sciencehabit writes "In a report on the most complete genome of a Neandertal ever sequenced, an international team of researchers has found that the parents of a Neandertal woman from Siberia were as closely related as half-siblings. The genome also shows that at some point the Neandertals interbred with other human groups, including their cousins the Denisovans, and our own modern human ancestors. There are even signs of Denisovans interbreeding with a mysterious archaic species. In all, the study suggests very close encounters among the several kinds of hominins living in the past 125,000 years. The detailed genome of the extinct Neandertals—our closest relatives—also offers a new look at the genetic differences that set our species apart from all the others."
coondoggie writes "In its annual look at what challenges NASA faces in the coming year, the agency's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) this year outlined nine key areas it says will cause the most angina. Leading the way in pain is money. NASA's current money story starts off bad and just gets worse. From the article: '"Along with the rest of the Federal Government, NASA began FY 2013 under a 6-month continuing resolution that funded the Agency at FY 2012 levels. This was followed by a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year that reduced the Agency's enacted funding level of $17. 5 billion by $626.5 million, or approximately 4% due to sequestration. These financial pressures look to repeat themselves in FY 2014, with no annual budget in place at the beginning of the fiscal year and potential sequestration impacts that could reduce NASA's budget request of $17.7 billion by $1.5 billion to $16.2 billion. As the National Research Council noted in its 2012 report examining NASA's strategic direction and management, NASA's budget is 'mismatched to the current portfolio of missions, facilities, and staff,'" the OIG report stated.'"
SonicSpike writes with a story about the huge amount of bitcoins owned by the FBI. "In September, the FBI shut down the Silk Road online drug marketplace, and it started seizing bitcoins belonging to the Dread Pirate Roberts — the operator of the illicit online marketplace, who they say is an American man named Ross Ulbricht. The seizure sparked an ongoing public discussion about the future of Bitcoin, the world's most popular digital currency, but it had an unforeseen side-effect: It made the FBI the holder of the world's biggest Bitcoin wallet. The FBI now controls more than 144,000 bitcoins that reside at a bitcoin address that consolidates much of the seized Silk Road bitcoins. Those 144,000 bitcoins are worth close to $100 million at Tuesday's exchange rates. Another address, containing Silk Road funds seized earlier by the FBI, contains nearly 30,000 bitcoins ($20 million)."
New submitter ttyler writes "It turns out a MacBook's built-in camera can be activated without turning on the green LED. An earlier report suggested the FBI could activate a device's camera without having the light turn on, and there was a case in the news where a woman had nude pictures taken of her without her knowledge. The new research out of Johns Hopkins University confirms both situations are possible. All it takes are a few tweaks to the camera's firmware."
astroengine writes "Astronomers scoping-out the vicinity of the famous star Fomalhaut have discovered that its mysterious stellar sister is also sporting a rather attractive ring of comets. Located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Austrinus, Fomalhaut A is one of the brightest stars in Southern Hemisphere skies. The bright blue giant is notable in that it hosts a gigantic ring of cometary debris and dust. Fomalhaut C is a red dwarf star and was only confirmed to be gravitationally bound Fomalhaut A and Fomalhaut B in October. Fomalhaut is therefore a triple, or trinary, star system. The small red dwarf star may be the proverbial runt of the Fomalhaut stellar litter, but it appears to share some common ground with its larger sibling. 'It's very rare to find two comet belts in one system, and with the two stars 2.5 light years apart this is one of the most widely separated star systems we know of,' said astronomer Grant Kennedy, of the University of Cambridge and lead researcher of this work. 'It made us wonder why both Fomalhaut A and C have comet belts, and whether the belts are related in some way.' One of the reasons why Fomalhaut A's cometary disk is so bright is down to the presence of its exoplanet, stirring up comet collisions. Fomalhaut C may be experiencing the same mechanism."
kthreadd writes "In their research paper titled RSA Key Extraction via Low-Bandwidth Acoustic Cryptanalysis, Daniel Genkin, Adi Shamir and Eran Tromer et al. present a method for extracting decryption keys from the GnuPG security suite using an interesting side-channel attack. By analysing the acoustic sound made by the CPU they were able to extract a 4096-bit RSA key in about an hour (PDF). A modern mobile phone placed next to the computer is sufficient to carry out the attack, but up to four meters have been successfully tested using specially designed microphones."
Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC reports on research that points to the possibility of using inkjet technology to print retinal ganglion and glial cells. While the research is preliminary, it is thought to hold great promise for treating certain kinds of eye problems."
cartechboy writes "The state of California will give Tesla Motors a $34.7 million tax break to expand the company's production capacity for electric cars, state officials announced yesterday. Basically, Tesla won't have to pay sales taxes on new manufacturing equipment worth up to $415 million. The added equipment will help Tesla more than double the number of Model S sedans it builds, as well as assemble more electric powertrains for other car makers. In addition to continued Model S production, Tesla plans to introduce the Model X electric crossover in late 2014, as well as a sub-$40,000 car — tentatively called Model E — that could debut as soon as the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. It turns out California is one of the few states to tax the purchase of manufacturing equipment — but the state grants exemptions for 'clean-tech' companies."
hessian writes "According to a news release from Purdue University, 'Researchers are developing computers capable of "approximate computing" to perform calculations good enough for certain tasks that don't require perfect accuracy, potentially doubling efficiency and reducing energy consumption. "The need for approximate computing is driven by two factors: a fundamental shift in the nature of computing workloads, and the need for new sources of efficiency," said Anand Raghunathan, a Purdue Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who has been working in the field for about five years. "Computers were first designed to be precise calculators that solved problems where they were expected to produce an exact numerical value. However, the demand for computing today is driven by very different applications. Mobile and embedded devices need to process richer media, and are getting smarter – understanding us, being more context-aware and having more natural user interfaces. ... The nature of these computations is different from the traditional computations where you need a precise answer."' What's interesting here is that this is how our brains work."
schwit1 sends this news from the Washington Times: "Pennsylvania police this week were pulling people to the side of the road, quizzing them on their driving habits, and asking if they'd like to provide a cheek swap or a blood sample — the latest in a federally contracted operation that's touted as making roads safer. The same operation took place last month at a community in Texas. Then, drivers were randomly told to pull off the road into a parking lot, where white-coated researchers asked if they'd like to provide DNA samples for a project that determines what percentage of drivers are operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol at given times. With uniformed police in the background, the researchers also offered the motorists money — up to $50 or so — for the blood or saliva samples."
CowboyRobot writes "The Software Inferno is a tale that parallels The Inferno, Part One of The Divine Comedy written by Dante Alighieri in the early 1300s. That literary masterpiece describes the condemnation and punishment faced by a variety of sinners in their hell-spent afterlives as recompense for atrocities committed during their earthly existences. The Software Inferno is a similar account, describing a journey where 'sinners against software' are encountered amidst their torment, within their assigned areas of eternal condemnation, and paying their penance. Quoting: 'CANTO 6 - HERESY: ...The countess explained that these chaotically traveling souls were strongly at variance with well-established beliefs and laws of software engineering developed by experts on the subject. Their unabashed contempt for universally accepted truths spawned decision making that wrought great damage upon software projects in their charge. Some challenged Fred Brooks' sacred counsel in futile attempts to rise above their failings by adding new people with woefully insufficient qualifications to rescue already-late projects. Others flaunted their derision by disregarding software design patterns sanctified by the Gang of Four, instead opting for inelegance of their own in attempts to solve problems whose solutions were already proven, well known, and time-honored.'"
