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Researcher Develops Explosion-Proof Lithium Metal Battery With 2X Power of Lithium-Ion
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 05:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's TSA-approved department:
MojoKid writes: Tufts University professor and founder of Ionic Materials, Mike Zimmerman, hopes that his resilient ionic battery technology will finally replace Lithium Ion. The reason scientists and researchers pay so much attention to battery design is because today's lithium-ion technologies have several downsides, as we saw recently with Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 recall. If you were to take apart a lithium-ion battery, you'd find a positive electrode called the anode and a negatively charged electrode called the cathode. There's a thin separator that sits between the anode and cathode. Everything else is filled up with liquid, or electrolyte. Charging the battery causes positively charged ions to flow through the liquid from the negative side to the positive side. As you use the battery, the ions flow in the opposite direction. However, the electrolyte is extremely flammable and they can explode when pierced or overheated. Zimmerman's ionic battery trades the flammable liquid for a piece of plastic film to serve as the electrolyte. It isn't prone to overheating and catching fire. The same goes for piercing, cutting or otherwise destroying the battery. Also, unlike lithium-ion batteries, Zimmerman's ionic batteries use actual lithium-metal, which can store twice as much power. Lithium-ion batteries don't contain lithium-metal because they're even more prone to overheating and exploding than lithium-ion, but that risk is removed by Zimmerman swapping out the liquid electrolyte for a solid. Further reading: Yahoo News

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AI Decisively Defeats Four Pro Poker Players In 'Brains Vs AI' Tournament
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 05:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's no-bluff department:
Halfway through the "Brains vs. AI" poker competition, it was pretty clear the artificial intelligence named Libratus would end up victorious against its human opponents, who are four of the world's top professional players. Lo and behold, Libratus lived up to its "balanced and forceful" Latin name by becoming the first AI to beat professional poker players at heads-up, no-limit Texas Hold'em, reports IEEE Spectrum. From the report: The tournament was held at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh from 11-30 January. Developed by Carnegie Mellon University, the AI won the "Brains Vs. Artificial Intelligence" tournament against four poker pros by $1,766,250 in chips over 120,000 hands (games). Researchers can now say that the victory margin was large enough to count as a statistically significant win, meaning that they could be at least 99.7 percent sure that the AI victory was not due to chance. Previous attempts to develop poker-playing AI that can exploit the mistakes of opponents -- whether AI or human -- have generally not been overly successful, says Tuomas Sandholm, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University. Libratus instead focuses on improving its own play, which he describes as safer and more reliable compared to the riskier approach of trying to exploit opponent mistakes. Even more importantly, the victory demonstrates how AI has likely surpassed the best humans at doing strategic reasoning in "imperfect information" games such as poker. The no-limit Texas Hold'em version of poker is a good example of an imperfect information game because players must deal with the uncertainty of two hidden cards and unrestricted bet sizes. An AI that performs well at no-limit Texas Hold'em could also potentially tackle real-world problems with similar levels of uncertainty. In other words, the Libratus algorithms can take the "rules" of any imperfect-information game or scenario and then come up with its own strategy. The Libratus victory comes two years after a first "Brains Vs. Artificial Intelligence" competition held at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh in April-May 2015.

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Apple Sets a New Record For iPhone Sales
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 03:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's record-breaking department:
Apple has reported strong financial results for the first quarter of 2017. According to CEO Tim Cook, the "holiday quarter results generated Apple's highest quarterly revenue ever, and broke multiple records along the way." The company took in $78.4 billion in revenue and sold 78 million iPhones. The Verge reports: Apple reported a profit of $17.8 billion, and said its earnings per share were boosted by the high demand for the larger models of its iPhones, which have higher margins. On the earnings call, Chief financial officer Luca Maestri said that customer satisfaction with iPads, and the new iPad pro, was very high. He predicted strong growth in that category. But the sales figures don't reflect that optimism, with unit sales and revenue from iPad both down around 20 percent year over year. With over a billion iOS devices active around the world, Apple has been able to shore up its flagging hardware sales growth with an increase in revenue from services to those devices. This includes money from Apple Pay, iCloud storage, Apple Music, and App Store sales. It was by far the fastest-growing segment of Apple's revenue this quarter, climbing 18 percent to $7.17 billion since the same period last year. Cook said Apple is aiming to double service revenue over the next four years. Maestri said Apple's App Store had double the revenue of Google's Play Store in 2016. Apple has more than $200 billion in cash parked overseas. Cook said on today's call that he was optimistic about tax reform in the U.S. happening this year, and that this might allow Apple to bring a lot of that money back home. "With our toe in the water, we're learning a lot about the original content business," Cook said, hinting at one way Apple might deploy all that capital.

