Jewel beetle’s bright colored shell serves as camouflage from predators

Science - Posted On:2020-01-23 11:15:01 Source: arstechnica

Artist and naturalist Abbott Handerson Thayer became known as the "father of camouflage" with the publication in 1909 of a book on coloration in animals. He was particularly fascinated by the phenomenon of iridescence: many species exhibit bright, metallic jewel tones that shift hues depending on viewing angle. While iridescence is often viewed as a means of sexual selection—think the magnificent peacock, shimmering his feathers to attract a willing peahen—Thayer suggested that in some species, it was also an effective means of camouflage.

Thayer endured a fair bit of mockery for his ideas, most notably from Theodore Roosevelt, a big game hunter who thought Thayer had grossly overstated his case. Indeed, there has been very little empirical support for Thayer's hypothesis in the ensuing century. But researchers from the University of Bristol have now uncovered the first solid evidence for this in the jewel beetle, according to a new paper in Current Biology.

What makes iridescence in nature so unusual is the fact that the color we see doesn't come from actual pigment molecules, but from the precise lattice-like structure of the wings (or abalone shells, or peacock feathers, or opals, for that matter). That structure forces each light wave passing through to interfere with itself, so it can propagate only in certain directions and at certain frequencies. In essence, the structure acts like naturally occurring diffraction gratings. Physicists call these structures photonic crystals, an example of so-called "photonic band gap materials," meaning they block out certain frequencies of light and let through others.

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Amazon Asks Court To Halt Microsoft's Work on Pentagon 'War Cloud'

yro - Posted On:2020-01-23 11:15:00 Source: slashdot

Amazon has asked a U.S. federal court to stop Microsoft from working with the Pentagon to implement a $10 billion cloud-computing contract, arguing that the project should stall until the courts work out whether Microsoft deserved to receive the lucrative deal. From a report: Amazon is suing the Department of Defense (DOD) over allegations that it allowed President Trump to exert "improper influence" over the contract process, ultimately steering the cloud-computing project away from the online retail giant and towards Microsoft. Amazon was the clear front-runner in the competition before Trump began intervening in the process over the summer. Even as Amazon sues in federal court, Microsoft and the Pentagon have been forging ahead to lay the groundwork for the enormous cloud-computing project. But Amazon says it's improper for the deal to move forward until the U.S. Court of Federal Claims makes the final call. "It is common practice to stay contract performance while a protest is pending and it's important that the numerous evaluation errors and blatant political interference that impacted the JEDI award decision be reviewed," an Amazon Web Services spokesperson said late Wednesday night, adding the company "is absolutely committed to supporting the DoD's modernization efforts and to an expeditious legal process that resolves this matter as quickly as possible." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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LastPass Mistakenly Removes Extension from Chrome Store, Causes Outage

Security - Posted On:2020-01-23 10:59:56 Source: bleepingcomputer

An accidental outage was caused by LastPass yesterday by mistakenly removing the LastPass extension from the Chrome Web Store, leading to users seeing 404 errors when trying to download and install it on their devices. [...]

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Huawei Postpones Its Developers Conference Over Deadly Coronavirus

science - Posted On:2020-01-23 10:44:56 Source: slashdot

Huawei has postponed its upcoming HDC.Cloud developer conference as Chinese authorities try to control the spread of the deadly coronavirus detected in the southeastern city of Wuhan. From a report: The controversial company's event was going to take place in Shenzhen -- which lies more than 700 miles south of Wuhan -- Feb. 11-12, but it's been rescheduled to March 27-28. "Based on the prevention and control of the pneumonia epidemic situation of the new coronavirus infection, we attach great importance to the health and safety of all the participants," Huawei said in its announcement. It also asked staff to avoid traveling to Wuhan and limit contact with animals, Reuters reported, and said it set up an outbreak prevention and control team in the city. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Crisp, the demand forecast platform for the food industry, goes live

Enterprise - Posted On:2020-01-23 09:59:57 Source: techcrunch

The food industry may be the biggest industry in the world, but it’s also one of the least efficient. BCG says 1.6 billions tons of food, worth $1.2 trillion, is wasted in food every year and those numbers are only expected to go up. A number of players have stepped up to try and solve […]

