By BeauHD from Slashdot's last-but-not-least department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: When Stephen Hawking died in March at the age of 76, the world mourned a beloved and visionary scientist. But it is some consolation that Hawking's final paper has now been published on the preprint journal ArXiv, demonstrating that even during his last days, he was still pursuing the epic cosmic questions that defined his career. Entitled "Black hole entropy and soft hair," the paper was authored by Hawking along with physicists Sasha Haco, Malcolm Perry, and Andrew Strominger. The work is the third in a series from the team and addresses Hawking's famous brainchild -- the black hole information paradox. Like many physics conundrums, the paradox emerges from the lack of coherence between quantum field theory and general relativity. On the smallest scales of matter, where atoms and quarks abound, there exists a different and seemingly contradictory set of rules to the largest scale of matter, involving stars and galaxies. The search for a "theory of everything" that reconciles these two models is one of the holy grails of modern physics, and was a lifelong fascination for Hawking.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's academic-disciplines department
The head of the Mozilla Foundation, Mitchell Baker, is warning that companies need to diversify their hiring practices to include more people from backgrounds in philosophy and psychology if they want to tackle the problem of misinformation online. He also "warned that hiring employees who mainly come from Stem -- science, technology, engineering and maths -- will produce a new generation of technologists with the same blindspots as those who are currently in charge, a move that will 'come back to bite us,'" reports the Guardian. From the report: "Stem is a necessity, and educating more people in Stem topics clearly critical," Baker told the Guardian. "Every student of today needs some higher level of literacy across the Stem bases. "But one thing that's happened in 2018 is that we've looked at the platforms, and the thinking behind the platforms, and the lack of focus on impact or result. It crystallized for me that if we have Stem education without the humanities, or without ethics, or without understanding human behavior, then we are intentionally building the next generation of technologists who have not even the framework or the education or vocabulary to think about the relationship of Stem to society or humans or life."
"Stem is a necessity, and educating more people in Stem topics clearly critical," Baker told the Guardian. "Every student of today needs some higher level of literacy across the Stem bases. "But one thing that's happened in 2018 is that we've looked at the platforms, and the thinking behind the platforms, and the lack of focus on impact or result. It crystallized for me that if we have Stem education without the humanities, or without ethics, or without understanding human behavior, then we are intentionally building the next generation of technologists who have not even the framework or the education or vocabulary to think about the relationship of Stem to society or humans or life."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's promising-solutions department
Researchers at the Naval Medical Center San Diego and Google AI, a division within Google dedicated to artificial intelligence research, are using cancer-detecting algorithms to detect metastatic tumors by autonomously evaluating lymph node biopsies. VentureBeat reports: Their AI system -- dubbed Lymph Node Assistant, or LYNA -- is described in a paper titled "Artificial Intelligence-Based Breast Cancer Nodal Metastasis Detection," published in The American Journal of Surgical Pathology. In tests, it achieved an area under the receiver operating characteristic (AUC) -- a measure of detection accuracy -- of 99 percent. That's superior to human pathologists, who according to one recent assessment miss small metastases on individual slides as much as 62 percent of the time when under time constraints. LYNA is based on Inception-v3, an open source image recognition deep learning model that's been shown to achieve greater than 78.1 percent accuracy on Stanford's ImageNet dataset. As the researchers explained, it takes as input a 299-pixel image (Inception-v3's default input size), outlines tumors at the pixel level, and, in the course of training, extracts labels -- i.e., predictions -- of the tissue patch ("benign" or "tumor") and adjusts the model's algorithmic weights to reduce error.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's that's-a-lot-of-zeros department
bbsguru shares a report from New Atlas: Slow-motion video has always been fun to watch, with the best rigs usually shooting on the scale of thousands of frames per second. But now the world's fastest camera, developed by researchers at Caltech and INRS, blows them out of the water, capturing the world at a mind-boggling 10 trillion frames per second -- fast enough to probe the nanoscale interactions between light and matter. For the new imaging technique, the team started with compressed ultrafast photography (CUP), a method that it is capable of 100 billion fps. That's nothing to scoff at by itself, but it's still not fast enough to really capture what's going on with ultrafast laser pulses, which occur on the scale of femtoseconds. A femtosecond, for reference, is one quadrillionth of a second.
