Science

Over 30,000 Published Studies Could Be Wrong Due To Contaminated Cells (sciencealert.com) 36

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Alert: Researchers warn that large parts of biomedical science could be invalid due to a cascading history of flawed data in a systemic failure going back decades. A new investigation reveals more than 30,000 published scientific studies could be compromised by their use of misidentified cell lines, owing to so-called immortal cells contaminating other research cultures in the lab. The problem is as serious as it is simple: researchers studying lung cancer publish a new paper, only it turns out the tissue they were actually using in the lab were liver cells. Or what they thought were human cells were mice cells, or vice versa, or something else entirely. If you think that sounds bad, you're right, as it means the findings of each piece of affected research may be flawed, and could even be completely unreliable.

Horback and fellow researcher Willem Halffman wanted to know how extensive the phenomenon of misidentified cell lines really was, so they searched for evidence of what they call "contaminated" scientific literature. Using the research database Web of Science, they looked for scientific articles based on any of the known misidentified cell lines as listed by the International Cell Line Authentication Committee's (ICLAC) Register of Misidentified Cell Lines.There are currently 451 cell lines on this list, and they're not what you think they are -- having been contaminated by other kinds of cells at some point in scientific history. Worse still, they've been unwittingly used in published laboratory research going as far back as the 1950s.

The Military

SpaceX's Reusable Rockets Win US Air Force General's Endorsement (bloomberg.com) 29

As the military looks to drive down costs, the head of U.S. Air Force Space Command said he's "completely committed" to launching future missions with recycled rockets like those championed by SpaceX's Elon Musk. "It would be 'absolutely foolish' not to begin using pre-flown rockets, which brings such significant savings that they'll soon be commonplace for the entire industry, General John W. 'Jay' Raymond said," reports Bloomberg. From the report: "The market's going to go that way. We'd be dumb not to," he said. "What we have to do is make sure we do it smartly." The Air Force won't be able to use the recycled boosters until they're certified for military use, a process that Raymond suggested may already be in the works. "The folks out at Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles that work for me would be in those dialogues," he said, declining to specify when certification could take place. "I don't know how far down the road we've gotten, but I am completely committed to launching on a reused rocket, a previously flown rocket, and making sure that we have the processes in place to be able to make sure that we can do that safely."
Science

Peer Pressure Forced Whales and Dolphins To Evolve Big Brains Like Humans, Says Study (qz.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: The human brain has evolved and expanded over millennia to accommodate our ever-more-complex needs and those of our societies. This process is known as "encephalization" and has given us the big brain we need to communicate, cooperate, reach consensus, empathize, and socialize. The same is true for cetaceans, like whales and dolphins, it seems. These sea creatures also grew big brains in order to better live in societies, according to a study published on Oct. 16 in Nature Ecology & Evolution. According to Michael Muthukrishna, an economic psychologist at the London School of Economics and co-author of the study, the researchers used two related theories, the Social-Brain Hypothesis and the Cultural-Brain Hypothesis, to make predictions about various relationships between brain size, societal organization, and the breadth of behaviors the cetaceans would display. Then they tested these predictions by creating and evaluating a comprehensive database of cetacean brain size, social structures, and cultural behaviors across species using data from prior studies on 90 types of whales and dolphins.

The study found that cetaceans had complex alliances and communications, played and worked together for mutual benefit, and could even work with other species, like humans. Some also have individual signifiers, sounds that set them apart from others, and can mimic the sounds of others. In addition, it found that brain size predicted the breadth of social and cultural behaviors of these marine creatures (though ecological factors, like prey diversity and latitudinal range, also played a role). The researchers concluded there was a tie between cetacean encephalization, social structure, and group size.

