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Self-Driving Cars Will Make Organ Shortages Even Worse
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 05:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's wait-until-your-number-is-called department:
One of the many ways self-driving cars will impact the world is with organ shortages. It's a morbid thought, but the most reliable sources for healthy organs and tissues are the more than 35,000 people killed each year on American roads. According to the book "Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead," 1 in 5 organ donations comes from the victim of a vehicular accident. Since an estimated 94 percent of motor-vehicle accidents involve some kind of a driver error, it's easy to see how autonomous vehicles could make the streets and highways safer, while simultaneously making organ shortages even worse. Slate reports: As the number of vehicles with human operators falls, so too will the preventable fatalities. In June, Christopher A. Hart, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said, "Driverless cars could save many if not most of the 32,000 lives that are lost every year on our streets and highways." Even if self-driving cars only realize a fraction of their projected safety benefits, a decline in the number of available organs could begin as soon as the first wave of autonomous and semiautonomous vehicles hits the road -- threatening to compound our nation's already serious shortages. We're all for saving lives -- we aren't saying that we should stop self-driving cars so we can preserve a source of organ donation. But we also need to start thinking now about how to address this coming problem. The most straightforward fix would be to amend a federal law that prohibits the sale of most organs, which could allow for development of a limited organ market. Organ sales have been banned in the United States since 1984, when Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act after a spike in demand (thanks to the introduction of the immunosuppressant cyclosporine, which improved transplant survival rates from 20-30 percent to 60-70 percent) raised concerns that people's vital appendages might be "treated like fenders in an auto junkyard." Others feared an organ market would exploit minorities and those living in poverty. But the ban hasn't completely protected those populations, either. The current system hasn't stopped organ harvesting -- the illegal removal of organs from the recently deceased without the consent of the person or family -- either in the United States or abroad. It is estimated that, worldwide, as many as 10,000 black market medical operations are performed each year that involve illegally purchased organs. So what would an ethical fix to our organ transplant shortage look like? To start, while there's certainly a place for organ donation markets in the United States, implementation will be understandably slow. There are, however, small steps that can get us closer to a just system. For one, the country could consider introducing a "presumed consent" rule. This would change state organ donation registries from affirmative opt-in systems (checking that box at the DMV that yes, you do want to be an organ donor) to an affirmative opt-out system where, unless you state otherwise, you're presumed to consent to be on the list.

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Smart Electricity Meters Can Be Dangerously Insecure, Warns Expert
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 03:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's consider-this-a-warning department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Smart electricity meters, of which there are more than 100 million installed around the world, are frequently "dangerously insecure," a security expert has said. The lack of security in the smart utilities raises the prospect of a single line of malicious code cutting power to a home or even causing a catastrophic overload leading to exploding meters or house fires, according to Netanel Rubin, co-founder of the security firm Vaultra. If a hacker took control of a smart meter they would be able to know "exactly when and how much electricity you're using," Rubin told the 33rd Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg. An attacker could also see whether a home had any expensive electronics. "He can do billing fraud, setting your bill to whatever he likes [...] The scary thing is if you think about the power they have over your electricity. He will have power over all of your smart devices connected to the electricity. This will have more severe consequences: imagine you woke up to find you'd been robbed by a burglar who didn't have to break in. "But even if you don't have smart devices, you are still at risk. An attacker who controls the meter also controls the meter's software, allowing him to cause it to literally explode." The problems at the heart of the insecurity stem from outdated protocols, half-hearted implementations and weak design principles. To communicate with the utility company, most smart meters use GSM, the 2G mobile standard. That has a fairly well-known weakness whereby an attacker with a fake mobile tower can cause devices to "hand over" to the fake version from the real tower, simply by providing a strong signal. In GSM, devices have to authenticate with towers, but not the other way round, allowing the fake mast to send its own commands to the meter. Worse still, said Rubin, all the meters from one utility used the same hardcoded credentials. "If an attacker gains access to one meter, it gains access to them all. It is the one key to rule them all."

