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posted by Fnord666 on Friday April 30, @10:13PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

The Parker Solar Probe continues to set new speed records. It's only a third of the way through its planned 24 orbits, each of which being not only closer to the Sun but faster, too!

NASA's Parker Solar Probe Keeps Its Cool as it Speeds Closer to the Sun:

NASA's Parker Solar Probe has started its eighth science-gathering solar encounter, putting it one-third of the way through its planned journey of 24 progressively closer loops around the Sun.

Its orbit, shaped by a gravity-assist flyby of Venus on Feb. 20, 2021, will bring the spacecraft closer to the Sun than on any previous flyby. At closest approach, called perihelion, on April 29, Parker Solar Probe will come within about 6.5 million miles (10.4 million kilometers) of the Sun's surface, while moving faster than 330,000 miles per hour (532,000 kilometers per hour) – breaking its own records for both speed and solar proximity.

At that speed, how long do you think it would take to make a lap arond the Earth at the equator? For some perspective, imagine driving a car at 120 mph (~200 kph). Pretty quick, right? Going that fast you could lap the Earth in just over 8 days. The Parker Solar Probe would complete that same lap in under five minutes! And, it's not done yet; it's still speeding up!

What is the fastest speed you have ever traveled on Earth? How about in the air?

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday April 30, @07:36PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the outta-this-world dept.

China, Russia open moon base project to international partners, early details emerge - SpaceNews:

HELSINKI — Russia and China have formally invited countries and international organizations to join the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) project being developed by the two nations.

China National Space Administration (CNSA) and Russia's Roscosmos said the ILRS project would be open to participation at all stages and levels. This includes planning, design, research, development, implementation and operations.

CNSA and Roscosmos will promote extensive cooperation for the development of human space science and technology and socio-economic progress, said CNSA deputy director Wu Yanhua.

The announcement was made at a sideline event of the 58th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations' Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) April 23.

Russia and China signed a memorandum of understanding on the ILRS in March.

The development also follows Russia backing away from NASA's Gateway project. Roscosmos also recently indicated it was considering withdrawing from the International Space Station partnership in 2025.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday April 30, @05:11PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Here's How We'll Know an AI Is Conscious:

The 21st century is in dire need of a Turing test for consciousness. AI is learning how to drive cars, diagnose lung cancer, and write its own computer programs. Intelligent conversation may be only a decade or two away, and future super-AI will not live in a vacuum. It will have access to the Internet and all the writings of Chalmers and other philosophers who have asked questions about qualia and consciousness. But if tech companies beta-test AI on a local intranet, isolated from such information, they could conduct a Turing-test style interview to detect whether questions about qualia make sense to the AI.

What might we ask a potential mind born of silicon? How the AI responds to questions like "What if my red is your blue?" or "Could there be a color greener than green?" should tell us a lot about its mental experiences, or lack thereof. An AI with visual experience might entertain the possibilities suggested by these questions, perhaps replying, "Yes, and I sometimes wonder if there might also exist a color that mixes the redness of red with the coolness of blue." On the other hand, an AI lacking any visual qualia might respond with, "That is impossible, red, green, and blue each exist as different wavelengths." Even if the AI attempts to play along or deceive us, answers like, "Interesting, and what if my red is your hamburger?" would show that it missed the point.

Journal Reference:
1. Berit Brogaard, Kristian Marlow, Morten Overgaard, et al. Deaf hearing: Implicit discrimination of auditory content in a patient with mixed hearing loss, Philosophical Psychology (DOI: 10.1080/09515089.2016.1268680)
2. Silvia Casarotto, Angela Comanducci, Mario Rosanova, et al. Stratification of unresponsive patients by an independently validated index of brain complexity [open], Annals of Neurology (DOI: 10.1002/ana.24779)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday April 30, @02:34PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Oh-happy-days dept.

In the Roaring Twenties, Ads Make a Comeback:

Digital media executives scrambled last year to tell their boards about their new subscription products, but something strange happened: Their old, unfashionable advertising businesses exploded as consumers stayed home and shopped online. And now, travel companies, liquor companies and basically everyone else hoping to capitalize on a wide open summer and the marketing dream of a post-pandemic Roaring Twenties economic boom have begun pouring money into advertising on virtually every platform, but digital media most of all.

