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The U.S. government database provided access to a treasure trove of sensitive data. "I can request information on anyone in the U.S.," one of the alleged hackers wrote:
Two men, one of whom previously presented themselves as an independent security researcher to Motherboard, allegedly went on a wide spanning hacking spree that included breaking into a federal U.S. law enforcement database; using a compromised Bangladeshi police officer's email to fraudulently requesting user data from a social media company; and even trying to buy services from a facial recognition company which doesn't sell products to the wider public.
[...] Sagar Steven Singh, 19, was arrested in Rhode Island on Tuesday; Nicholas Ceraolo, 25, remains at large with his location listed as Queens, New York, a press release from the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York says. "Singh and Ceraolo unlawfully used a police officer's stolen password to access a restricted database maintained by a federal law enforcement agency that contains (among other data) detailed, nonpublic records of narcotics and currency seizures, as well as law enforcement intelligence reports," it states.
[...] That pursuit of personal information is what allegedly drew Singh and Ceraolo to breaking into various law enforcement accounts. In one case, the pair allegedly used a police officer's credentials to access a web portal maintained by a U.S. federal law enforcement agency.
Also at Dnyuz.
Aztec farming calendar accurately tracked seasons, leap years:
Without clocks or modern tools, ancient Mexicans watched the sun to maintain a farming calendar that precisely tracked seasons and even adjusted for leap years.
Before the Spanish arrival in 1519, the Basin of Mexico's agricultural system fed a population that was extraordinarily large for the time. Whereas Seville, the largest urban center in Spain, had a population of fewer than 50,000, the Basin, now known as Mexico City, was home to as many as 3 million people.
To feed so many people in a region with a dry spring and summer monsoons required advanced understanding of when seasonal variations in weather would arrive. Planting too early, or too late, could have proved disastrous. The failure of any calendar to adjust for leap-year fluctuations could also have led to crop failure.
Though colonial chroniclers documented the use of a calendar, it was not previously understood how the Mexica, or Aztecs, were able to achieve such accuracy. New UC Riverside research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrates how they did it. They used the mountains of the Basin as a solar observatory, keeping track of the sunrise against the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
"We concluded they must have stood at a single spot, looking eastwards from one day to another, to tell the time of year by watching the rising sun," said Exequiel Ezcurra, distinguished UCR professor of ecology who led the research.
To find that spot, the researchers studied Mexica manuscripts. These ancient texts referred to Mount Tlaloc, which lies east of the Basin. The research team explored the high mountains around the Basin and a temple at the mountain's summit. Using astronomical computer models, they confirmed that a long causeway structure at the temple aligns with the rising sun on Feb. 24, the first day of the Aztec new year.
Exequiel Ezcurra, Paula Ezcurra, and Ben Meissner, Ancient inhabitants of the Basin of Mexico kept an accurate agricultural calendar using sunrise observatories and mountain alignments [open], PNAS, 2022. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2215615119
Shares of Baidu fell as much as 10 percent on Thursday after the web search company showed only a pre-recorded video of its AI chatbot Ernie in the first public release of China's answer to ChatGPT.
The Beijing-based tech company has claimed Ernie will remake its business and for weeks talked up plans to incorporate generative artificial intelligence into its search engine and other products.
But on Thursday, millions of people tuning in to the event were left with little idea of whether Baidu's chatbot could compete with ChatGPT.
"We can only explore by ourselves. Training ChatGPT took OpenAI more than a year, and it took them another year to tune GPT-4," said one Baidu employee. "It means we're two years behind."
Baidu did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The AI Hype Bubble is the New Crypto Hype Bubble
DuckDuckGo's New Wikipedia Summary Bot: "We Fully Expect It to Make Mistakes"
LLM ChatGPT Might Change the World, but Not in a Good Way
Alphabet Stock Price Drops After Google Bard Launch Blunder
OpenAI and Microsoft Announce Extended, Multi-Billion-Dollar Partnership
The hypothesis could help in the search for other Earthlike worlds:
The leading explanation for the origin of the moon proposes that a Mars-sized planet, dubbed Theia, struck the nascent Earth, ejecting a cloud of debris into space that later coalesced into a satellite (SN: 3/2/18). New computer simulations suggest that purported remains of Theia deep inside the planet could have also triggered the onset of subduction, a hallmark of modern plate tectonics, geodynamicist Qian Yuan of Caltech reported March 13 at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.
