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Why Scientists Think Completely Unclassifiable and Undiscovered Life Forms Exist
Posted by News Fetcher on November 07 '14 at 11:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's it's-life-jim-but-not-as-we-know department:
An anonymous reader writes: In a new paper published in Science, researchers at the Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute note that "there are reasons to believe that current approaches [to discovering life] may indeed miss taxa, particularly if they are very different from those that have so far been characterized." They believe life forms exist that don't fall into the established eukaryota, archaea, or bacteria kingdoms. They argue that there may be life out there that doesn't use the four DNA and RNA bases that we're used to; there may be life out there that has evolved completely separately from everything that we have ever known to exist; there may be life that lives in places we haven't even looked.

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Human Clinical Trials To Begin On Drug That Reverses Diabetes In Animal Models
Posted by News Fetcher on November 07 '14 at 10:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's new-condition-is-called-Setebaid department:
Zothecula writes: A study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham has shown that verapamil, a drug widely used to treat high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and migraine headaches, is able to completely reverse diabetes in animal models. The UAB team will now move onto clinical trials to see if the same results are repeated in humans.

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Website Peeps Into 73,000 Unsecured Security Cameras Via Default Passwords
Posted by News Fetcher on November 07 '14 at 09:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's security-through-insecurity department:
colinneagle writes: After coming across a Russian website that streams video from unsecured video cameras that employ default usernames and passwords (the site claims it's doing it to raise awareness of privacy risks), a blogger used the information available to try to contact the people who were unwittingly streamed on the site. It didn't go well. The owner of a pizza restaurant, for example, cursed her out over the phone and accused her of "hacking" the cameras herself. And whoever (finally) answered the phone at a military building whose cameras were streaming on the site told her to "call the Pentagon."

The most common location of the cameras was the U.S., but many others were accessed from South Korea, China, Mexico, the UK, Italy, and France, among others. Some are from businesses, and some are from personal residences. Particularly alarming was the number of camera feeds of sleeping babies, which people often set up to protect them, but, being unaware of the risks, don't change the username or password from the default options that came with the cameras.

It's not the first time this kind of issue has come to light. In September 2013, the FTC cracked down on TRENDnet after its unsecured cameras were found to be accessible online. But the Russian site accesses cameras from several manufacturers, raising some new questions — why are strong passwords not required for these cameras? And, once this becomes mandatory, what can be done about the millions of unsecured cameras that remain live in peoples' homes?


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Life Insurance Restrictions For Space Tourists
Posted by News Fetcher on November 07 '14 at 08:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-uninsured department:
RockDoctor writes: Reuters reports that there are changes afoot for life insurance contracts, which will require additional premiums for "space tourists." While not likely to be a disabling issue for the industry — the statistics for astronauts dying in flight are not that bad — it is an issue that people considering such a jaunt will need to address. Obviously this has been brought to the fore by the unfortunate crash of the Virgin Galactic craft under test.
Relatedly, an article at IEEE Spectrum explains why SpaceShipTwo's rocket fuel wasn't the cause of the accident.

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Mathematical Proof That the Universe Could Come From Nothing
Posted by News Fetcher on November 07 '14 at 08:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's you-are-a-long-term-fluctuation department:
TaleSlinger writes: One of the great theories of modern cosmology is that the universe began in a "Big Bang", but the mathematical mechanism by which this occurred has been lacking. Cosmologists at the Wuhan Institute have published a proof that the Big Bang could indeed have occurred spontaneously because of quantum fluctuations. "The new proof is based on a special set of solutions to a mathematical entity known as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. In the first half of the 20th century, cosmologists struggled to combine the two pillars of modern physics— quantum mechanics and general relativity—in a way that reasonably described the universe. As far as they could tell, these theories were entirely at odds with each other.

