2020-07-01 00:00:00 ..
2020-08-02 18:26:48 UTC
2020-08-03 12:59:18 UTC
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Unlike the many charismatic mammals, fishes and birds that receive our attention (and our conservation dollars), parasites are thought of as something to eradicate—and certainly not something to protect.
But only 4% of known parasites can infect humans, and the majority actually serve critical ecological roles, like regulating wildlife that might otherwise balloon in population size and become pests. Still, only about 10% of parasites have been identified and, as a result, they are mostly left out of conservation activities and research.
An international group of scientists wants to change that. About a dozen leading parasite ecologists, including University of Washington's Chelsea Wood, published a paper Aug. 1 in the journal Biological Conservation, which lays out an ambitious global conservation plan for parasites.
"Parasites are an incredibly diverse group of species, but as a society, we do not recognize this biological diversity as valuable," said Wood, an assistant professor in the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. "The point of this paper is to emphasize that we are losing parasites and the functions they serve without even recognizing it."
The authors propose 12 goals for the next decade that could advance parasite biodiversity conservation through a mix of research, advocacy and management.
"Even though we know little to nothing about most parasite species, we can still take action now to conserve parasite biodiversity," said Skylar Hopkins, paper and project co-lead and an assistant professor at North Carolina State University.
[...] Traditionally, the field of disease ecology assumes one of two paths: That we are either heading toward a future of more disease and massive outbreaks or toward a future of parasite extinction. This paper shows that both trajectories are happening simultaneously, Wood explained.
Chelsea L. Wood et al. How host diversity and abundance affect parasite infections: Results from a whole-ecosystem manipulation of bird activity, Biological Conservation (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108683
The aurora borealis, or northern lights, occurs when solar winds--plasma ejected from the Sun's surface--meet the protective magnetic field that surrounds the Earth. The collision of particles produces colorful lights in the sky and creates fluctuations in the magnetic field that are sometimes called solar or space "storms." Magnetometers deployed on the Earth's surface are the primary instrument used to detect these fluctuations, which can significantly impact electrical grids, GPS systems and other crucial infrastructure. The aurora is commonly visible in wintertime in high-latitude regions such as Alaska.
The seismometers in the study are part of the USArray Transportable Array, a network of temporary seismometers placed across North America as part of the EarthScope project. The array in Alaska and western Canada was completed in the fall of 2017.
[...] These temporary seismic stations are not shielded from magnetic fields, unlike more permanent stations that are often cloaked in mu-metal, a nickel-iron alloy that directs magnetic fields around the instrument's sensors. As a result, "I was blown away by how well you can record magnetic storms across the array," said U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Adam Ringler, a co-author on the SRL paper.
Last month, Ringler and his colleagues published a paper demonstrating how the array's 200-plus seismometers in Alaska can be used to record space weather, potentially augmenting the 13 magnetometers in operation in the state.
Carl Tape, Adam T. Ringler, Don L. Hampton. Recording the Aurora at Seismometers across Alaska, Seismological Research Letters (DOI: 10.1785/0220200161)
Santa Ana, Calif.-based First American [NYSE:FAF] is a leading provider of title insurance and settlement services to the real estate and mortgage industries. It employs some 18,000 people and brought in $6.2 billion in 2019.
As first reported here last year, First American's website exposed 16 years worth of digitized mortgage title insurance records — including bank account numbers and statements, mortgage and tax records, Social Security numbers, wire transaction receipts, and drivers license images.
The documents were available without authentication to anyone with a Web browser.
According to a filing (PDF) by the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), the weakness that exposed the documents was first introduced during an application software update in May 2014 and went undetected for years.
Worse still, the DFS found, the vulnerability was discovered in a penetration test First American conducted on its own in December 2018.
"Remarkably, Respondent instead allowed unfettered access to the personal and financial data of millions of its customers for six more months until the breach and its serious ramifications were widely publicized by a nationally recognized cybersecurity industry journalist," the DFS explained in a statement on the charges.
[...] The records exposed by First American would have been a virtual gold mine for phishers and scammers involved in so-called Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams, which often impersonate real estate agents, closing agencies, title and escrow firms in a bid to trick property buyers into wiring funds to fraudsters. According to the FBI, BEC scams are the most costly form of cybercrime today.
First American's stock price fell more than 6 percent the day after news of their data leak was published here. In the days that followed, the DFS and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission each announced they were investigating the company.
