The Aedes aegypti mosquito is not just a nuisance—it's a known carrier of dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, and Zika viruses. Distinguished by the black and white stripes on its legs, the species is one of the most dangerous to humans.
In the Brazilian city of Indaiatuba, an effort is underway to eliminate these pests before they have a chance to spread illness. The weapon: more Aedes aegypti mosquitoes—but ones genetically engineered to kill their own kind. Made by British biotechnology firm Oxitec, the mosquitoes seem to be working.
The modified mosquitoes carry a synthetic self-limiting gene that prevents female offspring from surviving. This is important, because only the females bite and transmit disease. In a new study, scientists at the company showed that their engineered insects were able to slash the local population of Aedes aegypti by up to 96 percent over 11 months in the neighborhoods where they were released.
[...] The modified males mate with wild females, but the self-limiting gene prevents female progeny from surviving. This gene, which is lab-engineered but based on elements found in E. coli and the herpes simplex virus, causes the female offspring's cells to produce lots of a protein called tTAV. This interferes with their cells' ability to produce other essential proteins needed for development. As a result, the females die off before they mature and start biting. Male offspring survive, carrying a copy of the self-limiting gene that they can then pass on.
So according to NASA humans could be living on the moon, for long periods of time, before the end of the decade. So from more or less nothing to (pre-) colonization in about seven (or eight) years then. At least the moon is closer then Mars, but you are probably still borked if something goes wrong.
"We're going to be sending people down to the surface and they're going to be living on that surface and doing science," Mr Hu said.
"It's really going to be very important for us to learn a little bit beyond our Earth's orbit and then do a big step when we go to Mars.
"And the Artemis missions enable us to have a sustainable platform and transportation system that allows us to learn how to operate in that deep space environment."
Big question then is -- if asked (or given the opportunity) would you go?
For all its possibilities, nature tends to replay one particular scene over and over again: the confrontation between matter and light.
But physicists still don't know the details of what happens when photons meet atoms and molecules. The play-by-play occurs over attoseconds, which are quintillionths of a second (or 10-18 of a second). It takes a special laser that fires attoseconds-long pulses to study such ephemeral phenomena. You can think of the length of a laser pulse a bit like the shutter speed of a camera. The shorter the pulse, the more clearly you can capture an electron in motion. By studying these moments, physicists gain more understanding of a fundamental process ubiquitous in nature.
Last month, physicists at multiple academic institutions in China published results in Physical Review Letters showing that they measured the time it took an electron to leave a two-atom molecule after it had been illuminated with an extremely bright and short infrared laser pulse. While a two-atom molecule is relatively simple, their experimental technique "opens up a new avenue" to study how light interacts with electrons in more complex molecules, the authors wrote in the paper.
[...] In the experiment, the researchers measured how long it took for the electron to depart the molecule after the photons from the laser hit it. Specifically, they discovered that the electron reverberated back and forth between the two atoms for 3,500 attoseconds before it took off. To put that into perspective, that is a quadrillion times faster than the blink of an eye, which takes a third of a second.
[...] In this experiment, the researchers engineered the laser light's polarization to rotate steadily, as though the crests and dips of the electromagnetic field were a corkscrew spiraling through space. That rotation could also track time, like the second hand of a clock. They assumed that, as the laser pulse illuminated the molecule, the electron started to leave it when the pulse peaked in brightness. At that peak intensity, the light would be polarized in a particular direction, according to the sweep of the wave as it rotated. By comparing the angle of the polarized beam to the angle at which the electron was ejected from the molecule, they could measure how long it took for an electron to leave the molecule. Physicists refer to this laser timing technique as the "attoclock" method, as it is capable of measuring durations on the attosecond scale.
atto is 10-18
A global panel of scientists and government representatives have voted to scrap leap seconds by 2035. The ad hoc time adjustment is occasionally inserted to account for the gradual slowdown of the Earth's rotation and has caused headaches for numerous tech companies over the years.
The leap second was introduced in 1972 as a way to adjust Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) roughly every 21 months. As these seconds are irregular and hard to predict due to the varying speed of the Earth's rotation, they can disrupt systems that require precise timekeeping. Meta published a blog post earlier this year calling for leap seconds to be scrapped, highlighting that Reddit went down for around 40 minutes back in 2012 when a new leap second interfered with the company's servers. In 2017, Cloudflare blamed the leap second for its DNS service going down on New Year's Day, precisely at midnight UTC.
