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posted by martyb on Thursday October 21, @11:13PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Spy-drones-spy dept.

Top FCC Official Calls For Ban of DJI Drones, Citing National Security Risk:

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has called for the addition of DJI drones to the FCC Covered List, which could prevent the company from selling its products in the United States.

In a letter published to the FCC official website, Carr accuses the Shenzhen-based drone company of collecting “vast amounts” of sensitive data and effectively calls the drones Chinese surveillance.

[...] Carr says that one former Pentagon official has even said that the government agency knew — written as a statement of fact — that much of that information was being sent back to China from DJI drones.

“DJI’s collection of vast troves of sensitive data is especially troubling given that China’s National Intelligence Law grants the Chinese government the power to compel DJI to assist it in espionage activities,” Carr says.

DJI was placed on the Commerce Department’s Entity List last year, [...] Its placement there made it so that American companies could not export parts to DJI. Companies on the [list] would theoretically find it harder to sell products in the United States, but DJI does not appear to have suffered this problem.

Carr says that many of the concerns he has are linked to DJI’s widespread use by various state and local public safety and law enforcement agencies. There are also reports that the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI also use DJI drones, which Carr says makes it even more important that a full review of DJI is conducted to address potential national security threats.

He's not wrong, but speaking as an ex-employer of a US based drone development company in 2010-2012, I believe this problem could have been significantly mitigated by encouraging domestic development instead of stifling it back then.

Original Submission

posted by FatPhil on Thursday October 21, @08:18PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the who-wants-to-live-forever dept.

WHO honours Henrietta Lacks, whose cells changed medicine:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has honoured Henrietta Lacks, recognising the world-changing legacy of a Black woman whose cancer cells have provided the basis for life-changing medical breakthroughs but were taken without her knowledge or consent.

Researchers took tissues from Lacks’s body when she sought treatment for cervical cancer at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in the 1950s, establishing the so-called HeLa cells that became the first ‘immortal line’ of human cells to divide indefinitely in a laboratory.

In recognising Henrietta Lacks, the WHO said it wanted to address a “historic wrong”, noting the global scientific community once hid her ethnicity and her real story.

“WHO acknowledges the importance of reckoning with past scientific injustices, and advancing racial equity in health and science,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “It’s also an opportunity to recognise women – particularly women of colour – who have made incredible but often unseen contributions to medical science.”

Lacks died of cervical cancer at the age of just 31 in October 1951 and her eldest son, 87-year-old Lawrence Lacks, received the award from the WHO at its headquarters in Geneva. He was accompanied by several of her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and other family members.

Henrietta Lacks' story is a fascinating one, the intermixing of the medical and the social, and more. I first learnt about it from the 1997 BBC documentary Modern Times: The Way of All Flesh by Adam Curtis (my favourite documentary maker). I know Oprah was behind a dramatisation too a few years ago.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday October 21, @05:27PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the borg dept.

China's FAST telescope could detect self-replicating alien probes:

One of the most challenging questions to answer when confronting the Fermi paradox is why exponentially scaling technologies haven't taken over the universe by now. Commonly known as von Neumann probes, the idea of a self-replicating swarm of extraterrestrial robots has been a staple of science fiction for decades. But so far, there has never been any evidence of their existence outside the realm of fiction. That might be because we haven't spent a lot of time looking for them—and that could potentially change with the new Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST). According to some recent calculations, the massive new observational platform might be able to detect swarms of von Neumann probes relatively far away from the sun.

Those calculations, carried out by Dr. Zaza Osmanov of the Free University of Tbilisi in Georgia, showed that von Neuman probe swarms for highly advanced civilizations could be visible in the radio spectral band that is the focal point of FAST. To help in the search, Dr. Osmanov used two frameworks to bound the potential solution. The first was the idea of Kardashev civilizations, while the other is estimates of the thermal and electromagnetic emissions profiles of any such swarm.

The Kardashev scale is a well-understood concept in science speculation—it focuses on a civilization's overall energy use, with different milestones (Type I, Type II, or Type III) correlating with the utilization of the entire energy output of a planet, a star, and a galaxy respectively. Currently, human civilization is thought to be around a .75 on the Kardashev scale.

[...] When a civilization has that much time to work on new technologies, it most likely will have developed the ability to create self-replicating machines, like a von Neumann probe, as part of that technological development process. Once that technological cat is out of the bag, it is almost impossible to put it back in. If even one civilization released them upon the galaxy, the self-replicators would likely begin to expand to every available resource, focusing solely on their own reproduction.

According to Dr. Osmanov, though, we would at least be able to see any such path of destruction coming. Like all imperfect systems, those self-replicating machines would emit some form of radiation, which, after some simplifying assumptions, Dr. Osmanov calculates should be visible in the radio spectrum. Specifically, it would fall right in the middle of the spectrum that FAST is designed to pick up.

