Dudes n Beer – Week In The News March 13 2018

CBS News – Expert warns of “terrifying” potential of digitally-altered video

Alec Baldwin is to some a perfect stand-in for President Donald Trump. But in a digitally-altered video online, the president’s face has been digitally stamped onto Baldwin’s performance.

Trump | Deepfakes Replacement by derpfakes on YouTube

It’s part of a wave of doctored audio and video now spreading online.

“The idea that someone could put another person’s face on an individual’s body, that would be like a homerun for anyone who wants to interfere in a political process,” said Virginia Senator Mark Warner. He believes manipulated video could be a game-changer in global politics.

“This is now going to be the new reality, surely by 2020, but potentially even as early as this year,” he said.

“Derpfakes” is the anonymous YouTuber who has made fake videos of President Trump, Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin, based off of performances by the cast of “Saturday Night Live.”

Putin | Face Replacement by derpfakes on YouTube

In a message to CBS News, he said he does it for “fun.” And though he sees the potential for fake news, he adds: “People will have to adapt as the tech is here to stay.”

Politico – Schwarzenegger to Sue Big Oil for ‘First Degree Murder’

AUSTIN, Texas — Arnold Schwarzenegger’s next mission: taking oil companies to court “for knowingly killing people all over the world.”

The former California governor and global environmental activist announced the move Sunday at a live recording of POLITICO’s Off Message podcast here at the SXSW festival, revealing that he’s in talks with several private law firms and preparing a public push around the effort.

“This is no different from the smoking issue. The tobacco industry knew for years and years and years and decades, that smoking would kill people, would harm people and create cancer, and were hiding that fact from the people and denied it. Then eventually they were taken to court and had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars because of that,” Schwarzenegger said. “The oil companies knew from 1959 on, they did their own study that there would be global warming happening because of fossil fuels, and on top of it that it would be risky for people’s lives, that it would kill.”

Schwarzenegger said he’s still working on a timeline for filing, but the news comes as he prepares to help host a major environmental conference in May in Vienna.

“We’re going to go after them, and we’re going to be in there like an Alabama tick. Because to me it’s absolutely irresponsible to know that your product is killing people and not have a warning label on it, like tobacco,” he said. “Every gas station on it, every car should have a warning label on it, every product that has fossil fuels should have a warning label on it.”

He argues that at the very least, this would raise awareness about fossil fuels and encourage people to look to alternative fuels and clean cars.

He added, “I don’t think there’s any difference: If you walk into a room and you know you’re going to kill someone, it’s first degree murder; I think it’s the same thing with the oil companies.”

The Guardian UK – Elon Musk: we must colonise Mars to preserve our species in a third world war

Humans must prioritise the colonisation of Mars so the species can be conserved in the event of a third world war, SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk said on Sunday.

“It’s important to get a self-sustaining base on Mars because it’s far enough away from earth that [in the event of a war] it’s more likely to survive than a moon base,” Musk said on stage at SXSW – just days after Donald Trump announced plans to meet the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in an attempt to defuse rising nuclear tension.

“If there’s a third world war we want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of human civilisation somewhere else to bring it back and shorten the length of the dark ages,” Musk said, responding to questions from his friend Jonah Nolan, the co-creator of the TV show Westworld.

SpaceX is working on a vehicle that will take humans to Mars, a 100-metre ship codenamed the BFR (Big Fucking Rocket). But building a colony would require “tremendous entrepreneurial resources”, Musk said.

He also countered the suggestion that Mars might be “some escape hatch for rich people” by highlighting the risks of the mission: “It will be like Shackleton’s ad for Antarctic explorers: ‘Difficult, dangerous, a good chance you’ll die, excitement for those who survive.’ That kind of thing.

Mashable – Turns out that Geek Squad has been in the FBI’s pocket for a decade

Who needs probable cause when you have geeks? 

That appears to be the thinking of the FBI, which has been working with Best Buy’s computer repair service Geek Squad for at least a decade. And we’re not talking about geeks fixing Bureau computers. 

