2022-07-02 10:17:28 ..
2022-08-06 12:11:52 UTC
2022-08-13 22:40:55 UTC --fnord666
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Inside an old oak barrel, Ecuadoran bioengineer Javier Carvajal found the fungus of fortune: a 400-year-old yeast specimen that he has since managed to resurrect and use to reproduce what is believed to be Latin America's oldest beer.
That single-cell microorganism, taken from just a splinter of wood, was the key to recovering the formula for an elixir first brewed in Quito in 1566 by friar Jodoco Ricke, a Franciscan of Flemish origin who historians believe introduced wheat and barley to what is now the Ecuadoran capital.
"Not only have we recovered a biological treasure but also the 400-year-old work of silent domestication of a yeast that probably came from a chicha and that had been collected from the local environment," Carvajal told AFP.
Chicha is a fermented corn drink brewed by the Indigenous people of the Americas before Spanish colonization.
Carvajal, who already had experience recovering other yeasts, found out about the ancient Franciscan brewery in Quito while reading specialist beer magazines.
It took him a year to do so, but he finally managed to find a barrel from the old brewery in 2008.
It was stored in Quito's San Francisco Convent, an imposing three-hectare complex built between 1537 and 1680, which is now a museum.
After extracting a splinter, Carvajal used a microscope to find a tiny yeast specimen, which after a long period of cultivation he was able to resurrect.
[...] For Carvajal, resurrecting the yeast and the age-old methods used to make the ancient recipe was simply a labor of love for "the value of the intangible."
In the future, you may come across a lot more two-wheeled Porsches on the streets. The luxury automaker has launched two new joint ventures with Dutch company Ponooc Investment B.V., and they're both all about electric bikes. Porsche eBike Performance GmbH is based in Ottobrunn near Munich and will develop components, including motors and batteries. Anything it creates will then be used by P2 eBike GmbH, the second joint venture based in Stuttgart, to manufacture Porsche-branded e-bikes for consumers that the company plyans to launch starting in the middle of the decade.
Porsche is far from a newcomer in the e-bike space. In 2021, it debuted two electric bikes inspired by the Taycan and were made to complement the Cross Turismo, which has a rear carrier. Those bikes, however, along with their motors and gear shifting systems, were manufactured by Japanese bicycle industry giant Shimano. With one company developing parts and another working on the consumer bikes themselves, the upcoming products the joint ventures will release will be all (or at least mostly) Porsche.
The components business will use the e-bike drive systems develop by Fazua, a company Porsche recently acquired, as noted by Electrek. However, it will also develop e-bike systems under the Porsche brand name — it will even sell the technology it designs to other brands. As with anything Porsche, the bikes under the new ventures will most likely not come cheap: Its Taycan-inspired bikes, for instance, set buyers back at least $8,500 at launch, with the sports model selling for prices that start at $10,700.
Researchers have unearthed never-before-seen malware that hackers from North Korea have been using to surreptitiously read and download email and attachments from infected users' Gmail and AOL accounts.
The malware, dubbed SHARPEXT by researchers from security firm Volexity, uses clever means to install a browser extension for the Chrome and Edge browsers, Volexity reported in a blog post. The extension can't be detected by the email services, and since the browser has already been authenticated using any multifactor authentication protections in place, this increasingly popular security measure plays no role in reining in the account compromise.
The malware has been in use for "well over a year," Volexity said, and is the work of a hacking group the company tracks as SharpTongue. The group is sponsored by North Korea's government and overlaps with a group tracked as Kimsuky by other researchers. SHARPEXT is targeting organizations in the US, Europe, and South Korea that work on nuclear weapons and other issues North Korea deems important to its national security.
Volexity President Steven Adair said in an email that the extension gets installed "by way of spear phishing and social engineering where the victim is fooled into opening a malicious document. Previously we have seen DPRK threat actors launch spear phishing attacks where the entire objective was to get the victim to install a browser extension vs it being a post exploitation mechanism for persistence and data theft." In its current incarnation, the malware works only on Windows, but Adair said there's no reason it couldn't be broadened to infect browsers running on macOS or Linux, too.
The blog post added: "Volexity's own visibility shows the extension has been quite successful, as logs obtained by Volexity show the attacker was able to successfully steal thousands of emails from multiple victims through the malware's deployment."
Installing a browser extension during a phishing operation without the end-user noticing isn't easy. SHARPEXT developers have clearly paid attention to research like what's published here, here, and here, which shows how a security mechanism in the Chromium browser engine prevents malware from making changes to sensitive user settings. Each time a legitimate change is made, the browser takes a cryptographic hash of some of the code. At startup, the browser verifies the hashes, and if any of them don't match, the browser requests the old settings be restored.
