NASA's Plans To Build A Human Settlement on The Moon

Nine private spaceflight companies are bidding on contracts to deliver robotic NASA payloads to the moon — and Thursday NASA said they’d like them to start flying “this calendar year.”
Discover magazine reports NASA envisions this “as the first step toward returning to the moon, this time for good.”
The first tasks will be to practice launching and landing on the moon, as well as answering questions about its surface… They will test habitation for future crewed missions. They’ll prove that they can collect materials from the lunar surface and return them to space or Earth. And they’ll establish communication networks between robots on the moon’s surface, way stations in lunar orbit, and mission control on Earth.
But NASA also wants to deploy demo technology that can mine the moon’s resources “to pave the way for human settlement,” reports:
The main lunar resource to be exploited, at least initially, is water. The lunar surface has lots of this stuff, locked up as ice on the permanently shadowed floors of polar craters. This water will aid lunar settlement and further exploration, and not just by slaking astronauts’ thirst, NASA officials say. Water can also be split into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen, the chief components of rocket fuel.
The Commercial Lunar Payload Services program is just part of NASA’s broad moon-exploration plan, which prioritizes an open architecture that encourages cooperation with many commercial and international partners. (Indeed, NASA wants to be the commercial landers’ first, but not only, customer.) One of the most critical pieces of this plan is a small space station, called the Gateway, which NASA aims to start building in lunar orbit in 2022. Gateway will be a hub for many kinds of lunar exploration, including sorties to the surface by landers both crewed and uncrewed.
If everything goes according to plan, NASA astronauts will take their first such sortie in 2028 — 56 years after Apollo 17 crewmembers left the last boot prints on the lunar surface

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Source: Slashdot – NASA’s Plans To Build A Human Settlement on The Moon

Star of Film 'Downfall' and Widespread 'Hitler Finds Out…' Meme, Dead At 77

The Guardian reports: Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor who played Adolf Hitler in the film Downfall, has died in Zurich at the age of 77, his agent announced. The actor became internationally renowned for his 2004 portrayal of the German dictator’s final days inside his Berlin bunker. In a Guardian review of Downfall Rob Mackie described Ganz as “the most convincing screen Hitler yet: an old, bent, sick dictator with the shaking hands of someone with Parkinson’s, alternating between rage and despair in his last days in the bunker….” It is widely believed to be the cinematic footage most often shared online, as well as the cause of one of the world’s most productive internet memes.

They’re referring to “One climactic scene featuring a Ganz tour de force” that was “relentlessly parodied in widespread ‘Hitler Finds Out…’ videos, featuring anachronistic subtitles depicting his rage and fury over topical, mundane, or banal events and trivial gossip,” explains long-time Slashdot reader Freshly Exhumed:

The spread of the meme was aided inestimably by the Streisand Effect caused when the production company, Constantin Films began sending DMCA takedown notices to YouTube. Eventually the company relented as the parodies constituted strong fair use cases.

When the director of the film was asked about the parodies, he admitted that “I think I’ve seen about 145 of them! Of course, I have to put the sound down when I watch. Many times the lines are so funny, I laugh out loud, and I’m laughing about the scene that I staged myself! You couldn’t get a better compliment as a director.”

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Source: Slashdot – Star of Film ‘Downfall’ and Widespread ‘Hitler Finds Out…’ Meme, Dead At 77

Lobbyists Demonize 'Right To Repair' Legislation

“New Hampshire lawmakers got an early taste last week of the arguments that manufacturing, technology and telecommunications lobbyists will use to try to hobble and defeat right to repair legislation in 16 states this year,” writes long-time Slashdot reader chicksdaddy.
The Security Ledger reports:
Curious children could find themselves dismembered by run-away washing machines. A phalanx of illegally modified lawn tractors and leaf blowers will belch pollution in defiance of the EPA, darkening the sky… At least, that’s the scene painted by representatives from some of the U.S.’s biggest industry groups. At a hearing before the New Hampshire House of Representatives Committee on Commerce and Consumer Affairs February 5, they painted a dire picture of the consequences of passing a proposed Digital Fair Repair Act, HB 462, saying the proposed legislation would stifle commerce, leave New Hampshire consumers vulnerable to cyber crime and even physical harm at the hands of clueless owners and inexperienced or unethical repair professionals.

