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"We are sidestepping all of the scientific challenges that have held fusion energy back for more than half a century," says the director of an Australian company that claims its hydrogen-boron fusion technology is already working a billion times better than expected.
HB11 Energy is a spin-out company that originated at the University of New South Wales, and it announced today a swag of patents through Japan, China and the USA protecting its unique approach to fusion energy generation.
Fusion, of course, is the long-awaited clean, safe theoretical solution to humanity's energy needs. It's how the Sun itself makes the vast amounts of energy that have powered life on our planet up until now. Where nuclear fission – the splitting of atoms to release energy – has proven incredibly powerful but insanely destructive when things go wrong, fusion promises reliable, safe, low cost, green energy generation with no chance of radioactive meltdown.
It's just always been 20 years away from being 20 years away. A number of multi-billion dollar projects are pushing slowly forward, from the Max Planck Institute's insanely complex Wendelstein 7-X stellerator to the 35-nation ITER Tokamak project, and most rely on a deuterium-tritium thermonuclear fusion approach that requires the creation of ludicrously hot temperatures, much hotter than the surface of the Sun, at up to 15 million degrees Celsius (27 million degrees Fahrenheit). This is where HB11's tech takes a sharp left turn.
[...] This is big-time stuff. Should cheap, clean, safe fusion energy really be achieved, it would be an extraordinary leap forward for humanity and a huge part of the answer for our future energy needs. And should it be achieved without insanely hot temperatures being involved, people would be even more comfortable having it close to their homes. We'll be keeping an eye on these guys.
[Source]: Laser-boron fusion
Snake Oil or the Real Deal ? What do you think ?
No matter what you think of Elon Musk, it's hard to deny that he takes the dictum "There's no such thing as bad publicity" to heart. From hurling sports cars into orbit to solar-powered roof destroyers, there's little that Mr. Musk can't turn into a net positive for at least one of his many ventures, not to mention his image.
Elon may have gotten in over his head, though. His plan to use his SpaceX rockets to fill the sky with thousands of satellites dedicated to providing cheap Internet access ran afoul of the astronomy community, which has decried the impact of the Starlink satellites on observations, both in the optical wavelengths and further down the spectrum in the radio bands. And that's with only a tiny fraction of the planned constellation deployed; once fully built-out, they fear Starlink will ruin Earth-based observation forever.
What exactly the final Starlink constellation will look like and what impact it would have on observations depend greatly on the degree to which it can withstand regulatory efforts and market forces. Assuming it does survive and gets built out into a system that more or less resembles the current plan, what exactly will Starlink do? And more importantly, how will it accomplish its stated goals?
If you feel like prettying the language, layout, or whatever up before I get around to it, feel free to do so and submit a pull request.
Japan's space agency has approved a robotic mission to retrieve a sample from the Martian moon Phobos for return to Earth to begin full development for a planned launch in 2024, officials said Thursday.
The Martian Moon eXploration, or MMX, spacecraft will attempt to return the first specimens from Phobos for analysis in laboratories on Earth, where scientists hope to trace the origins of the Martian moons to determine whether they were asteroids captured by Mars, or if they formed out of rocky debris generated from an ancient impact on Mars.
[...] The probe will land on Phobos and snare at least 10 grams, or about a third of an ounce, of material from the moon's surface using a coring collection system before taking off again. MMX will also release a German-French rover to explore the terrain and chemical composition of Phobos for roughly three months.
MMX will perform several close flybys of Deimos, the smaller of Mars's two moons, before departing the orbit of Mars in 2028 on a course back to Earth, where a sample return carrier will re-enter the atmosphere and land containing specimens gathered at Phobos. The MMX spacecraft's return to Earth in 2029 would complete the first round-trip voyage to Mars and back, JAXA said.
Scythe, a software company that spun out of the security-testing company Grimm, has been working for the past few years on a platform that allows corporate information-security teams to build security-testing campaigns—creating "synthetic malware" and crafting phishing campaigns or other attacks that mimic the techniques, tactics, and practices of known threat groups. And unlike some of the automated penetration-testing or threat-simulation products out there, Scythe retains the human in the loop—making it a useful tool to both internal security testers and external "red team" consultants.
