Can Problems From Climate Change Be Addressed With Science? ( 278

Slashdot reader bricko shares an article from Scientific American about two "ecomodernists" who argue that the problems of climate change can be addressed through science and technology. In his Breakthrough essay, Steven Pinker spells out a key assumption of ecomodernism. Industrialization "has been good for humanity. It has fed billions, doubled lifespans, slashed extreme poverty, and, by replacing muscle with machinery, made it easier to end slavery, emancipate women, and educate children. It has allowed people to read at night, live where they want, stay warm in winter, see the world, and multiply human contact. Any costs in pollution and habitat loss have to be weighed against these gifts...."

We can solve problems related to climate change, Pinker argues, "if we sustain the benevolent forces of modernity that have allowed us to solve problems so far, including societal prosperity, wisely regulated markets, international governance, and investments in science and technology... Since 1970, when the Environmental Protection Agency was established, the United States has slashed its emissions of five air pollutants by almost two-thirds. Over the same period, the population grew by more than 40 percent, and those people drove twice as many miles and became two and a half times richer. Energy use has leveled off, and even carbon dioxide emissions have turned a corner."

The essay also cites ecomodernist Will Boisvert, who believes climate change will be cataclysmic but not apocalyptic, bringing large upheaval but a small impact on human well-being. "Global warming won't wipe us out or even stall our progress, it will just marginally slow ordinary economic development that will still outpace the negative effects of warming and make life steadily better in the future, under every climate scenario.... Our logistic and technical capacities are burgeoning, and they give us ample means of addressing these problems."

Amazon Recalls 260,000 Portable Power Banks For Fire Hazard ( 31

Amazon is recalling 260,000 AmazonBasics portable power banks that can "overheat and ignite," according to a release by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The company has received more than 50 reports of the power banks overheating in the U.S., causing chemical burns and property damage. CNBC reports: "Consumers should immediately unplug and stop using the recalled power banks and contact Amazon for instructions on how to return the unit and receive a full refund," the release says. Amazon is contacting everyone who purchased one of the affected devices. The recall covers six versions of the AmazonBasics portable battery: 16,100 mAh; 10,000 mAh; 5,600 mAh; 2,000 mAh with micro USB cable; 3,000 mAh; and 3,000 mAh with USB micro cable.

US Navy Under Fire In Mass Software Piracy Lawsuit ( 121

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: In 2011 and 2012, the U.S. Navy began using BS Contact Geo, a 3D virtual reality application developed by German company Bitmanagement. The Navy reportedly agreed to purchase licenses for use on 38 computers, but things began to escalate. While Bitmanagement was hopeful that it could sell additional licenses to the Navy, the software vendor soon discovered the U.S. Government had already installed it on 100,000 computers without extra compensation. In a Federal Claims Court complaint filed by Bitmanagement two years ago, that figure later increased to hundreds of thousands of computers. Because of the alleged infringement, Bitmanagement demanded damages totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. In the months that followed both parties conducted discovery and a few days ago the software company filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asking the court to rule that the U.S. Government is liable for copyright infringement. According to the software company, it's clear that the U.S. Government crossed a line. In its defense, the U.S. Government had argued that it bought concurrent-use licenses, which permitted the software to be installed across the Navy network. However, Bitmanagement argues that it is impossible as the reseller that sold the software was only authorized to sell PC licenses. In addition, the software company points out that the word "concurrent" doesn't appear in the contracts, nor was there any mention of mass installations. The full motion brings up a wide range of other arguments as well which, according to Bitmanagement, make it clear that the U.S. Government is liable for copyright infringement.
The Internet

FreeBSD's New Code of Conduct ( 859

FreeBSD has a new code of conduct, which is making several people angry. From the blog post: This code of conduct applies to all spaces used by the FreeBSD Project, including our mailing lists, IRC channels, and social media, both online and off. Anyone who is found to violate this code of conduct may be sanctioned or expelled from FreeBSD Project controlled spaces at the discretion of the FreeBSD Code of Conduct Committee. Participants are responsible for knowing and abiding by these rules. Harassment includes but is not limited to: Comments that reinforce systemic oppression related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, mental illness, neurodiversity, physical appearance, body size, age, race, or religion. Unwelcome comments regarding a person's lifestyle choices and practices, including those related to food, health, parenting, drugs, and employment. Deliberate misgendering. Deliberate use of "dead" or rejected names. Gratuitous or off-topic sexual images or behaviour in spaces where they're not appropriate.

