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posted by martyb on Wednesday July 21, @11:23PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Wildfires in US West blowing 'so much smoke' into East Coast:

Smoke and ash from massive wildfires in the American West shrouded the sky and led to air quality alerts on parts of the East Coast on Wednesday as the effects of the blazes were felt 2,500 miles (4,023 kilometers) away.

Haze hung over New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania as strong winds blew smoke east from California, Oregon, Montana and other states on the opposite end of the country.

The nation's largest wildfire, Oregon's Bootleg Fire, grew to 616 square miles (1,595 square kilometers)—just over half the size of Rhode Island. Fires also burned on both sides of California's Sierra Nevada, Washington state and other areas of the West.

The smoke blowing in to the East Coast was reminiscent of last fall, when large blazes burning in Oregon's worst wildfire season in recent memory choked the local sky with pea-soup smoke but also affected air quality several thousand miles away. So far this year, Seattle and Portland have largely been spared the foul air as the weather and winds push the smoke east.

People in parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and elsewhere with health issues like heart disease and asthma were told to avoid the outdoors. Air quality alerts for parts of the region were in place through Thursday.

[...] Fire crews have had to retreat from the flames for 10 consecutive days as fireballs jump from treetop to treetop, trees explode, embers fly ahead of the fire to start new blazes and, in some cases, the inferno's heat creates its own weather of shifting winds and dry lightning. Monstrous clouds of smoke and ash have risen up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) into the sky and are visible for more than 100 air miles (161 kilometers).


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday July 21, @08:55PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

New approach eradicates breast cancer in mice:

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- A new approach to treating breast cancer kills 95-100% of cancer cells in mouse models of human estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers and their metastases in bone, brain, liver and lungs. The newly developed drug, called ErSO, quickly shrinks even large tumors to undetectable levels.

[...] "Even when a few breast cancer cells do survive, enabling tumors to regrow over several months, the tumors that regrow remain completely sensitive to retreatment with ErSO," said U. of I. biochemistry professor David Shapiro, who led the research with Illinois chemistry professor Paul Hergenrother. "It is striking that ErSO caused the rapid destruction of most lung, bone and liver metastases and dramatic shrinkage of brain metastases, since tumors that have spread to other sites in the body are responsible for most breast cancer deaths," Shapiro said.

[...] ErSO is nothing like the drugs that are commonly used to treat estrogen-receptor-positive cancers, Shapiro said.

"This is not another version of tamoxifen or fulvestrant, which are therapeutically used to block estrogen signaling in breast cancer," he said. Even though it binds to the same receptor that estrogen binds, it targets a different site on the estrogen receptor and attacks a protective cellular pathway that is already turned on in cancer cells, he said.

[...] "Many of these breast cancers shrink by more than 99% in just three days," Shapiro said. "ErSO is fast-acting and its effects on breast cancers in mice are large and dramatic."

The pharmaceutical company Bayer AG has licensed the new drug and will explore its potential for further study in human clinical trials targeting estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers, the researchers said. The researchers will next explore whether ErSO is effective against other types of cancers that contain estrogen receptor.

Journal Reference:
Matthew W. Boudreau, Darjan Duraki, Lawrence Wang, et al. A small-molecule activator of the unfolded protein response eradicates human breast tumors in mice [$], Science Translational Medicine (DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abf1383)


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday July 21, @06:23PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Attackers have stolen 1 TB of proprietary data belonging to Saudi Aramco and are offering it for sale on the darknet. The Saudi Arabian Oil Company, better known as Saudi Aramco, is one of the largest public petroleum and natural gas companies in the world. The oil giant employs over 66,000 employees and brings in almost $230 billion in annual revenue. The threat actors are offering Saudi Aramco's data starting at a negotiable price of $5 million. Saudi Aramco has pinned this data incident on third-party contractors and tells BleepingComputer that the incident had no impact on Aramco's operations.

This month, a threat actor group known as ZeroX is offering 1 TB of proprietary data belonging to Saudi Aramco for sale. ZeroX claims the data was stolen by hacking Aramco's "network and its servers," sometime in 2020. As such, the files in the dump are as recent as 2020, with some dating back to 1993, according to the group. When asked by BleepingComputer as to what method was used to gain access to the systems, the group did not explicitly spell out the vulnerability but instead called it "zero-day exploitation."

ZeroX shared with BleepingComputer that up until this point, they have been negotiating the sale with five buyers.

