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posted by mrpg on Wednesday May 12, @08:55AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the 2021-is-where-it's-at dept.

Researchers say they've uncovered a massive Facebook bot farm from the 2020 election:

A group of security researchers say they’ve unmasked a massive bot farm that aimed to shape public opinion on Facebook during the heat of the 2020 presidential election.

According to Paul Bischoff of Comparitech, a British cybersecurity company, the network includes 13,775 unique Facebook accounts that each posted roughly 15 times per month, for an output of more than 50,000 posts a week. The accounts appear to have been used for “political manipulation,” Bischoff says, with roughly half the posts being related to political topics and another 17 percent related to COVID-19. Each account has a profile photo and friends list—likely consisting of other bots, the researchers suggest—and they’ve joined “specific Facebook groups where their posts are more likely to be seen and discussed by legitimate users.”

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Wednesday May 12, @06:29AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

How companies are moving on from Cobol:

The programming language Cobol has been around for 61 years in some form or another. For many organizations, that age shows, and people who can keep mainframe-based Cobol applications upright are becoming harder and harder to find, especially as most computer science programs aren’t teaching it any more.

The importance, and brittleness, of these systems was on show back in April 2020, when, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, various state authorities from New Jersey to Kansas started to put out desperate pleas for Cobol programmers to volunteer or come out of retirement to keep their creaking unemployment systems running in the face of unprecedented demand.

That’s because, even at the ripe old age of 61, Cobol is still being used by many big banks, insurance companies, and public organizations to run core transactional business processes, like paying unemployment benefits or dispersing money from an ATM.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Wednesday May 12, @04:00AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Please-hold dept.

NASA's Voyager 1 detects faint, monotone hum beyond our solar system:

In a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday, researchers examined data beamed back by Voyager 1's Plasma Wave System over its journey, but particularly after it passed through over the solar system's border.

[...] "We're detecting the faint, persistent hum of interstellar gas," said Stella Koch Ocker, a doctoral student at Cornell University who lead the research. "It's very faint and monotone, because it is in a narrow frequency bandwidth."

[...] Those bursts were once used to determine the density of interstellar plasma, but this low, constant hum shows Voyager is collecting plenty of information without the solar outbursts. "Now we know we don't need a fortuitous event related to the sun to measure interstellar plasma," said Shami Chatterjee, a research scientist at Cornell and co-author on the paper.

Future missions to interstellar space would help clarify what's happening out there -- and NASA has plans for such a mission, feasibly, in the 2030s.

Journal Reference:
Stella Koch Ocker, James M. Cordes, Shami Chatterjee, et al. Persistent plasma waves in interstellar space detected by Voyager 1, Nature Astronomy (DOI: 10.1038/s41550-021-01363-7)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday May 12, @01:29AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the something-for-nothing dept.

An Anonymous Coward writes:

Trade mag Autonomous Vehicle International reports that the Society of Automotive Engineers has updated the standard that backs up their now well-known levels of driving automation - 0 (none) to 5 (full) This fine link* includes a link to SAE where the 41 page updated standard can be downloaded for free:

SAE International, in collaboration with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), has released an update to the industry's reference for driving automation capabilities: SAE J3016 Recommended Practice: Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to Driving Automation Systems for On-Road Motor Vehicles, commonly referenced as the SAE Levels of Driving Automation. SAE J3016 provides a taxonomy with supporting terms and definitions for SAE's six levels of driving automation.

According to SAE, the latest update augments elements of the previous version with the addition of several new terms, refinements and clarification of misinterpreted concepts, along with the restructuring of certain definitions into more logical groupings.

[...] SAE Level 1 and 2 driving automation systems have been given the name Driver Support Systems as a counterpart to the term Automated Driving Systems used for SAE Levels 3-5

Explanation for how classifications of sustained driving automation fit into the broader context of driver assistance and active safety features

Reasoning for not including warning and momentary driving intervention systems in the classification of the Levels of Driving Automation [...]

* On my system, Privacy Badger only reports seven trackers...ymmv.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday May 11, @10:52PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

A Psychedelic Drug Passes a Big Test for PTSD Treatment:

Scott Ostrom, a participant in the trial, has suffered from P.T.S.D. since returning from Iraq in 2007. Now, he no longer has nightmares. "Literally, I'm a different person," he said.Credit...Elliot Ross for The New York Times

[...] In an important step toward medical approval, MDMA, the illegal drug popularly known as Ecstasy or Molly, was shown to bring relief to those suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder when paired with talk therapy.

