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Updated: 22 min 32 sec ago

Forecasting the Next Pandemic

5/18/2015 8:25pm
sciencehabit writes: A new study led by Barbara A. Han, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, suggests a computer model that incorporates machine learning can pinpoint, with 90% accuracy, rodent species that are known to harbor pathogens that can spread to humans. Sciencemag reports on the study: "Han and her team first used their program to identify lifestyle patterns common to rodents harboring diseases like black plague, rabies, and hanta virus and found that their model had an accuracy rate of 90%. After the machine had 'learned' the telltale signs, the researchers searched for new rodents that fit the profile but were not previously thought to be carriers. So far, the model has identified more than 150 new animal species that could harbor zoonotic diseases, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The computer program also predicted 58 new infections in rodents that were already known to carry one zoonotic disease."

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Four Quasars Found Clustered Together Defy Current Cosmological Expectations

5/18/2015 7:42pm
StartsWithABang writes: Get a supermassive black hole feeding on matter, particularly on large amounts of cool, dense gas, and you're likely to get a quasar: a luminous, active galaxy emitting radiation from the radio all the way up through the X-ray. Our best understanding and observations indicate that these objects should be rare, transient, and isolated; no more than two have ever been found close together before. Until this discovery, that is, where we just found four within a million light years of one another, posing a problem for our current theories of structure formation in the Universe.

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Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Responds In Nepal

5/18/2015 6:59pm
An anonymous reader writes with news about the efforts of the The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team to help in the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal. The team asks those living in the affected areas to help out by reporting which buildings are damaged, which are still standing, and where fissures and other quake damage is located. Opensource.com has a profile of their efforts which reads: Since the devastating earthquake in Nepal, there have been responses from all over the world from relief agencies, governments, non-profits, and ordinary citizens. One interesting effort has been from the crowdsourced mapping community, especially on OpenStreetMap.org, a free and open web map of the world that anyone can edit (think the Wikipedia of maps.) The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), an NGO that works to train, coordinate, and organize mapping on OpenStreetMap for humanitarian, disaster response, and economic development, has mobilized volunteers from around the world to help map since the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

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Using Satellites To Monitor Bridge Safety

5/18/2015 6:15pm
__roo writes: In an effort to detect crumbling infrastructure before it causes damage and costs lives, the European Space Agency is working with the UK's University of Nottingham to monitor the movements of large structures as they happen using satellite navigation sensors. The team uses highly sensitive satnav receivers that transmit real-time data to detect movements as small as 1 cm combined with historical Earth observation satellite data. By placing sensors at key locations on the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland, they detected stressed structural members and unexpected deformations.

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Chris Roberts Is the Least Important Part of the Airplane Hacking Story

5/18/2015 5:32pm
chicksdaddy writes: Now that the news media is in full freak-out mode about whether or not security researcher Chris Roberts did or did not hack into the engine of a plane, in flight and cause it to "fly sideways," security experts say its time to take a step back from the crazy and ask what is the real import of the plane hacking. The answer: definitely not Chris Roberts. The real story that media outlets should be chasing isn't what Roberts did or didn't do on board a United flight in April, but whether there is any truth to longtime assurances from airplane makers like Boeing and Airbus that critical avionics systems aboard their aircraft are unreachable from systems accessible to passengers, the Christian Science Monitor writes. And, on that issue, Roberts' statements and the FBI's actions raise as many questions as they answer. For one: why is the FBI suddenly focused on years-old research that has long been part of the public record. "This has been a known issue for four or five years, where a bunch of us have been stood up and pounding our chest and saying, 'This has to be fixed,' " Roberts noted. "Is there a credible threat? Is something happening? If so, they're not going to tell us," he said. Roberts isn't the only one confused by the series of events surrounding his detention in April and the revelations about his interviews with federal agents. "I would like to see a transcript (of the interviews)," said one former federal computer crimes prosecutor, speaking on condition of anonymity. "If he did what he said he did, why is he not in jail? And if he didn't do it, why is the FBI saying he did?"