BleepingComputer

[Also Covered By]: GIZMODO


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday July 21, @03:49PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

U.S. Life Expectancy Fell By 1.5 Years In 2020, The Biggest Drop Since WW II:

Life expectancy in the United States declined by a year and a half in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says the coronavirus is largely to blame.

COVID-19 contributed to 74% of the decline in life expectancy from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.3 years in 2020, according to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

It was the largest one-year decline since World War II, when life expectancy dropped by 2.9 years between 1942 and 1943. Hispanic and Black communities saw the biggest declines.

[...] "The range of factors that play into this include income inequality, the social safety net, as well as racial inequality and access to health care," Curtis said.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday July 21, @01:23PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Centarus-A dept.

"Active" galaxies are interesting. So are global telescopes. Story at Science Mag.

The astronomy team that 2 years ago captured the first close-up of a giant black hole, lurking at the center of the galaxy Messier 87 (M87), has now zoomed in on a second, somewhat smaller giant in the nearby active galaxy Centaurus A. The Event Horizon Telescope's (EHT's) latest image should help resolve questions about how such galactic centers funnel huge amounts of matter into powerful beams and fire them thousands of light-years into space. Together the images also support theorists' belief that all black holes operate the same way, despite huge variations in their masses.

"This is really nice," astronomer Philip Best of the University of Edinburgh says of the new EHT image. "The angular resolution is astonishing compared to previous images of these jets."

The EHT merges dozens of widely dispersed radio dishes, from Hawaii to France and from Greenland to the South Pole, into a huge virtual telescope. By pointing a large number of dishes at a celestial object at the same time and carefully time stamping the data from each one with an atomic clock, researchers can later reassemble it with massive computing clusters—a process that takes years—to produce an image with a resolution as sharp as that of a single Earth-size dish. One challenge is getting observing time on 11 different observatories simultaneously, so the EHT only operates for a few weeks each year; poor weather and technical glitches often further narrow that window.

The virtual telescope probed Centaurus A during the same 2017 observing campaign that produced the now-famous image of the supermassive black hole in M87—Science's Breakthrough of the Year for 2019. Centaurus A, about 13 million light-years away, is one of the closest galaxies to Earth that is bright at radio wavelengths. It also has obvious jets spewing matter above and below the galactic disk, a hallmark of an active giant black hole. "We wanted to see what the jet looked like at the resolution" EHT could offer, says team member Michael Janssen of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy. "We didn't know what to expect."

The result, which he and colleagues report today in Nature Astronomy, was a detailed image of how the jet emerges from the region around Centaurus A's supermassive black hole, showing a remarkable similarity to EHT's images of M87's jet on a much smaller scale. Images of Centaurus A's jets taken by other telescopes at different wavelengths revealed little detail, but the EHT images show the jet with a dark center flanked by two bright stripes; Best suggests the jet may appear bright around its edge because its outer regions rub against surrounding gas and dust, causing them to glow.

[...] The Event Horizon Telescope has produced detailed images of the beams of matter from Centaurus A's center, revealing the jets have a dark center paralleled by glowing edges.
M. Janssen, Nature Astronomy (2021) 10.1038

doi:10.1126/science.abl5226


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday July 21, @10:48AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

U.S. seeks to speed rooftop solar growth with instant permits:

The Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+) platform, developed by DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, will be an optional portal for local governments to process permit applications automatically.

Approvals typically take a week or more currently, and permit-related costs can account for about a third of installers' overall costs, DOE said. The software speeds the process up by standardizing requirements, streamlining the application and automating some approvals.

Administration officials said the software will help speed adoption of rooftop solar and achieve President Joe Biden's goal of decarbonizing the U.S. electricity grid by 2035, a key pillar of his plan to address climate change. DOE has said that solar energy will need to be installed at a pace as much as five times faster than it is today to realize that goal.

[...] The portal performs an automatic review of permit applications, approving eligible systems instantly. Complex or ineligible systems are re-routed for additional review.

Local governments will not have to pay for the portal, DOE said. DOE is challenging 125 mayors and local officials to sign up for the SolarAPP tool before the end of the summer.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday July 21, @08:14AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Over the weekend, an international consortium of news outlets reported that several authoritarian governments — including Mexico, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates — used spyware developed by NSO Group to hack into the phones of thousands of their most vocal critics, including journalists, activists, politicians and business executives.

