Australia

Crypto-Bashing Prime Minister Argues The Laws Of Mathematics Don't Apply In Australia (independent.co.uk) 325

An anonymous reader quotes the Independent:Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said the laws of mathematics come second to the law of the land in a row over privacy and encryption... When challenged by a technology journalist over whether it was possible to tackle the problem of criminals using encryption -- given that platform providers claim they are currently unable to break into the messages even if required to do so by law -- the Prime Minister raised eyebrows as he made his reply. "Well the laws of Australia prevail in Australia, I can assure you of that. The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia," he said... "The important thing is to recognise the challenge and call on the companies for assistance. I am sure they know morally they should... They have to face up to their responsibility."
Facebook has already issued a statement saying that they "appreciate the important work law enforcement does, and we understand the need to carry out investigations. That's why we already have a protocol in place to respond to any requests we can.

"At the same time, weakening encrypted systems for them would mean weakening it for everyone."
NASA

Scrap Dealer Finds Apollo-Era NASA Computers In Dead Engineer's Basement (arstechnica.com) 104

Long-time Slashdot reader Joe_NoOne quotes Ars Technica: A pair of Apollo-era NASA computers and hundreds of mysterious tape reels have been discovered in a deceased engineer's basement in Pittsburgh... Most of the tapes are unmarked, but the majority of the rest appear to be instrumentation reels for Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, NASA's fly-by missions to Jupiter and Saturn... At some point in the early 1970s, an IBM engineer working for NASA at the height of the Space Race took home the computers -- and the mysterious tape reels. A scrap dealer, invited to clean out the deceased's electronics-filled basement, discovered the computers. The devices were clearly labelled "NASA PROPERTY," so the dealer called NASA to report the find. "Please tell NASA these items were not stolen," the engineer's heir told the scrap dealer, according to the report. "They belonged to IBM Allegheny Center Pittsburgh, PA 15212. During the 1968-1972 timeframe, IBM was getting rid of the items so [redacted engineer] asked if he could have them and was told he could have them."
"NASA told the family of the deceased that it was not in the junk removal business," Ars Technica reports, adding "The two computers are so heavy that a crane was likely used to move the machines." A NASA archivist concluded there's no evidence the tapes contained anything of historic significance.
Biotech

Can AI Replace Hospital Radiologists? (cnn.com) 112

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Radiologists, who receive years of training and are some of the highest paid doctors, are among the first physicians who will have to adapt as artificial intelligence expands into health care... Today radiologists face a deluge of data as they serve patients. When Jim Brink, radiologist in chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, entered the field in the late 1980s, radiologists had to examine 20 to 50 images for CT and PET scans. Now, there can be as many as 1,000 images for one scan. The work can be tedious, making it prone to error. The added imagery also makes it harder for radiologists to use their time efficiently... The remarkable power of today's computers has raised the question of whether humans should even act as radiologists. Geoffrey Hinton, a legend in the field of artificial intelligence, went so far as to suggest that schools should stop training radiologists.
X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds and PET scans do improve patient care -- but they also drive up costs. And now one medical imaging startup can read a heart MRI in 15 seconds, a procedure which takes a human 45 minutes. Massachusetts General Hospital is already assembling data to train algorithms to spot 25 common scenarios. But Brinks predicts that ultimately AI will become more of a sophisticated diagnostic aid, flagging images that humans should examine more closely, while leaving radiologists with more time for interacting with patients and medical staff.
Google

Google's Life Sciences Unit Is Releasing 20 Million Bacteria-Infected Mosquitoes in Fresno (techcrunch.com) 115

