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Privacy

None of Your Pixelated or Blurred Information Will Stay Safe On The Internet (qz.com) 139

The University of Texas at Austin and Cornell University are saying blurred or pixelated images are not as safe as they may seem. As machine learning technology improves, the methods used to hide sensitive information become less secure. Quartz reports: Using simple deep learning tools, the three-person team was able to identify obfuscated faces and numbers with alarming accuracy. On an industry standard dataset where humans had 0.19% chance of identifying a face, the algorithm had 71% accuracy (or 83% if allowed to guess five times). The algorithm doesn't produce a deblurred image -- it simply identifies what it sees in the obscured photo, based on information it already knows. The approach works with blurred and pixelated images, as well as P3, a type of JPEG encryption pitched as a secure way to hide information. The attack uses Torch (an open-source deep learning library), Torch templates for neural networks, and standard open-source data. To build the attacks that identified faces in YouTube videos, researchers took publicly-available pictures and blurred the faces with YouTube's video tool. They then fed the algorithm both sets of images, so it could learn how to correlate blur patterns to the unobscured faces. When given different images of the same people, the algorithm could determine their identity with 57% accuracy, or 85% percent when given five chances. The report mentions Max Planck Institute's work on identifying people in blurred Facebook photos. The difference between the two research is that UT and Cornell's research is much more simple, and "shows how weak these privacy methods really are."
Google

Google Tests A Software That Judges Hollywood's Portrayal of Women 321

Slashdot reader theodp writes: Aside from it being hosted in a town without a movie theater, the 2016 Bentonville Film Festival was also unusual in that it required all entrants to submit "film scripts and downloadable versions of the film" for judgment by "the team at Google and USC", apparently part of a larger Google-funded research project with USC Engineering "to develop a computer science tool that could quickly and efficiently assess how women are represented in films"...

Fest reports noted that representatives of Google and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy appeared in a "Reel vs. Real Diversity" panel presentation at the fest, where the importance of diversity and science to President Obama were discussed, and the lack of qualified people to fill 500,000 U.S. tech jobs was blamed in part on how STEM careers have been presented in film and television... In a 2015 report on a Google-sponsored USC Viterbi School of Engineering MacGyver-themed event to promote women in engineering, USC reported that President Obama was kept briefed on efforts to challenge media's stereotypical portrayals of women. As for its own track record, Google recently updated its Diversity page, boasting that "21% of new hires in 2015 were women in tech, compared to 19% of our current population"....
The Internet

The World's First Web Site Celebrates 25 Years Online (info.cern.ch) 136

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: Twenty-five years ago, the first public website went live. It was a helpful guide to this new thing called the World Wide Web. The minimalist design featured black text with blue links on a white background. It's still online today if you'd like to click around and check out the frequently asked questions or geek out over the technical protocols.
Its original URL was info.cern.ch, where CERN is now also offering a line-mode browser simulator and more information about the birth of the web. CNN is also hosting screenshots of nine web "pioneers", including the Darwin Awards site, the original Yahoo, and the San Francisco FogCam, which claims to be the oldest webcam still in operation.

What are some of the first web sites that you remember reading? (Any greybeards remember when the Internet Movie Database was just a Usenet newsgroup where readers collaborated on a giant home-made list of movie credits?)
Piracy

Popular BitTorrent Search Engine Site Torrentz.eu Mysteriously Disappears (softpedia.com) 118

monkeyzoo writes: Softpedia reports that Torrentz.eu, the internet's biggest BitTorrent meta-search engine, has mysteriously and suddenly shut down. Visitors of the website see a simple message that reads, "Torrentz was a free, fast and powerful meta-search engine combining results from dozens of search engines." Trying to run a search, or clicking any link on the site changes that message to "Torrentz will always love you. Farewell." The main .EU domain, as well as all backup domains (.ME, .CH, and .IN), have the same message. The reason for the disappearance is mysterious, but there is speculation that Torrentz.eu admins decided to pull the plug on their own and avoid any future legal problems in the wake of increasing legal pressure on The Pirate Bay and the arrests related to KickassTorrents. It also cannot be ruled out that the site was hacked.
Transportation