“There is a lot at stake when it comes to Right to Repair, and you could feel those stakes in the room,” wrote Nathan Proctor, the head of the right to repair campaign at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), in an email statement. “Legislators have their work cut out for them sifting through all the frantic opposition and their deceptive, and at times bizarre, arguments,” he wrote.
HB 462 would require original equipment manufacturers that do business in New Hampshire to make the same documentation, parts and tools available to device owners and independent repair professionals as they make available to their licensed or “authorized” repair professionals. Similarly, documentation, tools, and parts needed to reset product (software) locks or digital right management functions following maintenance and repair would also need to be made available to owners and independent repair professionals on “fair and reasonable terms.”

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Source: Slashdot – Lobbyists Demonize ‘Right To Repair’ Legislation

Bruce Perens Calls For Open Source, Security, and Data Rights In IBM Ad

Bruce Perens co-founded the Open Source Initiative with Eric Raymond — and he’s also Slashdot reader #3872.

Bruce Perens writes: Here’s the IBM ad used to open their Think 2019 conference, featuring Buzz Aldrin, Arianna Huffington, Janelle Monae, Miaym Bialik, and astonishingly: me. Interesting of IBM to have an ad including Open Source, security, and data rights as human rights!
Web version with subtitles. Version used to open the Think conference, on Youtube.. “I would like to make open source software the standard…” Perens says in the video, adding “Let’s champion data rights as human rights,” and asking “How do we bake security into everything we do?” But it’s a montage of different speakers who each begin their comments by saying “Dear Tech,” offering open letters with their hopes for the entire industry.

“Let’s use blockchain to help reduce poverty.”
“Let’s use IoT to help victims of natural disasters.”
“I feel like you have the potential to do so much more.”
“Are you working for all of us, or just a few of us?”

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Source: Slashdot – Bruce Perens Calls For Open Source, Security, and Data Rights In IBM Ad

What Can We Learn From The Retraction of the Mediterranean Diet Study?

Remember that landmark 2013 study that found that people on a Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower chance of heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease than people on low-fat diets? An anonymous reader quotes Vox:
Last June, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine pulled the original paper from the record, issuing a rare retraction. It also republished a new version [of the PREDIMED study] based on a reanalysis of the data that accounted for the missteps… But after spending several days talking with some of the brightest minds in nutrition research and epidemiology, I now feel the PREDIMED retraction is actually cause for hope — maybe even a new beginning for the field.
Yes, studies with big flaws pass peer review and make it into high-impact journals, but the record can eventually be corrected because of skeptical researchers questioning things. It’s science working as it should, and the PREDIMED takedown is a wonderful example of that. This process should bring us a step closer to what really matters: informing people who want to know how to eat for a healthy life.

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Source: Slashdot – What Can We Learn From The Retraction of the Mediterranean Diet Study?

Misleading Results From Widely-Used Machine-Learning Data Analysis Techniques

Long-time Slashdot reader kbahey writes: The increased reliance on machine-learning techniques used by thousands of scientists to analyze data, is producing results that are misleading and often completely wrong, according to the BBC.

Dr. Genevera Allen from Rice University in Houston said that the increased use of such systems was contributing to a “crisis in science”.

She warned scientists that if they didn’t improve their techniques they would be wasting both time and money. Her research was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.

This is the oft-discussed ‘reproducibility problem’ in modern science.
The BBC writes that this irreproducibility happens when experiments “aren’t designed well enough to ensure that the scientists don’t fool themselves and see what they want to see in the results.” But machine learning now has apparently become part of the problem.

