics and astronomy Jonathan Feng] and his colleagues analyzed data gathered recently by experimental nuclear physicists at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, who were trying to find 'dark photons' -- hypothetical indicators of mysterious dark matter. Dark matter is thought to make up about 85 percent of all matter in the universe, but it neither absorbs nor emits light, so it's impossible to detect directly. 'The experimentalists weren't able to claim that it was a new force,' Feng said. 'They simply saw an excess of events that indicated a new particle, but it was not clear to them whether it was a matter particle or a force-carrying particle.' The new work by Feng and his team suggests that the Hungarians found not a 'dark photon' but rather a 'protophobic X boson' -- a strange particle whose existence could indicate a fifth force of nature. The known electromagnetic force acts on protons and electrons, but this newfound particle apparently interacts only with protons and neutrons, and then only at very short distances, researchers said. The potential fifth force may be linked to the electromagnetic and strong and weak nuclear forces, as 'manifestations of one grander, more fundamental force,' Feng said. It's also possible that the universe of 'normal' matter and forces has a parallel 'dark' sector, with its own matter and forces, Feng added. 'It's possible that these two sectors talk to each other and interact with one another through somewhat veiled but fundamental interactions,' Feng said. 'This dark-sector force may manifest itself as this protophobic force we're seeing as a result of the Hungarian experiment. In a broader sense, it fits in with our original research to understand the nature of dark matter.'"
NASA: July 2016 Was Earth's Warmest Month On Record
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Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), operated by the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), calculated the global average July temperature was nearly one-fifth of a degree Celsius higher than previous July temperature records set in 2015 and in 2009. July was also 0.55 degrees Celsius higher than the July average for 1981-2010. Compared to the July average, the south-central part of the United States including Texas and into northern Mexico were the most anomalously warm for North America. Globally, portions of western Russia and the Southern Ocean were warmest compared to average. In Russia, fires and an anthrax outbreak have been blamed on warmer than average temperatures. Each of the last 12 months has been the warmest on record for their respective months. This is due to a combination of global climate variability and human activity according to C3S. July is typically the warmest month of the year globally because the Northern Hemisphere has more land masses than the Southern Hemisphere. (NASA GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) confirms today.)
Astronomers To Announce Discovery of a Nearby 'Earth-Like' Planet
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Scientists are preparing to unveil a new planet in our galactic neighborhood which is "believed to be Earth-like" and orbits its star at a distance that could favor life, German weekly Der Spiegel reported Friday. The exoplanet orbits a well-investigated star called Proxima Centauri, part of the Alpha Centauri star system, the magazine said, quoting anonymous sources.

"The still nameless planet is believed to be Earth-like and orbits at a distance to Proxima Centauri that could allow it to have liquid water on its surface -- an important requirement for the emergence of life," said the magazine.

It's orbiting our sun's nearest neighboring star -- just 4.25 light years away -- meaning it could someday be considered for the world's first interstellar mission.
Fourth SpaceX Rocket Successfully Landed on A Drone Ship
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Saturday a SpaceX rocket completed the company's fourth successful landing at sea (watched by over 100,000 viewers on YouTube and Flickr). Saturday's landing means Elon Musk's company has now recovered more than half the rockets they've launched. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes Saturday's report from The Verge:

Tonight's landing was particularly challenging for SpaceX... The Falcon 9 had to carry its onboard satellite -- called JCSAT-16 -- into...a highly elliptical orbit that takes the satellite 20,000 miles out beyond Earth's surface. Getting to GTO requires a lot of speed and uses up a lot of fuel during take off, more so than getting to lower Earth orbit. That makes things difficult for the rocket landing afterward...there's less fuel leftover for the vehicle to reignite its engines and perform the necessary landing maneuvers.

CEO Elon Musk said the company is aiming to launch its first landed rocket sometime this fall...SpaceX's president, Gwynne Shotwell, estimates that reusing these landed Falcon 9 vehicles will lead to a 30 percent reduction in launch costs.

SpaceX named their drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You."
One In Five Vehicle Software Vulnerabilities Are 'Hair On Fire' Critical
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One of every five software vulnerabilities discovered in vehicles in the last three years are rated "critical" and are unlikely to be resolved through after the fact security fixes, according to an analysis by the firm IOActive. "These are the high priority 'hair on fire' vulnerabilities that are easily discovered and exploited and can cause major impacts to the system or component," the firm said in its report...

The bulk of vulnerabilities that were identified stemmed from a failure by automakers and suppliers to follow security best practices including designing in security or applying secure development lifecycle (SDL) practices to software creation... The result is that vehicle cybersecurity vulnerabilities are not solvable using "bolt-on" solutions, IOActive concluded...

The article argues we're years away from standards or regulations, while describing auto-makers as "wedded to the notion that keeping the details of their systems secret will ensure security."
Voting Machines Can Be Easily Compromised, Symantec Demonstrates
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For the hackers at Symantec Security Response, Election Day results could be manipulated by an affordable device you can find online. "I can insert it, and then it resets the card, and now I'm able to vote again," said Brian Varner, a principle researcher at Symantec, demonstrating the device...

Symantec Security Response director Kevin Haley said elections can also be hacked by breaking into the machines after the votes are collected. "The results go from that machine into a piece of electronics that takes it to the central counting place," Haley said. "That data is not encrypted and that's vulnerable for manipulation."

40 states are using a voting technology that's at least 10 years old, according to the article. And while one of America's national election official argues that "there are paper trails everywhere," CBS reports that only 60% of states conduct routine audits of their paper trails, while "not all states even have paper records, like in some parts of swing states Virginia and Pennsylvania, which experts say could be devastating."
Star Wars Actor Kenny Baker Dies at Age 81
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The British actor who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars films has died at the age of 81 after a long illness. Kenny Baker, who was 3-feet 8-inches tall, shot to fame in 1977 when he first played the robot character.

He went on to play the character in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as the three Star Wars prequels from 1999 to 2005. He also appeared in a number of other much loved films in the 1980s, including The Elephant Man, Time Bandits and Flash Gordon.

Baker's niece told the newspaper that "He brought lots of happiness to people and we'll be celebrating the fact that he was well loved throughout the world..."
How a 1967 Solar Storm Nearly Led To Nuclear War
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A powerful solar storm nearly heated the Cold War up catastrophically a half century ago, a new study suggests. The U.S. Air Force began preparing for war on May 23, 1967, thinking that the Soviet Union had jammed a set of American surveillance radars. But military space-weather forecasters intervened in time, telling top officials that a powerful sun eruption was to blame, according to the study. "Had it not been for the fact that we had invested very early on in solar and geomagnetic storm observations and forecasting, the impact [of the storm] likely would have been much greater," Delores Knipp, a space physicist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the study's lead author, said in a statement. "This was a lesson learned in how important it is to be prepared."

Initially, it was assumed that the Soviet Union was to blame. Since radar jamming is considered an act of war, "commanders quickly began preparing nuclear-weapon-equipped aircraft for launch." Spoiler: Solar forecasters at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) figured out it was a flare that caused the outages, not the Soviets. You can read the abstract of the paper
More Airline Outages Seen As Carriers Grapple With Aging Technology
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Airlines will likely suffer more disruptions like the one that grounded about 2,000 Delta flights this week because major carriers have not invested enough to overhaul reservations systems based on technology dating to the 1960s, airline industry and technology experts told Reuters. Airlines have spent heavily to introduce new features such as automated check-in kiosks, real-time luggage tracking and slick mobile apps. But they have avoided the steep cost of rebuilding their reservations systems from the ground up, former airline executives said. Scott Nason, former chief information officer at American Airlines Group Inc, said long-term investments in computer technology were a tough sell when he worked there. "Most airlines were on the verge of going out of business for many years, so investment of any kind had to have short pay-back periods," said Nason, who left American in 2009 and is now an independent consultant. The reservations systems of the biggest carriers mostly run on a specialized IBM operating system known as Transaction Processing Facility, or TPF. It was designed in the 1960s to process large numbers of transactions quickly and is still updated by IBM, which did a major rewrite of the operating system about a decade ago.
LinkedIn Suffers Huge Bot Attack That Steals Members' Personal Data
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Data thieves used a massive "botnet" against professional networking site LinkedIn and stole member's personal information, a new lawsuit reveals. "LinkedIn members populate their profiles with a wide range of information concerning their professional lives, including summaries (narratives about themselves), job histories, skills, interests, educational background, professional awards, photographs and other information," said the company's complaint, filed in Northern California U.S. District Court (PDF). "During periods of time since December 2015, and to this day, unknown persons and/or entities employing various automated software programs (often referred to as 'bots') have extracted and copied data from many LinkedIn pages." It is unclear to what extent LinkedIn has been able to stymie the attack. A statement from the firm's legal team suggests one avenue of penetration has been permanently closed, but does not address other means of incursion listed in the lawsuit. "Their actions have violated the trust that LinkedIn members place in the company to protect their information," the complaint said. "LinkedIn will suffer ongoing and irreparable harm to its consumer goodwill and trust, which LinkedIn has worked hard for years to earn and maintain, if the conduct continues." LinkedIn says it has more than 128 million U.S. members and more than 400 million worldwide. According to the complaint, the hackers got around six LinkedIn cybersecurity systems, and also manipulated a cloud-services company that was on the company's "whitelist" of "popular and reputable service providers, search engines and other platforms" which interact with LinkedIn under less severe security measures than other third parties. The manipulation allowed the hackers to send requests to LinkedIn servers. "This was not an attack or data breach where confidential data was stolen," LinkedIn's legal team said in a statement. "This suit is about unknown entities using automated systems to scrape and copy data that members have made available on LinkedIn, violating the law and our Terms of Service."
Venus May Have Been Habitable, Says NASA
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Science Daily has an article speculating that Venus may have been habitable which is suggested by NASA climate modeling, which proposes that Venus may have had a shallow liquid-water ocean and habitable surface temperatures for up to two billion years of its early history. Talk about global climate change run amok. Venus may represent a near Earth example of what is in store for the future of our world if we don't make it a number one priority to address.

Science Daily reports: "Venus today is a hellish world. It has a crushing carbon dioxide atmosphere 90 times as thick as Earth's. There is almost no water vapor. Temperatures reach 864 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius) at its surface. Scientists have long theorized that Venus formed out of ingredients similar to Earth's, but followed a different evolutionary path. Measurements by NASA's Pioneer mission to Venus in the 1980s first suggested Venus originally may have had an ocean. However, Venus is closer to the sun than Earth and receives far more sunlight. As a result, the planet's early ocean evaporated, water-vapor molecules were broken apart by ultraviolet radiation, and hydrogen escaped to space. With no water left on the surface, carbon dioxide built up in the atmosphere, leading to a so-called runaway greenhouse effect that created present conditions."
8 Paralyzed Patients Learn To Walk Again Using Virtual Reality
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In a new study published in Scientific Reports, eight patients paralyzed with spinal cord injuries exhibited partial restoration of muscle control and sensations in their lower limbs following an extensive training regimen with non-invasive brain-controlled robotics and a virtual reality system. Developed by Duke University neuroscience Miguel Nicolelis and colleagues, the system tapped into the patients' own brain activity to simulate full control of their legs, causing the injured parts of their spinal cord to re-engage. Brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) work by establishing direct communication between the brain and a computer, which then allows patients to control external devices with their thoughts, including prosthetic limbs or exoskeletons. Earlier this year, Nicolelis showed that it was possible for a monkey to control a wheelchair with its mind, though with an implanted brain chip. In the new experiment, the system non-invasively recorded hundreds of brain patterns emitted by the brain, collecting these motor commands from those signals, and then translating them into movements. During the year long experiment, Nicolelis and his team investigated the ways in which BMI-based training could influence the ability of paraplegics to walk using a brain-controlled exoskeleton. To augment this process, they turned to virtual reality, which assisted with visualization and mind-body awareness. While in a virtual reality environment, and when hooked up to the exoskeletons, the patients could see virtual representations of the own bodies, and even receive tactile feedback.
A Bit of Cash Can Keep Someone Off the Streets For 2 Years or More
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If someone is about to become homeless, giving them a single cash infusion, averaging about $1000, may be enough to keep them off the streets for at least 2 years. That's the conclusion of a new study, which finds that programs that proactively assist those in need don't just help the victims -- they may benefit society as a whole. "I think this is a really important study, and it's really well done," says Beth Shinn, a community psychologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville who specializes in homelessness but was not involved in the work. Homelessness isn't just bad for its sufferers -- it shortens life span and hurts kids in school -- it's a burden on everyone else. Previous studies have concluded that a single period of homelessness can cost taxpayers $20,000 or more, in the form of welfare, policing, health care, maintaining homeless shelters, and other expenses. To combat homelessness, philanthropic organizations have either tried to prevent people from losing their homes in the first place or help them regain housing after they are already destitute. But there aren't many data on whether giving cash to people on the brink of becoming homeless actually prevents them from living on the street.
A New Wireless Hack Can Unlock Almost Every Volkswagen Sold Since 1995
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Volkswagen isn't having the best of times. Tens of millions of vehicles sold by Volkswagen AG over the past 20 years are vulnerable to theft because keyless entry systems can be hacked using cheap technical devices, reports Wired (alternate source). Security experts of the University of Birmingham were able to clone VW remote keyless entry controls by eavesdropping nearby when drivers press their key fobs to open or lock up their cars. ArsTechnica reports:

The first affects almost every car Volkswagen has sold since 1995, with only the latest Golf-based models in the clear. Led by Flavio Garcia at the University of Birmingham in the UK, the group of hackers reverse-engineered an undisclosed Volkswagen component to extract a cryptographic key value that is common to many of the company's vehicles. Alone, the value won't do anything, but when combined with the unique value encoded on an individual vehicle's remote key fob -- obtained with a little electronic eavesdropping, say -- you have a functional clone that will lock or unlock that car. VW has apparently acknowledged the vulnerability, and Greenberg (writer at Wired) notes that the company uses a number of different shared values, stored on different components. The second affects many more makes, "including Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, and Peugeot," according to Greenberg. It exploits a much older cryptographic scheme used in key fobs called HiTag2. Again it requires some eavesdropping to capture a series of codes sent out by a remote key fob. Once a few codes had been gathered, they were able to crack the encryption scheme in under a minute.
NASA Publishes a Thousand Photos of Mars
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A report via Engadget: NASA has released a huge number of high-resolution photos of Mars captured from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRise camera, which has been capturing images of the planet since 2005. The latest dump consists of over a thousand images that can familiarize you with the red planet's many craters, impact sites, dunes, mountains, ice caps and other features. You can view every single photo captured on HiRise's official website.

