Study Finds Nearly 400 Medical Devices, Procedures and Practices That Are Ineffective
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ScienceAlert:
A recent study has unearthed nearly 400 established treatments, devices and procedures that are no better than previous or lesser alternatives. [This is referred to as a "medical reversal" in the medical industry.] The findings are based on more than 15 years of randomized controlled trials, a type of research that aims to reduce bias when testing new treatments. Across 3,000 articles in three leading medical journals from the UK and the US, the authors found 396 reversals. While these were found in every medical discipline, cardiovascular disease was by far the most commonly represented category, at 20 percent; it was followed by preventative medicine and critical care.
Taken together, it appears that medication was the most common reversal at 33 percent; procedures came in second at 20 percent, and vitamins and supplements came in third at 13 percent. This line-up is unsurprising given the history of medical reversals that we do know about. In the late 20th century, for instance, sudden cardiac death was deemed a "world wide public health problem." Most cases were thought to arise from an irregular heart rhythm, and so a new generation of antiarrhythmic drugs were developed. "In the late 1980s, the Cardiac Antiarrhythmic Suppression Trial (CAST) was conducted to assess the safety of what was then commonplace. Interestingly, recruitment for the trial was hindered by physicians who refused to let patients undergo randomization with a 50 percent chance of not receiving these medications." In the end, however, the randomized trial found that the medication was even more deadly than a placebo. While not all of these medical reversals are deadly, they are all, by definition, useless expenses. The research has been
published in the journal eLife.
AMD Is Working On a Monster 64-Core Threadripper CPU, Landing As Early As Q4 2019
preparing a monstrous 64-core/128-thread Threadripper CPU for launch in Q4 2019. "AMD's largest HEDT processor right now is the W2990X which tops out at 32-cores," reports Wccftech. "This is nothing to sneeze at and is already the highest core HEDT part around but because the world can't get enough of these yummy cores, AMD is planning to launch a 64-core version in Q4 2019." From the report:
The platform is called X599 right now although I am told AMD is considering changing the name to avoid confusion with Intel. This is not really surprising since both Intel and AMD HEDT platforms have the same nomenclature and it can get really confusing. I am also told that they they plan to retain the "99" suffix. AMD is planning to launch the 64-core Threadripper part and the corresponding platform in Q4 2019. In fact, that is when you can expect these motherboards to start popping up from various AIBs.
Now my source did not mention a new socket, so as far as I know, this should be socket compatible with the existing TR4 motherboards and only a bios update should be needed if you already own one. What I don't know right now is whether this is a 14nm part or a 7nm part. Conventional wisdom would dictate that this is a 14nm part trickling down from their server space, but who knows, maybe the company will surprise all of us? This is pretty exciting news, because knowing AMD, the 64-core Threadripper CPU will probably be priced in the $2500 to $3000 range, making it one of the most affordable workstation processors around with this many threads.
SwiftUI and Catalyst: Apple Executes Its Invisible Transition Strategy
Catalyst is Apple's framework that enables developers to
easily bring existing iOS apps to the Mac, while SwiftUI is
a new, Swift-based technology that makes it easy for developers to create one app that runs on all of Apple's platforms. Jason Snell from Macworld
highlights the slow, invisible transition of these new technologies. From the report:
Catalyst, which arrives this fall, will allow developers who are well-versed in the vagaries of writing iOS apps to use those skills to write Mac apps. This will most commonly take the form of bringing iPad apps to the Mac, with additions to make them feel more like native Mac apps, but it's more than that -- it provides iOS developers with a familiar set of tools and access to an entirely new platform, and it makes the target for professional apps across Apple's platforms broader by including both the iPad and the Mac. iOS apps are currently built to run on devices running Apple-designed ARM processors, and if the rumors are true, that's another transition waiting to happen. But given that all Mac and iOS developers are already using Apple's Xcode tools to develop their apps, I suspect that the pieces have been put in place for a fairly simple transition to a new processor architecture.
