astroengine writes "Despite the assurances that the holes seen in Mars rover Curiosity's wheels were just a part of the mission, there seems to be increasing concern for the wheels' worsening condition after the one-ton robot rolled over some craggy terrain. In an upcoming drive, rover drivers will monitor the six wheels over some smooth terrain to assess their condition. "We want to take a full inventory of the condition of the wheels," said Jim Erickson, project manager for the NASA Mars Science Laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. 'Dents and holes were anticipated, but the amount of wear appears to have accelerated in the past month or so.' Although the wheels are designed to sustain significant damage without impairing driving activities, the monitoring of the situation is essential for future planning."
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Lasrick writes "As a key part of a campaign to embed encryption software that it could crack into widely used computer products, the U.S. National Security Agency arranged a secret $10 million contract with RSA, one of the most influential firms in the computer security industry, Reuters has learned." Asks an anonymous reader: "If the NIST curves really are broken (as has been suggested for years), then most SSL connections might be too, amirite?"
Barence writes "The latest tests from Dennis Publishing's security labs saw Microsoft Security Essentials fail to detect 39% of the real-world malware thrown at it. Dennis Technology Labs (DTL) tested nine home security products on a Windows 7 PC, including Security Essentials, which is distributed free to Windows users and built into Windows 8 in the form of Windows Defender. While the other eight packages all achieved protection scores of 87% or higher — with five scoring 98% or 99% — Microsoft's free antivirus software protected against only 61% of the malware samples used in the test. Microsoft conceded last year that its security software was intended to offer only "baseline" performance"."
mrspoonsi sends this news from Scientific American: "The difference between HIV infection and full-blown AIDS is, in large part, the massive die-off of the immune system's CD4 T-cells. But researchers have only observed the virus killing a small portion of those cells, leading to a longstanding question: What makes the other cells disappear? New research shows that the body is killing its own cells in a little-known process. What's more, an existing, safe drug could interrupt that self-destruction, thereby offering a way to treat AIDS. The destructive process has caught scientists by surprise. 'We thought HIV infects a cell, sets up a virus production factory and then the cell dies as a consequence of being overwhelmed by virus. But there are not enough factories to explain the massive losses,' says Warner Greene, director of virology and immunology at the Gladstone Institutes, whose team published two papers today in Science and Nature describing the work. Greene estimates 95 percent of the cells that die in HIV infections are killed through pyroptosis, so the findings raise hope for a new type of treatment that could prevent HIV from progressing into AIDS. 'Inhibiting activation of the immune system is not a new concept, but this gives us a new pathway to target,' says Robert Gallo. And in fact, a drug already exists that can block pyroptosis."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Research scientists could learn an important thing or two from computer scientists, according to a new study (abstract) showing that data underpinning even groundbreaking research tends to disappear over time. Researchers also disappear, though more slowly and only in terms of the email addresses and the other public contact methods that other scientists would normally use to contact them. Almost all the data supporting studies published during the past two years is still available, as are at least some of the researchers, according to a study published Dec. 19 in the journal Current Biology. The odds that supporting data is still available for studies published between 2 years and 22 years ago drops 17 percent every year after the first two. The odds of finding a working email address for the first, last or corresponding author of a paper also dropped 7 percent per year, according to the study, which examined the state of data from 516 studies between 2 years and 22 years old. Having data available from an original study is critical for other scientists wanting to confirm, replicate or build on previous research – goals that are core parts of the evolutionary, usually self-correcting dynamic of the scientific method on which nearly all modern research is based. No matter how invested in their own work, scientists appear to be 'poor stewards' of their own work, the study concluded."
