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2019-08-18 13:49:50 UTC
2019-08-19 13:33:31 UTC
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The answer to "How did the first organisms on Earth incorporate the critical element phosphorus?" has been a quandary for researchers, but, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa physical chemists believe a meteoric visitor could be the critical link. Phosphorus is a key element for the molecules that compose all living organisms and helps form the backbone of DNA molecules, cell membranes (phospholipids), even bones and teeth. However, most phosphorus on Earth is bound in a state that does not allow for easy release or access. Modern organisms have evolved to extract the limited supplies of phosphorus in water.
UH Mānoa physical chemists in collaboration with colleagues from France and Taiwan have suggested that alkyl phosphonic acids, which are the only known phosphorus-containing organic compounds of extraterrestrial origin and were delivered to Earth on the Murchison meteorite, could have been the early source of soluble organic phosphorus available for Earth's first organisms.
Using sophisticated laser-based detection techniques available at UH's W.M. Keck Laboratory in Astrochemistry to identify newly formed molecules. The researchers discovered alkylphosphonic deep space. "It also provides a critical component for understanding the origin of life," collaborator Cornelia Meinert (University of Nice, France).
The research is outlined in "Origin of alkyl phosphonic acids in the interstellar medium" by former UH Mānoa graduate students Andrew M. Turner and Matthew Abplanalp and postdoctoral fellows Alexandre Bergantini, Robert Frigge and Cheng Zhu, and UH Mānoa chemistry Professor Ralf I. Kaiser, in the August 7, issue of Science Advances.
Submitted via IRC for Bytram
And yet they move: An international team of scientists involving physicists from the Center for Nanointegration (CENIDE) at the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) has observed a new phenomenon: They have generated standing waves – which travel. The results of their research have been published in the scientific journal "Physical Review B", including videos.
A wave consists of antinodes and nodes. If you imagine this on a rope, the antinodes are the areas which swing up and down, whereas nodes are the points in between. With a standing wave, nodes and antinodes always remain at the same position and do not move along the rope.
In travelling waves on the other hand, nodes and antinodes do not remain in place: If you start shaking a rope from one end, you will excite a wave that travels down the rope until it reaches the other end.
Benjamin Zingsem from the research group of UDE's Professor Michael Farle has now observed the apparent paradox for the first time: For this purpose, he worked with, what physicists call a chiral magnet:
A magnetic material in which the so called Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction occurs. In such magnets, all dipoles – the tiny magnets that make up the solid – are slightly tilted towards each other with a certain direction, like screw windings.
If the system is resonantly excited, a standing wave with travelling properties is formed. This wave has stationary nodes and antinodes, but at the same time a continuous phase shift creates the impression of a travelling wave. "I had to look at it for a long time before I could put it into words. I only really understood it by watching a video of the phenomenon," says Zingsem.
The effect reveals previously unknown transport properties in such systems. Which may, for example, be harnessed in future technology, as, information can be stored, transmitted and processed via magnetic oscillations without generating heat, which is the main bottleneck in conventional electronics.
Some trees, such as poplar, have limited resistance to attacks by Asian longhorned beetles, noted lead researcher Charlie Mason, postdoctoral scholar in entomology. In trying to assess the difference in resistance between Chinese poplar and native poplar—which consists of trees secreting compounds into their bark and wood tissues making them unpalatable to the wood-boring beetles—the researchers made a startling discovery: Larval Asian longhorned beetles can consume tree tissues that the adults cannot.
In their study, researchers realized that different plant species had strong effects on adult performance, but these patterns did not extend to effects on juveniles consuming the same hosts. They saw that female adult beetles were capable of producing eggs when feeding on red maple, but not when provided eastern cottonwood, also called necklace poplar, or Chinese white poplar.
Yet females that produced eggs by feeding on red maple deposited eggs into all three plant species and the larvae that hatched from these eggs performed equally on the three hosts. The differences between adult and juvenile utilization of poplar was very different.
"That is because poplar has markedly higher salicinoid phenolic concentrations in bark, which discourage adult Asian longhorned beetles from feeding, while poplar wood had only trace amounts," said Mason. "The tree's resistance is due to compounds present in the bark that make it unpalatable for adults."
But the adult female cuts a small notch in the bark and deposits her eggs, and the hatched larvae from there are able to tunnel into the wood tissues and be nourished by eating them, avoiding having to feed on bark.
