2021-01-01 06:28:29 ..
2021-02-22 12:23:31 UTC
2021-02-22 15:50:43 UTC --martyb
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It is June 22, 2014. Jackson Palmer, a self-identified "average geek," is high in the stands at a Nascar race at the Sonoma Raceway in California. He is an Australian man in his 20s. He has zero interest in racing. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine it would come to this.
He surveys the scene.
Below him: a tremendous crowd. The overwhelming blare of engines. Hurtling round at tremendous speeds: the #98 Moonrocket, a high-performance racing car. No different from the other cars on the track, except for one crucial detail.
On the bonnet of the car: a dog. A Shiba Inu, more commonly known as a "Shibe," the dog made famous in the Doge meme that was popular in 2013.
Emblazoned on top: the word "DOGECOIN" in all caps. Below: "digital currency".
Palmer describes the situation using words like "crazy," "surreal" and "nuts." He remembers this moment as a "reality check." Dogecoin was a tweet, then it was a cryptocurrency worth money in the real world. Six months later, he watched as a joke that he'd made in passing somehow manifested itself into something tangible. A Dogecar in full flight.
It reminded Palmer how insane the world could be.
This is the story of Dogecoin, the joke that became too real for its own good.
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has ruled that Uber drivers are legally workers, not self-employed contractors as Uber has argued in courts around the world. The ruling means that drivers in Britain and Northern Ireland are eligible for additional benefits and protections, including a minimum wage.
Uber claims that it merely acts as a technology provider and broker between independent drivers and their customers—much as eBay facilitates sales between buyers and sellers. In Uber's view, this means that it doesn't owe its drivers benefits like unemployment insurance, doesn't need to reimburse drivers for their costs, and isn't bound by minimum wage and overtime rules. Uber emphasizes that its drivers are free to decide when, where, and how much they work.
But critics point out that Uber exerts a lot more control over its drivers—and over the driver-passenger relationship—than a conventional platform like eBay or Airbnb. Uber sets fares, collects payments from customers, deducts its own fee, and remits the remainder to the driver. It requires drivers to accept a large majority of the rides they are offered. It handles customer complaints and kicks drivers off the platform if their average rating falls too low.
So the UK Supreme Court ruled Friday that Uber drivers are legally Uber workers, not independent business owners who happen to get most of their business from Uber.
"Drivers are in a position of subordination and dependency in relation to Uber such that they have little or no ability to improve their economic position through professional or entrepreneurial skill," said Lord George Leggatt, one of the justices of the Supreme Court, as he handed down the ruling.
Additional coverage at bbc.co.uk
In a newly published analysis, a team of researchers lists a series of measures the administration should consider in recalculating the social cost of carbon--a cost-benefit metric that places a monetary value on the impact of climate change.
The Biden administration is revising the social cost of carbon (SCC), a decade-old cost-benefit metric used to inform climate policy by placing a monetary value on the impact of climate change. In a newly published analysis in the journal Nature, a team of researchers lists a series of measures the administration should consider in recalculating the SCC.
[...] The revised SCC will be created by the federal government's Interagency Working Group (IWG), which includes the Council of Economic Advisors, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
[...] the authors [...] list several recommendations for the IWG to consider in devising the new SCC. Among them are the following:
- Reinstating the estimated economic cost of CO2 emitted to $50 a ton, which the Trump administration lowered to $1-7 a ton
- Updating the damage functions that tally how climate change affects human welfare, from crop losses to heat impacting student learning and worker productivity
- Incorporating the inequitable effects of climate change within and across countries
- Reviewing discount rates—the ways in which the cost of future climate-related damages are priced in today's dollars—in order to better inform today's budgetary processes
- Updating forecasts for both economic and population growth—both of which affect predictions of emissions and related environmental impact
Gernot Wagner, David Anthoff, Maureen Cropper, et al. Eight priorities for calculating the social cost of carbon, Nature (DOI: 10.1038/d41586-021-00441-0)
Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:
Severe forms of malaria such as Plasmodium falciparum may be deadly even after treatment with current parasite-killing drugs. This is due to persistent cyto-adhesion of infected erythrocytes even though existing parasites within the red blood cells are dead. As vaccines for malaria have proved less than moderately effective, and to treat these severe cases of P. falciparum malaria, new avenues are urgently needed. Latest estimates indicate that more than 500 million cases of malaria and more than 400,000 deaths are reported worldwide each year. Anti-adhesion drugs may hold the key to significantly improving survival rates.