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Thursday October 21, @02:39PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the poke-poke-poke dept.

FDA authorizes Moderna, Johnson & Johnson booster shots for many Americans:

The US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday amended its emergency use authorizations for Moderna's and Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccines, allowing the use of a booster shot for some Americans.

The FDA now allows for a single booster dose of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine to be administered to individuals at least six months after their initial two shots for those who are 65 years and older, those who are 18 to 64 years old at high risk of contracting a severe case of COVID-19, and those ages 18 to 64 "with frequent institutional or occupational exposure" to the coronavirus, the administration said in a statement.

A single booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be administered at least two months after individuals 18 and older receive the initial COVID-19 vaccine.

The FDA also greenlit the option for eligible people to "mix and match" vaccines when getting their booster, meaning someone who got one kind of vaccine for the initial dose could get a booster shot of a different vaccine.

Also at AP, NYT, and NPR.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Thursday October 21, @11:45AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the this-year-in-history dept.

The New York Times has written about study results published recently in Nature which show rather precisely when Vikings had been living in what is now Canada, specifically at L’Anse aux Meadows.

But in results published Wednesday in Nature, scientists presented what they think are new answers to this mystery. By analyzing the imprint of a rare solar storm in tree rings from wood found at the Canadian site, scientists have decisively pinned down when Norse explorers were in Newfoundland: the year A.D. 1021, or exactly 1,000 years ago.

The date was calculated from a combination of dendrochronology and astrophysics.

Journal Reference:
Margot Kuitems, Birgitta L. Wallace, Charles Lindsay, et al. Evidence for European presence in the Americas in ad 1021 [open], Nature (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03972-8)

(2020) Archaeologists in Norway Find Rare Viking Ship Burial Using Only Radar
(2020) Melting Ice Reveals an Ancient, Once-Thriving Trade Route
(2018) 8-Year-Old Girl Pulls Ancient Sword From Lake, is Our Ruler Now
(2016) Vikings, Crystal 'Sunstones,' and the Discovery of America
(2015) 1,200-year-old Viking Sword Discovered by Hiker
(2014) The Vikings' Navigational Mystery: Calcite

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday October 21, @08:52AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the it's-not-their-money-they're-spending dept.

Senate directs NASA to choose another company to build a lunar lander:

The United States Senate's largest committee wants NASA to choose a second company to build its new moon lander.

[...] After much legal back-and-forth following NASA's original decision, the Senate Appropriations Committee is directing NASA to now choose a second company to develop a crewed lunar lander, according to SpaceNews. However, this direction came with only a small funding increase.

NASA's original decision to grant this contract to build and develop a lunar lander, or Human Landing System (HLS), to only SpaceX was met with staunch protest from the other two companies in the running at the time: Blue Origin and Dynetics.

[...] But it seems that Blue Origin may get its wish after all.

The appropriators, in the report, state that NASA's HLS program is not underfunded, despite the agency's previous claims to the contrary. As shown in the report, the bill includes $24.83 billion for NASA, which is just slightly more than the $24.8 billion that NASA requested, and a $100 million increase in funding for HLS.

"NASA's rhetoric of blaming Congress and this Committee for the lack of resources needed to support two HLS teams rings hollow," the report states.

Three companies [at minimum] fighting over, and two companies being awarded contracts for the same sized pot of money should accelerate development. Somehow.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday October 21, @06:06AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the 1984-was-not-supposed-to-be-a-blueprint dept.

Nine UK schools start scanning children’s faces to take their lunch money:

Several schools in Scotland are set to start using facial recognition software to allow pupils to pay for their lunches.

The system, installed in nine sites in North Ayrshire, scans the faces of pupils at the tills in order to save time during the busy lunch hour.

It checks them off against a register of faces stored on the school’s servers and replaces software that used fingerprint scanners.

The company that installed the systems claim they are more Covid-secure and help speed up the queue, with each transaction now taking just five seconds, The Financial Times reported.

David Swanston, the managing director of CRB Cunninghams, the company that installed the systems, told the FT: ‘In a secondary school you have around about a 25 minute period to serve potentially 1,000 pupils. So we need fast throughput at the point of sale.’

But privacy campaigners claim it further normalises the technology which is often used without the consent of those being tracked.

[...] North Ayreshire council claims the majority of parents have given consent for the system because they recognise that it makes the process easier.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday October 21, @03:11AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the I-don't-want-to-pay-for-systems-that-don't-work dept.

The US American Automobile Association ("AAA" — national auto club) has over 60 million members. It recently ran tests on current Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and concluded that heavy rain caused a high rate of errors.