Dr. Allen asks “If we had an additional dataset would we see the same scientific discovery or principle…? Unfortunately the answer is often probably not.â

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Source: Slashdot – Misleading Results From Widely-Used Machine-Learning Data Analysis Techniques

Report That Tesla Autopilot Cuts Crashes By 40% Called 'Bogus'

Remember when America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported Tesla’s Autopilot reduced crashes by 40%? Two years later the small research and consulting firm Quality Control Systems (QCS) finally obtained the underlying data — and found flaws in the methodology “serious enough to completely discredit the 40 percent figure,” reports Ars Technica, “which Tesla has cited multiple times over the last two years.”

The majority of the vehicles in the Tesla data set suffered from missing data or other problems that made it impossible to say whether the activation of Autosteer increased or decreased the crash rate. But when QCS focused on 5,714 vehicles whose data didn’t suffer from these problems, it found that the activation of Autosteer actually increased crash rates by 59 percent…
NHTSA undertook its study of Autopilot safety in the wake of the fatal crash of Tesla owner Josh Brown in 2016. Autopilot — more specifically Tesla’s lane-keeping function called Autosteer — was active at the time of the crash, and Brown ignored multiple warnings to put his hands back on the wheel. Critics questioned whether Autopilot actually made Tesla owners less safe by encouraging them to pay less attention to the road. NHTSA’s 2017 finding that Autosteer reduced crash rates by 40 percent seemed to put that concern to rest. When another Tesla customer, Walter Huang, died in an Autosteer-related crash last March, Tesla cited NHTSA’s 40 percent figure in a blog post defending the technology. A few weeks later, Tesla CEO Elon Musk berated reporters for focusing on stories about crashes instead of touting the safety benefits of Autopilot….

[T]hese new findings are relevant to a larger debate about how the federal government oversees driver-assistance systems like Autopilot. By publishing that 40 percent figure, NHTSA conferred unwarranted legitimacy on Tesla’s Autopilot technology. NHTSA then fought to prevent the public release of data that could help the public independently evaluate these findings, allowing Tesla to continue citing the figure for another year…. NHTSA fought QCS’ FOIA request after Tesla indicated that the data was confidential and would cause Tesla competitive harm if it was released.

Last May the NHTSA finally clarified that their study “did not assess the effectiveness of this technology.” Ars Technica also points out that the data focused on version 1 of Autopilot, “which Tesla hasn’t sold since 2016.”

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Source: Slashdot – Report That Tesla Autopilot Cuts Crashes By 40% Called ‘Bogus’

Intel Starts Publishing Open-Source Linux Driver Code For Discrete GPUs

fstack writes: Intel is still a year out from releasing their first discrete graphics processors, but the company has begun publishing their open-source Linux GPU driver code. This week they began by publishing patches on top of their existing Intel Linux driver for supporting device local memory for dedicated video memory as part of their restructuring effort to support discrete graphics cards. Intel later confirmed this is the start of their open-source driver support for discrete graphics solutions. They have also begun working on Linux driver support for Adaptive-Sync and better reset recovery.

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Source: Slashdot – Intel Starts Publishing Open-Source Linux Driver Code For Discrete GPUs

Hoaxer Behind 2,400 Fake Bomb Threats Caught After Gaming Site Breach

20-year-old Timothy Dalton Vaughn from Winston-Salem, N.C now faces 80 years in federal prison, reports
Federal authorities this week arrested a North Carolina man who allegedly ran with a group of online hooligans that attacked Web sites (including this one), took requests on Twitter to call in bomb threats to thousands of schools, and tried to frame various online gaming sites as the culprits. In an ironic twist, the accused — who had fairly well separated his real life identity from his online personas — appears to have been caught after a gaming Web site he frequented got hacked…
[T]he real-life identity of HDGZero remained a mystery…as there was little publicly available information at the time connecting that moniker to anyone. That is, until early January 2019, when news broke that hackers had broken into the servers of computer game maker BlankMediaGames and made off with account details of some 7.6 million people who had signed up to play “Town of Salem,” the company’s browser-based role playing game. That stolen information has since been posted and resold in underground forums. A review of the leaked BlankMediaGames user database shows that in late 2018, someone who selected the username “hdgzero” signed up to play Town of Salem… The data also shows this person registered at the site using a Sprint mobile device with an Internet address that traced back to the Carolinas.
This week America’s Justice Department released an indictment of Vaughn and co-conspirator George Duke-Cohan for spoofed bomb threat emails to more than 2,400 schools, according to Krebs, adding that the government also alleges the two reported a fake hijacking of an airline bound for the United States. “That flight, which had almost 300 passengers on board, was later quarantined for four hours in San Francisco pending a full security check.”
The two now face charges of conspiracy and eight additional felony offenses, “including making threats to injure in interstate commerce and making interstate threats involving explosives.”

