Dudes n Beer Week In The News – March 20 2018

Austin American Statesman – FBI confirms package in Southeast Austin FedEx is a bomb connected to Schertz, previous explosions

FBI officials have confirmed a suspicious package found Tuesday morning at a FedEx ground facility in Southeast Austin contained an explosive device, according to a news release. 

Officials also confirmed that the package, as well as another one that exploded at a FedEx in Schertz early Tuesday, are connected to the four previous package explosions in Austin this month.

In Tuesday’s incidents, one package exploded and the second one “was disrupted by law enforcement,” FBI officials said.

The Schertz Police Department responded to a package explosion around 12:25 a.m. at a FedEx facility at 9935 Doerr Lane in the city of Schertz, near San Antonio. One person — an employee — was treated at the scene and released. The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also responded and continue to process the scene for evidence. 

Later that morning, around 6:19 a.m., Austin police received a call about a suspicious package at 4117 McKinney Falls Parkway in Austin. Austin police, along with the FBI and ATF, responded.

Daily News – Reddit user claims to be Austin bomber, compares himself to ‘Zodiac Killer’ and says he wants world to ‘burn’

A mysterious social media user claims to be behind the bombings that have terrorized Texas in recent weeks, vowing that he won’t stop until he becomes “as prolific as the Zodiac Killer.”

“My intention is not to kill people. I am doing this simply because I want to watch the world burn,” someone using the handle “austinbomber” posted on Reddit Tuesday.

The anonymous user made a string of disturbing messages in which he compared himself to the Zodiac, the notorious serial killer who was never caught or identified even though he murdered at least five people in California in the 1960s and ’70s.

The self-professed Austin bomber denied suggestions that the attacks are racially motivated.

CBS News – Package bound for Austin blows up at FedEx building near San Antonio

The San Antonio Texas Fire Department said a package bomb apparently bound for Austin exploded at a FedEx distribution center in Schertz, Texas, hurting one person, a FedEx employee who apparently suffered a non-life-threatening “percussion-type” injury from the blast. An FBI agent told CBS News “it’s more than possible” the package is related to explosions that have occurred in Austin in recent days.

The package exploded shortly after midnight on Tuesday.

ATF and FBI agents were at the scene of the FedEx facility Tuesday morning analyzing components of the explosive device. They were looking for any similarities of ingredients or components that are “a signature” that would link this package explosion to the other four bombing incidents in Austin, reports CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton. 

A law enforcement source told Milton it appears the package that exploded was mailed from Austin to Austin, Texas.   

The Austin Police Department said it is aware of the explosion and is working closely on the investigation with federal law enforcement agencies.

KVUE ABC – Man accused of bomb threat at SXSW connected to eBay threats, police say

The man who was arrested for allegedly making a bomb threat that canceled The Bud Light x The Roots’ South by Southwest Jam at Fair Market had also made threats to eBay employees last month, police said.

According to court documents, police responded to an incident back on Feb. 17 after 26-year-old Trevor Ingram allegedly sent threatening emails to eBay employees. The eBay employees forwarded the information to a supervisor who contacted police, police said.

The Guardian – Man arrested after bomb threat shuts down SXSW concert

A man has been arrested on suspicion of emailing a bomb threat to the Fair Market concert venue in Austin, Texas, during the South by Southwest festival, according to reports.

Trevor Weldon Ingram, 26, was charged with making a terroristic threat, an offence which carries a jail term of up to 10 years. Police were called to the venue on the afternoon of 17 March after the emailed threat was made, but found nothing suspicious.

The threat led to the cancellation of an SXSW festival concert featuring hip-hop artists the Roots, Ludacris and Rapsody. Questlove, the drummer with the Roots, wrote on Twitter that “no one is Mr ‘show must go on’ than me. But we can’t risk our lives if we are told there was a bomb threat.”

The events come at a tense time for Austin, where, separately, there have been a series of letter bomb attacks, over which no arrests have been made, in recent weeks. Late on Sunday night, an explosion, possibly triggered by a tripwire, injured two people, which brings the total recent bomb attacks to four. Draylen Mason, aged 17, was killed on 12 March after a bomb exploded at his home, seriously injuring his mother. A separate package explosion hours after Mason was killed left a 75-year-old woman in a critical condition. On 2 March, a similar attack killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House, also at his home.

All three victims were non-white. Austin police chief Brian Manley said “we are not saying that we believe terrorism or hate are in play, but we absolutely have to consider that”.

KVUE ABC – ‘We are clearly dealing with a serial bomber,’ Austin police chief says after fourth explosion

 Two men – ages 22 and 23 – were injured in an explosion that police believe may have been set off by a tripwire. Police are asking anyone in the area with surveillance video to give it to authorities.

AUSTIN — Austin’s police chief Brian Manley said “we are clearly dealing with a serial bomber” hours after officials responded to an explosion in Southwest Austin Sunday night.

Two white men — identified by KVUE’s partners at the Austin American-Statesman as Will Grote and Colton Mathis — were sent to a hospital after an explosion that was possibly triggered by a tripwire went off March 18.

Will Grote’s father told WFAA reporter Rebecca Lopez that Grote and Mathis were the victims and declined to comment further except to say that there were “angels watching over them because they are going to fully recover.”

Residents in the Travis Country neighborhood were asked to remain sheltered in placed until 2 p.m. on Tuesday. By 8:30 p.m., officials said the area was officially opened to traffic and activity.

Based on preliminary information, Chief Manley said the device that exploded March 18 has similarities between the devices that set off the three other blasts around the city during the month of March.

The latest attack came hours after the Austin Police Department increased the reward offering for the three prior explosion investigations to $115,000.

Officials said on March 18 they responded to the 4800 block of Dawn Song Drive in Southwest Austin at 8:32 p.m. for an explosion. Grote and Mathis — both in their early 20s — were transported to South Austin Medical Center with serious injuries, according to Chief Manley. At 11:30 p.m., hospital staff confirmed to KVUE’s Christy Millweard that the two men were in good condition. They’re expected to be OK.

Jeff and Amy Sasser, who live a house away from where the explosion happened, thought at first it was a car crash.

“I thought it was loud enough and big enough that it was a pretty serious accident, if it was an accident. I grabbed a flashlight ’cause it was dark, ran around the house next door, and saw [Grote and Mathis] sitting in the grass, and they appeared to be shaken up and maybe in shock,” Jeff said.

They called 911 and then grabbed first aid materials to help the two young men as best as they could before first responders arrived.

