2017-07-01 00:00:00 ..
2017-09-22 14:37:13 UTC
2017-09-23 17:50:08 UTC
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Duke University neuroscientists have pinpointed a single type of neuron deep within the brain that serves as a "master controller" of habits.
The team found that habit formation boosts the activity of this influential cell, and that shutting it down with a drug is enough to break habits in sugar-seeking mice. Though rare, this cell exerts its control through a web of connections to more populous cells that are known to drive habitual behavior.
[...] The team trained otherwise healthy mice to receive a tasty treat every time they pressed a lever. Many mice developed a lever-pressing habit, continuing to press the lever even when it no longer dispensed treats, and despite having had an opportunity to eat all the treats they wanted beforehand.
The team then compared the brain activity of mice who had developed a lever-pressing habit with those who hadn't. They focused on an area deep within the brain called the striatum, which contains two sets of neural pathways: a "go" pathway, which incites an action, and a "stop" pathway, which inhibits action.
They found that both the go and stop pathways were stronger in habit-driven mice. Habit formation also shifted the relative timing of the two pathways, making the go pathway fire before the stop.
In the current study, the team wanted to understand the circuitry that coordinates these various long lasting changes in the brain. They had a hunch that a single type of rare cell in the striatum called the fast-spiking interneuron (FSI) might serve as master conductor of the widespread changes in the outgoing neurons' activity.
[...] CITATION: "Striatal fast-spiking interneurons selectively modulate circuit output and are required for habitual behavior," Justin K. O’Hare, Haofang Li, Namsoo Kim, Erin Gaidis, Kristen Ade, Jeff Beck, Henry Yin and Nicole Calakos. eLife, Sept. 5, 2017. DOI: # 10.7554/eLife.26231
Beware, it's your fast-spiking interneurons that marketers and governments are out to control. Protect them.
How do we make an object invisible? Researchers from TU Wien (Vienna), together with colleagues from Greece and the USA, have now developed a new idea for a cloaking technology. A completely opaque material is irradiated from above with a specific wave pattern – with the effect that light waves from the left can now pass through the material without any obstruction. This surprising result opens up completely new possibilities for active camouflage. The idea can be applied to different kinds of waves, it should work with sound waves just as well as with light waves. Experiments are already in the planning.
[...] "Complex materials such as a sugar cube are opaque, because light waves inside them are scattered multiple times," says Professor Stefan Rotter (TU Wien). "A light wave can enter and exit the object, but will never pass through the medium on a straight line. Instead, it is scattered into all possible directions."
For years many different attempts have been made to outwit this kind of scattering, creating a "cloak of invisibility." Special materials have been worked out, for example, which are able to guide light waves around an object. Alternatively, also experiments have been performed with objects that can emit light by themselves. When an electronic display sends out exactly the same light as it absorbs in the back, it can appear invisible, at least when looked at in the right angle.
At TU Wien a more fundamental approach has now been chosen. "We did not want to reroute the light waves, nor did we want to restore them with additional displays. Our goal was to guide the original light wave through the object, as if the object was not there at all," says Andre Brandstötter, one of the authors of the study. "This sounds strange, but with certain materials and using our special wave technology, it is indeed possible."
[...] More information: Konstantinos G Makris et al. Wave propagation through disordered media without backscattering and intensity variations, Light: Science & Applications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/lsa.2017.35
Just in time. We only have 150 years to perfect this before we make first contact with the Klingons.
Federal investigators announced Tuesday that the design of Tesla's semiautonomous driving system allowed the driver of a Tesla Model S in a fatal 2016 crash with a semi-truck to rely too heavily on the car's automation.
"Tesla allowed the driver to use the system outside of the environment for which it was designed," said National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt. "The system gave far too much leeway to the driver to divert his attention."
The board's report declares the primary probable cause of the collision as the truck driver's failure to yield, as well as the Tesla driver's overreliance on his car's automation — or Autopilot, as Tesla calls the system. Tesla's system design was declared a contributing factor.
[...] A Tesla spokesperson provided a statement to ABC News that read, "We appreciate the NTSB's analysis of last year's tragic accident, and we will evaluate their recommendations as we continue to evolve our technology. We will also continue to be extremely clear with current and potential customers that Autopilot is not a fully self-driving technology and drivers need to remain attentive at all times."