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Google's Latest Search Results Change Further Blurs What's an Ad

search - Posted On:2020-01-23 09:59:56 Source: slashdot

Users of Google search on desktops may have noticed a slight change over the last week and that change is affecting what they perceive as an ad. This represents a further blurring of the lines between ads and organic sources in search. From a report: Beginning Jan. 13, Google redesigned its desktop search experience to feature favicons, or preferred icons, next to every single entry, including an ad. Always shown at the top of a page of search results, ads receive the same favicon treatment: the word "Ad" appears in bold, yet small black lettering. Site owners can also choose their featured favicon. This redesign first appeared in May on Google search for mobile devices. At the time, Google said the move was prompted by a desire to help users "better understand where the information is coming from and what pages have what [they're] looking for." Bringing that same design to desktops this month adds to the consistency of the search experience, regardless of the device, according to Google. This isn't the first time Google has changed the look of ads in search. "What an ad looks like has gotten more subtle over the years," said Brooke Osmundson, associate director of paid search for NordicClick, a pay-per-click agency. "It's started to blur the lines between what users thought was an ad or wasn't." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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No one hurt in Firefly “anomaly” as company tests its Alpha first stage

Science - Posted On:2020-01-23 09:29:56 Source: arstechnica

On Wednesday evening, at Firefly Aerospace's test site about an hour north of Austin in Central Texas, some sort of anomaly occurred. The Burnet County Sheriff's Office reported that the incident took place at 6:24pm CT (00:24 UTC, Thursday), and that officers had called for evacuations of residences within one mile of the test site.

Earlier in the evening, in a subsequently deleted tweet, the company stated that it was loading liquid oxygen onto the rocket and about to attempt a qualification hot fire test of the first stage of its Alpha booster. This rocket is powered by four Reaver engines and has a reported capacity of 1 metric ton to low-Earth orbit. Firefly has been working toward the inaugural launch of the rocket, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, in April.

Later Wednesday night, the company issued a statement about the test, noting that no one had been hurt.

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US Drinking Water Widely Contaminated With 'Forever Chemicals'

news - Posted On:2020-01-23 09:29:56 Source: slashdot

The contamination of U.S. drinking water with man-made "forever chemicals" is far worse than previously estimated. with some of the highest levels found in Miami, Philadelphia and New Orleans, said a report on Wednesday by an environmental watchdog group. From a report: The chemicals, resistant to breaking down in the environment, are known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Some have been linked to cancers, liver damage, low birth weight and other health problems. The findings by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) show the group's previous estimate in 2018, based on unpublished U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, that 110 million Americans may be contaminated with PFAS, could be far too low. "It's nearly impossible to avoid contaminated drinking water from these chemicals," said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the report. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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FCC shuts New York out of $20B broadband fund, and senators are angry

Biz & IT - Posted On:2020-01-23 09:14:56 Source: arstechnica

The Federal Communications Commission has unfairly shut New York state out of a planned $20.4 billion broadband-funding program, US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last week.

ISPs in 48 states are eligible for funding in the FCC rural-broadband program, which will distribute the money over 10 years to providers that expand their networks to new homes and businesses. The FCC said it blocked New York and Alaska from Phase I of the program "because of previously established programs to fund rural broadband in these states." (Phase I will distribute $16 billion of the $20.4 billion.)

The FCC previously established a separate funding program for Alaska with $1.5 billion over 10 years. But Schumer and Gillibrand say New York has only gotten its fair share of nationwide FCC programs, rather than something extra.

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Firefly experiences a “test anomaly” as it works toward first launch

Science - Posted On:2020-01-23 09:14:56 Source: arstechnica

On Wednesday evening, at Firefly Aerospace's test site about an hour north of Austin in Central Texas, some sort of anomaly occurred. The Burnet County Sheriff's Office reported that the incident took place at 6:24pm CT (00:24 UTC, Thursday), and that officers had called for evacuations of residences within one mile of the test site.

Earlier in the evening, in a subsequently deleted tweet, the company stated that it was loading liquid oxygen onto the rocket and about to attempt a qualification hot fire test of the first stage of its Alpha booster. This rocket is powered by four Reaver engines and has a reported capacity of 1 metric ton to low-Earth orbit. Firefly has been working toward the inaugural launch of the rocket, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, in April.

Later Wednesday night, the company issued a statement about the test, noting that no one had been hurt.