McGruber writes "During her testimony (PDF) at a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing Wednesday about the data-broker industry, Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, revealed that the Medbase200 unit of Integrated Business Services Incorporated had been offering a list of 'rape sufferers' on its website, at a cost of $79 for 1,000 names. The company, which sells marketing information to pharmaceutical companies, also offered lists of domestic violence victims, HIV/AIDS patients, and 'peer pressure sufferers.' In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Integrated Business Services Incorporated President Sam Tartamella initially denied that his company maintained or sold databases of rape victims. After the Journal provided him a link to the 'rape sufferers' page, he said he would remove it from Medbase200's website and denied ever having sold such a list. The page was removed later Wednesday."
retroworks sends word that a group of researchers has found a chemical that successfully rejuvenated muscle tissue in mice. The scientists "said it was the equivalent of transforming a 60-year-old's muscle to that of a 20-year-old — but muscle strength did not improve." The study (abstract) is being called an "exciting finding" but the researchers are quick to point out the chemical only reverses one aspect of aging. Damage to DNA and shortening of telomeres continues. Still, it's one piece of the puzzle, and the group is hoping to begin clinical trials in 2015.
The Bad Astronomer writes "On December 24, 1968, the Apollo 8 astronauts saw the Earth rising over the limb of the Moon. The photo they took of this moment — dubbed Earthrise — has become an icon of our need to explore, and to protect our home world. NASA has just released a video explaining how the astronauts were able to capture this unique moment, which included a dash of both coincidence and fast teamwork."
iONiUM writes "Today BlackBerry announced a $4.4 billion loss, and a deal with Foxconn to outsource hardware manufacturing. One interesting stat is that 75% of sales were actually older BB7 devices. That said, CEO John Chen says, 'We are very much alive, thank you.' He adds, 'Our "for sale" sign has been taken down and we are here to stay. BlackBerry recently announced it has entered into an agreement to receive a strategic investment from Fairfax Financial and other institutional investors, which represents a vote of confidence in the future of BlackBerry.'"
Antipater writes "According to a member of the White House panel that recently called for the NSA's metadata-collection program to be curtailed, that program has not stopped any terrorist actions at all. This runs counter to the stories we've heard for months, which claimed as many as fifty prevented attacks. 'Stone declined to comment on the accuracy of public statements by U.S. intelligence officials about the telephone collection program, but said that when they referred to successes they seemed to be mixing the results of domestic metadata collection with the intelligence derived from the separate, and less controversial, NSA program, known as 702, to intercept communications overseas.'"
Lab Rat Jason writes "During a discussion with my wife last night, I came to the realization that the primary reason I have a Hadoop cluster tucked under my desk at home (I work in an office) is because my drive for learning is too aggressive for my IT department's security policy, as well as their hardware budget. But on closer inspection the issue runs even deeper than that. Time spent working on the somewhat menial tasks of the day job prevent me from spending time learning new tech that could help me do the job better. So I do my learning on my own time. As I thought about it, I don't know a single developer who doesn't have a home setup that allows them to tinker in a more relaxed environment. Or, put another way, my home setup represents the place I wish my company was going. So my question to Slashdot is this: How many of you find yourselves investing personal time to learn things that will directly benefit your employer, and how many of you are able to 'separate church and state?'"
KentuckyFC writes "The universe today is filled with beautiful spiral galaxies — but it hasn't always been this way. In the early universe, there were no spiral galaxies, raising an interesting question: when did galaxies get their spirals, and how did they emerge? Now astronomers have the answer, thanks to an analysis of galaxies in an image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope known as the Ultra Deep Field. This shows some 10,000 galaxies of various ages. By ordering a subset of these by type and by age, astronomers have worked out how and when spirals must have evolved. It turns out the first spiral galaxies were simple two-armed structures and appeared when the universe was about 3.8 billion years old. But they say the universe had to wait until it was 8 billion years old before more complex multi-armed galaxies emerged, like the Milky Way and Andromeda."
theodp writes "A week after President Obama stressed the importance of computer science to America, the Department of Homeland Security put out a call for 100+ of the nations' best-and-brightest college students to work for nothing on the nation's cyber security. The unpaid internship program, DHS notes, is the realization of recommendations (PDF) from the Homeland Security Advisory Council's Task Force on CyberSkills, which included execs from Facebook, Lockheed Martin, and Sony, and was advised by representatives from Cisco, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Northrop Grumman, the NSF, and the NSA. 'Do you desire to protect American interests and secure our Nation while building a meaningful and rewarding career?' reads the job posting for Secretary's Honors Program Cyber Student Volunteers (salary: $0.00-$0.00). 'If so, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is calling.' Student volunteers, DHS adds, will begin in spring 2014 and participate throughout the summer. Get your applications in by January 3, kids!"