According to The Associated Press, members of Brown's family said on Monday that they do not blame the car or the Autopilot system for his death.
Using a glass substrate instead of aluminum could allow 12 platters to be crammed into a 3.5" hard disk drive enclosure:
Even if many modern systems eschew classic hard drive storage designs in favor of solid state alternatives, there are still a number of companies working on improving the technology. One of those is Hoya, which is currently prototyping glass substrates for hard drive platters of the future which could enable the production of drives with as much as 20TB of storage space.
Hard drive platters are traditionally produced using aluminum substrates. While these substrates have enabled many modern advances in hard drive technology, glass substrates can be made with similar densities, but can be much thinner, leading to higher capacity storage drives. Hoya has already managed the creation of substrates as thin as 0.381mm, which is close to half the thickness of existing high-density drives.
In one cited example, an existing 12-terabyte drive from Western Digital was made up of eight platters. Hoya believes that by decreasing the thickness of the platters through its glass technology, it could fit as many as 12 inside a 3.5 inch hard drive casing. That would enable up to 18TB of storage space in a single drive (thanks Nikkei).
When that is blended with a technology known as "shingled magnetic recording," 20TB should be perfectly achievable.
Toshiba is reportedly planning to release a 14 TB helium-filled hard drive by the end of the year.
Also at Network World.
San Diego workers will power-wash streets with a bleach solution in an attempt to stop the spread of Hepatitis A:
At least 15 people have died in San Diego from an ongoing hepatitis A outbreak. In an effort to stop the spread of the viral liver disease, city officials have begun power-washing streets across the downtown area, according to NBC San Diego.
As of Monday, workers dressed in protective white gear and red hard hats were seen outside spraying the sidewalks with a bleach-based liquid in hopes of killing the virus that lives in human feces. "We're probably going to be doing them every other Monday, see how that works out at least for the time being," Jose Ysea, a city spokesman, told NBC San Diego.
The high-pressure power-washing system using bleach will hopefully remove "all feces, blood, bodily fluids or contaminated surfaces," according to a sanitation plan included in a letter delivered to San Diego city officials, the Associated Press reports. For now, just streets in San Diego are being washed, but in the near future hand-washing and street-sanitizing efforts will be implemented in other cities in the region, Dr. Wilma Wooten, the region's public health officer, told the AP.
Over at Vice/Motherboard is an article on the expected lifetime of apple phones, based on the proceedings in a class action lawsuit over problems with iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices.
When it released its iPhone 7 Environmental Report a year ago, Apple wrote that it "conservatively assumes a three-year period for power use by first owners," which is "based on historical customer use data for similar products."
Greg Joswiak, Apple's VP of iOS, iPad, and iPhone Marketing, told Buzzfeed last month that iPhones are "the highest quality and most durable devices. We do this because it's better for the customer, for the iPhone, and for the planet."
But in court, Apple argues that it is only responsible for ensuring the iPhone lasts one year, the default warranty you get when you buy an iPhone.
The case in question is related to problems with the touch screen, as the soldering connections to the controller IC fail. However this failure only occurs after months of normal usage.
In that court case, currently being litigated in California, the plaintiffs attempted to argue that "consumers reasonably expect that smartphones will remain operable for at least two years when not subject to abuse or neglect because the overwhelming majority of smartphone users are required to sign service contracts with cellular carriers for two year periods."
Apple's motion to dismiss in that case noted that the plaintiffs' phones broke more than a year after they were purchased, which is after the warranty expired. If your phone breaks after the warranty is up, well, you're out of luck, Apple argues.
Arturo González, the lawyer representing Apple in the case, wrote in the motion [...] that it is "not appropriate for courts to rewrite the express terms of a warranty simply because of a consumer's unilateral expectations about a product."
More background on the case from last October in Fortune
J.J. Abrams, who launched a new era of Star Wars with The Force Awakens in 2015, is returning to complete the sequel trilogy as writer and director of Star Wars: Episode IX. Abrams will co-write the film with Chris Terrio. Star Wars: Episode IX will be produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Michelle Rejwan, Abrams, Bad Robot, and Lucasfilm.