Earlier this week, a white Mercedes Sprinter van began a delivery route along the streets of Fancher Creek, a residential neighborhood on the southeastern edge of Fresno, California. Its cargo? 100,000 live mosquitoes, all male, all incapable of producing offspring. As it crisscrossed Fancher Creek's 200 acres, it released its payload, piping out swarms of sterile Aedes aegypti into the air. It'll do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, from now until the end of December. From a report: Verily, the life science's arm of Google's parent company Alphabet, has hatched a plan to release about 20 million lab-made, bacteria-infected mosquitoes upon Fresno, California -- and that's a good thing! You see, the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito is prevalent in the area. Earlier this year, a woman contracted the first confirmed case of Zika in Fresno through sexual contact with a partner who had been traveling. Now there's the fear of the inevitable mosquito-meets-patient if we don't do something about it. Verily's plan, called the Debug Project, hopes to now wipe out this potential Zika-carrying mosquito population to prevent further infections.
Movies

Biologists Use Gene Editing To Store Movies In DNA (scientificamerican.com) 87

New submitter elmohound writes: A recent paper in Nature describes how gene editing was used to store a digital movie into a bacterial population. The choice of subject is a nice hommage to Muybridge's 1887 photos. From a report via Scientific American: "The technical achievement, reported on July 12 in Nature, is a step towards creating cellular recording systems that are capable of encoding a series of events, says Seth Shipman, a synthetic biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. To develop such a system, however, his team would need to establish a method for recording hundreds of events in a cell. Shipman and his colleagues, including Harvard geneticist George Church, harnessed the CRISPR-Cas immune system best known for enabling researchers to alter genomes with relative ease and accuracy. Shipman's team exploited the ability to capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses and store them in an organized array in the host genome. In nature, those snippets then target an enzyme to slice up the invader's DNA. The team designed its system so that these snippets corresponded to pixels in an image. The researchers encoded the shading of each pixel -- along with a barcode that indicated its position in the image -- into 33 DNA letters. Each frame of the movie consisted of 104 of these DNA fragments." You can view the movie here, which consists of five frames adapted from Muybridge's Human and Animal Locomotion series.
Medicine

Vaccines May Soon Be Mandatory For Children In France (theverge.com) 252

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Last week, the French Health Ministry announced plans to make 11 vaccines mandatory for young children by 2018. French law currently mandates three vaccines -- diphtheria, tetanus, and polio -- for children under the age of two. The government's proposal would expand that list to include eight other vaccines -- including those against Hepatitis B, whooping cough, and measles -- that were previously only recommended. The proposal, which is to be presented to lawmakers by the end of this year, comes amid an ongoing measles outbreak across Europe, which the World Health Organization (WHO) attributed to low immunization rates. Italy passed a similar decree in May, requiring children to receive 10 vaccines as a condition for school enrollment. Germany, while stopping short of a mandate, has moved to tighten its laws on child immunization. But some experts question whether a vaccination mandate will sway public opinion in France, where distrust in vaccines has risen alarmingly in recent years. In a survey published last year, 41 percent of respondents in France disagreed with the statement that vaccines are safe -- the highest rate of distrust among the 67 countries that were surveyed, and more than three times higher than the global average.
Canada

Former Astronaut Julie Payette To Be Canada's Next Governor General (www.cbc.ca) 109

MightyMartian shares a report from CBC.ca: Former astronaut Julie Payette will be the Queen's new representative in Canada, CBC News has confirmed. The 53-year-old Montrealer, who speaks six languages, will be named the 29th governor general, a position that comes with a $290,660 annual salary and an official residence at Rideau Hall. Payette, who is also an accomplished athlete, pianist and choral singer, will succeed outgoing Gov. Gen. David Johnston. A computer engineer with a commercial pilot license, Payette was picked from among 5,330 applicants in 1992 to be one of four new astronauts with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). She participated in two space flights to the International Space Station and served as the CSA's chief astronaut between 2000 and 2007.

MightyMartian adds: "I defy anyone else to find a head of state who is an astronaut!"