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Ask Slashdot: Why Are Some Great Games Panned and Some Inferior Games Praised?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 03:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's power-of-marketing department:
dryriver writes: A few years ago I bought a multiplayer war game called Soldner: Secret Wars that I had never heard of before. (The game is entirely community maintained now and free to download and play at www.soldnersecretwars.de.) The professional reviews completely and utterly destroyed Soldner -- buggy, bad gameplay, no single-player mode, disappointing graphics, server problems and so on. For me and many other players who did give it a chance beyond the first 30 minutes, Soldner turned out to be the most fun, addictive, varied, satisfying and multi-featured multiplayer war game ever. It had innovative features that AAA titles like Battlefield and COD did not have at all at the time -- fully destructible terrain, walls and buildings, cool physics on everything from jeeps flying off mountaintops to Apache helicopters crashing into Hercules transport aircraft, to dozens of trees being blown down by explosions and then blocking an incoming tank's way. Soldner took a patch or three to become fully stable, but then was just fun, fun, fun to play. So much freedom, so much cool stuff you can do in-game, so many options and gadgets you can play with. By contrast, the far, far simpler -- but better looking -- Battlefield, COD, Medal Of Honor, CounterStrike war games got all the critical praise, made the tens of millions in profit per release, became longstanding franchises and are, to this day, not half the fun to play that Soldner is. How does this happen? How does a title like Soldner, that tried to do more new stuff than the other war games combined, get trashed by every reviewer, and then far less innovative and fun to play war games like BF, COD, CS sell tens of millions of copies per release and get rave reviews all around?

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Apple To Cut iPhone Production By 10%: Nikkei
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 02:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's slice-and-dice department:
A new report from Nikkei Asian Review says that Apple will cut iPhone production by around 10% in the first quarter of 2017. From the report: This comes after the company slashed output in January-March 2016 due to accumulated inventory of the iPhone 6s line at the end of 2015. That experience led Apple to curb production of the iPhone 7, introduced in September, by around 20%. But the phones still have sold more sluggishly than expected. Information on production of the latest models and global sales suggests cuts in both the 7 and 7 Plus lines in the coming quarter. The larger iPhone 7 Plus, which features two cameras on its back face, remains popular. But a shortage of camera sensors has curbed Apple's ability to meet demand for the phones. U.S. research company IDC forecasts global smartphone shipments in 2016 on par with the 2015 level. Even Apple has had difficulty creating appealing new features, stifling demand from customers who otherwise would look to upgrade to the latest device.

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Postal, the Legendarily Violent Video Game by Running With Scissors, Is Now Open Source
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 02:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's affinity-for-open-source department:
An anonymous reader writes: Video game developer Running With Scissors has announced that it is open sourcing the original version of its most popular title-Postal, which was released back in 1997. Even though violence in video games has been a topic of debate for over decades now, Postal has been one of the most criticised games out of the lot. Running With Scissors has published the code for the game on Bitbucket under the GPL2 license and further said that it is entrusting the fans with the fate of its game. "Anyone with the time and skills can now tweak/change/update/modify anything in the game at all!" the company was quoted as saying in the report. Postal is popularly known for being termed "digital poison" by US Senator Joe Lieberman but developed an audience for itself over the years. Earlier this year, a high-definition remaster of the game called Postal Redux was released on Steam as well as PS4.

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Microsoft Is No Longer Selling Any Lumia Windows Phones On Its US Store
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 02:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's end-of-the-road department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Neowin: It seems that Lumia has reached the end of the line, as the Microsoft Store is no longer selling any of the company's Windows Phone 8.1 or Windows 10 Mobile handsets in the U.S. The first signs that the end was approaching for Lumia came back in February, when Microsoft launched the Lumia 650, which was said to be the last in the company's Lumia line. In August, Microsoft removed all mention of Windows handsets from its U.S. store homepage, relegating 'Windows phone' to a dropdown menu instead. This week, just one Lumia handset remained on sale: the ATT-locked Lumia 950, available only in white. Now, that model has sold out too, leaving none of the company's Lumia handsets available to buy on its store. The Windows phones page on the Microsoft Store lists thirteen products, but eight of these are out of stock. When more stock is expected on a temporarily sold-out product, Microsoft typically replaces the 'Add to cart' button with one that says 'Email me when available'. Instead, each of these products now has a grayed-out button, stating "Out of stock."

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Sonos Alarms Are Waking Users a Day Early
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's technical-glitch department:
Waking up to your favorite music is always nice, but it becomes rather annoying when you can'' turn off said alarm. From a report on Engadget: That's exactly what Sonos users are experiencing and one editor on our staff dealt with the headache first hand. In fact, the alarms are also going off a day early, meaning Saturday wake-up calls were playing this morning. The company posted in its forums this morning that it's looking into the issue and recommends users delete all alarms from the Sonos app for right now. As our editor and many others have experienced, deleting the alarms is the only way to make them stop. We'll have to wait for official word on the cause, but alarms set for December 31st going off on December 30th could be a New Year's or Leap Year bug. Back in 2011, Apple had a problem with iPhone alarms not working correctly on January 1st.

