Old People Can Produce As Many New Brain Cells As Teenagers
Long-time Slashdot reader
Futurepower(R) shares this article about a newly-published study which counters previous theories that neurons stop developing after adolescence:
Healthy men and women continue to produce new neurons throughout life, suggesting older people remain more cognitively and emotionally intact than previously believed, researchers found. For decades it was thought that adult brains were hard-wired and unable to form new cells. But a Columbia University study found older people continued to produce neurons in the hippocampus -- a part of the brain important for memory, emotion and cognition -- at a similar rate to young people....
However, the researchers also noted fewer blood vessels and connections between cells in the older brains, which Ms Boldrini said "may be linked to compromised cognitive-emotional resilience" in the elderly.
The article suggests these newest findings may be hotly debated.
"They come just a month after
a University of California study suggested adults do not develop new neurons."
Should America Build a Virtual Border Wall? Or Just Crowdfund It...
As America's government faces its longest-ever shutdown over the president's demands for border wall funding, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested "possible alternatives to a physical wall," according to one Silicon Valley newspaper:
Among the president's justifications for a wall is to stop drugs from coming into the United States, so Pelosi proposed spending "hundreds of millions of dollars" for technology to scan cars for drugs, weapons and contraband at the border. "The positive, shall we say, almost technological wall that can be built is what we should be doing," Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said during her weekly press conference.
That didn't go over well with Fight for the Future, a digital rights advocacy group that on Friday started a petition asking Democrats to drop plans for a "technological wall" that it says could threaten Fourth Amendment rights that guard against unreasonable searches and seizures. "Current border surveillance programs subject people to invasive and unconstitutional searches of their cell phones and laptops, location tracking, drone surveillance, and problematic watchlists," the group's petition says...
In December, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General released a report that showed searches of electronic devices at the border were up nearly 50 percent in 2017. The report also found that border agents were not always following standard operating procedures for searches, including failing to properly document such searches. In addition, information copied by agents were not always deleted as required.
The article also notes that Anduril Industries -- founded by Oculus Rift designer Palmer Luckey (and funded by Peter Thiel) -- is one of several companies
already working on "a virtual border wall."
CNN also reports on a GoFundMe campaign started by an Air Force veteran to simply
crowdfund the construction of the wall. Though 340,747 people pledged over $20 million, it
failed to reach its $1 billion goal, and is now pointing supporters to a newly-formed non-profit corporation -- named "We Build the Wall."
Meanwhile, another 7,121 GoFundMe members have pledged $160,985 to a rival campaign raising money
for ladders to climb over Trump's wall.
California Lawmaker Wants to Ban Paper Receipts, Require Digital Ones
A California assemblyman has introduced a law barring retailers from printing paper receipts unless a customer
requests one. Otherwise they'd be required to provide proof-or-purchase receipts "
only in electronic form."
: An anonymous reader quotes CNBC:
Stores that give out printed receipts without first being asked by the customer could be subject to fines [of $25 per day, up to $300 per year].... Proponents of the bill say the legislation would help reduce waste as well as contaminants in the recycling stream from toxins often used to coat the paper-based receipts... Up to 10 million trees and 21 billion gallons of water are used annually in the U.S. to create receipts, according to Green America, a green ecology organization. It said receipts annually generate 686 million pounds of waste and 12 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, or the equivalent of 1 million cars on the road...
Then again, the use of electronic receipts raises some privacy concerns since retailers usually require an email address for an electronic receipt and companies will then be able to potentially track and collect more data about customers.
If the bill passes, digital receipts would become California's default option on January 1, 2022.
Did a Russian Robotics Company Fake This Tesla-Robot Crash?
Last Saturday a firm which rents promotional robots claimed that one of their robots broke free from a line of robots,
only to be hit by a self-driving Tesla.
Though video of the incident has now been viewed over 1.2 million times, Wired followed up on the company's claim that "Nevada police"
were investigating the incident.
Or weren't. Aden Ocampo Gomez, a public information officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said he couldn't find any record of such an incident. And anyway, he says, "We don't report to that kind of incident on private property."
Wired also challenged Promobot's claim that their robot was hit by "a self-driving Tesla car":
Teslas don't have a "full self-driving" mode. Autopilot, the automaker's semiautonomous system, is made for highways, not the sort of private road shown in a video of the alleged crash published by the robotics company. Promobot seems to start falling over just a moment before the car gets to it. And that video appears to show a rope snaking away from the incident -- the sort that could be used, say, to pull down a robot that hadn't been hit by a car at all.