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Source: Slashdot – Hoaxer Behind 2,400 Fake Bomb Threats Caught After Gaming Site Breach

Free Software Foundation: Dating Is a Free Software Issue

“I’ve been making the argument that everything is a free software issue for a few months now,” writes the campaigns manager for the Free Software Foundation, in a new essay sharing thoughts on “the issues proprietary technology poses in dating and maintaining romantic relationships”:
Many dating Web sites run proprietary JavaScript… Proprietary JavaScript is a trap that impacts your ability to run a free system, and not only does it sneak proprietary software onto your machine, but it also poses a security risk. Any piece of software can be malicious, but proprietary JavaScript goes the extra mile. Much of the JavaScript you encounter runs automatically when you load a Web site, which enables it to attack you without you even noticing.
Proprietary JavaScript doesn’t have to be the only way to use Web sites. LibreJS is an initiative which blocks “nonfree nontrivial” JavaScript while allowing JavaScript that is either free or trivial. Many dating apps are also proprietary, available only at the Apple App and Google Play stores, both of which currently require the use of proprietary software.
The essay also warns about the proprietry software used for restaurant reservations, ride-sharing apps, and chat applications. (Not to mention the non-free software behind gift shopping on Amazon.) And even if you decide on a romantic evening at home, “you might find yourself tempted by freedom-disrespecting, DRM-supporting streaming services like Hulu and Netflix….”
“These are all proprietary tools, and the act of using them restricts our freedoms. When the ways we connect with one another are proprietary, we’re trusting our secrets, intimacies, and relationships to technology we cannot trust.”

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Source: Slashdot – Free Software Foundation: Dating Is a Free Software Issue

Hundreds Still Live In The 'Exclusion Zone' Around Chernobyl

This weekend the BBC reports on the site of the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion — where “robotic cranes are dismantling 33-year-old, radioactive wreckage” — investigating an area of more than 4,000 square kilometres [2,485 square miles] that’s been abandoned since 1986. “That could be about to change…”
An anonymous reader summarizes their report:
“Every community within a 30km radius [18.9 miles] of the plant was evacuated and abandoned; no one was allowed to return here to live.” Yet the BBC visits a tiny community of 15 who reclaimed their homes in 1986 — part of a population of 200 “self-settlers” deep in the exclusion zone, “an ageing population cut off from the rest of the country…. Almost every family forced to leave here was given an apartment in a nearby town or city. For Maria and her [88-year-old] mother, though, this cottage, with the garden wrapped around it, was home. They refused to abandon it. ‘We weren’t allowed to come back, but I followed my mum.'”
Parts of the exclusion zone in Ukraine and Belarus have become “a post-human nature reserve”, home to prowling wolves and dozens of wild horses. Yet Professor Jim Smith from the UK’s University of Portsmouth explains that “Most of the area of the exclusion zone gives rise to lower radiation dose rates than many areas of natural radioactivity worldwide.” In fact, the abandoned nuclear-worker city of Pripyat was recently deemed safe to visit for short periods, “and has now become one of Ukraine’s most talked about tourist attractions. An estimated 60,000 people visited the exclusion zone last year, keen to witness the dramatic decay.”
And beyond the 18.9-mile line is Narodichi, a town of more than 2,500 people, where people “were quietly allowed to return home a few months after the disaster.” Still considered an officially contaminated district — and still in the “exclusion zone” — it’s a semi-abandoned area where all agriculture is banned, and the land can’t be developed. 130 children attend Narodichi’s kindergarten, but the kindergarten manager says half their parents are unemployed, “because there is nowhere to work.” One of the least-contaminated areas in the exclusion zone, “Three decades of research have concluded that much of it is safe – for food to be grown and for the land to be developed.” The BBC argues that “Fear of radiation could actually be hurting the people…far more than the radiation itself. “