Physical contact and simulated physical contact (e.g., textual descriptions like "hug" or "backrub") without consent or after a request to stop. Threats of violence. Incitement of violence towards any individual, including encouraging a person to commit suicide or to engage in self-harm. Deliberate intimidation. Stalking or following. Harassing photography or recording, including logging online activity for harassment purposes. Sustained disruption of discussion. Unwelcome sexual attention. Pattern of inappropriate social contact, such as requesting/assuming inappropriate levels of intimacy with others. Continued one-on-one communication after requests to cease. Deliberate "outing" of any private aspect of a person's identity without their consent except as necessary to protect vulnerable people from intentional abuse. Publication of non-harassing private communication without consent. Publication of non-harassing private communication with consent but in a way that intentionally misrepresents the communication (e.g., removes context that changes the meaning). Knowingly making harmful false claims about a person.


Researchers Warn of Extraterrestrial Hacks ( 16

dmoberhaus writes: An astronomer and astrophysicist have published a new paper to arXiv examining possible scenarios where an extraterrestrial message received on Earth is malicious. This ranges from unsubstantiated threats ('We'll supernova your sun!') to super advanced AI that promises the cure for cancer but takes over the world with microbots. The ideas are pretty far out there, but serve to underscore the inherent risk with SETI efforts. Nevertheless, the researchers argue that the benefits of establishing contact with ET far outweigh the risks .

To Fight Fatal Infections, Hospitals May Turn to Algorithms ( 4

The technology used by Facebook, Google and Amazon to turn spoken language into text, recognize faces and target advertising could help doctors combat one of the deadliest killers in American hospitals. From a report: Clostridium difficile, a deadly bacterium spread by physical contact with objects or infected people, thrives in hospitals, causing 453,000 cases a year and 29,000 deaths in the United States, according to a 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Traditional methods such as monitoring hygiene and warning signs often fail to stop the disease. But what if it were possible to systematically target those most vulnerable to C-diff? Erica Shenoy, an infectious-disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Jenna Wiens, a computer scientist and assistant professor of engineering at the University of Michigan, did just that when they created an algorithm to predict a patient's risk of developing a C-diff infection, or CDI. Using patients' vital signs and other health records, this method -- still in an experimental phase -- is something both researchers want to see integrated into hospital routines. The CDI algorithm -- based on a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning -- is at the leading edge of a technological wave starting to hit the U.S. health care industry. After years of experimentation, machine learning's predictive powers are well-established, and it is poised to move from labs to broad real-world applications, said Zeeshan Syed, who directs Stanford University's Clinical Inference and Algorithms Program.

Hospitals May Turn To Algorithms To Fight Fatal Infections ( 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American: Clostridium difficile, a deadly bacterium spread by physical contact with objects or infected people, thrives in hospitals, causing 453,000 cases a year and 29,000 deaths in the United States, according to a 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Traditional methods such as monitoring hygiene and warning signs often fail to stop the disease. But what if it were possible to systematically target those most vulnerable to C-diff? Erica Shenoy, an infectious-disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Jenna Wiens, a computer scientist and assistant professor of engineering at the University of Michigan, did just that when they created an algorithm to predict a patient's risk of developing a C-diff infection, or CDI. Using patients' vital signs and other health records, this method -- still in an experimental phase -- is something both researchers want to see integrated into hospital routines.