[...] Many hypotheses have been proposed to explain the initiation of subduction, a tectonic process in which one plate slides under another (SN: 5/2/22; SN: 6/5/19; SN: 1/2/18). Yuan and his colleagues chose to focus on two continent-sized blobs of material in Earth's lower mantle known as large low-shear velocity provinces (SN: 5/12/16). These are regions through which seismic waves are known to move anomalously slow. Researchers had previously proposed these regions could have formed from old, subducted plates. But in 2021, Yuan and colleagues alternatively proposed that the mysterious masses could be the dense, sunken remnants of Theia.
[...] While the simulations suggest the large low-shear velocity provinces could have had a hand in starting subduction, it's not yet clear whether these masses came from Theia. "The features ... are a fairly recent discovery," says geodynamicist Laurent Montési of the University of Maryland in College Park. "They're very fascinating structures, with a very unknown origin." As such, he says, it's too early to say that Theia triggered plate tectonics.
"It's provoking. This material down there is something special," Montési says of the large low-shear velocity provinces. "But whether it has to be originally extraterrestrial, I don't think the case is made."
Q. Yuan. A giant impact origin for the first subduction on Earth. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, The Woodlands, Texas, March 13, 2023.
Tiny data center makes for a comfortable swim:
A data center about the size of a washing machine is being used to heat a public swimming pool in England.
Data centers' servers generate heat as they operate, and interest is growing in finding ways to harness it to cut energy costs and offset carbon emissions.
In this latest example, the computing technology has been placed inside a white box and surrounded by oil, which captures the heat before being pumped into a heat exchanger, according to a BBC report.
The setup is effective enough to heat a council-run swimming pool in Exmouth, about 150 miles west of London, to about 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) for about 60% of the time, saving the operator thousands of dollars. And with energy costs rising sharply in the U.K., and councils looking for ways to save money, an initiative like this could be the difference between the pool staying open and closing down.
Behind the idea is U.K.-based tech startup Deep Green. In exchange for hosting its kit, Deep Green installs free digital boilers at pools and pays for the energy that they use. Meanwhile, tech firms pay Deep Green to use its computing power for various artificial intelligence and machine learning projects.
Commercial Underwater Datacenter Goes Online This Year
Microsoft's Underwater Server Experiment Resurfaces After Two Years
Heating Homes and Businesses with "Data Furnaces"
Hopes to avoid paying up for crushing a rival while helping Huawei and ZTE to prosper:
Qualcomm on Monday began an attempt to convince the European Union's Court of Justice that it should not pay a €242 million ($258 million) fine imposed on it for anti-competitive behavior.
The fine — worth about two percent of Qualcomm's 2022 profits — was levied against the US chipmaker in 2019. At the time, the European Commission found that Qualcomm had sold 3G baseband chipsets at a loss to harm British rival Icera's ability to compete.
[...] In order to prevent Nvidia-controlled Icera from claiming a larger slice of the market, the European Commission says Qualcomm began selling its UMTS chipsets to the likes of Huawei and ZTE at prices its rival couldn't match.
[...] The European Commission ultimately smacked Qualcomm with a €242 million fine for its behavior. As Qualcomm's profits reached $12.9 billion last year, the fine is significant but not very damaging.
Qualcomm is nevertheless trying to avoid paying the fine. In court Monday, Reuters reports that Qualcomm Attorney, Miguel Rato claimed the European Commission was on a "crusade" against the company. Rato also called into question the basis for the Commission's argument, arguing the specific market for 3G baseband chips accounted for less than a percent of the overall UMTS market at the time.
[...] Despite handing down several billion-dollar-plus fines for anticompetitive behavior over the past few years, the European Commission hasn't had great luck getting them to stick.
