Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg figures there could be a formula that explains how people think. During a wide-ranging online question-and-answer session on his Facebook page Tuesday, Zuckerberg told famed physicist Stephen Hawking he would like to find that equation.
"I'm most interested in questions about people," Zuckerberg said in a written chat forum response to Hawking asking what big questions in science he would like to know the answers to. Zuckerberg responded with a list that included how the brain works and immortality.
"I'm also curious about whether there is a fundamental mathematical law underlying human social relationships that governs the balance of who and what we all care about," Zuckerberg added. "I bet there is."
Will Zuckerberg be a real life Hari Seldon ? Does SN think there can be a social equation ? If yes, can that equation be formulated in a way that can cater to all (or majority) of social relationships ?
The BBC reports
Cuba has successfully eliminated mother-to-child transmission of both HIV and syphilis, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. The head of the WHO, Dr Margaret Chan, called it one of the greatest public health achievements possible. It follows years of efforts to give pregnant women early access to prenatal care, testing and drugs to stop these diseases passing from mother to child.
In Cuba, according to the available official data, less than 2% of children whose mothers have HIV are born with the virus - the lowest rate possible with the available prevention methods.
Untreated, they have a 15-45% chance of transmitting the virus to their children during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding.
Kudos to Cuba!
A secret US tribunal ruled late Monday that the National Security Agency is free to continue its bulk telephone metadata surveillance program—the same spying that Congress voted to terminate weeks ago.
Congress disavowed the program NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed when passing the USA Freedom Act, which President Barack Obama signed June 2. The act, however, allowed for the program to be extended for six months to allow "for an orderly transition" to a less-invasive telephone metadata spying program.
For that to happen, the Obama administration needed the blessing of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court). The government just revealed the order.
In setting aside an appellate court's ruling that the program was illegal, the FISA Court ruled that "Congress deliberately carved out a 180-day period following the date of enactment in which such collection was specially authorized. For this reason, the Court approves the application (PDF) in this case."
Reported at IEEE Spectrum is the news that Holland has just allowed self driving cars onto the roads, although only approved cars as part of test programs:
As the government's announcement makes plain, only manufacturers, universities and other recognized research outfits will be allowed to play, and then only if they've already tested their vehicles under controlled conditions. There's a lot of paperwork to fill out, and as the announcement notes, "Please expect an average 3-to-6-month-turn-around time from sending in your application to executing the test."
The cryptography behind bitcoin solved a paradoxical problem: a currency with no regulator, that nonetheless can't be counterfeited. Now a similar mix of math and code promises to pull off another seemingly magical feat by allowing anyone to share their data with the cloud and nonetheless keep it entirely private.
On Tuesday, a pair of bitcoin entrepreneurs and the MIT Media Lab revealed a prototype for a system called Enigma, designed to achieve a decades-old goal in data security known as "homomorphic" encryption: A way to encrypt data such that it can be shared with a third party and used in computations without it ever being decrypted. That mathematical trick—which would allow untrusted computers to accurately run computations on sensitive data without putting the data at risk of hacker breaches or surveillance—has only become more urgent in an age when millions of users constantly share their secrets with cloud services ranging from Amazon and Dropbox to Google and Facebook. Now, with bitcoin's tricks in their arsenal, Enigma's creators say they can now pull off homomorphically encrypted computations more efficiently than ever.
According to the Washington Post a recent study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reviewed the short term impact of 4th of July fireworks on air pollution across the US:
Every July 4, the 14,000-plus dazzling fireworks displays across the nation have a toxic effect on our atmosphere. A new NOAA study shows they temporarily increase particulate pollution by an average of 42 percent.
The first of its kind study, published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, analyzed concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) at 315 U.S. air quality monitoring stations between 1999 and 2013.
BBC reports that Matti Makkonen, who helped to launch the worldwide sensation of texting, has died at the age of 63 after an illness.
Makkonen became known as the father of SMS after developing the idea of sending messages via mobile networks. Despite the nickname, he was often quick to point out that he did not invent the technology single-handedly.
In 2012, he told BBC News - in an SMS interview - that he believed texting in some form would be around "forever". Speaking on the 20th anniversary of the first text message, Makkonen said that he considered the development of SMS a joint effort and that it was Nokia who helped to popularise the service. "The real launch of the service, as I see it, was when Nokia introduced the first phone that enabled easy writing of messages (Nokia 2010 in 1994)," he said.