At the heart of their thinking is Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. This allows a small empty space to come into existence probabilistically due to fluctuations in what physicists call the metastable false vacuum. When this happens, there are two possibilities. If this bubble of space does not expand rapidly, it disappears again almost instantly. But if the bubble can expand to a large enough size, then a universe is created in a way that is irreversible. The question is: does the Wheeler-DeWitt equation allow this? "We prove that once a small true vacuum bubble is created, it has the chance to expand exponentially," say the researchers.


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After Silk Road 2.0 Bust, Eyes Turn To 'Untouchable' Decentralized Market
Posted by News Fetcher on November 07 '14 at 07:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's for-relatively-touchable-values-of-untouchable department:
apexcp sends this article from The Daily Dot:
Following a wave of Dark Net arrests that brought down the famous anonymous drug market Silk Road 2.0, all eyes have turned to a marketplace called OpenBazaar that is designed to be impossible to shut down. Described as the "next generation of uncensored trade" and a "safe untouchable marketplace," OpenBazaar is fundamentally different from all the online black markets that have come before it, because it is completely decentralized. If authorities acted against OpenBazaar users, they could arrest individuals, but the network would survive. "If you're thinking about OpenBazaar as Silk Road 3.0, you're thinking about it much too narrowly," said OpenBazaar operations lead Sam Patterson in an interview last night. "I actually think it's much more powerful as eCommerce 2.0."

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Robot Makes People Feel Like a Ghost Is Nearby
Posted by News Fetcher on November 07 '14 at 06:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's g-g-g-g-ghost?!?! department:
sciencehabit writes: In 2006, cognitive neuroscientist Olaf Blanke of the University of Geneva in Switzerland was testing a patient's brain functions before her epilepsy surgery when he noticed something strange. Every time he electrically stimulated the region of her brain responsible for integrating different sensory signals from the body, the patient would look behind her back as if a person was there, even when she knew full well that no one was actually present. Now, with the help of robots, Blanke and colleagues have not only found a neurological explanation for this illusion, but also tricked healthy people into sensing "ghosts," they report online in Current Biology (abstract). The study could help explain why schizophrenia patients sometimes hallucinate that aliens control their movements.

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Major Performance Improvement Discovered For Intel's GPU Linux Driver
Posted by News Fetcher on November 07 '14 at 06:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's striving-for-parity department:
An anonymous reader writes: LunarG, on contract with Valve Software, discovered a critical shortcoming with the open-source Intel Linux graphics driver that was handicapping the performance. A special bit wasn't being set by the Linux driver but was by the Windows driver, which when enabled is increasing the Linux performance in many games by now ~20%+, which should allow for a much more competitive showing between Intel OpenGL performance on Windows vs. Linux. However, the patch setting this bit isn't public yet as apparently it's breaking video acceleration in certain cases.

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Informational Wi-Fi Traffic As a Covert Communication Channel For Malware
Posted by News Fetcher on November 07 '14 at 05:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's it's-in-the-air department:
angry tapir writes A security researcher has developed a tool to demonstrate how the unauthenticated data packets in the 802.11 wireless LAN protocol can be used as a covert channel to control malware on an infected computer. From the article: "The protocol relies on clients and access points exchanging informational data packets before they authenticate or associate with each other, and this traffic is not typically monitored by network security devices. Tom Neaves, a managing consultant at Trustwave, developed a proof-of-concept tool called Smuggler that leverages these packets, known as wireless management frames, to communicate with malware."

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British Spies Are Free To Target Lawyers and Journalists
Posted by News Fetcher on November 07 '14 at 03:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's lets-see-what-you're-doing department:
Advocatus Diaboli writes British spies have been granted the authority to secretly eavesdrop on legally privileged attorney-client communications, according to newly released documents. On Thursday, a series of previously classified policies confirmed for the first time that the U.K.'s top surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters has advised its employees: "You may in principle target the communications of lawyers." The country's other major security and intelligence agencies—MI5 and MI6—have adopted similar policies, the documents show. The guidelines also appear to permit surveillance of journalists and others deemed to work in "sensitive professions."

