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posted by FatPhil on Tuesday August 22, @11:45AM   Printer-friendly
from the when-they-came-for-the-eSport-players,-I-said-nothing dept.

In the past hour or so, an AI bot crushed a noted professional video games player at Dota 2 in a series of one-on-one showdowns.

The computer player was built, trained and optimized by OpenAI, Elon Musk's AI boffinry squad based in San Francisco, California. In a shock move on Friday evening, the software agent squared up to top Dota 2 pro gamer Dendi, a Ukrainian 27-year-old, at the Dota 2 world championships dubbed The International.

The OpenAI agent beat Dendi in less than 10 minutes in the first round, and trounced him again in a second round, securing victory in a best-of-three match. "This guy is scary," a shocked Dendi told the huge crowd watching the battle at the event. Musk was jubilant.

OpenAI first ever to defeat world's best players in competitive eSports. Vastly more complex than traditional board games like chess & Go.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk)

According to OpenAI, its machine-learning bot was also able to pwn two other top human players this week: SumaiL and Arteezy. Although it's an impressive breakthrough, it's important to note this popular strategy game is usually played as a five-versus-five team game – a rather difficult environment for bots to handle.

[...] It's unclear exactly how OpenAI's bot was trained as the research outfit has not yet published any technical details. But a short blog post today describes a technique called "self-play" in which the agent started from scratch with no knowledge and was trained using supervised learning over a two-week period, repeatedly playing against itself. Its performance gets better over time as it continues to play the strategy game. It learns to predict its opponent's movements and pick which strategies are best in unfamiliar scenarios.

OpenAI said the next step is to create a team of Dota 2 bots that can compete or collaborate with human players in five-on-five matches. ®

Youtube Video

Also covered here (with more vids, including the bout in question):
Ars Technica: Elon Musk's Dota 2 AI beats the professionals at their own game
Technology Review: AI Crushed a Human at Dota 2 (But That Was the Easy Bit)
TechCrunch: OpenAI bot remains undefeated against world's greatest Dota 2 players

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Tuesday August 22, @09:57AM   Printer-friendly
from the random-fact-of-the-day dept.

Over at FYFD is an interesting note on what those billowing clouds from rocket launches actually are :

If you've ever watched a rocket launch, you've probably noticed the billowing clouds around the launch pad during lift-off. What you're seeing is not actually the rocket's exhaust but the result of a launch pad and vehicle protection system known in NASA parlance as the Sound Suppression Water System. Exhaust gases from a rocket typically exit at a pressure higher than the ambient atmosphere, which generates shock waves and lots of turbulent mixing between the exhaust and the air. Put differently, launch ignition is incredibly loud, loud enough to cause structural damage to the launchpad and, via reflection, the vehicle and its contents.

To mitigate this problem, launch operators use a massive water injection system that pours about 3.5 times as much water as rocket propellant per second. This significantly reduces the noise levels on the launchpad and vehicle and also helps protect the infrastructure from heat damage. The exact physical processes involved – details of the interaction of acoustic noise and turbulence with water droplets – are still murky because this problem is incredibly difficult to study experimentally or in simulation. But, at these high water flow rates, there's enough water to significantly affect the temperature and size of the rocket's jet exhaust. Effectively, energy that would have gone into gas motion and acoustic vibration is instead expended on moving and heating water droplets. In the case of the Space Shuttle, this reduced noise levels in the payload bay to 142 dB – about as loud as standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

There's also more detail at Interesting Engineering and NASA.

[Ed Note: Due to the article being only 2 paragraphs, it has been reproduced here in its entirety.]

[Update: corrected broken links.]

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday August 22, @08:14AM   Printer-friendly
from the What-Would-Gimli-Say? dept.

[Researchers] have a new model for explaining how clouds move and change shape in brown dwarfs, using insights from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Giant waves cause large-scale movement of particles in brown dwarfs' atmospheres, changing the thickness of the silicate clouds, researchers report in the journal Science. The study also suggests these clouds are organized in bands confined to different latitudes, traveling with different speeds in different bands.

"This is the first time we have seen atmospheric bands and waves in brown dwarfs," said lead author Daniel Apai, associate professor of astronomy and planetary sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

[...] "The atmospheric winds of brown dwarfs seem to be more like Jupiter's familiar regular pattern of belts and zones than the chaotic atmospheric boiling seen on the Sun and many other stars," said study co-author Mark Marley at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.