FOX News – Austin on edge after explosion leaves 2 injured; cause of blast unclear

Another Austin explosion — possibly triggered by a trip wire — injured two people on bicycles Sunday night, leaving police frantically working to determine if the blast is linked to a trio of package bombings that have gripped the Texas capital in fear.

The latest blast occurred around 8:30 p.m. Sunday night in a suburban neighborhood known as Travis Country. Investigators didn’t immediately confirm what caused it.

“If this explosion was the result of a bomb using trip wire technology, that is showing a different level of skill above that we were already concerned that this suspect or suspects may possess,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday.

There was no immediate word on what caused the blast or if it was related to the three package bombs that were detonated earlier this month.  (AP)

Manley said the explosion may have been detonated by a trip wire, adding the blast was “activated by someone either handling, kicking or coming into contact with a trip wire that activated the device” as they walked or rode their bikes through the area.

“That changes things, in that our safety message to this point has been involving the handling of packages and telling communities ‘do not handle packages, do not pick up packages, do not disturb packages,'” Manley said at a hastily-arranged news conference.

Manley said police were “working under the belief” the explosion was related to the three others, but investigators still had yet to process the entire scene.

The Guardian – 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach

The data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.

A whistleblower has revealed to the Observer how Cambridge Analytica – a company owned by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and headed at the time by Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon – used personal information taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with personalised political advertisements.

Christopher Wylie, who worked with a Cambridge University academic to obtain the data, told the Observer: “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on.”

Documents seen by the Observer, and confirmed by a Facebook statement, show that by late 2015 the company had found out that information had been harvested on an unprecedented scale. However, at the time it failed to alert users and took only limited steps to recover and secure the private information of more than 50 million individuals.

The Guardian – ‘Utterly horrifying’: ex-Facebook insider says covert data harvesting was routine

Sandy Parakilas says numerous companies deployed these techniques – likely affecting hundreds of millions of users – and that Facebook looked the other way

Sandy Parakilas in San Francisco. ‘It has been painful watching. Because I know that they could have prevented it.’ Photograph: Robert Gumpert

Hundreds of millions of Facebook users are likely to have had their private information harvested by companies that exploited the same terms as the firm that collected data and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica, according to a new whistleblower.

Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012, told the Guardian he warned senior executives at the company that its lax approach to data protection risked a major breach.

 “My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data,” he said.

Parakilas said Facebook had terms of service and settings that “people didn’t read or understand” and the company did not use its enforcement mechanisms, including audits of external developers, to ensure data was not being misused.

Parakilas, whose job was to investigate data breaches by developers similar to the one later suspected of Global Science Research, which harvested tens of millions of Facebook profiles and provided the data to Cambridge Analytica, said the slew of recent disclosures had left him disappointed with his superiors for not heeding his warnings.

“It has been painful watching,” he said, “because I know that they could have prevented it.”

Channel 4 UK- Revealed: Trump’s election consultants filmed saying they use bribes and sex workers to entrap politicians

An undercover investigation by Channel 4 News reveals how Cambridge Analytica secretly campaigns in elections across the world. Bosses were filmed talking about using bribes, ex-spies, fake IDs and sex workers.

Senior executives at Cambridge Analytica – the data company that credits itself with Donald Trump’s presidential victory – have been secretly filmed saying they could entrap politicians in compromising situations with bribes and Ukrainian sex workers.

In an undercover investigation by Channel 4 News, the company’s chief executive Alexander Nix said the British firm secretly campaigns in elections across the world. This includes operating through a web of shadowy front companies, or by using sub-contractors.

In one exchange, when asked about digging up material on political opponents, Mr Nix said they could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house”, adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”.

In another he said: “We’ll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land for instance, we’ll have the whole thing recorded, we’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the Internet.”

Offering bribes to public officials is an offence under both the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Cambridge Analytica operates in the UK and is registered in the United States.

The admissions were filmed at a series of meetings at London hotels over four months, between November 2017 and January 2018. An undercover reporter for Channel 4 News posed as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka.

Independent Journal Review – Ex-Obama Campaign Director Drops Bombshell Claim on Facebook: ‘They Were on Our Side’

A former Obama campaign official is claiming that Facebook knowingly allowed them to mine massive amounts of Facebook data — more than they would’ve allowed someone else to do — because they were supportive of the campaign.

In a Sunday tweet thread, Carol Davidsen, former director of integration and media analytics for Obama for America, said the 2012 campaign led Facebook to “suck out the whole social graph” and target potential voters. They would then use that data to do things like append their email lists.

When Facebook found out what they were doing, they were “surprised,” she said. But she also claimed they didn’t stop them once they found out:

“They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side,” Davidsen tweeted.

She added that she believes Facebook also recruits people “on the other side” too:

The Guardian – Self-driving Uber kills Arizona woman in first fatal crash involving pedestrian

An autonomous Uber car killed a woman in the street in Arizona, police said, in what appears to be the first reported fatal crash involving a self-driving vehicle and a pedestrian in the US.

Tempe police said the self-driving car was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash and that the vehicle hit a woman, who was walking outside of the crosswalk and later died at a hospital. There was a vehicle operator inside the car at the time of the crash.

Uber said in a statement on Twitter: “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.” A spokesman declined to comment further on the crash.

The company said it was pausing its self-driving car operations in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto. Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO, tweeted: “Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona. We’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened.”

Uber has been testing its self-driving cars in numerous states and temporarily suspended its vehicles in Arizona last year after a crash involving one of its vehicles, a Volvo SUV. When the company first began testing its self-driving cars in California in 2016, the vehicles were caught running red lights, leading to a high-profile dispute between state regulators and the San Francisco-based corporation.

Scientific American – Intelligent to a Fault: When AI Screws Up, You Might Still Be to Blame

Interactions between people and artificially intelligent machines pose tricky questions about liability and accountability, according to a legal expert.

Credit: the-lightwriter Getty Images

Artificial intelligence is already making significant inroads in taking over mundane, time-consuming tasks many humans would rather not do. The responsibilities and consequences of handing over work to AI vary greatly, though; some autonomous systems recommend music or movies; others recommend sentences in court. Even more advanced AI systems will increasingly control vehicles on crowded city streets, raising questions about safety—and about liability, when the inevitable accidents occur.

But philosophical arguments over AI’s existential threats to humanity are often far removed from the reality of actually building and using the technology in question. Deep learning, machine vision, natural language processing—despite all that has been written and discussed about these and other aspects of artificial intelligence, AI is still at a relatively early stage in its development. Pundits argue about the dangers of autonomous, self-aware robots run amok, even as computer scientists puzzle over how to write machine-vision algorithms that can tell the difference between an image of a turtle and that of a rifle.

