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Security

Can Iris-Scanning ID Systems Tell the Difference Between a Live and Dead Eye? (ieee.org) 50

the_newsbeagle writes: Iris scanning is increasingly being used for biometric identification because it's fast, accurate, and relies on a body part that's protected and doesn't change over time. You may have seen such systems at a border crossing recently or at a high-security facility, and the Indian government is currently collecting iris scans from all its 1.2 billion citizens to enroll them in a national ID system. But such scanners can sometimes be spoofed by a high-quality paper printout or an image stuck on a contact lens.

Now, new research has shown that post-mortem eyes can be used for biometric identification for hours or days after death, despite the decay that occurs. This means an eye could theoretically be plucked from someone's head and presented to an iris scanner. The same researcher who conducted that post-mortem study is also looking for solutions, and is working on iris scanners that can detect the "liveness" of an eye. His best method so far relies on the unique way each person's pupil responds to a flash of light, although he notes some problems with this approach.

Earth

There's A 50% Chance of Another Chernobyl Before 2050, Say Safety Specialists (technologyreview.com) 140

An anonymous reader writes from a report via MIT Technology Review: Spencer Wheatley and Didier Sornette at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and Benjamin Sovacool at Aarhus University in Denmark have compiled the most comprehensive list of nuclear accidents ever created and used it to calculate the chances of future accidents. They say there is a 50:50 chance that a major nuclear disaster will occur somewhere in the world before 2050. "There is a 50 percent chance that a Chernobyl event (or larger) occurs in the next 27 years," they conclude. Since the International Atomic Energy Agency doesn't publish a historical database of the nuclear accidents it rates using the International Nuclear Event Scale, others, like Wheatley and co, have to compile their own list of accidents. They define an accident as "an unintentional incident or event at a nuclear energy facility that led to either one death (or more) or at least $50,000 in property damage." Each accident must have occurred during the generation, transmission, or distribution of nuclear energy, which includes accidents at mines, during transportation, or at enrichment facility, and so on. Fukushima was by far the most expensive accident in history at a cost of $166 billion, which is 60 percent of the total cost of all other nuclear accidents added together. Wheatley and co say their data suggests that the nuclear industry remains vulnerable to dragon king events, which are large unexpected events that are difficult to analyze because they follow a different statistical distribution, have unforeseen causes, and are few in number. "There is a 50% chance that a Fukushima event (or larger) occurs in the next 50 years," they say.
Crime

Newt Gingrich Says Visiting An ISIS Or Al Qaeda Website Should Be A Felony (techdirt.com) 406

flopsquad writes: Following the July 14th terror attack in Nice, France, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has called for U.S. Muslims to be tested for their belief in Sharia law, and if so, deported: "Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in Sharia they should be deported," Gingrich said in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity. While the cleverest few might try to defeat such a test by answering "No," Mr. Gingrich laid out additional steps to shore up the plan: "The first step is you have to ask them the questions. The second step is you have to monitor what they're doing on the internet. The third step is, let me be very clear, you have to monitor the mosques. I mean, if you're not prepared to monitor the mosques, this whole thing is a joke." Gingrich also opined that "Anybody who goes on a website favoring ISIS, or Al-Qaeda, or other terrorist groups, that should be a felony, and they should go to jail. No word on the First and Fourth Amendment implications of his proposals, nor on where Gingrich plans to deport U.S. citizens who fail his Sharia test. Gingrich went on to say: "Any organization which hosts such a website should be engaged in a felon. It should be closed down immediately. Our forces should be used to systematically destroy every internet based source..." Mike Masnick from Techdirt writes: "Merely visiting a website should put you in jail? What if you're a journalist? Or a politician? Or a researcher trying to understand ISIS? That should be a felony? That's not how it works. This also assumes, idiotically, that merely reading a website about ISIS will make people side with ISIS. It's also not, at all, how the law works. Same with the second part about it being a felony to host such content."
Medicine