Popular Science mentions that every 26 months or so, Mars and the sun are on the opposite sides of the Earth, allowing MRO to transmit a massive amount of photos from the planet's surface.
6 Million Americans Exposed To High Levels of Chemicals In Drinking Water, Says Study
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A report from Business Insider:

A new study out Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters looked at a national database that monitors chemical levels in drinking water and found that 6 million people were being exposed to levels of a certain chemical that exceed what the Environmental Protection Agency considers healthy. The chemicals, known as poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs, are synthetic and resistant to water and oil, which is why they're used in things like pizza boxes and firefighting foam. They're built to withstand the environment. But PFASs also accumulate in people and animals and have been observationally linked to an increased risk of health problems including cancer. And they can't be easily avoided, like with a water filter, for example.

You can view the chart to see the tested areas of the U.S. where PFASs exceed 70 ng/L, which is what's considered a healthy lifetime exposure.
University Collects Medical Samples Via Drones In Madagascar
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Stony Brook University is using drones to transport medical samples for laboratory analysis to and from remote parts of Madagascar. Phys.Org reports: "The drones are about the size of a large picnic table and have two sets of wings. They take off and land like helicopters and have a flight range of about 40 miles. Blood and other medical samples can be secured in small compartments in the body of the aircraft. Drones are being used in other parts of the developing world to deliver medications and other supplies to remote areas, but Stony Brook officials say theirs is one of the first efforts involving a small unmanned aircraft that actually lands in remote villages and returns quickly to a laboratory. Diagnosis of ailments, like tapeworm disease, which causes life-threatening seizures and contributes to malnutrition in villages on the island, can now be completed within a few hours, said Dr. Peter Small, founding director of Stony Brook's Global Health Institute. To reach these villages, medical workers have had to travel on foot -- there are no roads -- a trip that takes five to nine hours each way. By drone, they can dispatch the medical samples back to Stony Brook's Centre ValBio research station and get lab results within an hour or two, said Patricia Wright, the station's executive director."
Internet Archive Posted 10,000 Browser-Playable Amiga Titles
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The folks behind the Internet Archive have added a huge trove of Amiga games and programs to the site, bringing the total to more than 10,000. All these games can be played on your web browser. The non-profit library first began adding Amiga software to its catalog in 2013.

TechCrunch adds:
We can't vouch for the quality of all of the Amiga titles that were recently posted up on Archive.org, but there sure as heck are a lot of them -- 10,000+, by the site's count, including favorites as Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, King's Quest and Double Dragon, along with what looks to be a fair amount of redundancy. I'm not really sure what the difference is between Deluxe Pac Man v1.1 and Deluxe Pac Man v1.7a, but I suspect it's fairly minor, even for completists.
Google: Unwanted Software Is Worse Than Malware
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A year-long study between Google and New York University has determined that unwanted software unwittingly downloaded as part of a bundle is a larger problem for users than malware. Google Safe Browsing currently generates three times as many Unwanted Software (UwS) warnings than malware warnings -- over 60 million per week. Types of unwanted software fall into five categories: ad injectors, browser settings hijackers, system utilities, anti-virus, and major brands. While estimates of UwS installs are still emerging, studies suggest that ad injection affects 5% of browsers, and that deceptive extensions in the Chrome Web store affect over 50 million users. 59% of the bundles studied were flagged by at least one anti-virus engine as potentially unwanted.
US Finds New Secret Software In VW Audi Engines, Says Report
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It looks like Volkswagen's diesel scandal could keep rolling as reports claim that the automaker has three hidden software programs in its 3.0-liter engines. Concerns about the German car manufacturers' 2.0-liter engines could soon reach a conclusion, but the discovery of the hidden software has thrown the future of 3.0-liter diesels into uncertainty. That secret software in Volkswagen's 3.0-liter diesels can turn off the vehicles' emissions controls, Reuters reports, citing the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. The emissions control system allegedly shuts off after 22 minutes, when most emissions tests take about 20. If this software does exist, it likely resides in all 3.0-liter diesels that Volkswagen sells in the U.S.. This includes the Audi Q7, Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne SUVs. Approximately 85,000 of these cars are roaming around the US, and they're already under scrutiny for some software that VW "forgot" to tell regulators about.
Positive Link Between Video Games and Academic Performance, Study Suggests
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Here's another report reaffirming that playing online video games doesn't necessarily hinder one with their grades. According to an analysis of data from over 12,000 high school students in Australia, children who play online video games tend to do better in academic science, maths and reading tests. The study says kids who played online games almost every day scored 15 points above average in maths and reading tests and 17 points above average in science. "The analysis shows that those students who play online video games obtain higher scores on Pisa (Program for International Student Assessment -- internationally recognized tests that are administered by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)) tests, all other things being equal," said Alberto Posso, from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology whp analyzed the data. "When you play online games you're solving puzzles to move to the next level and that involves using some of the general knowledge and skills in maths, reading and science that you've been taught during the day."

The Guardian reports: The cause of the association between game playing and academic success is not clear from the research. It is possible that children who are gifted at maths, science and reading are more likely to play online games. Alternatively, it could be that more proficient students work more efficiently, and therefore have more free time, making online gaming a marker of possible academic ability rather than something that actively boosts performance. Posso also looked at the correlation between social media use and Pisa scores. He concluded that users of sites such as Facebook and Twitter were more likely to score 4% lower on average, and the more frequent the social networking usage, the bigger the difference. 78% of the teenagers said they used social networks every day. Other studies have found a link between heavy users of social networking and a low attention span, which is also linked to poorer academic performance, but the evidence is less than conclusive.
Hackers Make the First-Ever Ransomware For Smart Thermostats
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One day, your thermostat will get hacked by some cybercriminal hundreds of miles away who will lock it with malware and demand a ransom to get it back to normal, leaving you literally in the cold until you pay up a few hundred dollars. This has been a scenario that security experts have touted as one of the theoretical dangers of the rise of the Internet of Things, internet-connected devices that are often insecure. On Saturday, what sounds like a Mr. Robot plot line came one step closer to being reality, when two white hat hackers showed off the first-ever ransomware that works against a "smart" device, in this case, a thermostat. Luckily, Andrew Tierney and Ken Munro, the two security researchers who created the ransomware, actually have no ill intention. They just wanted to make a point: some Internet of Things devices fail to take simple security precautions, leaving users in danger. "We don't have any control over our devices, and don't really know what they're doing and how they're doing it," Tierney told Motherboard. "And if they start doing something you don't understand, you don't really have a way of dealing with it." Tierney and Munro, who both work UK-based security firm Pen Test Partners, demonstrated their thermostat ransomware proof-of-concept at the hacking conference Def Con on Saturday, fulfilling the pessimistic predictions of some people in security world.
FBI Forced To Release 18 Hours of Spy Plane Footage
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A report from Motherboard:
It's been just over a year since amateur aviation sleuths first revealed the FBI's secret aerial surveillance of the civil unrest in Baltimore, Maryland. Now, in response to a FOIA request from the ACLU, the Bureau has released more than 18 hours of aerial footage from the Baltimore protests captured by their once-secret spy planes, which regularly fly in circles above major cities and are commonly registered to fake companies.

The cache is likely the most comprehensive collection of aerial surveillance footage ever released by a US law enforcement agency... The footage shows the crowds of protesters captured in a combination of visible light and infrared spectrum video taken by the planes' wing-mounted FLIR Talon cameras. While individual faces are not clearly visible in the videos, it's frighteningly easy to imagine how cameras with a slightly improved zoom resolution and face recognition technology could be used to identify protesters in the future.

The FBI says they're only using the planes to track specific suspectds in serious crime investigations, according to the article, which adds that "The FBI flew their spy planes more than 3,500 times in the last six months of 2015, according to a Buzzfeed News analysis of data collected by the aircraft-tracking site FlightRadar24."
32 States Offer Online Voting, But Experts Warn It Isn't Secure
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According to the Washington Post, 32 states have implemented some form of online voting for the 2016 U.S. presidential election -- even though multiple experts warn that internet voting is not secure. In many cases, the online voting options are for absentee ballots, overseas citizens or military members deployed overseas. According to Verified Voting, "voted ballots sent via Internet simply cannot be made secure and make easy and inviting targets for attackers ranging from lone hackers to foreign governments seeking to undermine US elections."

And yet 39% of this year's likely voters said they'd choose to vote online if given the option, according a new article in the Boston Globe, noting that "All 50 states and D.C. send ballots to overseas voters electronically," with Alabama even allowing them to actually cast their ballots through a special web site. "Security is exponentially increased over any other kind of voting because each ballot, as well as the electronic ballot box, has military-grade encryption," argues the founder of the software company that assures the site's security. "She also claims that Web voting is more accurate," reports the Boston Globe. "No more hanging chads or marks on a paper ballot that may be difficult to interpret. Web systems can also save money and can be upgraded or reconfigured as laws change..."
Hackers Bring Ethics To Las Vegas
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Steven Levy, who has been extensively covering the world of hackers for decades (fun fact: the first time he wrote about it, the word "hacker" didn't really mean much), is sharing the changing perception about hacker conferences, and hackers themselves. In a newsletter, Backchannel's Levy writes about Black Hat conference:

What I find most striking in the coverage of these events is that they are no longer seen as outlaw gatherings, but rather conclaves that form a valuable portion of the digital security mosaic. This is a big change from the long period, beginning in the late 1980s, during which the term "hacker" became synonymous with malfeasants, punks, and criminals. The glorious originals -- people who invented just about everything great we do on computers, including the internet -- were outraged at the denigration of a word that was once a badge of honor. [...]

The hackers who attend those conferences are true to that ethic. There's a core morality to both events, built on privacy, equal access to systems, and personal freedom. There's indignation at poorly built systems. There's contempt at those who see computers and the internet as means of controlling people instead of seeing them as tools of liberation.

So who gets to decide what a hacker is in 2016? The question comes up constantly because the term retains some fuzziness. I'll put aside the unquestioned hacker status of coders and designers who innovate on products and private infrastructure. Blissfully, it's now OK for Silicon Valley geeks to proudly declare themselves hackers, the best example of which is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's naming of his corporate philosophy as "The Hacker Way." But I'm wondering about those people who take the law into their own hands, sometimes not even taking care to limit collateral damage of innocent people. While true hackers generally don't wreak actual destruction, there are some who invade or even tamper with systems for what they consider moral purposes. Some call it hacktivism. Does that mean they are still hackers? That's tough to answer. Hacking into a system doesn't make you a hacker. Using a computer to steal a credit card or a Bitcoin doesn't do it, either. If you work for China and hack into Google; if you work for Russia and hack into the DNC; or if you work for the United States of America and plant a software time bomb in a nuclear centrifuge in Iran -- you are not necessarily a hacker.
Pennsylvania To Apply 6% 'Netflix Tax'
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Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania has signed into law a new revenue package that will require residents to pay a 6% sales tax on their streaming subscriptions. AllFlicks reports: "Though the term 'Netflix tax' has become popular, laws like this don't just affect Netflix -- they also affect competitors like Hulu and HBO Now. App purchases and ebooks are also affected. They recently decided on a hefty $31.5 billion budget, and they came up $1.3 billion short of paying for it. The government is trying to close that funding gap, and streaming subscribers are being stuck with the bill."

Magazine and newspaper subscriptions, as well as digital versions of the Bible, will be exempt from the digital downloads tax, reports CBS Local News in Pittsburgh.
Frequent Password Changes Are the Enemy Of Security, FTC Technologist Says
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Though changing passwords often might seem like a good security practice, in reality, that isn't the case, says Carnegie Mellon University professor Lorrie Cranor. Earlier this year, when the Federal Trade Commission tweeted that people should "encourage" their loved ones to "change passwords often," Cranor wasted no time challenging it.

From ArsTechnica's story:

The reasoning behind the advice [of changing password often] is that an organization's network may have attackers inside who have yet to be discovered. Frequent password changes lock them out. But to a university professor who focuses on security, Cranor found the advice problematic for a couple of reasons. For one, a growing body of research suggests that frequent password changes make security worse. As if repeating advice that's based more on superstition than hard data wasn't bad enough, the tweet was even more annoying because all six of the government passwords she used had to be changed every 60 days. "I saw this tweet and I said, 'Why is it that the FTC is going around telling everyone to change their passwords?'" she said during a keynote speech at the BSides security conference in Las Vegas. "I went to the social media people and asked them that and they said, 'Well, it must be good advice because at the FTC we change our passwords every 60 days." Cranor eventually approached the chief information officer and the chief information security officer for the FTC and told them what a growing number of security experts have come to believe. Frequent password changes do little to improve security and very possibly make security worse by encouraging the use of passwords that are more susceptible to cracking. The CIO asked for research that supported this contrarian view, and Cranor was happy to provide it. The most on-point data comes from a study published in 2010 by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Bar In UK Uses Faraday Cage To Block Mobile Phone Signals
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A cocktail bar owner has installed a Faraday cage in his walls to prevent mobile phone signals entering the building. Steve Tyler of the Gin Tub, in Hove, East Sussex, is hoping customers will be encouraged to talk to each other rather than looking at their screens. He has installed metal mesh in the walls and ceiling of the bar which absorbs and redistributes the electromagnetic signals from phones and wireless devices to prevent them entering the interior of the building. The effect was discovered in 1836 by scientist Michael Faraday and is often used in power plants or other highly charged environments to prevent shocks or interference with other electronic equipment. Some wallets are now cloaked in a similar flexible mesh to prevent data and credit card theft. Mr Tyler said he wanted to force "people to interact in the real world" and remember how to socialise. "I just wanted people to enjoy a night out in my bar, without being interrupted by their phones," he said. "So rather than asking them not to use their phones, I stopped the phones working. I want you to enjoy the experience of going out."
New Solar Cells Can Convert CO2 Into Hydrocarbon Fuel
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"Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have engineered a potentially game-changing solar cell that cheaply and efficiently converts atmospheric carbon dioxide directly into usable hydrocarbon fuel, using only sunlight for energy," reports Next Big Future. Slashdot reader William Robinson writes:

This artificial leaf delivers syngas, or synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide. Syngas can be burned directly, or converted into diesel or other hydrocarbon fuels. The discovery opens up possibilities of clean reusable energy.