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Bats Can Jam Each Other's Ultrasonic Signals
Posted by News Fetcher on November 07 '14 at 01:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's mine-now-I-take-it department:
sciencehabit writes Just before nabbing an insect, a bat emits a rapid series of ultrasonic calls whose echoes back pinpoint the prey's exact location. Scientists call these sounds 'the feeding buzz,' and they're known to attract other bats presumably in search of a meal. When another bat arrives, it can jam the hunter's buzz, according to a new study, much like someone blocking a radio signal. That causes the original bat to miss its meal, allowing its competitor to swoop in to grab the insect instead. This is the first time that this type of competitive interference among individuals of the same species has been discovered in animals, the scientists say.

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Big Data Knows When You Are About To Quit Your Job
Posted by News Fetcher on November 07 '14 at 12:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's take-this-job-and-recycle-it department:
HughPickens.com writes Quentin Hardy reports at the NYT that a leading maker of cloud-based software for running corporate human resources and financial operations has announced new products that provide the kind of data analysis that Netflix uses to recommend movies, LinkedIn has to suggest people you might know, or Facebook needs to put a likely ad in front of you. One version of the software, called Insight Applications, predicts which high-performing employees are likely to leave a company in the next year; it then offers possible actions (more money, new job) that might make them stay. In another instance, expense reporting software can predict which employee populations are most likely to exceed their budgets. "We've applied machine learning to affect consumer tastes," says Mohammad Sabah, director of data science at Workday. "Putting it to career choices, to pay and employment, have a huge upside if we do it right." Already, Sabah says, "we're surprised how accurately we can predict someone will leave a job." The goal is to predict future business outcomes to take advantage of opportunities and cut risk levels. One future product may be the ability to predict who will and won't make their sales quotas, and suggest who should be hired to improve the outcome. "Making an employee happy, improving the efficiency of a company these are hard problems that affect corporations."

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Revolutionary New View of Baby Planets Forming Around a Star
Posted by News Fetcher on November 06 '14 at 09:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's would-you-look-at-that department:
astroengine writes Welcome to HL Tauri — a star system that is just being born and the target of one of the most mind-blowing astronomical observations ever made. Observed by the powerful Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, this is the most detailed view of the proto-planetary disk surrounding a young star 450 light-years away. And those concentric rings cutting through the glowing gas and dust? Those, my friends, are tracks etched out by planets being spawned inside the disk. In short, this is the mother of all embryonic star system ultrasounds. But this dazzling new observation is so much more — it's a portal into our solar system's past, showing us what our system of planets around a young sun may have looked like over 4 billion years ago. And this is awesome, because it proves that our theoretical understanding about the evolution of planetary systems is correct. However, there are some surprises. "When we first saw this image we were astounded at the spectacular level of detail," said Catherine Vlahakis, ALMA Deputy Program Scientist. "HL Tauri is no more than a million years old, yet already its disc appears to be full of forming planets. This one image alone will revolutionize theories of planet formation."

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Amazon's Luxembourg Tax Deals
Posted by News Fetcher on November 06 '14 at 07:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's pay-less department:
Presto Vivace writes in with this story of a European Commission investigation into a secret tax agreement between Amazon and Luxembourg. "Leaked tax documents from accounting firm PwC in Luxembourg show how Amazon sidesteps the 30 per cent tax rates local [Australian] players face. The Luxembourg documents, obtained in a review led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, contain some of the first hard numbers and details on how Amazon pays virtually no tax for its non-US earnings, including in Australia. Last month, the European Commission announced an investigation into the secret 2003 advance tax agreement Amazon struck with Luxembourg that is the key to its global tax strategy. The Luxembourg documents show not only the extent of the related-party transactions in Amazon's Luxembourg companies but how Amazon has changed its tax strategy after investigation by French tax authorities and the US Internal Revenue Service. The change is so dramatic it raises questions whether the European Commission is targeting the right transactions."

