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posted by Fnord666 on Monday February 17, @11:11AM   Printer-friendly
from the makes-my-heart-beat-faster dept.

Normal resting heart rate appears to vary widely from person to person: Individual people's averages show long-term consistency, according to de-identified data from wearables worn by 92,457 people:

A person's normal resting heart rate is fairly consistent over time, but may vary from others' by up to 70 beats per minute, according to analysis of the largest dataset of daily resting heart rate ever collected. Giorgio Quer of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on February 5, 2020 as part of an upcoming PLOS Collection on Digital Health Technology.

A routine visit to the doctor usually involves a measurement of resting heart rate, but such measurements are rarely actionable unless they deviate significantly from a "normal" range established by population-level studies. However, wearables that track heart rate now provide the opportunity to continuously monitor heart rate over time, and identify normal resting heart rates at the individual level.

In the largest study of its kind to date, Quer and colleagues retrospectively analyzed de-identified heart rate data from wearables worn for a median of 320 days by 92,457 people from across the U.S. Nearly 33 million days' worth of heart rate data were collected in total. The researchers used the data to examine variations in resting heart rate for individuals over time, as well as between individuals with different characteristics.

The analysis showed that one person's mean daily resting heart rate may differ by up to 70 beats per minute from another person's normal rate. Taken together, age, sex, body mass index (BMI), and average daily sleep duration accounted for less than 10 percent of the observed variation between individuals.

Journal Reference:
Giorgio Quer, Pishoy Gouda, Michael Galarnyk, Eric J. Topol, Steven R. Steinhubl. Inter- and intraindividual variability in daily resting heart rate and its associations with age, sex, sleep, BMI, and time of year: Retrospective, longitudinal cohort study of 92,457 adults. PLOS ONE, 2020; 15 (2): e0227709 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0227709

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday February 17, @08:50AM   Printer-friendly
from the Bring-on-the-bottled-air dept.

The world's carbon-dioxide problem doesn't just affect the atmosphere — the gas is starting to fill our homes, schools, and offices, too.

Indoor levels of the gas are projected to climb so high, in fact, that they could cut people's ability to do complex cognitive tasks in half by the end of the century.

That prediction comes from three scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Pennsylvania, who presented their findings last week at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The study is still under peer review but available online in the repository Earth ArXiv.

The findings show that, if global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions continue to rise on their current trajectory, the concentration of CO2 in the air could more than double by 2100. Based on measurements of how humans function in spaces with that much CO2, the scientists warn, we could find ourselves scoring 50% lower on measures of complex thought by the end of the century.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday February 17, @06:27AM   Printer-friendly
from the be-very-afraid dept.

‘That Evil Kind of Feeling’: The Inside Story of Black Sabbath’s Iconic Cover Art:

For the look of the cover[*], [designer Keith Macmillan] used Kodak infrared aerochrome film, which was designed for aerial photographs and gave the portrait its pinkish hue. (You can see a similar look on the first album cover he designed, Colosseum's Valentyne Suite.) Later on, he did "a little bit of tweaking in the chemistry to get that slightly dark, surrealistic, evil kind of feeling to it." Since it was sensitive film, he'd boil it and then freeze it, to make the image grainy and undefined.

He decided the shoot should take place at the Mapledurham Watermill, a 15th-century structure in Oxfordshire, about an 80-minute drive from central London. He'd found it with one of his college girlfriends, who lived near it, and had remembered taking a walk around it. "Nowadays it's very much more modernized, beautified, and touristed," he says "Then, it was quite a run-down and quite spooky place. The undergrowth was quite thick and quite tangled, and it just had a kind of eerie feel to it."

He contacted a London model agency, asking for a woman who could portray the ominous figure he'd envisaged for the shot, and picked out Louisa Livingstone. "She was a fantastic model," he says. "She was quite petite, very, very cooperative. I wanted someone petite because it just gave the landscape a bit more grandeur. It made everything else look big."

