2017-07-01 00:00:00 ..
2017-11-22 15:26:07 UTC
2017-11-23 07:58:51 UTC
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Archivist David Rosenthal asks on his blog, Has Web Advertising Jumped The Shark?.
He points out that there are four big problems with Web advertising as it currently exists: The bad guys love it, the readers hate it, the webmasters hate it too, and the advertisers find that it wastes money. He then goes into detail on each point and concludes that not only does everyone involved hate the system, but that it is causing actual harm to society.
Male Australian humpback dolphins have been observed presenting sponges to female dolphins:
Researchers from The University of Western Australia have captured a rare sexual display: evidence of male humpback dolphins presenting females with large marine sponges in an apparent effort to mate.
Scientists from UWA's School of Biological Sciences, the University of Zurich and Murdoch University conducted a decade of boat-based research on coastal dolphins across north-western Australia.
They documented adult male Australian humpback dolphins presenting large marine sponges to females, as well as performing visual and acoustic displays. It's the first time the behaviour has been documented in this species.
Their first observation was between a male and female dolphin and her calf. The male dolphin dived down to remove a large marine sponge fixed to the seafloor, balanced it on his beak and pushed it toward the female.
Multi-modal sexual displays in Australian humpback dolphins (open, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-13898-9) (DX)
For many years, major U.S. institutions ranging from the Pentagon to the 9/11 Commission have been pushing the line that Iran secretly cooperated with Al Qaeda both before and after the 9/11 terror attacks. But the evidence for those claims remained either secret or sketchy, and always highly questionable.
In early November, however, the mainstream media claimed to have its "smoking gun"—a CIA document written by an unidentified Al Qaeda official and released in conjunction with 47,000 never-before-seen documents seized from Osama bin Laden's house in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
[..] But none of those media reports were based on any careful reading of the document's contents. The 19-page Arabic-language document, which was translated in full for TAC, doesn't support the media narrative of new evidence of Iran-Al Qaeda cooperation, either before or after 9/11, at all. It provides no evidence whatsoever of tangible Iranian assistance to Al Qaeda. On the contrary, it confirms previous evidence that Iranian authorities quickly rounded up those Al Qaeda operatives living in the country when they were able to track them down, and held them in isolation to prevent any further contact with Al Qaeda units outside Iran.
What it shows is that the Al Qaeda operatives were led to believe Iran was friendly to their cause and were quite taken by surprise when their people were arrested in two waves in late 2002. It suggests that Iran had played them, gaining the fighters' trust while maximizing intelligence regarding Al Qaeda's presence in Iran.
Full article is well worth reading, a great deal of detail is provided.
Evidence for liquid water on the surface of Mars may have actually been evidence of sand movement:
One of [Alfred] McEwen's most important finds [on Mars] came in 2011, with the discovery of recurring slope lineae (RSL), thousands of temporary streaks along steep slopes, mostly near the equator, that gradually grow and darken as spring turns to summer, as if fed by seeps of water. They soon became cited as the best evidence for liquid water on the surface of Mars today—and also one of the best places to search for microbial life.
But McEwen has now dowsed some of the excitement ignited by his initial finding. In a study published online this month in Nature Geoscience, he and his colleagues analyzed 151 of the streaks, finding that they only occur on slopes steeper than 27° and always peter out when the angle drops below that [DOI: 10.1038/s41561-017-0012-5] [DX]. The researchers interpret this as a sign that the RSL are not formed by water—which would flow down shallower slopes—but rather are dry flows of sand and dust seeking their natural angle of repose.
But there's still hope for life on Mars... or beneath it:
Q: Do you think of Mars as a hospitable place?
A: It's inconceivable to me that there aren't places where there's liquid water today within Mars. If there was ever life on Mars—that originated somewhere—why wouldn't there still be life today in these underground pockets? The surface, on the other hand, is a very harsh environment for life.
Q: Should the search for life be focused on Mars? Or should NASA and other agencies be exploring the ocean worlds that orbit Jupiter and Saturn?
A: I'm heavily involved in one mission—the Europa Clipper. Extant life there is much more likely today than on the surface of Mars. On the other hand, they're further away, and Europa in particular is in a harsh radiation environment. I think we should do both.
Also at The Verge.
Plague was present in Europe during the late Stone Age, according to a study of ancient remains. Writing in Current Biology journal, researchers suggest the deadly bacterium entered Europe with a mass migration of people from further east. They screened more than 500 ancient skeletal samples and recovered the full genomes of plague bacteria from six individuals. These six variously date to between Late Neolithic and Bronze Age times.
The plague-positive samples come from Russia, Germany, Lithuania, Estonia and Croatia. "The two samples from Russia and Croatia are among the oldest plague-positive samples published. They are contemporary with [a] previously published sample from the Altai region [in Siberia]," co-author Alexander Herbig from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, told BBC News.
