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Submission + - Inside the Glowing-Plant Startup That Just Gave up Its Quest (

mirandakatz writes: Back in 2013, the internet was abuzz over a startup that promised Kickstarter backers that it would create a plant that could grow brightly enough to one day replace street lights. The Kickstarter raised half a million dollars, and the controversy was great enough that Kickstarter wound up banning all future synthetic biology projects. But Taxa Biotechnologies was never able to create that much-hyped glowing plant—and last night, they announced that they're officially giving up on the dream. At Backchannel, Signe Brewster has a deep dive into what went wrong, and why biohacking is still such a fraught, complex realm.

Submission + - Why You Should Care About The Supreme Court Case On Toner Cartridges (

rmdingler writes: A corporate squabble over printer toner cartridges doesn’t sound particularly glamorous, and the phrase “patent exhaustion” is probably already causing your eyes to glaze over. However, these otherwise boring topics are the crux of a Supreme Court case that will answer a question with far-reaching impact for all consumers: Can a company that sold you something use its patent on that product to control how you choose to use after you buy it?

Here’s the background: Lexmark makes printers. Printers need toner in order to print, and Lexmark also happens to sell toner.

Then there’s Impression Products, a third-party company makes and refills toner cartridges for use in printers, including Lexmark’s.

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: To password manage or not to manage? 1

informaticsDude writes: What do Slashdot users recommend regarding the use of password managers? The recently election underscored the hackability of many personal accounts. One solution is to use different passwords for every digital experience. Of course, humans are lousy at remembering large numbers of large random strings. One solution is to use a password manager. However, password managers have been hacked, in which case you lose everything. How do Slashdot users balance the competing risks? What is a person to do?

Submission + - Time Crystals Discovered (

omaha393 writes: Researchers have addressed a perplexing issue in physics: the existence of time crystals. Time crystals, previously only hypothetical in nature, are structures that oscillate without any external energy supplied. The idea of time crystals set off a massive feud among physicists, arguing that such a state of matter could not exist.
        As leading time crystal proponent Frank Wilczek describes it: "conceptually, it is a clock that ticks forever without being wound." With the paper published in Nature Wednesday, researchers showed their method of production and the unusual nature of time crystals, which owe their oscillation properties to never achieving a state of equilibrium. Article may be paywalled, link to news article provided.

Submission + - Ultrasound Tracking Could Be Used to Deanonymize Tor Users (

An anonymous reader writes: Ultrasounds emitted by ads or JavaScript code hidden on a page accessed through the Tor Browser can deanonymize Tor users by making nearby phones or computers send identity beacons back to advertisers, data which contains sensitive information that state-sponsored actors can easily obtain via a subpoena.

The attack relies on the practice of ultrasound cross-device tracking (uXDT) that allows advertisers to link users to different devices by using inaudible ultrasounds secretly emitted via their ads. Nearby devices pick up these sounds and ping the advertisers' server with details about the user's devices. In tests, the research team has intercepted some of the traffic these ultrasound beacons trigger on behalf of the phone, traffic which contains details such as the user's real IP address, geo-location coordinates, telephone number, Android ID, IMEI code, and device MAC address.

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: How do I disable a radio credit card?

Keybounce writes: So, like most of you, I recently got a new credit card with a chip in it. I was not worried about that — I know the chips are harder to copy and counterfeit.

But I recently discovered that the card is also a radio card — swiping it near the screen caused an message to show up on the reader. In this case, it told me to use the chip reader instead — but this means it has an active radio signal, and could be "hacked" — stolen by someone with the right device.

How can I prevent this? Is there anything I can do that will disable the radio signal and still leave the chip functioning?

Submission + - FBI Raids Dental Software Researcher Who Found Patient Records On Public Server

blottsie writes: Yet another security researcher is facing possible prosecution under the CFAA for accessing data on a publicly accessible server. The FBI on Tuesday raided Texas-based dental software security researcher Justin Shafer, who found the protected health records of 22,000 patients stored on an anonymous FTP.

“This is a troubling development. I hope the government doesn't think that accessing unsecured files on a public FTP server counts as an unauthorized access under the CFAA,” Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and CFAA scholar told the Daily Dot. “If that turns out to be the government's theory—which we don't know yet, as we only have the warrant so far—it will be a significant overreach that raises the same issues as were briefed but not resolved in [Andrew 'weev' Auernheimer's] case. I'll be watching this closely.”

