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posted by janrinok on Wednesday February 26, @11:05PM   Printer-friendly
from the we-must-have-cured-mice-from-everything-by-now dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Researchers have converted human stem cells into insulin-producing cells and demonstrated in mice infused with such cells that blood sugar levels can be controlled and diabetes functionally cured for nine months.

The findings, from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, are published online Feb. 24 in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

"These mice had very severe diabetes with blood sugar readings of more than 500 milligrams per deciliter of blood—levels that could be fatal for a person—and when we gave the mice the insulin-secreting cells, within two weeks their blood glucose levels had returned to normal and stayed that way for many months," said principal investigator Jeffrey R. Millman, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine and of biomedical engineering at Washington University.

Several years ago, the same researchers discovered how to convert human stem cells into pancreatic beta cells that make insulin. When such cells encounter blood sugar, they secrete insulin. Still, previous work has had its limitations and had not effectively controlled diabetes in mice.

Now, the researchers have shown a new technique they developed can more efficiently convert human stem cells into insulin-producing cells that more effectively control blood sugar.

"A common problem when you're trying to transform a human stem cell into an insulin-producing beta cell—or a neuron or a heart cell —is that you also produce other cells that you don't want," Millman said. "In the case of beta cells, we might get other types of pancreas cells or liver cells."

[...] He explained that there still is much to do before this strategy can be used to treat people with diabetes. They will need to test the cells over longer periods of time in larger animal models and work to automate the process to have any hope of producing beta cells that can help the millions of people who currently require insulin injections to control their diabetes. But the research is continuing.

More information: Nathaniel J. Hogrebe et al. Targeting the cytoskeleton to direct pancreatic differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells, Nature Biotechnology (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41587-020-0430-6

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday February 26, @09:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the problems-with-his-connection dept.

Tesla Autopilot Crash Driver 'Was Playing Video Game'


An Apple employee who died after his Tesla car hit a concrete barrier was playing a video game at the time of the crash, investigators believe.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the car had been driving semi-autonomously using Tesla's Autopilot software.

Tesla instructs drivers to keep their hands on the wheel in Autopilot mode.
But critics say the "Autopilot" branding makes some drivers think the car is driving fully autonomously.

The NTSB said the driver had been "over-reliant" on the software.

Tesla does instruct drivers to keep their hands on the wheel when using Autopilot, and an audible warning sounds if they fail to do so.

Does the Tesla branding of "autopilot" lure drivers into driving dangerously?

Tesla Crash Likely Caused by Video Game Distraction

The NTSB has published a review of a fatal crash involving a Tesla in March 2018 that includes a set of safety recommendations.

In the NTSB press release(2/25/2020) regarding the causes for the crash, they made the following observations:

The NTSB determined the Tesla "Autopilot" system's limitations, the driver's overreliance on the "Autopilot" and the driver's distraction – likely from a cell phone game application – caused the crash. The Tesla vehicle's ineffective monitoring of driver engagement was determined to have contributed to the crash. Systemic problems with the California Department of Transportation's repair of traffic safety hardware and the California Highway Patrol's failure to "report damage to a crash attenuator led to the Tesla striking a damaged and nonoperational crash attenuator" [sic], which the NTSB said contributed to the severity of the driver's injuries.

"This tragic crash clearly demonstrates the limitations of advanced driver assistance systems available to consumers today," said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. "There is not a vehicle currently available to US consumers that is self-driving. Period. Every vehicle sold to US consumers still requires the driver to be actively engaged in the driving task, even when advanced driver assistance systems are activated. If you are selling a car with an advanced driver assistance system, you're not selling a self-driving car. If you are driving a car with an advanced driver assistance system, you don't own a self-driving car," said Sumwalt.

"In this crash we saw an over-reliance on technology, we saw distraction, we saw a lack of policy prohibiting cell phone use while driving, and we saw infrastructure failures that, when combined, led to this tragic loss. The lessons learned from this investigation are as much about people as they are about the limitations of emerging technologies," said Sumwalt. "Crashes like this one, and thousands more that happen every year due to distraction, are why "Eliminate Distractions" remains on the NTSB's Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements," he said.

[...] the board also excoriated the National Highway Transportation Agency for providing utterly ineffectual oversight when it comes to so-called "level 2" driver assists, as well as California's highway agency CalTrans, which failed to replace a damaged crash attenuator in front of the concrete gore, which would in most likelihood have saved Huang's life.

NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on Tesla Autopilot Crash
Tesla Crash: Model X Was In Autopilot Mode, Firm Says

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

posted by martyb on Wednesday February 26, @06:20PM   Printer-friendly
from the if-you-debug-your-program-does-it-die? dept.

Researchers at the Technion have created a biological computer, constructed within a bacterial cell and capable of monitoring different substances in the environment. Currently, the computer identifies and reports on toxic and other materials.

[...] "We built a kind of biological computer in the living cells. In this computer, as in regular computers, circuits carry out complicated calculations," said Barger. "Only here, these circuits are genetic, not electronic, and information are carried by proteins and not electrons."

Bacterial luciferase and its substrate are encoded by five genes, and is responsible for generating light in the bacterial cell. By splitting the natural structure of the luciferase, the researchers created various genetic circuits and inserted them into the cells of E. coli bacteria. The result was that the engineered bacteria transmit signals as a product of computational action within the cell. In this way, they can serve as smart biosensors, analytical tools for monitoring and quantifying environmental infections and other toxic substances.

Is playing with self-replicating organisms advisable?

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday February 26, @04:29PM   Printer-friendly
from the will-it-detect-windows-installers? dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Hey, Linux fans! Microsoft has got your back over fileless threats. Assuming you've bought into the whole Azure Security Center thing.

Hot on the heels of a similar release for Windows (if by "hot" you mean "nearly 18 months after") comes a preview aimed at detecting that breed of malware that inserts itself into memory before attempting to hide its tracks.

[...] Microsoft's detection feature scans the memory of all processes for the tell-tale footprint of a fileless toolkit, shrieking a warning in the Azure Security Center along with some details of the nasty. An admin can then decide what action to take (and what further investigation is needed).

The scan, according to the Windows giant, is not invasive and the "vast majority" take less than five seconds to run. More importantly for the those fearful of slurpage, memory analysis is performed on the host itself and the results only contain "security-relevant metadata and details of suspicious payloads".

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday February 26, @02:37PM   Printer-friendly
from the and-everyone-else-on-the-network dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Firefox will start switching browser users to Cloudflare's encrypted-DNS service today and roll out the change across the United States in the coming weeks.

"Today, Firefox began the rollout of encrypted DNS over HTTPS (DoH) by default for US-based users," Firefox maker Mozilla said in an announcement scheduled to go live at this link Tuesday morning. "The rollout will continue over the next few weeks to confirm no major issues are discovered as this new protocol is enabled for Firefox's US-based users."

DNS over HTTPS helps keep eavesdroppers from seeing what DNS lookups your browser is making, potentially making it more difficult for Internet service providers or other third parties to monitor what websites you visit. As we've previously written, Mozilla's embrace of DNS over HTTPS is fueled in part by concerns about ISPs monitoring customers' Web usage. Mobile broadband providers were caught selling their customers' real-time location data to third parties, and Internet providers can use browsing history to deliver targeted ads.

Wireless and wired Internet providers are suing the state of Maine to stop a Web-browsing privacy law that would require ISPs to get customers' opt-in consent before using or sharing browsing history and other sensitive data. The telecom companies already convinced Congress and President Trump to eliminate a similar federal law in 2017.

Also at:
Mozilla Blog
The Register

Firefox Begins Enabling DNS-over-HTTPS for Users

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday February 26, @12:45PM   Printer-friendly
from the International-whack-a-mole^W-virus? dept.

There have been several significant developments in the battle against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, and the resulting illness COVID-19. This story gathers a selection of stories from across the web.

WHO Director-General's Opening Remarks at the Media Briefing on COVID-19 - 24 February 2020

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 24 February 2020:

We're encouraged by the continued decline in cases in China.

Earlier today the WHO-China joint mission concluded its visit and delivered its report.

[...] The team has made a range of findings about the transmissibility of the virus, the severity of disease and the impact of the measures taken.

They found that the epidemic peaked and plateaued between the 23rd of January and the 2nd of February, and has been declining steadily since then.

They have found that there has been no significant change in the DNA of the virus.

They found that the fatality rate is between 2% and 4% in Wuhan, and 0.7% outside Wuhan.

They found that for people with mild disease, recovery time is about two weeks, while people with severe or critical disease recover within three to six weeks.

The team also estimate that the measures taken in China have averted a significant number of cases.

The report contains a wealth of other information, highlights questions for which we still don't have answers, and includes 22 recommendations.

[...] But the key message that should give all countries hope, courage and confidence is that this virus can be contained.

[...] The sudden increases of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning.

There's a lot of speculation about whether these increases mean that this epidemic has now become a pandemic.

