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+ - Twitter's privacy policy and the Wikileaks case ->

Submitted by Rand310
Rand310 (264407) writes "The federal judge in the Wikileaks case cited in his order a version of Twitter's privacy policy from 2010, rather than the very different policy that existed when Appelbaum, Gonggrijp and Jonsdottir created their Twitter accounts back in 2008. That older policy actually promised users that Twitter would keep their data private unless they violated the company's terms of service.

If the judge were to examine the privacy policy that existed when these three targets signed up for a Twitter account, he might decide that they do in fact have a reasonable expectation of privacy and that the government needs a warrant to get the data."

Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:possible original source (Score 1) 117

by Rand310 (#34538618) Attached to: Scientists Create Programmable Bacteria
The orthogonal refers to the fact that the molecule is not naturally part of the E. coli sensing system - and so the synthetic 'message' is not convoluted or otherwise disturbed by the natural processes already taking place in the E. coli. So yes, this would allow individual cells or populations to pass different bits. You cold have as many bits of information as you found 'orthogonal' signaling molecules.

Comment: Re:Antibiotics? (Score 1) 117

by Rand310 (#34538556) Attached to: Scientists Create Programmable Bacteria

And even if you wanted to "program" this feature, you'd have to deal with the nasty problem of protein folding in silico. Better to leave this entire process highly parallel in wetware.

there is no need to deal with protein folding in silico - we know a LOT about proteins and how they work just from standard biochemical assays. There are literally tens of thousands of characterized molecules with known DNA sequences from which we can pick and choose useful sets - slightly modify if need be - and then recombine in novel ways inside a cell. And we can do it directly - without having to rely on some kind of directed evolution - which is quite slow. It is very hard to program a specific well-defined program into a phage - whereas the molecular biology to add features, protein sequences and other regulatory DNA to E. coli is trivial at this point. This is not about making a better immune system, it is about making one (or something else) that is entirely characterized and programmed - not one that must undergo thousands of generations of (difficult to control for) selection in order to become useful.

...not to calculate anything fancy.

Again, because we can program any arbitrary code into the bugs, it is trivial to make a bacteria that lights up green when it detects particular chemicals. Or that only grow when you have a fever, or that do other similar calculations. There are of course extreme difficulties when you're talking about therapeutics because you're interacting with the human body. But outside the human body it is only a matter of time before you start seeing bacterial sensors on everything. They are cheap, they are robust, and they can enzymatically recognize certain properties that mechanical sensors may have great difficulty doing, or doing rapidly, or cheaply. And when you can link the sensors with a programmable logic, THEN you get the really cool stuff. This research demonstrates the first steps into getting the programmable logic up and running.

Comment: Re:Antibiotics? (Score 1) 117

by Rand310 (#34538358) Attached to: Scientists Create Programmable Bacteria
They're inserting synthetic genetic code (with known function) into E. coli that will allow individual bugs to respond in predictable ways to other bugs' chemical signals. So, for example, there is a known DNA sequence that encodes a protein that 'recognizes' signal. There is another sequence that encodes a second signal recognition protein. There is a third sequence that encodes a scaffolding that binds the two signal proteins (an AND gate), and it produces some chemical or enzymatic output. This output is often a small molecule other bacteria can then subsequently recognize.

Once you have enough parts (that are found all over biology, and are slowly being annotated and dissected) you can start to create real computers.

This is very much about passing information between individuals. The 'logic' gates are very much still analogue - in that they are leaky and really only useful at a statistical level, but they are working. But small molecules can act as the medium of transmission between two different individual E. coli in a way that very much resembles a computation.
Idle

+ - The most beautiful girl in the whole wide lab->

Submitted by rritterson
rritterson (588983) writes "Check out this tongue-in-cheek look at what it's like to be a woman in a lab. Based on a parody of the Flight of the Conchords song "Most Beautiful Girl in the Room", this video was created for a university departmental retreat and has been making waves in geekdom the last few days."
Link to Original Source
Hardware

+ - Dyson Unveils New Bladeless Fans to Replace AC-> 2

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Sir James Dyson, of vacuum fame, has just unveiled two new bladeless fans that work upon the same principle as a jet engine, sucking air into a cyclone accelerator that amplifies it 15 to 18 times before blowing it out over an airfoil-shaped ramp. The new units significantly upgrade the diminutive scale of their previously unveiled Air Multiplier, making them "the opening salvo" in the inventor's "war on air conditioning". It's a valiant effort, considering that the average American household already uses 2,822 kWh of energy each year to cool off, spending $276 a year."
Link to Original Source

+ - For-profit movie download sites threaten MPAA ->

Submitted by vossman77
vossman77 (300689) writes "No longer is bittorrent the enemy number one, the MPAA is now concerned about for-profit movie download sites. From the Reuters article:

Movie fans downloading free pirated films are no longer Hollywood's worst nightmare, but that's only because of a newer menace: cheap, and equally illegal, subscription services. Foreign, often mob-run, businesses aggregate illegally obtained movies into "cyberlockers" Cyberlocker-based businesses operate from Russia , Ukraine, Colombia, Germany, Switzerland and elsewhere. Hollywood movies are made available via illegal for-profit sites within days of theatrical release, while the advent of global releasing now allows the proliferation of individual titles into an array of language dubs within the first month of a theatrical debut, he noted. When movies are released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, the sites upgrade the quality of video offered from camcorded images to pristine digital copies. "Sometimes these sites look better than the legitimate sites," Huntsberry said. "That's the irony."