Still, it is obviously important to think through how society will manage AI before it becomes a really pervasive force in modern life. Researchers, students and alumni at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government launched The Future Society for that very purpose in 2014, with the goal of stimulating international conversation about how to govern emerging technologies—especially AI. Scientific American spoke with Nicolas Economou, a senior advisor to The Future Society’s Artificial Intelligence Initiative and CEO of H5, a company that makes software to aid law firms with pretrial analysis of electronic documents, e-mails and databases—also known as electronic discovery. Economou talked about how humans might be considered liable (even if a machine is calling the shots), and about what history tells us regarding society’s obligation to make use of new technologies once they have been proved to deliver benefits such as improved safety.

iHeartRadio – Man Cracks Strange Coded Voicemail He Got And It’s Deeply Disturbing

When most people get a message from an unknown number, it’s either a telemarketer or a hang-up, but a voicemail a man named Ty received is unlike any other. 

It sounds like gibberish since it’s just a bunch of letters from the phonetic alphabet and some numbers, but when Ty wrote it all down, the message it spelled out was deeply disturbing. 

i really need yall to listen to this voicemail i just got…i am deactivating my cell phone service pic.twitter.com/G9MSwPTaM9

— Ty (@strayedaway) March 13, 2018

It literally translates to “Danger SOS it is dire for you to evacuate be cautious they are not human SOS danger SOS” and then gives coordinates… i am throwing my phone away

— Ty (@strayedaway) March 14, 2018

Things got even stranger after his tweet started going viral and he got a message in Indonesian. He used Google Translate to understand it and was once again shook. 

EXCUSE ME WHAT IS GOING ON pic.twitter.com/jFyKXHgYiQ

— Ty (@strayedaway) March 15, 2018

Ty also remembered that in the middle of the night a few days earlier he had seen someone taking photos of his house. 

Also I should probably include that this happened a few days ago before i got that voicemail I really am about to go into hiding https://t.co/6K8vmxLUlm

— Ty (@strayedaway) March 15, 2018

It was all pretty weird but seemed to just be a strange occurrence with everyone jokingly telling Ty to destroy his phone. 

pic.twitter.com/NkeondfdSv

— Ty (@strayedaway) March 15, 2018

However, people who read about Ty’s voicemail looked into things more and the story went from bizarre to bone-chilling. 

The Twitter user went on to point out how nature might have a role in all of the weird activity. 

My San Antonio – Multiple arrests made Friday in possible animal ritual sacrifice in West Bexar County

A gruesome scene unfolded Friday night as Bexar County Sheriff’s deputies discovered dead and dismembered animals in a West Bexar County home after receiving calls that animals were being sacrificed.

Deputies responded to an animal cruelty call in the 11400 block of Bronze Sand Road about 7 p.m.

When deputies arrived, they saw more than a dozen people inside the garage of a residence where a woman was cutting up “animal parts,” while another person was draining the blood of a chicken into a container, according to Sgt. Elizabeth Gonzalez.

“It appears that they were having some sort of unknown ritual,” Gonzalez said. “They were speaking a different language the officer did not recognize.” Gonzalez explained the responding deputy is fluent in English and Spanish.

During the investigation deputies found multiple dead and mutilated animals inside the residence as well, including “goat heads” and more chickens, Gonzalez said.

Eleven men and women, ages 23 to 65, were arrested on charges of cruelty to livestock animals. That offense is a Class A misdemeanor, unless it’s enhanced because of previous related offenses.

CNN – World’s Last Male White Rhino Dies

The world’s last male northern white rhino has died leaving only two females left to save the subspecies from extinction.

The 45-year-old rhino named Sudan had been in poor health in recent days and was being treated for age-related issues and multiple infections.

A veterinary team made the decision to euthanize Sudan after his condition deteriorated significantly, the conservation group WildAid announced Tuesday.

Sudan lived in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, surrounded by armed guards in the days leading up to his death to protect him from poachers.

MIT Technology Review – A startup is pitching a mind-uploading service that is “100 percent fatal”

he startup accelerator Y Combinator is known for supporting audacious companies in its popular three-month boot camp.

There’s never been anything quite like Nectome, though.

Next week, at YC’s “demo days,” Nectome’s cofounder, Robert McIntyre, is going to describe his technology for exquisitely preserving brains in microscopic detail using a high-tech embalming process. Then the MIT graduate will make his business pitch. As it says on his website: “What if we told you we could back up your mind?”

So yeah. Nectome is a preserve-your-brain-and-upload-it company. Its chemical solution can keep a body intact for hundreds of years, maybe thousands, as a statue of frozen glass. The idea is that someday in the future scientists will scan your bricked brain and turn it into a computer simulation. That way, someone a lot like you, though not exactly you, will smell the flowers again in a data server somewhere.

This story has a grisly twist, though. For Nectome’s procedure to work, it’s essential that the brain be fresh. The company says its plan is to connect people with terminal illnesses to a heart-lung machine in order to pump its mix of scientific embalming chemicals into the big carotid arteries in their necks while they are still alive (though under genera

NewsWeek – Mystery Sea Creature Washes Up on Georgia Beach

A man from Waycross, Georgia, has been left scratching his head after he discovered a “Loch Ness-type thing” washed up on a beach while out his with his son.

Jeff Warren said he found the strange sea creature after going boating at Wolf Island National Wildlife Refuge in Golden Isles, Georgia, reports Action News Jax.

He initially thought the animal was a dead seal, but upon closure inspection he saw it resembled something from prehistoric times.

Slate – Fake News Goes to Court

Will Fox News and Alex Jones have to pay for pushing bogus stories about real people?

It’s been a bad week for white supremacists and fake news. First, Matt Heimbach—the founder of the neo-Nazi group the Traditionalist Worker Party and a man famous for shoving a black woman at a Donald Trump rally—was arrested for assaulting another woman (his wife). Since Heimbach was also accused of choking the co-founder of the party as part of what seems to be a complicated love rhombus, it now appears the entire group is defunct. Also this week, the Southern Poverty Law Center discovered that the wife of Stewart Rhodes, founder of the alt-right anti-government militia group the Oath Keepers, had filed for a temporary restraining order, claiming her husband was abusive and violent. Alt-right servers are being shut down, as are YouTube channels, albeit too slowly. And Richard Spencer, who was meant to be the alt-right’s palatable offering, has ruefully declared that his white-supremacist rallies—as a result of which at least one woman has been killed—are “not fun anymore.” He says he is considering canceling his whole not-fun, poorly attended speaking tour. He’s also dropping his lawsuits against colleges that had barred him from speaking. Also, he can’t get a lawyer to represent him.

