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posted by martyb on Friday September 24, @03:31AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the more-than-just-a-passing-interest dept.

Elon Musk says Inspiration4 crew had 'challenges' with the toilet, promises upgrade:

SpaceX's Inspiration4 orbital mission with four non-professional astronauts was by all accounts quite a triumph for space history, space tourism and fundraising for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. However, there may have been some tense moments when it came to using the toilet on board the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted Monday night that the Inspiration4 crew had some "challenges" with the loo. He promised upgrades for future missions.

[...] SpaceX hasn't revealed much about how the toilet works, but Isaacman told Insider in July that the facilities were located near the spacecraft's large cupola window with a curtain to allow for a wee bit of privacy. He described the toilet as having "one hell of a view."

[...] Inspiration4 spent three days in orbit before returning to Earth with a splashdown on Saturday. That's three days of using the bathroom in microgravity while in very close quarters with others. Upon hearing of the mission's potty problems, bidet company Tushy said its product engineers were standing at the ready to develop the first ever space bidet, the Tushy Ass Blast 9000.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday September 24, @12:39AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the we-think-that-we-beat-nature dept.

Smallest-Ever Human-Made Flying Structure Is A Winged Microchip, Scientists Say

It's neither a bird nor a plane, but a winged microchip as small as a grain of sand that can be carried by the wind as it monitors such things as pollution levels or the spread of airborne diseases.

The tiny microfliers, whose development by engineers at Northwestern University was detailed in an article published by Nature this week, are being billed as the smallest-ever human-made flying structures.

The devices don't have a motor; engineers were instead inspired by the maple tree's free-falling propeller seeds — technically known as samara fruit. The engineers optimized the aerodynamics of the microfliers so that "as these structures fall through the air, the interaction between the air and those wings cause a rotational motion that creates a very stable, slow-falling velocity," said John A. Rogers, who led the development of the devices.

[...] The wind would scatter the tiny microchips, which could sense their surrounding environments and collect information. The scientists say they could potentially be used to monitor for contamination, surveil populations or even track diseases.

Three-dimensional electronic microfliers inspired by wind-dispersed seeds

Journal Reference:
Bong Hoon Kim, Kan Li, Jin-Tae Kim, et al. Three-dimensional electronic microfliers inspired by wind-dispersed seeds, Nature (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03847-y)

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Thursday September 23, @09:50PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the get-the-lead-out dept.

A new method for removing lead from drinking water: Engineers have designed a relatively low-cost, energy-efficient approach to treating water contaminated with heavy metals:

The new system is the latest in a series of applications based on initial findings six years ago by members of the same research team, initially developed for desalination of seawater or brackish water, and later adapted for removing radioactive compounds from the cooling water of nuclear power plants. The new version is the first such method that might be applicable for treating household water supplies, as well as industrial uses.

[...] The biggest challenge in trying to remove lead is that it is generally present in such tiny concentrations, vastly exceeded by other elements or compounds. For example, sodium is typically present in drinking water at a concentration of tens of parts per million, whereas lead can be highly toxic at just a few parts per billion. Most existing processes, such as reverse osmosis or distillation, remove everything at once, Alkhadra explains. This not only takes much more energy than would be needed for a selective removal, but it's counterproductive since small amounts of elements such as sodium and magnesium are actually essential for healthy drinking water.

The new approach uses a process called shock electrodialysis, in which an electric field is used to produce a shockwave inside an electrically charged porous material carrying the contaminated water. The shock wave propagates from one side to the other as the voltage increases, leaving behind a zone where the metal ions are depleted, and separating the feed stream into a brine and a fresh stream. The process results in a 95 percent reduction of lead from the outgoing fresh stream.

[...] The process still has its limitations, as it has only been demonstrated at small laboratory scale and at quite slow flow rates. Scaling up the process to make it practical for in-home use will require further research, and larger-scale industrial uses will take even longer.

