Teen Bedridden for Life after Selling Kidney for an iPhone

Posted: 20 Jan 2019 06:42 AM PST

In April 2011, 17 year old Wang Shangkunsold a kidney to buy an iPhone. When asked why he did this, the man said "Why do I need a second kidney? One is enough,".

The man subsequently developed complications and now needs regular dialysis to survive. The complications may have been caused by a lack of post operative care. The doctors involved have been arrested.

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Elastic Microrobots Can Adapt to Different Fluids

Posted: 20 Jan 2019 04:21 AM PST

Smart microrobots that can adapt to their surroundings

One day we may be able to ingest tiny robots that deliver drugs directly to diseased tissue, thanks to research being carried out at EPFL [(École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne)] and ETH Zurich [(Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich)] .

The group of scientists – led by Selman Sakar at EPFL and Bradley Nelson at ETH Zurich – drew inspiration from bacteria to design smart, biocompatible microrobots that are highly flexible. Because these devices are able to swim through fluids and modify their shape when needed, they can pass through narrow blood vessels and intricate systems without compromising on speed or maneuverability. They are made of hydrogel nanocomposites that contain magnetic nanoparticles allowing them to be controlled via an electromagnetic field.

[...] Fabricating miniaturized robots presents a host of challenges, which the scientists addressed using an origami-based folding method. Their novel locomotion strategy employs embodied intelligence, which is an alternative to the classical computation paradigm that is performed by embedded electronic systems. "Our robots have a special composition and structure that allow them to adapt to the characteristics of the fluid they are moving through. For instance, if they encounter a change in viscosity or osmotic concentration, they modify their shape to maintain their speed and maneuverability without losing control of the direction of motion," says Sakar.

These deformations can be "programmed" in advance so as to maximize performance without the use of cumbersome sensors or actuators. The robots can be either controlled using an electromagnetic field or left to navigate on their own through cavities by utilizing fluid flow. Either way, they will automatically morph into the most efficient shape.

Adaptive locomotion of artificial microswimmers (open, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau1532) (DX)

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Scientists ID Another Possible Threat to Orcas: Pink Salmon

Posted: 20 Jan 2019 02:00 AM PST


Over the years, scientists have identified dams, pollution and vessel noise as causes of the troubling decline of the Pacific Northwest's resident killer whales. Now, they may have found a new and more surprising culprit: pink salmon.

Four salmon researchers were perusing data on the website of the Center for Whale Research, which studies the orcas, several months ago when they noticed a startling trend: that for the past two decades, significantly more of the whales have died in even-numbered years than in odd years.

In a newly published paper, they speculate that the pattern is related to pink salmon, which return to the Salish Sea between Washington state and Canada in enormous numbers every other year — though they're not sure how. They suspect that the huge runs of pink salmon, which have boomed under conservation efforts and changes in ocean conditions in the past two decades, might interfere with the whales' ability to hunt their preferred prey, Chinook salmon.

Given the dire plight of the orcas, which officials say are on the brink of extinction, the researchers decided to publicize their discovery without waiting to investigate its causes.

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Exomoon Confirmation Remains Elusive

Posted: 19 Jan 2019 11:39 PM PST

The first suspected exomoon may remain hidden for another decade

A good exomoon is hard to find. Proving that the first purported moon around an exoplanet actually exists could take up to a decade, its discoverers say.

"We're running into some difficult problems in terms of confirming the presence of this thing," said astronomer Alex Teachey of Columbia University at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society on January 10.

[...] That uncertainty is partly because the purported moon seems to be about the size of Neptune, much larger than moon formation theories predict. And the researchers can't rule out that the evidence of the moon isn't actually evidence of a second planet. "We're trying to be very careful about not calling this a discovery, that we've got this beyond a shadow of a doubt," Teachey said.

[...] Ground-based telescopes are trying to confirm if the object is a moon or a second planet based on the object's gravitational tugs on the known planet. That's a much slower process than looking for dips in light from exoplanets and exomoons passing in front of their stars, which is what the Hubble and Kepler data reveal, and could take five to 10 years, Teachey says.

Headline News: Object Not Found.

Previously: First Exo-Moon Discovered?
First Known Exomoon May Have Been Detected: Kepler 1625b i
New Evidence Supports Existence of Neptune-Sized Exomoon Orbiting Kepler-1625b

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Robot Designed Using 290-Million-Year-Old Fossil of an Extinct Animal

Posted: 19 Jan 2019 09:18 PM PST

RoboFossil Reveals Locomotion of Beast from Deep Time

Some 290 million years ago a four-legged, plant-eating creature the size of large dog roamed what is now central Germany. It did not carry itself like most other tetrapods known from that time, belly low to the ground and limbs splayed out to the sides; instead it walked taller, tucking its limbs under its body for a more erect posture. That is the portrait emerging from a new multidisciplinary study that has reconstructed the locomotion of this long-extinct animal, called Orobates pabsti—in part by developing a robot version of the beast to test the physics of various gaits. And it adds to a growing body of evidence that the textbook account of when and how four-limbed animals conquered terra firma needs revision.