The CDI algorithm -- based on a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning -- is at the leading edge of a technological wave starting to hit the U.S. health care industry. After years of experimentation, machine learning's predictive powers are well-established, and it is poised to move from labs to broad real-world applications, said Zeeshan Syed, who directs Stanford University's Clinical Inference and Algorithms Program. Shenoy and Wiens' CDI algorithm analyzed a data set from 374,000 inpatient admissions to Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Michigan Health System, seeking connections between cases of CDI and the circumstances behind them. The records contained over 4,000 distinct variables. As it repeatedly analyzes this data, the ML process extracts warning signs of disease that doctors may miss -- constellations of symptoms, circumstances and details of medical history most likely to result in infection at any point in the hospital stay.


Apple Launches Free Repair Program For 'No Service' IPhone 7 Bug ( 61

Mark Wilson writes: Apple has launched a new repair program aimed at iPhone 7 users who are experiencing a "No Service" problem. Apple says that affected models that were sold since September 2016 will be repaired free of charge. The company explains that the No Service bug only affects a "small number" of handsets, and it is caused by a failed component on the main logic board...

Apple says that the problematic iPhone 7s were sold in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, and the US between September 2016 and February 2018. The specific model numbers are A1660, A1780 and A1779 and anyone whose phone is displaying a "No Service" message even when signal is available is told to contact their nearest Apple Authorized Service Provider, Apple Retail Store or Apple Technical Support.


Microbes May Help Astronauts Transform Human Waste Into Food ( 103

A Penn State researcher team has shown that it is possible to rapidly break down solid and liquid waste to grow food with a series of microbial reactors, while simultaneously minimizing pathogen growth. They reported their findings in the journal Life Sciences in Space Research. Phys.Org reports: To test their idea, the researchers used an artificial solid and liquid waste that's commonly used in waste management tests. They created an enclosed, cylindrical system, four feet long by four inches in diameter, in which select microbes came into contact with the waste. The microbes broke down waste using anaerobic digestion, a process similar to the way humans digest food. The team found that methane was readily produced during anaerobic digestion of human waste and could be used to grow a different microbe, Methylococcus capsulatus, which is used as animal feed today. The team concluded that such microbial growth could be used to produce a nutritious food for deep space flight. They reported in Life Sciences in Space Research that they grew M. capsulatus that was 52 percent protein and 36 percent fats, making it a potential source of nutrition for astronauts.

Because pathogens are also a concern with growing microbes in an enclosed, humid space, the team studied ways to grow microbes in either an alkaline environment or a high-heat environment. They raised the system's pH to 11 and were surprised to find a strain of the bacteria Halomonas desiderata that could thrive. The team found this bacteria to be 15 percent protein and 7 percent fats. At 158 degrees Fahrenheit, which kills most pathogens, they grew the edible Thermus aquaticus, which consisted of 61 percent protein and 16 percent fats.


Plastic Pollution Is Killing Coral Reefs, 4-Year Study Finds ( 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: A new study based on four years of diving on 159 reefs in the Pacific shows that reefs in four countries -- Australia, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar -- are heavily contaminated with plastic. It clings to the coral, especially branching coral. And where it clings, it sickens or kills. "The likelihood of disease increases from 4 percent to 89 percent when corals are in contact with plastic," researchers report in the journal Science. Study leader Drew Harvell at Cornell University says the plastic could be harming coral in at least two ways. First, bacteria and other harmful microorganisms are abundant in the water and on corals; when the coral is abraded, that might invite pathogens into the coral. In addition, Harvell says, plastic can block sunlight from reaching coral. Based on how much plastic the researchers found while diving, they estimate that over 11 billion plastic items could be entangled in coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region, home to over half the world's coral reefs. And their survey did not include China, one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution.