"A solar farm of such 'artificial leaves' could remove significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and produce energy-dense fuel efficiently..." according to the article, which adds that the process could prove useful in the high-carbon atmosphere of Mars. "Unlike conventional solar cells, which convert sunlight into electricity that must be stored in heavy batteries, the new device essentially does the work of plants, converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into fuel, solving two crucial problems at once."
Bruce Schneier: Our Election Systems Must Be Secured If We Want To Stop Foreign Hackers
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Bruce Schneier notes that state actors are hacking our political system computers, intending to influence the results. For example, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia was behind the release of DNC emails before the party convention, and WikiLeaks is promising more leaked dirt on Hillary Clinton. He points out, quite rightly, that the U.S. needs to secure its electronic voting machines, and we need to do it in a hurry lest outside interests hack the results. From the article: "Over the years, more and more states have moved to electronic voting machines and have flirted with internet voting. These systems are insecure and vulnerable to attack. But while computer security experts like me have sounded the alarm for many years, states have largely ignored the threat, and the machine manufacturers have thrown up enough obfuscating babble that election officials are largely mollified. We no longer have time for that. We must ignore the machine manufacturers' spurious claims of security, create tiger teams to test the machines' and systems' resistance to attack, drastically increase their cyber-defenses and take them offline if we can't guarantee their security online."
World's Largest Solar Power Plant Planned For Chernobyl Nuclear Wasteland
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Chernobyl, the world's most famous and hazardous nuclear meltdown, is being considered for the world's largest solar power plant. Even though nearly 1,600 square miles of land around Chernobyl has radiation levels too high for human health, Ukraine's ecology minister has said in a recent interview that two U.S. investment firms and four Canadian energy companies have expressed interest in Chernobyl's solar potential. Electrek reports: "According to PVTech, the Ukrainian government is pushing for a 6 month construction cycle. Deploying this amount of solar power within such a time frame would involve significant resources being deployed. The proposed 1GW solar plant, if built today, would be the world's largest. There are several plans for 1GW solar plants in development (Egypt, India, UAE, China, etc) -- but none of them have been completed yet. One financial benefit of the site is that transmission lines for Chernobyl's 4GW nuclear reactor are still in place. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has stated they would be interested in participating in the project, 'so long as there are viable investment proposals and all other environmental matters and risks can be addressed to the bank's satisfaction.'"
Class of Large But Very Dim Galaxies Discovered
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Astronomers have now detected and measured a new class of large but very dim galaxy that previously was not expected to exist. Nature reports: "'[Ultradiffuse]' galaxies came to attention only last year, after Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and Roberto Abraham of the University of Toronto in Canada built an array of sensitive telephoto lenses named Dragonfly. The astronomers and their colleagues observed the Coma galaxy cluster 101 megaparsecs (330 million light years) away and detected 47 faint smudges. 'They can't be real,' van Dokkum recalls thinking when he first saw the galaxies on his laptop computer. But their distribution in space matched that of the cluster's other galaxies, indicating that they were true members. Since then, hundreds more of these galaxies have turned up in the Coma cluster and elsewhere. Ultradiffuse galaxies are large like the Milky Way -- which is much bigger than most -- but they glow as dimly as mere dwarf galaxies. It's as though a city as big as London emitted as little light as Kalamazoo, Michigan." More significantly, they have now found that these dim galaxies can be as big and as massive as the biggest bright galaxies, suggesting that there are a lot more stars and mass hidden out there and unseen than anyone had previously predicted.
C Top Programming Language For 2016, Finds IEEE's Study
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IEEE Spectrum, a highly regarded magazine edited by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, has released its annual programming languages list, sharing with the world how several languages fared against each other. To assess the languages the publication says it worked with a data journalist and looked into 10 online sources -- including social chatter, open-source code production, and job postings. The publication has rated C as the top programming language this year, followed by Java, Python, C++, and R.

From their article:
After two years in second place, C has finally edged out Java for the top spot. Staying in the top five, Python has swapped places with C++ to take the No. 3 position, and C# has fallen out of the top five to be replaced with R. R is following its momentum from previous years, as part of a positive trend in general for modern big-data languages that Diakopoulos analyses in more detail here. Google and Apple are also making their presence felt, with Google's Go just beating out Apple's Swift for inclusion in the Top Ten. Still, Swift's rise is impressive, as it's jumped five positions to 11th place since last year, when it first entered the rankings. Several other languages also debuted last year, a marked difference from this year, with no new languages entering the rankings.

The publication has explained in detail the different metrics it uses to evaluate a language.
Star Trek's 50th Anniversary Celebrated at Comic-Con
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Leonard Nimoy's 59-year-old son released a trailer for his upcoming documentary, For The Love Of Spock. CBS released a video teaser for their upcoming Star Trek: Discovery series. And Schmaltz brewery released a "Trouble With Tribbles" beer.

It was all part of the festivities celebrating the 50th anniversary of CBS's original Star Trek series at this year's Comic-Con festival in San Diego, which culminated with an all-star panel of actors from previous Star Trek TV series. William Shatner, Michael Dorn, Brent Spiner, Jeri Ryan, and Scott Bakula all reminisced on the phenomenon of the show's fan culture, with Dorn telling the audience that Apple's iPad was inspired by Star Trek technology. And Brent Spiner told the audience, "We're in a time now where identity is under attack... Politicians could learn from Star Trek."
Florida Regulators OK Plan To Increase Toxins In Water
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Despite the objection of environmental groups, state environmental regulators voted Tuesday to approve new standards that will increase the amount of cancer-causing toxins allowed in Florida's rivers and streams under a plan the state says will protect more Floridians than current standards. The Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 to approve a proposal that would increase the number of regulated chemicals from 54 to 92 allowed in rivers, streams and other sources of drinking water, news media outlets reported. The Miami Herald reports that under the proposal, acceptable levels of toxins will be increased for more than two dozen known carcinogens and decreased for 13 currently regulated chemicals. State officials back the plan because it places new rules on 39 other chemicals that are not currently regulated. The standards still must be reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but the Scott administration came under withering criticism for pushing the proposal at this time. That's because there are two vacancies on the commission, including one for a commissioner who is supposed to represent the environmental community.
Solar Impulse 2 Plane Takes Off From Egypt On Final Leg Of World Tour
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How long would it take an airplane to fly around the world without using any fuel? About 22 days of actual air time, according to Fusion. Solar Impulse 2, an aircraft which is powered by solar energy, left Egypt on Sunday on the last leg of the first ever-fuel free flight around the world. The team behind it tweeted a few minutes ago that they have completed 91% of the final, last, conclusive flight.

Reuters reports:
Solar Impulse 2, a spindly single-seat plane, took off from Cairo in darkness en route to Abu Dhabi, its final destination, with a flight expected to take between 48 and 72 hours. The plane, which began its journey in Abu Dhabi in March 2015, has been piloted in turns by Swiss aviators Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard in a campaign to build support for clean energy technologies. "The round the world flight ends in Abu Dhabi, but not the project," Piccard told Reuters a few days before takeoff. Solar Impulse flies without a drop of fuel, its four engines powered solely by energy collected from more than 17,000 solar cells in its wings. It relies on solar energy collected during the day and stored in batteries for electrical energy to fly at night. The carbon fiber plane, with a wingspan exceeding that of a Boeing 747 and the weight of a family car can climb to about 8,500 meters (28,000 feet) and cruise at 55-100 kph (34-62 mph).
MIT Developed A Movie Screen That Brings Glasses-Free 3D To All Seats
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MIT has developed a glasses-less 3D display for movie theaters. The Nintendo 3DS is one of a handful of devices to feature glasses-less 3D, but it is designed for a single users where the user is looking at the display head-on at a relatively specific angle. It's not something made for a movie theater with hundreds of seats, each of which would have a different viewing angle. What's neat about MIT's 3D display is that it doesn't require glasses and it lets anyone see the 3D effect in a movie theater, no matter where they are sitting. The MIT Computers Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) created the prototype display called 'Cinema 3D' that uses a complex arrangement of lenses and mirrors to create a set number of parallax barriers that can address every viewing angle in the theater based on seat locations. It works in a movie theater because the seats are in fixed locations, and people don't tend to move around, change seats or alter their viewing angle too much. What's also neat about the Cinema 3D is that is preserves resolution, whereas other glasses-less 3D displays carry cots in terms of image resolution. The prototype is about the size of a letter-sized notepad, and it needs 50 sets of mirrors and lenses. It should be ready for market once researchers scale it up to a commercially viable product.
New Illinois Law Limits Police Use Of Cellphone-Tracking Stingray
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A report from ABC News: A new Illinois law limits how police can use devices that cast a wide net in gathering cellphone data... [Stingray] gathers phone-usage data on targets of criminal investigations, but it also gathers data on other cellphones -- hundreds or even thousands of them -- in the area. The new law requires police to delete the phone information of anyone who wasn't an investigation target within 24 hours. It also prohibits police from accessing data for use in an investigation not authorized by a judge.

A dozen other states have adopted such regulations, and Congress is considering legislation that would strengthen federal guidelines already in place... Privacy advocates worry that without limits on how much data can be gathered or how long it can be stored, law enforcement could use the technology to build databases that track the behavior and movement of people who are not part of criminal investigations.

Earlier this month a U.S. judge threw out evidence gathered with Stingray for the first time, saying that without a search warrant, "the government may not turn a citizen's cell phone into a tracking device." The ACLU has identified 66 agencies in 24 states using Stingray technology, "but because many agencies continue to shroud their purchase and use of stingrays in secrecy, this map dramatically underrepresents the actual use of stingrays by law enforcement agencies nationwide."
Police 3D-Printed A Murder Victim's Finger To Unlock His Phone
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Police in Michigan have a new tool for unlocking phones: 3D printing. According to a new report from Flash Forward creator Rose Eveleth, law enforcement officers approached professors at the University of Michigan earlier this year to reproduce a murder victim's fingerprint from a prerecorded scan. Once created, the 3D model would be used to create a false fingerprint, which could be used to unlock the phone. Because the investigation is ongoing, details are limited, and it's unclear whether the technique will be successful. Still, it's similar to techniques researchers have used in the past to re-create working fingerprint molds from scanned images, often in coordination with law enforcement. This may be the first confirmed case of police using the technique to unlock a phone in an active investigation.
Kepler Confirms 100+ New Exoplanets
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Astronomers have confirmed another 100 of Kepler's more than 3,000 candidate exoplanets. Phys.org reports: "One of the most interesting set of planets discovered in this study is a system of four potentially rocky planets, between 20 and 50 percent larger than Earth, orbiting a star less than half the size and with less light output than the Sun. Their orbital periods range from five-and-a-half to 24 days, and two of them may experience radiation levels from their star comparable to those on Earth. Despite their tight orbits -- closer than Mercury's orbit around the sun -- the possibility that life could arise on a planet around such a star cannot be ruled out, according to Crossfield." Because the host star as well as many of these other confirmed exoplanets are red dwarf stars, the possibility of life is reduced because the star and its system is likely to have a less rich mix of elements compared to our yellow G-type Sun.

In May, Kepler added a record 1,284 confirmed planets, nine of which orbit in their sun's habitable zone.
SpaceX Successfully Lands Falcon 9 Rocket On Solid Ground For the Second Time
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SpaceX successfully landed another Falcon 9 rocket after launching the vehicle into space on Sunday evening from Florida. The Verge reports:

Shortly after takeoff, the vehicle touched down at SpaceX's Landing Complex 1 -- a ground-based landing site that the company leases at the Cape. It marks the second time SpaceX has pulled off this type of ground landing, and the fifth time SpaceX has recovered one of its rockets post-launch. The feat was accomplished a few minutes before the rocket's second stage successfully put the company's Dragon spacecraft into orbit, where it will rendezvous with the International Space Station later this week. It's also the first time this year SpaceX has attempted to land one of its rockets on land. For the past six launches, each rocket has tried landing on an autonomous drone ship floating in the ocean. That's because drone ship landings require a lot less fuel to execute than ground landings.
How President Jimmy Carter Saved The Space Shuttle
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Eric Berger has published an account in Ars Technica about how President Jimmy Carter saved the space shuttle program. The article is well worth reading for its detail. In essence, around 1978 the space shuttle program had undergone a crisis with technical challenges surrounding its heat-resistant tiles and its reusable rocket engines and cost overruns. President Carter was not all that enthused about human space flight to begin with, adhering to the since discredited notion that robotic space probes were adequate for exploring the universe. His vice president, Walter Mondale, was a vehement foe of human space flight programs, maintaining that money spent on them were better used for social programs.
FBI Closes D.B. Cooper Investigation After 45 Years
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The Federal Bureau of Investigation says it is no longer investigating the unsolved mystery of D.B. Cooper. The bureau said Tuesday that it's "exhaustively reviewed all credible leads" during its 45-year investigation and has redirected those resources to other priorities. The investigation was of a man calling himself Dan Cooper (the media mistakenly called him D.B. Cooper and it stuck) who hijacked a Boeing 727 headed for Seattle after boarding at Portland International Airport on November 24, 1971. In Seattle, he claimed he had an explosive device and demanded parachutes and $200,000 in ransom money. After releasing the 36 passengers from the plane and receiving four parachutes and $200,000 in cash, Cooper ordered several of the crew members who were kept on board to fly to Mexico City. Shortly after returning to the air, Cooper jumped from the back of the plane and landed somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. No trace of Cooper was found, but several bundles of cash were found in 1980. The FBI says it has conducted searches, collected all available evidence and interviewed all identifiable witnesses, but none have resulted in identifying the hijacker.
NASA's Juno Spacecraft Sends First Images From Jupiter
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After its patriotic arrival at Jupiter on July 4th, the Juno spacecraft has sent its first images of the planet back to earth via the JunoCam. The visible-light camera aboard Juno was first turned on roughly six days ago after Juno placed itself into orbit. "This scene from JunoCam indicates it survived its first pass through Jupiter's extreme radiation environment without any degradation and is ready to take on Jupiter," said Scott Bolton, principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "We can't wait to see the first view of Jupiter's poles." The color image, which was obtained on July 10th when the spacecraft was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter, shows atmospheric features on Jupiter, including the famous Great Red Spot, and three of the massive planet's four largest moons -- Io, Europa and Ganymede. "JunoCam will continue to take images as we go around in this first orbit," said Candy Hansen, Juno co-investigator from the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona. "The first high-resolution images of the planet will be taken on August 27 when Juno makes its next close pass to Jupiter."
Study Shows Thumb-Sucking and Nail-Biting Can Be Good For Kids
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Perri Klass M.D. writes in the NYT that according to a new study of children aged 5 to 11, thumb-suckers and nail-biters were less likely to have positive allergic skin tests later in life. In the study, parents were asked about their children's nail-biting and thumb-sucking habits when the children were 5, 7, 9 and 11 years old. skin testing for allergic sensitization to a range of common allergens including dust mites, grass, cats, dogs, horses and common molds was done when the children were 13 years old, and then later when they were 32. The study found that children who frequently sucked a thumb or bit their nails were significantly less likely to have positive allergic skin tests both at 13 and again at 32. Children with both habits were even less likely to have a positive skin test than those with only one of the habits. The question of such a connection arose because of the so-called hygiene hypothesis, an idea originally formulated in 1989, that there may be a link between atopic disease -- the revved-up action of the immune system responsible for eczema, asthma and allergy -- and a lack of exposure to various microbes early in life. Some exposure to germs, the argument goes, may help program a child's immune system to fight disease, rather than develop allergies. "The hygiene hypothesis is interesting because it suggests that lifestyle factors may be responsible for the rise in allergic diseases in recent decades," says Robert J. Hancox. "Obviously hygiene has very many benefits, but perhaps this is a downside. The hygiene hypothesis is still unproven and controversial, but this is another piece of evidence that it could be true." Although the results do not suggest that kids should take up these habits, the findings do suggest the habits help protect against allergies that persist into adulthood.
New Dwarf Planet Discovered In Outer Solar System
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Astronomers have found another Pluto-like dwarf planet located about 20 times farther away from the sun than Neptune. The small planet, dubbed 2015 RR245, is estimated to be about 435 miles in diameter and flying in an elliptical, 700-year orbit around the sun. At closest approach, RR245 will be about 3.1 billion miles from the sun, a milestone it is expected to next reach in 2096. At its most distant point, the icy world is located about 7.5 billion miles away. It was found by a joint team of astronomers using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) on Maunakea, Hawaii, in images taken in September 2015 and analyzed in February. The discovery was announced on Monday in the Minor Planet Electronic Circular.
PSA: Pokemon Go Has Full Access To Your Google Account Data
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If you're an iPhone user and have installed Pokemon GO, you may have noticed that the app grants itself full access to your Google account. It can read your email, location history, documents and pretty much every else associated with your Google account. (You can check to see for yourself here.) Given the nature of the game, it's understandable for it to request a lot of permissions, as it needs your precise location, ability to access the camera and motion sensors, read and write the SD card, and charge you money when you run out of Pokeballs or eggs. But full access to your Google account is pushing it, even if Niantic or Nintendo has no malicious intentions. If you're concerned about these permissions, you can always sign-up using a Pokemon Trainer account, assuming the servers are permitting.

