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Earth

Scientists Teach Bees How To Play Soccer (smithsonianmag.com) 68

Clint Perry, a biologist who studies the evolution of cognition in insects at Queen Mary University of London, and his colleagues have released the results of a creative new experiment in which they essentially taught bumblebees how to play "bee soccer." "The insects' ability to grasp this novel task is a big score for insect intelligence, demonstrating that they're even more complex thinkers than we thought," reports Smithsonian. From the report: For the study, published in the February 23 issue of Science, researchers gave a group of bees a novel goal (literally): to move a ball about half their size into a designated target area. The idea was to present them with a task that they would never have encountered in nature. Not only did the bees succeed at this challenge -- earning them a sugary treat -- but they astonished researchers by figuring out how to meet their new goal in several different ways. Some bees succeeded at getting their ball into the goal with no demonstration at all, or by first watching the ball move on its own. But the ones that watched other bees successfully complete the game learned to play more quickly and easily. Most impressively, the insects didn't simply copy each other -- they watched their companions do it, then figured out on their own how to accomplish the task even more efficiently using their own techniques. The results show that bees can master complex, social behaviors without any prior experience -- which could be a boon in a world where they face vast ecological changes and pressures.
Botnet

World's Largest Spam Botnet Adds DDoS Feature (bleepingcomputer.com) 26

An anonymous reader writes from a report via BleepingComputer: Necurs, the world's largest spam botnet with nearly five million infected bots, of which one million are active each day, has added a new module that can be used for launching DDoS attacks. The sheer size of the Necurs botnet, even in its worst days, dwarfs all of today's IoT botnets. The largest IoT botnet ever observed was Mirai Botnet #14 that managed to rack up around 400,000 bots towards the end of 2016 (albeit the owner of that botnet has now been arrested). If this new feature were to ever be used, a Necurs DDoS attack would easily break every DDoS record there is. Fortunately, no such attack has been seen until now. Until now, the Necurs botnet has been seen spreading the Dridex banking trojan and the Locky ransomware. According to industry experts, there's a low chance we'd see the Necurs botnet engage in DDoS attacks because the criminal group behind the botnet is already making too much money to risk exposing their full infrastructure in DDoS attacks.
Bug

Cloudflare Leaks Sensitive User Data Across the Web (theregister.co.uk) 85

ShaunC writes: In a bug that's been christened "Cloudbleed," Cloudflare disclosed today that some of their products accidentally exposed private user information from a number of websites. Similar to 2014's Heartbleed, Cloudflare's problem involved a buffer overrun that allowed uninitialized memory contents to leak into normal web traffic. Tavis Ormandy, of Google's Project Zero, discovered the flaw last week. Affected sites include Uber, Fitbit, and OK Cupid, as well as unnamed services for hotel booking and password management. Cloudflare says the bug has been fixed, and Google has purged affected pages from its search index and cache. Further reading: The Register, Ars Technica
Transportation

Self-Driving Cars Should Be Liable For Accidents, Not the Passengers: UK Government (arstechnica.co.uk) 244

"Electric charging points at all major motorway services and petrol stations, and the occupants of a self-driving car aren't liable in the case of an accident -- those are two of the measures proposed by a new law that the UK government hopes will let us reap the rewards of improved transport technology over the next few years," reports Ars Technica. "These changes are part of the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill (VTAB), a draft law that is basically a shopping list of governmental desires." From the report: The first item on the bill involves automated vehicles, and how to ensure that the vehicle's owner (which may or may not be a driver) and potential accident victims are protected. The bill says that insurance companies must offer two types of protection: for when a vehicle is acting autonomously, but also if the human driver decides to takes control. Essentially, the government wants to make sure that an accident victim can always claim compensation from the insurance company, even if the car was acting autonomously. It would then be up for the insurance company to try and reclaim that money from the car maker through existing common law and product liability arrangements. In a somewhat rare display of tech savviness, there are two exemptions listed in the bill. If the vehicle owner makes unauthorized changes to the car's software, or fails to install a software update as mandated by their insurance policy, then the insurer doesn't have to pay. It isn't clear at this point which capabilities will be enough to classify a vehicle as "self-driving." The draft law asks the department for transport (DfT) to work it out, post haste, and then to determine which vehicles qualify for the new type of insurance. The planned law also outlines new governmental powers to improve the UK's electric charging infrastructure.
Earth