As reported by The New York Times, member states of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures almost unanimously voted in support of Resolution D at a meeting in Versailles, France, on Friday. Resolution D calls for UTC to go uninterrupted by leap seconds from 2035 until at least 2135, during which it's hoped that scientists can develop a better system for keeping atomic and astronomical time scales in sync.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has moved one step closer to allowing sales of laboratory cultured meat products, announcing it has completed a pre-market consultation with Upside Foods. The company says its lab-grown chicken is safe to eat, and now the FDA has agreed. Upside Foods can now begin the process of getting products certified for sale to consumers, but instead of perusing a slaughterhouse, government regulators will be inspecting a shiny lab filled with vats of cultured chicken cells.
Upside Foods says it was among the first startups to tackle lab-grown meat when it was founded in 2015. It spent the last seven years developing its production technology and accepting funding to keep the lights on, including a huge $400 million Series C round earlier this year. In its statements to the FDA, Upside Foods claimed there is no reason to expect chicken cells cultured in its production facility are any less safe than the cells growing inside chickens. After a year of study, the FDA now believes Upside has enough data to support that claim.
This is an important milestone, but it's not the same as giving Upside the green light to stuff consumers full of lab-grown animal cells. The company will have to go through the same inspection system as traditional food producers, including granting access to USDA officials who will ensure materials for human consumption meet safety standards. The FDA says it will work with the USDA as these products come to market to develop effective regulations and labeling requirements.
Engineers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL) Naval Center for Space Technology (NCST) recently completed robotic payload component level testing for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program.
Once on-orbit, the RSGS robotic servicing vehicle will inspect and service satellites in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO), where hundreds of satellites provide communications, weather monitoring, support national security missions, and other vital functions.
The RSGS program is a public-private partnership between DARPA and Northrop Grumman's SpaceLogistics subsidiary, with NRL developing the robotic servicing payload.
[...] The RSGS payload includes flight hardware components, robotic control algorithms, multiple highly customized electronics designs, and flight software running on five single-board computers. NRL also specified and procured two dexterous seven-degree-of-freedom robotic arms, outfitting them with control electronics, cameras, lights, and a robotic tool changer.
Additionally, NRL developed the robotic tool to grapple customer satellites via their standard launch vehicle interface and procured another tool to capture resupply elements that are compatible with DARPA's Payload Orbital Delivery (POD) design standard.
[...] During TVAC testing, the robotic arm system demonstrated performance over temperatures representing actual on-orbit conditions. Under the harsh temperature and vacuum conditions of space, the robot arm performed a variety of operations including running pre-planned robotic calibration movements, tool actuation, and camera and light functions.
[...] The flight software team is preparing to start qualification testing. Testing takes place in a software testbed with a real-time dynamic simulation that generates simulated robot arm pose inputs for the robotic control algorithms and dynamic imagery for input into machine vision algorithms. This testbed allows the NRL team to test the flight algorithms with realistic control loops to fully verify the system thoroughly before launch.
The publication of Top Zeus Botnet Suspect "Tank" Arrested in Geneva from Brian Krebs as usual gives some insight of the inner working of such "organizations":
Vyacheslav "Tank" Penchukov, the accused 40-year-old Ukrainian leader of a prolific cybercriminal group that stole tens of millions of dollars from small to mid-sized businesses in the United States and Europe, has been arrested in Switzerland, according to multiple sources.
Penchukov was named in a 2014 indictment by the U.S. Department of Justice as a top figure in the JabberZeus Crew, a small but potent cybercriminal collective from Ukraine and Russia that attacked victim companies with a powerful, custom-made version of the Zeus banking trojan.
What impresses me the most is that he [Krebs] did volunteer work with alerting affected victims as early as possible. I will not spoil more details here, you have to read his publication for yourself.
The UK's secretary of state for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has ordered that the Chinese owner of the Newport Wafer Fab sell off its interest in the facility on grounds of national security.
Secretary Grant Shapps on Wednesday published an order [PDF] in which he explained ownership of the facility represents a national security risk as:
i. technology and know-how that could result from a potential reintroduction of compound semiconductor activities at the Newport site, and the potential for those activities to undermine UK capabilities; and ii. the location of the site could facilitate access to technological expertise and know-how in the South Wales Cluster ("the Cluster"), and the links between the site and the Cluster may prevent the Cluster being engaged in future projects relevant to national security.
The Newport Wafer Fab is the UK's largest chipmaking facility. In July 2021 it was sold for £63 million ($111,500,000) to Dutch company Nexperia, which itself became a subsidiary of Chinese outfit Wingtech Technology in 2018.