Zones, spots, and planetary-scale waves beating in brown dwarf atmospheres (DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9848) (DX)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday August 22, @06:41AM   Printer-friendly
from the Use-only-Official®-Authorized-Parts-and-Repair-Services dept.

People with cracked touch screens or similar smartphone maladies have a new headache to consider: the possibility the replacement parts installed by repair shops contain secret hardware that completely hijacks the security of the device.

The concern arises from research that shows how replacement screens—one put into a Huawei Nexus 6P and the other into an LG G Pad 7.0—can be used to surreptitiously log keyboard input and patterns, install malicious apps, and take pictures and e-mail them to the attacker. The booby-trapped screens also exploited operating system vulnerabilities that bypassed key security protections built into the phones. The malicious parts cost less than $10 and could easily be mass-produced. Most chilling of all, to most people, the booby-trapped parts could be indistinguishable from legitimate ones, a trait that could leave many service technicians unaware of the maliciousness. There would be no sign of tampering unless someone with a background in hardware disassembled the repaired phone and inspected it.

The research, in a paper presented this week at the 2017 Usenix Workshop on Offensive Technologies, highlights an often overlooked disparity in smartphone security. The software drivers included in both the iOS and Android operating systems are closely guarded by the device manufacturers, and therefore exist within a "trust boundary." The factory-installed hardware that communicates with the drivers is similarly assumed to be trustworthy, as long as the manufacturer safeguards its supply chain. The security model breaks down as soon as a phone is serviced in a third-party repair shop, where there's no reliable way to certify replacement parts haven't been modified.

The researchers, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, wrote:

The threat of a malicious peripheral existing inside consumer electronics should not be taken lightly. As this paper shows, attacks by malicious peripherals are feasible, scalable, and invisible to most detection techniques. A well motivated adversary may be fully capable of mounting such attacks in a large scale or against specific targets. System designers should consider replacement components to be outside the phone's trust boundary, and design their defenses accordingly

Source: Ars Technica

Also covered at: Engadget.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday August 22, @05:08AM   Printer-friendly
from the bet-it-will-cost-an-arm-and-a-leg dept.

Doctor Otto Octavius may have been a power-mad scientist bent on world domination and the utter ruin of his nemesis, Spider-Man, but the guy had some surprisingly cogent thoughts on prosthetics development. And although mind-controlled supernumerary robotic limbs like Doc Oc's still only exist in the realm of the Marvel Universe, researchers here in reality are getting pretty darn close to creating their own. And in the near future, we'll be strapping on extra appendages whenever we need a helping hand -- or supplemental third thumb.

Supernumerary Robotic Limbs (SRLs) are not prosthetics. They are designed to supplement a person's existing full complement of limbs as opposed to replacing the lost functionality of a missing one. That's not to say that an amputee couldn't use one of these devices, simply that they're meant to be used as add-ons to human protuberances instead of stand-ins for them.

Don't expect to toss cars around like throw pillows while wearing an SRL rig. Well, not initially at least (keep those fingers crossed, though). Rather, they're built to help people perform tasks that would otherwise be irritating, difficult or outright impossible without them -- like twisting a doorknob while carrying armfuls of moving boxes or holding a ceiling panel in place while you nail it in. So, rather than get yourself a helper, you could soon instead get a pair of MIT's shoulder-mounted SRLs.

Source: EnGadget

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday August 22, @03:35AM   Printer-friendly
from the stuck-with-what-you've-got dept.

Anybody who hoped the troubled Bioware game Mass Effect: Andromeda would get some more single-player content should probably sit down. The game developer chose to deliver bad news to fans on Saturday evening via its official blog, confirming that it would not create any more "single-player or in-game story content" for the game.

If you're anxious to see the game's loose plot threads receive any resolution, you'll have to turn to other means. The game's existing 1.1 patch, which went live nearly three weeks ago, marked the end of any single-player changes, updates, or patches. Multiplayer modes will receive more "story-based APEX missions," Bioware says, and other stories, including those of the fate of the quarian ark, will be shuffled into "our upcoming comics and novels."

This confirms a DLC cancellation rumor dug up by Kotaku back in June. According to Kotaku's sources, EA had already bailed on plans for either add-on DLC or a full-fledged Andromeda 2 sequel after the game's lukewarm critical and commercial performance.

Source: Ars Technica

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Tuesday August 22, @02:02AM   Printer-friendly
from the h-times-π-r² dept.

