Scientists Create World's First Living Organism With Fully Redesigned DNA
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian:
Scientists have created the world's first living organism that has a fully synthetic and radically altered DNA code. In a two-year effort, researchers at the laboratory of molecular biology, at Cambridge University, read and redesigned the DNA of the bacterium Escherichia coli (E coli), before creating cells with a synthetic version of the altered genome. The artificial genome holds 4m base pairs, the units of the genetic code spelled out by the letters G, A, T and C. Printed in full on A4 sheets, it runs to 970 pages, making the genome the largest by far that scientists have ever built. The DNA coiled up inside a cell holds the instructions it needs to function. When the cell needs more protein to grow, for example, it reads the DNA that encodes the right protein. The DNA letters are read in trios called codons, such as TCG and TCA.
The Cambridge team set out to redesign the E coli genome by removing some of its superfluous codons. Working on a computer, the scientists went through the bug's DNA. Whenever they came across TCG, a codon that makes an amino acid called serine, they rewrote it as AGC, which does the same job. They replaced two more codons in a similar way. More than 18,000 edits later, the scientists had removed every occurrence of the three codons from the bug's genome. The redesigned genetic code was then chemically synthesized and, piece by piece, added to E coli where it replaced the organism's natural genome. The result, reported in Nature, is a microbe with a completely synthetic and radically altered DNA code. Known as Syn61, the bug is a little longer than normal, and grows more slowly, but survives nonetheless.
Tesla's Solar Factory Is Exporting Most of Its Cells
Most of the solar cells Tesla is producing at its Gigafactory in upstate New York "
are being sold overseas instead of being used in the company's trademark 'Solar Roof' as originally intended," reports Reuters. "The exporting underscores the depth of Tesla's troubles in the U.S. solar business, which the electric car maker entered in 2016 with its controversial
$2.6 billion purchase of SolarCity." From the report:
Tesla has only sporadically purchased solar cells produced by its partner in the factory, Panasonic Corp, according to a Buffalo solar factory employee speaking on condition of anonymity. The rest are going largely to foreign buyers, according to a Panasonic letter to U.S. Customs officials reviewed by Reuters. When the two firms announced the partnership in 2016, the companies said they would collaborate on cell and module production and Tesla would make a long-term commitment to buy the cells from Panasonic. Cells are components that convert the sun's light into electricity; they are combined to make solar panels.
The situation raises new questions about the viability of cash-strapped Tesla's solar business. Musk once called the deal a "no brainer" - but some investors panned it as a bailout of an affiliated firm at the expense of Tesla shareholders. Before the merger, Musk had served as chairman of SolarCity's board of directors, and his cousin, Lyndon Rive, was the company's CEO. [...] Panasonic also produces traditional solar panels at the Buffalo plant for Tesla, but has been selling many of them to other buyers since at least last year due to low demand from the California car company, Reuters reported in August 2018. Tesla last month reported a 36 percent slide in its overall solar sales in the first quarter, adding to previous big drops since the SolarCity acquisition.
Epic Plans More Exclusives For Its Games Store
DarkRookie2 shares a report from Ars Technica:
If you thought Epic was done adding to the growing pile of PC games exclusively available on its own Games Store, well... I'd like to know where you got that impression. In any case, you should think again, because Epic has announced it will "reveal brand-new material for several games, including some exclusives, coming to the Epic Games store" at next month's Electronic Entertainment Expo. Epic also confirmed the platform's first storewide sale will be announced in the coming days. "That
confirmation came after a few eagle-eyed Fortnite players
noticed a news-feed ad for the 'Epic Games Store Mega Sale' when launching the game," reports Ars Technica.
The message promised that users could "Sign up for 2FA in order to get $10 to spend in the store."
