2020-07-01 00:00:00 ..
2020-07-06 14:30:24 UTC
2020-07-07 03:15:40 UTC
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It doesn’t get much more futuristic than living on Mars—and guess what? There’s a 3D printed home for that, too. In fact, there are a few; last year saw the conclusion of a contest held by NASA called the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge.
[...] The top prize ($500,000) went to AI Space Factory, a New York-based architecture and construction technologies company focused on building for space exploration. Their dual-shell, four-level design is called Marsha, and unlike Martian habitats we’ve seen on the big screen or read about in sci-fi novels, it’s neither a dome nor an underground bunker. In fact, it sits fully above ground and it looks like a cross between a hive and a giant egg.
The team chose the hive-egg shape very deliberately, saying that it’s not only optimized to handle the pressure and temperature demands of the Martian atmosphere, but building it with a 3D printer will be easier because the printer won’t have to move around as much as it would to build a structure with a larger footprint. That means less risk of errors and a faster building speed.
The building material would combine basalt fiber and bioplastics made from plants grown on Mars.
Tesla will be able to make its vehicles completely autonomous by the end of this year, founder Elon Musk has said.
It was already "very close" to achieving the basic requirements of this "level-five" autonomy, which requires no driver input, he said.
Tesla's current, level-two Autopilot requires the driver to remain alert and ready to act, with hands on the wheel.
But a future software update could activate level-five autonomy in the cars - with no new hardware, he said.
Regulatory hurdles could block implementation even if the remaining technical hurdles are overcome.
In this study, McKenzie and Punske discuss how languages evolve over time whenever communities grow isolated from one another. This would certainly be the case in the event of a long interstellar voyage and/or as a result of interplanetary colonization. Eventually, this could mean that the language of the colonists would be unintelligible to the people of Earth, should they meet up again later.
[...] To illustrate, McKenzie and Punske use examples of different language families on Earth and how new languages emerged due to distance and time. They then extrapolated how this same process would occur over the course of 10 generations or more of interstellar/interplanetary travel. As McKenzie explained in a UK press release:
"If you're on this vessel for 10 generations, new concepts will emerge, new social issues will come up, and people will create ways of talking about them, and these will become the vocabulary particular to the ship. People on Earth might never know about these words, unless there's a reason to tell them. And the further away you get, the less you're going to talk to people back home. Generations pass, and there's no one really back home to talk to. And there's not much you want to tell them, because they'll only find out years later, and then you'll hear back from them years after that."
There are always emojis...
McKenzie, A., Punske, J.. Language Development During Interstellar Travel, Acta Futura, (12), 123–132. (DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3747353)
Red Rover Red Rover and a Sat looking over
On July 30, NASA is sending Curiosity a new friend: their fifth Mars rover since the start of the program, called Perseverance.
Perseverance’s main mission is to look for signs of past life on Mars by studying the geology and taking rock and soil samples to be analyzed on Earth later.
[...] Like the Americans, China is landing a rover on Mars this summer, called Tianwen-1, according to a press release from the China National Space Administration.
Although not many details of the mission have been released, the rover is set to launch sometime in July, and is China’s first Mars exploration mission.
The United Arab Emirates are not landing a rover on the planet, but are instead launching a mission to orbit Mars and observe from space.
[...] The mission is aiming to understand the climate dynamics of Mars, the structure of Mars’ atmosphere and why hydrogen and oxygen are escaping from the upper atmosphere into space.
[...] Although these three missions are being operated by different countries, and have different goals, they all serve as important stepping stones towards the ultimate quest: achieving a human expedition to Mars by the end of the century.
Frailty and immune decline are two main features of old age. Researchers from the University of Bern and the University Hospital Bern now demonstrate in an animal model that these two age-related impairments can be halted and even partially reversed using a novel cell-based therapeutic approach.
[...] The team around Dr. Noti and Dr. Eggel could demonstrated that a certain kind of immune cells, known as eosinophils, which are predominantly found in the blood circulation, are also present in belly fat of both humans and mice. Although classically known to provide protection from parasite infection and to promote allergic airway disease, eosinophils located in belly fat are responsible to maintain local immune homeostasis. With increasing age the frequency of eosinophils in belly fat declines, while the number of pro-inflammatory macrophages increases. Owing to this immune cell dysbalance, belly fat turns into a source of pro-inflammatory mediators accumulating systemically in old age.
