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Submission + - 7 Earth-like planets found orbiting star 39 light-years from Earth (www.cbc.ca)

MightyMartian writes: From the story:

Scientists have discovered what looks the best place so far where life as we know it may exist outside our own solar system. Seven Earth-sized planets, all of which could contain water, have been found orbiting a small star 39 light-years away. "We have made a crucial step toward finding if there is life out there," said Amaury Triaud, co-author of the study. "I don't think any time before we had the right planets to discover and find out if there was.


Submission + - Not Even IMDb Is Safe From Trolls (theringer.com)

schwit1 writes: At a time when many websites are scrapping their comment sections, the movie database’s decision to shut down its popular, long-running message boards feels especially poignant

On Monday, that message board closed. “After in-depth discussion and examination, we have concluded that IMDb’s message boards are no longer providing a positive, useful experience for the vast majority of our more than 250 million monthly users worldwide,” read a statement published by IMDb founder and CEO Col Needham. All past threads—16 years’ worth of posts—were erased.

Still, throwing in the towel feels especially poignant for a site that dates to the inception of the social internet. Trolling on IMDb isn’t a new phenomenon: In a 2006 profile in The Washington Post, actor Kevin Smith complained about the nastiness he had encountered on the site’s message board, while The New York Times mentioned a politically charged debate over The Kingdom the following year. It’s clear, though, that the trolling had hardened into something else—something systematic.

It’s hard to mistake the recent spate of comment-section closures as anything but recognition that the particular toxicity that has swept over social media seems now to be more than just an election-year phenomenon. Even in the dusty library of an online movie database, the bad of no-holds-barred chatter emphatically outweighs the good.

Submission + - Signal from Andromeda. Probable evidence of Dark matter. (spacefellowship.com)

William Robinson writes: NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has found a signal at the center of the neighboring Andromeda galaxy that could indicate the presence of the mysterious stuff known as dark matter. The gamma-ray signal is similar to one seen by Fermi at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy. The latest Fermi data shows the gamma rays in Andromeda are confined to the galaxy’s center instead of spread throughout. To explain this unusual distribution, scientists are proposing that the emission may come from several undetermined sources. One of them could be dark matter and another possible source for this emission could be a rich concentration of pulsars in Andromeda’s center. Scientists are excited that Fermi has detected a similar gamma-ray signature in both Andromeda and the Milky Way, scientists can use this information to solve mysteries within both galaxies.

Submission + - Your Digital Life Can Be Legally Seized at the Border 3

Toe, The writes: Quincy Larson from freeCodeCamp relates some frightening stories from U.S. citizens entering their own country, and notes that you don't have fourth and fifth amendment rights at the border. People can and have been compelled to give their phone password (or be detained indefinitely) before entering the U.S and other countries. Given what we keep on our phones, he concludes that it is now both easy and legal for customs and border control to access your whole digital life. And he provides some nice insights on how easy it is to access and store the whole thing, how widespread access would be to that data, and how easy it would be for the wrong hands to get on it. His advice: before you travel internationally, wipe your phone or bring/rent/buy a clean one.

Submission + - Pioneering Data Genius Hans Rosling Passes Away (bbc.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Tuesday Sweden's prime minister tweeted that Hans Rosling "made human progress across our world come alive for millions," and the professor-turned-pubic educator will probably best be remembered as the man who could condense 200 years of global history into four minutes. He was a geek's geek, a former professor of global health who "dropped out" because he wanted to help start a nonprofit about data. Specifically, it urged data-based decisions for global development policy, and the Gapminder foundation created the massive Trendalyzer tool which let users build their own data visualisations. Eventually they handed off the tool to Google who used it with open-source scientific datasets.

The BBC describes Rosling as a "public educator" with a belief that facts "could correct 'global ignorance' about the reality of the world, which 'has never been less bad.'" Rosling's TED talks include "The Best Data You've Never Seen" and "How Not To Be Ignorant About The World," and in 2015 he also gave a talk titled "How to Beat Ebola.

Hans Rosling died Tuesday at age 68.

Submission + - Phone Bot to Target Windows Support Scammers

Trailrunner7 writes: he man who developed a bot that frustrates and annoys robocallers is planning to take on the infamous Windows support scam callers head-on.

Roger Anderson last year debuted his Jolly Roger bot, a system that intercepts robocalls and puts the caller into a never-ending loop of pre-recorded phrases designed to waste their time. Anderson built the system as a way to protect his own landlines from annoying telemarketers and it worked so well that he later expanded it into a service for both consumers and businesses. Users can send telemarketing calls to the Jolly Roger bot and listen in while it chats inanely with the caller.