[...] "When Volexity first encountered SHARPEXT, it seemed to be a tool in early development containing numerous bugs, an indication the tool was immature," the company said. "The latest updates and ongoing maintenance demonstrate the attacker is achieving its goals, finding value in continuing to refine it."
Last year, I received an Instagram DM from someone I was friends with in college. It had been a couple years since we'd caught up: We lived in different cities, had pursued different careers and, of course, the pandemic had brought any plans of hanging out again to a standstill. I was surprised to see her name pop up on my screen but even more so by the contents of her message.
It was my face. Specifically, it was me in a sponsored Instagram Story ad, putting on a lip balm. In the video, I applied the balm and smiled at the camera, looking pleased with my newly moisturized lips. In real life, I was confused. I had never agreed to appear in a nationwide social campaign, otherwise my checking account would have a couple more zeroes to show for it. I worked in the media industry then, sourcing the right influencers to participate in sponsored articles. I've spent years casting with talent, negotiating contracts to ensure fair compensation and modest usage rights for influencers, models, and real people. Based on my experience, it was clear that my image was being exploited by a multibillion dollar brand.
Usage rights dictate who owns an image or asset, exactly how, where it's allowed to appear, and for how long: A video is pricier than a photo, one month costs more than one year, and you'd charge a global brand much more than what you'd charge a growing business. Depending on the talent, the scale of the client, and the length of the campaign, standard licensing of images on social media alone can cost anywhere from $250 to $20,000.
Despite this, anyone who has worked at a media company will tell you that employees are often pressured to serve as a stand-in or supplement to these influencers. However, these campaigns are not a part of the full-time job and likely go uncompensated.
[...] Generally speaking, we hold the copyright to any content we upload to social media platforms. However, when we create our accounts, we agree to grant those platforms a free license to use our content as they wish. Twitter's recent ad campaigns are a perfect example: the everyday thoughts of regular people are what fuel the platform, and the decision to feature those tweets in marketing has been widely applauded. But as a Twitter user myself, spotting my own words on the train ride home would feel great, until I remember that one month of subway ads can cost up to $75,000. But, based on the terms and conditions I agreed to, none of that money has to make its way to me.
Our content is even more valuable to brands, who are slowly narrowing in on the average social media user. Where large companies were once funneling most of their influencer marketing budget into one or two macro influencers with 500,000 followers or more, companies like HelloFresh and Canon are now prioritizing the niche audiences of micro- and nano-creators. Research shows that shoppers find smaller creators "more authentic" and brands have identified those creators as "less costly," making regular people a win-win for boosting sales.
What just happened? In a case of kicking someone when they're down, Robinhood, the company behind the popular investment app, has been hit with a $30 million fine just as it announced almost a quarter of its staff are being let go and a net loss of $295 million in Q2.
Starting with the staff-cut news, company CEO and co-founder Vlad Tenev announced that Robinhood would reduce its headcount by approximately 23% as part of a broader company reorganization into a General Manager structure.
Tenev said while all parts of the business will be affected, the main areas will be operations, marketing, and program management functions. The move comes just a few months after Robinhood laid off around 9% of its staff in April.
[...] But Robinhood's woes haven't ended there. New York's top financial regulator has fined the company's crypto unit $30 million for alleged violations of anti-money-laundering and cybersecurity regulations.
The Wall Street Journal writes that The New York State Department of Financial Services found significant failures in the company's management and oversight of its compliance programs. A supervisory exam and investigation found Robinhood's Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money-laundering compliance program was insufficiently staffed and failed to move from a manual monitoring system following the company's increase in size.
[...] In addition to the fine, Robinhood must retain an independent consultant to evaluate its actions in addressing the issues highlighted by the regulator.
Chevy offered rebates to Bolt EV owners who bought their cars just before a 2023 model price drop, but that discount comes with a large catch. Jalopnik and Autoblog note the rebate application requires that drivers "forever waive and release" their right to sue GM or LG over the Bolt's reported battery defect. You'd have to be content with the savings even if the car did serious damage, in other words. GM confirmed the agreement language with Engadget.
GM first recalled the Bolt in November 2020 after reports of battery fires between 2017 and 2019. The automaker tried addressing the issue with a software update in April 2021, but two subsequent fires and a second recall led the NHTSA to warn against parking indoors. That prompted a July 2021 recall where GM replaced the battery packs. The brand eventually recalled all manufactured Bolts, pledged an additional $1 billion for battery replacements and offered an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty on substitute batteries.
