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posted by janrinok on Friday May 10, @08:43PM   Printer-friendly

Gene Therapy Restored Hearing in Deaf Child: [Paywalled in some regions]

Regeneron's gene therapy is being tested in a clinical trial.

An experimental gene therapy gave a deaf child the ability to hear, her family and investigators for a clinical trial say.

Opal Sandy, the girl, received an injection of DB-OTO, Regeneron's gene therapy, in her ear when she was 11 months old. Her hearing was assessed as normal within six months.

"When Opal could first hear us clapping unaided it was mind-blowing," Jo Sandy, the girl's mother, said in a statement released by the UK's National Health Service (NHS).

[...] "Providing the full complexity and spectrum of sound in children born with profound genetic deafness is a phenomenon I did not expect to see in my lifetime," Dr. Lawrence Lustig, chair of Columbia University's Department of Otolaryngology and one of the trial investigators, said in a statement.

Opal was born with genetic deafness from mutations of the otoferlin gene. About one in every 500 children are born in the United States with little or no ability to hear, and genetic changes like variants of the otoferlin gene are one cause.

Variants in the gene inhibit the production of a protein necessary for communication between the inner ear and the auditory nerve. The problem can be partially rectified with hearing aids or cochlear implants.

"It was our ultimate goal for Opal to hear all the speech sounds. It's already making a difference to our day-to-day lives, like at bath-time or swimming, when Opal can't wear her cochlear implant," James Sandy, Opal's father, said.

The DB-OTO is aimed at restoring the full spectrum of sound to people with mutated otoferlin gene. It's given as an intracochlear injection into one ear, or administered directly to the inner ear. A phase 1/2 clinical trial testing the gene therapy started in 2023, enrolling children in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Spain.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Friday May 10, @03:58PM   Printer-friendly
from the data-is-the-new-currency dept.

More than 800,000 people in Europe and the US appear to have been duped into sharing card details and other sensitive personal data with a vast network of fake online designer shops apparently operated from China:

An international investigation by the Guardian, Die Zeit and Le Monde gives a rare inside look at the mechanics of what the UK's Chartered Trading Standards Institute has described as one of the largest scams of its kind, with 76,000 fake websites created.

A trove of data examined by reporters and IT experts indicates the operation is highly organised, technically savvy – and ongoing.

Operating on an industrial scale, programmers have created tens of thousands of fake web shops offering discounted goods from Dior, Nike, Lacoste, Hugo Boss, Versace and Prada, as well as many other premium brands.

[...] The first fake shops in the network appear to have been created in 2015. More than 1m "orders" have been processed in the past three years alone, according to analysis of the data. Not all payments were successfully processed, but analysis suggests the group may have attempted to take as much as €50m (£43m) over the period. Many shops have been abandoned, but a third of them – more than 22,500 – are still live.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Friday May 10, @11:16AM   Printer-friendly
from the corporate-schadenfreude dept.

The Federal Communications Commission clarified its net neutrality rules to prohibit more kinds of fast lanes.

While the FCC voted to restore net neutrality rules on April 25, it didn't release the final text of the order until yesterday. The final text has some changes compared to the draft version released a few weeks before the vote.

[...] Advocates warned that mobile carriers could use the 5G technology called "network slicing" to create fast lanes for categories of apps, like online gaming, and charge consumers more for plans that speed up those apps. This isn't just theoretical: Ericsson, a telecommunications vendor that sells equipment to the major carriers, has said the carriers could get more money from gamers by charging "up to $10.99 more for a guaranteed gaming experience on top of their 5G monthly subscription."

[...] The final FCC order released yesterday addresses that complaint.

"We clarify that a BIAS [Broadband Internet Access Service] provider's decision to speed up 'on the basis of Internet content, applications, or services' would 'impair or degrade' other content, applications, or services which are not given the same treatment," the FCC's final order said.

The "impair or degrade" clarification means that speeding up is banned because the no-throttling rule says that ISPs "shall not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content, application, or service."