Of the 90 people who took part in the new study, which is expected to be published later this month in Nature Medicine, those who received MDMA during therapy experienced a significantly greater reduction in the severity of their symptoms compared with those who received therapy and an inactive placebo. Two months after treatment, 67 percent of participants in the MDMA group no longer qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD, compared with 32 percent in the placebo group.

MDMA produced no serious adverse side effects. Some participants temporarily experienced mild symptoms like nausea and loss of appetite.

"This is about as excited as I can get about a clinical trial," said Gul Dolen, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research. "There is nothing like this in clinical trial results for a neuropsychiatric disease."

Before MDMA-assisted therapy can be approved for therapeutic use, the Food and Drug Administration needs a second positive Phase 3 trial, which is currently underway with 100 participants. Approval could come as early as 2023.

Mental health experts say that this research — the first Phase 3 trial conducted on psychedelic-assisted therapy — could pave the way for further studies on MDMA's potential to help address other difficult-to-treat mental health conditions, including substance abuse, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, eating disorders, depression, end-of-life anxiety and social anxiety in autistic adults.

And, mental health researchers say, these studies could also encourage additional research on other banned psychedelics, including psilocybin, LSD and mescaline.

Journal References:
1.) BB Yazar‐Klosinski, MC Mithoefer. Potential Psychiatric Uses for MDMA [open], Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics (DOI: 10.1002/cpt.565)
2.) Torsten Passie. The early use of MDMA ('Ecstasy') in psychotherapy (1977–1985): [open], Drug Science, Policy and Law (DOI: 10.1177/2050324518767442)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday May 11, @08:27PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Who-remembers-when-'286-and-'386-and-'486-were-the-latest-and-fastest? dept.

[Besides the usual new release details on drivers and the like (see link), this release changes the default CPUTYPE for the i386 architecture to be 686 (instead of 486). Details are included below.--Ed.]

FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE released. Highlights: arm64 is now a tier 1 architecture. Lowlights: sparc64 support has been removed.

The FreeBSD Project | FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE Release Notes:

The default CPUTYPE for the i386 architecture is now 686 (instead of 486).

This means that binaries require a 686-class CPU by default including, but not limited to, binaries provided by the FreeBSD Release Engineering team. The FreeBSD 13.0 code base continues to support older CPUs. Users who need to run on 486- or 586-class CPUs need to build their own releases.

As the embedded market is the primary user of cores based on i486 and i586, end-user impact is expected to be minimal. Most embedded systems have custom builds already. Although some minor adjustments will be necessary, it will be on par with the effort required to move between major versions. Server and desktop machines based on these CPU types are generally over 20 years old. Most have been retired or are too resource poor to make FreeBSD 13.0 an attractive upgrade.

There were several factors taken into account for this change. Most applications need 64-bit atomics for proper operation. While those operations can be emulated in the kernel on i486, they cannot be emulated in userland. Updating the default allows compiler generated code to select the right atomics in those cases, allow better optimizations and produce better error messages when necessary. The older library and/or include file approaches are much less optimal in resulting code and diagnostics. Current compiler technology produces better, faster, and/or smaller binaries for i686 than for i486. Several bugs in compiler support for i486 code generation attest to its lesser use in the wider ecosystem. In the wider ecosystem, i686 has been the default for many years so has received more testing and more optimization. Finally, the 32-bit amd64 libraries have been i686 since their inception. These factors strongly suggest that a i686 default will provide such an improved enough user experience to offset the minor pain for those few users of the older technology.

As the majority of 32-bit testing is done by developers using the lib32 libraries on 64-bit hardware with the COMPAT_FREEBSD32 option in the kernel, this change ensures better coverage and user experience. This also aligns with what the majority of Linux® distributions have been doing for quite some time.

This is expected to be the final bump of the default CPUTYPE in i386.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday May 11, @05:58PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Groundbreaking dept.

Neanderthals Carb Loaded, Helping Grow Their Big Brains

Neanderthals carb loaded, helping grow their big brains

Here's another blow to the popular image of Neanderthals as brutish meat eaters: A new study of bacteria collected from Neanderthal teeth shows that our close cousins ate so many roots, nuts, or other starchy foods that they dramatically altered the type of bacteria in their mouths. The finding suggests our ancestors had adapted to eating lots of starch by at least 600,000 years ago—about the same time as they needed more sugars to fuel a big expansion of their brains.

