2021-01-01 06:28:29 ..
2021-05-10 11:10:34 UTC
2021-05-10 13:17:46 UTC --martyb
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After galaxies began to form in the early universe, the universe continued to expand. The gravitational attraction between galaxies worked to pull galaxies together into superclusters, while dark energy and its resulting cosmic expansion worked to drive these clusters apart. As a result, the universe is filled with tight clusters of galaxies separated by vast voids of mostly empty space.
The scale of these clusters and voids is based upon the rate at which the universe has expanded over time. The effect is similar to the way air molecules are clustered together by the varying pressure of sound waves, so the effect is known as baryon acoustic oscillation (BAO). Through this effect, astronomers can study dark energy by measuring the position and redshift of more than a million galaxies. Gathering and analyzing galaxies was first done by the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS). It was then extended to eBOSS, which has released its first results.
This new survey analyzed galaxies ranging from 0.7 – 1.8 billion light-years away, studying the BAO effect just as the early BOSS studies did. But eBOSS also looked at an effect known as redshift space distortions (RSD). This allowed the team to take into account the motion of a galaxy within space as well as cosmic expansion.
[...] By combining BAO and RSD, the team confirmed the existence of dark energy to a stunning confidence level of 11-Sigma. Typically, a scientific result to 5-Sigma is taken as confirmation. A result at 11-Sigma is so strong it is about as close to certainty that we can get. Dark energy and the accelerating expansion it drives is definitely real.
Zhao, Gong-Bo, Wang, Yuting, Taruya, Atsushi, et al. The Completed SDSS-IV extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey: a multi-tracer analysis in Fourier space for measuring the cosmic structure growth and expansion rate, (DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stab849)
Previously undocumented and stealthy Linux malware named RotaJakiro has been discovered targeting Linux X64 systems. It has been undetected for at least three years, and operates as a backdoor.
Four samples have now been discovered, all using the same C2s. The earliest was discovered in 2018. None of the samples were labeled malware by VirusTotal.
The discovery was made by researchers at Chinese security firm Qihoo 360 NETLAB after their BotMon system flagged a suspicious ELF file. Investigation revealed the backdoor malware they named RotaJakiro, because, say the researchers, "the family uses rotate encryption and behaves differently for root/non-root accounts when executing."
The malware supports 12 functions, three of which involve specific plug-ins that are downloaded from the C2s. The researchers have not managed to access any of the plug-ins, so cannot comment on their purpose. However, the functions built into the malware can be categorized as collecting device information, stealing sensitive information, and managing the plug-ins. The researchers do not yet know how the malware spreads or is delivered.
Each of the four samples found have the same four C2s embedded. These are news(.)thaprior(.)net, blog(.)eduelects.com, cdn(.)mirror-codes(.)net, and status.sublineover.net. All of them were registered in December 2015, suggesting the malware is possibly older than the confirmed three years.
The stealthy nature of the malware is partly down to its rotation through various encryption algorithms while communicating with its C2 servers. "At the coding level," say the researchers, RotaJakiro uses techniques such as dynamic AES, double-layer encrypted communication protocols to counteract the binary & network traffic analysis."
(Emphasis in original retained.)
The above-linked blog entry goes into considerable detail of how the malware functions. It also makes a connection to the previously-found Torii botnet which was exposed by Avast on September 20, 2018
Verizon is reportedly ready to give up on Yahoo and AOL after spending a combined $9 billion on the once-dominant Internet brands that fell from prominence years before Verizon bought them.
"Verizon is exploring a sale of assets including Yahoo and AOL, as the telecommunications giant looks to exit an expensive and unsuccessful bet on digital media," The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. The sale process involves private-equity firm Apollo Global Management and "could lead to a deal worth $4 billion to $5 billion," the Journal wrote, citing "people familiar with the matter."
We asked Verizon if it has a response to the WSJ report today, and a spokesperson told us the company has "nothing to add."
Venkat's team discovered that hackers can steal data when a processor fetches commands from the micro-op cache.
"Think about a hypothetical airport security scenario where TSA lets you in without checking your boarding pass because (1) it is fast and efficient, and (2) you will be checked for your boarding pass at the gate anyway," Venkat said. "A computer processor does something similar. It predicts that the check will pass and could let instructions into the pipeline. Ultimately, if the prediction is incorrect, it will throw those instructions out of the pipeline, but this might be too late because those instructions could leave side-effects while waiting in the pipeline that an attacker could later exploit to infer secrets such as a password."
Because all current Spectre defenses protect the processor in a later stage of speculative execution, they are useless in the face of Venkat's team's new attacks. Two variants of the attacks the team discovered can steal speculatively accessed information from Intel and AMD processors.
Cybil over on the GoodReads web site has an interesting article titled "The Science (and Math) of Andy Weir's Sci-Fi Success" about an interview with Andrew Weir, author of The Martian and Artemis. They discuss his previous books a bit as well as where he gets his ideas from before digging into some of the details about his upcoming book Project Hail Mary.
For Andy Weir, the fun of writing is in the research. He spoke to Goodreads contributor April Umminger about striving to become a better writer, the process he used to create a beloved alien, and how he comes up with the ideas for his books.
Since the novel coronavirus began its global spread, influenza cases reported to the World Health Organization have dropped to minuscule levels. The reason, epidemiologists think, is that the public health measures taken to keep the coronavirus from spreading also stop the flu. Influenza viruses are transmitted in much the same way as SARS-CoV-2, but they are less effective at jumping from host to host.
As Scientific Americanreported last fall, the drop-off in flu numbers was both swift and universal. Since then, cases have stayed remarkably low. "There's just no flu circulating," says Greg Poland, who has studied the disease at the Mayo Clinic for decades. The U.S. saw about 600 deaths from influenza during the 2020-2021 flu season. In comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were roughly 22,000 deaths in the prior season and 34,000 two seasons ago.
Because each year's flu vaccine is based on strains that have been circulating during the past year, it is unclear how next year's vaccine will fare, should the typical patterns of the disease return. The WHO made its flu strain recommendations for vaccines in late February as usual, but they were based on far fewer cases than in a common year. At the same time, with fewer virus particles circulating in the world, there is less chance of an upcoming mutation, so it is possible the 2021–2022 vaccine will prove extra effective.
Public health experts are grateful for the reprieve. Some are also worried about a lost immune response, however. If influenza subsides for several years, today's toddlers could miss a chance to have an early-age response imprinted on their immune system. That could be good or bad, depending on what strains circulate during the rest of their life. For now, future flu transmission remains a roll of the dice.
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 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?
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
[UPDATE (2021-04-30 20:44:10 UTC)]:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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