[...] In one FCC filing, AT&T promoted network slicing as a way "to better meet the needs of particular business applications and consumer preferences than they could over a best-efforts network that generally treats all traffic the same." AT&T last week started charging mobile customers an extra $7 per month for faster wireless data speeds, but this would likely comply with net neutrality rules because the extra speed applies to all broadband traffic rather than just certain types of online applications.

[...] Broadband providers plan to sue the FCC in an effort to block the regulation.

Previously on SoylentNews:
FCC Restores Net Neutrality Rules that Ban Blocking and Throttling in 3-2 Vote - 20240426
Cable Lobby Vows "Years of Litigation" to Avoid Bans on Blocking and Throttling - 20240404

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Friday May 10, @06:41AM   Printer-friendly

Three of our community had sent in submissions regarding the solar storms expected to arrive over the weekend. Auroras, weather permitting, will be visible over much of the northern hemisphere. For those of you who like to see such things, or for those of you looking for something different to do, why not get outside and take a look:

Updated flare status

For the first time since October 2003, G5 conditions have been observed. This is described as an extreme geomagnetic storm and is the highest level on NOAA's scale for geomagnetic storms. In addition to reaching G5 conditions, an S2-level solar radiation storm was observed today, and HF radio blackouts at the R3-level have occurred multiple times.

If you're hoping to see auroras, NOAA provides real-time short-range ~30-60 minute forecasts of auroral activity in both the northern and southern hemispheres. There is also a separate dashboard for monitoring disruptions to HF radio.

Solar storms incoming this weekend

Earth prepares for solar storm impact from three CMEs this weekend

Solar activity has reached high levels in the past 24-36 hours, with background flux at or near M1.0. The most significant developments from the Sun include the growth and merging of Regions 3664 and 3668, as well as the production of numerous M-class solar flares and two X-class solar flares from CMEs that are expected to arrive at Earth this weekend.

A particularly volatile sunspot has sent a series of solar storms surging toward the Earth, many of which are due to hit in the next few days.

Sunspot AR3663 released five plumes of solar plasma—coronal mass ejections, or CMEs—in the past day, with the second, third, and fifth being forecast to slam directly into our planet this weekend.

This could lead to "strong" geomagnetic storms in our magnetic field and atmosphere, which could result in auroras being seen as far south as Illinois and Oregon.

auroras incoming!

Auroras will be visible from much of the Northern Hemisphere tonight through Saturday night!

NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center Issues Rare G4 Watch for Incoming CME

NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has issued a rare G4 watch for incoming coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that are expected to arrive as early as 18-21 UTC on Friday. NOAA's scale for geomagnetic storms is based on the planetary K-index, and goes as high as G5. The K-index is a measure of horizontal disturbances in Earth's magnetic field caused by the interaction of the CME with Earth's magnetosphere, and is estimated from observations collected by many ground-based magnetometers.

Although G4 conditions occurred as recently as March 23 of this year, the SWPC has not forecasted G4 conditions since January 2005. The most recent time G5 conditions were reached was during the 2003 Halloween solar storms. In a G4 geomagnetic storm, auroras may be visible at geomagnetic latitudes as low as 45°.

A large cluster of sunspots ejected several CMEs which have merged during their approach to Earth. The incoming geomagnetic storm is currently forecasted to be most severe from 03-12 UTC on Saturday, with the highest planetary K-index expected to be 8.33. Another CME is expected to start impacting Earth around 15 UTC on Saturday, with the geomagnetic storm peaking at G2 conditions between 03-06 UTC on Sunday.

If you'd like to monitor geomagnetic disturbances, there are guides for DIY projects (1, 2, and 3) where you can construct your own magnetometer capable of measuring nanoTesla-scale variations in the magnetic field to monitor for auroras.

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2Original Submission #3Original Submission #4

posted by janrinok on Friday May 10, @06:32AM   Printer-friendly
from the if-at-first-you-dont-succeed dept.

