By EditorDavid from Slashdot's taking-a-ride-on-heavy-metal department
Long-time Slashdot reader darkwing_bmf writes: In an exclusive interview with Popular Mechanics, SpaceX founder Elon Musk explains why stainless steel is the best material to build rocket ships, beating carbon fiber in cost, durability and even weight.
"As far as we know, this marks the first time the material has been used in spacecraft construction since some early, ill-fated attempts during the Atlas program in the late 1950s," reports Popular Mechanics.
"It took me quite a bit of effort to convince the team to go in this direction..." Musk tells them. But among the other benefits "It has a high melting point. Much higher than aluminum, and although carbon fiber doesn't melt, the resin gets destroyed at a certain temperature... But steel, you can do 1500, 1600 degrees Fahrenheit."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-infectious department
schwit1 quotes ABC News: Vaccines are universally backed by respected scientists and federal agencies, but that isn't enough to convince every parent to vaccinate their children. The decision to fly in the face of near universal scientific opinion doesn't come as a result of a lack of intellect, however, as experts who have studied vaccines and immunology acknowledge that many parents who don't vaccinate their children are well-educated. They also appear to be the victims of a widespread misinformation campaign, the experts said.
Daniel Salmon, who is the director of the Institute of Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University, said that existing research suggests that there are some common attributes that many parents who choose not to vaccinate their children share. "They tend to be better educated. They tend to be white, and they tend to be higher income. They tend to have larger families and they tend to use complementary and alternative medicine like chiropractors and naturopaths," Salmon said.
Salman also says outbreaks typically start when an American returns from a visit to Europe, where there are much higher rates of measles than in the U.S. But lower vaccination rates help it spread.
One study in August reported Russian trolls "seem to be using vaccination as a wedge issue, promoting discord in American society," though their campaign on Twitter failed to gain traction.
"I blame Amazon Prime," writes long-time Slashdot reader destinyland. "That 'misinformation' they're talking about is the pseudoscience documentary Vaxxed -- and Amazon is one of the top site's pushing it. The movie is not only free for all Prime members -- Amazon's actually featuring it on the front page showing free-with-Prime movies."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's dead-or-alive department
PolygamousRanchKid quotes LiveScience: A laser pulse bounced off a rubidium atom and entered the quantum world -- taking on the weird physics of "Schrodinger's cat." The laser pulses didn't grow whiskers or paws. But they became like the famous quantum-physics thought experiment Schrodinger's cat in an important way: They were large objects that acted like the simultaneously dead-and-alive creatures of subatomic physics -- existing in a limbo between two simultaneous, contradictory states.
"In our experiment, the [laser cat] was sent to the detector immediately, so it was destroyed right after its creation," said Bastian Hacker, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Germany, who worked on the experiment. But it didn't have to be that way, Hacker told Live Science.
"An optical state can live forever. So if we had sent the pulse out into the night sky, it could live for billions of years in its [cat-like] state." That longevity is part of what makes these pulses so useful, he added. A long-lived laser cat can survive long-term travel through an optical fiber, making it a good unit of information for a network of quantum computers...
In the new experiment, described in a paper published Jan. 14 in the journal Nature Photonics, researchers created laser pulses that are in superposition between two possible quantum states. They called the little pulses "flying optical cat states...."
"Cat states can encode quantum information in a way that allows [us] to detect optical loss and correct for it. Although every optical transmission has losses, the information can be transmitted perfectly."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Kiting-checks department
An AI-enhanced tool that suggests code snippets for Python developers in real time just raised $17 million in VC funding to expand its R&D team "with a focus on accelerating developer productivity."
An anonymous reader quotes VentureBeat:
"Our mission is to bring the latest advancements in AI and machine learning (ML) to make writing code fluid, effortless, and more enjoyable," explained [founder Adam] Smith. "Developers using Kite can focus their productive energy toward solving the next big technical challenges, instead of searching the web for code examples illustrating mundane and frequently repeated code patterns...."
Instead of relying on the cloud to run its AI engine, Kite now runs locally on a user's computer, letting developers use it offline and without having to upload any code. (Kite still trains its machine learning models with thousands of publicly available code sources from highly rated developers.) Furthermore, running locally allows Kite to fully operate with lower latencies... In addition to ditching the cloud, the new version of Kite brings a feature the team calls Line-of-Code Completions. Until now, Kite's machine learning models could only suggest the next "token" in a line of code. Line-of-Code Completions can complete entire function calls with a single keystroke... The team boasts that Kite is "the only developer product on the market to offer such advanced completions."
"Today, Kite is used by more than 30,000 Python developers worldwide," reports VentureBeat, adding it locally-based ML plugin is available for top Python IDEs including Visual Studio Code, Atom, Sublime Text, PyCharm, IntelliJ, and Vim.