Using venom from the Conus nux, a species of sea snail, a first-of-its-kind study from Florida Atlantic University's Schmidt College of Medicine in collaboration with FAU's Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and the Chemical Sciences Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology, United States Department of Commerce, suggests that these conotoxins could potentially treat malaria. The study provides important leads toward the development of novel and cost-effective anti-adhesion or blockade-therapy pharmaceuticals aimed at counteracting the pathology of severe malaria.
Results, published in the Journal of Proteomics , expand the pharmacological reach of conotoxins/ conopeptides by revealing their ability to disrupt protein-protein and protein-polysaccharide interactions that directly contribute to the disease. Similarly, mitigation of emerging diseases like AIDS and COVID-19 also could benefit from conotoxins as potential inhibitors of protein-protein interactions as treatment. Venom peptides from cone snails has the potential to treat countless diseases using blockage therapies.
[...] The results are noteworthy as each of these six venom fractions, which contain a mostly single or a very limited set of peptides, affected binding of domains with different receptor specificity to their corresponding receptors, which are proteins (CD36 and ICAM-1), and polysaccharide. This activity profile suggests that the peptides in these conotoxin fractions either bind to common structural elements in the different PfEMP1 domains, or that a few different peptides in the fraction may interact efficiently (concentration of each is lower proportionally to the complexity) with different domains.
Alberto Padilla, et. al.,Conus venom fractions inhibit the adhesion of Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 domains to the host vascular receptors, Journal of Proteomics (DOI: 10.1016/j.jprot.2020.104083)
The MX Linux team announced today the release and general availability of the MX Linux Fluxbox Community Respin for Raspberry Pi single-board computers.
Initially announced in January 2021, the MX-Fluxbox Raspberry Pi respin is MX Linux's first release for the tiny Raspberry Pi devices. As its name suggests, it uses the ultra-lightweight Fluxbox window manager by default and, just like MX Linux, it's based on the stable Debian GNU/Linux 10 "Buster" software repositories.
[...] If you want to run MX Linux on your Raspberry Pi computer, you can download MX-Fluxbox Raspberry Pi "Ragout" 21.02.20 right now from the release announcement page. Meanwhile, you can check out my first look article to see it in action and learn about what works and what doesn't.
In a bit of good news, Pfizer and BioNTech announced today that their highly effective COVID-19 vaccine does not require ultra-cold storage conditions after all and can be kept stable at standard freezer temperatures for two weeks.
The companies have submitted data to the US Food and Drug Administration demonstrating the warmer stability in a bid for regulatory approval to relax storage requirements and labeling for the vaccine.
If the FDA greenlights the change, the warmer storage conditions could dramatically ease vaccine distribution, allowing doses to be sent to non-specialized vaccine administration sites. The change would also make it much easier to distribute the vaccine to low-income countries.
"We have been continuously performing stability studies to support the production of the vaccine at commercial scale, with the goal of making the vaccine as accessible as possible for healthcare providers and people across the US and around the world," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. "If approved, this new storage option would offer pharmacies and vaccination centers greater flexibility in how they manage their vaccine supply."
Also at www.pfizer.com
David Cox, the co-director of a prestigious artificial intelligence lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was scanning an online computer science bibliography in December when he noticed something odd—his name listed as an author alongside three researchers in China whom he didn't know on two papers he didn't recognize.
At first, he didn't think much of it. The name Cox isn't uncommon, so he figured there must be another David Cox doing AI research. "Then I opened up the PDF and saw my own picture looking back at me," Cox says. "It was unbelievable."
It isn't clear how prevalent this kind of academic fraud may be or why someone would list as a co-author someone not involved in the research. By checking other papers written by the same Chinese authors, WIRED found a third example, where the photo and biography of an MIT researcher were listed under a fictitious name.
It may be an effort to increase the chances of publication or gain academic prestige, Cox says. He says he has heard rumors of academics in China being offered a financial reward for publishing with researchers from prestigious Western institutions.
Whatever the reason, it highlights weaknesses in academic publishing, according to Cox and others. It also reflects a broader lack of rules around the publishing of papers in AI and computer science especially, where many papers are posted online without review beforehand.
"This stuff wouldn't be so harmful if it didn't undermine public trust in peer review," Cox says. "It really shouldn't be able to happen."
Developer and entrepeneur Bert Hubert has written about how software supply chain safety is similar to food supply safety. Both are about recognizing hazards and finding critical control points to monitor. Strict rules about handling must also be followed, in both fields.