The study is "groundbreaking," says Harvard University evolutionary biologist Rachel Carmody, who was not part of the research. The work suggests the ancestors of both humans and Neanderthals were cooking lots of starchy foods at least 600,000 years ago. And they had already adapted to eating more starchy plants long before the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago, she says.

Journal Reference:
James A. Fellows Yates, Irina M. Velsko, Franziska Aron, et al. The evolution and changing ecology of the African hominid oral microbiome [open], Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2021655118)

Evidence of Nine Neanderthals Found in Italian Cave

Evidence of nine Neanderthals found in Italian cave:

The fossil remains of nine Neanderthal men have been found in a cave in Italy, the culture ministry announced Saturday, a major discovery in the study of our ancient cousins.

All the individuals found in the Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo, located on the coast between Rome and Naples, are believed to be adults, although one might have been a youth.

Eight of them date to between 50,000 and 68,000 years ago, while the oldest could be 90,000 or 100,000 years old, the ministry said in a statement.

"Together with two others found in the past on the site, they bring the total number of individuals present in the Guattari Cave to 11, confirming it as one of the most significant sites in the world for the history of Neanderthal man," the ministry said.

[...] The findings follow new research begun in October 2019 into the Guattari Cave, which was found by accident by a group of workers in February 1939.

[...] The cave had been closed off by an ancient landslide, preserving everything inside as a snapshot in time that is slowly offering up its secrets.

Recent excavations have also found thousands of animal bones, notably those of hyenas and the prey they are believed to have brought back to the cave to eat or store as food.

There are remains of large mammals including elephant, rhinoceros, giant deer, cave bear, wild horses and aurochs -- extinct bovines.

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday May 11, @03:22PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the fraught-with-pitfalls dept.

Games for the Atari 2600 were quite constrained. When Warren Robinett first pitched the idea that would become Adventure, a game where you would explore a world with many rooms and pick up items to help you along the way, he was denied because it wasn't thought feasible. And it made sense to do so. This was the late 70s; there had never been a game with multiple screens before. This was in the days of Space Invaders and Pac Man, when everything in a game was in front of the player at all times, so the fact that Adventure was able to have 30 rooms when it was finally released in 1980 was quite impressive.

The manual for adventure even had to explain the concept. It read

        Each area shown on your television screen will have one or more barriers or walls, through which you CANNOT pass. There are one or more openings. To move from one area to an adjacent area, move "off" the television screen through one of the openings, the adjacent area will be shown on your television screen.

It was quite an innovation to have multiple rooms, and the fact that Adventure managed to have 30 was revolutionary. But Pitfall!, made by David Crane and released in 1983, had 255, all of which were much more elaborate (graphically speaking) than anything in Adventure. In this article we'll talk about how this was done.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday May 11, @12:51PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the do-NOT-look-down dept.

Terrifying picture shows man dangling 100 metre in the air after glass-bottomed bridge shatters:

A tourist has been left clinging for dear life, after a glass-panelled bridge in China was wrecked by 145km/h (~90 mph) winds.

The walkway, located in the Piyan Mountain in the city of Longjing, reportedly saw its glass panels shattered by the extreme weather conditions, with an image showing a terrified man clinging onto the railing as the wind blew away some of the glass panels.

The bridge is suspended 91[sic] metres in the air.

According to local media, the man was stuck on the walkway for a short time before being rescued by firefighters and police.

[...] Users shared their horror at the vertigo-inducing image on social media, with some commenting that the ordeal was "terrifying".

The article links to pictures on Twitter of the bridge as-constructed and with the trapped pedestrian .

An article at Forbes notes:

The bridge in question, the 330-foot-high (100 meters) span at Piyan Mountain in Longjing City, China, was struck by gale-force gusts of 90+ miles per hour according to the local tourism department. The winds blew out several glass panels and left the unfortunate tourist trapped, clinging on to the frame for dear life for half an hour, until he could be rescued by a combination of brave climbing and the help of local firefighters, police and forestry and tourism personnel.

In the end the man escaped physically unharmed, although he has been sent to hospital for assessment and counselling, according to state media. Videos posted to social media platform Weibo show the man holding onto the bridge surrounded by gaping holes where glass panels used to be, while social media has been alight with startling images.

How could anyone think it was a good idea to cross the bridge in such high winds?

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday May 11, @10:16AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

NASA's OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Heads for Earth with Asteroid Sample

After nearly five years in space, NASA's Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft is on its way back to Earth with an abundance of rocks and dust from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.