Obesity Is Three Times As Deadly For Men Than Women, Says Study (telegraph.co.uk) 202

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Telegraph: Researchers at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard universities found in the biggest ever study into weight and death that obesity is three times more deadly for men than women, and that being slightly overweight raises the risk of dying early. Telegraph reports: "Obese people can expect to lose three years of life while the average overweight person will die 12 months sooner than they would have if they were a healthy size. Usually fewer than one in five men will die before the age of 70, but that jumps to nearly one in three for the moderately obese, and eight in 10 for the morbidly obese. In contrast around one in 10 women can expect to die early, with obesity raising the risk to one in seven. While obesity raises the risk of early death by just three per cent for women, it is 10 per cent for men, more than three times as much. Around 61 per cent of adults are currently overweight or obese and the average weight of Britons has been steadily increasingly since the 1970s. In 1975 the average Briton had a BMI of 23, which is considered a healthy weight. But today that has risen to 27, with the average person now overweight. It means that since the 1970s, every person in Briton has roughly gained more than three pounds (1.5kg) per decade. Ten types of cancer are linked to excess weight which can also lead to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and a range of other health problems. Researchers compiled data from 10.6 million people who took part in 239 studies between 1970 and 2015, in 32 different countries. The study found an increased risk of premature death for people who were underweight, as well as for people classed as overweight." According to a study published in the Lancet in April, obese people now outnumber the underweight population for perhaps the first time in history.
Communications

T-Mobile Gives Customers Free Pokemon Go Data (theverge.com) 59

An anonymous reader shares a report from The Verge: T-Mobile has been a pioneer in giving special treatment to various apps and types of content used on its mobile network, and the carrier announced today that Pokemon Go will be joining its enclave of free data. Starting on July 19th, T-Mobile customers will have Pokemon Go data exempted from their high-speed data caps for a year. The company is also throwing in some other perks, like $15 in Lyft rides ("to get to a new pokestop or gym"), and a free Wendy's Frosty, making the slow death of net neutrality literally sweet.
Businesses

Third Tesla Crashes Amid Report of SEC Investigation (usatoday.com) 297

An anonymous reader writes: Tesla hasn't had the best month so far as not one, not two, but a total of three crashes have been reported with the car's Autopilot self-driving system engaged at the time -- two of which resulted in fatalities. In addition, The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether Tesla violated securities law by failing to disclose more quickly a fatal accident in Florida in May involving a Tesla Model S that was in self-driving mode. The SEC didn't comment on the report, and Tesla issued a statement saying it has "not received any communication from the SEC regarding this issue." As for the Autopilot crash that was reported today, the driver said he activated Autopilot mode at the beginning of his trip. Tesla is looking into the crash and has yet to confirm whether or not Autopilot was a factor. Tesla CEO Elon Musk teased a "Top Secret Tesla Masterplan, Part 2" via Twitter that he is "Hoping to publish later this week."
Debian

Debian Founder's 2015 Death Ruled A Suicide (theregister.co.uk) 160

gosand writes: According to a story on The Register, the death of Ian Murdock in late 2015 has been ruled a suicide. This news brings some closure to the sad ending of his life. An interesting note from the article that I never knew before: "he was the Ian in Debian; his girlfriend at the time, Debra Lynn, was the Deb." Debian has truly been a cornerstone in the Linux world, and the founder will be missed. The medical report was obtained on Wednesday by CNN journalists.
Facebook