The Stone Age Plague and Its Persistence in Eurasia (DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.10.025) (DX)
El Reg reports
Tired of continual price hikes on your broadband deal? Then why not move to Iran? According to a study released today, it has the cheapest broadband (if you're willing to ignore political and social problems).
The survey conducted by cable.co.uk and BDRC Continental ranked 196 countries on their monthly prices for a broadband connection, using 3,351 consumer packages tracked over eight weeks (ending October 12) to calculate the average.
At $5.37 (£4.05) a month, Iran beats second placed Ukraine at $5.52 a month, with both significantly cheaper than Russia at $9.82 a month.
Burkina Faso is last at 196th place, costing users $954.54 (£720.77) per month. Papua New Guinea is 195th, but much better at $597.20 (£450.95), then Namibia at $431.99 (£326.20). The UK comes in 62nd place, averaging £30.54 a month($40.44).
We learned last week that Belgium's gambling authority was investigating loot crates in Star Wars Battlefront II over concerns that they constitute gambling. Now, the decision is in, and the answer is a resounding yes, according to Dutch-language publication VTM Nieuws. The commission claims that purchasable add-on boxes, the contents of which are randomized, mix "money and addiction" and thus are a form of gambling.
Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens added: "Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child." The commission will now reportedly work through the European Union's process to execute a total ban. We've reached out to Belgium's Gaming Commission for more details on its next steps and the legal implications of the ruling.
The country isn't alone in its stance on loot boxes. Just hours ago, Rep. Chris Lee (D) from Hawaii denounced EA's "predatory behavior" in a speech uploaded to YouTube (first spotted by Kotaku). In the clip, Lee also talks of the detrimental affect micro-transactions have on children, with specific reference to Battlefront II, which he describes as a a "Star Wars-themed online casino, designed to lure kids into spending money".
Press 'F' to pay respects.
There are plenty of gardeners that talk to their plants in the belief that it helps them grow. While plants aren't likely to be eavesdropping on our conversations anytime soon, they could be gathering different types of intelligence if a new DARPA program bears fruit. The agency is pursuing research into genetically modifying plants to turn them into self-sustaining surveillance sensors.
The aim of the program is to genetically modify certain plants so that specific response mechanisms are triggered when they are presented with specific stimuli. It is suggested that existing hardware can be used to remotely monitor these responses so the plants could essentially be used as organic sensors. As such, the program won't seek to develop new hardware for this purpose, but rely on existing technologies that can already measure such things as a plants' temperature, chemical composition and reflectance.
If this tech is successful, we'll need Aeon Flux.
Intel has issued a security alert that management firmware on a number of recent PC, server, and Internet-of-Things processor platforms are vulnerable to remote attack. Using the vulnerabilities, the most severe of which was uncovered by Mark Ermolov and Maxim Goryachy of Positive Technologies Research, remote attackers could launch commands on a host of Intel-based computers, including laptops and desktops shipped with Intel Core processors since 2015. They could gain access to privileged system information, and millions of computers could essentially be taken over as a result of the bug. Most of the vulnerabilities require physical access to the targeted device, but one allows remote attacks with administrative access.
The company has posted a detection tool on its support website for Windows and Linux to help identify systems that are vulnerable. In the security alert, members of Intel's security team stated that "in response to issues identified by external researchers, Intel has performed an in-depth comprehensive security review of its Intel® Management Engine (ME), Intel® Trusted Execution Engine (TXE), and Intel® Server Platform Services (SPS) with the objective of enhancing firmware resilience."
The U.S. government on Tuesday urged businesses to act on an Intel Corp alert about security flaws in widely used computer chips as industry researchers scrambled to understand the impact of the newly disclosed vulnerability.
The Department of Homeland Security gave the guidance a day after Intel said it had identified security vulnerabilities in remote-management software known as 'Management Engine' that shipped with eight types of processors used in business computers sold by Dell Technologies, Lenovo, HP Inc, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and other manufacturers."
Security experts said that it was not clear how difficult it would be to exploit the vulnerabilities to launch attacks, though they found the disclosure troubling because the affected chips were widely used.
"These vulnerabilities affect essentially every business computer and server with an Intel processor released in the last two years," said Jay Little, a security engineer with cyber consulting firm Trail of Bits.
The official warning is here. Good luck to everybody! Good luck.
Lightning can accelerate some electrons to almost the speed of light, and the electrons can then produce γ-rays. [Leonid] Babich proposed that when one of these γ-rays hits the nucleus of a nitrogen atom in the atmosphere, the collision can dislodge a neutron. After briefly bouncing around, most of the neutrons get absorbed by another nitrogen nucleus. This adds energy to the receiving nucleus and puts it in an excited state. As the receiving nucleus relaxes to its original state, it emits another γ-ray — contributing to the giveaway γ-ray glow.
