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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
ESA Lander's Signal Cut Out Just Before It Was Supposed To Land on Mars
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On Wednesday, the European Space Agency sought to become the second entity to successfully land a spacecraft on Mars with its Schiaparelli lander. And everything seemed to be going swimmingly right up until the point that Schiaparelli was to touch down. The European scientists had been tracking the descent of Schiaparelli through an array of radio telescopes near Pune, India and were able to record the moment when the vehicle exited a plasma blackout. The scientists also received a signal that indicated parachute deployment. But during the critical final moments, when nine hydrazine-powered thrusters were supposed to fire to arrest Schiaparelli's descent, the signal disappeared. At that point, the European Space Agency's webcast went silent for several minutes before one of the flight directors could be heard to say, "We expected the signal to continue, but clearly it did not. We don't want to jump to conclusions."
Half of American Adults Are In a Face-Recognition Database
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Half of American adults are in a face-recognition database, according to a Georgetown University study released Wednesday. That means there's about 117 million adults in a law enforcement facial-recognition database, the study by Georgetown's Center on Privacy and Technology says. The report (PDF), titled "The Perpetual Line-up: Unregulated Police Face Recognition in America," shows that one-fourth of the nation's law enforcement agencies have access to face-recognition databases, and their use by those agencies is virtually unregulated. Where do the mug shots come from? For starters, about 16 states allow the FBI to use facial recognition to compare faces of suspected criminals to their driver's licenses or ID photos, according to the study. "In this line-up," the study says, "it's not a human that points to the suspect -- it's an algorithm." The study says 26 states or more allow police agencies to "run or request searches" against their databases or driver's licenses and ID photos. This equates to "roughly one in two American adults has their photos searched this way," according to the study. Many local police agencies also insert mug shots of people they arrest into searchable, biometric databases, according to the report. According to the report, researchers obtained documents stating that at least five "major police departments," including those in Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles, "either claimed to run real-time face recognition off of street cameras, bought technology that can do so, or expressed an interest in buying it." The Georgetown report's release comes three months after the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that the FBI has access to as many as 411.9 million images as part of its face-recognition database.
Netflix's Big Bet on Original Shows Finally Seen Paying Off
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Netflix shares jumped as much as 20 percent on Tuesday, after the company added 50 percent more subscribers than expected in the third quarter.

Reuters adds:
At least 10 brokerages, including Goldman Sachs and RBC Capital Markets, raised their price targets on the stock, praising the company's focus on developing original content. The video streaming company also said it was getting ready to spend $6 billion on content next year, up $1 billion from 2016. "The benefits of Netflix-produced original content including attractive economics and greater control are clear and we believe returns on original spend are high," J.P. Morgan Securities analyst Doug Anmuth said in a research note. Strong subscriber additions after two quarters of disappointing growth helped Netflix post a 31.7 percent jump in third-quarter revenue. Anmuth said he believed Netflix was on track toward 60 million plus subscribers in the United States and about 100 million internationally by 2020.

A study by IHS Markit this month noted that both Netflix and Amazon are challenging major networks by upping spending on original shows. The study noted that Amazon and Netflix both had doubled spending on new shows in the last two years. Amazon dropped $1.22 billion in 2013 and spent $2.67 billion in 2015. Netflix's spending on original content rose from $2.38 billion to $4.91 billion over the same period.
Venus May Have Been the First Habitable Planet In Our Solar System, Study Suggests
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Venus is often referred to as Earth's evil twin, but conditions on the planet were not always so hellish, according to research that suggests it may have been the first place in the solar system to have become habitable. The study, due to be presented this week at the at the American Astronomical Society Meeting in Pasadena, concludes that at a time when primitive bacteria were emerging on Earth, Venus may have had a balmy climate and vast oceans up to 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) deep. Michael Way, who led the work at the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, said: "If you lived three billion years ago at a low latitude and low elevation the surface temperatures would not have been that different from that of a place in the tropics on Earth," he said. Crucially, if the calculations are correct the oceans may have remained until 715m years ago -- a long enough period of climate stability for microbial life to have plausibly sprung up. "The oceans of ancient Venus would have had more constant temperatures, and if life begins in the oceans -- something which we are not certain of on Earth -- then this would be a good starting place," said Way. With an average surface temperature of 462C (864F), Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system today, thanks to its proximity to the sun and its impenetrable carbon dioxide atmosphere, 90 times denser than Earth's. At some point in the planet's history this led to a runaway greenhouse effect. Way and colleagues simulated the Venusian climate at various time points between 2.9 billion and 715 million years ago, employing similar models to those used to predict future climate change on Earth. The scientists fed some basic assumptions into the model, including the presence of water, the intensity of the sunlight and how fast Venus was rotating. In this virtual version, 2.9 billion years ago Venus had an average surface temperature of 11C (52F) and this only increased to an average of 15C (59F) by 715m years ago, as the sun became more powerful. Details of the study are also published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Orbital ATK Returns To Flight With Successful Antares Launch To Space Station
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The Orbital ATK Antares rocket -- the same rocket that exploded on its way to the International Space Station two years ago -- returned to flight today with a much-anticipated launch. Lifting off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, the Antares rocket is now on its way to deliver the Cygnus spacecraft filled with over 5,000 pounds of cargo to crew members aboard the ISS. Today's launch was particularly special for Orbital ATK, a company contracted by NASA to deliver 66,000 pounds of cargo to the ISS through 2018. After their Antares rocket exploded during a launch in 2014, destroying thousands of pounds of experiments and cargo bound for the space station, Orbital ATK worked for two years to upgrade that rocket and prepare for its return to flight. Today, the Orbital ATK was finally able to fly Cygnus on top of their own rocket again. The RD-181-equipped Antares rocket carried Cygnus, which housed science experiments and supplies for the ISS crew, for their fifth operational cargo resupply mission for NASA. Along with crew supplies, spacewalk equipment and computer resources, Cygnus will bring over 1,000 pounds of science investigations to the five crew members on the ISS. One of those experiments is Saffire-II, the second Saffire experiment to be conducted inside Cygnus in order to study realistic flame propagation in space. Cygnus will spend over a month attached to the ISS. In late November, the spacecraft will be filled with about 3,000 pounds of trash and then released to begin its descent back to Earth. During reentry through Earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft, along with trash and Saffire-II, will be destroyed.
Report: Russian Hackers Phished The DNC And Clinton Campaign Using Fake Gmail Forms
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Citing a report from SecureWorks, BuzzFeed is reporting that Russian hackers "used emails disguised to look as Gmail security updates to hack into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and members of Hillary Clinton's top campaign staff":

The emails were sent to 108 members of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign and 20 people clicked on them, at least four people clicking more than once, Secureworks' research found. The emails were sent to another 16 people from the DNC and four people clicked on them, the report said.
China Just Launched Two Astronauts Into Orbit
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China has launched two men into orbit in a project designed to develop its ability to explore space. The astronauts took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northern China at 23:30 GMT on Sunday [7:30 p.m. EST].