Submission + - Plugged particles pack in natural gas (

ckwu writes: Developing a compact, lightweight, and low-cost technology for storing natural gas has been a critical hurdle for its widespread adoption as a vehicle fuel. Now, researchers have devised a method to boost the methane storage capacity of porous adsorbent materials, which can then be kept and transported at low pressure. The trick is to seal high-pressure methane gas inside porous beads using hydrocarbon plugs that can be slowly removed to release the gas, effectively turning the beads into tiny gas tanks. The coated beads store twice the amount of methane as uncoated beads at a low 0.1 megapascal of pressure. For use in vehicles, adsorbent pellets loaded with natural gas could be stored in lightweight cartridges that could be swapped out at a gas station, the researchers say.

Submission + - Millions Stolen in Coordinated ATM Heist (

wiredmikey writes: A manhunt is underway for criminals who looted millions from Japan's cash machines nationwide in an hours-long heist, officials and reports said Monday.

Armed with fake credit card details from South Africa's Standard Bank, the thieves hit 1,400 convenience store ATMs in a coordinated attack earlier this month. The international gang members, reportedly numbering around 100 people, each made a series of withdrawals in less than three hours, Japanese media said. Japanese police declined to confirm the robbery, but Standard Bank acknowledged the heist and put its losses at around $19 million.

Submission + - What's the smallest biggest number you can think of?

serviscope_minor writes: If you think exponentials, factorials or even Ackermann's function grow fast, then you're thinking too small. For truly huge, but well defined, numbers, you need to enter the realm of non computability.

The Busy Beaver function BB(n) is the largest number of steps that an n state Turing machine will run for when fed with a blank tape excluding non halting programs. It grows faster than any computable series but starts off as the rather pedestrian 1, 6, 21, 107. By BB(7) it reaches at least 10^10^10^10^10^7 and at some point becomes non computable. It must be non computable because if it wasn't, you could run a program for BB(N+extra states needed to encode the initial tape state)+1 steps, and if it gets that far then you know it never halts, so you've solved the Halting Problem. So, at some point it must transition from numbers that can be computed to ones that can't be.

And now there's some new and rather interesting insight into that which essentially reduces the problem to code golf or the International Obfuscated Turing Code Contest (as if there is any other sort). Imagine you have an axiomatic system, say ZFC (which underlies almost all of modern maths), and you know you can't prove it's consistent (you can't). If you write a program that systematically evaluates and tests hypothesis based on the axioms, you can't prove it will halt or not since that's equivalent to proving consistency.

This insight and first upper bound is the program proving that BB(7918) is noncomputable comes from this new paper. It turns out that writing a ZFC axiom evaluator directly in a Turing machine is rather tricky and long winded, so the authors wrote a small interpreter for a higher level language then wrote the axiom evaluator in that. Now finding a smaller uncomputably larger number is a question of writing even smaller programs which attempt to compute undecidable things. Think you can do better? A good starting point would probably be the existing code on github.

(I hope I've got the explanation at least half way right!)

Submission + - Better SWIFT software design would have thwarted Bangladesh Bank cyber heist (

An anonymous reader writes: New or modified malware code that at the least had a different MD5 hash was allowed to register, load and execute without detection. The malware should not have been able to execute, and SWIFT’s security team should have been notified. This is what happened when attackers exploited retailer Target’s POS system, yielding 40 million credit card numbers and identities. Just like the Target exploit, once the attackers jumped perimeter defenses, bad security policy let them run whatever malware they chose.

Submission + - An Inch of Metal Foam Disintegrates Bullets (

TechnoidNash writes: Last week, North Carolina State University uploaded a video of a bullet being fired at a sheet of composite metal foam. Afsaneh Rabiei, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State, has spent years developing composite metal foams, and the fruits of her labors are clear to see as the armor piercing round completely shatters after impacting the metal foam. Read more:

Submission + - Radio Attack Lets Hackers Steal 24 Different Car Models (

An anonymous reader writes: A group of German vehicle security researchers has released new findings about the extent of a wireless key hack, and their work ought to convince hundreds of thousands of drivers to keep their car keys next to their Pudding Pops. The Munich-based automobile club ADAC recently made public a study it had performed on dozens of cars to test a radio “amplification attack” that silently extends the range of unwitting drivers’ wireless key fobs to open cars and even start their ignitions. The ADAC researchers say that 24 different vehicles from 19 different manufacturers were all vulnerable, allowing them to not only reliably unlock the target vehicles but also immediately drive them away.

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