"Ad spending is red-hot right now," says Henry Blodget, a co-founder of Insider (formerly Business Insider), which was early to introduce a subscription tier in 2017. "The economy is cranking up, travel and leisure are coming back, and consumers are emerging from their pandemic cocoons."

Several privately held publishers said their first-quarter ad revenue was up strikingly over the same quarter last year, which was the last one largely unscathed by the pandemic: Insider by more than 30 percent; Bloomberg Media was up 29 percent; Vice, 25 percent; Bustle Digital Group, more than 25 percent; and Axios's quarterly ad revenue nearly doubled, executives at those companies told me.

[...] There are plenty of reasons to be cautious about this revival. One is that, for all the political pressure on Google and Facebook, they continue to be the behemoths of the American advertising market. About 87 percent of last year's growth went to those two companies, according to an estimate that the trade group Digital Content Next did for me, based on figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Facebook alone brought in more than $84 billion in advertising revenue last year.

[...] One of the legislators who has pushed to rein in the power of the tech giants, Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island who heads the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee, said the improving advertising business would not dampen the appetite in Washington for a crackdown on "monopoly power" in Big Tech.

"These are structural problems in the marketplace, and none of that will be changed by a few strong quarters," he said.

[...] And paradoxically, one of the forces driving the digital advertising boom is the shift toward subscriptions that was supposed to replace advertising revenue. Selling subscriptions, it turns out, is pretty expensive and the streaming entertainment companies "need to spend a ton of money on marketing," said Matthew Segal, a co-founder of ATTN, a Los Angeles-based media company.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday April 30, @12:08PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Speed at which world's glaciers are melting has doubled in 20 years:

The melting of the world's glaciers has nearly doubled in speed over the past 20 years and contributes more to sea-level rise than either the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets, according to the most comprehensive global study of ice rivers ever undertaken.

Scientists say human-driven global heating is behind the accelerating loss of high-altitude and high-latitude glaciers, which will affect coastal regions across the planet and create boom-and-bust flows of meltwater for the hundreds of millions of people who live downstream of these "natural water towers".

Between 2000 and 2019, glaciers lost 267 gigatonnes (Gt) of ice per year, equivalent to 21% of sea-level rise, reveals a paper published in Nature. The authors said the mass loss was equivalent to submerging the surface of England under 2 metres of water every year.

This was 47% higher than the contribution of the melting ice sheet in Greenland and more than twice that from the ice sheet in Antarctica. As a cause of sea-level rise, glacier loss was second only to thermal expansion, which is prompted by higher ocean temperatures.

The authors found the pace of glacier thinning outside of Greenland and Antarctica picking up from about a third of a metre per year in 2000 to two-thirds in 2019. This is equivalent to an acceleration of 62Gt per year each decade.

The study uses historical Nasa satellite data and new statistical methods to construct three-dimensional topographies going back 20 years and covering 99.9% of the world's glaciers. The result is the most accurate and comprehensive assessment of the world's 217,175 glaciers to date.

Journal Reference:
Romain Hugonnet, Robert McNabb, Etienne Berthier, et al. Accelerated global glacier mass loss in the early twenty-first century, Nature (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03436-z)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday April 30, @09:31AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Cyber-attack hackers threaten to share US police informant data:

Washington DC's Metropolitan Police Department has said its computer network has been breached in a targeted cyber-attack, US media report.

A ransomware group called Babuk is reportedly threatening to release sensitive data on police informants if it is not contacted within three days.

The FBI is investigating the extent of the breach, US media reported, citing the Washington DC police department.

[...] On Monday, Washington DC's police department said in a statement that it was "aware of unauthorised access on our server", AP news agency reported.

"While we determine the full impact and continue to review activity, we have engaged the FBI to fully investigate this matter," the statement added, without providing further details of the reported breach.

It is not clear if attackers managed to lock police out of their systems during the breach.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday April 30, @06:53AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

This tech makes perishable food last months without a fridge:

In the U.S., households throw out around 30 million tons of food each year—nearly twice as much as the produce wasted on farms. In some other parts of the world, the situation flips: Because of a lack of infrastructure and unreliable electricity, food often can't be refrigerated, and it rots before it can be sold to consumers.

