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What was highest label on your first car speedometer?

  • 80 mph
  • 88 mph
  • 100 mph
  • 120 mph
  • 150 mph
  • it was in kph like civilized countries use you insensitive clod
  • Other (please specify in comments)

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:67 | Votes:278

posted by janrinok on Wednesday February 21, @09:12PM   Printer-friendly
from the ai-says-ai-is-not-taking-over dept.

Google Lays Off Thousands More Employees Despite Record Profits One Year After Laying off 12,000 Employees As Workers Begin Worrying AI is Slowly Replacing Them

Google has initiated significant layoffs across its various teams, [...] marking a continuation of the tech industry's trend towards reducing workforce expenses. The layoffs have affected hundreds of employees within the Voice Assistant unit; hardware teams responsible for Pixel, Nest and Fitbit products; and a considerable portion of the augmented reality (AR) team. This move is part of Google's broader effort to streamline operations and align resources with its most significant product priorities​​.

[....] This comes at a time when Google parent, Alphabet Inc., reported record profits in late January. The company reported $20.4 billion in net income in Q4.

[....] The layoffs have sparked widespread concern among Google employees, not just about job security but also about the ethical implications of their work, especially as the company continues to invest heavily in advancing AI technology.

What are the executive priorities that Google is trying to align resources with?

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday February 21, @04:26PM   Printer-friendly

Targeting 'undruggable' proteins promises new approach for treating neurodegenerative diseases:

Researchers led by Northwestern University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have introduced a pioneering approach aimed at combating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

In a new study, researchers discovered a new way to enhance the body's antioxidant response, which is crucial for cellular protection against the oxidative stress implicated in many neurodegenerative diseases.

[...] Alzheimer's disease, characterized by the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles; Parkinson's disease, known for its loss of dopaminergic neurons and presence of Lewy bodies; and ALS, involving the degeneration of motor neurons, all share a common thread of oxidative stress contributing to disease pathology.

The study focuses on disrupting the Keap1/Nrf2 protein-protein interaction (PPI), which plays a role in the body's antioxidant response. By preventing the degradation of Nrf2 through selective inhibition of its interaction with Keap1, the research holds promise for mitigating the cellular damage that underlies these debilitating conditions.

"We established Nrf2 as a principal target for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases over the past two decades, but this novel approach for activating the pathway holds great promise to develop disease-modifying therapies," Jeffrey Johnson said.

The research team embarked on addressing one of the most challenging aspects of neurodegenerative disease treatment: the precise targeting of PPIs within the cell. Traditional methods, including small molecule inhibitors and peptide-based therapies, have fallen short due to lack of specificity, stability and cellular uptake.

The study introduces an innovative solution: protein-like polymers, or PLPs, are high-density brush macromolecular architectures synthesized via the ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) of norbornenyl-peptide-based monomers. These globular, proteomimetic structures display bioactive peptide side chains that can penetrate cell membranes, exhibit remarkable stability and resist proteolysis.

This targeted approach to inhibit the Keap1/Nrf2 PPI represents a significant leap forward. By preventing Keap1 from marking Nrf2 for degradation, Nrf2 accumulates in the nucleus, activating the Antioxidant Response Element (ARE) and driving the expression of detoxifying and antioxidant genes. This mechanism effectively enhances the cellular antioxidant response, providing a potent therapeutic strategy against the oxidative stress implicated in many neurodegenerative diseases.

PLPs [ protein-like polymers], developed by Gianneschi's team, could represent a significant breakthrough in halting or reversing damage offering hope for improved treatments and outcomes.

Focusing on the challenge of activating processes crucial for the body's antioxidant response, the team's research offers a novel solution. The team provides a robust, selective method enabling enhanced cellular protection and offering a promising therapeutic strategy for a range of diseases including neurodegenerative conditions.

"Through modern polymer chemistry, we can begin to think about mimicking complex proteins," Gianneschi said. "The promise lies in the development of a new modality for the design of therapeutics. This could be a way to address diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's among others where traditional approaches have struggled."

This approach not only represents a significant advance in targeting transcription factors and disordered proteins, but also showcases the PLP technology's versatility and potential to revolutionize the development of therapeutics. The technology's modularity and efficacy in inhibiting the Keap1/Nrf2 interaction underscore its potential for impact as a therapeutic, but also as a tool for studying the biochemistry of these processes.