The plan is for them to dock with and then spend 30 days on board the Tiangong 2 space station testing its ability to support life. This and previous launches are seen as pointers to possible crewed missions to the Moon or Mars.
Billionaire Tech Investors Support Divisive Plan To Ban San Francisco's Homeless Camps
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The images are startling: Homeless men, women and children huddled on the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area -- often in the shadows of start-ups and high-tech behemoths generating billions of dollars in wealth. It's a stark contrast that has gripped the region, and prompted four county measures on the Nov. 8 ballot to generate $3 billion over the next 25 years for affordable housing and services. Under the most-ambitious measure, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has proposed a 0.75% increase in the sales tax, to 9.5%, to raise $50 million a year. Propositions J and K would generate $1.2 billion for the next quarter-century via a simple majority. "There is clearly not enough affordable housing, or housing at any level," says Kevin Zwick, CEO of Housing Trust Silicon Valley.
The Universe Has 20 Times More Galaxies Than We Thought
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A new study by a team of international astronomers has produced some astounding results: they concluded that the universe contains at least two trillion galaxies -- as much as 20 times more than previously thought. The study adds that 90 percent of all galaxies are hidden from us. This hidden portion can't be seen even with our most powerful telescopes.

Gizmodo adds:
Consequently, this means we also have to update the number of stars in the observable universe, which now numbers around 700 sextillion (that's a 7 with 23 zeros behind it, or 700 thousand billion billion). And that's just within the observable universe. Because the cosmos emerged some 13.8 billion years ago, we're only able to observe objects up to a certain distance from Earth. Anything outside this "Hubble Bubble" is invisible to us because the light from these distant objects simply haven't had enough time to reach us. It's difficult -- if not impossible -- to know how many galaxies reside outside this cosmological blind spot.
The Washington Post Tracked Facebook's Trending Topics For 3 Weeks, Found 5 Fake Stories and 3 Inaccurate Articles
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An alarming number of people rely on social media, including and especially Facebook, for news. Over the past few months, we have seen how Facebook's Trending Topics feature is often biased, and moreover, how sometimes fake news slips through its filter. The Washington Post monitored the website for over three weeks and found that Facebook is still struggling to get its algorithm right.

From the report:
The Megyn Kelly incident was supposed to be an anomaly. An unfortunate one-off. A bit of (very public, embarrassing) bad luck. But in the six weeks since Facebook revamped its Trending system -- and a hoax about the Fox News Channel star subsequently trended -- the site has repeatedly promoted "news" stories that are actually works of fiction. As part of a larger audit of Facebook's Trending topics, the Intersect logged every news story that trended across four accounts during the workdays from Aug. 31 to Sept. 22. During that time, we uncovered five trending stories that were indisputably fake and three that were profoundly inaccurate (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). On top of that, we found that news releases, blog posts from sites such as Medium and links to online stores such as iTunes regularly trended. Facebook declined to comment about Trending on the record. "I'm not at all surprised how many fake stories have trended," one former member of the team that used to oversee Trending told the Post. "It was beyond predictable by anyone who spent time with the actual functionality of the product, not just the code."

The Post adds that "there's no guarantee" that it was able to catch every hoax, since it looked at Trending feature only once every hour.
Senator Wants Nationwide, All-Mail Voting To Counter Election Hacks
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In the wake of the Obama administration's announcement that the Russian government directed hacks on the Democratic National Committee and other institutions to influence U.S. elections, a senator from Oregon says the nation should conduct its elections like his home state does: all-mail voting. In an e-mail, Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, told Ars: "We should not underestimate how dangerous... attacks on election systems could be. If a foreign state were to eliminate registration records for a particular group of Americans immediately before an election, they could very likely disenfranchise those Americans and swing the results of an election. Recent efforts by some states to make it more difficult to vote only serves to increase the danger of such attacks. This is why I have proposed taking Oregon's unique vote-by-mail system nationwide to protect our democratic process against foreign and domestic attacks." The only states to hold all elections entirely by mail are Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. More than a dozen others have various provisions for mail voting. The National Conference of State Legislatures has a breakdown here on how Americans cast their votes across the union. Wyden co-sponsored the Vote By Mail Act in July, and he did so for reasons at the time that were unconnected to cybersecurity. Instead, the measure was originally proposed to help minorities and others cast ballots. The plan requires the U.S. Postal Service to deliver ballots to all registered voters. Voters could also register to vote when applying for driver's licenses, too. The measure fell on deaf ears this year and didn't even get a committee vote. A Wyden spokesperson said the proposal will have a "better chance" next year if Democrats win a majority of Senate seats.
NASA To Allow Private Companies To Hook Up Modules To ISS
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Private space companies may soon get the opportunity to add their own habitat modules to the outside of the International Space Station. That's according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who announced the new initiative today as a way to help expand the number of companies and people that can do work and research in space. That can eventually help companies gain the experience and capability to create private space stations of their own. "A vibrant user community will be key to ensuring the economic viability of future space stations," wrote Bolden in a White House blog post. The announcement of this new opportunity comes just a few months after NASA asked private companies for ideas of how they might use one of the docking ports on the ISS. Based on the responses NASA received, Bolden said companies had a "strong desire" to attach commercial modules to the station that could benefit both NASA and the private sector. Bolden didn't specify which companies expressed interest, but one company in particular, Bigelow Aerospace, has been very vocal about its desire to hook up habitats to the ISS; the company wants to attach its next big inflatable habitat, the B330, to the ISS as early as 2020. One of Bigelow's experimental habitats is already connected to the ISS, though its stay is only temporary and meant to gather data about Bigelow's habitat technology. While the new ISS initiative is meant to foster innovation in the private sector, it will also presumably help jumpstart the space station's transition from a state-run project to one helmed by the private sector. The ISS is set to retire in 2024, and NASA is looking to move beyond lower Earth orbit and send humans to Mars by the mid-2030s. But before NASA abandons the ISS, the space agency wants to leave the orbiting lab in some private company's capable hands. "Ultimately, our desire is to hand the space station over to either a commercial entity or some other commercial capability so that research can continue in low-Earth orbit," Bill Hill, NASA's deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development, said at a press conference in August. President Barack Obama also said Tuesday that the country will send Americans to Mars by the 2030s and return them "safely to Earth," which is part of a long-term goal to "one day remain there for an extended time."
Climate Change Doubled the Size of Forest Fires In Western US, Says Study
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Man-made climate change has doubled the total area burned by forest fires in the Western U.S. in the past three decades, according to new research. Damage from forest fires has risen dramatically in recent decades, with the total acres burned in the U.S. rising from 2.9 million in 1985 to 10.1 million in 2015, according to National Interagency Fire Center data. Suppression costs paid by the federal government now top $2 billion. Now a new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has found that a significant portion of the increase in land burned by forest fires can be attributed to man-made climate change. Other factors are also at play, including natural climate shifts and a change in how humans use land, but man-made climate change has had the biggest impact. That trend will likely continue as temperatures keep rising, researchers said. Climate change contributes to forest fires in a number of ways. Fires kill off trees and other plants that eventually dry and act as the fuel to feed massive wildfires. Global warming also increases the likelihood of the dry, warm weather in which wildfires can thrive. Average temperatures in the Western U.S. rose by 2.5 degree Fahrenheit since 1970, outpacing temperature rise elsewhere on the globe, according to the research
O'Reilly Gives Away Free Programming Ebooks
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There's now a section on offering free ebooks about computer programming. There's four free Java ebooks and seven about Python, as well as an "Other" section which contains ebooks like C++ Today, Swift Pocket Reference, and Why Rust? But there's also some broader categories for Open Source and Software Architecture ebooks, as well as separate sections for their free ebooks about Data, Security, Web Development, and the Internet of Things.
When Her Best Friend Died, She Rebuilt Him Using Artificial Intelligence
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When Roman Mazurenko died, his friend Eugenia Kuyda created a digital monument to him: an artificial intelligent bot that could "speak" as Roman using thousands of lines of texts sent to friends and family.