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's email@example.com department
A Dutch security researcher says he found credentials for the Russian government's backdoor account for accessing servers of businesses operating in Russia, ZDNet reports:
The researcher says that after his initial finding, he later found the same "firstname.lastname@example.org" account on over 2,000 other MongoDB databases that had been left exposed online, all belonging to local and foreign businesses operating in Russia. Examples include databases belonging to local banks, financial institutions, big telcos, and even Disney Russia.... "The first time I saw these credentials was in the user table of a Russian Lotto website," Victor Gevers told ZDNet in an interview Monday. "I had to do some digging to understand that the Kremlin requires remote access to systems that handle financial transactions....
"All the systems this password was on were already fully accessible to anyone," Gevers said. "The MongoDB databases were deployed with default settings. So anyone without authentication had CRUD [Create, Read, Update and Delete] access."
"It took a lot of time and also many attempts to contact and warn the Kremlin about this issue," the researcher added -- specifically, three years, five months and 15 days. The Kremlin reused the same credentials "everywhere," reports IT News, "leaving a large number of businesses open to access from the internet."
Long-time Slashdot reader Bismillah calls it "an illustration of the dangers of giving governments backdoors into systems and networks."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's balancings-of-the-clouds department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Atlantic: Meteorologists have never gotten a shiny magazine cover or a brooding Aaron Sorkin film, and the weather-research hub of Norman, Oklahoma, is rarely mentioned in the same breath as Palo Alto. But over the past few decades, scientists have gotten significantly -- even staggeringly -- better at predicting the weather. How much better? "A modern five-day forecast is as accurate as a one-day forecast was in 1980," says a new paper, published last week in the journal Science. "Useful forecasts now reach nine to 10 days into the future." "Modern 72-hour predictions of hurricane tracks are more accurate than 24-hour forecasts were 40 years ago," the authors write. The federal government now predicts storm surge, stream level, and the likelihood of drought. It has also gotten better at talking about its forecasts: As I wrote in 2017, the National Weather Service has dropped professional jargon in favor of clear, direct, and everyday language. "Everybody's improving, and they're improving a lot," says Richard Alley, an author of the paper and a geoscientist at Penn State.
< article continued at Slashdot's balancings-of-the-clouds department
>Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's further-expansion department
More than a year after Facebook commercially launched Express Wi-Fi in five markets, it is ready to bring the connectivity service to the sixth: Ghana. From a report: In partnership with telecom operator Vodafone Ghana, Facebook today launched Express Wi-Fi, part of Internet.org initiative, in the suburban communities of the Western African nation. The service, available locally in Nima, James Town, Kanda, Pig Farm, and Abossey Okine in the capital city Accra, will aim to offer "carrier-grade Wi-Fi" to people living in some remote communities that lack fiber optic cables.
Ever since India booted Free Basics in early 2016, Facebook has seemingly grown cautious about its connectivity efforts. The company has stopped updating the social media page and press page of Internet.org. Last year, we learned that Facebook had quietly pulled Internet.org from a handful of emerging markets. In recent months, however, it has quietly expanded Internet.org to two new markets -- Morocco (in North Africa) and Laos (in Southeast Asia).Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's controversial-research department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: A scientist in New York is conducting experiments designed to modify DNA in human embryos as a step toward someday preventing inherited diseases, NPR has learned. For now, the work is confined to a laboratory. But the research, if successful, would mark another step toward turning CRISPR, a powerful form of gene editing, into a tool for medical treatment. Dieter Egli, a developmental biologist at Columbia University, says he is conducting his experiments "for research purposes." He wants to determine whether CRISPR can safely repair mutations in human embryos to prevent genetic diseases from being passed down for generations. So far, Egli has stopped any modified embryos from developing beyond one day so he can study them. "Right now we are not trying to make babies. None of these cells will go into the womb of a person," he says. But if the approach is successful, Egli would likely allow edited embryos to develop further to continue his research. Egli's research is reviewed in advance and overseen by a panel of other scientists and bioethicists at Columbia. Specifically, Egli is trying to fix one of the genetic defects that cause retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited form of blindness. "If it works, the hope is that the approach could help blind people carrying the mutation have genetically related children whose vision is normal," reports NPR.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's spreading-the-word department
iFixit, a company that advocates for the right for users to repair their own devices, is hosting live town halls on YouTube to help get new people involved in the movement. "We're going to do them every two weeks while the legislative season is in full swing," Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, told Motherboard in an email. Motherboard reports: The first town hall aired on Thursday, and featured prominent right to repair leaders like Repair.org's Gay Gordon-Byrne and US PIRG's Nathan Proctor. The broadcast covered topics such as the benefits of right to repair to consumers and the environment, and gave out information on how to talk to legislators about right to repair laws. Thanks to the right to repair movement's efforts, 15 states have introduced right to repair legislation in 2019 so far. Repair.org and iFixit's livestream gives people in those states information to help push their legislators to vote for bills protecting the people's right to repair. People living in states where legislation isn't yet being considered can learn all about how to kickstart their own local movements.