We just talked about Personal Info being Private Unless the holder Decides to Sell It on SoylentNews. Today we were treated to yet another such a situation, and this time it hit close to home.
Cisco will essentially take over total ownership, and the vague promises of continuance of OpenDNS. The blog to the contrary, no promises of terms of service after the acquisition can be believable.
OpenDNS does not share, rent, trade or sell your Personal Information with third parties, except...
(4) it is necessary in connection with a sale of all or substantially all of the assets of OpenDNS or the merger of OpenDNS into another entity or any consolidation, share exchange, combination, reorganization, or like transaction in which OpenDNS is not the survivor; you will be notified via email and/or a prominent notice on our Web site of any change in ownership or uses of your Personal Information, as well as any choices you may have regarding your Personal Information.
Full Disclosure: In my day job we were a paying customer of OpenDNS. We had an ISP that ran unreliable DNS servers, injected ads in 404 pages, and generally was slow. We tried Google's DNS free service, and found it quite fast, but full of re-directs and other objectionable features. We switched to OpenDNS mostly for ad, and website filtering, phishing site blocking, and Speed. We were very happy with the fast service over the years. So reliable we never had to look at the web site.
According to The Register Microsoft plans to enable their WIFI Sense feature on all versions of Windows 10 by default.
WIFI Sense has been lurking on Windows Phones since version 8.1.
A Windows 10 feature, Wi-Fi Sense, smells like a significant security risk: it shares access to password-protected Wi-Fi networks with the user's contacts. So giving a wireless password to one person grants access to everyone who knows them. That includes their Outlook.com (nee Hotmail) contacts, Skype contacts and, with an opt-in, their Facebook friends.
With every laptop running Windows 10 in the business radiating access, the security risk is significant. A second issue is that by giving Wi-Fi Sense access to your Facebook contacts, you are giving Microsoft a list of your Facebook friends, as well as your wireless passwords.
Microsoft offers a totally ridiculous workaround: you can simply add _optout to the SSID to prevent it from working with WiFi Sense.
Microsoft's page on WIFI Sense hasn't yet made it clear that every Windows 10 computer using WIFI will have the feature on by default. But that page does also include this little gem:
Wi-Fi Sense uses your location to identify open networks near you that it knows about by crowdsourcing.
Where are the lawyers when you need them?
Christopher Mims writes at the WSJ that Apple like all ambitious companies occasionally strays from its focus. According to Mims the iPhone is just coming into its prime, the iPad is an immature platform and the iWatch is in its infancy, yet Apple continues to invest in one-of-a-kind feats of engineering like the Mac Pro, which ships in volumes that are a rounding error on pretty much everything else Apple makes. "Something's got to give," writes Mims. "Showpieces like iMacs with screens that have more pixels than any PC ever (and four times the average selling price of a PC) are impressive, but what is Apple trying to prove? Is it really a good idea for Apple to continue to put resources against being king of a last-century technology?"
According to Mims the world's best tech companies can be the best at two things at once, maybe three and even a company as mighty as Apple gets to be the best at only a handful of things. "In a world in which the cloud is increasingly the hub of everything individuals and businesses do, and our mobile devices its primary avatar, what on Earth is Apple doing running victory laps around a dying PC industry? Personally, I'd rather see Apple push the envelope on what's next."
takyon: Paywall buster.
Google Photo tries to categorize your pictures automatically. Until very recently, it had a failure mode in which its classification for some pictures of humans was "Gorillas".
Google reacted [and apologised] very quickly when they got a complaint from a black woman who had been misclassified.
When Brooklyn-based computer programmer Jacky Alcine looked over a set of images that he had uploaded to Google Photos on Sunday, he found that the service had attempted to classify them according to their contents. Google offers this capability as a selling point of its service, boasting that it lets you, “Search by what you remember about a photo, no description needed.” In Alcine’s case, many of those labels were basically accurate: A photograph of an airplane wing had been filed under “Airplanes,” one of two tall buildings under “Skyscrapers,” and so on.