Researchers have improved the design of Cylindrical shaped Hall thrusters (CHTs), a type of ion drive used in spacecraft:

Researchers from the Harbin Institute of Technology in China have created a new inlet design for Cylindrical shaped Hall thrusters (CHTs) that may significantly increase the thrust and allows spaceships to travel greater distances.

[...] The researchers injected the propellant into the cylindrical chamber of the thruster by a number of nozzles that usually point straight in, toward the center of the cylinder. The angle of the inlet nozzles changed slightly, sending the propellant into a rapid circular motion and creating a vortex in the channel.

They then simulated the motion of the plasma in the channel for both nozzle angles using modeling and analysis software called COMSOL that uses a finite element approach to modeling molecular flow.

This resulted in a gas density near the periphery of the channel is higher when the nozzles are tilted and the thruster is run in vortex mode.

According to the study, the vortex inlet increases the propellant utilization of the thruster by 3.12 percent to 8.81 percent, thrust by 1.1 percent to 53.5 percent, specific impulse by 1.1 percent to 53.5 percent, thrust-to-power ratio by 10 percent to 63 percent and anode efficiency by 1.6 percent to 7.3 percent, greatly improving the thruster performance.

More likely to be deployed than EmDrive.

Effect of vortex inlet mode on low-power cylindrical Hall thruster (open, DOI: 10.1063/1.4986007) (DX)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday August 22, @01:16AM   Printer-friendly
from the come-join-in dept.

NASA site.

[Ed. addition] Please join in the comments with links to other sites that you have found. Also, what plans do you have, if any, for viewing the eclipse? Ignoring it? Getting together with friends? Traveling to get a better view? Would love to see comments with people's experiences of seeing the eclipse.

Also, I forgot where I'd seen it, but there was a suggestion to keep pets inside and away from windows, especially if you are where there is [nearly] total obscuration, as they may become confused and accidentally view the eclipse. I don't know about that. There seems to be quite a bit of wildlife that cannot go indoors during an eclipse and I'd never heard of large die-offs following an eclipse.

Maps for each of the United States showing the amount of obscuration at various points across the state and time of maximum obscuration.

Ars Technica story about what happens when you view an eclipse without protection.

The American Astronomical Society has a variety of resources at:

JAMA Ophthalmol journal article (doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2017.2936) explains damage that can come from viewing the sun directly:

Damage to the fovea in solar retinopathy (sometimes called photic retinopathy or solar retinitis) occurs in 2 ways and by 2 distinct physical mechanisms. The spectrum of sunlight contains a significant fraction of near-infrared radiation (700-1500 nm), which can cause direct thermal injury (burns) via heat. Because we cannot see this light, and the retina lacks nociceptive receptors to signal pain, damage can occur without our knowledge. However, the more pressing concern when viewing a solar eclipse is for visible light, which in excess causes photochemical toxicity through rapid accumulation of reactive oxygen species and free radicals. This is especially damaging to the retinal pigment epithelium and choroid, which contain an abundance of photoactive materials rife for oxidation: heme proteins, melanosomes, lipofuscin, and the like.

Sky & Telescope article general information on eclipses and some viewing suggestions.

Pinhole Astrophotography has a somewhat technical explanation of how you can design a device for projecting an image of the eclipsing sun. An example is provided where the author projected an image 24.1 cm in diameter at a distance of 25.9 meters from the tripod-mounted 5.9mm mirror 'pinhole'. (That's a BIG pin.)

[TMB Note]: One of the perks of living in Tennessee now is I'll be less than an hour's drive from the path of totality. The Roomie and I will be hauling some viewing glasses, five cameras, two phones, a cooler of water, and a pair of huge sammiches up to it to look for a good viewing/photographing spot in an hour or so. Expect at least a few good quality shots either this evening or by the morning, depending on how much offline life decides to keep me otherwise busy.

Any of you who beat me to the punch and can spare the bandwidth, feel free to post links to your own shots here. If you include a copyright release for us to do so, we may use them either in an update to this story or in a latter dedicated images story.

Enjoy the show and make sure not to burn your retinas out.

[Update]: Excuse the quality. My camera was confirmed to be a cheap piece of crap whilst The Roomie's was confirmed to be smarter than him. At least the auto-focus setting is smarter than him. And, lastly, excuse the lack of embedded video. It's been a long day and I can't be arsed to figure out how to get rehash to quit stripping the video tag out at the moment. Have a link to the video and be happy with it.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Tuesday August 22, @12:45AM   Printer-friendly
from the get-/good_prices.htm dept.