In addition to this spectacular self-propelled flame-out of prominent white supremacist leaders, there are also a handful of lawsuits seeking to bankrupt them and the media outlets that give them oxygen. It’s easy to say this is a paper war between paper enemies. But the truth is that these suits are, paradoxically, the only mechanism these plaintiffs can deploy to prove they are real humans being subject to real damage, by media companies that pretend to be journalists when in fact they are just bullies.

Two such suits have been filed in recent days: one against Fox News by Joel and Mary Rich, the parents of Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich, and another against Alex Jones and Gateway Pundit for pushing false stories about a man who filmed the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Popular Science – Platypus milk might save us from bacterial infections, and that’s not even the best thing about them

You may have heard that platypuses are going to save us from antibiotic resistance. This may or may not be true. But here’s what we do know: they’re definitely weird enough to pull off a feat like that.

Here’s the deal: so far, we know that platypus milk is capable of killing bacteria and other microbes thanks to an antibacterial protein. This protein has a highly unusual structure not seen elsewhere in nature (that we know of). The Australian researchers who found the protein dubbed it the ‘Shirley Temple,’ because it has ringlets and scientists like giving things funny, cutesy names. They published their results in the wildly popular journal Structural Biology Communications. In that paper they hypothesized that, due to its unique structure, the protein might also function differently from our current antibiotics, and that this difference in

But let’s keep in mind that no one has actually demonstrated that yet. To do so, scientists would need to somehow introduce the protein to an antibiotic resistant bacteria, then sit back to watch the carnage (hopefully) unfold. But the potential usefulness of this milk protein just seems to jive with everything else that we know about platypuses. Or, as one of the lead scientists on this study said in a press release: “Platypus are such weird animals that it would make sense for them to have weird biochemistry.”

And she’s not wrong. Platypuses defy every category we try to shove them into—and that’s actually the coolest thing about them.

MixMag – Ecstasy dealer charged after new technology identified his fingerprints in a photo

A drug dealer from the West Midlands has been sentenced to prison after he was identified through fingerprint technology from a photo.

Elliot Morris, 28, had initially been linked to a cannabis-supplying operation by police in Bridgend, Wales who called upon the Joint Scientific Support Unit (JSIU) at South Wales Police for assistance.

The JSIU later used a “pioneering fingerprint technique” to identify the fingers of Morris after coming across a mobile phone photo of a hand holding ecstasy pills such as Ikeas and Skypes.

Dave Thomas, forensic operations manager at the Scientific Support Unit, praised the JSIU’s use of fingerprint technology.

“Specialist staff within the JSIU fully utilised their expert image-enhancing skills which enabled them to provide something that the unit’s fingerprint identification experts could work. Despite being provided with only a very small section of the fingerprint which was visible in the photograph, the team were able to successfully identify the individual.”

Morris, along with nine other people including his parents, were sentenced to 20 years in prison by Cardiff Crown Court for “involvement in a conspiracy to supply cannabis.”

A total of £36,000 worth of ecstasy and £21,000 worth of cannabis was recovered by police. Morris also had £20,000 worth of bitcoins, gained through his drug sales.

Space Daily – NASA plans giant spacecraft to defend Earth by nuking deadly asteroids

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists are part of a national planetary defense team that designed a conceptual spacecraft to deflect Earth-bound asteroids and evaluated whether it would be able to nudge a massive asteroid – which has a remote chance to hitting Earth in 2135 – off course. The design and case study are outlined in a paper published recently in Acta Astronautica (link is external).

The 9-meter-tall, 8.8-ton spacecraft – dubbed HAMMER (Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response vehicle) – features a modular design that would enable it to serve as either a kinetic impactor, essentially a battering ram, or as a transport vehicle for a nuclear device. Its possible mission: deflect 101955 Bennu, a massive asteroid around 500 meters (more than five football fields) in diameter, weighing around 79 billion kilograms (1,664 times as heavy as the Titanic), circling the sun at around 63,000 miles per hour. Based on observation data available, Bennu has a 1 in 2,700-chance of striking Earth on Sept. 25, 2135, and it is estimated that the kinetic energy of this impact would be equivalent to 1,200 megatons (80,000 times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb).

“The chance of an impact appears slim now, but the consequences would be dire,” said Kirsten Howley, LLNL physicist and coauthor on the paper. “This study aims to help us shorten the response timeline when we do see a clear and present danger so we can have more options to deflect it. The ultimate goal is to be ready to protect life on Earth.”

The effort is part of a national planetary defense collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (link is external)(NASA) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (link is external) (NNSA), which includes LLNL and Los Alamos National Laboratory. (link is external)(LANL). Of the three prongs of planetary defense, NASA is responsible for the first, detecting asteroids with enough time to mitigate the risk. The LLNL planetary defense team is the technical lead on the second prong, mitigation of the threat. The LLNL team also supports the third prong, emergency response should mitigation fail.

Mysterious Universe – Mind Control Through the Airwaves

We like to think that we have free will, and that the decisions we make and the thoughts we have are our own. Our sense of identity, free choice, and individuality are part of what makes us unique, and are an integral part of the human experience. Yet are we really as independent and possessed of free will as we would like to think? The thought that we could be under the influence of outside forces and subject to manipulation by mind-control against our will is a terrifying prospect that has been explored extensively in science fiction, but what if it is not merely fiction at all? What if we are being directly shaped and programmed by nefarious parties through the very TV we watch or the music we listen to? According to some, this is exactly what is happening, and has been for decades.

A supposed technology that can apparently be used to reach out and subliminally influence us over the airwaves is called the Silent Sound Spread Spectrum (SSSS), sometimes called simply “S-quad” or “Squad,” which was developed and patented (yes, it apparently has a patent) by a Dr. Oliver Lowery of Norcross, Georgia, who calls it the “Silent Subliminal Presentation System.” Often known as “The Sound of Silence,” it was first developed in the 1950s and perfected over the decades and it purportedly works by analyzing human brain patterns and storing this data as “emotion signature clusters,” which can then be synthesized, duplicated, and beamed out through various means in order to subliminally influence the emotional states and thought processes of human beings, essentially disrupting our consciousness. An abstract on the system patent reads that it is:

A silent communications system in which non-aural carriers, in the very low or very high audio-frequency range or in the adjacent ultrasonic frequency spectrum are amplitude- or frequency-modulated with the desired intelligence and propagated acoustically or vibrationally, for inducement into the brain, typically through the use of loudspeakers, earphones, or piezoelectric transducers. The modulated carriers may be transmitted directly in real time or may be conveniently recorded and stored on mechanical, magnetic, or optical media for delayed or repeated transmission to the listener.

