Covers the period:
2017-01-01 .. 2017-02-19
(SPIDs: [586..611]) --martyb
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One of Raspberry Pi's weaknesses is a lack of wireless technologies, which limits its communications capabilities with other devices. One new chipset from Qualcomm could help fill that gap.
The QCA4020 chipset packs in Bluetooth Low Energy 5, ZigBee 3.0, WiFi 802.11n, and OpenThread wireless communications protocols. The chipset is like a mini-developer board -- an integrated chipset with an ARM-based CPU. It can be used to create smart home or industrial devices. It can also serve as a wireless access point for Raspberry Pi and other developer boards used to make smart gadgets, drones, robots, and industrial devices. It has a number of connector protocols and can work with Arduino boards.
It'll work right out of the box, and gadget development is easy, said Joseph Bousaba, vice president of product management at Qualcomm. [...]"We are trying to make it as simple as possible to connect no matter what the radio is," Bousaba said.
The QCA4020 is one of the first development micro-boards based on new Bluetooth 5 protocol, which is two times faster and has quadruple the range of Bluetooth 4.2. Bluetooth 5 can transfer data at speeds of up to 2Mbps (bits per second) and has a range of more than 100 meters (109 yards).
[...] The QCA4020 chipset is also one of the few boards supporting OpenThread, which is an open-source take on Google's emerging Thread protocol. It is an adaptation from ZigBee, with a software stack that enables IP-based communication capabilities.
The QCA4020 has an integrated Cortex-M4 processor operating at 150Mhz, making it similar to Texas Instruments' $29 Launchpad Board and Nordic's nRF52840 Preview Development Kit, both of which have Bluetooth 5. But those boards don't include the wide range of radios like on Qualcomm's chipset.
[Ed Note - The RPi 3 does have Bluetooth 4.1 and WiFi 802.11n]
The universities watchdog is being asked to pursue websites advertising essay-writing services for students. Universities Minister Jo Johnson said he wanted "tough action" against the spread of plagiarism and the commercial industry it has spawned. The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) said hundreds of "essay mills" were charging up to £6,750 for writing a PhD dissertation. Mr Johnson said it could "undermine" the reputation of degrees from the UK.
[...] There were about 17,000 cases a year of "academic offences", it said, but there was no breakdown of how many of these involved students who had used essay writing services. Essay-writing websites often carry disclaimers suggesting the essays being sold should be used only as examples and not passed off as students' own work.
[...] Dame Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK, said: "Universities have severe penalties for students found to be submitting work that is not their own. "Such academic misconduct is a breach of an institution's disciplinary regulations and can result in students, in serious cases, being expelled from the university." This has been a longstanding problem - and a decade ago Google announced that it would stop running adverts from essay writing services, but such businesses can still be found through online searches.
A tiny snail may offer an alternative to opioids for pain relief. Scientists at the University of Utah have found a compound that blocks pain by targeting a pathway not associated with opioids. Research in rodents indicates that the benefits continue long after the compound have cleared the body. The findings were reported online in the February 20 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The opioid crisis has reached epidemic proportions. Opioids is[sic] highly addictive and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. The medical community is in need of alternative therapies that do not rely on the opioid pathways to relieve pain.
"Nature has evolved molecules that are extremely sophisticated and can have unexpected applications," begins Baldomera Olivera, Ph.D., professor in biology at the University of Utah. "We were interested in using venoms to understand different pathways in the nervous system."
Conus regius, a small marine cone snail common to the Caribbean Sea, packs a venomous punch, capable of paralyzing and killing its prey.
In this study, the researchers found that a compound isolated from snail's venom, Rg1A, acts on a pain pathway distinct from that targeted by opioid drugs. Using rodent models, the scientists showed that α9α10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) functions as a pain pathway receptor and that RgIA4 is an effective compound to block this receptor. The pathway adds to a small number of nonopioid-based pathways that could be further developed to treat chronic pain.
Interestingly, the duration of the pain relief is long, greatly outlasting the presence of the compound in the animal's system.
The compound works its way through the body in 4 hours, but the scientists found the beneficial effects lingered. "We found that the compound was still working 72 hours after the injection, still preventing pain," said J. Michael McIntosh, M.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah Health Sciences. The duration of the outcome may suggest that the snail compound has a restorative effect on some components of the nervous system.