Trump Signs Executive Order Barring US Companies From Using Huawei Gear
schwit1 shares a report from Reuters:
President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order declaring a national emergency and barring U.S. companies from using telecommunications equipment made by firms posing a national security risk, paving the way for a ban on doing business with China's Huawei. The executive order invokes the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which gives the president the authority to regulate commerce in response to a national emergency that threatens the United States. The order directs the Commerce Department, working with other government agencies, to draw up a plan for enforcement within 150 days. The order, which has been under review for more than a year, is aimed at protecting the supply chain from "foreign adversaries to the nation's information and communications technology and services supply chain," said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Internet Meme Pioneer YTMND Shuts Down
An anonymous reader quotes a report from PC Magazine:
You're the Man Now Dog, a pioneer in the internet meme space, has shut down. The online community at YTMND.com allowed users to upload an image or a GIF and pair it with audio for hilarious results. Traffic to the website, however, dried up years ago with the rise of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. In 2016, site creator Max Goldberg said YTMND would likely shut down soon due to declining ad revenue and his ill health. "It seems like the internet has moved on," Goldberg told Gizmodo at the time. The dates back to 2001 when Goldberg paired a looping audio clip of Sean Connery uttering the line "You're the man now, dog!" with some text and placed it all on a webpage, Yourethemannowdog.com.
Division 2 Multiplayer and Single-Player Campaign Broken By Latest Update
Longtime Slashdot reader
Andy Smith writes:
Gamers enjoying the single-player campaign in The Division 2 have been bitten by a bug in the latest update that spawned a range of server connection issues. While you might expect this to affect only multiplayer games, The Division 2 controversially requires a continuous server connection for the single-player campaign to work. Since Tuesday, campaign players have reported being kicked out of the game and losing their items, skills, and mission progress. Not surprisingly, developer Massive has been inundated with complaints . The company said: "We are aware of the connectivity issues some players are experiencing. We are investigating and working on a solution."
Close To 735K Fraudulently Obtained IP Addresses Have Been Uncovered and Revoked
The American Registry for Internet Numbers, Ltd. (ARIN) has won a legal case against an elaborate multi-year scheme to
defraud the Internet community of approximately 735,000 IPv4 addresses, the organization has revealed. An anonymous reader writes:
While the specifics of the findings are not released, John Curran, ARIN President and CEO said the fraud was detected as a result of an internal due diligence process. ARIN is a nonprofit member-based organization responsible for distributing Internet number resources in the US, Canada, and parts of the Caribbean. The emerging IPv4 address transfer market and increasing demand have resulted in more attempts to obtain IPv4 addresses fraudulently. This is the first arbitration ever brought under an ARIN Registration Services Agreement, and related proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. ARIN was able to prove an intricate scheme to fraudulently obtained resources that included many falsely notarized officer attestations sent to ARIN.
White House Launches Tool To Report Political Bias On Social Media Sites
On Wednesday, the White House
launched a new tool for people to use if they feel they've been wrongly censored, banned, or suspended on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. "No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump," the site reads. The Verge reports:
The tool asks users for screenshots and links regarding specific enforcement actions, specifying Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube as platforms of interest. (None of the companies immediately responded to a request for comment.) The tool also collects significant personal information from the user, and near the end invites users to opt into email newsletters from President Trump, "so we can update you without relying on platforms like Facebook and Twitter." A separate question points users to an extensive user agreement, and makes clear that "you understand this form is for information gathering only."
Microsoft Open-Sources a Crucial Algorithm Behind Its Bing Search Services
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch:
Microsoft today announced that it has open-sourced a key piece of what makes its Bing search services able to quickly return search results to its users. By making this technology open, the company hopes that developers will be able to build similar experiences for their users in other domains where users search through vast data troves, including in retail, though in this age of abundant data, chances are developers will find plenty of other enterprise and consumer use cases, too. The piece of software the company open-sourced today is a library Microsoft developed to make better use of all the data it collected and AI models it built for Bing .
With the Space Partition Tree and Graph (SPTAG) algorithm that is at the core of the open-sourced Python library, Microsoft is able to search through billions of pieces of information in milliseconds. Vector search itself isn't a new idea, of course. What Microsoft has done, though, is apply this concept to working with deep learning models. First, the team takes a pre-trained model and encodes that data into vectors, where every vector represents a word or pixel. Using the new SPTAG library, it then generates a vector index. As queries come in, the deep learning model translates that text or image into a vector and the library finds the most related vectors in that index. The library is now available under the MIT license and provides all of the tools to build and search these distributed vector indexes. You can find more details about how to get started with using this library -- as well as application samples -- here.
LED Light Can Damage Eyes, Health Authority Warns
The "blue light" in LED lighting can damage the eye's retina and disturb natural sleep rhythms, France's government-run health watchdog said this week. From a report:
New findings confirm earlier concerns that "exposure to an intense and powerful [LED] light is 'photo-toxic' and can lead to irreversible loss of retinal cells and diminished sharpness of vision," the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) warned in a statement. The agency recommended in a 400-page report that the maximum limit for acute exposure be revised, even if such levels are rarely met in home or work environments.