A leaked list of 50,000 phone numbers of potential surveillance targets was obtained by Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International and shared with the reporting consortium, including The Washington Post and The Guardian. Researchers analyzed the phones of dozens of victims to confirm they were targeted by the NSO's Pegasus spyware, which can access all of the data on a person's phone. The reports also confirm new details of the government customers themselves, which NSO Group closely guards. Hungary, a member of the European Union where privacy from surveillance is supposed to be a fundamental right for its 500 million residents, is named as an NSO customer.

The Mobile Verification Toolkit, or MVT, works on both iPhones and Android devices, but slightly differently. Amnesty said that more forensic traces were found on iPhones than Android devices, which makes it easier to detect on iPhones.

The toolkit works on the command line, so it's not a refined and polished user experience and requires some basic knowledge of how to navigate the terminal. We got it working in about 10 minutes, plus the time to create a fresh backup of an iPhone, which you will want to do if you want to check up to the hour.

TechCrunch

[Also Covered By]: GIZMODO


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday July 21, @05:42AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Twitch Streamers Rake in Millions With a Shady Crypto Gambling Boom:

Twitch is in the middle of a gambling boom, fueled by the rise of so-called "crypto casinos"—websites where gamblers can purchase cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum for use in digital games of chance like slots, blackjack, and baccarat. And sites like Stake and Roobet are paying popular streamers to play the casino games on their channels, sometimes offering tens of thousands of dollars an hour, according to streamers and experts interviewed by WIRED.

A WIRED review found that 64 of the top 1,000 most-trafficked Twitch streamers have streamed crypto slots or advertised sponsorship deals from crypto gambling websites, although the trend gained real traction in April and May of 2021. Some streams attract more than 100,000 live viewers. Many of these streamers are members of Twitch's Partner Program, which gives top creators access to additional support and features like increased revenue sharing. It's Twitch's highest tier of streamers, and the company says it looks for people "who can act as role models to the community"—a community where 21 percent of users are between 13 and 17 years old.

[...] "It wasn't my money," Matthew "Mizkif" Rinaudo said on his Twitch channel in June. Rinaudo, 26, says he was getting offers to do gambling streams for $35,000 an hour—double the price tag of his typical sponsorships—for 10 hour-long streams over the course of a month. (One individual who works with multiple Twitch streamers says that tens of thousands of dollars per hour is normal for these streams.) He had streamed gambling earlier this year, just five times in April, and he says sponsors were fleshing out his crypto casino account, once with $5,000. Plus, he'd advertise affiliate links with attractive discounts. Despite the lucrative business opportunity, Rinaudo decided to stop working with online crypto casinos in June. (Rinaudo did not respond to WIRED's request for comment.)

[...] Online gambling is regulated by a combination of federal and state laws in the US. Gambling websites need a license to operate in individual states—it doesn't matter whether they're operating with hard USD or digital currency. Many crypto casinos, like Stake and Duelbits, are based offshore in countries like Curaçao and do not have those licenses. Yet they are easy to access from the US through a VPN. (More reputable online gambling sites ask users for more data points to confirm their location.) "While these sites block the US, they do not prevent access from people within the US," says Jeff Ifrah, an attorney who specializes in online gambling law.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday July 21, @03:03AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the A-hua! dept.

Astronauts on International Space Station are growing chile peppers in a first for NASA:

The astronauts are growing red and green chile peppers in space for what will be "one of the longest and most challenging plant experiments attempted aboard the orbital lab," NASA said.

Hatch chile pepper seeds arrived at the station in June aboard a SpaceX commercial resupply services mission.

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, a flight engineer who helped grow "Outredgeous" red romaine lettuce in space in 2016, initiated the experiment by inserting 48 seeds into the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) on July 12.

A team with Kennedy Space Center's Exploration Research and Technology programs planted those seeds in a device called a science carrier, which slots into the APH, one of the three plant growth chambers on the orbiting laboratory where the astronauts raise crops.

[...] Researchers spent two years evaluating more than two dozen pepper varieties and eventually landed on the NuMex "Española Improved" pepper, a hybrid Hatch pepper from New Mexico.

While astronauts have previously harvested veggies such as lettuce and radishes, this experiment could give astronauts something to satisfy their menu fatigue.

Romeyn said crew members may prefer spicy or seasoned foods because they can temporarily lose their sense of taste or smell after living in microgravity.

The peppers should be ready for harvest in about three and a half months. After eating some of them, the crew plans to send the rest to Earth for analysis.

