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Math

Devs Working To Stop Go Math Error Bugging Crypto Software (theregister.co.uk) 65

Richard Chirgwin, writing for The Register: Consider this an item for the watch-list, rather than a reason to hit the panic button: a math error in the Go language could potentially affect cryptographic libraries. Security researcher Guido Vranken (who earlier this year fuzzed up some bugs in OpenVPN) found an exponentiation error in the Go math/big package. Big numbers -- particularly big primes -- are the foundation of cryptography. Vranken posted to the oss-sec mailing list that he found the potential issue during testing of a fuzzer he wrote that "compares the results of mathematical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, ...) across multiple bignum libraries." Vranken and Go developer Russ Cox agreed that the bug needs specific conditions to be manifest: "it only affects the case e = 1 with m != nil and a pre-allocated non-zero receiver."
Science

Why Do Left-Handers Excel at Certain Elite Sports But Not Others? (theguardian.com) 108

Nicola Davis, writing for The Guardian: From cricketer Wasim Akram to baseball pitcher Clayton Kershaw and table tennis star Ding Ning, the world of sport has no shortage of left-handed players. But now researchers say they've worked out why lefties are overrepresented in some elite sports but not others. The study, published in the journal Biology Letters, suggests that being left-handed is a particular advantage in interactive sports where time pressures are particularly severe, such as table tennis and cricket -- possibly because their moves are less familiar to their mostly right-handed opponents, who do not have time to adjust. "The data suggests that the heavier the time constraints are operating in a sport, the larger the proportion of left-handers," said the study's author, Dr Florian Loffing of the University of Oldenburg in Germany. "We are less used to playing lefties, and [so] might end up in not developing the optimal strategies to compete with them." While it is thought that about 10-13 percent of the population is left-handed, it has long been noted that in certain interactive sports there is often a surprisingly high proportion of left-handers playing at elite levels.
Mars

Flowing Water On Mars' Surface May Just Be Rolling Sand Instead (theverge.com) 74

Two years ago, NASA made a big splash when it announced the discovery of flowing water on the surface of Mars. Unfortunately, according to new research from the U.S. Geological Survey, the surface features that NASA thought were made up of liquid water may actually be flowing grains of sand instead. The Verge reports: The features in question are dark streaks that show up periodically on Martian hills, known as recurring slope lineae, or RSLs. When one of NASA's spacecraft, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, studied these lines more closely, it found that the RSLs were made up of hydrated salts -- meaning they were mixed with water molecules. At the time, NASA thought that was significant evidence that flowing liquid water caused these bizarre streaks. But researchers at the USGS say these features look identical to certain types of slopes found on sand dunes here on Earth. Those slopes are caused by dry grains of sand flowing downhill, without the help of any water. It's possible the same thing is happening on Mars, too. Since liquid water is key for life here on Earth, many thought these strange lines of flowing water may help support life on the Martian surface. But now these RSLs may not be the best place to look for life anymore.
Beer

Study Finds Different Types of Alcohol Can Determine Different Moods (bbc.com) 145

A new study published in the journal BMJ Open says different types of alcoholic drinks change and shape your mood in different ways. For example, spirits may make you feel angry, sexy or tearful, while red wine or beer may make you feel relaxed. The researchers questioned nearly 30,000 people aged 18-34 from 21 different countries for the study. BBC reports: The anonymous online survey, which recruited respondents via newspaper and magazine adverts and social media, found:

-Red wine appeared to make people more lethargic than white wine
-Respondents were most likely to report feeling relaxed when drinking red wine or beer
-More than 40% said drinking spirits made them feel sexy
-Over half said drinking spirits also gave them energy and confidence
-But around a third said they felt aggressive when drinking spirits
-Drinking spirits was more likely than all other drink types to be associated with feelings of aggression, illness, restlessness and tearfulness
-Men were significantly more likely than women to associate feelings of aggression with all types of alcohol, particularly heavier drinkers

Prof Bellis from Public Health Wales NHS Trust said the setting in which the alcohol was consumed was an important factor that the study tried to take into consideration by asking about drinking at home and outside of the home. He said the way different drinks are marketed and promoted might encourage people to select certain drinks to suit different moods, but that this could backfire if it triggered negative emotions. He also said the study revealed a difference between men and women's emotional relationship with different alcoholic drinks.