World's Only Sample of Metallic Hydrogen Has Been Lost (ibtimes.co.uk) 270

New submitter drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: A piece of rare meta poised to revolutionize modern technology and take humans into deep space has been lost in a laboratory mishap. The first and only sample of metallic hydrogen ever created on earth was the rarest material on the planet when it was developed by Harvard scientists in January this year, and had been dubbed "the holy grail of high pressure physics." The metal was created by subjecting liquid hydrogen to pressures greater that those at the center of the Earth. At this point, the molecular hydrogen breaks down and becomes an atomic solid. Scientists theorized that metallic hydrogen -- when used as a superconductor -- could have a transformative effect on modern electronics and revolutionize medicine, energy and transportation, as well as herald in a new age of consumer gadgets. Sadly, an attempt to study the properties of metallic hydrogen appears to have ended in catastrophe after one of the two diamonds being used like a vice to hold the tiny sample was obliterated. The metal was being held between two diamonds at a pressure of around 71.7 million pounds per square inch -- more than a third greater than at the Earth's core. According to The Independent, one of these diamonds shattered while the sample was being measured with a laser, and the metal was lost in the process.
Medicine

Owning a Cat Does Not Lead To Mental Illness, Study Finds (theverge.com) 246

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Cats host a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that other research has linked to various mental illnesses. So, for some time, people have wondered whether cats are unsafe; for example, pregnant women are usually told to stay away from litter boxes. (They should still do this because transmission during pregnancy is very real.) In a study published in the journal Psychological Medicine, researchers looked at data that tracked 5,000 Brits born in the early '90s until they were 18. This included information about whether the kids grew up with cats, or whether there were cats around when the mother was pregnant. After the scientists controlled for factors like socioeconomic status, there was no link between developing psychosis and having owned a cat. The researchers suggest that previous studies that did show a link had relatively small sample sizes. In addition, many of these studies asked people whether they remembered having cats, which is not quite as accurate. That said, it's important to keep in mind that some mental disorders linked to the parasite -- like schizophrenia -- tend to be diagnosed fairly late in life, so only tracking until age 18 might limit the study.
Data Storage

Sony Unveils World's Fastest SD Card (amateurphotographer.co.uk) 48

At CP+2017, Sony announced the SF-G UHS-II SD card that features read and write speeds of 300MB/s and 299 MB/s, respectively, which makes it the fastest SD card in the world. Amateur Photographer reports: Available in 32GB, 64GB or 128GB from March 2017, all versions of the cards are compatible with Sony's free file rescue software, for recovering lost content. Pricing has yet to be revealed. Alongside the SF-G series, Sony has also introduced a new memory card reader, the MRW-S1, due for release in April. It features an in-built SuperSpeed USB port for cable-free PC connection, so that your files can be copied faster than by using the slower SD slot on a PC. [From the press release:] "'As the continuous shooting of higher-resolution images and adoption of 4K video with DSLR and mirrorless camera increases, the inherent need for larger, faster and more reliable cards becomes apparent. Thanks to the SF-G series, we continue to show our commitment to providing a full range of extremely high performance media devices to professional photographers and enthusiasts, maximizing their camera performances,' said Romain Rousseau, European Product Marketing Manager."
Businesses

Apple's New Spaceship Campus Gets a Name, Lifts Off In April (arstechnica.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Apple has been building its giant new "spaceship" campus in the company's hometown of Cupertino, California, since December of 2013, and since then fans have paid obsessive attention to the structure. It gets buzzed by drones constantly, and the most popular YouTube videos of the building in progress have amassed well over half-a-million views apiece. The company announced today that the campus will be open to employees starting in April and that the building and environs now have a name: Apple Park. Apple says that moving the 12,000 employees who will work at the campus will take more than six months, and landscaping and construction on some buildings won't be done until the summer. The new campus mostly replaces the university-style Infinite Loop campus Apple has used since 1993, though Apple has said that it will also be keeping the older buildings. The new campus' cost has been estimated at around $5 billion. Apple will also be naming one space on the new campus after its founder and former CEO -- the Steve Jobs Theater will replace the current Town Hall event space that Apple sometimes uses for company meetings and product announcements, and it will open "later this year." The new space will be much larger (it will seat 1,000, compared to roughly 300 for the Town Hall), and the larger space will presumably allow Apple to launch more of its products on its campus rather than having to rent expensive event space in downtown San Francisco. The company is also moving its Worldwide Developers Conference closer to home this year -- it will return to San Jose after many years at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
Censorship