Journal Reference:
Huanhuan Tian, Mohammad A. Alkhadra, Kameron M. Conforti, et al. Continuous and Selective Removal of Lead from Drinking Water by Shock Electrodialysis, ACS ES&T Water (DOI: 10.1021/acsestwater.1c00234)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday September 23, @06:59PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the any-port-in-a-storm dept.

EU Proposes New Legislation That Would Force Apple to Bring USB-C to iPhones, iPads, and AirPods

Apple has shifted nearly every portable device to tout a USB-C port, except for its iPhone lineup, its AirPods family, and low-cost iPad. Why the company does not shift to an all-USB-C affair might have to do with receiving royalty payments from partners that manufacture third-party accessories of the proprietary port, but that arrangement might come to an end, thanks to a legislation from the EU.

The proposed legislation would force all consumer electronics, not just Apple, which sell devices in Europe, to incorporate USB-C ports in a variety of products, ranging from smartphones, tablets, headphones, cameras, portable speakers, handheld consoles, and others. Calling it the 'common port,' the European Union claims that switching all products to USB-C would not just have benefits to the environment, but annual monetary savings for consumers that mount to $293 million.

Pulling the plug on consumer frustration and e-waste: Commission proposes a common charger for electronic devices

Impact assessment study on common chargers of portable devices

Also at Reuters, NYT, BBC, AppleInsider, and Politico.

Previously: The Dream Of A Common Charger Is Alive, Despite Apple's Complaining

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday September 23, @04:13PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the how-did-we-get-so-large-and-complicated? dept.

Single Cells Evolve Large Multicellular Forms in Just Two Years:

[William C.] Ratcliff wondered what would happen to snowflake yeast grown that long — would they eventually achieve large size? Would that lead to differentiation?

The snowflake yeast achieved multicellularity readily, but their clumps remained microscopic, no matter what Ratcliff tried. For years he failed to make progress, and he credits Ozan Bozdağ, a research scientist at Georgia Tech who was a postdoc in Ratcliff’s lab, with breaking through the wall.

[...] Oxygen can be very helpful for living things, because cells can use it to break down sugars for massive energy payouts. When oxygen isn’t present, cells must ferment sugars instead, for a smaller usable yield. All along, Ratcliff had been growing yeast with oxygen. Bozdağ suggested growing some cultures without it.

Bozdağ began the selection experiments with three different groups of snowflake yeasts, two that could use oxygen and one that, because of a mutation, could not. Each group consisted of five genetically identical tubes, and Bozdağ mounted them in a shaking machine. Around the clock, the yeast were shaken at 225 revolutions per minute. Once a day, he let them settle on the counter for three minutes, then used the contents of the bottom of the tube to start fresh cultures. Then, back in the shaker they went. Every day in 2020 and early 2021, even during the lab closures of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bozdağ was there, with a special exemption granted by the university, exerting selection on the yeast.

[...] Around day 350, Bozdağ noticed something in one of those tubes. There were clusters he could see with the naked eye. “As an evolutionary biologist … you think it’s a chance event. Somehow they got big, but they are going to lose out against the small ones in the long run — that is my thinking,” he said. “I didn’t really talk about this with Will at the time.”

But then clusters showed up in the second tube. And around day 400, the three other tubes of mutants that couldn’t use oxygen kicked into gear, and soon all five tubes had massive structures in them, topping out at about 20,000 times their initial size. Bozdağ started taking pictures of the clusters with his phone camera. There was no longer a need for a microscope.