[*] Here's a link to a picture of the cover.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday February 17, @04:06AM   Printer-friendly

This USB-C Charger's Chip Is More Powerful Than the Apollo 11 Flight Computer:

As we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing last year, the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) became a particularly juicy target. The analysis, of course, showed just how much more powerful the chips used in common smartphones are than the computers that got us to the moon. Not too shocking, but amazing nonetheless.

For fun, Forrest Heller, a software engineer at Apple who previously worked on Occipital's Structure 3D scanner, thought he'd cast around for a different comparison. How would far more basic chips, say, the ones in USB-C chargers, compare to the AGC?

Heller took a deep and detailed look and came to a fairly startling conclusion—even these modest chips can easily go toe-to-toe with the computer that got us to the moon.

[...] Now, this isn't to slander the Apollo Guidance Computer [(AGC)]. Not at all. The AGC was amazing.

Without the AGC, no human pilot could have kept the Apollo spacecraft on course to the moon and back. Probably most incredible was how much it did with how little. You might say a USB-C charger is the opposite: Notable for how little it does with how much.

And that's really the point, isn't it?

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday February 17, @01:45AM   Printer-friendly
from the DIY dept.

The evening current events show As it Happens on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) reports that American engineer Justine Haupt is the creator of a rotary-dial mobile phone.

Listen to the full 5m39s radio interview or read a shortened transcript on-line.

Justine Haupt, who created her own cellphone with a rotary dial, said she did so because she doesn't like how hyper-connected people have become in the world of smartphones.

"You can't browse the internet, it can't text, and all of that is intentional because I have a problem with how hyper-connected everyone is nowadays.

[...]Haupt, a 34-year-old space engineer, explains that although the phone operates on a 3G cellular network, it is not a smartphone.

"It's as un-smart as it can be, intentionally."

Haupt aims to use the phone on a daily basis and tried to make it as compact as possible, so it could fit in a pocket.

The phone does integrate some modern features, such as programmable shortcut buttons for calling specific numbers, a power switch, and a curved e-paper screen that displays basic information such as missed calls.

Though only briefly mentioned in the interview, the phone incorporates open source hardware from Adafruit Industries.

Full project description and documentation can be found on Haupt's webpage:

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday February 16, @11:24PM   Printer-friendly
from the conflict-of-interest? dept.

Waterfox web browser sold to System1

It appears that the Waterfox web browser has been sold to System1 recently, the same company that bought the Startpage search engine some time ago. To be precise, Startpage was bought by Privacy One Group Ltd which System1 owns. System1 is an advertising company that tries to "make advertising better and safer, while respecting consumer privacy".

[...] Privacy expert Liz McIntyre, who was involved with Startpage prior to the ownership change, noticed in October 2019 that System1 was looking to hire a web browser developer. She decided to keep an eye on potential web browser sales as it was likely that System1 was interested in buying an established web browser with a user base instead of building one from scratch.

The job description provides insight on the potential target: It revealed that development would focus on the Mozilla platform and that a key goal was to keep a classic version of the browser up-to-date.

[...] There are not that many browsers that match the description which made the most popular ones, Waterfox and Pale Moon, the most likely target for a sale.

See also: Waterfox has joined System1

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday February 16, @09:09PM   Printer-friendly
from the cake-time! dept.

Thank You!

On the occasion of the site's sixth anniversary, I thought it fitting to mention some of the many ways that fellow Soylentils contribute to our community. This also seems like a good opportunity to mention some of the site's history, relate some staffing changes, mention other contributions by the SoylentNews community, and to wrap things up with some site statistics.

Please accept our thanks:

These thanks go out to all of you: my fellow members of the SoylentNews community.

To the Anonymous Cowards who post comments to our site (be they inciteful or insightful). To our registered users who not only post comments, but are also the only members who can moderate comments. No matter how long you have been here; whether you have just arrived (Welcome!) or have been with us from the very start... Thank You!