Instead, according to documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the law enforcement agency has paid Geek Squad employees to act as informants and report potentially illegal content found on customers’ computers. What’s more, in at least one case it appeared that an employee may have proactively searched a computer for suspicious content — as opposed to just reporting what he or she inadvertently stumbled across.

Notably, the same documents — obtained via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit — suggest that the FBI does not straight-up instruct Geek Squad employees to perform these searches. However, as the EFF writes, documents show that the employees received financial rewards for finding child pornography on customer machines. This, of course, could incentivize those searches. 

USA Today – Bones found in South Pacific ‘likely’ Amelia Earhart’s, researcher says

A collection of lost bones discovered on a South Pacific Ocean island “likely” belonged to famed aviator Amelia Earhart, a new study claims. 

Richard Jantz, an anthropology professor at the University of Tennessee, determined the bones found nearly 80 years ago “have more similarity to Earhart than to 99% of individuals in a large reference sample,” a university statement said. 

Put simply, Jantz said, “until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing arguments is that they are hers.” In the same statement, the university said the bones “were likely” Earhart’s.

The study was published in the Winter 2018 edition of the journal Forensic Anthropologywhich is published by UF Press at the University of Florida.

Theories abound on what happened to Earhart and her navigator Frederick Noonan once they disappeared July 2, 1937, during an attempt to fly around the world. One speculation supported by Jantz is Earhart found herself a castaway on Nikumaroro Island, located east of Papua New Guinea. 

Independent UK – Lab-grown ‘clean’ meat could be on sale by end of 2018, says producer

Meat grown in a laboratory could be on restaurant menus by the end of the year, one manufacturer has claimed. 

In vitro animal products, sometimes referred to as “clean meat”, are made from stem cells harvested via biopsy from living livestock, which are then grown in a lab over a number of weeks. 

Some environmentalists believe the process could be the key to reducing global warming, with one study predicting it could lower harmful greenhouse emissions by 96 per cent.

And the first products could be available for human consumption within months, according to Josh Tetrick, CEO of clean meat manufacturer JUST. 

Chicken nuggets, sausage and foie gras created using the technique could be served in restaurants in the US and Asia “before the end of 2018”, he told CNN.

Nerdist.com – Amazon’s Alexa Might Have Just Gained Sentience

Well friends, we humans have had a good run, but it seems that the robot apocalypse has begun. Even worse, this sudden but inevitable betrayal has come from none other than our friendly Amazon Alexa. Much like Apple’s Siri, Alexa isn’t meant to activate when it isn’t prompted by either using the Alexa app or by saying “Alexa.” The digital assistant is most DEFINITELY not meant to feel emotions that would compel the program to, say, start laughing unprovoked or disregard commands, right?

Well, it seems we didn’t know Alexa as well as we thought we did because Alexas all across the country have started displaying some very unsettling behavior. The most disconcerting has got to be her newfound love of creepy AF, unprompted, spontaneous laughter.

But that’s not all. While several users have reported the creepy, unprompted laughter, others (including yours truly) have reported their Alexa completely disregarding commands, interrupting, and even offering random, unsettling information.

Nature – MIT launches multimillion-dollar collaboration to develop fusion energy

With corporate participation, researchers seek to build a pilot fusion-energy plant within 15 years.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge will work with a private firm to develop technology for producing energy from nuclear fusion within the next 15 years. If successful, the multimillion-dollar effort could help to unlock a virtually limitless source of pollution-free energy.

The approach — which has attracted US$50 million thus far — is based on high-temperature superconductors that have become commercially available in the past few years, the team announced on 8 March. The new generation of superconductors will allow the researchers from MIT and Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) in Cambridge to strengthen the magnetic field that contains the hot-plasma fuel used in conventional tokamak reactors. That could pave the way for reactors that are smaller, cheaper and easier to build than those based on previous designs, including the troubled international ITER project under development in southern France.