And then there's SwiftUI, which may be a harder concept for regular users to grasp, but it's a huge step on Apple's part. This is Apple's ultimate long game -- an entirely new way to design and build apps across all of Apple's platforms, based on the Swift language (introduced five years ago as yet another part of Apple's long game). In the shorter term, iOS app developers will be able to reach to the Mac via Catalyst. But in the longer term, Apple is creating a new, unified development approach to all of Apple's devices, based in Swift and SwiftUI. Viewed from this perspective, Catalyst feels more like a transitional technology than the future of Apple's platforms. But we're talking about the long game here. Transitional technologies are all a part of the long game. Catalyst will bring those apps to the Mac. iOS and Mac developers will pick up Swift and SwiftUI. Mac apps can integrate iOS stuff via Catalyst. iOS apps can integrate Mac stuff for use on the Mac. And all developers can begin experimenting with SwiftUI, building new interfaces and replacing old ones in a gradual process. "And then we'll turn around sometime in the 2020s and realize that all of this talk of UIKit and AppKit and Catalyst is behind us, and that our apps are written in Swift with interfaces created using SwiftUI," Snell writes in closing. "It will have all changed due to Apple's slow and steady pace of iterative, continuous improvement. The long game never stops, and it can be hard to see that you're even in it."
Credit Scores Based On AI and Your Social Media Profile Could Usher In New Way For Banks To Discriminate
Credit scores have a long history of prejudice. "Most changes in how credit scores are calculated over the years -- including the shift from human assessment to computer calculations, and most recently to artificial intelligence -- have come out of a desire to make the scores more equitable, but credit companies have failed to remove bias, on the basis of race or gender, for example, from their system," writes Rose Eveleth via Motherboard.
While credit companies have tried to reduce bias with machine learning and "alternative credit," which uses data like your sexual orientation or political beliefs that isn't normally included in a credit score to try and get a sense for how trustworthy someone might be, Eveleth says that "introducing this 'non-traditional' information to credit scores
runs the risk of making them even more biased than they already are, eroding nearly 150 years of effort to eliminate unfairness in the system." From the report:
Biases in AI can affect not just individuals with credit scores, but those without any credit at all as non-traditional data points are used to try and invite new creditors in. There is still a whole swath of people in the United States known as the "unbanked" or "credit invisibles." They have too little credit history to generate a traditional credit score, which makes it challenging for them to get loans, apartments, and sometimes even jobs. According to a 2015 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau study, 45 million Americans fall into the category of credit invisible or unscoreable -- that's almost 20 percent of the adult population. And here again we can see a racial divide: 27 percent of Black and Hispanic adults are credit invisible or unscoreable (PDF), compared to just 16 percent of white adults.
To bring these "invisible" consumers into the credit score fold, companies have proposed alternative credit. FICO recently released FICO XD, which includes payment data from TV or cable accounts, utilities, cell phones, and landlines. Other companies have proposed social media posts, job history, educational history, and even restaurant reviews or business check-ins. Lenders say that alternative data is a benefit to those who have been discriminated against and excluded from banking. No credit? Bad credit? That doesn't mean you're not trustworthy, they say, and we can mine your alternative data and give you a loan anyway. But critics say that alternative data looks a lot like old-school surveillance. Letting a company have access to everything from your phone records to your search history means giving up all kinds of sensitive data in the name of credit. Experts worry that the push to use alternative data might lead, once again, to a situation similar to the subprime mortgage crisis if marginalized communities are offered predatory loans that wind up tanking their credit scores and economic stability.
LG's 5G Phones in Doubt as Chip Deal With Qualcomm Set To Expire
Sales of LG's new 5G smartphone looked uncertain this week after the firm said it was
unable to narrow differences with Qualcomm to renew a chip license deal that is due to expire this month. From a report:
In a U.S. court filing late on Tuesday, the South Korean firm opposed Qualcomm's efforts to put a sweeping U.S. antitrust decision against it on hold, arguing setting the ruling aside could force it into signing another unfair deal. "If Qualcomm does not participate in negotiations with LGE in accordance with the Court's Order, LGE will have no option but to conclude license and chipset supply agreements once again on Qualcomm's terms," LG's filing in the federal court in San Jose, California said. The lack of clarity over a new license deal raises concerns over the rollout of LG's newly launched 5G smartphones, crucial for the loss-making handset maker to boost flagging smartphone sales and catch up with Samsung.
'Medicine Needs To Embrace Open Source'
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols from ZDNet argues that "the expensive and abusive pharmaceutical industry needs to open up to improve everyone's health." An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from the report:
Now, I know little about creating and testing drugs. Here's what I do know: Open source and data produces better results than proprietary methods. In technology, the field I know best, almost every company -- including open source poster-child enemy Microsoft -- has embraced open source. Why? Because it works better than the short-sighted proprietary approaches. It's not just programming that benefits from open source. Cars now run Linux under the hood. Energy and electricity transmission managers are moving to open source. Most of the movies you love are made with open-source programs. Heck, even contract law is going open source.