Journal References:

1.) William C. Ratcliff, R. Ford Denison, Mark Borrello, et al. Experimental evolution of multicellularity [open], Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1115323109)
2.) Ratcliff, William C., Fankhauser, Johnathon D., Rogers, David W., et al. Origins of multicellular evolvability in snowflake yeast [open], Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7102)
3.) Dryad Data -- Multicellular group formation in response to predators in the alga Chlorella vulgaris, (DOI: 10.5061/dryad.c5902)
4.) Stefania E. Kapsetaki, Stuart A. West. The costs and benefits of multicellular group formation in algae*, Evolution (DOI: 10.1111/evo.13712)
5.) Light-regulated collective contractility in a multicellular choanoflagellate, Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.aay2346)
6.) J. T. Bonner. PERSPECTIVE: THE SIZE‐COMPLEXITY RULE, Evolution (DOI: 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2004.tb00476.x)
7.) Hammerschmidt, Katrin, Rose, Caroline J., Kerr, Benjamin, et al. Life cycles, fitness decoupling and the evolution of multicellularity, Nature (DOI: 10.1038/nature13884)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday September 23, @01:36PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the e-waste-recycling dept.

You might be sitting on a mountain of e-waste that Dell wants to recycle for you:

If you're anything like me, you struggle to let go of your old electronics. Be that a mobile phone, laptop, or even an old graphics card plagued by electromigration and capable of a frame a minute—there's something about the act of disposing of it that feels inherently wasteful. Yet it's no less wasteful of me to keep my long redundant technology stored in a cardboard box at the back of my closet.

Hence when I spotted a tweet from Dell promising to recycle my old electronics— whether manufactured by Dell or not—it caught my attention. Will the company actually take my old tech from me and do something productive with it?

To gather some more information, I reached out to the company. Because it's one thing to recycle your own product, it's a whole other to deal with somebody else's trash, for lack of a better word.

And as I would find out from Page Motes, Dell's head of sustainability, the company doesn't see it that way.

[...] Dell sees that e-waste instead as an opportunity to create closed-loop supply for certain materials.

Plastics are something the company has been recycling for some time now, using 100 million pounds of the stuff to make new parts for Dell systems, but more recently it's also begun leveraging rare earth magnets from old, disused hard drives alongside manufacturer Seagate.

Furthermore, I'm told Dell is now reusing aluminium from the old drives, and this closed-loop aluminium has since found its way into the Optiplex lineup, a range of commercial PCs that probably aren't all that familiar to PC gamers but relies on recycled materials for a large part of its construction. Something it'd be great to see make its way into more discrete PC gaming components, that's for sure.

Dell is first to admit it benefits from the program, and it also hopes that might tempt other companies to follow in its footsteps. Motes explains that it's well-aware this is not something that can be done alone, and that it'll need wider support for recycling programs to really deal with the e-waste generated every year that is, for the most part, not recycled or reused.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday September 23, @10:47AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Netgear SOHO Security Bug Allows RCE, Corporate Attacks:

A high-severity security bug affecting several Netgear small office/home office (SOHO) routers could allow remote code execution (RCE) via a man-in-the-middle (MiTM) attack.

The bug (CVE-2021-40847) exists in a third-party component that Netgear includes in its firmware, called Circle – it handles the parental controls for the devices, according to researchers at Grimm who discovered the flaw. It rates 8.1 out of 10 on the CVSS 3.0 vulnerability-severity scale.

“Since this code is run as root on the affected routers, exploiting it to obtain RCE is just as damaging as a RCE vulnerability found in the core Netgear firmware,” they said in an advisory released Tuesday.

Specifically, the issue lives in the Circle update daemon. Researchers explained that the updating process is insecure, making it possible for attackers to spoof the update server and inject their own bits and bytes into the process.

It should be noted that a prerequisite for exploitation is having the ability to sniff and send network traffic to and from a target router, the advisory said – meaning that adversaries would need to be attached to the same network as the appliance. That can be achieved by compromising a connected device such as a mobile phone or computer prior to initiating the RCE effort.

[...] “This daemon connects to Circle and Netgear to obtain version information and updates to the daemon and its filtering database,” researchers explained. “However, database updates from Netgear are unsigned and downloaded via HTTP. As such, an attacker with the ability to perform a MitM attack on the device can respond to Circle update requests with a specially crafted, compressed database file, the extraction of which gives the attacker the ability to overwrite executable files with attacker-controlled code.”