The report distinguished between acute exposure of high-intensity LED light, and "chronic exposure" to lower intensity sources. While less dangerous, even chronic exposure can "accelerate the ageing of retinal tissue, contributing to a decline in visual acuity and certain degenerative diseases such as age-related macular degeneration," the agency concluded. Long-lasting, energy efficient and inexpensive, light-emitting diode (LED) technology has gobbled up half of the general lighting market in a decade, and will top 60 percent by the end of next year, according to industry projections.
Japan Prepares To Ban Flying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Under the Influence of Alcohol
Drinking and droning? It could soon cost you up to a year in jail in Japan, where an amendment to the country's civil aeronautics law being debated in the Diet would
make it illegal to operate unmanned aerial vehicles while under the influence of alcohol. From a report:
According to the transport ministry, there were 79 incidents involving drones in the last financial year. None of them involved a drunk operator but tighter restrictions were nonetheless regarded as a necessary pre-emptive move. "There are lots of different types of accidents that are reported each year but the majority are relatively minor and involve, for example, a drone operating on a predetermined route making an accidental landing," a ministry official said, adding that there were 63 reports of accidents in 2017 and 55 the previous year.
"We have no records of someone causing an accident with a drone while drinking, but we do know that in the US about three years ago, a drunk person landed a drone in the grounds of the White House," the official said. "We obviously want to avoid that sort of situation, so these new laws are designed to stop something before it happens." Under the new rules, a drone operator will be legally required to carry out preflight checks of the vehicle and authorities will carry out on-the-spot inspections when an accident occurs.
A Bizarre Form of Water May Exist All Over the Universe
Recently at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics in Brighton, New York, one of the world's most powerful lasers blasted a droplet of water, creating a shock wave that raised the water's pressure to millions of atmospheres and its temperature to thousands of degrees. X-rays that beamed through the droplet in the same fraction of a second offered humanity's first glimpse of water under those extreme conditions. The x-rays revealed that the water inside the shock wave didn't become a superheated liquid or gas. Paradoxically -- but just as physicists squinting at screens in an adjacent room had expected -- the atoms froze solid, forming crystalline ice.
"You hear the shot," said Marius Millot of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, and "right away you see that something interesting was happening." Millot co-led the experiment with Federica Coppari, also of Lawrence Livermore. The findings, published this week in Nature, confirm the existence of "superionic ice," a new phase of water with bizarre properties. Unlike the familiar ice found in your freezer or at the north pole, superionic ice is black and hot. A cube of it would weigh four times as much as a normal one. It was first theoretically predicted more than 30 years ago, and although it has never been seen until now, scientists think it might be among the most abundant forms of water in the universe.
Firms That Promised High-Tech Ransomware Solutions Almost Always Just Pay the Hackers
As ransomware attacks crippled businesses and law enforcement agencies, two U.S. data recovery firms claimed to offer an ethical way out. Instead,
they typically paid the ransom and charged victims extra. From a report:
Proven Data promised to help ransomware victims by unlocking their data with the "latest technology," according to company emails and former clients. Instead, it obtained decryption tools from cyberattackers by paying ransoms, according to Storfer and an FBI affidavit obtained by ProPublica. Another U.S. company, Florida-based MonsterCloud, also professes to use its own data recovery methods but instead pays ransoms, sometimes without informing victims such as local law enforcement agencies, ProPublica has found. The firms are alike in other ways. Both charge victims substantial fees on top of the ransom amounts. They also offer other services, such as sealing breaches to protect against future attacks. Both firms have used aliases for their workers, rather than real names, in communicating with victims.
The payments underscore the lack of other options for individuals and businesses devastated by ransomware, the failure of law enforcement to catch or deter the hackers, and the moral quandary of whether paying ransoms encourages extortion. Since some victims are public agencies or receive government funding, taxpayer money may end up in the hands of cybercriminals in countries hostile to the U.S. such as Russia and Iran.