USA Today has a story about a New Jersey couple who allegedly used a glitch in Lowes website to steal merchandise.

A New Jersey couple used a website glitch to try and get more than $258,000 worth of goods — everything from a gazebo to an air conditioner to a stainless steel grill — for free from a home improvement store, authorities said.

Ultimately, the couple was only able to secure nearly $13,000 worth of merchandise from Lowe's after exploiting "weaknesses" in the company's website to have the items shipped to their home in Brick for free, according to a release from the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

Romela Velazquez, 24, was arrested and charged with theft by deception and computer criminal activity for accessing a computer system with the purpose to defraud. She attempted to get about $258,068 worth of unpaid merchandise from Lowe's, according to the release.

She actually received about $12,971 in stolen products, according to the release.

Her husband, Kimy Velazquez, 40, was charged with third-degree receipt of stolen property and fencing for his role in the alleged scheme.

The couple tried to sell some of the products on a local Facebook "buy and sell" group for half of the original sale price, listing the products as "new in box," authorities said.

According to an article on, an attorney for the couple has stated that Velazquez is just an expert shopper, not a criminal hacker.

Jef Henninger, an attorney for Romela Velazquez, said his client is "the farthest thing from a computer hacker."

"Like many young mothers, she needs to stretch every dollar she can," Henninger said in a statement. "As a result, she has learned to spot good deals. These are the same deals that any of us can take advantage of, but most of us are too busy to learn how to spot them.

"Buying things at a big discount and selling them is not illegal. As a result, she maintains her innocence (and) looks forward to her day in court."

As far as I have been able to find, no technical details about the hack have been released.

One of the more interesting details that I did see was

Lowe's, makers of Ugg shoes and Victoria's Secret have been identified as victims so far – but many more retailers were also ripped off and will eventually be identified, officials said.

Who knew?

Additional coverage at the New York Post and BleepingComputer.

Original Submission

posted by CoolHand on Monday August 21, @11:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the ditch-digging dept.

Kaspersky Lab's tussle with the US government could have ramifications for its dealings with the private sector. A new report claims the FBI has been meeting with companies to warn them of the threat posed by the cybersecurity firm. The briefings are the latest chapter in an ongoing saga concerning the use of Kaspersky's products by government agencies. Officials claim the company is a Russian stooge that can't be trusted with protecting America's critical infrastructure. The company denies these claims -- its CEO Eugene Kaspersky has even offered up its source code in a bid to clear his firm's name.

It appears that olive branch went unnoticed. Throughout the year, the FBI has been meeting with US firms to convince them to remove Kaspersky Lab's tools from their systems, according to officials that spoke to CyberScoop. In view of the cyberattacks that crippled Ukraine's power grid in 2016, the FBI has reportedly focussed its briefings on companies in the energy sector. Although, it has also supposedly met with major tech firms too.

The law enforcement agency has apparently been sharing its threat assessment with the companies, including Kaspersky Lab's alleged deep ties with Russian intelligence. However, the meetings have reportedly yielded mixed results. Whereas firms in the energy sector have been quick to cooperate, tech giants have resisted taking swift action, claims CyberScoop.

Source: EnGadget

Original Submission

posted by CoolHand on Monday August 21, @09:44PM   Printer-friendly
from the just-duck-it dept.

Is the term "google" too generic and therefore unworthy of its trademark protection? That's the question before the US Supreme Court.

Words like teleprompter, thermos, hoover, aspirin, and videotape were once trademarked. They lost the status after their names became too generic and fell victim to what is known as "genericide."

What's before the Supreme Court is a trademark lawsuit that Google already defeated in a lower court. The lawsuit claims that Google should no longer be trademarked because the word "google" is synonymous to the public with the term "search the Internet."

"There is no single word other than google that conveys the action of searching the Internet using any search engine," according to the petition to the Supreme Court.

It's perhaps one of the most consequential trademark case before the justices since they ruled in June that offensive trademarks must be allowed.

Source: Ars Technica

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday August 21, @08:03PM   Printer-friendly
from the bloodhounds-of-bitcoins dept.

Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard

More and more shopping Web sites accept cryptocurrencies as a method of payment, but users should be aware that these transactions can be used to deanonymize them – even if they are using blockchain anonymity techniques such as CoinJoin.