The first crewed flight of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner will be delayed at least another week and a half to replace a faulty valve in its Atlas 5 launch vehicle.

NASA announced late May 7 that the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission, whose launch was scrubbed May 6 because of a malfunctioning valve in the rocket's Centaur upper stage, had been rescheduled for no earlier than May 17 at 6:16 p.m. Eastern.

[...] The lengthy delay will allow United Launch Alliance to roll the rocket back to its Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) hangar

[...] Tory Bruno, president and chief executive of ULA, said the concern was that the vibration could have caused the valve to approach its rated life of 200,000 cycles. The valve was vibrating at 40 hertz, he noted.

He said then that engineers would examine if those vibrations involved full cycles of the valve. If so, then ULA would have to replace the valve. [...]

[...] The two astronauts flying the CFT mission, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, will remain at the Kennedy Space Center in pre-flight quarantine for this latest delay, NASA said.

It's good that they caught a problem like this.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Friday May 10, @01:51AM   Printer-friendly

The next Swiss Army Knife won't have a knife:

The Swiss Army Knife has become such a shorthand for multifunctionality that companies producing does-a-lot-of-stuff wares will often say that their goods are the "Swiss Army Knife" of whatever category they're a part of. You can use the tool to cut stuff, snip stuff, uncork stuff, file stuff, in some cases download stuff.

But Victorinox, the company behind the famous gadget, is working on a Swiss Army Knife without the knife part.

"We are in the early stages of developing pocket tools without blades," a spokesperson for the company told CNN. Though it won't be discontinuing its bladed version, the company has been trying to figure out how to serve customers in places — specifically England and some Asian countries — where knives aren't as welcome a pocket sight than in other markets. The British government, for example, is considering new legislation on carrying blades in public.

The Swiss Army Knife has its roots in 1880s Germany. Then the Swiss Karl Elsener took production over the border. Soon a competitor emerged in the company Wenger, and for a while the Swiss government split its orders for the tools between the two of them. Wenger called its version the "genuine" Swiss Army Knife, and Elsener's Victorinox called its version the "original." The two companies ended up merging in 2005.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Thursday May 09, @07:11PM   Printer-friendly

Nintendo says announcement on Switch successor 'this fiscal year':

Nintendo said Tuesday it will make an announcement about a highly anticipated new console by the end of March 2025 as sales decline of the hugely popular Switch, which is now in its eighth year.

Despite logging a record net profit in the year to March, helped by the weak yen, the game giant expects net profit to drop nearly 40% in the current financial year.

Players and investors have been hungry for news about a successor to the Switch, and the company said a statement was finally forthcoming.

[...] Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Nathan Naidu said before the earnings release that Nintendo consoles typically have a "six-to-seven year lifecycle."

"Given hardware drives about 40% of total sales, its drag on (the) overall top line might extend into fiscal 2025 absent a new gaming gadget," he said.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Thursday May 09, @02:26PM   Printer-friendly

Contact forms are almost always worse for users than just putting an email on your website. I explore why they're terrible, why you've done it anyway, and what to do about it.

Why your contact form sucks

Your contact form is completely broken

It's remarkable how many contact forms are just straight-up broken. A WordPress upgrade here, a change to your CRM there, and your contact form silently breaks.

At time of writing, B&Q's contact form just plainly doesn't work1. I am fairly amazed that a retailer with revenues in the billions doesn't notice written queries have stopped coming in.

[...] Contact forms are hard to get right, and often just a worse experience for everyone involved. Go forth and remove your contact form and list your email on your website now!

[Ed. comment: click through and read the lengthy, but hard to argue against, complaints about web-based contact forms]

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Thursday May 09, @09:39AM   Printer-friendly

Scientists have demonstrated a creative solution to plastic pollution, one of our most pressing environmental problems. Plastic was embedded with spores of plastic-eating bacteria that are activated when dumped in landfill, biodegrading 90% of the material in five months. Weirder still, this actually made the plastic tougher and stronger during use.