Pod Planes Could Change Travel Forever (cnn.com) 298

Max_W writes: Every year we hear about people dying in plane crashes. This does not have to continue as there is a new revolutionary pod plane design [in the works via the Clip-Air project]. A passenger pod is not heavy because it does not contain fuel, engines, avionics, etc., so in case of an accident it can be ejected and land on parachutes. The obstacle to this new invention is that the whole obsolete airport and airline infrastructure must be rebuilt. So what? Shall we continue to get killed because it is easier to produce aircraft with a design from 1950s? The Clip-Air project is created by Switzerland's Federal Polytechnic Institute and consists of the flying component, which includes airframe, cockpit and engines, and the capsules, which are a number of detachable pods that can act as cabin or cargo hold, depending on the chosen configuration. What's particularly noteworthy about them is that they can allow passengers to board capsules well before a flight, and at a location besides an airport, such as a local bus station. As with any concept, many years of research and tests will be needed to validate the concept and turn it into a reality. Claudio Leonardi, manager of the Clip-Air project, and his team are preparing to build a small-scale Clip-Air prototype. They have already initiated some contacts with the aerospace industry.
Earth

CO2 Levels Likely To Stay Above 400PPM For The Rest of Our Lives, Study Shows (inhabitat.com) 331

An anonymous reader writes: A new study from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the atmosphere are likely to remain above 400 parts per million (ppm) for many years. Specifically, scientists forecasted that levels would not dip below 400pm in "our lifetimes." The CO2 concentrations of "about 450ppm or lower are likely to maintain warming below 2 degrees Celsius over the 21st century relative to pre-industrial levels." However, lead author on the paper Richard Betts said we could pass that number in 20 years or less. In an article on The Guardian, he said even if we reduce emissions immediately, we might be able to delay reaching 450ppm but "it is still looking like a challenge to stay below 450ppm." El Nino has played a significant role in climbing carbon dioxide levels, but it's likely we'll see higher CO2 levels than the last large El Nino storm during 1997 and 1998 because "manmade emissions" have risen by 25 percent since that storm, according to The Guardian. Met Office experts predicted in November 2015 that in May 2016 "mean concentrations of atmospheric CO2" would hit 407.57ppm -- the actual figure was 407.7ppm. The NOAA reported during 2015 that the "annual growth rate" of CO2 in the atmosphere rose by 3.05ppm. NOAA lead scientist Pieter Tans said, "Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years. It's explosive compared to the natural processes."
Biotech

CERN Releases 300TB of Large Hadron Collider Data Into Open Access (techcrunch.com) 60

An anonymous reader writes: The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, has released 300 terabytes of collider data to the public. "Once we've exhausted our exploration of the data, we see no reason not to make them available publicly," said Kati Lassila-Perini, a physicist who works on the Compact Muon Solenoid detector. "The benefits are numerous, from inspiring high school students to the training of the particle physicists of tomorrow. And personally, as CMS's data preservation coordinator, this is a crucial part of ensuring the long-term availability of our research data," she said in a news release accompanying the data. Much of the data is from 2011, and much of it is from protons colliding at 7 TeV (teraelectronvolts). The 300 terabytes of data includes both raw data from the detectors and "derived" datasets. CERN is providing tools to work with the data which is handy.
Biotech

First Bionic Fingertip Implant Delivers Sensational Results (gizmag.com) 26

Zothecula writes: Dennis Aabo Sorensen may be missing a hand, but he nonetheless recently felt rough and smooth textures using a fingertip on that arm. The fingertip was electronic, and was surgically hard-wired to nerves in his upper arm. He is reportedly the first person in the world to recognize texture using a bionic fingertip connected to electrodes that were surgically implanted above his stump. The device was created by scientists from the Ecole polytechnique federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, and Italy's Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna research institute. While it was wired to Sorensen, a machine moved it across rough and smooth plastic surfaces. Sensors in the fingertip generated electrical signals as they deformed in response to the topography of those surfaces, and transmitted those signals to the nerves in a series of electrical spikes -- this was reportedly an imitation of the "language of the nervous system." He was able to differentiate between the two surfaces with an accuracy of 96 percent.
The Military

Israel Thwarts Attempt To Smuggle Commercial Drones Into Gaza 312

An anonymous reader writes: The Jerusalem Post reports that the Shin Bet intelligence agency recently foiled an attempt to smuggle commercial multicopter drones into Gaza, Israel authorities announced on Sunday. The inspectors stopped an Israeli truck carrying toys at the Kerem Shalom Crossing, where drones of various types and sizes carrying high quality cameras were found. Additional attempts to smuggle commercial drones were intercepted by the Shin Bet in recent weeks. The drones were earmarked for use by Hamas group in Gaza. Close inspection of released images reveal what seems to be a Syma X5 FPV quadcopter. Those toy-grade multirrotors have a onboard wifi camera. Once you've downloaded the streaming app to your phone you are able to connect the on board camera to your phone and use it to give you FPV footage.
The Courts

1st Circuit Injunction Re: TSA's New Mandatory AIT Search Rule Fully Briefed (s.ai) 122

saizai writes: I just filed my reply to the TSA's opposition to an emergency motion for preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order (PI/TRO) against the TSA's new policy that arbitrarily mandates some people to go through electronic strip search ("AIT"). Case website here (will be kept updated). Court order expected soon, though impossible to know for sure.