An anonymous reader sends word that 'Bertha,' the world's largest tunneling machine, which is currently boring a passage beneath Seattle's waterfront, has been forced stop. The 57.5ft diameter machine has encountered an unknown obstruction known as "the object." "The object’s composition and provenance remain unknown almost two weeks after first contact because in a state-of-the-art tunneling machine, as it turns out, you can’t exactly poke your head out the window and look. 'What we’re focusing on now is creating conditions that will allow us to enter the chamber behind the cutter head and see what the situation is,' [said project manager Chris Dixon]. Mr. Dixon said he felt pretty confident that the blockage will turn out to be nothing more or less romantic than a giant boulder, perhaps left over from the Ice Age glaciers that scoured and crushed this corner of the continent 17,000 years ago. But the unknown is a tantalizing subject. Some residents said they believe, or want to believe, that a piece of old Seattle, buried in the pell-mell rush of city-building in the 1800s, when a mucky waterfront wetland was filled in to make room for commerce, could be Bertha’s big trouble. That theory is bolstered by the fact that the blocked tunnel section is also in the shallowest portion of the route, with the top of the machine only around 45 feet below street grade."
hawkinspeter writes "The BBC is reporting that China has rejected 545,000 tons of U.S. corn that was found to contain an unapproved genetically modified strain. Although China doesn't have a problem per se with GM crops (they've been importing GM soybeans since 1997) — but their product safety agency found MIR162 in 12 batches of corn. 'The safety evaluation process [for MIR162] has not been completed and no imports are allowed at the moment before the safety certificate is issued,' said Nui Din, China's vice agricultural minister. The Chinese are now calling on U.S. authorities to tighten their controls to prevent unapproved strains from being sent to China after the first batch of corn was rejected in November due to MIR162."
sciencehabit writes "Don't worry about watching all those cat videos on the Internet. You're not wasting time when you are at your computer — you're honing your fine-motor skills. A study (abstract) of people's ability to translate training that involves clicking and twiddling a computer mouse reveals that the brain can apply that expertise to other fine-motor tasks requiring the hands. The research involved some interesting methodology, including having Chinese migrant workers play the classic arcade game Pong for two hours a day."
MarkWhittington writes "With the Chang'e 3 and its rover Jade Rabbit safely ensconced on the lunar surface, the question arises: is it time to start dividing up the moon and its resources? It may well be an issue by the middle of the current century. With China expressing interest in exploiting lunar resources and a number of private companies, such Moon Express, working for the same goal, a mechanism for who gets what is something that needs looking into. Moon Daily quotes a Russian official as suggesting that it can all be done in a civilized manner, through international agreements. On the other hand, law professor and purveyor of Instapundit Glenn Reynolds suggests that China might spark a moon race by having a private company claim at least parts of the moon. 'International cooperation will certainly rule supreme while there are no economic interests, while it is not clear where commercial profits lie. Scientists can't help communicating with each other and sharing ideas.'"
itwbennett writes "A new IDC study has found that 'of the 18.5 million software developers in the world, about 7.5 million — roughly 40 percent — are so-called hobbyist developers,' which by IDC's definition is 'someone who spends 10 hours a month or more writing computer or mobile device programs, even though they are not paid primarily to be a programmer.' Lumped into this group are students, people hoping to strike it rich with mobile apps, and people who code on the job but aren't counted among the developer ranks."
New submitter blastboy writes "Every day in Britain, a vast system of cameras tracks cars on the road, feeding their movements into a database used by police. And because that data is networked, cops can use it to go back in time — or even predict your movements. But even though there are serious concerns about the technology, and it's regularly been abused by law enforcement, it has now been exported by the Brits and put in place by police departments around the world."