I'm far from the only one to conclude that open-source methods are needed to break what amounts to broken pharmaceutical research methodology and drug price gouging. Open Source Pharma, an organization devoted to building on existing initiatives to develop an alternative, comprehensive, open-source pharmaceutical system, is leading the way. Dr. Manica Balasegaram, executive director for the Access Campaign of Medecins Sans Frontieres, aka Doctors Without Borders, explained: "There is something rotten in the kingdom of biomedical R&D... That the system is inefficient is probably difficult to dispute. It works in silos, encourages a protectionist, proprietary approach, promotes duplication, multiplies failure, is costly, and importantly, is directed at markets and not at public health needs. The consequences are fatal." Open source can revolutionize our hunt for better, more affordable medicine. It has everywhere else. It can in medicine, too. "We need to fundamentally let go of thinking that there is only one possible business model," says Balasegaram. "We need alternatives.
Open source R&D is the key." Since the biomedical field is dominated by big companies with an iron grip on IP, Balasegaram admitted: "Promoting the concept of sharing will be tough. Sharing, however, is a difficult and somewhat scary idea to promote. It sounds suspiciously 'radical.' However, when one takes into account that this has been done in other areas, we need to rethink our reservations."
Huawei Started Serving Ads On Phone Lock Screens Without Asking Users' Permission
Huawei is reportedly
displaying advertisements on the lock screen of its smartphones, seemingly without warning or any sort of announcement. Huawei says that it's doing no such thing. "The ads are not initiated by Huawei. We encourage individuals to check app settings, or follow publicly available directions on how to remove lock screen ads," Huawei
said in a statement to Digital Trends. From the report:
According to Huawei, the ads are stemming from some third-party services or apps, and not from Huawei itself. For comparison, Huawei pointed to a similar issue that affected Samsung phones about a year ago. That said, it doesn't seem to add up -- after all, the ads are being placed in Huawei's Magazine cycle of wallpapers, and it seems highly coincidental that a number of Huawei users would all experience the same issue on the same day without users of other phones running into the same problem.
A number of users on Reddit reported finding advertisements on their lock screen. One user, who goes by the username Quacksnooze, posted a screenshot of a Booking.com ad that suddenly appeared on their phone. Other users reported getting ads as well. According to the Reddit thread, four images related to Booking.com were added to the Huawei phone's wallpaper rotation, meaning that they would start showing up as wallpapers like any other image. The images could be manually deleted, but it's possible more could be added in the future. You can also get around the issue by not using Huawei's Magazine lock screen wallpaper, but that's a bit of a frustrating solution.
Privacy Policies Are Essentially Impossible To Understand, Study Finds
The data market has become the engine of the internet, and
privacy policies we agree to but don't fully understand help fuel it. From a report:
Google Made a Video Game That Lets You Build Video Games
Game Builder is a new video game from Google that
allows you to create simple Minecraft-style games for yourself and others to play through. "The game lets you drag and drop characters and scenery into an empty sandbox to construct your world, then use preset commands to string together how things interact," reports The Verge. "It's free to play and available on both Windows and macOS." From the report:
Lawsuits Claim Amazon's Alexa Voice Assistant Illegally Records Children Without Consent
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Seattle Times:
A lawsuit filed in Seattle alleges Amazon is recording children who use its Alexa devices without their consent, in violation of laws governing recordings in at least eight states, including Washington. "Alexa routinely records and voiceprints millions of children without their consent or the consent of their parents," according to a complaint filed on behalf of a 10-year-old Massachusetts girl on Tuesday in federal court in Seattle. Another nearly identical suit was filed the same day in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, on behalf of an 8-year-old boy. The federal complaint, which seeks class-action status, describes Amazon's practice of saving "a permanent recording of the user's voice" and contrasts that with other makers of voice-controlled computing devices that delete recordings after storing them for a short time or not at all.
The complaint notes that Alexa devices record and transmit any speech captured after a "wake word" activates the device, regardless of the speaker and whether that person purchased the device or installed the associated app. It says the Alexa system is capable of identifying individual speakers based on their voices and Amazon could choose to inform users who had not previously consented that they were being recorded and ask for consent. It could also deactivate permanent recording for users who had not consented. "But Alexa does not do this," the lawsuit claims. "At no point does Amazon warn unregistered users that it is creating persistent voice recordings of their Alexa interactions, let alone obtain their consent to do so." The lawsuit goes on to say that Amazon's failure to obtain consent violates the laws of Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington, which require consent of all parties to a recording, regardless of age.