Former Employees Say Lyft Staffers Spied On Passengers ( 28

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Similar to Uber's "God View" scandal, Lyft staffers have been abusing customer insight software to view the personal contact info and ride history of the startup's passengers. One source that formerly worked with Lyft tells TechCrunch that widespread access to the company's backend let staffers "see pretty much everything including feedback, and yes, pick up and drop off coordinates." When asked if staffers, ranging from core team members to customer service reps, abused this privilege, the source said "Hell yes. I definitely looked at my friends' rider history and looked at what drivers said about them. I never got in trouble." Another supposed employee anonymously reported on workplace app Blind that staffers had access to this private information and that the access was abused. Our source says that the data insights tool logs all usage, so staffers were warned by their peers to be careful when accessing it surreptitiously. For example, some thought that repeatedly searching for the same person might get noticed. But despite Lyft logging the access, enforcement was weak, so team members still abused it. A Lyft spokesperson issued the following statement to TechCrunch: "Maintaining the trust of passengers and drivers is fundamental to Lyft. The specific allegations in this post would be a violation of Lyft's policies and a cause for termination, and have not been raised with our Legal or Executive teams. We are conducting an investigation into the matter. Access to data is restricted to certain teams that need it to do their jobs. For those teams, each query is logged and attributed to a specific individual. We require employees to be trained in our data privacy practices and responsible use policy, which categorically prohibit accessing and using customer data for reasons other than those required by their specific role at the company. Employees are required to sign confidentiality and responsible use agreements that bar them from accessing, using, or disclosing customer data outside the confines of their job responsibilities."

Scientists Develop Glucose-Tracking Smart Contact Lenses Comfortable Enough To Wear ( 35

A team of Korean scientists have developed a smart lens that could help diabetics track blood glucose levels while remaining stretchable enough to be comfortable and transparent enough to preserve vision. Engadget reports: The lens achieves its flexibility thanks to a design that puts its electronics into isolated pockets linked by stretchable conductors. There's also an elastic material in between that spreads the strain to prevent the electronics from breaking when you pinch the lens. And when the refractive indices all line up, you should get a lens that's as transparent as possible and largely stays out of your way. The sensor in question is straightforward: an LED light stays on as long as glucose levels are normal, and shuts off when something's wrong. Power comes through a metal nanofiber antenna that draws from a nearby power source coil. That's about the only major drawback -- the low conductivity of the antenna means that you can't just tuck the coil wherever it's convenient. The co-author of the study, Jang-Ung Park, told IEEE Spectrum that a commercial version of the contact lens should arrive within the next five years.
Red Hat Software

Red Hat Reverts Spectre Patches to Address Boot Issues ( 78

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: Red Hat is releasing updates for reverting previous patches for the Spectre vulnerability (Variant 2, aka CVE-2017-5715) after customers complained that some systems were failing to boot. "Red Hat is no longer providing microcode to address Spectre, variant 2, due to instabilities introduced that are causing customer systems to not boot," the company said yesterday. "The latest microcode_ctl and linux-firmware packages are reverting these unstable microprocessor firmware changes to versions that were known to be stable and well tested, released prior to the Spectre/Meltdown embargo lift date on Jan 3rd," Red Had added.

Instead, Red Hat is recommending that each customer contact their OEM hardware provider and inquire about mitigations for CVE-2017-5715 on a per-system basis. Besides Red Hat Enterprise Linux, other RHEL-based distros like CentOS and Scientific Linux are also expected to be affected by Red Hat's decision to revert previous Spectre Variant 2 updates, so these users will also have to contact CPU/OEM vendors.

At least one site "characterized the move as Red Hat washing its hands of the responsibility to provide customers with firmware patches," writes Data Center Knowledge, arguing instead that Red Hat "isn't actually involved in writing the firmware updates. It passes the microcode created by chipmakers to its users 'as a customer convenience.'" "What I would have said if they'd asked us ahead of time is that microcode is something that CPU vendors develop," Jon Masters, chief ARM architect at Red Hat, told Data Center Knowledge in a phone interview Thursday. "It's actually an encrypted, signed binary image, so we don't have the capability, even if we wanted to produce microcode. It's a binary blob that we cannot generate. The only people who can actually generate that are the CPU vendors."
The Almighty Buck

OnePlus Customers Report Credit Card Fraud After Buying From the Company's Website ( 63