So Long Dual-Booting Windows on a Chromebook: Project Campfire is deprecated
An anonymous reader shares a report:
Project Campfire turned up in the Chromium world this past August. The intent was to let a Chromebook boot not just into Chrome OS but directly into another operating system such as Linux or Windows. I thought the latter was a positive outcome since it would allow Chromebooks to natively run Windows desktop apps on a Chromebook, and add value to devices. Unfortunately, the project is shutting down. Spotted in code, there are comments and code removals that make it clear Project Campfire is being deprecated.
Google Recalls Its Bluetooth Titan Security Keys Because of a Security Bug
Google today disclosed a security bug in
its Bluetooth Titan Security Key that could allow an attacker in close physical proximity to
circumvent the security the key is supposed to provide. From a report:
The company says that the bug is due to a "misconfiguration in the Titan Security Keys' Bluetooth pairing protocols" and that even the faulty keys still protect against phishing attacks. Still, the company is providing a free replacement key to all existing users. The bug affects all Titan Bluetooth keys, which sell for $50 in a package that also includes a standard USB/NFC key, that have a "T1" or "T2" on the back.
US Will Not Sign Christchurch Call Against Online Extremism
The U.S. will
not sign onto the "Christchurch call to action" against online extremism expected to be released Wednesday, citing concerns that the pact would violate free speech protections in the First Amendment, the Washington Post reports. From a report:
The document, negotiated by New Zealand and French officials as a commitment to study and stop the spread of online extremism that motivated the Christchurch mosque shootings earlier this year, is expected to be signed by Australia, Canada and the U.K., among others. It also has the support of major U.S. tech companies, including Facebook and Google, whose platforms were used to livestream and host videos of the attack.
UK Hacking Powers Can Be Challenged in Court, Judge Rules
A five-year court battle in the United Kingdom has come to an end with the UK Supreme Court ruling that the
UK's spy agencies and their hacking activities can be made subject to court challenges. From a report:
On Wednesday, the court ruled that the GCHQ's Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) is subject to judicial review in the High Court, which in turn means that the intelligence tribunal's decisions can be exposed, and challenged, based on the law of the land. The IPT is a closed-door and secretive tribunal involved in making decisions relating to the security activities and surveillance performed by UK intelligence and spy agencies, including the GCHQ, MI5, and MI6. The case in question is based on the GCHQ's powers to hack thousands or millions of devices in the quest for intelligence, previously challenged on the basis of human rights. Privacy International launched a legal case in 2014 questioning these powers. A subsequent ruling in 2016 by the IPT determined that the UK government held the right to launch sweeping "thematic" warrants which validated the hacking of devices en masse in the UK and abroad.
Why Linux On Desktop 'Failed': A Discussion With Mark Shuttleworth
Mark Shuttleworth, founder and CEO of Canonical, summed it in a few words: "I think the bigger challenge has been that we haven't invented anything in the Linux that was like deeply, powerfully ahead of its time." He also said that "if in the free software community we only allow ourselves to talk about things that look like something that already exists, then we're sort of defining ourselves as a series of forks and fragmentations." He added that it seems the desktop Linux people want to be angry at something. We wanted to do amazing things with Unity but the community won't let us do it, so here we are. He also commended Google folks for what they have built for Chrome OS.
FCC Announces Action and Legal Framework To Fight Robocalls
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai proposed a ruling Wednesday that would combat robocalls that spoof legitimate, in-service numbers and provide legal framework for phone carriers to carry out the action. From a report:
The declaratory ruling will be voted on and, assuming it passes, be adopted by June 6, per the FCC. If enacted: Phone companies would be allowed to block calls for consumers by default. Consumers could "white list" their contacts and opt-in to only receive calls based on that list. Emergency and other vital calls would not be blocked. Through the notice of proposed rulemaking, the FCC will also seek comment on additional measures aimed at curbing robocalls.
Japan Plans To Create 10 Billion 14-Digit Phone Numbers as 5G Era Nears
Japan's communications ministry plans to create for assignment some
10 billion 14-digit phone numbers starting with the code "020." From a report:
With the commercialization of fifth-generation, or 5G, superfast mobile communications fast approaching, 11-digit numbers are expected to run out as early as fiscal 2022. The plan to introduce the new numbers, by the end of 2021 at the latest, was proposed at a recent meeting of a panel of experts. It was accepted by the three major mobile phone operators -- NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp. and SoftBank.