Intel escaped a $1.2 billion antitrust fine imposed by Brussels for offering hardware partners rebates for its x86 processors. Chipzilla even bribed German electronics retailer Media Saturn Holding to ensure it did not sell rival AMD's parts.
But after a years-long legal battle, Intel overturned the penalty and was told it didn't have to pay. To add insult to injury, Intel returned to court last spring demanding that the EU pay €593m ($623.5m) in interest charges.
JWST will help scientists investigate the troublesome dust budget surplus of the universe:
NASA released a new image captured by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which depicts a star named "WR 124" that is located 15,000 light years away from Earth, in the Sagittarius constellation. WR 124 is a Wolf Rayet-type star, a rare kind of star which is among the most luminous, most massive, and most briefly detectable stars known, NASA explained.
WR 124 was actually one of the first observations made by JWST in June 2022, the space agency said, but the image has been unveiled just now. The Wolf-Rayet phase is a brief condition some stars go through during their lifetime before turning into supernovae, which makes Webb's observations a valuable asset to astronomers studying the life of stars.
WR 124 is 30 times the mass of our Sun, NASA said, and it has "shed" 10 Suns' worth of material so far. The ejected gas moves away from the central body and cools down, forming cosmic dust and glowing in the infrared light that is detectable by Webb's advanced instruments.
[...] Before Webb, astronomers investigating cosmic dust simply had no way to capture detailed images and information about a dust-rich environment like the WR 124 nebula. And dust, NASA said, plays an essential role in the inner working of the universe as it shelters forming stars, and gathers together to help shape planets, molecules and even the building blocks of life on Earth.
Dust is a fundamental element for our universe, and yet scientists still have to explain why the universe seemingly contains more dust than our current dust-formation theories can justify. The universe is "operating with a dust budget surplus," NASA remarked.
Released NASA picture, and a 30-second video panning across the image.
In high-risk contexts, a racing heart can make a formerly relaxed mouse nervous:
When you're stressed and anxious, you might feel your heart race. Is your heart racing because you're afraid? Or does your speeding heart itself contribute to your anxiety? Both could be true, a new study in mice suggests.
By artificially increasing the heart rates of mice, scientists were able to increase anxiety-like behaviors — ones that the team then calmed by turning off a particular part of the brain. The study, published in the March 9 Nature, shows that in high-risk contexts, a racing heart could go to your head and increase anxiety. The findings could offer a new angle for studying and, potentially, treating anxiety disorders.
The idea that body sensations might contribute to emotions in the brain goes back at least to one of the founders of psychology, William James, says Karl Deisseroth, a neuroscientist at Stanford University. In James' 1890 book The Principles of Psychology, he put forward the idea that emotion follows what the body experiences. "We feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble," James wrote.
The brain certainly can sense internal body signals, a phenomenon called interoception. But whether those sensations — like a racing heart — can contribute to emotion is difficult to prove, says Anna Beyeler, a neuroscientist at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Bordeaux. She studies brain circuitry related to emotion and wrote a commentary on the new study but was not involved in the research. "I'm sure a lot of people have thought of doing these experiments, but no one really had the tools," she says.
[...] In the new study, Deisseroth and his colleagues used a light attached to a tiny vest over a mouse's genetically engineered heart to change the animal's heart rate. When the light was off, a mouse's heart pumped at about 600 beats per minute. But when the team turned on a light that flashed at 900 beats per minutes, the mouse's heartbeat followed suit. "It's a nice reasonable acceleration, [one a mouse] would encounter in a time of stress or fear," Deisseroth explains.
When the mice felt their hearts racing, they showed anxiety-like behavior. In risky scenarios — like open areas where a little mouse might be someone's lunch — the rodents slunk along the walls and lurked in darker corners. When pressing a lever for water that could sometimes be coupled with a mild shock, mice with normal heart rates still pressed without hesitation. But mice with racing hearts decided they'd rather go thirsty.
[...] Understanding the link between heart and head could eventually factor into how doctors treat panic and anxiety, Beyeler says. But the path between the lab and the clinic, she notes, is much more convoluted than that of the heart to the head.