So the team built on that technology by combining a femtosecond streak camera and a static camera, and running it through a data acquisition technique known as Radon transformation. This advanced system was dubbed T-CUP. For the first test, the camera proved its worth by capturing a single femtosecond pulse of laser light, recording 25 images that were each 400 femtoseconds apart. Through this process, the team could see the changes in the light pulse's shape, intensity and angle of inclination, in much slower motion than ever before.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
As Apple continues to update its iPhones with new security features, law enforcement and other investigators are constantly playing catch-up, trying to find the best way to circumvent the protections or to grab evidence. From a report: Last month, Forbes reported the first known instance of a search warrant being used to unlock a suspect's iPhone X with their own face, leveraging the iPhone X's Face ID feature. But Face ID can of course also work against law enforcement -- too many failed attempts with the 'wrong' face can force the iPhone to request a potentially harder to obtain passcode instead. Taking advantage of legal differences in how passcodes are protected, US law enforcement have forced people to unlock their devices with not just their face but their fingerprints too. But still, in a set of presentation slides obtained by Motherboard this week, one company specialising in mobile forensics is telling investigators not to even look at phones with Face ID, because they might accidentally trigger this mechanism. "iPhone X: don't look at the screen, or else... The same thing will occur as happened on Apple's event," the slide, from forensics company Elcomsoft, reads. Motherboard obtained the presentation from a non-Elcomsoft source, and the company subsequently confirmed its veracity. The slide is referring to Apple's 2017 presentation of Face ID, in which Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, tried, and failed, to unlock an iPhone X with his own face. The phone then asked for a passcode instead. "This is quite simple. Passcode is required after five unsuccessful attempts to match a face," Vladimir Katalov, CEO of Elcomsoft, told Motherboard in an online chat, pointing to Apple's own documentation on Face ID. "So by looking into suspect's phone, [the] investigator immediately lose one of [the] attempts."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's just-trying-to-help department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: A Russian-speaking grey-hat hacker is breaking into people's MikroTik routers and patching devices so they can't be abused by cryptojackers, botnet herders, or other cyber-criminals, ZDNet has learned. The hacker, who goes by the name of Alexey and says he works as a server administrator, claims to have disinfected over 100,000 MikroTik routers already. "I added firewall rules that blocked access to the router from outside the local network," Alexey said. "In the comments, I wrote information about the vulnerability and left the address of the @router_os Telegram channel, where it was possible for them to ask questions." But despite adjusting firewall settings for over 100,000 users, Alexey says that only 50 users reached out via Telegram. A few said "thanks," but most were outraged. The vigilante server administrator says he's been only fixing routers that have not been patched by their owners against a MikroTik vulnerability that came to light in late April.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department
Google CEO Sundar Pichai has refused to answer a list of questions from U.S. lawmakers about the company's secretive plan for a censored search engine in China. From a report: In a letter newly obtained by The Intercept, Pichai told a bipartisan group of six senators that Google could have "broad benefits inside and outside of China," but said he could not share details about the censored search engine because it "remains unclear" whether the company "would or could release a search service" in the country. Pichai's letter contradicts the company's search engine chief, Ben Gomes, who informed staff during a private meeting that the company was aiming to release the platform in China between January and April 2019. Gomes told employees working on the Chinese search engine that they should get it ready to be "brought off the shelf and quickly deployed." [...] In his letter to the senators, dated August 31, Pichai did not mention the word "censorship" or address human rights concerns. He told the senators that "providing access to information to people around the world is central to our mission," and said he believed Google's tools could "help to facilitate an exchange of information and learning." The company was committed to "promoting access to information, freedom of expression, and user privacy," he wrote, while also "respecting the laws of jurisdictions in which we operate."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's not-holding-any-punches department
Apple has strongly criticized Australia's anti-encryption bill, calling it "dangerously ambiguous" and "alarming to every Australian." From a report: The Australian government's draft law -- known as the Access and Assistance Bill -- would compel tech companies operating in the country, like Apple, to provide "assistance" to law enforcement and intelligence agencies in accessing electronic data. The government claims that encrypted communications are "increasingly being used by terrorist groups and organized criminals to avoid detection and disruption," without citing evidence. But critics say that the bill's "broad authorities that would undermine cybersecurity and human rights, including the right to privacy" by forcing companies to build backdoors and hand over user data -- even when it's encrypted. Now, Apple is the latest company after Google and Facebook joined civil and digital rights groups -- including Amnesty International -- to oppose the bill, amid fears that the government will rush through the bill before the end of the year. In a seven-page letter to the Australian parliament, Apple said that it "would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat." The company adds, "We appreciate the government's outreach to Apple and other companies during the drafting of this bill. While we are pleased that some of the suggestions incorporated improve the legislation, the unfortunate fact is that the draft legislation remains dangerously ambiguous with respect to encryption and security. This is no time to weaken encryption. Rather than serving the interests of Australian law enforcement, it will just weaken the security and privacy of regular customers while pushing criminals further off the grid."