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Secret Rules Make It Pretty Easy For the FBI To Spy On Journalists
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 03:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's shrouded-in-secrecy department:
schwit1 shares with us a report on a 11-part series led by The Intercept reporter Cora Currier: Secret FBI rules allow agents to obtain journalists' phone records with approval from two internal officials -- far less oversight than under normal judicial procedures. The classified rules dating from 2013, govern the FBI's use of national security letters, which allow the bureau to obtain information about journalists' calls without going to a judge or informing the news organization being targeted. They have previously been released only in heavily redacted form. Media advocates said the documents show that the FBI imposes few constraints on itself when it bypasses the requirement to go to court and obtain subpoenas or search warrants before accessing journalists' information. The rules stipulate that obtaining a journalist's records with a national security letter requires the signoff of the FBI's general counsel and the executive assistant director of the bureau's National Security Branch, in addition to the regular chain of approval. Generally speaking, there are a variety of FBI officials, including the agents in charge of field offices, who can sign off that an NSL is "relevant" to a national security investigation. There is an extra step under the rules if the NSL targets a journalist in order "to identify confidential news media sources." In that case, the general counsel and the executive assistant director must first consult with the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's National Security Division. But if the NSL is trying to identify a leaker by targeting the records of the potential source, and not the journalist, the Justice Department doesn't need to be involved. The guidelines also specify that the extra oversight layers do not apply if the journalist is believed to be a spy or is part of a news organization "associated with a foreign intelligence service" or "otherwise acting on behalf of a foreign power." Unless, again, the purpose is to identify a leak, in which case the general counsel and executive assistant director must approve the request.

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KDE Plasma 5.9 Released
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 02:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's come-and-get-it department:
KDE has announced the release and general availability of the KDE Plasma 5.9 desktop environment for GNU/Linux operating systems. While it only took a few months to develop and isn't a long-term supported (LTS) version like KDE Plasma 5.8, the update does have several new features and improving Wayland support. Softpedia reports: Probably the most important one, which will make many KDE users upgrade from KDE Plasma 5.8 LTS or previous versions, is the return of Global Menus, a feature that was available in the KDE 4 series of the desktop environment. Only now, after numerous requests from users, did the KDE developers manage to implement Global Menus again in KDE Plasma 5.9. Quite a multitude of improvements have landed in the KDE Plasma 5.9 desktop environment for those who use the next-generation Wayland display server. These include the ability to take screenshots, support for using the color picker, implementation of borderless maximized windows for full-screen support, and support for dragging apps by clicking on an empty area of the user interface using the Breeze style. KDE Plasma Wayland support allows users to set color schemes for windows, which may come in handy for accessibility, implements auto-hide support for panels, and properly displays the window icon on the panel when using X11 apps. Moreover, there's now a new settings tool for configuring touchpads, which you can see in action in the second video attached below. Wayland users can also set up gestures and relative motions. KDE Plasma 5.9 also adds several cool new tools that promise to enhance your productivity. For example, you'll be able to drag a screenshot taken with the Spectacle utility from the notification pop-up straight into a web browser form, chat window, or email composer. There's also a brand-new drag and drop functionality that lets you add widgets directly to the system tray area, and it's now possible to add widgets directly from the full-screen Application Dashboard launcher. KRunner actions like "Open containing folder" and "Run in Terminal" are now displayed in the application launchers for search results powered by KRunner, of course, and there's now a new applet that lets users group multiple widgets together in a single one. You can read the announcement and download KDE Plasma 5.9 via their website.

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Roku Owners: Comcast Is About To Sell You Cable TV Without the Cable Box
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 02:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hassle-free department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Comcast is making its Xfinity TV service available to subscribers with Roku set-top players via a new app, paving the way for customers of the nation's largest cable provider to watch live programming without the cost or hassle of a cable box. Roku is the first set-stop box to offer the Xfinity TV service, Comcast said in a statement Tuesday. During a test period, subscribers will have to hang on to their cable devices. When the app formally rolls out later this year, they'll be able sign up without renting a cable box. While Comcast expects the majority of its customers to opt for the typical setup, traditional pay-TV providers are trying to be more flexible about where and how people can watch TV given the popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon and the boxes that offer them. Customers with Roku players will be able to watch live TV, browse on-demand libraries and record shows, just as they can with Comcast's boxes. Those who use the Roku as their primary device instead of Comcast's X1 device will receive a $2.50 monthly credit, the company said.