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Source: Slashdot – Hundreds Still Live In The ‘Exclusion Zone’ Around Chernobyl

Academics Confirm Major Predictive Policing Algorithm Is Fundamentally Flawed

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Last week, Motherboard published an investigation which revealed that law enforcement agencies around the country are using PredPol — a predictive policing software that once cited the controversial, unproven “broken windows” policing theory as a part of its best practices. Our report showed that local police in Kansas, Washington, South Carolina, California, Georgia, Utah, and Michigan are using or have used the software. In a 2014 presentation to police departments obtained by Motherboard, the company says that the software is “based on nearly seven years of detailed academic research into the causes of crime pattern formation the mathematics looks complicated — and it is complicated for normal mortal humans — but the behaviors upon which the math is based are very understandable.”

The company says those behaviors are “repeat victimization” of an address, “near-repeat victimization” (the proximity of other addresses to previously reported crimes), and “local search” (criminals are likely to commit crimes near their homes or near other crimes they’ve committed, PredPol says.) But academics Motherboard spoke to say that the mathematical theory that is used to power PredPol is flawed, and that its algorithm — at least as pitched to police — is far too simplistic to actually predict crime. Kristian Lum, who co-wrote a 2016 paper that tested the algorithmic mechanisms of PredPol with real crime data, told Motherboard in a phone call that although PredPol is powered by complicated-looking mathematical formulas, its actual function can be summarized as a moving average — or an average of subsets within a data set. “The academic foundation for PredPol’s software takes a statistical modeling method used to predict earthquakes and apply it to crime,” reports Motherboard. “Much like how earthquakes are likely to appear in similar places, the papers argue, crimes are also likely to occur in similar places. Suresh Venkatasubramanian, a professor of computing at the University of Utah and a member of the board of directors for ACLU Utah, told Motherboard that earthquake data and crime data are, naturally, collected in different ways.”

“I would say in our mind, the key difference is that in earthquake models, you have seismographs everywhere — wherever an earthquake happens, you’ll find it,” Venkatasubramanian said. “The crux of the issue really is that to what extent are you able to get data about what you’re observing that is not also totally on the model itself.” “If you build predictive policing, you are essentially sending police to certain neighborhoods based on what what they told you — but that also means you’re not sending police to other neighborhoods because the system didn’t tell you to go there,” Venkatasubramanian said. “If you assume that the data collection for your system is generated by police whom you sent to certain neighborhoods, then essentially your model is controlling the next round of data you get.”

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Source: Slashdot – Academics Confirm Major Predictive Policing Algorithm Is Fundamentally Flawed

Chicago Mayor Releases Roadmap For Transitioning To 100 Percent Renewable Energy By 2035

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual has released a roadmap for transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2035 and to an electric Chicago Transit Authority bus fleet by 2040. The move is especially noteworthy as there are 11 nuclear reactors in operation in Illinois. From a report: Yesterday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled the Resilient Chicago plan, which with action number 38 commits to “transition to 100% clean, renewable energy in buildings community-wide by 2035.” The deadline for all city government buildings to be powered solely by renewables, first established in 2017, has been brought forward to 2025. The policy has been introduced as part of environmental group the Sierra Club’s “Ready for 100” campaign, and Chicago is the largest city to join the effort to date. (Editor’s note: While Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced his city is on a path to 100% renewable energy, it is not clear if the formal goal is 100% renewable or 100% zero-carbon, and LA is not included in the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 list.)