'We Won't Block Pirate Bay,' Swedish Telecoms Giant Says (torrentfreak.com) 27

Last week, a Swedish Patent and Market Court of Appeal ordered The Pirate Bay and streaming portal Swefilmer to be blocked by internet service provider Bredbandsbolaget for the next three years. The order was not well supported by other internet service providers in Sweden, as it appears they don't like the idea of becoming copyright policemen. TorrentFreak reports: Last week ISP Bahnhof absolutely slammed the decision to block The Pirate Bay, describing the effort as signaling the "death throes" of the copyright industry. It even hinted that it may offer some kind of technical solution to customers who are prevented from accessing the site. For those familiar with Bahnhof's stance over the years, this response didn't come as a surprise. The ISP is traditionally pro-freedom and has gone out of its way to make life difficult for copyright enforcers of all kinds. However, as one of the leading telecoms companies in Sweden and neighboring Norway, ISP Telia is more moderate. Nevertheless, it too says it has no intention of blocking The Pirate Bay, unless it is forced to do so by law. "No, we will not block if we are not forced to do so by a court," a company press officer said this morning. Telia says that the decision last week from the Patent and Market Court affects only Bredbandsbolaget, indicating that a fresh legal process will be required to get it to respond. That eventuality appears to be understood by the rightsholders but they're keeping their options open.
Piracy

Google and Microsoft To Crackdown On Piracy Sites In Search Results (telegraph.co.uk) 103

Google and Microsoft pledged on Monday to crack down on sites hosting pirated content that show up on their search engines. In what is being called a first of its kind agreement, Google and Microsoft's Bing will demote U.K. search results of copyright infringing websites. From a report on The Telegraph: The search engine operators have signed up to a clampdown that will see the UK's copyright watchdog monitor the search results they provide for unlawful websites. The agreement follows years of campaigning by record labels and film studios, which have accused Google and Microsoft of turning a blind eye to piracy and dragging their feet over measures to protect copyright online. Under a new voluntary code, the tech giants have committed to demote websites that have repeatedly been served with copyright infringement notices, so that they do not appear on the first page for common searches.
NES (Games)

Lost Package Derails Project To Preserve Super Nintendo Games (eurogamer.net) 170

A developer's quest to preserve (and validate) every game ROM for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System has hit a glitch -- thanks to the U.S. postal service. Byuu, the creator of the Higan SNES emulator, had been expecting a package with 100 games from the PAL region (covering most of Europe, Africa, South America, and Oceania). wertigon writes: As it turns out, someone at the USPS thought it was a good idea to lose the package, thereby robbing the project of roughly $5000 and the sad hopes of ever seeing a full indexing, like the one done to the U.S set. Byuu writes... "I do still want to dump and scan the Japanese games I already purchased. But we will never have a complete PAL set. Kotaku reports the games were worth up to £8,000, and though Byuu says the sender never requested reimbursement, it's going to happen "because I can't live with myself if it doesn't." He's asking for donations on Patreon, adding "If the package ultimately arrives, I will be refunding all donations." In that Thursday update, Byuu writes that the post office had finally shipped him the label from the package "and nothing else, claiming the machine ate it." They've launched an investigation, reports Byuu, adding "It's still an incredibly long shot that they'll find anything, but we'll see. I really, really hope that they do."
Communications

PewDiePie Calls Out the 'Old-School Media' For Spiteful Dishonesty 920

New submitter Shane_Optima writes: After losing his Youtube Red show and his contract with Disney, the owner of the most subscribed channel on Youtube, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (aka "PewDiePie"), has released a video response to the Wall Street Journal and other mainstream news outlets, who have labeled his comedy videos variously as racist, fascist or anti-semitic. In it, he accuses the mainstream media of deliberately fabricating and misrepresenting the evidence used against him because they are afraid of independent content producers such as himself. In the video, PewDiePie discusses the recent actions of the Wall Street Journal, whose reporters sent nine cherry-picked and edited videos to Disney, which led directly to Disney's decision to terminate their relationship with him. These video clips and others used to "prove" PewDiePie's guilt have been edited (he claims) to remove all context, to the extent of using a pose of him pointing at something as a Nazi salute and using a clip where other players are creating swastikas in a game and editing out the part where he is asking them to stop. The most-cited video in the controversy involves seeing if he can use the site Fiverr to hire someone to create a video containing an over-the-top message for a mere $5. After a couple of laughing males unfurl a sign saying "Death to All Jews," he recoils with widened eyes and sits, apparently dumbfounded, for another thirty seconds before the video ends, without him uttering another word.