By feeding on the wood and burrowing through tree limbs, making them weak, unstable and liable at any time to collapse on people below, Asian longhorned beetle have wreaked havoc on trees in urban areas such as New York City, Worcester, Massachusetts, and Chicago. The damage they caused has resulted in the removal of thousands of infested trees.
Divergent host plant utilization by adults and offspring is related to intra‐plant variation in chemical defences[$], Journal of Animal Ecology (DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13063)
Snap today announced Spectacles 3, a redesigned version of its augmented reality sunglasses with a sleek new design and an added HD camera to create depth perception. The glasses, which the company has positioned as a limited release, represent Snap's latest effort to build a new computing platform centered on the face. They will go on sale on Spectacles.com in November for $380.
That makes them more than twice as expensive as last year's model, which cost $150. Snap executives say the higher-end version is meant to appeal to a smaller group of "fashion-forward" creative types. It may also be designed to recoup more of its manufacturing costs for the famously money-losing product; Snapchat wrote down nearly $40 million in costs associated with the first version of the glasses after wildly overestimating demand.
The high price of Spectacles 3 will likely limit their appeal, particularly among the high school and college-age students who make up Snapchat's core user base. A Snap spokesperson said this year's model represented a necessary investment in the platform. The company has to figure out a way to do AR computing right, the logic goes, before it can do it cheaply.
Not quite VR180 given the 1216×1216 video.
Previously: Snapchat's Spectacles: A Bad Idea in Hindsight
Snapchat Takes a Second Shot at Wearable Camera "Spectacles"
Snap Gives Spectacles a Face Lift to Look More Like Traditional Sunglasses
Instagram "Influencer" Sued for $90,000 for Not Sufficiently Sporting Snapchat's Spectacles
Snap Will Reportedly Release AR-Enabled Spectacles With Dual Cameras
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
Valve has pushed out a fix for a zero-day Steam Client local privilege escalation (LPE) vulnerability, but researchers say there are still other LPE vulnerabilities that are being ignored.
Security researchers Matt Nelson and Vasily Kravets both recently discovered the same vulnerability in the widely used Steam Client software and were told that Valve would not be fixing it because it was "out of scope" of their vulnerability reporting program. After the massive outcry generated by this decision, Valve has changed its mind and released a fix. Unfortunately, though, another similarly reported vulnerability still exists.
The recently reported zero-day vulnerability was caused by the "Steam Client Service" Windows service giving the "USERS" group full permissions on any subkey under the HKLM\Software\Wow6432Node\Valve\Steam\Apps Registry key when the service was restarted.
With this knowledge in hand, the researchers figured out that they could create a link under this Registry key to another key that they did not have permission. When they restarted the Steam Client Service, the service would give that link full permission and thus also give the researchers permission to any other key in the Registry. This could then allow them to elevate the privileges of any program they wish on the computer, including malware.
To fix this, in the Steam Client Beta Valve made it so that the Steam service would check the subkeys of the HKLM\Software\Wow6432Node\Valve\Steam\Apps Registry key using the RegQueryValueExA function as shown below.
If the RegQueryValueExA function returned that the specific subkey was indeed a link, or REG_LINK, it would break out of the function and not give the "USER" group Full permission to the key.
While Valve may have fixed this one particular vulnerability in the "Steam Client Service", researchers still say that there is a big gaping hole that was reported a long time ago and that can still be abused by attackers and malware to elevate their privileges.
Vulnerability researcher and 0Patch co-founder Mitja Kolsek told BleepingComputer that the "Steam Client Service" could still be used to elevate a user's privileges through the DLL hijacking.
This vulnerability exists because the "USERS" group is given full permission to the Steam installation folder located at C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam. This means that an attacker can simply replace DLLs residing in that folder with a malicious copy that gives the attacker administrative access to the machine when it is launched by an elevated process or service.
-- submitted from IRC
Tens of thousands of people on Saturday staged what observers called the country's biggest political protest in years, defying a crackdown to demand free elections for the legislature of the capital, Moscow. Multiple YouTube channels broadcast the event live. Some videos attracted more than 50,000 people according to organisers. In contrast to previous protests, the authorities had approved this rally.
It said Russia would consider a failure by Google to respond to the request as "interference in its sovereign affairs" and "hostile influence (over) and obstruction of democratic elections in Russia".
If the company does not take measures to prevent events from being promoted on its platforms, Russia reserves the right to respond accordingly, Roscomnadzor said in its statement, without giving details.
[Emphasis is from original. --Ed.]
The announcement by Suncorp that it will no longer insure new thermal coal projects, along with a similar announcement by QBE Insurance a few months earlier, brings Australia into line with Europe where most major insurers have broken with coal.