[...] WHO has already declared a public health emergency of international concern – our highest level of alarm – when there were less than 100 cases outside China, and 8 cases of human-to-human transmission.

Our decision about whether to use the word "pandemic" to describe an epidemic is based on an ongoing assessment of the geographical spread of the virus, the severity of disease it causes and the impact it has on the whole of society.

For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death.

Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet.

So how should we describe the current situation?

What we see are epidemics in different parts of the world, affecting countries in different ways and requiring a tailored response.

The sudden increase in new cases is certainly very concerning.

[...] We must focus on containment, while doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic.

[...] there are at least three priorities.

First, all countries must prioritize protecting health workers.

Second, we must engage communities to protect people who are most at risk of severe disease, particularly the elderly and people with underlying health conditions.

And third, we must protect countries that are the most vulnerable, by doing our utmost to contain epidemics in countries with the capacity to do it.

Coronavirus Spread in US Not a Matter of If, but When, CDC Warns

Coronavirus spread in US not a matter of if, but when, CDC warns:

Americans should begin preparing for the possibility of a coronavirus outbreak in the US, according to a warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the immediate threat to the general public is still low, federal health officials said the coronavirus is likely to expand its footprint in the US.

"We expect we will see community spread in this country," said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a press briefing Tuesday. "It's more of a question of exactly when this will happen."

The CDC also outlined steps that cities, business and schools may need to take if the virus becomes a pandemic.

"We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this is going to be bad," said Messonnier. "Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, schools and everyday people to begin preparing as well."

Italy Struggles With Virus 'That Doesn't Respect Borders'

Italy struggles with virus 'that doesn't respect borders':

Michele L did not know what to do when he heard that the coronavirus had hit Codogno in northern Italy, less than 10km from his hometown Casalpusterlengo.

[...] Codogno is now known as the "Wuhan of Italy" and is on lockdown. Trains do not stop there and the streets are empty.

Within 72 hours from the first outbreak, almost a dozen towns in the wealthy regions of Lombardy and Veneto, with a total population of about 50,000 people, were placed under quarantine.

Now desperately struggling to contain the virus, Italy has the largest number of cases outside Asia and the second-highest number of deaths outside China after Iran, where at least 15 people have died.

All the people who have died in Italy were elderly patients or already had serious preconditions.

The worst-hit European country, at least 11 people have died from coronavirus in Italy and there are more than 300 cases - most in the north.

"We're talking about a virus that doesn't respect borders," said Italy's Health Minister Roberto Speranza.

[...] In recent days, schools and museums were closed in major cities, sports and cultural events were cancelled and the Venice carnival was called off. Trade fairs in Milan were postponed. The bars that are still open must observe a curfew.

[...] Authorities still have little information about the identity of the "superspreader", or Patient 0. While they are still looking for the source, the high number of infected patients has shifted priorities.

According to reports, a hospital in the northern town of Codogno mismanaged the region's first case and fuelled the infection's spread.

[...] People from the isolated areas have criticised a lack of coordination, poor access to emergency hotlines, and a shortage of swabs for testing.

Police and military patrol have been deployed around the towns on lockdown, with officers in surgical masks.

The Coronavirus Seems Unstoppable. What Should the World Do Now?

The coronavirus seems unstoppable. What should the world do now?:

The global march of COVID-19 is beginning to look unstoppable. In just the past week, a countrywide outbreak surfaced in Iran, spawning additional cases in Iraq, Oman, and Bahrain. Italy put 10 towns in the north on lockdown after the virus rapidly spread there. An Italian physician carried the virus to the Spanish island of Tenerife, a popular holiday spot for northern Europeans, and Austria and Croatia reported their first cases. Meanwhile, South Korea's outbreak kept growing explosively and Japan reported additional cases in the wake of the botched quarantine of a cruise ship.

The virus may be spreading stealthily in many more places. A modeling group at Imperial College London has estimated that about two-thirds of the cases exported from China have yet to be detected.

The World Health Organization (WHO) still avoided using the word "pandemic" to describe the burgeoning crisis today, instead talking about "epidemics in different parts of the world." But many scientists say that regardless of what it's called, the window for containment is now almost certainly shut. "It looks to me like this virus really has escaped from China and is being transmitted quite widely," says Christopher Dye, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford. "I'm now feeling much more pessimistic that it can be controlled." In the United States, "disruption to everyday life might be severe," Nancy Messonnier, who leads the coronavirus response for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned on 25 February. "We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this is going to be bad."