Facebook Decides Which Killings We're Allowed to See 293

Minutes after a police shooting took place in the Falcon Heights suburbs of Minnesota, a Facebook Live video was published on the social juggernaut website. The death of Philando Castile, 32, was documented in harrowing detail thanks to the live streaming tool offered by the social media giant. The 10-minute video was streamed via smartphone by a woman identified in media reports as Diamond Reynolds. She narrates the video with a mix of eerie calm and anguish. The video was removed from Facebook due to, as company says, a "technical glitch." The video has since been restored, but with a "Warning -- Graphic Video," disclaimer. Motherboard notes that Facebook has become the de-facto platform for such controversial videos, and that there's a pattern in these so called glitches -- as they happen very often time after a questionable content is streamed. This makes one wonder whether it is up to Facebook to decide which kind of controversial videos one should be able to watch The publication writes: As Facebook continues to build out its Live video platform, the world's most popular social network has become the de-facto choice for important, breaking, and controversial videos. Several times, Facebook has blocked political or newsworthy content only to later say that the removal was a "technical glitch" or an "error." Nearly two-thirds of Americans get their news from social media, and two thirds of Facebook users say they use the site to get news. If Facebook is going to become the middleman that delivers the world's most popular news events to the masses, technical glitches and erroneous content removals could be devastating to information dissemination efforts. More importantly, Facebook has become the self-appointed gatekeeper for what is acceptable content to show the public, which is an incredibly important and powerful position to be in. By censoring anything, Facebook has created the expectation that there are rules for using its platform (most would agree that some rules are necessary). But because the public relies on the website so much, Facebook's rules and judgments have an outsized impact on public debate.
Transportation

Self-Driving Tesla Owners Share Videos of Reckless Driving (nytimes.com) 440

An anonymous reader writes: The driver killed in a Tesla car accident "celebrated the Autopilot feature that made it possible for him to cruise the highways, making YouTube videos of himself driving hands-free," reports the New York Times, adding that one of his videos of a near-miss went viral just 11 weeks before his death -- after it was shared on Twitter by Elon Musk. But USA Today reports that Tesla drivers have also filmed themselves playing Jenga and Checkers or sleeping while using the autopilot feature. "Even though Tesla tells drivers to 'keep your hands on the wheel at all times and stay alert,' the temptation to test a no-hands drive is just too much."

In April, a Volvo driver had criticized Tesla for releasing a dangerous "wannabe" Autopilot system. But when Tesla introduced the self-driving feature in October, Elon Musk argued that "Long term, it'll be way better than a person. It never gets tired, never has something to drink, never argues with someone in the car." He had also said that within three years Tesla cars should be able to drive a sleeping driver in to work -- but that that functionality is not currently supported.

Space

Why Did The Stars Wars and Star Trek Worlds Turn Out So Differently? (marginalrevolution.com) 359

HughPickens.com writes: In the Star Trek world there is virtual reality, personal replicators, powerful weapons, and, it seems, a very high standard of living for most of humanity, while in Star Wars there is widespread slavery, lots of people seem to live at subsistence, and eventually much of the galaxy falls under the Jedi Reign of Terror. Why the difference? Tyler Cowen writes about some of the factors differentiating the world of Star Wars from that of Star Trek: 1) The armed forces in Star Trek seem broadly representative of society. Compare Uhura, Chekhov, and Sulu to the Imperial Storm troopers. 2) Captains Kirk and Picard do not descend into true power madness, unlike various Sith leaders and corrupted Jedi Knights. 3) In Star Trek, any starship can lay waste to a planet, whereas in Star Wars there is a single, centralized Death Star and no way to oppose it, implying stronger checks and balances in the world of Star Trek. 4) Star Trek embraces egalitarianism, namely that all humans consider themselves part of the same broader species. There is no special group comparable to the Jedi or the Sith, with special powers in their blood. 5) Star Trek replicators are sufficiently powerful it seems slavery is highly inefficient in that world.
Businesses

US Regulators Investigating Tesla Over Use of 'Autopilot' Mode Linked To Fatal Crash (cnbc.com) 379