In simple terms, covert mind control. The two main ways that the technology is allegedly utilized is either through use of short-range direct microwave induction or piggybacking on signals transmitted over TV or radio waves and other carrier frequencies, and it is supposedly completely undetectable. So far, so creepy, especially considering the potential military applications for such a technology, and according to Edward Tilton, President of Silent Sounds, Inc., governments have already been using his company’s tech in a range of top-secret capacities.

Watts Up With That? – Approaching ‘grand solar minimum’ could cause global cooling

There’s a lot of evidence mounting that solar cycle 25 will usher in a new grand solar minimum. Since about October 2005, when the sun’s magnetic activity went into a sharp fall, solar activity has been markedly lower, with solar cycle 24 being the lowest in over 100 years.

Interplanetary magnetic field – Image from NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center

Solar cycle 24 – Image from NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center

Cycle 24 is part of a weakening progression of solar cycles since 1980:

Daily observations of the number of sunspots since 1 January 1900 according to Solar Influences Data Analysis Center (SIDC). The thin blue line indicates the daily sunspot number, while the dark blue line indicates the running annual average. The recent low sunspot activity is clearly reflected in the recent low values for the total solar irradiance. Data source: WDC-SILSO, Royal Observatory of Belgium, Brussels. Last day shown: 28 February 2018. Last diagram update: 1 March 2018. (Credit climate4you.com)

Meteorologist Paul Dorian at Vencore weather writes:

All indications are that the upcoming solar minimum which is expected to begin in 2019 may be even quieter than the last one which was the deepest in nearly a century.

Some scientists are even saying that we are on the cusp of a new grand solar minimum, and the upcoming cycle 25 may have even lower cycles after it.

This empirical modeling of solar recurrent patterns has also provided a consequent multi-millennial-scale experimental forecast, suggesting a solar decreasing trend toward Grand (Super) Minimum conditions for the upcoming period, AD2050–2250 (AD 3750–4450).

Source: Evidence of cosmic recurrent and lagged millennia-scale patterns and consequent forecasts: multi-scale responses of solar activity (SA) to planetary gravitational forcing (PGF) (open access)

Simon Constable, in Forbes writes:

The question is whether we will enter another grand solar minimum just like the Maunder minimum which, if history is a guide, would mean a period of much colder weather winters and summers.

Fox News – Federal court rules World War I memorial cross must be torn down

Back in 1925, the American Legion erected a memorial in Bladensburg, Md., to honor the memory of 49 men who perished during World War I.

The 40-foot tall memorial became known as the “Peace Cross.” 

In 2014, the American Humanist Association — a group that believes in “being good without a god” — filed a lawsuit alleging the cross-shaped memorial is unconstitutional and demanding it be demolished, altered, or removed. 

They alleged the cross carries “an inherently religious message and creates the unmistakable appearance of honoring only Christian servicemen.”

“Today’s decision sets dangerous precedent by completely ignoring history, and it threatens removal and destruction of veterans memorials across America.”

On Wednesday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and ruled the historic memorial must be torn down — all because the Bladensburg Memorial is in the shape of a cross. 

The Fourth Circuit said the memorial excessively entangles the government in religion because the cross is the “core symbol of Christianity” and “breaches” the wall separating church and state.

FibroWomen.com – Cannabis Oil Capsules May Be Best Treatment For Fibromyalgia

Treatment For Fibromyalgia much like treatments for any and all disease., often starts with the management of symptoms. With this disorder, the symptoms create a string of tender points along the body. Coupling this with extreme fatigue and an inability to sleep and you have a concoction for a drastically poor quality of life riddled with pain and discomfort.

Medical Cannabis Treatment for Fibromyalgia

The prevalence of Treatment For Fibromyalgia goes up as a person ages, yet 80-90% of all cases are women. The symptoms are known to worsen with persistence as it progresses and it is worsened by the weather, illness and stress. One cannabinoid profile that is well suited for this disorder patients has been identified as CBD. It is suggested patients obtain CBD rich medicine.  Synergistically coupling a cbd rich oil with one that contains Low THC, there is additional relief provided to patients.

According to a report conducted by the National Pain Foundation and National Pain Report, medical cannabis has been rated as one of the most effective treatment in reducing pain from Fibromyalgia.Many of the 1,300 fibromyalgia patients who responded to the survey said they had tried all 3 of the FDA approved drugs. One patient explained there were far more negative side effects to the FDA approved drugs than there were positive attributes.

When asked about the effectiveness of Cymbalta (Duloxetine), 60% of those who tried the medication stated that it did not work for them, whilst 8% reported it to be very effective. 32% reported Cymbalta helped slightly.Of those in the study who tried Pfizer’s Lyrica (Pregabalin) a whopping 61% reported that there was no relief. 10% reported Lyrica to be very effective whilst 29% said it helped slightly.

Rating Forest Laboratories’ Savella (Milnacipran), 68% of those trailing the drug stated that it didn’t work. 10% reported that it was very effective and 22% reported slight relief.

Comparing the study findings against those who had tried medical cannabis for their this disorder symptoms 62% said it was very effective. Another 33% said it helped slightly whilst only 5% reported no relief.

Independent UK – US government spent over $500m on fake Al-Qaeda propaganda videos that tracked location of viewers

The Pentagon hired a UK-based PR firm to produce and disemminate videos during the Iraq War

Scott Nelson/Getty

A former contractor for a UK-based public relations firm says that the Pentagon paid more than half a billion dollars for the production and dissemination of fake Al-Qaeda videos that portrayed the insurgent group in a negative light. 

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that the PR firm, Bell Pottinger, worked alongside top US military officials at Camp Victory in Baghdad at the height of the Iraq War. The agency was tasked with crafting TV segments in the style of unbiased Arabic news reports, videos of Al-Qaeda bombings that appeared to be filmed by insurgents, and anti-insurgent commercials – and those who watched the videos could be tracked by US forces.

The report of Bell Pottinger’s involvement in the video hearkens back to more than 10 years ago, when the Washington-based PR firm Lincoln Group was revealed to have produced print news stories and placed them in Iraqi newspapers. According to the Los Angeles Times, who obtained the 2005 documents, the stories were intended to tout the US-led efforts in Iraq and denounce insurgent groups.

Wired – Brainless Embryos Suggest Bioelectricity Guides Growth

The tiny tadpole embryo looked like a bean. One day old, it didn’t even have a heart yet. The researcher in a white coat and gloves who hovered over it made a precise surgical incision where its head would form. Moments later, the brain was gone, but the embryo was still alive.