From the report:
"It's pretty weird when you open the messenger and there's a bot of your deceased friend, who actually talks to you," Fayfer said. "What really struck me is that the phrases he speaks are really his. You can tell that's the way he would say it -- even short answers to 'Hey what's up.' It has been less than a year since Mazurenko died, and he continues to loom large in the lives of the people who knew him. When they miss him, they send messages to his avatar, and they feel closer to him when they do. "There was a lot I didn't know about my child," Roman's mother told me. "But now that I can read about what he thought about different subjects, I'm getting to know him more. This gives the illusion that he's here now."
FCC Proposal: Internet Providers Must Ask To Share Your Data
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The Federal Communication Commission has changed its broadband-privacy plan since it was initially proposed in March. The wireless and cable industries had complained that under the initial plan, they would be more heavily regulated than digital-ad behemoths like Google and Facebook, who are monitored by a different agency, the Federal Trade Commission. The FCC explained its new approach Thursday and plans to vote on it Oct. 27. The revised proposal says broadband providers don't have to get permission from customers ahead of time to use some information deemed "non-sensitive," like names and addresses. The previous plan called for customers to expressly approve the use of more of their information. This time around, customers still need to OK broadband providers' using and sharing a slew of their data, like a phone's physical location, websites browses and apps used, and what's in emails. And customers must be told what types of information is kept and how it will be used, and agency officials said they can still say no to internet service providers using other data, like names and addresses.
Two 19-Year-Olds Charged With Running Phone Harassment, Hack-For-Hire Sites
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Federal prosecutors have charged two 19-year-old men with running "hacking-for-hire" websites that attacked companies worldwide and did business with international hacking groups "Lizard Squad" and "PoodleCorp." Zachary Buchta of Fallston, Maryland, and Bradley Jan Willem van Rooy of the Netherlands, have both been charged with conspiring to cause damage to protected computers. Buchta walked out of federal court in Chicago yesterday after being released on bail. He was arrested earlier but released on his own recognizance. The judge ruled that Buchta can live with his mother in Maryland while he awaits trial, but he won't be allowed to access the Internet or have any contact with van Rooy. As for van Rooy, he was arrested in the Netherlands last month and remains in custody there. The allegations against Buchta and van Rooy are among the first US charges related to Lizard Squad. The site that first got the feds' attention was, which allowed paying customers to purchase a barrage of harassing phone calls directed at chosen targets. The website charged just $20 to initiate the harassment, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune. Police say the two worked together with other members of Lizard Squad to run additional websites that trafficked in stolen credit card numbers and offered hacking-for-hire services alleged to have caused thousands of "denial of service" attacks worldwide.
Facebook Is Talking To the White House About Giving You 'Free' Internet
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Facebook is in talks with the government and wireless carriers to bring its 'Free Basics' internet service to the United States, reports Washington Post, citing sources. If everything goes as planned for Facebook, it would target "low-income and rural Americans who cannot afford reliable, high-speed internet at home or on smartphones," (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source) the paper adds.
Bigfoot Spotted Sneaking Around Below Bald Eagle Nest, Multiple Outlets Report
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Bigfoot, that mysteriously unkempt and anti-social gentlemen of the woodlands, has again made an appearance on camera in his trademark blurry yet intriguing style. This time the legendary cryptid has apparently been captured on the CarbonTV Eagle Cam in northern Michigan. The live webcam is trained on a bald eagle nest 100 feet (30 meters) above the ground near the Platte River State Fish Hatchery. In the aforementioned video we see a dark lumbering figure talking into frame about 10 seconds into the clip. The shadowy silhouette of something clearly bipedal makes its way through the stand of trees before walking out of frame. While the creature appears to fit the traditional description of Bigfoot, it also could pretty easily be explained as a bear or a human. Because the camera is capturing the forest floor looking down from 100 feet up, the perspective is a little screwy and it's hard to get much clarity.
Blue Origin Lands Rocket During Launch Escape Test
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SpaceX isn't the only private company interested in reusable rockets. Blue Origin, an American privately-funded aerospace manufacturer established by founder Jeff Bezos, surprised everyone, including itself, by successfully landing its New Shepard rocket in today's in-flight launch escape test.

Gizmodo reports:
Moments ago, Blue Origin conducted an in flight test of its launch escape system, separating a crew capsule from its New Shepard booster at an altitude of 16,000 feet. This test was critical to ensure that the rocket will be safe for human passengers, whom Blue Origin hopes to start flying into sub-orbital space as early as next year. Not only did the crew capsule make a clean separation, deploy its parachutes, and land softly in a small cloud of dust back on Earth, but the booster -- which everybody expected to go splat -- continued on its merry way into suborbital space, after which it succeeded in landing smoothly back on Earth for a fifth time. Although Blue Origin has tested its launch escape system on the launchpad before, this is the first time such a system has been tested, by anyone, in flight since the 1960s. It was almost too perfect.
Johnson & Johnson Discloses That Its Insulin Pump Is Hackable
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Johnson and Johnson has revealed that its JJ Animas OneTouch Ping insulin pump is vulnerable to hackers, who could potentially force the device to overdose diabetic patients -- however, it declares that the risk of this happening is very low. Unnamed executives from the American multinational medical manufacturer said that they were taking the unprecedented step of warning customers about the vulnerability, particularly in light of recent controversies regarding attack vectors in cardiac equipment. In a letter to doctors and 114,000 patients, sent on Monday, the company wrote: "The probability of unauthorized access to the OneTouch Ping system is extremely low... It would require technical expertise, sophisticated equipment and proximity to the pump, as the OneTouch Ping system is not connected to the internet or to any external network."

Even though the company's own technicians were able to hack the pump within a distance of 25 feet, Johnson and Johnson's chief medical officer Brian Levy observed that the hack would be extremely difficult to pull off, and said "We believe the OneTouch Ping system is safe and reliable. We urge patients to stay on the product."
This Is The Worst Insect Sting In The World
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One day while Justin Schmidt was riding his bicycle, something went terribly wrong.

“I was huffing and puffing, so my mouth was open, and this damn honeybee flew right in and stung me on the tongue,” he says. He tumbled to the ground, flailing in agony. Later he described the sting as “immediate, noisome, visceral, debilitating. For 10 minutes, life is not worth living.”
British Trio Wins Nobel Prize In Physics For Study of Exotic Matter
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David J. Thouless, F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for discoveries in condensed-matter physics that have transformed the understanding of matter that assumes strange shapes. All three were born in Britain but work in the United States. Using advanced mathematical models, the three scientists studied unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films. Their findings have relevance for materials science and electronics. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm awarded the prize for "theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter." Topology is a branch of mathematics that describes properties that change only in increments. In the early 1970s, Dr. Kosterlitz and Dr. Thouless "demonstrated that superconductivity could occur at low temperatures and also explained the mechanism, phase transition, that makes superconductivity disappear at higher temperatures," the academy found. In the 1980s, Dr. Thouless showed that the integers by which the conductivity of electricity could be measured were topological in their nature. Around that time, Dr. Haldane discovered how topological concepts could be used to understand the properties of chains of small magnets found in some materials. "We now know of many topological phases, not only in thin layers and threads, but also in ordinary three-dimensional materials," the academy said. "Over the last decade, this area has boosted front-line research in condensed matter physics, not least because of the hope that topological materials could be used in new generations of electronics and superconductors, or in future quantum computers."
'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' Far Bigger Than Imagined, Aerial Survey Shows
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The vast patch of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean is far worse than previously thought, with an aerial survey finding a much larger mass of fishing nets, plastic containers and other discarded items than imagined. A reconnaissance flight taken in a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft found a vast clump of mainly plastic waste at the northern edge of what is known as the "great Pacific garbage patch," located between Hawaii and California. The density of rubbish was several times higher than the Ocean Cleanup, a foundation part-funded by the Dutch government to rid the oceans of plastics, expected to find even at the heart of the patch, where most of the waste is concentrated. The heart of the garbage patch is thought to be around 1m sq km (386,000 sq miles), with the periphery spanning a further 3.5m sq km (1,351,000 sq miles). The dimensions of this morass of waste are continually morphing, caught in one of the ocean's huge rotating currents. The north Pacific gyre has accumulated a soup of plastic waste, including large items and smaller broken-down micro plastics that can be eaten by fish and enter the food chain. Following a further aerial survey through the heart of the patch on Sunday, the Ocean Cleanup aims to tackle the problem through a gigantic V-shaped boom, which would use sea currents to funnel floating rubbish into a cone. A prototype of the vulcanized rubber barrier will be tested next year, with a full-sized 100km (62-mile) barrier deployed by 2020 if trials go well.

