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What was highest label on your first car speedometer?

  • 80 mph
  • 88 mph
  • 100 mph
  • 120 mph
  • 150 mph
  • it was in kph like civilized countries use you insensitive clod
  • Other (please specify in comments)

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:68 | Votes:280

posted by janrinok on Wednesday April 17, @10:58PM   Printer-friendly
from the wash-rinse-repeat dept.

Over the weekend, developer Mattia La Spina launched iGBA as one of the first retro game emulators legitimately available on the iOS App Store following Apple's rules change regarding such emulators earlier this month. As of Monday morning, though, iGBA has been pulled from the App Store following controversy over the unauthorized reuse of source code from a different emulator project.

[...] Testut took to social media Sunday morning to call iGBA a "knock-off" of GBA4iOS. "I did not give anyone permission to do this, yet it's now sitting at the top of the charts (despite being filled with ads + tracking)," he wrote.

[...] "To be clear, I'm not pissed at the developer [of iGBA]," Testut added on social media. "I'm pissed that Apple took the time to change the App Store rules to allow emulators and then approved a knock-off of my own app."

[...] But Testut did have some hard feelings regarding Apple's treatment of AltStore, an alternative marketplace for sideloading iOS apps that he's trying to launch under the EU's new regulations. That would provide Testut with a legitimate way to distribute Delta, a "sequel" to GBA4iOS that emulates many classic Nintendo consoles on Apple devices.

"My frustration stemmed entirely from the fact we've been ready to launch Delta since last month," Tetstut wrote on social media. "This whole situation could've been avoided if Apple hadn't delayed approving us until after changing their rules to allow emulators."

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday April 17, @06:13PM   Printer-friendly

Researchers still disagree on what causes rare and large "rogue waves," which can damage ships, lighthouses, and other structures. Now, using combined measurements of wave heights and wind speed in an oceanic region known for its rough seas, a research team has demonstrated that wind can produce the wave conditions expected to lead to rogue waves [1]. Previously, this idea was demonstrated only in laboratory experiments. The researchers hope this new understanding will contribute to the development of methods for predicting this dangerous phenomenon.

There is no consensus on what causes rogue waves in the ocean, says Alessandro Toffoli, an expert in infrastructure engineering at the University of Melbourne, Australia. One prominent view is that oceanic rogue waves occur purely through a statistical effect: although waves typically follow a "normal," or Gaussian, distribution, with heights strongly clustering around an average, a fortuitous convergence of many such waves can occasionally produce a very large wave.

In contrast, laboratory experiments and theoretical models suggest that, under the right conditions, nonlinear ocean dynamics can amplify waves, making the distribution of wave heights depart from a Gaussian. The distribution can spread out, giving large waves higher probabilities than in a Gaussian distribution. Unfortunately, says Toffoli, no study has yet observed such increased numbers of larger waves in the ocean. "So this idea has mostly been dismissed as unrealistic," he says. "Are there rogue sea states where rogue waves thrive? The answer to this remains elusive."

To look for such states, Toffoli and colleagues undertook an expedition in the Southern Ocean, a region around Antarctica known for strong winds and large waves. The team made measurements from a South African icebreaker in the austral winter, in June and July 2017. During the voyage, the researchers used a stereo pair of cameras to map the water surface height and measure the statistical characteristics of the waves viewed off one side of the ship. Alongside these measurements, they collected data on local atmospheric conditions, including wind speed.

[...] The team estimated the kurtosis, a statistical measure of the wave size distribution's departure from a Gaussian. The higher the kurtosis, the more likely are extra-large waves, including rogue waves. In the wind-driven young seas, with slow, strongly driven waves, the researchers found a kurtosis of 3.4, well above the 3.0 value characteristic of seas with a Gaussian distribution of waves. In older seas, the distribution returned to a Gaussian. This observation suggests that the action of strong winds during early stages of wave growth can stir nonlinear ocean dynamics, leading to a strongly non-Gaussian distribution of waves and more frequent rogue waves.