Software

Apple Scientists Disclose Self-Driving Car Research (reuters.com) 34

Apple's first publicly disclosed paper on autonomous vehicles has been posted online by the company's computer scientists. The research describes a new software approach called "VoxelNet" that helps computers detect three-dimensional objects like cyclists and pedestrians while using fewer sensors. Reuters reports: The paper by Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel, submitted on Nov. 17 to independent online journal arXiv, is significant because Apple's famed corporate secrecy around future products has been seen as a drawback among artificial intelligence and machine learning researchers. The scientists proposed a new software approach called "VoxelNet" for helping computers detect three-dimensional objects.

Self-driving cars often use a combination of normal two-dimensional cameras and depth-sensing "LiDAR" units to recognize the world around them. While the units supply depth information, their low resolution makes it hard to detect small, faraway objects without help from a normal camera linked to it in real time. But with new software, the Apple researchers said they were able to get "highly encouraging results" in spotting pedestrians and cyclists with just LiDAR data. They also wrote they were able to beat other approaches for detecting three-dimensional objects that use only LiDAR. The experiments were computer simulations and did not involve road tests.

Earth

Night Being 'Lost' To Artificial Light (bbc.com) 108

An anonymous reader shares a report: A study of pictures of Earth by night has revealed that artificial light is growing brighter and more extensive every year. Between 2012 and 2016, the planet's artificially lit outdoor area grew by more than 2 percent per year. Scientists say a "loss of night" in many countries is having negative consequences for "flora, fauna, and human well-being." A team published the findings in the journal Science Advances. It showed that changes in brightness over time varied greatly by country. Some of the world's "brightest nations," such as the US and Spain, remained the same. Most nations in South America, Africa and Asia grew brighter. Only a few countries showed a decrease in brightness, such as Yemen and Syria -- both experiencing warfare. The nocturnal satellite images -- of glowing coastlines and spider-like city networks -- look quite beautiful but artificial lighting has unintended consequences for human health and the environment.
Medicine

The Feds Are Officially Cracking Down on Basement Biohackers (gizmodo.com) 207

Kristen Brown, reporting for Gizmodo: The Food and Drug Agency has issued a stern warning to anyone who might be crazy enough to undertake gene therapy in the do-it-yourself fashion. Definitely don't do this at home, a statement released on Tuesday implies. And if you do, we'll throw every law we can at you. The FDA's deterrent comes on the heels of a brazen DIY gene therapy experiment, in which a 27-year-old software engineer injected himself with an unprove gene therapy for HIV designed by three biohacker friends. The first injection was streamed live on Facebook in October, and went viral after it was covered by Gizmodo. "You can't stop it, you can't regulate these things," patient zero, Tristan Roberts, told Gizmodo at the time. Apparently the FDA begs to differ.
Science

Turkeys Are Twice as Big as They Were in 1960 (theatlantic.com) 154

Alexis Madrigal, writing for The Atlantic: A turkey today is not the turkey of yesteryear. For decades, animal breeders have been transforming the genomes of turkeys to make them grow larger. Since 1960, the weight of turkeys has gone up about a quarter of a pound each year. The average weight of a turkey has gone from 15.1 pounds in 1960 to 31.1 pounds in 2017. And most of that change has been genetic. In one study of a representative strain of turkeys, poultry researchers fed the same diet to turkeys from 2003 and to a control group of turkeys that were representative of that strain's genetic pool from 1966. On average, the 2003 females grew to 33 pounds. Their 1966 cousins only got to 16.3 pounds.
Earth

Russia Detects a Significant Radiation Spike In Mountains Close To Soviet-Era Nuclear Plant (nytimes.com) 124