Green is the color "that reigns over the plant kingdom", photosynthetic plant surfaces typically reflect about 10% of incident green photons. Logically this seems wasteful of Kingdom Plantae, as Green is where most of the energy of the sun is radiated. So why are plants green? Quanta has the story that tells the tale of the tincture and notes that the answer "might apply throughout the universe."
According to Nathaniel Gabor, a physicist at the University of California, Riverside and his team, who developed a model for light-harvesting systems of plants below a canopy of leaves:
It might be highly efficient to specialize in collecting just the peak energy in green light, but that would be detrimental for plants because, when the sunlight flickered, the noise from the input signal would fluctuate too wildly for the complex to regulate the energy flow.
Instead, for a safe, steady energy output, the pigments of the photosystem had to be very finely tuned in a certain way. The pigments needed to absorb light at similar wavelengths to reduce the internal noise. But they also needed to absorb light at different rates to buffer against the external noise caused by swings in light intensity. The best light for the pigments to absorb, then, was in the steepest parts of the intensity curve for the solar spectrum—the red and blue parts of the spectrum.
The model's predictions matched the absorption peaks of chlorophyll a and b, which green plants use to harvest red and blue light. It appears that the photosynthesis machinery evolved not for maximum efficiency but rather for an optimally smooth and reliable output.
"sometimes — evolution cares less about making biological systems efficient than about keeping them stable."
Trevor B. Arp, Jed Kistner-Morris, Vivek Aji, et al. Quieting a noisy antenna reproduces photosynthetic light-harvesting spectra [$], Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.aba6630)
The futuristic headgear is intended for use by people who are most vulnerable and who "really live their daily lives with a lot of risk" of getting sick, aeronautical engineer, Andres Felipe Giraldo, told RT's Ruptly video agency.
Yet, according to the helmet's co-creator, Ricardo Andres Conde, it will also fit "anyone who wants to protect him or herself" from the disease, which has already infected around 296,000 and killed over 10,000 people in Colombia.
[...] The helmet consists of a plastic structure, an electrical fitting, filters and a battery to allow for circulation of clean, uncontaminated air inside. While it may look big and bulky, it weighs just 650 grams (22.9 oz) and allows the user to talk on the phone without any complications as the video proves.
I especially liked the part in the video where they are wearing masks while assembling the helmets. Unfortunately the masks have exhaust valves...
As with many aspects of the new coronavirus, researchers are trying to pull together data to understand the medium-term health effects more fully.
[...] Its impact on the heart still isn't clear, Dr Gallo says, but studies published in recent weeks describe abnormalities in the hearts of patients who have completely cleared the virus.
"[The researchers] asked them about their just general wellbeing and a lot of the patients are commenting on just being generally exhausted and having shortness of breath, some of them having palpitations, atypical chest pain," she says.
What's more, many of these patients weren't that sick with COVID-19 — most of them had managed their illness at home, rather than needing hospital treatment.
[...] Other persistent symptoms people report have to do with the brain: "brain fog", sleeplessness and headaches.'
[...]Fatigue, which is more than just a feeling of tiredness, and can be associated with things like a "foggy" brain, slowed reflexes and headaches, is usually a useful response to infections.
"There's a good reason for that — mounting an immune response to fight an infection takes a huge amount of energy," Dr Landowski says.
"The body wants you to do as little as possible, so you can conserve energy and divert it to the immune system.
Then, once the infection is eliminated, the fatigue dissipates.
"However, in some people, the switch that returns the body back to normal seems to fail, resulting in chronic fatigue."
[...] "Regardless of which cells it's infecting, if it's infecting cells in the brain, it could be causing damage, which could have long-term consequences," Dr Lawson said.
Even if the virus doesn't infect brain cells directly, inflammation caused by the virus could also cause damage to the brain.
Some experts are concerned the medium-term effects on the brain might have consequences that reach further.
In an article in the Journal of Alzheimers Disease Reports, experts raise the question of whether people who've had COVID-19, particularly those whose symptoms included loss of taste or smell, will be at greater risk of conditions including Alzheimer's disease after they recover.
The last-linked article from above (which is open-access), is excerpted here with links sprinkled on some of the unusual terms:
Some of the earliest neurologic findings were in those experiencing COVID-19-related anosmia and dysgeusia . Important to this equation is that COVID-19 may prove to be a risk factor for future neurodegenerative disorders, beyond that which would be expected in the context of other comorbidities and genetic predispositions. Anosmia and the biological processes resulting in this symptom contribute to grey matter loss in cortical regions , which is similar to where pathognomonic amyloid plaques are often discovered . Olfactory dysfunction has also been found to be associated with the graduation from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to AD, serving as a potential identifier for preclinical stages .