More information: Kendal P. Carrow et al, Inhibiting the Keap1/Nrf2 Protein‐Protein Interaction with Protein‐Like Polymers, Advanced Materials (2024). DOI: 10.1002/adma.202311467

Journal information:Advanced Materials

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday February 21, @11:42AM   Printer-friendly

SETI Institute Employs SETI Ellipsoid Technique:

In a paper published in the Astronomical Journal, a team of researchers from the SETI Institute, Berkeley SETI Research Center and the University of Washington reported an exciting development for the field of astrophysics and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), using observations from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission to monitor the SETI Ellipsoid, a method for identifying potential signals from advanced civilizations in the cosmos. The SETI Ellipsoid is a strategic approach for selecting potential technosignature candidates based on the hypothesis that extraterrestrial civilizations, upon observing significant galactic events such as supernova 1987A, might use these occurrences as a focal point to emit synchronized signals to announce their presence.

In this work, researchers show that the SETI Ellipsoid method can leverage continuous, wide-field sky surveys, significantly enhancing our ability to detect these potential signals. By compensating for the uncertainties in the estimated time-of-arrival of such signals using observations that span up to a year, the team implements the SETI Ellipsoid strategy in an innovative way using state-of-the-arc technology.

[...] In examining data from the TESS continuous viewing zone, covering 5% of all TESS data from the first three years of its mission, researchers utilized the advanced 3D location data from Gaia Early Data Release 3. This analysis identified 32 prime targets within the SETI Ellipsoid in the southern TESS continuous viewing zone, all with uncertainties refined to better than 0.5 light-years. While the initial examination of TESS light curves during the Ellipsoid crossing event revealed no anomalies, the groundwork laid by this initiative paves the way for expanding the search to other surveys, a broader array of targets, and exploring diverse potential signal types.

[...] The SETI Ellipsoid method, combined with Gaia's distance measurements, offers a robust and adaptable framework for future SETI searches. Researchers can retrospectively apply it to sift through archival data for potential signals, proactively select targets, and schedule future monitoring campaigns.

"As Dr. Jill Tarter often points out, SETI searches are like looking for a needle in a 9-D haystack," said co-author Dr. Sofia Sheikh. "Any technique that can help us prioritize where to look, such as the SETI Ellipsoid, could potentially give us a shortcut to the most promising parts of the haystack. This work is the first step in searching those newly-highlighted parts of parameter space, and is an exciting precedent for upcoming large survey projects like LSST."

Journal Reference:
Bárbara Cabrales et al 2024 AJ 167 101 DOI 10.3847/1538-3881/ad2064

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Wednesday February 21, @06:57AM   Printer-friendly
from the it-ain't-over-until-there's-a-Zuckerberg-apology dept.

Facebook £3bn legal action given go-ahead in London:

A judge has given the go-ahead to a mass legal action against Facebook owner Meta, potentially worth £3bn.

The case is being brought by legal academic Dr Liza Lovdahl Gormsen, on behalf of 45 million Facebook users.

Her original claim was refused, in 2023, but a revised version has now been accepted, with early 2026 said to be the latest it could be heard.

Meta said the claims "remain entirely without merit and we will vigorously defend against them".

The new claim says: "Facebook has struck an unfair bargain with its users," according to legal documents.

Facebook abused its dominance by making users give it their data from non-Facebook products, including Meta-owned Instagram and other third-party sites.

And sharing data with third parties had become "a condition of accessing the Facebook platform, pursuant to a 'take-it-or-leave-it' offer".

[...] Meta said the "fundamental concerns identified by the tribunal in its February 2023 judgement have not been resolved".

It was "committed to giving people meaningful control" of the information they shared on its platforms and to "invest heavily to create tools that allow them to do so."

The legal action is being funded by Innsworth, a company backed by an investment management fund, which has also funded mass legal actions against Mastercard, Ericsson and Volkswagen.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Wednesday February 21, @02:13AM   Printer-friendly

Study shows background checks don't always check out:

Employers making hiring decisions, landlords considering possible tenants and schools approving field trip chaperones all widely use commercial background checks. But a new multi-institutional study co-authored by a University of Maryland researcher shows that background checks themselves can't be trusted.

Assistant Professor Robert Stewart of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Associate Professor Sarah Lageson of Rutgers University suspected that the loosely regulated entities that businesses and landlords rely on to run background checks produce faulty reports, and their research bore out this hunch. The results were published last week in Criminology.