Plastic is a strong, versatile material, but the same properties that make it useful also make it hard to dispose of. It famously takes decades or centuries to degrade, so huge amounts of plastic waste are clogging up landfill and oceans.

Intriguingly, it seems like nature is adapting, as it so often does. In recent years scientists discovered bacteria that have evolved the ability to break down plastic, isolated the enzymes that do it, and even ramped up their efficiency. This could potentially make for more efficient recycling centers where plastic is treated with enzymes and bacteria. But what about plastic that doesn't make it to these facilities? Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is a tough type of plastic commonly used to make things like shoes, sporting goods, phone cases and car parts, but can't currently be recycled.

So for the new study, the team investigated a new potential method to dispose of TPU – embedding spores of the plastic-eating bacteria Bacillus subtilis right into the plastic itself. Ideally, you'd be able to use the plastic products as normal, without them breaking down too early, and only when they were dumped in landfill or natural environments would they start biodegrading.

The first problem to overcome is that the high heat used to produce plastic would kill off most bacterial spores. So the researchers genetically engineered the microbes to withstand that heat, and found that 96 to 100% of the edited bacteria survived at the plastic processing temperature of 135 °C (275 °F), compared to just 20% of unedited bugs.

Next, they tested how well the bacteria would break down the plastic, a process that's triggered by nutrients and moisture in the soil. At concentrations of up to 1% of the plastic's weight, the bacteria broke down over 90% of the material within five months of being buried in compost.

It's easy to assume that giving plastic its own Achille's heel will only make it weaker during use, but it turns out the opposite is true. Plastic made with the spores was found to be up to 37% tougher and had up to 30% higher tensile strength than regular TPU, with the team hypothesizing that the spores act as a reinforcing filler.

Journal Reference:
Kim, H.S., Noh, M.H., White, E.M. et al. Biocomposite thermoplastic polyurethanes containing evolved bacterial spores as living fillers to facilitate polymer disintegration. Nat Commun 15, 3338 (2024).

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Thursday May 09, @04:56AM   Printer-friendly
from the cutting-off-the-VPN-family-jewels dept.

The TunnelVision vulnerability has existed since 2002 and may already be known to attackers:

Researchers have devised an attack against nearly all virtual private network applications that forces them to send and receive some or all traffic outside of the encrypted tunnel designed to protect it from snooping or tampering.

TunnelVision, as the researchers have named their attack, largely negates the entire purpose and selling point of VPNs, which is to encapsulate incoming and outgoing Internet traffic in an encrypted tunnel and to cloak the user's IP address. The researchers believe it affects all VPN applications when they're connected to a hostile network and that there are no ways to prevent such attacks except when the user's VPN runs on Linux or Android. They also said their attack technique may have been possible since 2002 and may already have been discovered and used in the wild since then.

The effect of TunnelVision is "the victim's traffic is now decloaked and being routed through the attacker directly," a video demonstration explained. "The attacker can read, drop or modify the leaked traffic and the victim maintains their connection to both the VPN and the Internet."

The attack works by manipulating the DHCP server that allocates IP addresses to devices trying to connect to the local network. A setting known as option 121 allows the DHCP server to override default routing rules that send VPN traffic through a local IP address that initiates the encrypted tunnel. By using option 121 to route VPN traffic through the DHCP server, the attack diverts the data to the DHCP server itself.

[...] Interestingly, Android is the only operating system that fully immunizes VPN apps from the attack because it doesn't implement option 121. For all other OSes, there are no complete fixes.

Originally spotted on Schneier on Security.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Thursday May 09, @12:09AM   Printer-friendly
from the All-signs-point-to-yes dept.