Ars has tested earlier versions of the Scythe platform (starting in 2017, when it was still known as Crossbow), wreaking havoc on a set of victim systems in our lab and doing hands-on-keyboard things that a red team would typically do to simulate an attack. The platform allowed for the construction of "malware" that would work only on systems within a specific network-address range tailored to the task and capable of downloading additional modules of functionality once installed. The faux malware is deployable as executable files or dynamic linking libraries, allowing the emulation of more advanced malware attacks. Since it is custom generated, its signature doesn't match known malware; endpoint protection software has to catch its behaviors. (Windows 7's Windows Defender did not catch on, but my limited malware crafting skills were caught by other endpoint systems in custom campaigns I built; the packaged modules did much better in crushing my intentionally limited defenses.)
[...] At the RSA Conference this month in San Francisco, that marketplace will be officially launched. "Consultancies use us for the services they sell," Bort told Ars. "The marketplace will allow them to build their own modules." Those modules of capability can either be open source and shared freely across the platform, or the developers can resell their modules to customers or other consultancies.
The modular approach is something that's familiar to people in the security testing and research world—particularly those who've used the Metasploit framework for Web and application security testing over the years (or used it for the FBI to unmask child-porn site visitors). The big difference in Scythe's approach is that they'll be essentially available in an "app store" within Scythe's interface and ready to adapt to an organization's specific needs.
Helsinki-based software developer, Henri Sivonen, has written a pair of blog posts about UTF-8; why it should be used and how to inform the user agent when it is used.
The first blog post explains problems that can arise when UTF-8 is used without explicitly stating so. Here is a short selection from Why Supporting Unlabeled UTF-8 in HTML on the Web Would Be Problematic:
UTF-8 has won. Yet, Web authors have to opt in to having browsers treat HTML as UTF-8 instead of the browsers Just Doing the Right Thing by default. Why?
I'm writing this down in comprehensive form, because otherwise I will keep rewriting unsatisfactory partial explanations repeatedly as bug comments again and again. For more on how to label, see another writeup.
Legacy Content Won't Be Opting Out
First of all, there is the "Support Existing Content" design principle. Browsers can't just default to UTF-8 and have HTML documents encoded in legacy encodings opt out of UTF-8, because there is unlabeled legacy content, and we can't realistically expect the legacy content to be actively maintained to add opt-outs now. If we are to keep supporting such legacy content, the assumption we have to start with is that unlabeled content could be in a legacy encoding.
In this regard, <meta charset=utf-8> is just like <!DOCTYPE html> and <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">. Everyone wants newly-authored content to use UTF-8, the No-Quirks Mode (better known as the Standards Mode), and to work well on small screens. Yet, every single newly-authored HTML document has to explicitly opt in to all three, since it isn't realistic to get all legacy pages to opt out.
The second blog post explains how one explicitly communicates to the user agent that UTF-8 is employed in the current document. Always Use UTF-8 & Always Label Your HTML Saying So:
To avoid having to deal with escapes (other than for , &, and "), to avoid data loss in form submission, to avoid XSS when serving user-provided content, and to comply with the HTML Standard, always encode your HTML as UTF-8. Furthermore, in order to let browsers know that the document is UTF-8-encoded, always label it as such. To label your document, you need to do at least one of the following:
Put as the first thing after the start tag (i.e. as the first child of head).
The meta tag, including its ending > character needs to be within the first 1024 bytes of the file. Putting it right after is the easiest way to get this right. Do not put comments before .
Configure your server to send the header Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8 on the HTTP layer.
Start the document with the UTF-8 BOM, i.e. the bytes 0xEF, 0xBB, and 0xBF.
Doing more than one of these is OK.
