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2022-01-22 10:27:28 UTC
2022-01-23 14:31:03 UTC --martyb
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Australian scientists say they have discovered an unknown spinning object in the Milky Way that they claim is unlike anything seen before.
The object - first discovered by a university student - has been observed to release a huge burst of radio energy for a full minute every 18 minutes. Objects that pulse energy in the universe are often documented. But researchers say something that turns on for a minute is highly unusual.
The team is working to understand more. The object was first discovered by Curtin University Honours student Tyrone O'Doherty in a region of the Western Australian outback known as the Murchison Widefield Array, using a telescope and a new technique he had developed.
[...] Theories around what the object might be include a neutron star or a white dwarf - a term used for the remnants of a collapsed star. However, much of the discovery remains a mystery.
"More detections will tell astronomers whether this was a rare one-off event or a vast new population we'd never noticed before," Dr Hurley-Walker said. "I'm looking forward to understanding this object and then extending the search to find more."
The proposed Product Security and Telecoms Infrastructure Bill will receive its second reading in the House of Commons today in a debate to be opened by current digital secretary Nadine Dorries, as it takes a significant step forward towards becoming law.
The bill – which mandates improved cyber protections for smartphones and other smart or connected internet of things (IoT) devices – has been years in the making. Its scope has expanded over time to include new provisions that will supposedly spur the roll-out of full-fibre broadband services by making it easier for operators to upgrade and share infrastructure, and reform the process of how they go about negotiating with landowners to whose property they need access.
At its core it places strict new requirements on the manufacturers and retailers of connected consumer technology, banning easy-to-guess default passwords programmed onto devices, creating a vulnerability-reporting system, and forcing manufacturers to be upfront about how long their products will receive security updates.
Failure to comply could result in fines of up to £10m, or 4% of global turnover, and up to £20,000 for every day in the case of ongoing breaches.
“Whether it’s your phone, smart speaker or fitness tracker, it’s vital that these devices are kept secure from cyber criminals,” said Dorries.
“Every product on our shelves has to meet all sorts of minimum requirements, like being fire resistant or [noting if it’s] a choking hazard, and this is no different for the digital age where products can now carry a cyber security risk.
“We are legislating to protect people across the UK and keep pace with technology as it transforms our everyday lives,” she said.
The bill will apply to any device that can access the internet, including smartphones and smart TVs, games consoles, security cameras and connected alarms, smart toys and baby monitoring kit, smart home hubs and voice activated assistants (such as Alexa) and connected appliances such as washing machines and fridges.
US Navy wants to get crashed stealth fighter back -- before China can
The F-35C, a single-engine stealth fighter and the newest jet in the US Navy fleet, crash-landed on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during routine operations on Monday, the Navy said.
The $100 million warplane impacted the flight deck of the 100,000-ton aircraft carrier and then fell into the sea as its pilot ejected, Navy officials said. The pilot and six sailors aboard the Vinson were injured.
While damage to the Vinson was only superficial, and it and the carrier's air wing have resumed normal operations, the Navy faces the daunting task of attempting to pull the F-35 off the ocean floor in some of the most contested waters on the planet.
The Navy is giving scant details on its recovery plans for the F-35C, the first of which only became operational in 2019.
People with type 1 diabetes should be screened regularly for obesity and chronic kidney disease, according to a study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Almost half of the adults in the United States have obesity, a chronic progressive disease characterized by an individual having an excess of body fat. Obesity is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and people with obesity are at an increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions such as diabetes, heart and liver disease. Obesity is a main risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, but it has not been previously seen as a major complication in type 1 diabetes.
In type 1 diabetes, the body completely stops making insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the body produces insulin, but the cells do not respond to insulin as well as they should and later in the disease often do not make enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes is more likely to occur in people who are over the age of 40, overweight, and have a family history of diabetes, although more and more younger people, are developing type 2 diabetes.
“Our study shows that obesity rates in adults with type 1 diabetes are increasing and mirror the rates in the general adult population,” said Elizabeth Selvin, Ph.D., M.P.H., of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. “Our research also highlights the high risk of kidney disease in people with type 1 diabetes. Kidney disease is often considered more common in people with type 2 diabetes, but our data shows adults with type 1 diabetes actually had a higher risk of kidney disease than those with type 2.”
[...] Reference: “Obesity and Chronic Kidney Disease in U.S. Adults with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus” 26 January 2022, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
A while back, Google said that it was on board with the idea that cookies--the little pieces of software code that websites use to do all sorts of things like keeping you logged in, to letting an advertiser know when you've clicked on their ad and then made a purchase--were bad. At least, the third-party kind--the ones that track your activity across the internet. Those types of cookies would be blocked in Chrome by 2023.