But new technology could help eliminate the need for cold storage. Farther Farms, a startup based in upstate New York, developed a new type of pasteurization that makes food last longer, so perishable food can sit on a shelf instead of in a fridge. As a proof of concept, the company made packaged french fries—food that would normally be sold frozen—that can sit at room temperature for 90 days before it's eaten. Even better: The process doesn't use artificial preservatives.

[...] When something like milk is pasteurized, it's quickly heated using steam to kill pathogens. The new process uses carbon dioxide instead. The food is packed in proprietary packaging, then processed with high-pressure ("supercritical") CO2, at a moderately high temperature, which the company's studies have found inactivates microorganisms and enzymatic activity. At scale, the CO2 can be used in a closed loop and captured at the end of the day to reuse in the system the next day.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday April 30, @04:29AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Rotorcraft-on-Mars! dept.

[UPDATE (2021-04-30 20:44:10 UTC)]:

Ingenuity Completes its Fourth Flight:

Ingenuity successfully completed its fourth flight today, and we couldn’t be happier. The helicopter took off at 10:49 a.m. EDT (7:49 a.m. PDT, or 12:33 local Mars time), climbing to an altitude of 16 feet (5 meters) before flying south approximately 436 feet (133 meters) and then back, for an 872-foot (266-meter) round trip. In total, we were in the air for 117 seconds. That’s another set of records for the helicopter, even compared to the spectacular third flight.

Also held today was NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s Next Steps (Media Briefing). Ingenuity is extended for an additional 30-day mission, part of which is to scout ahead for interesting terrain for the Perseverance rover to investigate at it follows along behind. The only limitation on flight duration appears to be heat that accumulates around the motor housing — upcoming 2-minute flights at 5 m/s are possible. This was supposed to be just a demonstration mission, so its ultimate durability is up in the air. Every 30 days there will be another assessment where further extensions of its mission will be assessed.

Original Story follows.

NASA's Ingenuity helicopter just failed to lift off from the Martian surface, but it will try again on Friday:

Ingenuity didn't get off the ground for its ambitious fourth flight. NASA engineers have just a week left to push the Mars helicopter to its limits.

[...] NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter was scheduled to embark on its most daring flight yet on Thursday. But it failed to lift off, and NASA plans to try again on Friday.

Ingenuity was in good shape after its last flight, in which it traveled roughly 330 feet [(100 meters)] out and back. It was set to attempt an even more ambitious adventure on Thursday: a 117-second flight in which the little drone was supposed to reach a record speed of 3.5 meters per second [(7.8 mph)]. The plan was for the helicopter to climb 16 feet [(4.5m)] into the air, fly south for about 436 feet [(135 m)], and snap photos of the Martian surface along the way. It was then supposed to hover for more photos, turn around, and fly back to its original spot for landing.

But Ingenuity's rotor blades didn't lift it up at all.

The latest entry in NASA's Ingenuity blog elaborates: Mars Helicopter's Flight Four Rescheduled:

Data received from the Mars Ingenuity helicopter on Thursday morning shows the helicopter did not execute its planned fourth flight as scheduled. The helicopter is safe and in good health. Data returned during a downlink at 1:21 p.m. EDT (10:21 a.m. PDT) indicates the helicopter did not transition to flight mode, which is required for the flight to take place.

The team plans to try its fourth flight again tomorrow, April 30, 2021. The flight is scheduled for 10:46 a.m. EDT (7:46 a.m. PDT, 12:30 p.m. local Mars time), with the first data expected back at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California at 1:39 p.m. EDT (10:39 a.m. PDT).

An issue identified earlier this month showed a 15% chance for each time the helicopter attempts to fly that it would encounter a watchdog timer expiration and not transition to flight mode. Today's delay is in line with that expectation and does not prevent future flights. A briefing scheduled for Friday, April 30, to discuss next steps for the helicopter will continue as planned but will move to a new time, 11:30 a.m. EDT (8:30 a.m. PDT).

Also at, CNN, and c|net.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday April 30, @01:54AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the directed-energy-weapons dept.

US investigating possible 'Havana syndrome' attack near White House: CNN

Officials are investigating two potential "Havana syndrome" attacks on U.S. soil — including one near the White House — following a string of mysterious incidents abroad, CNN reported Thursday.

The suspected attacks, which first occurred in Havana in 2016, have since surfaced in a number of countries, leaving a number of U.S. diplomats and analysts with neurological symptoms ranging from vertigo to insomnia.