The Cartwheel Galaxy, a rare ring galaxy once shrouded in dust and mystery, has been unveiled by the imaging capabilities of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.
The galaxy, which formed as a result of a collision between a large spiral galaxy and another smaller galaxy, not only retained a lot of its spiral character, but has also experienced massive changes throughout its structure.
Webb's high-precision instruments resolved individual stars and star-forming regions within the Cartwheel, and revealed the behavior of the black hole within its galactic center. These new details provide a renewed understanding of a galaxy in the midst of a slow transformation.
Four billion years ago, the Earth looked very different than it does today, devoid of life and covered by a vast ocean. Over the course of millions of years, in that primordial soup, life emerged. Researchers have long theorized how molecules came together to spark this transition. Now, scientists at Scripps Research have discovered a new set of chemical reactions that use cyanide, ammonia and carbon dioxide—all thought to be common on the early earth—to generate amino acids and nucleic acids, the building blocks of proteins and DNA.
"We've come up with a new paradigm to explain this shift from prebiotic to biotic chemistry," says Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, Ph.D., an associate professor of chemistry at Scripps Research, and lead author of the new paper, published July 28, 2022 in the journal Nature Chemistry. "We think the kind of reactions we've described are probably what could have happened on early earth."
In addition to giving researchers insight into the chemistry of the early earth, the newly discovered chemical reactions are also useful in certain manufacturing processes, such as the generation of custom labeled biomolecules from inexpensive starting materials.
Earlier this year, Krishnamurthy's group showed how cyanide can enable the chemical reactions that turn prebiotic molecules and water into basic organic compounds required for life. Unlike previously proposed reactions, this one worked at room temperature and in a wide pH range. The researchers wondered whether, under the same conditions, there was a way to generate amino acids, more complex molecules that compose proteins in all known living cells.
[...] "We were expecting it to be quite difficult to figure this out, and it turned out to be even simpler than we had imagined," says Krishnamurthy. "If you mix only the keto acid, cyanide and ammonia, it just sits there. As soon as you add carbon dioxide, even trace amounts, the reaction picks up speed."
Because the new reaction is relatively similar to what occurs today inside cells—except for being driven by cyanide instead of a protein—it seems more likely to be the source of early life, rather than drastically different reactions, the researchers say. The research also helps bring together two sides of a long-standing debate about the importance of carbon dioxide to early life, concluding that carbon dioxide was key, but only in combination with other molecules.
Pulletikurti, Sunil, Yadav, Mahipal, Springsteen, Greg, et al. Prebiotic synthesis of α-amino acids and orotate from α-ketoacids potentiates transition to extant metabolic pathways, Nature Chemistry, 2022. DOI: 10.1038/s41557-022-00999-w
The International Space Station (ISS) is entering its golden years, but activities aboard the orbiting lab aren't slowing down — just the opposite, in fact.
The ISS can't fly forever, however, and NASA officials envision a diverse market of commercial space stations taking its place as demand for access to low Earth orbit (LEO) continues to increase.
[...] Northrop Grumman, Axiom Space, Nanoracks and Sierra Space are all private companies with plans to construct their own space stations. NASA wants at least one of them to be on orbit before the ISS retires, a timeline the companies are targeting as well.
"The commercial LEO destination partners we are working with today have plans to be operational as early as 2027," Gatens said.
[...] Roberts expects a diverse availability of private space stations, unique in their designs and specialized in their abilities, saying, "Each of these commercial LEO destination companies, the four [Northrop Grumman, Axiom Space, Nanoracks and Sierra Space] are going to be looking at ways to address different needs from different consumers out there ... Each of those companies is likely to take slightly different approaches to designing and operating their stations. And that's going to have, I think, an extremely beneficial value."
Roberts sees a day when NASA is less invested in space stations and more invested in science aboard space stations. "While there needs to be continued strong support from governments, we at National Lab and NASA and other agencies are also working towards that day when they are purely commercial-driven, so that the consumer will drive what's accessible in space and what's needed there," he said. "And that ... will drive acceleration in the pace of discovery in that environment."
With over 20 years of expertise building and operating a space station, NASA is offering whatever insight it can to companies to utilize their on-orbit experience. "NASA is not dictating how that hardware is going to be built," said Costello, "but we do hope that you benefit from those lessons learned." He also points out the additional eight years of life the ISS still has ahead (provided the other partners officially endorse the 2030 timeline) and hopes the station's facilities continue to improve.