sfcrazy writes "Apart from being involved in open source through software, Google promotes the open source model through its various media channels and participation in open source events across the globe. One such initiative has been their affiliation with the Open Invention Network patent pool (OIN). 'Linux now powers nearly all the world's supercomputers, runs the International Space Station, and forms the core of Android. But as open source has proliferated, so have the threats against it, particularly using patents. That's why we're expanding our participation in Open Invention Network, becoming the organization's first new full board member since 2007."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Chuong Nguyen reports that Apple is forcing developers to adopt iOS 7's visual UI for their apps, and has advised iOS developers that all apps submitted after February 1, 2014 must be optimized for iOS 7 and built using Xcode 5 ... 'It's likely that Apple is more anxious than ever for developers to update their apps to fit in visually and mechanically with iOS 7, as it's the largest change in the history of Apple's mobile software,' says Matthew Panzarino. 'iOS 7 introduced a much more complex physical language while stripping out many of the visual cues that developers had relied on to instruct users. For better or worse, this has created a new aesthetic that many un-updated apps did not reflect.' Most app developers have been building apps optimized towards iOS 7 since Apple's World Wide Developer Conference in June 2013. Apple has been on a push over the past couple of years to encourage developers to support the latest editions of its OS faster than ever. To do this, it's made a habit of pointing out the adoption rates of new versions of iOS, which are extremely high. Nearly every event mentions iOS 7 adoption, which now tops 76% of all iOS users, and Apple publishes current statistics. In order to optimize apps for the new operating system, they must be built with the latest version of Xcode 5 which includes 64-bit support and access to new features like backgrounding APIs."
One of the founders of the cyberpunk genre, Bruce Sterling needs little introduction to science fiction fans. You can read what "Chairman Bruce" has to say at Beyond the Beyond on Wired and the Sterling tumblr. He has agreed to to sit down and answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
The ISS has been operating at partial capacity after a coolant pump malfunctioned last week. NASA has now announced the repair mission: "NASA currently plans for two Expedition 38 astronauts to venture outside the space station Dec. 21, 23, and 25. NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins will remove a pump module that has a failed valve. They will replace it with an existing spare that is stored on an external stowage platform. The pump is associated with one of the station's two external cooling loops, which circulate ammonia outside the station to keep both internal and external equipment cool. Each of the three spacewalks will begin at 7:10 a.m. and is scheduled to last six and a half hours. NASA TV coverage will begin at 6:15 a.m." NASA TV will be airing a preview of the space walks at 3 p.m. EST. As a result of the coolant pump malfunction and the repairs, NASA has also delayed the launch of Orbital Sciences' cargo resupply mission until at least mid-January.
ananyo writes "The Guardian's technology editor, Charles Arthur, asks why researchers have remained largely silent in the wake of the revelation that the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology's standard for random numbers used for cryptography had been weakened by the NSA: 'The nature of the subversions sounds abstruse: the random-number generator, the 'Dual EC DRBG' standard, had been hacked by the NSA and the UK's GCHQ so that its output would not be as random as it should have been. That might not sound like much, but if you are trying to break an encrypted message, the knowledge that it is hundreds or thousands of times weaker than advertised is a great encouragement.' Arthur attributes the silence of UK academics, at least, to pressure from GCHQ. He goes on to say: 'For those who do care, White and Matthew Green, who teaches cryptography at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, have embarked on an ambitious effort to clean up the mess — one that needs help. They have created a non-profit organization called OpenAudit.org, which aims to recruit experts to provide technical assistance for security projects in the public interest, especially open-source security software.'"
An anonymous reader writes with news of the latest major fluctuation in the price people are willing to pay for Bitcoins. From the article: "China's ban on its financial institutions handling bitcoin causes world's largest exchange to cease trading, halving the value of the currency from $1,000 to less than $500 in a matter of days. The country's central bank took a hard line on Bitcoin in early December when it banned financial institutions from handling the decentralized crypto-currency, and as a result BTC China, the world's largest bitcoin exchange, has stopped accepting deposits from its users." Just watch that line trend downward.
