2022-07-02 10:17:28 ..
2022-10-05 12:33:58 UTC
2022-10-05 14:04:11 UTC --fnord666
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India has lifted the download ban on VLC, more than nine months after it mysteriously blocked the official website of the popular media playback software in the South Asian market. VideoLAN, the popular software's developer, filed a legal notice last month seeking an explanation from the nation's IT and Telecom ministries for the block order.
The Ministry of Electronics and IT has removed its ban on the website of VLC media player, New Delhi-based advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation, which provided legal support to VideoLAN, said on Monday. VideoLAN confirmed the order.
"This ban was put into place without any prior notice and without giving VideoLAN the opportunity of a hearing, which went against the 2009 Blocking Rules and the law laid down by the Supreme Court in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India. This was strange because VLC Media Player is an open-source software which is used by nearly 80 million Indians," IFF said in a statement.
Indian telecom operators began blocking VideoLAN's official website, where it lists links to downloading VLC, in February of this year, VideoLAN president and lead developer Jean-Baptiste Kempf told TechCrunch in an earlier interview. India is one of the largest markets for VLC.
[...] Last month, VideoLAN and Internet Freedom Foundation used legal means to get answers and redressal surrounding the ban. India's IT ministry never made public the order of the ban, yet all telecom operators in the country complied with it. In its legal notice last month, VideoLAN sought a copy of the blocking order.
US President Joe Biden has said it is "unlikely" that a missile that killed two people in Poland on Tuesday was fired from Russia.
Russia has denied it was to blame for the missile that landed in Przewodow, on the Ukrainian border.
Poland said it was Russian-made, but US officials said initial findings indicated it was fired by Ukrainian air defences.
More than 90 Russian missiles were fired at Ukraine on Tuesday, Kyiv said.
Although the military said 77 were shot down, some of the missiles hit Lviv, not far from Ukraine's western border with Poland.
During the Russian attacks, two Polish workers were killed in a blast at a farm building in Przewodow, 6km (4 miles) from the border.
Earlier reported story:
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia pounded Ukraine's energy facilities Tuesday with its biggest barrage of missiles yet, striking targets across the country and causing widespread blackouts, and a U.S. official said missiles crossed into NATO member Poland, where two people were killed.
A defiant Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy shook his fist and declared: "We will survive everything."
Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller did not immediately confirm the information from a senior U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation. But Mueller said top leaders were holding an emergency meeting due to a "crisis situation."
Polish media reported that two people died Tuesday afternoon after a projectile struck an area where grain was drying in Przewodów, a Polish village near the border with Ukraine.
Neighboring Moldova was also affected. It reported massive power outages after the strikes knocked out a key power line that supplies the small nation, an official said.
I bet the reaction will be "Mmrrr-hhhhh... not enough/too soon for Article 5".
The big tech layoffs are continuing apace, and it seems nobody is safe. Following this month's massive staff cuts at Twitter and Meta, the New York Times reports that Amazon is now planning to let go of approximately 10,000 employees. Happy holidays, I guess.
Amazon's upcoming job cuts will reportedly impact its corporate employees, specifically its retail division, human resources, and the team working on the company's devices (which includes voice assistant Alexa).
Considering that Amazon employs over 1.5 million people across the globe, 10,000 workers laid off may not seem like a significant percentage from the company's perspective. It amounts to about 0.7 percent of Amazon's employees, which is a considerably smaller relative reduction than Twitter's Elon Musk-induced layoffs that cut its workforce by around 50 percent.
A reduction in force, or perhaps they're making room for picking up some of the high performing Twitter talent who were let go? [hubie]
Red Cross Wants Digital Symbols to Deter Hackers From Healthcare Institutions
The international organization proposed three options that could serve as a digital equivalent of the red cross symbol
The International Committee of the Red Cross proposed creating a digital equivalent to its distinctive red symbol to warn off hackers who attempt to break into medical institutions' networks. Such a digital emblem would deter some but not all hackers, Red Cross advisers say, at a time when hospitals are frequently hit with cyberattacks.
The emblem wouldn't provide technical cybersecurity protection to hospitals, Red Cross infrastructure or other medical providers, but it would signal to hackers that a cyberattack on those protected networks during an armed conflict would violate international humanitarian law, experts say, Tilman Rodenhäuser, a legal adviser to the International Committee of the Red Cross, said at a panel discussion hosted by the organization on Thursday.
"No one should mistake it as a silver bullet, it's simply a symbol of protection," he said.