"The proposed class only includes minors in those states "who have used Alexa in their home and have therefore been recorded by Amazon, without consent,'" reports The Seattle Times. "The suit asks a judge to certify the class action and rule that Amazon violated state laws; require it to delete all recordings of class members; and prevent further recording without prior consent. It seeks damages to be determined at trial."
Dark Horse Cryptocurrency Spikes 60% After Surprise Google Shout-Out
A little-known cryptocurrency
spiked more than 60% after Google gave the project a surprise shout-out in an equally-unexpected
blog post on how to use Ethereum and Google Cloud to build hybrid blockchain applications. From a report:
That cryptocurrency, Chainlink (LINK), enjoyed a parabolic swing that launched its price as high as $2.00 on Binance. Just hours earlier, LINK had traded below $1.10. The Chainlink cryptocurrency spiked after Google showed how developers could use LINK to allow their Ethereum smart contracts to communicate with Google Cloud. As of the time of writing, the Chainlink cryptocurrency was priced at $1.86 on Binance, which translates into a 24-hour gain of 62%. That gives LINK a $619 million market cap, rocketing it to the 23rd spot in the market cap rankings and vaulting it past better-known crypto assets including Zcash and Dogecoin.
Lessons From 5 Years of Free Cybersecurity For At-Risk Groups
Cloudflare's Project Galileo, which offers free high-tier DDoS protection service to journalists, dissidents, civil liberties groups and other at-risk groups,
turned 5 years old this week. From a report:
The project currently serves over 600 accounts. An LGBT protection group in the Middle East, for example, does important work on a shoestring budget and cannot possibly afford to block the outsized number of attacks it could face from governments and even citizens. Project Galileo isn't the only commercial cybersecurity service offered to at-risk groups, but it is one of the first and the most successful. "Project Galileo originally started from a failure to live up to what was originally our mission to make a better internet," Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince told Codebook.
Cloudflare's Five-Year Project to Protect Nonprofits Online (Wired).
Yubico To Replace Vulnerable YubiKey FIPS Security Keys
Yubico said today it plans to
replace certain hardware security keys because of a firmware flaw that reduces the randomness of cryptographic keys generated by its devices. From a report:
Affected products include models part of the YubiKey FIPS Series, a line of YubiKey authentication keys certified for use on US government networks (and others) according to the US government's Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS). According to a Yubico security advisory published today, YubiKey FIPS Series devices that run firmware version 4.4.2 and 4.4.4 contain a bug that keeps "some predictable content" inside the device's data buffer after the power-up operation.
This "predictable content" will influence the randomness of cryptographic keys generated on the device for a short period after the boot-up, until the "predictable content" is all used up, and true random data is present in the buffer. This means that for a short period after booting up YubiKey FIPS Series devices with the affected 4.4.2 and 4.4.4 versions will generate keys that can be either recovered partially, or in full, depending on the cryptographic algorithm the key is working with for a particular authentication operation.
System76's Supercharged Linux-powered Gazelle Laptop is Finally Available
Gazelle laptop is finally available. From a report:
What makes this laptop so special (besides its pre-installed Linux-based operating System), is its impressive specifications. You see, System76 has supercharged it with a 9th generation Intel Core i7 Processor (9750H) and NVIDIA GTX 16-Series Graphics. It even has something the pricey MacBook Pro doesn't -- the ability to be configure with up to 64GB. Yeah, Apple's laptop can only have a maximum of 32GB. The Gazelle can be configured with additional top specs, such as an NVMe SSD up to 2TB. Actually, it can accommodate two such drives, so you can theoretically have 4TB of speedy storage. You can opt for either a 15 or 17-inch display, both of which have a 1080p resolution. Regardless of screen size, you get a full keyboard too, meaning it has a number pad on the right. It ships with Ubuntu or Pop!_OS pre-installed and starts at $1099.