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In latest JEDI contract drama, AWS files motion to stop work on project

Cloud - Posted On:2020-01-23 08:44:57 Source: techcrunch

When the Department of Defense finally made a decision in October on the decade long, $10 billion JEDI cloud contract, it seemed that Microsoft had won. But nothing has been simple about this deal from the earliest days, so  it shouldn’t come as a surprise that last night Amazon filed a motion to stop work […]

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars starts its final season on February 21

Gaming & Culture - Posted On:2020-01-23 08:30:01 Source: arstechnica

Back in 2018, Lucasfilm surprised and delighted attendees at that year's ComicCon with the news that it would return to Star Wars: The Clone Wars. On Wednesday it released a new trailer for the animated series' final season, which airs on the Disney+ streaming service beginning February 21. Set before Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, the 12-episode season will (hopefully) wrap up the adventures of fan-favorite Jedi Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker's Padawan learner.

Like most of my colleagues, signing up for Disney+ wasn't a particularly hard decision; the eight-part series The Mandalorian has been more than worth the price of entry. But Disney wants people like me to keep sending it $6.99 a month, and that means fresh content, no matter how totes adorbs we all find Baby Yoda.

In fact, I'm currently in the middle of rewatching the first seven seasons of The Clone Wars, except this time in actual chronological order rather than the inexplicable "let's just show episodes at random because who cares it's just a cartoon" order that Cartoon Network chose when airing them between 2008 and 2013. (Note: the first seven series are still arranged in that bizarre mashup on Disney+, but this handy page over at starwars.com will help you straighten it out.)

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Google researchers find serious privacy risks in Safari’s anti-tracking protections

Biz & IT - Posted On:2020-01-23 08:14:57 Source: arstechnica

When Apple introduced powerful anti-tracking protections to Safari in 2017, advertisers banded together to say they were “deeply concerned” it would sabotage ad-supported content. Now, there’s new information showing that Safari users had good reason for unease as well.

Known as Intelligent Tracking Prevention, the mechanism uses machine learning to classify which websites are allowed to use browser cookies or scripts hosted on third-party domains to track users. Classifications are based on the specific browsing patterns of each end user. Sites that end users intentionally visit are permitted to do cross-site tracking. Sites that users don’t actively visit (but are accessed through tracking scripts) are restricted, either by automatically removing the cookies they set or truncating referrer headers to include only the domain, rather than the entire URL.

A paper published on Wednesday by researchers from Google said this protection came at considerable risk to the privacy end users. Because the list of restricted sites is based on users’ individual browsing patterns, Intelligent Tracking Prevention—commonly abbreviated as ITP—introduces settings into Safari that can be modified and detected by any page on the Internet. The paper said websites have been able to use this capability for a host of attacks, including:

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Scientists Discover 'Why Stress Turns Hair White'

science - Posted On:2020-01-23 08:14:56 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Scientists say they may have discovered why stress makes hair turn white, and a potential way of stopping it happening without reaching for the dye. Researchers behind the study, published in Nature, from the Universities of Sao Paulo and Harvard, believed the effects were linked to melanocyte stem cells, which produce melanin and are responsible for hair and skin color. And while carrying out in experiments on mice, they stumbled across evidence this was the case. Pain in mice triggered the release of adrenaline and cortisol, making their hearts beat faster and blood pressure rise, affecting the nervous system and causing acute stress. This process then sped up the depletion of stem cells that produced melanin in hair follicles. In another experiment, the researchers found they could block the changes by giving the mice an anti-hypertensive, which treats high blood pressure. And by comparing the genes of mice in pain with other mice, they could identify the protein involved in causing damage to stem cells from stress. When this protein -- cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) -- was suppressed, the treatment also prevented a change in the color of their fur. This leaves the door open for scientists to help delay the onset of grey hair by targeting CDK with a drug. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Safari’s anti-tracking protections can leak browsing and search histories

Biz & IT - Posted On:2020-01-23 07:59:57 Source: arstechnica

When Apple introduced powerful anti-tracking protections to Safari in 2017, advertisers banded together to say they were “deeply concerned” it would sabotage ad-supported content. Now, there’s new information showing that Safari users had good reason for unease as well.