You can’t just buy the required stuff and declare the food is now safe. It requires constant vigilance.
The analogies to cybersecurity are overwhelming. Food safety is the proper analogy for cybersecurity.
- The enemy is invisible (germs)
- You can get infected via your supply chain, which is also your responsibility
- A single employee not paying attention can sink you
- Out of sight, bugs can fester for years before causing harm
- Without the right infrastructure, you are doomed
- But even if you buy the right stuff, there are no silver bullet solutions - only paths to improvement
So I looked into this a bit more, as related fields can often provide very good inspiration. And I was blown away by what I found.
Food safety has been around for a while now and they are light years ahead of us. A mainstay of providing safe food is HACCP[*].
[*] HACCP: Hazard analysis and critical control points.
The key in both areas is recognition that safety is an ongoing process and not a product or appliance which can be tacked on aftermarket.
Kodi 19.0 "Matrix" is now available for this popular open-source, cross-platform [home theater PC] solution.
Kodi 19.0 is represented by nearly five thousand commits since Kodi 18 and represents some big changes like finishing off the migration from Python 2 to Python 3. Kodi 19.0 also has many audio/video playback related improvements, AV1 software decoding is now supported, integer scaling is supported for those playing game emulators within Kodi, various theme/skin improvements, metadata scraper improvements, and new security improvements.
Because of many changes across supported platforms, the LibreELEC team is planning an initial release of LibreELEC 10.0 (based on Kodi 19) with stable support for x86, beta support for Rockchip/Allwinner ARM, and alpha support for the Raspberry Pi 4. Raspberry Pi 2/3 support will be added in LibreELEC 10.2, and support for Raspberry Pi 0/1 will be dropped.
[...] SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, impacts people in different ways after infection. Some experience only mild or no symptoms at all while others become sick enough to require hospitalization and may develop respiratory failure and die.
Now, researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) in Japan and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany have found that a group of genes that reduces the risk of a person becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 by around 20% is inherited from Neanderthals.
[...] Last year, Professor Svante Pääbo and his colleague Professor Hugo Zeberg reported in Nature that the greatest genetic risk factor so far identified, doubling the risk to develop severe COVID-19 when infected by the virus, had been inherited from Neanderthals.
Their latest research builds on a new study, published in December last year from the Genetics of Mortality in Critical Care (GenOMICC) consortium in the UK, which [...] pinpointed additional genetic regions on four chromosomes that impact how individuals respond to the virus.
Now, in a study published recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Professor Pääbo and Professor Zeberg show that one of the newly identified regions carries a variant that is almost identical to those found in three Neanderthals – a ~50,000-year-old Neanderthal from Croatia, and two Neanderthals, one around 70,000 years old and the other around 120,000 years old, from Southern Siberia.
[...] To try to understand how this variant affects COVID-19 outcomes, the research team took a closer look at the genes located in this region. They found that three genes in this region, called OAS, code for enzymes that are produced upon viral infection and in turn activate other enzymes that degrade viral genomes in infected cells.
"It seems that the enzymes encoded by the Neanderthal variant are more efficient, reducing the chance of severe consequences to SARS-CoV-2 infections," Professor Pääbo explained.
[...] They found that the variant increased in frequency after the last Ice Age and then increased in frequency again during the past millennium. As a result, today it occurs in about half of people living outside Africa and in around 30% of people in Japan. In contrast, the researchers previously found that the major risk variant inherited from Neanderthals is almost absent in Japan.
"The rise in the frequency of this protective Neanderthal variant suggests that it may have been beneficial also in the past, maybe during other disease outbreaks caused by RNA viruses," said Professor Pääbo.
Obligatory, see also: Ozzy Osbourne's Genome Reveals Some Neandertal Lineage.
 Hugo Zeberg, Svante Pääbo. The major genetic risk factor for severe COVID-19 is inherited from Neanderthals [open], Nature (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2818-3)
 Hugo Zeberg, Svante Pääbo. A genomic region associated with protection against severe COVID-19 is inherited from Neandertals [open], Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2026309118)
Toshiba this week announced the industry's first hard drive featuring flux-control microwave-assisted magnetic recording (FC-MAMR) technology. The new MG09-series HDDs are designed primarily for nearline and enterprise applications, they offer an 18 TB capacity along with an ultra-low idle power consumption.