News of the sale to Nexperia saw then-prime minister Boris Johnson promise to a conduct a national security investigation into the takeover. That probe led to a damning report titled "Sovereignty for sale: follow-up to the acquisition of Newport Wafer Fab" and allegations that the probe ordered by Johnson had amounted to nothing. A full assessment under the National Security and Investment Act was then instigated, with the result that Shapps has now ordered Nexperia to sell at least 86 percent of the Newport facility.
Nexperia has published a statement condemning the decision.
Late in the evening of February 28, 2021, a coal-dark space rock about the size of a soccer ball fell through the sky over northern England. The rock blazed in a dazzling, eight-second-long streak of light, split into fragments and sped toward the Earth. The largest piece went splat in the driveway of Rob and Cathryn Wilcock in the small, historic town of Winchcombe.
An analysis of those fragments now shows that the meteorite came from the outer solar system, and contains water that is chemically similar to Earth's, scientists report November 16 in Science Advances. How Earth got its water remains one of science's enduring mysteries. The new results support the idea that asteroids brought water to the young planet (SN: 5/6/15).
[...] "It's as pristine as we're going to get from a meteorite," King says. "Other than it landing in the museum on my desk, or other than sending a spacecraft up there, we can't really get them any quicker or more pristine."
After collecting about 530 grams of meteorite from Winchcombe and other sites, including a sheep field in Scotland, King and colleagues threw a kitchen sink of lab techniques at the samples. The researchers polished the material, heated it and bombarded it with electrons, X-rays and lasers to figure out what elements and minerals it contained.
[...] The meteorite is a type of rare, carbon-rich rock called a carbonaceous chondrite, the team found. It came from an asteroid near the orbit of Jupiter, and got its start toward Earth around 300,000 years ago, a relatively short time for a trip through space, the researchers calculate.
Chemical analyses also revealed that the meteorite is about 11 percent water by weight, with the water locked in hydrated minerals. Some of the hydrogen in that water is actually deuterium, a heavy form of hydrogen, and the ratio of hydrogen to deuterium in the meteorite is similar to that of the Earth's atmosphere. "It's a good indication that water [on Earth] was coming from water-rich asteroids," King says.
Researchers also found amino acids and other organic material in the meteorite pieces. "These are the building blocks for things like DNA," King says. The pieces "don't contain life, but they have the starting point for life locked up in them."
A. King et al. The Winchcombe meteorite, a unique and pristine witness from the outer solar system. Science Advances. Published online November 16, 2022. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abq3925.
Last week Bruce Schneier published An Untrustworthy TLS Certificate in Browsers and now Ian Carroll has published Security concerns with the e-Tugra certificate authority.
Ian is best known for the death of the EV (Extended Validation) certificates. He legally registered a colliding entity name and then got an EV certificate for his site stripe.ian.sh. As this site is not online any more, a good write up of this is Extended Validation Certificates are (Really, Really) Dead by Troy Hunt.
Troy Hunt is also known for his website ';--have i been pwned?.
Schneier suggests that it might be time to disable / remove trust for the following Certificate Authorities (CAs):
Cory Doctorow gives a very good explanation the the problem in general and its causes here. Basically, we are just too trusting and we believe that others are looking after our interests. It appears that they are not.
[...] Now, researchers have analyzed the properties of the plasma as it experiences these high-energy states. And to their surprise, they found that burning plasmas appear to behave differently from those that have experienced ignition. At the moment, there's no obvious explanation for the difference.
In the experiments, the material being used for fusion is a mix of tritium and deuterium, two heavier isotopes of hydrogen. These combine to produce a helium atom, leaving a spare neutron that's emitted; the energy of the fusion reaction is released in the form of a gamma ray.
The fusion process is triggered by a short, extremely intense burst of laser light that targets a small metallic cylinder. The metal emits intense X-rays, which vaporize the surface of a nearby pellet, creating an intense wave of heat and pressure on the pellet's interior, where the deuterium and tritium reside. These form a very high-energy plasma, setting the conditions for fusion.
If everything goes well, the energy imparted ignites the plasma, meaning that no additional energy is needed for the fusion reactions to continue for the tiny fraction of a second that passes before the whole thing blows apart. At even higher energies, the plasma reaches a state called burning, where the helium atoms that are forming carry so much energy that they can ignite the nearby plasma. This is considered critical because it means the rest of the energy (in the form of neutrons and gamma rays) can potentially be harvested to produce useful power.