"What is particularly exciting about these results is the aspect of prevention," said McIntosh. "Once chronic pain has developed, it is difficult to treat. This compound offers a potential new pathway to prevent pain from developing in the first place and offer a new therapy to patients who have run out of options."
The researchers will continue to the next step of pre-clinical testing to investigate the safety and effectiveness of a new drug therapy.
Inhibition of α9α10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors prevents chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain, PNAS, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1621433114
An Anonymous Coward writes:
As predicted by many (including posts here on SN), extensive testing now shows that if the driver's workload is reduced to near zero they are in no position to intervene should the autonomous system get in trouble.
The Detroit-based company has tried many ways to keep its engineers alert during autonomous car test runs, employing everything from alarm bells and lights to even putting a second engineer in the vehicle to monitor their counterpart. "No matter — the smooth ride was just too lulling and engineers struggled to maintain 'situational awareness,'" said Ford product development chief, Raj Nair.
Ford's strategy of eventually removing the steering wheel and pedals from self-driving cars has ignited a debate between automakers on how to approach the development of Level 3 self-driving vehicles, or if Level 3 should even exist at all.
BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi will introduce semi-autonomous Level 3 vehicles next year that require human intervention within 10 seconds or the vehicle will slow to a stop in its lane. However, other automakers like Nissan and Honda have upcoming systems that give the driver 30 seconds to prepare and re-engage the vehicle or it will pull to the side of the road.
The article continues with quotes from other manufacturers and US DOT. As a reminder, levels from 0 (no automation) through 5 have been defined by SAE. Level 3 is "conditional automation" and it's starting to look like this level is not such a good idea.
Planned new EU laws aimed at making online content more accessible to those that subscribe to it are closer to being finalised after a deal struck on the new rules earlier this month was endorsed by representatives of national governments across the EU.
At the beginning of February, the Maltese presidency of the Council of Ministers, on behalf of EU member state governments, together with European Parliament officials, confirmed they had "reached a provisional agreement" on new rules for cross-border portability of online content services.
At the moment, online consumers are often blocked from accessing services they have already paid for when they go on holiday or on business to another EU country, sometimes as a result of licensing restrictions. These restrictions on access to content, on a geographic basis, are sometimes referred to as the practice of "geo-blocking".
Under the new rules that have been provisionally agreed on, online service providers that charge consumers in the EU to access content such as music, TV shows, films and games will be required to ensure those consumers can access that content when they are temporarily present in another EU country. Content service providers will not be able to charge extra to provide for the portability of their services under the new framework.
The new rules are expected to come into force in 2018.
Two hackers who separately profited from stealing personal and financial data have been sentenced in the US. Sergey Vovnenko was jailed for 41 months for hijacking computers and selling stolen credit card numbers. Eric Taylor, who stole and then published sensitive information about celebrities and public figures, received three years' probation. Both were also involved in attacks on security researcher Brian Krebs, who exposed their online criminal activity.
Mr Krebs said Vovnenko was one of the administrators of a discussion forum that traded in stolen payment cards and personal data, in a blogpost reporting the sentencing. [...]As well as serving a 41-month sentence, Vovnenko will also be supervised for three years following his release and must pay compensation of $83,368 (£67,000).
Taylor was arrested in 2012 as part of a massive series of raids on criminal hacker groups around the world, co-ordinated by the FBI. Taylor was a member of a hacker group that published some of the stolen data exposing sensitive information about celebrities, prominent public figures and ordinary Americans.
22 teams of computer scientists have unveiled a set of algorithms able to predict the odor of different molecules based on their chemical structure. It remains to be seen how broadly useful such programs will be, but one hope is that such algorithms may help fragrancemakers and food producers design new odorants with precisely tailored scents.
This latest smell prediction effort began with a recent study by olfactory researcher Leslie Vosshall and colleagues at The Rockefeller University in New York City, in which 49 volunteers rated the smell of 476 vials of pure odorants. For each one, the volunteers labeled the smell with one of 19 descriptors, including "fish," "garlic," "sweet," or "burnt." They also rated each odor's pleasantness and intensity, creating a massive database of more than 1 million data points for all the odorant molecules in their study.