PewDiePie's video comes several days after a Tumblr post where he attempted to clarify that the videos were intended to be comedy showing "how crazy the modern world is." He has not yet used the phrase "fake news" in his response to the controversy, but given the current trends surrounding that phrase, it isn't surprising that his supporters are resorting to it frequently. Is this all just another unfortunate instance of collateral damage in the war against far-right political movements, is it a campaign of malicious retaliation by old media that is terrified of new media (as Felix claims), or was J.K. Rowling correct when she called out PewDiePie as a Death Eater? Err, I mean, ...as a fascist?

Update: Apparently, canceling his Youtube Red series was deemed an insufficient response. Youtube has now removed the mirror of PewDiePie's "Death to All Jews" video because it "violates Youtube's policy on hate speech." The original posting of the video had already been marked private by PewDiePie shortly after the controversy erupted. A quick check of Vimeo and Daily Motion came up empty, so you're on your own if you wish to find out for yourself what the controversy was all about.
Censorship

CloudFlare Puts Pirate Sites on New IP Addresses, Avoids Cogent Blockade (torrentfreak.com) 88

Earlier this month, several users worldwide reported that they were unable to access pirate websites including the Pirate Bay. It was because the internet backbone network of Cogent Communications had blackholed the CloudFlare IP-address of pirate websites. Less than a week later, CloudFlare is fighting back. From a report on TorrentFreak: The Pirate Bay and dozens of other pirate sites that were blocked by Cogent's Internet backbone are now accessible again. CloudFlare appears to have moved the sites in question to a new pair of IP-addresses, effectively bypassing Cogent's blackhole. [...] As of yesterday, the sites in question have been assigned the IP-addresses 104.31.16.3 and 104.31.17.3, still grouped together. Most, if not all of the sites, are blocked by court order in the UK so this is presumably done to prevent ISP overblocking of 'regular' CloudFlare subscribers.
Linux

Linus Torvalds: Talk of Tech Innovation is Bullshit. Shut Up and Get the Work Done (theregister.co.uk) 359

Linus Torvalds believes the technology industry's celebration of innovation is smug, self-congratulatory, and self-serving. From a report on The Register: The term of art he used was more blunt: "The innovation the industry talks about so much is bullshit," he said. "Anybody can innovate. Don't do this big 'think different'... screw that. It's meaningless. Ninety-nine per cent of it is get the work done." In a deferential interview at the Open Source Leadership Summit in California on Wednesday, conducted by Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, Torvalds discussed how he has managed the development of the Linux kernel and his attitude toward work. "All that hype is not where the real work is," said Torvalds. "The real work is in the details." Torvalds said he subscribes to the view that successful projects are 99 per cent perspiration, and one per cent innovation.
Sci-Fi

Lost Winston Churchill Essay Reveals His Thoughts On Alien Life (theverge.com) 187

"A newly discovered essay by Winston Churchill shows that the British statesman gave a lot of thought to the existential question that has inspired years of scientific research and blockbuster movies: are we alone in the University?" reports The Verge. "The essay was drafted in the 1930s, but unearthed in a museum in Missouri last year." Astrophysicist Mario Livio was the first scientist to analyze the article and has published his comments in the journal Nature. The Verge reports: Livio was "stunned" when he first saw the unpublished, 11-page essay on the existence of alien life, he tells The Verge. The astrophysicist was visiting Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, for a talk last year, when he was approached by Timothy Riley, the director of Fulton's US National Churchill Museum. Riley showed him the essay, titled "Are We Alone in the Universe?" In the essay, Churchill reasons that we can't possibly be alone in the Universe -- and that many other Suns will likely have many other planets that could harbor life. Because of how enormously distant these extrasolar planets are, we may never know if they "house living creatures, or even plants," Churchill concludes. He wrote this decades before exoplanets were discovered in the 1990s; hundreds have since been detected. What's impressive about the essay is the way Churchill approaches the existential and scientific question of whether life exists on other planets, Livio says. Churchill's reasoning mirrors extremely well the way scientists think about this problem today. The British leader also talks about several theories that still guide the search for alien life, Livio says. For example, he notes that water is the key ingredient for life on Earth, and so finding water on other planets could mean finding life there. Churchill also notes that life can only survive in regions "between a few degrees of frost and the boiling point of water" -- what today we call the habitable zone, the region around a star that is neither too hot or too cold, so that liquid water may exist on the planet's surface.
Transportation

Dutch Town Pilots Lightlines To Help Distracted Smartphone Users Cross the Road (autoexpress.co.uk) 115