[...] It has become clear that many age-related conditions are found among those testing positive for COVID-19, though some of these are also related to lifestyle and family history. ... Systolic hypertension in midlife, rather than only late life, is associated with 18% and 25% increased risk of AD, respectively ... These cardiovascular risk factors are directly related to cerebrovascular consequences, such as hypoperfusion, a symptom strongly associated with MCI and AD . Plasma exchange and albumin for AD patients with hypoperfusion, for example, has been shown to improve cognitive deficits and initiate cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) amyloid-β (Aβ)...
Jack C. Lennon. Neurologic and Immunologic Complications of COVID-19: Potential Long-Term Risk Factors for AlzheimerΓÇÖs Disease [open], Journal of Alzheimer's Disease Reports (DOI: 10.3233/ADR-200190)
Let's play a quick game of word association: Microsoft — Windows? Excel? Xbox? All solid answers. But for me, for a while in the '90s at least, I would have immediately answered "Flight Simulator." Microsoft Flight Simulator is the very first thing I can remember ever doing on a computer, sat on my granddad's lap as we soared across blocky landscapes together with a Sidewinder joystick. It is one of Microsoft's all-time iconic brands.
It's also a brand that the company has more or less ignored in the past decade-plus. The last release, Flight Simulator X, came out in 2006, and a few years later, its developer, Aces Game Studio, was closed as part of widespread layoffs at Microsoft. A 2012 free-to-play spinoff called Microsoft Flight was less than well-received.
In just a few weeks, though, Microsoft is releasing perhaps the biggest upgrade to the series in its 38-year history. The new title, developed by French studio Asobo and simply called Microsoft Flight Simulator, is an ambitious attempt to leverage Microsoft's Bing Maps data and Azure-powered procedural generation technology to render our planet in unprecedented detail.
I've been playing a pre-release alpha version for a couple of weeks, and it's frankly astonishing. This is a full-throttle effort from Microsoft to re-create the natural world and the magic of flight. And while it carries the weight of an iconic series, it feels like it came from nowhere. Why is Microsoft reviving Flight Simulator now?
So my dear Soylentils, how many of you have played Microsoft Flight Simulator and if so, what did you think?
Afraid of nuclear war, natural disasters, economic meltdown? The Survival Condo could be the answer
"Mechanical level", "medical level", "store level" the voice announces as the lift descends into the earth. I'd entered at parking lot level, the building's apex. I am travelling through an inverted skyscraper, the floor numbers ascending – third, fourth – as we plumb the building's depths. A hulking man in his late 50s called Larry Hall stands next to me, whistling, black shirt tucked into blue jeans.
When the doors open, I can't suppress a laugh. In front of us, four storeys below central Kansas, is a supermarket complete with shopping baskets, cold cabinets and an espresso machine behind the counter. Hall smiles.
"It's good, isn't it? On the original blueprint for the renovation, it just said 'storerooms' on this level. The psychologist we hired for the project took one look at that and said, 'No, no, no, this needs to feel like a miniature Whole Foods supermarket. We need a tile floor and nicely presented cases, because if people are locked in this silo and they have to come down here and rifle through cardboard boxes to get their food, you'll have depressed people everywhere.'"
I am inside the most lavish and sophisticated private bunker in the world: the Survival Condo. It was once a cold war US government missile silo. Constructed in the early 60s, at a cost of approximately $15m to the US taxpayer, it was one of 72 structures built to protect [against] a nuclear warhead 100 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Many of these silos were blown up and buried after decades of disuse. But not all of them.
NASA and SpaceX have successfully returned NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour. The return to Earth brought an end to the historic first private-company spaceflight of humans to Earth orbit and the commencement of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
Splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico came as expected at 2:48 pm EDT (18:48 UTC) off the southern coast of Alabama and southwest of Pensacola, Florida.
The splashdown culminated the historic Demo-2 flight which launched humans into orbit on the first-ever privately owned and operated rocket and spacecraft from LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center on 30 May 2020.
The launch marked the first time since the final flight of space shuttle Atlantis in 2011 that humans launched into orbit from the United States, and this historic splashdown was the first landing of a spacecraft with humans on board in the Gulf of Mexico.
Moreso, it marked the first end of mission water landing for a U.S. human space flight since Apollo-Soyuz Test Program in July 1975 and the first global human spaceflight water landing since Soyuz 23 accidentally came down in Lake Tengiz on 16 October 1976.
The Secure Enclave is a security coprocessor included with almost every Apple device to provide an extra layer of security. All data stored on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and other Apple devices is encrypted with random private keys, which are only accessible by the Secure Enclave. These keys are unique to your device and they're never synchronized with iCloud.