In a next step, the researchers investigated the possibility to reverse age-related impairments by restoring the immune cell balance in visceral adipose tissue. "In different experimental approaches, we were able to show that transfers of eosinophils from young mice into aged recipients resolved not only local but also systemic low-grade inflammation", says Dr. Eggel. "In these experiments, we observed that transferred eosinophils were selectively homing into adipose tissue", adds Dr. Noti. This approach had a rejuvenating effect on the aged organism. As a consequence, aged animals showed significant improvements in physical fitness as assessed by endurance and grip strength tests. Moreover, the therapy had a rejuvenating effect on the immune system manifesting in improved vaccination responses of aged mice.
They managed to work COVID-19 into the press release.
Daniel Brigger, Carsten Riether, Robin van Brummelen, et al. Eosinophils regulate adipose tissue inflammation and sustain physical and immunological fitness in old age, Nature Metabolism (DOI: 10.1038/s42255-020-0228-3)
Chih-Hao Lee. Young eosinophils rejuvenate ageing adipose tissues, Nature Metabolism (DOI: 10.1038/s42255-020-0230-9)
Comet Neowise looks like it could be the real deal. After two other comets discovered in 2020 -- Swan and Atlas -- looked promising but then fizzled and faded away without ever putting on much of a show, Comet C/2020 F3 (aka Neowise) seems poised to deliver.
[...] According to NASA solar system ambassador Eddie Irizarry, it should remain visible just before and around the time of first light until July 11. The comet will then dip below the horizon as it transitions from being an early riser to a cocktail hour sensation, hopefully. It'll start to be visible again in the evening around July 15-16. It should be a little easier to see during the second half of July when it's a little higher in the sky. Until that point it'll be closer to the northeastern horizon.
[...] The comet's closest pass by Earth will be July 23, which might make for a particularly exciting viewing opportunity if the comet's brightness continues to hold where it is or even intensifies. It'll also rise a little higher in the sky on July 24 and 25 in case you miss the actual flyby date. Comets are notoriously fickle things that could always break up and burn out at any moment, so fingers crossed.
There's a possibility, for the most optimistic of us, that Neowise might brighten dramatically to become a so-called "great comet" that's easily visible and spectacular to see with the naked eye. While there's no strict definition of what a great comet is, it's generally agreed that we haven't seen one since Hale-Bopp in 1997.
EurekAlert reports on a potential "Early Breakthrough with Cancer Vaccine":
Lead Researcher Associate Professor [The University of Queensland] Kristen Radford says the vaccine has the potential to treat a variety of blood cancers and malignancies and is a major breakthrough for cancer vaccinations.
"We are hoping this vaccine could be used to treat blood cancers, such as myeloid leukaemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and paediatric leukaemias, plus solid malignancies including breast, lung, renal, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers, and glioblastoma," she said.
"Our new vaccine is comprised of human antibodies fused with tumour-specific protein, and we are investigating its capacity to target human cells while activating the memory of the tumour cells."
According to Radford, the vaccine has significant advantages over the current entries in this space. Passing clinical trials is not a small hurdle however. An MIT study shows that 3.4% of investigational cancer treatments eventually receive FDA approval, although that has increased significantly in the past five years.
Frances E Pearson, Kirsteen M Tullett, Ingrid M Leal‐Rojas, et al. Human CLEC9A antibodiesdeliver Wilms' tumor 1 (WT1) antigen to CD141+ dendritic cells to activate naïve and memory WT1‐specific CD8+ T cells [open], Clinical & Translational Immunology (DOI: 10.1002/cti2.1141)
Linux reviews notes that
The popular Linux Mint operating system has decided to purge the snap package manager from its repositories and forbid installation of it. The motivation for this drastic move is that the upstream Ubuntu Linux distribution Linux Mint is based on will stealthily install snapd and use that to install Chromium from the Canonical-controlled SnapCraft instead of installing a regular Chromium package like most users expect.
The Linux Mint blog has this to say about Ubuntu's use of snap to use their chromium package to subvert apt:
You've as much empowerment with this as if you were using proprietary software, i.e. none. This is in effect similar to a commercial proprietary solution, but with two major differences: It runs as root, and it installs itself without asking you.
Is Ubuntu turning evil?
Europeans and Canadians with busted iPhones will soon be able to swerve the Genius Bar and associated lengthy waiting lists, as Apple expands its Independent Repair Provider (IRP) program to third party technicians.
The IRP scheme authorised independent businesses to perform out-of-warranty repairs on iPhones using genuine Apple components — such as displays and batteries.
Repair facilities will be able to use third-party components and set their own prices, but must inform customers when they're using genuine Apple parts - which would hit anyone trying to use aftermarket TouchID sensor replacements and the like. Any salvaged parts must be returned to Apple, where they'll either be refurbished or recycled.