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Elon Musk Thinks We Will Have To Use AI This Way To Avoid a Catastrophic Future
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's profile department:
Elon Musk has long said that artificial intelligence will have to augment human abilities, rather than compete with them, in order to avoid a portentous future. He has been active in trying to find ways to evaluate and reduce potential risks posed by AI. From a report: On Monday, Musk tweeted out a set of principles for AI research and development created by a group of scientists at a recent conference for the Future of Life Institute (of which Musk is a board member). Musk said in response to a comment that ensuring AI augments human abilities is "critical to the future of humanity." Musk recently told a Twitter user that there may be an announcement "next month" regarding such as device, which Musk has called, in the past, a neural lace.

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US Judge Rejects Suit Over Face Scanning for Video Game
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's steering-clear department:
Two athletes whose images were scanned for a video game have been bounced from court on their claim that the game maker violated a law protecting biometric information. From a report: Brother-and-sister video basketball players Ricardo and Vanessa Vigil were leading a class action that claimed Take-Two Interactive, which manufactured the NBA 2K15 game, ran afoul of an Illinois law that governs biometric identifiers such as retina or iris scans, fingerprints, voiceprints, or scans of hand and face geometry. The Vigils agreed to have their faces scanned to create digital avatars for NBA 2K15, but said they didn't know their images would be available in unencrypted form online. They tried to hold Take-Two liable under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) in Vigil v. Take-Two Interactive Software, 15-cv-8211. Judge John Koetl of the Southern District of New York dismissed the proposed class action suit filed by brother and sister Ricardo and Vanessa Vigil, saying the plaintiffs didn't show "concrete" harm from the way the gaming company stores and uses their biometric data.

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Google Open-Sources Chrome For iOS
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 11:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's affinity-for-open-source department:
Google has uploaded its Chrome for iOS code into the open-source Chromium repository. In other words, Chrome for iOS has now been open-sourced like Chrome for other platforms, letting anyone examine, modify, and compile the project. From a report: Chromium is the open-source Web browser project that shares much of the same code as Google Chrome, and new features are often added there first. Google intended for Chromium to be the name of the open-source project, while the final product name would be Chrome, but developers have taken the code and released versions under the Chromium name. Eventually, many browser makers started using it as a starting point; Opera, for example, switched its browser base to Chromium in 2013. Since its inception, Chromium was a desktop-only affair. That changed in May 2015 with the open-sourcing of Chrome for Android.

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Microsoft Sells $17 Billion in Second Bond Deal in Six Months
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 11:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's $$$ department:
An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report: Microsoft found ample demand for its $17 billion bond offering, allowing it to cut borrowing rates on its second multibillion note offering in six months. The tech giant received at least twice as many orders as it had bonds to sell, according to people familiar with the matter. The longest portion of the offering, which generally refinanced debt maturing soon, was a $2 billion, 40-year bond with a 4.5 percent coupon that yields 1.4 percentage points above Treasuries, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That's down from initial discussions of about 1.55 percentage points. Moody's Investors Service said Microsoft will use proceeds to refinance commercial paper it sold to help support its takeover of LinkedIn. A regulatory filing shows that at the end of 2016, the Redmond, Washington-based company had $25.1 billion of the debt.

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Google Hands Over $3M in Bug Bounties as Payouts Soar For New Android Flaws
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 10:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's big-bounties department:
Google paid researchers over $3m last year for their contributions to its vulnerability rewards programs. From a ZDNet report: Payouts in 2016 take Google's total payments under its bug bounty schemes to $9m since it started rewarding researchers in 2010. In 2015 it paid researchers $2m, which brought its total then to $6m. It's not uncommon for tech companies to run bug bounties these days, but while many rely on third-party platforms, Google has been responsible for verifying bugs for over six years now. Occasionally, Google expands its program to cover new products, such as Android, and new devices such as OnHub and Nest. Facebook, Microsoft, and most recently Apple are also running their own bug bounties.