  1. A. Toffoli et al., "Observations of rogue seas in the Southern Ocean," Phys. Rev. Lett. 132, 154101 (2024).

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday April 17, @01:32PM   Printer-friendly

I decided to try my hand at decoding these GPS signals, guided by the vague end-goal of plucking out my position from peanuts. I learned that the GPS signals that facilitate our mapping apps are ever-present, around us at any altitude, in any weather conditions, at all times.

This sounds cool in the abstract, but the tangible reality is staggering. These signals are all around me as I write this. They're all around you as you read it. The world is soaked in these whispers, repeating themselves endlessly for anyone willing to listen.

You can find out exactly where you are, from thin air, anywhere at any time, by learning to speak the language of the electromagnetic waves flowing over your skin. These waves have been a constant and quiet companion for most people's entire lives.

[...] All that said, it's not as though there's a cacophony of navigation data swarming around you, deafening if you could just hear it. In reality, the GPS signals surrounding you are astoundingly weak. To take an analogy: imagine a normal light bulb, like the one that might be above you now. Pull it twenty thousand kilometers away from the room you're in, and have it flash, on, off, on, off, a million times a second. Imagine straining your eye to watch the shimmer of the bulb, two Earths away, and listen to what it's telling you.

[Ed's Comment: Links to subsequent parts of this series are included in the source article]

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday April 17, @08:48AM   Printer-friendly

Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:

Electric vehicles may become a new front in America's tech war with China after a US senator called for Washington DC to block Chinese-made EVs to protect domestic industries and national security.

Sherrod Brown, senator for Ohio and chair of the Senate Banking Committee, penned a letter to President Biden, claiming "there are currently no Chinese EVs for sale in the United States, and we must keep it that way."

He warned that "Chinese EVs, highly subsidized by the Chinese government, could decimate our domestic automakers, harm American workers, and give China access to sensitive personal data," insisting the US government must ban Chinese-made EVs as soon as possible, calling it "a matter of economic and national security."

The move comes as the dispute between the two economic superpowers over technology rumbles on, with the US last week sanctioning four more Chinese companies, claiming they were involved with providing chips for accelerating AI to China's military and intelligence users.

Among those added to the Entity List maintained by the US Department of Commerce was Sitonholy (Tianjin) Co, understood to be one of the largest distribution channels for Nvidia's datacenter products in China, thus cutting off supplies of Nvidia GPUs to many Chinese companies.

[...] The number of Chinese cars purchased by US customers is understood to be very low as these are subject to an extra 25 percent tariff on top of the regular 2.5 percent import duty that DC applies to imported vehicles.

However, Senator Brown notes in his letter that BYD already sells an electric hatchback named the "Seagull" for the equivalent of less than $10,000. This compares with the $28,140 that has been reported as the starting price of the current cheapest electric car available in the US, the 2024 Nissan LEAF S.

There is also a national security twist as Senator Brown claims that data collected by the sensors and cameras in Chinese EVs could pose a threat. "China does not allow American-made electric vehicles near their official buildings. To allow their vehicles freedom to travel throughout the United States would be foolish and highly dangerous," he stated.

Senator Brown also claims in his letter that nearly 20 percent of all electric vehicles sold in Europe during 2023 were made in China, citing this as a cautionary example.

The European Commission last year announced an investigation into subsidies in the Chinese EV industry, but there are said to be misgivings in Germany and elsewhere that a ban on Chinese EVs could backfire, with Beijing retaliating by locking Western carmakers out of the lucrative China market entirely.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday April 17, @04:03AM   Printer-friendly

Bridge Collapses After Just 10 Years Because Designers Were Too Focused On Looks:

After just 10 years in use, a Norwegian bridge collapsed into a river and left two drivers in need of rescue.