The release date has been moved from May 24, 2019 to December 20, 2019.
Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1937
One day after the CAA (Certificate Authority Authorization) standard became obligatory on September 8, a German security researcher caught Comodo breaking the rules and issuing an SSL certificate it was not supposed to issue.
CAA allows website owners to specify what Certificate Authorities (CAs) are allowed to issue certificates in their name. Site owners can set up a CAA rule for their domain by adding a text field in DNS entries such as the one below:
bleepingcomputer.com. CAA 0 issue "symantec.com"
This small rule tells any Certificate Authority that only Symantec can issue SSL certificates for the BleepingComputer.com domain.
According to the rules of the CAA standard approved by the CA/Browser Forum in Ballot 187, this April, Certificate Authorities such as Comodo have to check a CAA field in DNS records before issuing new SSL certificates.
On Monday, German security researcher Hanno Böck shared with the infosec community that he managed to obtain an SSL certificate from Comodo — now revoked — for his own website, even if the CAA field limited SSL issuance only to Let's Encrypt.
When the first U.S. team to edit human embryos with CRISPR revealed their success earlier this month, the field reeled with the possibility that the gene-editing technique might soon produce children free of their parents' genetic defects. But the way CRISPR repaired the paternal mutation targeted in the embryos was also a surprise. Instead of replacing the gene defect with strands of DNA that the researchers inserted, the embryos appeared to use the mother's healthy gene as a template for repairing the cut made by CRISPR's enzyme.
But such a feat has not been observed in previous CRISPR experiments, and some scientists are now questioning whether the repairs really happened that way. In a paper published online this week on the preprint server bioRxiv, a group of six geneticists, developmental biologists, and stem cell researchers offers alternative explanations for the results. And uncertainty about exactly how the embryos' DNA changed after editing leaves many questions about the technique's safety, they argue. (The authors declined to discuss the paper while it's being reviewed for publication.)
Embryologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, who led the now-disputed experiments, released a statement saying that his team stands by its explanation. "We based our finding and conclusions on careful experimental design involving hundreds of human embryos," it says.
[...] Although the researchers inserted short strands of DNA as templates for repair, the cells didn't seem to take them up; those specific sequences were absent from the embryos. The cells must have relied instead on the nonmutated sequence in the egg donor's DNA when making the repairs, the team concluded.
The bioRxiv response, led by developmental biologist Maria Jasin of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and Columbia University stem cell biologist Dieter Egli, challenges that interpretation. The authors, which also include well-known CRISPR researcher and Harvard University geneticist George Church, say that the Nature paper goes against conventional wisdom about how embryos are organized early in development. Right after an egg is fertilized, the DNA from the sperm and the egg aren't believed to be in close enough proximity to interact or share genes, they explain.
Study in question: Correction of a pathogenic gene mutation in human embryos (open, DOI: 10.1038/nature23305) (DX)
Virginia's State Board of Elections has decided its current generation of electronic voting machines is potentially vulnerable, and wants them replaced in time for the gubernatorial election due on November 7th, 2017.
The decision was announced in the minutes of the Board's September 8th meeting: "The Department of Elections officially recommends that the State Board of Elections decertify all Direct Recording Electronic (DRE or touchscreen) voting equipment."
In addition to the "current security environment", the report cites the DefCon demonstration in July that showed how quickly DRE voting systems could be pwned.
A controversial motion that will grant the government the power to force through Brexit legislation has been passed.
[...] It means the Conservatives, despite not winning a majority at the general election, will take control of a powerful Commons committee, and grant themselves the power to force through legislation without it being voted on or debated in parliament.
With parliament needing to change, amend or import wholesale thousands of laws and regulation to prepare the UK for its exit from the European Union, the EU Withdrawal Bill has been designed to allow for new laws and regulations to be passed via controversial legislative device called a statutory instrument, which are debated in tiny standing committees.
But the government has now voted to give itself a majority on the little known Committee of Selection, which decides the make up of those committees, and in so doing has seized control of the whole process.
[...] Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael commented: "This is a sinister power grab by an increasingly authoritarian Prime Minister.
"The Tories didn't win a majority at the election, but are now hijacking Parliament to try and impose their extreme Brexit on the country.
