By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
Hurricane Harvey swamped Houston with seven days of pounding rain last August. When scientists went back to look at historical weather patterns, they reported Harvey dumped 20 percent more rain than it typically would have. The culprit: climate change. From a report: High-resolution climate simulations of 15 tropical cyclones in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans found that warming in the ocean and atmosphere increased rainfall by between 5% and 10%, although wind speeds remained largely unchanged. This situation is set to worsen under future anticipated warming, however. Researchers found that if little is done to constrain greenhouse gas emissions and the world warms by 3C to 4C this century then hurricane rainfall could increase by a third, while wind speeds would be boosted by as much as 25 knots.
"Climate change has exacerbated rainfall and is set to enhance the wind speed," said Christina Patricola, who undertook the study with her Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory colleague Michael Wehner. "My hope is that this information can be used to improve our resilience to the kinds of extreme weather events we are going to have in the future." The research, published in the journal Nature, used climate models to see how factors such as air and ocean temperatures have influenced hurricanes. Projections into the future were then made, based upon various levels of planetary warming. The findings suggest that enormously destructive storms have already been bolstered by climate change and similar events in the future are on course to be cataclysmic.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's so-it-begins department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Shawn Dixon's life changed overnight. On Tuesday he was surprised to learn that Amazon plans to build a giant campus with room for thousands of high-paid workers on the same block as the small business he owns, Otis & Finn Barbershop. "We woke up yesterday with our whole world upside down," Dixon said. The announcement that one half of Amazon HQ2 is moving into his neighborhood -- Long Island City in Queens, New York -- motivated Dixon to attend a protest of Amazon's future campus Wednesday. He was
joined by elected officials, labor leaders, and activists who gathered to speak out against the tax incentives, government subsidies and other perks -- including a helipad -- that New York is offering Amazon in exchange for the thousands of jobs the company promises to bring.
"We're worried about our ability to stay in the neighborhood," Dixon said. "I'm not against growth and I'm not against Amazon but what I'm against is giving away all this money to one of the richest companies in the world when our schools are underfunded, we don't have schools in this neighborhood, the trains don't run here, and small business owners have no protections." The rally was organized by New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who represents the Queens neighborhood Amazon is moving into. "By the way, Amazon was coming here without all this money anyway," Gianaris said when he took the podium.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Bill Gates wants to end malaria, and so he's particularly "energized" about gene drives, a technology that could wipe out the mosquitoes that spread the disease. Gates calls the new approach a "breakthrough," but some environmental groups say gene drives are too dangerous to ever use. From a report: Now the sides are headed for a showdown. In a letter circulated this week, scientists funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others are raising the alarm over what they say is an attempt to use a United Nations biodiversity meeting this week in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, to introduce a global ban on field tests of the technology. At issue is a draft resolution by diplomats updating the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which -- if adopted -- would call on governments to "refrain from" any release of organisms containing engineered gene drives, even as part of experiments. The proposal for a global gene-drive moratorium has been pushed by environmental groups that are also opposed to genetically modified soybeans and corn. They have likened the gene-drive technique to the atom bomb. In response, the Gates Foundation, based in Seattle, has been funding a counter-campaign, hiring public relations agencies to preempt restrictive legislation and to distribute today's letter. Many of its signatories are directly funded by the foundation. "This is a lobbying game on both sides, to put it bluntly," says Todd Kuiken, who studies gene-drive policy at North Carolina State University. (He says he was asked to sign the Gates letter but declined because he is a technical advisor to the UN.) New technology The gene-drive technique involves modifying a mosquito's DNA so that, when the insect breeds, it spreads a specific genetic change -- one that's bad for its survival.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's more-you-know department
Encrypted email service provider ProtonMail has launched its standalone VPN app for iOS devices. From a report: The announcement comes more than a year after ProtonVPN launched globally for desktop users and 10 months after it landed on Android, so the iOS launch has been a long time coming. There is, of course, no shortage of VPN apps out there already, but ProtonMail has built a solid reputation in the encrypted communications realm since it was founded out of CERN in 2013. Following the launch of its privacy-focused email service nearly three years ago, the company subsequently added two-factor authentication (2FA), Tor support, an encrypted contacts manager, and of course a VPN service.
ProtonMail offers various pricing tiers for ProtonVPN, ranging from free to $24 per month. Those who choose not to pay can access three countries' servers, with access on one device, but will have slower speeds, while the top $24/month tier offers access on 10 devices with server access in all available countries. In related news, ProtonMail said that ProtonVPN now has 1 million users globally.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
The Russian military jammed GPS signals during a major NATO military exercise in Norway that involved thousands of US and NATO troops, the alliance said Wednesday, citing the Norwegian government. From a report: The NATO exercise, Trident Juncture, concluded Sunday and involved some 50,000 personnel. It was labeled the alliance's largest exercise since the Cold War. Non-NATO members Finland and Sweden also participated in the exercise. A spokesperson for the Norwegian ministry of defense acknowledged the jamming to CNN, which it said took place between October 16 and November 7, and said it would defer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on further questions to Russian authorities.