"Normally when you do an aerial survey of dolphins or whales, you make a sighting and record it," said Boyan Slat, the founder of the Ocean Cleanup. "That was the plan for this survey. But when we opened the door and we saw the debris everywhere. Ever half second you see something. So we had to take snapshots -- it was impossible to record everything. It was bizarre to see that much garbage in what should be pristine ocean."
Apple, Google, Microsoft: We Have No Government Email Scanning Program Like Yahoo's
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Apple, Google and Microsoft -- three of the largest technology companies in the U.S. -- have each said they don't scan all incoming messages for the U.S. government, which is exactly what Yahoo does. According to Reuters, Yahoo secretly built a custom software program last year to search all of its customers' incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials. The company complied with a classified U.S. government directive, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI. Vocativ reports:

In a statement, a Microsoft spokesperson told Vocativ that "We have never engaged in the secret scanning of email traffic like what has been reported today about Yahoo." While Apple declined to give a statement on the record, a representative for the company did, in response to Vocativ's question, refer to CEO Tim Cook's official letter on consumer privacy, which reads in part: "I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will." The fact that both the companies declined further statement means it's not yet known if the NSA or FBI approached them to request they build a program like Yahoo's.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Alphabet's Google issued a statement to CNBC: "We've never received such a request, but if we did, our response would be simple: 'no way.'" [The spokesperson later clarified that the company has not received a "directive" or "order" to that effect, either, according to The Intercept.] But the question is whether or not you believe them. With Yahoo's case, only a handful of employees knew about the program. The same could be true with Apple, Google, Microsoft or any other large tech company. Edward Snowden tweeted not too long after Reuters' report surfaced: "Heads up: Any major email service not clearly, categorically denying this tomorrow -- without careful phrasing -- is as guilty as Yahoo."
Yahoo Secretly Scanned Customer Emails For US Intelligence
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Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers' incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter. The company complied with a classified U.S. government directive, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said two former employees and a third person apprised of the events. Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to a spy agency's demand by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time. It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified. Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.

The two former employees say that the decision Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made to obey the directive resulted in the June 2015 departure of CISO Alex Stamos, who left to work for Facebook. The company said in response to Reuters questions about the demand, "Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States."
India Ratifies The Paris Climate Change Agreement
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"India just ratified the Paris climate deal -- bringing it extremely close to taking effect," reports the Washington Post, calling India the world's fourth-largest producer of greenhouse gas.

According to NPR's update on the Paris agreement: It will not become binding until it's ratified by 55 countries that contribute a total of at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The 55-country requirement has already been fulfilled -- India is No. 62 -- but...the current signatories account for about 52 percent of global greenhouse emissions, according to a statement released by the U.N. on Sunday.

India currently produces about 4.5 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions [and] has set a goal of producing 40 percent of its electricity with non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. India also promised to plant or preserve enough tree cover to act as a sink for at least 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide, and has called on the U.S. and other fully developed countries to share technologies that help decrease emissions.
Music Confounds the Machines
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Everyone's talking about the great speech T Bone Burnett gave as the keynote address to AmericanaFest yesterday. If you missed it, here's the transcript
French Banks Offer Credit Card Numbers That Change Every Hour
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What if the numbers on your card changed every hour so that, even if a fraudster copied them, they'd quickly be out of date? That's exactly what two French banks are starting to do with their new high-tech ebank cards... The three digits on the back of this card will change, every hour, for three years. And after they change, the previous three digits are essentially worthless, and that's a huge blow for criminals... As most fraud happens a few hours or days after your card details are actually taken, this would leave criminals essentially with a bunch of useless numbers.

It's just like credit cards you have now -- other than the tiny digital screen that's embedded into the back of the card.
Scientists Identify Another Source of Dangerous Greenhouse Gases: Reservoirs
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A team of researchers from Canada, Holland, China, the U.S. and Brazil "found that greenhouse gas emissions from man-made reservoirs were likely equal to the equivalent of one gigaton of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere every year...a little less than one-sixth of the United State's greenhouse gas emissions."

According to Popular Science:
A reservoir is usually created by damming a river, overflowing the banks and flooding the surrounding area, creating a man-made lake...the perfect conditions for microbes to generate greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane (a gas that is about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide)... "When reservoirs are first flooded there's organic matter in the soil and vegetation that can be converted by microbes into methane and carbon dioxide," John Harrison, a co-author of the paper, tells Popular Science.

"Also, reservoirs because they are in line in rivers, they receive a lot of organic matter and organic sediment from upstream that can fuel the production of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide." Harrison says that reservoirs also tend to occur in areas where fertilizers are used on the surrounding land. Runoff from those fertilizers into bodies of water can cause algal blooms that can also produce more methane and carbon dioxide.

If the world's reservoirs were a country, they'd be #8 on a list of polluters -- right behind Brazil, China, the EU and the U.S.
Revolutionary Ion Thruster To Be Tested On International Space Station
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Three Australian researchers have developed "an ion thruster that could replace the current chemical-based rocket propulsion technology, which requires huge volumes of fuel to be loaded onto a spacecraft." Slashdot reader theweatherelectric shares this article from the ABC News:

An Australian-designed rocket propulsion system is heading to the International Space Station for a year-long experiment that ultimately could revolutionize space travel. The technology could be used to power a return trip to Mars without refuelling, and use recycled space junk for the fuel... It will be placed in a module outside the ISS, powered, as Dr Neumann describes, by an extension cord from the station. "What we'll be doing with our system is running it for as long as we can, hopefully for the entire year on the space station to measure how much force it's producing for how long."

In the early 2000s "it was basically a machine the size of a fist that spat ions from a very hot plasma ball through a magnetic nozzle at a very high velocity," and the researchers are now hoping to achieve the same effect by recycling the magnesium in space junk.
Federal Prosecutors Actually Prosecute H1-B Fraud
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Federal prosecutors "have filed conspiracy charges against a part-owner of two information technology firms and an employee for fraudulently using the H-1B program". Both were reportedly recruiting foreign IT workers, according to the AP: Prosecutors said the conspirators falsely represented that the foreign workers had full-time positions and were paid an annual salary [when] the workers were only paid when placed at a third-party client, and the defendants sometimes generated false payroll records... The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and obstruct justice and conspiracy to harbor aliens.