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Last spring, long before Get Out's eventual Oscar win, the movie was released on home video with a commentary track from its writer-director. A decade ago, in the pre-streaming era, this wouldn't have been news: Back then, seemingly every movie got a commentary track, even Good Luck Chuck. Then the DVD market began to decline, and the commentary track went from a being standard-issue add-on to relative rarity. Even recent Best Picture nominees like Mad Max: Fury Road, The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave, and Spotlight were released sans tracks -- bad news for anyone looking for behind-the-scenes intel on Mark Ruffalo's little-Ceasar haircut. In the last few years, though, several high-profile films -- everything from Star Wars: The Last Jedi to Lady Bird to Get Out -- have been released with commentary tracks. That means you can spend your umpteenth viewing of Peele's film listening to him talk about how he modeled the opening credits on those of The Shining, or how the film's title was inspired by a routine from Eddie Murphy Delirious. For casual movie watchers, such details may not be too thrilling. But for film nerds who absorb behind-the-scenes trivia and how-we-made-it logistics, tracks like the one for Get Out remain the cheapest movie-making education available.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's friday-security-briefings department
An online attack that forced Facebook to log out 90 million users last month directly affected 29 million people on the social network [alternative source], the company said Friday as it released new details about the scope of an incident that has regulators and law enforcement on high alert. The company said the FBI is actively investigating the hack, and asked Facebook not to disclose any potential culprits. From a report: Through a series of interrelated bugs in Facebook's programming, unnamed attackers stole the names and contact information of 15 million users, Facebook said. The contact information included a mix of phone numbers and email addresses. An additional 14 million users were affected more deeply, by having additional details taken related to their profiles such as their recent search history, gender, educational background, geolocation data, birth dates, and lists of people and pages they follow. Facebook said last month that it detected the attack when it noticed an uptick in user activity. An investigation soon found that the activity was linked to the theft of security codes that, under normal circumstances, allow Facebook users to navigate away from the site while remaining logged in. The bugs that allowed the attack to occur gave hackers the ability to effectively take over Facebook accounts on a widespread basis, Facebook said when it disclosed the breach. The attackers began with a relatively small number of accounts that they directly controlled, exploiting flaws in the platform's "View As" feature to gain access to other users' profiles.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's scientists-with-a-plan department
An anonymous reader shares a report: A blue-ribbon panel of researchers chaired by the University of Toronto's Barbara Sherwood Lollar assembled the report at the behest of the US Congress, which asked in a 2017 law that a "strategy for astrobiology" be developed to prioritize "the search for life's origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe." The 196-page report does not offer easy access to ET, but the steady drumbeat of scientific advancement it documents suggests an increasingly sophisticated understanding of what we know -- and don't know -- about biology on our planet and beyond. Indeed, the recently gained knowledge it highlights is the front end of a wave: Only the Viking mission in the 1970s hunted rigorously for signs of life on other planets, and now the first new NASA mission to do so, the Europa lander, is being designed. In the past four years alone, scientists using data gathered by space probes on Mars discovered evidence of past surface water, the presence of nutrients and organic molecules, and methane gas in the atmosphere that varies by season. This doesn't mean life exists now on Mars, but it is helping contribute to an understanding of astrobiology as a discipline that looks at physical and chemical processes over time to determine if the conditions for life once existed or may do so in the future. Much work on astrobiology is Earth-focused; it is the only place we know life exists and thus is our guinea pig for detecting life from a distance. The Galileo space probe found signs of life on our planet in 1990. The report stressed that recent discoveries of life on Earth that exists without the sun's energy, deep under the ocean or the ground, should inform what we look for on other worlds. Scientists are expanding their understanding of habitability beyond a binary and into a spectrum, which may sound trite, but previous research relied on blunt instruments and blunter assumptions about alien life -- starting with the idea that it would appear on the surface.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's remarkable-moves department
Starting with Firefox 64, RSS/Atom feed support will be handled via add-ons, rather than in-product. Mozilla's Gijs Kruitbosch writes: After considering the maintenance, performance and security costs of the feed preview and subscription features in Firefox, we've concluded that it is no longer sustainable to keep feed support in the core of the product. While we still believe in RSS and support the goals of open, interoperable formats on the Web, we strongly believe that the best way to meet the needs of RSS and its users is via WebExtensions. With that in mind, we have decided to remove the built-in feed preview feature, subscription UI, and the "live bookmarks" support from the core of Firefox, now that improved replacements for those features are available via add-ons. By virtue of being baked into the core of Firefox, these features have long had outsized maintenance and security costs relative to their usage. Making sure these features are as well-tested, modern and secure as the rest of Firefox would take a surprising amount of engineering work, and unfortunately the usage of these features does not justify such an investment: feed previews and live bookmarks are both used in around 0.01% of sessions.Read Replies (0)