The language of the Resilient Chicago text says “clean, renewable energy,” and the Sierra Club does not include nuclear as part of its Ready to 100 campaign. The new policy is a particularly interesting move for Emanuel, once considered one of the more pro-nuclear politicians in the Democratic Party, and a man who brokered the deal that created Exelon. Were Chicago to include nuclear in a 2035 target, it would require either buying power from existing plants instead of investing in new generation, or starting new nuclear plants within six years. Given the high cost of nuclear compared to wind and solar, few decision makers are contemplating that option.

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Source: Slashdot – Chicago Mayor Releases Roadmap For Transitioning To 100 Percent Renewable Energy By 2035

Gravitational Wave Detectors Upgraded To Hunt For 'Extreme Cosmic Events'

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities, residing in Washington and Louisiana, will be upgraded via grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation, UK Research and Innovation and the Australian Research Council — providing stronger, more frequent detections and decreasing noise. CNET reports: Over $34 million will be provided for the upgrade which makes LIGO sound like the latest iPhone. When it is complete, LIGO will go from its crusty old 2015 “Advanced LIGO” phase to the “Advanced LIGO Plus” phase. LIGO’s twin facilities both contain two 4-kilometer long arms that use lasers to detect minute disturbances caused by extremely energetic cosmic events — like black holes merging. The incredibly high-powered events are responsible for gravitational waves, rippling out through spacetime the same way water does when you drop a rock in a pond. By the time they reach Earth, the ripples are so small that only incredibly tiny disturbances in LIGO’s lasers can detect them.

The proposed upgrades will greatly increase the number of events that LIGO will detect. With only 11 under its belt so far, [David Reitze, executive director of LIGO] even expects we might see “black hole mergers on a daily basis” and describes neutron star mergers becoming “much more frequent.” All that extra power adds up, hopefully revealing some of the cosmos’ deepest, darkest secrets. In September 2015, LIGO provided the first evidence for a black hole merger — and in turn, the existence of gravitational waves — just four days after a three-year long upgrade. Since then, LIGO has seen 10 black hole mergers and a single, huge collision between two incredibly dense stars, known as neutron stars.

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Source: Slashdot – Gravitational Wave Detectors Upgraded To Hunt For ‘Extreme Cosmic Events’

Researchers Are Working With NASA To See If Comedians Help Team Cohesion On Long Space Missions

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: [R]esearchers have found that the success of a future mission to the red planet may depend on the ship having a class clown. “These are people that have the ability to pull everyone together, bridge gaps when tensions appear and really boost morale,” said Jeffrey Johnson, an anthropologist at the University of Florida. “When you’re living with others in a confined space for a long period of time, such as on a mission to Mars, tensions are likely to fray. It’s vital you have somebody who can help everyone get along, so they can do their jobs and get there and back safely. It’s mission critical.” Johnson spent four years studying overwintering crews in Antarctica and identified the importance of clowns, leaders, buddies, storytellers, peacemakers and counsellors for bonding teams together and making them work smoothly. He found the same mixes worked in U.S., Russian, Polish, Chinese and Indian bases.

“These roles are informal, they emerge within the group. But the interesting thing is that if you have the right combination the group does very well. And if you don’t, the group does very badly,” he said. Johnson is now working with Nasa to explore whether clowns and other characters are crucial for the success of long space missions. So far he has monitored four groups of astronauts who spent 30 to 60 days in the agency’s mock space habitat, the Human Exploration Research Analog, or Hera, in Houston, Texas. Johnson, who also studied isolated salmon fishers in Alaska, found that clowns were often willing to be the butt of jokes and pranks. In Antarctica, one clown he observed endured a mock funeral and burial in the tundra, but was crucial for building bridges between clusters of overwintering scientists and between contractors and researchers, or “beakers” as the contractors called them.