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Even Sprint Beat AT&T and Verizon in Customer Growth
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 10:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's making-a-return department:
Customers are turning to Sprint again. From a report on CNET: In fact, they're starting to look to the nation's fourth-largest wireless carrier over stalwarts like AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The company said it added 405,000 net new post-paid subscribers -- people who pay at the end of the month and tend to be more loyal. Of that total, 368,000 were phone customers, Sprint's highest rate of growth in four years. The numbers suggest Sprint is starting to pull itself out of a death spiral, reversing years of losses, customers faced with poor service and a network that lagged behind the competition. Sprint's customer growth came at a time when all the carriers were aggressive with holiday promotions. It's a trend that will likely continue, resulting in more potential deals for consumers. "Sprint is turning the corner," CEO Marcelo Claure said in the company's fiscal third-quarter report on Tuesday.

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Tesla's Battery Revolution Just Reached Critical Mass
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's battery-revolution department:
Tesla is all set to cut the ribbon on a massive battery storage facility in the California desert -- the biggest of its kind on earth. It joins similarly huge facilities built by AES and Altagas, which are both set to launch around the same time. Combined, the plants constitute 15% of the battery storage installed globally last year. From a report: Tesla Motors is making a huge bet that millions of small batteries can be strung together to help kick fossil fuels off the grid. The idea is a powerful one -- one that's been used to help justify the company's $5 billion factory near Reno, Nev. -- but batteries have so far only appeared in a handful of true, grid-scale pilot projects. That changes this week. Ribbons will be cut and executives will take their bows. But this is a revolution that's just getting started, Tesla Chief Technology Officer J.B. Straubel said in an interview on Friday. "It's sort of hard to comprehend sometimes the speed all this is going at," he said. "Our storage is growing as fast as we can humanly scale it."

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Swedish Govt Mulls Tougher Punishments To Tackle Pirate Sites
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tough-stand department:
Authorities in Sweden are mulling new measures to deal with evolving 'pirate' sites. As part of a legislative review, the government wants to assess potential legal tools, including categorizing large-scale infringement as organized crime, tougher sentences, domain seizures, and site-blocking, reports TorrentFreak. From the article: Sweden is now considering its options when it comes to its future prosecutions of large-scale copyright infringement cases. As part of a review now underway, the government is accessing the powers it needs to deal with more serious cases of copyright infringement. Police national coordinator for intellectual property crimes Paul Pinter hopes that any changes will enable police to operate more efficiently in the future. "If you have a felony, you can get access to a whole new toolkit. In the terms of reference for the inquiry, the government mentions almost all of the points that we have previously proposed," he told IDG. Considering the way anti-piracy enforcement has developed over the past several years, few of the suggestions from the police come as a surprise. At the top of the tree is treating pirate site operators as more than just large-scale copyright infringers. The Justice Department says that due to the manner in which sites are organized and the subsequent development of revenue, treating them as self-contained crime operations may be appropriate.

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Indian IT Sector Warns Against US Visa Bill
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's meanwhile-in-India department:
India's IT lobby warned on Tuesday that a bill before the U.S. Congress aimed at imposing tougher visa rules unfairly targets some of its members and will not solve a U.S. labor shortage in technology and engineering. From a report on Reuters: Industry lobby group Nasscom was responding to a bill introduced by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, that would double the minimum salary required for holders of H-1B visas to $130,000 and determine how many of the visas were allocated, based on factors such as overall wages. India's $150 billion information technology sector, led by Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro, uses the H-1B visas to fly engineers and developers to service clients in the U.S., their biggest market, but opponents say they are using the visas to replace U.S. workers. Concerns about President Donald Trump's immigration policies were heightened by his ban on refugees on Friday. "The Lofgren Bill contains provisions that may prove challenging for the Indian IT sector and will also leave loopholes that will nullify the objective of saving American jobs," Nasscom said.

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Netgear Exploit Found in 31 Models Lets Hackers Turn Your Router Into a Botnet
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: You might want to upgrade the firmware of your router if it happens to sport the Netgear brand. Researchers have discovered a severe security hole that potentially puts hundreds of thousands of Netgear devices at risk. Disclosed by cybersecurity firm Trustwave, the vulnerability essentially allows attackers to exploit the router's password recovery system to bypass authentication and hijack admin credentials, giving them full access to the device and its settings. What is particularly alarming is that the bug affects at least 31 different Netgear models, with the total magnitude of the vulnerability potentially leaving over a million users open to attacks. Even more unsettling is the fact that affected devices could in certain cases be breached remotely. As Trustwave researcher Simon Kenin explains, any router that has the remote management option switched on is ultimately vulnerable to hacks.