When Wired contacted the company for a comment, they didn't respond.
The company's press release also claims that after the collision "most likely there is no way to restore" their robot -- and yet the Daily Dot reports Promobot "
does not intend to pursue reparations".
You Can Now Profile Python Using Arm Forge
Python "is often described as being slow when it comes to performance... But is that truly the case?" writes Patrick Wohlschlegel, Arm's senior product manager for infrastructure and high-performance computing tools.
Effectively profiling Python has always been a pain. Arm recently announced that their Arm Forge is now able to profile both Python and compiled code.
It's available for any hardware architecture, Wohlschlegel writes, adding that developers "typically assume that most of the execution time is spent in compiled, optimized C/C++ or Fortran libraries (e.g. NumPy) which are called from Python..."
"How confident are you that your application is not wasting your precious computing resources for the wrong reasons?"
How Etsy Sellers and Big Business Make Money on Public Domain Art
"Some people have figured out how to turn reselling public domain content into side hustles," reports Motherboard:
On Etsy, there are thousands of listings for downloadable prints and lithographs that are in the public domain. The concept is pretty simple: these merchants round up and download the most visually beautiful art in the public domain, and then sell prints on Etsy. But some of them don't even go that far and just sell digital files of the art. Then, the buyers can print out the prints at whichever size they want and use them as they please...
With that being said, there's also big companies like Walmart that are also trying to earn money off art in the public domain... Similarly, the Museum of Modern Art is selling "Red Canna" by Georgia O'Keeffe, which is now in the public domain, for $166.50 (on sale from $185). For the love of god, don't pay $166.50 for something you could download for free and print yourself for less than $16.
Of course, none of this is bad necessarily. The public domain exists in part so that people can give formerly copyrighted works new life -- sometimes an iconic painting simply needs to become a bedspread. But now that many new works are available for free, it's worth having a quick look around if you're thinking of buying vintage art. You might be able to get it for free elsewhere.
To be fair, the Museum of Modern Art is a non-profit -- and reportedly
avoids all government funding.
Legendary Mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah Dies at Age 89
"One of the world's foremost mathematicians, Prof Sir Michael Atiyah, has died at the age of 89," reports the BBC.
"He has been described to me by more than one professor of mathematics as the best mathematician in this country since Sir Isaac Newton," his brother tells the BBC. Slashdot reader
OneHundredAndTen shared their report:
Sir Michael was best known for his co-development of a branch of mathematics called topological K-theory and the Atiyah-Singer index theorem. His research also involved deep insights relating to mathematical concepts known as "vector bundles". His work in these areas has helped theoretical physicists to advance their understanding of quantum field theory and general relativity.
In September, Atiyah also
claimed to have proved the 160-year-old Riemann hypothesis.
"If the hypothesis is proven to be correct,"
New Scientist reported, "mathematicians would be armed with
a map to the location of all such prime numbers, a breakthrough with far-reaching repercussions in the field."
German Police Ask Router Owners For Help In Identifying a Bomber's MAC Address
An anonymous reader quotes
German authorities have asked the public for help in surfacing more details and potentially identifying the owner of a MAC address known to have been used by a bomber in late 2017... The MAC address is f8:e0:79:af:57:eb. Brandenburg police say it belongs to a suspect who tried to blackmail German courier service DHL between November 2017 and April 2018. The suspect demanded large sums of money from DHL and threatened to detonate bombs across Germany, at DHL courier stations, private companies, and in public spaces. [The bomb threats were real, but one caught fire instead of exploding, while the second failed to explode, albeit containing real explosives.]
Investigators called in to negotiate with the bomber managed to exchange emails with the attacker on three occasions, on April 6, 2018, April 13, 2018, and April 14, 2018. One of the details obtained during these conversations was the bomber's MAC address, which based on the hardware industry's MAC address allocation tables, should theoretically belong to a Motorola phone... Now, they're asking router owners to check router access logs for this address, and report any sightings to authorities. Investigators want to know to what routers/networks the bomber has connected before and after the attacks, in order to track his movements and maybe gain an insight into his identity.
Do Social Media Bots Have a Right To Free Speech?
One study found that 66% of tweets with links
were posted by "suspected bots" -- with an even higher percentage for certain kinds of content. Now a new California law will
require bots to disclose that they are bots.
But does that violate the bots' freedom of speech, asks Laurent Sacharoff, a law professor at the University of Arkansas.