On Monday, May 10, at 4:23 p.m. EDT the spacecraft fired its main engines full throttle for seven minutes – its most significant maneuver since it arrived at Bennu in 2018. This burn thrust the spacecraft away from the asteroid at 600 miles per hour (nearly 1,000 kilometers per hour), setting it on a 2.5-year cruise towards Earth.

After releasing the sample capsule, OSIRIS-REx will have completed its primary mission. It will fire its engines to fly by Earth safely, putting it on a trajectory to circle the sun inside of Venus' orbit.

After orbiting the Sun twice, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is due to reach Earth Sept. 24, 2023. Upon return, the capsule containing pieces of Bennu will separate from the rest of the spacecraft and enter Earth's atmosphere. The capsule will parachute to the Utah Test and Training Range in Utah's West Desert, where scientists will be waiting to retrieve it.

Previously: OSIRIS-REx Enters Into Orbit Around Asteroid Bennu
NASA's OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Successfully Touches Asteroid
OSIRIS-REx Overflows with Asteroid Samples after Bagging Bounty from Bennu
Asteroid Samples Successfully Sealed in Capsule to Return to Earth, NASA Says
NASA Releases Incredible Video of OSIRIS-REx Tagging Asteroid – Mysterious Dark Patches Puzzle Team
Asteroid Bennu May be Hollow According to a New Study
NASA's OSIRIS-REx Completes Final Tour of Asteroid Bennu

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday May 11, @07:48AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the with-our-ears dept.

Research results challenge a decades-old mechanism of how we hear sounds:

Researchers at Linköping University, Sweden, have made several discoveries on the functioning mechanisms of the inner hair cells of the ear, which convert sounds into nerve signals that are processed in the brain. The results, presented in the scientific journal Nature Communications, challenge the current picture of the anatomical organisation and workings of the hearing organ, which has prevailed for decades. [...]

[...] It has long been known that the outer hair cells are connected to a membrane that rests on top of them. The outer hair cells have hair-like protrusions known as stereocilia that are bent and activated when sound causes the membrane and the hearing organ to vibrate. However, the current view is that the stereocilia of the inner hair cells are not in contact with this membrane, which is known as the tectorial membrane, and that they are stimulated by sounds by a completely different mechanism. It is this model that the new study challenges.

[...] "Our results allow us to describe a mechanism for how hearing functions, that is incompatible with the model that has been accepted for more than fifty years. The classic illustrations in the textbooks showing the hearing organ and how it functions must be updated. The mathematical models used in research to study hearing should also be updated to include these new findings," says Pierre Hakizimana.

[...] "Cochlear implants are an amazing solution for treating hearing loss, but they can be improved. A deeper understanding of how the inner hair cells are stimulated by sounds is important to optimise how cochlear implants stimulate the auditory nerve," says Pierre Hakizimana.

Journal Reference:
Pierre Hakizimana, Anders Fridberger. Inner hair cell stereocilia are embedded in the tectorial membrane [open], Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-22870-1)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday May 11, @05:22AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the I'm-not-saying-it's-Fukushima dept.

'Living Fossil' Thought Extinct For 273 Million Years Found Thriving on Ocean Floor:

A symbiotic relationship between two marine lifeforms has just been discovered thriving at the bottom of the ocean, after disappearing from the fossil record for hundreds of millions of years.

Scientists have found non-skeletal corals growing from the stalks of marine animals known as crinoids, or sea lilies, on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, off the coasts of Honshu and Shikoku in Japan.

"These specimens represent the first detailed records and examinations of a recent syn vivo association of a crinoid (host) and a hexacoral (epibiont)," the researchers wrote in their paper, "and therefore analyses of these associations can shed new light on our understanding of these common Paleozoic associations."

[...] Fossils of soft-bodied organisms - such as non-skeletal corals - are rare. Zoantharia such as Abyssoanthus have no confirmed fossil record, and actiniaria such as Metridioidea (seen as a dry specimen in the image below) also are extremely limited.

If these corals don't modify the host, and leave no fossil record, perhaps they have had a long relationship with crinoids that has simply not been recorded.

This means the modern relationship between coral and crinoid could contain some clues as to Paleozoic interactions between coral and crinoid. There's evidence to suggest that zoantharians and rugose corals share a common ancestor, for instance.

Journal Reference:
Hexacoral-crinoid associations from the modern mesophotic zone: Ecological analogues for Palaeozoic associations [open], Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2021.110419)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday May 11, @02:49AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the one-more-step-towards-herd-immunity dept.