Now, Anderson is targeting the huge business that is the Windows fake support scam. This one takes a variety of forms, often with a pre-recorded message informing the victim that technicians have detected that his computer has a virus and that he will be connected to a Windows support specialist to help fix it. The callers have no affiliation with Microsoft and no way of detecting any malware on a target’s machine. It’s just a scare tactic to intimidate victims into paying a fee to remove the nonexistent malware, and sometimes the scammers get victims to install other unwanted apps on their PCs, as well.

Anderson plans to turn the tables on these scammers and unleash his bots on their call centers.

Submission + - Paypal disguises 13% price hike as 'Policy Update'. (paypal.com) 2

turbotalon writes: In an email sent to users February 7th, Paypal is disguising a 13% rate hike as a 'Policy Update.' Roughly one quarter of the 'policy changes' are rate hikes, yet their emailed summary glosses over the rate hike, focussing instead on a few of the 'policy changes' with one sentence at the end about 'changing some of the fees we charge'.

Additionally, they have added a "non-discouragement clause" for sellers that provides:

"In representations to your customers or in public communications, you agree not to mischaracterize PayPal as a payment method. At all of your points of sale (in whatever form), you agree not to try to dissuade or inhibit your customers from using PayPal; and, if you enable your customers to pay you with PayPal, you agree to treat PayPal’s payment mark at least at par with other payment methods offered."

Reading the full text of the update reveals the following fees are increasing:
  Standard transaction fee
  International currency exchange fees
  In-store transaction fees
  Micro-payment fees
  Cross-border transaction fees

Submission + - A Supermassive Black Hole Has Been Devouring a Star for a Decade (usatoday.com)

An anonymous reader writes: A massive black hole devoured a star over a 10 year period, setting a new record for the longest space meal ever observed, according to new research. Researchers spotted the ravenous black hole with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Swift satellite as well as ESA’s XMM-Newton, according to a statement from NASA. When objects like stars get too close to black holes, the intense gravity of the black hole can rip the star apart in what’s called a tidal disruption event (TDE), according to NASA. While some of the debris from the star is flung forward, parts of it are pulled back and ingested by the black hole, where it heats up and emits an X-ray flare, NASA said in a statement. The tidal disruption event spotted by the trio of X-ray telescopes, is unlike anything researchers have ever seen, lasting ten times longer than any observed incident of star’s death caused by a black hole, according to research published in Nature Astronomy Feb. 6. The black hole, dubbed XJ1500+0154, is located in a galaxy 1.8 billion light-years from Earth. Researchers first spotted it in 2005 and it reached peak brightness in 2008, according to the statement. According to NASA, researchers believe that the black hole may have consumed the most massive star ever completely torn apart during a TDE.

Submission + - Fast Radio Bursts - the astronomical signal - may be from extraterestrial source (arxiv.org)

RockDoctor writes: In an exercise of "try all sorts of ideas", some Harvard (USA) astronomers examine coincidences between "fast radio bursts" (the several uhh "enigmatic" uhh, fast bursts of radio emission detected over the last few years) and discover that the plausible sizes of the sources of the signals and some of their other characteristics are not inconsistent with them being sourced from "a large rocky planet."

They continue to examine the far-fetched idea with the tools of science. The extemely high brightness temperature (change of intensity with radiation frequency) of ~10^37 K has suggested a coherent radiation source, and tihs idea is developed into considering them as the overflows of light sails powered by a radiation source at the source planet, as has been proposed for investigating the planet around Proxima Centauri.

In an acknowledgement of the Popplerian definition of a scientific hypothesis, they are explicit in discussing "implications and predictions in Section 3", so their ideas can be probed by reality. So even if their idea proves wrong, it will remain a valid contribution to the literature. As the authors finish, "Although the possibility that FRBs are produced by extragalactic civilizations is more speculative than an astrophysical origin, quantifying the requirements necessary for an artificial origin serves, at the very least, the important purpose of enabling astronomers to rule it out with future data"

Submission + - LIGO doesn't just detect gravitational waves. It makes them, too (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is not only the most sensitive detector of ripples in spacetime. It also happens to be the world's best producer of gravitational waves, a team of physicists now calculates. Although these waves are far too feeble to detect directly, the researchers say, the radiation in principle could be used to try to detect weird quantum mechanical effects among large objects.

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