"There's a common, taken-for-granted assumption that background checks are an accurate reflection of a person's criminal record, but our findings show that's not necessarily the case," Stewart said. "My co-author and I found that there are lots of inaccuracies and mistakes in background checks caused, in part, by imperfect data aggregation techniques that rely on names and birth dates rather than unique identifiers like fingerprints."

The erroneous results of a background check can "go both ways," Stewart said, They can miss convictions that a potential employer would want to know about, or they can falsely assign a conviction to an innocent person through transposed numbers in a birth date, incorrect spelling of a name or simply the existence of common aliases.

Stewart and Lageson's study is based on the examination of official state rap sheets containing all arrests, criminal charges, and case dispositions recorded in the state linked to the record subject's name and fingerprints for 101 study participants in New Jersey. Then, the researchers ordered background checks from a regulated service provider—the same type of company that an employer, a landlord, or a school system might use. The researchers also looked up background checks on the same study participants from an unregulated data provider, such as popular "people search" websites.

"We find that both types of background checks have numerous 'false positive' results, reporting charges that our study participants did not have, as well as 'false negatives,' not reporting charges that our study participants did have," Stewart said.

[...] Stewart said that public awareness of the potentially erroneous and incomplete results of background checks will be key to addressing this systemic social problem.

"Other countries are handling background checks in different ways, ways that may take more time, but there are better models out there," Stewart said. "It may be better for background checks to be done through the state, or the FBI, or through other ways that use biometric data. It's important for people to realize that there's a lot at stake."

Journal Reference:
Sarah Lageson et al, The problem with criminal records: Discrepancies between state reports and private‐sector background checks, Criminology (2024). DOI: 10.1111/1745-9125.12359

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday February 20, @09:27PM   Printer-friendly

ISA = Instruction Set Architecture

"As I recall, those two chips were fairly large. And fairly late -- to the marketplace. We had lots of issues with them. [...] Sometimes the elegant solution isn't the best solution." -- Dave House, digressing to the 8271 during "Oral History Panel on the Development and Promotion of the Intel 8080 Microprocessor" [link], April 26th 2007, Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California. Introduction

Around 1977, Intel released a floppy disc controller (FDC) chip called the 8271. This controller isn't particularly well known. It was mainly used in business computers and storage solutions, but its one breakthrough into the consumer space was with the BBC Micro, a UK-centric computer released in 1981.

There are very few easily discovered details about this chip online, aside from the useful datasheet. This, combined with increasing observations of strange behavior, make the chip a bit of an enigma. My interest in the chip was piqued when I accidentally triggered a wild test mode that managed to corrupt one of my floppy discs even though the write protect tab was present!

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday February 20, @03:42PM   Printer-friendly
from the its-DNSSEC-not-DNSSEX dept.

Just one bad packet can bring down a vulnerable DNS server thanks to DNSSEC

'You don't have to do more than that to disconnect an entire network' El Reg told as patches emerge

A single packet can exhaust the processing capacity of a vulnerable DNS server, effectively disabling the machine, by exploiting a 20-plus-year-old design flaw in the DNSSEC specification.

That would make it trivial to take down a DNSSEC-validating DNS resolver that has yet to be patched, upsetting all the clients relying on that service and make it seem as though websites and apps were offline.

The academics who found this flaw – associated with the German National Research Center for Applied Cybersecurity (ATHENE) in Darmstadt – claimed DNS server software makers briefed about the vulnerability described it as "the worst attack on DNS ever discovered."

[....] The researchers said lone DNS packets exploiting KeyTrap could stall public DNSSEC-validated DNS services, such as those provided by Google and Cloudflare, by making them do calculations that overtax server CPU cores.

This disruption of DNS could not only deny people's access to content but could also interfere with other systems, including spam defenses, cryptographic defenses (PKI), and inter-domain routing security (RPKI), the researchers assert.

"Exploitation of this attack would have severe consequences for any application using the Internet including unavailability of technologies such as web-browsing, e-mail, and instant messaging," they claimed. "With KeyTrap, an attacker could completely disable large parts of the worldwide internet."

I thought overtaxed CPU cores were the domain of cryptocurrency and large language models.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday February 20, @10:58AM   Printer-friendly

The inside of underwater pipes and enclosed nuclear containers were inaccessible—until recently. Acoustics researchers in Penn State's College of Engineering have developed a way to convey energy and transmit communications through metal walls using ultrasound.

They published their innovation, a pillar-based acoustic metamaterial that operates at ultrasound frequency range, in Physical Review Applied. The work could have implications for research in space, according to the researchers.