[...] It's important to note that although the Secure Enclave chip is built into the device, it works completely separately from the rest of the system. This ensures that apps won't have access to your private keys, since they can only send requests to decrypt specific data such as your fingerprint to unlock an app through the Secure Enclave.
[...] Now, Chinese hackers from the Pangu Team have reportedly found an "unpatchable" exploit on Apple's Secure Enclave chip that could lead to breaking the encryption of private security keys.
[...] The only thing we know so far is that this vulnerability in Secure Enclave affects all Apple chips between the A7 and A11 Bionic [...] Apple has already fixed this security breach with the A12 and A13 Bionic chips
Yesterday, Ars spoke with IBM Senior Research Scientist Flavio Bergamaschi about the company's recent successful field trials of Fully Homomorphic Encryption. We suspect many of you will have the same questions that we did—beginning with "what is Fully Homomorphic Encryption?"
FHE is a type of encryption that allows direct mathematical operations on the encrypted data. Upon decryption, the results will be correct. For example, you might encrypt 2, 3, and 7 and send the three encrypted values to a third party. If you then ask the third party to add the first and second values, then multiply the result by the third value and return the result to you, you can then decrypt that result—and get 35.
You don't ever have to share a key with the third party doing the computation; the data remains encrypted with a key the third party never received. So, while the third party performed the operations you asked it to, it never knew the values of either the inputs or the output. You can also ask the third party to perform mathematical or logical operations of the encrypted data with non-encrypted data—for example, in pseudocode, FHE_decrypt(FHE_encrypt(2) * 5) equals 10.
[...] Although Fully Homomorphic Encryption makes things possible that otherwise would not be, it comes at a steep cost. Above, we can see charts indicating the additional compute power and memory resources required to operate on FHE-encrypted machine-learning models—roughly 40 to 50 times the compute and 10 to 20 times the RAM that would be required to do the same work on unencrypted models.
[...] Each operation performed on a floating-point value decreases its accuracy a little bit—a very small amount for additive operations, and a larger one for multiplicative. Since the FHE encryption and decryption themselves are mathematical operations, this adds a small amount of additional degradation to the accuracy of the floating-point values.
[...] As daunting as the performance penalties for FHE may be, they're well under the threshold for usefulness—Bergamaschi told us that IBM initially estimated that the minimum efficiency to make FHE useful in the real world would be on the order of 1,000:1. With penalties well under 100:1, IBM contracted with one large American bank and one large European bank to perform real-world field trials of FHE techniques, using live data.
[...] IBM's Homomorphic Encryption algorithms use lattice-based encryption, are significantly quantum-computing resistant, and are available as open source libraries for Linux, MacOS, and iOS. Support for Android is on its way.
[20200803_012617 UTC UTC Update 2:]
tl;dr version: Trump threatened to ban TikTok. Then Microsoft said it was in talks to buy TikTok. Then Microsoft said the talks were in doubt after Trump's threats. Now, Microsoft is "continuing discussions."
After reports US President Donald Trump is considering an order to force Beijing-based tech company ByteDance to divest ownership of popular social-video app TikTok, Microsoft has announced it will be "continuing discussion" on a potential purchase of TikTok after a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and the President.
"Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President's concerns," said Microsoft, in a statement. "It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.
[20200802_144217 UTC Update 1; added:]
A possible sale of Chinese-owned TikTok's US operations to Microsoft is reportedly on hold after Donald Trump vowed to ban the video-sharing app.
A sale was thought close to agreement, but was put in doubt after the US president's warning on Friday.
The Wall Street Journal said Microsoft had now paused talks despite TikTok owner ByteDance making last ditch efforts to win White House support.
It comes amid criticism of Mr Trump's threat as an attack on free speech.
[...] Late on Friday, Mr Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One: "As far as TikTok is concerned we're banning them from the United States."
[Original story follows.--martyb]
President Donald Trump has announced he is banning the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok in the US.
He told reporters he could sign an executive order as early as Saturday.
US security officials have expressed concern that the app, owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, could be used to collect the personal data of Americans.
[...] Microsoft has reportedly been in talks to buy the app from ByteDance, but Mr Trump appeared to cast doubt that such a deal would be allowed to go through. If the deal went ahead reports say it would involve ByteDance shedding TikTok's US operations.
On Friday, Bloomberg News reported Trump plans to order ByteDance Ltd. to divest its ownership of TikTok. Then later in the afternoon, several media outlets reported Microsoft Corp. is in talks to purchase TikTok's U.S. operations.