According to CNN, one of the attacks took place near the Ellipse, the grassy oval lawn just south of the White House, harming a National Security Council official.

Another U.S.-based incident occurred in a Virginia suburb in 2019 while a White House official was walking her dog.

Sonic Returns.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Thursday April 29, @11:19PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the competition++ dept.

Assembly of Chinese space station begins with successful core module launch

Chinese officials confirmed the successful launch of the first element of the country's space station early Thursday, laying the keystone to a permanently-inhabited orbiting habitat that could welcome its first astronauts this summer.

The liftoff of the Tianhe core module begins the most ambitious project in the history of China's nearly 30-year human spaceflight program, which seeks to create a national space station after being shut out of the International Space Station, led by U.S. and Russian space agencies.

China's Tianhe space station core module rode a heavy-lift Long March 5B rocket into orbit after liftoff at 11:23:15 p.m. EDT Wednesday (0323:15 GMT; 11:23:15 a.m. Beijing time Thursday).

Tiangong Space Station

Also at NASASpaceFlight.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday April 29, @08:46PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the knowledge-drives-out-fear dept.

mRNA Vaccines: What Happens:

A question that comes up a lot about mRNA vaccines is what happens at the cellular level after you're injected with one. The mechanism of any such vaccine is to cause cells to produce a viral protein antigen, but which cells actually do this? It's also understood that mRNA vaccines tend to act as their own adjuvant and stimulate a further immune response that improves their efficacy – but how does that happen as well?

Let's dive into some details. But while doing so, I need to note up front that not all of these details are completely known, immunology being what it is. Still, over 25 years of work on the idea of mRNA vaccines have provided a lot of information, which (never forget!) is the only reason that the current vaccines could be developed so quickly. If you remember Tina Turner's 1986 song "Overnight Sensation", you'll have the right idea: after years (decades) of hard work, false starts, and expensive lessons learned, mRNA vaccines for infectious disease were finally ready to come out of nowhere. I've linked to this review before (open access), but it'll give you an idea of how long all this has been in the works.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday April 29, @06:17PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the interesting-approach dept.

Nanobodies inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection:

Australian researchers have identified neutralising nanobodies that block the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering cells in preclinical models. The discovery paves the way for further investigations into nanobody-based treatments for COVID-19.

Antibodies are key infection-fighting proteins in our immune system. An important aspect of antibodies is that they bind tightly and specifically to another protein.

Antibody-based therapies, or 'biologics', harness this property of antibodies, enabling them to bind to a protein involved in disease.

Nanobodies are unique antibodies – tiny immune proteins – produced naturally by alpacas in response to infection.

As part of the research, a group of alpacas in regional Victoria were immunised with a synthetic, non-infectious part of the SARS-CoV-2 'spike' protein to enable them to generate nanobodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Associate Professor Wai-Hong Tham, who led the research, said the establishment of a nanobody platform at WEHI allowed an agile response for the development of antibody-based therapies against COVID-19.

"The synthetic spike protein is not infectious and does not cause the alpacas to develop disease – but it allows the alpacas to develop nanobodies," she said.

"We can then extract the gene sequences encoding the nanobodies and use this to produce millions of types of nanobodies in the laboratory, and then select the ones that best bind to the spike protein."

Associate Professor Tham said the leading nanobodies that block virus entry were then combined into a 'nanobody cocktail'.

"By combining the two leading nanobodies into this nanobody cocktail, we were able to test its effectiveness at blocking SARS-CoV-2 from entering cells and reducing viral loads in preclinical models," she said.

Journal Reference:
Phillip Pymm, Amy Adair, Li-Jin Chan, et al. Nanobody cocktails potently neutralize SARS-CoV-2 D614G N501Y variant and protect mice [open], Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2101918118)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday April 29, @03:44PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the not-just-for-windows-anymore? dept.

Tor-Based Linux Botnet Abuses IaC Tools to Spread:

A recently observed malware botnet targeting Linux systems is employing many of the emerging techniques among cyber-criminals, such as the use of Tor proxies, legitimate DevOps tools, and the removal of competing malware, according to new research from anti-malware vendor Trend Micro.