"If you wanted to power a device, such as a temperature sensor, inside a metal enclosure like a pipe, ultrasound waves can carry that energy to the device," said Yun Jing, professor of acoustics and biomedical engineering and corresponding author on the paper. "But previously, the waves could not pass through metal barriers that would block sound, unless the transducers were in direct contact with the barrier."

The researchers created a pillar-based metamaterial: an array of tiny, cylindrical pillars positioned on a metal plate that work as resonators, which vibrate or oscillate to create acoustic resonance.

When the metamaterial is situated between a transducer transmitter and a receiver, it dramatically enhances the ultrasonic power transmission rate through a metal barrier, without requiring direct contact between transducers and the barrier. Previously, faint ultrasound waves could pass through metal, but they lacked sufficient energy to power a sensor or pass messages through the metal.

"With a narrow end and a wider end like a pillar, the acoustic metamaterial is designed like an acoustic resonator," said first author Jun Ji, who recently earned his doctorate in acoustics from Penn State. "The shape of the metamaterial allows for a wireless transmission and reception of ultrasound through a metal barrier."

The researchers tested the function of the metamaterial sample in two experiments. In the first, they wirelessly transmitted power through a metal plate with the metamaterial using an ultrasonic transmitter and a receiver, successfully powering an LED light on the other side. This confirmed the metamaterial's ability to transmit power through metal walls.

In a second test case, they transmitted an image of the letters "PSU" through a metal plate with the metamaterial using encoded ultrasonic signal, confirming that communications are possible with the use of the metamaterial strengthening the transmission of ultrasound waves through metal barriers.

More information: Jun Ji et al, Metamaterial-enabled wireless and contactless ultrasonic power transfer and data transmission through a metallic wall, Physical Review Applied (2024). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevApplied.21.014059

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Tuesday February 20, @06:13AM   Printer-friendly
from the Who-woulda-thunk-it? dept.

Looks like Microsoft is preparing yet more helpful tech reps...

Tech billionaire and globalist Bill Gates' Microsoft has announced plans to recruit up to two million workers from India who will be trained to use artificial intelligence.

According to Microsoft Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, the company will equip two million Indians with AI skills by 2025 in an effort to generate more jobs in the nation of nearly 1.5 billion. (Related: Technocrats Gates and Altman admit current AI is the stupidest version of AGI but believe it can eventually "overcome polarization" – or in reality – censor views.)

"We are devoted to equip two million-plus people in India with AI skills, that is, really taking the workforce and making sure that they have the right skills in order to be able to be a part of this domain," said Nadella on Wednesday, Feb. 7, during a Microsoft CEO Connection event in Mumbai. "But it's not just the skills, it's even the jobs that they create."

The skilling program will focus on training individuals in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities – cities with 50,000 to 99,999 residents and 20,000 to 49,999 residents, respectively – as well as rural areas with below 20,000 residents in an effort to "unlock inclusive socio-economic progress," according to the company in a statement.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday February 20, @01:30AM   Printer-friendly

One overlooked aspect of the resignation of Harvard University President Claudine Gay in January is why Harvard's 400-year-old governing corporation, comprised of titans of industry, academia, and government, appeared so caught off guard by the public's reaction to Gay's quickly mounting problems over her congressional testimony and plagiarism charges. Damning reports described flat-footed board members marooned at holiday destinations engaged in reactive decision-making.

Similar questions arose regarding Boeing's paralysis over a years-long crisis in quality control of its 737 MAX fleet. Did no one in charge think the public would react poorly to news that the plane was deemed sufficiently dodgy that Alaska Airlines had restricted it from flying over open water to Hawaii?

Like all organizations, non-profit and corporate boards can fall prey to groupthink, silo effects, or short-term or trendy thinking that ultimately work against the interests of the entity they are entrusted to oversee. A large scientific literature has explored factors affecting board function, from disciplinary and sociodemographic diversity to size and deliberation processes. A less explored factor is how the internal network structure of the board can affect its performance.

[...] Boards face challenges, and their problems are not just a function of mis-directed objectives (such as an overly narrow focus on quarterly earnings or fealty to some ideological commitment) nor a function of the self-perpetuating insularity that makes them ignore external pressures or information. Rather, the way many boards themselves are structured may make them less capable of confronting the enduring reality of such stresses. Efforts to make it difficult or impossible for outsiders to join boards (such as happened at Yale a couple of years ago) will only exacerbate such problems.

Network insights can provide the right kind of disruption here—the kind that fosters creativity and fiscal stewardship, whether that is by bringing leaders down or keeping planes up.