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Silk Road's Leader Paid a Doctor To Help Keep Customers Safe

5/18/2015 4:48pm
An anonymous reader writes: Two years after the fall of Silk Road, new facts about the saga are still emerging all the time. The latest revelation is that Dread Pirate Roberts, the leader of Silk Road, paid a doctor $500 per week to offer public and private counseling to customers of the site. DoctorX, also known as Dr. Fernando Caudevilla, became famous for his free work on the site. The fact that he was eventually paid a salary is being used by lawyers for Ross Ulbricht to argue that Silk Road emphasized harm reduction and was, on the whole, a huge improvement in safety for drug users.

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Court of Appeals Says Samsung's Legal Payments To Apple Should Be Reduced

5/18/2015 4:04pm
Mark Wilson writes: Patent lawsuits in the world of technology are nothing new, and the case between Apple and Samsung resulted in one of the largest fines ever being handed down. Samsung was order to pay $930 million in damages after a court found that the company had violated Apple patents with its smartphone and tablet designs. Today the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned part of the original ruling, saying that the jury was wrong to say that Samsung infringed on Apple's trade dress intellectual property. The exact details of what this will mean are yet to come out, but it should lead to a fairly hefty reduction in Samsung's legal costs.

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Book Review: The Terrorists of Iraq

5/18/2015 3:20pm
benrothke writes: The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting random typewriter keys for an infinite amount of time will eventually be able to create the complete works of Shakespeare. Various scientists such as Nobel laureate Arno Penzias have shown how the theorem is mathematically impossible. Using that metaphor, if you took every member of United States Congress and House of Representatives and wrote their collected wisdom on Iraq, it's unlikely they could equal the astuteness of even a single chapter of author Malcolm W. Nance in The Terrorists of Iraq: Inside the Strategy and Tactics of the Iraq Insurgency 2003-2014. It's Nance's overwhelming real-world experiential knowledge of the subject, language, culture, tribal affiliations and more which make this the overwhelming definitive book on the subject. Read below for the rest of Ben's review.

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FTC Recommends Conditions For Sale of RadioShack Customer Data

5/18/2015 2:36pm
itwbennett writes: The FTC has weighed in on the contentious issue of the proposed sale of consumer data by RadioShack, recommending that a settlement with failed online toy retailer Toysmart.com be adopted as a model for dealings going forward. Director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection Jessica L. Rich wrote in a letter to a court-appointed consumer privacy ombudsman that the agency's concerns about the transfer of customer information inconsistent with RadioShack's privacy promises "would be greatly diminished if certain conditions were met." These include: that the data was not sold standalone, and if the buyer is in the same lines of business, they agree to be bound by the same privacy policies.

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Genetically Engineered Yeast Makes It Possible To Brew Morphine

5/18/2015 1:53pm
PvtVoid writes: The New York times reports that newly developed yeast strains will soon make it possible to create morphine from fermentation of sugar. While no one has claimed to make morphine in lab from scratch yet, concerns are already being raised about potential abuse. According to the Times article: "This rapid progress in synthetic biology has set off a debate about how — and whether — to regulate it. Dr. Oye and other experts said this week in a commentary in Nature Chemical Biology that drug-regulatory authorities are ill prepared to control a process that will benefit the heroin trade much more than the prescription painkiller industry. The world should take steps to head that off, they argue, by locking up the bioengineered yeast strains and restricting access to the DNA that would let drug cartels reproduce them.

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North Carolina Still Wants To Block Municipal Broadband

5/18/2015 1:10pm
An anonymous reader writes: In February, when the FCC rolled out its net neutrality rules, it also voted to override state laws that let Texas and North Carolina block ISPs created by local governments and public utilities. These laws frequently leave citizens facing a monopoly or duopoly with no recourse, so the FCC abolished them. Now, North Carolina has sued the FCC to get them back. State Attorney General Roy Cooper claims, "the FCC unlawfully inserted itself between the State and the State's political subdivisions." He adds that the new rule is "arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act; and is otherwise contrary to law."

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Navy's New Laser Weapon: Hype Or Reality?