NB: SoylentNews announced UTF-8 support on 2014-08-18: Site Update: Slashcode 14.08 - Now With UTF-8 Support (And Other News), just 6 months after the site was launched! One of our developers volunteered to do the implementation for them (the code for this site is a fork of the code that underlies slashdot). The offer was declined. A quick check before posting this story still fails to show Unicode/UTF-8 support.
Earlier on SN:
Validating UTF-8 Strings Using As Little As 0.7 Cycles Per Byte (2018)
Announcing UTF-8 Support on SoylentNews (2014)
Almost 2,500 years ago, the philosopher Zeno of Elea set out to challenge the way we understand the physical world through a set of brain teasers that have stuck with us for millennia. The most powerful of Zeno's paradoxes grapple with the concept of infinity while pitting observable reality against the scientific language we use to describe that reality, suggesting that elements of the everyday, like motion and speed, are actually illusory.
Example paradoxes are:
The millet paradox, which states that one falling grain of millet makes no sound but a ton of falling millet makes a big one, is more of a stoner observation than a profound question about the physical world. His paradoxes of motion and space, on the other hand, are legendary. Four of the more than 40 thought experiments he is said to have devised are most often employed as vivid introductions to the intersection of math and philosophy, where something readily apparent is a challenge to definitively prove.
Dichotomy paradox: If you want to walk across the room, you have to first walk half that distance, then half the remaining distance, ad infinitum, so how do you ever get there?
Achilles paradox: If a turtle gets a head start in a race against Achilles, Achilles has to cover half the distance between himself and the turtle in order to catch up. Then half that. And half again. And again. In an upset, the turtle wins!
Arrow paradox: At any given instant, an arrow in flight occupies a certain space, no more and no less. At the next instant, it occupies a different space. If you assume an instant is indivisible, the arrow is not in motion. So how does it move? "It is never moving, but in some miraculous way the change of position has to occur between the instants, that is to say, not at any time whatever," as Bertrand Russell put it.
Stadium paradox: Imagine three sets of three bodies in stadium rows: three As, three Bs, three Cs. The As are stationary; the Bs are moving right; the Cs are moving left at the same speed. In the same timeframe, the Cs will pass just one of the As, but two of the Bs. Crazy, right? (It doesn't seem like it, but if you think of space and time atomistically, they pass without passing.)
It took more than 2,000 years to break the dichotomy and Achilles paradoxes, and the people to do it were the French mathematical prodigy Augustin-Louis Cauchy and the German Karl Weierstrass. The mathematical answer can be summed up by the intuitive answer: Eventually, you get there.
In mathematical terms, one way of putting it is "the limit of an infinite sequence of ever-improving approximations is the precise value" (pdf). By going from one side of the room to another, you go 100% of the way across. You can chop that 100% up into infinite pieces, but those pieces converge on a limit of 100, and the sum of those pieces is the value—the infinite number of increasingly small pieces adds up to a finite number. ½ + ½ = 1, of course. ½ + ¼ + ¼ also equals 1. And so forth: the numbers you add up to get to 1 can expand to infinity, but it's not changing the end result. Not all infinite geometric series converge to a limit, but some do (pdf), predictably: "All those (and only those) in which the ratio of consecutive terms is greater than –1 and less than +1, so that the absolute values of the terms get progressively smaller."
The US agency in charge of secure communication for the White House has been the victim of a cyber-attack.
The US Department of Defence confirmed that computer systems controlled by the Defence Information Systems Agency (DISA) had been hacked, exposing the personal data of about 200,000 people.
The agency oversees military communications including calls for US President Donald Trump.
The data exposed included names and social security numbers.
The agency is responsible for the military cyber-security and it sets up communications networks in combat zones.
On its website, DISA says its vision is "to be the trusted provider to connect and protect the war fighter in cyber-space."
There are 8,000 military and civilian employees at the DISA, but through its operations, it handles data for many other individuals.
This is why the personal information for so many people was exposed.
From cnet.org we found the following: Social Security numbers stolen in defense agency data breach:
An agency under the US Department of Defense was hit by a data breach that affected personal information. Hackers stole Social Security numbers, names and other personal data, a department spokesman said Thursday.
The Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA, is responsible for providing IT support to combat missions, in addition to securing White House communications, according to the agency's website.
Department of Defense spokesperson Charles Prichard confirmed Thursday the agency had detected a breach of personally identifiable information on a system it hosts, and was in the process of notifying those affected by letter. The breach affected people associated with the Defense Department. They will also receive a follow-up letter with more information about how the
[...] The breach occurred between May and July 2019, according to Reuters, which reported the story earlier Thursday. Other major data breaches that exposed Social Security numbers include the hack of the US Office of Personnel Management in 2015 and the attack on Equifax in 2017. Stolen Social Security numbers create a risk of identity theft.
Prichard said DISA has no evidence the stolen information has been misused, but security experts note that it's very difficult to track how a specific data breach leads to later crimes.
Fingerprints are telling us more and more about the people that left them behind.
Sure, we all know the unique whorls, loops and arches in a print can identify a person. But now researchers are studying how the natural and environmental compounds within them can also offer clues about a person's lifestyle, gender and ethnicity.
But even as researchers discover new information in fingerprints, they still hadn't found a way to determine a basic fact about a print: How old is it? That's information that could potentially tie a suspect to a crime scene. And that's information chemists at Iowa State University are beginning to provide.
Paige Hinners was using a computer algorithm to objectively analyze the degradation and spread of fingerprint ridges over time—potentially a way to determine the age of a fingerprint—when she noticed something else in her data. The unsaturated fatty oils in a fingerprint were disappearing from her measurements.
"If we're losing them, where are they going?" asked Hinners, who in December completed her doctorate in analytical chemistry at Iowa State and now works as a senior chemist for Ames-based Renewable Energy Group Inc. She worked on the fingerprint project while she was a graduate student in the research group of Young-Jin Lee, a professor of chemistry at Iowa State. Madison Thomas, a former Iowa State undergraduate student, also assisted with the project.
Eventually the research group found answers: As the unsaturated fats—triacylglycerols, to be exact—disappeared from the data, other compounds resulting from reactions with ozone—or ozonolysis—started showing up.
That led to numerous trials and steps to confirm that ozone was causing the degradation of the unsaturated fats in fingerprints. And that led to the conclusion that, with more study, this could turn into a useful tool to determine the age of a fingerprint.
The Iowa State chemists' discovery was recently published online by the research journal Analytical Chemistry and is featured on a supplementary cover of the current print edition.
The paper describes how the chemists used a tool called matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging. It's technology that uses a laser to analyze compounds left on a surface then records the mass and electrical charge of each component within a sample, such as the various oils in a fingerprint. The imaging tool allowed the chemists to track the degradation of unsaturated oils due to reaction with ozone in the air.
More information: Paige Hinners et al, Determining Fingerprint Age with Mass Spectrometry Imaging via Ozonolysis of Triacylglycerols, Analytical Chemistry (2020). DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.9b04765
Journal information: Analytical Chemistry
Google-parent Alphabet is shutting down its power-generating kites company Makani, the first closure of a so-called moonshot project since founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped back from management in December.
Sundar Pichai, who took over as Alphabet chief executive, is under pressure to stem losses from the company's "Other Bets" segment, which includes endeavors such as self-driving cars and Internet-providing balloons. Other Bets lost $4.8 billion last year—widening from a $3.4 billion loss in 2018.
Makani was acquired in 2013 and taken into the experimental "X" lab. It was developing airborne wind turbines that could be tethered to floating buoys, removing the need for the expensive ocean bed structures needed to support permanent turbines.
"It's been a very hard choice for us," said Astro Teller, chief executive of X, speaking to the Financial Times on Tuesday.
"Our estimate of the rewards for the world, the reward to Alphabet, and the risks and costs to get there... they change over time. It's part of my job to assess that and make sure that we're picking the best ones we can for Alphabet to spend its money on."
Alphabet would not confirm the size of Makani, only saying it consisted of "dozens" of employees that it hoped it could be reassigned to other climate change-related work at Alphabet. A small team will stay on for a few months to collate Makani's research.