Hsueh, B., Chen, R., Jo, Y. et al. Cardiogenic control of affective behavioural state. Nature 615, 292–299 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-05748-8
The US government looks poised to force tech companies to do more about security:
The US government, worried about the continuing growth of cybercrime, ransomware, and countries including Russia, Iran, and North Korea hacking into government and private networks, is in the middle of drastically changing its cybersecurity strategy. No longer will it rely largely on prodding businesses and tech companies to voluntarily take basic security measures such as patching vulnerable systems to keep them updated.
Instead, it now wants to establish baseline security requirements for businesses and tech companies and to fine those that don't comply.
It's not just companies that use the systems who might eventually need to abide by the regulations. Companies that make and sell them, such as Microsoft, Apple, and others could be held accountable as well. Early indications are that the feds already have Microsoft in their crosshairs — they've warned the company that, at the moment, it doesn't appear to be up to the task.
[...] In theory, if those standards aren't met, fines would eventually be imposed. Glenn S. Gerstell, former general counsel of the National Security Agency, explained it this way to the Times: "In the cyberworld, we're finally saying that Ford is responsible for Pintos that burst into flames, because they didn't spend money on safety." That's a reference to the Ford Pinto frequently bursting into flames when rear-ended in the 1970s. That led to a spate of lawsuits and a ramp-up in federal auto safety regulations.
But cybersecurity requirements backed by fines aren't here yet. Dig into the new document and you'll find that because the new strategy is only a policy document, it doesn't have the bite of law behind it. For it to go fully into effect, two things need to happen. President Biden has to issue an executive order to enforce some of the requirements. And Congress needs to pass laws for the rest.
It's not clear when lawmakers might get around to moving on the issue, if ever, although Biden could issue an executive order for parts of it.
[...] So, what does all this have to do with Microsoft? Plenty. The feds have made clear they believe Microsoft has a long way to go before it meets basic cybersecurity recommendations. At least one top government security official has already publicly called out Microsoft for poor security practices.
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly recently criticized the Microsoft during a speech at Carnegie Mellon University. She said that only about one-quarter of Microsoft enterprise customers use multifactor authentication, a number she called "disappointing." That might not sound like much of a condemnation, but remember, this is the federal government we're talking about. It parses its words very carefully. "Disappointing" to them is the equivalent of "terrible job" anywhere else.
[...] Even without laws and executive orders, the company could be in trouble. The US government spends billions of dollars on Microsoft systems and services every year, a revenue stream that could be endangered if Microsoft doesn't adhere to the standards.
If you can detect any, it's too much:
On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it had started the process that will see drinking water regulations place severe limits on the levels of several members of the PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) chemical family. PFAS are widely used but have been associated with a wide range of health issues; their chemical stability has also earned them the term "forever chemicals." The agency is currently soliciting public feedback on rules that will mean that any detectable levels of two chemicals will be too much.
PFAS are a large group of chemicals that have uses in a wide range of products, including non-stick cooking pans, fire control foams, and waterproof clothing. They're primarily useful because of their water-repellant, hydrophobic nature. That nature also tends to keep them from taking part in chemical processes that might otherwise degrade them, so contamination problems tend to stick around long after any PFAS use. And that's bad, given that they seem to have a lot of negative effects on health—the EPA lists cancer risks, immune dysfunction, hormone signaling alterations, liver damage, and reproductive issues.
[...] The most striking thing about the proposal is that two of the chemicals, Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) will be set at the limits of our current ability to detect them: four parts per trillion. In other words, if there's any sign of the chemicals present, it would be above the legal limit. (Both of these are acidic hydrocarbons where all of the hydrogen has been replaced by fluorine.)
A second set of related chemicals (PFNA, PFHXs, PFBS, and GenX Chemicals) will be regulated as a collective. Each will have limits set on the levels allowable. The levels of each will be calculated as a percentage of that limit, and the percentages totalled; if they exceed 100 percent, then the regulations will kick in.
As part of its earlier efforts, the EPA has already been providing grants to help water utilities set up to test for these chemicals. It also says that a variety of means of extracting these chemicals from water are now available.