The Toshiba MG09-series 3.5-inch 18 TB HDD are based on the company's 3rd generation nine-platter helium sealed platform that features 18 heads with a microwave-emitting component which changes magnetic coercivity of the platters before writing data. The HD disks are made by Showa Denko K.K. (SDK), a long-time partner of Toshiba. Each aluminum platter is about 0.635 mm thick, it features an areal density of around 1.5 Tb/inch2 and can store up to 2 TB of data. The MG09 family also includes a 16 TB model which presumably features a lower number of platters (based on the same performance rating).
Toshiba Will Adopt Western Digital's Microwave-Assisted Magnetic Recording Approach for Hard Drives
Toshiba Roadmap Includes Both MAMR and HAMR Hard Drives, as Well as TDMR and Shingles
Western Digital Releases New 18TB, 20TB EAMR Drives
Two months after the jarring departure of a well-known artificial intelligence researcher at Google, a second A.I. researcher at the company said she was fired after criticizing the way it has treated employees who were working on ways to address bias and toxicity in its artificial intelligence systems.
Margaret Mitchell, known as Meg, who was one of the leaders of Google's Ethical A.I. team, sent a tweet on Friday afternoon saying merely: "I'm fired."
Google confirmed that her employment had been terminated. "After conducting a review of this manager's conduct, we confirmed that there were multiple violations of our code of conduct," read a statement from the company.
The statement went on to claim that Dr. Mitchell had violated the company's security policies by lifting confidential documents and private employee data from the Google network. The company said previously that Dr. Mitchell had tried to remove such files, the news site Axios reported last month.
[...] Dr. Mitchell's post on Twitter comes less than two months after Timnit Gebru, the other leader of the Ethical A.I. team at Google, said that she had been fired by the company after criticizing its approach to minority hiring as well as its approach to bias in A.I. In the wake of Dr. Gebru's departure from the company, Dr. Mitchell strongly and publicly criticized Google's stance on the matter.
[...] Google announced in a blog post yesterday that an executive at the company, Marian Croak, who is Black, will oversee a new group inside the company dedicated to responsible A.I.
Apart from the sanitized press statements, does anybody know why this is happening at Google?
February 20, 2021, the 30th anniversary of Python, finds the programming language at the top of its game but not without challenges. "I do believe that Python just doesn't have the right priorities these days," said Armin Ronacher, director of engineering at software monitoring biz Sentry and creator of Flask, the popular Python web app framework, in an email interview with The Register. Ronacher, a prolific Python contributor, remains a fan of the language. He credits Python's success to being both easy to learn and having an implementation that was easy to hack. And in its early years, Python didn't have a lot of competitors with those same characteristics, he said
[...] The shortcomings of Python's software packaging tools – the software used to set up Python environments and to download, install, and manage libraries – have been an issue for years. It was bad enough that cartoonist Randall Munroe, on April 30, 2018, penned an xkcd comic on the subject.
Things have improved somewhat since then. In 2019, the Python Software Foundation awarded the Packaging Working Group $407,000, courtesy of Mozilla and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, to renovate the pip package management tool in 2020.
[...] For the Python community, bringing new people in so others can step back or delegate may help mitigate that sense of siege. Jodlowska credits efforts by Python core developers to keep the community vital. "A lot of the current core developers, for example, on their own time mentor others who are interested in becoming core developers," she said. "And there's definitely a steady stream of new incomers that way."
[...] Thirty years on, Python deserves recognition for what it has accomplished but it can't rest on its laurels. Rival programming languages like Julia and R in data science, and Go in cloud-native applications, have been turning heads. And the need for greater memory safety, to reduce security risks, has helped push TypeScript and Rust into the spotlight. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
What's your take on this ?
Tucked under the belly of the Perseverance rover that will be landing on Mars in just a few days is a little helicopter called Ingenuity. Its body is the size of a box of tissues, slung underneath a pair of 1.2m carbon fiber rotors on top of four spindly legs. It weighs just 1.8kg, but the importance of its mission is massive. If everything goes according to plan, Ingenuity will become the first aircraft to fly on Mars.