Other big firms such as America's AIG are coming under increasing pressure.
Even more than divestment of coal shares by banks and managed funds, the withdrawal of insurance has the potential to make coal mining and coal-fired power generation businesses unsustainable.
As the chairman and founder of Adani Group, Gautam Adani, has shown in Queensland's Galilee Basin, a sufficiently rich developer can use its own resources to finance a coal mine that banks won't touch.
But without insurance, mines can't operate.
(Adani claims to have insurers for the Carmichael project, but has declined to reveal their names.)
Why are insurers abandoning coal?
By the nature of their business, insurers cannot afford to indulge the denialist fantasies still popular in some sectors of industry. Damage caused by climate disasters is one of their biggest expenses, and insurers are fully aware that that damage is set to rise over time.
It's becoming easier to finger climate culprits...
Until recently, the most immediate problem facing potential litigants has been demonstrating that an event was the result of climate change as opposed to something else, such as random fluctuations in climatic conditions.
[...] The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society has highlighted three extremes in 2016 that would not have occurred if not for the added influence of climate change:
[...] ...and to allocate liability
The second line of defence against climate litigation that has held so far is the difficulty of imputing damage to the companies that burn fossil fuels.
While it is true that all weather events have multiple causes, in many circumstances climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels has been a necessary condition for those events to take place.
Courts routinely use arguments about necessary conditions to determine liability.
For example, a spark from a power line might cause a bushfire on a hot, dry, windy day, but would be harmless on a wet cold day. That can be enough to establish liability on the part of the company that operates the power line.
These issues are playing out in California, where devastating fires in 2017 caused damage estimated at US$30 billion and drove the biggest of the power companies, PG&E, into bankruptcy.
[...] When governments are successfully sued...
The remaining line of defence for companies responsible for emissions is the history of courts in attributing climate change to decisions by governments rather than corporations.
In the Netherlands, a citizen action group called Urgenda has won a case against the Dutch government arguing it has breached its legal duty of care by not taking appropriate steps to significantly restrain greenhouse gas emissions and prevent damage from climate change.
The government is appealing, but it has lost every legal round so far. Sooner or later, this kind of litigation will be successful. Then, governments will look for another party that can be sued instead of them.
...they'll look for someone else to blame
Insurance companies are an easy target with deep pockets. Despite its hopeful talk quoted above, AIG would find it very difficult to avoid paying up if Californian courts found the firms it insured liable for their contributions to a climate-related wildfires or floods.
This is not a message coal-friendly governments in the US or Australia want to hear.
But the decision of Suncorp to dump coal, just a couple of months after the re-election of the Morrison government, makes it clear that businesses with a time horizon measured in decades cannot afford wishful thinking. They need to protect themselves against what they can see coming.
China said on Friday the joint declaration with Britain over Hong Kong, which laid the blueprint over how the city would be ruled after its return to China in 1997, was a historical document that no longer had any practical significance.
In response, Britain said the declaration remained in force and was a legally valid treaty to which it was committed to upholding.
The stark announcement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, that is sure to raise questions over Beijing’s commitment to Hong Kong’s core freedoms, came the same day Chinese President Xi Jinping said in Hong Kong the “one country, two systems” formula was recognized “by the whole world”.
It was not immediately clear if Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang was attacking just the idea of continued British involvement in Hong Kong, which marks the 20th anniversary of Chinese rule on Saturday, or the principles in the document.
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
Canadians are in a kerfuffle over the Trump administration's preliminary plan to allow Americans to import lower-cost prescription medications from Canada.
The plan was announced July 31 and is part of the administration's long-sought effort to drag down the US's skyrocketing drug prices. But it's a long way from being a reality. Even if the plan does pan out, it will likely be years before regulators review, approve, and scale up efforts to import drugs.
Still, Canadians are infuriated by the idea and already brainstorming ways to toss it down the garburator, according to a report by health-news outlet STAT. Many fear that American importation would exacerbate current drug shortages in Canada.
"You are coming as Americans to poach our drug supply, and I don't have any polite words for that," Amir Attaran of the University of Ottawa told STAT. Prof. Attaran went on to refer to the plan as "deplorable" and "atrociously unethical." "Our drugs are not for you, period."
[...] On Monday, August 12, Canada's Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor was set to meet with pharmacists, patients, and industry officials to discuss a response to the US plan, according to STAT. Petitpas Taylor has pledged to "ensure there are no adverse effects to the supply or cost of prescription drugs in Canada."
