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Bug

MRI Software Bugs Could Upend Years Of Research (theregister.co.uk) 95

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Register: A whole pile of "this is how your brain looks like" MRI-based science has been invalidated because someone finally got around to checking the data. The problem is simple: to get from a high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging scan of the brain to a scientific conclusion, the brain is divided into tiny "voxels". Software, rather than humans, then scans the voxels looking for clusters. When you see a claim that "scientists know when you're about to move an arm: these images prove it", they're interpreting what they're told by the statistical software. Now, boffins from Sweden and the UK have cast doubt on the quality of the science, because of problems with the statistical software: it produces way too many false positives. In this paper at PNAS, they write: "the most common software packages for fMRI analysis (SPM, FSL, AFNI) can result in false-positive rates of up to 70%. These results question the validity of some 40,000 fMRI studies and may have a large impact on the interpretation of neuroimaging results."
Privacy

Cops Deploy StingRay Anti-Terror Tech Against $50 Chicken-Wing Thief (theregister.co.uk) 194

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Register: Police in Maryland, U.S., used controversial cellphone-tracking technology intended only for the most serious crimes to track down a man who stole $50 of chicken wings. Police in Annapolis -- an hour's drive from the heart of government in Washington DC -- used a StingRay cell tower simulator in an effort to find the location of a man who had earlier robbed a Pizza Boli employee of 15 chicken wings and three sandwiches. Total worth: $56.77. In that case, according to the police log, a court order was sought and received but in many other cases across the United States, the technology is being used with minimal oversight, despite the fact it is only supposed to be used in the most serious cases such as terrorism.Annapolis police never found the thief.
Security

BT Funnels All Customers' Sent Emails Into One Guy's Inbox (theregister.co.uk) 45

Shaun Nichols, reporting for The Register: The UK's biggest broadband provider BT redirected its customers' outgoing emails to a single account for three hours on Tuesday. The telco said the flooded inbox was an internal account it uses for test purposes and not a random unlucky subscriber. While BT did not provide details on the reason for the disruption, it appears to be the result of testing or maintenance gone awry. "A small number of customers reported an issue sending emails earlier. Sorry about this, it's fixed now," BT said in a statement to El Reg. "The mailbox in the delivery failure notification was for internal/test use and appeared in error, sorry for any confusion that caused." The emails were going to an account which belonged to someone named Steve Webb. The Register reports that Steve Webb works for one of BT's contractors. For Webb, I fear, Tuesday wasn't a productive day.
Businesses

New Microhotels Fight Airbnb With 65 Square Foot Rooms (nytimes.com) 123

HughPickens.com writes: Amy Zipkin writes in the [New York Times] that a growing number of so-called microhotels are taking a smaller-is-better approach to fight Airbnb, offering rooms in New York City for about $100 a night. The catch? Some rooms measure 65 square feet and offer a shared bathroom. "Disruptions from short-term rentals are creating a whole new supply channel," says Scott Berman. The micro concept first gained traction in Europe with brands like CitizenM and Yotel at airports and in urban centers. Now the model is expanding. Yotel, which has a property in Manhattan, plans to open others in San Francisco, Boston, Miami and Brooklyn, as well as London, Geneva and Singapore. Pod expects to open another hotel in Manhattan, as well as in Brooklyn and Washington. "We are focused on the millennial-minded consumer, with an emphasis on style, attitude and design at an economical value," says Vicki Poulos. But some travelers don't necessarily agree that the comfort level equals that of regular hotels. "At first, it is entirely novel," says Diana Edelman. "But then reality hits that it is nearly impossible to open a suitcase in the room without hitting your head on the bed's 'roof' or that you are showering next to the toilet and sink."
Space

Why Haven't the Arms of Spiral Galaxies Wound Up After All This Time? (forbes.com) 94

StartsWithABang writes: When you take a look at a spiral galaxy in the night sky, it seems obvious that the stars on the inner parts of the galaxy are going to orbit in less time than the stars in the outer part. This turns out to be true, something we've figured out even though the timescales for galaxies to complete a full revolution are far longer than we've ever been able to observe. But one thing that doesn't happen is that the arms don't "wind up," meaning that the galaxies don't see the spiral patterns intensify as they age. Even though we first observed spiral structure in galaxies back in the mid-1800s, we didn't understand what the cause of this effect was for over 100 years. Yet now, not only do we understand it, but we can explain why galaxies will never wind up over time, and how this effect is true with or without dark matter.
Science

Physicists (String Theorists) and Philosophers Debate the Scientific Method 383

StartsWithABang writes: One of the most damning, albeit accurate, condemnations of String Theory that has been leveled at it is that it's untestable, non-empirical, and offers no concrete predictions or methods of falsification. Yet some have attempted to address this failing not by coming up with concrete predictions or falsifiable tests, but by redefining what is meant by theory confirmation. Many physicists and philosophers have jumped into this debate, and a recently completed workshop has produced no agreements, but lots of interesting perspectives being live blogged by a physicist. Also weighing in is a philosopher in three separate parts.
Security

