By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Mark Zuckerberg and his pediatrician wife Priscilla Chan have sold close to 30 million shares of Facebook to fund an ambitious biomedical research project, called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), with a goal of curing all disease within a generation. A less publicized component of that US$5 billion program includes work on brain-machine interfaces, devices that essentially translate thoughts into commands.
From a report: One recent project is a wireless brain implant that can record, stimulate and disrupt the movement of a monkey in real time. In a paper published in the highly cited scientific journal Nature on Monday, researchers detail a wireless brain device implanted in a primate that records, stimulates, and modifies its brain activity in real time, sensing a normal movement and stopping it immediately. Those researchers are part of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, a non-profit medical research group within the CZI. Scientists refer to the interference as "therapy" because it is designed to be used to treat diseases like epilepsy or Parkinson's by stopping a seizure or other disruptive motion just as it starts.
"Our device is able to monitor the primate's brain while it's providing the therapy so you know exactly what's happening," Rikky Muller, a co-author of the new study, told Business Insider. A professor of computer science and engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, Muller is also a Biohub investigator. The applications of brain-machine interfaces are far-reaching: while some researchers focus on using them to help assist people with spinal cord injuries or other illnesses that affect movement, others aim to see them transform how everyone interacts with laptops and smartphones. Both a division at Facebook formerly called Building 8 as well as an Elon Musk-founded company called Neuralink have said they are working on the latter.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Devices and security systems are increasingly using biometric authentication to let users in and keep hackers out, be that fingerprint sensors or perhaps the iPhone's FaceID. Another method is so-called 'vein authentication,' which, as the name implies, involves a computer scanning the shape, size, and position of a users' veins under the skin of their hand. But hackers have found a workaround for that, too.
From a report: On Thursday at the annual Chaos Communication Congress hacking conference in Leipzig, Germany, security researchers described how they created a fake hand out of wax to fool a vein sensor. "It makes you feel uneasy that the process is praised as a high-security system and then you modify a camera, take some cheap materials and hack it," Jan Krissler, who goes by the handle starbug, and who researched the vein authentication system along with Julian Albrecht, told Motherboard over email in German. Vein authentication works with systems that compare a user's placement of veins under their skin compared to a copy on record. According to a recent report from German news wire DPA, the BND, Germany's signals intelligence agency, uses vein authentication in its new headquarter building in Berlin.
One attraction of a vein based system over, say, a more traditional fingerprint system is that it may be typically harder for an attacker to learn how a user's veins are positioned under their skin, rather than lifting a fingerprint from a held object or high quality photograph, for example. But with that said, Krissler and Albrecht first took photos of their vein patterns. They used a converted SLR camera with the infrared filter removed; this allowed them to see the pattern of the veins under the skin.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's breaking-news department
The Federal Communications Commission will suspend most operations in the middle of the day January 3 if the partial government shutdown continues, the agency has announced [PDF]. In a statement, it said: In the event of a continued partial lapse in federal government funding, the Federal Communications Commission will suspend most operations in the middle of the day on Thursday, January 3. At that time, employees will have up to four hours to complete an orderly shutdown of operations. However, work required for the protection of life and property will continue, as will any work related to spectrum auctions, which is funded by auction proceeds. In addition, the Office of the Inspector General will continue operations until further notice. The Commission on Wednesday will release a Public Notice detailing the effects the suspension of operations will have, including on electronic filing and database systems, filing deadlines, regulatory and application fee payments, transaction shot clocks, and more. The Public Notice will be available on the Commission's website, www.fcc.gov.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
Over the weekend, China launched a satellite into low-earth orbit, the first step of a plan to provide global satellite internet to people who still don't have reliable access. From a report: Nearly 3.8 billion people are unconnected to the internet, and women and rural poor are particularly affected. The satellite, called Hongyun-1, took off at China's national launching site Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Saturday (Dec. 22). Hongyun-1, or "rainbow cloud," is the first of 156 satellites of the same name developed by state-owned spacecraft maker China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC). CASIC intends to launch all the Hongyun satellites by around 2022 to form a constellation that will improve internet access in remote parts of China, and eventually in developing countries, a plan first announced in 2016. Most of the satellites will operate 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) above the earth, far lower than satellites are typically placed. The project is "moving the internet currently on the ground into the sky," said Hou Xiufeng, a spokesperson for CASIC, "It's China's first true low-orbit communication satellite... The launch will greatly boost commercial space."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