According to a report via The New York Times, Russia said that it had detected a significant radiation spike in the Ural Mountains, close to a sprawling Soviet-era nuclear plant still remembered as the site of an accident 60 years ago. Russia did however reject suggestions that it was the source of a radioactive cloud that hovered over Europe. From the report: The location of the spike -- in the Chelyabinsk region near the border with Kazakhstan -- has been identified by French and German nuclear safety institutions as a potential source for a concentration of a radioactive isotope called ruthenium 106 detected in the air in late September above several European countries. But nuclear energy authorities in Moscow insisted Monday that still-higher levels of atmospheric contamination had been detected outside Russia, in southeastern Europe. Reports of the elevated radiation levels over Western Europe raised alarms, but nuclear safety authorities in France and Germany said there was no threat to human health or to the environment -- an assurance repeated on Tuesday by Moscow. The Russian state weather service Roshydromet said it had found what the Russian news media described as "extremely high pollution" at two monitoring facilities within a 62-mile radius of the Mayak nuclear reprocessing and isotope production plant. A weather station in the town of Argayash recorded ruthenium 106 levels that were 986 times higher than a month earlier, the state weather agency said. A second station at Novogorny detected levels 440 times higher. Ruthenium 106, which does not occur naturally and has a half-life of about a year, is used for medical purposes.

For weeks, Russian officials had denied the French and German accusations. Citing the results of its own air monitoring on European territory, Moscow pointed to high radiation levels over Romania, Italy and Ukraine, insisting that there had been only a negligible presence of ruthenium 106 on Russian territory. On Tuesday, even after the Russian agency acknowledged the radiation spike in the Urals, Maxim Yakovenko, the head of Roshydromet, said in a statement that higher levels of contamination had been detected in Romania than in Russia. "The published data is not sufficient to establish the location of the pollution source," he said. The authorities at Mayak denied in a news release on Tuesday that the plant had contributed to the increased levels of ruthenium 106 and insisted that there was no threat to human beings.

Medicine

How the Sugar Industry Tried To Hide Health Effects of Its Product 50 Years Ago (theverge.com) 273

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: About 50 years ago, the sugar industry stopped funding research that began to show something they wanted to hide: that eating lots of sugar is linked to heart disease. A new study exposes the sugar industry's decades-old effort to stifle that critical research. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, recently analyzed historical documents regarding a rat study called Project 259 that was launched in 1968. The study was funded by a sugar industry trade group called the International Sugar Research Foundation, or ISRF, and conducted by W. F. R. Pover at the University of Birmingham. When the preliminary findings from that study began to show that eating lots of sugar might be associated with heart disease, and even bladder cancer, the ISRF pulled the plug on the research. Without additional funding, the study was terminated and the results were never published, according to a study published today in PLOS Biology. The study in question investigated the relationship between sugars and certain blood fats called triglycerides, which increase the risk of heart disease. The preliminary results from the research, called Project 259, suggested that rats on a high-sugar diet, instead of a starch diet, had higher levels of triglycerides. The rats that ate lots of sugar also had higher levels of an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase in their urine, which at the time was thought to be potentially linked to bladder cancer, says study co-author Cristin Kearns, an assistant professor at the UCSF School of Dentistry.
Space

Flat Earther Plans To Launch Homemade Manned Rocket (apnews.com) 548

walterbyrd shares an Associated Press report: Self-taught rocket scientist "Mad" Mike Hughes is a 61-year-old limo driver who's spent the last few years building a steam-powered rocket out of salvage parts in his garage. His project has cost him $20,000, which includes Rust-Oleum paint to fancy it up and a motor home he bought on Craigslist that he converted into a ramp. His first test of the rocket will also be the launch date -- Saturday, when he straps into his homemade contraption and attempts to hurtle over the ghost town of Amboy, California. He will travel about a mile at a speed of roughly 500 mph. "I don't believe in science," said Hughes, whose main sponsor for the rocket is Research Flat Earth. "I know about aerodynamics and fluid dynamics and how things move through the air, about the certain size of rocket nozzles, and thrust. But that's not science, that's just a formula. There's no difference between science and science fiction."
Space

Study of Recent Interstellar Asteroid Reveals Bizarre Shape (bbc.com) 143

JoeRobe writes: A few weeks ago an interstellar asteroid, now named "Oumuamua," was discovered passing through our solar system. Being the first interstellar asteroid to ever be observed, a flurry of observations soon followed. This week, an accelerated article in Nature reveals that Oumuamua is more bizarre than originally thought: it is elongated, with a 10:1 aspect ratio, and rapidly rotating. This conclusion is based upon comparisons of its time-dependent light curve to those from 20,000 known asteroids.
Power