If you purchased a OnePlus smartphone recently from the official OnePlus website, you might want to check your transactions to make sure there aren't any you don't recognize. "A poll was posted on the OnePlus forum on Thursday asking users if they had noticed fraudulent charges on their credit cards since purchasing items on the OnePlus site," reports Android Police. "More than 70 respondents confirmed that they had been affected, with the majority saying they had bought from the site within the past 2 months." From the report: A number of FAQs and answers follow, in which OnePlus confirms that only customers who made credit card payments are affected, not those who used PayPal. Apparently, card info isn't stored on the site but is instead sent directly to a "PCI-DSS-compliant payment processing partner" over an encrypted connection. [...] OnePlus goes on to say that intercepting information should be extremely difficult as the site is HTTPS encrypted, but that it is nevertheless carrying out a complete audit. In the meantime, affected customers are advised to contact their credit card companies immediately to get the payments canceled/reversed (called a chargeback). OnePlus will continue to investigate alongside its third-party service providers, and promises to update with its findings as soon as possible.

According to infosec firm Fidus, there is actually a brief window in which data could be intercepted. Between entering your card details into the form and hitting 'submit,' the details are apparently hosted on-site, which could give attackers all the time they need to steal those precious digits and head off on a spending spree. Fidus also notes that the company doesn't appear to be PCI-compliant, but that directly contradicts OnePlus' own statement. We'll have to wait until more details emerge before we pass judgment.
Here's OnePlus' official statement on the matter: "At OnePlus, we take information privacy extremely seriously. Over the weekend, members of the OnePlus community reported cases of unknown credit card transactions occurring on their credit cards post purchase from We immediately began to investigate as a matter of urgency, and will keep you updated. This FAQ document will be updated to address questions raised."

Russia Lost a $45 Million Satellite Because 'They Didn't Get the Coordinates Right' ( 101

Last month, Russia lost contact with a 6,062-pound, $45 million satellite. Turns out, that happened because the Meteor-M weather satellite was programmed with the wrong coordinates. Gizmodo reports: On Wednesday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told the Rossiya 24 state TV channel that a human error was responsible for the screw-up, according to Reuters. While the Meteor-M launched last month from the Vostochny cosmodrome in the Far East, it was reportedly programmed with take-off coordinates for the Baikonur cosmodrome, which is located in southern Kazakhstan. "The rocket was really programmed as if it was taking off from Baikonur," Rogozin said. "They didn't get the coordinates right." And the rocket had some precious cargo on board: "18 smaller satellites belonging to scientific, research and commercial companies from Russia, Norway, Sweden, the U.S., Japan, Canada and Germany," Reuters reported.

FCC Approves First Wireless 'Power-At-A-Distance' Charging System ( 138

The FCC has approved the first wireless charger that works from up to three feet away. Engadget reports: San Jose-based startup, Energous, announced on Tuesday that it has received the first such FCC certification for power-at-a-distance wireless charging with its WattUp Mid Field transmitter. The transmitter converts electricity into radio frequencies, then beams the energy to nearby devices outfitted with a corresponding receiver. This differs from the resonant induction method that the Pi wireless charging system relies upon and offers a greater range than the Belkin and Mophie chargers that require physical contact with the device. The WattUp can charge multiple devices simultaneously and should work on any number of devices, from phones and tablets to keyboards and earbuds, so long as they're outfitted with the right receiver. What's more, the WattUp ecosystem is manufacturer-agnostic -- like WiFi -- meaning that you'll still be able to, for example, charge your Samsung phone even if the transmitter is made by Sony or Apple.
Social Networks

The People Who Read Your Airline Tweets ( 54

From a piece on The Atlantic: At first, the idea of a company directly tweeting at its customers was very strange. Nowadays, people have gotten used to having back-and-forths with customer service representatives. In any given hour, JetBlue makes public contact with 10, 15, 20 different people. American Airlines receives 4500 mentions an hour, 70 to 80 percent of them on Twitter. Both companies staff their social teams with long-time employees who are familiar with the airlines' systems. Both hire internally out of the "reservations" team, so they know how to rebook flights and make things happen. At American, the average social-media customer-support person has been at the company for 17 years. Every major airline has a team like this. Southwest runs what it calls a "Listening Center." American Airlines calls it their "social-media hub" in Fort Worth, Texas. Alaska has a "social care" team in Seattle that responds to the average tweet for help in two minutes and 34 seconds, according to a report by Conversocial. Most of the time, it's a worthy, but low-profile job. But not always. This is the strangest thing about people tweeting with airlines: They're just a routine part of how the business works now. Tweets and Facebook posts go out via a social-media team and a customer-service team responds to the incoming problems, snark, and jokes.