Apple said it will also provide training, service guides, and other resources — although repair providers will be compelled to keep these confidential.
This comes a month after Norway's Supreme Court upheld a ruling that a local repair shop violated Apple's trademark by using an unauthorised screen to fit a customer's iPhone.
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
Among metadevices, the metalens has attracted widespread attention for practical applications in imaging and spectroscopy, as it provides multifunctional wavefront manipulations for improved focus.
Metalenses are plagued by failure to focus all colors to the same point, which is known as chromatic aberration. Overcoming chromatic aberration is a vital concern for improved resolution in full-color and hyperspectral imaging. On the contrary, for spectrographic analysis and tomographic applications, chromatic dispersion helps to separate focal spots for different frequencies to avoid crosstalk.
[...] A research team from Nanjing University recently demonstrated active manipulation of chromatic dispersion, achieving achromatic focusing within a designated broadband. As reported in the peer-reviewed, open-access journal Advanced Photonics, the team integrated a photo-patterned liquid crystal into a dielectric metasurface. In their design, the metasurface generates a linear-resonant phase dispersion, which means that the phase front of the transmitted wave is delayed linearly by the dielectric metasurface. The liquid crystal (LC) is responsible for generating frequency-independent geometric phase modulation.
The team verified the chromatic aberration control of the combined lens and demonstrated a significant dynamic broadband imaging contrast effect. The design can be extended to other active metadevices; as an example, the team presented a beam deflector with controllable dispersion. "Combining the flexibility of metadevices with the broadband electro-optical characteristics of liquid crystals makes the design competent for wavefront control from the visible wavelengths to the THz and microwaves," remarked senior author Prof. Yanqing Lu, of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Nanjing University.
Zhixiong Shen, Shenghang Zhou, Xinan Li, et al. Liquid crystal integrated metalens with tunable chromatic aberration [open], Advanced Photonics (DOI: 10.1117/1.AP.2.3.036002)
Millions of people look set to lose access to the free and open internet as China’s control over Hong Kong increases.
A new law was ushered in by Beijing last month that gave China sweeping powers over opposition against itself, both within its borders and outside of them, which could put people in jail for years if they commit vaguely defined political crimes.
The controversial national security law was used to make arrests within hours.
[...] Hong Kong police now have sweeping powers to order social media platforms and publishers to remove content, as well as ban the platforms altogether.
Undefined “exceptional circumstances” also give police the right to seize and search electronic devices.
A number of tech companies including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Zoom have said they’re pausing the review of law enforcement requests for data or stopping it altogether while they assess the impact of the new law.
[...] Tech companies and many others have been balancing a desire to uphold support for Hong Kong independence during recent protests with the desire to avoid annoying the Chinese government and losing access to its market of 1.4 billion, increasingly upwardly mobile citizens.
The secure chat app Signal has become the most downloaded app in Hong Kong on both Apple's and Google's app stores, Bloomberg reports, citing data from App Annie. The surging interest in encrypted messaging comes days after the Chinese government in Beijing passed a new national security law that reduced Hong Kong's autonomy and could undermine its traditionally strong protections for civil liberties.
The 1997 handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China came with a promise that China would respect Hong Kong's autonomy for 50 years following the handover. Under the terms of that deal, Hong Kong residents should have continued to enjoy greater freedom than people on the mainland until 2047. But recently, the mainland government has appeared to renege on that deal.
[...] The New York Times reports that "the four major offenses in the law—separatism, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign countries—are ambiguously worded and give the authorities extensive power to target activists who criticize the party, activists say." Until now, Hong Kongers faced trial in the city's separate, independent judiciary. The new law opens the door for dissidents to be tried in mainland courts with less respect for civil liberties or due process.
This has driven heightened interest among Hong Kongers in secure communication technologies. Signal offers end-to-end encryption and is viewed by security experts as the gold standard for secure mobile messaging. It has been endorsed by NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden.
[...] Bloomberg has also reported on the surging adoption of VPN software in Hong Kong as residents fear government surveillance of their Web browsing.
Tiny, 3-D printed cubes of plastic, with intricate fractal voids built into them, have proven to be effective at dissipating shockwaves, potentially leading to new types of lightweight armor and structural materials effective against explosions and impacts.
"The goal of the work is to manipulate the wave interactions resulting from a shockwave," said Dana Dattelbaum, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead author on a paper to appear in the journal AIP Advances. "The guiding principles for how to do so have not been well defined, certainly less so compared to mechanical deformation of additively manufactured materials. We're defining those principles, due to advanced, mesoscale manufacturing and design."