They're now facing up to 15 years in prison for an "alien-harboring conspiracy" charge -- with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine -- and a separate visa fraud and obstruction of justice charge with a maximum 5-year penalty and a $250,000 fine.
Yahoo Insiders Believe Hackers Could Have Stolen Over 1 Billion Accounts
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The actual tally of stolen user accounts from the hack Yahoo experienced could be much larger than 500 million, according to a former Yahoo executive familiar with its security practices. The former Yahoo insider says the architecture of Yahoo's back-end systems is organized in such a way that the type of breach that was reported would have exposed a much larger group of user account information. To be sure, Yahoo has said that the breach affected at least 500 million users. But the former Yahoo exec estimated the number of accounts that could have potentially been stolen could be anywhere between 1 billion and 3 billion. According to this executive, all of Yahoo's products use one main user database, or UDB, to authenticate users. So people who log into products such as Yahoo Mail, Finance, or Sports all enter their usernames and passwords, which then goes to this one central place to ensure they are legitimate, allowing them access. That database is huge, the executive said. At the time of the hack in 2014, inside were credentials for roughly 700 million to 1 billion active users accessing Yahoo products every month, along with many other inactive accounts that hadn't been deleted. In late 2013, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said the company had 800 million monthly active users globally. It currently has more than 1 billion.
Implication of Sabotage Adds Intrigue To SpaceX Investigation
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The long-running feud between Elon Musk's space company and its fierce competitor United Launch Alliance took a bizarre twist this month when a SpaceX employee visited its facilities at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and asked for access to the roof of one of ULA's buildings. About two weeks earlier, one of SpaceX's rockets blew up on a launchpad while it was awaiting an engine test. As part of the investigation, SpaceX officials had come across something suspicious they wanted to check out, according to three industry officials with knowledge of the episode. SpaceX had still images from video that appeared to show an odd shadow, then a white spot on the roof of a nearby building belonging to ULA, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The SpaceX representative explained to the ULA officials on site that it was trying to run down all possible leads in what was a cordial, not accusatory, encounter, according to the industry sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. The building, which had been used to refurbish rocket motors known as the SMARF, is just more than a mile away from the launchpad and has a clear line of sight to it. A representative from ULA ultimately denied the SpaceX employee access to the roof and instead called Air Force investigators, who inspected the roof and didn't find anything connecting it to the rocket explosion, the officials said.

This week, ten members of Congress sent a four-page letter to several government agencies about the SpaceX explosion, raising the question as to whether or not SpaceX should be leading the investigation. Elon Musk said the investigation into what went wrong is the company's "absolute top priority." He added, "We've eliminated all of the obvious possibilities for what occurred there. So what remains are the less probable answers." SpaceX aims to resume flights in November.
Print-On-Demand Bone Could Quickly Mend Major Injuries
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If you shatter a bone in the future, a 3D printer and some special ink could be your best medicine. Researchers have created what they call "hyperelastic bone" that can be manufactured on demand and works almost as well as the real thing, at least in monkeys and rats. Though not ready to be implanted in humans, bioengineers are optimistic that the material could be a much-needed leap forward in quickly mending injuries ranging from bones wracked by cancer to broken skulls. Researchers at Northwestern University, Evanston, in Illinois are working on a hyperelastic bone, which is a type of scaffold made up of hydroxyapatite, a naturally occurring mineral that exists in our bones and teeth, and a biocompatible polymer called polycaprolactone, and a solvent. Hydroxyapatite provides strength and offers chemical cues to stem cells to create bone. The polycaprolactone polymer adds flexibility, and the solvent sticks the 3D-printed layers together as it evaporates during printing. The mixture is blended into an ink that is dispensed by the printer, layer by layer, into exact shapes matching the bone that needs to be replaced. The idea is, a patient would come in with a nasty broken bone -- say, a shattered jaw -- and instead of going through painful autograft surgeries or waiting for a custom scaffold to be manufactured, he or she could be x-rayed and a 3D-printed hyperelastic bone scaffold could be printed that same day.
Rosetta Spacecraft Prepares To Land On Comet, Solve Lingering Mysteries
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All good things must come to an end, and so it will be tomorrow when the Rosetta spacecraft makes its planned soft landing onto the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the culmination of 2 years of close-up studies. Solar power has waned as 67P's orbit takes it and Rosetta farther from the sun, and so the mission team decided to go on a last data-gathering descent before the lights go out. This last data grab is a bonus after a mission that is already changing theorists' views about how comets and planets arose early in the solar system. Several Rosetta observations suggest that comets form not from jolting mergers of larger cometesimals, meters to kilometers across, but rather from the gentle coalescence of clouds of pebbles. And the detection of a single, feather-light, millimeter-sized particle -- preserved since the birth of the solar system -- should further the view of a quiet birth.

The report concludes:
"A slew of instruments will keep gathering data as Rosetta approaches the surface at the speed of a gentle stroll. For team members whose instruments have already been turned off to conserve power, the ending is bittersweet -- but their work is far from over. Most instrument teams have only examined their own data, and are just now thinking about combining data sets. "We've just started collaborating with other teams," [Holger Sierks of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany, chief of Rosetta's main camera,] says. "This is the beginning of the story, not the end."
The Yahoo Hackers Weren't State-Sponsored, Security Firm Says
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After Yahoo raised eyebrows in the security community with its claim that state-sponsored hackers were responsible for the history-making breach, security firm InfoArmor now says it has evidence to the contrary. InfoArmor claims to have acquired some of the stolen information as part of its investigation into "Group E," a team of five professional hackers-for-hire believed to be from Eastern Europe. The database that InfoArmor has contains only "millions" of accounts, but it includes the users' login IDs, hashed passwords, mobile phone numbers and zip codes, said Andrew Komarov, InfoArmor's chief intelligence officer. Earlier this week, Chase Cunningham, director of cyber operations at security provider A10 Networks, called Yahoo's claim of state-sponsored actors a convenient, if trumped up, excuse: "If I want to cover my rear end and make it seem like I have plausible deniability, I would say 'nation-state actor' in a heartbeat."

"Yahoo was compromised in 2014 by a group of professional blackhats who were hired to compromise customer databases from a variety of different targeted organizations," Scottsdale, Arizona-based InfoArmor said Wednesday in a report. "The Yahoo data leak as well as the other notable exposures, opens the door to significant opportunities for cyber-espionage and targeted attacks to occur."
AOL's Innovative Card-Based Email Service, Alto, Comes To iOS And Android
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Remember AOL? The company best known for its email service? Three years ago, it released a Pinterest-like platform for desktop email called Alto. Today AOL announced the release of Alto for iOS and Android -- nearly a year after it began beta testing it.

FastCompany writes:
The app's design is based on the idea that email has shifted from a communication tool to more of a transactional system -- today's inboxes are filled with receipts, order confirmations, and reservations, rather than personal messages. To combat this flood of data, Alto automatically sorts email into stacks, such as "travel," "photos," "files," "shopping," and "personal."
Cable TV Companies Could Lose Nearly $1 Billion in the Next Year From People Ditching Their Subscriptions
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Cable TV companies could lose nearly $1 billion to people cutting the cord over the next year, according to a new study by management consulting firm cg42. The firm estimates that 800,000 cable customers will ditch their subscriptions in the next 12 months. Cg42 expects each customer to be an average loss of $1,248 annually, and losses to approach $1 billion over the year. Cg42 also found that the average cord-cutter saves $104 per month by canceling. Some in the industry have argued that cutting the cord doesn't actually save you money if you subscribe to a bunch of streaming services like Netflix, HBO, and so on. But that point of view neglects the reality that many cable subscribers pay for those streaming services already.
Commodore C64 Survives Over 25 Years Balancing Drive Shafts In Auto Repair Shop
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One common gripe in the twenty-first century is that nothing is built to last anymore. Even complex, expensive computers seem to have a relatively short shelf-life nowadays. However, one computer in a small auto repair shop in Gdansk, Poland has survived for the last twenty-five years against all odds. The computer in question here is a Commodore C64 that has been balancing driveshafts non-stop for a quarter of a century. The C64C looks like it would fit right in with a scene from Fallout 4 and has even survived a nasty flood. This Commodore 64 contains a few homemade aspects, however. The old computer uses a sinusoidal waveform generator and piezo vibration sensor in order to measure changes in pressure, acceleration, temperature, strain or force by converting them to an electrical charge. The C64C interprets these signals to help balance the driveshafts in vehicles.