The brief procedure took Celia Herrera-Rincon, a neuroscience postdoc at the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University, back to the country house in Spain where she had grown up, in the mountains near Madrid. When she was 11 years old, while walking her dogs in the woods, she found a snake, Vipera latastei. It was beautiful but dead. “I realized I wanted to see what was inside the head,” she recalled. She performed her first “lab test” using kitchen knives and tweezers, and she has been fascinated by the many shapes and evolutionary morphologies of the brain ever since. Her collection now holds about 1,000 brains from all kinds of creatures.

Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research developments and trends in mathematics and the physical and life sciences.

This time, however, she was not interested in the brain itself, but in how an African clawed frog would develop without one. She and her supervisor, Michael Levin, a software engineer turned developmental biologist, are investigating whether the brain and nervous system play a crucial role in laying out the patterns that dictate the shapes and identities of emerging organs, limbs and other structures.

For the past 65 years, the focus of developmental biology has been on DNA as the carrier of biological information. Researchers have typically assumed that genetic expression patterns alone are enough to determine embryonic development.

CBS News – How busy hands can alter our brain chemistry

“Admiring your own handiwork” is a familiar expression containing an important truth about the mind. We handed this particular story to our Tony Dokoupil: 

Are you the kind of person who actually likes washing dishes? How about folding laundry? Yardwork?

What all these have in common, of course, is they occupy our hands. And as it turns out, some researchers think that may be key to making our brains very happy.

“I made up this term called ‘behaviorceuticals,’ instead of pharmaceuticals, in the sense that when we move and when we engage in activities, we change the neurochemistry of our brain in ways that a drug can change the neurochemistry of our brain,” said Kelly Lambert, a neuroscientist at the University of Richmond.

She says our brains have evolved to reward us for getting a grip on the world

Which is why, Lambert said, in the 19th century doctors used to prescribe knitting to women who were overwrought with anxiety, “because they sensed that it calmed them down some. And it sounds, ‘Oh, that’s simplistic.’ But when you think about, OK, repetitive movement is increasing certain neurochemicals. And then if you produce something — a hat or a scarf — there’s the reward.

Of course, working with your hands is not always easy, as Matthew Crawford, a part-time mechanic from Richmond, Virginia, can attest.

Dokoupil said, “There’s literally blood on the table.”

“Yeah, there usually is,” Crawford said.

Matthew Crawford tinkering. 

He prefers some nicks and cuts to what he used to do, as executive director of a think tank in Washington, D.C.

And what did his hands look like then? “Probably not. They were pretty clean,” he laughed. “But I was always sleepy. There was no amount of coffee that could keep me awake.”

In the garage, using his hands, Crawford finds that his mind goes into high gear. “There are times when I crack some nut that way where I’ll, like, run over and kick the garbage can just out of elation,” he smiled.

BBC – More evidence essential oils ‘make male breasts develop’

A suspected link between abnormal breast growth in young boys and the use of lavender and tea tree oils has been given new weight, after a study found eight chemicals contained in the oils interfere with hormones.

Gynaecomastia is rare, and there is often no obvious cause.

But there have been a number of cases linked to use of these essential oils.

The American study found that key chemicals in the oils boost oestrogen and inhibit testosterone.

Not everyone will have the same reaction to an essential oil.

The plant-derived oils are found in a number of products such as soaps, lotions, shampoos and hair-styling products. They’re also popular as alternative cleaning products and medical treatments.

Lead researcher J. Tyler Ramsey from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), in North Carolina, suggested caution when using the oils.

“Our society deems essential oils as safe. However, they possess a diverse amount of chemicals and should be used with caution because some of these chemicals are potential endocrine disruptors.”

A growing number of reported cases of male gynaecomastia have coincided with topical exposure to the oils.

After they stopped using the products, the symptoms subsided.

A previous study by Dr Kenneth Korach – who was also co-investigator for this study – found that lavender and tea tree oil had properties that competed with or hindered the hormones that control male characteristics, which could affect puberty and growth.

Image copyright Getty Images

The new study looked at eight key chemicals from the hundreds that make up the oils. Four of the tested chemicals appear in both oils and the others were in either oil.

They were tested on human cancer cells in the laboratory to measure the changes.

The researchers found all eight demonstrated varying degrees of promoting oestrogen and/or inhibiting testosterone properties.

“Lavender oil and tea tree oil pose potential environmental health concerns and should be investigated further,” said Mr Ramsey.

Many of the chemicals tested appear in at least 65 other essential oils, which is of concern, he added.

Gizmodo – Asthma Inhalers Fail Minority Children Due to a Lack of Diversity in Research

When inhaled, the drug albuterol opens up the airways of the lungs, providing fast-acting relief to the wheezing and shortness of breath that often accompany an asthma attack. It was discovered in 1966 by a team of British researchers, and went on to become an extremely popular medication for the widespread childhood condition. It is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines. But it often fails minority children.

This failure is a form of discrimination embedded deep in the annals of medicine. One study found that 47 percent of African-American children and 67 percent of Puerto Rican children with moderate to severe asthma did not respond to albuterol. In 2014, African American people were almost three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than their white counterparts. Part of the reason is that genetic differences affect how people respond to medical treatment. And the vast majority of participants in studies of both lung disease and genetics are of European descent.

Now a new study from UCSF published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine sheds some light on why.

“There is dramatic racial disparity in asthma prevalence, mortality, and albuterol drug response,” Angel Mak, a study author, told Gizmodo. “Puerto Ricans and African Americans have the highest asthma prevalence and mortality and lowest drug response compared to whites. Yet, over 95 percent of lung research [is] done on populations of European decent.”

Gizmodo – City In New York Becomes First to Ban New Bitcoin Mining

The people of Plattsburgh, New York have had enough. On Thursday night, the city council approved an 18-month moratorium on new cryptocurrency mining operations. The temporary ban will be used to figure out what to do with these ding dong miners using up all the electricity.

Most cryptocurrencies require a “mining” process in which servers are used to guess the solution to a complex equation—the computer that gets the answer gets the newly minted coin. It takes a lot of electricity to be a miner, and the ones who are successful tend to use a large network of mining rigs. To cut down on their energy expenses, miners have flocked to cities with cheap power and we’re just beginning to learn what cost that brings for the municipalities themselves.

At its most recent city council meeting, Plattsburgh took up the issue and decided that no new mining operations will be allowed for the next 18 months. Existing operations will not be affected by the moratorium. Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read told Motherboard his city has the “cheapest electricity in the world” thanks to its close proximity to a hydroelectric dam. The national average for electricity costs is just over 10 cents per kilowatt-hour; in Plattsburgh, it’s just 4.5 cents. But the city decided to offer industrial operations an even better rate of 2 cents per kilowatt-hour. And then the miners came to town.