Also at USA Today.

[Ed note] Apparently there are several variations on the spelling of chilli:

The chili pepper (also chile, chile pepper, chilli pepper, or chilli), from Nahuatl chīlli [...], is the berry-fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum which are members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday July 21, @12:36AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Russia tests hypersonic Tsirkon missile, leaving NATO concerned about potential escalation - ABC News:

Russia said on Monday it had successfully tested a Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile, a weapon President Vladimir Putin has touted as part of a new generation of missile systems without equal in the world.

[...] Russia's Defence Ministry said the Tsirkon missile was launched from the Admiral Groshkov frigate in the White Sea.

The Ministry said the missile flew at seven times the speed of sound and successfully hit a target more than 350 kilometres away on the coast of the Barents Sea.

[...] Mr Putin has said Tsirkon would be capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound and have a range of 1,000 kilometres.

[...] The Russian navy has conducted several previous test launches of the new missile, including one on Mr Putin's birthday in October, and officials said the tests were to be completed later this year.

Russia intends to arm its cruisers, frigates and submarines with the Tsirkon, one of several hypersonic missiles under development in Russia.

Previously:
Russia Successfully Tests New Hypersonic Tsirkon Missile.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday July 20, @09:58PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Better-ask-Betteridge dept.

Florida swamped by red tide – but is fertilizer plant spill making it worse?:

Piles of dead fish, dolphins, turtles and manatees are rotting on the shorelines of coastal Florida in a soup of reddish brown ocean water after a devastating so-called "red tide" algal bloom struck sea life in the region.

The city council in St Petersburg, Florida, called for a state of emergency last week saying that crews need help getting the dead sea creatures cleaned up from the beaches. In the Pinellas county area, more than 800 tons of dead fish and sea life have washed ashore – and the smell is already hitting the cities.

Red tides do happen in the area, but this year's incident is so serious that it is causing some experts to wonder if a pollution accident at a former fertilizer plant called Piney Point could be a reason it is so bad.

In March, a dam at a reservoir at the defunct plant that stored phosphate wastewater began to fail, prompting temporary evacuations of nearby residents on 1 April. Two days later, Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, issued a state of emergency. The plant released 215m gallons of contaminated water into Tampa Bay in an effort to prevent the reservoir's collapse.

[...] Blooms usually start in the fall and go away by January, but summer blooms in the area have occurred a handful of times in more recent history: 1995, 2005 and, most recently, 2018. That year, a long-lasting red tide bloom killed sea life as large as manatees and dolphins, caused widespread health effects and drove tourists away from beaches.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday July 20, @07:21PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the getting-there-before-you-leave dept.

World's first 600km/h high-speed maglev train to make public debut in Qingdao:

The world's first high-speed maglev transportation system running at a speed of 600 kilometers per hour [(372 mph)] will make its public debut in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province, on Tuesday.

As the fastest ground vehicle available so far, the system, self-developed by China, is a cutting-edge scientific and technological achievement in the field of rail transit in the world, said China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) Qingdao Sifang Co., LTD., an industrialization base for manufacturing high-speed trains in China.

The high speed maglev train will be suspended, driven and guided without contact between the train and the track by means of electromagnetic force, with its resistance only coming from the air, said Liang Jianying, deputy general manager and chief engineer of CRRC Sifang.

As a new mode of high-speed traffic, the train is safe, reliable and has low noise pollution, small vibration, large passenger capacity and needs less maintenance, he said, saying that it can fill the speed gap between high-speed rail, whose maximum operating speed is 350 km/h [(217 mph)], and aircraft, whose cruising speed is 800 to 900 km/h [(500 to 560 mph)].

[...] Although the maglev prototype train is about to be rolled off the production line, there is no track line for the 600 km/h high speed maglev train in China yet.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday July 20, @04:43PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Apple employees threaten to quit as company takes hard line stance on remote work:

Apple employees claim the company is not budging on plans to institute a hybrid work model for corporate workers and is in some cases denying work-from-home exceptions, including one accommodation covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In June, Apple announced a hybrid work schedule that will see employees return to the office for three days a week starting in September, a shift toward normal corporate operations after the pandemic forced a lengthy work-from-home period. Days later, participants of what is assumed to be the same remote work advocacy Slack channel cited by The Verge asked more flexibility, saying that working from home brings a number of benefits including greater diversity and inclusion in retention and hiring, tearing down previously existing communication barriers, better work life balance, better integration of existing remote / location-flexible workers, and reduced spread of pathogens.