Independent researcher Dillon Reisman and Steven Goldfeder, Harry Kalodner and Arvind Narayanan from Princeton University have demonstrated that third-party online tracking provides enough information to identify a transaction on the blockchain, link it to the user's cookie and, ultimately, to the user's real identity.

"Based on tracking cookies, the transaction can be linked to the user's activities across the web. And based on well-known Bitcoin address clustering techniques, it can be linked to their other Bitcoin transactions," they noted.

Add to this the fact that many merchants additionally leak users' PII such as name or email address to trackers, and if becomes obvious that trackers can easily link the transaction to a user's web profile and identity.

But, until know, it was possible to believe that using mixing technique such as the aforementioned CoinJoin or other types of coin mixing would prevent the linkage of Bitcoin addresses to user's identity. Unfortunately, that's not true.


Original Submission

posted by takyon on Monday August 21, @06:27PM   Printer-friendly
from the depths dept.

Seventy-two years after two torpedoes fired from a Japanese submarine sank cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35), the ship's wreckage was found resting on the seafloor on Saturday – more than 18,000 feet below the Pacific Ocean's surface.

Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist, led a search team, assisted by historians from the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) in Washington, D.C., to accomplish what past searches had failed to do – find Indianapolis, considered the last great naval tragedy of World War II.

[...] On July 30, 1945, what turned out to be the final days of World War II, Indianapolis had just completed a secret mission to the island Tinian, delivering components of the atomic bomb "Little Boy" dropped on Hiroshima which would ultimately help end the war. The ship sunk in 12 minutes, before a distress signal could be sent or much of the life-saving equipment was deployed, according to a statement from the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, D.C. Because of the secrecy surrounding the mission, the ship wasn't listed as overdue

Around 800 of the ship's 1,196 sailors and Marines survived the sinking, but after four to five days in the water, suffering exposure, dehydration, drowning, and shark attacks, only 316 survived.

"I'm very happy that they found it. It's been a long 72 years coming," said a statement released by Indianapolis survivor Arthur Leenerman, 93 years-old from Mahomet, Ill. "I have wished for years that they would find it. The lost at sea families will feel pretty sad but I think finding the ship will also give them some closure. I'm glad that the search was successful. It will be interesting to see where it was found and how deep it was resting. "

The ship's story has become part folklore, thanks in large part to the chilling monologue in the 1975 film "Jaws" when fisherman Quint tells about being aboard Indianapolis when it was sunk.

Source: USNI News

Original Submission

posted by CoolHand on Monday August 21, @05:01PM   Printer-friendly
from the wish-I-thought-of-that! dept.

Fortressof Solitude reports that a Silent 10-Minute Track Reaches Top 100 on iTunes:

Released by Samir Rezhami on iTunes, his creation titled “A a a a a Very Good Song” peaked at #44 on the US iTunes chart this past weekend. In addition, the ‘song’ has sold over 5,000 in sales across the world in the four days since its release and is still just hanging on in the top 100 tracks on iTunes in terms of sales. This is a very noteworthy achievement by any means, albeit a rather weird one. So how does a silent song sell a single copy on iTunes, let alone reaching the heights it has?

Picture this. An iPhone or iTunes users plugs into the AUX input of their car stereo. In many cases what happens next is that the alphabetically-first song in their library plays.

Every. Single. Time.

This has been enough to turn some people off their one-time favorites of the A Team and Ella Fitzgerald's "A-Tisket A-Tasket".

For the paltry sum of only $0.99, these folk can have up to 10 minutes to set up a separate playlist — in silence.

Silence is golden... and Samir is raking in the gold.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday August 21, @04:37PM   Printer-friendly
from the the-US-Navy's-annus-horribilis dept.

Search teams scrambled Monday to determine the fate of 10 missing Navy sailors after a United States destroyer collided with an oil tanker off the coast of Singapore, the second accident involving a Navy ship and a cargo vessel in recent months.

The guided-missile destroyer, the John S. McCain, was passing east of the Strait of Malacca on its way to a port visit in Singapore at 5:24 a.m. local time, before dawn broke, when it collided with the Alnic MC, a 600-foot vessel that transports oil and chemicals, the Navy said. The destroyer was damaged near the rear on its port, or left-hand, side.

Half a day after the crash, 10 sailors on the ship remained unaccounted for. Five others were injured, none with life-threatening conditions, a Navy official said. Ships with the Singapore Navy and helicopters from the assault ship America were rushing to search for survivors.

Also at Reuters.

Previously: U.S. Navy Destroyer Collides With Container Vessel

Original Submission