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posted by martyb on Monday May 03, @10:12PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Reaching 'Herd Immunity' Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe:

Early in the pandemic, when vaccines for the coronavirus were still just a glimmer on the horizon, the term "herd immunity" came to signify the endgame: the point when enough Americans would be protected from the virus so we could be rid of the pathogen and reclaim our lives.

Now, more than half of adults in the United States have been inoculated with at least one dose of a vaccine. But daily vaccination rates are slipping, and there is widespread consensus among scientists and public health experts that the herd immunity threshold is not attainable — at least not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not ever.

Instead, they are coming to the conclusion that rather than making a long-promised exit, the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers.

How much smaller is uncertain and depends in part on how much of the nation, and the world, becomes vaccinated and how the coronavirus evolves. It is already clear, however, that the virus is changing too quickly, new variants are spreading too easily and vaccination is proceeding too slowly for herd immunity to be within reach anytime soon.

Continued immunizations, especially for people at highest risk because of age, exposure or health status, will be crucial to limiting the severity of outbreaks, if not their frequency, experts believe.

"The virus is unlikely to go away," said Rustom Antia, an evolutionary biologist at Emory University in Atlanta. "But we want to do all we can to check that it's likely to become a mild infection."

The shift in outlook presents a new challenge for public health authorities. The drive for herd immunity — by the summer, some experts once thought possible — captured the imagination of large segments of the public. To say the goal will not be attained adds another "why bother" to the list of reasons that vaccine skeptics use to avoid being inoculated.

Yet vaccinations remain the key to transforming the virus into a controllable threat, experts said.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday May 03, @07:37PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the chairmen-of-the-boards? dept.

RISC-V International to give away 1,000 RISC-V development boards

The best way for a new platform to get good software support is to bring hardware into the hands of developers. That's exactly what RISC-V International is doing by inviting developers to sign up for a RISC-V developer board sponsored by RISC-V and contributing members.

There are 1,000 boards on offer with 1GB to 16GB RAM depending on the target project from five companies and organizations namely Allwinner,, SiFive, Microsemi, and RIOS.

[...] If you want to apply, you can fill out your contact details and project information on a Google form. Membership status is asked, but the initiative is also open to non-members, although it's not impossible members will get priority, as well as those part of an academic project.

The RISC-V Foundation relocated to Switzerland and was renamed to RISC-V International in 2020.

SiFive to Debut a RISC-V PC for Developers in October
SiFive Announces HiFive Unmatched Mini-ITX Motherboard for RISC-V PCs
$119+ BeagleV "Powerful", Open-Hardware RISC-V Linux SBC Targets AI Applications

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday May 03, @05:05PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Why-would-you-want-to? dept.

VMware product line manager Michael Roy has penned a lengthy blog post in which he reveals that "running x86 operating systems on Apple silicon is not something we are planning to deliver with this project". One of the reasons he gives for this is his personal belief that "this platform will be one to more rapidly introduce new experiences at the expense of cutting away from the past. Where we're headed is anyone's guess, but I am confident the direction we're moving isn't backwards".

But this is not the reason for VMware taking the position that "Windows is second priority behind Linux". Writing about the licensing terms for Windows on ARM, Roy says:

[...] The Insider Preview program says: "To install Windows 10 Insider Preview Builds, you must be running a licensed version of Windows 10 on your device." And as far as we are aware, there is no way to buy a Windows 10 ARM license for a Mac with Apple silicon. There have been plenty of discussions on the topic from users and the media, and from the Insider Download Page, it reads: [...]

(Emphasis in original retained.)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday May 03, @02:31PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Machine learning algorithm helps unravel the physics underlying quantum systems:

Scientists from the University's Quantum Engineering Technology Labs (QETLabs) have developed an algorithm that provides valuable insights into the physics underlying quantum systems - paving the way for significant advances in quantum computation and sensing, and potentially turning a new page in scientific investigation.

[...] In the paper, Learning models of quantum systems from experiments,published in Nature Physics, quantum mechanics from Bristol's QET Labs describe an algorithm which overcomes these challenges by acting as an autonomous agent, using machine learning to reverse engineer Hamiltonian models.

The team developed a new protocol to formulate and validate approximate models for quantum systems of interest. Their algorithm works autonomously, designing and performing experiments on the targeted quantum system, with the resultant data being fed back into the algorithm. It proposes candidate Hamiltonian models to describe the target system, and distinguishes between them using statistical metrics, namely Bayes factors.