Getting involved in the push for right to repair legislation is as simple as watching a recording of the first town hall broadcast. From there, you can then head over to Repair.org's advocacy page, where, you can navigate to a direct link for each state that will tell you where right to repair legislation stands in your community, who your legislators are, and how to get in contact with them. If folks across America agitate for change, we can enjoy a future where people can freely repair their own devices.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sneaky-bastards department
Google has banned dozens of Android apps downloaded millions of times from the official Play Store after researchers discovered they were being used to display phishing and scam ads or perform other malicious acts. Ars Technica reports: A blog post published by security firm Trend Micro listed 29 camera- or photo-related apps, with the top 11 of them fetching 100,000 to 1 million downloads each. One crop of apps caused browsers to display full-screen ads when users unlocked their devices. Clicking the pop-up ads in some cases caused a paid online pornography player to be downloaded, although it was incapable of playing content. The apps were carefully designed to conceal their malicious capabilities. The apps also hid their icons from the Android app list. That made it hard for users to uninstall the apps, since there was no icon to drag and delete. The apps also used compression archives known as packers to make it harder for researchers -- or presumably, tools Google might use to weed out malicious apps -- from analyzing the wares.
Trend Micro researchers discovered another batch of apps that falsely promised to allow users to "beautify" their pictures by uploading them to a designated server. Instead of delivering an edited photo, however, the server provided a picture with a fake update prompt in nine different languages. The apps made it possible for the developers to collect the uploaded photos, possibly for use in fake profile pics or for other malicious purposes. The developers took pains to prevent users from detecting what was happening. "The remote server used by these apps is encoded with BASE64 twice in the code," Wu wrote. "In addition, several of these apps can also hide themselves via the same hidden technique mentioned above."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's not-so-private-genetic-testing department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BuzzFeed News: Family Tree DNA, one of the largest private genetic testing companies whose home-testing kits enable people to trace their ancestry and locate relatives, is working with the FBI and allowing agents to search its vast genealogy database in an effort to solve violent crime cases, BuzzFeed News has learned. Federal and local law enforcement have used public genealogy databases for more than two years to solve cold cases, including the landmark capture of the suspected Golden State Killer, but the cooperation with Family Tree DNA and the FBI marks the first time a private firm has agreed to voluntarily allow law enforcement access to its database. While the FBI does not have the ability to freely browse genetic profiles in the library, the move is sure to raise privacy concerns about law enforcement gaining the ability to look for DNA matches, or more likely, relatives linked by uploaded user data.
The Houston-based company, which touts itself as a pioneer in the genetic testing industry and the first to offer a direct-to-consumer test kit, disclosed its relationship with the FBI to BuzzFeed News on Thursday, saying in a statement that allowing access "would help law enforcement agencies solve violent crimes faster than ever." While Family Tree does not have a contract with the FBI, the firm has agreed to test DNA samples and upload the profiles to its database on a case-by-case basis since last fall, a company spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. Its work with the FBI is "a very new development, which started with one case last year and morphed," she said. To date, the company has cooperated with the FBI on fewer than 10 cases. The Family Tree database is free to access and can be used by anyone with a DNA profile to upload, not just paying customers.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's finger-pointing department
chicksdaddy shares a report from The Security Ledger: The North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) imposed its stiffest fine to date for violations of Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) cybersecurity regulations. But who violated the standards and much of what the agency found remains secret. In a heavily redacted 250-page regulatory filing, NERC fined undisclosed companies belonging to a so-called "Regional Entity" $10 million for 127 violations of the Critical Infrastructure Protection standards, the U.S.'s main cyber security standard for critical infrastructure including the electric grid. Thirteen of the violations listed were rated as a "serious risk" to the operation of the Bulk Power System and 62 were rated a "moderate risk." Together, the "collective risk of the 127 violations posed a serious risk to the reliability of the (Bulk Power System)," NERC wrote. The fines come as the U.S. intelligence community is warning Congress of the growing risk of cyber attacks on the U.S. electric grid. In testimony this week, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats specifically called out Russia's use of cyber attacks to cause social disruptions, citing that country's campaign against Ukraine's electric infrastructure in 2015 and 2016. The extensively redacted document provides no information on which companies were fined or where they are located, citing the risk of cyber attack should their identity be known. Regional Entities account for virtually all of the electricity supplied in the U.S. They are made up of investor-owned utilities; federal power agencies; rural electric cooperatives; state, municipal, and provincial utilities; independent power producers; power marketers; and end-use customers. However, details in the report provide some insight into the fines. For example, violations of a CIP statue that requires companies to "manage electronic access to (Bulk Electric System) Cyber Systems by specifying a controlled Electronic Security Perimeter" is rated a serious risk. So too are violations of CIP requirements calling for covered entities to "implement and document" access controls for "all electronic access points to the Electronic Security Perimeter(s)." Specific requirements that were violated suggest that the companies failed to implement access controls that "denies access by default," "enable only ports and services required for operations and for monitoring Cyber Assets within the Electronic Security Perimeter," and ensure the authenticity of parties attempting to remotely access the company's "electronic security perimeter."