2021-01-01 06:28:29 ..
2021-02-25 06:39:01 UTC
2021-02-25 06:39:01 UTC --martyb
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Our electronic devices take a serious environmental toll, and one of the best ways to mitigate that is to use them for as long as possible before replacing them. But it's hard to know how long a new gadget will last if you're unsure how easy it will be to fix. Now, companies are going to have to start coming clean about that — in France, at least.
In a world first move last month, France began requiring makers of certain electronic devices, including smartphones and laptops, to tell consumers how repairable their products are. Manufacturers selling these devices in France must give their products a score, or "repairability index," based on a range of criteria including how easy it is to take the product apart and the availability of spare parts and technical documents. While France won't be enforcing use of the index with fines until next year, some companies have already begun releasing scores for their products.
The repairability index represents part of France's effort to combat planned obsolescence, the intentional creation of products with a finite lifespan that need to be replaced frequently, and transition to a more circular economy where waste is minimized. But it also has global implications. Repair advocates say that the index will serve as a litmus test for other nations weighing similar regulations, help consumers make better choices, and hopefully incentivize companies to manufacture more repairable devices.
Many of the DOS utilities (except for command.com) were written by IBM, and they used the "/" character as the "switch" character for their utilities (the "switch" character is the character that's used to distinguish command line switches - on *nix, it's the "-" character, on most DEC operating systems (including VMS, the DECSystem-20 and DECSystem-10), it's the "/" character" (note: I'm grey on whether the "/" character came from IBM or from Microsoft - several of the original MS-DOS developers were old-hand DEC-20 developers, so it's possible that they carried it forward from their DEC background).
[...] Then along came DOS 2.0. DOS 2.0 was tied to the PC/XT, whose major feature was a 10M hard disk. IBM asked the Microsoft to add support for hard disks, and the MS-DOS developers took this as an opportunity to add support for modern file APIs - they added a whole series of handle based APIs to the system (DOS 1.0 relied on an application controlled structure called an FCB). They also had to add support for hierarchical paths.
So the TianWen-1 is orbiting Mars, and getting ready to send a rover down to the planet's surface. Some reporting from Space.com
China's Tianwen-1 spacecraft has trimmed its orbit around Mars to allow the spacecraft to analyze the chosen landing region on the Red Planet.
After the burn, which occurred on Tuesday (Feb. 23), Tianwen-1 is now in position to begin imaging and collecting data on primary and backup landing sites for the mission's rover, which will attempt to touch down in May or June.
Tianwen-1, China's first independent interplanetary mission, consists of an orbiter and rover, which have been in Mars orbit as a single spacecraft since Feb. 10. The latest engine burn, at 5:29 p.m. EST Tuesday (2229 GMT, 06:29 Beijing time Wednesday), executed during the spacecraft's closest approach to Mars, greatly reduced its apoapsis, or farthest point from the planet.
All in preparation for:
The Tianwen-1 rover is contained within an aeroshell attached to the orbiter. This conical structure will both protect and slow the rover during its fiery, hypersonic entry into the Martian atmosphere at the start of the landing attempt. A supersonic parachute will further slow the rover before retropropulsion engines provide the final deceleration for the soft landing.
The rover carries science payloads to investigate surface soil characteristics and mineral composition and to search for potential water ice with a ground penetrating radar. The rover is designed to operate for 90 Mars sols (92 Earth days) with the Tianwen-1 orbiter serving to relay communications and data between the rover and the Earth. The orbiter is designed to operate for a total of one Mars year, or about 687 Earth days.
Getting crowded in the Martian sky!
In general, obesity is linked with a large range of health problems—for most people, at least. But for a substantial minority of those who are overweight, obesity is accompanied by indications of decent health, with no signs of impending diabetes or cardiovascular disease. These cases have probably received unwarranted attention; who doesn't want to convince themselves that they're an exception to an unfortunate rule, after all?
[...] a large international team of researchers has looked into whether some of these cases might be the product of genetic influences. And simply by using existing data, the team found 61 instances where a location in our genomes is associated with both elevated obesity and signs of good health, cardiovascular or otherwise.
[...] Combining all the past studies in these areas, the researchers were able to leverage a sample of hundreds of thousands of individuals.
To find the sorts of genes the team was interested in, the researchers had a simple criterion: the same area of the genome has to be associated with both one of the measures of obesity and one of the measures of metabolic or cardiovascular health. After doing the pairwise comparisons, the researchers checked whether any of the areas that came out of the analysis was associated with more than one measure (so, for example, health levels of both cholesterol and glucose).