Medicine

'Living Drug' That Fights Cancer By Harnessing The Immune System Clears Key Hurdle (npr.org) 73

An anonymous reader shares an NPR report: A new kind of cancer treatment that uses genetically engineered cells from a patient's immune system to attack their cancer easily cleared a crucial hurdle Wednesday. A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee unanimously recommended that the agency approve this "living drug" approach for children and young adults who are fighting a common form of leukemia. The agency doesn't have to follow the committee's recommendation but usually does. The treatment takes cells from a patient's body, modifies the genes, and then reinfuses those modified cells back into the person who has cancer. If the agency approves, it would mark the first time the FDA has approved anything considered to be a "gene therapy product." The treatment is part of one of the most important developments in cancer research in decades -- finding ways to harness the body's own immune system to fight cancer. And while it has generated much hope, there are some concerns about its safety over the long term -- and its cost.
NASA

NASA Finally Admits It Doesn't Have the Funding To Land Humans on Mars (arstechnica.com) 247

For years, NASA has been chalking out and expanding its plans to go to Mars. The agency's Journey to Mars project aims to land humans on the red planet during the 2030s. For years, the agency has been reassuring us that it will be able to make do all those audacious projects within the budget it gets. Until now, that is. From a report: Now, finally, the agency appears to have bended toward reality. During a propulsion meeting of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics on Wednesday, NASA's chief of human spaceflight acknowledged that the agency doesn't really have the funding it needs to reach Mars with the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. These vehicles have cost too much to build, and too much to fly, and therefore NASA hasn't been able to begin designing vehicles to land on Mars or ascend from the surface. "I can't put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is the other piece is, at the budget levels we described, this roughly 2 percent increase, we don't have the surface systems available for Mars," said NASA's William H. Gerstenmaier, responding to a question about when NASA will send humans to the surface of Mars. "And that entry, descent and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars." This seems like a fairly common sense statement, but it's something that NASA officials have largely glossed over -- at least in public -- during the agency's promotion of a Journey to Mars.
NASA

NASA Releases Juno's First Stunning Close-Ups of Jupiter's Giant Storm (theverge.com) 55

NASA's Juno spacecraft has sent back the first photos from its close flyby over Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot. These images offer the closest ever view of the massive storm. The Verge reports: Juno has been orbiting Jupiter for a little over a year on a mission to study the planet's interior, atmosphere, and magnetosphere. Its elliptical orbit around the planet takes the probe close to the surface for a few hours every 53 days. These are called perijove passes -- and on July 10th, Juno completed its seventh. A little after its closest approach, Juno's camera, JunoCam, snapped a few shots of the storm from about 5,000 miles above. Typically, a team of NASA scientists chooses which images a spacecraft collects on its path around a planet. But with Juno, NASA's opened up the process to the public: space fans can weigh in on the photos JunoCam shoots by ranking their favorite points of interest. After the photos are taken, NASA releases the raw images for the public to process. People can crop them, assemble them into collages, and change or enhance the colors. The results are mesmerizing. You can view even more photos here.
Moon

Private Company Plans To Bring Moon Rocks Back To Earth In Three Years (arstechnica.com) 66

mi writes: Moon Express, founded in 2010 to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, says it is self-funded to begin bringing kilograms of lunar rocks back to Earth within about three years. "We absolutely intend to make these samples available globally for scientific research, and make them available to collectors as well," said Bob Richards, one of the company's founders, in an interview with Ars. From the report: "The privately held company released plans for a single, modular spacecraft that can be combined to form successively larger and more capable vehicles. Ultimately the company plans to establish a lunar outpost in 2020 and set up commercial operations on the Moon."
Earth

Era of 'Biological Annihilation' Is Underway, Scientists Warn (theguardian.com) 359

Tatiana Schlossberg reports via The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled, alternate source): From the common barn swallow to the exotic giraffe, thousands of animal species are in precipitous decline, a sign that an irreversible era of mass extinction is underway, new research finds. The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, calls the current decline in animal populations a "global epidemic" and part of the "ongoing sixth mass extinction" caused in large measure by human destruction of animal habitats. The previous five extinctions were caused by natural phenomena. Dr. Ceballos emphasized that he and his co-authors, Paul R. Ehrlich and Rodolfo Dirzo, both professors at Stanford University, are not alarmists, but are using scientific data to back up their assertions that significant population decline and possible mass extinction of species all over the world may be imminent, and that both have been underestimated by many other scientists. The study's authors looked at reductions in a species' range -- a result of factors like habitat degradation, pollution and climate change, among others -- and extrapolated from that how many populations have been lost or are in decline, a method that they said is used by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They found that about 30 percent of all land vertebrates -- mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians -- are experiencing declines and local population losses. In most parts of the world, mammal populations are losing 70 percent of their members because of habitat loss.
Science

