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In Serious Incident, Software Glitch Miscalculates the Weight of Three UK Flights - A software mistake caused a flight on Tui airlines "to take off heavier than expected," according to The Guardian, citing an investigation by the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch An update to the airline's reservation system while its planes were grounded due to the coronavirus pandemic led to 38 passengers on the flight being allocated a child's "standard weight" of 35kg [77 pounds] as opposed to the adult figure of 69kg [152 pounds]. This caused the load sheet — produced for the captain to calculate what inputs are needed for take-off — to state that the Boeing 737 was more than 1,200kg lighter [2,645 pounds] than it actually was. Investigators described the glitch as "a simple flaw" in an IT system. It was programmed in an unnamed foreign country where the title "Miss" is used for a child and "Ms" for an adult female. Despite the issue, the thrust used for the departure from Birmingham on 21 July 2020 was only "marginally less" than it should have been, and the "safe operation of the aircraft was not compromised", the AAIB said. They're still classifying it as a "serious incident" — and also note that because of the same software glitch, two more UK flights also took off on the same day with inaccurate load sheets.

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(2021-04-10T19:34:00+00:00)

Scientists Connect Human Brain To Computer Wirelessly For First Time Ever - "Scientists have demonstrated the first human use of a wireless brain-computer interface, a potential breakthrough for people with paralysis," reports The Next Web (in a story shared by Slashdot reader Hmmmmmm): While traditional BCIs are tethered to users via cables, the new system — called BrainGate — replaces the cords with a small transmitter affixed atop a users' head. The unit then connects to an electrode array implanted in the brain's motor cortex. In a clinical trial, two participants with paralysis used the system to point, click, and type on a standard tablet computer. They both achieved similar typing speeds and point-and-click accuracy as those attained with wired systems. The researchers say it's the first time a device has transmitted the full spectrum of signals recorded by a sensor in the brain's motor cortex.

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(2021-04-10T18:34:00+00:00)

Major Advertiser Works With China to Try Bypassing Apple's Privacy Rules - Procter & Gamble "helped develop a technique being tested in China to gather iPhone data for targeted ads, a step intended to give companies a way around Apple Inc.'s new privacy tools," reports the Wall Street Journal. (Citing "people familiar with the matter.") The move is part of a broader effort by the consumer-goods giant to prepare for an era in which new rules and consumer preferences limit the amount of data available to marketers. P&G — among the world's largest advertisers, with brands such as Gillette razors and Charmin toilet paper — is the biggest Western company involved in the effort, the people said. The company has joined forces with dozens of Chinese trade groups and tech firms working with the state-backed China Advertising Association to develop the new technique, which would use technology called device fingerprinting, the people said. Dubbed CAID, the advertising method is being tested through apps and gathers iPhone user data. Through the use of an algorithm, it can track users for purposes of targeting ads in a way that Apple is seeking to prevent. Apple's response? "We believe strongly that users should be asked for their permission before being tracked. Apps that are found to disregard the user's choice will be rejected."

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(2021-04-10T17:34:00+00:00)

America's Suicide Rate Declined in 2020 - Despite Lockdowns - CBS News reports: The number of U.S. suicides fell nearly 6% last year amid the coronavirus pandemic — the largest annual decline in at least four decades, according to preliminary government data. Death certificates are still coming in and the count could rise. But officials expect a substantial decline will endure, despite worries that COVID-19 could lead to more suicides. It is hard to say exactly why suicide deaths dropped so much, but one factor may be a phenomenon seen in the early stages of wars and national disasters, some experts suggested. "There's a heroism phase in every disaster period, where we're banding together and expressing lots of messages of support that we're in this together," said Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. "You saw that, at least in the early months of the pandemic." An increase in the availability of telehealth services and other efforts to turn around the nation's suicide problem may have also contributed, she said. U.S. suicides steadily rose from the early 2000s until 2018, when the national suicide rate hit its highest level since 1941. The rate finally fell slightly in 2019. Experts credited increased mental health screenings and other suicide prevention efforts. The number fell further last year, to below 45,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a recent report. It was the lowest number of U.S. suicide deaths since 2015. MarketWatch also points out that in the U.S. in 2020, "Total deaths increased by 17.7% year over year, the provisional estimates showed. "COVID-19 became the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer, while suicide dropped from the country's 10th leading cause of death to the 11th.