[...] Overall, the researchers suggest these [sites] affect a variety of relevant processes. Some are upstream of fat deposition, such as insulin signaling and glucose control, and others seem to regulate the process of breaking fats back down. Still others seem to control how adipose tissue develops, the switch between white and brown fat, and the location where fat forms. None of those factors are especially surprising, but it's not necessarily predictable that they would influence things in a way that seems to limit the damage that is associated with fat accumulation.
[...] The value of this sort of study really lies elsewhere. While we know obesity is linked with a variety of health risks, those links are complex and poorly understood at the moment. Research like this could cut back on the unknowns and help us figure out ways in which we might separate obesity, which doesn't seem to be going away, from some of its consequences.
 Gordon I. Smith, Bettina Mittendorfer, Samuel Klein. Metabolically healthy obesity: facts and fantasies [open], The Journal of Clinical Investigation (DOI: 10.1172/JCI129186)
 Lam O. Huang, Alexander Rauch, Eugenia Mazzaferro, et al. Genome-wide discovery of genetic loci that uncouple excess adiposity from its comorbidities, Nature Metabolism (DOI: 10.1038/s42255-021-00346-2)
When Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and lawmakers in the Mississippi legislature got $1.2 billion in federal money from the first stimulus bill in March, they decided to do something different. They used a portion of the funds to supercharge the rollout of high-speed broadband to the most underserved areas of the state in an effort to close the digital divide.
They went to rural electric co-ops -- private, independent electric utilities owned by the members they serve -- many of which were left gobsmacked by the offer, according to David O'Bryan, general manager of Delta Electric Power Association, which now serves Carroll and Grenada counties with broadband. Many of these co-ops had been preparing to deploy networks but lacked the cash to begin a major project, especially in the most remote and sparsely populated parts of their territories.
The result has been an acceleration in broadband deployment that could make Mississippi one of the most connected states in the nation within the next five to six years. That's a huge leap for the state, which last year ranked 42 out of 50 in BroadbandNow's 2020 connectivity rankings. The Federal Communications Commission says that at least 35% of rural Mississippians lack access to broadband.
[...] While a majority of the state's 25 electric co-ops had already done feasibility studies and were preparing for their broadband rollout, the urgency level spiked once the coronavirus pandemic hit. It shuttered schools and forced students to learn remotely via the internet. It closed businesses, leaving those who had jobs that didn't require in-person contact to work remotely. It forced health care providers to accelerate the delivery of telehealth services to minimize exposure to the deadly virus.
"Literally overnight broadband became an essential service," O'Bryan said.
So when the federal government sent states their portion of the $2 trillion CARES Act relief funds, Mississippi lawmakers decided to set some aside for rural broadband deployment.
[...] In total, 15 electric co-ops ended up receiving $65 million in grants from the CARES Act. But in a Brewster's Millions-like twist, these co-ops had to agree to spend it by the end of the year. This was a tall order considering it gave these companies only six months to deploy their networks.
And so began a mad dash in Mississippi to deploy high-speed broadband.
[...] Barnes said that before the CARES Act money was allocated, the company's plan was to deploy fiber in its more densely populated suburban markets, where the company knew it could sign up more customers. This is a similar strategy to what for-profit broadband providers, like Google and Verizon, had done in other parts of the country.
[...] The federal grant dramatically changed its strategy and timeline.
[...] "Electric co-ops have a can-do attitude," he said. "We know how to cut through red tape." He said being owned by their customers forces co-ops to have a more service-oriented perspective.
"We know if we don't do a good job, they'll turn over our board and get someone else," he said. "It's a model that has worked for 80 years."
[...] Barnes said the deployment of the CARES Act money, coupled with the policy changes by the legislature, proves that electric co-ops are up to the challenge and will get the job done if given the chance.
"In five months, we did what the incumbent telecom providers hadn't done in their entire existence for these underserved communities," he said. "The faster lawmakers can get us the money, the faster we can build the networks and get the economy going."
What about deep, non-superficial thinkers?
When people pause before replying to a question, even for just a few seconds, their answers are perceived to be less sincere and credible than if they had replied immediately, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
And the longer the hesitation, the less sincere the response appears.
"Evaluating other people's sincerity is a ubiquitous and important part of social interactions," said lead author Ignazio Ziano, PhD, of Grenoble Ecole de Management. "Our research shows that response speed is an important cue on which people base their sincerity inferences."
The research was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Researchers conducted a series of experiments involving more than 7,500 individuals from the United States, the United Kingdom and France. Participants either listened to an audio snippet, viewed a video or read an account of a person responding to a simple question (e.g., did they like a cake a friend made or had they stolen money from work). In each scenario, the response time varied from immediate to a 10-second delay. Participants then rated the sincerity of the response on a sliding scale.