In order to protect Canadians, some advocates and policy experts suggested that Canada could begin controlling the export of pharmaceuticals, pass new laws simply banning exporting drugs meant for Canadians, or impose new tariffs.
-- submitted from IRC
First came the electric Freightliner box truck, and now we have the semi truck. Daimler said on Monday it's built the very first eCascadia semi trucks and they're on their way to the first lucky customers in the US.
If the eCascadia looks and sounds familiar, that's because it's based on Freightliner's normal Cascadia semi. Rather than its internal-combustion engine, there's a battery-electric powertrain with a 550-kWh battery pack. Daimler has previously said the electric powertrain makes 730 horsepower and is good enough for 250 miles of range. Plug the big semi into the right connector and 80% of the battery's capacity returns in 90 minutes.
The electric semi isn't exactly going into production just yet, however. Instead, the first eCascadias will be part of a "Freightliner Innovation Fleet" before the truck enters series production in late 2021. Penske and NFI are the two companies that will add the electric semi to their ranks first.
[...] Effectively, Daimler has beaten Tesla to the electric semi market. The Silicon Valley-based automaker has promised the Tesla Semi will enter production soon, but so far, it hasn't. Instead, the Semi has been used to deliver other Tesla vehicles and haul between the Gigafactory and various places.
ESA [European Space Agency] shared the news Monday of an "unsuccessful high-altitude drop test." The rover, named Rosalind Franklin for the DNA pioneer, is meant to be gently lowered down to Mars with the help of two main parachutes attached to a descent module.
[...] Those two parachutes each have a smaller pilot chute that helps deploy the bigger chutes, one of which would be the largest ever flown on a Mars mission with a diameter of 115 feet (35 meters). That parachute passed a low-altitude drop test in 2018, but a high-altitude drop test for all four parachutes in May didn't work out as planned.
A test last May saw successful deployment of the main chute, but they were also damaged by the test. ESA tried again last week, and the ESA experienced yet again damage to the main parachute.
They could always fall back on lithobraking. =)
A Washington state man allegedly killed himself after killing his wife, and left a note for authorities saying that he was driven to do so because they could not afford to pay for medical care for her serious health conditions.
The man, identified by the Whatcom County Medical Examiner Gary Goldfogel in a statement to Fox News as Brian S. Jones, was 77, and his wife, Patricia Whitney-Jones, was 76.
[...] "It's very tragic that one of our senior citizens would find himself in such desperate circumstances where he felt murder and suicide were the only option," [Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo] said. "Help is always available with a call to 9-1-1."
"We do what we can to help them," Elfo added in a telephone interview with Fox News. "We can't solve all their healthcare needs, but we can help them until a better day comes."
Elfo said he has seen people close to him struggle with healthcare issues and get exasperated fighting what can be a bureaucratic system.
"I know it gets very frustrating," the sheriff said, "you can get very easily worn down, and [roadblocks] build up over and over again."
From WSWS (ICFI/SEP), Elderly husband kills wife, then himself, in desperation over skyrocketing healthcare costs:
Police found the notes, which explained what had happened. Jones' wife, Patricia Whitney-Jones, suffered from serious health problems, and the couple could not afford medical care. Jones, an apparent Navy veteran, wrote directions as to how police could contact their next of kin. Police found the couple's two dogs and turned them over to the Humane Society.
The home was not located in a forgotten, impoverished area but in a semi-rural neighborhood near the Cascade Mountains where homes are valued in the $400,000 range. The bottom 90 percent of people in "the richest country in the world" are living under financial hardship that varies only in terms of degree.
[...] [The couple's next-door neighbor, Sherrie Schulteis] further noted:
"But here is the horribleness of this whole thing, less than 6 months ago our across the street neighbor shot himself, a young man with PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder], cops and SWAT all lined our street then too. He was young--in his 50's-- and this guy and the whole block knew and saw him riding his bike, or walking his tiny dog also. He lived directly across from our house and we talked with him everyday as we were outside a lot. We had no idea his PTSD would kick in and he started believing everyone was someone else and he was going to kill everyone."
The Trump administration on Monday announced that it would change the way the Endangered Species Act is applied, significantly weakening the nation's bedrock conservation law and making it harder to protect wildlife from the multiple threats posed by climate change.
The new rules would make it easier to remove a species from the endangered list and weaken protections for threatened species, the classification one step below endangered. And, for the first time, regulators would be allowed to conduct economic assessments — for instance, estimating lost revenue from a prohibition on logging in a critical habitat — when deciding whether a species warrants protection.