According to Motherboard, Plattsburgh gets 104 megawatt-hours of electricity per month and if it exceeds its allotment more has to be purchased on the open market at a significant premium. In January, Plattsburgh used too much electricity and the bills for everyone in town rose, in some cases by $100 to $200. While this has been known to happen in the winter months, the state Public Service Commission (PSC) concluded that the average resident in Plattsburgh saw a $10 increase on their bill in January just because of two cryptocurrency companies. The largest operation, Coinmint, used about 10 percent of the city’s power in January and February.

Local lawmakers plan to work with the mining operations that are already present and use the moratorium to buy time while they come up with a permanent solution. On Thursday, the PSC gave upstate power authorities the ability to impose tariffs on cryptocurrency miners, and Read told Motherboard it’s possible that they’ll be required to cover any overages.

MIT Technology Review – AI tackles the Vatican’s secrets

The Vatican Secret Archives are the stuff of legend. Reportedly filling some 85 kilometers of shelving in Vatican City, they contain the private letters and other documents of past popes, some of them dating back to the eighth century. 

The archives are closely guarded. Since 1881, though, scholars have had limited access to some of the documents, and even this has revealed much.

For example, there’s a 60-meter scroll detailing the trials of the Knights Templar, which started in 1307 and lasted several years. There are letters to various popes from Michelangelo; from Henry VIII, requesting a marriage annulment; and from Mary, Queen of Scots, begging for intercession before her beheading.

The archives also contain more recent correspondence, such as letters from Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis attempting to persuade Pope Pius IX to favor the Union and the Confederacy, respectively.  Then there are the records relating to Pope Pius XII and his dealings with the Nazi regime during World War II, which have never been published. Indeed, all records from 1939 onward are entirely secret.

While publication of the records is forbidden, the archives have their own photographic and conservation studios. And like many historic archives around the world, they have begun to save images of certain documents to preserve them and allow further study.

But the Vatican’s records are so voluminous that transcribing them by hand is impractical in any reasonable period of time. Could machine vision help?

Today we get an answer thanks to the work of Donatella Firmani at Roma Tre University in Italy and a few colleagues. These folks have begun a project called In Codice Ratio (Latin for “The Code System”), which aims to automatically transcribe a part of the Vatican Secret Archives called the Vatican Registers.

This corpus consists of more than 18,000 pages of official 13th-century correspondence between the Catholic Church and kings, queens, and political and religious institutions across Europe. “Never having been transcribed in the past, these documents are of unprecedented historical relevance,” say Firmani and co.

Futurism.com – Autonomous Robot Bees Are Being Patented by… Walmart?

In Brief

Bee populations are dwindling at an alarming rate. A surprising company, Walmart, has filed a patent for autonomous, robot bees which would act as pollinators in agriculture.

Walmart has just filed a patent for autonomous, robot bees. Yes, that Walmart — and no, you didn’t slip into another, stranger dimension. The mega-corporation’s patent specifically covers “pollination drones.” These tiny robots could act just like bees, pollinating crops autonomously.

The robot bees would operate using sensors and cameras to help them navigate to crops. Flying around autonomously, these drones could potentially pollinate as effectively as the real thing.

Robot bees could save agriculture while real bee populations dwindle. Image Credit: Polynoid/Greenpeace/Vimeo

Oddly enough, this is not the only farming patent that Walmart has filed recently. According to CB Insights, this is only one of six Walmart patents for farming drones that would do everything from monitor crop damage to spray pesticides. Incorporating autonomous robots into farming could cut costs and increase agriculture efficiency.

Telegraph UK – How Hollywood actors are writing wills to control their CGI selves from beyond the grave

Hollywood stars can now be recreated so perfectly through technology that actors are drawing up wills to control how their digital selves perform long after their death, the Oscar-winning British special effects team behind the film Gravity has said.

The revelation comes after another British company, CereProc, helped to produce an audio recording of John F Kennedy “delivering” the speech he was due to give on the day in 1963 that he was assassinated.

According to the special effects company Framestore, however, technology now allows for much more. Sir William Sargent, Framestore’s chief executive, says special effects have broken the equivalent of the four-minute mile, which is to make a digital…

 Wichits Eagle – Hacker who turned in Chelsea Manning to FBI, hacked Microsoft, dies in Wichita

Authorities in Kansas have confirmed the death of the computer hacker who turned in Chelsea Manning to law enforcement for giving thousands of documents to WikiLeaks.

Adrian Lamo, 37, was found dead in an apartment on Wednesday, Wichita police officer Charley Davidson said.

“There’s nothing suspicious about his death,” Davidson said, though he would not elaborate.

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/news/local/article205629184.html#storylink=cpy

RoboDaily – Robotic spiders and bees: The rise of bioinspired microrobots

Jumping robot spiders and swarms of robotic bees sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but researchers at The University of Manchester are already working on such projects and aiming to lead the world in micro robotics.

But what will these kinds of robots be used for and is it something we should be worried? Dr Mostafa Nabawy is the Microsystems Research Theme Leader at The University of Manchester’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering. He is presenting some of his research, “Spiders Attack: The rise of bioinspired microrobots” at Manchester’s Industry 4.0 Summit on Thursday 1 March.

Here Dr Nabawy explains why micro robots really aren’t anything to worry about and, instead, could be the revolution in robotics that spearheads the next generation in manufacturing technology:

‘For our robotic spiders research we are looking at a specific species of jumping spider called Phidippus regius. We have trained it to jump different distances and heights, recording the spider’s every movement in extreme detail through high resolution cameras which can be slowed down.

‘We are now using this bio-mechanical data to model robots that can perform with the same abilities. With this extensive dataset we have already started developing prototype robots that can mimic these biomechanical movements and jump several centimetres.’

News.com – $500 million in gold bullion rains down on Siberia after aircraft cargo bungle

WE all know what it’s like to drop some loose change from our wallet or purse.

But what if you accidentally dumped 172 gold bars on the ground?

Just ask Russia’s Nimbus Airlines.

A flight was scheduled to transport a valuable cargo of nine tons of gold and platinum ingots, along with a load of uncut diamonds.

It was all worth some 21 billion roubles (A$469,000,000).

But the heavy bags and boxes containing the load in the cargo transport’s belly were not securely loaded.

According to official government news agency TASS, a total of 172 bars broke loose as the Nimbus Airlines AN-12 aircraft lifted off from Yakutsk, the capital of Russia’s eastern Siberia diamond mining region. That’s more than three tons of gold falling from the sky after the transport took off.

