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posted by janrinok on Thursday September 19, @03:09PM   Printer-friendly
from the perl-one-liners dept.

Back in May, writer Jun Wu told in her blog how Perl excels at text manipulation. She often uses it to tidy data sets, a necessity as data is often collected with variations and cleaning it up before use is a necessity. She goes through many one-liners which help make that easy.

Having old reliables is my key to success. Ever since I learned Perl during the dot com bubble, I knew that I was forever beholden to its powers to transform.

You heard me. Freedom is the word here with Perl.

When I'm coding freely at home on my fun data science project, I rely on it to clean up my data.

In the real world, data is often collected with loads of variations. Unless you are using someone's "clean" dataset, you better learn to clean that data real fast.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday September 19, @01:32PM   Printer-friendly

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow2718

Using an optical tweezer array of laser-cooled molecules to observe ground state collisions

A team of researchers from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology has found that they could use an optical tweezer array of laser-cooled molecules to observe ground state collisions between individual molecules. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their work with cooled calcium monofluoride molecules trapped by optical tweezers, and what they learned from their experiments. Svetlana Kotochigova, with Temple University, has published a Perspective piece in the same journal issue outlining the work—she also gives an overview of the work being done with arrays of optical tweezers to better understand molecules in general.

In their work, the researchers created arrays of tweezers by diffracting a single beam into many smaller beams, each of which could be rearranged to suit their purposes in real time. In the initial state, an unknown number of molecules were trapped in the array. The team then used light to force collisions between the molecules, pushing some of them out of the array until they had the desired number in each tweezer. They report that in instances where there were just two molecules present, they were able to observe natural ultracold collisions—allowing a clear view of the action.

From https://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6458/1156 :

Arrays of optical tweezers have been used to trap atoms, but trapping and laser-cooling molecules in this setting is tricky. Such an approach would, however, be generalizable to many molecular species. Anderegg et al. created an optical tweezer array of calcium monofluoride molecules, which were laser cooled to their ground state (see the Perspective by Kotochigova). By distinguishing between single and multiple molecules in the tweezers, the researchers were able to observe molecular collisions. Boasting exquisite control over individual molecules, the optical tweezer array platform holds much promise for extending the applications of ultracold molecules.

More information: Loïc Anderegg et al. An optical tweezer array of ultracold molecules, Science (2019). DOI: 10.1126/science.aax1265


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday September 19, @12:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the perfect-for-five-nights-at-Freddys dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow2718

New augmented reality head mounted display offers unrivaled viewing experience

Cambridge engineers have developed a new augmented reality (AR) head mounted display (HMD) that delivers a realistic 3-D viewing experience, without the commonly associated side effects of nausea or eyestrain.

The device has an enlarged eye-box that is scalable and an increased field of view of 36º that is designed for a comfortable viewing experience. It displays images on the retina using pixel beam scanning which ensures the image stays in focus regardless of the distance that the user is fixating on. Details are reported in the journal Research.

Developed by researchers at the Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics (CAPE) in collaboration with Huawei European Research Centre, in Munich, the HMD uses partially reflective beam splitters to form an additional "exit pupil" (a virtual opening through which light travels). This, together with narrow pixel beams that travel parallel to each other, and which do not disperse in other directions, produces a high quality image that remains unaffected by changes in eye focus.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday September 19, @10:39AM   Printer-friendly
from the i-scratch-my-back dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow6430

WSJ: Amazon changed search results to boost profits despite internal dissent

Amazon changed its search algorithm in ways that boost its own products despite concerns raised by employees who opposed the move, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

The change was made late last year and was "contested internally," the WSJ reported. People who worked on the project told the WSJ that "Amazon optimized the secret algorithm that ranks listings so that instead of showing customers mainly the most-relevant and best-selling listings when they search—as it had for more than a decade—the site also gives a boost to items that are more profitable for the company."

The goal was to favor Amazon-made products as well as third-party products that rank high in "what the company calls 'contribution profit,' considered a better measure of a product's profitability because it factors in non-fixed expenses such as shipping and advertising, leaving the amount left over to cover Amazon's fixed costs," the WSJ said.

Amazon made the change indirectly, the WSJ reported. Instead of adding profitability into the algorithm itself, Amazon changed the algorithm to prioritize factors that correlate with profitability, the article said.

When contacted by Ars, Amazon said it does not optimize the ranking of its search results for profitability.

