2019-01-01 00:00:00 ..
2019-05-18 18:06:00 UTC
2019-05-19 12:21:38 UTC
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Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984
In July of 1316, a priest with a hankering for fresh apples sneaked into a walled garden in the Cripplegate area of London to help himself to the fruits therein. The gardener caught him in the act, and the priest brutally stabbed him to death with a knife—hardly godly behavior, but this was the Middle Ages. A religious occupation was no guarantee of moral standing.
That's just one of the true-crime gems to be found in a new interactive digital "murder map" of London compiled by University of Cambridge criminologist Manuel Eisner. Drawing on data catalogued in the city Coroners' Rolls, the map shows the approximate location of 142 homicide cases in late medieval London. The map launched to the public in late November on the website for the university's Violence Research Center, and be forewarned—it's extremely addictive. You could easily lose yourself down the rabbit hole of medieval murder for hours, filtering the killings by year, choice of weapon, and location. (It works best with Google Chrome.)
"The events described in the Coroners' Rolls show weapons were never very far away, male honor had to be protected, and conflicts easily got out of hand," said Eisner, who embarked on the project to create an accessible resource for the public to explore the historical records. "They give us a detailed picture of how homicide was embedded in the rhythms of urban medieval life."
[...] The greatest risk of violent death in London was on weekends (especially Sundays), between early evening and the first few hours after curfew.
[...] As Eisner notes, "Sunday was the day when people had the time to engage in social activities—drinking and playing games that would occasionally trigger frictions leading to assault." Mondays were the second most likely day for homicides, perhaps because frictions spilled over from the weekend.
Securityweek has a look at the bits of HR1 with digital election security implications running:
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has unveiled its first Bill: HR1, dubbed the 'For the People Act'. It has little chance of getting through the Republican-controlled Congress, and even less chance of being signed into law by President Trump.
Nevertheless, HR1 lays down a marker for current Democrat intentions; and it is likely that some of the potentially bi-partisan elements could be spun out into separate bills with a greater chance of progress.
One of these is likely to include the section on election security. This has been a major issue since the meddling by Russian-state hackers in the 2016 presidential election, and the subsequent realization on how easy it would be for interested parties (both foreign hackers and local activists) to influence election outcomes.
I'm all for secure and accountable elections but the feds are going to need to be careful and deliberate in what they mandate vs. what they place conditions for funding on. They do have significant authority as far as election laws go but their power is more deep than broad; most specifics are legally up to the states. Just because something is a good idea doesn't mean they currently have the legal authority necessary to do it.
In November 2016, American diplomats in Cuba complained of persistent, high-pitched sounds followed by a range of symptoms, including headaches, nausea and hearing loss.
Exams of nearly two dozen of them eventually revealed signs of concussions or other brain injuries, and speculation about the cause turned to weapons that blast sound or microwaves. Amid an international uproar, a recording of the sinister droning was widely circulated in the news media.
On Friday, two scientists presented evidence that those sounds were not so mysterious after all. They were made by crickets, the researchers concluded.
That's not to say that the diplomats weren't attacked, the scientists added — only that the recording is not of a sonic weapon, as had been suggested.
Alexander Stubbs of the University of California, Berkeley, and Fernando Montealegre-Z of the University of Lincoln in England studied a recording of the sounds made by diplomats and published by The Associated Press. "There's plenty of debate in the medical community over what, if any, physical damage there is to these individuals," said Mr. Stubbs in a phone interview. "All I can say fairly definitively is that the A.P.-released recording is of a cricket, and we think we know what species it is."