"Even though bots are abstract entities, we might think of them as having free speech rights to the extent that they are promoting or promulgating useful information for the rest of us," Sacharoff says. "That's one theory of why a bot would have a First Amendment free speech right, almost independent of its creators." Alternatively, the bots could just be viewed as direct extensions of their human creators. In either case -- whether because of an independent right to free speech or because of a human creator's right -- Sacharoff says, "you can get to one or another nature of bots having some kind of free speech right."
In previous Bulletin coverage, the author of the new California law dismisses the idea that the law violates free speech rights. State Sen. Robert Hertzberg says anonymous marketing and electioneering bots are committing fraud. "My point is, you can say whatever the heck you want," Hertzberg says. "I don't want to control one bit of the content of what's being said. Zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. All I want is for the person who has to hear the content to know it comes from a computer. To me, that's a fraud element versus a free speech element."
Sacharoff believes that the issue of bots and their potential First Amendment rights may one day have its day in court. Campaigns, he says, will find that bots are helpful and that their "usefulness derives from the fact that they don't have to disclose that they're bots. If some account is retweeting something, if they have to say, 'I'm a bot' every time, then it's less effective. So sure I can see some campaign seeking a declaratory judgment that the law is invalid," he says. "Ditto, I guess, [for] selling stuff on the commercial side."
Car Manufacturers Want To Monitor Drivers Inside Their Cars
Startups are demonstrating "sensor technology that watches and analyzes drivers, passengers and objects in cars" reports Reuters -- a technology that "will mean enhanced safety in the short-term, and revenue opportunities in the future."
SonicSpike shares their report:
Whether by generating alerts about drowsiness, unfastened seat belts or wallets left in the backseat, the emerging technology aims not only to cut back on distracted driving and other undesirable behavior, but eventually help automakers and ride-hailing companies make money from data generated inside the vehicle... Data from the cameras is analyzed with image recognition software to determine whether a driver is looking at his cellphone or the dashboard, turned away, or getting sleepy, to cite a few examples... European car safety rating program Euro NCAP has proposed that cars with driver monitoring for 2020 should earn higher ratings...
But automakers are more excited by the revenue possibilities when vehicle-generated data creates a more customized experience for riders, generating higher premiums, and lucrative tie-ins with third parties, such as retailers. "The reason (the camera) is going to sweep across the cabin is not because of distraction ... but because of all the side benefits," said Mike Ramsey, Gartner's automotive research director. "I promise you that companies that are trying to monetize data from the connected car are investigating ways to use eye-tracking technology...." Carmakers could gather anonymized data and sell it. A billboard advertiser might be eager to know how many commuters look at his sign, Ramsey said. Tracking the gaze of a passenger toward a store or restaurant could, fused with mapping and other software, result in a discount offered to that person.
The Cadillac CT6 already has interior-facing cameras, Reuters reports, while Audi and Tesla "have developed systems but they are not currently activated." And this year Mazda, Subaru and Byton plan to introduce cameras that watch for inattentive drivers.
But where will it end? One company's product combines five 2D cameras with AI technology to provide "in-vehicle scene understanding" which includes each passenger's height, weight, gender and posture. And while low on specifics, Reuters reports that several companies that sell driver-watching technologies "have already signed undisclosed deals for production year 2020 and beyond."
SpaceX to Lay Off 10% of Its Workers
An anonymous reader quotes CNN:
SpaceX is laying off 10% of its 6,000-person workforce as it tackles two hugely expensive projects. Elon Musk's rocket company said its finances are healthy, but that it needs to make cuts so its most ambitious plans can succeed. "To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company," the company said in a statement....
The company earns tens of millions of dollars per launch. SpaceX was recently valued at $30.5 billion after initiating a $500 million equity sale in December. The company also took on about $250 million in debt last year in its first loan sale, according to the Wall Street Journal. But SpaceX's new products are expected to cost billions to develop. In September, Musk estimated SpaceX would spend between $2 billion and $10 billion developing an ultra-powerful spaceship and rocket system, recently renamed Starship and Super Heavy.
SpaceX plans to use the technology to fly tourists to space and, potentially, one day send humans to Mars... SpaceX is also developing a constellation of satellites that could one day beam high-speed internet down to the Earth. SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said during a TED Talk last year that she expects the satellite constellation to cost about $10 billion to deploy. The company has already made headway on both projects.