[...] Affected Netgear Devices and Versions

The below devices and versions are vulnerable; Grimm noted that older versions of all of these likely are as well:

  • R6400v2 –
  • R6700 –
  • R6700v3 –
  • R6900 –
  • R6900P –
  • R7000 –
  • R7000P –
  • R7850 –
  • R7900 –
  • R8000 –
  • RS400 –

To mitigate the risks to corporate environments posed by vulnerable SOHO routers, users should update their router firmware to the latest versions, which contain patches for CVE-2021-40847. Details can be found here.

So we have a process that

  • Runs as root
  • Can update things like firmware, checksums, etc.
  • Retrieves updates via HTTP
  • Doesn't use any sort of code signing

I'm dumbfounded. You can't make this stuff up.

Details about CVE-2021-40847.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday September 23, @08:01AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

European Processor Initiative Receives First EPAC RISC-V Sample Chips for Testing

European Processor Initiative (EPI) has been working on providing independence for the European Union in the high-performance computing (HPC) field, by developing custom RISC-V-based accelerators. Called the European Processor Accelerator (EPAC) chip, designed for high efficiency and high throughput computation, it has been successfully taped out and is being tested at EPI's labs.

[...] [Today], the project has delivered its promises as the very first batch of chips are being tested in EPI's labs. The RISC-V processors are designs containing multiple special-purpose accelerators, all centered around the RISC-V ISA and its design principles. The processor contains four tiles of Vector Processing Units (VPUs) made up from Avispado RISC-V core designed by SemiDynamics, and vector processing elements design by Barcelona Supercomputing Center and the University of Zagreb. In each tile, there are home nodes and L2 cache for cache systems, which are the contributions of Chalmers and FORTH. For additional acceleration, there are Stencil and Tensor accelerators (STX) engineered by Fraunhofer IIS, ITWM, and ETH Zürich, and the variable precision processor (VRP) deigned by CEA LIST.

Also at The Register.

Related: U.S.-Based Chip-Tech Group Moving to Switzerland Over Trade Curb Fears

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday September 23, @05:15AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the heard-any-good-aerospace-jokes-lately? dept.

Judge releases redacted lunar lander lawsuit from Bezos’ Blue Origin against NASA-SpaceX contract:

The U.S. Federal Court of Claims on Wednesday released a redacted version of the lawsuit by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin against NASA over the lucrative lunar lander contract awarded to Elon Musk’s SpaceX earlier this year.

Quotes from the lawsuit:

22. SpaceX's proposal was selected and awarded despite its failure to meet a critical safety and technical requirement. The solitication requires offerors to propose one Flight Readiness Review ("FRR") prior to each launch of each HLS element, which includes each launch of all supporting spacecraft. [....] In spite of this clear deficiency in failing to have one Flight Readiness Review for each flight, NASA recognized the error in internal documents but ultimately failed to evaluate SpaceX's technical, management, or price proposals with respect to the extent of this error.

[....] 67. The Flight Readiness Review is, in large part, a safety review.

[....] 68. Many of the FRR Acceptance Criteria relate to ensuring the flight is safe: [....]

Direct download of redacted lawsuit is here.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday September 23, @02:38AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the need-better-tinfoil-hats dept.

CIA director "fuming" after Havana syndrome strikes team member in India

A US intelligence officer traveling in India earlier this month with CIA director William Burns reported experiencing a mysterious health incident and symptoms consistent with so-called Havana syndrome, according to a report by CNN. The officer received immediate medical care upon returning to the US.

The case raises fears that such incidents are not only increasing, but potentially escalating, unnamed officials told CNN and The New York Times. The new incident within Burns' own team reportedly left the CIA chief "fuming" with anger.

