Category: News Posts

What You Need To Know About Apple’s War On ‘Digital Fingerprinting’

Most everyone is aware of how tracking cookies work. They’re little pieces of data added to your browser that track your behavior on the web.

Usually, you notice them when you search for something like basketball and every ad you get for the next few days is about basketball.

At its annual WWDC keynote Apple announced that it would work on blocking another way sites and advertisers track you: canvas fingerprinting.

If you haven’t heard of it before, don’t feel too bad. But actually do feel bad because it’s helping advertisers keep an eye on you based on your digital, well, fingerprint.

Canvas fingerprinting actually recognizes your browser of choice based on its configuration. Information about the browser, operating system, fonts and other pieces of data are combined to create a unique profile.

Once the profile is built, it can be shared with other sites and ad networks. In other words, you can be tracked without using cookies.

It’s a bit like if you wore the same clothes to visit a couple stores.

Those initial stores could call other stores and tell them what you’re wearing so as soon as you walk into future establishments, they may not know your name but they know exactly who you are.

Apple says that Safari for macOS Mojave will stop this type of tracking by limiting the browser data that sites can access.

By doing this, instead of a site creating a unique profile of a visitor, it’ll only (theoretically) see exactly the same information it gleaned from another person using Safari.

In other words, everyone that visits the site with Safari will look the same. It’s like everyone wearing the same black pants, black hoodie and dark sunglasses in a store.

If everyone looks alike, it’s tough to track their movement both in the establishment and once they leave.

“Previously you had to opt-out for these things not to track out. Now they’re saying if you want it if you want this you have to opt-in,” said FireEye senior analyst, Parnian Najafi Borazjani.

Meanwhile, Firefox also has some substantial privacy features but doesn’t go quite as far as the upcoming Safari.

Mozilla is working with the TOR project to add a number of privacy and security features to the shared codebase that both Mozilla and TOR use to produce Firefox and TOR browser respectively.”

Canvas Fingerprinting is one such feature, however it is disabled by default and we have no current plans to ship Canvas Fingerprinting in Firefox beyond the Nightly channel,” Selena Deckelmann, senior director of engineering, Firefox runtime told Engadget.

Apple and other browser-building companies can’t block every type of tracking out there. There’s a ton of money to be made watching you surf the internet and selling that information to advertisers.

That cash incentive means we’ll see more elaborate systems meant to see exactly what you’re interested in.

Like all things privacy and security based, it’s an arms race between the makers of tools that’ll keep folks from sharing or leaking too much information and the people that want to gather as much data as possible from us to make a profit.

Safari’s upcoming feature is just another weapon for the consumer to stay anonymous out there while shopping for new shoes.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

NASA Will Launch A Probe To Study The Solar System’s Protective Bubble In 2024

NASA will launch a new mission in 2024 to help scientists better understand the bubble that surrounds the solar system, agency officials said.

This huge bubble, which known as the heliosphere, is created by the sun; it consists of charged solar particles and solar magnetic fields.

The heliosphere helps protect Earth and other solar system bodies from space radiation, blocking some highly energetic cosmic rays that originated in interstellar space.

But the heliosphere boundary is far from impenetrable. The new NASA mission, called the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP), will collect and study fast-moving particles that manage to make it through.

This boundary is where our sun does a great deal to protect us. IMAP is critical to broadening our understanding of how this ‘cosmic filter’ works,” Dennis Andrucyk, deputy associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement Friday (June 1).

The implications of this research could reach well beyond the consideration of Earthly impacts as we look to send humans into deep space.

IMAP was chosen from a stable of candidate proposals submitted late last year, NASA officials said.

The probe will launch to the Earth-sun Lagrange Point 1, a gravitationally stable spot in space about 930,000 miles sunward from our planet.

IMAP will use 10 onboard science instruments to characterize the particles streaking through that neighborhood.

Such work should shed light on the interaction between the interstellar medium and the solar wind — the stream of charged particles flowing constantly from the sun.

And help researchers better understand how cosmic rays are accelerated inside the heliosphere, among other things, NASA officials said.

The cost of the mission is capped at $492 million, not including the launch vehicle. IMAP’s principal investigator is David McComas of Princeton University, and the mission will be managed by The Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

IMAP is the fifth mission in NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Probes program. The other four are the Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics mission (TIMED), which launched in December 2001.

Hinode, a collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency that lifted off in September 2006.

The Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO), a joint mission with the European Space Agency that launched in October 2006; and the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, which launched in March 2015.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Impacts Of Genetically Modified Animals On The Ecosystem And Human Activities

The genetic modification of animals to obtain transgenic animals started in 1980. The first transgenic animals were mice, which are still the most frequently used transgenic species.

About 20 transgenic species have been obtained and they are more or less currently used. Various methods are being implemented to transfer foreign genes to the different species.

Transgenic animals are mostly used for basic research to study gene and biological functions. Transgenics may also be the source of organs and cells for humans as well as of medicaments.