5/18/2015 12:28pm
Lasrick writes: MIT's Subrata Ghoshroy deconstructs the Navy's recent claim of successful testing with the Laser Weapon System. It seems the test videos released to the press in December were nothing more than a dog-and-pony show with scaled-down expectations so as to appear successful: "When they couldn't get a laser lightweight enough to fit on a ship while still being powerful enough to burn through the metal skin of an incoming nuclear missile, they simply changed their goal to something akin to puncturing the side of an Iranian rubber dinghy." Ghoshroy is an entertaining writer and an old hand in the laser research industry. He gives a explanation here of the history of laser weapons, and how the search for combat-ready tech continues: 'At the end of the day, good beam quality and good SWAP—size, weight and power—still determine the success or failure of a given laser weapon, and we're just not anywhere near meeting all those requirements simultaneously.'

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Prenda's Old Copyright Trolls Are Suing People Again

5/18/2015 11:45am
New submitter Hokan writes: Paul Hansmeier and John Steele, formerly of Prenda, are suing again. Each have started nonprofits, in Minnesota and Illinois, claiming to defend disabled people, and they are suing small businesses for ADA violations. You may recall that a District Court judge issued sanctions against Prenda for their attempts to file copyright suits against a broad swath of internet users. Their new practices take a similar tack: sue a small business and generously offer to collect a settlement somewhat lower than the amount it would cost to to make changes to their establishment. A new group is fighting back by creating "an access audit for local businesses, allowing them to develop a plan to fix ADA issues and potentially to ward off litigation."

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Stock Market Valuation Exceeds Its Components' Actual Value

5/18/2015 11:03am
An anonymous reader writes: James Tobin, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, developed a concept called "Q-value" — it's the ratio between two numbers: 1) the sum of all publicly-traded companies' stock valuations and 2) the value of all these companies' actual assets, if they were sold. Bloomberg reports that the continued strength of the stock market has now caused that ratio to go over 1 — in other words, the market values companies about 10% higher than the sum of their actual assets. The Q value is now at its highest point since the Dot-com bubble. Similar peaks in the past hundred years have all been quickly followed by crashes. Now, that's not to say a crash is imminent — experts disagree on the Q-value's reliability. One said, "the ratio's doubling since 2009 to 1.10 is a symptom of companies diverting money from their businesses to the stock market, choosing buybacks over capital spending. Six years of zero-percent interest rates have similarly driven investors into riskier things like equities, elevating the paper value of assets over their tangible worth." Others point out that as the digital economy grows, a greater portion of publicly traded companies lack the tangible assets that were the hallmark of the manufacturing boom.

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Learning About Constitutional Law With Star Wars

5/18/2015 10:20am
An anonymous reader writes: In an upcoming paper (PDF) for the Michigan Law Review, scholar Cass Sunstein draws on Star Wars to make a couple key points about how constitutional law evolves. He writes, "Human beings often see coherence and planned design when neither exists. This is so in movies, literature, history, economics, and psychoanalysis—and constitutional law. Contrary to the repeated claims of George Lucas, its principal author, the Star Wars series was hardly planned in advance; it involved a great deal of improvisation and surprise, even to Lucas himself. Serendipity and happenstance, sometimes in the forms of eruptions of new thinking, play a pervasive and overlooked role in the creative imagination, certainly in single-authored works, and even more in multi-authored ones extending over time. ... The misdescription appears to respond to a serious human need for sense-making and pattern-finding, but it is a significant obstacle to understanding and critical reflection. Whether Jedi or Sith, many authors of constitutional law are a lot like the author of Star Wars, disguising the essential nature of their own creative processes."

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Apple Acquires GPS Start-Up

5/18/2015 9:38am
An anonymous reader writes: Apple is still sprinting to catch up with Google with its navigation software — the company just acquired Coherent Navigation, a startup focused on GPS tech. Its navigation services are reportedly more precise than most commercial-grade systems. Their system "combines signals from the traditional mid-earth orbit GPS satellites with those from the low-earth satellites of voice and data provider Iridium to offer greater accuracy and precision, higher signal integrity, and greater jam resistance." They've already worked with Boeing and the U.S. Department of Defense. Apple didn't disclose the terms of the deal or explain any specific plans for the GPS technology.