Across all 14 experiments, participants consistently rated delayed responses as less sincere regardless of the question, whether it was a harmless one about cake or a more serious one about committing a crime.
[...] The findings have wide implications, according to Ziano. "Whenever people are interacting, they are judging each other's sincerity. These results can be applied to a wide range of interactions, going from workplace chit-chat to couples and friends bickering," he said. "Further, in job interviews and in court hearings and trials, people are often tasked with judgments of sincerity. Here, too, response speed could play a part."
[...] The final experiment found that explicitly instructing participants to ignore delayed response reduced, but did not completely remove, the effect of delayed response on judgment of sincerity or guilt.
"Nevertheless, our research shows that, on the whole, a fast response seems to be perceived as more sincere, while a response that is delayed for even a couple of seconds may be considered a slow lie," said Ziano.
Ignazio Ziano, Deming WangSlow lies: Response delays promote perceptions of insincerity - PubMed, Journal of personality and social psychology (DOI: DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000250)
The Air Force has announced a new study into the tactical aviation requirements of future aircraft, dubbed TacAir. In the process of doing so, Air Force chief of staff General Charles Q. Brown finally admitted what's been obvious for years: The F-35 program has failed to achieve its goals. There is, at this point, little reason to believe it will ever succeed.
[...] To say the F-35 has failed to deliver on its goals would be an understatement. Its mission capable rate is 69 percent, below the 80 percent benchmark set by the military. 36 percent of the F-35 fleet is available for any required mission, well below the required 50 percent standard. Current and ongoing problems include faster than expected engine wear, transparency delamination of the cockpit, and unspecified problems with the F-35's power module. The General Accountability Office (GAO) has blamed some of this on spare parts shortages, writing:
[T]he F-35 supply chain does not have enough spare parts available to keep aircraft flying enough of the time necessary to meet warfighter requirements. "Several factors contributed to these parts shortages, including F-35 parts breaking more often than expected, and DOD's limited capability to repair parts when they break.
[...] Congress will have a voice in this discussion, so it's far from a done deal, but after over a decade mired in failure, someone at the DoD is willing, however quietly, to acknowledge that the F-35 will never perform the role it was supposed to play. As for how much it'll actually cost to build that 4.5th-generation fighter, all I'll say is this: The F-35 was pitched to Congress and the world as a way of saving money. Today, the lifetime cost of the aircraft program, including R&D, is estimated to be over $1.5 trillion. The price of a supposedly cheaper 4.5-generation plane could easily match or exceed the F-35's flyaway cost by the time all is said and done, though hopefully any future aircraft would still manage to offer a much lower cost per hour.
An important class of challenging computational problems, with applications in graph theory, neural networks, artificial intelligence, and error-correcting codes can be solved by multiplying light signals, according to researchers from the University of Cambridge and Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Russia.
In a paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, they propose a new type of computation that could revolutionize analog computing by dramatically reducing the number of light signals needed while simplifying the search for the best mathematical solutions, allowing for ultra-fast optical computers.
[...] Professor Natalia Berloff from Cambridge's Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and PhD student Nikita Stroev from Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology have found that optical systems can combine light by multiplying the wave functions describing the light waves instead of adding them and may represent a different type of connections between the light waves.
They illustrated this phenomenon with quasi-particles called polaritons – which are half-light and half-matter – while extending the idea to a larger class of optical systems such as light pulses in a fiber. Tiny pulses or blobs of coherent, superfast-moving polaritons can be created in space and overlap with one another in a nonlinear way, due to the matter component of polaritons.
"We found the key ingredient is how you couple the pulses with each other," said Stroev. "If you get the coupling and light intensity right, the light multiplies, affecting the phases of the individual pulses, giving away the answer to the problem. This makes it possible to use light to solve nonlinear problems."
[...] There are still many challenges to be met before optical computing can demonstrate its superiority in solving hard problems in comparison with modern electronic computers: noise reduction, error correction, improved scalability, guiding the system to the true best solution are among them.
"Changing our framework to directly address different types of problems may bring optical computing machines closer to solving real-world problems that cannot be solved by classical computers," said Berloff.
Nikita Stroev, Natalia G. Berloff. Discrete Polynomial Optimization with Coherent Networks of Condensates and Complex Coupling Switching, Physical Review Letters (DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.126.050504)
An Australian research consortium has successfully tested a next generation propulsion system that could enable high-speed flight and space launch services.
The team's rotating detonation engine, or RDE, is a major technical achievement and an Australian first.
It was designed by RMIT University engineers and is being developed by a consortium led by DefendTex, with researchers from RMIT, University of Sydney and Universität der Bundeswehr in Germany.
