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Submission + - Solar Impulse off on the last leg (bbc.com)

AppleHoshi writes: The BBC is reporting that Solar Impulse, the all electric aeroplane making a circumnavigation of the globe, has left Cairo on the 17th and final leg of the epic journey. The Solar Impulse team estimates a 48-hour flight to the destination (and the staring point for the flight, last year), Abu Dhabi. All is not plain sailing, though. Despite the flight being mostly over desert where there's generally plenty of sunshine, the pilot, Bertrand Piccard, may have problems with the desert heat and the strong thermal updraughts which it creates.

Submission + - Do Gut Bacteria Rule Our Minds? (ucsf.edu)

giorgioarmani writes: It sounds like science fiction, but it seems that bacteria within us – which greatly outnumber our own cells – may very well be affecting both our cravings and moods to get us to eat what they want, and often are driving us toward obesity.In an article published this week in the journal BioEssays, researchers from UC San Francisco, Arizona State University and University of New Mexico concluded from a review of the recent scientific literature that microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on, rather than simply passively living off whatever nutrients we choose to send their way.

Submission + - Can our local supercluster defeat the accelerating Universe's expansion?

StartsWithABang writes: When dark energy was discovered, and the expansion of the Universe was shown to be accelerating, there was concurrently another puzzle that received much less attention: the problem of the Great Attractor. Galaxies appear to move due to both the Hubble expansion and the local gravitational field, but the gravity from the galaxies we saw didn’t account for all the motion. There must have been an additional set of masses, revealed only in the 2010s with the identification of the supercluster Laniakea. All the galaxies in our local neighborhood are headed towards it, but are we moving fast enough to overcome the expansive pull of dark energy? The answer looks to be no.

Submission + - PM Theresa May drops political bombshell on Whitehall -- tech firms beware! (arstechnica.co.uk)

An anonymous reader writes: British Prime Minister Theresa May has given a stern warning to big business, telling the public to "think not of the powerful, but you." Specifically, she singled out Google and Amazon for dodging taxes and creating a lot of parliamentary scrutiny. Ars Technica reports: "May has been quick to stamp her brand of conservatism on her party by letting go of key members of Cameron's cabinet. She has so far sacked big hitters such as chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne, justice secretary Michael Gove, and culture secretary John Whittingdale. Philip Hammond now has the keys to Number 11, but we're still waiting to hear who will replace Whittingdale, whose remit included the rollout of super fast broadband in the UK. He's also the man behind the White Paper on the future of the BBC, which sought radical changes at the public service broadcaster. So far, 10 cabinet positions have been announced by May. They include Justine Greening as secretary of state for education, and Liz Truss becomes justice secretary, while former London mayor and key Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson — to the surprise of many — now heads up the foreign office. May has handed her home secretary job to Amber Rudd — who will now be responsible for the government's push for greater online surveillance laws. Rudd was previously the minister for energy and climate change."

Submission + - Generic Ransomware Detection System Built for Windows (threatpost.com)

msm1267 writes: A team of researchers from the University of Florida and the Villanova University have a built a generic ransomware detection utility for Windows machines, one that focuses on how ransomware transforms data rather than the execution of malicious code.

Their utility is called CryptoDrop, and in a test against nearly 500 real-world ransomware samples from 14 distinct families, it detected 100 percent of attacks with relatively little file loss (a median loss of 10 files).

The tool is described in a paper called “CryptoLock (and Drop it): Stopping Ransomware Attacks on User Data,” written by Nolen Scaife, Patrick Traynor, Kevin R. B. Butler of the University of Florida, and Henry Carter of Villanova University.

“Our system (built only for Windows) is the first ransomware detection system that monitors user data for changes that may indicate transformation rather than attempting to identify ransomware by inspecting its execution (e.g., API call monitoring) or contents,” the researchers wrote. “This allows CryptoDrop to detect suspicious activity regardless of the delivery mechanism or previous benign activity."

Submission + - DNA, Crypto & Shakespeare: Sandia Labs Creates Mind-Blowing Storage Technolo (darkreading.com)

ancientribe writes: Researchers from Sandia National Labs are experimenting with a new more secure form of data storage that--get this--is based on DNA. The project is for a long-term archival technology that could securely store records for the National Archives, government personnel records, research findings at the national labs, or other sensitive classified information. (Paging the US State Department). How does The Bard fit in? The researchers got the idea from the European Bioinformatics Institute's experiment that recorded all of Shakespeare’s sonnets into 2.5 million base pairs of DNA. Welcome to the future.