Known as Intelligent Tracking Prevention, the mechanism uses machine learning to classify which websites are allowed to use browser cookies or scripts hosted on third-party domains to track users. Classifications are based on the specific browsing patterns of each end user. Sites that end users intentionally visit are permitted to do cross-site tracking. Sites that users don’t actively visit (but are accessed through tracking scripts) are restricted, either by automatically removing the cookies they set or truncating referrer headers to include only the domain, rather than the entire URL.

A paper published on Wednesday by researchers from Google said this protection came at considerable risk to the privacy end users. Because the list of restricted sites is based on users’ individual browsing patterns, Intelligent Tracking Prevention—commonly abbreviated as ITP—introduces settings into Safari that can be modified and detected by any page on the Internet. The paper said websites have been able to use this capability for a host of attacks, including:

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Maze Ransomware Not Getting Paid, Leaks Data Left and Right

Security - Posted On:2020-01-23 06:29:57 Source: bleepingcomputer

Maze ransomware operators have infected computers from Medical Diagnostic Laboratories (MDLab) and are releasing close to 9.5GB of data stolen from infected machines. [...]

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Sodinokibi Ransomware Threatens to Publish Data of Automotive Group

Security - Posted On:2020-01-23 06:29:57 Source: bleepingcomputer

The attackers behind the Sodinokibi Ransomware are now threatening to publish data stolen from another victim after they failed to get in touch and pay the ransom to have the data decrypted. [...]

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Euro Cup and Olympics Ticket Reseller Hit by MageCart

Security - Posted On:2020-01-23 06:29:57 Source: bleepingcomputer

Site belonging to a reseller of tickets for Euro Cup and the Tokyo Summer Olympics, two major sports events happening later this year, have been infected with JavaScript that steals payment card details. [...]

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How Dual-Screen Apps Will Run On Windows 10X, Android

hardware - Posted On:2020-01-23 05:14:57 Source: slashdot

Microsoft has published a blog post detailing exactly how it imagines dual-screen apps will run on devices like the Surface Duo and Surface Neo -- two foldable devices unveiled back on October that run Android and Windows 10X, respectively. The Verge reports: By default, an app will occupy a single screen according to Microsoft. Surface Duo or Surface Neo users can then span the app across both displays when they're in double-portrait or double-landscape layout. Microsoft envisions that app developers will experiment with different ways to utilize both screens. Some of these include simply using both screens as an extended canvas, having two pages of a document shown at once, using the second display as a companion or dual view of something, or having a master part of the app on one display and details on the second. These are "initial app pattern ideas," according to Microsoft, and the company could well extend them based on developer feedback in the coming months. Microsoft is also releasing an Android emulator for the Surface Duo today to allow devs to test mobile apps. A Windows 10X emulator for the Surface Neo will arrive next month at around the same time that Microsoft plans to detail more of its dual-screen plans during a developer webcast. Microsoft's Android emulator will naturally support Android apps, and the Windows 10X version will include support for native Windows APIs to let developers detect hinge positions and optimize their win32 or Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps for these new devices. Microsoft is also proposing new web standards for dual-screen layouts, and is "actively incubating new capabilities that enable web content to provide a great experience on dual-screen devices." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Facebook Trains An AI To Navigate Without Needing a Map

hardware - Posted On:2020-01-23 02:14:58 Source: slashdot

A team at Facebook AI has created a reinforcement learning algorithm that lets a robot find its way in an unfamiliar environment without using a map. MIT Technology Review reports: Using just a depth-sensing camera, GPS, and compass data, the algorithm gets a robot to its goal 99.9% of the time along a route that is very close to the shortest possible path, which means no wrong turns, no backtracking, and no exploration. This is a big improvement over previous best efforts. [...] Facebook trained bots for three days inside AI Habitat, a photorealistic virtual mock-up of the interior of a building, with rooms and corridors and furniture. In that time they took 2.5 billion steps -- the equivalent of 80 years of human experience. Others have taken a month or more to train bots in a similar task, but Facebook massively sped things up by culling the slowest bots from the pool so that faster ones did not have to wait at the finish line each round. As ever, the team doesn't know exactly how the AI learned to navigate, but a best guess is that it picked up on patterns in the interior structure of the human-designed environments. Facebook is now testing its algorithm in real physical spaces using a LoCoBot robot. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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