An anonymous reader writes: A Dutch municipality has introduced pedestrian traffic lights specifically designed to help smartphone users avoid stepping into traffic by displaying a colorful strip of light on the pavement. Built by Dutch firm HIG Traffic Systems, the new +LightLine light comes with a LED strip that illuminates the pavement with a horizontal strip before the road crossing. Smartphone users looking at their phone will see the color of the strip beneath their feet before stepping out into the road.
Privacy

Encrypted Email Is Still a Pain in 2017 (incoherency.co.uk) 216

Bristol-based software developer James Stanley, who used to work at Netcraft, shares how encrypted emails, something which was first introduced over 25 years ago, is still difficult to setup and use for even reasonably tech savvy people. He says he recently tried to install Enigmail, a Thunderbird add-on, but not only things like GPG, PGP, OpenPGP were -- for no reason -- confusing, Enigmail continues to suffer from a bug that takes forever in generating keys. From his blog post: Encrypted email is nothing new (PGP was initially released in 1991 -- 26 years ago!), but it still has a huge barrier to entry for anyone who isn't already familiar with how to use it. I think my experience would have been better if Enigmail had generated keys out-of-the-box, or if (a.) gpg agreed with Enigmail on nomenclature (is it a secring or a private key?) and (b.) output the paths of the files it had generated. My experience would have been a lot worse had I not been able to call on the help of somebody who already knows how to use it.
Security

Trend Micro's Own Cybersecurity Blog Gets Hacked (silicon.co.uk) 17

Mickeycaskill quotes Silicon: Just to illustrate that you can never be too careful, cybersecurity specialist Trend Micro has confirmed that one of the blogs it uses to communicate with customers was itself the victim of a content spoofing attack. The culprits exploited a vulnerability in WordPress to inject fake content onto the blog before it was removed by Trend Micro and the bug fixed... "Unfortunately there are many different URLs attackers can use to carry out the same attack, so a couple of fake 'articles' ended up posted on CounterMeasures," head of security research Rik Ferguson told Silicon. "We have responded and shut down the vulnerability completely to resolve the issue."
The chairman of Trend Micro claimed in 2011 that open source software was inherently less secure than closed source -- but instead of blaming Wordpress, Ferguson "said it goes to show how breaches are an unfortunate fact of life and that companies should be judged on how they respond... 'Of course technology and best practice can mitigate the vast majority of intrusion attempts, but when one is successful, even one as low-level as this, you are more defined by how you respond than you are by the fact that it happened.'"
Cellphones

Mission Possible: Self-Destructing Phones Are Now a Reality (yahoo.com) 142

drunkdrone quotes the International Business Times: Self-destructing gadgets favored by the likes of James Bond and Mission: Impossible's Ethan Hunt have taken one step closer to reality. Researchers in Saudi Arabia have developed a mechanism that, when triggered, can destroy a smartphone or other electronic device in as little as 10 seconds. The self-destruct mechanism has been created by electrical engineers at the King Abdulla University of Science and Technology and consists of a polymer layer that rapidly expands when subjected to temperatures above 80 degrees Celsius, effectively bursting the phone open from the inside. The mechanism can be adapted to be triggered in various ways, including remotely through a smartphone app or when it's subjected to pressure.

Once triggered, power from the device's battery is directed to electrodes that rapidly heat, causing the polymer layer to expand to around seven times its original size within 10-15 seconds. This crushes the vital components inside the device, destroying any information stored on board.

One engineer believes the phone will see adoption in the intelligence and financial communities, though it can also be retrofitted to existing phones for just $15. This raises an interesting question -- would you want a self-destructing phone?
Communications

TeraHertz Transmitter Can Push 100Gbps+ Wireless Speeds Via a Single Channel (ispreview.co.uk) 53

Mark.JUK writes: A team of Japanese scientists working jointly for Hiroshima University and Panasonic have managed to develop a TeraHertz (THz) transmitter that is capable of transmitting digital data at a rate of 105 Gbps (gigabits per second) over a single channel using the frequency range from 290GHz to 315GHz. Previously it was only possible to achieve such speeds by harnessing multiple channels at the same time.

Professor Minoru Fujishima, Hiroshima University, said: "This year, we developed a transmitter with 10 times higher transmission power than the previous version's. This made the per-channel data rate above 100 Gbit/s at 300 GHz possible. We usually talk about wireless data rates in megabits per second or gigabits per second. But we are now approaching terabits per second using a plain simple single communication channel."

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