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Thursday it is opening a preliminary investigation into 25,000 Tesla Motors Model S cars after a fatal crash involving a vehicle using the "Autopilot" mode. The agency said the crash came in a 2015 Model S operating with automated driving systems engaged, and "calls for an examination of the design and performance of any driving aids in use at the time of the crash." It is the first step before the agency could seek to order a recall if it believed the vehicles were unsafe. Tesla said Thursday the death was "the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated," while a fatality happens once every 60 million miles worldwide. The electric automaker said it "informed NHTSA about the incident immediately after it occurred." The May crash occurred when a tractor trailer drove across a divided highway, where a Tesla in autopilot mode was driving. The Model S passed under the tractor trailer, and the bottom of the trailer hit the Tesla vehicle's windshield. Tesla quietly settled a lawsuit with a Model X owner who claims his car's doors would open and close unpredictably, smashing into his wife and other cars, and that the Model X's Auto-Pilot feature poses a danger in the rain.
Earth

Scientists Say The Asteroid That Killed The Dinosaurs Almost Wiped Us Out Too (theweek.com) 265

HughPickens.com writes: Conventional wisdom states that mammalian diversity emerged from the ashes of the Cretaceous/Tertiary mass extinction event, ultimately giving rise to our own humble species. But Joshua A. Krisch writes at This Week that the asteroid that decimated the dinosaurs also wiped out roughly 93 percent of all mammalian species. "Because mammals did so well after the extinction, we have tended to assume that it didn't hit them as hard," says Nick Longrich. "However our analysis shows that the mammals were hit harder than most groups of animals, such as lizards, turtles, crocodilians, but they proved to be far more adaptable in the aftermath." Mammals survived, multiplied, and ultimately gave rise to human beings. So what was the great secret that our possum-like ancestors knew that dinosaurs did not? One answer is that early mammals were small enough to survive on insects and dying plants, while large dinosaurs and reptiles required a vast diet of leafy greens and healthy prey that simply weren't available in the lean years, post-impact. So brontosauruses starved to death while prehistoric possums filled their far smaller and less discerning bellies. "Even if large herbivorous dinosaurs had managed to survive the initial meteor strike, they would have had nothing to eat," says Russ Graham, "because most of the earth's above-ground plant material had been destroyed." Other studies have suggested that mammals survived by burrowing underground or living near the water, where they would have been somewhat shielded from the intense heatwaves, post-impact. Studies also suggest that mammals may have been better spread-out around the globe, and so had the freedom to recover independently and evolve with greater diversity. "After this extinction event, there was an explosion of diversity, and it was driven by having different evolutionary experiments going on simultaneously in different locations," Longrich says. "This may have helped drive the recovery. With so many different species evolving in different directions in different parts of the world, evolution was more likely to stumble across new evolutionary paths."
Medicine

After Death, Hundreds of Genes Spring Back to Life 62

Two surprising studies reveal new information about what genes do after death. Slashdot reader gurps_npc writes: You think your body stops after death, but up to two days later certain genes may turn on and start doing stuff for another two days before they give up the ghost. We are all zombies for up to four days after death.
Gizmodo reports that in fact "hundreds" of genes apparently spring back to life. "[P]revious work on human cadavers demonstrated that some genes remain active after death, but we had no idea as to the extent of this strange phenomenon."
Transportation

Star Trek Actor's Death Inspires Class Action Against Car Manufacturer (cnn.com) 365

Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov in the new Star Trek movies, was killed Sunday when his own vehicle rolled backwards. Now Slashdot reader ripvlan writes: It has recently emerged that his vehicle was a Jeep. As discussed on Slashdot previously consumers are having a hard time knowing if the vehicle is in "Park." A new class action lawsuit is gaining momentum... Also Maserati has a similar system and can join the class action.
In fact, Maserati "is recalling about 13,000 sedans that have the same sort of gear shifter that was used in the Jeep that killed Yelchin," according to CNN Money, and Chrysler Fiat had in fact already filed a recall notice with federal regulators in April for Yelchin's band of Jeep, "but owners had only received a warning and not an official recall notice at the time of Yelchin's death". The lawsuit claims Chrysler "fraudulently concealed and failed to remedy a gear shifter design defect affecting 811,000 vehicles and linked to driverless rollaway incidents," including 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees, 2012-2014 Chrysler 300s, and 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers.
Books