UCLA Researchers Use Solar To Create and Store Hydrogen (phys.org) 61

UCLA researchers have designed a device that can use solar energy to inexpensively and efficiently create and store energy, which could be used to power electronic devices, and to create hydrogen fuel for eco-friendly cars. Phys.Org reports: The device could make hydrogen cars affordable for many more consumers because it produces hydrogen using nickel, iron and cobalt -- elements that are much more abundant and less expensive than the platinum and other precious metals that are currently used to produce hydrogen fuel. Traditional hydrogen fuel cells and supercapacitors have two electrodes: one positive and one negative. The device developed at UCLA has a third electrode that acts as both a supercapacitor, which stores energy, and as a device for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, a process called water electrolysis. All three electrodes connect to a single solar cell that serves as the device's power source, and the electrical energy harvested by the solar cell can be stored in one of two ways: electrochemically in the supercapacitor or chemically as hydrogen. The device also is a step forward because it produces hydrogen fuel in an environmentally friendly way. Currently, about 95 percent of hydrogen production worldwide comes from converting fossil fuels such as natural gas into hydrogen -- a process that releases large quantities of carbon dioxide into the air, said Maher El-Kady, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher and a co-author of the research. The technology is described in the journal Energy Storage Materials.
Earth

Upsurge in Big Earthquakes Predicted for 2018 (theguardian.com) 87

hcs_$reboot writes: "Scientists say the number of severe quakes is likely to rise strongly next year because of a periodic slowing of the Earth's rotation," reports the Guardian. "They believe variations in the speed of Earth's rotation could trigger intense seismic activity, particularly in heavily populated tropical regions. Although such fluctuations in rotation are small -- changing the length of the day by a millisecond -- they could still be implicated in the release of vast amounts of underground energy, it is argued."

The theory goes that the slowdown creates a shift in the shape of the Earth's solid iron and nickel "inner core" which, in turn, impacts the liquid outer core on which the tectonic plates that form the Earth's crust rest. The impact is greater on the tectonic plates near some of the Earth's most populous regions along the Equator, home to about a billion people. Scientists from the University of Colorado looked at all earthquakes registering 7 and up on the Richter scale since the turn of the 20th century. In this timeframe, the researchers discovered five periods of significantly greater seismic activity.

The seismic activity follows a five-year period of slowing in the earth's rotatio, and "This link is particularly important because Earth's rotation began one of its periodic slowdowns more than four years ago," according to the article.

"The Earth is offering us a five-year heads-up on future earthquakes," says one of the researchers, adding "The inference is clear. Next year we should see a significant increase in numbers of severe earthquakes."
Medicine

First Ever Anti-Aging Gene Discovered In a Secluded Amish Community (newsweek.com) 156

"This is one of the first clear-cut genetic mutations in human beings that acts upon aging and aging-related disease," Dr. Douglas Vaughan, a medical researcher at Northwestern University, told Newsweek. schwit1 quotes Science Alert: As far as we know, it looks like the only community in the world known to harbour it is an Old Order Amish community living in Indiana... Vaughan's team tested 177 people from the Amish community of Berne, Indiana, and found 43 people with one mutated SERPINE1 gene copy. Compared to the general Amish population, these 43 people had a 10 percent longer lifespan, and 10 percent longer telomeres (the DNA-protecting structures at the ends of our chromosomes that unravel when the cells reach the end of their lifespans). They also showed lower incidence of diabetes and lower insulin fasting levels. On top of that, the study showed a small indication of lower blood pressure and potentially more flexible blood vessels.

"For the first time we are seeing a molecular marker of aging (telomere length), a metabolic marker of aging (fasting insulin levels) and a cardiovascular marker of aging (blood pressure and blood vessel stiffness) all tracking in the same direction in that these individuals were generally protected from age-related changes," said Vaughan. These people also had 50 percent lower PAI-1 levels than average. It's not known exactly how PAI-1 contributes to aging, but it does play a role in a process called cellular senescence. This is when cells are no longer able to replicate, so they just go dormant. This contributes to the effects of aging.

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