Recording of "sonic attacks" on U.S. diplomats in Cuba spectrally matches the echoing call of a Caribbean cricket (open, DOI: 10.1101/510834) (DX)
Previously: US Embassy Employees in Cuba Possibly Subjected to 'Acoustic Attack'
A 'Sonic Attack' on Diplomats in Cuba? These Scientists Doubt It
Cuban Embassy Victims Experiencing Neurological Symptoms
Computer Scientists May Have Solved the Mystery Behind the 'Sonic Attacks' in Cuban Embassy
Sonic Attack? U.S. Issues Health Alert After Employee Experiences Brain Trauma in Guangzhou, China
Two US Diplomats Evacuated From China Amid 'Sonic Attack' Concerns
Latest Explanation for Cuban Embassy Symptoms: Microwave Weapons
This morning [January 3] the VESA is rolling out an update to the standard body's DisplayHDR monitor performance standard that's focused on expanding the specification to cover OLED displays. Dubbed DisplayHDR True Black, the new performance tiers to the DisplayHDR standard are intended for OLED and other emissive displays, laying out the levels of display performance that the association believes are appropriate for consumer HDR displays.
This update comes just over a year after the original DisplayHDR standard was launched. Intended to simplify the market for HDR displays, DisplayHDR sets a number of tiers of increasing performance, with each higher tier requiring better monitor technology and delivering a better HDR experience as a result. At the time of DisplayHDR's launch, the VESA opted to focus on LCDs, as these displays were already in the PC market and were what the association had the most experience with. The end result was the DisplayHDR 400, 600, and 1000 standards, which covered a range of monitor designs that essentially stretched from not-very-HDR to cutting-edge full array local dimming displays.
The DisplayHDR True Black update in turn adds two more tiers to the DisplayHDR standard: DisplayHDR 400 True Black, and DisplayHDR 500 True Black. Like the tiers for LCDs, the True Black tiers are divided up based on performance; though the gap isn't quite as big as with the LCD tiers. The end result is that displays reaching these standards, besides meeting the DisplayHDR specification's baseline requirements, can also hit a peak brightness of 400 nits and 500 nits respectively.
The need for separate tiers for OLEDs – and other future emissive technologies like microLEDs – is rooted in the fact that HDR itself is as much (or more) about dynamic range as it is absolute maximum and minimum brightness. While LCDs can offer the necessary contrast ratios with the right backlighting technology, they are still backlit displays, meaning that they can't quite hit black since they're always illuminated to a degree. OLEDs, on the other hands, can hit almost perfect black levels since the pixels can simply be turned off entirely – hence the True Black moniker – which means these displays need to be measured on a different scale. Conversely, while LCDs can sustain incredible 600+ nit brightness levels over the whole screen, OLED technology can only burst to these levels for short periods of time, so the maximum brightness offered by OLED displays isn't quite in sync either with HDR LCDs.
Extremely low minimum brightness seems more useful than blinding maximum brightness. Ergo, any display without "True Black" is junk.
Previously: VESA Announces DisplayHDR Specification
How far will Plan S spread?
Since the September 2018 launch of the Europe-backed program to mandate immediate open access (OA) to scientific literature, 16 funders in 13 countries have signed on. That's still far shy of Plan S's ambition: to convince the world's major research funders to require immediate OA to all published papers stemming from their grants. Whether it will reach that goal depends in part on details that remain to be settled, including a cap on the author charges that funders will pay for OA publication. But the plan has gained momentum: In December 2018, China stunned many by expressing strong support for Plan S. This month, a national funding agency in Africa is expected to join, possibly followed by a second U.S. funder. Others around the world are considering whether to sign on.
Plan S, scheduled to take effect on 1 January 2020, has drawn support from many scientists, who welcome a shake-up of a publishing system that can generate large profits while keeping taxpayer-funded research results behind paywalls. But publishers (including AAAS, which publishes Science) are concerned, and some scientists worry that Plan S could restrict their choices.
[...] For now, North America is not following suit. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was the first Plan S participant outside Europe, and another private funder may follow. But U.S. federal agencies are sticking to policies developed after a 2013 White House order to make peer-reviewed papers on work they funded freely available within 12 months of publication. "We don't anticipate making any changes to our model," said Brian Hitson of the U.S. Department of Energy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who directs that agency's public access policy.
