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  • What Ecstasy Does To Octopuses
    by BeauHD on September 21, 2018 at 12:10 am

    Gul Dolen, a neuroscientist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who studies how the cells and chemicals in animal brains influence animals' social lives, gave ecstasy to octopuses and recorded her observations. The study, published in the journal Current Biology, suggests that the psychoactive drug that can make people feel extra loving toward others also has the same effect on octopuses. An anonymous reader shares the report from The Atlantic: [Dolen] and her colleague Eric Edsinger put five Californian two-spot octopuses individually into the middle of three connected chambers and gave them free rein to explore. One of the adjacent chambers housed a second octopus, confined inside an overturned plastic basket. The other contained an unfamiliar object, such as a plastic flower or a Chewbacca figurine. Dolen and Edsinger measured how long the main animal spent in the company of its peer, and how long with the random toy. The free-moving individuals thoroughly explored the chambers, and from their movements, Dolen realized that individuals of any sex gravitate toward females, but avoid males. Next, she dosed the animals with ecstasy. Again, there's no precedent for this, but researchers often anesthetize octopuses by dunking them in ethanol -- a humane procedure with no lasting side effects. So Dolen and Edsinger submerged their octopuses in an MDMA solution, allowing them to absorb the drug through their gills. At first they used too high a dose, and the animals "freaked out and did all these color changes," Dolen says. But once the team found a more suitable dose, the animals behaved more calmly -- and more sociably. "With ecstasy in their system, the five octopuses spent far more time in the company of the same trapped male they once shunned," the report continues. "Even without a stopwatch, the change was obvious. Before the drug, they explored the chamber with the other octopus very tentatively." "They mashed themselves against one wall, very slowly extended one arm, touched the [other animal], and went back to the other side," Dolen says. "But when they had MDMA, they had this very relaxed posture. They floated around, they wrapped their arms around the chamber, and they interacted with the other octopus in a much more fluid and generous way. They even exposed their [underside], where their mouth is, which is not something octopuses usually do." Read more of this story at Slashdot. […]

  • Crippling DDoS Vulnerability Put the Entire Bitcoin Market At Risk
    by BeauHD on September 20, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    A major flaw was spotted in the Bitcoin network that could have allowed miners to bring down the entire blockchain by flooding full node operators with traffic, via a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack. "A denial-of-service vulnerability (CVE-2018-17144) exploitable by miners has been discovered in Bitcoin Core versions 0.14.0 up to 0.16.2." the patch notes state. "It is recommended to upgrade any of the vulnerable versions to 0.16.3 as soon as possible." The Next Web reports: Developers have issued a patch for anyone running nodes, along with an appeal to update the software immediately. As far as the attack vector in question goes, there's a catch: anyone ballsy enough to try to bring down Bitcoin would have to sacrifice almost $80,000 worth of Bitcoin in order do it. The bug relates to its consensus code. It meant that some miners had the option to send transaction data twice, causing the Bitcoin network to crash when attempting to validate them. As such invalid blocks need to be mined anyway, only those willing to disregard block reward of 12.5BTC ($80,000) could actually do any real damage. Read more of this story at Slashdot. […]

  • Xiaomi Admits To Putting Ads In the Settings Menu of Its Phones
    by BeauHD on September 20, 2018 at 10:50 pm

    Xiaomi, the world's fourth largest smartphone maker, was caught by a Reddit user for placing ads in the settings menu of its smartphones. The ads reportedly show up in Xiaomi's MIUI apps, including the music app and settings menu (MIUI is the name of Xiaomi's skinned version of Android). The Verge reports: When The Verge reached out to Xiaomi for confirmation on this matter, the company responded with the following statement, while also clarifying that it only applies to its devices running MIUI and not its Android One phones: "Advertising has been and will continue to be an integral part of Xiaomi's Internet services, a key component of the company's business model. At the same time, we will uphold user experience by offering options to turn off the ads and by constantly improving our approach towards advertising, including adjusting where and when ads appear. Our philosophy is that ads should be unobtrusive, and users always have the option of receiving fewer recommendations." Read more of this story at Slashdot. […]

  • Amazon Plants Fake Packages In Delivery Trucks As Part of Undercover Ploy To 'Trap' Drivers Stealing
    by BeauHD on September 20, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider: Amazon uses fake packages to catch delivery drivers who are stealing, according to sources with knowledge of the practice. The company plants the packages -- internally referred to as "dummy" packages -- in the trucks of drivers at random. The dummy packages have fake labels and are often empty. Here's how the practice works, according to the sources: During deliveries, drivers scan the labels of every package they deliver. When they scan a fake label on a dummy package, an error message will pop up. When this happens, drivers might call their supervisors to address the problem, or keep the package in their truck and return it to an Amazon warehouse at the end of their shift. Drivers, in theory, could also choose to steal the package. The error message means the package isn't detected in Amazon's system. As a result, it could go unnoticed if the package were to go missing. "If you bring the package back, you are innocent. If you don't, you're a thug," said Sid Shah, a former manager for DeliverOL, a courier company that delivers packages for Amazon. Read more of this story at Slashdot. […]