Japan Outlaws Flying Drones While Drunk
Operating a drone in Japan while drunk could lead to a year in prison thanks to new legislation. From a report:
The law, passed by the country's parliament this week, seeks to rein in growing use of the unmanned aerial vehicles. Those found to be intoxicated while flying a drone could also face a fine of up to 300,000 yen ($2,765). The law covers drones weighing more than 200g (7oz) and also puts limits on where drones can be flown. "We believe operating drones after consuming alcohol is as serious as (drink) driving," a Japanese transport ministry official told the AFP news agency. As well as fines over drunken use, the legislation also levies fines on pilots who perform dangerous stunts with their drone. Those caught quickly plunging the craft towards crowds could face fines of up to 500,000 yen.
Huawei Asks Verizon To Pay Over $1 Billion For Over 230 Patents
Huawei has told Verizon that the U.S. carrier should pay licensing fees for more than 230 of the Chinese telecoms equipment maker's patents and in aggregate is seeking more than $1 billion, a person briefed on the matter said on Wednesday. Verizon should pay to "solve the patent licensing issue," a Huawei intellectual property licensing executive wrote in February, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier. The patents cover network equipment for more than 20 of the company's vendors including major U.S. tech firms but those vendors would indemnify Verizon, the person said. Some of those firms have been approached directly by Huawei, the person said. The patents in question range from core network equipment, wireline infrastructure to internet-of-things technology, the Journal reported. The licensing fees for the more than 230 patents sought is more than $1 billion, the person said. Huawei has been battling the U.S. government for more than a year. National security experts worry that "back doors" in routers, switches and other Huawei equipment could allow China to spy on U.S. communications. Huawei has denied that it would help China spy.
India Plans To Have Its Own Space Station
India plans to have its
own space station in the future and conduct separate missions to study Sun and Venus, it said on Thursday, as the nation moves to bolster its status as a leader in space technologies and inspire the young minds to take an interest in scientific fields. From a report:
India's space agency said today that it will begin working on its space station following its first manned mission to space, called Gaganyaan, in 2022 -- just in time to commemorate 75 years of the country's independence from Britain. The government has sanctioned Rs 10,000 crores ($1.5 billion) for Gaganyaan mission, it was unveiled today. "We have to sustain the Gaganyaan program after the launch of the human space mission. In this context, India is planning to have its own space station," said Dr Kailasavadivoo Sivan, chairman of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). ISRO is India's equivalent to NASA. "While navigation, communication, and earth observation are going to be the bread and butter for us, it is missions such as Chandrayaan, Mangalyaan, and Gaganyaan that excite the youth, unite the nation, and also pave a technological seed for the future." The ambitious announcements come a day after the space agency said
it will launch a lunar mission on July 15 this year in an attempt to become only the fourth nation to land on the moon.
Google Promises To Play Nice With Ad Blockers (Again)
An anonymous reader shares a report:
After being ripped to shreds by angry users, Google engineers have promised this week that the upcoming changes to Chrome's extensions system won't cripple ad blockers, as everyone is fearing. Instead, the company claims that the new extension API changes will actually improve user privacy and bring speed improvements. Furthermore, Google also promised to raise a maximum limit in one of the upcoming APIs that should address and lay to rest the primary criticism brought against the new extensions API by developers of ad blockers during the last six months.
Windows 10's Linux Kernel Is Now Available
Microsoft released a new Windows 10 Insider Preview build this week
featuring the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2. WSL 2 includes a real Linux kernel that lets you run more Linux software on Windows and with better performance than WSL 1. From a report:
This is part of Windows 10 Insider Preview build 18917, released on June 12, 2019. It's part of the fast ring of updates. You can experiment with it today, although you'll have to join the Windows Insider program and get unstable builds of Windows 10 on your PC. Microsoft's Windows Command Line blog offers more information about WSL 2, complete with an install guide, list of user experience changes, and more documentation. To install WSL 2 on the latest insider build, run the following command in a PowerShell window launched with Administrator permissions: Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName VirtualMachinePlatform.
Telegram Blames China For DDoS Attack Coinciding With Hong Kong Protests
The distributed denial of service attack that
hit Telegram Wednesday came from China, the secure messaging app's founder said. Pavel Durov's tweet suggested that the country's government
may have done it to disrupt protests in Hong Kong. From a report:
In a DDoS attack, an online service gets bombarded with traffic from networks of bots, to the point where it's overwhelmed and legit users get frozen out. In an explanation Wednesday, Telegram compared it to an "army of lemmings" jumping the line at a McDonald's and making innumerable "garbage requests." Durov said, "IP addresses coming mostly from China. Historically, all state actor-sized DDoS (200-400 Gb/s of junk) we experienced coincided in time with protests in Hong Kong (coordinated on Telegram). This case was not an exception." Tens of thousands took to Hong Kong's streets to oppose a government plan that'd allow extraditions to mainland China. People are worried that it would bring the semiautonomous former British colony under the Chinese government's thumb. These protesters relied on encrypted messaging services, which let them mask their identities from Chinese authorities, to communicate.