Speaking of which, thanks go to our staff who bludgeoned and duct-taped an ancient unmaintained open-sourced version of the code underpinning slashdot into some sort of basic functionality, and who have since made it the site you are enjoying today. Thanks, too, to our behind-the-scenes staff members, who keep the underlying services we depend on, running 24/7. Other staff members are more visible, like the editorial team who spend several hours every single day processing the stories that get posted to the site.

And let's not forget the members of the community who purchase subscriptions and thereby fund the operations of this site. We do have real world expenses: paying for our servers, domain registrations, and paying a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) to do our taxes.

Read on past the fold for all the rest!

Some History:

The history of this site has been well documented in our prior birthday announcements.

I've collected links to them for those who would like to take a walk down memory lane or to learn of how we got our start. It is worth mentioning here that preceding the creation of SoylentNews was a SlashCott, a boycott of the slashdot site where participants pledged to not access slashdot at all during the week-long period of February the 10th through the 17th. The first paragraphs of our 5-year anniversary post describes things quite well... Enjoy !

  1. Welcome to the World of Tomorrow... Today!
  2. SoylentNews is One Year Old!
  3. Happy Second Anniversary to SoylentNews!
  4. Three Years In - What Has Happened and How we Got Here
  5. Happy Birthday to SoylentNews -- Four Years Old!
  6. SoylentNews is... FIVE YEARS OLD!


I am happy to announce our editorial team has a new member spiraldancing who has been getting up to speed and has already posted several stories. And... we have two more who will be going through training as soon as some free time appears in their schedule.

Helping Others

SoylentNews is not just all about ourselves. Several members have joined together to help medical researchers examine the causes of protein misfolding which is of interest to medical research into Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, and many forms of cancer. Please see my Journal Entry for details on what has been done and how to sign up!


Since this site went live, over 950,000 comments (WOW!) have been made to over 30,700 stories and 4,760 journal entries. Along the way, the community made just shy of 650,000 moderations to those comments. We now have over 9,500 registered nicknames, too.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday February 16, @07:01PM   Printer-friendly
from the a-new-hope dept.

Amazon wins court injunction on controversial JEDI contract:

[...] Amazon late last year filed suit against the Trump administration over the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud-computing contract. Amazon last month asked the court to grant a temporary injunction halting any JEDI work while the case is pending, and today Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith agreed. Although the existence of the injunction is public, documents relating to the matter are presently sealed.

The JEDI contract is a $10 billion agreement to build a cloud computing and storage platform for use by the entire Department of Defense. Several firms were in the running for the deal, including Oracle and IBM. in April, the DoD dropped the list of finalist candidates to two: Amazon's AWS and Microsoft's Azure. AWS was widely expected to seal the deal, and so industry-watchers were surprised when in October Microsoft nabbed the contract instead.

Amazon filed suit a month later. The company argued that it didn't just lose the contract for ordinary reasons of cost or capability but was instead sabotaged for political reasons. Microsoft's win flowed from "improper pressure from President Donald J. Trump, who launched repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks to steer the JEDI Contract away from AWS to harm his perceived political enemy—Jeffrey P. Bezos," the lawsuit argued. (Bezos is the founder of Amazon and CEO as well as owner of The Washington Post.)


Original Submission

posted by spiraldancing on Sunday February 16, @04:40PM   Printer-friendly
from the etched-in-stone dept.

Food and energy availability cause physical changes in acid-loving microorganisms that are used to study Earth's climate history, according to research from Dartmouth College.

The finding that factors other than temperature can influence the membranes of single-celled archaea adds to the complexity of paleoclimate studies which have traditionally used the microbe's fossilized remains to reconstruct past climate conditions.

Archaea are one of three major domains of life alongside bacteria and eukarya, the domain that includes animals and plants.

The research result, published in Environmental Microbiology, can help resolve disagreements in paleoclimate research and can support a more detailed understanding of the planet's climate systems.