The director's schedule is tightly guarded, and officials do not know if the affected intelligence officer was targeted because the officer was traveling with the director. If the health incident was an attack carried out by an adversarial intelligence agency—as feared—it's unclear how the adversarial agency learned of the trip and was able to prepare an attack. It's also possible, however, that the officer was targeted for other reasons and without knowledge that the officer was traveling with the director.

[...] The incident is the second high-profile case in less than a month. On August 24, another so-called "anomalous health incident" affecting US embassy staff in Hanoi, Vietnam, came to light. It is still unclear how many staff members were affected in that incident, but NBC News reported that two US personnel were medevaced out of the country.

US Embassy Employees in Cuba Possibly Subjected to 'Acoustic Attack'
U.S. State Department Pulls Employees From Cuba, Issues Travel Warning Due to "Sonic Attacks"
Latest Explanation for Cuban Embassy Symptoms: Microwave Weapons
"Sonic Attack" Recording Made by Diplomats is Actually a Recording of Crickets
Mysterious health "attack" cases rise to 130, US officials confirm

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday September 22, @11:50PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the getting-a-bigger-slice dept.

The Telegraph reports that Raspberry Pi Trading has offloaded stakes to Lansdowne Partners and the Ezrah Charitable Trust in a move that values the operation at around $500m. Most manufacturing is able to be done in the UK, and last year's sales amounted to 7.1m units for a profit of £11.4m.

Lansdowne Partners' presence in the list of investors is less surprising than Ezrah Charitable Trust. The latter was founded by former Goldman Sachs vice-president and Farallon Capital Management partner David Cohen in 2016 to focus "on the poorest of the poor, especially in Africa" – an indicator that it may be the work of the not-for-profit Raspberry Pi Foundation that was of interest.

The Register mentions that the foundation's 2020 financials show an income of over £95.8m, up nearly double from the £49.5m it reported in 2019.

Raspberry Pi Trading makes the hardware, the magazines, the peripherals, and so on. The Raspberry Pi Foundation runs the charitable programs.

(2021) Two New Microcontroller Boards Released with Built In Displays
(2021) Raspberry Pi Begins Selling its RP2040 Microcontroller for $1
(2020) Raspberry Pi 4 Gets 8 GB RAM Model, Also 64-bit OS and USB Boot (Both in Beta)
and more.

Original Submission

posted by FatPhil on Wednesday September 22, @09:07PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the booing dept.

Criminal Charges Coming For MAX Chief Technical Pilot:

Boeing’s former chief technical pilot on the 737 MAX is expected to be indicted on criminal charges in the next few days. The Wall Street Journal first reported Thursday that Mark Forkner, who left Boeing about two years ago, is expected to be indicted in the next few days to face allegations that he misled FAA officials on the significance of the addition of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) to the MAX.  MCAS, which adjusts the angle of the horizontal stabilizer to change the pitch of the aircraft, was installed to compensate for aerodynamic differences between the MAX and earlier generation 737s. It was designed to operate in the background without pilot input and was cited in two fatal crashes involving the MAX.

According to the Seattle Times, part of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement between Boeing and the FAA called out Forkner and his deputy chief pilot for allegedly misrepresenting the significance of the addition of the MCAS while exonerating senior brass. The Times says Forkner will likely argue that he was under intense pressure from above to convince the FAA that the MAX was so similar to the earlier 737s that minimal type training would be required, thus saving potential customers millions in training costs. In the two crashes, MCAS overpowered flight crews after getting erroneous data from angle of attack indicators and put the aircraft, one operated by Lion Air and the second by Ethiopian Airlines, into unrecoverable high-speed dives.

Original Submission

posted by FatPhil on Wednesday September 22, @06:18PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

World’s largest chip foundry TSMC sets 2050 deadline to go carbon neutral:

The dirty secret of the computing and networking world is that most of its pollution comes not from the electricity used to run the devices, but from the energy and materials used to produce the chips that make it all possible.