In a statement, Amazon said:

The Wall Street Journal has it wrong. We explained at length that their 'scoop' from unnamed sources was not factually accurate, but they went ahead with the story anyway. The fact is that we have not changed the criteria we use to rank search results to include profitability. We feature the products customers will want, regardless of whether they are our own brands or products offered by our selling partners. As any store would do, we consider the profitability of the products we list and feature on the site, but it is just one metric and not in any way a key driver of what we show customers.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday September 19, @09:07AM   Printer-friendly
from the expanding-like-a-waistline-on-Thanksgiving dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Reproduceability is key to science. A one-time “eureka!” could be the first step in a paradigm shift — or it could be a fluke. It’s the second, third, and hundredth measurements that put theories to the test.

That’s why recent measurements of the universe’s expansion have piqued interest. Even though astronomers have applied multiple methods relying on completely different physics, they’re still getting similar results: Today’s universe appears to be expanding faster than what’s expected based on measurements of the early universe. Can systematic errors explain this discrepancy? Or are new physics required?

Now Wendy Freedman (University of Chicago) and colleagues have posted a new, "middle-of-the-road" measurement on the astronomy preprint arXiv, adding a twist to the ongoing debate. The study will appear in the Astrophysical Journal.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday September 19, @07:35AM   Printer-friendly
from the going-going-gone dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

The world has a third pole – and it's melting quickly

Khawa Karpo lies at the world's "third pole". This is how glaciologists refer to the Tibetan plateau, home to the vast Hindu Kush-Himalaya ice sheet, because it contains the largest amount of snow and ice after the Arctic and Antarctic – the Chinese glaciers alone account for an estimated 14.5% of the global total. However, a quarter of its ice has been lost since 1970. This month, in a long-awaited special report on the cryosphere by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists will warn that up to two-thirds of the region's remaining glaciers are on track to disappear by the end of the century. It is expected a third of the ice will be lost in that time even if the internationally agreed target of limiting global warming by 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is adhered to.

Whether we are Buddhists or not, our lives affect, and are affected by, these tropical glaciers that span eight countries. This frozen "water tower of Asia" is the source of 10 of the world's largest rivers, including the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Yellow, Mekong and Indus, whose flows support at least 1.6 billion people directly – in drinking water, agriculture, hydropower and livelihoods – and many more indirectly, in buying a T-shirt made from cotton grown in China, for example, or rice from India.

Joseph Shea, a glaciologist at the University of Northern British Columbia, calls the loss "depressing and fear-inducing. It changes the nature of the mountains in a very visible and profound way."

Yet the fast-changing conditions at the third pole have not received the same attention as those at the north and south poles. The IPCC's fourth assessment report in 2007 contained the erroneous prediction that all Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035. This statement turned out to have been based on anecdote rather than scientific evidence and, perhaps out of embarrassment, the third pole has been given less attention in subsequent IPCC reports.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday September 19, @06:03AM   Printer-friendly
from the reason-for-hope dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

A simple arthritis drug could be an effective, low cost solution to treat patients with blood cancers such as polycythemia vera (PV) and essential thrombocythemia (ET), a breakthrough study by the University of Sheffield has shown.

Led by Dr Martin Zeidler, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Biomedical Science and Dr Sebastian Francis from the Department of Haematology at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, as well as the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, the study results show that methotrexate (MTX) -- a drug on the World Health Organisation list of essential medicines that is commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis -- significantly reduces the symptoms associated with the disease.

[...] Building on previous Medical Research Council-funded work in the Zeidler lab that identified methotrexate as an inhibitor of the JAK/STAT signalling pathway, this study examined hospital records to identify existing ET and PV patients already taking methotrexate for other diseases.

Despite the small numbers involved and the presence of background rheumatoid arthritis, these patients reported significantly lower symptom scores than patients not taking methotrexate.

The misregulation of the JAK/STAT signalling pathway in humans is central to the development of Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), the collective term for progressive blood cancers like ET and PV and is also central to many inflammatory processes such as those associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Lab-based results showed that low doses of methotrexate acted as a powerful suppressor of JAK/STAT pathway activation -- even in cells carrying the mutated gene responsible for MPNs in patients.

Dr Zeidler said: "While we still need to undertake a clinical trial to validate these findings, our results are very encouraging and suggest that a simple drug that has been used for nearly 40 years to treat arthritis can provide significant relief to blood cancer sufferers.