"Biomarkers, like the fat molecules that make up the cell membranes in our own bodies, can be powerful recorders of the environment that can last for billions of years," said William Leavitt, an assistant professor of earth sciences at Dartmouth. "The motivation of this research was to better explain how archaea respond to all major types of stress in their environment, and how they record that stress in fat molecules that last over geologic time."

[...] While most research on archaeal membranes has focused on species that live in lakes and oceans, the Dartmouth researchers studied thermoacidophiles—acid and heat-loving relatives that originally evolved in hot springs and thrive in some of Earth's most extreme environments. Instead of studying how the microbe reacted to temperature changes, the research team focused on the effects of varying food and energy availability.

[...] The research aims to help geologists and climatologists in their efforts to fine-tune records of past sea surface temperatures as they piece together portraits of Earth's past climate.

More information: Alice Zhou et al, Energy flux controls tetraether lipid cyclization in Sulfolobus acidocaldarius, Environmental Microbiology (2019). DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.14851

Journal information: Environmental Microbiology

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday February 16, @02:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the no-way-out dept.

The head of security firm Open Source Security, Brad Spengler, says he had little option but to file a lawsuit against open source advocate Bruce Perens, who alleged back in 2017 that security patches issued for the Linux kernel by OSS violated the licence under which the kernel is distributed.

The case ended last week with Perens coming out on the right side of things; after some back and forth, a court doubled down on its earlier decision that OSS must pay Perens' legal costs as awarded in June 2018.

The remainder of the article is an interview with Brad Spengler about the case and the issue.

iTWire contacted Spengler soon after the case ended, as he had promised to speak at length about the issue once all legal issues were done and dusted. Queries submitted by iTWire along with Spengler's answers in full are given below:

Court Orders Payment of $259,900.50 to Bruce Perens' Attorneys

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday February 16, @12:01PM   Printer-friendly
from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong? dept.

Automated system can rewrite outdated sentences in Wikipedia articles

A system created by MIT researchers could be used to automatically update factual inconsistencies in Wikipedia articles, reducing time and effort spent by human editors who now do the task manually.

Wikipedia comprises millions of articles that are in constant need of edits to reflect new information. That can involve article expansions, major rewrites, or more routine modifications such as updating numbers, dates, names, and locations. Currently, humans across the globe volunteer their time to make these edits.

In a paper being presented at the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, the researchers describe a text-generating system that pinpoints and replaces specific information in relevant Wikipedia sentences, while keeping the language similar to how humans write and edit.

The idea is that humans would type into an interface an unstructured sentence with updated information, without needing to worry about style or grammar. The system would then search Wikipedia, locate the appropriate page and outdated sentence, and rewrite it in a humanlike fashion. In the future, the researchers say, there's potential to build a fully automated system that identifies and uses the latest information from around the web to produce rewritten sentences in corresponding Wikipedia articles that reflect updated information.

"There are so many updates constantly needed to Wikipedia articles. It would be beneficial to automatically modify exact portions of the articles, with little to no human intervention," says Darsh Shah, a PhD student in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and one of the lead authors. "Instead of hundreds of people working on modifying each Wikipedia article, then you'll only need a few, because the model is helping or doing it automatically. That offers dramatic improvements in efficiency."

Many other bots exist that make automatic Wikipedia edits. Typically, those work on mitigating vandalism or dropping some narrowly defined information into predefined templates, Shah says. The researchers' model, he says, solves a harder artificial intelligence problem: Given a new piece of unstructured information, the model automatically modifies the sentence in a humanlike fashion. "The other [bot] tasks are more rule-based, while this is a task requiring reasoning over contradictory parts in two sentences and generating a coherent piece of text," he says.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday February 16, @09:40AM   Printer-friendly
from the back-room-deals dept.

Registrars raise alarm over proposal for big .com fee hikes:

Last week, ICANN announced that Verisign, the private company that administers the .com domain, will be allowed to raise prices by more than 70 percent over the next decade. Domain registrars—companies that help the public register domains and must pass along these escalating fees—aren't happy about it.