For some reason, they also mention that the U.K. needs a DMCA even though the U.K. is not a problem in this case:

In the U.K., we are hamstrung by the fact that we have very weak legislation. However, the U.K. in April adopted the Digital Economy Act that mandates a so-called graduate response to cybertheft, similar to a plan used in France and elsewhere.

Just a though, but maybe, if they offered a low-cost, for-profit, legitimate download site without DRM, they could receive the profits and not the cyberlockers."
Link to Original Source

Comment: The Scientist's Letter of Concern (Score 1) 357

by Rand310 (#32249558) Attached to: Scientists Question Safety of New Airport Scanners
LETTER OF CONCERN
We are writing to call your attention to serious concerns about the potential health risks of the recently adopted whole body backscatter X-ray airport security scanners. This is an urgent situation as these X-ray scanners are rapidly being implemented as a primary screening step for all air travel passengers.
Our overriding concern is the extent to which the safety of this scanning device has been adequately demonstrated. This can only be determined by a meeting of an impartial panel of experts that would include medical physicists and radiation biologists at which all of the available relevant data is reviewed.
An important consideration is that a large fraction of the population will be subject to the new X-ray scanners and be at potential risk, as discussed below. This raises a number of ‘red flags’. Can we have an urgent second independent evaluation?

The Red Flags
The physics of these X-rays is very telling: the X-rays are Compton-Scattering off outer molecule bonding electrons and thus inelastic (likely breaking bonds). Unlike other scanners, these new devices operate at relatively low beam energies (28keV). The majority of their energy is delivered to the skin and the underlying tissue. Thus, while the dose would be safe if it were distributed throughout the volume of the entire body, the dose to the skin may be dangerously high.
The X-ray dose from these devices has often been compared in the media to the cosmic ray exposure inherent to airplane travel or that of a chest X-ray. However, this comparison is very misleading: both the air travel cosmic ray exposure and chest X- rays have much higher X-ray energies and the health consequences are appropriately understood in terms of the whole body volume dose. In contrast, these new airport scanners are largely depositing their energy into the skin and immediately adjacent tissue, and since this is such a small fraction of body weight/vol, possibly by one to two orders of magnitude, the real dose to the skin is now high.
In addition, it appears that real independent safety data do not exist. A search, ultimately finding top FDA radiation physics staff, suggests that the relevant radiation quantity, the Flux [photons per unit area and time (because this is a scanning device)] has not been characterized. Instead an indirect test (Air Kerma) was made that emphasized the whole body exposure value, and thus it appears that the danger is low when compared to cosmic rays during airplane travel and a chest X-ray dose.
In summary, if the key data (flux-integrated photons per unit values) were available, it would be straightforward to accurately model the dose being deposited in the skin and adjacent tissues using available computer codes, which would resolve the potential concerns over radiation damage.

Our colleagues at UCSF, dermatologists and cancer experts, raise specific important concerns:
A) The large population of older travelers, >65 years of age, is particularly at risk from the mutagenic effects of the X-rays based on the known biology of melanocyte aging.
B) A fraction of the female population is especially sensitive to mutagenesis- provoking radiation leading to breast cancer. Notably, because these women, who have defects in DNA repair mechanisms, are particularly prone to cancer, X-ray mammograms are not performed on them. The dose to breast tissue beneath the skin represents a similar risk.
C) Blood (white blood cells) perfusing the skin is also at risk.
D) The population of immunocompromised individuals--HIV and cancer patients (see above) is likely to be at risk for cancer induction by the high skin dose.
E) The risk of radiation emission to children and adolescents does not appear to have been fully evaluated.
F) The policy towards pregnant women needs to be defined once the theoretical risks to the fetus are determined.
G) Because of the proximity of the testicles to skin, this tissue is at risk for sperm mutagenesis.
H) Have the effects of the radiation on the cornea and thymus been determined?