Submission + - Bronze Age inferno preserved an extraordinary view of life in the United Kingdom (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: Reconstructing daily life in the Bronze Age has been difficult in northern Europe. Most houses were poorly preserved, traced out by postholes or barren remains of hearths, and offer up only meager fragments of pottery. A major excavation near Peterborough, U.K., promises to fill in the picture. Archaeologists have dug up 3000-year-old roundhouses that were perched on stilts above a river, perhaps for defense or facilitating trade. The building materials and much of the contents are well-preserved because the five houses were quickly abandoned during a fire and then collapsed into a river. The rich array of artifacts includes textiles, wooden objects, metal tools, and complete sets of pottery. The arrangement of artifacts could indicate how various sections of the houses were used and perhaps new details about diet. The fact that all the buildings burned down, apparently at the same time, and the belongings were left behind, suggests the fires may have been part of an attack.

Submission + - Least Transparent Ever (washingtonpost.com)

An anonymous reader writes: After early promises to be the most transparent administration in history, this has been one of the most secretive. And in certain ways, one of the most elusive. It’s also been one of the most punitive toward whistleblowers and leakers who want to bring light to wrongdoing they have observed from inside powerful institutions

On Monday, during a visit to Vietnam, the president spent some quality time with the media — in the form of Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef. A couple of years ago, he did a heavily publicized interview with the comedian Zach Galifianakis on the faux talk show “Between Two Ferns,” and last year he made a visit to podcaster Marc Maron’s garage for a chat about fatherhood and overcoming fear.

But his on-the-record interviews with hard-news, government reporters have been relatively rare — and, rather than being wide-ranging, often limited to a single subject, such as the economy.

Remarkably, Post news reporters haven’t been able to interview the president since late 2009. Think about that. The Post is, after all, perhaps the leading news outlet on national government and politics, with no in-depth, on-the-record access to the president of the United States for almost all of his two terms.

I couldn’t get anyone in the White House press office to address this, despite repeated attempts by phone and email — which possibly proves my point.

But a thorough study from Martha Joynt Kumar, a retired Towson University professor, describes the administration’s strategy. The president does plenty of interviews, she writes — far more than any other president in recent history. But these interviews are tightly controlled and targeted toward specific topics, and, it seems to me, often granted to soft questioners. (All of this is a major shift from a time when news conferences and short question-and-answer sessions allowed reporters to pursue news topics aggressively and in real time.)

Submission + - Chrome 51 Arrives With New APIs And More Efficient Page Rendering

An anonymous reader writes: Google today launched Chrome 51 for Windows and Mac, promising that the Linux version will “ship shortly.” This release includes the usual slew of developer features, but users should benefit from some of the improvements right away. You can update to the latest version now using the browser’s built-in silent updater, or download it directly from google.com/chrome.

Submission + - American Schools Teaching Kids to Code All Wrong 1

theodp writes: Over at Quartz, Globaloria CEO Idit Harel argues that American schools are teaching our kids how to code all wrong. She writes, "The light and fluffy version of computer science — which is proliferating as a superficial response to the increased need for coders in the workplace — is a phenomenon I refer to as 'pop computing.' While calling all policy makers and education leaders to consider 'computer science education for all' is a good thing, the coding culture promoted by Code.org and its library of movie-branded coding apps provide quick experiences of drag-and-drop code entertainment. This accessible attraction can be catchy, it may not lead to harder projects that deepen understanding." You mean the "first President to write a line of computer code" may not progressed much beyond moving Disney Princess Elsa forward?

Submission + - Hubble unveils deepest view of the Universe ever

StartsWithABang writes: To gaze into the empty abyss of deep space with the most expensive telescope of all requires a great leap of faith: that you’ll find something worth observing when you look. In 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope photographed the same regions of space 342 times, unveiling thousands of undiscovered galaxies. More than 20 years later, we’ve used this same technique to determine that the observable Universe has at least 170 billion galaxies spread throughout it. The James Webb Space Telescope is poised to unveil even more, with the capability of seeing back to when the Universe was less than 2% of its current age.

Submission + - Neuroscience Explains Why You Can't Lose Weight on a Diet

AmiMoJo writes: According to a new study, the chance of an obese person attaining normal body weight is 1 in 210 for men and 1 in 124 for women, worsening to 1 in 1,290 for men and 1 in 677 for women with severe obesity, suggesting that current weight management programs focused on dieting and exercise are not effective in tackling obesity.

Neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt writes in The New York Times that in the long run dieting is rarely effective, doesn't reliably improve health and does more harm than good and according to Aamodt, the root of the problem is not willpower but neuroscience. Metabolic suppression is one of several powerful tools that the brain uses to keep the body within a certain weight range, called the set point. The range, which varies from person to person, is determined by genes and life experience.