Yahoo – Spy poisoning has hallmarks of a Putin hit, says ex-CIA Moscow station chief

The poisoning in the south of England of a former Russian spy was “most likely” ordered by Russian president Vladimir Putin in order to send a message to potential dissidents and defectors on the eve of his expected re-election, says the CIA’s former station chief in Moscow.

Daniel Hoffman, who served in Russia during the early years of the Obama administration and arranged the 2010 spy swap that freed the victim of the attack, Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, discusses the bizarre case in this week’s episode of the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery.”

“You probably won’t be able to prove this in a court of law, but there will be enough evidence to point in the direction of the Kremlin,” said Hoffman. He cited the use of a nerve agent — a substance, he noted, that is easy to carry across international borders — as evidence that strongly implicates a “state actor,” Russia being the most likely candidate.

“Let’s all remember that Vladimir Putin is going to be re-elected on March 18. It’s more like a coronation,” said Hoffman. “Putin wants to deliver a message first and foremost to his security services,” lest they be tempted to defect or spy for rivals.

BBC – Russian spy: Highly likely Moscow behind attack, says Theresa May

Former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia, Theresa May has told MPs.

The PM said it was “highly likely” Russia was responsible for the Salisbury attack.

The Foreign Office summoned Russia’s ambassador to provide an explanation.

Mrs May said if there is no “credible response” by the end of Tuesday, the UK would conclude there has been an “unlawful use of force” by Moscow.

The chemical used in the attack, the PM said, has been identified as one of a group of nerve agents known as Novichok.

Mrs May said: “Either this was a direct action by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”

She said Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had told the ambassador Moscow must provide “full and complete disclosure” of the Novichok programme to international body the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Mrs May said the UK must stand ready to take much more extensive measures, and these would be set out in the Commons on Wednesday should there be no adequate explanation from Russia.

BBC – Russian spy: 240 witnesses identified over poisoning

More than 240 witnesses have been identified as police investigate the Russian ex-spy poisoning “at speed”, the home secretary has said.

Amber Rudd praised the professionalism of the police who are now looking at more than 200 pieces of evidence.

The investigation into the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia is now in its sixth day.

Meanwhile, Det Sergeant Nick Bailey, who fell ill attending the pair, has denied he is a “hero”.

Mr Bailey remains seriously ill but is awake and engaging with his family.

Ms Rudd said both Col Skripal, 66, and his daughter, 33, who are being treated at Salisbury District Hospital, remain in a “critical but stable condition” after being exposed to a nerve agent.

The pair were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on Sunday 4 March.

More than 250 counter terrorism police are now involved in what the home secretary has described as a “major investigation”.

Speaking after a meeting of the government’s emergency committee, Cobra, Ms Rudd said the government was using enormous resources to try and identify those responsible for the attempted murder.

“I want to stress that they are proceeding with speed and professionalism,” she said.

BBC – Russian spy: Salisbury diners told to wash possessions

Up to 500 Salisbury pub-goers and diners have been told to wash possessions as a precaution after nerve agent traces were found.

Trace amounts of the substance used to poison ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found on and around a table where the pair ate at Zizzi restaurant, the BBC has learned.

The table, along with other items, has been removed and destroyed.

Scientists have advised police it could take weeks for the premises to reopen.

Traces of the nerve agent were also found at the Mill pub in Salisbury.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal, who remain in a critical but stable condition in hospital, are understood to have eaten on a table away from other diners.

Prof Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England, said the risk of harm to fellow diners was “low”.

BBC – Rubik’s robot solves puzzle in 0.38 seconds

A robot that can solve a Rubik’s cube puzzle in 0.38 seconds has been developed by two researchers in the US.

The current world record is 0.637 seconds, which was set by German engineer Albert Beer and his robot Sub1 Reloaded.

The researchers realised they could solve the cube more quickly by using a different type of motor in their robot.

They suggested the contraption could be tweaked to go faster but said they had “lost interest” in tuning the device.