Iceberg the Size of Delaware, Among Biggest Ever Recorded, Snaps Off Antarctica (marketwatch.com) 305

A giant iceberg about the size of Delaware that had been under scientists' watch has broken off from an ice shelf on the Antarctica Peninsula and is now adrift in the Weddell Sea. From a report: The 2,200 square-mile, trillion metric-ton section of the Larsen C ice shelf "calved" off sometime between Monday and Wednesday, a team of researchers at Swansea University's Project MIDAS has reported, citing imaging from NASA's Aqua MODIS satellite instrument. Scientists have tracked the crack for more than a decade and they warned in June that the section was "hanging by a thread." Its break, from Antarctica's fourth-largest ice shelf, changes the border shape of the peninsula forever even though the remaining ice shelf will continue to grow. "The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict," said professor Adrian Luckman of Swansea University, lead investigator of the MIDAS project. "It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments. Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters."
Science

Plants Can Turn Caterpillars Into Cannibals To Avoid Getting Eaten (nationalgeographic.com.au) 56

An anonymous reader quotes a report from National Geographic: A new study published in the Nature Ecology and Evolution journal found that when some plants are under attack from hungry herbivores, they emit defenses that make themselves incredibly foul-tasting to caterpillars, which spurs the caterpillars to eat each other. "Plants can defend themselves so much that they food-stress the herbivore, and then the herbivores determine that rather than have plants on their menu, they should have caterpillars at the top of their menu," said John Orrock, the author of the study and a researcher in the Department of Zoology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Orrock and his research team sprayed tomato plants with methyl jasmonate -- a substance plants produce in response to environmental stresses -- to trigger the plants' defense mechanisms. This chemical allowed the plant to change its chemistry, which made it less appetizing to the beet armyworm caterpillars that were placed on a treated plant. This phenomenon has been documented in a variety of plants, and research has suggested that plants can sense when surrounding plants are under attack, which can spur the production of methyl jasmonate in entire communities of plants.
Medicine

Coffee Cuts Risk of Dying From Stroke and Heart Disease, Study Suggests (theguardian.com) 165

Research suggests that people who drink coffee have a lower risk of dying from a host of causes, including heart disease, stroke and liver disease. "The connection, revealed in two large studies, was found to hold regardless of whether the coffee was caffeinated or not, with the higher among those who drank more cups of coffee a day," reports The Guardian. From the report: The first study looked at coffee consumption among more than 185,000 white and non-white participants, recruited in the early 1990s and followed up for an average of over 16 years. The results revealed that drinking one cup of coffee a day was linked to a 12% lower risk of death at any age, from any cause while those drinking two or three cups a day had an 18% lower risk, with the association not linked to ethnicity.

The second study -- the largest of its kind -- involved more than 450,000 participants, recruited between 1992 and 2000 across ten European countries, who were again followed for just over 16 years on average. After a range of factors including age, smoking status, physical activity and education were taken into account, those who drank three or more cups a day were found to have a 18% lower risk of death for men, and a 8% lower risk of death for women at any age, compared with those who didn't drink the brew. The benefits were found to hold regardless of the country, although coffee drinking was not linked to a lower risk of death for all types of cancer. The study also looked at a subset of 14,800 participants, finding that coffee-drinkers had better results on many biological markers including liver enzymes and glucose control. But experts warn that the two studies, both published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, do not show that drinking coffee was behind the overall lower risk, pointing out that it could be that coffee drinkers are healthier in various ways or that those who are unwell drink less coffee.

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