[...] The upshot is that even though the current study showed computers can predict which of 19 words people will use to describe this set of odors, it's not clear whether the same artificial intelligence programs would rise to the challenge if there were more categories.
Predicting human olfactory perception from chemical features of odor molecules (DOI: 10.1126/science.aal2014) (DX)
From the I've-heard-enough-and-won't-take-it-anymore department, http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39024648
The BBC reports that former Congressman Rush Holt, now part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), is the spokesman for a movement "standing up for science".
His remarks reflect growing concern among researchers that science is disregarded by President Trump.
Scientists across the US plan to march in DC on 22 April.
[...] "To see young scientists, older scientists, the general public speaking up for the idea of science. We are going to work with our members and affiliated organisations to see that this march for science is a success."
Mr Holt made his comments at the AAAS annual meting in Boston as President Trump appointed a fierce critic of the Environmental Protection Agency as its head. Scott Pruitt has spent years fighting the role and reach of the EPA.
Stanford researchers have improved a technique for drawing out uranium from seawater:
Trace amounts of uranium exist in seawater, but efforts to extract that critical ingredient for nuclear power have produced insufficient quantities to make it a viable source for those countries that lack uranium mines. A practical method for extracting that uranium, which produces higher quantities in less time, could help make nuclear power a viable part of the quest for a carbon-free energy future. "Concentrations are tiny, on the order of a single grain of salt dissolved in a liter of water," said Yi Cui, a materials scientist and co-author of a paper in Nature Energy. "But the oceans are so vast that if we can extract these trace amounts cost effectively, the supply would be endless."
[...] Scientists have long known that uranium dissolved in seawater combines chemically with oxygen to form uranyl ions with a positive charge. Extracting these uranyl ions involves dipping plastic fibers containing a compound called amidoxime into seawater. The uranyl ions essentially stick to the amidoxime. When the strands become saturated, the plastic is chemically treated to free the uranyl, which then has to be refined for use in reactors just like ore from a mine.
How practical this approach is depends on three main variables: how much uranyl sticks to the fibers; how quickly ions can be captured; and how many times the fibers can be reused. In the recent work, the Stanford researchers improved on all three variables: capacity, rate and reuse. Their key advance was to create a conductive hybrid fiber incorporating carbon and amidoxime. By sending pulses of electricity down the fiber, they altered the properties of the hybrid fiber so that more uranyl ions could be collected.
A half-wave rectified alternating current electrochemical method for uranium extraction from seawater (DOI: 10.1038/nenergy.2017.7) (DX)
The Belfast Telegraph reports on the Spaceflight Bill, proposed legislation that is to be put before Parliament this week.
The government issued a statement on the proposed legislation. According to the statement, Britain could build space-ports on its own territory "by 2020."
[What, if any, advantages are there for launching from Britain vs a location in the Caribbean? -Ed.]
More organs have become available for transplant in British Columbia, Canada, due to a rise in drug overdoses:
After a brutal year where more than 900 people died of drug overdoses in British Columbia, doctors are pointing to one morbid upside. It might sound like something out of a dystopian horror comic, where drug users are wiped out and harvested for organs. New stats released by the health agency responsible for organ transplants show that's not exactly a far-off nightmare anymore. Health officials have noticed a significant uptick in organ donor deaths, and say that fentanyl is likely playing a role. According to BC Transplant, the number of organ donors in the first weeks of 2017 has doubled over this time last year, from 10 to 20. That's resulted in 59 transplants, up from 37 organs over the same period in 2016.
[...] "We started tracking the connection between fentanyl and organ donation more closely at the start of 2017, and fentanyl has been a contributing factor in about a quarter of our donors so far this year." BC Transplant's statement cautions against drawing conclusions based on a small amount of recent data. But long term trends show the proportion of organ donors dying from overdose has gone up steadily over many years. Back in 2013, 7.5 percent of organ donors tested positive for drugs. In 2016, that number rose to 22.7 percent.