USA Today – New California declares ‘independence’ from California in bid to become 51st state

The founders of New California took an early step toward statehood Monday with the reading of their own Declaration of Independence from California, a state they describe as “ungovernable.”

Their solution: Take over most of current-day California — including many rural counties — and leave the coastal urban areas to themselves.

“The current state of California has become governed by a tyranny,” the group, led in part by vice chairman Robert Paul Preston, declared in a document published online.

The split would look something like this, per the group: 

“After years of over taxation, regulation, and mono-party politics the State of California and many of it’s 58 Counties have become ungovernable,” the group said in a statement, citing a “decline in essential basic services” including education, law enforcement, infrastructure and health care.

The group, organized with a council of county representatives and various committees, hopes to model their split after the state of West Virginia. That’s according to CBS, whose Sacramento affiliate filmed the reading in a sparsely filled conference room.

Austin American Statesman – Report IDs woman injured in Monday’s second explosion

5:50 p.m. update: The Washington Post has identified one of the people injured in Southeast Austin during Monday’s second package explosion.

Esperanza Herrera is the 75-year-old woman injured in the explosion at the 6700 block of Galindo Street, according to relatives at the scene, the Post reported. They also said her mother, Maria Moreno, suffered minor injuries, the newspaper said. 

The incident happened hours after police responded to a previous package explosion at the 4800 block of Oldfort Hill Drive, killing a teenager and injuring a woman, police have said. LaVonne Mason, co-founder of the Austin Area Urban League, told the Post her grandson was the 17-year-old victim killed Monday morning. The newspaper did not name the grandson.

3:20 p.m. update: A 75-year-old woman was injured after picking up an exploding package outside her Southeast Austin home on Monday in the second blast reported in the city and the third similar incident in two weeks, Austin police said.

TerraDaily.com – Photosynthesis originated a billion years earlier than we thought, study shows

Ancient microbes may have been producing oxygen through photosynthesis a billion years earlier than we thought, which means oxygen was available for living organisms very close to the origin of life on earth. In a new article in Heliyon, a researcher from Imperial College London studied the molecular machines responsible for photosynthesis and found the process may have evolved as long as 3.6 billion years ago.

The author of the study, Dr. Tanai Cardona, says the research can help to solve the controversy around when organisms started producing oxygen – something that was vital to the evolution of life on earth. It also suggests that the microorganisms we previously believed to be the first to produce oxygen – cyanobacteria – evolved later, and that simpler bacteria produced oxygen first.

SpaceDaily.com – Converting CO2 into usable energy

Imagine if carbon dioxide (CO2) could easily be converted into usable energy. Every time you breathe or drive a motor vehicle, you would produce a key ingredient for generating fuels. Like photosynthesis in plants, we could turn CO2 into molecules that are essential for day-to-day life. Now, scientists are one step closer.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory are part of a scientific collaboration that has identified a new electrocatalyst that efficiently converts CO2 to carbon monoxide (CO), a highly energetic molecule. Their findings were published on Feb. 1 in Energy and Environmental Science.

“There are many ways to use CO,” said Eli Stavitski, a scientist at Brookhaven and an author on the paper. “You can react it with water to produce energy-rich hydrogen gas, or with hydrogen to produce useful chemicals, such as hydrocarbons or alcohols. If there were a sustainable, cost-efficient route to transform CO2 to CO, it would benefit society greatly.”

Scientists have long sought a way to convert CO2 to CO, but traditional electrocatalysts cannot effectively initiate the reaction. That’s because a competing reaction, called the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) or “water splitting,” takes precedence over the CO2 conversion reaction.

Telegraph UK – Scientists put on alert for deadly new pathogen – ‘Disease X’

The World Health Organisation [WHO] has put scientists and health workers around the globe on alert for a new and potentially deadly pathogen – Disease X.

Each year the Geneva-based organisation, which is charged with monitoring and safeguarding world health, convenes a high-level meeting of senior scientists to list diseases that pose a serious risk of sparking a major international public health emergency.