The Internet

Russian Troll Factory Paid US Activists To Fund Protests During Election (theguardian.com) 321

bestweasel writes: The Guardian reports on another story about Russian meddling, but interestingly, this one comes from a respected Russian news source, the RBC. From the report: "Russian trolls posing as Americans made payments to genuine activists in the U.S. to help fund protest movements on socially divisive issues. On Tuesday, the newspaper RBC published a major investigation into the work of a so-called Russian 'troll factory' since 2015, including during the period of the U.S. election campaign, disclosures that are likely to put further spotlight on alleged Russian meddling in the election. RBC said it had identified 118 accounts or groups in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that were linked to the troll factory, all of which had been blocked in August and September this year as part of the U.S. investigation into Russian electoral meddling. Perhaps the most alarming element of the article was the claim that employees of the troll factory had contacted about 100 real U.S.-based activists to help with the organization of protests and events. RBC claimed the activists were contacted by Facebook group administrators hiding their Russian origin and were offered financial help to pay for transport or printing costs. About $80,000 was spent during a two-year period, according to the report."
Software

EA Shuts Down Visceral Games, Shifting Development On Its Star Wars Game (kotaku.com) 48

Visceral Games, the studio behind games like Battlefield Hardline and Dead Space, is being shut down by EA. The Star Wars game in development at Visceral will be revamped and moved to a different studio. Kotaku reports: "Our Visceral studio has been developing an action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe," EA's Patrick Soderlund said in a blog post. "In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game. Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design." Soderlund added that Visceral will be "ramping down and closing" and that "we're in the midst of shifting as many of the team as possible to other projects and teams at EA." "Lastly," he said, "while we had originally expected this game to launch late in our fiscal year 2019, we're now looking at a new timeframe that we will announce in the future."
Android

ZTE Launches Axon M, a Foldable, Dual-Screened Smartphone (theverge.com) 36

ZTE's new Axon M is a full-featured smartphone with a hinge that connects two full-size displays, making the Axon M a flip phone of sorts. "Its front screen is a 5.2-inch, 1080p panel, it has last year's Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 20-megapixel camera," reports The Verge. "But flip the phone over and there's an identical 5.2-inch display on the back, making the Axon M anything but run-of-the-mill." From the report: The M's hinge allows the rear screen to flip forward and slot right next to the main display, creating an almost tablet sized canvas. You can stretch the home screen and apps across the two displays for a larger working area, or you can run two different apps at the same time, one on each screen. You can also "tent" the phone, and mirror the displays so two people can see the same content at the same time. ZTE says that it is utilizing Android's default split-screen features to enable many of the dual-screen functions, and it has made sure the "top 100" Android apps work on the phone. In the "extended" mode, which stretches a single app across both screens, the tablet version of the app is presented (provided there is one, which isn't always a guarantee with Android apps). It's even possible to stream video on both screens at the same time and switch the audio between them on the fly, which might be useful if you want to watch a sports game and YouTube at the same time, I guess.
Government

'Significant' Number of Equifax Victims Already Had Info Stolen, Says IRS (thehill.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: The IRS does not expect the Equifax data breach to have a major effect on the upcoming tax filing season, Commissioner John Koskinen said Tuesday, adding that the agency believes a "significant" number of the victims already had their information stolen by cyber criminals. "We actually think that it won't make any significantly or noticeable difference," Koskinen told reporters during a briefing on the agency's data security efforts. "Our estimate is a significant percent of those taxpayers already had their information in the hands of criminals." The IRS estimates that more than 100 million Americans have had their personally identifiable information stolen by criminal hackers, he said.

The Equifax breach disclosed in early September is estimated to have affected more than 145 million U.S. consumers. "It's an important reminder to the public that everyone can take any actions that they can ... to make sure we can do everything we can to protect personal information," Koskinen said of the breach on Tuesday, in response to a reporter's question. The IRS commissioner advised Americans to "assume" their data is already in the hands of criminals and "act accordingly."

Android

Android Oreo Helps Google's Pixel 2 Smartphones Outperform Other Android Flagships (hothardware.com) 53

MojoKid highlights Hot Hardware's review of Google's new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones: Google officially launched it's Pixel 2 phones today, taking the wraps off third-party reviews. Designed by Google but manufactured by HTC (Pixel 2) and LG (Pixel 2 XL), the two new handsets also boast Google's latest Android 8.0 operating system, aka Oreo, an exclusive to Google Pixel and certain Nexus devices currently. And in some ways, this is also a big advantage. Though they are based on the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor as many other Android devices, Google's new Pixel 2s manage to outpace similarly configured smartphones in certain benchmarks by significant margins (Basemark, PCMark and 3DMark). They also boot dramatically faster than any other Android handset on the market, in as little as 10 seconds. Camera performance is also excellent, with both the 5-inch Pixel 2 and 6-inch Pixel 2 XL sporting identical electronics, save for their displays and chassis sizes. Another notable feature built into Android Oreo is Google Now Playing, an always-listening, Shazam-like service (if you enable it) that displays song titles on the lock screen if it picks up on music playing in the room you're in. Processing is done right on the Pixel 2 and it doesn't need network connectivity. Another Pixel 2 Oreo-based trick is Google Lens, a machine vision system that Google notes "can recognize places like landmarks and buildings, artwork that you'd find in a museum, media covers such as books, movies, music albums, and video games..." The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are available now on Verizon or unlocked via the Google Store starting at $649 and $849 respectively for 64GB storage versions, with a $100 up-charge for 128GB variants.
Google

