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Mar 25, 2019

Asus software updates were used to spread malware, security group says

Posted by in category: cybercrime/malcode

Asus’ software update system was hacked and used to distribute malware to about 1 million Windows computers, according to the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab. The malware was disguised as a “critical” software update, distributed from Asus’ servers, and signed using a real Asus certificate that made it appear to be valid. Details of the hack were first revealed by Motherboard, and Kaspersky plans to release more details at an upcoming conference.

It’s not clear what the hackers were after. However, the hackers did seem to target specific Asus customers: the malware included special instructions for 600 systems, to be identified by specific MAC addresses. Once one of those systems was detected, the update would then install more malicious programs to further compromise the system.

Kaspersky named the attack “ShadowHammer.” This kind of targeting is often associated with espionage attacks by nation states, most notably Stuxnet, which spread widely but did little to no harm on most infected systems.

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Mar 25, 2019

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to launch astronauts in July, says Russian source

Posted by in category: space travel

A source familiar with Russia’s aerospace industry recently informed state newspaper RIA Novosti that NASA has provided Russian space agency Roscosmos with an updated planning schedule for International Space Station (ISS) operations, including a preliminary target for SpaceX’s first Crew Dragon launch with astronauts aboard.

According to RIA’s source, NASA informed Roscosmos that the agency was tentatively planning for the launch of SpaceX’s Demonstration Mission 2 (DM-2) as early as July 25th, with the spacecraft departing the ISS, reentering the atmosphere, and safely returning astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to Earth on August 5th. In a bizarre turn of events, Russian news agency TASS published a separate article barely 12 hours later, in which – once again – an anonymous space agency source told the outlet that “the [DM-2] launch of Crew Dragon is likely to be postponed to November”. For the time being, the reality likely stands somewhere in the middle.

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Mar 25, 2019

Deep Science AI joins Defendry to automatically detect crimes on camera

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, science, security

Deep Science AI made its debut on stage at Disrupt NY 2017, showing in a live demo how its computer vision system could spot a gun or mask in CCTV footage, potentially alerting a store or security provider to an imminent crime. The company has now been acquired in a friendly merger with Defendry, which is looking to deploy the tech more widely.

It’s a great example of a tech-focused company looking to get into the market, and a market-focused company looking for the right tech.

The idea was that if you have a chain of 20 stores, and 3 cameras at each store, and people can only reliably keep an eye on 8–10 feeds at a time, you’re looking at a significant personnel investment just to make sure those cameras aren’t pointless. If instead you used Deep Science AI’s middle layer that highlighted shady situations like guns drawn, one person could conceivably keep an eye on hundreds of feeds. It was a good pitch, though they didn’t take the cup that year.

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Mar 25, 2019

Extremely accurate measurements of atom states for quantum computing

Posted by in categories: computing, particle physics, quantum physics

A new method allows the quantum state of atomic “qubits”—the basic unit of information in quantum computers—to be measured with twenty times less error than was previously possible, without losing any atoms. Accurately measuring qubit states, which are analogous to the one or zero states of bits in traditional computing, is a vital step in the development of quantum computers. A paper describing the method by researchers at Penn State appears March 25, 2019 in the journal Nature Physics.

“We are working to develop a quantum computer that uses a three-dimensional array of laser-cooled and trapped as qubits,” said David Weiss, professor of physics at Penn State and the leader of the research team. “Because of how works, the atomic qubits can exist in a ‘superposition’ of two states, which means they can be, in a sense, in both states simultaneously. To read out the result of a quantum computation, it is necessary to perform a measurement on each atom. Each measurement finds each atom in only one of its two possible states. The relative probability of the two results depends on the superposition state before the measurement.”

To measure qubit states, the team first uses lasers to cool and trap about 160 atoms in a three-dimensional lattice with X, Y, and Z axes. Initially, the lasers trap all of the atoms identically, regardless of their quantum state. The researchers then rotate the polarization of one of the laser beams that creates the X lattice, which spatially shifts atoms in one qubit state to the left and atoms in the other qubit state to the right. If an atom starts in a superposition of the two qubit states, it ends up in a superposition of having moved to the left and having moved to the right. They then switch to an X lattice with a smaller lattice spacing, which tightly traps the atoms in their new superposition of shifted positions. When light is then scattered from each atom to observe where it is, each atom is either found shifted left or shifted right, with a probability that depends on its initial state.

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Mar 25, 2019

Billionaire Power Couple Give $75 Million for Canadian AI Push

Posted by in categories: media & arts, robotics/AI

Canada’s billionaire power couple, Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman, have donated C$100 million ($75 million) to the University of Toronto for an artificial intelligence complex.

The gift, from the duo behind private-equity firm Onex Corp. and Indigo Books & Music Inc., is the largest in the university’s history and biggest for Canada’s technology sector, said the academic institution. It will be used to build the Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre starting this year.

