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French Satellite Tests the Equivalence Principle to an Unprecedented Precision

Posted: 02 Dec 2017 08:09 AM PST

Galileo's 400-year-old theory of free-falling objects passes space test

A key tenet of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity has passed yet another test with flying colors—and for the first time in space. A French satellite experiment has shown that objects with different masses fall at exactly the same rate under gravity, just as relativity dictates. The result is the most precise confirmation yet of the equivalence principle, first tested more than 400 years ago by Galileo Galilei. "The mission appears to have performed fantastically," says Clifford Will, a theoretical physicist at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Physicists scrutinize the equivalence principle because any violation could point to new forces of nature that might resolve a long-standing impasse between general relativity and quantum theory. The satellite, called MICROSCOPE, found no discrepancy in the acceleration of two small test masses to about one part in 100 trillion (1014).That's more than 10 times better than the most sensitive ground-based experiments, which look for disparities in the response of weights to Earth's spin.

[...] A proposed Italian satellite, aptly named Galileo Galilei, would test equivalence to a precision of one part in 10^17, partly by spinning rapidly and isolating any signal from more slowly varying systematic effects. Researchers at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, have proposed a satellite that aims to reach one part in 10^18 using noise-reducing cryogenics. Still other researchers hope to use Bose-Einstein condensates—clouds of cold atoms that behave as a single quantum wave [DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6355.986] [DX]—to reach tight limits.

Equivalence principle.

Determination of the Equivalence Principle violation signal for the MICROSCOPE space mission: optimization of the signal processing

Relevance of the weak equivalence principle and experiments to test it: lessons from the past and improvements expected in space

Original Submission

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Auditable Macros in C Code

Posted: 02 Dec 2017 05:48 AM PST


Like death and taxes, one thing that you can be sure of is that using C macros in a modern software project will cause a debate. While for some macros remain a convenient and efficient way of achieving particular programming goals, for others they are opaque, introduce the unnecessary risk of coding errors, and reduce readability.

The criticism of macros is particularly acute in the wider security community. Among Cossack Labs' engineers and the core Themis crypto library contributors there are people who previously worked on auditing cryptographic implementations of critical code. Their typical knee-jerk reaction to macros was always "kill it with fire and never use it again". Taking no sides, we would like to assess both pros and cons of using such dangerous things as macros in security code (as we faced the issue when developing Themis) and suggest some techniques for lowering the accompanying risks.

We'll also discuss a custom "for-audit" build target for Themis designed specifically to generate source code that exposes the macros to inspection because we appreciate the need for security software to be subject to detailed source code scrutiny.

Original Submission

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Michael Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying to the F.B.I.

Posted: 02 Dec 2017 03:59 AM PST

President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the F.B.I. about conversations with the Russian ambassador last December during the presidential transition, bringing the special counsel's investigation into the president's inner circle.

Mr. Flynn, who appeared in federal court in Washington, acknowledged that he was cooperating with the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russian interference in the 2016 election. His plea agreement suggests that Mr. Flynn provided information to prosecutors, which may help advance the inquiry.


Original Submission

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Apple to Design its Own Power Management Chips

Posted: 02 Dec 2017 03:27 AM PST

Apple will reportedly design its own power management chips (archive) for new iPhones within 1-2 years. The news sent shares of Dialog Semiconductor plummeting:

Apple's long-term plans to cut dependence on suppliers to boost its semiconductor capabilities have been widely-flagged as it consolidates its production chain to better compete with its rivals. But these plans may have claimed a victim, with Dialog shares down 19.16% soon after these exclusive plans were revealed on Nikkei Asian Review. They were down 17.58% at 13:59GMT.

The main power management chip controls an iPhone's charging function, battery management, and energy consumption. "Based on Apple's current plan, they are set to replace partially, or around half of its power management chips to go into iPhones by itself starting next year," said the source. Another person said Apple was indeed developing its own power management chips for iPhones but the time frame was less certain and could be delayed to 2019.

Apple's main power management chips for the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch are now exclusively designed and made by Dialog, according to Credit Suisse. Apple accounted for 74% of Dialog's revenue in 2016. Power management chips are one of the most crucial and expensive components after core processors, modems and memory chips.

Also at Bloomberg and The Verge.