[...] Google's real problem is that it can't just shut off third-party cookies entirely since that would be very bad for its competition and might look like it was leveraging the fact that not only does it control the world's largest advertising platform, but also its most popular web browser, Chrome. Considering the attention that regulators and lawmakers are paying to big tech companies, that was a non-starter.
So, Google said it would introduce an alternative known as Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoC. The short version is that Chrome would track your browsing history and use it to identify you as a part of a cohort of other users with similar interests. Advertisers would then target ads to the "I like to buy expensive ski outfits," cohort, or the "I just turned 50 and have 2 kids about to enter college and want to re-finance my mortgage" cohort.
[...] Now, Google is introducing an alternative it calls Topics. The idea is that Chrome will look at your browsing activity and identify up to five topics that it thinks you're interested in. When you visit a website, Chrome will show it three of those topics, with the idea that the site will then show you an ad that matches your interest.
Google says that Chrome will allow users to view the Topics they are associated with, and give them the ability to delete them. Google isn't asking users if they'd like to be part of Topics, it's just leveraging the fact that it owns Chrome in order to force users to be a part and then giving them a way to opt out if they want. That's great, except almost no one is ever going to do that. Google knows that.
According to Tesla's shareholder deck for Q4, which was released on Wednesday, not only was the company profitable, but it exceeded analyst estimates for revenue by over a billion dollars. Not bad when you're over a billion bucks ahead of the game, right?
[...] In the production department, things were similarly rosy. The company reported that it increased overall production of all its vehicles combined by 70% versus Q4 of 2020. Of course, that's not super surprising given what 2020 was like. Interestingly, Model S and Model X production was down 19% year over year, while the Model 3 and Model Y were up by 79%, which shows the brand's continued commitment to its more affordable models.
[...] Tesla also continued to expand its Supercharger network to a total of 3,476 stations with 31,498 plugs. That's a bump of 36% in stations over 2020, which is pretty respectable, especially considering supply chain issues and their effect on everything construction-related.
IBM has sold its underachieving IBM Watson Health unit for an undisclosed price tag to a global investment firm after almost a year's worth of rumors that said IBM has been trying to exit this part of its business.
In a terse Jan. 21 announcement, IBM said that Francisco Partners is acquiring the healthcare data and analytics assets from the IBM Watson Health business unit, including Health Insights, MarketScan, Clinical Development, Social Program Management, Micromedex, and imaging software offerings.
Rumors about IBM wanting to sell its Watson Health unit – which reportedly brought in $1 billion in revenue annually but has failed to make a profit – have been circulating in the press at least twice since at least February of 2021. The reports said the move was being eyed so that Big Blue could get out of the healthcare market and focus its operations and sights on the lucrative cloud computing market.
A Jan. 21 report on the sale by Bloomberg said the value of the assets involved in the transaction total more than $1 billion, according to people familiar with the plans.
According to IBM's announcement, which is the first time that the company has commented on a possible sale of IBM Watson Health since the rumors began, the transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of this year and is subject to customary regulatory clearances.
What is unclear from the company's press release is whether the sale includes all the analytics and data holdings from Watson Health or if IBM will retain any part of that business at all. The release does not give any further details on the nature of the sale.
BBYY, as the adult female [hare (Lepus arcticus)] was known, made a wild dash of more than 388 kilometers [~384 miles] in 49 days — the longest distance ever recorded among hares, rabbits or any other relatives — researchers report online December 22 in Ecology.
[...] Arctic hares — which weigh roughly the same as house cats, about four kilograms [~9 pounds] — are desirable prey for foxes and wolves on the tundra. Given the hares' important role in the Arctic food web, mammalian ecologist Dominque Berteaux of the Université du Québec à Rimouski wanted to know how the animals move across the arid landscape.
In 2019, Berteaux and colleagues affixed satellite tracking collars on 25 hares captured near the northern tip of Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, Canada. As the hares swiftly hopped away, the researchers had no idea the creatures were beginning a mind-blowing expedition across the tundra, Berteaux says. That's because hares and their relatives, called lagomorphs (SN: 3/8/58), typically spend their lives within a single, familiar territory where food is plentiful and easy to find.
[...] For a hare to endure such a perilous journey, it must balance the need to find food without becoming food, says Dennis Murray, a terrestrial ecologist at Trent University in Peterborough, Canada, who wasn't involved in the work. That makes BBYY's excursion even more impressive, he says.
Sandra Lai, Émilie Desjardins, Jacob Caron-Carrier, et al. Unsuspected mobility of Arctic hares revealed by longest journey ever recorded in a lagomorph, Ecology (DOI: 10.1002/ecy.3620)
Engineering researchers from North Carolina State University have demonstrated a new type of flexible, robotic grippers that are able to lift delicate egg yolks without breaking them, and that are precise enough to lift a human hair. The work has applications for both soft robotics and biomedical technologies.
