2020-07-01 00:00:00 ..
2020-09-18 10:52:50 UTC
2020-09-18 23:40:12 UTC --martyb
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Something unexpected has been discovered in the cloud decks of our nearest planetary neighbor, Venus. While no one is saying it's aliens just yet, some sort of alien microorganism is on the list of potential explanations for why a chemical that shouldn't be floating around above the planet has been observed there for the first time.
The chemical is phosphine, or PH3, a compound made up of phosphorus attached to three hydrogen atoms. On Earth, certain microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments, like at a sewage plant, are believed to produce the chemical. The gas is highly toxic to humans and smells like decaying fish.
It was identified in observations of Venus made with telescopes in Hawaii and Chile in 2017 and 2019. Specifically, phosphine was found about 33 to 39 miles (53 to 62 kilometers) above the surface of Venus, a world that is known for being brutally inhospitable, with both extremely hot temperatures and crushing pressures.
[...] Interestingly, however, the altitude where the phosphine was detected is one of the more hospitable areas in the solar system beyond Earth, with temperatures and pressure comparable to the surface of our planet. There is still the problem of the sulfuric acid clouds, however, which would certainly be hostile to much of the life we know, and should also destroy phosphine.
"These are conditions not exactly welcoming to life as we know it," says Brendan Burns, an astrobiologist at the University of New South Wales, Australia.
A team led by Jane Greaves from Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge in the UK lays out the discovery in a paper published Monday in Nature Astronomy. They sought to explain the mysterious presence of PH3 in the clouds, considering various atmospheric, chemical and geological processes. Lightning, volcanoes, the solar wind and even meteors were investigated as possible sources, but none fits the observations.
"If no known chemical process can explain PH3 within the upper atmosphere of Venus, then it must be produced by a process not previously considered plausible for Venusian conditions," the paper reads. "This could be unknown photochemistry or geochemistry, or possibly life."
The scientists go on to "emphasize that the detection of PH3 is not robust evidence for life, only for anomalous and unexplained chemistry."
Jane S. Greaves, Anita M. S. Richards, William Bains, et al. Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus, Nature Astronomy (DOI: 10.1038/s41550-020-1174-4)
Most diamonds are made of carbon recycled over and over again between Earth’s surface and its crust. But diamonds with the deepest origins — such as the famed Hope Diamond[*] — are made of carbon from a separate source: a newly discovered, ancient reservoir hidden in Earth’s lower mantle, scientists report Sept. 10 in Nature.
Chemical clues within these superdeep diamonds suggest that there’s a previously unknown limit to how deep Earth’s carbon cycle goes. Understanding this part of the carbon cycle — how and where carbon moves in and out of the planet’s interior — can help scientists understand changes to the planet’s climate over eons, the researchers say.
Diamonds form at different depths before making their way to the surface where they are unearthed. “Most of the diamonds people are familiar with are from the upper 250 kilometers of the planet,” says Margo Regier, a geochemist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. “Superdeep” diamonds are from at least 250 kilometers underground, and “they’re really quite rare,” Regier says. But rarest of all are diamonds that form as far as 700 kilometers down, within the lower mantle.
[...] The chemical makeup of diamonds from deeper than 660 kilometers was markedly different from that of the shallower diamonds. Those “form in a different way, from carbon already stored within the mantle,” Regier says. “The very deepest samples must have been [made of] primordial carbon that never escaped from the planet.”
The finding also suggests a limit to how deeply carbon from the surface can be buried within the planet’s interior. One implication of this, Regier says, is that it calls into question whether subduction was able to bury carbon deeply and for long enough to be a driving force behind the Great Oxidation Event.
[*] Wikipedia entry for the Hope Diamond.
M. E. Regier, D. G. Pearson, T. Stachel, et al. The lithospheric-to-lower-mantle carbon cycle recorded in superdeep diamonds, Nature (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2676-z)
Aside from an AMD presentation about the Zen 3 architecture that was accidentally posted to YouTube, the company hasn't publicly shared specifics about the design. However, the company has shared plenty of information about Zen 3's schedule, and a string of leaks has shed further light on the soon-to-be-released architecture. And we'll learn the first in-depth details of the new Zen 3 chips on 10/8/2020 at 10am PT.