"Norway has determined that Russia was responsible for jamming GPS signals in the Kola Peninsula during Exercise Trident Juncture. Finland has expressed concern over possible jamming in Lapland," NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu told CNN Wednesday. "In view of the civilian usage of GPS, jamming of this sort is dangerous, disruptive and irresponsible," she added. Asked about the report of Russian jamming, NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was aware of the reports but did not offer additional information. "We have seen there have been similar reports from Norway, and I cannot share more precise information with you," Stoltenberg said Sunday at a news conference marking the end of Trident Juncture.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's counterpoint department
Silicon Valley employees have a right and duty to protest when we think projects are unethical, writes Laura Nolan, who recently left Google. From her opinion piece for Financial Times: Messrs Bezos and Bloomberg paint Amazon and Google as victims, pushed around by powerful employees who do not care about patriotism. This is absurd. Google and Amazon, and the DoD for that matter, are some of the most dominant institutions the world has known. Mr Bezos recently became the richest man in modern history. Mr Bloomberg is not far behind on the list of the world's wealthiest. Demanding that such power be held to account is common sense.
Rank-and-file tech employees, by contrast, do not have the same leverage. Ordinary Amazon employees -- the median annual salary is less than Mr Bezos earns in 10 seconds -- have been aggressively discouraged from unionising. Microsoft fired a team of contract engineers after they voted to unionise and as yet there is no tech worker union. I believe Silicon Valley leaders have historically put profit ahead of employee livelihood and whatever perks these companies provide come at the discretion of bosses, and are less a reflection of individual merit than of employer convenience.
It is significant, then, that over the past year we've seen a groundswell of worker dissent as thousands of employees at Google, Microsoft, Amazon and elsewhere have pushed back against projects and personnel decisions they consider unethical. I am part of this growing tech workers' movement. We believe we have a duty to resist the oppressive and unethical application of the powerful technology we build, and a right to know how our work is used.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's corrections department
A major study claimed the oceans were warming much faster than previously thought. But researchers now say they can't necessarily make that claim. From a report: Two weeks after the high-profile study was published in the journal Nature, its authors have submitted corrections to the publication. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, home to several of the researchers involved, also noted the problems in the scientists' work and corrected a news release on its website, which previously had asserted that the study detailed how the Earth's oceans "have absorbed 60 percent more heat than previously thought."
"Unfortunately, we made mistakes here," said Ralph Keeling, a climate scientist at Scripps, who was a co-author of the study. "I think the main lesson is that you work as fast as you can to fix mistakes when you find them." The central problem, according to Keeling, came in how the researchers dealt with the uncertainty in their measurements. As a result, the findings suffer from too much doubt to definitively support the paper's conclusion about how much heat the oceans have absorbed over time.
The central conclusion of the study -- that oceans are retaining ever more energy as more heat is being trapped within Earth's climate system each year -- is in line with other studies that have drawn similar conclusions. And it hasn't changed much despite the errors. But Keeling said the authors' miscalculations mean there is a much larger margin of error in the findings, which means researchers can weigh in with less certainty than they thought.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's taste-you-can-see department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: The taste of a food cannot be protected by copyright, the EU's highest legal authority has ruled in a case involving a Dutch cheese. The European Court of Justice said the taste of food was too "subjective and variable" for it to meet the requirements for copyright protection. The court was asked to rule in the case of a spreadable cream cheese and herb dip, Heksenkaas, produced by Levola. Levola argued another cheese, Witte Wievenkaas, infringed its copyright. The firm claimed that Heksenkaas was a work protected by copyright; it asked the Dutch courts to insist Smilde, the producers of Witte Wievenkaas, cease the production and sale of its cheese. The Court of Justice of the European Union was asked by Netherlands' court of appeal to rule on whether the taste of a food could be protected under the Copyright Directive. In order to quality for copyright, the taste of food must be capable of being classified as a "work" and has to meet two criteria: That it was an original intellectual creation; That there was an "expression" of that creation that makes it "identifiable with sufficient precision and objectivity."