Google describes full account access as such: "When you grant full account access, the application can see and modify nearly all information in your Google Account (but it canâ(TM)t change your password, delete your account, or pay with Google Wallet on your behalf). This 'Full account access' privilege should only be granted to applications you fully trust, and which are installed on your personal computer, phone, or tablet."
How Richard Feynman's Diagrams Almost Saved Space
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An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a fond remembrance of Richard Feynman written by Nobel prize-winner Frank Wilczek, describing not only the history of dark energy and field theory, but how Feynman's influential diagrams "embody a deep shift in thinking about how the universe is put together... a beautiful new way to think about fundamental processes". Richard Feynman looked tired when he wandered into my office. It was the end of a long, exhausting day in Santa Barbara, sometime around 1982... I described to Feynman what I thought were exciting if speculative new ideas such as fractional spin and anyons. Feynman was unimpressed, saying: "Wilczek, you should work on something real..."

Looking to break the awkward silence that followed, I asked Feynman the most disturbing question in physics, then as now: "There's something else I've been thinking a lot about: Why doesn't empty space weigh anything?"

Feynman replied "I once thought I had that one figured out. It was beautiful..." then launched into a "surreal" monologue about how "there's nothing there!" But Wilczek remembers that "The calculations that eventually got me a Nobel Prize in 2004 would have been literally unthinkable without Feynman diagrams, as would my calculations that established a route to production and observation of the Higgs particle." His article culminates with a truly beautiful supercomputer-generated picture showing gluon field fluctuations as we now understand them today, and demonstrating the kind of computer-assisted calculations which in coming years "will revolutionize our quantitative understanding of nuclear physics over a broad front."
Using a Bomb Robot to Kill a Suspect Is an Unprecedented Shift in Policing
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A police standoff with a suspect in the killing of five police officers in Dallas came to an abrupt end on Friday morning in an unusual way. The police said that negotiations broke down, an exchange of gunfire happened, but then they had no option but to use "bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was." Motherboard explains the unprecedented shift in policing.

From an article: Peter W. Singer, an expert in military technology and robot warfare at the New America Foundation, tweeted that this is the first known incident of a domestic police force using a robot to kill a suspect. Singer tweeted that in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers have strapped claymore mines to the $8,000 MARCbot using duct tape to turn them into jury-rigged killing devices. Singer says all indications are that the Dallas Police Department did something similar in this case -- it improvised to turn a surveillance robot into a killing machine. Improvised device or not, the concerns here mirror a debate that's been going on for a few years now: Should law enforcement have access to armed drones, or, for that matter, weaponized robots? In 2013 Kentucky Senator Rand Paul staged a 13-hour filibuster that was focused entirely on concerns about the use of armed drones on US soil. Last year, North Dakota became the first state to legalize nonlethal, weaponized drones for its police officers. [...] The ability for police to remotely kill suspects raises due process concerns. If a shooter is holed up and alone, can they be qualified as an imminent threat to life? Are there clear protocols about when a robot can be used to engage a suspect versus when a human needs to engage him or her? When can the use of lethal force be administered remotely?
NASA's Juno Space Probe Enters Orbit Around Jupiter
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NASA says it has received a signal from 540 million miles across the solar system, confirming its Juno spacecraft has successfully started orbiting Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. "Welcome to Jupiter!" flashed on screens at mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. The probe had to conduct a tricky maneuver to slow down enough to allow it to be pulled into orbit: It fired its main engine for 35 minutes, effectively hitting the brakes to slow the spacecraft by about 1,212 miles per hour (542 meters per second). Juno was launched nearly five years ago on a mission to study Jupiter's composition and evolution. It's the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter since Galileo. The largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter is a huge ball of gas 11 times wider than Earth and 300 times more massive than our planet. Researchers think it was the first planet to form and that it holds clues to how the solar system evolved. Juno is a spinning, robotic probe as wide as a basketball court. It will circle Jupiter 37 times for 20 months, diving down to about 2,600 miles (4,100 kilometers) above the planet's dense clouds. The seven science instruments on board will study Jupiter's auroras and help scientists better understand the planet's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere. An onboard color camera called JunoCam will take "spectacular close-up, color images" of Jupiter, according to NASA.

Juno launched from Cape Canaveral on August 5, 2011, which is some 445 million miles (716 million kilometers) away from Jupiter. Juno has however traveled a total distance of 1,740 million miles (2,800 million kilometers) to reach Jupiter as it had to make a flyby of Earth to help pick up speed. "After a 1.7 billion mile journey, we hit our burn targets within one second, on a target that was just tens of kilometers large," said Nybakken, Juno Project Manger. "That's how well the Juno spacecraft performed tonight."
Historic Route 66 To Feature Solar Road Technology
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The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has announced plans to upgrade a small stretch of the historic Route 66 roadway with solar-powered panels. The panels, which are created by Solar Roadways, can support the weight of cars, feature built-in LEDs to create light-up road markings, and can be used to generate electricity to donate back to the grid. The company has won a number of contracts with the U.S. Department of Transportation, though it's unlikely we'll see solar-powered roadways throughout the country anytime soon. MoDOT said it hopes to lay the first panels starting with the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center by the end of the year, The Kansas City Star reports.

SolarCity released a new report recently that says their solar power systems have a usable lifetime of at least 35 years, which is 40% longer than what the market expects.
MRI Software Bugs Could Upend Years Of Research
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A whole pile of "this is how your brain looks like" MRI-based science has been invalidated because someone finally got around to checking the data. The problem is simple: to get from a high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging scan of the brain to a scientific conclusion, the brain is divided into tiny "voxels". Software, rather than humans, then scans the voxels looking for clusters. When you see a claim that "scientists know when you're about to move an arm: these images prove it", they're interpreting what they're told by the statistical software. Now, boffins from Sweden and the UK have cast doubt on the quality of the science, because of problems with the statistical software: it produces way too many false positives. In this paper at PNAS, they write: "the most common software packages for fMRI analysis (SPM, FSL, AFNI) can result in false-positive rates of up to 70%. These results question the validity of some 40,000 fMRI studies and may have a large impact on the interpretation of neuroimaging results."
Scientists Say The Asteroid That Killed The Dinosaurs Almost Wiped Us Out Too
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Conventional wisdom states that mammalian diversity emerged from the ashes of the Cretaceous/Tertiary mass extinction event, ultimately giving rise to our own humble species. But Joshua A. Krisch writes at This Week that the asteroid that decimated the dinosaurs also wiped out roughly 93 percent of all mammalian species. "Because mammals did so well after the extinction, we have tended to assume that it didn't hit them as hard," says Nick Longrich. "However our analysis shows that the mammals were hit harder than most groups of animals, such as lizards, turtles, crocodilians, but they proved to be far more adaptable in the aftermath." Mammals survived, multiplied, and ultimately gave rise to human beings. So what was the great secret that our possum-like ancestors knew that dinosaurs did not? One answer is that early mammals were small enough to survive on insects and dying plants, while large dinosaurs and reptiles required a vast diet of leafy greens and healthy prey that simply weren't available in the lean years, post-impact. So brontosauruses starved to death while prehistoric possums filled their far smaller and less discerning bellies. "Even if large herbivorous dinosaurs had managed to survive the initial meteor strike, they would have had nothing to eat," says Russ Graham, "because most of the earth's above-ground plant material had been destroyed." Other studies have suggested that mammals survived by burrowing underground or living near the water, where they would have been somewhat shielded from the intense heatwaves, post-impact. Studies also suggest that mammals may have been better spread-out around the globe, and so had the freedom to recover independently and evolve with greater diversity. "After this extinction event, there was an explosion of diversity, and it was driven by having different evolutionary experiments going on simultaneously in different locations," Longrich says. "This may have helped drive the recovery. With so many different species evolving in different directions in different parts of the world, evolution was more likely to stumble across new evolutionary paths."
Elizabeth Warren Says Apple, Amazon and Google Are Trying To 'Lock Out' Competition
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Elizabeth Warren, an American academic and member of the Democratic Party, believes that Google, Apple, and Amazon are trying to use their size to "snuff out competition." In a speech about the perils of "consolidation and concentration" throughout the economy, the Massachusetts senator singled out the three of tech's biggest players.

From a report:
Warren had different beefs with Google, Apple and Amazon, but the common thread was that she accused each one of using its powerful platform to "lock out smaller guys and newer guys," including some that compete with Google, Apple and Amazon. Google, she said, uses "its dominant search engine to harm rivals of its Google Plus user review feature;" Apple "has placed conditions on its rivals that make it difficult for them to offer competitive streaming services" that compete with Apple Music; and Amazon "uses its position as the dominant bookseller to steer consumers to books published by Amazon to the detriment of other publishers."

"Google, Apple and Amazon have created disruptive technologies that changed the world, and ... they deserve to be highly profitable and successful," Warren said. "But the opportunity to compete must remain open for new entrants and smaller competitors that want their chance to change the world again."
Rolls-Royce Eyes Autonomous Ships, Expects Remote-Controlled Cargo Ships By 2020
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Speaking at a recent symposium in Amsterdam, Rolls-Royce vice president of innovation for marine, Oskar Levander, said, "The technologies needed to make remote and autonomous ships a reality exist." In partnership with the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA) project, Rolls-Royce, DNV GL, Inmarsat, Deltamarin, NAPA, Brighthouse Intelligence, Finferries, and ESL Shipping are leading the $7 million effort. Unmanned ships could save money, weight, and space, making way for more cargo and improving reliability and productivity, the AAWA said in a recent white paper. "The increased level of safety onboard will be provided by additional systems," Rolls-Royce said on its website. "Our future solutions will reduce need for human-machine interaction by automating selected tasks and processes, whilst keeping the human at the center of critical decision making and onboard expertise." Initial testing of sensor arrays in a range of operating and climatic conditions is already underway in Finland. Phase II of the project will continue through the end of 2017. Rolls-Royce plans to launch the first remote-controlled cargo ships by 2020, with autonomous boats in the water within the next two decades.
Axiom Plans A New Private-Sector Outpost in Space
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A seed-funded company named Axiom wants to build a private-sector outpost in orbit by launching a new module for the International Space Station, according to an article on Space News.


Once on the station, Axiom Space would use it for commercial purposes, ranging from research to tourism. [Former space station manager] Suffredini said that it would also be available for use by NASA when the company is not using it, helping the process of transitioning research done on the International Space Station to future private stations. Research hardware elsewhere in the station could eventually be moved to this module to allow its continued use after the station's retirement.


In the meantime, Nanoracks, a company that is already handling some of the logistics for the ISS, is proposing a commercial airlock for the ISS. The development of commercial space stations, as well as commercial spacecraft such as the SpaceX Dragon and the Boeing Starliner, constitutes NASA's long-term strategy of handing off low-Earth orbit to the private sector while it concentrates on deep space exploration.
Why Are Hackers Increasingly Targeting the Healthcare Industry?
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An article by Bitdefender's senior "e-threat analyst," warning about an increasing number of attacks on healthcare providers: In general, the healthcare industry is proving lucrative for cybercriminals because medical data can be used in multiple ways, for example fraud or identity theft. This personal data often contains information regarding a patient's medical history, which could be used in targeted spear-phishing attacks...and hackers are able to access this data via network-connected medical devices, now standard in high-tech hospitals. This is opening up new possibilities for attackers to breach a hospital or a pharmaceutical company's perimeter defenses.

If a device is connected to the internet and left vulnerable to attack, an attacker could remotely connect to it and use it as gateways for attacking network security... The majority of healthcare organizations have often been shown to fail basic security practices, such as disabling concurrent login to multiple devices, enforcing strong authentication and even isolating critical devices and medical data storing servers from a direct internet connection.