Previously: Opioid Addiction is Big Business
Obama Administration Expands Access to Suboxone Treatment
DEA Welcomes Kratom to the Schedule I List Beginning September 30
Heroin, Fentanyl? Meh: Carfentanil is the Latest Killer Opioid
The Calm Before the Kratom Ban
NASA will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. EST Wednesday, Feb. 22, to present new findings on planets that orbit stars other than our sun, known as exoplanets. The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website. Details of these findings are embargoed by the journal Nature until 1 p.m.
The Guardian writes:
The high court in New Zealand has ruled Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom can be extradited to the United States to face a multitude of charges including money laundering and copyright breaches. US authorities had appealed for Dotcom's extradition to face 13 charges including allegations of conspiracy to commit racketeering, copyright infringement, money laundering and wire fraud.
The German national, who has permanent residency in New Zealand, faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted in the US of piracy, which authorities say cost copyright owners hundreds of millions of dollars. It is nearly five years since Dotcom, a self-described "internet freedom fighter", was arrested in a dramatic police raid on his mansion near Auckland after the FBI shut down Megaupload's servers.
The ruling is confusing because the charges which allow for extradition are different between NZ and the US. From CNN:
Although the four men are accused by U.S. authorities of profiting from copyright infringement through the file-sharing website, the High Court acknowledged Monday that there's no relevant criminal offense under New Zealand's copyright law.
Instead, the court found that Dotcom and his associates were eligible for extradition under conspiracy to defraud and potentially other serious crimes.
Also at pcworld.
Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard
Twitter has launched a new way to punish users for bad behavior, temporarily "limiting" their account.
Some users are receiving notices their accounts are limited for 12 hours, meaning only people who follow them can see their tweets or receive notifications. When they are retweeted, people outside their network can't see those retweets.
Some speculate these limitations are automatic based on keywords, but there is no hard evidence.
This would be fine if this was used uniformly to clamp down on harassment, but it appears to be used on people, simply for using politically incorrect language.
A federal judge has ordered (PDF) Cox Communications to pay a bruising $8 million in legal fees to BMG Rights Management after the ISP lost a landmark case over Internet piracy.
The legal case began in 2014, when music publishers BMG and Round Hill Music took the long-threatened step of actually suing a major Internet provider for its users' infringement, saying that Cox didn't do enough to stop the piracy. BMG and Round Hill were both clients of Rightscorp, an anti-piracy outfit that produces millions of e-mail notices to consumers alleged to have infringed its clients' copyrights by using BitTorrent software. Rightscorp warns ISPs that if they don't forward the notices to subscribers, they're risking a massive lawsuit.
Turns out, in this case, the threat was real. After a year of litigation, the case went to trial in December 2015. Before the trial, the judge had already ruled that Cox unlawfully blew off key provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and so wasn't protected by its "safe harbor" against litigation. The jury found against Cox and ordered the cable company to pay $25 million. That result is now on appeal, but in the meantime, US District Judge Liam O'Grady considered various post-trial motions, including one in which BMG requested legal fees.
O'Grady chose to award BMG $8.38 million in attorneys' fees, which is 80 percent of what the company asked for. BMG's motion for "nontaxable expenses" like travel expenses and expert witness fees, which asked for nearly $3 million, was denied. BMG's request for court costs such as transcripts, copies, and filing fees was granted, with the judge finally arriving at $146,790.76 after making various deductions.
A rare alliance of Democratic and Republican members of the US Congress could lead to increased restrictions on how police officers can deploy so-called Stingray cell phone trackers. These devices are regularly used to investigate suspected criminals, but the nature of the system means a lot of innocent Americans are caught up in the dragnet. This bill would force police to get warrants before using Stingrays.
The legislation was introduced Wednesday, and is called the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act. Congress does love its clever acronyms. The bill was sponsored by unlikely allies Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich). That means essentially the same bill exists in the House and Senate, which both need to pass the legislation before it can become a law.
[...] Police have long maintained that the use of Stingrays does not constitute a "search," and as such does not require a warrant. The GPS bill seeks to force warrants before a Stingray could be used. That wouldn't stop Stingrays from being used in the US, of course. However, it would vastly reduce the frequency.
[...] If the bill is passed by Congress, it's up to President Trump to sign it. If law enforcement groups oppose it, he may decline to do so.