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What should be the Book Club picks for April+?

  • Oryx and Crake - Book #1 of the MaddAddam trilogy - Margaret Atwood
  • Beggars in Spain - Book #1 of the Sleepless trilogy - Nancy Kress
  • Too Far - Rich Shapiro
  • Revolt in 2100 - (short stories collection) - Robert A. Heinlein
  • Morlock the Maker Short Stories - (pre-Blood of Ambrose?) - James Enge
  • Downbelow Station - C. J. Cherryh
  • Hammerfall - C. J. Cherryh
  • Sundiver - David Brin

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:13 | Votes:24

posted by mrpg on Friday February 08, @10:30PM   Printer-friendly
from the humans-need-a-brain dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

One step closer to growing made-to-order human kidneys

The results of the study, led by researchers from the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan, will be published in an upcoming issue of Nature Communications.

For patients with end-stage renal disease, a kidney transplant is the only hope for regaining quality of life. Yet many of these patients will never undergo transplant surgery thanks to a chronic shortage of donor kidneys. With 95,000 patients on the waiting list for a donor kidney in the United States alone, demand far outstrips supply.

But researchers have been working on ways to grow healthy organs outside the human body. One such method, called blastocyst complementation, has already produced promising results. Researchers take blastocysts, the clusters of cells formed several days after egg fertilization, from mutant animals missing specific organs and inject them with stem cells from a normal donor, not necessarily of the same species. The stem cells then differentiate to form the entire missing organ in the resulting animal. The new organ retains the characteristics of the original stem cell donor, and can thus potentially be used in transplantation therapy.


Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Friday February 08, @09:01PM   Printer-friendly
from the dark-matter dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

Dark fiber lays groundwork for long-distance earthquake detection and groundwater mapping

In traditional seismology, researchers studying how the earth moves in the moments before, during, and after an earthquake rely on sensors that cost tens of thousands of dollars to make and install underground. And because of the expense and labor involved, only a few seismic sensors have been installed throughout remote areas of California, making it hard to understand the impacts of future earthquakes as well as small earthquakes occurring on unmapped faults.

Now researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have figured out a way to overcome these hurdles by turning parts of a 13,000-mile-long testbed of "dark fiber," unused fiber-optic cable owned by the DOE Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), into a highly sensitive seismic activity sensor that could potentially augment the performance of earthquake early warning systems currently being developed in the western United States. The study detailing the work—the first to employ a large regional network as an earthquake sensor—was published this week in Nature's Scientific Reports.

[...] The current study uses the same DAS technique, but instead of deploying their own fiber-optic cable, the researchers ran their experiments on a 20-mile segment of the 13,000-mile-long ESnet Dark Fiber Testbed that extends from West Sacramento to Woodland, California. "To further verify our results from the 2017 study, we knew we would need to run the DAS tests on an actual dark fiber network," said Ajo-Franklin, who also heads Berkeley Lab's Geophysics Department.


Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Friday February 08, @07:31PM   Printer-friendly
from the dark-matter dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

Novel experiment validates widely speculated mechanism behind the formation of stars

The theory holds that MRI[*] allows accretion disks, clouds of dust, gas, and plasma that swirl around growing stars and planets as well as black holes, to collapse into them. According to the theory, this collapse happens because turbulent swirling plasma, technically known as "Keplerian flows," gradually grows unstable within a disk. The instability causes angular momentum -- the process that keeps orbiting planets from being drawn into the sun -- to decrease in inner sections of the disk, which then fall into celestial bodies.

Unlike orbiting planets, the matter in dense and crowded accretion disks may experience forces such as friction that cause the disks to lose angular momentum and be drawn into the objects they swirl around. However, such forces cannot fully explain how quickly matter must fall into larger objects for planets and stars to form on a reasonable timescale.

[*] MRI: Magnetorotational instability.


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posted by mrpg on Friday February 08, @05:50PM   Printer-friendly
from the will-this-end? dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

'It will take off like a wildfire': The unique dangers of the Washington state measles outbreak

[...] "You know what keeps me up at night?" said Clark County Public Health Director Alan Melnick. "Measles is exquisitely contagious. If you have an under-vaccinated population, and you introduce a measles case into that population, it will take off like a wildfire."

[...] Anti-vaccination activists, for their part, contend that state officials are twisting facts to stoke public fear.

"It shouldn't be called an outbreak," Seattle-area mother Bernadette Pajer, a co-founder of the state's main anti-vaccine group, Informed Choice Washington, said of the measles cases, arguing that the illness has spread only within a small, self-contained group. "I would refer to it as an in-break, within a community."