"We're looking at capabilities that we can enable on ISS, but with a mindset towards portability," Costello said, "to move those onto CLDs [commercial LEO destinations] in the future, so that we can continue the NASA research and the National Lab research that takes advantage of those research facilities on the ISS in a future program."
The recent swoon in cryptocurrency valuations "has directly impacted pricing of luxury watches from brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe," said the company, which is based in Karlsruhe, Germany, and has more than half a million watches listed for sale on its website...
At the same time, Stracke said trading volumes on the platform, which links dealers or private sellers with buyers, have jumped more than 50% in the first half of the year.
The price of a Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711A, which sells for about $35,000 at retail, surged to $240,000 in the first quarter, according to Chrono24. Now the blue-dialed steel sports watch is fetching about $190,000 [...]
But why the soaring demand in the first place? In addition to crypto and stock-market gains, stimulus cash bolstered the secondhand-timepiece market, one segment of the larger luxury-goods market, which includes handbags, designer sneakers and fine jewelry, among other high-cost items. Rampant inflation and the war in Ukraine contributed to their appeal, as buyers sought tangible stores of value.
Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:
A new study by Jeroma Adda (Department of Economics) finds that the acquisition of skills is the main contributor to higher salaries for workers, with the magnitude of the effect differing according to the type of skill and the career stage of the worker. Although workers can acquire skills on the job, those who undergo training before entering the job market generally obtain greater wages and are in unemployment less often.
People make a series of choices throughout their careers: whether to get educated/trained before working, which job offers to accept, or whether they should quit their current job. Each decision has an impact on earnings that may unfold over many years, and understanding their effects requires not only examining immediate returns but longer-term outcomes. With this aim, Professor Adda and Christian Dustmann (University College London), in a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Political Economy, estimate a mathematical model to understand the determinants of wage growth. Using comprehensive data on labor market outcomes of German men over several decades, they find that workers' ability levels, their accumulation of human capital, and changing of jobs across different sectors and firms all have significant positive contributions to earnings.
To unpack their findings, it is first important to understand that research on labor markets distinguishes the tasks workers perform into two categories: routine-manual (RM) tasks, which follow well-defined and repetitive procedures that require a modest amount of training; and cognitive-abstract (CA) tasks, which require more technical and creative capabilities. To estimate the returns for each type of skill, the authors classify each occupation according to the predominant type of task. Thus they are able to go beyond the differentiation of returns to different jobs and can estimate the returns to task-specific work experience. Their results indicate that the accumulation of RM and CA skills over the course of an individual's career is the most important driver of wage growth. RM skills contribute more significantly to increases in worker productivity and earnings in the first years of their careers, but once a set of basic skills has been acquired their contribution to wage growth reduces to zero. On the other hand, CA skills take a longer time to be accumulated, and thus take longer to affect earnings, but have a longer-lasting impact, sustained throughout the individuals' career. These differential returns translate to workers in the CA sector earning, on average, higher wages than those in predominantly RM sectors.
[...] The authors also find that mobility of workers across the labor market contributes to higher salaries. Switching between different jobs generates a significant increase in earnings, but this is concentrated in the early years of the worker's career, namely the first job move. Though this change produces large gains, these quickly decline and additional mobility does not seem to contribute to larger returns. However, the authors also observe the existence of lock-in effects: workers are initially allocated to a sector for which they are not the most suited, but the accumulation of experience specific to that sector disincentivizes them from moving to jobs in other sectors.
More information: Jerome Adda et al, Sources of Wage Growth, Journal of Political Economy (2022). DOI: 10.1086/721657
Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:
Thousands of GitHub repositories were forked (copied) with their clones altered to include malware, a software engineer discovered today.
While cloning open source repositories is a common development practice and even encouraged among developers, this case involves threat actors creating copies of legitimate projects but tainting these with malicious code to target unsuspecting developers with their malicious clones.
GitHub has purged most of the malicious repositories after receiving the engineer's report.
Today, software developer Stephen Lacy left everyone baffled when he claimed having discovered a "widespread malware attack" on GitHub affecting some 35,000 software repositories.
Contrary to what the original tweet seems to suggest, however, "35,000 projects" on GitHub have not been affected or compromised in any manner.
Rather, the thousands of backdoored projects are copies (forks or clones) of legitimate projects purportedly made by threat actors to push malware.
Official projects like crypto, golang, python, js, bash, docker, k8s, remain unaffected. But, that is not to say, the finding is unimportant, as explained in the following sections.
