By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-vs-old-approaches department
In preparation for a crewed mission into orbit, NASA safety advisers are warning that the super-cold propellant SpaceX uses in their Falcon 9 rockets could be "a potential safety risk." When SpaceX is about to launch a rocket, they load it up with propellant at super-cold temperatures to shrink its size, allowing them to pack more of it into the tanks. "At those extreme temperatures, the propellant would need to be loaded just before takeoff -- while astronauts are aboard," reports Chicago Tribune. "An accident, or a spark, during this maneuver, known as 'load-and-go,' could set off an explosion." From the report: One watchdog group labeled load-and-go a "potential safety risk." A NASA advisory group warned in a letter that the method was "contrary to booster safety criteria that has been in place for over 50 years." The fueling issue is emerging as a point of tension between the safety-obsessed space agency and the maverick company run by Musk, a tech entrepreneur who is well known for his flair for the dramatic and for pushing boundaries of rocket science. The concerns from some at NASA are shared by others. John Mulholland, who oversees Boeing's contract to fly astronauts to the International Space Station and once worked on the space shuttle, said load-and-go fueling was rejected by NASA in the past because "we never could get comfortable with the safety risks that you would take with that approach. When you're loading densified propellants, it is not an inherently stable situation."
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's better-late-than-never department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Alan Turing is rightly famed for his contributions to computer science. But one of his key concepts -- an autonomous system that can generate complex behavior from a few simple rules -- also has applications in unexpected places, like animal behavior. One area where Turing himself applied the concept is in chemistry, and he published a paper describing how a single chemical reaction could create complex patterns like stripes if certain conditions are met. It took us decades to figure out how to actually implement Turing's ideas about chemistry, but we've managed to create a number of reactions that display the behaviors he described. And now, a team of Chinese researchers has figured out how to use them to make something practical: a highly efficient desalination membrane.
To make this a true Turing-style system, the researchers dissolved a large molecule in water. This had the effect of making the water more viscous, which slowed the diffusion of the activator. In addition, the molecule was chosen so that the activator would stick to it, slowing things down even further. The end result was a system similar to the ones defined over a half-century ago. Imaging of the features show that rather than simply thickening the membrane, the membrane retained the same width in these areas; instead, it bulged out to form the structures. That's critical, as the amount of surface area exposed to a salt solution should influence how much water gets through the membrane. In fact, the researchers confirmed that more water was purified when the new membranes were used (the version with the stripes outperformed the dotted one). Unfortunately, the researchers don't compare this system to commercially available membranes. The report has been published in the journal Science.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's business-as-usual department
A Reuters/Ipsos survey found that Facebook users in the U.S. remain loyal to the site, despite the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal that exposed the data of 87 million users. The survey "found no clear loss or gain in use since then," reports the BBC. From the report: Conducted online, the Reuters/Ipsos survey questioned 2,194 American adults between April 26 and April 30. The poll has a margin of error of three percentage points. Some 64% percent said they used Facebook at least once a day, down slightly from the 68% recorded in a similar poll in late March, soon after the Cambridge Analytica story broke. Asked if they were aware of their current privacy settings, 74% of Facebook users said they were, and 78% said they knew how to change them. Among Twitter users, this was 55% and 58%, while for Instagram users, it was 60% and 65%.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's flash-in-the-pan department
Tom's Guide gives us some perspective on just how big of a cultural phenomenon the game Fortnite is: "if Fortnite were a website, it would be one of the top five in the United States." From the report: Take a quick look at Alexa's list of top U.S. websites, and you'll see Google, YouTube, Facebook, Reddit and Amazon in the top five. No surprises there. But as a quick Google Trends search reveals, Fortnite has become a hotter search term than Reddit. What some might see as a flash-in-the-pan gaming fad is actually outpacing one of the web's hottest destinations.