How it works
While conventional rocket engines operate by burning fuel at constant pressure, RDEs produce thrust by rapidly detonating their propellant in a ring-shaped combustor. Once started, the engine is in a self-sustaining cycle of detonation waves that travel around the combustor at supersonic speeds greater than 2.5km a second.
Using this type of combustion has the potential to significantly increase engine efficiency and performance, with applications in rocket propulsion and high-speed airbreathing engines—similar to ramjets.
Benefits over existing engines include better fuel efficiency, simpler flight systems and a more compact engine, allowing for larger payloads and reduced launch costs.
[...] Although this technology is in its early stages, further development could support satellite launches from Australian soil and commercial opportunities for Australia's space industry, while indirectly supporting telecommunications, agriculture, transport, logistics and other industries.
Cooling water levels have fallen in two reactors at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant since a powerful earthquake hit the area last weekend, indicating possible additional damage, its operator said Friday.
New damage could further complicate the plant's already difficult decommissioning process, which is expected to take decades.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Keisuke Matsuo said the drop in water levels in the Unit 1 and 3 reactors indicates that the existing damage to their primary containment chambers was worsened by Saturday's magnitude 7.3 quake, allowing more water to leak.
The leaked water is believed to have remained inside the reactor buildings and there is no sign of any outside impact, he said.
[...] Increased leakage could require more cooling water to be pumped into the reactors, which would result in more contaminated water that is treated and stored in huge tanks at the plant. TEPCO says its storage capacity of 1.37 million tons will be full next summer. A government panel's recommendation that it be gradually released into the sea has faced fierce opposition from local residents and a decision is still pending.
Meanwhile, the Tokyo High Court on Friday held the government as well as TEPCO accountable for the 2011 nuclear disaster, ordering both to pay about 280 million yen ($2.6 million) in compensation to more than 40 plaintiffs forced to evacuate to Chiba, near Tokyo, for their lost livelihoods and homes.
NOTE: Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami occurred on Friday, 11 March 2011
Historical information about the disaster is available on Wikipedia.
Called "Shadow attacks" by academics from Ruhr-University Bochum, the technique uses the "enormous flexibility provided by the PDF specification so that shadow documents remain standard-compliant."
The findings were presented yesterday at the Network and Distributed System Security Symposium (NDSS), with 16 of the 29 PDF viewers tested — including Adobe Acrobat, Foxit Reader, Perfect PDF, and Okular — found vulnerable to shadow attacks.
To carry out the attack, a malicious actor creates a PDF document with two different contents: one which is the content that's expected by the party signing the document, and the other, a piece of hidden content that gets displayed once the PDF is signed.
"The signers of the PDF receive the document, review it, and sign it," the researchers outlined. "The attackers use the signed document, modify it slightly, and send it to the victims. After opening the signed PDF, the victims check whether the digital signature was successfully verified. However, the victims see different content than the signers."
In the analog world, the attack is equivalent to deliberately leaving empty spaces in a paper document and getting it signed by the concerned party, ultimately allowing the counterparty to insert arbitrary content in the spaces.
Shadow attacks build upon a similar threat devised by the researchers in February 2019, which found that it was possible to alter an existing signed document without invalidating its signature, thereby making it possible to forge a PDF document.
[...] At its core, the attacks leverage "harmless" PDF features which do not invalidate the signature, such as "incremental update" that allows for making changes to a PDF (e.g., filling out a form) and "interactive forms" (e.g., text fields, radio buttons, etc.) to hide the malicious content behind seemingly innocuous overlay objects or directly replace the original content after it's signed.
A third variant called "hide and replace" can be used to combine the aforementioned methods and modify the contents of an entire document by simply changing the object references in the PDF.
See the original story for pictures which help explain the attack as well as the list of vulnerable applications and versions thereof on Windows, macOS, and Linux. Several other PDF vulnerabilities and corresponding CVEs are also listed.
The tiniest microchips yet can be made from graphene and other 2D-materials, using a form of ‘nano-origami’, physicists at the University of Sussex have found.
[...] By creating kinks in the structure of graphene, researchers at the University of Sussex have made the nanomaterial behave like a transistor, and have shown that when a strip of graphene is crinkled in this way, it can behave like a microchip, which is around 100 times smaller than conventional microchips.
Prof Alan Dalton in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex, said:
[...] “Using these nanomaterials will make our computer chips smaller and faster. It is absolutely critical that this happens as computer manufacturers are now at the limit of what they can do with traditional semiconducting technology. Ultimately, this will make our computers and phones thousands of times faster in the future.