The work draws on the art of kirigami[*], which involves both cutting and folding two-dimensional (2D) sheets of material to form three-dimensional (3D) shapes. Specifically, the researchers have developed a new technique that involves using kirigami to convert 2D sheets into curved 3D structures by cutting parallel slits across much of the material. The final shape of the 3D structure is determined in large part by the outer boundary of the material. For example, a 2D material that has a circular boundary would form a spherical 3D shape.
"We have defined and demonstrated a model that allows users to work backwards," says Yaoye Hong, first author of a paper on the work and a Ph.D. student at NC State. "If users know what sort of curved, 3D structure they need, they can use our approach to determine the boundary shape and pattern of slits they need to use in the 2D material. And additional control of the final structure is made possible by controlling the direction in which the material is pushed or pulled."
"Our technique is quite a bit simpler than previous techniques for converting 2D materials into curved 3D structures, and it allows designers to create a wide variety of customized structures from 2D materials," says Jie Yin, corresponding author of the paper and an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State.
The researchers demonstrated the utility of their technique by creating grippers capable of grabbing and lifting objects ranging from egg yolks to a human hair.
[*] Kirigami on Wikipedia.
Yong Zhu, Yinding Chi, Shuang Wu, Yanbin Li. Boundary curvature guided programmable shape-morphing kirigami sheets [open], Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-28187-x)
[...] This vulnerability is easy to exploit. And, with it, any ordinary user can gain full root privileges on a vulnerable computer by exploiting this vulnerability in its default configuration. As Qualys wrote in its brief description of the problem: "This vulnerability is an attacker's dream come true."
[...] Why is it so bad? Let us count the ways:
- Pkexec is installed by default on all major Linux distributions.
- Qualys has exploited Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and CentOS in their tests, and they're sure other distributions are also exploitable.
- Pkexec has been vulnerable since its creation in May 2009 (commit c8c3d83, "Add a pkexec(1) command").
- An unprivileged local user can exploit this vulnerability to get full root privileges.
- Although this vulnerability is technically a memory corruption, it is exploitable instantly and reliably in an architecture-independent way.
- And, last but not least, it's exploitable even if the polkit daemon itself is not running.
Red Hat rates the PwnKit as having a Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) score of 7.8. This is high.
When used correctly, Polkit provides an organized way for non-privileged processes to communicate with privileged processes. It is also possible to use polkit to execute commands with elevated privileges using the command pkexec followed by the command intended to be executed with root permission.
Quantum computing. Unlike traditional computers that use bits, quantum computers use qubits to encode information as zeros or ones, or both at the same time. Coupled with a cocktail of forces from quantum physics, these refrigerator-sized machines can process a whole lot of information — but they're far from flawless. Just like our regular computers, we need to have the right programming languages to properly compute on quantum computers.
Programming quantum computers requires awareness of something called "entanglement," a computational multiplier for qubits of sorts, which translates to a lot of power. When two qubits are entangled, actions on one qubit can change the value of the other, even when they are physically separated, giving rise to Einstein's characterization of "spooky action at a distance." But that potency is equal parts a source of weakness. When programming, discarding one qubit without being mindful of its entanglement with another qubit can destroy the data stored in the other, jeopardizing the correctness of the program.
Scientists from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (CSAIL) aimed to do some unraveling by creating their own programming language for quantum computing called Twist. Twist can describe and verify which pieces of data are entangled in a quantum program, through a language a classical programmer can understand. The language uses a concept called purity, which enforces the absence of entanglement and results in more intuitive programs, with ideally fewer bugs. For example, a programmer can use Twist to say that the temporary data generated as garbage by a program is not entangled with the program's answer, making it safe to throw away.
While the nascent field can feel a little flashy and futuristic, with images of mammoth wiry gold machines coming to mind, quantum computers have potential for computational breakthroughs in classically unsolvable tasks, like cryptographic and communication protocols, search, and computational physics and chemistry. One of the key challenges in computational sciences is dealing with the complexity of the problem and the amount of computation needed. Whereas a classical digital computer would need a very large exponential number of bits to be able to process such a simulation, a quantum computer could do it, potentially, using a very small number of qubits — if the right programs are there.
"Our language Twist allows a developer to write safer quantum programs by explicitly stating when a qubit must not be entangled with another," says Charles Yuan, an MIT PhD student in electrical engineering and computer science and the lead author on a new paper about Twist. "Because understanding quantum programs requires understanding entanglement, we hope that Twist paves the way to languages that make the unique challenges of quantum computing more accessible to programmers."