[...] AMD Zen 3, Ryzen 4000 At A Glance
- TSMC N7P or N7+ process
- 32+ MB of unified L3 cache
- Multi-Chip Module (MCM) design
- Up to 64 cores for data center chips
- AMD will announce details about Zen 3 and Ryzen 4000 on 10/8/2020
- First client (desktop and/or laptop) chips arrive in late 2020
- EPYC Milan data center chips arrive in late 2020
- Full desktop, laptop and server Zen 3 lineups in market by the end of 2021
- Pricing is the wild card, but AMD has increased pricing with recent launches
[...] AMD has consistently swatted away rumors that its Zen 3 chips are delayed and has clarified that its chips wouldn't use TSMC's 5nm process. AMD has long maintained that it's Zen 3 chips would come to market this year, which makes sense given the Zen 3 EPYC Milan data center chips on the roadmap. The company later clarified that Zen 3 "client" chips would also come to market this year. That's an important distinction, with the term "client" signifying that we'll see chips for regular consumers this year, too.
New research suggests Hranice Abyss—the world's deepest freshwater cave—is around 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) deep, which is more than twice the depth of previous estimates.
Back in 2016, scientists measured the depth of Hranice Abyss at 1,552 feet (473 meters), but they suspected it was deeper because their remotely operated vehicle had reached the end of its fiber-optic communication cable. Now, using multiple geophysical imaging techniques, a research team led by Radek Klanica from the Czech Academy of Sciences has established a new estimated depth for Hranice Abyss. A paper describing this research was recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface.
[...] Geologist Francesco Sauro from the University of Bologna, who wasn't involved in the new study, told Science that the newly derived depth of the abyss is "impressive" and that the new paper is "a good example of how you should do things." Similar processes could've formed other submerged caves, some of which could even be deeper, he said. As for what types of organisms might exist at the bottom of the cave, Sauro said: "We don't know exactly what could be down there."
Radek Klanica, Jaroslav Kadlec, Petr Tábořík, et al. Hypogenic Versus Epigenic Origin of Deep Underwater Caves Illustrated by the Hranice Abyss (Czech Republic), Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface (DOI: 10.1029/2020JF005663)
Uber on Tuesday pledged to convert its fleet in US, Canadian, and European cities to fully electric by 2030. By the end of the following decade, Uber says, all of its rides will be aboard electric vehicles, either cars, bikes, or scooters. The pledge follows a similar one from rival Lyft, which said in June that all of its rides would be in electric vehicles by 2030.
"Uber has a clear responsibility to reduce our environmental impact," CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told reporters. "Today, we're committing to work with cities to build back better together and tackle the climate crisis more aggressively than ever before."
There's a hitch, however: Uber and Lyft don't own the cars that they're pledging to electrify. In fact, they're fighting legal battles in California, Massachusetts, and elsewhere to prove that their drivers—who own the cars—aren't even employees. So electrifying "their" fleet hinges on convincing the often not-wealthy people who often drive part-time for their apps to get behind the wheel of a new, often more expensive car. Beyond the drivers, the plans turn on decisions—by policymakers, by the people who fund and build charging infrastructure, and by riders—that the companies don't control.
Filters have become a popular way to alter photographs, especially for those keen to keep up with increasingly high beauty standards in the world of social media.
A recent survey, carried out by Girlguiding, found a third of girls and young women will not post selfies online without using a filter to change their appearance.
Thirty-nine percent of the 1,473 respondents, aged 11-21, said they felt upset that they could not look the same in real life as they did online.
The survey results mirror the worries of make-up artist and curve model Sasha Pallari, who recently launched the hashtag #filterdrop in the hope of seeing "more real skin" on Instagram.
"I just thought, 'does anybody realise how dangerous this is?'" she said, recounting the moment she spotted a global beauty brand had reposted filtered content from an influencer advertising its products.
"I don't want children to grow up thinking they are not good enough because of what they see on social media."
[...] Responding to the comments, Miss Pallari said: "It's a shame there's still not enough acknowledgement of how dangerous face-changing and face-morphing filters are, regardless of being shown in the Effects Gallery or not. They can still be found really easily just by tying in simple words like 'beautiful'.