The court found that "the taste of a food product cannot be identified with precision and objectivity." It said it was "identified essentially on the basis of taste sensations and experiences, which are subjective and variable," citing age, food preferences and consumption habits as examples which could influence the taster.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's lost-and-found department
Iwastheone shares a reprot from Science Magazine: Circling our galaxy is a stealthy giant. Astronomers have discovered a dwarf galaxy, called Antlia 2, that is one-third the size of the Milky Way itself. As big as the Large Magellanic Cloud, the galaxy's largest companion, Antlia 2 eluded detection until now because it is 10,000 times fainter. Such a strange beast challenges models of galaxy formation and dark matter, the unseen stuff that helps pull galaxies together. The galaxy was discovered with data from the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite, a space telescope measuring the motions and properties of more than 1 billion stars in and around the Milky Way. Gabriel Torrealba, an astronomy postdoc at the Academia Sinica in Taipei, decided to sift the data for RR Lyrae stars. These old stars, often found in dwarf galaxies, shine with a throbbing blue light that pulses at a rate signaling their inherent brightness, allowing researchers to pin down their distance.
Gaia data helped the team see past the foreground stars. Objects in the Milky Way's disk are close enough for Gaia to measure their parallax: a shift in their apparent position as Earth moves around the sun. More distant stars appear fixed in one spot. After removing the parallax-bearing stars, the researchers homed in on more than 100 red giant stars moving together in the constellation Antlia, they report in a paper posted to the preprint server arXiv this week. The giants mark out a sprawling companion galaxy 100 times less massive than anything of similar size, with far fewer stars.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bleeding-edge department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Magazine: We know the menagerie of microbes in the gut has powerful effects on our health. Could some of these same bacteria be making a home in our brains? A poster presented here this week at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience drew attention with high-resolution microscope images of bacteria apparently penetrating and inhabiting the cells of healthy human brains. The work is preliminary, and its authors are careful to note that their tissue samples, collected from cadavers, could have been contaminated. But to many passersby in the exhibit hall, the possibility that bacteria could directly influence processes in the brain -- including, perhaps, the course of neurological disease -- was exhilarating.
Talking hoarsely above the din of the exhibit hall on Tuesday evening, neuroanatomist Rosalinda Roberts of The University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB), told attendees about a tentative finding that, if true, suggests an unexpectedly intimate relationship between microbes and the brain. Her lab looks for differences between healthy people and those with schizophrenia by examining slices of brain tissue preserved in the hours after death. About 5 years ago, neuroscientist Courtney Walker, then an undergraduate in Roberts's lab, became fascinated by unidentified rod-shaped objects that showed up in finely detailed images of these slices, captured with an electron microscope. Roberts had seen the shapes before. "But I just dismissed them, because I was looking for something else," she says. "I would say 'Oh, here are those things again.'" But Walker was persistent, and Roberts started to consult colleagues at UAB. This year, a bacteriologist gave her unexpected news: They were bacteria. Her team has now found bacteria somewhere in every brain they've checked -- 34 in all -- about half of them healthy, and half from people with schizophrenia.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ready-or-not-here-they-come department
Alphabet's self-driving car company Waymo is planning to launch the world's first commercial driverless car service in early December. According to Bloomberg, citing a person familiar with the plans, the service "will operate under a new brand and compete directly with Uber and Lyft." From the report: Waymo is keeping the new name a closely guarded secret until the formal announcement. It's a big milestone for self-driving cars, but it won't exactly be a "flip-the-switch" moment. Waymo isn't planning a splashy media event, and the service won't be appearing in an app store anytime soon. Instead, things will start small -- perhaps dozens or hundreds of authorized riders in the suburbs around Phoenix, covering about 100 square miles.
The first wave of customers will likely draw from Waymo's Early Rider Program -- a test group of 400 volunteer families who have been riding Waymos for more than a year. The customers who move to the new service will be released from their non-disclosure agreements, which means they'll be free to talk about it, snap selfies, and take friends or even members of the media along for rides. New customers in the Phoenix area will be gradually phased in as Waymo adds more vehicles to its fleet to ensure a balance of supply and demand. The report notes that some backup drivers will be placed in the cars when the service launches, and the cars themselves will be heavily modified Chrysler Pacifica minivans.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's shaping-up-fast department
Google has announced that it's absorbing DeepMind Health, a part of its London-based AI lab DeepMind. "In a blog post, DeepMind's founders said it was a 'major milestone' for the company that would help turn its Streams app -- which it developed to help the UK's National Health Service (NHS) -- into 'an AI-powered assistant for nurses and doctors' that combines 'the best algorithms with intuitive design,'" reports The Verge. "Currently, the Streams app is being piloted in the UK as a way to help health care practitioners manage patients." From the report: DeepMind says its Streams team will remain in London and that it's committed to carrying out ongoing work with the NHS. These include a number of ambitious research projects, such as using AI to spot eye disease in routine scans. The news is potentially controversial given the upset in the UK caused by one of DeepMind's early deals with the NHS. The country's data watchdogs ruled in 2017 that a partnership DeepMind struck with the NHS was illegal, as individuals hadn't been properly informed about how their medical data would be used.