The Tretten Bridge in the Øyer area of southern Norway collapsed in 2022 after a heavy goods vehicle attempted to cross it. Now, an inquiry into the collapse of the bridge over the Gudbrandsdalslågen river has found that it failed because its designers spent too long making sure it looked nice and not enough time ensuring it worked as a bridge, reports Dezeen.

Designers of the bridge, which was opened in 2012, were accused of "inadequate caution" in the development of the span. As Dezeen explains:

"The investigation has shown that inadequate caution was exercised in the planning, design, inspection and approval of Tretten Bridge, with respect to the risk factors linked to its unconventional design," the report said.

"A short construction period, span lengths and reuse of existing foundation were framework conditions for the planning of the bridge," it continued.

"These framework conditions, combined with the choice of material and a strong focus on aesthetics, contributed to the structure not being robust."

[...] During the bridge's design and build process, Norway was transitioning from its own, older building regulations to new European rules governing bridge design.

At this time, projects in progress were permitted to work to the older regulations, and that's exactly what the team behind the Tretten Bridge followed. The investigation touched on this as well, stating that "all the involved parties can be criticized" for their decision to work within outdated frameworks.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Tuesday April 16, @11:40PM   Printer-friendly
from the re-key-your-locks-asap dept.

PuTTY vulnerability vuln-p521-bias:

summary: NIST P521 private keys are exposed by biased signature generation
class: vulnerability: This is a security vulnerability.
priority: high: This should be fixed in the next release.
absent-in: 0.67
present-in: 0.68 0.69 0.70 0.71 0.72 0.73 0.74 0.75 0.76 0.77 0.78 0.79 0.80
fixed-in: c193fe9848f50a88a4089aac647fecc31ae96d27 (0.81)

Every version of the PuTTY tools from 0.68 to 0.80 inclusive has a critical vulnerability in the code that generates signatures from ECDSA private keys which use the NIST P521 curve. (PuTTY, or Pageant, generates a signature from a key when using it to authenticate you to an SSH server.)

This vulnerability has been assigned CVE-2024-31497. It was discovered by Fabian Bäumer and Marcus Brinkmann of the Ruhr University Bochum; see their write-up on the oss-security mailing list.

The bad news: the effect of the vulnerability is to compromise the private key. An attacker in possession of a few dozen signed messages and the public key has enough information to recover the private key, and then forge signatures as if they were from you, allowing them to (for instance) log in to any servers you use that key for. To obtain these signatures, an attacker need only briefly compromise any server you use the key to authenticate to, or momentarily gain access to a copy of Pageant holding the key. (However, these signatures are not exposed to passive eavesdroppers of SSH connections.)

Therefore, if you have a key of this type, we recommend you revoke it immediately: remove the old public key from all OpenSSH authorized_keys files, and the equivalent in other SSH servers, so that a signature from the compromised key has no value any more. Then generate a new key pair to replace it.

(The problem is not with how the key was originally generated; it doesn't matter whether it came from PuTTYgen or somewhere else. What matters is whether it was ever used with PuTTY or Pageant.)

The good news: the only affected key type is 521-bit ECDSA. That is, a key that appears in Windows PuTTYgen with ecdsa-sha2-nistp521 at the start of the 'Key fingerprint' box, or is described as 'NIST p521' when loaded into Windows Pageant, or has an id starting ecdsa-sha2-nistp521 in the SSH protocol or the key file. Other sizes of ECDSA, and other key algorithms, are unaffected. In particular, Ed25519 is not affected.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Tuesday April 16, @06:57PM   Printer-friendly
from the all-the-little-moths-go-click-click-click dept.

In engineering, the buckling of a structure, such as a bridge, often preempts its catastrophic failure. In nature, however, buckling can be a positive feature, providing a structure with new capabilities. For example, the buckling of ridge-like structures on the wings of an ermine moth can generate bursts of ultrasonic clicks that can deter predators. Now scientists from the University of Bristol, UK, have explained how this mechanism works. This finding provides insights for bio-inspired designs of soft robots, acoustics-based monitoring devices for the structural health of buildings, and objects that can morph from one shape into another.