"More people in the U.S. are searching for 'Fortnite' on Google than they are for 'Reddit' and these searches have risen sharply over the last two months," said John DeFeo, VP of Internet Marketing at Purch, Tom's Guide's parent company. "When you consider that Fortnite had more than 3 million concurrent players in February, I believe that if Fortnite were a website, it would be among the top five in the U.S., duking it out with Reddit and Amazon."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's not-according-to-plan department
Jon Russell and Mike Butcher from TechCrunch report of the mess that is Telegram's billion-dollar initial coin offering (ICO): Telegram's ICO was supposed to be a record-breaker to develop a platform that brings the decentralized internet to life. Instead, it has become a mess with the tightly controlled fundraising process in disarray as early backers sell their tokens for handsome returns. The company recently canceled the public sale piece of its ICO, the Wall Street Journal reported this week, after it raised $1.7 billion from private sale investors, according to SEC filings. But the issues date back further.
Telegram's grand vision is to build the TON (Telegram Open Network), a blockchain-based platform that extends its messaging app, which counts 200 million active users, into a range of services that include payments, file storage, censorship-proof browsing and decentralized apps hosted on the platform. According to the original whitepaper, the plan was to raise $1.2 billion using both invite-only private investors and an open sale to the public. Telegram later extended the raise to $1.7 billion before it canceled the public sale altogether. That's almost certainly because it had already raised enough money to develop TON without the risk of running into the SEC's ongoing ICO probe by soliciting money from the public. The result is that the ordinary people can't buy Telegram's Gram crypto token until it is released on exchanges. There's currently no timeline for that. But, with massive demand for the messaging app and deep discounts for early backers, a secondary market for buying and selling tokens early has emerged -- with huge returns already realized by some.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's gaining-ground department
In a blog post on Thursday, Google announced that their smart assistant is now compatible with more than 5,000 devices. That's up from the 1,500 devices it worked with back in January. The Verge reports: According to Google, it's a list made up of a huge variety of products, including "cameras, dishwashers, doorbells, dryers, lights, plugs, thermostats, security systems, switches, vacuums, washers, fans, locks, sensors, heaters, AC units, air purifiers, refrigerators, and ovens." It's a big jump -- at least, numerically speaking -- and if nothing else, it's a sign that the full court press that Google started at the beginning of the year with its massive Google Assistant-themed booth at CES is starting to show some results. For comparison, Apple's Homekit is compatible with 195 products while Amazon's Alexa assistant currently supports over 12,000 devices.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's phishing-season department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Researchers said Chinese intelligence officers are behind almost a decade's worth of network intrusions that use advanced malware to penetrate software and gaming companies in the US, Europe, Russia, and elsewhere. The hackers have struck as recently as March in a campaign that used phishing emails in an attempt to access corporate-sensitive Office 365 and Gmail accounts. In the process, they made serious operational security errors that revealed key information about their targets and possible location. Researchers from various security organizations have used a variety of names to assign responsibility for the hacks, including LEAD, BARIUM, Wicked Panda, GREF, PassCV, Axiom, and Winnti. In many cases, the researchers assumed the groups were distinct and unaffiliated. According to a 49-page report published Thursday, all of the attacks are the work of Chinese government's intelligence apparatus, which the report's authors dub the Winnti Umbrella. Researchers from 401TRG, the threat research and analysis team at security company ProtectWise, based the attribution on common network infrastructure, tactics, techniques, and procedures used in the attacks as well as operational security mistakes that revealed the possible location of individual members.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's uh-oh department
An anonymous reader quotes Reuters:
Researchers have found eight new flaws in computer central processing units that resemble the Meltdown and Spectre bugs revealed in January, a German computing magazine reported on Thursday. The magazine, called c't, said it was aware of Intel Corp's plans to patch the flaws, adding that some chips designed by ARM Holdings, a unit of Japan's Softbank, might be affected, while work was continuing to establish whether Advanced Micro Devices chips were vulnerable... The magazine said Google Project Zero, one of the original collective that exposed Meltdown and Spectre in January, had found one of the flaws and that a 90-day embargo on going public with its findings would end on May 7...
"Considering what we have seen with Meltdown and Spectre, we should expect a long and painful cycle of updates, possibly even performance or stability issues," said Yuriy Bulygin, chief executive officer of hardware security firm Eclypsium and a former Intel security researcher. "Hopefully, Meltdown and Spectre led to improvements to the complicated process of patching hardware."
Neowin now reports that Intel "is expected to release microcode updates in two waves; one in May, and the other in August."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fake-understandings department
Three executives from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube appeared at Stanford to discuss free speech in the social media age, with one law professor raising concerns about how the online giants are curating their services.
