This analysis of trading logs from the Mt. Gox Bitcoin exchange analyzes a subset of the transactions that took place there prior to the exchange's collapse, and makes the case that two bots (the writer calls them "Willy," and "Markus") were making suspicious transactions which may have been used to intentionally manipulate the trading price, and which can explain the loss of Bitcoin inventory on which the exchange's failure was blamed. The author of the analysis says "[T]here is more than plenty of evidence to suspect that what happened at Mt. Gox may have been an inside job. What I hope to achieve by releasing this analysis into the wild is for the public to learn the truth behind what happened at Mt. Gox, how it affected the Bitcoin price, and hopefully for the individuals responsible for the massive fraud that occurred at Mt. Gox to be put to justice. Although the evidence shown in this report is far from conclusive, it can hopefully spur a more rigorous investigation into Mt. Gox’s accounting data, both by the public (using the leaked data) and the authorities (forensic investigation on the actual data)."
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That smoking is bad for your health is a commonplace; cancer, lung disease, and other possible consequences can all shorten smokers' lifespans. A new meta study from researchers at Oxford concludes that mental illness is just as big a factor in shortening lives, and not only because depression is a contributing factor to suicide. From the story at NPR: "We know that smoking boosts the risk of cancer and heart disease, says Dr. Seena Fazel, a psychiatrist at Oxford University who led the study. But aside from the obvious fact that people with mental illnesses are more likely to commit suicide, it's not clear how mental disorders could be causing early deaths. The researchers looked at data on 1.7 million patients, drawing from 20 recent scientific reviews and studies from mostly wealthy countries. Comparing the effects of mental illness and smoking helps put the stats in context, Fazel tells Shots. 'It was useful to benchmark against something that has a very high mortality rate.'" [Press release from Oxford.]
As reported by Phoronix, the Haiku operating system "has added (untested) support for the newest AMD Radeon graphics cards to its open-source driver for the BeOS-compatible operating system." (Specifically, that support is for the "Mullins" and "Hawaii" graphics processors.) Impressive that this project keeps the BeOS flag raised and continues to modernize; Haiku has been around since 2001 — years longer than Be, Inc. itself lasted.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from the BBC about one very cool building material: "Real carbon fibre, mind, is still just as wondrous as it was in the last century, even if a bit more commonplace in road cars. But it's still very expensive to make in large pieces and quantities, it requires copious energy to manufacture, can be very brittle if made poorly, is not recyclable and can impose a detrimental impact of the environment when being produced. In other words, it is ripe for disruption. Technology stands still for no one. But could nature provide carbon fibre's replacement? So argues Gary Young, a renowned manufacturer of surfboards who has spent his life pioneering alternative materials use for that industry. 'With the right approach, bamboo can be used in many applications in the automotive world where its performance qualities can better carbon fibre's,' Young says. 'Plus, it does not have a negative effect on the environment.''"
Ars Technica reports that HP is back in the $100 tablet market, and this time with a tablet that's intended to be priced there instead of just a fire sale. The new offering lacks Bluetooth and GPS, among other features you might wish for in a tablet, and the screen is surrounded by a hefty bezel, but manages a pretty good list of features. Ars summarizes: "For $100, you can't expect much of the spec sheet. The HP 7 Plus has a 7-inch 1024x600 IPS display, a 1GHz quad-core Cortex A7 processor (made by a company called "Allwinner"), 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, 802.11 b/g/n, a microSD slot, and a 2800 mAh battery. The biggest downside HP could have fixed at this price point is the software: it's only running Android 4.2.2. Android versions are free, HP." Having an avaialble microSD slot beats some more expensive options, too.
A joint project involving NASA and MIT researchers had demonstrated technology last year that could supply a lunar colony with broadband via lasers ("faster Internet access than many U.S. homes get") and has already demonstrated its worth in communications with spacecraft. From ComputerWorld's article: "The Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) kicked off last September with the launch of NASA's LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer), a research satellite [formerly] orbiting the moon. NASA built a laser communications module into LADEE for use in the high-speed wireless experiment. LLCD has already proved itself, transmitting data from LADEE to Earth at 622Mbps (bits per second) and in the other direction at 19.44Mbps, according to MIT. It beat the fastest-ever radio communication to the moon by a factor of 4,800." Communicating at such distances means overcoming various challenges; one of the biggest is the variability in Earth's atmosphere. The LLCD didn't try to power through the atmosphere at only one spot, therefore, but used four separate beams in the New Mexico desert, each aimed "through a different column of air, where the light-bending effects of the atmosphere are slightly different. That increased the chance that at least one of the beams would reach the receiver on the LADEE. Test results [were] promising, according to MIT, with the 384,633-kilometer optical link providing error-free performance in both darkness and bright sunlight, through partly transparent thin clouds, and through atmospheric turbulence that affected signal power." At the CLEO: 2014 conference in June, researchers will provide a comprehensive explanation of how it worked.