[...] "Combining the power of today's supercomputers with machine learning, we were able to automatically discover structure in quantum systems. As new quantum computers/simulators become available, the algorithm becomes more exciting: first it can help to verify the performance of the device itself, then exploit those devices to understand ever-larger systems," said Brian Flynn from the University of Bristol's QETLabs and Quantum Engineering Centre for Doctoral Training.

"This level of automation makes it possible to entertain myriads of hypothetical models before selecting an optimal one, a task that would be otherwise daunting for systems whose complexity is ever increasing," said Andreas Gentile, formerly of Bristol's QETLabs, now at Qu & Co.

[...] The next step for the research is to extend the algorithm to explore larger systems, and different classes of quantum models which represent different physical regimes or underlying structures.

Journal Reference:
Antonio A. Gentile, Brian Flynn, Sebastian Knauer, et al. Learning models of quantum systems from experiments, Nature Physics (DOI: 10.1038/s41567-021-01201-7)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday May 03, @11:59AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

How to stop Windows 10 Defender from uploading files to Microsoft:

Like other antivirus programs, Microsoft Defender will upload suspicious files to Microsoft to determine if they are malicious. However, some consider this a privacy risk and would rather have their files stay on their computer than being uploaded to a third party.

When Microsoft Defender scans your device, by default, it will use the "Automatic sample submission' feature to upload files to Microsoft's servers when a file is suspected to be malicious.

Microsoft's cloud-based protection will analyze the file, and if it is determined to be malicious, cause Microsoft Defender to quarantine the file on the device.

When submitting files, Microsoft Defender will automatically upload executables and scripts but warn the user first to upload a file that may contain personal information, such as a document.

"If Windows Defender Antivirus is turned on, it monitors the security status of your device. It automatically prepares reports to send to Microsoft about suspected malware and other unwanted software. Sometimes, the report includes files that may contain malware."

"Files that aren't likely to contain user data are sent automatically. However, you'll be prompted for permission if Windows Defender Antivirus wants to send a document, spreadsheet, or other type of file that is likely to contain your personal content," Microsoft explains in a Windows 10 privacy webpage.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday May 03, @09:28AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

The UK did a large study of household transmission, large enough to include a statistically respectable number of breakthrough cases among vaccinated people.

The vaccinated people who never got infected of course didn't pass along an infection. Of those who had been vaccinated but still got infected, the chance of passing it along to a household member dropped by 38-49%.

Take the reduction in infections into account, and the estimate is that vaccinations cut the effective reproductive number by a factor of 6. The virus cannot afford that. Even in the early days in Wuhan with no precautions it was only 3-3.5.

We're still waiting for the results of the prospective study on college campuses but this strikes me as enough data to encourage vaccines to protect the unvaccinated.

I'm eager to see how the nasal spray vaccines turn out. Medicine is horribly unpredictable but it's reasonable to think that something stimulating the mucosal immune subsystem could be even more effective, maybe even much more.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday May 03, @06:58AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the What's-on-your-plate? dept.

Dietary Therapy for Cancer? Amino Acid Consumption Determines the Fate of Cancer Cells:

A tumor is a group of cancer cells that multiplies—or proliferates—uncontrollably. Tumors originate from single cells that become cancerous when genes that cause cells to proliferate are over-activated. However, because these genes, called oncogenes, often also cause cell death, activation of a single oncogene within a cell is not enough for it to become a cancer cell. [...] For a cell to slip through the cracks and become cancer, several other oncogenes, along with cancer-suppressing genes, need to be activated in a multi-step process. The details of this process were the topic of the new study.

The international research group led by Sa Kan Yoo at RIKEN BDR focused on the oncogene Src and investigated how cell proliferation—oncogenesis—and cell death are regulated in the fruit fly. They showed that Src does not induce cell death as a result of cell proliferation, but instead drives both processes independently and simultaneously. [...] "Our major finding was that the oncogene Src promotes cell death and cell proliferation via parallel pathways."

[...] "We were excited to find that manipulating the amount of dietary methionine can affect cell proliferation but not cell death," says Yoo. "Currently we don't know whether our finding in flies will translate to cases of human cancer. But, we speculate that it will in particular cases because some human cancers also activate the Src gene.

[...] Since the process of oncogenesis is known to be the same in both fruit flies and mammals, the new findings can help explain how human cancers develop.