Moths have long been known to possess sound-based mechanisms to deter predators that use echolocation to detect prey. For example, a tiger moth can snap sound-producing organs (tymbals) located in its thorax to create ultrasonic clicks that deter bats. Ermine moths, of which there are several hundred species, produce defensive sounds in a different way.

The tymbals of an ermine moth are in its wings. These structures produce two bursts of ultrasonic clicks in each wingbeat cycle—one during the upstroke and one during the downstroke. The clicks have the right frequency to confuse the echolocation abilities of a nearby bat, making the bat think the moth is unpalatable. The clicks thus provide an ermine moth with a passive acoustic defense system that becomes active whenever it is in flight. "These insects don't have ears, so they don't know that they're producing this sound," says Marc Holderied, one of the researchers on the study. "Evolution has equipped them with this fantastic tool in their wings that protects them against bats, and they don't even know about it."

[...] The experiments and simulations indicate that curvature changes in the hindwings during the wingbeat cycle caused the tymbals to buckle sequentially. This buckling excites vibrations in a neighboring region of the wing that is free of scales and feathers. This excitation then amplifies the vibrations, which have ultrasonic frequencies, radiating them into the environment. Holderied likens the process to that which occurs during a rim shot—a percussive drumming technique that involves simultaneously hitting the rim and the head of a drum. He says that the sequential clicks are essentially a series of rim shots, which use the drumhead to amplify the sounds of the rim being hit, allowing them to be heard farther away.

Journal Reference:
H. M. Nava et al., "Buckling-induced sound production in the aeroelastic tymbals of Yponomeuta," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 121 (2024). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2313549121

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday April 16, @02:10PM   Printer-friendly

We wonder why Microsoft hinders third-party software in this way?

Tools for customizing the Windows interface have been available for decades. Some publishers, such as Stardock, have even made a specialty of these applications, which adjust the appearance as much as the functionality of Microsoft's operating system. Whether we're talking about Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 10 or Windows 11, no version has escaped this customization craze. However, Microsoft seems intent on annoying users of some of these programs with its next update for Windows 11, 24H2.

The Neowin site has reported a major change to applications such as StartAllBack and ExplorerPatcher, which will no longer work when the Windows 11 24H2 update is applied. [...] According to users who have come across this incompatibility,ExplorerPatcher 's blocking is due to "security and performance issues ". Indeed, when the application is launched on Windows 11 24H2, the system returns the following message: "This app can't run because it causes security or performance issues on Windows. A new version may be available. Check with your software provider for an updated version that runs on this version of Windows ".

[...] What's most surprising is that Microsoft has simply blocked these applications via their filenames. In fact, simply renaming the .exe to something else is enough to get them working again without any problem. Could it be that Microsoft has blocked these two applications because of real problems with Windows 11 24H2? Was the blocking put in place for some other reason? One thing is certain, however: while Windows 11 is still struggling to establish itself, particularly in the face of Windows 10, this kind of "publicity" is not working in its favor.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday April 16, @09:27AM   Printer-friendly
from the funny-how-50-million-units-shipped-is-a-"slump" dept.

Apple shipped 50.1 million iPhones in the first three months, according to IDC's preliminary figures, falling shy of an average of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg of 51.7 million units for the period:

Apple Inc.'s iPhone shipments slid a worse-than-projected 10% in the March quarter, reflecting flagging sales in China despite a broader smartphone industry rebound.

The company shipped 50.1 million iPhones in the first three months, according to market tracker IDC, falling shy of the 51.7 million average analyst estimate compiled by Bloomberg. The 9.6% year-on-year drop is the steepest for Apple since Covid lockdowns snarled supply chains in 2022, the researchers said.