Things are moving at lightning speed in AI Land. On Friday, a software developer named Georgi Gerganov created a tool called "llama.cpp" that can run Meta's new GPT-3-class AI large language model, LLaMA, locally on a Mac laptop. Soon thereafter, people worked out how to run LLaMA on Windows as well. Then someone showed it running on a Pixel 6 phone, and next came a Raspberry Pi (albeit running very slowly).
If this keeps up, we may be looking at a pocket-sized ChatGPT competitor before we know it.
For example, here's a list of notable LLaMA-related events based on a timeline Willison laid out in a Hacker News comment:
- February 24, 2023: Meta AI announces LLaMA.
- March 2, 2023: Someone leaks the LLaMA models via BitTorrent.
- March 10, 2023: Georgi Gerganov creates llama.cpp, which can run on an M1 Mac.
- March 11, 2023: Artem Andreenko runs LLaMA 7B (slowly) on a Raspberry Pi 4, 4GB RAM, 10 sec/token.
- March 12, 2023: LLaMA 7B running on NPX, a node.js execution tool.
- March 13, 2023: Someone gets llama.cpp running on a Pixel 6 phone, also very slowly.
- March 13, 2023, 2023: Stanford releases Alpaca 7B, an instruction-tuned version of LLaMA 7B that "behaves similarly to OpenAI's "text-davinci-003" but runs on much less powerful hardware.
DuckDuckGo's New Wikipedia Summary Bot: "We Fully Expect It to Make Mistakes"
Robots Let ChatGPT Touch the Real World Thanks to Microsoft (Article has a bunch of other SoylentNews related links as well.)
Netflix Stirs Fears by Using AI-Assisted Background Art in Short Anime Film
Paper: Stable Diffusion "Memorizes" Some Images, Sparking Privacy Concerns
The EU's AI Act Could Have a Chilling Effect on Open Source Efforts, Experts Warn
Pixel Art Comes to Life: Fan Upgrades Classic MS-DOS Games With AI
Violence and warfare were widespread in many Neolithic communities across Northwest Europe:
Of the skeletal remains of more than 2300 early farmers from 180 sites dating from around 8000 – 4000 years ago to, more than one in ten displayed weapon injuries, bioarchaeologists found.
Contrary to the view that the Neolithic era was marked by peaceful cooperation, the team of international researchers say that in some regions the period from 6000BC to 2000BC may be a high point in conflict and violence with the destruction of entire communities.
The findings also suggest the rise of growing crops and herding animals as a way of life, replacing hunting and gathering, may have laid the foundations for formalised warfare.
[...] More than ten per cent showed damage potentially caused by frequent blows to the head by blunt instruments or stone axes. Several examples of penetrative injuries, thought to be from arrows, were also found.
Some of the injuries were linked to mass burials, which could suggest the destruction of entire communities, the researchers say.
Linda Fibiger, Torbjörn Ahlström, Christian Meyer, and Martin Smith, Conflict, violence, and warfare among early farmers in Northwestern Europe [open], PNAS, 2022. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2209481119
This includes hydrogen fuel stations:
[...] The Department of Transportation is now accepting applications for its $2.5 billion Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Discretionary Grant Program, which will hand out funds to cities, counties, regional governments and tribes to help deploy EV chargers, hydrogen fuel stations and other reduced-emissions systems near their residents.
Half of the program's funding will go to chargers and stations in "publicly accessible" places like parking facilities, parks and schools. The rest will install this equipment in "alternative fuel corridors" along highways to help with long-distance travel. The initial round of funding will make $700 million available, with the rest coming over the program's five-year span. Officials have to apply no later than May 30th.
The initiative is part of [a] broader campaign to build 500,000 charging stations by 2030, or about five times as many as there were in early 2022. The money, assigned as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is meant to ensure charging access within 50 miles of someone's location in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. While the effort is intended to spur overall EV adoption, there's an added focus on underserved communities like some urban and rural areas.
A strong charging infrastructure is widely considered vital to successfully transitioning away from combustion engine cars. Existing stations can sometimes be crowded or unreliable, and don't always support the fast charging available with recent EVs.