Meanwhile, the nitrogen nucleus that has lost one neutron is extremely unstable. It decays radioactively over the next minute or so; in so doing, it emits a positron, which almost immediately annihilates with an electron, producing two 511-keV photons. This was the third signal, Enoto says. He suspects that his detectors were able to see it only because the briefly radioactive cloud was low, and moving towards the detectors. This combination of circumstances might help to explain why the photonuclear signature has been seen so rarely. Enoto says that his team has observed a few similar events, but that the one described in the paper is the only clear-cut event so far.
Babich also predicted that not all of the neutrons dislodged from nitrogen by a γ-ray are absorbed. Some of them instead will trigger the transmutation of another nitrogen nucleus into carbon-14, a radioactive isotope that has two more neutrons than ordinary carbon. This isotope can be absorbed by organisms; it then decays at a predictable rate long after the organism's death, which makes it a useful clock for archaeologists.
The main source of the carbon-14 in the atmosphere has generally been considered to be cosmic rays. In principle, lightning could also contribute to the supply. But it is not clear yet how much of the isotope is produced in this way, says Enoto, in part because it's possible that not all bolts initiate photonuclear reactions.
Photonuclear reactions triggered by lightning discharge (DOI: 10.1038/nature24630) (DX)
Chinese gaming giant Tencent Holdings Ltd is bringing "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds", the world's hottest video game, to China, but with a twist. The gory, battle royale-style game will get a socialist makeover to meet stringent Chinese rules. The move comes after China's content regulator slammed the South Korean-made game, PUBG for short, last month for being too violent and said it would likely be blocked because it "severely deviates from socialist core values".
The PUBG game where players fight for survival on a deserted island is currently the world's top-selling videogame, having shipped more than 20 million copies since its launch in March. It has been developed by South Korean firm Blue Hole.
Tencent, which recently outstripped Facebook Inc in market value, said it had won the exclusive rights to the game in China, and that it would modify the game in order to meet the requirements of China's regulators and censors. "(Tencent) will make adjustment to content ... and make sure they accord with socialist core values, Chinese traditional culture and moral rules," it said in a statement on Wednesday.
Also at Engadget.
The Center for American Progress reports
Prosecutors and defense attorneys have only just begun to wrestle over the facts in an unprecedented series of felony trials stemming from the mass round-up arrest of hundreds of protesters on Inauguration Day. The federal government is arguing that everyone charged was an active participant, provoking alarming notions of collective punishment, but video evidence and media reports indicate that many caught in the mass arrest were not organized Antifa disrupters but rather onlookers caught in a dragnet.
[...] Lawyers from each side struggled [November 21, the second day of the trial of 6 defendants] to work up any kind of rhythm in their questioning because of the repeated interruptions necessary to navigate the gigantic pile of video evidence the government is relying upon. One might expect a serious felony trial involving thousands of gigabytes of video data covering hours of chaos in the streets to have some state-of-the-art system for playback--or at least the kind of pre-cut clips common on sports highlights shows.
But the law and order playing out in Courtroom 203 of the D.C. Superior Court has no such handy facilitation.
"I'm just going to back it up and--oops too far", Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Rizwan Qureshi said while trying to examine one government witness Tuesday.
The system befuddled defense attorneys just as much during their attempts at cross-examination. When one of the six defendants' lawyers sought to play back video for a Metropolitan Police Department officer, her colleague's computer froze up and only played sound. As the team tried to figure it out, Judge Lynn Leibovitz leaned toward their table and suggested they all "might want to get a tech person."
Earlier in the day, defense counsel Andrew Lazerow began his questioning of a Customs and Border Protection helicopter pilot by saying he wanted to revisit a portion of video shot from the man's chopper.
"Do you know how to do that?" AUSA Jennifer Kerkhoff offered helpfully as Lazerow reached the examiner's console.
"Uh, no", Lazerow said back.
"It's okay. Here.", Kerkhoff said, rising to show her opposing counsel how to work the touch-screen system.
The interruption itself took about as long as Lazerow's brief, narrow questioning of the pilot.
The serial tech hang-ups gave the proceedings an air of farce.
"Mad" Mike Hughes plans to ascend to 1800 feet in a $20,000 steam-powered rocket.
He has flown in rockets before, mostly successfully, but was injured by the acceleration.
Despite that he claims "science is science fiction", he used documented engineering formulas because they are known to work, despite that the science behind them is bogus.
It will be live-streamed on Hughes' YouTube channel, possibly also on Pay-Per-View.
"Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co (HPE) said on Tuesday that Meg Whitman was stepping down as chief executive officer, sending its shares down 7.4 percent in trading after the bell.
Whitman engineered the biggest breakup in corporate history during her 6 year tenure at the helm, creating HPE and PC-and-printer business HP Inc from parent Hewlett Packard Co in 2015."