Lucas123 writes "Solid Concepts, which last month revealed the first fully-functional, metal 3D gun, announced today that they're putting 100 limited-edition models of the 1911 .45 caliber pistol on sale for $11,900 each. Solid Concept demonstrated the gun by initially firing 50 rounds through it. Since then, the company said it has fired nearly 2,000 rounds through the pistol without a single malfunction. Unlike the very first 3D printed gun — the single-shot, plastic Liberator — Solid Concepts says is not trying to promote the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. Its purpose in printing the firearm was to demonstrate its ability to turn out precision, durable parts that could withstand the massive pressure created by firing a bullet. People who purchase one of the limited-edition guns will also have the chance to tour Solid Concept's Texas facility to see their gun being printed, and to join their lead additive manufacturing engineers on the range for the first test firing of their limited 1911 gun."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Jacob Kastrenakes reports on The Verge that as part a response to the NSA's wide-reaching surveillance programs, BitTorrent is unveiling a secure messaging service that will use public key encryption, forward secrecy, and a distributed hash table so that chats will be individually encrypted and won't be stored on some company's server. 'It's become increasingly clear that we need to devote hackathons, hours and resources to developing a messaging app that protects user privacy,' says Christian Averill, BitTorrent's director of communications. Because most current chat services rely on central servers to facilitate the exchange of messages, 'they're vulnerable: to hackers, to NSA dragnet surveillance sweeps.' BitTorrent chat aims to avoid those vulnerabilities through its encryption methods and decentralized infrastructure. Rather than checking in with one specific server, users of BitTorrent chat will collectively help each other figure out where to route messages to. In order to get started chatting, you'll just need to give someone else your public key — effectively your identifier. Exchanging public keys doesn't sound like the simplest way to begin a chat, but Averill says that BitTorrent hopes to make it easy enough for anyone interested. 'What we're going to do is to make sure there are options for how this is set up,' says Averill. 'This way it will appeal to the more privacy conscious consumer as well as the less technically inclined.' For now, it remains in a private testing phase that interested users can apply for access to. There's no word on when it'll be open to everyone, but with all of the recent surveillance revelations, it's easy to imagine that some people will be eager to get started."
mrspoonsi writes "BBC Reports: 'Europe has launched the Gaia satellite — one of the most ambitious space missions in history. The 740m-euro (£620m) observatory lifted off from the Sinnamary complex in French Guiana at 06:12 local time (09:12 GMT). Gaia is going to map the precise positions and distances to more than a billion stars. This should give us the first realistic picture of how our Milky Way galaxy is constructed. Gaia's remarkable sensitivity will lead also to the detection of many thousands of previously unseen objects, including new planets and asteroids. Gaia will use this ultra-stable and supersensitive optical equipment to pinpoint its sample of stars with extraordinary confidence. By repeatedly viewing its targets over five years, it should get to know the brightest stars' coordinates down to an error of just seven micro-arcseconds. "This angle is equivalent to the size of a euro coin on the Moon as seen from Earth," explained Prof Alvaro Gimenez, Esa's director of science.'"
cold fjord writes "UPI reports, 'Eighty percent of scientific data are lost within two decades, disappearing into old email addresses and obsolete storage devices, a Canadian study (abstract, article paywalled) indicated. The finding comes from a study tracking the accessibility of scientific data over time, conducted at the University of British Columbia. Researchers attempted to collect original research data from a random set of 516 studies published between 1991 and 2011. While all data sets were available two years after publication, the odds of obtaining the underlying data dropped by 17 per cent per year after that, they reported. "Publicly funded science generates an extraordinary amount of data each year," UBC visiting scholar Tim Vines said. "Much of these data are unique to a time and place, and is thus irreplaceable, and many other data sets are expensive to regenerate.' — More at The Vancouver Sun and Smithsonian."
astroengine writes "New measurements of the electron have confirmed, to the smallest precision attainable, that it has a perfect roundness. This may sounds nice for the little electron, but to one of the big physics theories beyond the standard model, it's very bad news. 'We know the Standard Model does not encompass everything,' said physicist David DeMille, of Yale University and the ACME collaboration, in a press release. 'Like our LHC colleagues, we're trying to see something in the lab that's different from what the Standard Model predicts.' Should supersymmetrical particles exist, they should have a measurable effect on the electron's dipole moment. But as ACME's precise measurements show, the electron still has zero dipole moment (as predicted by the standard model) and is likely very close to being perfectly round. Unfortunately for the theory of supersymmetry, this is yet another blow."