Quantum Computer Security? NASA Doesn't Want To Talk About It (csoonline.com) 86

itwbennett writes: At a press event at NASA's Advanced Supercomputer Facility in Silicon Valley on Tuesday, the agency was keen to talk about the capabilities of its D-Wave 2X quantum computer. 'Engineers from NASA and Google are using it to research a whole new area of computing — one that's years from commercialization but could revolutionize the way computers solve complex problems,' writes Martyn Williams. But when questions turned to the system's security, a NASA moderator quickly shut things down [VIDEO], saying the topic was 'for later discussion at another time.'
Government

How the Thirty Meter Telescope Ruling Will Impact Future Astronomy Projects (forbes.com) 251

StartsWithABang writes: If you want to explore the Universe, you need a telescope with good light gathering power, a high-quality camera to make the most out of each photon, and a superior observing location, complete with dark skies, clear nights, and still, high-altitude air. There are only a few places on Earth that have all of these qualities consistently, and perhaps the best one is atop Mauna Kea on Hawaii. Yet generations of wrongs have occurred to create the great telescope complex that's up there today, and astronomers continue to lease the land for far less than it's worth despite violating the original contract. That's astronomy as we know it so far, and perhaps the Mauna Kea protests signal a long awaited end to that.
Space

More Than Half of Kepler's Giant Exoplanets Were False Positives 88

StartsWithABang writes: By surveying an area of the sky containing over 150,000 stars visible to it, the Kepler satellite monitored each one over a multi-year period looking for periodic changes in brightness. Thousands of planetary candidates emerged via the transit method, where periodic dips of 3% or less were noted with regularity. However, a follow-up study has come out on the giant exoplanets, finding that over 50% of them aren't giant planets after all, but wound up being eclipsing binary stars. Perhaps our lone star Solar System is the oddity, after all.
United Kingdom

UK Govt's Expensive Mobile Coverage Project Builds Just 8 Masts In 4 Years 75

An anonymous reader points out a dismal report at The Register on a project intended by the UK government to connect lots of internet have-nots, but which has so far not accomplished as much as hoped. The Mobile Infrastructure Project is intended to provide last-mile connectivity, but the project has languished, and fallen short of its promises. This year, Department for Culture, Media and Sport has managed to erect only six masts, which can serve about 200 homes apiece. Originally more than 575 sites had been commissioned, following the publication of the “no coverage” database by watchdog Ofcom. At the rate seen so far of four masts a year it will take over 140 years to complete the £150m Mobile Infrastructure Project. The original deadline was to to have all the sites equipped and live by the end of 2015. However, that deadline was extended to March 2016 to "ensure that benefits of the program are maximized."
Security

POS Vendor Uses Same Short, Numeric Password Non-Stop Since 1990 128

mask.of.sanity writes: Fraud fighters David Byrne and Charles Henderson say one of the world's largest Point of Sale systems vendors has been slapping the same default passwords – 166816 – on its kit since 1990. Worse still: about 90 per cent of customers are still using the password. Fraudsters would need physical access to the PoS in question to exploit it by opening a panel using a paperclip. But such physical PoS attacks are not uncommon and are child's play for malicious staff. Criminals won't pause before popping and unlocking. The enraged pair badged the unnamed PoS vendor by its other acronym labelling it 'Piece of S***t.
Supercomputing

Nuclear Fusion Simulator Among Software Picked For US's Summit Supercomputer 57

An anonymous reader writes Today, The Register has learned of 13 science projects approved by boffins at the US Department of Energy to run on the 300-petaFLOPS Summit. These software packages, selected for the Center for Accelerated Application Readiness (CAAR) program, will be ported to the massive parallel machine, and are hoped to make full use of the supercomputer's architecture.They range from astrophysics, biophysics, chemistry, and climate modeling to combustion engineering, materials science, nuclear physics, plasma physics and seismology.
Advertising

Google, Amazon, Microsoft Reportedly Paid AdBlock Plus To Unblock 619

RoccamOccam writes with the following news from The Register: Internet giants Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Taboola have reportedly paid AdBlock Plus to allow their ads to pass through its filter software. The confidential deals were confirmed by the Financial Times, the paper reported today [Paywalled]. From the Register's article: Eyeo GmbH, the German startup behind Adblock Plus, said it did not wish to comment. So far more than 300 million users have downloaded its software, it said. The add-on is free to download, with Eyeo generating revenue through its "whitelisting" programme. Companies can request their ads to be unblocked as long as they comply with AdBlock's "acceptable ads" policy. Large companies pay a fee for the service.
Communications

Your High School Wants You To Install Snapchat 157

Bennett Haselton writes: They would never admit it, but your high school admins would probably breathe a sigh of relief if all of their sexting-mad students would go ahead and install Snapchat so that evidence of (sometimes) illegal sexting would disappear into the ether. They can't recommend that you do this, because it would sound like an implicit endorsement, just like they can't recommend designated drivers for teen drinking parties -- but it's a good bet they would be grateful. Read on for the rest.
Communications

Tor Network May Be Attacked, Says Project Leader 86

Earthquake Retrofit writes The Register is reporting that the Tor Project has warned that its network – used to mask peoples' identities on the internet – may be knocked offline in the coming days. In a Tor blog post, project leader Roger 'arma' Dingledine said an unnamed group may seize Tor's directory authority servers before the end of next week. These servers distribute the official lists of relays in the network, which are the systems that route users' traffic around the world to obfuscate their internet connections' public IP addresses.

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