Dye and others say it's time to rethink the public health response. So far, efforts have focused on containment: slowing the spread of the virus within China, keeping it from being exported to other countries, and, when patients do cross borders, aggressively tracing anyone they were in contact with and quarantining those people for 2 weeks. But if the virus, named SARS-CoV-2, has gone global, travel restrictions may become less effective than measures to limit outbreaks and reduce their impact, wherever they are—for instance, by closing schools, preparing hospitals, or even imposing the kind of draconian quarantine imposed on huge cities in China.

"Border measures will not be as effective or even feasible, and the focus will be on community mitigation measures until a vaccine becomes available in sufficient quantities," says Luciana Borio, a former biodefense preparedness expert at the U.S. National Security Council who is now vice president at In-Q-Tel, a not-for-profit venture capital firm. "The fight now is to mitigate, keep the health care system working, and don't panic," adds Alessandro Vespignani, an infectious disease modeler at Northeastern University. "This has a range of outcomes from the equivalent of a very bad flu season to something that is perhaps a little bit worse than that."

Public health experts disagree, however, about how quickly the travel restrictions that have marked the first phase of the epidemic should be loosened. Early this week, the total number of cases stood at more than 80,000 with 2705 deaths—with 97% of the total still in China. Some countries have gone so far as to ban all flights to and from China; the United States quarantines anyone who has been in hard-hit Hubei province and refuses entry to foreign nationals if they have been anywhere in China during the past 2 weeks. Several countries have also added restrictions against South Korea and Iran.

[...] To prepare for what's coming, hospitals can stockpile respiratory equipment and add beds. More intensive use of the vaccines against influenza and pneumococcal infections could help reduce the burden of those respiratory diseases on the health care system and make it easier to identify COVID-19 cases, which produce similar symptoms. Governments can issue messages about the importance of handwashing and staying home if you're ill.

Whatever the rest of the world does, it's essential that it take action soon, [WHO's Bruce] Aylward says, and he hopes other countries will learn from China. "The single biggest lesson is: Speed is everything," he says. "And you know what worries me most? Has the rest of the world learned the lesson of speed?"

Coronavirus in Pictures: Scenes From Around the World

Coronavirus in pictures: Scenes from around the world:

This story presents a sequence of 28 pictures. Each picture has a description and often links to supporting information.

Global Stock Markets Plunge on Coronavirus Fears

Global stock markets plunge on coronavirus fears:

Global financial markets saw some of the sharpest falls in years on Monday after a rise in coronavirus cases renewed fears about economic slowdown.

In the US, the Dow Jones and S&P 500 posted their sharpest daily declines since 2018, with the Dow falling 3.5% or more than 1,000 points.

The S&P 500 ended the day 3.3% lower, while the Nasdaq sank 3.7%.

The UK's FTSE 100 share index closed 3.3% lower, the sharpest drop since January 2016.

In Italy, which has seen Europe's worst outbreak of the virus, Milan's stock market plunged nearly 6%.

In contrast, the price of gold, which is considered less risky, hit its highest level in seven years at one point.

[...] "There has been so much complacency in recent weeks from investors, despite clear signs that China's economy is facing a large hit and that supply chains around the world were being disrupted," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

"Markets initially wobbled in January, but had quickly bounced back, implying that investors didn't see the coronavirus as a serious threat to corporate earnings. They may now be reappraising the situation."

CDC Tells Americans to Brace for Coronavirus

CDC tells Americans to brace for coronavirus:

Fresh off a plane from China, epidemiologist Bruce Aylward sat before members of the press at the World Health Organization's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday and laid out key insights from the coronavirus front lines.

Aylward, a nearly 30-year veteran of outbreak and emergency responses with the WHO, had just led a joint mission through the COVID-19 trenches to appraise the outbreak and China's control efforts. His assessment was glowing: China had responded swiftly, on a mind-boggling large scale, and with differential outbreak responses tailored to curb disease spread in different settings—from the outbreak's blazing epicenter in a highly populated city to the spotty disease clusters in rural areas.

He pointed to humped graphs of cases over time—they are the shape of an epidemic that has been hobbled, he said. Disease spread has been in decline since the beginning of the month, and doctors in China are honing their ability to treat patients. "If I had COVID-19, I'd want to be treated in China," he said candidly.

Based on the data, China's massive efforts have been generally successful and indicate that the virus can be contained, Aylward reported. Yet Chinese officials remain vigilant, he added, in case this never-before-seen virus (which has plagued humanity for mere weeks) presents any surprises.