Marriott Faces Multiple Class-Action Lawsuits Over Hotel Reservation Data Breach
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vox:
More than 150 people who previously stayed in Marriott properties are suing the hotel chain in a federal class-action lawsuit, claiming that Marriott didn't do enough to protect them from a data breach that exposed more than 300 million guests' personal information, including names, credit card information, and passport numbers. The suit, which was filed Maryland federal district court on January 9, claims that Marriott did not adequately protect guest information before the breach and, once the breach had been discovered, "failed to provide timely, accurate, and adequate notice" to guests whose information may have been obtained by hackers.
According to the suit, Marriott's purchase of the Starwood properties [in 2016] is part of the problem. "This breach had been going on since 2014. In conducting due diligence to acquire Starwood, Marriott should have gone through and done an accounting of the cybersecurity of Starwood," Amy Keller, an attorney at DiCello Levitt & Casey who is representing the Marriott guests, told Vox. "In so doing, it should have caught -- at the very least -- that there was some suspicious activity concerning the database where a lot of consumer information was contained." Instead, Keller said, the breach continued for an additional two years after the acquisition, until Marriott caught it in September 2018. And even then, the suit claims, the company waited until November to tell guests about the breach.
Government Shutdown: TLS Certificates Not Renewed, Many Websites Are Down
80 TLS certificates used by US government websites have expired so far without being renewed, leaving some websites inaccessible to the public. From a report:
NASA, the US Department of Justice, and the Court of Appeals are just some of the US government agencies currently impacted, according to Netcraft. The blame falls on the current US federal government shutdown caused by US President Donald Trump's refusal to sign any 2019 government budget bill that doesn't contain funding for a Mexico border wall he promised during his election campaign. This has resulted in hundreds of thousands of government workers being furloughed across all government agencies, including staff handling IT support and cybersecurity. As a result, government websites are dropping like flies, with no one being on hand to renew TLS certificates.
Preliminary Results Published From New Horizons Flyby of MU69 'Ultima Thule'
The NASA/SWRI/Lowell Observatory (and at least 3 universities) team managing the download of data from New Horizons has released a first look at the results downloaded so far. At the time of writing, about 4 days of about 600 days of downloading had been completed. The next milestone hinted at is for March 2019 when the LPSC (Lunar & Planetary Science Conference) will get another batch of data as the various science teams get more data out of the pipeline.
Results: Firstly the overall shape -- as hinted by the occultation results from nearly a year ago -- is a contact binary. There is a lot of work going on from that, about how it could have formed, its accretion history and thermal history. The rotation period is better known (and this will improve as more data is downloaded) at 15=/-1 hours. The mass remains unknown. The mass ratio of the two components (nicknamed "Ultima" and "Thule") is suspected to be the same as their volume ratio -- 2.6:1; to get an accurate mass, observation of a satellite is needed, but the trajectory change for the spacecraft is unlikely to be large enough to estimate the mass well. Very little data has come down yet about the mineralogy, but the color suggests there is less water ice on MU69 than on Nix, the satellite of Pluto similar in size to MU69. The reason for a bright region to mark the junction between the two lobes is not known.
That'll be the sum of the data for the next 10 weeks until the 50th LPSC on March 18th.
Just 5 Percent of Earth's Landscape Is Untouched, Report Finds
comprehensive new high-resolution analysis of human modification of the planet finds that
just 5% of the Earth's land surface is currently unaffected by humans, far lower than a previous estimate of 19%. 95% of the Earth's land surface has some indication of human modification, while 84% has multiple human impacts, the study found. New Atlas reports:
The researchers from The Nature Conservancy and Conservation Science Partners used publicly available, high-resolution data from ground surveys and remotely sensed imagery on land use in 1 square kilometer grids to provide a spatial assessment of the impact of 13 human-caused stressors across all terrestrial lands, biomes and ecological regions, including: Agriculture; The physical extent of human settlement; Transportation, including railroads and minor roads; Mining, energy production; and Electrical infrastructure, including power lines.
52% of ecological regions and 49% of countries are considered moderately modified. These regions are highly fragmented, retain up to only 50% of low modified lands and fall within critical land use thresholds. Only 30% of terrestrial ecological regions and 18% of the world's countries have a low degree of land modification and retain most of their natural lands, which are distant from human settlements, agriculture and other modified environments. The study found the least modified biomes tend to be in high latitudes and include tundra, boreal forests, or taiga and temperate coniferous forests. On the other hand, the most modified biomes include more tropical landscapes, such as temperate broadleaf and mixed forests, as well as mangroves.