An interesting article about the possible reasons why boards fail to take the right decisions ...

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday February 19, @08:48PM   Printer-friendly
from the killing-you-softly-with-backdoors dept.

Mysterious 'MMS Fingerprint' Hack Used by Spyware Firm NSO Group Revealed:

The existence of a previously unknown infection technique used by spyware firm NSO Group is suggested by a single line in a contract between NSO and the telecom regulator of Ghana.

The contract is within the documentation of the ongoing court case between WhatsApp and NSO. Labeled under 'Infection Assisting Tools' is a single entry titled 'MMS Fingerprint'. NSO claims it can reveal the target device and the OS of the target device, 'without user interaction, engagement or message opening', and can be used against Android, Blackberry, and iOS.

There is (or has been) no known MMS fingerprint infection route. Cathal McDaid, VP of technology at Swedish telecoms security firm Enea investigated to learn more.

Since multiple device manufactures can be targeted, McDaid decided to look at the MMS flow rather than the individual devices. The MMS flow, writes McDaid, is somewhat 'messy': "Confusingly, sometimes the MMS flow is not using MMS."

MMS was introduced when not all phones were MMS compatible. So, the developers introduced a fall-back to a type of SMS known as a binary SMS (WSP Push), used to notify the recipient MMS device's user agent that an MMS message is waiting for retrieval.

Similarly, retrieval of the message is also not specifically 'MMS' – it is an HTTP GET request to the URL address contained in the waiting message. "The interesting thing here," writes McDaid, "is that within this HTTP GET, user device information is included. It was suspected that this may be the point that targeted device information could be leaked, and the MMS Fingerprint could be 'lifted'."

Enea tested this. Via MMS it was able to make the target device perform a GET to an URL on a server it controlled. This HTTP GET exposed the device's UserAgent and x-wap-profile fields. The first identifies the OS and device. The second points to a UAProf (User Agent Profile) file that describes the capabilities of a mobile handset. Enea concealed the process by changing the binary SMS element to be a silent SMS through setting a TP-PID value of 0x40. The result was that no MMS content appears on the targeted device, and the targeted person sees anything on their phone.

All of this describes a possible infection route (which is what the NSO contract claims) rather than a specific device exploitation. However, with the information obtained, further attacks are simplified. "Both of these can be very useful for malicious actors," says McDaid. "Attackers could use this information to exploit specific vulnerabilities or tailor malicious payloads (such as the Pegasus exploit) to the recipient device type. Or it could be used to help craft phishing campaigns against the human using the device more effectively."

To a degree, this is all theory – but Enea has demonstrated that it is a workable MMS fingerprinting method. The firm has found no indication of it being used in the wild, but notes that it doesn't have visibility into every operator in the world. It can be blocked by the local mobile network, while subscribers could disable MMS auto-retrieval on their handset (as recommended to defend against other MMS exploits such as Stagefright.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Monday February 19, @04:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the AI-generated-rats-are-feeling-the-pressure-to-perform dept.

Scientists aghast at bizarre AI rat with huge genitals in peer-reviewed article:

Appall and scorn ripped through scientists' social media networks Thursday as several egregiously bad AI-generated figures circulated from a peer-reviewed article recently published in a reputable journal. Those figures—which the authors acknowledge in the article's text were made by Midjourney—are all uninterpretable. They contain gibberish text and, most strikingly, one includes an image of a rat with grotesquely large and bizarre genitals, as well as a text label of "dck."

On Thursday, the publisher of the review article, Frontiers, posted an "expression of concern," noting that it is aware of concerns regarding the published piece. "An investigation is currently being conducted and this notice will be updated accordingly after the investigation concludes," the publisher wrote.

[...] Some scientists online questioned whether the article's text was also AI-generated. One user noted that AI detection software determined that it was likely to be AI-generated; however, as Ars has reported previously, such software is unreliable.

The images, while egregious examples, highlight a growing problem in scientific publishing. A scientist's success relies heavily on their publication record, with a large volume of publications, frequent publishing, and articles appearing in top-tier journals, all of which earn scientists more prestige. The system incentivizes less-than-scrupulous researchers to push through low-quality articles, which, in the era of AI chatbots, could potentially be generated with the help of AI. Researchers worry that the growing use of AI will make published research less trustworthy. As such, research journals have recently set new authorship guidelines for AI-generated text to try to address the problem. But for now, as the Frontiers article shows, there are clearly some gaps.