The Cupertino, California-based iPhone maker has struggled to sustain sales in China since the debut of its latest model in September. The resurgence of rivals from Huawei Technologies Co. to Xiaomi Corp. and a Beijing ban on foreign devices in the workplace have all weighed on sales. The IDC data provides the first snapshot of the global performance of Apple's most important product ahead of earnings on May 2.

[...] The drop in iPhone shipments is significant given the overall mobile market registered its best growth in years.

[...] Average selling prices for handsets are rising, as consumers increasingly opt for premium models that they intend to hold on to for longer, IDC's researchers found. Apple, which consistently maintains the highest ASP in the industry, has led the way in this, with consumers showing a distinct preference for its higher-tier models. Still, the company has this year resorted to unusual discounts to spur sales, with some retail partners in China taking as much as $180 off the regular price.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday April 16, @04:42AM   Printer-friendly
from the internal-combustion-for-the-win? dept.

Tesla has announced layoffs of "more than 10%" of its global workforce in an internal company-wide email:

For the last few months, it has looked like Tesla might be preparing for a round of layoffs. Tesla told managers to identify critical team members, and paused some stock rewards while canceling some employees' annual reviews. It also reduced production at Gigafactory Shanghai.

Then, over the weekend, we heard rumors that these layoffs were about to happen, which came to us from multiple independent sources, as we reported on yesterday. The rumors indicated that layoffs could be as high as 20%, and in addition we heard that Tesla would shorten Cybertruck production shifts at Gigafactory Texas (despite CEO Elon Musk's recent insistence that Cybertruck is currently production constrained).

Now those rumors have been confirmed – though with a lower number – in a company-wide email sent by Musk, which leaked soon after it was sent.

[...] The news follows a bad quarterly delivery report in which Tesla significantly missed delivery estimates, and had a rare year-over-year reduction in sales. While Tesla does not break out sales by geographical region, the main dip seems to have come from China, where Chinese EV makers are ramping quickly both in the domestic and export market.

Full text of email available at TFA.

Previously: Tesla is Reportedly Planning Layoffs

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday April 15, @11:51PM   Printer-friendly

Researchers have tracked muscle contractions in a bird's vocal tract, and reconstructed the song it was silently singing in its sleep. The resulting audio is a very specific call, allowing the team to figure out what the bird's dream was about.

When birds sleep, the part of their brains dedicated to daytime singing remains active, showing patterns that resemble those produced while awake. Researchers from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) previously demonstrated that these brain patterns activate a bird's vocal muscles, enabling them to silently 'replay' a song during sleep.

But, until now, it hasn't been possible to map how that nocturnal activity gets processed. In their new study, the UBA researchers turned the vocal muscle movements made during avian dreaming into synthetic songs.

"Dreams are one of the most intimate and elusive parts of our existence," said Gabriel Mindlin, a specialist in the physical mechanisms behind birdsong and corresponding author of the study. "Knowing that we share this with such a distant species is very moving. And the possibility of entering the mind of a dreaming bird – listening to how that dream sounds – is a temptation impossible to resist."

A bird's vocal sounds are made by a unique organ only they possess, the syrinx. Located at the base of the windpipe (trachea), passing air causes some or all of the organ's walls to vibrate, while a surrounding air sac acts like a resonating chamber. The pitch of the sound produced depends on the tension surrounding muscles exert on the syrinx and the airways.

[...] Custom-made electromyography (EMG) electrodes were implanted in the birds to measure the muscle response and electrical activity in the obliquus ventralis muscle, the most prominent muscle producing the kiskadee's birdsong. EMG and birdsong audio were recorded simultaneously while the birds were awake and asleep. An existing dynamical systems model of the kiskadee's sound production mechanism was used to translate the information into synthetic songs. In basic terms, a dynamical systems model breaks down what occurs in the syrinx when sound is produced into a series of mathematical equations.