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Bad Year For Piracy: 2016 Was The Year Torrent Giants Fell
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's struggle-continues department:
From a report on TorrentFreak: 2016 has been a memorable year for torrent users but not in a good way. Over a period of just a few months, several of the largest torrent sites vanished from the scene. From KickassTorrents, through Torrentz to What.cd, several torrent giants have left the scene.Another notable website which vanished is TorrentHound. ThePirateBay is back, but is often facing issues. Not long ago, ExtraTorrent noted that it was on the receiving end of several DDoS attacks.

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Foxconn Boosting Automated Production in China
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 11:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's times,-they-are-changin' department:
Foxconn Electronics is automating production at its factories in China in three phases, aiming to fully automate entire factories eventually, according to general manager Dai Jia-peng for Foxconn's Automation Technology Development Committee. From a report on DigiTimes: In the first phase, Foxconn aims to set up individual automated workstations for work that workers are unwilling to do or is dangerous, Dai said. Entire production lines will be automated to decrease the number of robots used during the second phase, Dai noted. In the third phase, entire factories will be automated with only a minimal number of workers assigned to production, logistics, testing and inspection processes, Dai indicated.

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Consumer Reports Stands By Its Verdict, Won't Recommend Apple's MacBook Pro
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 11:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's nope,-no-sir department:
Consumer Reports took many by surprise last week -- certainly Apple -- when it said it doesn't recommend the company's new MacBook Pro models. The American magazine, which has garnered credibility over 80 years of its existence, said battery life on Apple's new laptops was all over the place -- hitting 19 hours in a test, but less than four hours in another. Last week, Apple's VP of Marketing, Phil Schiller insisted that Consumer Reports' findings didn't match the company's field data, and that Apple was working with Consumer Reports to understand its review. Now Consumer Reports has responded: The nonprofit organization is standing by its initial verdict in which it did not give the MacBook Pro (2016) its "recommended" rating. The organization has now said it doesn't think re-running the tests will change anything. "In this case, we don't believe re-running the tests are warranted for several reasons. First, as we point out in our original article, experiencing very high battery life on MacBooks is not unusual for us -- in fact we had a model in our comparative tests that got 19 hours," it said. "Second, we confirmed our brightness with three different meters, so we feel confident in our findings using this equipment. Finally, we monitor our tests very closely. There is an entry logged every minute, so we know from these entries that the app worked correctly," it added.

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Has the Internet Killed Curly Quotes?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-away-from-things department:
Glenn Fleishman, writing for The Atlantic: Many aspects of website design have improved to the point that nuances and flourishes formerly reserved for the printed page are feasible and pleasing. But there's a seemingly contrary motion afoot with quotation marks: At an increasing number of publications, they've been ironed straight. This may stem from a lack of awareness on the part of website designers or from the difficulty in a content-management system (CMS) getting the curl direction correct every time. It may also be that curly quotes' time has come and gone. Major periodicals have fallen prey, including those with a long and continuing print edition. Not long ago, Rolling Stone had straight quotes in its news-item previews, but educated them for features; the "smart" quotes later returned. Fast Company opts generally for all "dumb" quotes online, while the newborn digital publication The Outline recently mixed straight and typographic in the same line of text at its launch. Even the fine publication you're currently reading has occasionally neglected to crook its pinky.(Via DaringFireball -- John's take on this is insightful.) At Slashdot, we also avoid curly quotes -- and when we miss, you see them as weird characters on the site!

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Checking Email as Soon as You Wake up Could be Ruining Your Day
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's pro-tip department:
From a CNBC report: If you're like most people, you wake up to an alarm ringing on your smartphone. Then you probably roll over and check your work email. That's a dangerous way to start the day, according to a woman who studies happiness for a living. Reading just one negative email could lead you to report having a bad day hours later, says Michelle Gielan, former national CBS News anchor. [...] Before you check your email or the news, put yourself in the right frame of mind by taking two minutes to draft a positive email to someone in your social support network. Thank a friend or family member for their support, or praise a colleague on their recent work, she suggests. After you send your upbeat email, move on to your regular routine of checking your work email or the news. That two-minute message primes your brain to see everything in a more positive light.