"ICANN and Verisign made these changes in secret, without consulting or incorporating feedback from the ICANN community or Internet users," registrar Namecheap wrote in a blog post. "Namecheap will continue to lead the fight against price increases that will harm our customers and the Internet as a whole."

On Sunday, my Ars Technica colleague Kate Cox got a notification from her registrar, Dynadot, warning that "price increases on the registry level unfortunately result in price increases at Dynadot."

To register a .com domain on behalf of a customer, a company like Namecheap or Dynadot must pay Verisign a $7.85 fee. Registrars typically add a few dollars on top of this fee, but fierce competition among registrars limits their ability to raise prices. But Verisign itself doesn't have competitors; if you want to register a .com address, you have to do business with Verisign.

To prevent Verisign from abusing this monopoly, ICANN caps the fees Verisign can charge.

The new contract allows Verisign to raise the current $7.85 price by 7 percent per year over the next four years—far faster than expected inflation over that period. Verisign would then be required to keep prices flat for two years before it could begin another four-year cycle of 7 percent annual price hikes. Add this all up, and the price of a domain registration could rise 70 percent to $13.49 by 2030. If inflation stays near the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target during that period, Verisign's inflation-adjusted revenue will rise by about $4 per domain, per year.

That would represent a massive windfall for Verisign because according to Namecheap, there are more than 140 million .com domain names registered. So Verisign would reap more than $500 million in additional revenue, each year, for running the .com registration database.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday February 16, @07:19AM   Printer-friendly
from the rewarding-activity dept.

Preclinical Study Links Human Gene Variant to THC Reward:

A common variation in a human gene that affects the brain's reward processing circuit increases vulnerability to the rewarding effects of the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis in adolescent females, but not males, according to preclinical research by Weill Cornell Medicine investigators. As adolescence represents a highly sensitive period of brain development with the highest risk for initiating cannabis use, these findings in mice have important implications for understanding the influence of genetics on cannabis dependence in humans.

The brain's endocannabinoid system regulates activity of cannabinoids that are normally produced by the body to influence brain development and regulate mood, as well as those from external sources, such as the psychoactive ingredient THC, also known as Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which is found in cannabis. An enzyme called fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) breaks down a cannabinoid called anandamide that is naturally found in the brain and is most closely related to THC, helping to remove it from circulation.

In the study, published Feb. 12 in Science Advances, the investigators examined mice harboring a human gene variant that causes FAAH to degrade more easily, increasing overall anandamide levels in the brain. They discovered that the variant resulted in an overactive reward circuit in female—but not male adolescent mice—that resulted in higher preference for THC in females. Previous clinical studies linked this FAAH variant with increased risk for problem drug use, but no studies had specifically looked at the mechanistic effect on cannabis dependence.

"Our study shows that a variant in the FAAH gene, which is found in about one-third of people, increases vulnerability to THC in females and has large-scale impact on brain regions and pathways responsible for processing reward," said lead author Dr. Caitlin Burgdorf, a recent doctoral graduate from the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences. "Our findings suggest that genetics can be a contributing factor for increased susceptibility to cannabis dependence in select populations."

The team found that female mice with the FAAH variant showed an increased preference for the environment in which they'd been exposed to THC over a neutral environment when they were exposed to the substance during adolescence, and the effect persisted into adulthood. However, if female mice with this variant were exposed to THC for the first time in adulthood, there was no increased preference for THC. These findings in mice parallel observations in humans that a select population of females are more sensitive to the effects of cannabis and demonstrate a quicker progression to cannabis dependence. "Our findings suggest that we have discovered a genetic factor to potentially identify subjects at risk for cannabis dependence," said Dr. Burgdorf.

Journal Reference: Caitlin E. Burgdorf, Deqiang Jing, Ruirong Yang, et. al. Endocannabinoid genetic variation enhances vulnerability to THC reward in adolescent female mice. Science Advances, 2020; 6 (7): eaay1502 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay1502

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday February 16, @04:58AM   Printer-friendly
from the oh-what-a-tangled-web dept.