[...] Clements eventually changed her mind, deciding to give her kids the shots after a doctor at a vaccine workshop answered her questions for more than two hours, at one point drawing diagrams on a whiteboard to explain cell interaction. He was thoughtful, factual and also "still very warm," she said.

[...] In Washington, state lawmakers supporting tougher vaccine requirements are mounting their second effort in the past three years to make it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinations.


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posted by mrpg on Friday February 08, @04:15PM   Printer-friendly
from the superfriend dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

Facebook Says It Needs to Collect All Your Data to Protect Against Terrorism and Child Abuse

[...] From Facebook's statement this morning (emphasis ours):

Facebook has always been about connecting you with people and information you're interested in. We tailor each person's Facebook experience so it's unique to you, and we use a variety of information to do this – including the information you include on your profile, news stories you like or share and what other services share with us about your use of their websites and apps. Using information across our services also helps us protect people's safety and security, including, for example, identifying abusive behavior and disabling accounts tied to terrorism, child exploitation and election interference across both Facebook and Instagram.

By the end of Facebook's statement the company leans heavily into the claim that everybody else is doing it, so why can't they—which may be the most terrifying point.

"Every day, people interact with companies that connect and use data in similar ways. And all of this should be–and is–a legitimate area of focus for regulators and policymakers around the world. Yet the Bundeskartellamt is trying to implement an unconventional standard for a single company," Facebook said.


Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Friday February 08, @02:45PM   Printer-friendly
from the better-do-10%-less-in-nice-video-games dept.

Philly.com (the website of Philadelphia's two local newspapers), published an editorial about a little known bill which would impose a 10% tax on the sale of all M for mature and AO for adults only rated video game sales in Pennsylvania.

On Jan. 28, several Pennsylvania members of Congress introduced a bill that would impose a tax of 10 percent on action-oriented video games rated M for mature or AO for adults only. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that California's efforts to single out action games violated the First Amendment. Beyond standing on similarly questionable grounds, Pennsylvania's own proposed bill is more likely to do harm than good.

The proposal is driven by the popular belief that such games cause acts of violence. In a September memo that previewed the legislation, its sponsor, Republican Rep. Christopher B. Quinn linked violent games to societal violence, including the 2018 Parkland shooting in Florida. He cites a Washington think tank that connects playing videos games to showing aggression in real life. But as researchers in this field, we've found the evidence to be clear: No links exist between video games and violence.

[...] data on school shootings going back to a 2002 Secret Service report find that less than 20 percent of school shooters played violent video games with any amount of regularity. Evidence suggests these individuals are actually less interested in violent games than the typical high school student. Many people continue to believe falsely that some shooters, such as those in the 2012 Sandy Hook and 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, were avid action gamers. Yet official investigations reported that these individuals preferred the nonviolent games Dance, Dance Revolution and Sonic the Hedgehog, respectively.


Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Friday February 08, @01:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the do-not-try-this-at-home dept.

50 Fastest Speeding Tickets in Texas in 2018:

Don't let the slow drawl fool you. The fine people of Texas like to go fast. Maybe it's all that wide open space, the arrow-straight roads, or just something in the water. Whatever the case, the state routinely clocks some of the fastest speeders in the country—and we got our hands on the 2018 ticket data to show it.

Credit where credit is due: this list of the 50 fastest speeding tickets in Texas in 2018 was inspired by the work of the Houston Chronicle, which usually publishes one in January looking back at the preceding 365 days. But the paper opted not to do one this year, for whatever reason, leaving The Drive to carry on the mission.

Scrounging up the raw data involved filing a public information request with the Texas Department of Public Safety for every single speeding ticket issued by Texas Highway Patrol troopers in excess of 120 mph from January 1 to December 31 last year. We fully expected to never hear back. A couple weeks later, a lawyer for the department responded with a huge spreadsheet showing the date, location, vehicle, and speed for all 228 tickets fitting that description—plus extras like officer notes and the stop's exact GPS coordinates when available.

Besides the expected assortment of muscle cars and performance motorcycles, there are even pickup trucks and a Ford Focus on the list.

Disclaimer: Exceeding the speed limit can be dangerous not only to yourself, but to other vehicles on the road; please keep your high speed activity to track events or places where it is permitted (e.g. German Autobahn.)


Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Friday February 08, @11:40AM   Printer-friendly
from the emergency-failover-failed dept.