DeviceGuru writes "Roku's popular Linux-based media players have long been criticized for their glaring omission of YouTube video support. As of Dec. 17, that is no longer the case, provided you have the high-end Roku 3 player and live in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, or the U.K. Google's YouTube channel is available immediately for the Roku 3 in resolutions up to 1080p, and will be supported on additional models (though probably just Roku 2) next year, according the company. Previously, the only way to run YouTube over a Roku box was to use the third-party, subscription based PlayOn service, which requires a connected PC or Mac running the PlayOn app. The YouTube update also adds a Send to TV feature, letting you send videos to the Roku for display on the TV with a single click."
theodp writes "Speaking at a memorial event for the legendary Douglas Engelbart at the Computer History Museum, Ted Nelson was pissed-with-a-capital-P. Nelson in effect gave two powerful eulogies — one for his friend Dr. Engelbart, who left this Earth in July, and a second for Engelbart's career, which essentially began 'dying' four decades earlier due to short-sighted organizations' failure to fund the brilliant guy who gave the world The Mother of All Demos in 1968. 'Let us never forget that Doug Engelbart was dumped by ARPA,' Nelson laments. 'Doug Engelbart was dumped by SRI, Doug Engelbart was snubbed by Xerox PARC, and for the rest of his working life he had no chance to take us further...Just as we can only guess what John Kennedy might have done, we can only guess what Doug Engelbart might have done had he not been cut down in his prime.' It's a very moving and passionate speech (despite some oddly inappropriate audience laughter). And, alas, a very sad one in a world that throws $4 billion at the likes of Snapchat and Pinterest."
Taco Cowboy writes "Back in 1963, the Beatles did some performances for the BBC and other places. The songs were recorded, but never officially released. Now, 50 years later, Apple has packaged all 59 tracks together and put them up for sale on iTunes for $40. The reason? Copyright. The copyright for unreleased works expires 50 years after the works are recorded. By releasing the 59 tracks on iTunes before the end of December, the songs will be protected under copyright law for 20 more years."
Meshach writes "The FBI has caught the student who called in a bomb threat at Harvard University on December 16. The student used a temporary anonymous email account routed through Tor, but the FBI was able to trace it (PDF) because it originated from the Harvard wireless network. He could face as long as five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine if convicted. He made the threat to get out of an exam."
wiredmikey writes "A mobile botnet called MisoSMS is wreaking havoc on the Android platform, stealing personal SMS messages and exfiltrating them to attackers in China. Researchers at FireEye lifted the curtain off the threat on Monday, describing MisoSMS as 'one of the largest advanced mobile botnets to date' and warning that it is being used in more than 60 spyware campaigns. FireEye tracked the infections to Android devices in Korea and noted that the attackers are logging into command-and-controls in from Korea and mainland China, among other locations, to periodically read the stolen SMS messages. FireEye's research team discovered a total of 64 mobile botnet campaigns in the MisoSMS malware family and a command-and-control that comprises more than 450 unique malicious e-mail accounts."
sciencehabit writes "A dog in the house is more than just good company. There's increasing evidence that exposure to dogs and livestock early in life can lessen the chances of infants later developing allergies and asthma. Now, researchers have traced this beneficial health effect to a microbe living in the gut. Their study, in mice, suggests that supplementing an infant's diet with the right mix of bacteria might help prevent allergies — even without a pet pooch."
deviated_prevert writes "Most instrumental music used today in television commercials, background sounds and themes even on the majority of produced shows comes from completely digital composers who produce the product through digitized instrument samples. This has almost eliminated the need for real human instrumental musicians. For many listeners this makes no difference, as such music is essentially background in nature and does not need to have a true musical interaction with a listening audience at all. The same thing applies to the waves of digital music produced for things like raves. To quote one observer at the Globe and Mail 'So now we know why Deadmau5 and Daft Punk wear helmets when they perform. Everybody is digging the music, but no one is dancing. It is a sad development; the headgear of the maestros is there to mask their tears.' Will the live performance of instrumental musicians also become a thing of the past, or will there continue to be a real need for it? Purely instrumental groups like Booker T and the MGs, as well as solo performers like Herbie Hancock or John McLaughlin, seem not to take the spotlight as they once did. It is apparent that unless someone with a young fresh face is singing, today's producers will not attempt to seriously promote them. Regardless of how great today's instrumentalists are musically, there no longer seems to be a market for real musicianship. Even great performing classical musicians and ensembles are becoming scarcer due to faster and cheaper digital music production."