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(2021-04-10T16:34:00+00:00)

Japan Poised to Approve Release of Fukushima Nuclear Plant Water Into the Ocean - New submitter evaverdeazul shared this report from Japan Today: The Japanese government is poised to release treated radioactive water accumulated at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea despite opposition from fishermen, sources familiar with the matter said Friday. It will hold a meeting of related ministers as early as Tuesday to formally decide on the plan, a major development following over seven years of discussions on how to discharge the water used to cool down melted fuel at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The treated water containing radioactive tritium, a byproduct of nuclear reactors, is said to pose little risk to human health because even if one drinks the water, so long as the tritium concentration is low, the amounts of tritium would not accumulate in the body and would soon be excreted. There is also no risk of external exposure even if the water comes in contact with skin. Still, concerns remain among Japan's fisheries industry and consumers as well as neighboring countries such as South Korea and China. The government has said it cannot continue postponing a decision on the disposal issue, given that the storage capacity of water tanks at the Fukushima complex is expected to run out as early as fall next year. It asserts that space needs to be secured on the premises, such as for keeping melted fuel debris that will be extracted from the damaged reactors, to move forward with the decades-long process of scrapping the complex. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (TEPCO) says it will take around two years for the discharge to start.

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(2021-04-10T15:34:00+00:00)

Documentary Claims to Unmask 'Q'. Are Q's Drops Over? - QAnon "was all but confirmed to be a hoax by the person who ran the hoax," writes Mashable, citing the finale of a six-episode documentary on HBO by Cullen Hoback. "All of it leads back to the same place — that there are very few other people who could have and would have made the Q drops other than the person who ran the place where they were posted," notes Newsweek: Ahead of the first episode, Ron Watkins posted on encrypted messaging service Telegram stating: "I am not Q. I've never spoken privately with Q. I don't know who Q is." However, during the final episode, Hoback suggests that Ron Watkins slips up and inadvertently reveals that he posted as Q on 8kun A BBC investigative reporter on disinformation tweeted that climactic moment from Cullens' documentary, adding "It was so good it made the whole six hours worth it." Or as Mashable puts it, "Ron Watkins seems to admit he's Q, in the dumbest possible ending to QAnon," calling it "so anticlimactic it bordered on absurd." The previously camera-shy Watkins — who runs 8kun [formerly 8chan] alongside his father, Jim — has long been the key suspect for the identity of Q... But his accidental reveal, the slip of the mask is huge, if anticlimactic, news... It's wild and so...dumb...that this is how we all find out — because Watkins slipped up for a second. It makes sense since Q had somewhat inexplicably tied its fortunes to posting only on 8chan/8kun. It's inexplicable unless, you know, the Watkins family was behind the ordeal. Insider notes that Fredrick Brennan, the software developer who created 8chan and has since become a vocal critic, also believes Q is one of the Watkins' — a theory investigated last June by the Atlantic. And in a September investigation, ABC News reported on the likelihood that Watkins is Q, finding that he and his son, Ron, were the "two Americans most clearly associated" with Q drops. The theory was also popularized by a September "Reply All" podcast episode... At the end of February 2020, Watkins registered the PAC, "Disarm the Deep State," with the Federal Elections Commission. They also note that after the documentary aired on HBO, "the community reacted as many experts suspected it would: denial and accusations of 'fake news.'" Watkins had apparently gone to great lengths to suggest to Cullen that Q was instead former Trump advisor Steve Bannon. And last week, the BBC reporter points out, Watkins' father began suggesting a new theory: that Q was actually....documentary maker Cullen Hoback. But the BBC reporter adds: Based on the finale of #QIntotheStorm Q drops are over for good. Both Jim and Ron told Cullen Hoback Q would end after the election, and that's exactly what happened. We already had proof of the end given there haven't been any drops since 8 December, but we can now be certain. Hoback's tweet specifically says that "Both Ron and Jim, but especially Ron, told me multiple times over the years that they believed Q would cease at the election." And Hoback adds: "Ron implied on more than one occasion it *might be* a marketing campaign."