The article suggests the possibility of attackers tampering with the equipment that dispenses prescription medications, in which case "it is likely that future cyber-attacks could lead to the loss of human life."
NASA Approves Five More Years For Hubble Space Telescope
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NASA has announced plans to extend operations of the famous space telescope for another five years, through to June 2021. That means it will still be on the job when its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launches in 2018, giving astronomers a dual view of the universe. "Hubble is expected to continue to provide valuable data into the 2020s, securing its place in history as an outstanding general-purpose observatory in areas ranging from our solar system to the distant universe," said a NASA statement. Squeezing more life out of Hubble means it will overlap with NASA's next big telescope, JWST when it launches in 2018. While Hubble sees the cosmos in visible and ultraviolet light, JWST operates in the infrared. The various wavelengths can reveal different aspects of stars and galaxies, so using the scopes in tandem will enable astronomers to study the heavens in even greater detail.
Europe's Robots To Become 'Electronic Persons' Under Draft Plan
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Under the European Union's new draft plan, Europe's growing army of robot workers could be classed as "electronic persons," with their owners liable to paying social security for them. Robots are only becoming more prevalent in the workplace. They're already taking on tasks such as personal care or surgery, and their population is only expected to rise as their abilities are expanded with the increased development of new technologies. A draft European Parliament motion suggests that their growing intelligence, pervasiveness and autonomy requires rethinking everything from taxation to legal liability. The draft motion called on the European Commission to consider "that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons with specific rights and obligations." It also suggested the creation of a register for smart autonomous robots, which would link each one to funds established to cover its legal liabilities. Patrick Schwarzkopf, managing director of the VDMA's robotic and automation department, said: "That we would create a legal framework with electronic persons -- that's something that could happen in 50 years but not in 10 years. We think it would be very bureaucratic and would stunt the development of robotics," he told reporters. The report added that the robotics and artificial intelligence may result in a large part of the work now done by humans being taken over by robots, raising concerns about the future of employment and the viability of social security systems. The draft motion also said organizations should have to declare savings they made in social security contributions by using robotics instead of people, for tax purposes.
C-SPAN Uses Periscope and Facebook Live To Broadcast The House Sit-In
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C-SPAN has made history for resorting to Periscope to live stream a sit-in on the House floor. C-SPAN spokesman Howard Mortman said: "This is the first time we've ever shown video from the House floor picked up by a Periscope account." C-SPAN had to rely on Periscope for a direct feed to House proceedings because these proceedings aren't exactly official. The Washington Post reports: "Earlier today, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) led a sit-in on the House floor to push for action on gun control, following the failure of four gun measures earlier this week in the Senate. According to an official at the House Recording Studio, the cameras that C-SPAN commonly uses to broadcast House business are 'in recess subject to the call of the chair.' No approved video feed, no problem: C-SPAN has been piping in the Periscope feed from Rep. Scott Peters, a California Democrat." The feed hasn't been as reliable as C-SPAN's official House-proceedings feed. "Well, the Periscope video froze up again," said a C-SPAN anchor. And a bit later: "We're still having some issues with that video feed." At around 3:30 p.m., C-SPAN switched to a Facebook feed where viewers could hear and watch Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) rip the "cowards who run this chamber" for failing to turn on the microphones.
Senate Rejects FBI Bid For Warrantless Access To Internet Browsing Histories
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An amendment designed to allow the government warrantless access to internet browsing histories has been narrowly defeated in the Senate. The amendment fell two votes short of the required 60 votes to advance. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) switched his vote at the last minute. He submitted a motion to reconsider the vote following the defeat. A new vote may be set for later on Wednesday. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced the amendment as an add-on to the commerce, justice, and science appropriations bill earlier this week. McCain said in a statement on Monday that the amendment would "track lone wolves" in the wake of the Orlando massacre, in which Omar Mateen, who authorities say radicalized himself online, killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in the Florida city. The amendment, which may be reconsidered in the near future, aims to broaden the rules governing national security letters, which don't require court approval. These letters allow the FBI to demand records associated with Americans' online communications -- so-called electronic communications transactional records
Apple Starts To Shell Out $400 Million To Customers In eBook Settlement
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Millions of e-book purchasers will get either credits or checks for twice their losses, said legal firm Hagens Berman, which helped litigate the class action lawsuit. CNET reports: "Apple is on the hook for $400 million in damages plus an additional $30 million to pay the legal fees for Hagens Berman and $20 million to the state attorney generals who became involved in the case. On an individual basis, each plaintiff in the suit will receive $1.57 in credit for most e-books they bought and a $6.93 credit for every e-book purchased that was on the New York Times bestseller list. Consumers who purchased e-books from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Apple between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012 are eligible to receive credits deposited directly in their accounts or checks sent through the mail. In August 2011, a lawsuit filed by two individuals accused Apple of conspiring to fix e-book prices with five publishers: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Holtzbrinck Publishers, Penguin Group and Simon and Schuster. The DoJ and the attorneys general of several states joined in with their own suits against the publishers. The lawsuits charged that the actions of Apple and the publishers prevented other e-book sellers from competing on price, thereby increasing the prices that consumers had to pay for e-books. After being found guilty of violating antitrust laws by a U.S. District Judge in 2013 and by an Appeals court in 2015, Apple's request for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied this past March, forcing it to settle with the plaintiffs."
Delete Or Update All Adobe Flash Player Instances, Experts Warn
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An article from BankInfoSecurity: Security experts are once again warning enterprises to immediately update -- or delete -- all instances of the Adobe Flash Player they may have installed on any system in the wake of reports that a zero-day flaw in the web browser plug-in is being targeted by an advanced persistent threat group.... The bug exists in Adobe Flash Player 21.0.0.242 and earlier versions -- running on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS -- and "successful exploitation could cause a crash and potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system."

Thursday Adobe released an updated version of Flash patching 36 separate vulnerabilities, including the critical vulnerability which "if exploited would allow malicious native-code to execute, potentially without a user being aware." While applauding Adobe's quick response, researchers at Kaspersky Lab say it's already been exploited in Russia, Nepal, South Korea, China, India, Kuwait and Romania, and BankInfoSecurity writes that "The latest warning over this campaign reinforces just how often APT attackers target Flash, thus making a potential business case for banning it for inside the enterprise."
Asymmetric Molecule, Key To Life, Detected In Space For First Time
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Scientists for the first time have found a complex organic molecule in space that bears the same asymmetric structure as molecules that are key to life on Earth. The researchers said on Tuesday they detected the complex organic molecule called propylene oxide in a giant cloud of gas and dust near the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Akin to a pair of human hands, certain organic molecules including propylene oxide possess mirror-like versions of themselves, a chemical property called chirality. Scientists have long pondered why living things make use of only one version of certain molecules, such as the 'right-handed' form of the sugar ribose, which is the backbone of DNA. The discovery of propylene oxide in space boosts theories that chirality has cosmic origins.

The scientists in the new study used radio telescopes to ferret out the chemical details of molecules in the distant, star-forming cloud of gas and dust. As molecules move around in the vacuum of space they emit telltale vibrations that appear as distinctive radio waves. Future studies of how polarized light interacts with the molecules may reveal if one version of propylene oxide dominates in space, the researchers said.
Tom Wheeler Defeats the Broadband Industry: Net Neutrality Wins In Court
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The Federal Communications Commission won a major appeals court ruling supporting its efforts to prevent broadband Internet service providers from favoring some types of web traffic over others. The Washington-based court Tuesday denied challenges to the federal government's so-called net neutrality regulations, which were backed by President Barack Obama. The ruling hands a victory to those who champion the notion of an open internet where service providers are prevented from offering speedier lanes to content providers willing to pay for them. It's a defeat for challengers including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp., which said the rule would discourage innovation and investment.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "Today's ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures the Internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth. After a decade of debate and legal battles, today's ruling affirms the Commission's ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections -- both on fixed and mobile networks -- that will ensure the internet remains open, now and in the future."
Android Ransomware Hits Smart TVs
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Security researchers have discovered a variant of the FLocker Android ransomware that not only infects mobile devices, but also can infect smart TVs running certain versions of the operating system. FLocker ransomware has been active for more than a year now, and it is many ways a typical piece of mobile ransomware. It is designed to scare victims into paying a ransom -- $200 in this case -- by locking the infected device and throwing up a screen that accuses the victim of some fictitious crime. The ransomware doesn't appear to encrypt files on an infected device, but it locks the screen so the user can't open any other apps or take any other actions until paying the ransom.

Researchers at Trend Micro said they have seen various versions of FLocker over the last year and the activity level of the ransomware has varied. The newest version of the malware, however, includes the ability to infect art TVs, many of which run Android.
British Startup Strip Mines Renters' Private Social Media For Landlords
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Creepy British startup Score Assured has brought the power of "big data" to plumb new depths. In order to rent from landlords who use their services, potential renters are "...required to grant it full access to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Instagram profiles. From there, Tenant Assured scrapes your site activity, including entire conversation threads and private messages; runs it through natural language processing and other analytic software; and finally, spits out a report that catalogs everything from your personality to your 'financial stress level.'" This "stress level" is a deep dive to (allegedly) determine whether the potential renter will pay their bills using vague indicators like "online retail social logins and frequency of social logins used for leisure activities." To make it worse, the company turns over to the landlords' indicators that the landlords aren't legally allowed to consider (age, race, pregnancy status), counting on the landlords to "do the right thing." As if this isn't abusive enough, the candidates are not allowed to see nor challenge their report, unlike with credit reports. Landlords first, employers next...and then? As the co-founder says, "People will give up their privacy to get something they want" and, evidently, that includes a place to live and a job.
Microsoft Makes Minecraft Education Edition Available To Schools
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Microsoft has bolstered its push into the education sector with the release of Minecraft: Education Edition for teachers around the world. The beta is an "early access" release, meaning it is free for testing purposes for schools. It comes after Microsoft last year launched a Minecraft site for educators to seek ideas on how the video game could be used as part of lessons. With the early access version of Minecraft: Education Edition now available, teachers have the chance to install and try an early version of the experience for free throughout the summer with classes of up to 30 students (without the need for a separate server). The complete version of Minecraft: Education Edition will be available in September. It will cost between $1 and $5 per user, per year depending on school size and volume licensing offers.

Minecraft shows no sign of slowing down. It recently passed 100 million sales across all platforms and Microsoft, which acquired Mojang roughly two years ago, even has plans to bring Minecraft to China.
Pilot Test Of Storing Carbon Dioxide In Rocks Shows Impressive Outcome
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For years we have been trying to find different ways to limit carbon dioxide produced from fossil fuels. Some researchers believe that things would be very convenient if we could just deposit carbon dioxide in rocks. A pilot project around this idea has shown an impressive result . John Ross, reporting for the Australian:

Scientists say they have demonstrated a foolproof way of sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide -- turning it into rock. An international team of researchers says it has demonstrated for the first time that CO2 can be permanently locked away from the atmosphere by injecting it into volcanic bedrock. The study, reported this morning in the journal Science, could overcome the leakage problems that have plagued attempts to bury CO2 gas underground. Lead author Juerg Matter said between 95 per cent and 98 per cent of the injected CO2 had been mineralised in less than two years, "which is amazingly fast."

"Until now it was thought this process would take hundreds to thousands of years," University of Southampton, which led the new study, said in a statement. "The current study has demonstrated that it can take as little as two years."
The Web's Creator Thinks We Need a New One That Governments Can't Control
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The web has created millions of jobs, impacted nearly every industry, connected people, and arguably made the world a better place. But the person who started it all isn't exactly pleased with the way things have turned out to be. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, believes that the way it works in the present day "completely undermines the spirit of helping people create." The Next Web reports:

"Edward Snowden showed we've inadvertently built the world's largest surveillance network with the web," said Brewster Kahle, who heads up Internet Archive. And he's not wrong: governments across the globe keep an eye on what their citizens are accessing online and some censor content on the Web in an effort to control what they think. To that end, Berners-Lee, Kahle and other pioneers of the modern Web are brainstorming ideas for a new kind of information network that can't be controlled by governments or powered by megacorporations like Amazon and Google.
Chile Has So Much Solar Energy It's Giving It Away for Free
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Chile's solar industry has expanded so quickly that it's giving electricity away for free . Spot prices reached zero in parts of the country on 113 days through April, a number that's on track to beat last year's total of 192 days, according to Chile's central grid operator. While that may be good for consumers, it's bad news for companies that own power plants struggling to generate revenue and developers seeking financing for new facilities. The main culprit is the northern part of the country, in the Atacama desert. Chile's increasing energy demand, pushed by booming mine production and economic growth, helped spur the development of 29 solar farms, with another 15 planned, on the country's central power grid. Now the nation faces slowing demand for energy as copper production slows amid a global glut, and those power plants are oversupplying a region that lacks transmission lines to distribute the electricity elsewhere.
Universe Is Expanding Faster Than We Thought
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The Hubble Space Telescope has released some new numbers indicating that the rate of expansion of our universe is approximately 45.5 miles per second per megaparsec. It calculated this by measuring the distance between 19 faraway galaxies. Conceptually, the calculations show that space is expanding fast enough to essentially double the distance between our galaxy and our nearest neighbors in about 10 billion years . The new Hubble constant , which is 5 to 9 percent higher than previous estimates, does not match estimated expansion rates from the energetic leftovers of the Big Bang, thus causing a headache for cosmologists. It could mean that Einstein's theory of relativity is incomplete and/or there are processes pushing space apart that we have yet to account for.
NASA Satellite Finds 39 Unreported Sources of Toxic Air Pollution
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Using a new satellite-based method, scientists at NASA, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and two universities have located 39 unreported and major human-made sources of toxic sulfur dioxide emissions . A known health hazard and contributor to acid rain, sulfur dioxide (SO2) is one of six air pollutants regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The 39 unreported emission sources, found in the analysis of satellite data from 2005 to 2014, are clusters of coal-burning power plants, smelters, oil and gas operations found notably in the Middle East, but also in Mexico and parts of Russia. In addition, reported emissions from known sources in these regions were -- in some cases -- two to three times lower than satellite-based estimates. Altogether, the unreported and underreported sources account for about 12 percent of all human-made emissions of sulfur dioxide -- a discrepancy that can have a large impact on regional air quality, said Chris McLinden, an atmospheric scientist and lead author of the study.

The co-author of the study, Nickolay Krotkov, says quantifying the sulfur dioxide bull's-eyes is a two-step process that would not have been possible without an improvement in the computer processing that transforms raw satellite observations from the Dutch-Finnish Ozone Monitoring Instrument aboard NASA's Aura spacecraft into precise estimates of sulfur dioxide concentrations, and the ability to detect smaller concentrations using a new computer program that precisely detects sulfur dioxide that had been dispersed and diluted by winds.
'Huge Wake Up Call': Third of Central, Northern Great Barrier Reef Corals Dead
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More than one-third of the coral reefs of the central and northern regions of the Great Barrier Reef have died in the huge bleaching event earlier this year , Queensland researchers said. Corals to the north of Cairns -- covering about two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef -- were found to have an average mortality rate of 35 percent, rising to more than half in areas around Cooktown. Bleaching occurs when abnormal conditions, such as warm seas, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae. Corals turn white without these algae and may die if the zooxanthellae do not recolonize them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brave new world, here we come

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

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

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

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

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

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

From a Quartz report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it wasn't until Ruzo was studying geothermal energy that he decided to look into this mythical boiling river -- and, much to his surprise, actually found it. While boiling rivers do exist in the world, they are usually found close to active volcanos. This river is especially remarkable because it runs more than 400 miles from the nearest active volcano -- the only non-volcanic river known to boil on Earth.
Apple's iPhone Already Has a Backdoor
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As the Department of Justice exerts legal pressure on Apple in an effort to recover data from the iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, Apple's CEO has publicly stated that "the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone." But, as one Windows rootkit developer has observed, the existing functionality that the FBI seeks to leverage is itself a backdoor. Specifically, the ability to remotely update code on a device automatically, without user intervention, represents a fairly serious threat vector. Update features marketed as a safety mechanism can just as easily be wielded to subvert technology if the update source isn't trustworthy. Something to consider in light of the government's ability to steal digital certificates and manipulate network traffic, not to mention the private sector's lengthy history of secret cooperation.

Apple said Monday it would accept having a panel of experts consider access to encrypted devices if US authorities drop efforts to force it to help break into the iPhone of a California attacker. Apple reaffirmed its opposition to the US government's effort to compel it to provide technical assistance to the FBI investigation of the San Bernardino attacks, but also suggested a compromise in the highly charged legal battle.