All three tech executives talked about increasing transparency and authenticity. But all acknowledge that nothing is foolproof and political speech in particular is most difficult to regulate, if it should be at all. "That puts a lot of control in the hands of the companies sitting here in term of what kind of speech is allowed to have the global reach," said Juniper Downs, YouTube's global head of public policy and government relations. "That is a responsibility we take very seriously and something we owe to the public and a civil society...."
Facebook is making information available on its platform to researchers to help understand the effect of Facebook usage on elections. Still, Facebook's Vice President of Public Policy Elliot Schrage urged caution. "There is no agreement whatsoever on the prevalence of false news and fake propaganda on our platform," he said. "We have no real understanding of what the scope of misinformation is." He suggested that despite these chaotic times, "I do think we should be pretty modest and circumspect in the approaches we take." Social media companies need to find creative ways to improve the spread of information, Schrage said. But it won't be easy. "No one company," he said, "is going to solve this problem."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's alternate-universes department
Slashdot reader krisdickie is a developer for embedded devices (and many other systems), and spends a lot of time being proactive about security.
This is obviously important, and I don't necessarily see it as a distraction, but rather a complex problem that has some added thrill to being solved. I can't help but wonder though if I (and my team) would have been X times more productive or have come up with some amazing new concept or feature, if we didn't have to deal with implementing security measures.
In a utopian world, where there are no bad actors, we would have likely forfeited many of the systems and ideas that have been put into place to prevent bad things from happening. So my question is -- are we more technically advanced because of the thoughtfulness that has gone into creating these systems?
Or are we just losing precious resources and time dealing with the necessity of protecting ourselves from the perilous few?
Share your own thoughts in the comments. Is the world better or worse off because of our ongoing development of security tech?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's speedy-delivery department
Virgin Hyperloop One just announced that they're teaming with the supply-chain firm DP World to build hyperloop-enabled cargo systems. An anonymous reader quotes CNN:
Called DP World Cargospeed, the venture claims it will be able to "deliver freight at the speed of flight and close to the cost of trucking..." So far Virgin Hyperloop One's test capsule has reached speeds of 387 kmph (240 mph), but the company predicts it will send cargo at a top speed of 1,000 kmph (621 mph). In a blog post by Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd, he calculated a four-day truck journey could be cut to 16 hours. While costs are estimated to run 50% higher than truck transit, Cargospeed believes it can be over five-times cheaper than air freight...
In the announcement, time-sensitive goods such as food and medical supplies were highlighted as items that could benefit from hyperloop's speed. Renders released with the announcement suggest there are plans to integrate drone delivery into the supply chain too.
Virgin Hyperloop One also released a slick video about the venture promising that they're "pushing the boundaries of innovation."
The Washington Post reports that company officials "said they hoped to start construction on a test site in India next year."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's example:-Equifax department
Long-time Slashdot reader Mr_Blank quotes the senior science writer at FiveThirtyEight on a new type of privacy violation:
It's what happens when one person's voluntary disclosure of personal information exposes the personal information of others who had no say in the matter. Your choices didn't cause the breach. Your choices can't prevent it, either. Welcome to a world where you can't opt out of sharing, even if you didn't opt in... We all saw this in action in the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal. The "privacy of the commons" is how the 270,000 Facebook users who actually downloaded the "thisisyourdigitallife" app turned into as many as 87 million users whose data ended up in the hands of a political marketing firm.
Much of the narrative surrounding that scandal has focused on what individuals should be doing to protect themselves. But that idea that privacy is all about your individual decisions is part of the problem, said Julie Cohen, a technology and law professor at Georgetown University. "There's a lot of burden being put on individuals to have an understanding and mastery of something that's so complex that it would be impossible for them to do what they need to do," she said...
[E]xperts say these examples show that we need to think about online privacy less as a personal issue and more as a systemic one. Our digital commons is set up to encourage companies and governments to violate your privacy. If you live in a swamp and an alligator attacks you, do you blame yourself for being a slow swimmer? Or do you blame the swamp for forcing you to hang out with alligators? There isn't yet a clear answer for what the U.S. should do. Almost all of our privacy law and policy is framed around the idea of privacy as a personal choice, Cohen said. The result: very little regulation addressing what data can be collected, how it should be protected, or what can be done with it.Read Replies (0)