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(2021-04-10T14:34:00+00:00)

Scientists Dive Into Axolotl Genome, Looking For Secrets To Regeneration - An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Its adorableness aside, the Mexican axolotl is a salamander of particular interest to scientists. On the molecular level, the animal seems to have a cheat code for life: It can regenerate its limbs and vital organs, an ability researchers are desperate to better understand for medical applications. Now, geneticists have gotten a clearer view of the smiling salamander's genome, rendering it on the chromosomal scale. The research was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Understanding a genetic structure in complete detail takes a lot of time, far longer than it takes to first report the mapping of a genome, as we did with humans in 2003 and the duck-billed platypus in 2008. Secrets remain shrouded in those purportedly finished genetic codes, so geneticists keep tinkering. Decrypting the axolotl's genome in particular was a tall order; where bits of a human genome charged with making a protein may span hundreds to thousands of base pairs, in an axolotl, it takes hundreds of thousands of base pairs. Nevertheless, the complete axolotl genome was announced in 2019 by the same team who published the recent research. The recent paper specifically looked at how the genome is folded away inside the animal on the molecular level and where the DNA sequences that regulate genes are located in relation to the places where gene transcription starts. That's remarkable when you consider the scale and extreme compactness of the folding; a human DNA strand is about 6 feet when stretched out, but an axolotl's would be over 30 feet. All that genetic material is being sequestered in the cells of an animal 200 times smaller than the average human -- it's a mind-boggling example of efficiency in packing, all on a microscopic scale. Why it matters: The research will be important for seeing if the ability to regenerate could ever be activated in humans. "The work has ordered the sequenced pieces of axolotl genomic DNA sequence in the correct order, as it is on the chromosome," Elly Tanaka, a biochemist at the Vienna BioCenter's Institute of Molecular Pathology, said in an email. "This is important because, in all animals with vertebrae, genes are turned on and off by control sequences that are actually lying pretty far away from the gene itself."

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(2021-04-10T13:00:00+00:00)

Data Center Backup Generator Kicks In During Power Outage and Catches Fire - Joe_Dragon shares a report from The Register: A power outage kicked off a fire in web hosting biz WebNX's Ogden data center in Utah on Sunday, knocking the facility offline temporarily and leaving several servers in need of a rebuild. Kevin Brown, Fire Marshal for the US city's Fire Department told The Register in a phone interview that firefighters responded to a call on Sunday evening. The fire, he said, "originated in a generator in the building and spread to several servers." Brown said the facility's fire suppression system contained the blaze and that fire department personnel assisted with the cleanup. He said power was cut to the building until an electrical engineer could inspect the facility to make sure current could be restored safely, which he added is standard procedure. He also confirmed that some of Ogden City's IT services were down on Sunday and Monday as a result of the data center fire. "Sunday afternoon the city power was disrupted and, as designed, our backup generators automatically switched on," the company said in a Facebook post. "However, during that transition, one of our backup generators that had been recently tested and benchmarked specifically for this situation experienced a catastrophic failure, caught fire, and as a result initiated the fire suppression protocol." "Some servers will have an extended outage as they may require rebuilds due to some water damage. Those builds have a high probability that data is intact." They added: "Customer's servers in one of our main bays were exposed to water and possible damage may have occurred. No fire damage was inflicted on customer servers."

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(2021-04-10T10:00:00+00:00)

Glass Molded Like Plastic Could Usher In New Era of Complex Glass Shapes - sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: The production of glass -- one of humanity's oldest materials -- is getting a 21st century makeover. A new approach to glassmaking treats the material like plastic, allowing scientists to injection mold vaccine vials, sinuous channels for carrying out lab chemistry, and other complex shapes. The scientists created a printable powder by mixing silica nanoparticles with a polymer that could be cured with ultraviolet (UV) light. After printing the shapes they wanted, they cured the polymer with UV light so it would hold its shape. They then fired the mix in an oven to burn off the polymer and fuse the silica particles into a continuous glass structure. The approach worked, making it possible to craft shapes such as tiny pretzels and replica castle gates. The work garnered interest from companies wanting to build minute lenses and other complex transparent optical components for telecommunications equipment. But the procedure was slow, turning out components one by one, rather than a fully industrial approach that could produce parts en masse, as is done with plastic. To speed things up, [the researchers] have now extended their nanocomposite approach to work with injection molding, a process used to mass produce plastic parts like toys and car bumpers by the ton. The researchers again started with tiny silica particles. The team then mixed the silica with two polymers, polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polyvinyl butyral (PVB). The mixture created a dry powder with the consistency of toothpaste. The team fed the paste into an extruder that pressed it into a preformed mold with shapes such as a disc or tiny gear. To harden them, the researchers used water to wash away the PEG. They then fired the remaining material in two stages: First at 600C to burn out the PVB, and second at 1300C to fuse the silica particles into the final piece. Outside of the mold, the parts hold their shape because myriad weak attractive bonds, called van der Waals interactions, form between neighboring silica particles. But the parts are still fragile. The report has been published in the journal Science.