While reviewing an open source project Lacy had "found off a google search," the engineer noticed the following URL in the code that he shared on Twitter:
BleepingComputer, like many, observed that when searching GitHub for this URL, there were 35,000+ search results showing files containing the malicious URL. Therefore, the figure represents the number of suspicious files rather than infected repositories:
We further discovered, out of the 35,788 code results, more than 13,000 search results were from a single repository called 'redhat-operator-ecosystem.'
[...] As a best practice, remember to consume software from the official project repos and watch out for potential typosquats or repository forks/clones that may appear identical to the original project but hide malware.
This can become more difficult to spot as cloned repositories may continue to retain code commits with usernames and email addresses of the original authors, giving off a misleading impression that even newer commits were made by the original project authors. Open source code commits signed with GPG keys of authentic project authors are one way of verifying the authenticity of code.
Quanta Magazine has an article about Antipodal Duality:
Last year, the particle physicist Lance Dixon was preparing a lecture when he noticed a striking similarity between two formulas that he planned to include in his slides.
The formulas, called scattering amplitudes, give the probabilities of possible outcomes of particle collisions. One of the scattering amplitudes represented the probability of two gluon particles colliding and producing four gluons; the other gave the probability of two gluons colliding to produce a gluon and a Higgs particle.
"I was getting a little confused because they looked kind of similar," said Dixon, who is a professor at Stanford University, "and then I realized that the numbers were basically the same — it's just that the [order] had gotten reversed."
He shared his observation with his collaborators over Zoom. Knowing of no reason the two scattering amplitudes should correspond, the group thought perhaps it was a coincidence. They started calculating the two amplitudes at progressively higher levels of precision (the greater the precision, the more terms they had to compare). By the end of the call, having calculated thousands of terms that kept agreeing, the physicists were pretty certain they were dealing with a new duality — a hidden connection between two different phenomena that couldn't be explained by our current understanding of physics.
Now, the antipodal duality, as the researchers are calling it, has been confirmed for high-precision calculations involving 93 million terms. While this duality arises in a simplified theory of gluons and other particles that does not quite describe our universe, there are clues that a similar duality might hold in the real world. Researchers hope that investigating the strange finding could help them make new connections between seemingly unrelated aspects of particle physics.
"This is a magnificent discovery because it is totally unexpected," said Anastasia Volovich, a particle physicist at Brown University, "and there is still no explanation of why it should be true."
Tepary beans are among the most drought-tolerant legume crops in the world, but at one time, they were almost an endangered species in the U.S.
Waltram Ravelombola, Ph.D., a Texas A&M AgriLife Research organic and specialty crop breeder at Vernon and in the Texas A&M Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, is one of a few scientists funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service grant to bring tepary beans into modern cropping systems and diets.
The legume — pronounced tep-uh-ree — is an ancient crop native to the northern part of Mexico and the southwestern part of the U.S. The beans can be multiple sizes and colors, like pinto or black beans, but they offer drought tolerance other legumes don't, Ravelombola said.
Teparys can be consumed as beans by humans or as forage by livestock, providing better nutrition content than cowpeas and guar. Like cowpeas and guar, tepary can fix nitrogen in the soil.
Yet currently, Ravelombola said, no large supplies of seed exist to be planted.
[...] However, getting the beans to the point of widespread commercialization won't be an easy process.
Ravelombola said it will take at least eight growing seasons; there could be more than one growing season per year, depending on climate. [...]
Anyone ever eat one? It surprises me that a niche market for them never developed over the decades, or that they didn't find their way to a different part of the globe.
Samsung has taken its first, tentative baby steps in the path toward giving users the option to self repair their devices. These new repair kits are only available for a few select models, and new parts could still cost a pretty penny.
On Tuesday, the company shared its new repair kits carrying genuine parts in partnership with iFixit. The new kits come with guides and tools as well, but so far parts are limited to screens, charging ports, and back glass. [...]
Apple released its iPhone repair kits in April for the iPhone 12, iPhone 13, and third gen iPhone SE devices. The company decided for some reason to provide tool rental kits at nearly $50 bucks for a week's use. At the same time, it offers significantly more parts and tools for its select product lines, including cameras and sim trays. [...]
Other major tech companies are also anticipating the release of their own self-repair services. Google said back in April that it would have parts available for the Pixel 2 through Pixel 6 Pro available later this year, and the company promises to have repair options for the UK, Canada, and Europe as well as the U.S. Around the same time, Microsoft released a study showing the benefits of self-repair, and promised it would be working toward that end. However, it has not made any public statements about the timing for the release of its own self-repair service.