Interesting discussion at: A Digital Red Cross
Do you think such a thing would work ?
On Monday, Cerebras Systems unveiled its 13.5 million core Andromeda AI supercomputer for deep learning, reports Reuters. According Cerebras, Andromeda delivers over one 1 exaflop (1 quintillion operations per second) of AI computational power at 16-bit half precision.
The Andromeda is itself a cluster of 16 Cerebras C-2 computers linked together. Each CS-2 contains one Wafer Scale Engine chip (often called "WSE-2"), which is currently the largest silicon chip ever made, at about 8.5-inches square and packed with 2.6 trillion transistors organized into 850,000 cores.
Cerebras built Andromeda at a data center in Santa Clara, California, for $35 million. It's tuned for applications like large language models and has already been in use for academic and commercial work. "Andromeda delivers near-perfect scaling via simple data parallelism across GPT-class large language models, including GPT-3, GPT-J and GPT-NeoX," writes Cerebras in a press release.
Previously: Cerebras "Wafer Scale Engine" Has 1.2 Trillion Transistors, 400,000 Cores
Cerebras Systems' Wafer Scale Engine Deployed at Argonne National Labs
Cerebras More than Doubles Core and Transistor Count with 2nd-Generation Wafer Scale Engine
The Trillion-Transistor Chip That Just Left a Supercomputer in the Dust
When a sensory stimulus reaches our brain, it doesn't drop in calm waters - brains are always agitated with spontaneous activity. Like a surfer, the stimulus has to catch the right wave of activity at the right time to emerge into consciousness. Right in between two waves is the perfect time to do so, argue Giovanni Rabuffo and Pierpaolo Sorrentino of the Human Brain Project.
We know from extensive experiments that the brain can perceive sensory stimuli even when we are not aware of them: while some information reaches the 'consciousness threshold', other simply does not, even given comparable incoming stimuli.
[...] How come the same stimulus reaches consciousness in certain moments, and fails to do so in others? As this stimulus is the same, it must depend on something changing in the brain.
[...] In recent years, neuroimaging has shown that 'becoming aware of a stimulus' comes with a burst of activations that spread across the brain. However, similar such bursts spontaneously stretch across the brain at all times, even in the absence of stimuli. These bursts are often referred to as 'neuronal avalanches'', borrowing the concept of avalanches from statistical mechanics. And we experience these spontaneous avalanches during rest, while we are typically conscious. Is there a way to unify conscious perception, spontaneous brain activity, and neuronal avalanches?
The activation of a neuron and the consequent widespread effects across the brain might be approached with the same methods for studying the spread of a wildfire through a forest, or the compression waves traveling during an earthquake.
Or a rough sea. Surfing is popular in Marseille, so the metaphor comes up naturally for the researchers. Imagine you are a surfer that wants to ride the next wave. If you wait until the apex of the wave has reached you, you are already too late, it will pass you by. You need to start moving before that, in the interval between two waves. "We posit that something similar is happening to sensory signals reaching the brain," says Sorrentino. "The signal is the surfer, and the spontaneous neuronal avalanches are the waves. If the signal reaches the brain at the same time as one of the bursts reaches its peak, the brain would be too busy to notice, and it's less likely that the signal will reach consciousness. In the former scenario, the information is collected, but not experienced. But if the signal arrives before that, it will ride the incoming wave and be more likely to be perceived consciously." This would account for the aforementioned 'failure of ignition' that happens seemingly at random: the two signals were the same but only one was able to catch a favorable wave, at the right time and place.
Rabuffo and Sorrentino haven't put their hypothesis to test with their proposed experiment yet, but they expect it to work. If confirmed, the hypothesis could solve ongoing conundrums in both consciousness and critical thresholds, bridging gaps in the theoretical neuroscience landscape.
Reference: Giovanni Rabuffo, Pierpaolo Sorrentino, Christophe Bernard and Viktor Jirsa, Spontaneous neuronal avalanches as a correlate of access consciousness, Frontiers Psychology, doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1008407
The launch of Artemis 1 has been successful - the next burn (trans lunar injection - TLI) is in about 20 minutes away to take Artemis on its way to the Moon.
TLI has begun and will last about 18 minutes.
[I am having problems with video stuttering - could be my ADSL connection (fibre? Wot fibre?) or it might be the load on the streaming video itself. Reporting may be patchy. Please update in the comments if you have more current information.]
TLI has now finished and Artemis is committed to a journey to the Moon. The main propulsion unit will now be jettisoned.