According to Bloomberg:

Boeing Co. told U.S regulators on Friday that it didn't see the need to undertake a potentially costly fix for a wiring issue on the company's grounded 737 Max, according to two people familiar with the briefing.

The planemaker found in an audit last year of the 737 Max that wires were bundled improperly in a way that could trigger a failure similar to what happened in two crashes of the plane in which a total of 346 people died.

U.S. law requires wiring that could cause a hazardous condition in a failure to be separated from other wires. [...]

The wiring issues have been found in more than a dozen locations on the 737 Max.

From The Seattle Times [May require that Ad-Blockers be switched off, or at least disable style sheets]:

During the original design and certification of Boeing's 737 MAX, company engineers didn't notice that the electrical wiring doesn't meet federal aviation regulations for safe wire separation. And the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) failed to detect Boeing's miss.

The wiring vulnerability creates the theoretical potential for an electrical short to move the jet's horizontal tail uncommanded by the pilot, which could be catastrophic. If that were to happen, it could lead to a flight control emergency similar to the one that brought down two MAX jets, causing 346 deaths and the grounding of the aircraft.

Because this danger is extremely remote, the FAA faces a dilemma over what to do about it. The issue has complicated the return of the MAX to service after a grounding that is edging close to one year. [...]

"There are 205 million flight hours in the 737 fleet with this wiring type," a Boeing official said. "There have been 16 failures in service, none of which were applicable to this scenario. We've had no hot shorts."

In addition, Boeing says pulling out and rerouting wires on the almost 800 MAXs already built would pose a potentially higher risk of causing an electrical short, because insulation could chafe or crack in the process of moving the wires.

However, an FAA safety engineer familiar with the issue, who asked not to be identified because he spoke without agency permission, said agency technical staff have been clear that the wiring doesn't comply with regulations and have told their Boeing counterparts it has to be fixed.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday February 16, @02:32AM   Printer-friendly
from the when-will-we-learn? dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Flaws in the blockchain app some states plan to use in the 2020 election allow bad actors to alter or cancel someone’s vote or expose their private info.

Security researchers have found key flaws in a mobile voting app that some states plan to use in the 2020 election that can allow hackers to launch both client- and server-side attacks that can easily manipulate or even delete someone’s vote, as well as prevent a reliable audit from taking place after the fact, they said.

A team of researchers at MIT released a security audit of Voatz—a blockchain app that already was used in a limited way for absentee-ballot voting in the 2018 mid-term elections—that they said bolsters the case for why internet voting is a bad idea and voting transparency is the only way to ensure legitimacy.

West Virginia was the first state to use Voatz, developed by a Boston-based company of the same name, in the mid-term election, marking the inaugural use of internet voting in a high-stakes federal election. The app primarily collected votes from absentee ballots of military service personnel stationed overseas. Other counties in Utah and Colorado also used the app last year in a limited way for municipal elections.

However, despite the company’s claim that the app has a number of security features that make it safe for such an auspicious use—including immutability via its use of a permissioned blockchain, end-to-end voting encryption, voter anonymity, device compromise detection, and a voter-verified audit trail–the MIT team found that any attacker that controls the user’s device through some very rudimentary flaws can brush aside these protections.

“We find that an attacker with root privileges on the device can disable all of Voatz’s host-based protections, and therefore stealthily control the user’s vote, expose her private ballot, and exfiltrate the user’s PIN and other data used to authenticate the server,” MIT researchers Michael A. Specter, James Koppe and Daniel Weitzner wrote in their paper (PDF), “The Ballot is Busted Before the Blockchain: A Security Analysis of Voatz, the First Internet Voting Application Used in U.S.Federal Elections.”

[...] One voting district in Washington state—Mason County–already has pulled its plans to use Voatz in November, according to the New York Times, while West Virginia is moving ahead with its plans to expand Voatz used to disabled voters, the paper reported.

Original Submission