Original Submission

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More than a Million Pro-Repeal Net Neutrality Comments were Likely Faked

Posted: 02 Dec 2017 01:06 AM PST

I used natural language processing techniques to analyze net neutrality comments submitted to the FCC from April-October 2017, and the results were disturbing.

NY Attorney General Schneiderman estimated that hundreds of thousands of Americans' identities were stolen and used in spam campaigns that support repealing net neutrality. My research found at least 1.3 million fake pro-repeal comments, with suspicions about many more. In fact, the sum of fake pro-repeal comments in the proceeding may number in the millions. In this post, I will point out one particularly egregious spambot submission, make the case that there are likely many more pro-repeal spambots yet to be confirmed, and estimate the public position on net neutrality in the "organic" public submissions.

The author's key findings:

  1. One pro-repeal spam campaign used mail-merge to disguise 1.3 million comments as unique grassroots submissions.
  2. There were likely multiple other campaigns aimed at injecting what may total several million pro-repeal comments into the system.
  3. It's highly likely that more than 99% of the truly unique comments³ were in favor of keeping net neutrality.

Original Submission

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Chinese General Commits Suicide Amid Corruption Probe

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 10:45 PM PST

People's Liberation Army General Zhang Yang was found hanged at his Beijing home on November 23:

Xinhua said Zhang had "serious disciplinary violations," something [The South China Morning Post] describes as "euphemism for corruption." NPR's Rob Schmitz, reporting from Shanghai, says the general "had disappeared from public sight more than two months ago amidst a crackdown on corruption within military ranks launched by Chinese leader Xi Jinping."

[...] "Xi Jinping's decision to persecute both Xu and Guo after their retirement reflects his determination to put an end to the dominance of Jiang Zemin (his own patron) over the military. As far as the cleaning up of corruption in the Chinese military is concerned, however, this is just the beginning," The Diplomat wrote at the time Guo [Boxiong] was dismissed from the military in 2015.

China's President Xi Jinping recently consolidated his power, elevating himself to the status of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping as he enters his second 5-year term as President.

Also at The South China Morning Post.

Original Submission

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Charges Dropped in Case of Murder Suspect Who Owned an Amazon Echo

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 08:24 PM PST

The case against James Bates, an Arkansas man and Amazon Echo owner charged with first-degree murder, has been dropped by prosecutors:

Arkansas prosecutors have dropped their case against James Bates, whom they had charged with first-degree murder partly with the help of evidence collected by an Amazon Echo smart speaker. On Wednesday, a circuit court judge granted their request to have the charges of murder and tampering with evidence dismissed.

The prosecutors declared nolle prosequi, stating that the evidence could support more than one reasonable explanation.

The move marks a curious end to a still more curious case, which had revolved around the role played by a personal assistant device that's supposed to begin recording as soon as someone says its wake word — "Alexa," in this case — in its presence.

Previously: Police Seek Amazon Echo Data in Murder Case
Amazon Continues to Resist Requests for "Alexa" Audio Evidence in Arkansas Murder Case
Can Amazon Echo Help Solve a Murder? Police Will Soon Find Out.

Related: Law Enforcement Has Been Using OnStar, SiriusXM, to Eavesdrop, Track Car Locations

Original Submission

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Synthetic X and Y Bases Direct the Production of a Protein With "Unnatural" Amino Acids

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 06:03 PM PST

In 2014, scientists engineered Escherichia coli to incorporate new bases they called 'X' and 'Y' in addition to adenine-thymine (A-T) and guanine-cytosine (G-C). Now it has been demonstrated that these synthetic base pairs can be transcribed into RNA and used to produce a protein containing "unnatural" amino acids.

The addition of the new bases could increase the amount of amino acids from 20 to a possible total of 172.