Journal Reference:
Hiroshi Nishida, Morihiro Okada, Lynna Yang, et al. Methionine restriction breaks obligatory coupling of cell proliferation and death by an oncogene Src in Drosophila, (DOI: 10.7554/eLife.59809)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday May 03, @04:25AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Billion-Year-Old Fossil Discovered – Reveals Missing Link in the Evolution of Animals:

A team of scientists, led by the University of Sheffield in the UK and Boston College in the USA, has found a microfossil that contains two distinct cell types and could be the earliest multicellular animal ever recorded.

The fossil reveals new insight into the transition of single-celled organisms to complex multicellular animals. Modern single-celled holozoa include the most basal living animals, the fossil discovered shows an organism that lies somewhere between single-cell and multicellular animals.

The fossil has been described and formally named Bicellum Brasieri in a new research paper published in Current Biology.

Professor Charles Wellman, one of the lead investigators of the research, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, said: "The origins of complex multicellularity and the origin of animals are considered two of the most important events in the history of life on Earth, our discovery sheds new light on both of these.

[...] The fossil was found at Loch Torridon in the Northwest Scottish Highlands. Scientists were able to study the fossil due to its exceptional preservation, allowing them to analyze it at a cellular and subcellular level.

Journal Reference:
Paul K. Strother, Martin D. Brasier, David Wacey, et al. A possible billion-year-old holozoan with differentiated multicellularity [open] Current Biology (DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.03.051)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday May 03, @01:52AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the the-price-of-oculus-freedom dept.

Oculus will sell you a Quest 2 headset that doesn't need Facebook for an extra $500:

The Oculus Quest 2 is a hell of a lot of hardware for $299. In fact, we're convinced that Facebook is making a loss on each unit sold. Even so, that pricing is one of the main reasons it's the most popular headset on Steam and our pick as the best VR headset. Well, that and the ease of use.

The simplicity of strapping on the Quest 2 and getting straight into a game without worrying about setting up base stations, or dedicating an area of your house to the VR experience, makes it one of the best VR headsets around.

But the price is really what seals it. That $299 tag is just enough to make us treat the headset with respect, while also making it affordable enough for many to pull the trigger and see what this VR fuss is all about. It's sold pretty well too, showing that price is definitely a factor in adopting new standards—hardly a shocking revelation.

[...] There is another version of the Quest 2 that isn't as discounted as the consumer version, and that's the one aimed at businesses. The actual hardware is identical, but the difference is you don't need to login in with a Facebook account in order to use it.

The price for this model? $799. There's also an annual fee of $180 that kicks in a year after purchase, which covers Oculus' business services and support, but that just muddies the waters.

[...] If you take a look at the Supplemental Oculus Data Policy, you can find out what sort of data is actually being collected when you use the Quest 2. Such things as your physical dimension, including your hand size, how big your play area is using the Oculus Guardian system, data on any content you create using the Quest 2, as well as more obvious stuff like your device ID and IP address.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday May 02, @11:19PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the how's-YOUR-company-doing? dept.

Google is reportedly saving over $1 billion a year thanks to remote work:

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.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday May 02, @06:31PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the what-goes-up... dept.

Huge rocket looks set for uncontrolled reentry following Chinese space station launch - SpaceNews:

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"

Where is it? You can track it online either live or see a 10-day projection.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday May 02, @01:41PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Robots-with-Lasers dept.

Carbon Robotics is developing an autonomous weeding robot, currently sold out for 2021 that eliminates the need for chemicals and/or intensive labor.

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.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday May 02, @08:56AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the make-a-turkey-of-crypto-by-storing-chia-pets-in-the-cloud? dept.

Turkey Adds Crypto Trading to Anti-Money Laundering and Terror Funding Laws

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.

Chia is a storage-based cryptocurrency designed by BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen. It uses "proof of space and time" instead of "proof of work":

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.

See also: Bittorrent Creator Bram Cohen's Crypto Project Chia Sparks Hard Drive and SSD Shortages

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday May 02, @04:11AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the adverse-possession-is-a-thing dept.

Drone operators challenge surveyors' turf in mapping dispute:

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.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday May 01, @11:26PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

11-Sigma Detection of Dark Energy Comes From Measuring Over a Million Extremely Distant Galaxies - Universe Today:

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.

Journal Reference:
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)

Original Submission

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