  • In a World of Robots, Carmakers Persist in Hiring More Humans
    by msmash on September 20, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    It looks like car-industry employees who are concerned about robots taking their jobs don't need to worry -- for now, at least. Of the 13 publicly traded automakers with at least 100,000 workers at the end of their most-recent fiscal year, 11 had more staff compared with year-end 2013, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Combined, they had 3.1 million employees, or 11 percent more than four years earlier, the data show. From the report: Carmakers in China and other emerging markets, where growth is strongest, favor human labor because it requires less upfront investment, said Steve Man, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence in Hong Kong. In developed markets, tasks that can be handled by robots were automated years ago and automakers are now boosting hiring in research and development as the industry evolves. "There's been a lot of growth in emerging markets, especially China, so that's one reason automakers are adding staff," Man said. "More staff is being added on the R&D side, with the push for autonomous, electric, connected vehicles." A trio of Chinese automakers, SAIC Motor, Dongfeng Motor Group and BYD -- in which Warren Buffett is a major investor -- increased staff by at least 24 percent. Volkswagen accounted for more than one in five jobs among the group of 13, and increased its employee count by 12 percent in the period. Things, however, look differently at General Motors, which shrank its payroll 18 percent to 180,000, and Nissan Motor, which contracted by 2.8 percent to 139,000 workers, the report added. Read more of this story at Slashdot. […]

  • Radio Astronomers Are Increasingly Using Convolutional Neural Networks To Sift Through Massive Amounts of Data
    by msmash on September 20, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    Radio astronomers have so far cataloged fewer than 300 fast radio bursts, mysterious broadband radio signals that originate from well beyond the Milky Way. Almost a third of them -- 72, to be precise -- were not detected by astronomers at all but instead were recently discovered by an artificial intelligence (AI) program trained to spot their telltale signals, even hidden underneath noisy background data. The very first recorded fast radio burst, or FRB, was spotted by radio astronomers in 2007, nestled in data from 2001, reads a report on IEEE Spectrum. Today, algorithms spot FRBs by sifting through massive amounts of data as it comes in. However, today's best algorithms still can't detect every FRB that reaches Earth. That's why AI developed by Breakthrough Listen, a SETI project headed by the University of California, Berkeley, which has already found dozens of new bursts in its trial run, will be a big help in future searches. The report adds: There are a few theories about what FRBs (fast radio bursts) might be. The prevailing theory is that they're created by rapidly rotating neutron stars. In other theories, they emanate from supermassive black holes. Even more out-there theories describe how they're produced when neutron stars collide with stars composed of hypothetical dark matter particles called axions. The bursts are probably not sent by aliens, but that theory has its supporters, too. What we do know is that FRBs come from deep space and each burst lasts for only a few milliseconds. Traditionally, algorithms tease them out of the data by identifying the quadratic signals associated with FRBs. But these signals are coming from far-flung galaxies. "Because these pulses travel so far, there are plenty of complications en route," says Zhang. Pulses can be distorted and warped along the way. And even when one reaches Earth, our own noisy planet can obfuscate a pulse. That's why it makes sense to train an AI -- specifically, a convolutional neural network -- to poke through the data and find the ones that traditional algorithms missed. "In radio astronomy," says Zhang, "at least nowadays, it's characterized by big data." Case in point: The 72 FRBs identified by the Berkeley team's AI were found in 8 terabytes of data gathered by the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. To even give the AI enough information to learn how to spot those signals in the first place, Zhang says the team generated about 100,000 fake FRB pulses. The simple quadratic structure of FRBs makes it fairly easy to construct fake pulses for training, according to Zhang. Then, they disguised these signals among the Green Bank Telescope data. As the team explains in their paper [PDF], accepted by The Astrophysical Journal with a preprint available on arXiv, it took 20 hours to train the AI with those fake pulses using a Nvidia Titan Xp GPU. By the end, the AI could detect 88 percent of the fake test signals. Furthermore, 98 percent of the identifications that the AI made were actually planted signals, as opposed to the machine mistakenly identifying background noise as an FRB pulse. Read more of this story at Slashdot. […]

  • Titans of Mathematics Clash Over Epic Proof of ABC Conjecture
    by msmash on September 20, 2018 at 8:10 pm

    Two mathematicians have found what they say is a hole at the heart of a proof that has convulsed the mathematics community for nearly six years. Quanta Magazine: In a report [PDF] posted online Thursday, Peter Scholze of the University of Bonn and Jakob Stix of Goethe University Frankfurt describe what Stix calls a "serious, unfixable gap" within a mammoth series of papers by Shinichi Mochizuki, a mathematician at Kyoto University who is renowned for his brilliance. Posted online in 2012, Mochizuki's papers supposedly prove the abc conjecture, one of the most far-reaching problems in number theory. Despite multiple conferences dedicated to explicating Mochizuki's proof, number theorists have struggled to come to grips with its underlying ideas. His series of papers, which total more than 500 pages, are written in an impenetrable style, and refer back to a further 500 pages or so of previous work by Mochizuki, creating what one mathematician, Brian Conrad of Stanford University, has called "a sense of infinite regress." Between 12 and 18 mathematicians who have studied the proof in depth believe it is correct, wrote Ivan Fesenko of the University of Nottingham in an email. But only mathematicians in "Mochizuki's orbit" have vouched for the proof's correctness, Conrad commented in a blog discussion last December. "There is nobody else out there who has been willing to say even off the record that they are confident the proof is complete." Nevertheless, wrote Frank Calegari of the University of Chicago in a December blog post, "mathematicians are very loath to claim that there is a problem with Mochizuki's argument because they can't point to any definitive error." That has now changed. In their report, Scholze and Stix argue that a line of reasoning near the end of the proof of "Corollary 3.12" in Mochizuki's third of four papers is fundamentally flawed. The corollary is central to Mochizuki's proposed abc proof. "I think the abc conjecture is still open," Scholze said. "Anybody has a chance of proving it." Read more of this story at Slashdot. […]

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