I've also released 3 FOIA docs (see 2015-12-30 update), which I submitted as exhibits:

Technology

Smallest Color Picture Ever Printed Fits Inside a Human Hair (www.ethz.ch) 52

Zothecula sends news about the tiniest color picture ever printed. Gizmag reports: "Scientists have created a picture that only fleas could truly appreciate. That's because the inkjet-printed image takes up an area no larger than the cross-section of a human hair. The picture of a few clownfish in their sea anemone home measures just 80 micrometers x 115 micrometers for a total area of 0.0092 square mm. Researchers from ETH Zurich University and the startup Scrona have been named the new holders of the Guinness World Record for the world's smallest inkjet color image, which they created using '3D Nanodrip' printing technology created at ETH Zurich."
Technology

How Long Until the Cyborg Olympics Are Better Than the Traditional Games? (ieee.org) 60

the_newsbeagle writes: In October 2016, a stadium in Zurich will host the world's first cyborg Olympics. During this event, more officially called the Cybathlon, people with disabilities will use advanced technologies such as exoskeletons and powered prosthetic limbs to compete in the games. This article chronicles one team's training for the bicycle race, where the athletes will be people with paralyzed legs. The team is composed of the paralyzed biker who has an electrical stimulation system implanted in his body, and the engineers who built the gear that energizes his nerves and muscles.
ch

Scientists Turn Gold Into Foam That's Nearly As Light As Air (www.ethz.ch) 70

Zothecula writes: Along with its use in jewelry, gold also has numerous applications in fields such as electronics and scientific research. It's a handy material, but – of course – it's also expensive. That's why researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a new way of making a small amount of gold go a long way. They've created a gold foam that looks much like solid gold, but is actually 98 parts air and two parts solid material (abstract). As an added bonus, the aerogel-type foam can also be made in non-gold colors such as dark red.
Businesses

Pandora To Buy Rdio Assets For $75M In Cash (techcrunch.com) 20

An anonymous reader writes: Pandora is acquiring music subscription service Rdio for $75 million in cash. "The transaction is contingent upon Rdio seeking protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. Upon approval of the proposed transaction by the bankruptcy court, Rdio will be winding down the Rdio-branded service in all markets," Pandora said in a statement. TechCrunch reports: "That was fast: just as soon as it was reported that Pandora was in talks to buy Rdio, the two sides have confirmed that an acquisition is indeed taking place. Pandora has acquired "key assets" from Rdio for $75 million, the company has just announced. But as part of it, the Rdio service as we know it is tanking: the streaming service is shutting down and Rdio is filing for bankruptcy."
Medicine

The Neuroscientist Who Tested a Brain Implant On Himself (technologyreview.com) 58

An anonymous reader writes: Our understanding of the brain has come a long way in the past thirty years, but most brain-related medical procedures remain incredibly complicated and dangerous. Neurologist Phil Kennedy has been working on brain-computer interfaces since the 1980s. He was most notably involved in letting a patient with "locked in" syndrome interact with the outside world through a brain-controlled computer cursor. But the FDA has gradually ramped up its safety demands, and in the past decade they've shut down Kennedy's research. So he did what any determined inventor would do: he went to a hospital in Belize and had surgeons there implant electrodes on his own brain so he could continue his research.

"After returning home to Duluth, Georgia, Kennedy began to toil largely alone in his speech lab, recording his neurons as he repeated 29 phonemes (such as e, eh, a, o, u, and consonants like ch and j) out loud, and then silently imagined saying them. ... Kennedy says his early findings are 'extremely encouraging.' He says he determined that different combinations of the 65 neurons he was recording from consistently fired every time he spoke certain sounds aloud, and also fired when he imagined speaking them—a relationship that is potentially key to developing a thought decoder for speech." Eventually, Kennedy had to have the implants removed, but he hopes the data he gathered will help push the FDA toward supporting this research once more.