Interactive demo.

Reverse-engineering the locomotion of a stem amniote (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0851-2) (DX)

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Desalination Pours Billions of Liters of Toxic Brine into Oceans

Posted: 19 Jan 2019 06:57 PM PST

Desalination pours more toxic brine into the ocean than previously thought

Technology meant to help solve the world's growing water shortage is producing a salty environmental dilemma.

Desalination facilities, which extract drinkable water from the ocean, discharge around 142 billion liters of extremely salty water called brine back into the environment every day, a study finds. That waste product of the desalination process can kill marine life and detrimentally alter the planet's oceans, researchers report January 14 in Science of the Total Environment.

"On the one hand, we are trying to provide populations — particularly in dry areas — with the needed amount of good quality water. But at the same time, we are also adding an environmental concern to the process," says study coauthor Manzoor Qadir, an environmental scientist at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health in Hamilton, Canada.

I would take some salt, but it probably contains microplastics.

The state of desalination and brine production: A global outlook (DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.12.076) (DX)

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Sen. Marco Rubio Wants to Ban States from Protecting Consumer Privacy

Posted: 19 Jan 2019 04:36 PM PST

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

US Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has proposed a federal privacy law that would preempt tougher privacy rules issued by states.

Rubio's announcement Wednesday said that his American Data Dissemination (ADD) Act "provides overdue transparency and accountability from the tech industry while ensuring that small businesses and startups are still able to innovate and compete in the digital marketplace."

But Rubio's bill establishes a process for creating rules instead of issuing specific rules right away, and it allows up to 27 months for Congress or the Federal Trade Commission to write the actual rules.

In addition, the bill text says it "shall supersede" any provision of a state law that pertains to the same consumer data governed by Rubio's proposed federal law. That includes names, Social Security numbers, other government ID numbers, financial transactions, medical histories, criminal histories, employment histories, user-generated content, "unique biometric data, such as fingerprint, voice print, retina or iris image, or other unique physical representation," and other personal data collected by companies.

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Most Users Don't Know Facebook Keeps a List of Their Interests, Traits

Posted: 19 Jan 2019 02:15 PM PST

Ignorance may be bliss for Facebook's users. About 74 percent of adults in the US who use Facebook didn't know the social network keeps a list of their interests and traits for ad targeting, says a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.

About half of Facebook users said they weren't comfortable that the company compiled this information.

The world's largest social network came under fire in 2018 for a series of scandals over data privacy and security. The episodes caused concern about whether Facebook does enough to let users know what information it tracks and how it uses the data.

Facebook knows your age, gender and location, along with what you post, the pages you like and the businesses you check into on the social network. All that information helps the company determine what ads to show its 2.3 billion users.

Facebook users can view their "ad preferences" page to see what the social network thinks their interests are and why they're seeing a given ad. This list can include users' political leanings, hobbies and even the type of smartphone they use. Facebook users can also remove an interest from that list to change the type of ads they see on the social network.

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773 Million Password "Megabreach" is Years Old

Posted: 19 Jan 2019 11:42 AM PST

Security maven Brian Krebs, possibly best known for his blog Krebs On Security, recently posted an article that puts a damper on the kerfluffle about a huge e-mail and password breach that has been recently announced: 773M Password 'Megabreach' is Years Old:

My inbox and Twitter messages positively lit up today with people forwarding stories from Wired and other publications about a supposedly new trove of nearly 773 million unique email addresses and 21 million unique passwords that were posted to a hacking forum. A story in The Guardian breathlessly dubbed it "the largest collection ever of breached data found." But in an interview with the apparent seller, KrebsOnSecurity learned that it is not even close to the largest gathering of stolen data, and that it is at least two to three years old.

The dump, labeled "Collection #1" and approximately 87GB in size, was first detailed earlier today by Troy Hunt, who operates the HaveIBeenPwned breach notification service. Hunt said the data cache was likely "made up of many different individual data breaches from literally thousands of different sources."

[...] Collection #1 offered by this seller is indeed 87GB in size. He also advertises a Telegram username where he can be reached — "Sanixer." So, naturally, KrebsOnSecurity contacted Sanixer via Telegram to find out more about the origins of Collection #1, which he is presently selling for the bargain price of just $45.

Sanixer said Collection#1 consists of data pulled from a huge number of hacked sites, and was not exactly his "freshest" offering. Rather, he sort of steered me away from that archive, suggesting that — unlike most of his other wares — Collection #1 was at least 2-3 years old. His other password packages, which [...] total more than 4 terabytes in size, are less than a year old, Sanixer explained.

tl;dr: What you've seen recently mentioned in the press is old hat, and nothing to be too terribly concerned about. On the other hand, there are other collections -- over 5 times larger -- that are even newer. That is something to be concerned about.

What to do? The old advice still applies: Don't reuse passwords. Do use long passphrases or passwords. Do enable two-factor authentication. Do use a password manager. Avoid putting your e-mail out on the web in plain text for bots to find.

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