Twitter Opens Developers Labs Program To Test New API Products
upgrading its API to be more standards-compliant and more modern," writes longtime Slashdot reader
andyp. "They also want to collaborate with developers as they create the new API platform." VentureBeat provides more details:
Twitter today announced plans to build "the next generation of the Twitter API" that will provide more flexibility and better serve developers. As a first step, the company is launching the Twitter Developer Labs program to let developers preview new features and test new API products before they are finalized. Participating developers will be asked to provide feedback on what they like and don't like ahead of the broad rollout. Twitter announced Twitter API version 1.1 in August 2012. The social network and what developers use it for have changed a lot since then. Twitter has added enterprise data APIs and the Ads API, but the main API has largely stagnated. At the same time, Twitter has burned developers again and again. The first new features that will be released in Labs are GET /tweets and GET /users. After that, Twitter will release new versions of functionality to filter and search tweets, and to get tweet engagement and impression metrics.
If you'd like to participate in Labs, Twitter says you must follow these steps:
1. Visit the
Labs page and sign up to receive updates.
a developer account (if you haven't yet). Access to Labs will require a developer account, even if you have an active app created through the former
Labs documentation to learn more about what's coming (and follow
Ralph Nader: Engineers Often the First To Notice Waste, Fraud and Safety Issues
In Scientific American, Ralph Nader writes about the decades of struggles by conscientious engineers -- whether employees or consultants -- who strive to balance professional ethics with occupational survival. Nader writes: "[T]oday's engineers are working in an improved environment for taking their conscience to work. Yet much more remains to be done to safeguard the ability of engineers to speak truth to the powers-that-be. For starters, the word whistle-blower -- once popularly meant to describe a snitch or a disgruntled employee -- now describes an ethical person willing to put his or her job on the line in order to expose corrupt, illegal, fraudulent and harmful activities. Indeed, in the aftermath of recent Boeing 737 MAX crashes, the media routinely and positively refers to disclosures by 'Boeing whistle-blowers.' Congressional investigating committees and federal agencies have called for whistle-blowers to come forward and shed light on corporate misdeeds and governmental agency lapses. To put it mildly, this was not always the case." "We need more public interest engineering advocacy groups and initiatives to open up new frontiers of excellence and service as well as to support engineers inside the corporate framework," adds Nader. "We need more engineers who embody the three principles of any profession -- independence, scholarly pursuits, and commitment to public service. Those are the vital ethical pillars to helping engineers withstand the great pressures to place commercial priorities over their engineering integrity and limit harm to the public."
Researchers Solve Scientific Puzzle That Could Improve Solar Panel Efficiency
New solar panels created from a semiconducting material called cadmium telluride (CdTe) "have been found to produce electricity at lower costs than silicon panels and there has been a dramatic gain in efficiency brought about by adding an element called selenium to the cadmium telluride," reports Phys.Org. "Until now, it was not well understood why selenium increases efficiency but thanks to Tom Fiducia, a Ph.D. Research Student in the Center for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST), and an international team of researchers,
the puzzle has been solved." From the report:
Their paper, titled "Understanding the role of selenium in defect passivation for highly efficient selenium-alloyed cadmium telluride solar cells," has revealed that selenium works by overcoming the effect of harmful, atomic-scale defects in CdTe panels. This explains the increase of efficiency as electrons (subatomic particles that carry electricity), which are generated when sunlight hits the solar panel, are less likely to be trapped and lost at the defects. This increases the amount of power extracted.
Tom, who is the lead author of the paper, says the team discovered this "unexpected" behavior by measuring how much light is emitted from selenium-containing panels. As selenium is not evenly distributed across the panels, they compared the 'luminescence' emitted from areas where there was little-to-no selenium present and areas where the selenium was very concentrated. Tom explained: "While it seems counter intuitive, good solar cell material that is defect-free is very efficient at emitting light, and so luminesces strongly. We mapped the luminescence emitted from a selenium-containing solar cell at a resolution of around 1/10,000th of a millimeter and compared it to a similarly high-resolution map of the selenium concentration taken on the exact same area of the cell. It is strikingly obvious when you see the data that selenium-rich regions luminesce much more brightly than the pure cadmium telluride, and the effect is remarkably strong." The new-found knowledge could be used to increase the efficiency of cadmium telluride solar panels even further, says Tom. "For instance, this could be by simply increasing the amount of selenium in the devices or altering its distributions within the cell."