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Source: Slashdot – Researchers Are Working With NASA To See If Comedians Help Team Cohesion On Long Space Missions

New Drug Rapidly Repairs Age-Related Memory Loss, Improves Mood

A team of Canadian scientists has developed a fascinating new experimental drug that is purported to result in rapid improvements to both mood and memory following extensive animal testing. It’s hoped the drug will move to human trials within the next two years. New Atlas reports: Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a key neurotransmitter, and when altered it can play a role in the development of everything from psychiatric conditions to cognitive degeneration. Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Valium, are a class of drugs well known to function by modulating the brain’s GABA systems. This new research describes the development of several new molecules that are structurally based on benzodiazepines, but with small tweaks to enhance their ability to specifically target certain brain areas. The goal was to create a new therapeutic agent that can effectively combat age-related mood and memory alterations caused by disruptions in the GABA systems.

In animal tests the drug has been found to be remarkably effective, with old mice displaying rapid improvements in memory tests within an hour of administration, resulting in performance similar to that of young mice. Daily administration of the drug over two months was also seen to result in an actual structural regrowth of brain cells, returning their brains to a state that resembles a young animal. The new study was published in the journal Molecular Neuropsychiatry.

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Source: Slashdot – New Drug Rapidly Repairs Age-Related Memory Loss, Improves Mood

Samsung's New Galaxy Tab S5e Is Its Lightest and Thinnest Tablet Ever

Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy Tab S5e, its lightest and thinnest tablet ever made. “At $399, it’s not only far more affordable than the flagship $649 Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, it’s arguably surpassed it in some ways,” reports The Verge. From the report: For starters, the Tab S5e has the thinnest and lightest metal unibody of any Galaxy Tab, measuring 5.5mm thin and weighing just 400 grams — even compared to the 11-inch iPad Pro at 5.9mm thick and 468 grams, the Tab S5e is both lighter and thinner. The company also claims they’ve maximized space with the Tab S5e’s massive 81.8 percent screen-to-body ratio, which on paper, is an improvement over the Tab S4’s lower 79 percent ratio. It’s also right on the heels of the 11-inch iPad Pro’s ~82.9 percent screen-to-body ratio.

And unlike Samsung’s previous attempt to make its 10.5-inch tablet more affordable, this slate doesn’t skimp on the screen and not nearly as much on the processor. Samsung’s Tab S5e is a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED device with a 16:10 aspect ratio and 2560 x 1600 resolution, while its octa-core Snapdragon 670 processor should provide solid mid-range performance. Samsung’s also promising up to 14.5 hours of battery life. The Tab S5e is also the first tablet from the Korean tech giant to ship with Pie, the latest version of Android, along with the new Bixby 2.0 virtual assistant and information tool. Samsung is also carrying features like Dex, a desktop-style Android environment, over from other Galaxy devices, like the Note 9 and Tab S4. It allows users to interact with their device using the screen, a mouse, keyboard, or all three. Other features include AKG-tuned, quad surround sound speakers, 64GB of internal storage (microSD expandable to 512GB), with 4GB RAM (upgradable to 6GB RAM/128GB storage), and 13-megapixel back and 8-megapixel front-facing cameras. Cellular models will follow the Wi-Fi versions later this year.

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Source: Slashdot – Samsung’s New Galaxy Tab S5e Is Its Lightest and Thinnest Tablet Ever

18,000 Android Apps Track Users By Violating Advertising ID Policies

18,000 Android apps with tens or hundreds of millions of installs on the Google Play Store have been found to violate Google’s Play Store Advertising ID policy guidance by collecting persistent device identifiers such as serial numbers, IMEI, WiFi MAC addresses, SIM card serial numbers, and sending them to mobile advertising related domains alongside ad IDs. Bleeping Computer reports: AppCensus is an organization based in Berkeley, California, and created by researchers from all over the world with expertise in a wide range of fields, ranging from networking and privacy to security and usability. The project is supported by “grants from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Data Transparency Lab.” By highlighting this behavior, AppCensus shows that while users are being offered the option to reset the advertising ID, doing so will not immediately translate into getting a new “identity” because app developers can also use a multitude of other identifiers to keep their tracking and targeting going.