Sony, the biggest maker of camera chips used in smartphones, is boosting production of next-generation 3D sensors after getting interest from customers including Apple. From a report: The chips will power front- and rear-facing 3D cameras of models from several smartphone makers in 2019, with Sony kicking off mass production in late summer to meet demand, according to Satoshi Yoshihara, head of Sony's sensor division. Sony's bullish outlook for 3D cameras provides much needed optimism to the global smartphone industry, which is suffering a slowdown as consumers find fewer reasons to upgrade devices. The Tokyo-based company has started providing software toolkits to outside developers so they can experiment with the chips and create apps that generate models of faces for communication or virtual objects for online shopping. "Cameras revolutionized phones, and based on what I've seen, I have the same expectation for 3D," said Yoshihara, who has worked for more than a decade on wider industry adoption of cameras in smartphones. "The pace will vary by field, but we're definitely going to see adoption of 3D. I'm certain of it."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
Late last week, a team of about 50 scientists, drillers, and support staff successfully punched through nearly 4,000 feet of ice to access an Antarctic subglacial lake for just the second time in human history. From a report: On Friday, the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access (SALSA) team announced they'd reached Lake Mercer after melting their way through an enormous frozen river with a high-pressure, hot-water drill. The multi-year effort to tap into the subglacial lake -- one of approximately 400 scientists have detected across Antarctica -- offers a rare opportunity to study the biology and chemistry of the most isolated ecosystems on Earth. The only other subglacial lake humans have drilled into -- nearby Lake Whillans, sampled in 2013 -- demonstrated that these extreme environments can play host to diverse microbial life. Naturally, scientists are stoked to see what they'll find lurking in Lake Mercer's icy waters. "We don't know what we'll find," John Priscu, a biogeochemist at Montana State University and chief scientist for SALSA, told Earther via satellite phone from the SALSA drill camp on the Whillans Ice Plain. "We're just learning, it's only the second time that this has been done."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's RIP department
Russell Lewis, writing for NPR: When Nancy Grace Roman was a child, her favorite object to draw was the moon. Her mother used to take her on walks under the nighttime sky and show her constellations, or point out the colorful swirls of the aurora. Roman loved to look up at the stars and imagine. Eventually, her passion for stargazing blossomed into a career as a renowned astronomer. Roman was one of the first female executives at NASA, where she served as the agency's first chief of astronomy. Known as the "Mother of Hubble," for her role in making the Hubble Space Telescope a reality, Roman worked at NASA for nearly two decades. She died on Dec. 25 at the age of 93.
Roman fought to earn her place in a field dominated by men, paving the path for future female scientists. She was born in Nashville, Tenn. in 1925 and organized an astronomy club in fifth grade. She attended high school in Baltimore, where she requested to take a second year of algebra instead of a fifth year of Latin. When she made the appeal, she recounted in a 2017 interview with NPR that the guidance counselor wasn't supportive of her dream to become a scientist.
Her efforts helped lead to the creation of the Hubble Space Telescope. In her role at NASA, Roman developed and planned the Hubble Space Telescope, which is famous for its stunning images of space. Because of the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists have been able to collect data and gain insight into even the most remote galaxies of the universe. The success of the project led to future space telescopes. Roman's work, however, reached far beyond just the Hubble Space Telescope. In an interview with NASA, Roman once stated that one of the highlights of her career was when she discovered the first indication that common stars were not all the same age.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Apple has for years been a premium brand that rarely, if ever discounted products. Every year, the company could raise prices on products, and consumers would not only happily pay, but stand in long lines for the privilege of doing so. From a report: So when Apple started putting misleading, but seemingly consumer-friendly posters in front of Apple Stores at the end of 2018 offering a new iPhone model for $300 off (with trade-in of your current phone), you know something different happened for the company this year. Consumers fought back. Many analysts have reported that in the wake of poorer-than-expected sales for this year's crop of iPhones, Apple cut back on production, including on the $1,100 iPhone XS Max, the $999 iPhone XS and the XR, the "budget" model that replaced the previous entry-level new phone, the $349 SE. The price for the XR (the one Apple is hawking discounts for): $749.