That request was flatly denied. In a video to employees late last month, SVP of retail and people Deirdre O'Brien toed the company line on remote work policies, saying, "We believe that in-person collaboration is essential to our culture and our future. If we take a moment to reflect on our unbelievable product launches this past year, the products and the launch execution were built upon the base of years of work that we did when we were all together in-person."


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday July 20, @02:16PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

open-access-doi-10.1038/s41524-021-00538-0

Semiconductor Crystals Tweaked to Realize Superior Properties for Electronics:

Scientists from Skoltech, together with their collaborators in the United States and Singapore, have developed a neural network that enables the tweaking of semiconductor crystals in a controlled way to achieve excellent properties for electronics.

This facilitates a new way of developing next-generation solar cells and chips by leveraging a controllable deformation that could potentially alter the properties of a material on the go. The study was published in the npj Computational Materials journal.

At the nanoscale level, materials are capable of resisting major deformation. In the so-called strained state, they show significant electronic, thermal, optical and other characteristics as a result of variations in the interatomic distances. The inherent properties of a strained material may vary, with the semiconducting silicon, for example, changing into a material that freely conducts the electric current.

By altering the strain level, it is possible to change the properties as required. This concept has led to a whole field of inquiry: elastic strain engineering (ESE). For example, this method can also be utilized to alter the performance of semiconductors, thereby offering a potential workaround for the impending Moore's law limit, when other options for increasing chip performance are exhausted.

One more potential use is in the field of solar cell development. According to Alexander Shapeev, a study co-author from Skoltech, a solar cell can be designed with tunable properties that can be altered on demand to optimize performance and adapt to external circumstances.

In earlier research, Skoltech PhD graduate Evgenii Tsymbalov, Associate Professor Alexander Shapeev, and their collaborators exploited ESE to convert nanoscale diamond needles from insulating to highly conductive and metal-like substances. Thus, they offered insights into the range of prospective applications of this technology. Currently, the team has come up with a convolutional neural network architecture that can guide ESE measures for semiconductors.

Journal Reference:
Evgenii Tsymbalov, Zhe Shi, Ming Dao, et al. Machine learning for deep elastic strain engineering of semiconductor electronic band structure and effective mass [open], npj Computational Materials (DOI: 10.1038/s41524-021-00538-0)


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday July 20, @11:41AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Dam-it! dept.

Drought Threatens to Close California Hydropower Plant for First Time:

A California power plant likely will shut down for the first time ever because of low water during a prolonged drought, squeezing the state's very tight electricity supplies, state officials said yesterday.

The Edward Hyatt power plant, an underground facility next to Oroville Dam in Butte County, is expected to close in August or September, said John Yarbrough, California Department of Water Resources assistant deputy director of the State Water Project. The plant has run continuously since opening in 1967. It receives water from Lake Oroville, and that reservoir has dropped because of the drought, as CNN previously reported.

[...] In addition, "high heat events in California and the rest of the West have begun earlier than usual and have exceeded historic temperature levels," the California Energy Commission and California Public Utilities Commission leaders said in a July 1 letter to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the grid manager.

The state's power system expects to lose about 1,000 megawatts of power generation as a result. While that's a fraction of a system with daily peak demand of 44,000 MW, supplies already are tight, said Lindsay Buckley, a California Energy Commission spokesperson.

"Based on our May projections, we really didn't have 1,000 megawatts to lose," Buckley said in an interview.

[...] The loss of generation at the Hyatt plant would occur if the lake levels fall to around 630-640 feet of elevation, due to lack of water to turn the plant's hydropower turbines, said Yarbrough with the California DWR.

Lake Oroville is currently at 666 feet of elevation with 1.015 million acre-feet of water storage, which is 29% of its total capacity and 37% of its historical average. Over the last week, the reservoir has decreased from 673 to 666 feet, he said.

Hyatt is designed to produce up to 750 MW of power but typically produces between 100 and 400 MW, depending on lake levels, Buckley said. The state DWR expects the plant this year to generate about 20% of what it generated last year.

[...] Environmental laws restrict how much water can be released from the system into reservoirs. Water releases to the Feather River are required for water supply, environmental and fishery needs; for health and safety; and to prevent salinity intrusion, Yarbrough said.

Oroville–Thermalito_Complex entry on Wikipedia.


Original Submission