“This kind of technology – “straintronics” using nanomaterials as opposed to electronics – allows space for more chips inside any device. Everything we want to do with computers – to speed them up – can be done by crinkling graphene like this.”
Manoj Tripathi, Frank Lee, Antonios Michail, et al. Structural Defects Modulate Electronic and Nanomechanical Properties of 2D Materials, ACS Nano (DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.0c06701)
Intravenous injection of bone marrow derived stem cells (MSCs) in patients with spinal cord injuries led to significant improvement in motor functions, researchers from Yale University and Japan report Feb. 18 in the Journal of Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery.
For more than half of the patients, substantial improvements in key functions -- such as ability to walk, or to use their hands -- were observed within weeks of stem cell injection, the researchers report. No substantial side effects were reported.
The patients had sustained, non-penetrating spinal cord injuries, in many cases from falls or minor trauma, several weeks prior to implantation of the stem cells. Their symptoms involved loss of motor function and coordination, sensory loss, as well as bowel and bladder dysfunction. The stem cells were prepared from the patients' own bone marrow, via a culture protocol that took a few weeks in a specialized cell processing center. The cells were injected intravenously in this series, with each patient serving as their own control. Results were not blinded and there were no placebo controls.1
[...] Kocsis and Waxman stress that additional studies will be needed to confirm the results of this preliminary, unblinded trial. They also stress that this could take years. Despite the challenges, they remain optimistic.
[...] "The idea that we may be able to restore function after injury to the brain and spinal cord using the patient's own stem cells has intrigued us for years," Waxman said. "Now we have a hint, in humans, that it may be possible."
1Given this information, can we really conclude anything from this study?
Intravenous Infusion of Auto Serum-expanded Autologous Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Spinal Cord Injury Patients: 13 Case Series [open], Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery (DOI: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2021.106565)
Internet sleuths claim to have decoded a hidden message displayed on the parachute that helped Nasa's Perseverance Rover land safely on Mars last week. They claim that the phrase "Dare mighty things" – used as a motto by Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory – was encoded on the parachute using a pattern representing letters as binary computer code.
Reddit users and social media posters on Twitter noticed that the red-and-white pattern on the parachute looked deliberate, and arrived at the result by using the red to represent the figure one, and the white to represent zero.
[...] The challenge had been set by Nasa itself. While the pattern has a scientific purpose – it allows mission control to see the angle the parachute has deployed at and whether it has got twisted – during a live stream discussing the landing, one Nasa commentator said: "Sometimes we leave messages in our work for others to find. So we invite you all to give it a shot and show your work."
Nasa has previously used the phrase in association with its Mars missions. In 2013 it issued a trailer video of the Curiosity rover mission entitled "Dare mighty things". The current mission has also used the phrase in tweets marking the successful landing.
[...] The company's technical director, Richard Crane, told the BBC: "It is an incredibly emotional moment, when you know that millions of people around the world are holding their breath, waiting for news of a successful touchdown, and that part of that success is down to the efforts of our fantastic team here in Tiverton."
Direct link to parachute deployment from NASA.
The Economic Security Project is trying to make a point about big tech monopolies by releasing a browser plugin that will block any sites that reach out to IP addresses owned by Google, Facebook, Microsoft, or Amazon. The extension is called Big Tech Detective, and after using the internet with it for a day (or, more accurately, trying and failing to use), I'd say it drives home the point that it's almost impossible to avoid these companies on the modern web, even if you try.
Currently, the app has to be side-loaded onto Chrome, and the Economic Security Project expects that will remain the case. It's also available to side-load onto Firefox. By default, it just keeps track of how many requests are sent, and to which companies. If you configure the extension to actually block websites, you'll see a big red popup if the website you're visiting sends a request to any of the four. That popup will also include a list of all the requests so you can get an idea of what's being asked for.
It's worth keeping in mind that just because a site reaches out to one or more of the big four tech companies, it doesn't mean that it's necessarily snooping or doing something nefarious. Many websites use fonts from Google Fonts, or host their sites using Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. That said, there are pages that connect to those IP addresses because they use trackers provided by one of the big four companies. The examples I'm about to list were selected because they're common sites, not necessarily because they should be shamed.
[...] Big Tech Detective isn't meant to keep your data private from these companies — it even says when it locks one of the pages that it isn't actually preventing the resources from loading, or collecting your data if that's their purpose. It's really meant as a visualization tool to show you that if you want to use the internet without relying on these companies, you're not going to have a good time. It does, however, let you somewhat recreate the experiment Gizmodo ran where one of its reporters tried to cut out the same four tech companies and Apple — and some technology from that work helps power this extension.