"Patients we tested showed a pronounced improvement in symptoms, something conventional treatments have been unable to provide.

"Given the very low cost of MTX, this research could offer an effective therapy on a budget accessible to healthcare systems throughout the world -- marking a potentially substantial clinical and health economic benefit."

[...] The results of the study have today (17 September 2019) been published in the British Journal of Haematology.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday September 19, @04:31AM   Printer-friendly
from the fix-this dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Researchers at the University of East Anglia have discovered how nitrogen-fixing bacteria sense iron—an essential but deadly micronutrient.

Some bacteria naturally fix nitrogen from the soil into a form that plants can use. In nature, most plants get nitrogen either from soil bacteria that do this work or from plants and microbes that die and recycle their nitrogen into the soil. In agriculture, soil is enriched with synthetic nitrogen fertilizers.

Virtually all healthy cells, many systems regulate this delicate balance.

In many nitrogen-fixing bacteria, a protein called RirA plays a key role in regulating iron. It senses high levels of the metal and helps to shut down the production of proteins that bring in more iron.

[...] They used a technique known as time-resolved mass spectrometry to examine the sensory response of the iron-sulfur cluster of RirA when different levels of iron were available.

The results revealed a 'loose' iron atom in the cluster. When iron levels drop, this atom is rapidly lost as it is scavenged for use in other essential cellular processes.

Without it, the cluster in RirA collapses and the protein becomes inactive, which prompts the cell to produce proteins that enable the cell to take up iron from its surroundings.

Once iron levels are sufficient again, RirA regains its cluster and becomes active again, stopping the production of proteins that bring in more iron.

[...] "This is an important piece in the bigger puzzle of how life deals with iron, a nutrient it cannot do without but one it must also avoid having in excess."

'Mechanisms of iron- and O2-sensing by the [4Fe-1 4S] cluster of the global iron regulator RirA' is published in the journal eLife on Tuesday, September 17, 2019.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday September 19, @02:58AM   Printer-friendly
from the failure-to-NOT-communicate dept.

Millions of Americans' Medical Images and Data Are Available on the Internet. Anyone Can Take a Peek.:

Hundreds of computer servers worldwide that store patient X-rays and MRIs are so insecure that anyone with a web browser or a few lines of computer code can view patient records. One expert warned about it for years.

This story was co-reported with the German public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk.

Medical images and health data belonging to millions of Americans, including X-rays, MRIs and CT scans, are sitting unprotected on the internet and available to anyone with basic computer expertise.

The records cover more than 5 million patients in the U.S. and millions more around the world. In some cases, a snoop could use free software programs — or just a typical web browser — to view the images and private data, an investigation by ProPublica and the German broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk found.

We identified 187 servers — computers that are used to store and retrieve medical data — in the U.S. that were unprotected by passwords or basic security precautions. The computer systems, from Florida to California, are used in doctors' offices, medical-imaging centers and mobile X-ray services.

The insecure servers we uncovered add to a growing list of medical records systems that have been compromised in recent years. Unlike some of the more infamous recent security breaches, in which hackers circumvented a company's cyber defenses, these records were often stored on servers that lacked the security precautions that long ago became standard for businesses and government agencies.

"It's not even hacking. It's walking into an open door," said Jackie Singh, a cybersecurity researcher and chief executive of the consulting firm Spyglass Security. Some medical providers started locking down their systems after we told them of what we had found.

[...] The issue should not be a surprise to medical providers. For years, one expert has tried to warn about the casual handling of personal health data. Oleg Pianykh, the director of medical analytics at Massachusetts General Hospital's radiology department, said medical imaging software has traditionally been written with the assumption that patients' data would be secured by the customer's computer security systems.

But as those networks at hospitals and medical centers became more complex and connected to the internet, the responsibility for security shifted to network administrators who assumed safeguards were in place. "Suddenly, medical security has become a do-it-yourself project," Pianykh wrote in a 2016 research paper he published in a medical journal.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday September 19, @01:24AM   Printer-friendly
from the you-might-have-an-account! dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow6430

Lawsuit: AT&T signed customers up for DirecTV Now without their knowledge

AT&T supervisors encouraged sales reps to create fake DirecTV Now accounts to make the online video service seem more successful than it really was, a class-action complaint alleges.