“According to preliminary information, 172 ingots weighing about 3.4 tons were found, the cargo crumbled along the runway (at the Yakutsk airport) due to the fact that the cargo was incorrectly fixed. Some of the gold fell out, there were about 9 tons,” a statement from the Ministry of Internal Affairs admits.

According to local media, the shifting gold tore open a ramp and part of the aircraft’s body as the heavy slid backwards during takeoff.

The ramp fell on to a nearby car showyard. The gold continuously trickled out.

The depressurised and unbalanced aircraft then made an emergency landing at another airport at Magan, some 12km away. None of its five crew members were injured, officials say.

Secret service agents and police were summoned to mount an urgent and intensive effort to recover all the gold bars scattered over both runways and the 26km route the cargo aircraft took between them.

According to the Siberian Times, several cargo engineers from the airport of departure were detained. TASS says the engineers were members of the aircraft’s own crew.

The Nimbus airline has not yet issued a statement.

The cargo belonged to the Chukota Mining and Geological company; 75 per cent owned by Canadian Kinross Gold.

Space.com – NASA Shapes Science Plan for Deep-Space Outpost Near the Moon

NASA is pressing forward on plans to build a Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, an outpost for astronauts positioned in the space near Earth’s moon.

According to NASA, the Gateway will not only be a place to live, learn and work around the moon but will also support an array of missions to the lunar surface. And scientists foresee a host of uses for the station.

By making use of a suite of instruments housed on or inside the structure itself, or free-flying nearby, scientists could make Earth and solar observations.They could also carry out astrophysics and fundamental physics experiments as well as human physiology and space biology studies.

NASA’s fiscal year 2019 budget request calls for launching the first element of the Gateway – its power and propulsion module – into space in 2022. NASA plans to launch the module through a competitive commercial launch contract in an effort to both speed up establishment of the Gateway and advance commercial partnerships in deep space. Under that plan, construction of the Gateway would be complete after two additional launches by 2025, rounding out the complex with habitation, logistics and airlock capabilities. [6 Private Deep-Space Habitat Concepts for Mars]

Grand Forks Herald – Humans bred with this mysterious species more than once, new study shows

We rarely portray Neanderthals, our close relatives, as telegenic. Museum exhibits give them wild tangles of hair, and Hollywood reduces them to grunting unsophisticates. Their skulls suggest broad faces, tiny chins and jutting brows. But to mock Neanderthals is to mock ourselves: Homo sapiens had lots of sex with Homo neanderthalensis. Neanderthal genes supply between 1 percent and 4 percent of the genome in people from homelands on several continents, from Britain to Japan to Colombia.

DNA from another humanlike primate, the Denisovans, lurks in modern genomes, too. A molar and a chip of pinkie bone found in a Siberian cave provide what little information we have about this species. DNA extracted from the fragments previously revealed cross-species breeding. Yet a new study in the journal Cell shows that the ancient hanky-panky did not stop in Siberia: Humans who traveled across South Asia mated with a separate group of Denisovans as well.

“This is a breakthrough paper,” said David Reich, who studies ancient DNA at Harvard University and was not involved with the study. “It’s a definite third interbreeding event,” one that adds to the previously known Denisovan and Neanderthal mixtures.

Humans and Neanderthals divided into separate groups as far back as 765,000 years ago. Denisovans and Neanderthals were closer cousins who split more recently and then vanished – perhaps because we absorbed their lineages.

A team of scientists, led by University of Washington biostatistician Sharon Browning, took an approach that Reich called a “technical tour de force.” In the new study, Browning and her colleagues examined more than 5,500 genomes of modern humans from Europe, Asia and Oceania, looking for any possible archaic DNA.

“We’re looking for segments of DNA in an individual that look quite different from the rest of the variation in the population,” Browning said.

After the team fished out the DNA variations, the researchers matched the segments to Denisovan and Neanderthal sequences, known from samples in Siberia’s Altai Mountains.

All groups studied, from British and Bengali people to Peruvians and Puerto Ricans, had a dense cluster that closely matched the Altai Neanderthals. Some populations also had a cluster that matched the Altai Denisovans, which was particularly pronounced in East Asians.

The surprise was a third cluster – not like the Neanderthal DNA and only partially resembling the Altai Denisovans. This, the authors concluded, was a second and separate pulse of Denisovan genes into the DNA blender.

“The geography is quite suggestive,” Browning said. The authors hypothesize that, as ancestral humans migrated eastward, they came across two different Denisovan populations. One pulse, to the north, shows up in people from China, Japan and Vietnam.

The other Denisovan pulse appears to the south. “Maybe it was down in the southeast corner of Asia,” Browning said. “It could possibly have been on an island en route to Papua New Guinea, but we clearly don’t know.”

Reich said he would not be surprised if methods similar to this one revealed additional mixtures. “I am sure there are others,” he said, considering the wide range of archaic groups across Eurasia.

Browning plans to continue to hunt for additional mixtures, including among people of African descent who were excluded from this study because the warm continental climate makes finding archaic DNA a challenge.

“We’re interested in other populations around the world, especially Africa,” she said.

Gizmodo – Scientists Create a Way for People With Amputations to Feel Their Prosthetic Hands

Prosthetic hands have gotten increasingly sophisticated. Many can recreate the complex shape and detail of joints and fingers, while powered prostheses allow for independent, willful movement. But a new study published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine offers a potential glimpse into the future of the technology: Artificial hands that actually feel like a living limb as they move.

The researchers recruited people with amputations who had been given surgery that reconfigured certain muscle and sensory nerves surrounding the amputated limb, allowing them to control their prosthesis through intuitive brain signals (thoughts) sent to the repurposed nerves.

Across a series of experiments involving three of these patients, the researchers attached devices that generated vibrations along specific muscles near the amputation site. When the device was turned on, these vibrations created an illusionary sense of kinesthesia—an awareness of conscious self-movement—in the prosthetic hand as the person performed tasks with it, both in a virtual stimulation and in the real world. The volunteers had amputations that extended just past their elbow as well as their whole arm.

Not only did the experiment let them “feel” their hand as they opened and closed it, but the restored intuition allowed them to perform tasks without needing to constantly look at their hand. And coupled with vision, it gave them overall better motor control over their prosthesis.

“We pre-position our grip when we grab things—we move our hand and space it out when we’re getting ready to grab a glass of wine without even really thinking about it,” lead author Paul Marasco, a biomedical engineer at the Cleveland Clinic and head of its Laboratory for Bionic Integration, told Gizmodo. “So the individuals we worked with, we were able to provide them with that sensation that they could just move their hands into specific places without ever having looking at it and perform every bit as well as able bodied people.”

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