"This should be a wakeup call for Apple," says Daniel Ives, an analyst with Wedbush Securities. "They swung, and they really missed." The prices on the new phones are "far too high," says Terry Walton, a tourist from Auckland, New Zealand. He has an iPhone 7 and didn't even consider any of the X-series iPhones because it still works just fine. Upgrading "didn't enter my mind at all," he says. It wasn't just iPhones that got price hikes. Apple also upped the cost of the top-of-the-line iPad to $1,000 as well (or over $2,800 for a loaded model) and added $300 to the cost of the Mac Mini and new MacBook Air computers.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Perhaps the most insightful piece that sums up why the U.S. and its allies are apprehensive of using Huawei's products. Six reasons, we are just highlighting the pointers, click on the source story to read the description:
1. There could be "kill switches" in Huawei equipment.
2. ... That even close inspections miss.
3. Back doors could be used for data snooping.
4. The rollout of 5G wireless networks will make everything worse.
5. Chinese firms will ship tech to countries in defiance of a US trade embargo.
6. Huawei isn't as immune to Chinese government influence as it claims to be.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's in-public-interest department
The reputation of the meat industry will sink to that of big tobacco unless it removes cancer-causing chemicals from processed products such as bacon and ham, a coalition of experts and politicians in UK warn this week. From a report: Led by Professor Chris Elliott, the food scientist who ran the UK government's investigation into the horse-meat scandal, and Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist, the coalition claims there is a "consensus of scientific opinion" that the nitrites used to cure meats produce carcinogens called nitrosamines when ingested. It says there is evidence that consumption of processed meats containing these chemicals results in 6,600 bowel cancer cases every year in the UK -- four times the fatalities on British roads -- and is campaigning for the issue to be taken as seriously as sugar levels in food.
"Government action to remove nitrites from processed meats should not be far away," Malhotra said. "Nor can a day of reckoning for those who dispute the incontrovertible facts. The meat industry must act fast, act now -- or be condemned to a similar reputational blow to that dealt to tobacco." [...] In a statement issued today, the coalition warns "that not enough is being done to raise awareness of nitrites in our processed meat and their health risks, in stark contrast to warnings regularly issued regarding sugar and fattening foods."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's RIP department
In late 1966, a 29-year-old computer scientist drew a series of abstract figures on tracing paper and a quadrille pad. Some resembled a game of cat's cradle; others looked like heavenly constellations; still others like dress patterns. Those curious drawings were the earliest topological maps of what we now know as the internet. The doodler, Lawrence G. Roberts, died on Dec. 26 at his home in Redwood City, Calif. He was 81.
The New York Times: The cause was a heart attack, said his son Pasha. As a manager at the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA, Dr. Roberts designed much of the Arpanet -- the internet's precursor -- and oversaw its implementation in 1969. Dr. Roberts called upon a circle of colleagues who shared his interest in computer networking for help in creating the technical underpinnings of the Arpanet, integrating and refining many ideas for how data should flow. Dr. Roberts was considered the decisive force behind packet switching, the technology that breaks data into discrete bundles that are then sent along various paths around a network and reassembled at their destination. He decided to use packet switching as the underlying technology of the Arpanet; it remains central to the function of the internet.
And it was Dr. Roberts's decision to build a network that distributed control of the network across multiple computers. Distributed networking remains another foundation of today's internet. Dr. Roberts's interest in computer networking began when he was a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 1960s. He paid close attention to the work of his longtime colleague, Leonard Kleinrock, who had done research on theoretical aspects of computer networks, analyzing the problem of data flow. Dr. Roberts also followed the ideas of J.C.R. Licklider, a prominent psychologist and predecessor of Dr. Roberts's at ARPA, who envisioned what he called an "intergalactic computer network."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's privacy-woes department
Some of the most popular apps for Android smartphones, including Skyscanner, TripAdvisor and MyFitnessPal, are transmitting data to Facebook without the consent of users in a potential breach of EU regulations. From a report: In a study of 34 popular Android apps, the campaign group Privacy International found that at least 20 of them send certain data to Facebook the second that they are opened on a phone, before users can be asked for permission. Information sent instantly included the app's name, the user's unique ID with Google, and the number of times the app was opened and closed since being downloaded. Some, such as travel site Kayak, later sent detailed information about people's flight searches to Facebook, including travel dates, whether the user had children and which flights and destinations they had searched for. European law on data-sharing changed in May with the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation and mobile apps are required to have the explicit consent of users before collecting their personal information.Read Replies (0)