The ultimate objective [of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft near asteroid Ryugu], to bring asteroid samples back to Earth, will allow lab studies that can reveal much more about the asteroid's age and content. ISAS engineers programmed the craft to perform autonomous landings, anticipating safe touchdown zones at least 100 meters in diameter. Instead, the biggest safe area within the first landing zone turned out to be just 12 meters wide.
That will complicate what was already a nail-biting operation. Prior to each landing, Hayabusa2 planned to drop a small sphere sheathed in a highly reflective material to be used as a target, to ensure the craft is moving in sync with the asteroid's rotation. Gravity then pulls the craft down gently until a collection horn extending from its underside makes contact with the asteroid; after a bulletlike projectile is fired into the surface, soil and rock fragments hopefully ricochet into a catcher within the horn. For safety, the craft has to steer clear of rocks larger than 70 centimeters.
During a rehearsal in late October, Hayabusa2 released a target marker above the 12-meter safe circle; unfortunately, it came to rest more than 10 meters outside the zone. But it is just 2.9 meters away from the edge of a second possible landing site that's 6 meters in diameter. Engineers now plan to have the craft first hover above the target marker and then move laterally to be above the center of one of the two sites. Because the navigation camera points straight down, the target marker will be outside the camera's field of view as Hayabusa2 descends, leaving the craft to navigate on its own.
"We are now in the process of selecting which landing site" to aim for, says Fuyuto Terui, who is in charge of mission guidance, navigation, and control. Aiming at the smaller zone means Hayabusa2 can keep the target marker in sight until the craft is close to the surface; the bigger zone gives more leeway for error, but the craft will lose its view of the marker earlier in the descent.
Assuming the craft survives the first landing, plans call for Hayabusa2 to blast a 2-meter-deep crater into Ryugu's surface at another site a few months later, by hitting it with a 2-kilogram, copper projectile. This is expected to expose subsurface material for observations by the craft's cameras and sensors; the spacecraft may collect some material from the crater as well, using the same horn device. There could be a third touchdown, elsewhere on the asteroid. If all goes well, Hayabusa2 will make it back to Earth with its treasures in 2020.
Nerve agents like sarin belong to a family of chemicals called organophosphates. Although some of these compounds are widely used in much lower concentrations as pesticides, the nerve agents are highly lethal because they get into the body quickly through the respiratory tract, eyes, or skin. Once inside cells, they inhibit an important enzyme whose normal function is to break down acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps muscles contract. When too much acetylcholine builds up, victims experience violent muscle spasms and eventually stop breathing.
Current antidotes must be given as soon as possible, and although they can help mitigate the symptoms of poisoning, they don't act directly on nerve agents. As a result, researchers have been trying to develop prophylactic "scavenging" molecules capable of seeking out and degrading nerve agents in the body upon exposure. But such "bioscavengers" have only been able to provide brief protection in various lab animals, and no such therapies have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In the current study, researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle tried a new tack. They wrapped an organophosphate-targeting enzyme called OPH in a flexible polymer gel coating. The end result was nanometer-size particles capable of going undetected by the immune system and staying in the body longer than the enzyme alone. When given before exposure to nerve agents, the nanoparticles clear the chemicals from the bloodstream.
Rats given a single injection of the "nanoscavenger" were completely protected against organophosphate exposure for up to 5 days without side effects. In treated guinea pigs, the nanoscavenger protected animals from multiple sarin injections for 8 days [open, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aau7091] [DX], the team reports today in Science Translational Medicine.
The nanoscavenger could essentially act as a vaccine in people, says chemical engineer Shaoyi Jiang, a member of the team. If the therapy is optimized, the protection could potentially last for weeks or even months, he says.
"While we found that one in 10 adults have food allergy, nearly twice as many adults think that they are allergic to foods, while their symptoms may suggest food intolerance or other food related conditions," says lead author Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, from Lurie Children's, who also is a Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "It is important to see a physician for appropriate testing and diagnosis before completely eliminating foods from the diet. If food allergy is confirmed, understanding the management is also critical, including recognizing symptoms of anaphylaxis and how and when to use epinephrine."