A semi-synthetic organism that stores and retrieves increased genetic information (DOI: 10.1038/nature24659) (DX)

Since at least the last common ancestor of all life on Earth, genetic information has been stored in a four-letter alphabet that is propagated and retrieved by the formation of two base pairs. The central goal of synthetic biology is to create new life forms and functions, and the most general route to this goal is the creation of semi-synthetic organisms whose DNA harbours two additional letters that form a third, unnatural base pair. Previous efforts to generate such semi-synthetic organisms culminated in the creation of a strain of Escherichia coli that, by virtue of a nucleoside triphosphate transporter from Phaeodactylum tricornutum, imports the requisite unnatural triphosphates from its medium and then uses them to replicate a plasmid containing the unnatural base pair dNaM–dTPT3. Although the semi-synthetic organism stores increased information when compared to natural organisms, retrieval of the information requires in vivo transcription of the unnatural base pair into mRNA and tRNA, aminoacylation of the tRNA with a non-canonical amino acid, and efficient participation of the unnatural base pair in decoding at the ribosome. Here we report the in vivo transcription of DNA containing dNaM and dTPT3 into mRNAs with two different unnatural codons and tRNAs with cognate unnatural anticodons, and their efficient decoding at the ribosome to direct the site-specific incorporation of natural or non-canonical amino acids into superfolder green fluorescent protein. The results demonstrate that interactions other than hydrogen bonding can contribute to every step of information storage and retrieval. The resulting semi-synthetic organism both encodes and retrieves increased information and should serve as a platform for the creation of new life forms and functions.

Previously: Scientists Engineer First Semisynthetic Organism With Three-base-pair DNA

Related: How Scientists Are Altering DNA to Genetically Engineer New Forms of Life

Original Submission

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Intel and Warner Bros. Partner to Bring "Immersive Experiences" to Autonomous Vehicles

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 03:42 PM PST

Intel wants to make your autonomous car rides more entertaining

To that end, Intel announced on Wednesday at the 2017 LA Auto Show that it will partner with Warner Bros. to develop "in-cabin, immersive experiences in autonomous vehicle (AV) settings," according to the company's press release. They're calling it the AV Entertainment Experience. Essentially, not only will passengers be able to watch movies, TV shows or play games on their mobile devices while their autonomous vehicles are driving, they'll eventually engage with fully immersive VR and AR experiences as well.

So get ready for the advertising:

It's also the first indication that the future of driving will be chockablock with advertising. We're used to seeing ads on the side of the road while driving, or hearing commercials on our radios. But the idea that brands will be competing for space on the screens inside our vehicles — or on the windshields of the vehicles themselves — may not sit well with some people, especially if they aren't afforded a chance to block or mute these ads. It might be too early to start worrying about the manipulation of self-driving cars to sell us more stuff, but that doesn't mean advertisers aren't already devising ways to do just that.

[...] "Get ready for your car to become yet another 'screen' where publishers and advertisers compete for your attention," says a new report from Forrester Research entitled "Autonomous Vehicles Will Reshape the Global Economy" (via MarTech Today). "Don't be surprised," the report warns, "when you start to see big brands sponsoring your rides: 'This trip is brought to you by the champagne of beers — Miller High Life.'"

Original Submission

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Elon Musk to Compete for High-Speed Rail Loop in Chicago

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 01:21 PM PST

Elon Musk wants to take his train to Chicago.

The billionaire tech entrepreneur tweeted Wednesday that his Boring Company would compete to design, fund, build and operate a high-speed loop connecting O'Hare Airport with downtown Chicago.

Musk's statement came after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked for proposals to build and operate a high-speed rail line that will whisk passengers from the airport to downtown in 20 minutes or fewer, cutting travel times in half. Contractors will also have to figure out how to finance it without taxpayer dollars, Emanuel said.

The L already connects O'Hare and Midway airports to downtown Chicago.

Original Submission

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The Surgeon Who Wants to Connect You to the Internet with a Brain Implant

Posted: 01 Dec 2017 11:48 AM PST

Want, or Do Not Want?

"What I think is so interesting is that the future is always flying cars," Leuthardt says, handing the resident his Sharpie and picking up a scalpel. "They captured the dystopian component: they talk about biology, the replicants. But they missed big chunks of the future. Where were the neural prosthetics?"

It's a topic that Leuthardt, a 44-year-old scientist and brain surgeon, has spent a lot of time imagining. In addition to his duties as a neurosurgeon at Washington University in St. Louis, he has published two novels and written an award-winning play aimed at "preparing society for the changes ahead." In his first novel, a techno-thriller called RedDevil 4, 90 percent of human beings have elected to get computer hardware implanted directly into their brains. This allows a seamless connection between people and computers, and a wide array of sensory experiences without leaving home. Leuthardt believes that in the next several decades such implants will be like plastic surgery or tattoos, undertaken with hardly a second thought.

The article reports Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are working on neural implants as well.

Original Submission

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