Power

Cambridge Researchers Present Lithium-Air Battery Breakthrough (google.com) 100

Reuters reports on a tantalizing advance in battery technology described this week by Cambridge researchers, who have made large enough steps toward a practical lithium-oxygen battery to give a laboratory demo of their system. Commercially available lithium-oxygen batteries would be significant because they would have the potential to deliver the desired power thanks to a high energy density - a measure of energy stored for a given weight - that could be 10 times that of lithium-ion batteries and approach that of gasoline. They also could be a fifth the cost and a fifth the weight of lithium-ion batteries. But problems have beset lithium-oxygen batteries that affect their capacity and lifetime, including troublesome efficiency, performance, chemical reaction and potential safety issues and the limitation of needing pure oxygen rather than plain old air. The Cambridge demonstrator battery employs different chemistry than previous work on lithium-air batteries, for example using lithium hydroxide rather than lithium peroxide. It also uses an electrode made of graphene, a form of carbon. The result was a more stable and efficient battery." Some more about this research can be gleaned from Clare Grey's web page at Cambridge.
Earth

Technology's Role In a Climate Solution (thebulletin.org) 173

Lasrick writes: If the world is to avoid severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts (PDF), carbon emissions must decrease quickly. Achieving such cuts, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, depends in part on the availability of "key technologies." But arguments abound against faith in technological solutions to the climate problem. Electricity grids may be ill equipped to accommodate renewable energy produced on a massive scale. Many technological innovations touted in the past have failed to achieve practical success. Even successful technologies will do little good if they mature too late to help avert climate disaster. In this debate in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, experts from India, the United States, and Bangladesh address the following questions: To what extent can the world depend on technological innovation to address climate change? And what promising technologies—in generating, storing, and saving energy, and in storing greenhouse gases or removing them from the atmosphere—show most potential to help the world come to terms with global warming?
Moon

"Father of the Space Shuttle" George Mueller Dies At 97 (washingtonpost.com) 75

The Washington Post reports that long-time NASA engineer and administrator George Mueller died on October 12 of congestive heart failure, at 97. Mueller had a hand in NASA programs as Associate Administrator of the NASA Office of Manned Space Flight going back to the Apollo program, but not only as an administrator: he played a large role in the design of Skylab, and in lobbying for the Space Shuttle; this last earned him the (sometimes disputed) nickname of "Father of the Space Shuttle." During his Apollo days, Mueller became well known for his insistence on "all-up" testing, rather than incremental, per-component tests. From the Washington Post's story: As applied to the space program, [all-up testing] implied specifically such techniques as the testing of all three stages of the giant Saturn V booster rocket while they were coupled together and with a payload attached to boot. It was reported that the scheme had its doubters, among them such leading lights of rocketry as Wernher von Braun. But in time, the forceful Dr. Mueller proved persuasive enough to overcome all such reservations, and it was “all up” for the mammoth Saturn V, the launch vehicle upon which NASA pinned its hopes of sending Americans to the moon.
Security

Disclosed Netgear Flaws Under Attack (threatpost.com) 17

msm1267 writes: A vulnerability in Netgear routers, already disclosed by two sets of researchers at different security companies, has been publicly exploited. Netgear, meanwhile, has yet to release patched firmware, despite apparently having built one and confirmed with one of the research teams that it addressed the problem adequately. The vulnerability is a remotely exploitable authentication bypass that affects Netgear router firmware N300_1.1.0.31_1.0.1.img, and N300-1.1.0.28_1.0.1.img. The flaw allows an attacker, without knowing the router password, to access the administration interface.
Government

Veteran FBI Employee Accused of Trying To Beat Polygraph, Suspended Without Pay 262

George Maschke writes: A mid-career veteran of the FBI has been suspended without pay and faces revocation of his/her security clearance (which would inevitably lead to termination) because the Bureau's polygraph operators allege he/she tried to beat the polygraph. The case is currently the subject of an unpublicized Congressional inquiry. Retired FBI scientist, supervisory special agent, and polygraph critic Dr. Drew Richardson has publicly shared a memorandum he wrote in support of the accused in this case, which has heretofore been shrouded in secrecy. It should be borne in mind that polygraphy is vulnerable to simple countermeasures (PDF, see Ch. 4) that polygraph operators cannot detect. This case is yet another example of how the pseudoscience of polygraphy endangers virtually everyone with a high-level security clearance.

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