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'It's Tricky': Apple Misses the Deadline To Pay $13.9 Bn To Ireland in Illegal Tax Benefit
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 06:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tax-savings department:
Apple has not fully paid the 13 billion euros ($13.9 billion) it owes to Ireland in illegal tax benefits even though the deadline has passed, the European Union's competition said on Tuesday. From a report: "Well the recovery is not done yet but we have been working with the Irish authorizes and we can see that they are moving forward to do the recovery of the unpaid taxes," EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said during a press conference in response to a question by CNBC. "It's a tricky thing to do because it's a large sum so of course you have to figure out how to do that. It's not as an escrow account in some of the other cases where it might be 25 or 30 million euros ... and therefore I do respect that it's a complicated matter and it may take a little more time. Last year, the Commission ruled that Ireland must recover 13 billion euros in "illegal tax benefits" from Apple. It found that the U.S. technology giant paid an effective tax rate of 0.005 percent in Ireland in 2014.

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Why An LSD High Lasts For So Long
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 06:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's revolutionary-idea-making department:
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has been credited, in part, for the creation of the iPhone, the polymerase chain reaction, as well as some pretty abstract artwork. Since the drug is classified as a Schedule 1 substance in the U.S., it's been more difficult for scientists to legally study the drug and learn about how it affects the brain. Therefore, when a study (or two) is published it makes the findings all the more fascinating. Two studies were published last week (one in Current Biology, the other in Cell) that examine how LSD produces such diverse effects and why the drug takes so long to wear off. The Scientist reports the findings from for the first study: For the Current Biology study, 21 volunteers were given a placebo, a small dose of LSD alone, or the same dose of LSD but with kentaserin, a serotonin 2A antagonist. Study participants who took the kentaserin reported virtually the same experiences as those who took the placebo, and fMRI brain scans confirmed similar brain activities across participants in both groups. The serotonin 2A antagonist "blocked all the effects of LSD, so it was like if people didn't take any drugs," coauthor Katrin Preller, neuroscientist at the Zurich University Hospital in Switzerland told The Verge. "All the typical symptoms -- hallucinations, everything -- were gone."
< article continued at Slashdot's revolutionary-idea-making department >

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Scientists Create Electronic Glasses That Can Automatically Focus On Whatever You're Looking At
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '17 at 02:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's phase-detection-auto-focus department:
mmell writes: University of Utah scientists have created a prototype electronic lens which uses several technologies to customize the lens optics focusing on whatever the wearer is looking at. [Just like] the "oil lenses" in Frank Herbert's Dune series of novels, the electronic lens (a transparent LCD) can have its index of refractivity modified by application of a small electric current. While I can conceive many uses for this technology (in spacecraft instruments, webcams/Handycams, handheld binoculars and telescopes for example), these were developed as a replacement for the progressive lenses -- a.k.a. bifocals -- which are worn by many with less than perfect eyesight. Many eyeglass wearers don't tolerate bifocals well and I wonder if the adaptive optics in this prototype could relieve them of the need to carry multiple pairs of glasses? Whether they prove cost effective for the role of eyeglasses or not (and I can see no reason why they shouldn't), the applications for this technology seem quite diverse and potentially even revolutionary. I wonder how long it will be before these are more than just a prototype?

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Oxygen From Earth's Atmosphere May Be Traveling To the Moon's Surface
Posted by News Fetcher on January 30 '17 at 11:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's exhaust-pipe department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: New research shows that oxygen from Earth could be journeying all the way out to the Moon, where it then gets lodged inside the lunar soil. It's a process that's likely been happening for 2.4 billion years, ever since oxygen formed around our planet, meaning the Moon's soil may contain trapped particles from Earth's ancient atmosphere. This oxygen exchange, detailed in a study published today in Nature Astronomy, supposedly occurs for just a few days during the Moon's 27-day orbit. Most of the time, the Moon is constantly being blasted with solar wind -- fast streams of charged particles emanating from the Sun. But for five days of every lunar orbit, the Moon passes into Earth's magnetotail, the portion of the planet's magnetic field that stretches outward away from the Sun. This tail shields the Moon from the solar wind, and allows charged oxygen ions from Earth to travel to the lunar surface, according to the study. That means the Moon -- a dead rock incapable of supporting life -- is being showered with the byproducts of life here on Earth. In fact, the source of most of the oxygen in our atmosphere is biological, created by plants during photosynthesis. It's a process that experts have suspected for a while but haven't been able to confirm until today. Researchers have also suggested that other atmospheric components, such as nitrogen and noble gases, are getting to the Moon this way based on lunar soil samples.

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