In order for this to work, Ingenuity has to survive frigid temperatures, manage merciless power constraints, and attempt a series of 90 second flights while separated from Earth by 10 light minutes. Which means that real-time communication or control is impossible. To understand how NASA is making this happen, below is our conversation with Tim Canham, Mars Helicopter Operations Lead at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
It's important to keep the Mars Helicopter mission in context, because this is a technology demonstration. The primary goal here is to fly on Mars, full stop. Ingenuity won't be doing any of the same sort of science that the Perseverance rover is designed to do. If we're lucky, the helicopter will take a couple of in-flight pictures, but that's about it. The importance and the value of the mission is to show that flight on Mars is possible, and to collect data that will enable the next generation of Martian rotorcraft, which will be able to do more ambitious and exciting things.
[...] With all this in mind, getting Ingenuity to Mars in one piece and having it take off and land even once is a definite victory for NASA, JPL's Tim Canham tells us. Canham helped develop the software architecture that runs Ingenuity. As the Ingenuity operations lead, he's now focused on flight planning and coordinating with the Perseverance rover team. We spoke with Canham to get a better understanding of how Ingenuity will be relying on autonomy for its upcoming flights on Mars.
[...] With a technology demo, JPL is willing to try new ways of doing things. So we essentially went out and used a lot of off-the-shelf consumer hardware.
There are some avionics components that are very tough and radiation resistant, but much of the technology is commercial grade. The processor board that we used, for instance, is a Snapdragon 801, which is manufactured by Qualcomm. It's essentially a cell phone class processor, and the board is very small. But ironically, because it's relatively modern technology, it's vastly more powerful than the processors that are flying on the rover. We actually have a couple of orders of magnitude more computing power than the rover does, because we need it. Our guidance loops are running at 500 Hz in order to maintain control in the atmosphere that we're flying in. And on top of that, we're capturing images and analyzing features and tracking them from frame to frame at 30 Hz, and so there's some pretty serious computing power needed for that. And none of the avionics that NASA is currently flying are anywhere near powerful enough. In some cases we literally ordered parts from SparkFun [Electronics]. Our philosophy was, "this is commercial hardware, but we'll test it, and if it works well, we'll use it."
[...] We use a cellphone-grade IMU[*], a laser altimeter (from SparkFun), and a downward-pointing VGA camera for monocular feature tracking. A few dozen features are compared frame to frame to track relative position to figure out direction and speed, which is how the helicopter navigates. It's all done by estimates of position, as opposed to memorizing features or creating a map.
We also have an inclinometer that we use to establish the tilt of the ground just during takeoff, and we have a cellphone-grade 13 megapixel color camera that isn't used for navigation, but we're going to try to take some nice pictures while we're flying.
[...] This the first time we'll be flying Linux on Mars. We're actually running on a Linux operating system. The software framework that we're using is one that we developed at JPL for cubesats and instruments, and we open-sourced it a few years ago. So, you can get the software framework that's flying on the Mars helicopter, and use it on your own project. It's kind of an open-source victory, because we're flying an open-source operating system and an open-source flight software framework and flying commercial parts that you can buy off the shelf if you wanted to do this yourself someday. This is a new thing for JPL because they tend to like what's very safe and proven, but a lot of people are very excited about it, and we're really looking forward to doing it.
See, also, the NASA Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Animations on YouTube.
[*] IMU: Inertial measurement unit.
An interdisciplinary team of biologists and mathematicians at the University of California, Irvine has developed a new tool to help decipher the language cells use to communicate with one another.
In a paper published today in Nature Communications, the researchers introduce CellChat, a computational platform that enables the decoding of signaling molecules that transmit information and commands between the cells that come together to form biological tissues and even entire organs.
"To properly understand why cells do certain things, and to predict their future actions, we need to be able to listen to what they are saying to one another; mathematical and machine learning tools enable the translation of such messages," said co-senior author Qing Nie, UCI Chancellor's Professor of mathematics and developmental & cell biology.
"Just like in our world, where we are constantly bombarded with information, all cells experience a lot of molecular words coming at them simultaneously," added co-senior author Maksim Plikus, UCI professor of developmental & cell biology, "What they choose to do is dependent on this steady flow of molecular information and on what words and sentences are being heard the loudest."
[...] Beyond the purely fundamental research enterprise of interpreting these biological messages, Nie said CellChat can also be used to compare communication networks in different states of an organ, such as sickness and health. Calling it a "Google Translator for the lexicon of cells," Nie said one of tool's most significant capabilities is that it can be used to uncover molecular drivers in a broad spectrum of maladies including cancer and autoimmune disorders.
Suoqin Jin, Christian F. Guerrero-Juarez, Lihua Zhang, et al. Inference and analysis of cell-cell communication using CellChat [open], Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-21246-9)