“You’ve seen companies like Uber and Google and so many others starting to make real commitments to Toronto, and this is drawing people from around the world to come to Toronto to be part of this,” Schwartz, Onex’s founder and chief executive officer, said in an interview at Indigo’s headquarters in the city. “That legacy is going to last for a long time.”

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Mar 25, 2019

New Research Boosts Potential of Compact Fusion Power

Posted by in categories: energy, sustainability

Aside from harvesting solar, wind, and hydrogen energy to produce electricity, many energy experts believe that developing compact fusion facilities can give humankind a stable and sustainable source of power that can last forever.


Jon Menard, a physicist from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), has reportedly examined the possibility of expediting the development of compact fusion facilities to generate safe, clean, and limitless energy.

In his study, Menard looked into the concept of creating a compact tokamak powered by high-temperature superconducting magnets.

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Mar 25, 2019

German Professor Who Is A Hardcore Star Wars Fan Has Just Repainted An Observatory Into R2-D2

Posted by in category: futurism

Maybe one of our observatory domes can be painted to look like this? :-D.


In a galaxy far far away (Germany) Hubert Zitt, professor at the Zweibrücken University of Applied Sciences and known for Star Trek and Star Wars lectures, along with a small team, transformed the Zweibrück Observatory of the Natural Science Association into a giant R2-D2 – and it is out of this world.

The sci-fi professor completed the project in September 2018, aided by his father-in-law Horst Helle, the master painter Klaus Ruffing and several helping students and it has caught the eyes of Star Wars fans everywhere. The most notable fan of the re-design was Star Wars actor Mark Hamill who tweeted about it, “R2-D2 Observatory Transformed Germans Into Giant Nerds.”

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Mar 25, 2019

New technique shows promise for heart muscle regeneration

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

Researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, have developed an approach to regenerate heart muscle using stem cells. Their method for priming stem cells to become heart tissues could potentially enable heart regeneration stem cell therapies, according to their study published in the journal Cell Reports.

The self-regeneration of human following injury is extremely limited. Scientists have been studying techniques to prompt different kinds of stem to differentiate into cell precursors, which could then help rebuild heart muscle fibres. However, their approaches have not yet met regulations set forth by the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency for regenerative therapies.

Dr. Lynn Yap, a Senior Research Fellow at Duke-NUS’ Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders (CVMD) Programme and the study’s first author, explained, “Regulatory authorities specifically require these stem-cell-derived precursors be prepared from human-only cells and in cultures that use clearly defined chemicals and no animal components. The method must be reproducible, and the cells must have clear characteristics while not leading to adverse side effects when injected.”

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Mar 25, 2019

Robo-Retail vs. Humanity at a Price? Two Possible Futures for Retail

Posted by in categories: cyborgs, employment, robotics/AI

By Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, April Koury, and Alexandra Whittington

Image https://pixabay.com/images/id-4045661/ by geralt is licensed under CC0

Can human roles in retail survive the relentless march of the robots? Much of the current debate on automation focuses on the possible demise of existing jobs and the spread of automation into service and white-collar sectors – and retail is certainly one industry poised to follow this automation path in pursuit of the next driver of profits. From the advent of the steam engine and mechanisation of farming, through to the introduction of personal computing — jobs have always been automated through the use of technology. However, as new technologies have come to market, human ingenuity and the ability to create new products and services have increased the scope for employment and fulfilment. Retail has enjoyed enormous benefits from technology tools, but has the time come when automation poses a threat to jobs? Here we present two possible scenarios for retail 2020–2025: one where automation eliminates the majority of retail jobs and a second which sees the emergence of new paid roles in retail.

Scenario One: Robo-Retail Rules

By 2020, in-store robots walk the aisles to guide customers, help order from another branch, and bring goods to the checkout, or your car. Artificial intelligence (AI) personal assistants like Siri and Alexa have become personal shoppers, with perfect knowledge of customers’ tastes and preferences. This allows for development of retail algorithms to recommend the perfect item before shoppers even know they want it. The algorithms offer recommendations drawing on databases of consumer preferences (i.e. Amazon recommendations), social media, friends’ recent purchases, and analysis of emerging trends – with our AI assistants providing our profiles to help filter and select the appropriate offers.

Continue reading “Robo-Retail vs. Humanity at a Price? Two Possible Futures for Retail” »

Mar 25, 2019

Senescent Cell Clearance Improves Intervertebral Disc Degeneration

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, life extension

The presence of senescent cells has been implicated in a wide range of age-related diseases and even conditions such as T1 diabetes. Today, we want to draw your attention to a new publication that explores the relationship between senescent cells and intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD).

It was already known that senescent cells increase during the progression of IDD, but it was not known if they were a driver or a consequence of IDD.

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