The Commodore 64 (also known as the C64, C-64, C= 64) was released in January 1982 and still holds the title for being the best-selling computer of all time.
HP To Issue 'Optional Firmware Update' Allowing 3rd-Party Ink
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Soon after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) issued a letter to HP, calling for them to apologize to customers for releasing firmware that prevents the use of non-HP ink cartridges and refilled HP cartridges, the company has responded with a temporary solution. HP "will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature" for certain OfficeJet printers.

Ars Technica reports:
HP made its announcement in a blog post titled "Dedicated to the best printing experience." "We updated a cartridge authentication procedure in select models of HP office inkjet printers to ensure the best consumer experience and protect them from counterfeit and third-party ink cartridges that do not contain an original HP security chip and that infringe on our IP," the company said. The recent firmware update for HP OfficeJet Pro, and OfficeJet Pro X printers "included a dynamic security feature that prevented some untested third-party cartridges that use cloned security chips from working, even if they had previously functioned," HP said. For customers who don't wish to be protected from the ability to buy less expensive ink cartridges, HP said it "will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature. We expect the update to be ready within two weeks and will provide details here." This customer-friendly move may just be a one-time thing. HP said it will continue to use security features that "protect our IP including authentication methods that may prevent some third-party supplies from working." Without the optional firmware update, printers will only be able to use third-party ink cartridges that have an "original HP security chip," the company said.
The United Nations Will Launch Its First Space Mission In 2021
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The United Nations will send its first ever mission to space in 2021. It said it intends to send Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser spacecraft into a two-week, low-Earth orbit flight in 2021. Sierra Nevada had signed the UN as a partner in June. Motherboard adds:

As detailed for a small crowd at the International Astronautical Congress yesterday, the goal of the 2021 UN mission is to make space accessible to developing member states that lack the resources to develop a standalone, national space program. "One of UNOOSA's core responsibilities is to promote cooperation and the peaceful uses of outer space, but our work is about more than that," said Simonetta Di Pippo, the director of UNOOSA. "We have the vision of bringing the benefits of space to humankind, and that means helping developing countries access space technologies and their benefits."
US Warns Samsung Washing Machine Owners After Explosion Reports
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Samsung may have a new problem on its hands, and it feels too familiar. The U.S. regulators on Wednesday warned users of certain top-loading Samsung washing machines of safety issues following reports that "some have exploded."

CNN reports:
The warning, from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, covered machines made between March 2011 and April 2016. It did not specify a model. The commission suggested people use only the delicate cycle to wash bedding and water-resistant and bulky items because the lower spin speed "lessens the risk of impact injuries or property damage due to the washing machine becoming dislodged." The agency said it is working with Samsung on a remedy.
Yahoo Repeatedly Didn't Invest In Security, Rejected Bare Minimum Measure To Reset All User Passwords: NYTimes
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If it wasn't already enough that the mega breach at Yahoo affects over 500 million users, a new investigative report on The New York Times states the extent to which Yahoo didn't care about its users' security (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). The report says Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer refused to fund security initiatives at the company, and instead invested money in features and new products. Despite Edward Snowden warning Yahoo that it was too easy of a target for hackers, the company took one year to hire a new chief information officer. The company hired Alex Stamos, who is widely respected in the industry. But Stamos soon left partly due to clashes with Mayer, The Times adds. And it gets worse. From the report:

But when it came time to commit meaningful dollars to improve Yahoo's security infrastructure, Ms. Mayer repeatedly clashed with Mr. Stamos, according to the current and former employees. She denied Yahoo's security team financial resources and put off proactive security defenses, including intrusion-detection mechanisms for Yahoo's production systems. [...] But during his tenure, Ms. Mayer also rejected the most basic security measure of all: an automatic reset of all user passwords, a step security experts consider standard after a breach. Employees say the move was rejected by Ms. Mayer's team for fear that even something as simple as a password change would drive Yahoo's shrinking email users to other services.
Elon Musk: First Humans Who Journey To Mars Must 'Be Prepared To Die'
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At a conference yesterday, Elon Musk outlined his company SpaceX's plan to send humans to Mars. The vehicle is called the Interplanetary Transport System and it is capable of carrying 100 tons of cargo (people and supplies). Musk added that this rocket ship could take people to Mars in just 80 days. But he also reminded that the first batch of people who are brave enough to go to Mars should be well aware that they are almost certainly going to die.

The Verge adds:
During the Q&A session that followed, the question inevitably came up: what sort of person does Musk think will volunteer to get strapped to that big rocket and fired toward the Red Planet? "Who should these people be, carrying the light of humanity to Mars for all of us?" an audience member asked. "I think the first journeys to Mars will be really very dangerous," answered Musk. "The risk of fatality will be high. There's just no way around it." The journey itself would take around 80 days, according to the plan and ideas that Musk put forward. "Are you prepared to die? If that's okay, then you're a candidate for going," he added. But Musk didn't want to get stuck talking about the risks and immense danger. "This is less about who goes there first... the thing that really matters is making a self-sustaining civilization on Mars as fast as possible. This is different than Apollo. This is really about minimizing existential risk and having a tremendous sense of adventure," he said.
Across US, Police Officers Abuse Confidential Databases
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Sadie Gurman and Eric Tucker, reporting for Associated Press:

Police officers across the country misuse confidential law enforcement databases to get information on romantic partners, business associates, neighbors, journalists and others for reasons that have nothing to do with daily police work, an Associated Press investigation has found. Criminal-history and driver databases give officers critical information about people they encounter on the job. But the AP's review shows how those systems also can be exploited by officers who, motivated by romantic quarrels, personal conflicts or voyeuristic curiosity, sidestep policies and sometimes the law by snooping. In the most egregious cases, officers have used information to stalk or harass, or have tampered with or sold records they obtained. No single agency tracks how often the abuse happens nationwide, and record-keeping inconsistencies make it impossible to know how many violations occur. But the AP, through records requests to state agencies and big-city police departments, found law enforcement officers and employees who misused databases were fired, suspended or resigned more than 325 times between 2013 and 2015. They received reprimands, counseling or lesser discipline in more than 250 instances, the review found.
Apple Logs Your iMessage Contacts - And May Share Them With Police: The Intercept
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The Intercept is reporting that despite what Apple claims, it does keep a log of people you are receiving messages from and shares this and other potentially sensitive metadata with law enforcement when compelled by court order. Apple insists that iMessage conversations are safe and out of reach from anyone other than you and your friends.