In his first public remarks since Apple CEO Tim Cook said he would fight the federal magistrate's order, FBI Director James Comey claimed the Justice Department's request is is about "the victims and justice."
Fungi From Guts Of Herbivores Could Help Us Make Biofuel
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Researchers have revealed through a new study that fungi from the gut of herbivores like goats, horses and sheep could be used to make biofuel. According to researchers at University of California, Santa Barbara, the fungi retrieved from these animals are capable of converting plant material into sugars that can be easily used to make biofuel and other products at the same efficiency as the best fungi engineering in the industry. Michelle O'Malley, lead author of the paper and professor of chemical engineering at the University, explains that these fungi naturally have the best possible set of enzymes for the job of breaking down biomass and as per their findings, these enzymes work together to break down stubborn plant material.
Global Wind Power Capacity Tops Nuclear Energy For First Time
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The capacity of wind power generation worldwide reached 432.42 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2015, up 17 percent from a year earlier and surpassing nuclear energy for the first time, according to data released by global industry bodies.

The generation capacity of wind farms newly built in 2015 was a record 63.01 GW, corresponding to about 60 nuclear reactors, according to the Global Wind Energy Council based in Brussels. The global nuclear power generation capacity was 382.55 GW as of Jan. 1, 2016, the London-based World Nuclear Association said.
Crafty 'Harry Potter' fan makes genius digital version of the Weasley family's clock
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A clever Reddit user has created one of the greatest DIY Harry Potter projects ever: A fully functional, digital recreation of the Weasley family's clock.

The timepiece, which is housed in the shell of an old antique clock and stuffed full of wires and LEDs, was created by user tbornottb3. It communicates with the family's smartphones to periodically update on their location.
Researchers Find Method To Own VoIP Phones, Silently Listen To Any Call
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Researchers have uncovered a simple method for compromising some common VoIP phones, enabling them to listen to victims' calls covertly or use the phones to make expensive or fraudulent calls. The attack takes advantage of the fact that the affected phones don't have any authentication set up by default, but do have a vulnerability that is open to remote exploitation. A victim who has one of the vulnerable phones connected to a network and uses a PC on that network to visit a malicious site can be open to the attack. Paul Moore, a security consultant in the U.K., detailed the problem and demonstrated an attack on a Snom 320, a popular VOIP phone.
Financial windfall for CMU after settling patent infringement suit
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Computer chip maker Marvell Technology Group has agreed to pay $750 million to Carnegie Mellon University to settle a long-running patent-infringement case.

Marvell, based in Bermuda, and CMU announced the settlement Wednesday, bringing an end to litigation that has been winding its way through the federal courts for seven years. The deal is a huge windfall for CMU.

“Once the inventors receive their portion of the settlement, and all legal fees and related expenses are paid, the university will receive approximately $250 million,” CMU president Subra Suresh said in an email.
John McAfee Offers To Decrypt San Bernardino iPhone For the FBI and Save America
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Wondering what John McAfee is up to these days? It's not sniffing bath salts nor is he fleeing foreign countries as a person of interest in a murder investigation and faking heart attacks (been there, done all that) ; instead, he's on a mission to save America. How so? By cracking the code on the San Bernardino iPhone that's causing such a ruckus. McAfee didn't just criticize the FBI; instead he offered a potential solution. Let him and his team of hackers break into the iPhone without any help from Apple. "With all due respect to Tim Cook and Apple, I work with a team of the best hackers on the planet. These hackers attend Defcon in Las Vegas, and they are legends in their local hacking groups, such as HackMiami. They are all prodigies, with talents that defy normal human comprehension," McAfee said. Eccentric rant aside, McAfee's offer is simple - give him three weeks and he will, "free of charge, decrypt the information on the San Bernardino phone" with his team of hackers. He'll do it using mostly social engineering.
Authorities Arrest Activists Instead of Those Responsible For CA Gas Leak
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The California State Patrol has arrested two people in connection with the massive methane leak in Southern California's Aliso Canyon. Instead of busting company executives and engineers that caused the leak, the CSP arrested protesters who had draped banners on the headquarters of the California Public Utilities Commission. The banners highlighted the lax regulatory environment that enabled the spill.
Astronomers No Longer Need To Avoid the "Zone of Avoidance"
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If you want to look out into the Universe, all you need to do is gather the light it gives off. Unless, of course, there's something in the way. For about 20% of the sky, that's exactly the story. In our own Milky Way galaxy, the neutral gas and dust block most of the visible light everywhere we look, preventing us from observing the Universe beyond. However, although the gas and dust might block visible light, longer wavelengths like radio and infrared can pass right through. Recently NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission mapped the entire sky in the infrared, including the entire galactic plane. It not only found many background galaxies, but it gave us a new window into what's possible. Perhaps, with future missions, we'll discover the cause of the "great attractor" phenomenon after all.
FCC Votes To Fight Cable's Reign Over Set-top Boxes
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Last month, reports surfaced that the FCC planned to pry set-top boxes out of hands of cable and satellite companies. Today, the Commission passed the 'Unlock the Box' plan that would do just that. The proposal aims to introduce more competition when it comes to the boxes users rent from television providers. Under the new rules, cable companies would have to give third-party device makers the information they'd need in order to build set-top boxes.
Edward Snowden Calls For Google To Side With Apple On Encryption Debate
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Edward Snowden, the most famous whistle blower in the world, is calling for Google to side with Apple and against the FBI in the "most important tech case in a decade." On Tuesday, the FBI asked Apple to help it crack the password on an iPhone belonging to a shooter in the high profile San Bernardino case. Apple CEO Tim Cook quickly responded with a public letter denying the request, calling it "an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers." Google creates Android, the most-used mobile operating system for smartphones in the world. Google has been nowhere near as firm as Apple about its stance on un-compromised encryption - Android is famously an open sourced platform that anyone can modify. Snowden issued his message in a tweet.
Surveillance Culture Brought To the Masses, Courtesy of Verizon
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Verizon is now offering a way to secretly track your family members' whereabouts and driving habits with your smartphone: "Do you have a teen driver in your household and want to know every time they get a little overzealous with the accelerator? Or maybe you're pretty sure your spouse's frequent trips to 'the office' are not so innocent? If so, then an upcoming update for Verizon's 'hum' in-car smart device might be just what you're looking for.' The new 'features' added will allow you to receive alerts if the target vehicle leaves a predetermined area, drives faster than a preset level, its location, and keeps a history of all the above for later review.
Judge Tells Apple To Help FBI Access San Bernardino Shooters' iPhone
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After a couple shot 14 people in San Bernardino, CA before being killed themselves on December 2nd, the authorities recovered a locked iPhone. Since then, the FBI has complained it is unable to break the device's encryption, in a case that it has implied supports its desire for tech companies to make sure it can always have a way in. Today the Associated Press reports that a US magistrate judge has directed Apple to help the FBI find a way in. According to NBC News, the model in question is an iPhone 5c, but Apple has said that at least as of iOS 8 it does not have a way to bypass the passcode on a locked phone.
Crafty 'Harry Potter' fan makes genius digital version of the Weasley family's clock
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A clever Reddit user has created one of the greatest DIY Harry Potter projects ever: A fully functional, digital recreation of the Weasley family's clock.
The timepiece, which is housed in the shell of an old antique clock and stuffed full of wires and LEDs, was created by user tbornottb3. It communicates with the family's smartphones to periodically update on their location.
How Shari Steele Plans To Take Tor Mainstream
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Over her career, Shari Steel has taken on United States Department of Justice, the National Security Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She built the Electronic Frontier Foundation into an international powerhouse for protecting online rights. Today, she has a new mission, perhaps her heaviest challenge yet: Take the Internet's most powerful privacy tool mainstream. From the Daily Dot article linked, a hint of one reason that bringing Tor mainstream isn't straightforward: At the heart of Tor's image problems are what's known as "hidden services" -- sites that are only accessible through the Tor network. Hidden services have been home to drug and gun marketplaces, child pornography forums, fraud and hacking sites, and sites where you can place bets on when a high-profile target may be assassinated. While the media tends to focus on the nefarious elements Tor enables, hidden services make up only about 1 percent of the Tor network, according to Steele, and are in no way operated by the Tor Project.

"I'm trying to teach everyone that we need to recognize that we are doing the work of the angels," Steele says. "What we are providing is really important and really great, and there happen to be uses that are residual that aren't what we're doing. We're not creating this for [illegal activity]. And OK, maybe it's being used for that, but that's not what we're about!"
A Creationist Group Is Building a Life-Size Noah’s Ark
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In the rolling hills of rural Kentucky, a ship the length of nearly two football fields and the height of a five-story building is rising from the ground. This isn’t just any ship, but Noah’s Ark, as described in the book of Genesis in the Bible.

The $90 million boat, dubbed the Ark Encounter, will be the eventual centerpiece of a religious theme park aiming to illustrate the story of the legendary great flood, in which God instructs Noah to build an ark to save his family and a pair of each of the animal in the world. The first phase is expected to cost $73 million.
Scientists Have Discovered How To 'Delete' Unwanted Memories
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A new documentary from PBS reveals how cutting edge science enables us to 'edit' memories and create new ones from scratch. "For much of human history, memory has been seen as a tape recorder that faithfully registers information and replays it intact," say the film's makers. "But now, researchers are discovering that memory is far more malleable, always being written and rewritten, not just by us but by others. We are discovering the precise mechanisms that can explain and even control our memories."
Samsung Warns Customers To Think Twice About What They Say Near Smart TVs
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In a troubling new development in the domestic consumer surveillance debate, an investigation into Samsung Smart TVs has revealed that user voice commands are recorded, stored, and transmitted to a third party. The company even warns customers not to discuss personal or sensitive information within earshot of the device.

The new Samsung controversy stems from the discovery of a single haunting statement in the company's "privacy policy," which states: "Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party."
New Shape-Shifting Polymer Holds 1,000 Times Its Own Mass - Watch Out Plastic Man!
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University of Rochester researchers have announced the development of a new polymer, capable of supporting 1,000 times its own mass. Polymers that can change shape when heated have been developed in the past, yet this new polymer exhibits the rare quality of becoming flexible when exposed to body heat. This property, which can be used to change the shape of a device, could make the substance useful in medical applications. When the new polymer is removed from the heat source (such as human body), the material immediately returns to its original configuration.
Smartphones May Soon Provide Earthquake Warnings
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When it comes to an earthquake, just a few seconds' warning could make the difference between life and death. But many earthquake-prone countries lack the seismic networks that would give their citizens the lead time to find cover or shut down critical utilities. Now, a group of enterprising engineers is looking at a substitute network: smartphones. Using smartphones' built-in accelerometers, researchers have invented an app, released today, that they say can detect strong earthquakes seconds before the damaging seismic waves arrive. MyShake, as the app is called, could become the basis for an earthquake warning system for the world's most vulnerable regions.
iPhones Bricked By Setting Date To Jan 1, 1970
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Beware of a hoax circling the interwebs, which can be seen by setting your iPhone's date to January 1, 1970. Many people are reporting that doing so will brick the device. It's unclear what exactly causes the issue, but could be related to how iOS stores date and time formats. Jan. 1, 1970 is a value of zero or less than zero, which would make any process that uses a time stamp to fail. Apple is aware of the issue and is looking into it.
Scientists make first direct detection of gravitational waves
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Almost 100 years ago today, Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves — ripples in the fabric of space-time that are set off by extremely violent, cosmic cataclysms in the early universe. With his knowledge of the universe and the technology available in 1916, Einstein assumed that such ripples would be “vanishingly small” and nearly impossible to detect. The astronomical discoveries and technological advances over the past century have changed those prospects.
Internet Archive Brings Classic Windows 3.1 Apps To Your Browser
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The Internet Archive has made it possible for you to make a virtual visit to the wide, wide world of Windows 3.1 games (and other apps, too), via a collection of virtualized images. Jason Scott is the game collector and digital archivist behind the online museum of malware mentioned here a few days ago. "Now," Ars Technica reports, "Scott and his crew have done it again with the Windows 3.X Showcaseâ"made up of a whopping 1,523 downloads (and counting), all running in a surprisingly robust, browser-based JavaScript emulation of Windows 3.1. You'll recognize offerings like WinRisk and SkiFree, but the vast majority of the collection sticks to a particularly wild world of Windows shareware history, one in which burgeoning developers seemed to throw everything imaginable against 3.1's GUI wall to see what stuck." Says the article:

A volunteer "really did the hard work" of getting the Windows files required for each DOSBOX instance down to 1.8 MBâ"and in the process came up with a more centralized version of those files on his server's side, as opposed to kinds that would require optimizations for every single emulated app.
World's Largest Solar Power Plant To Supply Enough Energy For 1.1 Million People
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The world's largest solar power plant is now live and will eventually provide 1.1 million people in Morocco with power and cut carbon emissions by 760,000 tons a year. Phase 1 of the Noor concentrated solar power (CSP) plant went live last week, providing 140 megawatts (MW) of power to Morocco. Phases 2 and 3 will be completed by 2018 when the plant is expected to generate more than 500MW of power. The Noor plant, located in south-central Morocco, will cover 6,178 acres and produce so much energy, that Morocco may eventually start exporting the clean energy to the European market.
The Internet of Broken Things
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The Internet of Things is all the hype these days. On one side we have companies clamoring to sell you Internet-Connected-everything to replace all of the stuff you already have that is now considered "dumb." On the other side are security researchers screaming that we're installing remote access with little thought about securing it properly. The truth is a little of both is happening, and that this isn't a new thing. It's been around for years in industry, the new part is that it's much wider spread and much closer to your life. Al Williams walks through some real examples of the unintended consequences of IoT, including his experiences building and deploying devices, and some recent IoT gaffs like the NEST firmware upgrade that had some users waking up to an icy-cold home.
Carbon Dioxide From the Air Converted Into Methanol
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The danger posed by rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide has seen many schemes proposed to remove a proportion it from the air. Rather than simply capture this greenhouse gas and bury it in the ground, though, many experiments have managed to transform CO2 into useful things like carbon nanofibers or even fuels, such as diesel. Unfortunately, the over-arching problem with many of these conversions is the particularly high operating temperatures that require counterproductive amounts of energy to produce relatively low yields of fuel. Now researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) claim to have devised a way to take CO2 directly from the air and convert it into methanol using much lower temperatures and in a correspondingly simpler way.
NASA Announces That Pluto Has Icebergs Floating On Glaciers of Nitrogen Ice
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The most recent finding from New Horizons show that icebergs have broken off from the hills surrounding the Sputnik Planum, a glacier of nitrogen ice, and are floating slowly across its surface, eventually to cluster together in places like the Challenger Colles, informally named after the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, which was lost just over 30 years ago. The feature is an especially high concentration of icebergs, measuring 37 by 22 miles. The icebergs float on the nitrogen ice plain because water ice is less dense than nitrogen ice.
MIT Reveals "Hack-Proof" RFID Chip
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A group of researchers at MIT and Texas Instruments claim that they have developed a new radio frequency identification chip that may be impossible to hack. Traditional RFID chips are vulnerable to side-channel attacks, whereby a hacker can extract a cryptographic key from the chip. The new RFID chip runs a random-number generator that creates a new secret key after each transaction. The key can then be verified with a server to ensure that it is correct. The group at MIT also incorporated protection against a power-glitch attack, an attack that would normally leave a chip vulnerable to an interruption of the power source that would in turn halt the creation of a new secret key. Texas Instruments CTO Ahmad Bahai stated, "We believe this research is an important step toward the goal of a robust, lo-cost, low-power authentication protocol for the industrial internet." The question is, how long will it be before this "hack proof" chip is hacked?
Harnessing Artificial Intelligence To Build an Army of Virtual Analysts
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PatternEx, a startup that gathered a team of AI researcher from MIT CSAIL as well as security and distributed systems experts, is poised to shake up things in the user and entity behavior analytics market. Their goal was to make a system capable of mimicking the knowledge and intuition of human security analysts so that attacks can be detected in real time. The platform can go through millions of events per day and can make an increasingly better evaluation of whether they are anomalous, malicious or benign.
World's First Robotic Farm To Produce 11 Million Heads of Lettuce Per Year
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Japanese company SPREAD is preparing to open the world's first robot-controlled farm. The facility is designed to produce 11 million heads of lettuce each year, and it's expected to ship its first crop in Fall 2017. The new 47,300 square feet Vegetable Factory in Kansai Science City will also reduce construction costs by 25 percent and energy demand by 30 percent.
China's Chang'e 3 Lander and Yutu Rover Camera Data Released
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Detailed high resolution images from the recent Chinese moon mission have been released. Links to the original Chinese sites hosting the images are available, but Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society has kindly organized them in English. Images show the lander, the rover and the surface of the earth. An interactive map is also available, built from data collected by the mission.
France To Pave 1000km of Road With Solar Panels
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France is planning on a project to build 1000 kilometers of road with specially designed solar panels. This project will supply 5 million people in France with electricity if it is successful. Though many solar experts are skeptical of this project, the French government has given the go-ahead to this venture. According to France's minister of ecology and energy, Ségolène Royal, the tender for this project is already issued under the "Positive Energy" initiative and the test for the solar panels will begin by this spring.The photo voltaic solar panels called "Wattway" which will be used in the project are jointly developed by the French infrastructure firm "Colas" and the National Institute for Solar Energy. The specialty of "Wattway" is that its very sturdy and can let heavy trucks pass over it, also offering a good grip to avoid an accident. Interestingly, this project will not remove road surfaces but instead, the solar panels will be glued to the existing pavement.
Cable Lobby Steams Up Over FCC Set-Top Box Competition Plan
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Cable TV industry lobby groups expressed their displeasure with a Federal Communications Commission plan to bring competition to the set-top box market, which could help consumers watch TV on different devices and thus avoid paying cable box rental fees.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed new rules that would force pay-TV companies to give third parties access to TV content, letting hardware makers build better set-top boxes. Customers would be able to watch all the TV channels they're already paying cable companies for, but on a device that they don't have to rent from them. The rules could also bring TV to tablets and other devices without need for a rented set-top box. The system would essentially replace CableCard with a software-based equivalent.
Ancient Babylonians Figured Out Forerunner of Calculus
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Tracking and recording the motion of the sun, the moon, and the planets as they paraded across the desert sky, ancient Babylonian astronomers used simple arithmetic to predict the positions of celestial bodies. Now, new evidence reveals that these astronomers, working several centuries B.C.E., also employed sophisticated geometric methods that foreshadow the development of calculus. Historians had thought such techniques did not emerge until more than 1400 years later, in 14th century Europe.
The Tragedy Of Apollo 1 And The Lessons That Brought Us To The Moon
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On January 27, 1967, the Apollo 1 crew was performing a "plugs-out" test of the Command/Service Module, an essential simulation of how the three-person capsule would perform under in-space conditions under its own power. At 6:30 PM, a voltage spike occurred, leading to a disaster. In 26 seconds, everything changed. The Apollo 1 fire and the tragic death of all three astronauts wasn't due to just a single point-of-failure, but rather due to five independent confounding factors that if any one of them had been different, the astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee might have survived. As it stands, all the crewed Apollo missions were scrapped for 20 months while NASA changed how they did business. The changes worked remarkably well, and 2.5 years later, humans walked on the Moon.
US Could Lower Carbon Emissions 78% With New National Transmission Network
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A story from Smithsonian magazine about how building a national transmission network could lead to a gigantic reduction in carbon emissions. From the story: "The United States could lower carbon emissions from electricity generation by as much as 78 percent without having to develop any new technologies or use costly batteries, a new study suggests. There's a catch, though. The country would have to build a new national transmission network so that states could share energy. 'Our idea was if we had a national 'interstate highway for electrons' we could move the power around as it was needed, and we could put the wind and solar plants in the very best places,' says study co-author Alexander MacDonald, who recently retired as director of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado."
Chronic Stress Could Lead To Depression and Dementia, Scientists Warn
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A major review of published research suggests that chronic stress and anxiety can damage areas of the brain involved in emotional responses, thinking and memory, leading to depression and even Alzheimer's disease. Dr Linda Mah, the lead author of the review carried out at a research institute affiliated to the University of Toronto, said: 'Pathological anxiety and chronic stress are associated with structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, which may account for the increased risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and dementia.'
Fake Facebook Emails Deliver Malware Masquerading As Audio Message
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A new spam campaign is targeting Facebook users. It uses the same approach as the recent one aimed at WhatsApp users, and Comodo researchers believe that the authors of both campaigns are likely the same. The fake emails are made to look like an official communication from the popular social network, and their goal is to make the victims believe they have received a voice message. The attachment that the recipients are urged to download and open contains a malicious executable — a variant of the Nivdort information-stealing Trojan.
Former Mozilla CEO Launches Security-Centric Browser Brave
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Former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich has launched a new Chromium-based browser called Brave. "Brave blocks everything: initial signaling/analytics scripts that start the programmatic advertising 'dirty pipe', impression-tracking pixels, and ad-click confirmation signals," Eich wrote on the Brave site. Former Mozilla CTO Andreas Gal said in a blog post that "the web is broken," with current browser vendors unwilling to tackle the dilemma of blocking ads, while looking at alternative mechanisms for funding content. Gal said it was ironic Brave was a for-profit operation that can make money from reducing advertising.
NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal Record-Shattering Global Warm Temperatures In 2015
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Earth's 2015 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern record keeping began in 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Globally-averaged temperatures in 2015 shattered the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 Celsius). Only once before, in 1998, has the new record been greater than the old record by this much. The British Met office also reports on the same phenomenon, even forecasting that global temperatures are very soon going to reach the one-degree-Celsius marker. According to Stephen Belcher, Director of the Met Office Hadley Centre, "We've had similar natural events in the past, yet this is the first time we're set to reach the 1 C marker and it's clear that it is human influence driving our modern climate into uncharted territory."
Caltech Astronomers Say a Ninth Planet Lurks Beyond Pluto
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The solar system may have a new ninth planet. Today, two scientists announced evidence that a body nearly the size of Neptune — but as yet unseen — orbits the sun every 15,000 years. During the solar system's infancy 4.5 billion years ago, they say, the giant planet was knocked out of the planet-forming region near the sun. Slowed down by gas, the planet settled into a distant elliptical orbit, where it still lurks today. Here's a link to the full academic paper published in The Astronomical Journal.
European Human Rights Court Rules Mass Surveillance Illegal
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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that mass surveillance is illegal, in a little-noticed case in Hungary. In a judgment last week, the court ruled that the Hungarian government had violated article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to privacy) due to its failure to include "sufficiently precise, effective and comprehensive" measures that would limit surveillance to only people it suspected of crimes. Under a section of the 2011 National Security Act, a minister of the government is able to approve a police request to search people's houses, mail, phones and laptops if they are seeking to protect national security. ... The court said the Hungarian government should be required to interpret the law in a narrow fashion and "verify whether sufficient reasons for intercepting a specific individual's communications exist in each case." Or in other words, every individual case must be looked at carefully and a decision made on each. Which is clearly impossible if the law is taken to carry out mass surveillance, i.e., hoovering up information over the internet and then searching in it."
Fraud Detected In Science Research That Suggested GMO Crops Were Harmful
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Three science papers that had suggested that genetically modified crops were harmful to animals and have been used by activist groups to argue for their ban have been found to contain manipulated and possibly falsified data. Nature reports: "Papers that describe harmful effects to animals fed genetically modified (GM) crops are under scrutiny for alleged data manipulation. The leaked findings of an ongoing investigation at the University of Naples in Italy suggest that images in the papers may have been intentionally altered. The leader of the lab that carried out the work there says that there is no substance to this claim. The papers' findings run counter to those of numerous safety tests carried out by food and drug agencies around the world, which indicate that there are no dangers associated with eating GM food. But the work has been widely cited on anti-GM websites — and results of the experiments that the papers describe were referenced in an Italian Senate hearing last July on whether the country should allow cultivation of safety-approved GM crops. 'The case is very important also because these papers have been used politically in the debate on GM crops,' says Italian senator Elena Cattaneo, a neuroscientist at the University of Milan whose concerns about the work triggered the investigation.
Katherine Johnson: NASA's Pioneering Female Physicist
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Tuesday's State of the Union address included a shout-out to Katherine Johnson, the pioneering African American mathematician and physicist who calculated the trajectory of Alan Shepherd's 1961 space trip. "Her reputation was so strong that John Glenn asked her to recheck the calculations made by the new electronic computers before the mission on which he became the first American to orbit the Earth," notes one technology reporter. NASA policy at the time was to not acknowledge the female contributors to scientific papers, though "She literally wrote the textbook on rocket science," according to one NASA official, noting that her impact literally reaches all the way to the moon. At a ceremony in November, Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the 97-year-old pioneer continues to encourage young people to also pursue careers in technology, science, engineering and math.
Reusable SpaceX Rocket Has Implications For a Return To the Moon
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While it is unclear what, if any, implications the recent successful landing of the first stage of the Falcon 9 first stage means for the future of space travel, planetary scientist and space commentator Paul Spudis suggested that the feat and the similar one performed earlier by Blue Origin could have some benefit for a return to the moon. In the meantime, a test of the engines in the recovered first stage had mixed results. The engines fired alright, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reported, "thrust fluctuations" that might have been caused by "debris ingestion."
SpaceX Successfully Launches Jason-3 Satellite, Rocket Landing Partial Success
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SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket today carrying the Jason-3 ocean monitoring satellite. "Jason-3 data will be used for monitoring global sea level rise, researching human impacts on oceans, aiding prediction of hurricane intensity, and operational marine navigation," NASA said. Unfortunately Space X reports that the attempt to land the Falcon 9 on a drone platform was only a partial success. According to the company twitter page: "First stage on target at droneship but looks like hard landing; broke landing leg."

Here is a video of the launch.
How Procrastination Can Be Good For You
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Over 80 percent of college students are plagued by procrastination, requiring epic all-nighters to finish papers and prepare for tests. Roughly 20 percent of adults report being chronic procrastinators. But Adam Grant writes in the NY Times that while we think of procrastination as a curse for productivity, procrastination is really a virtue for creativity. According to Grant, our first ideas are usually our most conventional -- but when you procrastinate, you're more likely to let your mind wander, giving you a better chance of stumbling onto the unusual and spotting unexpected patterns. "When we finish a project, we file it away. But when it's in limbo, it stays active in our minds." Jihae Shin designed some experiments. She asked people to come up with new business ideas. Some were randomly assigned to start right away. Others were given five minutes to first play Minesweeper or Solitaire. Everyone submitted their ideas, and independent raters evaluated how original they were. The procrastinators' ideas were 28 percent more creative. When people played games before being told about the task, there was no increase in creativity. It was only when they first learned about the task and then put it off that they considered more novel ideas. It turned out that procrastination encouraged divergent thinking.

Even some monumental achievements are helped by procrastination. Grant says that according to those who knew him, Steve Jobs procrastinated constantly. Bill Clinton has been described as a "chronic procrastinator" who waits until the last minute to revise his speeches, and Frank Lloyd Wright spent almost a year procrastinating on a commission, to the point that his patron drove out and insisted that he produce a drawing on the spot. It became Fallingwater, Wright's masterpiece. Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter behind Steve Jobs and The West Wing, is known to put off writing until the last minute. When Katie Couric asked him about it, he replied, "You call it procrastination, I call it thinking."
Inside NASA's Space Rock Vault
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In an unassuming building at Johnson Space Center, NASA maintains clean rooms and employs curators to support its collection of rocks and other matter from elsewhere in the solar system. Ars got to tour the facility and take pictures of the samples inside. "The collection houses about 20,000 rocks, but the most famous of those rocks is ALH84001. Sometime around 16 million years ago, a large meteorite or asteroid 0.5 to 1 km across or larger struck the Martian surface and blasted some rocks into space at a speed greater than the red planet's escape velocity. One of them flew through space until about 13,000 years ago when it crashed into Antarctica." NASA keeps bits of a comet trapped in aerogel, as well as the remains of the Genesis probe that captured particles of solar wind. Of course, this is dwarfed by the vast collection of lunar rock samples brought back by the Apollo missions. Some of them have yet to be opened. "They were collected in the vacuum of the lunar surface, placed inside vacuum sealed tubes, and remain that way to this day. NASA is preserving them for some theoretical future where science has progressed to enable some new, powerful method of analysis."
Urban Death Project Aims To Rebuild Our Soil By Composting Corpses
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The Urban Death Project utilizes the process of composting to safely and gently turn our deceased into soil-building material, creating a meaningful, equitable and ecological urban alternative to existing options for the disposition of the dead," said Katrina Spade, a designer based in Seattle. "The project is a solution to the overcrowding of city cemeteries, a sustainable method of disposing of our dead, and a new ritual for laying our loved ones to rest."
Ann Caracristi, Who Cracked Codes, and the Glass Ceiling At NSA, Dies At 94
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A story at The Washington Post about the life and death of Ann Caracristi. From the article: "Ann Caracristi, who became one of the highest ranking and most honored women at the code breaking National Security Agency after a career extending from World War II through much of the Cold War, died Jan. 10 at her home in Washington. She was 94. ... Ms. Caracristi formally retired from her intelligence career in 1982, after becoming the sixth deputy director of the NSA . . . She was the first woman to serve as deputy director. One of her strengths was reconstructing enemy code books, said Liza Mundy, a former Washington Post staff writer who is working on a book about U.S. female code breakers during the war. Admired for her early accomplishments as a young woman in wartime Washington, Ms. Caracristi was credited in her later career with providing leadership for new generations of code breakers and for her efforts to bring computers and technology to bear on the work. ... One of her jobs at the NSA was as chief from 1959 to 1980 of branches devoted to research and operations. Her honors there included the Defense Department's Distinguished Civilian Service Award and the National Security Medal, among other top federal honors. After retiring, she began serving on a variety of prominent scientific, defense and intelligence advisory boards and committees."
NASA Safety Panel Finds Concerns With the Journey To Mars
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NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel issued its annual report on various space agency programs. The panel found a number of areas of concern surrounding the Journey to Mars program, virtually all of them stemming from inadequate funding. It suggested that NASA's plan to launch the first crewed mission on the Orion, which would use the heavy lift Space Launch System to go around the moon, in 2021 was unrealistic given current, anticipated funding. The panel also suggested that lack of a clear plan for the Mars program is compromising its viability. It also suggested that the decision not to return to the moon should be revisited in view of the desire of international partners to do so and the need of low gravity surface experience in advance of going to Mars
IRS: Identity Theft Protection a Tax Deductible Benefit - Even Without a Breach
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The U.S. Internal Revenue Service has announced that it will treat identity theft protection as a non-taxable, non-reportable benefit that companies can offer — even when the company in question hasn't experienced a data breach, and regardless of whether it is offered by an employer to employees, or by other businesses (such as online retailers) to its customers, the blog E for ERISA reports. In short: companies can now deduct the cost of offering identity theft protection as a benefit for employees or extending it to customers, even if their data hasn't been exposed to hackers.