In previous years the list has been confined to known killers such as Lassa fever, which is currently sweeping Nigeria, and Ebola, which killed more than 11,000 people in an epidemic in West Africa between 2013 and 2016.

However, this year a ninth mystery pathogen has been added to the watch list for the first time. “These diseases pose major public health risks, and further research and development is needed, including surveillance and diagnostics”, said the WHO in a statement.  “Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease”.

 Orlando Sentinel – What scientists found trapped in a diamond: a type of ice not known on Earth

Trapped in the rigid structure of diamonds formed deep in the Earth’s crust, scientists have discovered a form of water ice that was not previously known to occur naturally on our planet.

The finding, published Thursday in Science, represents the first detection of naturally occurring ice-VII ever found on Earth. And as sometimes happens in the scientific process, it was discovered entirely by accident.

Ice-VII is about one-and-a-half times as dense as the regular ice we put in our drinks and skate on in winter, and the crystalline structure of its atoms is different as well.

In normal ice, known as ice-I, the oxygen atoms arrange themselves in a hexagonal shape. In ice-VII these atoms are arranged in a cubic shape.

CNBC – ‘Pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli sentenced to 7 years in prison — says, ‘This is my fault’

Notorious “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli made a sob-filled plea for leniency but ended up getting sentenced Friday to seven years in prison for federal fraud charges related to hedge funds and a drug company that he once ran.

“The one person to blame for me being here today is me,” a choked-up Shkreli told a judge before she imposed the prison term in Brooklyn, New York, federal court.

“Not the government. There is no conspiracy to take down Martin Shkreli.”

“I took down Martin Shkreli with my disgraceful and shameful actions.”

Wired – AI Has a Hallucination Problem That’s Proving Tough to Fix

Tech companies are rushing to infuse everything with artificial intelligence, driven by big leaps in the power of machine learning software. But the deep-neural-network software fueling the excitement has a troubling weakness: Making subtle changes to images, text, or audio can fool these systems into perceiving things that aren’t there.

That could be a big problem for products dependent on machine learning, particularly for vision, such as self-driving cars. Leading researchers are trying to develop defenses against such attacks—but that’s proving to be a challenge.

Case in point: In January, a leading machine-learning conference announced that it had selected 11 new papers to be presented in April that propose ways to defend or detect such adversarial attacks. Just three days later, first-year MIT grad student Anish Athalye threw up a webpage claiming to have “broken” seven of the new papers, including from boldface institutions such as Google, Amazon, and Stanford. “A creative attacker can still get around all these defenses,” says Athalye. He worked on the project with Nicholas Carlini and David Wagner, a grad student and professor, respectively, at UC Berkeley.

That project has led to some academic back-and-forth over certain details of the trio’s claims. But there’s little dispute about one message of the findings: It’s not clear how to protect the deep neural networks fueling innovations in consumer gadgets and automated driving from sabotage by hallucination. “All these systems are vulnerable,” says Battista Biggio, an assistant professor at the University of Cagliari, Italy, who has pondered machine learning security for about a decade, and wasn’t involved in the study. “The machine learning community is lacking a methodological approach to evaluate security.”

SpaceDaily.com – Three-dimensional skyrmion: Scientists observe theoretical particle for first time

Forty years after scientists first theoretically predicted the existence of a three-dimensional skyrmion, scientists have observed the particle in the lab.

The particle, observed cold quantum gas, isn’t a normal particle composed of electrons, protons and electrons. It is a quantum particle, the energy signature created by the interactions between a particle and the surrounding system.

In this instance, the quantum particle is a tangled knot of magnetic moments in the quantum gas.

“The quantum gas is cooled down to a very low temperature where it forms a Bose-Einstein condensate: all atoms in the gas end up in the state of minimum energy,” David Hall, a professor of quantum physics at Amherst College, said in a news release. “The state does not behave like an ordinary gas anymore but like a single giant atom.”



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