During closed-course testing using simulated moderate to heavy rainfall, emergency brake system tests using a variety of vehicles resulted in collisions occurring 17% of the time at 25mph (40km/h) and 33% at 35mph (56km/h). Of greater concern are the findings from the lane-assist system tests, in which vehicles veered from their lanes 69% of the time.

[...] More encouraging are the results from tests looking at the effect of a dirty windshield, in which vehicles’ screens were stamped with a controlled mixture of bugs, dirt and water. AAA reports that the overall system performance was not affected.

“Vehicle safety systems rely on sensors and cameras to see road markings, other cars, pedestrians and roadway obstacles. So naturally, they are more vulnerable to environmental factors like rain,” concluded Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering and industry relations. “The reality is people aren’t always driving around in perfect, sunny weather so we must expand testing and take into consideration things people actually contend with in their day-to-day driving.”

I'm an AAA member, just about to ante up my $90/year. Nice to see AAA doing some research, in addition to the more mundane services like lockout and towing (both of which I've used, over the years).

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday October 21, @12:19AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the man-bear-pig-minus-bear dept.

Groundbreaking transplant a step toward solving organ shortage.

Researchers at NYU Langone have managed to attach a pig kidney to a human and get it to work (for 54 hours).

That said a first tiny step perhaps. The process require gene-modified pigs.

PETA etc. object, naturally. [paywalled].

Also at The New York Times:

Surgeons in New York have successfully attached a kidney grown in a genetically altered pig to a human patient and found that the organ worked normally, a scientific breakthrough that one day may yield a vast new supply of organs for severely ill patients.

Although many questions remain to be answered about the long-term consequences of the transplant, which involved a brain-dead patient followed only for 54 hours, experts in the field said the procedure represented a milestone.

“We need to know more about the longevity of the organ,” said Dr. Dorry Segev, professor of transplant surgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who was not involved in the research. Nevertheless, he said: “This is a huge breakthrough. It’s a big, big deal.”

Original Submission

posted by FatPhil on Wednesday October 20, @09:27PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the still-needs-more-testing-in-court dept.

IRVINE, Calif. (Oct. 19, 2021) Software Freedom Conservancy announced today it has filed a lawsuit against Vizio Inc. for what it calls repeated failures to fulfill even the basic requirements of the General Public License (GPL).

The lawsuit alleges that Vizio’s TV products, built on its SmartCast system, contain software that Vizio unfairly appropriated from a community of developers who intended consumers to have very specific rights to modify, improve, share, and reinstall modified versions of the software.

The GPL is a copyleft license that ensures end users the freedom to run, study, share, and modify the software. Copyleft is a kind of software licensing that leverages the restrictions of copyright, but with the intent to promote sharing (using copyright licensing to freely use and repair software).

Software Freedom Conservancy, a nonprofit organization focused on ethical technology, is filing the lawsuit as the purchaser of a product which has copylefted code. This approach makes it the first legal case that focuses on the rights of individual consumers as third-party beneficiaries of the GPL.

[...] According to Sandler, the organization first raised the issue of non-compliance with the GPL with Vizio in August 2018. After a year of diplomatic attempts to work with the company, it was not only still refusing to comply, but stopped responding to inquiries altogether as of January 2020.

The "and install" clause implies that the infringing software would be GPLv3, rather than GPLv2. LWN carry the story here, including a link to the complaint itself which refers only to GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 violations. I wonder if they're overstating their case? (Installing being the "tivoisation" issue that caused GPLv3 to be created in the first place.) What really matters is what is said in court, not what's written in their press release. -- Ed.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday October 20, @06:32PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

More than 99.9% of studies agree: Humans caused climate change:

More than 99.9% of peer-reviewed scientific papers agree that climate change is mainly caused by humans, according to a new survey of 88,125 climate-related studies.

The research updates a similar 2013 paper revealing that 97% of studies published between 1991 and 2012 supported the idea that human activities are altering Earth’s climate. The current survey examines the literature published from 2012 to November 2020 to explore whether the consensus has changed.

“We are virtually certain that the consensus is well over 99% now and that it’s pretty much case closed for any meaningful public conversation about the reality of human-caused climate change,” said Mark Lynas, a visiting fellow at the Alliance for Science and the paper’s first author.

“It's critical to acknowledge the principal role of greenhouse gas emissions so that we can rapidly mobilize new solutions, since we are already witnessing in real time the devastating impacts of climate related disasters on businesses, people and the economy,” said Benjamin Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a co-author of the study, “Greater than 99% Consensus on Human Caused Climate Change in the Peer-Reviewed Scientific Literature,” which published Oct. 19 in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Journal Reference:
Mark Lynas, Benjamin Z Houlton, and Simon Perry. Greater than 99% consensus on human caused climate change in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, Environmental Research Letters (DOI:

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday October 20, @03:41PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the R.I.P. dept.

