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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Since its employees are working from home and aren't traveling anywhere near as much as they used to before the pandemic struck, Bloomberg suggests Alphabet has saved over $1 billion in the last year.
A recent filing by the company revealed it saved $268 million during the first quarter of the year due to a reduction in expenses from travel and entertainment as well as company promotions as a result of the pandemic. Alphabet noted in its annual report earlier this year that its travel and entertainment expenses fell by $371 million last year.
[...] The company also said that advertising and promotional expenses fell by a whopping $1.4 billion due to reduced spending, paused or rescheduled campaigns, and online-only events to announce its best Android phones. These savings helped offset the costs involved with hiring thousands of new workers.
[...] Google will allow its employees to continue working from home till September, after which they will have to formally apply for working remotely for more than 14 days per year.
China launched the first module for its space station into orbit late Wednesday, but the mission launcher also reached orbit and is slowly and unpredictably heading back to Earth.
The Long March 5B, a variant of China's largest rocket, successfully launched the 22.5-metric-ton Tianhe module from Wenchang Thursday local time. Tianhe separated from the core stage of the launcher after 492 seconds of flight, directly entering its planned initial orbit.
Designed specifically to launch space station modules into low Earth orbit, the Long March 5B uniquely uses a core stage and four side boosters to place its payload directly into low Earth orbit.
However this core stage is now also in orbit and is likely to make an uncontrolled reentry over the next days or week as growing interaction with the atmosphere drags it to Earth. If so, it will be one of the largest instances of uncontrolled reentry of a spacecraft and could potentially land on an inhabited area.
Most expendable rocket first stages do not reach orbital velocity and reenter the atmosphere and land in a pre-defined reentry zone. Some other larger, second stages perform deorbit burns to lower altitude to reduce time in orbit and lower chances of collisions with other spacecraft or to immediately reenter the atmosphere.
There had been speculation that the Long March 5B core would perform an active maneuver to deorbit itself, but that appears not to have happened. At a Wenchang press conference Thursday, Wang Jue, Commander-in-Chief of Long March 5B launch vehicle, stated (Chinese) that this second Long March 5B had seen improvements over the first launch, but a possible deorbit maneuver was not stated.
Ground based radars used by the U.S. military to track spacecraft and other objects in space have detected an object and catalogued it as the Long March 5B rocket body. Now designated 2021-035B, the roughly 30-meter-long, five-meter-wide Long March 5 core stage is in a 170 by 372-kilometer altitude orbit traveling at more than seven kilometers per second.
NOTE: The booster 2021-035B has other identifications: "Number 48275" and "Object name: CZ-5B R/B"
A single robot can weed up to 16 acres per day, replacing several hand-weeding crews, according to the Seattle-based startup. Each one weighs about 10,000 pounds and is the size of a medium tractor, using a hydraulic diesel system for power.
The bots are armed with eight 150-watt carbon dioxide lasers that are capable of cutting metal. They rely on computer vision tech to identify weeds and distinguish them from the valuable crops farmers are aiming to protect.
"We use a similar technology to what Facebook might use to show you that the person in your photograph is your cousin, or that self-driving cars use to locate pedestrians or lanes on the highway [and] repurposed it for weeding,"
Although it can replace quite a bit of labor -- "covering 15 to 20 acres (6 to 8 ha) of crops per day – eliminating more than 100,000 weeds per hour. In comparison, a laborer from Myers's farm can weed roughly one acre of his onions per day" -- it is also pretty pricey: "Mikesell declined to provide an exact cost of the robot, but said its price is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars".
Carbon Robotics Youtube Page with videos of it in action and a basic walkaround of the machine.
Just weeks ago, almost anyone with $6,000 could establish a crypto trading platform, which led to the flooding of the cryptocurrency industry in the country with scammers and financially unreliable organizations. Now, Turkey wants to regulate cryptocurrency trading with anti-money laundering and terrorism funding rules.
Early on Saturday the president of Turkey published a decree that expanded rules governing cryptocurrency transactions. From now on, 'crypto-asset service providers' will be regulated in accordance with anti-money laundering and terrorism funding laws, reports Reuters. The new rules have already been published in the Official Gazette, so they are effective immediately.
Proof of space can be thought of as a way to prove that you are keeping some storage unused on your hard-disk drive. Users of the Chia blockchain will "seed" unused space on their hard-disk drive by installing software which stores a collection of cryptographic numbers on the disk into "plots." These users are called "farmers." When the blockchain broadcasts a challenge for the next block, farmers can scan their plots to see if they have the hash that is closest to the challenge. A farmer's probability of winning a block is the percentage of the total space that a farmer has compared to the entire network.
The Chia network has already reached 1 exabyte (1 million terabytes) and may lead to increases in the prices of HDDs and SSDs:
Numbers released by Chia show that their Chia Coin cryptocurrency has hit over 1 Exabyte of storage capacity, a 5.7x increase since the beginning of April but there's also fear of a global HDD and SSD shortage. This goes off to show the insane popularity that Chia Coin has garnered prior to its official launch (trading) next week.
[...] The mining process of Chia Coin requires a large amount of free space and runs several reading & writing operations. In this case, endurance (TBW) is equally as important as speed, so consumer SSDs aren't the best choice for mining due to their lower endurance, and running these operations will significantly reduce the lifespan of an SSD. Hence, the target for these miners is primarily hard drives and data center SSDs.
A few days ago, we reported that storage manufacturers in Asia-Pacific markets are declining SSD warranties to users who had been mining on them. We also reported how certain manufacturers are going to offer dedicated Chia Coin Cryptocurrency mining SSDs to users & are currently being mass-produced.
Also at Notebookcheck.
When Michael Jones started a side hustle shooting drone photos and videos for realtors, his clients wanted more: Images with property lines on them, to better understand where their fences should be.
It seemed like a good use of emerging technology that met an obvious consumer demand, and Jones was careful to add a disclaimer: His maps weren't meant to replace the proper surveys that are often needed for such things as mortgages, title insurance and land use applications.
But after two years of steady business, Jones was slapped by the state of North Carolina in 2018 with an order that grounded his drone. The Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors said he faced criminal prosecution for surveying without a license.
[...] "I myself don't feel like I'm offering any surveying, and more or less, I'm telling people this is not accurate mapping, this is only for visual, and all of my clients understood that."
[...] The challenge goes both ways: Surveyors would need Federal Aviation Administration approval to professionally fly drones, and drone operators would need to pass state licensing exams to produce legal surveys. Neither side wants to take on the training and expenses.
[...] Jones, 44, of Goldsboro, said he couldn't afford a lawyer, so he abandoned drone mapping, resulting in over $10,000 in lost business. This January, a libertarian law firm offered to represent him.
Sam Gedge, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, plans to argue that Jones has the right to freedom of speech by taking photos and videos and producing artwork for clients. He's seen similar disputes in Mississippi, Oregon and California.
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.