Cloud-Based Repository Leak Exposes 123 Million American Households ( 62

"An Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3 cloud storage bucket containing information from data analytics firm Alteryx has been found publicly exposed, comprising the personal information of 123 million U.S. households," reports ZDNet. "The S3 bucked, located at the subdomain 'alteryxdownload,' was found by California cybersecurity firm UpGuard, with its Cyber Risk Team discovering the leak on October 6, 2017." From the report: The 36 GB data file titled "ConsumerView_10_2013" contained over 123 million rows, each one signifying a different American household. A similar file was seen by UpGuard when the personal details of 198 million American voters, compiled in a dataset by a data firm used by the Republican National Committee, were exposed. To highlight the breadth of the issue, UpGuard said the exposed data reveals over 3.5 billion fields of personally identifying details and data points about virtually every American household, including racial and ethnic information. The spreadsheet uses anonymized identifiers, but the information in the other few billion fields are very detailed, UpGuard said. Home addresses, contact information, mortgage status, financial histories, and very specific analysis of purchasing behavior -- such as domestic travel habits, if someone is a cat enthusiast, and their sporting interests -- is up for grabs in the exposed data. As for how this happened, ZDNet says, "the bucket was configured via permission settings to allow any AWS 'Authenticated Users' to download its stored data. Authenticated users are any user that has an AWS account."

Contact Lens Startup Hubble Sold Lenses With a Fake Prescription From a Made-up Doctor ( 325

Alison Griswold, reporting for Quartz: The Hubble contacts sitting in front of me are everything the ads promised: two weeks' worth of soft, daily lenses in robin's-egg-blue packaging. They arrived promptly, one week after I placed an order on Hubble's website, and three days after the company notified me the contacts had shipped. The lenses were packed in cream-colored boxes and came with a five-step guide, illustrated in different shades of pastel. There's only one problem: I don't wear contacts, and I ordered these using a fake prescription from a made-up doctor. Hubble was founded in May 2016 as a direct-to-consumer contact lens brand -- the Warby Parker of contacts, if you will. The company aims to make buying contact lenses as cheap and easy as shopping on Amazon. It has fast become a star of New York's startup scene, raising more than $30 million from investors that include Founders Fund and Greycroft Partners. Its valuation tops $200 million. Since the service officially launched in November 2016, Hubble claims to have sold $20 million worth of lens subscriptions, and says it's growing 20% month over month. Hubble expanded to Canada in August and plans to be in the UK as early as January. Quick service, cheap contacts, and whimsical branding have made Hubble a speedy success. But in its rush to disrupt the consumer experience, Hubble also appears to be playing fast and loose with some basic consumer protections.

Facebook Launches New Messenger App for Young Kids -- What Could Possibly Go Wrong? ( 62

More than one billion people use Facebook's Messenger app to communicate every month. Now the social juggernaut is going after the younger audience. On Monday, it announced Messenger Kids, a standalone mobile app designed for children age 13 and under. From a report: The app, Messenger Kids, is a messaging service that gives parents authority over who their kids can chat with. Once a parent adds someone to their child's contact list through the main Facebook app, kids can video chat as well as send photos, videos, and texts, or pick something from "a library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks, and drawing tools," according to Facebook's announcement post. [...] A Facebook spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo, "We've built automated systems that can detect things like nudity, violence, and child exploitative imagery to help limit that content from being shared on Messenger Kids. We also have blocking and reporting mechanisms, and have a dedicated team of human reviewers that review all content that is reported."

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