Google Maps Ditches Walking Calorie Counter After Backlash (engadget.com) 227

Following online backlash, Google is removing a planned feature in Maps that shows you how many calories you'd burn when in walking mode. Google's attempt to promote a healthy lifestyle caused a number of people to lambast the feature on Twitter, claiming it would "shame" and even "trigger" those with eating disorders. Engadget reports: Taking note of the negative reaction, Google is now dumping the experiment. It confirmed to Engadget that the update was briefly tested on iOS, and has been abandoned based on user feedback. As The Hill's Taylor Lorenz noted in her tweets, there was no way to turn off the feature. Lorenz also claimed that using pink cupcakes as the unit of measurement was "lowkey aimed at women." Others pointed out that Maps wasn't the appropriate place for the update. After all, there are plenty of fitness and calorie counting apps that keep track of your activity and consumption -- again emphasizing how misplaced the feature was.
Piracy

Netflix, Amazon, Movie Studios Sue Over TickBox Streaming Device (arstechnica.com) 98

Movies studios, Netflix, and Amazon have teamed up to file a lawsuit against a streaming media player called TickBox TV. The device in question runs Kodi on top of Android 6.0, and searches the internet for streams that it can make available to users without actually hosting any of the content itself. An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The complaint (PDF), filed Friday, says the TickBox devices are nothing more than "tool[s] for mass infringement," which operate by grabbing pirated video streams from the Internet. The lawsuit was filed by Amazon and Netflix Studios, along with six big movie studios that make up the Motion Picture Association of America: Universal, Columbia, Disney, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros.

"What TickBox actually sells is nothing less than illegal access to Plaintiffs' copyrighted content," write the plaintiffs' lawyers. "TickBox TV uses software to link TickBox's customers to infringing content on the Internet. When those customers use TickBox TV as Defendant intends and instructs, they have nearly instantaneous access to multiple sources that stream Plaintiffs' Copyrighted Works without authorization." The device's marketing materials let users know the box is meant to replace paid-for content, with "a wink and a nod," by predicting that prospective customers who currently pay for Amazon Video, Netflix, or Hulu will find that "you no longer need those subscriptions." The lawsuit shows that Amazon and Netflix, two Internet companies that are relatively new to the entertainment business, are more than willing to join together with movie studios to go after businesses that grab their content.

Intel

Intel Aims To Take on Nvidia With a Processor Specially Designed for AI (fastcompany.com) 40

An anonymous reader shares a report: In what looks like a repeat of its loss to Qualcomm on smartphones, Intel has lagged graphics chip (GPU) maker Nvidia in the artificial intelligence revolution. Today Intel announced that its first AI chip, the Nervana Neural Network Processor, will roll out of factories by year's end. Originally called Lake Crest, the chip gets its name from Nervana, a company Intel purchased in August 2016, taking on the CEO, Naveen Rao, as Intel's AI guru. Nervana is designed from the ground up for machine learning, Rao tells me. You can't play Call of Duty with it. Rao claims that ditching the GPU heritage made room for optimizations like super-fast data interconnections allowing a bunch of Nervanas to act together like one giant chip. They also do away with the caches that hold data the processor might need to work on next. "In neural networks... you know ahead of time where the data's coming from, what operation you're going to apply to that data, and where the output is going to," says Rao.
Businesses

Traditional PC Sales Continue To Slide (zdnet.com) 165

Sales of traditional PCs continue to decline, although the overall PC market is likely to grow slightly next year. From a report: Traditional PC shipments are forecast to drop by nearly eight percent this year, and another 4.4 percent in 2018, predicts analyst firm Gartner. Which means that, by 2019, 16 million fewer traditional PCs and notebooks will be sold than were shipped this year. However, much of this will be offset by the rise in spending on high-end notebooks like Microsoft's Surface and Apple's MacBook, so that the overall PC market will by 2019 be at pretty much the same level it was last year. Tablets -- defined by Gartner as basic and utility ultramobile devices -- will also decline over the period to 2019.
Google