Then there was a picture of Alcine and a friend. They’re both black. And Google had labeled the photo “Gorillas.” On investigation, Alcine found that many more photographs of the pair—and nothing else—had been placed under this literally dehumanizing rubric.
Speculating, it's possible that their software is heavy on statistical matching and it's really hard to debug, which is why they wound up simply deleting "Gorilla" from the list of possible categories.
Cybersquatting is registering, selling or using a domain name with the intent of profiting from the goodwill of someone else's trademark. It generally refers to the practice of buying up domain names that use the names of existing businesses with the intent to sell the names for a profit to those businesses. Now Andrew Allmann writes at Domain Name Wire that New York company Office Space Solutions, Inc. has filed a cybersquatting lawsuit against Jason Kneen over the domain name WorkBetter.com that Kneen registered in 1999 although Office Space Solutions didn't use the term "Work Better" in commerce until 2015.
"Workbetter.com is virtually identical to, and/or confusingly similar to the WORK BETTER Service Mark, which was distinctive at the time that the Defendant renewed and/or updated the registration of workbetter.com," says the lawsuit. But according to an Office Space Solutions' filing with the USPTO, it didn't use the term "Work Better" in commerce until 2015. Office Space Solutions is making the argument that the domain name was renewed in bad faith. According to Kneen, Office Space previously tried to purchase the domain name from him and after it failed to acquire the domain name, is now trying to take it via a lawsuit.
European officials agreed on Tuesday to outlaw cellphone roaming charges, beginning in 2017, when people travel across the 28-member bloc. The change is part of long-awaited overhauls aimed at improving how Europeans connect to and use mobile services.
The new rules, which have pitted many of the region's telecommunications operators against consumer groups, also include so-called net neutrality regulations intended to ensure that Internet service providers and other companies cannot discriminate between different services that run on their data networks.
Policy makers hope the changes will jump-start the use of mobile services in Europe and foster greater economic activity across the region, which in many ways is still divided by national boundaries.
Asteroid threats seems only taken seriously when the last close call is fresh in memory. But it didn't last long enough to establish consistent funding. On March 23, 1989, when an asteroid 300 meters in diameter called 1989FC passed within 684 000 kilometers from Earth. New York Times wrote, "In cosmic terms, it was a close call." This event also woke up the powers that were after this arguably close brush with total annihilation. The US Congress asked NASA to prepare a report on the threat posed by asteroids. The document from 1992, "The Spaceguard Survey: Report of the NASA International Near-Earth-Object Detection Workshop," was rather bleak.
If a large Near-Earth Object (NEO) were to hit the Earth, the report said, its denizens could look forward to acid rain, firestorms, and an impact winter induced by dust being thrown kilometers into the stratosphere. After reports from the National Research Council made it clear that meeting the discovery requirement outlined in the Congressional mandate was impossible given the lack of program funding, NEOO got a tenfold budget increase from 2009 to 2014. Yet it still faces a number of difficulties. An audit of the program released September 2014 described the NEOO program as "a one-man operation that is poorly integrated and lacking in objectives and oversight".
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are legal and increasingly popular for individuals wanting to circumvent censorship, avoid mass surveillance or access geographically limited services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. Used by around 20 per cent of European internet users they encrypt users' internet communications, making it more difficult for people to monitor their activities.
The study of fourteen popular VPN providers found that eleven of them leaked information about the user because of a vulnerability known as 'IPv6 leakage'. The leaked information ranged from the websites a user is accessing to the actual content of user communications, for example comments being posted on forums. Interactions with websites running HTTPS encryption, which includes financial transactions, were not leaked.
The leakage occurs because network operators are increasingly deploying a new version of the protocol used to run the Internet called IPv6. IPv6 replaces the previous IPv4, but many VPNs only protect user's IPv4 traffic. The researchers tested their ideas by choosing fourteen of the most famous VPN providers and connecting various devices to a WiFi access point which was designed to mimic the attacks hackers might use.
[More Info]: GWI Infographic: VPN Users
The paper 'A Glance through the VPN Looking Glass: IPv6 Leakage and DNS Hijacking in Commercial VPN clients' by V. Perta, M. Barbera, G. Tyson, H. Haddadi, A. Mei will be presented at the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium on Tuesday 30 June 2015.
See also our story here.