Tom Morey, inventor of the Boogie Board, dies at 86:

Morey grew up in Laguna Beach, Calif., where he started surfing and became one of the area's most notable surfers of the '50s and '60s. Morey attended the University of Southern California, where he studied music before switching to mathematics and graduating in 1957, according to The Washington Post.

Using his degree, Morey went to work for Douglas Aircraft as an engineer but left to start his own surf shop in 1964, according to the Post. By this time Morey had already begun experimenting with surfboard designs.

But it wasn't until Morey left Southern California that he created the first Boogie board. In 1971, Morey was living in Hawaii when he cut a large piece of polyethylene foam in half. He then worked to shape the foam with an iron after putting pages of the Honolulu Advertiser on top. By the time he was done Morey had a short board with a mostly rectangular body and a rounded nose. It weighed around three pounds — a fraction of what traditional surfboards weighed at the time.

With his new creation in hand, Morey went to the beach to test it out.

"I could actually feel the wave through the board. On a surfboard, you're not feeling the nuance of the wave, but with my creation, I could feel everything," Morey said as he recounted his first ride to

[...] The Boogie name came from Morey's relationship with music and replaced the original name of S.N.A.K.E., short for side, navel, arm, knee, elbow.

[...] In 1977, Morey sold the Boogie Board name and company. Today its owned by the Wham O toy company. Because of the trademark, boards that are similar to Morey's invention are called bodyboards.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday October 20, @12:49PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the if-we-break-one,-you've-still-got-the-other dept.

Scientists partially restore vision in legally blind people with the help of CRISPR Gene- Editing - OnePexel:

Recently Scientists were able to restore vision in legally blind patients through a gene-editing experiment. Many people who were part of this experiment were born with vision issues but are now able to see betterS[sic]

Seven patients volunteered for the experiment, wherein doctors modified their DNA by injecting a gene-editing CRISPR directly into the cells. Researchers revealed on Wednesday that patients with leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a severe form of vision impairment had their vision improved after the gene-editing therapy.

[...] Scientists had earlier used the tool to remove cells from bodies of patients, taking them to the lab for editing, and then infusing the modified cells into patients.

[...] Unlike gene-editing for other diseases, doctors infused the modified gene into the eye directly instead of in a petri dish. Until now, the patients received the CRISPR treatment only in one eye. The treatment will be extended to the other eye if all things go well.

Even then, the treatment did not repair vision for all. Doctors suspect this is due to insufficient dosage or due to too much vision damage.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday October 20, @09:49AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Alibaba Just Unveiled One of China’s Most Advanced Chips:

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. unveiled a new server chip that’s based on advanced 5-nanometer technology, marking a milestone in China’s pursuit of semiconductor self-sufficiency.

The Chinese tech giant’s newest chip is based on micro-architecture provided by the SoftBank Group Corp.-owned Arm Ltd., according to a statement Tuesday. Alibaba, which is holding its annual cloud summit in Hangzhou, said the silicon will be put to use in its own data centers in the “near future” and will not be sold commercially, at least for now.

With the pandemic fueling increasing demand for cloud services, tech giants worldwide are increasingly seeking ever-more powerful and energy efficient semiconductors to gain an edge. Alibaba’s server chip is one of the most advanced by a Chinese firm yet, as it joins global rivals like Inc. and Google in gradually replacing silicon from traditional chipmakers like Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. with products custom-designed for their data centers and workloads.

[...] Known as Yitian 710, the Arm-based server chip is the third semiconductor introduced by the e-commerce giant since 2019, following an artificial intelligence chip as well as one used for internet-of-things.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday October 20, @06:06AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the nature'll-anguish;-wreck-ignition! dept.

Cameras with AI image recognition are found everywhere these days, from the smartphones in our pockets to factory floors. But whenever artificial “intelligence” is part of the equation, there’s a chance for hilarity to ensue.

The Daily Mail reports that a 54-year-old UK man named David Knight from Dorking, Surrey, recently received a £90 (~$125) fine. His offense: driving down a bus lane in the city of Bath 120 miles away.

He had not been driving down a bus lane in Bath, so Knight looked closer at the photographic evidence printed on the notice. He was surprised to find that it didn’t show his car at all, but rather a woman walking down the road.

[...] It turns out the traffic camera had mistaken the woman for a car due to her shirt, which had the word KNITTER across the front. Knight’s car has the license plate KN19TER, and it seems the woman’s bag strap caused the camera to see “KN19TER” as the “car’s” license plate.

Original Submission