Propulsion unit now jettisoned and Artemis is using the European Service Module for its journey to the Moon. There are unlikely to be any newsworthy events happening for a while now. Bon Voyage Artemis 1!
The Dutch government is banning the use of nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, amid concerns over the health risks for the growing number of young people using it.
The ban, which starts in January, makes it illegal to buy, sell or own the gas. However, the authorities say it can still be used for medicinal purposes and in the food industry.
The government also hopes the ban will reduce the number of road traffic accidents involving the drug. According to road safety monitor TeamAlert, laughing gas has played a role in 1,800 accidents across the Netherlands over the past three years.
"Almost two a day, figures that really shocked us," Maartje Oosterink of TeamAlert told AD newspaper earlier this month.
The popular legal high has grown in popularity amongst clubbers and festival-goers in recent years, and is often used in combination with other drugs like MDMA (ecstasy) or ketamine.
The gas is mostly sold in small metal canisters, which are emptied into balloons before it is inhaled. According to the Trimbos Institute, more than 37% of Dutch party-goers use laughing gas on a regular basis - mostly young people.
[...] In England, it is the most commonly misused substance (after cannabis) among 16- to 24-year-olds.
It seems logical: animals should dash to the center of their herd to avoid an attacking predator. But a recent modeling study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests that this strategy, the foundation of the Selfish Herd Hypothesis, could actually backfire. That's because individuals struggling to get to the middle have to dodge and weave through the crowd to keep evading the predator. Often they eventually end up at the back of the pack, where they're easy pickings.
First proposed by British naturalist William Hamilton in 1971, the notion that animals are better protected by heading for the middle of the group has been textbook for decades, says article author Daniel Sankey. And yet, Sankey's models actually show that the individuals heading for the middle are often less protected compared with those who have other escape strategies.
Sankey, a behavioral ecologist and postdoc at the University of Exeter Penryn Campus in Cornwall, UK, began thinking about selfish herds while studying flocks of pigeons in 2021. [...]
Sankey was intrigued. Could other behaviors be, at times, more advantageous than moving to the middle? In this latest study, he modeled both selfish behavior and an alternative behavior. [...]
When challenged by a predator, the birds aligning with their neighbors had much better luck escaping the predator. The selfish middle-seeking birds, meanwhile, "end up at the back," Sankey explains.
[...] Based on these latest modeling findings, Sankey would expect the selfish herding behavior to be rare in nature. Most wild animals in fact don't demonstrate it. "You don't see gazelles running from a lion all huddling in a group," he says. [...]
Behavioral ecologist Ambika Kamath at the University of Colorado Boulder says that the field of behavioral ecology is "sorely in need of research that interrogates the foundational assumptions of longstanding theories," and she calls this work a "straightforward and elegant" example of how to do so.
Sankey Daniel W. E. 2022 'Selfish herders' finish last in mobile animal groups Proc. R. Soc. B. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2022.1653
The U.S. Space Force's spaceplane touched down at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida after spending two and a half years orbiting around Earth on a secretive mission.
The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle-6 (OTV-6) landed on November 12 at 5:22 a.m. ET, setting a new record of 908 days in orbit. The Boeing-built reusable vehicle's previous record had been 780 consecutive days in orbit.
[...] The uncrewed spaceplane also carried a service module to increase its payload capacity to orbit. The service module didn't return to Earth, however, as it was discarded and disposed of prior to reentry.
As the name suggests, the spaceplane is an airplane-spacecraft hybrid that's able to launch into orbit like a spacecraft before landing horizontally back on Earth like an airplane. The Space Force didn't specify the exact capabilities of its spaceplane, but noted that it would be able to carry experiments to orbit and bring them back to Earth for analysis.
"This mission highlights the Space Force's focus on collaboration in space exploration and expanding low-cost access to space for our partners, within and outside of the Department of the Air Force (DAF)," General Chance Saltzman, chief of Space Operations, said in a statement.
The mission payload included a solar energy experiment designed by the Naval Research Lab that's meant to capture sunlight and convert it into electrical energy, in addition to the U.S. Air Force Academy's FalconSat-8. NASA also loaded the spaceplane with its own experiments, including the Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS-2), which will study the effects of space exposure on different materials.
Aside from this, it's not entirely clear what the spaceplane was doing up there for the past 908 days. The U.S. Space Force has shared little information about its reusable vehicle and it was unclear as to when the vehicle was going to land.