FDA authorizes Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds:

The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents between the ages of 12 to 15, the agency announced Monday evening.

[...] The authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the adolescent group was widely expected. It follows an announcement from the two companies on March 31 which declared that the vaccine completely protected 12- to 15-year-olds against COVID-19 in a small Phase III clinical trial involving 2,260-adolescents.

[...] In the trial, 1,131 adolescents received the vaccine while the other 1,129 received a placebo. The FDA focused on those who had no evidence of being infected by the pandemic coronavirus prior to the trial, leaving the agency with 1,005 vaccinated adolescents and 978 adolescents given a placebo. The FDA reported 16 cases in the trial, all of them in the placebo group. "The vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19," the agency announced. Moreover, in a smaller sampling, those in the vaccinated group appeared to produce neutralizing antibodies at higher levels than those seen earlier in people ages 16 to 25, Pfizer noted in March.

The vaccine also appeared to be tolerated by the adolescents. The most commonly reported side effects included pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain, all of which tended to occur within one to three days after vaccination.

[...] Now that the FDA has granted authorization, a committee of independent advisors for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will review the data on the vaccine in this age group and vote on policy recommendations for use. The committee—the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices [(ACIP)]—has already set a meeting for Wednesday, May 12, to vote on their recommendations. If the CDC accepts the committee's recommendations—which it likely will—vaccinations could become available for adolescents as early as Thursday.

Also at c|net and Aljazeera.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday May 11, @12:16AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Making the shift from blue to red for better LEDs:

Micro-LEDs are a promising technology for the next generation of displays. They have the advantage of being energy efficient and very small. But each LED can only emit light over a narrow range of colors. A clever solution is to create devices that combine many different LEDs, each emitting a different color. Full-color micro-displays can be created by combining red, green and blue (RGB) micro-LEDs. Now, a KAUST team of Zhe Zhuang, Daisuke Iida and Kazuhiro Ohkawa have worked to develop a more efficient red LED.

The emission color of an LED is determined by the material properties of the semiconductor. For example, nitride semiconductors can be used to make blue and green micro-LEDs, whereas phosphide semiconductors are used for red light. But combining different semiconductors in this way makes construction of RGB micro-LEDs more difficult and expensive. Besides, the efficiency of phosphide micro-LEDs reduces significantly with shrinking chip size.

Red-light emitting indium gallium nitride can be created by increasing the materials' indium content. But this tends to lower the efficiency of the resulting LED because there is a mismatch between the separation of atoms in the GaN and InGaN, which causes atomic-level imperfections. Moreover, damage to the sidewalls of an InGaN micro-LED induced during the fabrication process makes the new device less efficient. "But we have a chemical treatment to remove the damage and retain the high crystal quality of the InGaN and GaN sidewall interface," explains Zhuang.

Journal Reference:
Daisuke Iida, Kazuhiro Ohkawa, Zhe Zhuang. Investigation of InGaN-based red/green micro-light-emitting diodes [open], Optics Letters (DOI: 10.1364/OL.422579)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday May 10, @09:47PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the be-sure-to-promptly-apply-system-updates? dept.

Microsoft pulls Windows 10 AMD driver causing PCs not to boot:

Microsoft has pulled an AMD driver from Windows Update after numerous people reported that it prevents Windows 10 from starting and displays an "INACCESSIBLE BOOT DEVICE" error.

When hardware manufacturers release new drivers for Windows 10, they get added to the Windows Update as an optional driver update that users can install.

For the past week, Windows Update has been pushing a new driver titled 'Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. - SCSIAdapter -' to users of AMD-compatible motherboards.

Numerous users are reporting [1, 2, 3, 4] that when they install this driver, they are prompted to restart Windows 10 and are greeted with a Blue Screen of Death crash (BSOD) displaying an error stating that the PC has an "INACCESSIBLE BOOT DEVICE."

[...] Due to the large number of people affected by the driver rollout, Microsoft had pulled the driver from Windows Update [...], as reported by Windows Latest.

[...] After opening the floodgates and rolling the driver out to more people, it was discovered that it was delivered to owners of incompatible hardware, leading to many reports.

From the reports seen by BleepingComputer, the driver is primarily affecting owners of the Gigabyte X570 motherboards.

Windows 10 fixed the issue for many users through the Automatic Startup Repair feature that runs after failing to boot Windows 10 a few times. Other users were forced to perform a more complicated task to get Windows 10 to boot up again.

Did any Soylentils run into this problem? How is your system now?

Original Submission