"Filters are most commonly used via the creators and the influencers with the largest platforms, which reach far more impressionable people from their stories than by searching for a filter.
"I hope it's not long until responsibility is taken for how much slimming down a nose in less than five seconds is causing prolific damage to our confidence."
Nine seconds. An eternity in some scientific experiments; an unimaginably small amount in the grand scheme of the universe. And just long enough to confound nuclear physicists studying the lifetime of the neutron.
The neutron is one of the building blocks of matter, the neutral counterpart to the positive proton. Like many other subatomic particles, the neutron doesn't last long outside of the nucleus. Over the course of about 15 minutes, it breaks apart into a proton, an electron, and a tiny particle called an anti-neutrino.
But how long the neutron takes to fall apart presents a bit of a mystery. One method measures it as 887.7 seconds, plus or minus 2.2 seconds. Another method measures it as 878.5 seconds, plus or minus 0.8 second. At first, this difference seemed to be a matter of measurement sensitivity. It may be just that. But as scientists continue to perform a series of ever-more-precise experiments to evaluate possible issues, the discrepancy remains.
This persistence leads to the possibility that the difference is pointing to some type of unknown physics. It could be revealing an unknown process in neutron decay. Or it could be pointing to science beyond the Standard Model scientists currently use to explain all of particle physics. There are a number of phenomena that the Standard Model doesn't fully explain and this difference could point the way towards answering those questions.
[...] Whatever results this experiment delivers, the work to understand the neutron lifetime will continue. "It's very telling that there are so many attempts to precisely measure the neutron lifetime. That tells you the emotional reaction of scientists to a discrepancy in the field – "I want to explore this!'" said Broussard. "Every scientist is motivated by the desire to learn, the desire to understand."
L.J. Broussard, K.M. Bailey, W.B. Bailey, et al. New search for mirror neutron regeneration [open], EPJ Web of Conferences (DOI: 10.1051/epjconf/201921907002)
The world is one step closer to having a totally secure internet and an answer to the growing threat of cyber-attacks, thanks to a team of international scientists who have created a multi-user quantum communication network which could transform how we communicate online.
The invention led by the University of Bristol, revealed today in the journal Science Advances, has the potential to serve millions of users, is understood to be the largest-ever quantum network of its kind, and could be used to secure people's online communication, particularly in these internet-led times accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
By deploying a new technique, harnessing the simple laws of physics, it can make messages completely safe from interception while also overcoming major challenges which have previously limited advances in this little used but much-hyped technology.
Lead author Dr Siddarth Joshi, who headed the project at the university's Quantum Engineering Technology (QET) Labs, said: "This represents a massive breakthrough and makes the quantum internet a much more realistic proposition. Until now, building a quantum network has entailed huge cost, time, and resource, as well as often compromising on its security which defeats the whole purpose."
"Our solution is scalable, relatively cheap and, most important of all, impregnable. That means it's an exciting game changer and paves the way for much more rapid development and widespread rollout of this technology."
Siddarth Koduru Joshi, Djeylan Aktas, Sören Wengerowsky, et al. A trusted node–free eight-user metropolitan quantum communication network [open], Science Advances (DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba0959)
We had two submissions about this just-announced story.
Chipmaker Nvidia has agreed to buy Arm Holdings, a designer of chips for mobile phones, from SoftBank in a deal worth $40 billion, the companies announced Sunday. The deal will include $21.5 billion in Nvidia stock and $12 billion in cash, including $2 billion payable at signing.
Softbank acquired Arm in 2016 for $31.4 billion in 2016 in one of its largest acquisitions ever. Arm is best known as the designer of an architecture used in chips in most mobile phones, including the Qualcomm chips used in most Android phones, as well as Apple's iPhone. Apple is also planning to shift its Mac computers from Intel chips to an Arm-based design.
Nvidia, whose chips are widely used to support graphics and artificial intelligence applications, including for self-driving vehicles, pledged that it would "continue Arm's open-licensing model and customer neutrality."
Interest in RISC-V set to skyrocket again.
SoftBank has agreed to sell Arm Holdings to US chip company Nvidia for $40bn, ending four years of ownership as the Japanese technology group shifts towards becoming a global investment and asset management powerhouse.