[...] "We were surprised to find that adult-onset food allergies were so common," says Dr. Gupta. "More research is needed to understand why this is occurring and how we might prevent it."
The study data indicate that the most prevalent food allergens among U.S. adults are shellfish (affecting 7.2 million adults), milk (4.7 million), peanut (4.5 million), tree nut (3 million), fin fish (2.2 million), egg (2 million), wheat (2 million), soy (1.5 million), and sesame (.5 million).
When the Manchester-based [UK Biobank (UKB), a huge research project probing the health and genetics of 500,000 British people,] enrolled its first volunteer 13 years ago, some critics wondered whether it would be a waste of time and money. But by now, any skepticism is long gone. "It's now clear that it has been a massive success—largely because the big data they have are being made widely available," says Oxford developmental neuropsychologist Dorothy Bishop, a participant. Other biobanks are bigger or collect equally detailed health data. But the UKB has both large numbers of participants and high-quality clinical information. It "allows us to do research on a scale that we've never been able to do before," says Peter Visscher, a quantitative geneticist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.
The crucial ingredient, however, may be open access. Researchers around the world can freely delve into the UKB data and rapidly build on one another's work, resulting in unexpected dividends in diverse fields, such as human evolution. In a crowdsourcing spirit rare in the hypercompetitive world of biomedical research, groups even post tools for using the data without first seeking credit by publishing in a journal.
[...] The most provocative studies have probed for genetic influences on human behavior. One, published in Nature Genetics in July 2018, drew on the UKB and 23andMe to pin down genetic contributions to a person's level of education. Together, 1300 genetic markers accounted for 11% of the variability among individuals, the researchers found. That's comparable to certain environmental influences in the UKB sample, such as family income, which predicted just 7% of the variance in educational attainment among participants; and mother's education level, which predicted 15%. Another study presented at a meeting last fall found four genetic markers that appear to have a strong influence on whether a person has had sex with someone of their own sex at least once [DOI: 10.1126/science.362.6413.385] [DX].
Such studies are raising concerns that genetic tests could be used to screen embryos for desired traits or discriminate against individuals with certain genetic profiles. That would be a misuse of the findings, say the researchers who identified these links. They stress that the probabilities mean little on the individual level.
[A] few years ago, [Janet] Kelso and her colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, turned to a new tool—the UK Biobank (UKB), a large database that holds genetic and health records for half a million British volunteers. The researchers analyzed data from 112,338 of those Britons—enough that "we could actually look and say: 'We see a Neanderthal version of the gene and we can measure its effect on phenotype in many people—how often they get sunburned, what color their hair is, and what color their eyes are,'" Kelso says. They found Neanderthal variants that boost the odds that a person smokes, is an evening person rather than a morning person, and is prone to sunburn and depression.
[...] For the UKB architects, who designed it for biomedical research, the evolutionary discoveries are an unexpected bonus. "No one was thinking about Neanderthal traits when we designed the protocol," says molecular epidemiologist Rory Collins of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, who is principal investigator of the UKB. "The experiment [is] working well beyond people's expectations."
Tunneling into the Earth, mankind has reached a mere 7.5 miles total depth, taking 20 years to accomplish and still only penetrating about 1/3 of the way through the Earth's crust.
Researchers at the American Geophysical Union, however, are not satisfied and if they can't break that record on Earth, well, there are other options.
On Friday (Dec. 14) at the 2018 meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the researchers presented a proposal for a "tunnelbot" that would use nuclear power to melt a path downward through Europa's shell, "carrying a payload that can search for… evidence for extant/extinct life."
The proposed tunnelbot would deploy repeaters at depths of 5, 10 and 15km to relay information. Well past the depth of any hole ever drilled on Earth, and hopefully reaching the Jovian moon's inferred liquid saltwater ocean at an estimated depth of between 10-30km
I wonder if it will need bumpers on the sides like things closer to home?
February: Fiasco by Stanisław Lem
March: We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse #1) by Dennis Taylor
Discuss Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson in the comments below.