A press release from Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) details findings based on data collected by the ChemCam instrument on NASA's Curiosity rover

From the press release:

A research team using the ChemCam instrument onboard NASA's Curiosity rover discovered higher-than-usual amounts of manganese in lakebed rocks within Gale Crater on Mars, which indicates that the sediments were formed in a river, delta, or near the shoreline of an ancient lake. The results were published today in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

"It is difficult for manganese oxide to form on the surface of Mars, so we didn't expect to find it in such high concentrations in a shoreline deposit," said Patrick Gasda, of Los Alamos National Laboratory's Space Science and Applications group and lead author on the study. "On Earth, these types of deposits happen all the time because of the high oxygen in our atmosphere produced by photosynthetic life, and from microbes that help catalyze those manganese oxidation reactions.

"On Mars, we don't have evidence for life, and the mechanism to produce oxygen in Mars's ancient atmosphere is unclear, so how the manganese oxide was formed and concentrated here is really puzzling. These findings point to larger processes occurring in the Martian atmosphere or surface water and shows that more work needs to be done to understand oxidation on Mars," Gasda added.

ChemCam, which was developed at Los Alamos and CNES (the French space agency), uses a laser to form a plasma on the surface of a rock, and collects that light in order to quantify elemental composition in rocks.
"The Gale lake environment, as revealed by these ancient rocks, gives us a window into a habitable environment that looks surprisingly similar to places on Earth today," said Nina Lanza, principal investigator for the ChemCam instrument. "Manganese minerals are common in the shallow, oxic waters found on lake shores on Earth, and it's remarkable to find such recognizable features on ancient Mars."

More evidence that Mars was once a warm and wet world. Sadly, we'll likely never know whether or not life actually got started there.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday May 08, @07:21PM   Printer-friendly
from the morning-joe dept.

A new method to deliver a quality cold brew coffee in less than three minutes solidifies Australia's position as the innovators of modern coffee, according to researchers from The University of Queensland.

Engineers from University New South Wales developed an ultrasonic machine to speed up the cold brew of ground coffee beans—a process that normally takes 12 to 24 hours. The research was published in Ultrasonics Sonochemistry.

Postdoctoral researcher Dr. Jaqueline Moura Nadolny said UQ scientists then tested this brew, finding the taste would satisfy fans of cold brew who rave about its smoother, less acidic and less bitter qualities.

"Once again, Australia has new technology at our fingertips that moves us from traditional methods of coffee making to modern methods, giving consumers a new premium experience," Dr. Nadolny said.

"Our trained sensory panel tastings proved that we can achieve a taste profile very similar to either a traditional cold brew or an espresso in the time it takes to brew a hot espresso."

The UNSW team led by Dr. Francisco Trujillo superimposed their own patented sound transmission system on an existing coffee machine model. The system connects a bolt-clamped transducer with the brewing basket via a metallic horn—transforming the coffee basket into a powerful ultrasonic reactor.

Dr. Trujillo said the ultrasound process speeds up the extraction of the oils, flavors and aroma of the ground coffee.

"We're able to demonstrate that this can be adapted to an existing espresso machine," he said. "We are very excited about developing this technology, which can be used by companies that already manufacture coffee machines, so consumers will be able to enjoy a 3-minute ultrasonic cold brew at home. This also opens the door for coffee shops and restaurants to produce on-demand brews comparable to 24-hour cold brews, supplying the rising demand while eliminating the need for large semi-industrial brewing units and extensive refrigeration space."

More information: Shih-Hao Chiu et al, Coffee brewing sonoreactor for reducing the time of cold brew from several hours to minutes while maintaining sensory attributes, Ultrasonics Sonochemistry (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.ultsonch.2024.106885

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday May 08, @02:36PM   Printer-friendly

A tokamak in France set a new record in fusion plasma by encasing its reaction in tungsten, a heat-resistant metal that allows physicists to sustain hot plasmas for longer, and at higher energies and densities than carbon tokamaks.