Sonic boom rips across Florida as Space Force plane X-37B returns
People across Florida were awoken early Saturday morning to the sound of the X-37B returning to Earth after a record-breaking 908 days in orbit.
Reports of a sonic boom were widespread, from Titusville to Tampa, as the U.S. Space Force autonomous vehicle touched down at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County at 5:22 a.m.
Zapping liquid metal droplets with ultrasound offers a new way to make wiring for stretchy, bendy electronics.
The technique, described in the Nov. 11 Science, adds a new approach to the toolbox for researchers developing circuitry for medical sensors that attach to the skin, wearable electronics and other applications where rigid circuit electronics are less than ideal.
The researchers began by drawing on sheets of stretchy plastic with lines of microscopic droplets made of an alloy of gallium and indium. The metal alloy is liquid at temperatures above about 16° Celsius.
Though the liquid metal is electrically conductive, the droplets quickly oxidize. That process covers each of them with a thin insulating layer. The layers carry static charges that push the drops apart, making them useless for connecting the LEDs, microchips and other components in electronic circuitry.
By hitting the microspheres with high-frequency sound waves, the researchers caused the microscopic balls to shed even smaller, nanoscopic balls of liquid metal. The tiny spheres bridge the gaps between the larger ones, and that close contact allows electrons to tunnel through the oxide layers so that the droplets can carry electricity.
When the plastic that the drops are printed on is stretched or bent, the larger balls of metal can deform, while the smaller ones act like rigid particles that shift around to maintain contact.
The researchers demonstrated their conductors by connecting electronics into a stretchy pattern of LEDs displaying the initials of the Dynamic Materials Design Laboratory, where the work was done. The team also built a sensor with the conductors that can monitor blood through a person's skin.
[...] Majidi isn't convinced that the ultrasound approach is a game changer for flexible circuits. But he says that it's high time the subject is appearing in a leading journal like Science. "I'm personally really excited to see the field overall, and this particular type of material architecture, is now gaining this visibility."
W. Lee et al. Universal assembly of liquid metal particles in polymers enables elastic printed circuit board. Science. Vol. 378, November 11, 2022, p. 637. doi: 10.1126/science.ade1813.
In 18 years working in bicycles, Eric Bjorling had never seen anything like April 2020. With no end to the pandemic in sight, people were desperate for things to do. "They had time on their hands, they had kids, they needed to physically go outside and do something," says Bjorling, head of brand marketing at Trek Bicycles, one of the largest bike manufacturers in the world.
So began the pandemic bicycle boom. US bike sales more than doubled in 2020 compared to the year before, according to research firm NPD Group, reaching $5.4 billion. Bike mechanics got overloaded as people dragged neglected bikes out of garages and basements. And local governments responded to and then fueled the shift, by adapting urban environments with unprecedented speed, restricting car traffic on some streets and building temporary bike lanes on others. "During the pandemic, many things were possible, policy-wise, that before we didn't think possible, especially at that pace," says Ralph Buehler, a professor of urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech.
Almost three years later, the legacy of the bike boom, and the accompanying changes to urban infrastructure, is murky. In many places, it has been hard to lastingly convert residents to cycling, especially for the sort of trips that might otherwise be taken by car: to work, to school, or to the grocery store. Bike sales have slowed from their frantic pandemic-era high: NPD Group data shows the value of sales dropped 11 percent this year compared to 2021, though they're still well above 2019 levels.
[...] Tab Combs, a transportation policy researcher at the University of North Carolina who has tracked Covid-era infrastructure projects around the world, sees evidence that cities have changed the way they think about building stuff altogether. They've found new ways to engage the public; they believe they can put up temporary infrastructure and change it later. "These [transportation] interventions, most of them actually were ephemeral," she says. "But what we're learning is that the experience of doing it is going to have a long-lasting impact."
That's how it worked in Tucson, Arizona, says Andy Bemis, a senior project manager with the city's Department of Transportation and Mobility. [...]
Not all of Tucson's projects became permanent, Bemis says. But the department has emerged with a better understanding of how to engage the community. [...] "For many years, we've been the Department of No," says Bemis. "And though right now we certainly can't fix every problem, we can start." Now that the biggest boom has passed, cities will have to figure out how to keep rolling.
Some 90 light-years away, the researchers spotted an over 10 billion-year old white dwarf star — meaning the remaining hot core of a dead star similar to the sun — that's surrounded by a graveyard of broken apart chunks of planets, called planetesimals. The faint star has pulled in debris from these objects. But this solar system is unlike anything around us. It teems with elements like lithium and potassium. Crucially, no planets in our solar system have such a composition.