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(2021-04-10T07:00:00+00:00)

US Arrests Suspect Who Wanted To Blow Up AWS Data Center - An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Record: The FBI has arrested on Thursday a Texas man who planned to blow up one of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centers in an attempt to "kill of about 70% of the internet." Seth Aaron Pendley, 28, of Wichita Falls, Texas, was arraigned in front of a Texas judge today and formally indicted with a malicious attempt to destroy a building with an explosive. The US Department of Justice said Pendley was arrested on Thursday after he tried to acquire C-4 plastic explosives from an undercover FBI employee in Fort Worth, Texas. The FBI said they learned of Pendley's plans after the suspect confided in January 2021 via Signal, an encrypted communications app, to a third-party source about plans to blow up one of Amazon's Virginia-based data centers. The source alerted the FBI and introduced the suspect to the undercover agent on March 31. "The suspect allegedly told an FBI agent that he wanted to attack Amazon's data center because the company was providing web servers to the FBI, CIA, and other federal agencies and that he hoped to bring down 'the oligarchy' currently in power in the United States," the report says. Pendley could face up to 20 years in federal prison if he's found guilty and convicted.

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(2021-04-10T03:30:00+00:00)

New, Reversible CRISPR Method Can Control Gene Expression While Leaving DNA Sequence Unchanged - fahrbot-bot shares a report from Phys.Org: Over the past decade, the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system has revolutionized genetic engineering, allowing scientists to make targeted changes to organisms' DNA. While the system could potentially be useful in treating a variety of diseases, CRISPR-Cas9 editing involves cutting DNA strands, leading to permanent changes to the cell's genetic material. Now, in a paper published online in Cell on April 9, researchers describe a new gene editing technology called CRISPRoff that allows researchers to control gene expression with high specificity while leaving the sequence of the DNA unchanged. The classic CRISPR-Cas9 system uses a DNA-cutting protein called Cas9 found in bacterial immune systems. The system can be targeted to specific genes in human cells using a single guide RNA, where the Cas9 proteins create tiny breaks in the DNA strand. Then the cell's existing repair machinery patches up the holes. Because these methods alter the underlying DNA sequence, they are permanent. That's where the researchers saw an opportunity for a different kind of gene editor -- one that didn't alter the DNA sequences themselves, but changed the way they were read in the cell. This sort of modification is what scientists call 'epigenetic' -- genes may be silenced or activated based on chemical changes to the DNA strand. Epigenetic gene silencing often works through methylation -- the addition of chemical tags to to certain places in the DNA strand -- which causes the DNA to become inaccessible to RNA polymerase, the enzyme which reads the genetic information in the DNA sequence into messenger RNA transcripts, which can ultimately be the blueprints for proteins. With this new CRISPRoff technology, one can [express a protein briefly] to write a program that's remembered and carried out indefinitely by the cell.

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(2021-04-10T02:02:00+00:00)

TAE Technologies Claims Landmark In Fusion Energy, Sees Commercialization By 2030 - TAE Technologies, a 20-year-old fusion energy technology developer, is claiming to have hit a milestone in the development of a new technology for generation power from nuclear fusion. The company said its reactors could be operating at commercial scale by the end of the decade, thanks to its newfound ability to produce stable plasma at temperatures over 50 million degrees (nearly twice as hot as the sun). TechCrunch reports: For TAE Technologies, the achievement serves as a validation of the life's work of Norman Rostoker, one of the company's co-founders who had devoted his life to fusion energy research and died before he could see the company he helped create reach its latest milestone. "This is an incredibly rewarding milestone and an apt tribute to the vision of my late mentor, Norman Rostoker," said TAE's current chief executive officer, Michl Binderbauer, in a statement announcing the company's achievement. "Norman and I wrote a paper in the 1990s theorizing that a certain plasma dominated by highly energetic particles should become increasingly better confined and stable as temperatures increase. We have now been able to demonstrate this plasma behavior with overwhelming evidence. It is a powerful validation of our work over the last three decades, and a very critical milestone for TAE that proves the laws of physics are on our side." Rostoker's legacy lives on inside TAE through the company's technology platform, called, appropriately, "Norman." In the last 18 months that technology has demonstrated consistent performance, reaching over 50 million degrees in several hundred test cycles. Six years ago, the company had proved that its reactor design could sustain plasma indefinitely -- meaning that once the switch is flipped on a reaction, that fusion reaction can continue indefinitely. Now, the company said, it has achieved the necessary temperatures to make its reactors commercially viable. It's with these milestones behind it that TAE was able to raise an additional $280 million in financing, bringing its total up to $880 million and making it one of the best financed private nuclear fusion endeavors in the world.