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein was published in 1966:
The book popularized the acronym TANSTAAFL ("There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"), and helped popularize the constructed language Loglan, which is used in the story for precise human-computer interaction. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations credits this novel with the first printed appearance of the phrase "There's no free lunch", although the phrase and its abbreviation considerably predate the novel.
The virtual assistant Mycroft is named after a computer system from the novel.
On New Year's Eve, Motherboard broke the news that a hacking group known as The Dark Overlord was threatening to release a cache of stolen insurance and legal documents related to the 9/11 attacks. After distributing a small preview set of files, the group has now publicly released a decryption key for more files, meaning anyone can download and read them.
[...] Twitter banned The Dark Overlord's account on Wednesday. Reddit followed suit shortly after. In response, The Dark Overlord is now publishing its announcements on Steemit, a blockchain-based and harder to moderate platform. The Shadow Brokers, a self-described hacking group that released a slew of NSA hacking tools, used the same platform for their communications.
The stolen data itself allegedly comes from a legal firm that advised Hiscox Group, a Hiscox spokesperson previously told Motherboard in a statement. The previously released documents included presentation slide decks, legal correspondence between law firms, and letters from a handful of government agencies. 9/11 conspiracy theorists have been particularly interested in the release of the documents, with internet commenters and several conspiracy-minded YouTubers making videos saying that they hope they will somehow reveal a vast conspiracy around the attacks.
[...] The group released the data after receiving 3 bitcoin, or around $11,000, as part of its self-announced crowdfunding effort.
Does anyone have a link to these documents yet?
Also at the Miami Herald.
Submitted via IRC for Bytram
Tiny satellites could be 'guide stars' for huge next-generation telescopes: Researchers design CubeSats with lasers to provide steady reference light for telescopes investigating distant planets (MIT)
NASA engineers are now developing designs [for] next-generation space telescopes, including "segmented" telescopes with multiple small mirrors that could be assembled or unfurled to form one very large telescope once launched into space.
[...] One challenge for segmented space telescopes is how to keep the mirror segments stable and pointing collectively toward an exoplanetary system. Such telescopes would be equipped with coronagraphs -- instruments that are sensitive enough to discern between the light given off by a star and the considerably weaker light emitted by an orbiting planet. But the slightest shift in any of the telescope's parts could throw off a coronagraph's measurements and disrupt measurements of oxygen, water, or other planetary features.
Now MIT engineers propose that a second, shoebox-sized spacecraft equipped with a simple laser could fly at a distance from the large space telescope and act as a "guide star," providing a steady, bright light near the target system that the telescope could use as a reference point in space to keep itself stable.
In a paper published today in the Astronomical Journal, the researchers show that the design of such a laser guide star would be feasible with today's existing technology. The researchers say that using the laser light from the second spacecraft to stabilize the system relaxes the demand for precision in a large segmented telescope, saving time and money, and allowing for more flexible telescope designs.
"This paper suggests that in the future, we might be able to build a telescope that's a little floppier, a little less intrinsically stable, but could use a bright source as a reference to maintain its stability," says Ewan Douglas, a postdoc in MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a lead author on the paper.
Documents recently obtained by the Freedom of the Press Foundation reveal troubling facts about how the government is secretly using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to spy on journalists. The documents were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and Columbia University's Knights First Amendment Institute. These newly declassified memos confirm suspicions long held by civil liberties advocates that the government is using and abusing FISA court orders to conduct intrusive surveillance on reporters they deem as "foreign agents" and on those reporters' contacts.
By using FISA, the Department of Justice circumvents traditional court systems that have long protected journalists from invasive and illegal spying practices. [...] Memos made public through the FOIA request reveal that it is highly likely that both the Trump and Obama administrations have spied on journalists they considered "foreign agents" and anyone with whom they may have been in contact.
A revision to Japan's Unfair Competition Prevention Act has reportedly introduced criminal penalties for reselling software product keys without permission, distributing save-game editors, and offering to edit save data as a service. Speculation is rampant as to how broadly the data-editing ban may apply.