Another consistent worry for privacy advocates in the UK has been the prospect of Google getting its hands on this sort of information. It's not clear what the absorption of the Streams team into Google means in that context, but we've reached out to DeepMind for clarification. According to a report from CNBC, the independent review board DeepMind set up to oversee its health work will likely be shut down as a result of the move. More broadly speaking, the news clearly signals Google's ambitions in health care and its desire to get the most of its acquisition of the London AI lab. There have reportedly been long-standing tensions between DeepMind and Google, with the latter wanting to commercialize the former's work. Compared to Google, DeepMind has positioned itself as a cerebral home for long-sighted research, attracting some of the world's best AI talent in the process.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's always-make-a-backup department
Freelance videographer Dave Cooper has filed a class action lawsuit against Adobe, alleging that an update to Premiere Pro came with a flaw in the way it handles file management that resulted in the deletion of 500 hours of video clips that he claims were worth around $250,000. Adobe has since patched the bug. Gizmodo reports: Premiere creates redundant video files that are stored in a "Media Cache" folder while a user is working on a project. This takes up a lot of hard drive space, and Cooper instructed the video editing suite to place the folder inside a "Videos" directory on an external hard drive, according to court documents. The "Videos" folder contained footage that wasn't associated with a Premiere project, which should've been fine. When a user is done working on a project they typically clear the "Media Cache" and move on with their lives. Unfortunately, Cooper says that when he initiated the "Clean Cache" function it indiscriminately deleted the contents of his "Videos" folder forever.
Cooper claims that he lost around 100,000 individual clips and that it cost him close to $250,000 to capture that footage. After spending three days trying to recover the data, he admitted that all was lost, the lawsuit says. He also apparently lost work files for edits he was working on and says that he's missed out on subsequent licensing opportunities. On behalf of himself and other users who wish to join the suit, he's asking the court for a jury trial and is seeking "monetary damages, including but not limited to any compensatory, incidental, or consequential damages in an amount that the Court or jury will determine, in accordance with applicable law."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's not-fucking-around department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Nintendo has won a lawsuit seeking to take two large retro-game ROM sites offline, on charges of copyright infringement. The judgement, made public today, ruled in Nintendo's favor and states that the owners of the sites LoveROMS.com and LoveRETRO.co, will have to pay a total settlement of $12 million to Nintendo. The complaint was originally filed by the company in an Arizona federal court in July, and has since lead to a swift purge of self-censorship by popular retro and emulator ROM sites, who have feared they may be sued by Nintendo as well.
LoveROMS.com and LoveRETRO.co were the joint property of couple Jacob and Cristian Mathias, before Nintendo sued them for what they have called "brazen and mass-scale infringement of Nintendo's intellectual property rights." The suit never went to court; instead, the couple sought to settle after accepting the charge of direct and indirect copyright infringement. TorrentFreak reports that a permanent injunction, prohibiting them from using, sharing, or distributing Nintendo ROMs or other materials again in the future, has been included in the settlement. Additionally all games, game files, and emulators previously on the site and in their custody must be handed over to the Japanese game developer, along with a $12.23 million settlement figure. It is unlikely, as TorrentFreak have reported, that the couple will be obligated to pay the full figure; a smaller settlement has likely been negotiated in private.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's here-we-go-again department
Yet another vulnerability has been patched that could have exposed user data. According to security company Imperva, the bug "allowed websites to obtain private information about Facebook users and their friends through unauthorized access to a company API, playing off a specific behavior in the Chrome browser," reports The Verge. From the report: In technical terms, the attack is a cross-site request forgery, using a legitimate Facebook login in unauthorized ways. For the attack to work, a Facebook user must visit a malicious website with Chrome, and then click anywhere on the site while logged into Facebook. From there, attackers could open a new pop-up or tab to the Facebook search page and run any number of queries to extract personal information. Some examples Imperva gives are checking if a user has taken photos in a certain location or country, if the user has written any recent posts that contain specific text, or checking if a user's friends like a company's Facebook page. In essence, the vulnerability exposed the interests of a user and their friends even if privacy settings were set so interests were only visible to a user's friends. Imperva says the vulnerability was not a common technique and the issue has been resolved with Facebook. However, it does mention that these more sophisticated social engineering attacks could become more common in 2019. A Facebook representative told The Verge: "We appreciate this researcher's report to our bug bounty program. We've fixed the issue in our search page and haven't seen any abuse. As the underlying behavior is not specific to Facebook, we've made recommendations to browser makers and relevant web standards groups to encourage them to take steps to prevent this type of issue from occurring in other web applications."Read Replies (0)