While Aylward was impressed with the Chinese government response, he noted early in the briefing that he was also taken by the response of Chinese citizens—their cooperation and individual sense of duty to try to help quash the outbreak. "We spoke to hundreds of people... and they all shared this sense of responsibility, accountability to be part of this," Aylward said, noting that there didn't appear to be any government pressure or presence forcing that sense of duty. People were adhering to quarantine protocols on their own, he noted, and medical staff were volunteering to go to the hardest hit areas in the Wuhan province.

Iran's Deputy Health Minister Contracts Coronavirus

Iran's deputy health minister: I have coronavirus

Iran's deputy health minister said he has contracted the coronavirus and placed himself in isolation, a day after appearing feverish at a press conference in which he downplayed its spread in the shrine city of Qom and said mass quarantines were unnecessary.

Also at BBC.

Corona spreads across Europe

As the rest of the world battles the Corona virus, unrest is growing in Europe as well.

Eleven people have now died from Covid-19 in Italy, while 10 villages remain isolated. Today, in a single day, the number of infected Italians has jumped 45 percent to 322. The virus has spread across Italy now: while the infections originally were limited to the North of the country (Lombardia, Veneto, where the Venice Carnival has been closed down), they now have spread to Emilio-Romagna, Lazio (the region around Rome), the Toscan region, Piemont, Trentino-Alto Adigo (Southern Tirol), and (today, Feb 25) Liguria (around Genoa) and Sicily.

The statistics in Italy suggest that for every 100 infected people, 5 are expected to die -- typically older, already weakened, people.

Questions remain about case zero, the original infectious patient in Italy: yesterday that person was still not identified.

US Health Officials: 'When, Not If' Coronavirus Reaches US

US health officials: 'When, not if' coronavirus reaches US:

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday alerted Americans to begin preparing for the spread of coronavirus in the United States after the flu-like virus surfaced in several more countries.

The announcement signals a change in tone for the US health agency, which had largely been focused on efforts to stop the virus from entering the country and quarantining individuals travelling from China.

"The data over the past week about the spread in other countries has raised our level of concern and expectation that we are going to have community spread here," Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on a conference call.

What is not known, she said, is when it will arrive and how severe a US outbreak might be. "Disruption to everyday life might be severe," she cautioned.

Businesses, schools and families should begin having discussions about the possibility that their lives may be disrupted if the virus begins spreading within US communities.

Separately, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told a Senate subcommittee there will likely be more cases in the US, and he asked legislators to approve $2.5bn in funding to fight the outbreak after proposing cuts to the department's budget.

"While the immediate risk to individual members of the American public remains low, there is now community transmission in a number of countries, including outside of Asia, which is deeply concerning," Azar said, adding that recent outbreaks in Iran and Italy were particularly worrying.

Major US stock indexes fell again on Tuesday after a sharp selloff on Monday.

Azar said the US government was working closely with state, local, and private sector partners to prepare for mitigating the virus' potential spread in the US.

US Senator Chuck Schumer, however, said President Donald Trump and his administration had been caught "flat-footed" and lacked a comprehensive plan to deal with coronavirus. He called for at least $3.1bn in additional funding to fight it.

"The Trump administration has shown towering and dangerous incompetence when it comes to the coronavirus," said Schumer, the top Senate Democrat. "Mr President, you need to get your act together now. This is a crisis."

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2Original Submission #3Original Submission #4Original Submission #5Original Submission #6Original Submission #7Original Submission #8Original Submission #9Original Submission #10

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday February 26, @10:53AM   Printer-friendly
from the more-power dept.

A new world record for the conversion of solar energy to electricity using quantum dots:

The development of next generation solar power technology that has potential to be used as a flexible 'skin' over hard surfaces has moved a step closer, thanks to a significant breakthrough at The University of Queensland.

UQ researchers set a world record for the conversion of solar energy to electricity via the use of tiny nanoparticles called 'quantum dots', which pass electrons between one another and generate electrical current when exposed to solar energy in a solar cell device.

The development represents a significant step towards making the technology commercially-viable and supporting global renewable energy targets.

Professor Lianzhou Wang, who led the breakthrough, said: "Conventional solar technologies use rigid, expensive materials. The new class of quantum dots the university has developed are flexible and printable.

"This opens up a huge range of potential applications, including the possibility to use it as a transparent skin to power cars, planes, homes and wearable technology. Eventually it could play a major part in meeting the United Nations' goal to increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix."