Shockwave dispersing materials that take advantage of voids have been developed in the past, but they typically involved random distributions discovered through trial and error. Others have used layers to reverberate shock and release waves. Precisely controlling the location of holes in a material allows the researchers to design, model and test structures that perform as designed, in a reproducible way.
The researchers tested their fractal structures by firing an impactor into them at approximately 670 miles per hour. The structured cubes dissipated the shocks five times better than solid cubes of the same material.
Fifteen billion usernames and passwords for a range of internet services are currently for sale on underground forums – shedding light on the sheer scope of compromised credentials that are fueling account takeovers on the internet.
A report released Wednesday — "From Exposure to Takeover" by the Digital Shadows Photon Research Team — found that 100,000 separate data breaches over a two-year period have yielded a 300 percent increase in stolen credentials, leaving a veritable bonanza of account details on dark-web hacker forums up for grabs.
Most of the credentials are from consumers, and while many are sold on forums—for an average price of $15.43—many also are given away for free by hackers, researchers found.
[...] The credentials being flogged online vary in access and price, according to the report. They include usernames and passwords for everything from bank or financial accounts–which comprised 25 percent of the credentials analyzed–to video- and music-streaming services, to antivirus programs.
Unsurprisingly, credentials for bank and other financial accounts are also the most expensive to purchase, selling for an average of $70.91 a piece, researchers found. Indeed, data that puts potential financial gain on the table tends to be the most valuable to threat actors.
Data for accessing antivirus programs earned the second-highest price on hacker forums, at an average of $21.67. Threat actors apparently find access to media streaming, social media, file sharing, virtual private networks (VPNs) and adult-content sites far less valuable, with these credentials traded "for significantly under $1" on forums, according to the report.
While consumer credentials comprised the bulk of those researchers tracked, organizations are not immune to the risk of credential theft and potential reuse for nefarious purposes, particularly if financial gain is involved. The report uncovered 2 million accounting email addresses exposed online, with those referencing "invoice" or "invoices" the most commonly advertised on hacker forums, researchers said.
Researchers at endpoint security company SentinelOne have created a tool that enables users to recover files encrypted by the Mac malware named ThiefQuest, which poses as ransomware.
ThiefQuest, initially named EvilQuest, is designed to encrypt files on compromised systems, but also allows its operators to log keystrokes, steal files, and take full control of the infected device.
[...] ThiefQuest is delivered as trojanized installers for macOS applications such as the Ableton and Mixed in Key DJ apps and the Little Snitch firewall. Once the malware has been installed, it starts encrypting files found on the device, after which it informs victims, via text files and a modal window, that their files have been encrypted and a $50 ransom needs to be paid in bitcoin to recover them.
[...] Furthermore, Apple security expert Patrick Wardle noticed that the decryption routine is not called anywhere in the malware code, which indicates that it never gets executed. Malwarebytes researchers pointed out that the malware doesn't always encrypt files, even if it claims it has done so, which further indicates that the ransomware capabilities are just a distraction.
For Mac users whose files have been encrypted by the malware, SentinelOne has released a free decryption tool. The company's researchers analyzed ThiefQuest and noticed that its developer left the decryption function in the malware code. Once they were able to recover the key needed to decrypt the files, they used the malware's own decryption function to restore encrypted files.
[...] Wardle's analysis of the threat revealed that it also looks for executable files and adds malicious code to those files. This would allow it to spread like a virus, which is highly uncommon for Mac malware.
(2020-07-05) New Mac Ransomware is Even More Sinister than it Appears
On March 9, 2020, a German IT consultant named Ruben Weigand had a layover in Los Angeles as he traveled from Switzerland to Costa Rica. He never made it to his destination because US authorities arrested him as he was changing planes.
The feds say Weigand and a co-conspirator, Hamid "Ray" Akhavan, were the masterminds behind a multimillion-dollar bank-fraud scheme. The supposed fraud? Tricking US banks into processing more than $100 million in marijuana transactions that went contrary to the banks' rules. According to a March indictment, the pair disguised marijuana transactions as purchases of dog toys, carbonated drinks, diving gear, and other products unrelated to cannabis.
Lawyers for the two men say this is ludicrous because the alleged bank fraud had no victims. The customers knew exactly what they were paying for. The banks involved suffered no losses—in fact, they made money from transaction fees.
Moreover, marijuana is legal under state law in California and Oregon, where the transactions occurred. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but since 2014, a rule called the Rohrabacher Amendment has prohibited the feds from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. In a recent motion seeking dismissal of the case, Akhavan's lawyers portray the prosecution as an attempted end-run around this restriction.
Extraterritoriality in the Internet Age?