It looks like "peer reviewed" is becoming meaningless nowadays. However, this attempt is so obviously fake that I cannot see how anyone could have put their name to having completed a review.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Monday February 19, @11:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the Talky-talky dept.

Ars has a story that reveals some new information about the Indo-European proto-language:

Almost half of all people in the world today speak an Indo-European language, one whose origins go back thousands of years to a single mother tongue. Languages as different as English, Russian, Hindustani, Latin, and Sanskrit can all be traced back to this ancestral language.

Over the last couple of hundred years, linguists have figured out a lot about that first Indo-European language, including many of the words it used and some of the grammatical rules that governed it. Along the way, they've come up with theories about who its original speakers were, where and how they lived, and how their language spread so widely.

Most linguists think that those speakers were nomadic herders who lived on the steppes of Ukraine and western Russia about 6,000 years ago. Yet a minority put the origin 2,000 to 3,000 years before that, with a community of farmers in Anatolia, in the area of modern-day Turkey. Now a new analysis, using techniques borrowed from evolutionary biology, has come down in favor of the latter, albeit with an important later role for the steppes.

The computational technique used in the new analysis is hotly disputed among linguists. But its proponents say it promises to bring more quantitative rigor to the field, and could possibly push key dates further into the past, much as radiocarbon dating did in the field of archaeology.

Such stories are fascinating for people such as myself who are amateur linguists.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Monday February 19, @06:55AM   Printer-friendly
from the beware-space-woodpeckers dept.

Japan to launch world's first wooden satellite to combat space pollution

[...] "All the satellites which re-enter the Earth's atmosphere burn and create tiny alumina particles, which will float in the upper atmosphere for many years," Takao Doi, a Japanese astronaut and aerospace engineer with Kyoto University, warned recently. "Eventually, it will affect the environment of the Earth."

To tackle the problem, Kyoto researchers set up a project to evaluate types of wood to determine how well they could withstand the rigours of space launch and lengthy flights in orbit round the Earth. The first tests were carried out in laboratories that recreated conditions in space, and wood samples were found to have suffered no measurable changes in mass or signs of decomposition or damage.

"Wood's ability to withstand these conditions astounded us," said Koji Murata, head of the project.

After these tests, samples were sent to the ISS, where they were subjected to exposure trials for almost a year before being brought back to Earth. Again they showed little signs of damage, a phenomenon that Murata attributed to the fact that there is no oxygen in space which could cause wood to burn, and no living creatures to cause it to rot.


Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Monday February 19, @02:30AM   Printer-friendly
from the Canary-is-not-a-canary dept.

The Canary Islands—More than 1000 years ago, a young man stood on the northern shore of the island now known as El Hierro. Across the wave-swept Atlantic Ocean, he could see the silhouettes of other islands, a volcanic peak on one soaring toward the clouds only 90 kilometers away. Yet, for him, those islands were as unreachable as the Moon.

His body betrayed the rigors of life on his arid volcanic outcrop. His molars were worn almost to the gums from grinding fibrous wild fern roots. His ancestors here had farmed wheat, but he and his contemporaries grew only barley and raised livestock such as goats. His genes held evidence that his parents were closely related, like many of the roughly 1000 people on the island, who had not mingled with outsiders for centuries. Also like many of his fellow islanders, he bore signs of an old head injury, likely sustained in a fight.

"This population faced a lot of challenges," says archaeologist Jonathan Santana of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC). "Survival on this island was a challenge every day."

Yet the first Canarians, who arrived from North Africa roughly 1800 years ago, survived and even thrived on this arid, windswept archipelago for 1000 years. They numbered in the tens of thousands when Europeans arrived at the start of the 14th century. Not long after, conquest and genocide had largely erased them as a people. But their DNA lives on in many islanders today, and traces of their lives remain, in granaries, cliff dwellings, ceramic figurines, and hundreds of human remains like those of the man on El Hierro—all remarkably well preserved by the dry climate.

By applying the latest archaeological tools to this trove of material, Santana and other home-grown archaeologists are unearthing their stories, shedding light on puzzles that have mystified archaeologists since the 19th century. For instance, how did people with no apparent seafaring skills reach and survive on the archipelago? Why did their crops and cultures differ from island to island despite their common origin? The answers offer insights into how human societies cope with—and respond to—challenging environments, says Scott Fitzpatrick, a University of Oregon archaeologist who studies island cultures. "The Canaries have been sort of an enigma."

Original Submission