An anonymous reader writes "A Brown University project collected the background information of over 2,000 computer science professors in 51 top universities. The data shows a skew in their doctoral degrees, "Over 20% of professors received their Ph.D. from MIT or Berkeley, while more than half of professors received their Ph.D. from the [top] 10 universities." For those professors, fewer work in theoretical computer science and there is a growing trend of recent hires in systems and applications. The original data is also publicly-editable and available to download."
Five years ago today, we mentioned here what was characterized as "The Great Ethanol Scam." According to the central story in that post, the ethanol in gasoline was (or would be) "destroying engines in large numbers," and the only real winners with a rise in the use of ethanol as a gasoline supplement would be auto mechanics. An increasing number of cars are officially cleared for use with E15 (15 percent ethanol), and a growing number of E85 vehicles are in the wild now, too, though apparently many of their owners don't realize that their cars can burn a mixture that's mostly ethanol. When I can, I fill my car with no-ethanol gas, but that's not very easy to find (farmer's co-ops are one handy source), so most of my driving over the past decade has been with E10 fuel. I seem to get better mileage with all-gas, but the circumstances haven't been controlled enough to make a good comparison. What has your experience been? Have you experienced ethanol-related car problems, or were the predictions overblown?
The Washington Post's Energy & Environment section raises today the question of whether the best way to control certain invasive species is to eat them. The biggest success story on this front in the U.S. has been the lionfish; it destroys the habitat of some other fish in the areas where it's been introduced, but it turns out to be a palatable food fish, too. Its population has gone down since the start of a concerted effort to encourage it as a food, rather than just a nuisance. The article touches on invasive species of fish and crustaceans, but also land animals and plants. I know that garlic mustard (widespread in eastern U.S. forests) is tasty, and so are the blackberries all over Seattle.
Bloomberg reports that after Apple's patent victory in court last week over smart-phone rival Samsung, Apple is seeking a sales ban on several specific phones from Samsung; none of them are currently flagship devices. "The nine devices targeted by Cupertino, California-based Apple for a U.S. sales ban include the Admire, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy S2, Galaxy S2 Epic 4G Touch, Galaxy S2 Skyrocket, Galaxy S3 and Stratosphere." Getting the competition blocked from the marketplace over patent claims is something that Apple's tried before in connection with its beef with Samsung, and the company has had mixed results, depending on jurisdiction. Last week's decision in favor of Apple hints that the jury didn't think the company deserved the entire $2.2 billion it was seeking, awarding (a mere) $120 million, instead.
An anonymous reader writes with this news from Wired: "As a reward for his extensive cooperation helping prosecutors hunt down his fellow hackers, the government is seeking time served for the long-awaited sentencing of top LulzSec leader Hector Xavier Monsegur, also known as 'Sabu.' After delaying his sentencing for nearly three years, the government has asked a federal court to sentence Monsegur to time served — just seven months — calling him an 'extremely valuable and productive cooperator' in a document that details for the first time his extensive cooperation providing 'unprecedented access to LulzSec.'" That's much less than the 317 months in prison he might otherwise face.
theodp (442580) writes "'R beats Python!' screams the headline at Prof. Norm Matloff's Mad (Data) Scientist blog. 'R beats Julia! Anyone else wanna challenge R?' Not that he has anything against Python, Matloff adds, but he just doesn't believe that Python or Julia will become 'the new R' anytime soon, or ever. Why? 'R is written by statisticians, for statisticians,' explains Matloff. 'It matters. An Argentinian chef, say, who wants to make Japanese sushi may get all the ingredients right, but likely it just won't work out quite the same. Similarly, a Pythonista could certainly cook up some code for some statistical procedure by reading a statistics book, but it wouldn't be quite same. It would likely be missing some things of interest to the practicing statistician. And R is Statistically Correct.'"
"A new study by the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), has solved a 150-year-old evolutionary mystery about the origins of the giant flightless 'ratite' birds, such as the emu and ostrich, which are found across the southern continents. This group contains some of the world's largest birds - such as the extinct giant moa of New Zealand and elephant birds of Madagascar. ... [A]ncient DNA extracted from bones of two elephant birds held by the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, has revealed a close genetic connection with the kiwi, despite the striking differences in geography, morphology and ecology between the two." Which means that the emu is not, as conventional wisdom has long held, the kiwi's closest link. Here's more on the research from the University of Adelaide.
Scientific American reports that an ongoing budget crunch at NASA may spell doom for the Spitzer Space Telescope, the agency having "taken stock of its fleet of orbiting astrophysics telescopes and decided which to save and which to shutter. Among the winners were the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Kepler planet-hunting telescope, which will begin a modified mission designed to compensate for the recent failure of two of its four stabilizing reaction wheels." Also from the SciAm article: "Until JWST comes online, no other telescope can approach Spitzer’s sensitivity in the range of infrared light it sees. The Senior Review report noted that Spitzer had the largest oversubscription of any NASA mission from 2013 to 2014, meaning that it gets about seven times more applications for observing time from scientists than it can accommodate. ...'The guest observing programs were very powerful because you get people from all over the world proposing ideas that maybe the people on the team wouldn’t have come up with,' [senior review panel chair Ben R.] Oppenheimer says. 'But it’s got to be paid for.'"