[...] Analyzing muscular activity during sleep revealed consistent activity patterns corresponding to the trills produced by kiskadees during daytime territorial fights. Interestingly, the 'dreaming trills' were associated with raised head feathers, the same as during the daytime. The researchers created a synthetic version of one of the trills from the data they'd collected.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday April 15, @07:06PM   Printer-friendly

No patch yet for unauthenticated code-execution bug in Palo Alto Networks firewall:

Highly capable hackers are rooting multiple corporate networks by exploiting a maximum-severity zero-day vulnerability in a firewall product from Palo Alto Networks, researchers said Friday.

The vulnerability, which has been under active exploitation for at least two weeks now, allows the hackers with no authentication to execute malicious code with root privileges, the highest possible level of system access, researchers said. The extent of the compromise, along with the ease of exploitation, has earned the CVE-2024-3400 vulnerability the maximum severity rating of 10.0. The ongoing attacks are the latest in a rash of attacks aimed at firewalls, VPNs, and file-transfer appliances, which are popular targets because of their wealth of vulnerabilities and direct pipeline into the most sensitive parts of a network.

The zero-day is present in PAN-OS 10.2, PAN-OS 11.0, and/or PAN-OS 11.1 firewalls when they are configured to use both the GlobalProtect gateway and device telemetry. Palo Alto Networks has yet to patch the vulnerability but is urging affected customers to follow the workaround and mitigation guidance provided here. The advice includes enabling Threat ID 95187 for those with subscriptions to the company's Threat Prevention service and ensuring vulnerability protection has been applied to their GlobalProtect interface. When that's not possible, customers should temporarily disable telemetry until a patch is available.

Volexity, the security firm that discovered the zero-day attacks, said that it's currently unable to tie the attackers to any previously known groups. However, based on the resources required and the organizations targeted, they are "highly capable" and likely backed by a nation-state. So far, only a single threat group—which Volexity tracks as UTA0218—is known to be leveraging the vulnerability in limited attacks. The company warned that as new groups learn of the vulnerability, CVE-2024-3400, is likely to come under mass exploitation, just as recent zero-days affecting products from the likes of Ivanti, Atlassian, Citrix, and Progress have in recent months.

[...] The earliest attacks Volexity has seen took place on March 26 in what company researchers suspect was UTA0218 testing the vulnerability by placing zero-byte files on firewall devices to validate exploitability. On April 7, the researchers observed the group trying unsuccessfully to install a backdoor on a customer's firewall. Three days later, the group's attacks were successfully deploying malicious payloads. Since then, the threat group has deployed custom, never-before-seen post-exploitation malware. The backdoor, which is written in the Python language, allows the attackers to use specially crafted network requests to execute additional commands on hacked devices.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday April 15, @02:23PM   Printer-friendly

Tesla Model 3 Traps TikToker Inside 115-Degree Car During A Software Update:

Tesla warns owners that opening their doors or windows while installing a software update could damage the vehicle, so she stayed put

According to the Tesla owner's manual, "Vehicle functions, including some safety systems and opening or closing the doors or windows, may be limited or disabled when installation is in progress and you could damage the vehicle." Janel chose to heed Tesla's warning and did not attempt to open her doors or windows during the installation process for fear of damaging her vehicle, but this seems like a very dangerous oversight on Tesla's part that she was able to be stuck inside at all.

The door mechanisms on the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y are electrically operated, and under normal circumstances are opened from the inside using a simple button to unlatch the door. Should the vehicle have no power, these models do have auxiliary manual cable release levers also found on the door panel, but Tesla warns against using the manual mechanism, citing that it should only be used when the car has no power. Janel said she was aware of this option but didn't want to risk damaging her car, and she felt confident that she could stick out the heat.

In contrast to Tesla's potentially dangerous warnings, Lucid Motors requires all occupants to exit the vehicle before the installation process begins, and the Lucid Air owners manual states that owners will not be able to lock or unlock the doors during an update. The Air will start a two-minute countdown when an owner chooses to install an update, giving them enough time to get out prior to the update beginning.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Monday April 15, @09:37AM   Printer-friendly
from the hug-your-local-robot dept.