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Seattle Region Home To 10 of Nation's 30 Most Competitive Neighborhoods For House Hunters
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-we-live department:
After a recent report revealed Seattle had the nation's hottest housing market for the second month running, it should come as no surprise that many of the most competitive neighborhoods in the country are clustered around the Seattle region. From a report on GeekWire: Redfin, a Seattle-based real estate and technology company, crunched the numbers on the most competitive neighborhoods from house hunters across 27 U.S. metro areas. Four of the top 10 and 10 of the top 30 hottest neighborhoods are in or near Redfin's hometown of Seattle. Bellevue, Wash.'s Factoria neighborhood, home to T-Mobile, is the most competitive neighborhood in the country. Seattle's University district is second, followed by two neighborhoods in Boston, Mass. Redfin ranked the neighborhoods based on the percentages of homes that sold for cash and sold for more than their asking price. Analysts also considered the median days on the market and home price growth in each neighborhood. Home prices in the Seattle area are soaring, fueled by booming job and population growth.

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Firefox 52 Borrows One More Privacy Feature From the Tor Browser
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's stronger-privacy department:
An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla engineers have added a mechanism to Firefox 52 that prevents websites from fingerprinting users using system fonts. The user privacy protection system was borrowed from the Tor Browser, where a similar mechanism blocks websites from identifying users based on the fonts installed on their computers, only returning a list of "default fonts" per each OS. While sabotaging system font queries won't stop user fingerprinting as a whole, this is just one of the latest privacy-related updates Mozilla has added to Firefox, taken from Tor. Back in July 2016, Mozilla engineers started the Tor Uplift project, which aims to improve Firefox's privacy features with the ones present in the Tor Browser.

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Governments Shut Down the Internet More Than 50 Times in 2016
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 07:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's controlling-the-internet department:
An anonymous reader writes: Governments around the world shut down the internet more than 50 times in 2016 -- suppressing elections, slowing economies and limiting free speech. In the worst cases internet shutdowns have been associated with human rights violations, Deji Olukotun, senior global advocacy manager at digital rights organisation Access Now told IPS. "What we have found is that internet shutdowns go hand in hand with atrocities," said Olukotun. "In Ethiopia there's been consistent blocking this year of social media and internet." Dozens of people have died in protests in Ethiopia in 2016, "many of them during the kind of blackout where it's difficult to report on what's happening," he said. Several leaders used internet shutdowns to affect democratic processes, including elections. "In Uganda in February 2016 there was a shutdown of social media networks by President Museveni and that again happened in Gambia (in December) surrounding the election," Olukotun added. In other cases, three governments chose to shut down the internet because they thought that it would stop students from cheating on their exams, he said. "On the whole most governments want to expand internet access," said Olukotun.
However governments do not seem to have taken into account the potential repercussions of the shutdowns, beyond the limits of free speech. According to an estimate, internet shutdowns resulted in a loss of $2.4 billion in 2015.

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China's Cash-Strapped LeEco in Talks To Gain $1.4 Billion From Investor
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 07:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's cash-strapped department:
China's cash-strapped LeEco said it is in talks to secure 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) from an unidentified strategic investor, but the announcement was seen as insufficient to dispel concern over the high-tech conglomerate's financial health. From a report on Reuters: Led by tycoon Jia Yueting, LeEco expanded aggressively into electric and driverless cars and smartphones after making its name in video streaming, but last month warned staff it was facing 'a big company disease' after growing too fast and in too many directions left it short of funds. LeEco is still finalizing details of the investment, according to a filing by its Shenzhen-listed unit Leshi Internet Information and Technology. Leshi said it would extend a trading halt on its stock but the halt would not exceed 10 days. Following its admission of a cash crunch, LeEco said soon after that it had secured commitments for $600 million to support its automotive unit and other high-tech businesses.

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Microsoft Foresees AR Tracking Your Keys, Milk, Entire Life
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 06:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
Want a virtual assistant that means you won't lose anything ever again? A patent application filed by Microsoft hints at that future. From a report on CNET: The technology described in the patent filing, published Thursday, would bring sophisticated, automatic object tracking to augmented reality. A cousin of VR, which creates an entirely digital experience, augmented (or mixed) reality blends the real and virtual worlds into a seamless experience -- think Pokemon Go. One of the challenges for more advanced augmented reality is that a system would need to track not only you as a user, but also the other objects in your environment. Microsoft's patent document suggests a technology that would do just that. The new tech would fit neatly with Microsoft's own HoloLens augmented reality platform. As AR becomes more common, it could lead to a future in which you can ask Cortana (or Siri or Alexa) where you left your shoes or if you're out of eggs.