From the report:
This log also includes the date and time when you entered a number, along with your IP address -- which could, contrary to a 2013 Apple claim that "we do not store data related to customers' location," identify a customer's location. Apple is compelled to turn over such information via court orders for systems known as "pen registers" or "tap and trace devices," orders that are not particularly onerous to obtain, requiring only that government lawyers represent they are "likely" to obtain information whose "use is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation." Apple confirmed to The Intercept that it only retains these logs for a period of 30 days, though court orders of this kind can typically be extended in additional 30-day periods, meaning a series of monthlong log snapshots from Apple could be strung together by police to create a longer list of whose numbers someone has been entering.
FCC Official Asks Agency To Investigate Ban On Journalists' Wi-Fi Personal Hotspots At Debate
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It was reported that journalists attending the presidential debate at Hofstra University were banned from using personal hotspots and were told they had to pay $200 to access the event's Wi-Fi. The journalists were reportedly offered the option to either turn off their personal hotspots or leave the debate. Cyrus Farivar via Ars Technica is now reporting that "one of the members of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, has asked the agency to investigate the Monday evening ban." Ars Technica reports:

Earlier, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel tweeted, saying that something was "not right" with what Hofstra did. She cited an August 2015 order from the FCC, forcing a company called SmartCity to no longer engage in Wi-Fi blocking and to pay $750,000.

Ars has since updated their report with a statement from Karla Schuster, a spokeswoman for Hofstra University:

The Commission on Presidential Debates sets the criteria for services and requires that a completely separate network from the University's network be built to support the media and journalists. This is necessary due to the volume of Wi-Fi activity and the need to avoid interference. The Rate Card fee of $200 for Wi-Fi access is to help defray the costs and the charge for the service does not cover the cost of the buildout. For Wi-Fi to perform optimally the system must be tuned with each access point and antenna. When other Wi-Fi access points are placed within the environment the result is poorer service for all. To avoid unauthorized access points that could interfere, anyone who has a device that emits RF frequency must register the device. Whenever a RF-emitting device was located, the technician notified the individual to visit the RF desk located in the Hall. The CPD RF engineer would determine if the device could broadcast without interference.
EFF Calls On HP To Disable Printer Ink Self-Destruct Sequence
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HP should apologize to customers and restore the ability of printers to use third-party ink cartridges, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said in a letter to the company's CEO yesterday. From an ArsTechnica report:HP has been sabotaging OfficeJet Pro printers with firmware that prevents use of non-HP ink cartridges and even HP cartridges that have been refilled, forcing customers to buy more expensive ink directly from HP. The self-destruct mechanism informs customers that their ink cartridges are "damaged" and must be replaced. "The software update that prevented the use of third-party ink was reportedly distributed in March, but this anti-feature itself wasn't activated until September," EFF Special Advisor Cory Doctorow wrote in a letter to HP Inc. CEO Dion Weisler. "That means that HP knew, for at least six months, that some of its customers were buying your products because they believed they were compatible with any manufacturer's ink, while you had already planted a countdown timer in their property that would take this feature away. Your customers will have replaced their existing printers, or made purchasing recommendations to friends who trusted them on this basis. They are now left with a less useful printer -- and possibly a stockpile of useless third-party ink cartridges."
SpaceX Shows Off Its Interplanetary Transport System in New Video
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Elon Musk's SpaceX plans to send humans to Mars with a ship called the Interplanetary Transport System, the company announced today in a video, revealing how the ITS will actually work. The ITS will be capable of carrying up to 100 tons of cargo -- people and supplies -- and it will utilize a slew of different power sources en route to Mars. From a report on TechCrunch:

SpaceX has released a new video showing a CG concept of its Interplanetary Transport System, the rocket and spacecraft combo it plans to use to colonize Mars. The video depicts a reusable rocket that can get the interplanetary spacecraft beyond Earth's orbit, and a craft that uses solar sails to coast on its way to a Mars entry. The booster returns to Earth after separating from the shuttlecraft to pick up a booster tank full of fuel, which it then returns to orbit to fuel up the waiting spaceship. The booster craft then also returns to Earth under its own power, presumably also for re-use. The solar arrays that the spacecraft employs provide 200 kW of power, according to captions in the video.
World's First Baby Born With New '3 Parent' Technique
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A five-month-old baby boy has been revealed as the first kid in the world with three biological parents, reports New Scientist. The baby boy was apparently conceived by a technique that has been legally approved in the UK, and lets parents with genetic disorders have healthy babies. Though, the method used in this particular cases was slightly different from one legalized in the UK. From the report:

Zhang (a doctor) took a different approach, called spindle nuclear transfer. He removed the nucleus from one of the mother's eggs and inserted it into a donor egg that had had its own nucleus removed. The resulting egg -- with nuclear DNA from the mother and mitochondrial DNA from a donor -- was then fertilised with the father's sperm. Zhang's team used this approach to create five embryos, only one of which developed normally. This embryo was implanted in the mother and the child was born nine months later. "It's exciting news," says Bert Smeets at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The team will describe the findings at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's Scientific Congress in Salt Lake City in October.
SpaceX Tests Its Raptor Engine For Future Mars Flights
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Elon Musk is preparing to unveil his plans to colonize Mars at the 67th annual International Astronautical Congress tomorrow. As a tease to his lecture, he has released some details about the Raptor engine on Twitter, including pictures. Mr. Musk states that, "Production Raptor coal is specific impulse of 382 seconds and thrust of 3 MN (~310 metric tons) at 300 bar." He goes on to note that the specific impulse spec is at Mars ambient pressure.

The Raptor interplanetary engine is designed for use with Space X's Mars Colonial Transporter craft. Musk notes that the "chamber pressure runs three times what's present in the Merlin engine currently used to power Falcon 9," according to TechCrunch. "Merlin has specific impulse of 282 seconds (311 seconds in the vacuum of space), and a relatively paltry 654 kilonewton (0.6 MN) at sea level, or 716 kN (0.7 MN) in a vacuum. You can view a picture of the "Mach diamonds" here, which are visible in the engine's exhaust.
Jupiter's Moon Europa May Have Water Plumes That Rise Up About 125 Miles
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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope released new images Monday, which will be published in The Astrophysicial Journal later this week, that show what appears to be plumes of water vapor erupting out of the icy surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. The discovery is especially intriguing as it means that the ocean below Europa's surface could be probed without having to drill through miles of ice. NPR reports:

Europa is one of the most intriguing places in the solar system because it's thought to have a vast subterranean ocean with twice as much water as Earth's oceans. This saltwater ocean is a tempting target for astrobiologists who want to find places beyond Earth that could support life. The trouble with exploring this ocean is that the water is hidden beneath an icy crust that's miles thick. But if plumes are indeed erupting from Europa, a spacecraft could potentially fly through them and analyze their chemistry -- much like NASA's Cassini probe did recently when it sped close to Enceladus, a moon of Saturn that has small geysers. Scientists used Hubble to watch Europa's silhouette as the moon moved across Jupiter's bright background. They looked, in ultraviolet light, for signs of plumes coming from the moon's surface. They did this 10 separate times over a period of 15 months, and saw what could be plumes on three occasions. NASA says the plumes are estimated to rise up about 125 miles, and presumably material then rains back down onto Europa's surface. Using Hubble in a different way, scientists previously saw hints that salty water occasionally travels up to the moon's surface. In 2012, the telescope detected evidence of water vapor above Europa's south polar region, suggesting the existence of plumes that shoot out into space. The agency's Juno spacecraft is currently in orbit around Jupiter, but it isn't slated to take any observations of Europa.
Study: Earth Is At Its Warmest In 120,000 Years
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As part of her doctoral dissertation at Stanford University, Carolyn Snyder, now a climate policy official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, created a continuous 2 million year temperature record, much longer than a previous 22,000 year record. Snyder's temperature reconstruction, published Monday in the journal Nature, doesn't estimate temperature for a single year, but averages 5,000-year time periods going back a couple million years. Snyder based her reconstruction on 61 different sea surface temperature proxies from across the globe, such as ratios between magnesium and calcium, species makeup and acidity. But the further the study goes back in time, especially after half a million years, the fewer of those proxies are available, making the estimates less certain, she said. These are rough estimates with large margins of errors, she said. But she also found that the temperature changes correlated well to carbon dioxide levels. Temperatures averaged out over the most recent 5,000 years -- which includes the last 125 years or so of industrial emissions of heat-trapping gases -- are generally warmer than they have been since about 120,000 years ago or so, Snyder found. And two interglacial time periods, the one 120,000 years ago and another just about 2 million years ago, were the warmest Snyder tracked. They were about 3.6 degrees (2 degrees Celsius) warmer than the current 5,000-year average. Snyder said if climate factors are the same as in the past -- and that's a big if -- Earth is already committed to another 7 degrees or so (about 4 degrees Celsius) of warming over the next few thousand years.