AT&T "promot[ed] and reward[ed] account fraud" such as creating the fake accounts and signing AT&T customers up for DirecTV Now "without the customer knowing," the lawsuit claims.

The new allegations were made Friday in an amended complaint as part of a lawsuit filed against AT&T in April in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. The lawsuit alleges that AT&T lied to investors in order to hide DirecTV Now's failure.

"AT&T misrepresented the true condition of DirecTV Now and hid the associated risks," the amended complaint says. DirecTV Now's inevitable failure was subsequently made clear when subscriber numbers began to drop, the amended complaint says:

The dramatic decline in DirecTV Now subscriber numbers was a materialization of the risks associated, including: improper sales practices, such as the creation of fake accounts, which predictably led subscribers to cancel these accounts, upon realizing they were being billed for a service they did not use; the aggressive use of promotional campaigns to artificially sustain subscriber levels; and selling the product at irrationally low prices that would ultimately need to increase.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday September 18, @11:56PM   Printer-friendly
from the "it-always-feels-like-somebody's-watching-me" dept.

https://www.ft.com/content/23ab2f68-d957-11e9-8f9b-77216ebe1f17

The smart TVs in our homes are leaking sensitive user data to companies including Netflix, Google and Facebook even when some devices are idle, according to two large-scale analyses. The data were being sent whether or not the user had a Netflix account. The researchers also found that other smart devices including speakers and cameras were sending user data to dozens of third parties including Spotify and Microsoft.

The findings are likely to heighten concerns about the privacy of user data on the internet just as smart devices, including televisions, are flooding homes.

In a separate study of smart TVs by Princeton University, researchers found that some apps supported by Roku and FireTV were sending data such as specific user identifiers to third parties including Google.

Roughly 68 per cent of US households had a connected TV device, including external hardware such as Roku and Apple TV, at the end of 2018, according to a Nielsen report from March. Tens of millions of these devices use content recognition technology that tracks everything you watch, to be able to target you better with TV advertising, which now accounts for about half of all digital ads.

The Northeastern University study, conducted on 81 different devices, both in the UK and the US, is the largest published experiment of its kind, and found “notable cases of information exposure”. Amazon, Google, Akamai and Microsoft were the most frequently contacted companies, partly because these companies provide cloud and networking services for smart devices to operate on, the researchers said.

[...] By analysing network traffic, the Northeastern team concluded that third parties receive, at the very least, information about the device people are using, their locations, and possibly even when they are interacting with it. “So they might know when you’re home and when you’re not,” said Professor Choffnes. 

Because much of the data being sent out by device manufacturers was encrypted, the academics were not aware of exactly what additional data were being transmitted. “They can definitely see some [viewing] is taking place, but what they can exactly see depends on what the manufacturer is sending, which we have not made an attempt to re-engineer,” said Hamed Haddadi, computer scientist at Imperial College and another paper author.

-- submitted from IRC


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday September 18, @10:28PM   Printer-friendly
from the what-could-go-wrong? dept.

Submitted via IRC for Fnord666

Billions of license plate scans are part of a private surveillance database

The US government might have reconsidered its plans for license plate recognition, but companies haven't -- and they've raised serious privacy concerns in the process. Motherboard has posted an exposé detailing the Digital Recognition Network, a privately run database that collects legions of plate recognition scans (roughly 9 billion to date) from repo drivers with camera-equipped cars. The system automatically captures both the plates and locations of every car they drive by, making it possible to track the movement of car owners across the US over months or even years. Anyone with access could find out where you live, work and socialize.

[...] As you might have already suspected, this automatic data gathering creates many issues. For one, most of the vehicles in the database are of completely innocent people who have no way of knowing if they're even included in the data set. And while a spokesperson for DRN said the company "takes data security seriously" and doesn't allow access without its approval, there have been instances where unauthorized people have obtained that access. It's feasible that users (approved and otherwise) could exploit this for stalking or gaining the upper hand in court without revealing sources.

Law enforcement can also use the system, and DRN's sibling brand Vigilant Solutions sells the tech to government agencies. That raises the potential of rogue officers using the plate tracking to intimidate protesters or witnesses of police abuses.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday September 18, @08:55PM   Printer-friendly
from the ask-a-little-get-a-lot dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow2718

Clever New DDoS Attack Gets a Lot of Bang for a Hacker's Buck

One of the trickiest things about stopping DDoS attacks is that hackers constantly develop new variations on familiar themes. Take a recent strike against an unnamed gaming company, which used an amplification technique to turn a relatively tiny jab into a digital haymaker.