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FBI and Homeland Security Detail Russian Hacking Campaign In New Report
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 06:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's day-late-and-a-dollar-short department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FBI have released an analysis of the allegedly Russian government-sponsored hacking groups blamed for breaching several different parts of the Democratic party during the 2016 elections. The 13-page document, released on Thursday and meant for information technology professionals, came as Barack Obama announced sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2016 elections. The report was criticized by security experts, who said it lacked depth and came too late. "The activity by [Russian intelligence services] is part of an ongoing campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens," wrote the authors of the government report. "This [joint analysis report] provides technical indicators related to many of these operations, recommended mitigations, suggested actions to take in response to the indicators provided, and information on how to report such incidents to the U.S. government." The government report follows several from the private sector, notably a lengthy section in a Microsoft report from 2015 on a hacking team referred to as "advanced persistent threat 28" (APT 28), which the company's internal nomenclature calls Strontium and others have called Fancy Bear. Also mentioned in the government document is another group called APT 29 or Cozy Bear. The Microsoft report contains a history of the groups' operation; a report by security analysts ThreatConnect describes the team's modus operandi; and competing firm CrowdStrike detailed the attack on the Democratic National Committee shortly before subsequent breaches of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign were discovered.

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Satellite Spots Massive Object Hidden Under the Frozen Wastes of Antarctica
Posted by News Fetcher on December 30 '16 at 03:21 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's lurking-beneath-the-surface department:
schwit1 quotes a report from The Sun: Scientists believe a massive object which could change our understanding of history is hidden beneath the Antarctic ice. The huge and mysterious "anomaly" is thought to be lurking beneath the frozen wastes of an area called Wilkes Land. It stretches for a distance of 151 miles across and has a maximum depth of about 848 meters. Some researchers believe it is the remains of a truly massive asteroid which was more than twice the size of the Chicxulub space rock which wiped out the dinosaurs. If this explanation is true, it could mean this killer asteroid caused the Permian-Triassic extinction event which killed 96 percent of Earth's sea creatures and up to 70 percent of the vertebrate organisms living on land.This "Wilkes Land gravity anomaly" was first uncovered in 2006, when NASA satellites spotted gravitational changes which indicated the presence of a huge object sitting in the middle of a 300 mile wide impact crater.

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Paintings Reveal Signs of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's In Famous Artists
Posted by News Fetcher on December 29 '16 at 11:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fine-details department:
Researchers from the University of Liverpool believe it is possible to detect cognitive decline in the paintings of famous artists by analyzing subtle changes in their brush strokes over time. The technique may one day be used to flag Alzheimer's and Parkinson's in artists before they're diagnosed. Gizmodo reports: A new study published in Neuropsychology shows that a mathematical technique known as "fractal analysis" can be used to detect signs of neurodegeneration in an artist's work. A research team led by Alex Forsythe from the University of Liverpool's School of Psychology made the discovery by examining 2,092 paintings from the careers of seven famous artists who experienced either normal aging or neurodegenerative disorders. Using fractal analysis, the researchers were able to identify complex geometric patterns in the brushstrokes of each artist. Fractals can reveal hidden and often self-repeating patterns in everyday objects and phenomena. These distinctive geometrical shapes are like fingerprints, allowing scientists to match an artist with his or her work. With this in mind, Forsythe's team sought to learn if variations in an artist's fractal fingerprint over time are a function of increasing age, or if neurological decline has something to do with it. For the study, the researchers examined paintings from four artists known to have suffered from either Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, namely Salvadore Dali, Norval Morrisseau, James Brooks, and Willem De Kooning. The researchers also studied the works of three artists who had no known neurodegenerative problems: Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, and Claude Monet. Fractal analysis demonstrated clear patterns of change among the artists who suffered neurological deterioration compared to those who aged normally. In all cases, the fractal fingerprints changed, but the fractal dimensions produced by the Parkinson's and Alzheimer's artists showed consistent patterns that were distinguishable from the healthy group.

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