The Biden administration wants $27.2 billion for NASA's 2024 budget, with the space agency prioritizing Moon and Mars missions:
NASA is staying focused on the Artemis lunar program, its Moon to Mars objectives, and maintaining a presence in low Earth orbit as part of the agency's proposed budget for 2024. The space agency also has a new item on its annual wishlist: a space tug to deorbit the International Space Station (ISS) at the end of its life.
[...] NASA's proposed budget includes $180 million for developing a deorbit capability for the ISS by the end of 2030. Should the budget be approved, the space agendcy would call upon the private sector to come up with a space tug concept to lower the orbit of the ISS so that it can reenter and burn up through Earth's atmosphere. NASA had previously suggested using Russia's Progress cargo spacecraft to deorbit the ISS, and apparently that option is still on the table as well.
[...] Still, NASA's Artemis program sits at the top of the space agency's to-do list, snagging $8.1 billion from the budget (an increase from last year's $7.5 billion). The plan still stands for NASA to land humans on the Moon as early as 2025, and start on the construction of the Lunar Gateway, an outpost orbiting the Moon that will house astronauts and scientific research.
The budget request will allocate $2.5 billion towards the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which was used for the liftoff of the Artemis 1 mission in November 2022, "to focus on successful completion of Artemis 2, and make necessary preparations for Artemis 3 and 4, which includes the enhanced upper stage configuration and other upgrades," Schaus said during the call.
[...] Following that same objective, NASA is also focusing on its Mars Sample Return Mission to bring back rock samples currently being stowed away by the Perseverance Rover on the Martian surface. The future mission was allocated $949 million to launch samples from the surface of Mars as early as 2030, an increase from $800 million originally assigned to the mission the year before.
NASA's Mars Sample Return Mission is getting a portion of the total funding for science, which adds up to $8.26 billion in the 2024 budget. Some of the missions that were highlighted as part of the budget include the James Webb Space Telescope, the Nancy Grace Roman Telescope (scheduled for launch in 2027), the Europa Clipper mission to study Jupiter's moon (scheduled to launch in 2024), and the ExoMars Mission.
And not even a tentative date for a system go-live either:
By the end of this month, the UK Home Office will have spent just under £2 billion ($2.4 billion) on a new critical communications network for the country's police, fire and ambulance services – with nothing to show for it, according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO).
Even worse, the multi-year project has fallen further behind schedule and the Home Office cannot say when the replacement system will be operational, according to the spending watchdog.
The Emergency Services Network (ESN) program first kicked off in 2015 – the idea being that it would fully replace the existing near-indestructible Airwave units and system, which uses the Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) network; would "cost less"; and would provide users with access to modern mobile data. ESN was supposed to move critical emergency services off of the tried and tested TETRA (which, among other things, you can access ubiquitously across the London Underground) and onto LTE radio comms – with some obvious modifications and associated features like the push-to-talk ESN Direct.
[...] The UK's Competition and Markets Authority started a probe into the matter in 2021, with the PAC already noting in 2019 that Motorola's involvement in both the new and old contract had led "to perverse incentives" and put "the department in a weak negotiating position." Motorola has denied conflict of interest and said last year that "Airwave, over its life, is a much better deal for the UK taxpayer than the Home Office originally agreed."
[...] In January, eight years after the first proposals for a new system to replace the outdated Airwave platform were unveiled, the Home Office and Motorola Solutions agreed to end their work on the ESN contract in December 2023.
The Home Office, meanwhile, does not currently know when ESN will be ready or how much it will ultimately cost.
[...] The Home Office, meanwhile, maintains that "much" of ESN's "core" has been built, telling The Register: "The Emergency Services Network will provide first responders with better technology and faster access to life-saving data in emergency situations, helping to keep the public safe.
"While much of the core network has already been built, we are committed to addressing the delays and working closely with our partners to provide better value for money for the taxpayer, following Motorola's decision to leave the programme."
It added: "We thank the National Audit Office for their report and are now working at pace to implement all their recommendations."
[...] British taxpayers who are having a good day and want it ruined can download the report here.