"It is a bitter irony that Brexiteers who spent their careers championing parliamentary sovereignty have now chosen to sell it down the river.
Source: The Independent
Return-oriented programming (ROP) is now a common technique for compromising systems via a stack-smashing vulnerability. Although restrictions on executing code on the stack have mostly put an end to many simple stack-smashing attacks, that does not mean that they are no longer a threat. There are various schemes in use for defeating ROP attacks. A new mechanism called "RETGUARD" is being implemented in OpenBSD and is notable for its relative simplicity. It makes use of a simple return-address transformation to disrupt ROP chains to hinder their execution and takes the form of a patch to the LLVM compiler adding a new flag.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and wildlife photographer David Slater have reached a settlement over the ownership of a photograph taken by an Indonesian macaque monkey named Naruto:
PETA; photographer David Slater; his company, Wildlife Personalities, Ltd.; and self-publishing platform Blurb, Inc., have reached a settlement of the "monkey selfie" litigation. As a part of the arrangement, Slater has agreed to donate 25 percent of any future revenue derived from using or selling the monkey selfies to charities that protect the habitat of Naruto and other crested macaques in Indonesia.
According to a joint statement, "PETA and David Slater agree that this case raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for nonhuman animals, a goal that they both support, and they will continue their respective work to achieve this goal."
General Counsel for PETA Jeff Kerr told the New York Times that he did not know how much money Slater made on the photos in the past, but also that PETA is glad Naruto will benefit from the images in the future.
A federal judge previously dismissed the case, but PETA appealed. PETA has dropped its appeal so the question of nonhuman ownership of "intellectual property" will not be answered by a higher court.
Also at Ars Technica.
Previously: Monkey Selfie Case May Undo Evolution of the Web
The reputations of the U.S. and U.K. as good places to live and work are in free fall among some of the world's most mobile and cosmopolitan people. Since last year's presidential and Brexit votes, both the U.S. and Britain are perceived as less friendly to foreigners and less politically stable, according to a survey of almost 13,000 expatriates of 166 nationalities. Expats also say the two countries' quality of life is declining by other measures, especially the affordability of child care and health care in the U.S. and housing in the U.K.
[...] The top-ranked country in 2017 is Bahrain, given high marks by its expats as a place to work and raise a family and for making foreigners feel welcome. It vastly outranks Persian Gulf neighbors such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which ranked in the bottom 10 of the 65 countries in the survey.
Greece was at the very bottom of the list, weighed down by the country's economic problems. Australia, which ranked in the top 10 last year, dropped more than any other country, to 34th place. Expats' ratings of jobs, career prospects, work hours and work-life balance all dropped.
One of the expats' favorite places to work is China, where two-thirds of respondents are happy with their careers. But China ranks 55 out of 65 overall because of quality of life. Expats, especially those with children, are concerned about the severe pollution and the quality and cost of health care and education. Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan, which topped last year's list, slipped to fourth place, while Singapore edged into the top 10. Hong Kong, Singapore's long-time rival, languished at 39th, up five places on last year.
Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard
Billions of Android, iOS, Windows and Linux devices that use Bluetooth may be exposed to a new attack that can be carried out remotely without any user interaction, researchers warned.
Armis Labs, a company that specializes in protecting Internet of Things (IoT) devices, has discovered a total of eight Bluetooth implementation vulnerabilities that expose mobile, desktop and IoT systems to an attack it has dubbed "BlueBorne."
According to the security firm, the attack only requires Bluetooth to be enabled on the targeted device – no pairing is needed between the victim and the attacker's device, and the Bluetooth connection does not even have to be discoverable.
A hacker who is in range of the targeted device can exploit one of the several Bluetooth implementation vulnerabilities that can lead to remote code execution, information disclosure or man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks. The attacker only needs to determine what type of operating system the target is using in order to deploy an exploit specific to that platform.
BlueBorne does not require the targeted user to click on a link or open a file, and the malicious activities can take place in the background, making it less likely for the victim to notice anything suspicious. And since the attack leverages Bluetooth, a less common attack vector, many security solutions may not detect the malicious activity, Armis said.
With all the smartphones out there whose manufacturers and carriers refuse to update them after a year or so, I can see this being a big, big problem.