Google did not yet respond to a report sent by AppCensus in September 2018 containing a list of 17,000 Android apps that send persistent identifiers together with ad IDs to various advertising networks, also attaching a list of 30 recipient mobile advertising related domains where the various IDs were being sent. While looking at the network packets sent between the apps and these 30 domains, AppCensus observed that “they are either being used to place ads in apps, or track user engagement with ads.” In a statement to CNET, a Google spokesperson said: “We take these issues very seriously. Combining Ad ID with device identifiers for the purpose of ads personalization is strictly forbidden. We’re constantly reviewing apps — including those listed in the researcher’s report — and will take action when they do not comply with our policies.” Some of the most popular applications found to be violating Google’s Usage of Android Adverting ID policies include Clean Master, Subway Surfers, Fliboard, My Talking Tom, Temple Run 2, and Angry Birds Classic. The list goes on and on, and the last app in the “Top 20” list still has over 100 million installations.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Source: Slashdot – 18,000 Android Apps Track Users By Violating Advertising ID Policies

Even Years Later, Twitter Doesn't Delete Your Direct Messages

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Twitter retains direct messages for years, including messages you and others have deleted, but also data sent to and from accounts that have been deactivated and suspended, according to security researcher Karan Saini. Saini found years-old messages in a file from an archive of his data obtained through the website from accounts that were no longer on Twitter. He also reported a similar bug, found a year earlier but not disclosed until now, that allowed him to use a since-deprecated API to retrieve direct messages even after a message was deleted from both the sender and the recipient — though, the bug wasn’t able to retrieve messages from suspended accounts.

Direct messages once let users “unsend” messages from someone else’s inbox, simply by deleting it from their own. Twitter changed this years ago, and now only allows a user to delete messages from their account. “Others in the conversation will still be able to see direct messages or conversations that you have deleted,” Twitter says in a help page. Twitter also says in its privacy policy that anyone wanting to leave the service can have their account “deactivated and then deleted.” After a 30-day grace period, the account disappears, along with its data. But, in our tests, we could recover direct messages from years ago — including old messages that had since been lost to suspended or deleted accounts. By downloading your account’s data, it’s possible to download all of the data Twitter stores on you. A Twitter spokesperson said the company was “looking into this further to ensure we have considered the entire scope of the issue.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Huge Study Finds Professors' Attitudes Affect Students' Grades

A huge study at Indiana University, led by Elizabeth Canning, finds that the attitudes of instructors affect the grades their students earned in classes. The researchers conducted their study by sending out a simple survey to all the instructors of STEM courses at Indiana University, asking whether professors felt that a student’s intelligence is fixed and unchanging or whether they thought it could be developed. Then, the researchers were given access to two years’ worth of students’ grades in those instructors’ classes, covering a total of 15,000 students. Ars Technica reports: The results showed a surprising difference between the professors who agreed that intelligence is fixed and those who disagreed (referred to as “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” professors). In classes taught by fixed mindset instructors, Latino, African-American, and Native American students averaged grades 0.19 grade points (out of four) lower than white and Asian-American students. But in classes taught by “growth mindset” instructors, the gap dropped to just 0.10 grade points. No other factor the researchers analyzed showed a statistically significant difference among classes — not the instructors’ experience, tenure status, gender, specific department, or even ethnicity. Yet their belief about whether a students’ intelligence is fixed seems to have had a sizable effect.

The students’ course evaluations contain possible clues. Students reported less “motivation to do their best work” in the classes taught by fixed mindset professors, and they also gave lower ratings for a question about whether their professor “emphasize[d] learning and development.” Students were less likely to say they’d recommend the professor to others, as well. Is it possible that the fixed mindset professors just happen to teach the hardest classes? The student evaluations also include a question about how much time the course required — the average answer was slightly higher for fixed mindset professors, but the difference was not statistically significant. Instead, the researchers think the data suggests that — in any number of small ways — instructors who think their students’ intelligence is fixed don’t keep their students as motivated, and perhaps don’t focus as much on teaching techniques that can encourage growth. And while this affects all students, it seems to have an extra impact on underrepresented minority students.

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Source: Slashdot – Huge Study Finds Professors’ Attitudes Affect Students’ Grades