The researchers say the malware is capable of downloading all of the files it needs from the Tor anonymity network, including post-infection scripts and legitimate, essential binaries that might be missing from the environment, such as ss, ps, and curl.

With the help of these tools, the malware can make HTTP requests, gather information about the infected system, and even run processes.

To perpetrate the attacks, the threat actor behind the botnet maintains a big network of proxies to maintain connections between the surface web and the Tor network.

[...] The observed malware sample can remove certain cloud-related services and agents and abuse infrastructure-as-code (IaC) tools such as Ansible, Chef, and SaltStack, to spread to other systems.

At the moment, the botnet deploys the XMRig Monero (XMR) miner onto the infected machines. The crypto-miner uses its own mining pool and the malware searches the system for other running miners and attempts to remove them.

[N.B. - Emphasis retained from the original]

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday April 29, @01:14PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the penmanship-counts dept.

More than one scribe wrote the text of a Dead Sea Scroll, handwriting shows:

Most of the scribes who copied the text contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls were anonymous, as they neglected to sign their work. That has made it challenging for scholars to determine whether a given manuscript should be attributed to a single scribe or more than one, based on unique elements in their writing styles (a study called paleography). Now, a new handwriting analysis of the Great Isaiah Scroll, applying the tools of artificial intelligence, has revealed that the text was likely written by two scribes, mirroring one another's writing style, according to a new paper published in the journal PLOS ONE.

[...] Most scholars believed that the Isaiah Scroll was copied by a single scribe because of the seemingly uniform handwriting style. But others have suggested that it may be the work of two scribes writing in a similar style, each copying one of the scroll's two distinct halves. "They would try to find a 'smoking gun' in the handwriting, for example, a very specific trait in a letter that would identify a scribe," said co-author Mladen Popović of the University of Groningen. Popović is also director of the university's Qumran Institute, dedicated to the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In other words, the traditional paleographic method is inherently subjective and based on a given scholar's experience. It's challenging in part because one scribe could have a fair amount of variability in their writing style, so how does one determine what is a natural variation or a subtle difference indicating a different hand? Further complicating matters, similar handwriting might be the result of two scribes sharing a common training, a sign the scribe was fatigued or injured, or a sign the scribe changed writing implements.

"The human eye is amazing and presumably takes these levels into account, too. This allows experts to 'see' the hands of different authors, but that decision is often not reached by a transparent process," said Popović. "Furthermore, it is virtually impossible for these experts to process the large amounts of data the scrolls provide." The Isaiah Scroll, for instance, contains at least 5,000 occurrences of the letter aleph ("a"), making it almost impossible to compare every single aleph by eye. Popović thought pattern recognition and artificial intelligence techniques would be well suited to the task.

[...] The results indicated two different handwriting styles, an outcome that persisted even after the team added extra noise to the data as an additional check. That analysis also showed that the second scribe's handwriting was more variable than that of the first, although the two styles were quite similar, indicating a possible common training.

[...] The authors acknowledge that their analysis doesn't completely rule out the possibility that the variations are due to a scribe's fatigue, injury, or a change of pen, but "the more straightforward explanation is that a change in scribes occurred," they wrote. The researchers concluded that their study shows the added value that scholars engaged in paleographic research can gain by collaborating with other disciplines.

Journal Reference:
Mladen Popović, Maruf A. Dhali, Lambert Schomaker. Artificial intelligence based writer identification generates new evidence for the unknown scribes of the Dead Sea Scrolls exemplified by the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa), PLOS ONE (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0249769)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday April 29, @10:41AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the best-wishes dept.

Office default Calibri will join Clippy, Internet Explorer in Windows retirement:

In tech, all good defaults (that aren't the Mac startup chime, at least) must some day come to an end. Today, Microsoft announced its Office font since 2007—the everyman sans serif, Calibri—would soon join Clippy, Internet Explorer, and the Windows 8 Start button in the big Windows graveyard in the sky.

"Calibri has been the default font for all things Microsoft since 2007, when it stepped in to replace Times New Roman across Microsoft Office," the Microsoft Design Team opined in Calibri's de facto obit. "It has served us all well, but we believe it's time to evolve."

Microsoft is now on the hunt for tech's next great default font. Rather than going the reality competition route and opening up the search to any old handwritten font family, the company has commissioned five custom fonts that will now vie for this cushy gig.

Original Submission