While we have detailed models of the physics that goes on under these extreme conditions, we need to compare those models to what's going on inside the plasma. Unfortunately, given that both the plasma and the materials that formerly surrounded it are in the process of exploding, that's a significant challenge. To get a picture of what might be going on, researchers have turned to one of the products of the fusion reaction: the neutrons it emits, which can pass through the wreckage and be picked up by nearby detectors.
India is on a path to require USB-C charging ports in almost all smart devices following actions taken by an inter-ministerial task force.
Rohit Kumar Sing, Secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs, said the move is "in the interest of consumer welfare and prevention of avoidable e-waste."
The broad consensus in the meeting was that USB-C would be required for electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops – but "feature phones" could end up with a different charging option. A sub-committee was formed to determine the fate of wearable devices.
But things won't change overnight. The move toward USB-C will be done in phases to ensure industry and consumers alike have time to adapt.
So, to say the last week has been a dumpster fire is drastically underselling what I've been through. This, combined with having to put things in place to migrate off Twitter, and otherwise deal with all the fallout of that hot mess has, to put it frankly, put free time at something of a premium, hence why this post took so long. For those who missed it, I did fairly long overhaul of our backend, upgrading boxes from Ubuntu 14.04, and rebuilding and replacing others.
At the moment, the site is mostly working, with two exceptions, site search is still down, and IRC is still down. Deucalion has taken up the task of rebuilding the IRCd on modern server software, so it's time to lay down the road going forward past this point.
Read past the fold for more information ...
Right now, the backend is mostly built on an outdated version of mod_perl 2.2, and MySQL cluster, which is very much not a good place to be. Originally as envisioned, I planned this site to be able to be easily scalable, with a larger user base. That's why the infrastructure was designed to be as scalable as it was, with the downside of having a much higher overhead than a more traditional setup has. Furthermore, rehash (the code that powers this site) is, uh, to put it frankly, a beast to work on. It's a 90s era Perl code base and pretty much everything else that implies; if it wasn't for the fact that rehash is one of the main reasons to use SoylentNews, I'd argue it might be time to replace it.
Right now, I'm working on doing another round of server hardening. As it is at the moment, I've got rehash and Apache running in an AppArmor jail, and everything is pretty well sandboxed from everything else, but I still need to go through and adjust a lot of firewalls, and finish decommissioning out a bunch of the boxes. That said, the site is running faster than it has in a long while since a lot of small things got corrected as we went. Sometime this weekend, I'm going to finish adjusting the firewalls to lock it down further, and that should mostly get back to the point where I might have restful sleep again. That being said, there's still a fair bit more to do.
Moving ahead, we need to get off MySQL cluster, and either onto the current mod_perl, or, ideally, FastCGI, to end the Apache dependency entirely. Unfortunately, working on Rehash is quite difficult, and it requires a very specific setup to be viable. My current plan here is to basically get it working in Docker, so its easy to spin up and spin down instances, and return to a less cursed variant of MySQL. This is probably a few hours of work, but I'm hoping that overall it is going to be easy and straightforward to do since most of the backend is fairly well documented at this point. This also leaves me in a decent position to implement a couple of long overdue features, but modernization efforts come first. I'm hoping to livestream my efforts on this on the weeks to come, and I will make stream announcements as I go along.
My intent, based off the policy changes that were made to disallow ACs to post on stories is to sunlight the feature entirely, including in journals and more. The decision to have ACs on SoylentNews was made in 2014, when the Snowden leaks were only a few months old. Furthermore, we've seen from experience that the karma system doesn't go far enough at keeping bad actors from still getting a +2 status. By and large, the numbers underpinning the system need a rework. My general thought is to cap karma at either 10 or 15, and drastically decrease how far into the basement you can go, as well as uncapping posts in moderation to be able to go to -5.
As a rule, incredibly bad takes do get moderated out of existence, but because there's no real penalty for doing so, we get constant shitposts. Time to make this a bit harder to abuse. I've documented the antispam measures on the site before, but the site keeps track of IP addresses and subnets in the form of hashed /24, and /16s (/64 and /48 for IPv6), which has a karma number attached to them. If an IP range goes too far into the basement, it ends up posting at 0 or -1. By adjusting the caps, it should allow this threshold to be reached much more easily, and help bring the signal to noise ratio back to something more "positive".