Moreover, there are a number of ‘red flags’ related to the hardware itself. Because this device can scan a human in a few seconds, the X-ray beam is very intense. Any glitch in power at any point in the hardware (or more importantly in software) that stops the device could cause an intense radiation dose to a single spot on the skin. Who will oversee problems with overall dose after repair or software problems? The TSA is already complaining about resolution limitations; who will keep the manufacturers and/or TSA from just raising the dose, an easy way to improve signal-to-noise and get higher resolution? Lastly, given the recent incident (on December 25th), how do we know whether the manufacturer or TSA, seeking higher resolution, will scan the groin area more slowly leading to a much higher total dose?
After review of the available data we have already obtained, we suggest that additional critical information be obtained, with the goal to minimize the potential health risks of total body scanning. One can study the relevant X-ray dose effects with modern molecular tools. Once a small team of appropriate experts is assembled, an experimental plan can be designed and implemented with the objective of obtaining information relevant to our concerns expressed above, with attention paid to completing the information gathering and formulating recommendations in a timely fashion.

We would like to put our current concerns into perspective. As longstanding UCSF scientists and physicians, we have witnessed critical errors in decisions that have seriously affected the health of thousands of people in the United States. These unfortunate errors were made because of the failure to recognize potential adverse outcomes of decisions made at the federal level. Crises create a sense of urgency that frequently leads to hasty decisions where unintended consequences are not recognized. Examples include the failure of the CDC to recognize the risk of blood transfusions in the early stages of the AIDS epidemic, approval of drugs and devices by the FDA without sufficient review, and improper standards set by the EPA, to name a few. Similarly, there has not been sufficient review of the intermediate and long-term effects of radiation exposure associated with airport scanners. There is good reason to believe that these scanners will increase the risk of cancer to children and other vulnerable populations. We are unanimous in believing that the potential health consequences need to be rigorously studied before these scanners are adopted. Modifications that reduce radiation exposure need to be explored as soon as possible.

In summary we urge you to empower an impartial panel of experts to reevaluate the potential health issues we have raised before there are irrevocable long-term consequences to the health of our country. These negative effects may on balance far outweigh the potential benefit of increased detection of terrorists.

Comment: Re:And yet... (Score 1) 357

by Rand310 (#32249536) Attached to: Scientists Question Safety of New Airport Scanners
From the letter written by the scientists, not the article written by journalists:

"Unlike other scanners, these new devices operate at relatively low beam energies (28keV). The majority of their energy is delivered to the skin and the underlying tissue. Thus, while the dose would be safe if it were distributed throughout the volume of the entire body, the dose to the skin may be dangerously high.

The X-ray dose from these devices has often been compared in the media to the cosmic ray exposure inherent to airplane travel or that of a chest X-ray. However, this comparison is very misleading: both the air travel cosmic ray exposure and chest X- rays have much higher X-ray energies and the health consequences are appropriately understood in terms of the whole body volume dose. In contrast, these new airport scanners are largely depositing their energy into the skin and immediately adjacent tissue, and since this is such a small fraction of body weight/vol, possibly by one to two orders of magnitude, the real dose to the skin is now high."

Comment: Re:If the dose was calculated right, not a problem (Score 1) 357

by Rand310 (#32249520) Attached to: Scientists Question Safety of New Airport Scanners
If each individual cell received 0.02, this would be accurate. But some cells in your body are receiving a dosage of almost 0, and others of two orders of magnitude more. Such that a given cell near your skin might have an extremely high dose, while internal organs get nothing. There are a lot of sensitive sites near the surface of a human's skin. Their misuse of units is shoddy at best, and deliberately misleading at worst.

Comment: Re:Nobody cares (Score 1) 357

by Rand310 (#32249496) Attached to: Scientists Question Safety of New Airport Scanners
Read the letter sent by the scientists. This is true overall, but not true locally. It is true that the total dose your body sees is less than what it sees from cosmic rays (if you average each cell in your body with the total amount of radiation). But it is NOT true at all locally. Your skin cells (and anything near the skin, like white blood cells, breast tissue, testicles, cornea, etc.) all receive VERY high local doses. These do not permeate into the body well, so the average is measured as 'safe' even though for cells on the surface of your body is extraordinarily high.

Comment: Re:Sterilization....the easy way! (Score 1) 357

by Rand310 (#32249472) Attached to: Scientists Question Safety of New Airport Scanners
Apparently this is true for your 'body' as most of the radiation doesn't get much past the skin. But for the skin it can be "1 to 2 orders of magnitude" greater than background cosmic radiation even at altitude according the scientists.

So yeah, your heart sees no more radiation than the trip into the air. But your neck, your eyes, your breasts if you have them, and your testicles if you have them all receive a great deal of local radiation - far more than would be considered safe for a routine examination. But the way the safety is 'calculated' by the people who designed the machine it looks okay on paper.

Comment: Even MORE information for them! (Score 5, Insightful) 126

by Rand310 (#32220362) Attached to: Facebook Throws Privacy Advocates a Bone
When you white-list your computer, the suggestions are something like "my home computer", and "office computer 1", and "vacation computer". This simply provides facebook with even more personal information to use in targeted advertising. If anything, though this does enhance security, it is at the expense of even more of the user's privacy.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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