Submission + - Mutation, not Natural Selection, which led to the rise of new species (phys.org) 1

Taco Cowboy writes: Blair Hedges, a biologist at Temple University in Philadelphia, has proposed a provocative alternative to the natural selection view of evolution

According to Mr. Hedges, Adaptation had little to do with it. It was simply a matter of chance and time

No matter what the life form — plant or animal, insect or mammal — it takes about 2 million years for a new species to form. Random genetic events, not natural selection, play the main role in speciation

This controversial proposal stems from efforts by Hedges and collaborators to build the world’s most comprehensive tree of life — a chart plotting the connections among 50,000 species of Earth’s vast menagerie. Their analysis suggests that speciation is essentially random

Evolutionary biologists find the research effort intriguing, particularly in its size and scope, but they are also somewhat skeptical of the provocative ideas that have emerged. “It’s a huge tour de force” said Arne Mooers, a biologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. “There are lots of interesting claims — the devil will be in the details”

To build the tree, Hedges, his Temple colleague Sudhir Kumar, and their collaborators compiled data from nearly 2,300 published studies, gleaning from each the time when two species diverged from a common ancestor. They used those data to construct a map of relationships among different species, known as a “timetree.” To form a branch, the researchers started with the two species within a closely related taxonomic group that have the most recent common ancestor. Then they added the next closest species, and so on

In a family tree for example, it is akin to starting with siblings, then adding in first cousins and second cousins

Bringing all those branches together results in a comprehensive timetree of life

It will take some time for scientists to sort through the technical details of the paper, which was published in April in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. And while some scientists have been complimentary, others immediately challenged the results, questioning both the accuracy of the tree and the conclusions that Hedges has drawn. “I am very skeptical about inferring patterns of speciation from such a broad overview of the tree of life,” said Chris Jiggins, a biologist at the University of Cambridge in England

“The classic view of evolution is that it happens in fits and starts,” said Michael Benton, a paleontologist at the University of Bristol in England

A change in the environment, such as a rise in temperatures after an ice age, might spark a burst of speciation as organisms adapt to their new surroundings. Alternatively, a single remarkable adaptation such as flight in the ancestors of birds or hair in mammals might trigger a massive expansion of animals with those characteristics

Hedges argues that while such bursts do occur, the vast majority of speciation is more prosaic and evenly timed

To start, two populations become separated, driven apart by geography or other factors. New species emerge every 2 million years, on average, in a metronomic rhythm tapped out by the random nature of genetic mutations. He likens the process to radioactive decay. It’s impossible to predict when an individual radioactive nucleus will decay, but a clump of many atoms will decay at a highly predictable rate known as the material’s half-life

Similarly, mutations strike the genome randomly, but over a long enough time the accumulation of mutations follows a pattern. “There is a kind of speciation clock ticking along” Hedges said

Submission + - AdBlock Plus Wins in German Court in Setback for Microsoft and Google

HughPickens.com writes: Andrew Patrizio reports at Network World that a German court has ruled that the practice of blocking advertising is legal, throwing a wrench into the plans of advertising and publishing giants like Microsoft and Google to stop AdBlock Plus, a simple add-on to Chrome and Firefox, that has about 144 million active users (PDF), up 69% in a year. German publishers Zeit Online and Handelsblatt brought the suit against Eyeo, the company that owns Adblock Plus saying Adblock Plus should not be allowed to block ads on their websites. Microsoft, Google, and some French publishers were reportedly considering a suit against AdBlock Plus as well, with the chief of a French publisher's association telling AFP that its members lose 20% to 40% of revenue due to AdBlock Plus, which has 144 million users worldwide. "The Hamburg court decision is an important one," says Ben Williams, a director of Eyeo, "because it sets a precedent that may help us avoid additional lawsuits and expenses defending what we feel is an obvious consumer right: giving people the ability to control their own screens by letting them block annoying ads and protect their privacy."

Submission + - New Privacy Concerns About U.S. Program That Can Track Snail Mail (fastcompany.com)

Lashdots writes: A lawyers’ group has called for greater oversight of a government program that gives state and federal law enforcement officials access to metadata from private communications for criminal investigations and national security purposes. But it's not digital: this warrantless surveillance is conducted on regular mail. "The mail cover has been in use, in some form, since the 1800s," Chief Postal Inspector Guy J. Cottrell told Congress in November. The program targets a range of criminal activity including fraud, pornography, and terrorism, but, he said, "today, the most common use of this tool is related to investigations to rid the mail of illegal drugs and illegal drug proceeds." Recent revelations that the U.S. Postal Service photographs the front and back of all mail sent through the U.S., ostensibly for sorting purposes, has, Fast Company reports, brought new scrutiny—and new legal responses—to this obscure program.

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