Human hugs > robot hugs > no hugs

A systematic review and multivariate meta-analysis of the physical and mental health benefits of touch interventions:

The sense of touch has immense importance for many aspects of our life. It is the first of all the senses to develop in newborns and the most direct experience of contact with our physical and social environment. Complementing our own touch experience, we also regularly receive touch from others around us, for example, through consensual hugs, kisses or massages.

The recent coronavirus pandemic has raised awareness regarding the need to better understand the effects that touch—and its reduction during social distancing—can have on our mental and physical well-being. The most common touch interventions, for example, massage for adults or kangaroo care for newborns, have been shown to have a wide range of both mental and physical health benefits, from facilitating growth and development to buffering against anxiety and stress, over the lifespan of humans and animals alike. [...]

A critical issue highlighted in the pandemic was the lack of touch due to social restrictions. To accommodate the need for touch in individuals with small social networks (for example, institutionalized or isolated individuals), touch interventions using objects/robots have been explored in the past (for a review, see ref. 11). We show here that touch interactions outside of the human–human domain are beneficial for mental and physical health outcomes. [...]

[...] In conclusion, we show clear evidence that touch interventions are beneficial across a large number of both physical and mental health outcomes, for both healthy and clinical cohorts, and for all ages. These benefits, while influenced in their magnitude by study cohorts and intervention characteristics, were robustly present, promoting the conclusion that touch interventions can be systematically employed across the population to preserve and improve our health.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Monday April 15, @04:52AM   Printer-friendly
from the suprising-citrate-synthase-Sierpinski-self-similarity dept.

An international team of researchers led by groups from the Max Planck Institute in Marburg and the Philipps University in Marburg has stumbled upon the first regular molecular fractal in nature. They discovered a microbial enzyme—citrate synthase from a cyanobacterium—that spontaneously assembles into a pattern known as the Sierpinski triangle. Electron microscopy and evolutionary biochemistry studies indicate that this fractal may represent an evolutionary accident.

The study is published in Nature.

Snowflakes, fern leaves, romanesco cauliflower heads: many structures in nature have a certain regularity. Their individual parts resemble the shape of the whole structure. Such shapes, which repeat from the largest to the smallest, are called fractals. But regular fractals that match almost exactly across scales, as in the examples above, are very rare in nature.

Molecules also have a certain regularity. But if you look at them from a great distance, you can no longer see any signs of this. Then you see smooth matter whose features no longer match those of the individual molecules. The degree of fine structure we see depends on our magnification—in contrast to fractals, where self-similarity persists at all scales. In fact, regular fractals at the molecular level are completely unknown in nature.

This is somewhat surprising. After all, molecules can assemble themselves into all sorts of wonderful shapes. Scientists have extensive catalogues of self-assembled complex molecular structures. However, there has never been a regular fractal among them. It turns out that almost all regular-looking self-assemblies lead to the kind of regularity that becomes smooth on large scales.

An international team of researchers led by groups from the Max Planck Institute in Marburg and Phillips University in Marburg has now discovered the first regular molecular fractal in nature. They discovered a microbial enzyme—citrate synthase from a cyanobacterium—that spontaneously assembles into a regular fractal pattern known as the Sierpiński triangle. This is an infinitely repeating series of triangles made up of smaller triangles.

"We stumbled on this structure completely by accident and almost couldn't believe what we saw when we first took images of it using an electron microscope," says first author Franziska Sendker.

"The protein makes these beautiful triangles and as the fractal grows, we see these larger and larger triangular voids in the middle of them, which is totally unlike any protein assembly we've ever seen before," she continues.

Journal Reference:
Sendker, F.L., Lo, Y.K., Heimerl, T. et al. Emergence of fractal geometries in the evolution of a metabolic enzyme. Nature (2024).

Original Submission