[...] As noted above, this solar system is old. That means the white dwarf (called WDJ2147-4035) and its surrounding solar system formed, and died, before the sun and Earth were even born. In fact, the chunks of former planets around WDJ2147-4035 are the oldest planetesimals that have ever been found in our galaxy around a white dwarf, Elms noted.
They discovered this white dwarf, and another one of a similar age, using an observatory in space called Gaia. [...] In WDJ2147-4035, they found chemicals like lithium, potassium and sodium had accreted — or got pulled in by gravity and amassed around — the ancient star. White dwarfs are made of hydrogen or helium, so the rocky remains of planets were responsible for supplying the other unique elements, the researchers concluded (by running simulations of this solar system's evolution).
Interestingly, the other white dwarf (WDJ1922+0233) they discovered was significantly different than the mysterious one. It's more familiar. They determined this star had pulled in planetary debris that's similar to Earth's rocky crust. So although one solar system remains an anomaly, the other one shows that Earth isn't so unique in the cosmos: There are other solar systems out there somewhat like it.
These two solar systems, however, are filled with graveyards of former planets. Over 95 percent of stars, like the sun, evolve into white dwarfs. Near the end of their lives, they expand into colossal red giant giants, destroying or disrupting nearby objects. When our sun expands, it will engulf planets like Mercury, Venus, and maybe even Earth, before it sheds its outer layers. The red giants will leave behind relics of broken apart planets and moons. The remnant star itself will be a white dwarf.
This is our cosmic destiny. Just not for a long, long, long time.
Abbigail K Elms, Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay, Boris T Gänsicke, et al., Spectral analysis of ultra-cool white dwarfs polluted by planetary debris, MNRAS, 517, 2022. DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stac2908
Engraved into the side of a nearly 4,000-year-old ivory comb is a simple wish: Get these lice out of my hair.
This faint inscription, written in the early language of the ancient Canaanites, represents the earliest known instance of a complete sentence written using a phonetic alphabet, says archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The writing system of the Canaanites, who lived in a region in the eastern Mediterranean called the Levant until around 2,000 years ago, later served as a major basis for many modern alphabets. That makes the comb "the most important object I've ever found during an excavation," says Garfinkel. The research was published November 9 in the Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology.
[...] The comb was the unearthed in 2016 among the ruins of the ancient city of Lachish in present-day Israel. Years later, when the comb was sent to a lab to search for traces of lice, someone noticed faint symbols etched on the side. A closer look revealed that the symbols spelled out the sentence, "May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard," Garfinkel and colleagues report November 9 in the Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology.
[...] The plea against lice is "so human," says Garfinkel, who notes that other writings from the time tend to center around royal accomplishments or religion. It also appears that the comb was able to fulfill its purpose, at least somewhat. Between the teeth, the researchers found the ancient remains of a louse.
Over the past couple of years, Apple has centered its focus on user privacy. The iPhone maker has sparred with other Big Tech companies, most notably Facebook-owner Meta, about the issue. Apple's efforts to protect users' data has cost platforms like Facebook billions of dollars in revenue.
[...] App developers and security researchers Tommy Mysk and Talal Haj Bakry from the software company Mysk recently found that iOS sends "every tap you make" to Apple from inside one of the company's own apps. According to the developers, attempts to turn this data collection off, such as selecting the Settings option "disable the sharing of Device Analytics altogether" did not affect the data from being sent.
The data being collected is quite detailed, too. As Gizmodo points out, a user looking at the App Store app on their iPhone would have their search data, what they tapped on, and how long they were checking out an app all sent to Apple in real-time. Using Apple's Stocks app? Apple will receive a list of the user's watched stocks, any articles they read in-app, and the names of any stocks they searched for. The timestamps for which a user viewed stock information will be sent over too. Some of Apple's apps even collect detailed information about the user's iPhone such as the model, screen resolution, and keyboard language.
[...] A class action lawsuit was filed on Thursday claiming that Apple's actions violate the California Invasion of Privacy Act. The lawsuit doesn't focus so much on the fact that Apple is collecting this data. The suit hones in on Apple's settings, such as "Allow Apps to Request to Track" and "Share Analytics," that give users the perception that they can disable such tracking.
It shouldn't be too surprising that Apple, or any tech company, collects user data. However, as the team at Mysk discovered, Apple is collecting this data regardless of a user's settings where they are given the option to turn data collection off, possibly giving them a false sense of privacy.