Professor Wang's team set the world record for quantum dot solar cell efficiency by developing a unique surface engineering strategy. Overcoming previous challenges around the fact that the surface of quantum dots tend to be rough and unstable—making them less efficient at converting solar into electrical current.

"This new generation of quantum dots is compatible with more affordable and large-scale printable technologies," said Professor Wang.

Mengmeng Hao et al, Ligand-assisted cation-exchange engineering for high-efficiency colloidal Cs1−xFAxPbI3 quantum dot solar cells with reduced phase segregation, Nature Energy (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41560-019-0535-7

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday February 26, @09:01AM   Printer-friendly
from the I-can-empathize-with-that dept.

Empathy can be detected in people whose brains are at rest:

UCLA researchers have found that it is possible to assess a person's ability to feel empathy by studying their brain activity while they are resting rather than while they are engaged in specific tasks.

Traditionally, empathy is assessed through the use of questionnaires and psychological assessments. The findings of this study offer an alternative to people who may have difficulty filling out questionnaires, such as people with severe mental illness or autism, said senior author Dr. Marco Iacoboni, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

"Assessing empathy is often the hardest in the populations that need it most," Iacoboni said. "Empathy is a cornerstone of mental health and well-being. It promotes social and cooperative behavior through our concern for others. It also helps us to infer and predict the internal feelings, behavior and intentions of others."

Iacoboni has long studied empathy in humans. His previous studies have involved testing empathy in people presented with moral dilemmas or watching someone in pain.

For the current study, published in Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, researchers recruited 58 male and female participants ages 18 to 35.

Resting brain activity data were collected using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, a noninvasive technique for measuring and mapping brain activity through small changes in blood flow. Participants were told to let their minds wander while keeping their eyes still, by looking at a fixation cross on a black screen.

Afterward, the participants completed questionnaires designed to measure empathy. They rated how statements such as "I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me" and "I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective" described them on a five-point scale from "not well" to "very well."

Researchers wanted to measure how accurately they could predict the participants' empathic disposition, characterized as the willingness and ability to understand another's situation, by analyzing the brain scans.

The predictions were made by looking into resting activity in specific brain networks that earlier studies demonstrated are important for empathy. Researchers used a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning, which can pick up subtle patterns in data that more traditional data analyses might not.

"We found that even when not engaged directly in a task that involves empathy, brain activity within these networks can reveal people's empathic disposition," Iacoboni said. "The beauty of the study is that the MRIs helped us predict the results of each participant's questionnaire."

The findings could help health care professionals better assess empathy in people with autism or schizophrenia, who may have difficulties filling out questionnaires or expressing emotion.

Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicco Reggente, Pamela K. Douglas, Jamie D. Feusner, Marco Iacoboni. Predicting Empathy From Resting State Brain Connectivity: A Multivariate Approach. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 2020; 14 DOI: 10.3389/fnint.2020.00003

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday February 26, @07:10AM   Printer-friendly
from the up-in-smoke dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

"In early 2017, he had just over 6,000 Bitcoin in one account, but he feared it may be too easy for a hacker to access," the Irish Times noted this month. "He decided to spread his wealth across 12 new accounts and transferred exactly 500 Bitcoin, worth almost €4.5m, into each of them."

The keys to those accounts were written on a piece of paper and stashed with Collins' fishing rod for safekeeping.

But later that year, Collins was cuffed and jailed for five years for drug possession, as dealers are prone to do. Believing his tenant was no longer able to make rent, Collins' landlord emptied his house and threw out, among other things, the pot peddler's fishing gear.

As it turns out, within the aluminum case of the weed-slinger's fishing rod was the sheet of A4 paper on which the digital keys to 12 Bitcoin wallets was scribbled. The paper was, among Collins' other belongings, sent to a dump in Galway and, it is believed, ultimately incinerated at a facility in either Germany or China.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday February 26, @05:18AM   Printer-friendly
from the get-those-downloads-going dept.

Google said Monday it has patched a Chrome web browser zero-day bug being actively exploited in the wild. The flaw affects versions of Chrome running on the Windows, macOS and Linux platforms.

The zero-day vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2020-6418, is a type of confusion bug and has a severity rating of high. Google said the flaw impacts versions of Chrome released before version 80.0.3987.122. The bug is tied to Chrome's open-source JavaScript and Web Assembly engine, called V8.

Technical details of CVE-2020-6418 are being withheld pending patch deployment to a majority of affected versions of the Chrome browser, according to Google. Generally speaking, memory corruption vulnerabilities occur when memory is altered without explicit data assignments triggering programming errors, which enable an adversary to execute arbitrary code on targeted devices.