The UK chip designer is the latest large asset disposal orchestrated by SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son as his newly built war chest opens up options for the group including an expansion of trading into publicly listed technology stocks and a potential delisting of its own shares.
Under the deal, SoftBank will become the largest shareholder in Nvidia, which will pay the Japanese group $21.5bn in common stock and $12bn in cash. "We look forward to supporting the continued success of the combined business," Mr Son said in a joint statement late on Sunday.
[...] While Nvidia is paying more for the asset than SoftBank did, the price also reflects the scale of Arm's underperformance under the Japanese group's ownership.
Nvidia had a market valuation of roughly similar to that of Arm's at the time of the 2016 deal, but now trades with a market value of $300 billion, or roughly 10 times the amount SoftBank paid in cash for Arm. By paying for a large portion of the deals with its own shares, it is also passing part of the risk of the transaction to SoftBank.
[...] For Nvidia, which recently overtook Intel to become the world's most valuable chipmaker, the deal will further consolidate the US company's position at the centre of the semiconductor industry. The British chip designer's technology is starting to find broader applications beyond mobile devices, in data centres and personal computers including Apple's Macs.
Arm would transform Nvidia's product line-up, which until now has largely focused on the high end of the chips market. Its powerful graphics processors—which are designed to handle focused, data-intensive tasks—are typically sold to PC gamers, scientific researchers and developers of artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, as well as cryptocurrency miners.
Official announcement at Nvidia.
Millions of WordPress sites are being probed in automated attacks looking to exploit a recently discovered plugin vulnerability, according to security researchers.
Wordfence, which itself produces a plugin for the platform, revealed news of the zero-day bug at the start of September. It affects File Manager which, as the name suggests, is a plugin that helps users to manage files on their WordPress sites.
[...] The vulnerability itself could allow a remote, unauthenticated user to execute commands and upload malicious files on a target site. [Wordfence’s Ram] Gall therefore urged users to patch the issue promptly by installing the latest version of the plug, v6.9.
"If you are not actively using the plugin, uninstall it completely," he added. "Due to the breadth of file management functionality this plugin provides a user within the wp-admin dashboard, we recommend uninstalling the plugin when it is not actively being used."
[Ed Note: Wordfence sells a product intended to protect WordPress sites]
A new report claims that zero-emissions vehicle startup Nikola Motor has made a series of deceptive public statements and representations about its technology and business. Allegations include that Nikola staged a 2018 video of its signature hydrogen fuel-cell truck driving, and that it has made deceptive claims about its battery development efforts after the failure of an acquisition deal.
The allegations come from Hindenburg Research, which has a short position in Nikola stock. But they follow previous reports of misrepresentations by Nikola and broader expert skepticism about the company's aggressive claims.
The Hindenburg report's most striking claim is that a January 2018 video purportedly showing a Nikola One hydrogen fuel-cell semi truck moving under its own power was staged. According to Hindenburg, the video in fact showed the truck rolling down a long, gentle slope. Hindenburg's report includes a test confirming that the section of road shown in the video could accelerate a coasting vehicle to highway speeds, along with text messages from a former Nikola employee appearing to confirm the tactics.
Due to geopolitical tensions, Huawei cannot rely on Google Android operating system over the long term, and in May 2019 we reported HongMeng OS may become Huawei's OS alternative to Android. HongMeng (鸿蒙) OS will finally be called HarmonyOS outside of China, and we recently reported Huawei was trying to attract more developers with monetary incentives to brings more apps to HMS (Huawei Mobile Services).
We now have a more clear timeline with the company's recent release of HarmonyOS 2.0 beta that's currently available for smart home applications, smartwatches, and head-on-displays, and will become available for smartphones in December 2020.
Researchers have developed a system that improves machine vision through obscuring clouds and fog.
Referred to as 'confocal diffuse tomography',
[t]he newly developed system works via an algorithm that measures the movement of individual light particles or photons, as fired in fast pulses from a laser, and uses them to reconstruct objects that are obscured or hidden from the human eye.
What makes the technique extra special is the way that it can reconstruct light that's been scattered and bounced around by the barrier in the way.