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(2021-04-10T01:25:00+00:00)

Research Says Facebook's Ad Algorithm Perpetuates Gender Bias - New research from a team at the University of Southern California provides further evidence that Facebook's advertising system is discriminatory, showing that the algorithm used to target ads reproduced real-world gender disparities when showing job listings, even among equally qualified candidates. The Intercept reports: In fields from software engineering to sales to food delivery, the team ran sets of ads promoting real job openings at roughly equivalent companies requiring roughly the same skills, one for a company whose existing workforce was disproportionately male and one that was disproportionately female. Facebook showed more men the ads for the disproportionately male companies and more women the ads for the disproportionately female companies, even though the job qualifications were the same. The paper concludes that Facebook could very well be violating federal anti-discrimination laws. "We confirm that Facebook's ad delivery can result in skew of job ad delivery by gender beyond what can be legally justified by possible differences in qualifications," the team wrote. The paper can be found here.

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(2021-04-10T00:45:00+00:00)

Customs and Border Protection Paid $700,000 To Encrypted App Wickr - An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), part of the Department of Homeland Security, recently paid encrypted messaging platform Wickr over $700,000, Motherboard has found. The news highlights the value of end-to-end encryption to law enforcement, while other federal law enforcement agencies routinely lambast the technology for what they say results in visibility on criminals' activities "going dark." The contract is related to "Wickr licenses and support," dates from September 2020, and totals at $714,600, according to public procurement records. Wickr is likely most well known for its free consumer app, which lets users send encrypted messages to one another, as well as make encrypted video and audio calls. The app also offers an auto-burn feature, where messages are deleted from a users' device after a certain period of time, with the company claiming these messages "can never be uncovered," according to its website. Wickr also offers various paid products to private companies and government agencies. Wickr Pro and Wickr Enterprise are marketed towards businesses; Wickr RAM is geared specifically for the military. [...] It is not clear which specific Wickr product CBP paid for. A CBP spokesperson told Motherboard in a statement that "The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and other laws prohibit the unauthorized use and disclosure of proprietary information from federal government contract actions. All publicly available information on this contract has been made available at the link you have provided. Any other information is considered proprietary to the awardee (WICKR) and shall not be divulged outside of the Government."

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(2021-04-10T00:02:00+00:00)

300 Nvidia GPUs Seized After High Speed Boat Chase - ExtremeTech's Joel Hruska tells the story of a recent high-speed boat chase involving up to 300 Nvidia CMP 30HX GPUs. From the report: Our movie-like story kicked off with Chinese authorities detaining a fishing boat anchored near Hong Kong International Airport. Men on the fishing boat were swapping cargo over to a speedboat. When authorities approached, the smugglers hopped into the speedboat and fled. While the customs officials were unable to apprehend the smugglers in the subsequent high-speed chase, the hapless fishing boat owner was unable to get away. Confiscated goods, according to THG, included sea cucumbers, shark fins, and other various tech products and gadgets. The graphics cards were considered a surprise. There's a certain dark hilarity in imagining drug dealers across the world offering their clientele multiple ounces of weed or an RTX 3060, but in this case, the haul consisted of low-end 30HX CMP cards. Nvidia offers a range of CMP cards, with performance ranging from 26MH/s to 86MH/s. The 30HX and 40HX are believed to be based on Turing silicon -- the GTX 1660 Super and RTX 2070, respectively. The 50X and 90HX are harder to pin down. The 50HX is a touch faster than the known mining performance of the RTX 2080 Ti, while the 90HX is about 10 percent slower than the known mining performance of an RTX 3080. If the 50HX is based on the RTX 2080 Ti, it's fielding a smaller amount of VRAM; the RTX 2080 Ti offered 11GB, while the 50HX has just 10GB.

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(2021-04-09T23:20:00+00:00)