"This is based on what happened in the past, Snyder noted. "In the past it wasn't humans messing with the atmosphere."
Krebs Is Back Online Thanks To Google's Project Shield
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"After the massive 600gbps DDOS attack on that forced Akamai to withdraw their (pro-bono) DDOS protection, is now back online, hosted by Google,"

"I am happy to report that the site is back up -- this time under Project Shield, a free program run by Google to help protect journalists from online censorship," Brian Krebs wrote today, adding "The economics of mitigating large-scale DDoS attacks do not bode well for protecting the individual user, to say nothing of independent journalists...anyone with an axe to grind and the willingness to learn a bit about the technology can become an instant, self-appointed global censor." [T]he Internet can't route around censorship when the censorship is all-pervasive and armed with, for all practical purposes, near-infinite reach and capacity. I call this rather unwelcome and hostile development the "The Democratization of Censorship...." [E]vents of the past week have convinced me that one of the fastest-growing censorship threats on the Internet today comes not from nation-states, but from super-empowered individuals who have been quietly building extremely potent cyber weapons with transnational reach...

Akamai and its sister company Prolexic have stood by me through countless attacks over the past four years. It just so happened that this last siege was nearly twice the size of the next-largest attack they had ever seen before. Once it became evident that the assault was beginning to cause problems for the company's paying customers, they explained that the choice to let my site go was a business decision, pure and simple... In an interview with The Boston Globe, Akamai executives said the attack -- if sustained -- likely would have cost the company millions of dollars.

One site told Krebs that Akamai-style protection would cost him $150,000 a year. "Ask yourself how many independent journalists could possibly afford that kind of protection money?" He suspects the attack was a botnet of enslaved IoT devices -- mainly cameras, DVRs, and routers -- but says the situation is exacerbated by the failure of many ISPs to implement the BCP38 security standard to filter spoofed traffic, "allowing systems on their networks to be leveraged in large-scale DDoS attacks... the biggest offenders will continue to fly under the radar of public attention unless and until more pressure is applied by hardware and software makers, as well as ISPs that are doing the right thing... What appears to be missing is any sense of urgency to address the DDoS threat on a coordinated, global scale."
California Launches Mandatory Data Collection For Police Use-of-Force
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All 800 police departments in California must begin using a new online tool launched Thursday to report and help track every time officers use force that causes serious injuries... The tool, named URSUS for the bear on California's flag, includes fields for the race of those injured and the officers involved, how their interaction began and why force was deemed necessary.

"It's sort of like TurboTax for use-of-force incidents," said Justin Erlich, a special assistant attorney general overseeing the data collection and analysis. Departments must report the data under a new state law passed last November. Though some departments already tracked such data on their own, many did not... "As a country, we must engage in an honest, transparent, and data-driven conversation about police use of force," California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a news release.

It's an open source tool developed by Bayes Impact, and California plans to share the code with other interested law enforcement agencies across the country. Only three other states currently require their police departments to track data about use-of-force incidents, "but their systems aren't digital, and in Colorado's case, only capture shootings."
Our Atmosphere Is Leaking Oxygen and Scientists Don't Know Why
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The Earth's atmosphere has been leaking oxygen and scientists don't know why. Researchers discovered that over the past 800,000 years, atmospheric oxygen levels have dropped by 0.7 percent. How exactly did they discover the leak? By observing ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica, which contain trapped air bubbles representing snapshots of our atmosphere over the past million-odd years. Gizmodo reports:

By examining the ratio of oxygen to nitrogen isotopes within these cores, the researchers were able to pull out a trend: oxygen levels have fallen by 0.7 percent over the past 800,000 years, meaning sinks are roughly 2 percent larger than sources. Writing today in Science, the researchers offer a few possible explanations. For one, erosion rates appear to have sped up in recent geologic history, causing more fresh sediment to be exposed and oxidized by the atmosphere, causing more oxygen to be consumed. Long-term climate change could also be responsible. Recent human-induced warming aside, our planet's average temperature had been declining a bit over the past few million years. [Princeton University geologist Daniel Stolper] added that there could be other explanations, too, and figuring out which is correct could prove quite challenging. But learning what controls the knobs in our planet's oxygen cycle is worth the effort. It could help us understand what makes a planet habitable at all -- something scientists are rather keen on, given recent exoplanet discoveries. Stolper's analysis excluded one very unusual part of the record: the last 200 years of industrial human society. "We are consuming O2 at a rate a factor of a thousand times faster than before," Stolper said. "Humankind has completely short-circuited the cycle by burning tons of carbon."
Why the Silencing of KrebsOnSecurity Opens a Troubling Chapter For the Internet
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For the better part of a day, KrebsOnSecurity, arguably the world's most intrepid source of security news, has been silenced, presumably by a handful of individuals who didn't like a recent series of exposes reporter Brian Krebs wrote. The incident, and the record-breaking data assault that brought it on, open a troubling new chapter in the short history of the Internet. The crippling distributed denial-of-service attacks started shortly after Krebs published stories stemming from the hack of a DDoS-for-hire service known as vDOS. The first article analyzed leaked data that identified some of the previously anonymous people closely tied to vDOS. It documented how they took in more than $600,000 in two years by knocking other sites offline. A few days later, Krebs ran a follow-up piece detailing the arrests of two men who allegedly ran the service. A third post in the series is here. On Thursday morning, exactly two weeks after Krebs published his first post, he reported that a sustained attack was bombarding his site with as much as 620 gigabits per second of junk data. That staggering amount of data is among the biggest ever recorded. Krebs was able to stay online thanks to the generosity of Akamai, a network provider that supplied DDoS mitigation services to him for free. The attack showed no signs of waning as the day wore on. Some indications suggest it may have grown stronger. At 4 pm, Akamai gave Krebs two hours' notice that it would no longer assume the considerable cost of defending KrebsOnSecurity. Krebs opted to shut down the site to prevent collateral damage hitting his service provider and its customers. The assault against KrebsOnSecurity represents a much greater threat for at least two reasons. First, it's twice the size. Second and more significant, unlike the Spamhaus attacks, the staggering volume of bandwidth doesn't rely on misconfigured domain name system servers which, in the big picture, can be remedied with relative ease.

The attackers used Internet-of-things devices since they're always-connected and easy to "remotely commandeer by people who turn them into digital cannons that spray the internet with shrapnel." "The biggest threats as far as I'm concerned in terms of censorship come from these ginormous weapons these guys are building," Krebs said. "The idea that tools that used to be exclusively in the hands of nation states are now in the hands of individual actors, it's kind of like the specter of a James Bond movie." While Krebs could retain a DDoS mitigation service, it would cost him between $100,000 and $200,000 per year for the type of protection he needs, which is more than he can afford. What's especially troubling is that this attack can happen to many other websites, not just KrebsOnSecurity.
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. 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

"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,
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. 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, 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. 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 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."

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