[...] Credited for finding the bug is Google's Threat Analysis Group and researcher Clément Lecigne.

Google is also warning users of two additional high-severity vulnerabilities. One, tracked as CVE-2020-6407, is an "out of bounds memory access in streams" bug. The other bug, which does not have a CVE assignment, is a flaw tied to an integer overflow in ICU, a flaw commonly associated with triggering a denial of service and possibly to code execution.

Mitigation includes Windows, Linux, and macOS users download and install the latest version of Chrome.

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday February 26, @03:24AM   Printer-friendly
from the FOMO dept.

Music charts have them, Rotten Tomatoes is built on them, it's why we vote on polls, and now Netflix will show the top 10 shows for users to see and will badge shows with their top 10 number in the listings.

While the streaming video on demand (SVOD) platform has long had a trending side scroller to show what titles have received an up-tick in interest (usually titles that have just been added to the service), the new feature lets you see what people are actually watching the most.

In essence, it’s the same as the wall of top-selling titles in a book shop (if you can find one of those) or the most streamed songs chart on something like Spotify or Apple Music.

[...] Netflix director of product innovation Cameron Johnson said the company had been testing the feature in Mexico and the UK for the last six months and would now roll it out more widely around the world.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to make Netflix better. It’s why we’ve been experimenting with top-10 lists,” Mr Johnson said.

“When you watch a great movie or TV show, you share it with family and friends or talk about it at work so other people can enjoy it too. We hope these top-10 lists will help create more of these shared moments while also helping all of us find something to watch more quickly and easily.”

posted by martyb on Wednesday February 26, @01:33AM   Printer-friendly
from the a-sucker-born-every-minute dept.

Car & Driver and other outlets report on the latest customization available (for a price) when you order a Porsche,

Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur will print the design on the hood after the 911's production is completed. The hood is removed, the biometric data [from your fingerprint] is processed so that it can't be used illegally, and then a robot paints on the design. Finally, a clear coat is applied, and the hood is polished with a high-gloss finish.

The photos show the fingerprint enlarged to cover roughly half the area of the front hood.

The Autoextremist (where I saw this first) has his own personal take on just how ridiculous this is,

Porsche is so proud of this development, that the press release goes on and on and on about it, with this gem from Alexander Fabig, Vice President, Individualization and Classic: “Individuality is very important for Porsche customers. And no design can be more personal than your own fingerprint.”

Somehow this reminds me of the old Johnny Carson bit when he said, “I did not know that.”

[...] I feel a nightmare coming on.

I suppose for the now unfortunately stereotypical buyer of a Porsche – you know, the ones who think they should drive a Porsche but can’t for the life of them really tell you why – this new level of self-aggrandizement will be embraced with a fervor akin to getting the best table at the latest “hot” restaurant of the moment. But for the rest of us it’s just another example of Porsche underpinning its very existence by catering to everything but its heritage.

I pity the first fool – I mean the first Porsche buyer sucked in by this unmitigated bullshit – because by actually appearing in public with their fingerprint on the front of their 911, he or she will instantly shout to the world that they’re The Biggest Tool in the Shed, hands-down.

Other designs will be available using the same custom printing process. Your AC submitter is waiting for the first Porsche sporting the Firebird hood decal*... Vinyl reproductions are readily available on the web (under USD$100) but if you want it painted on at Porsche, note that the fingerprint costs about $8000.

* For a couple of hood pics of actual Pontiac Firebird hood graphics, try (page down)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday February 25, @11:42PM   Printer-friendly
from the who-remembers-when-a-mini-computer-was-the-size-of-only-three-large-refrigerators? dept.

China's Zhaoxin CPU Is in Its First Mini-PC

Networking specialist Ruijie Networks on Tuesday launched its first mini-PC featuring China's homegrown Zhaoxin KaiXian KX-U6780A processor.

[...] The RG-CT7800 takes the form of a 2.4-liter, black chassis. The device features a custom motherboard for the KaiXian KX-U6780A, since the processor is ball grid array-based. The motherboard comes with two SO-DIMM DDR4 RAM slots too.

[...] Ruijie Networks offers the RG-CT7800 with 8GB of DDR4 memory and a 256GB SSD. One of the product images show the device with what appears to be four USB 2.0 ports and two 3.5mm jacks for heaphones and microphones. It's unclear what other ouputs are on the RG-CT7800.