On Wednesday, researchers from Akamai's DDoS mitigation service Prolexic detailed a 35 gigabit per second attack against one of its clients at the end of August. Compared to the most powerful DDoS attacks ever recorded, which have topped 1 terabit per second, that might not sound like a lot. But the attackers used a relatively new technique—one that can potentially yield a more than 15,000 percent rate of return on the junk data it spews at a victim.

The new type of attack feeds on vulnerabilities in the implementation of the Web Services Dynamic Discovery protocol. WS-Discovery lets devices on the same network communicate, and can direct them all to ping one location or address with details about themselves. It's meant to be used internally on local access networks, not the rollicking chaos monster that is the public internet. But Akamai estimates that as many as 800,000 devices exposed on the internet can receive WS-Discovery commands. Which means that by sending "probes," a kind of roll-call request, you can generate and direct a firehose of data at targets.

Attackers can manipulate WS-Discovery by sending these specially crafted malicious protocol requests to vulnerable devices like CCTV cameras and DVRs. And because WS-Discovery is built on a network communication protocol known as User Datagram Protocol, the probes can spoof their IP address to make it look like the request came from a target's network. It's a bait and switch; the devices that receive the commands will send their unwanted replies to the DDoS target instead of the attacker.

[...] The spoofing enabled by UDP makes it difficult for defenders to see exactly what commands attackers send in any specific reflection DDoS. So the Akamai researchers don't know specifically what was in the tailored packets hackers sent to trigger the attack on the gaming client. But in its own research, the Akamai team was able to craft smaller and smaller exploits that would generate larger and larger attacks. Criminal hackers are likely not far behind. The Akamai researchers also point out that if botnet operators start automating the process of generating WS-Discovery DDoS attacks, the barrages will crop up even more. Mursch says he sees evidence that's already happening.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday September 18, @07:27PM   Printer-friendly
from the piece-of-garbage-button dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow2718

Amazon tests a one-tap review system for product feedback – TechCrunch

Amazon is testing an easier way for people to leave product feedback with the launch of one-tap ratings. The change is meant to encourage those who don’t have the time, energy or interest in writing reviews to still share their opinion about the product, which benefits the larger Amazon community of shoppers who are reliant on ratings and reviews to make better purchasing decisions.

If you have access to the new experiment, you’ll be able to just tap once to leave your star rating on any item, without having to fill out additional fields like a review title and written review, as previously required.

[...] Only those one-tap ratings from Verified Purchases will contribute to the product’s overall star rating. You’re also able to expand on your feedback later on, if you choose, by adding a review, photos, or video.

The new feature could go a long way towards being able to collect feedback from a larger number of online consumers, as many don’t bother with writing reviews. It could also help balance out the ratings with feedback from real shoppers, as opposed to those who may have been incentivized or paid to leave reviews.

[...] Amazon confirmed the new feature is an experiment, not a public launch.

“We are testing a feature that allows customers to leave feedback easily while also helping shoppers get authentic customer ratings on products from a broader set of shoppers,” an Amazon spokesperson said.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday September 18, @05:55PM   Printer-friendly
from the not-who-you-thought-they-were dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

The ASIC-AFP joint 'multi-layered cybercrime' investigation has resulted in the arrest of a 21 year-old woman from Melbourne.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has announced dismantling a major fraud and identity theft syndicate that allegedly profited from the thefts of superannuation and share trading accounts, to the tune of millions of dollars.

ASIC, alongside the Australian Federal Police (AFP), had been investigating the "multi-layered cybercrime activity" for more than a year, resulting in the arrest of a 21 year-old woman from Melbourne.

It is alleged the woman worked as part of a syndicate which used fraudulently-obtained identities to commit large-scale online fraud.

ASIC said in court on Tuesday the syndicate allegedly used stolen identity information purchased from "dark net marketplaces", together with single use SIM cards and fake email accounts, to undertake an "identity takeover".

These fraudulently created identities, ASIC said, were created to mimic real individuals who unknowingly had their identities compromised. ASIC said they were then used to open bank accounts at various Australian banking institutions.

[...] Investigations into the syndicate are continuing, and ASIC said further arrests and charges have not been ruled out.


Original Submission