[...] "The recent achievement was made in WEST (tungsten (W) Environment in Steady-state Tokamak), a tokamak operated by the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). WEST was injected with 1.15 gigajoules of power and sustained a plasma of about 50 million degrees Celsius for six minutes. It achieved this record after scientists encased the tokamak's interior in tungsten, a metal with an extraordinarily high melting point. Researchers from Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory used an X-ray detector inside the tokamak to measure aspects of the plasma and the conditions that made it possible."

[...] Earlier this year, the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy installed a tungsten diverter in its KSTAR tokamak, replacing the device's carbon diverter. Tungsten has a higher melting point than carbon, and according to Korea's National Research Council of Science and Technology, the new diverter improves the reactor's heat flux limit two-fold. KSTAR's new diverter enabled the institute's team to sustain high-ion temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius for longer.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Wednesday May 08, @09:55AM   Printer-friendly

The threat is potentially grave because it could be used in supply-chain attacks:

A maximum severity vulnerability that allows hackers to hijack GitLab accounts with no user interaction required is now under active exploitation, federal government officials warned as data showed that thousands of users had yet to install a patch released in January.

A change GitLab implemented in May 2023 made it possible for users to initiate password changes through links sent to secondary email addresses. The move was designed to permit resets when users didn't have access to the email address used to establish the account. In January, GitLab disclosed that the feature allowed attackers to send reset emails to accounts they controlled and from there click on the embedded link and take over the account.

While exploits require no user interaction, hijackings work only against accounts that aren't configured to use multifactor authentication. Even with MFA, accounts remained vulnerable to password resets, but the attackers ultimately are unable to access the account, allowing the rightful owner to change the reset password. The vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2023-7028, carries a severity rating of 10 out of 10.

On Wednesday, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said it is aware of "evidence of active exploitation" and added the vulnerability to its list of known exploited vulnerabilities. CISA provided no details about the in-the-wild attacks. A GitLab representative declined to provide specifics about the active exploitation of the vulnerability.

The vulnerability, classified as an improper access control flaw, could pose a grave threat. GitLab software typically has access to multiple development environments belonging to users. With the ability to access them and surreptitiously introduce changes, attackers could sabotage projects or plant backdoors that could infect anyone using software built in the compromised environment. An example of a similar supply chain attack is the one that hit SolarWinds in 2020 and pushed malware to more than 18,000 of its customers, 100 of whom received follow-on hacks. Other recent examples of supply chain attacks are here, here, and here.

[...] GitLab users should also remember that patching does nothing to secure systems that have already been breached through exploits. GitLab has published incident response guidance here.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday May 08, @05:13AM   Printer-friendly
from the spies-take-pretty-pictures dept.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 2 satellites on record-tying 20th flight (video):

SpaceX just tied its rocket-reuse record for the second time in less than a week.

A Falcon 9 rocket launched two Earth-observation satellites for the company Maxar today (May 2) from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 2:36 p.m. EDT (1836 GMT; 11:36 a.m. local California time).

It was the 20th mission for this rocket's first stage, tying a record that one Falcon 9 set last month and another one equaled on Saturday night (April 27).

The Falcon 9's first stage came back to Earth safely yet again today, making a vertical touchdown back at Vandenberg about 8.5 minutes after liftoff.

The rocket's upper stage, meanwhile, continued carrying two of Maxar's WorldView Legion satellites to orbit. The first spacecraft will be deployed 13 minutes after launch, and the second will follow suit 3.5 minutes after that.

The WorldView Legion satellites are built by Maxar Space Systems and will be operated by Maxar Intelligence, both of which are divisions of Maxar Technologies. The spacecraft that went up today are the first two of a planned six-satellite network.

"When all six WorldView Legion satellites are launched, it will triple Maxar Intelligence's capacity to collect 30-centimeter-class [12 inches] and multispectral imagery," Maxar representatives wrote in a description of the network.

"The full Maxar constellation of 10 electro-optical satellites will image the most rapidly changing areas on Earth as frequently as every 20 to 30 minutes, from sunup to sundown," they added.

Original Submission

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