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's make-up-your-damn-mind department
Citing a phone conversation with President Trump, Foxconn said it will proceed with plans to build a government-subsidized plant in Wisconsin to make liquid crystal display screens. The news capped a week of reversals about the Taiwanese company's plans in the state. CBS News reports: Foxconn drew headlines in 2017 when it said the company would invest $10 billion in Wisconsin and hire 13,000 people to build a factory to make screens for televisions and other devices. State leaders offered nearly $4 billion in tax incentives to help seal the deal. Last year Foxconn said it would reduce the scale of the factory from what is known as a "Gen 10" factory to "Gen 6". But this week, Foxconn executive Louis Woo seemed to move away from a factory altogether, saying the company couldn't compete in the TV screen market and would not be making LCD panels in Wisconsin.
On Friday, in yet another twist, Foxconn said that, after discussions with the White House and a personal conversation between Mr. Trump and Foxconn chairman Terry Gou, it will proceed with the smaller manufacturing facility. Woo told Reuters earlier this week that about three-quarters of workers in Wisconsin would be in research and development, not manufacturing, and that the facility would be more of a research hub. Foxconn, the world's largest electronics company, said Friday the campus would house both an advanced manufacturing facility and a center of "technology innovation for the region."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cut-ties department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Snopes, a fact-checking organization, announced on Friday its decision to end its partnership with Facebook, which has been ramping its efforts to curb misinformation on its services since the 2016 U.S. election. Facebook and Snopes had been working together since December 2016 to fact check content on the social network. The company in 2017 paid Snopes as much as $100,000 for the work, according to Snopes. "At this time we are evaluating the ramifications and costs of providing third-party fact-checking services, and we want to determine with certainty that our efforts to aid any particular platform are a net positive for our online community, publication, and staff," Snopes said in a statement. Snopes said it has not closed the door on working with the company again, but it encouraged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to meet "with fact-checkers as part of his recently announced series of public discussions" in 2019. The partnership is ending weeks after a report by The Guardian, in which multiple former Snopes employees criticized Facebook's efforts to stop fake content on its services.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
One of the most important takeaways from Amazon's 2018 fourth-quarter and full-year earnings report, released Jan. 31, had little to do with the usual financial results. Amazon disclosed in the report that it received a record 850,000 work applications for hourly jobs in the US in October 2018 after announcing it would raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour starting Nov. 1. From a report: The company said that was more than double its previous record for job applications received in a single month. Amazon said the new $15 minimum affects more than 250,000 employees in the US and 17,000 employees in the UK (where the increase was 10.50 pound in the London area and 9.50 pound everywhere else), plus more than 200,000 workers who were hired for the holiday season. As of Dec. 31, Amazon had 647,500 full- and part-time employees, up 14% from the same period a year earlier.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's advances-in-robotics department
In the basement of MIT's Building 3, a robot is carefully contemplating its next move. It gently pokes at a tower of blocks, looking for the best block to extract without toppling the tower, in a solitary, slow-moving, yet surprisingly agile game of Jenga. From a report: The robot, developed by MIT engineers, is equipped with a soft-pronged gripper, a force-sensing wrist cuff, and an external camera, all of which it uses to see and feel the tower and its individual blocks. As the robot carefully pushes against a block, a computer takes in visual and tactile feedback from its camera and cuff, and compares these measurements to moves that the robot previously made. It also considers the outcomes of those moves -- specifically, whether a block, in a certain configuration and pushed with a certain amount of force, was successfully extracted or not. In real-time, the robot then "learns" whether to keep pushing or move to a new block, in order to keep the tower from falling.
Details of the Jenga-playing robot are published in the journal Science Robotics. Alberto Rodriguez, the Walter Henry Gale Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, says the robot demonstrates something that's been tricky to attain in previous systems: the ability to quickly learn the best way to carry out a task, not just from visual cues, as it is commonly studied today, but also from tactile, physical interactions.Read Replies (0)