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Low-Cost 3D-Printed Prosthetic Hand To Be Tested On Amputees In Ecuador
Posted by News Fetcher on November 06 '14 at 06:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's we-can-print-him-better department:
Zothecula writes A PhD candidate and six undergraduate students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UCIC) have created a low-cost, programmable, 3D-printed prosthetic hand that may soon change the lives of amputees in Ecuador. The hand costs just $270 to manufacture, making it a small fraction of the cost of a typical prosthetic of this type.

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Aereo Shutting Down Boston Office
Posted by News Fetcher on November 06 '14 at 05:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's so-long-farewell department:
An anonymous reader writes with news that Aereo is shutting down its Boston office and laying off some NYC staff. "Aereo's bad year just got worse. The company said on Thursday that it will shut down its Boston office and lay off 43 employees, citing yet another adverse court ruling and its trouble obtaining additional investment. According to Virginia Lam, a VP at Aereo, the company is not shutting down entirely: 'In an effort to reduce costs, we made the difficult decision to lay off some of our staff in Boston and New York. We are continuing to conserve resources while we chart our path forward. We are grateful to our employees for their loyalty, hard work and dedication. This was a difficult, but necessary step in order to preserve the company. We decline to comment further,' Lam wrote in an email."

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Home Depot Says Hackers Grabbed 53 Million Email Addresses
Posted by News Fetcher on November 06 '14 at 05:00 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's reply-all department:
wiredmikey writes Home Depot said on Thursday that hackers managed to access 53 million customer email addresses during the massive breach that was disclosed in September when the retail giant announced that 56 million customer payment cards were compromised in a cyber attack. The files containing the stolen email addresses did not contain passwords, payment card information or other sensitive personal information, the company said. The company also said that the hackers acquired elevated rights that allowed them to navigate portions of Home Depot's network and to deploy unique, custom-built malware on its self-checkout systems in the U.S. and Canada.

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Amazon's Echo: a $200, Multi-Function, Audio-Centric Device
Posted by News Fetcher on November 06 '14 at 04:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's jarvis-is-on-the-other-line-with-eliza department:
An anonymous reader writes Amazon today quietly unveiled a new product dubbed Amazon Echo. The $200 device appears to be a voice-activated wireless speaker that can answer your questions, offer updates on what's going in the world, and of course play music. Echo is currently available for purchase via an invite-only system. If you have Amazon Prime, however, you can get it for $100. I've put in a request for one; hopefully we'll get a hands-on look at the Echo soon. It looks useful and interesting for random searches, and for controlling devices, but one small speaker (interesting driver arrangement notwithstanding) doesn't bode well for "fill[ing] any room with immersive sound," as Amazon's promo materials claim.

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EFF Hints At Lawsuit Against Verizon For Its Stealth Cookies
Posted by News Fetcher on November 06 '14 at 03:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's as-well-they-might department:
An anonymous reader writes A few weeks ago I noted how security researchers had discovered that Verizon has been injecting a unique new 'stealth cookie' identifier into all user traffic that tracks user online behavior, even if the consumer opts out. Using a unique Identifier Header, or UIDH, Verizon's ham-fisted system broadcasts your identity all across the web — and remains intact and open to third-party abuse — even if you opt-out of Verizon's behavioral ad programs. Now the Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a complaint with the FCC and has strongly indicated that they're considering legal action against Verizon for violating consumer privacy laws.

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Microsoft Makes Office Mobile Editing Free As in Freemium
Posted by News Fetcher on November 06 '14 at 03:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's free-is-relative department:
An anonymous reader writes Microsoft today announced a significant change to its Office strategy for mobile devices: creating and editing is now free. The company also released standalone Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps for the iPhone, as well a new preview of these apps for Android tablets. Starting today, whether you're using an Office app on Android or iOS, you can create and edit content without an Office 365 subscription. The company is pitching this move as "More of Office for everyone."

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