A team headed by Prof. Dr. Frank Stienkemeier and Dr. Lukas Bruder from the Institute of Physics at the University of Freiburg has succeeded in observing in real-time ultrafast quantum interferences—in other words the oscillation patterns—of electrons which are found in the atomic shells of rare gas atoms. They managed to observe oscillations with a period of about 150 attoseconds—an attosecond is a billionth of a billionth of a second. To this end, the scientists excited rare gas atoms with specially prepared laser pulses. Then they tracked the response of the atoms with a new measurement technique that enabled them to study quantum mechanical effects in atoms and molecules at extremely high time resolution. The researchers present their results in the latest edition of Nature Communications.
[...] Stienkemeier's team has extended a technology known from the visible spectrum range, coherent pump-probe spectroscopy, into the ultra-violet range. This is the spectral range between X-ray radiation and ultra-violet light. To do this, the scientists prepared a sequence of two ultra-short laser pulses in the extreme ultra-violet range at the FERMI free electron laser in Trieste, Italy. The pulses were separated by a precisely-defined time interval and had a precisely-defined phase relationship to one another. The first pulse starts the process in the electron shell (pump-process). The second pulse probes the status of the electron shell at a later point (probe-process). By altering the time interval and the phase relationship, the researchers could reach conclusions on the temporal development in the electron shell. "The greatest challenge was to achieve precise control over the pulse properties and to isolate the weak signals," explains Andreas Wituschek, who was in charge of the experimental procedure.
Andreas Wituschek et al. Tracking attosecond electronic coherences using phase-manipulated extreme ultraviolet pulses, Nature Communications (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-14721-2
Researchers said the wavelengths at sunrise and sunset have the biggest impact to brain centers that regulate our circadian clock and our mood and alertness.
Their study, "A color vision circuit for non-image-forming vision in the primate retina," published in Current Biology Feb. 20, identifies a cell in the retina, which plays an important role in signaling our brain centers that regulate circadian rhythms, boost alertness, help memory and cognitive function, and elevate mood. (See interview with lead researchers)
[...] Lead author Sara Patterson, a graduate student in neuroscience at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said how we set our internal clocks to the external light-dark cycle has been studied a lot. But how the changes in the color of light affect our brain has not.
"Color vision used for something other than color perception was the most exciting part for me," she said.
In the study, Patterson and colleagues identified a cell known as an inhibitory interneuron or amacrine cell in the retina, which signals to photosensitive ganglion cells that affect our circadian brain centers. The researchers said these amacrine cells provide "the missing component of an evolutionary ancient color vision circuit capable of setting the circadian clock by encoding the spectral content of light."
Patterson said so little is known about rare retinal circuitry that it was possible to find a new blue cone cell. She said there is a lot more to be discovered about how blue cone cells are projecting to other areas of the brain.
Sara S.Patterson, James A.Kuchenbecker, James R.Anderson, Maureen Neitz, Jay Neitz. "A Color Vision Circuit for Non-Image-Forming Vision in the Primate Retina" Current Biology (DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.01.040)
The entire article is available on Science Direct.
AT&T's mandatory-arbitration clause is unenforceable in a class-action case over AT&T's throttling of unlimited data, a panel of US appeals court judges ruled this week.
The nearly five-year-old case has gone through twists and turns, with AT&T's forced-arbitration clause initially being upheld in March 2016. If that decision had stood, the customers would have been forced to have any complaints heard individually in arbitration.
But an April 2017 decision by the California Supreme Court in a different case effectively changed the state's arbitration law, causing a US District Court judge to revive the class action in March 2018.
AT&T appealed that ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, but a three-judge panel at that court rejected AT&T's appeal in a ruling issued Tuesday. Judges said they must follow the California Supreme Court decision—known as the McGill rule—"which held that an agreement, like AT&T's, that waives public injunctive relief in any forum is contrary to California public policy and unenforceable."