The Register reports that Wells Fargo Bank experienced an issue in a data center Thursday morning, and things have not been the same since:

Wells Fargo customers have been unable to access their online bank accounts for more than seven hours today – after smoke knackered one of its data centers.

Starting around 6am Pacific Time (2pm UTC), the American bank's online portal and its mobile application have been totally unusable. There are also reports of cards being rejected by cash machines and stores.

"We're experiencing system issues due to a power shutdown at one of our facilities, initiated after smoke was detected following routine maintenance," the bank said in a statement. "We're working to restore services as soon as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience."

[...] According to fire chief Tim Boehlke, of Lake Johanna Fire Department, the downtime kicked off at a Wells Fargo data center in Shoreview, Minnesota. We're told a fire suppression system was activated at around 0500 local time (1100 UTC), forcing a power shutdown, and switching off the facilities' servers. When the fire department got there, though, they found no evidence of a blaze.

Fire suppression systems tend to be rather punishing to data center machines, particularly their hard drives, as sysadmins in this Reddit thread on the outage point out. It could take a while to restore power and undo the effects of the suppression system.

[...] Whether the backups failed, or the shutdown caused a cascading fault that affected other data centers and took out the rest of the bank's online presence, isn't known at this time. It is baffling that a single incident has set off such a chain reaction that it knocked out the entire internet-facing infrastructure of the bank.

Also at SF Gate.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 08, @10:09AM   Printer-friendly
from the stranded dept.

Male Y Chromosomes Not "Genetic Wastelands"

When researchers say they have sequenced the human genome, there is a caveat to this statement: a lot of the human genome is sequenced and assembled, but there are regions that are full of repetitive elements, making them difficult to map. One piece that is notoriously difficult to sequence is the Y chromosome.

Now, researchers from the University of Rochester have found a way to sequence a large portion of the Y chromosome in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster—the most that the Y chromosome has been assembled in fruit flies. The research, published in the journal GENETICS [open, DOI: 10.1534/genetics.118.301765] [DX], provides new insights into the processes that shape the Y chromosome, "and adds to the evidence that, far from a genetic wasteland, Y chromosomes are highly dynamic and have mechanisms to acquire and maintain genes," says Amanda Larracuente, an assistant professor of biology at Rochester.

[...] Using sequence data generated by new technology that reads long strands of individual DNA molecules, [PhD student Ching-Ho] Chang and Larracuente developed a strategy to assemble a large part of the Y chromosome and other repeat-dense regions. By assembling a large portion of the Y chromosome, they discovered that the Y chromosome has a lot of duplicated sequences, where genes are present in multiple copies. They also discovered that although the Y chromosome does not experience crossing over, it undergoes a different type of recombination called gene conversion. While crossing over involves the shuffle and exchange of genes between two different chromosomes, gene conversion is not reciprocal, Larracuente says. "You don't have two chromosomes that exchange material, you have one chromosome that donates its sequence to the other part of the chromosome" and the sequences become identical.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 08, @08:31AM   Printer-friendly
from the bare-facts dept.

Jeff Bezos Accuses National Enquirer of Blackmail

Jeff Bezos, Amazon's chief executive and the world's richest man, accused the owner of The National Enquirer on Thursday of trying "extortion and blackmail" to stop his investigation into how his private text messages and photos with his mistress were leaked to the tabloid.

In an extraordinarily personal online post, Mr. Bezos said intermediaries of David Pecker, the chairman of American Media Inc., the nation's biggest tabloid news publisher and owner of The National Enquirer, had approached him to stop his investigation. Mr. Bezos said he had been told that if he refused, the publisher would make risqué and intimate photos of the billionaire and his mistress, Lauren Sanchez, public.

[...] "Of course I don't want personal photos published, but I also won't participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks and corruption," Mr. Bezos wrote of A.M.I., explaining why he had decided to speak out. "I prefer to stand up, roll this log over and see what crawls out."


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 08, @06:54AM   Printer-friendly
from the just-desserts dept.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-47143411:

The team behind the pocket-sized Raspberry Pi computer is opening its first high street store in the city where it was invented.

In a move bucking the online retail trend, the company will open an "experimental space" in Cambridge.

The firm will also now offer a new starter kit of parts - to accompany the popular tiny computer.

Founder Eben Upton said he hoped the shop would attract customers who were "curious" about the brand.

The store opens in Cambridge's Grand Arcade shopping centre on Thursday.

It will offer merchandise and advice on the use of the popular computer, which measures 3.4in by 2.1in (8.6cm by 5.3cm) and is designed to encourage people to try coding and programming.