Toronto To Be Home To Google Parent's Biggest Smart City Project Yet (techcrunch.com) 49

Sidewalk Labs, the smart city subsidiary of Alphabet (the parent company of Google) with the stated goal of "reimagining cities from the Internet up," now has a very big sandbox in which to conduct its high-tech experiments. From a report: That's obviously an ambitious project, but some of the groundwork is already being laid: Alphabet's Google will be the flagship tenant for the new neighbourhood, anchoring the easter waterfront, to be called "Quayside," and Sidewalk Labs has committed $50 million to kick off pilot testing and planning in partnership with the City of Toronto. Sidewalk Labs won the contract through its response to a Request for Proposals issues by Waterfront Toronto, and organization created by the Canadian federal government, the Ontario provincial government and the City of Toronto together to foster development of Toronto's lakefront areas in ways that address urban sprawl while respecting the realities of climate change and taking into account the ability of the city's residents to get around efficiently. The area involved in the RFP that Sidewalk Labs will work with the government coalition to develop spans around 800 acres (though 12 acres are specified for the initial project), and is one of the largest underdeveloped urban areas in any North American city, making it a good target for Sidewalk's ambitious vision, which involves building smart cities holistically from the very start. Ultimately, the partners hope to turn the area into a "place for tens of thousands of people to live, work, learn and play -- and to create and advance new ideas that improve city life," according to a release from Sidewalk.
Open Source

Companies Overlook Risks in Open Source Software, Survey Finds (betanews.com) 112

An anonymous reader shares a report: Open source code helps software suppliers to be nimble and build products faster, but a new report reveals hidden software supply chain risks of open source that all software suppliers and IoT manufacturers should know about. The recent Equifax breach for example exploited a vulnerability in a widely used open source web framework, Apache Struts, and the study by software monetization specialist Flexera points out that as much as 50 percent of code in commercial and IoT software products is open source. "We can't lose sight that open source is indeed a clear win. Ready-to-go code gets products out the door faster, which is important given the lightning pace of the software space," says Jeff Luszcz, vice president of product management at Flexera. "However, most software engineers don't track open source use, and most software executives don't realize there's a gap and a security/compliance risk." Flexera surveyed 400 software suppliers, Internet of Things manufacturers and in-house development teams. It finds only 37 percent of respondents to the survey have an open source acquisition or usage policy, while 63 percent say either their companies either don't have a policy, or they don't know if one exists. Worryingly, of the 63 percent who say their companies don't have an open source acquisition or usage policy, 43 percent say they contribute to open source projects. There is an issue over who takes charge of open source software too. No one within their company is responsible for open source compliance, or they don't know who is, according to 39 percent of respondents.
Businesses

Tesla Employees Detail How They Were Fired, Claim Dismissals Were Not Performance Related (cnbc.com) 217

New submitter joshtops shares a CNBC report: Tesla is trying to disguise layoffs by calling the widespread terminations performance related, allege several current and former employees. On Friday, the San Jose Mercury News first reported that Tesla had dismissed an estimated 400 to 700 employees. That number represents between 1 and 2 percent of its entire workforce. But one former employee, citing internal information shared by a manager, said the total number fired is higher than 700 at this point. Most of the people let go from Tesla so far have been from its motors business, said people familiar with the matter. They were not from other initiatives like Tesla Powerwall, which is helping restore electricity to the residents of Puerto Rico now. The mass firings, which affected Tesla employees across the U.S., had begun by the weekend of Oct. 7 and continued even after the initial news report, sources said. Among those whose jobs were terminated in this phase, some were given severance packages quickly while others are still waiting on separation agreements. Some terminated employees told CNBC they were informed via email or a phone call "without warning," and told not to come into work the next day. The company also dismissed other employees without specifying a given performance issue, according to these people. "Seems like performance has nothing to do with it," one Tesla employee told CNBC under the condition of anonymity. "Those terminated were generally the highest paid in their position," this person said, suggesting that the firings were driven by cost-cutting. That assessment was echoed by several others, including three employees fired from Tesla during this latest wave.

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