Furthermore, I believe its generally in the site's interests to allow editors to delete comments. This functionality is actually built into rehash, but has been long disabled. At the time, I felt the community was best self-moderating, but I think on the whole, its better to treat this like a moderated subreddit, and have messages get a notice that they've in-fact been deleted ala reddit. This is a fairly large departure for the site as a whole, but I think one justified given the state of the Internet on 2022. I am open to discussions on all of this, but let me see what all your thoughts are like.
I do intend to keep livestreaming my progress with the site as we go along; and we raised another ~500 dollars towards Trevor Project during the last livestream. I've left that stream unlisted until I've had a chance to finish implementing all the hardening measures I've discussed, but I'm hoping at the end of it, I'll have a pretty good documentary on what it takes to modernize an aging website. As usual, if you want to support me directly: Ko-fi is available for one time donations, or Patreon for a recurring donation.
[ If you are an AC and wish to make a constructive comment, please see my journal. janrinok ]
Months after it was announced at an event in September, Emergency SOS via satellite, Apple's service for the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro that uses satellite to route emergency calls, launched today. Supported iPhones in the U.S. and Canada updated with the latest iOS 16 can send an SOS even when they're off the grid, no dish required, thanks to an upgraded wireless chipset and Apple's partnership with satellite service provider Globalstar.
Emergency SOS via satellite will expand to France, Germany, Ireland and the U.K. next month, Apple announced [recently].
As my colleague Devin Coldewey noted in his coverage of Emergency SOS earlier this year, the service differs from the satellite-based data and text connectivity offered by Lynk and T-Mobile and Starlink. While those rely on cell towers strong enough to reach and receive a satellite signal, Emergency SOS — via Globalstar — uses bands that normally require a special antenna.
It's a costly venture. Apple recently pledged $450 million through its Advanced Manufacturing Fund toward expanding the infrastructure powering Emergency SOS, including the satellite network and ground stations. A part of the funding went toward installing custom-built antennas designed to receive signals transmitted by Globalstar's satellite constellation.
One presumes that Apple intends to eventually recoup its investment. But for now, Emergency SOS is fee-free. Existing iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro owners won't have to pay for at least two years from today, while new iPhone owners will receive free service for two years from when they activate their phones.
As climate change worsens water quality and threatens ecosystems, the famous dams of beavers may help lessen the damage.
That is the conclusion of a new study by Stanford University scientists and colleagues, publishing Nov. 8 in Nature Communications. The research reveals that when it comes to water quality in mountain watersheds, beaver dams can have a far greater influence than climate-driven, seasonal extremes in precipitation. The wooden barriers raise water levels upstream, diverting water into surrounding soils and secondary waterways, collectively called a riparian zone. These zones act like filters, straining out excess nutrients and contaminants before water re-enters the main channel downstream.
This beneficial influence of the big, bucktoothed, amphibious rodents looks set to grow in the years ahead. Although hotter, arid conditions wrought by climate change will lessen water quality, these same conditions have also contributed to a resurgence of the American beaver in the western United States, and consequently an explosion of dam building.
"As we're getting drier and warmer in the mountain watersheds in the American West, that should lead to water quality degradation," said the study's senior author Scott Fendorf, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford University. "Yet unbeknownst to us prior to this study, the outsized influence of beaver activity on water quality is a positive counter to climate change."
[...] "Completely by luck, a beaver decided to build a dam at our study site," said Dewey, who is now a postdoctoral scholar at Oregon State University (whose mascot, incidentally, is a beaver). "The construction of this beaver dam afforded us the opportunity to run a great natural experiment."
[...] To understand how beaver dams may affect water quality in a future where global warming produces more frequent droughts and extreme swings in rainfall, the researchers compared water quality along a stretch of the East River during a historically dry year, 2018, to water quality the following year, when water levels were unusually high. They also compared these yearlong datasets to water quality during the nearly three-month period, starting in late July 2018, when the beaver dam blocked the river.
[...] While in place, the beaver dam boosted removal of unwanted nitrogen from the studied East River section by 44% over the seasonal extremes. Nitrogen is an especially pernicious problem for water quality as it promotes overgrowth of algae, which when decomposed starve water of the oxygen needed to support diverse animal life and a healthy ecosystem.
[...] "We would expect climate change to induce hydrological extremes and degradation of water quality during drought periods," said Fendorf, "and in this study, we're seeing that would have indeed been true if it weren't for this other ecological change taking place, which is the beavers, their proliferating dams, and their growing populations."
Dewey, C., Fox, P.M., Bouskill, N.J. et al. Beaver dams overshadow climate extremes in controlling riparian hydrology and water quality. Nat Commun 13, 6509 (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-34022-0