Elon Musk Says Tesla Is Working On a James Bond-Style Submarine Car
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Futurism:
During a Tuesday shareholder meeting, Tesla CEO Elon Musk admitted that the electric car company has a design for a submarine car -- and it sounds like something straight out of a 70s James Bond movie. When asked if the company would ever consider such a thing, according to Business Insider, Musk answered: "Funny you should mention that we do have a design for a submarine car like the one from 'The Spy Who Loved Me.'"
In the 1977 spy thriller Musk referred to, a 1976 Lotus Esprit sports car transforms itself into an amphibious submarine and can be seen exploring the bottom of the ocean. Musk loved the scene so much that he reportedly bought a Lotus Esprit in 2013 for just shy of a million dollars. "I was disappointed to learn that it can't actually transform," Musk told shareholders. "What I'm going to do is upgrade [my own Lotus] with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real." He did however admit that the market for an amphibious Tesla "would be small. Small, but enthusiastic."
IT Pro Screwed Out of Unused Vacation Pay, Bonus By HPE Thanks To Outdated Law
Meg Whitman shares a report from The Register:
A "highly skilled IT professional" has lost his fight to be paid his unused vacation days as well as a non-trivial bonus, after a judge stuck to a law he admitted was outdated. Matthew White joined Hewlett-Packard in 2013 and left in July 2015, just months before the company split into HP and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). After quitting, he was stunned when the U.S. mega-corp, citing HPE's new policies, refused to hand over extra pay he felt was contractually due. Hewlett-Packard had enticed White with a sweet contract that offered a signing bonus, base salary, regular bonuses, and a benefits program. But after he quit, he was left without his unused vacation pay and a $10,000 bonus he felt he was entitled to. [...]
HPE decided that, under the law, White could only get hold of the relevant policies if he turned up, in person, to the company's official human resources headquarters -- which is on the other side of America in California, roughly 2,500 miles away. White felt this was ridiculous given that HP, sorry, HPE is not only a massive organization with HR people all over the United States, but that it was a technology company with countless employees working across the world, often at home, and that the policies are likely readily available in an internal cloud. The judge had some sympathy for that view. "This part of the statute may indeed need reworking for today's world where cloud-based digital records are replacing physical file folders located in a physical location, where employees work at home -- sometimes remotely from any head office or regional office -- and where worldwide companies like HP assign HP personnel for an entire country or region, or even outsource various HP responsibilities." Yet the judge still decided against the techie.
NASA Overcomes Military's GPS Tweaks To Peer Inside Hurricanes
sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine:
A constellation of eight microsatellites has harvested data that -- if folded into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) weather models -- could have sharpened forecasts of several recent hurricanes, including Michael, a category-5 storm in October 2018. But progress was hard-won for scientists on NASA's $157 million Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), who discussed early results at a meeting last week, just as another Atlantic hurricane season kicked off. With its flotilla of satellites crisscrossing the tropical oceans, CYGNSS can see through the thick clouds of cyclones. The satellites collect radio signals beamed from standard GPS beacons after they bounce off the ocean's surface. The reflections are influenced by sea's roughness, which depends on wind speed. But a month after launch in December 2016, the team noticed the GPS signals were wavering.
The U.S. military runs the GPS system, and in January 2017, it began to boost the radio power on 10 of its GPS satellites as they passed over a broad region centered on northern Syria. The power boosts, which can thwart jamming, have recurred without warning, each lasting several hours. The swings don't interfere with other scientific uses of GPS. But they threw off the constellation's measurements of high winds by 5 meters a second or more -- the difference between a category-2 and category-3 hurricane. After 2 years of work, the CYGNSS team has compensated by reprogramming its satellites on the fly. The satellites carry large antennas to catch reflected GPS signals, but they also have small antennas that receive direct GPS signals, for tracking time and location. The team repurposed the small antennas to measure the signal strength of the GPS satellites, making it possible to correct the wind speed measures