In a typical laptop like a MacBook Air, manufacturing represents 74 percent of the device’s lifetime carbon emissions, including shipping, use, and disposal. Of that, about half is from integrated circuits, according to a recent study led by researchers at Harvard. Researchers have found similar trends throughout the industry. “Chip manufacturing, as opposed to hardware use and energy consumption, accounts for most of the carbon output attributable to hardware systems,” the study’s authors said.

That footprint may wane in the coming years, though, as TSMC announced last week that it would flatten its emissions growth by 2025 and reach net-zero carbon by 2050. That’ll be a tall order for a company that produced over 15 million tons of carbon pollution last year across the entire scope of its operations, about the same as the country of Ghana. Though the amount of carbon pollution per wafer produced by TSMC has declined in recent years, surging demand for semiconductors has driven overall emissions up, and years of rising energy use, likely from the introduction of EUV lithography, has slowed progress.

[...] To achieve the net-zero goal, TSMC will have to work hand in hand with the Taiwanese government. The company uses 4.8 percent of the island’s power today, a figure that’s expected to rise to 7.2 percent by 2022 when the 3 nm fabs are turned on, according to Greenpeace Taiwan. Currently, Taiwan is heavily reliant on coal and natural gas, with less than 20 percent of electricity produced by nuclear and renewables. [...]

To put that 15 million tons into perspective, that's more than some small countries.

Journal Reference:
Udit Gupta, Young Geun Kim, Sylvia Lee, et al. Chasing Carbon: The Elusive Environmental Footprint of Computing, (DOI:

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday September 22, @03:31PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Tesla Ends Its Referral Program For Everything Except Solar Roof:

Tesla has now officially ended its referral program for its vehicles and everything else except its solar roof.

We expect a new version of the program to launch in the near future.

For years, Tesla relied on its referral program to boost demand.

The automaker doesn’t like to spend on marketing or advertising and instead, it relied on its userbase to promote its vehicles and rewarded them in the process.

[...] At the peak of the program, Tesla was giving away free new Roadsters to owners who accumulated enough referrals.

An impressive number of people ended up reaching that level, and we estimated that Tesla would be giving away about 80 new Roadsters on top of giving out significant discounts to many more.

[...] “As of September 18, 2021, vehicle products, and solar panels are no longer eligible for Referral awards.”

However, Tesla is keeping the referral program for Solar Roof and even increasing it to $500 award per system activation:

“At this time, orders for Solar Roof are eligible for the Referral Program. To earn Referral awards, Solar Roof orders must be placed through your unique referral link. Note that referrals cannot be added after an order is placed, and awards are granted after the Solar Roof system receives permission to operate on the grid from your utility.”

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday September 22, @12:44PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the phone-home dept.

If Aliens Are Out There, We’ll Meet Them in a Few Hundred Million Years:

Seventy years ago, Italian-American nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi asked his colleagues a question during a lunchtime conversation. If life is common in our Universe, why can’t we see any evidence of its activity out there (aka. “where is everybody?”) Seventy years later, this question has launched just as many proposed resolutions as to how extraterrestrial intelligence (ETIs) could be common, yet go unnoticed by our instruments.

Some possibilities that have been considered are that humanity might be alone in the Universe, early to the party, or is not in a position to notice any yet. But in a recent study, Robin Hanson (creator of the Great Filter) and an interdisciplinary team offer a new model for determining when the aliens will get here. According to their study, humanity is early to the Universe and will meet others in 200 million to 2 billion years from now.

[...] Another positive takeaway from this research is the fact that this sort of modeling is now possible. Whereas early SETI efforts were guided by conjectures that were subject to a lot of uncertainty (like the Drake Equation), we now have enough data on the types of stars and exoplanets in our Universe that we can make educated inferences.

“It’s exciting that we’re here now,” said Hanson. “We’re no longer speculating about aliens; we are reasonably sure they exist, and we can say where they are in spacetime. We have a simple statistical model that says where they are, what they are doing, and where we might see or meet them.”

Visualization on Youtube: "The Grabby Aliens Model".

Original Submission