Hacker Who Stole Half-Life 2's Source Code Interviewed For New Book (arstechnica.com) 192

"Can you love a game so much you must take its sequel?" asks Ars Technica, posting an excerpt from the new book "Death By Video Game: Danger, Pleasure, and Obsession on the Virtual Frontline." At 6am on May 7, 2004, Axel Gembe awoke in the small German town of Schonau im Schwarzwald to find his bed surrounded by police officers bearing automatic weapons... "You are being charged with hacking into Valve Corporation's network, stealing the video game Half-Life 2, leaking it onto the Internet, and causing damages in excess of $250 million... Get dressed..." The corridors were lined by police, squeezed into his father's house...
Gembe had tried creating homegrown keystroke-recorders specifically targeted at Valve, according to the book, but then poking around their servers he'd discovered one which wasn't firewalled from the internal network. Gembe spent several weeks discovering notes and design documents, until eventually he stumbled onto the latest version of the unreleased game's source code. He'd never meant for the code to be leaked onto the internet -- but he did share it with another person who did. ("I didn't think it through. The person I shared the source with assured me he would keep it to himself. He didn't...")

Eventually Gembe contacted Valve, apologized, and asked them for a job -- which led to a fake 40-minute job interview designed to gather enough evidence to arrest him. But ultimately a judge sentenced him to two years probation -- and Half-Life 2 went on to sell 8.6 million copies.
Sci-Fi

J.J. Abrams Reacts To Death of Star Trek Actor Anton 'Chekov' Yelchin (hollywoodreporter.com) 221

On Sunday morning 27-year-old actor Anton Yelchin, who plays Chekov in the new Star Trek movies, was killed in a freak accident with his own car in the driveway of his home in Studio City. "It appears he momentarily exited his car and it rolled backward, causing trauma that led to his death," a police spokesperson told the Hollywood Reporter. This afternoon J. J. Abrams tweeted a picture of a handwritten eulogy addressed to Anton. "You were brilliant. You were kind. You were funny as hell, and supremely talented. And you weren't here nearly long enough. Missing you..." Zachary Quinto, who plays Mr. Spock, also tweeted a link to a picture posted in memorial on Instagram, where he called Yelchin "one of the most open and intellectually curious people I have ever had the pleasure to know... wise beyond his years, and gone before his time..."

Stephen King called him a "crazily talented actor gone too soon," remembering Yelchin from one of his last roles in a 10-episode adaptation of King's "Mr. Mercedes". Yelchin will play a mentally deranged ice cream truck driver who's also an IT worker for a Geek Squad-like company named "Cyber Patrol".
Transportation

Will Self-Driving Cars Destroy the Auto Insurance Industry? (siliconvalley.com) 299

An anonymous reader quotes an article from the Bay Area News Group: Imagine your fully autonomous self-driving car totals a minivan. Who pays for the damages? "There wouldn't be any liability on you, because you're just like a passenger in a taxi," says Santa Clara University law professor Robert Peterson. Instead, the manufacturer of your car or its software would probably be on the hook... Virtually everything around car insurance is expected to change, from who owns the vehicles to who must carry insurance to who -- or what -- is held responsible for causing damage, injuries and death in an accident." Ironically, if you're only driving a semi-autonomous car, "you could end up in court fighting to prove the car did wrong, not you," according to the article. Will human drivers be considered a liability -- by insurers, and even by car owners? The article notes that Google is already testing a car with no user-controlled brake pedal or steering wheel. Of course, one consumer analyst warns the newspaper that "hackers will remain a risk, necessitating insurance coverage for hostile takeover of automated systems..."
Biotech