[...] The class-action suit alleged that AT&T "used deceptive and unfair trade practices by marketing its mobile service data plans as 'unlimited' when AT&T allegedly limited those plans in several ways, including 'throttling'—slowing down mobile data speeds after the consumer uses an undisclosed, predetermined amount of mobile data," appeals court judges noted in this week's decision.
AT&T changed its policy in 2015 so that customers are throttled only when the network is congested. Previously, the carrier throttled unlimited data plans after customers used either 3GB or 5GB each month, depending on which plan they had, severely limiting speeds for the rest of the monthly billing period regardless of whether or not the network was congested.
Apple is seriously considering the possibility of allowing users to change the default apps for Web browsing, mail, or music on their iPhones. The company might also allow users to listen to Spotify or other music streaming services besides Apple Music via Siri on the iPhone or on the HomePod smart speaker.
These revelations were outlined in a report by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman this morning, who cited multiple people familiar with Apple's internal plans.
[...] Currently, iOS users can download third-party applications for mail or Web browsing like Outlook or Firefox, but they cannot set them to be the default apps that the system opens when a link or email address is tapped in another application, for example. Apple does allow users to do these things in some cases with its macOS software for desktops and laptops, even though it's not possible on the company's mobile platforms.
[...] And as Bloomberg notes, more elegant support for streaming services besides Apple Music would almost certainly be a boon for sales of Apple's HomePod smart speaker, as that lack of flexibility is a major limitation for that product compared to its competitors. Yes, HomePod users can stream Spotify to the HomePod using Apple's AirPlay technology, but many users may feel that is not a complete solution.
[...] Bloomberg's sources were careful to clarify that no final decisions have been made yet, but given Apple's longstanding commitment to a different philosophy, the fact this change is being seriously considered at all is on its own a major development.
When it released iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 in 2019, Apple already began lifting some smaller limitations on how users could customize the mobile operating system. So if these changes for default apps do go forward, they could herald a dramatic shift in Apple's software strategy—whether they're made to make things better for users, to appease regulators, or both.
“You cannot reduce the complexity of a given task beyond a certain point. Once you’ve reached that point you can only shift the burden around.” ~Larry Tesler
One of the people who helped create the current age of personal computing passed away this week: Larry Tesler (74), the computer scientist who invented copy-&-paste while at Xerox PARC.
[...]Long ago, when Xerox wanted to invest in Apple before its IPO, Apple demanded and got the right to visit the fabled Palo Alto Research Center. The first such visit took place in 1980 (though some claim it took place in 1979).
Larry Tesler, then the director of PARC, acted as Apple’s tour guide.
Born in the Bronx in 1945, Tesler studied at Stanford University in California and was the man who led Apple’s Steve Jobs and his delegation on the historically important tour from which Apple took user interface and computer design concepts that became mainstays of the PCs we use today.
Things like external keyboards, mice, icons, windows — all of these elements had been in development at Xerox PARC, though it took Jobs and Apple to fully realize them, some say.
Jobs was so impressed by the demonstration, he reportedly yelled, “You’re sitting on a gold mine."
Teslar was also taken by his Apple visitors:
“What impressed me was that their questions were better than any I had heard in the seven years I had been at Xerox… the questions showed that they understood the implications and the subtleties.”
[...]Despite Tesler’s deep and sustained contribution to the industry (including contributions to the code inspection tools most developers on most platforms use daily), it’s what Tesler called “modeless text editing” (cut, copy and paste) for which he is most remembered.
He put the digital expression of traditional print-based workflows together while at Xerox PARC; this was one of the innovations Jobs (and others) were most excited about.
It was within a mouse-driven GUI called Gypsy, a click-and-type interface in which the user could, at any time, enter text at the current insertion point, or click where the insertion point should be repositioned.
[...]Xerox tweeted: “Your workday is easier thanks to his revolutionary ideas. Larry passed away Monday, so please join us in celebrating him.”
The Computer History Museum said Tesler, "Combined computer science training with a counterculture vision that computers should be for everyone."