The story does not mention if the street address was 314 something something.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 08, @05:14AM   Printer-friendly
from the it's-all-geek-to-me dept.

https://lwn.net/Articles/777595/

LWN (Linux Weekly News) provides a written account of Benno Rice's talk. The former FreeBSD core developer gives some context around systemd and what FreeBSD should learn from it. He compares the affair to a Greek tragedy which contains much suffering followed by catharsis. His attitude toward systemd is generally not negative, but I won't cherry-pick any specific sections; you'll have to actually read the article for once.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 08, @03:39AM   Printer-friendly
from the where-there's-a-will-there's-a...waze dept.

NYPD asks Google to scrap Waze's DUI checkpoints

The NYPD has sent Google a cease-and-desist letter, asking it to axe a Waze feature that allows users to mark cops' locations on the navigation app. Based on the letter first seen by Streetsblog NYC and CBS New York, authorities believe the feature is making it harder to enforce the law and keep the roads safe. The NYPD sent the cease-and-desist just a couple of weeks after Waze debuted speed camera notifications, but the cops' letter mostly focused on the fact that the ability allows users to give each other a heads-up about sobriety checkpoints.

[...] [Based] on the statement it provided to NYT, [Google] doesn't have any intention to give in to the NYPD's demand. It told the publication that safety is a top priority for the company and that "informing drivers about upcoming speed traps allows them to be more careful and make safer decisions when they're on the road."

Also at Gizmodo.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 08, @02:03AM   Printer-friendly
from the pair-annoyed dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

Many popular iPhone apps secretly record your screen without asking

Many major companies, like Air Canada, Hollister and Expedia, are recording every tap and swipe you make on their iPhone apps. In most cases you won’t even realize it. And they don’t need to ask for permission.

You can assume that most apps are collecting data on you. Some even monetize your data without your knowledge. But TechCrunch has found several popular iPhone apps, from hoteliers, travel sites, airlines, cell phone carriers, banks and financiers, that don’t ask or make it clear — if at all — that they know exactly how you’re using their apps.

Worse, even though these apps are meant to mask certain fields, some inadvertently expose sensitive data.

Apps like Abercrombie & Fitch, Hotels.com and Singapore Airlines also use Glassbox, a customer experience analytics firm, one of a handful of companies that allows developers to embed “session replay” technology into their apps. These session replays let app developers record the screen and play them back to see how its users interacted with the app to figure out if something didn’t work or if there was an error. Every tap, button push and keyboard entry is recorded — effectively screenshotted — and sent back to the app developers.

Or, as Glassbox said in a recent tweet: “Imagine if your website or mobile app could see exactly what your customers do in real time, and why they did it?”

The App Analyst, a mobile expert who writes about his analyses of popular apps on his eponymous blog, recently found Air Canada’s iPhone app wasn’t properly masking the session replays when they were sent, exposing passport numbers and credit card data in each replay session. Just weeks earlier, Air Canada said its app had a data breach, exposing 20,000 profiles.

“This gives Air Canada employees — and anyone else capable of accessing the screenshot database — to see unencrypted credit card and password information,” he told TechCrunch.

[...] Glassbox is one of many session replay services on the market. Appsee actively markets its “user recording” technology that lets developers “see your app through your user’s eyes,” while UXCam says it lets developers “watch recordings of your users’ sessions, including all their gestures and triggered events.” Most went under the radar until


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday February 08, @12:28AM   Printer-friendly
from the Domino-Theory-in-Practice dept.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/02/07/691979417/is-fear-driving-sales-of-dicamba-proof-soybeans

The biggest, most valuable new technology on Midwestern farms these days is a new family of soybean seeds. But some farmers say they're buying these seeds partly out of fear.

A new lawsuit claims that the company Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, violated antitrust laws when it introduced the seeds. Bayer is asking the court to dismiss the complaint.

The seeds go by the trade name Xtend. They're worth an estimated billion dollars a year to Bayer.

For those who don't want to read or listen to the story, the short summary is as follows: Dicamba is an herbicide used as a weed killer. It is thought to spread far outside its targeted area. (Many academics and scientists say that is proven fact, Bayer disagrees, but irrespective of the truth of the matter, many farmers think it does.) Therefore after one farmer decides to use these seeds and herbicide, their neighbors need to use the same seeds out of fear of losing their crop to dicamba. Now this farmer can use dicamba as well and has no reason not to, so they do so, and the cycle repeats.

Resistance is... futile?


Original Submission