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The Auto Industry May Mimic the 1980s PC Industry

5/18/2015 8:56am
An anonymous reader writes: An article at TechCrunch looks at some interesting parallels between the current automobile industry and the PC industry of the 1980s. IBM was dominant in 1985, employing four times as many people as its nearest competitor. But as soon as Windows was released, the platform became more important for most end users than the manufacturer. Over the next decade, IBM lost its throne. In 2015, we're on the cusp of a similar change: the computerized car. Automakers, though large and well-established, haven't put much effort into building the platform on which their cars run. Meanwhile, Google's Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are constantly improving. As soon as those hit a breakthrough point where it's more important for a customer to have the platform than the manufacturer's logo on the side, the industry is likely to resemble a replay of the PC industry in the 1980s.

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Decoding the Enigma of Satoshi Nakamoto

5/18/2015 8:13am
HughPickens.com writes: For the past year Nathaniel Popper has been working on a book about the history of Bitcoin and writes in the NYT that it is hard to avoid being drawn in by the almost mystical riddle of Satoshi Nakamoto's identity. Popper has his own candidate for founder of Bitcoin, a reclusive American man of Hungarian descent named Nick Szabo. Szabo worked in a loosely organized group of digital privacy activists who over decades laid the foundation for Bitcoin and created many parts that later went into the virtual currency. Bitcoin was not a bolt out of the blue, as is sometimes assumed, but was instead built on the ideas of multiple people over several decades. Several experiments in digital cash circulated on the Cypherpunk lists in the 1990s. Adam Back, a British researcher, created an algorithm called hashcash that later became a central component of Bitcoin. Another, called b money, was designed by an intensely private computer engineer named Wei Dai. It may be impossible to prove Satoshi's identity until the person or people behind Bitcoin's curtain decide to come forward and prove ownership of Satoshi's old electronic accounts and at this point, the creator's identity is no longer important to Bitcoin's future. Since Satoshi stopped contributing to the project in 2011, most of the open-source code has been rewritten by a group of programmers whose identities are known. According to Popper whoever it is, the real Satoshi Nakamoto has many good reasons for wanting to stay anonymous. Perhaps the most obvious is potential danger. Satoshi Nakamoto most likely collected nearly a million Bitcoins during the system's first year. Given that each Bitcoin is now worth about $240, the stash could be worth more than $200 million. That could make Satoshi a target. "With his modest clothes and unassuming manner, Mr. Szabo could be the kind of person who could have a fortune and not spend any of it," concludes Popper, "or even throw away the keys to the bank."

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Feds Order Amtrak To Turn On System That Would've Prevented Crash

5/18/2015 7:26am
McGruber writes: Last Tuesday evening, northbound Amtrak Northeast Regional train No. 188 derailed on a curve in Philadelphia, killing eight passengers. The train was traveling in excess of 100 mph, while the curve had a passenger-train speed limit of 50 mph. In response, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is issuing formal emergency orders that will require Amtrak to make sure automatic train control systems work Northbound through Philadelphia at and near the site of the derailment. The FRA is also requiring that Amtrak assess the risk of all curves along the NEC and increase the amount and frequency of speed limit signs along the railroad. FRA's emergency order is newsworthy because Amtrak's existing signal system could have been configured to prevent a train from exceeding speed limits, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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How We'll Someday Be Able To See Past the Cosmic Microwave Background

5/18/2015 5:24am
StartsWithABang writes: When it comes to the farthest thing we can see in the Universe, that's the Cosmic Microwave Background, or the leftover glow from the Big Bang, emitted when the Universe was a mere 380,000 years old. But what, exactly, does this mean? Does it mean that we're seeing the "edge" of the Universe? Does it mean that there's nothing to see, farther back beyond it? Does it mean that, as time goes on, we're going to be able to see farther back in time and space? The answers are no, no, and yes, respectively. If we want to see farther than ever before, we've got two options: either wait for more time to pass, or get moving and build that cosmic neutrino background detector.

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