Cancer Is An Evolutionary Mechanism To 'Autocorrect' Our Gene Pool, Suggests Paper (sciencealert.com) 262

schwit1 quotes a report from ScienceAlert: Two scientists have come up with a depressing new hypothesis that attempts to explain why cancer is so hard to stop. Maybe, they suggest, cancer's not working against us. Maybe the disease is actually an evolutionary 'final checkpoint' that stops faulty DNA from being passed down to the next generation. To be clear, this is just a hypothesis. It hasn't been tested experimentally, and, more importantly, no one is suggesting that anyone should die of cancer. In fact, it's quite the opposite -- the researchers say that this line of thinking could help us to better understand the disease, and come up with more effective treatment strategies, like immunotherapy, even if a cure might not be possible. So let's step back a second here, because why are our bodies trying to kill us? The idea behind the paper is based on the fact that, in the healthy body, there are a whole range of inbuilt safeguards, or 'checkpoints,' that stop DNA mutations from being passed onto new cells. One of the most important of these checkpoints is apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Whenever DNA is damaged and can't be fixed, cells are marked for apoptosis, and are quickly digested by the immune system -- effectively 'swallowing' the problem. No mess, no fuss. But the new hypothesis suggests that when apoptosis -- and the other safeguards -- don't work like they're supposed to, cancer just might be the final 'checkpoint' that steps in and gets rid of the rogue cells before their DNA can be passed on... by, uh, killing us, and removing our genetic material from the gene pool.
Mars

First SpaceX Missions To Mars: 'Dangerous and Probably People Will Die' (arstechnica.com) 412

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: As we get close to the end of September, when Elon Musk has promised to lay bare his plans for colonizing Mars at an international space conference, it seems like the ambitious founder of SpaceX can hardly contain his excitement. In an interview with The Washington Post, Musk gushed, "I'm so tempted to talk more about the details of it. But I have to restrain myself." SpaceX fandom has speculated for years about details of Musk's ideas, which include the Mars Colonial Transporter concept. The Transporter likely consists of a large first stage rocket and an upper stage spacecraft meant to deliver hundreds of people to the surface of Mars during the late 2020s and 2030s. Unlike NASA, which relies on public money and is therefore risk averse when it comes to "loss of crew" requirements for human missions into space, SpaceX appears to be willing to take some risks with the unprecedented exploration to Mars. Those first explorers would understand the perils, just as the pioneers who explored the New World or the poles of Earth did. "Hopefully there's enough people who are like that who are willing to go build the foundation, at great risk, for a Martian city," Musk told Washington Post. "It's dangerous and probably people will die -- and they'll know that." Eventually it will be safe to go to Mars, Musk said, and living there will be comfortable. But this is many years into the future, he acknowledged.
Biotech

23 Seriously Ill MS Patients Recover After 'Breakthrough' Stem Cell Treatment (telegraph.co.uk) 74

schwit1 quotes a report from The Telegraph: Multiple sclerosis patients who were severely disabled are walking, working and even downhill skiing again following a breakthrough therapy which completely destroys, then rebuilds, the immune system. The trial, which is the first in the world to show complete long-term remission from the debilitating disease has been hailed by experts as "exciting" "unprecedented," and "close to curative." Although it is unclear what causes MS it is thought that the immune system attacks the protective coating which surrounds nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord leading to inflammation, pain, disability and in severe cases, early death. [The new technique, which is a treatment usually used to fight leukemia, involves using chemotherapy to entirely eradicate the damaged immune system, before rebooting it with a transfusion of bone marrow cells. Out of the 24 patients who were given the treatment at least seven years ago, the majority have seen significant improvements. 70 per cent of patients saw a complete stop to the progression of the disease, while 40 per cent saw a reversal in symptoms such as vision loss, muscle weakness and balance loss.] Last week, it was reported that a wheelchair-bound stroke victim was able to walk again after an "unprecedented" stem cell trial at Stanford.

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