In experiments, the laser sight was able to see objects hidden behind a 1-inch layer of foam.
Existing techniques for machine viewing in similar scenarios have major drawbacks. Some only work at microscopic scales, some require access to both sides of the diffusing medium, and others require prior knowledge of the object being viewed. The most comparable method relies on excluding scattered photons by time-gating of ballistic (non-scattered) photons and using them to construct images, however this approach degrades rapidly for greater propagation distances and more highly scattering media as ballistic photons drop towards zero.
Confocal diffuse tomography is different in that it reconstructs images from the scattered photons "modeling and inverting the scattering of photons that travel through a thick diffuser." It has a variety of potential applications including self driving vehicles whose LiDAR struggles in rain and fog, robotic vision, and viewing planetary surfaces through cloud cover.
The researchers caution that the approach is currently slow and requires significant optimization, but they are "excited to push [the approach] further."
David B. Lindell, Gordon Wetzstein. Three-dimensional imaging through scattering media based on confocal diffuse tomography [open], Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18346-3)
Holmes and Theranos' former president Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani were charged in June 2018 with nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
[...] According to the court document filed this week[*], Holmes—who is now being tried separately from Balwani—notified the court last December that she plans to submit "expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect or any other mental condition" that has bearing on the issue of guilt. The expert providing such evidence was named in the document as psychologist Mindy Mechanic, of California State University, Fullerton.
According to Mechanic's faculty website, she focuses on "psychosocial consequences of violence, trauma, and victimization with an emphasis on violence against women and other forms of interpersonal violence." The site also notes that Mechanic "frequently provides expert testimony in complex legal cases involving interpersonal violence."
[...] In response to Holmes' plans to provide mental health evidence, federal prosecutors requested that they should also be able to examine Holmes' mental state and provide their own psychiatric evidence in court as a fair rebuttal.
[...] The judge in the case, US District Judge Edward Davila of the Northern District of California, agreed with the prosecutors. As such, he ordered Holmes to undergo up to 14 hours of psychological testing and psychiatric evaluation by two government-appointed doctors over the course of two consecutive days. Davila also ordered that the government's evaluation of Holmes be recorded on video—over Holmes' objections.
[*] Here is a link to the court document.
(2019-07-01) Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes to Face Trial Next Year on Fraud Charges
(2018-09-06) Theranos to Dissolve in a Pool of Blood
(2018-06-17) Elizabeth Holmes Steps Down as Theranos CEO as DoJ Levels Charges
(2018-03-15) Blood Unicorn Fairy Tale: Theranos Founder Charged With Fraud
(2017-12-24) Theranos Given Indirect Lifeline From Softbank
(2016-10-06) Theranos Lays Off 340, Closes Labs and "Wellness Centers"
(2016-08-03) Theranos Introduces New Product to Distract from Scandal
(2014-10-05) LinkedIn's Top 10 Silicon Valley Startups for 'Talent Brand'
As developer of one of the leading BitTorrent libraries, Libtorrent, Arvid Norberg has been closely involved in the protocol's development. It's his code that makes a wide variety of torrent clients function properly. This includes uTorrent Web, Deluge, and qBittorrent.
[...] This week, Norberg announced the latest release of Libtorrent; version 2.0. This new version comes with many changes that eventually will make their way to torrent clients. The most crucial one is the implementation of the BitTorrent v2 protocol specification.
BitTorrent v2 is an improved version of the early BitTorrent standards and includes several technical changes.
[...] Tech-savvy readers can get the complete lowdown from the Libtorrent site but for the sake of simplicity, we will focus on how the changes will affect users.
[...] BitTorrent v2 changes the way torrents are 'compiled' and the newer version is not backward compatible.
[...] There is an option to create so-called "hybrid" torrents that can connect to both swarms.
[...] For now, it makes sense that publishers, including torrent sites, are best off using hybrid torrents.
[...] Finally, we should mention that it's not just the .torrent files that will change. The v2 and hybrid magnet links are different too.
Just how soon the v2 torrents will work depends on when clients update to the latest Libtorrent version. That can take days, but also more than a year. When large publishers and torrent sites will embrace the changes is uncertain as well, but eventually, it's the way forward for all.