The announcement comes only four months after an earlier announcement by the IRS that it would treat identity theft protection offered to employees or customers in the wake of a data breach as a non-taxable event. Comments to the IRS following the earlier decision suggested that many businesses view a data breach as "inevitable" rather than as a remote risk.

The truth of that statement was made clear to the IRS itself, which had to provide identity theft protection earlier this year in response to a hack of its online database of past-filed returns and other filed documents which ultimately affected over 300,000 taxpayers. The new IRS guidance could be a boon to providers of identity protection services such as Experian and Lifelock, though maybe not as much as one would expect. Data from Experian suggests that consumer adoption rates for identity theft protection services is low. Fewer than 10% of those potentially affected by a breach opt for free identity protection services when they are offered. For very large breaches that number is even lower — in the single digit percentages.
NASA's Fermi Satellite Maps Entire Sky, Finds Mysterious Unknown Object
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With the launch of the Fermi satellite in the late 2000s, we began observing the highest energy photons in the Universe — gamma rays — all over the sky, to unprecedented precision. Produced from cosmic ray showers in space when high energy protons run into other, stationary protons, these gamma rays locate point sources from supermassive black holes to supernova remnants to pulsars. There is, additionally, a great correlation between the infrared sky and the gamma ray sky, since the great high-energy background scatters off of the diffuse infrared gas, producing gamma rays there as well. But while a great many sources can be correlated with known structures, Fermi reveals at least one unknown, intense behemoth that emits spectacularly in gamma rays.
The Dirty Truth About 'Clean Diesel'
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Volkswagen persuaded consumers it had created a new generation of so-called clean diesel cars — until investigators discovered that phony testing concealed that its vehicles emitted up to 40 times the permitted levels of pollutants during regular use. Now Taras Grescoe writes in the NY Times public outrage over the fraud obscures the much larger issue: "clean diesel" is causing a precipitous decline in air quality for millions of city-dwellers. Monitoring sites in European cities like London, Stuttgart, Munich, Paris, Milan and Rome have reported high levels of the nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, or soot, that help to create menacing smogs. Although automakers worked hard to convince consumers that a new generation of "clean diesel" cars were far less polluting, diesel has a fatal flaw. It tends to burn dirty, particularly at low speeds and temperatures. In cities, where so much driving is stop and start, incomplete diesel combustion produces pollution that is devastating for human health.

Fortunately, Volkswagen sold only half a million of its "clean diesel" cars to the American public before the emissions scandal broke. Today, fewer than 1 percent of the passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. run on diesel fuel. Europe is now scrambling to undo the damage. In London, Mayor Boris Johnson last year called for a national program to pay some drivers to scrap their diesel vehicles. In Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has gained broad support for a proposed ban on diesel cars. "Last month, the signatories of the climate deal in Paris agreed that the world has to begin a long-term shift from fossil fuels to more sustainable forms of energy," concludes Grescoe. "Recognizing "clean diesel" for the oxymoron it is would be a good place to start."
Turning Around a School District By Fighting Poverty
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Through her unconventional focus on addressing poverty, Superintendent Tiffany Anderson has been credited with rapidly improving the school district of Jennings, Mo. NPR reports: "The school district of 3,000 students has taken unprecedented steps, like opening a food pantry to give away food, a shelter for homeless students and a health clinic, among other efforts. 'My purpose is to remove the challenges that poverty creates,' she says. 'You can not expect children to learn at a high level if they come in hungry and tired.' That unconventional approach has had big results. When Anderson took over in 2012, the school district was close to losing accreditation. Jennings had a score of 57 percent on state educational standards. A district loses accreditation if that score goes below 50 percent. Two years later, that score was up to 78 percent, and in the past year rose again to 81 percent, Anderson says. She points to a 92 percent 4-year graduation rate, and a 100 percent college and career placement rate."
Planetary Exploration In 2016
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Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society blog has put together a post about all of the space missions set to return data from planets, moons, and other bodies in the solar system this year. She's also assembled some cool visualizations of when the missions are active at their locations of interest. In summary: "Akatsuki is at Venus, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and two Chang'e missions at the Moon, two rovers and five orbiters are active at Mars, Dawn is at Ceres, Rosetta is at 67P, Cassini is at Saturn, and although New Horizons is far past Pluto, it'll be sending back new Pluto science data for most of the year, so I'm counting that as still doing science. Another two missions (Hayabusa2 and Juno) are in their cruise phase; Juno arrives at Jupiter in August. Two (ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and OSIRIS-Rex) or three (if you count the Schiaparelli lander separately) will launch this year, with their science starting after 2016."
The E6-B Flight Computer Is 75 Years Old, Still In Use
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Few devices have been around this long, have had cameo appearances in Star Trek, and remain in use today. The current E6-B looks almost exactly the same as the first one manufactured 75 years ago. It was designed by U.S. Naval Lt. Philip Dalton in the late 1930s. When he completed the final version, it was introduced to the Army in 1940, and later used widely during WWII. Today is a required instrument for flight training, and has appeared on Star Trek original series several times, as Mr. Spock used a E6-B for critical calculations.
Paramount and CBS File Lawsuit Against Crowdfunded, Indie Star Trek Movie
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Back in August, an Indiegogo campaign raised $566,023 to produce Axanar, a Star Trek movie in development by an independent group of fans, who also happen to be film professionals. Now, unfortunately but predictably, Paramount and CBS have filed a lawsuit in California federal court claiming their intellectual property is being infringed upon. They are "demanding an injunction as well as damages for direct, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement." The guy running the crowdfunded film is a lawyer, and he said, "We've certainly been prepared for this and we certainly will defend this lawsuit. There are a lot of issues surrounding a fan film. These fan films have been around for 30 years, and others have raised a lot of money." He said CBS/Paramount weren't willing to provide guidelines on what types of fan productions would be tolerated (unlike Lucasfilm with Star Wars), because they worry about setting precedent.
SpaceX To Test Recovered First Stage, Then Put It On Display
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Rather than re-fly it, Elon Musk suggested that, after some testing, SpaceX will likely put its first recovered Falcon 9 first stage on display instead. '"[We will] do a static fire at the launch pad there, to confirm that all systems are good and that we are able to do a full thrust hold-down firing of the rocket," Musk said after the stage landed. The static fire will also test the modifications SpaceX has made to Pad 39A to support its rockets.

After that though, the stage will become a display piece. "I think we will keep this one on the ground for tests that prove it could fly again and then put it somewhere — just because it is quite unique," Musk said.' Since they already have a satellite company, SES, willing to buy that first stage, this only underlines how this last Falcon 9 launch changes everything. I don't think the change has sunk in with most people, yet. The last launch was not a one-time event. SpaceX intends to recover as many of its first stages as it can in all future launches. Their Falcon 9 first stage is no longer expendable. Thus, they can afford to put this first recovered stage on display because they expect all future first stages to fly again.
The AI Anxiety
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The Washington Post has an article about current and near-future AI research while managing to keep a level head about it: "The machines are not on the verge of taking over. This is a topic rife with speculation and perhaps a whiff of hysteria." Every so often, we hear seemingly dire warnings from people like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk about the dangers of unchecked AI research. But actual experts continue to dismiss such worries as premature — and not just slightly premature. The article suggests our concerns might be better focused in a different direction: "Anyone looking for something to worry about in the near future might want to consider the opposite of superintelligence: superstupidity. In our increasingly technological society, we rely on complex systems that are vulnerable to failure in complex and unpredictable ways. Deepwater oil wells can blow out and take months to be resealed. Nuclear power reactors can melt down. Rockets can explode. How might intelligent machines fail — and how catastrophic might those failures be?"
Poverty Stunts IQ In the US But Not In Other Developed Countries
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New research published in the journal Psychological Science (abstract) found that children who grow up in poverty within the United States tend to have lower IQs than peers from other socioeconomic brackets. Previous studies have shown a complex relationship between a child's genetics, his environment, and his IQ. Your genes can't pinpoint your IQ, but they can indicate a rough range of values within which your IQ is quite likely to fall. For kids in poverty, they seem to consistently end up on the low end of that window. Interestingly, this effect was not seen for any of the other countries hosting kids within the study, which included Australia, Germany, England, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The study authors speculate that "inequalities in educational and medical access in the U.S." may be the root of the differences, though another researcher is planning to study the effect of school environments as well.
Hackers Have Infiltrated the US Power Grid's Control Networks
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A security researcher and the Associated Press are reporting that hackers have infiltrated many of the United States' power grid networks. "About a dozen times in the last decade, sophisticated foreign hackers have gained enough remote access to control the operations networks that keep the lights on, according to top experts who spoke only on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter." Exfiltrated data included engineering plans and other non-public information that could aid an attacker later, as well as account credentials. Multiple companies were affected, but one of the more notable ones was the energy provider Calpine. "Circumstantial evidence such as snippets of Persian comments in the code helped investigators conclude that Iran was the source of the attacks. Calpine didn't know its information had been compromised until it was informed by Cylance, Kerr said."
Astronomers Successfully Predict Appearance of Supernova
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For the first time ever astronomers have been able to predict and photograph the appearance of a supernova, its light focused by the gravitational lensing caused by a galaxy and the dark matter that surrounds it: "The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured the image of the first-ever predicted supernova explosion. The reappearance of the Refsdal supernova was calculated from different models of the galaxy cluster whose immense gravity is warping the supernova's light." What makes this significant is that the prediction models were based on the theory of gravitational lensing and required the presence of dark matter to work. That they worked and were successful in predicting the appearance of this gravitationally bent light (bent by the dark matter it passed through) is a very strong confirmation of both concepts.
The FAA To Facilitate American Commercial Participation In the ESA Moon Village
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While NASA remains fixated on its Journey to Mars, quietly, the FAA is positioning itself as the lead United States Government agency for a return to the moon. According to a story in Space News, "FAA's Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) unanimously approved a recommendation that the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation begin discussions with ESA on ways American companies could participate in what's known as 'Moon Village.'" The "Moon Village" is a European concept for an international moon base where various countries and private entities would collocate habitats for mutual support and benefit.
Japan Releases AKATSUKI's Pictures of Venus
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The Japanese space agency JAXA has released a confirmation that their Venus mission Akatsuki did indeed enter orbit at Venus on Dec. 7 (JST) — releasing unprocessed images of the Venusian atmosphere as it entered orbit. The spacecraft is currently in a highly-elliptical 13-day, 14-hour orbit around the planet, coming within 400 kilometers (248 miles) at its closest point and reaching 440,000 kilometers (243,400 miles) away at its farthest. This mission has just become the most unlikely success story of 2015 after "missing" it's intended Venus orbit way back in 2010.
1 in 3 Patients Will Have Their Healthcare Records Compromised
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A legacy of lackluster electronic security in healthcare and an increase in the amount of online patient data will lead to an increase in the number of consumers who will have their healthcare records compromised by cyberattacks in 2016, according to a new report from IDC Health Insights. The report, which includes 10 future predictions about the healthcare industry, also predicted that by 2018, cognitive computing would play an increasingly important role in helping physicians to identify the most effective treatment for 50% of patients resulting in a 10% reduction in mortality and a 10% cut in costs. Also by 2018, 30% of worldwide healthcare systems will employ real-time cognitive analysis to provide personalized care leveraging patient's clinical data, directly supported by clinical outcomes and "real world evidence" data — information pulled from patient studies and treatment results. That same year, IDC expects virtual healthcare and computer-assisted surgery to be the norm. Surgeons will use computer-assisted or robotic surgery techniques to assist in planning, simulating, and performing 50% of the most complex surgeries. Conversely, patients will be communicating with physicians via messaging, email and video chat sessions far more often, which will reduce costs and increase convenience.
Japan Releases AKATSUKI's Pictures of Venus
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The Japanese space agency JAXA has released a confirmation that their Venus mission Akatsuki did indeed enter orbit at Venus on Dec. 7 (JST) — releasing unprocessed images of the Venusian atmosphere as it entered orbit. The spacecraft is currently in a highly-elliptical 13-day, 14-hour orbit around the planet, coming within 400 kilometers (248 miles) at its closest point and reaching 440,000 kilometers (243,400 miles) away at its farthest. This mission has just become the most unlikely success story of 2015 after "missing" it's intended Venus orbit way back in 2010.
Streaming Video Is 70 Percent of Broadband Use
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Streaming entertainment is now the dominant form of broadband usage in North America. A new report from Sandvine says streaming accounts for roughly 70% of downstream traffic during peak times, and 65% of total traffic. That represents a doubling of video/audio streaming since five years ago. "Much of the increase comes from YouTube and Netflix, which already accounted for more than half of your broadband usage a couple of years ago, and continue to grow. But now those services are joined by relatively new entrants, like Amazon* and Hulu, which barely registered a couple of years ago and now account for nearly 6 percent of usage." Streaming doesn't take up such a big portion of traffic on mobile, but it still takes up more than any other type of traffic. It accounts for about 41% of peak downstream traffic, and 37% overall.
Japanese Space Probe Akatsuki Enters Orbit Around Venus Five Years Late
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On May 17, 2010, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency Venus Climate Orbiter probe or as it is now called Akatsuki lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center. It was supposed to enter orbit around Venus on December 6, 2010. However, due to a failure in the probe's orbital maneuvering thruster, Akatsuki did not enter Venus orbit and went into orbit around the sun instead. According to a story on Space.com, just about five years to the day of the failure, Akatsuki assumed an orbit around the second planet from the sun. Japanese scientists will determine what sort of orbit that is in a couple of days and, hopefully, begin the probe's science mission.

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