The RG-CT7800 is compatible with the Chinese-developed UOS (Unity Operating System) and NeoKylin operating systems, which are both based on Linux. Ruijie Networks has made the necessary software modifications so that the RG-CT7800 can run streaming software and office suites, such as Kingsoft WPS Office and Yongzhong Office. The mini-PC also supports a bunch of peripherals, including Pantum printers, CZUR document scanners, digital drawing tablets and bar code scanners.

KaiXian KX-U6780A is a "high-end" 8-core x86-64 CPU from Zhaoxin, a joint venture between Via Technologies and the Chinese government. Any way you measure it, performance is relatively low, but that is not the point:

According to GeekBench, the Zhaoxin KX-U6780A comes in at a 1910 on single core score and a 8670 on a multi core score. This is roughly comparable to a modern high-end Intel Atom, or 2012 era four-core Intel Core i5-3550U.

However, where this gets interesting is how it fits into China's "3-5-2" plan. This is Beijing's mandate to wean China's public sector off foreign technology. By the end of 2020, 30% of the technology infrastructure needs to be domestic, while by the end of 2021 this number jumps to 50%, while the remaining 20% would need to be replaced by the end of 2022. The RG-CT7800 -- while technically unremarkable -- will be a perfect cog in the machine for this plan.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday February 25, @09:52PM   Printer-friendly
from the finders-keepers dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

An Indiana man may beat a drug prosecution after the state's highest court threw out a search warrant against him late last week. The search warrant was based on the idea that the man had "stolen" a GPS tracking device belonging to the government. But Indiana's Supreme Court concluded that he'd done no such thing—and the cops should have known it.

Last November, we wrote about the case of Derek Heuring, an Indiana man the Warrick County Sheriff's Office suspected of selling meth. Authorities got a warrant to put a GPS tracker on Heuring's car, getting a stream of data on his location for six days. But then the data stopped.

Officers suspected Heuring had discovered and removed the tracking device. After waiting for a few more days, they got a warrant to search his home and a barn belonging to his father. They argued the disappearance of the tracking device was evidence that Heuring had stolen it.

During their search, police found the tracking device and some methamphetamine. They charged Heuring with drug-related crimes as well as theft of the GPS device.

But at trial, Heuring's lawyers argued that the warrant to search the home and barn had been illegal. An application for a search warrant must provide probable cause to believe a crime was committed. But removing a small, unmarked object from your personal vehicle is no crime at all, Heuring's lawyers argued. Heuring had no way of knowing what the device was or who it belonged to—and certainly no obligation to leave the device on his vehicle.

An Indiana appeals court ruled against Heuring last year. But Indiana's Supreme Court seemed more sympathetic to Heuring's case during oral arguments last November.

"I'm really struggling with how is that theft," said Justice Steven David during November's oral arguments.

The appeals court[*] decision is available online as a pdf.

Also at: Washington Post and The Indiana Lawyer.

[*] Updated at 2020-02-26 01:16:51 UTC. Previously, this link suggested it was to the decision by the Indiana Supreme Court. This was, in fact, a link to the decision from the Indiana Appeals Court. We regret the error.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday February 25, @08:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the lotsa-bits dept.

Samsung Starts Mass Production of Second-Gen 16GB LPDDR5 RAM for Future Premium Smartphones

Samsung has announced that it will kick off mass production of the world's first 16GB LPDDR5 RAM package for future smartphones. Last year, the Korean giant stated that it started mass production of 12GB LPDDR5 RAM. For 2020, Samsung has taken that production dial to the next phase and claims that the new RAM packages will enable users to experience enhanced 5G and AI features ranging from graphic-rich gaming and smart photography.

According to the company, the data transfer rate for the 16GB LPDDR5 [package] is 5500Mb/s (megabits per second), making it significantly faster than the previous-generation LPDRR4X RAM package, which peaks out at 4266Mb/s. That's not the only benefit of using these chips, because compared to an 8GB LPDDR4X package, the new mobile DRAM can deliver more than 20 percent power savings while offering twice the memory capacity.

16 GB DRAM packages could also be used in single board computers and other compact systems. For example, the BCM2711 SoC used in the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B can theoretically address up to 16 GB of memory.

Samsung press release. Also at AnandTech.

Previously: Samsung Announces 8 GB DRAM Package for Mobile Devices
Samsung Announces LPDDR5 DRAM Prototype Before Specification is Finalized
Samsung Begins Mass Producing 12 GB DRAM Packages for Smartphones
Samsung Mass Producing LPDDR5 DRAM (12 Gb x 8 for 12 GB Packages)
Get Ready for Smartphones with 16 GB of RAM

Original Submission