[...] There seem to be two active bidders for the app. One is Microsoft. As for the other, Reuters reported earlier this week that some of Bytedance's U.S investors have proposed a bid for a majority stake of TikTok, valuing the company's non-China operations at $50 billion. The offer would be about 50 times TikTok's forecast sales of $1 billion this year, Reuters reported.
Previously: Bytedance: The World's Most Valuable Startup
Lawmakers Ask US Intelligence to Assess If TikTok is a Security Threat
TikTok and 53 Other iOS Apps Still Snoop Your Sensitive Clipboard Data
India Bans TikTok, WeChat, and Other Chinese-Owned Apps
SoftBank has been rumored to be exploring a sale of ARM — the British chip designer that powers nearly every major mobile processor from companies like Qualcomm, Apple, Samsung, and Huawei — and now, it might have found a buyer. Nvidia is reportedly in "advanced talks" to buy ARM in a deal worth over $32 billion, according to Bloomberg.
Nvidia is said to be the only company that's involved in concrete discussions with SoftBank for the purchase at this time, and a deal could arrive "in the next few weeks," although nothing is finalized yet. If the deal does go through, it would be one of the largest deals ever in the computer chip business and would likely draw intense regulatory scrutiny.
(2020-07-12) Apple Has Built its Own Mac Graphics Processors
(2020-07-11) Nvidia's Market Cap Rises Above Intel's
(2020-06-11) ARM Faces a Boardroom Revolt as it Seeks to Remove the CEO of Its Chinese Joint Venture
(2019-10-29) Fed Up Of Playing Whac-A-Mole With Network Of Softbank-Owned Patent Holders, Intel Goes To Court
The Federal Communications Commission has approved Amazon's plans for its ambitious Kuiper constellation, which entails sending 3,236 satellites into orbit to beam internet coverage down to Earth. The decision is a crucial regulatory step that paves the way for Amazon to start launching the satellites when they're ready.
The company plans to send the satellites to three different altitudes, and it claims it needs just 578 satellites in orbit to begin service, according to an FCC document announcing the approval. Amazon said it will invest "more than $10 billion" in Project Kuiper in a blog post.
Amazon has not announced which launch provider it plans to use to fly the satellites into orbit yet. While Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also owns the rocket company Blue Origin, the launch provider will have to compete to launch the satellites along with other companies.
Ars Technica adds some details in its story Amazon investing $10 billion to compete against SpaceX in satellite broadband:
The FCC approval said Amazon's plan would "provid[e] continuous coverage to customers within approximately 56°N and 56°S latitude, thereby serving the contiguous United States, Hawaii, US territories, and other world regions." The plan calls for using frequencies of 17.7-18.6 GHz and 18.8-20.2 GHz for space-to-Earth communications, and 27.5-30.0 GHz for Earth-to-space transmissions. The FCC said it granted the license because it "would advance the public interest by authorizing a system designed to increase the availability of high-speed broadband service to consumers, government, and businesses."
Amazon filed the FCC application in July 2019—more details on Amazon's plan are available in our story on the application.
The FCC approval includes requirements for minimizing orbital debris and collision risk, prevention of harmful interference, spectrum sharing, and power limits. Amazon's design of the Kuiper satellites is not complete, so the company will need another FCC approval after it submits a final plan for orbital-debris mitigation, collision risk, and "re-entry casualty risk." The FCC approval is also conditioned on Amazon getting a "favorable" rating from the International Telecommunication Union to show compliance with power limits.
Also at cnet.
We previously reported SpaceX was 'Fixing' Brightness from Satellites. There is no mention of astronomical impact requirements for Kuiper satellites.
Washington State has trapped its first Asian giant hornet, also known as a "murder hornet."
The insect, believed to be a worker hornet, was found in a Washington State Department of Agriculture trap near Birch Bay in Whatcom County on July 14, officials said Friday. It's the first giant hornet to be detected in a trap, rather than in the environment.
[...] "This is encouraging because it means we know that the traps work," Sven Spichiger, managing entomologist for the state department, said. "But it also means we have work to do."
[...] The insects can grow to at least 3.5 centimetres [~1.4 inches] in length, with a wingspan up to twice as long. They are the largest species of hornet in the world.
Along with their size, Asian giant hornets are also known to prey on honeybees and destroy their hives, leading to their "murder hornet" nickname, though they've also been linked to a few dozen human deaths each year.
The Department of Agriculture hopes to trap and tag the hornets and then follow them back to their nests which they would then destroy.