Critically, the changes would also make it more difficult for regulators to factor in the effects of climate change on wildlife when making those decisions because those threats tend to be decades away, not immediate.
Over all, the revised rules appear very likely to clear the way for new mining, oil and gas drilling, and development in areas where protected species live.
Also at NPR.
In a development that transforms the fight against Ebola, two experimental treatments are working so well that they will now be offered to all patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo, scientists announced on Monday.
The antibody-based treatments are quite powerful — "Now we can say that 90 percent can come out of treatment cured," one scientist said — that they raise hopes that the disastrous epidemic in eastern Congo can soon be stopped.
Offering patients a real cure "may contribute to them feeling more comfortable about seeking care early," said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who joined the World Health Organization and the Congolese government in making the announcement.
[...] The new experimental treatments, known as REGN-EB3 and mAb-114, are both cocktails of monoclonal antibodies that are infused intravenously into the blood. Antibodies are Y-shaped proteins normally made by the immune system that clump onto the outer shells of viral particles, preventing them from entering cells. The two new treatments are synthetic versions grown under laboratory conditions.
[Ed note: Updated to include a submission from Bytram after the break]
Amid unrelenting chaos and violence, scientists and doctors in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been running a clinical trial of new drugs to try to combat a year-long Ebola outbreak. On Monday, the trial's cosponsors at the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health announced that two of the experimental treatments appear to dramatically boost survival rates.
While an experimental vaccine previously had been shown to shield people from catching Ebola, the news marks a first for people who already have been infected. "From now on, we will no longer say that Ebola is incurable," said Jean-Jacques Muyembe, director general of the Institut National de Recherche Biomedicale in the DRC, which has overseen the trial's operations on the ground.
Megan Molteni covers DNA technologies, medicine, and genetic privacy for WIRED.
Starting last November, patients in four treatment centers in the country's east, where the outbreak is at its worst, were randomly assigned to receive one of four investigational therapies—either an antiviral drug called remdesivir or one of three drugs that use monoclonal antibodies. Scientists concocted these big, Y-shaped proteins to recognize the specific shapes of invading bacteria and viruses and then recruit immune cells to attack those pathogens. One of these, a drug called ZMapp, is currently considered the standard of care during Ebola outbreaks. It had been tested and used during the devastating Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014, and the goal was to see if those other drugs could outperform it. But preliminary data from the first 681 patients (out of a planned 725) showed such strong results that the trial has now been stopped.
America’s agricultural landscape is now 48 times more toxic to honeybees, and likely other insects, than it was 25 years ago, almost entirely due to widespread use of so-called neonicotinoid pesticides, according to a new study published today in the journal PLOS One.
This enormous rise in toxicity matches the sharp declines in bees, butterflies, and other pollinators as well as birds, says co-author Kendra Klein, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth US.
“This is the second Silent Spring. Neonics are like a new DDT, except they are a thousand times more toxic to bees than DDT was,” Klein says in an interview.
Using a new tool that measures toxicity to honey bees, the length of time a pesticide remains toxic, and the amount used in a year, Klein and researchers from three other institutions determined that the new generation of pesticides has made agriculture far more toxic to insects. Honey bees are used as a proxy for all insects. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does the same thing when requiring toxicity data for pesticide registration purposes, she explained.
The study found that neonics accounted for 92 percent of this increased toxicity. Neonics are not only incredibly toxic to honeybees, they can remain toxic for more than 1,000 days in the environment, said Klein.
[...] As insects have declined, the numbers of insect-eating birds have plummeted in recent decades. There’s also been a widespread decline in nearly all bird species, Holmer said. “Every bird needs to eat insects at some point in their life cycle.”
Neonic insecticides, also known as neonicotinoids, are used on over 140 different agricultural crops in more than 120 countries. They attack the central nervous system of insects, causing overstimulation of their nerve cells, paralysis and death.
They are systemic insecticides, which means plants absorb them and incorporate the toxin into all of their tissues: stems, leaves, pollen, nectar, sap. It also means neonics are in the plant 24/7, from seed to harvest, including dead leaves. Nearly all of neonic use in the U.S. is for coating seeds, including almost all corn and oilseed rape seed, the majority of soy and cotton seeds, and many yard plants from garden centers.
However only 5 percent of the toxin ends up the corn or soy plant; the rest ends up the soil and the environment. Neonics readily dissolve in water, meaning what’s used on the farm won’t stay on the farm. They’ve contaminated streams, ponds, and wetlands, studies have found.