Charles Yuan, Christopher McNally, and Michael Carbin. "Twist: Sound Reasoning for Purity and Entanglement in Quantum Programs" POPL 2022
The SAT standardized college admissions tests will be taken exclusively on computers starting in 2024, The New York Times has reported. The new system will spell the end to tests taken on paper with No. 2 pencils, a right of passage for American high school students since the SAT was first administered nearly a hundred years ago.
Students will instead complete the exams on laptops or tablets, either their own or devices issued by the school. If students don't have a device, the board will provide one on the test day. And if a student loses power or connectivity, "the digital SAT has been designed to ensure they won't lose their work or time while they reconnect," said the College Board, which administers the tests.
On top of the technical changes, the testing time will be shortened to two hours instead of three. It'll feature shorter reading passages with one question for each, reflecting a wider range of topics more representative of what students will see in college. For the math section, calculators will finally be allowed. And students and teachers will get test scores in days rather than weeks, with educators no longer having to deal with packing, sorting or shipping test materials.
[...] Critics have also noted that the SAT tests handicap students who don't have access to expensive test preparation courses or who can't afford to take the $55 test multiple times. The digital SAT shift "does not magically transform it to a more accurate, fairer or valid tool for assessing college readiness," Schaefer told the NYT. The College Board, meanwhile, has said that SAT scores can actually help students who don't have top-flight grade-point averages.
Researchers at RMIT [(Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology)] have developed a new method for quickly converting carbon dioxide into solid carbon, which can be stored indefinitely or turned into useful materials. The technology works by bubbling CO2 up through a tube of liquid metal, and it's designed to be easy to integrate into the source of emissions.
[...] The RMIT team's new system uses liquid metal, specifically an alloy called Eutectic Gallium-Indium (EGaIn), which is heated to between 100 and 120 °C (212 and 248 °F). Then, carbon dioxide is injected into the mix, and as the bubbles rise, the CO2 molecules split into flakes of solid carbon. These float to the top, making it easy to collect the material.
The team says that the design of the system should be relatively easy to scale up and implement at the point of emission. The reaction occurs quickly and efficiently, and the heat required is also relatively low, and could be supplied by renewable sources. All of these are improvements on the team's earlier work, which required more hands-on steps.
[...] Solid carbon, on the other hand, is stable, and could be stored more or less indefinitely without risk of leakage. The team says this could be buried again, or, more promisingly, used for other industrial applications, such as making concrete.
The next steps for the team are to scale up the system to a modular prototype that's about the size of a shipping container.
Karma Zuraiqi, Ali Zavabeti, Jonathan Clarke-Hannaford, et al. Direct conversion of CO2 to solid carbon by Ga-based liquid metals, Energy & Environmental Science (DOI: 10.1039/D1EE03283F)
NVIDIA faced strong opposition from regulatory bodies in their bid to purchase ARM Holdings, a British company owning the IP of its RISC (reduced instruction set computer) architectures. After numerous attempts to convince the market and governments that could oppose such a transaction, NVIDIA has allegedly given up the plans, which means that it will have to mark a $1.25 billion loss, money that should be considered a breakup fee.
NVIDIA's original plan was to pay 40 billion USD for the company. However, the US chipmaker no longer expects this transaction to close.
Nvidia Considering Acquisition of ARM for Over $32 Billion
Nvidia Announces $40 Billion Acquisition of Arm Holdings
Nvidia-Branded ARM CPUs; UK Trade Union Speaks Out Against Deal
Nvidia's $40 Billion ARM Acquisition: "All but Dead"?
European Commission Extends Probe of Nvidia's Arm Acquisition
Nvidia Reveals FTC has Expressed Concerns Over $40 Billion Arm Deal
U.S. Federal Trade Commission Sues to Block Nvidia's Arm Acquisition
The James Webb Space Telescope has finally arrived at its new home. After a Christmas launch and a month of unfolding and assembling itself in space, the new space observatory reached its final destination, a spot known as L2.
Guiding the telescope to L2 is "an incredible accomplishment by the entire team," said Webb's commissioning manager Keith Parrish in a January 24 news conference announcing the arrival. "The last 30 days, we call that '30 days on the edge.' We're just so proud to be through that." But the team's work is not yet done. "We were just setting the table. We were just getting this beautiful spacecraft unfolded and ready to do science. So the best is yet to come," he said.
The telescope can't start doing science yet. "We're a month in and the baby hasn't even opened its eyes yet," said Jane Rigby of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Everything we're doing is about getting the observatory ready to do transformative science. That's why we're here."
There are still several months' worth of tasks on Webb's to-do list before the telescope is ready to peep at the earliest light in the universe or spy on exoplanets' alien atmospheres (SN: 10/6/21).
"That doesn't mean there's anything wrong," says astronomer Scott Friedman of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, who is managing this next phase of Webb's journey. "Everything could go perfectly, and it would still take six months" from launch for the telescope's science instruments to be ready for action, he says.