The impact of transgenesis to improve animals for food and feed production is still non-existent but is expected to become a reality in the coming months.

Humans domesticated some animal species to obtain food, acquire strength for various activities and as companions.

Breeding likely contributed to revealing to humans the mechanisms of reproduction, including their own.

Long ago, humans probably made a distinction between themselves and animals, while recognizing their resemblance to animals.

More recently, humans have considered combining the biological properties of some animals with their own. They imagined the creation of chimeras from human and bull or goat.

They described and represented these chimeric organisms but could not produce them.

Genetic selection has thus become more efficient but is still totally dependent on natural and spontaneous random mutations.

In order to enlarge the choice of plants and animals for selection, humans started to use mutagenic chemical compounds.

The mutagens were applied to micro-organisms, then to plants and animals. The mutations were then much more frequent, but still totally random and unknown.

A selection makes the emergence of new lines of interest possible. More than 3000 plant varieties have thus been obtained and validated and are being used as food.

Please like, share and this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Saturn Found To Have Noontime Auroras

An international team of researchers has found that Saturn’s fast rotation speed makes it possible for the planet to experience noontime auroras.

In their paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, the group describes the factors that lead to creation of auroras and how Saturn’s appear to arise.

Auroras on Earth occur when magnetic reconnections (magnetic fields colliding) cause solar flares on the sun. When it happens, plasma carrying a magnetic field is shot out into space, some of which makes its way to Earth.

When it collides with our planet’s magnetic field, auroras occur. The same process has been observed on Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus.

In this new effort, the researchers were studying data sent back from the Cassini spacecraft, which orbited Saturn for 13 years.

They were looking specifically at data that would provide more information regarding magnetic reconnections on the planet—prior research had shown that they occur on the dayside of the magnetopause (the point where the planet’s magnetic field meets the solar wind).

There was also evidence that they occur on the nightside of its magnetodisk, which is a plasma ring formed near the equator by water and other materials emitted from its moons.

But prior research had also suggested that there would be no reconnections on the dayside of the planet’s magnetodisk because the solar winds made the to too thick for them to occur.

But the researchers found evidence of reconnections in the magnetodisk at noontime anyway. The researchers suggest this apparent anomaly is likely due to Saturn’s high spin rate (a day is just 10 hours).

The high rate, they note, likely compresses the magnetodisk, making it thin enough for reconnections to occur. The team also suggests that the reconnections they measured appear to be strong enough to create auroras.

The researchers suggest that their findings indicate that unknown auroras might be happening on other planets as well, but have been overlooked because planet spin speed was not factored into calculations.

They further suggest that similar reconnections might also be behind some unexplained pulses seen from Jupiter.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

The Mystery Of How Easter Island Statues Got Their Colossal Hats Might Finally Be Solved

It’s a towering problem, one to stump the most determined of milliners. You’ve carved almost 1,000 immense statues standing up to 10 metres (33 ft) tall. And now you want to put their hats on.

There’s just one problem. The hats, like the graven colossi themselves, are hewn out of solid rock, and weigh several tonnes a piece. How on Earth could you ever lift and fit this hulking headwear?

This ancient puzzle is just one of many posed by the strange stone legacy of Easter Island, whose unflinching moai statues maintain their silent vigil long centuries after the mysterious collapse of the Polynesian Rapa Nui society that erected them.

Of the many questions that surround the island’s past, two tend to stand out,” explains anthropologist Carl Lipo from Binghamton University.

How did people of the past move such massive statues, and how did they place such massive stone hats (pukao) on top of their heads?

Researchers already solved the first part of the puzzle. For decades, archaeologists have experimented with various methods of ‘walking’ the moai – rocking replica statues from side to side along prepared paths, ever slowly inching the towering figures forward.

It’s kind of like shuffling a fridge into a new kitchen (although decidedly more epic).

But what about the world’s heaviest hats?

In a new study, Lipo and his team suggest that the cylindrical pukao – with diameters up to 2 metres (6.5 feet) and weighing 12 tonnes – may have been rolled across the island from the red scoria quarries they were cut from.

A diagram of how the pukao might have been placed.

That’s how they were transported to the moai, but to lift them onto the statues’ elevated heads, props – and a little physics trickery – would be needed, with a ramp-and-ropes technique called parbuckling.

The solution may seem simple in hindsight, but to show that the hypothetical rig would have been workable for Rapa Nui islanders required building detailed 3D models of 50 pukao and 13 red scoria cylinders found on the island, and calculating how the huge hats may have been pulled up the inclined ahu platforms.

“Transport equations based on Newtonian physics, human strength estimates, and estimates of moai height and pukao mass at four different ahu verify that pukao transport by rolling up a ramp is physically feasible with 15 or fewer people,” the researchers write, “even in the case of the most massive pukao (about 12 metric tonnes).”

This technique means it wouldn’t have required huge number of peoples or resources to construct and assemble the moai and pukao, which helps discredit the view that the Rapa Nui may somehow have helped destroy their own civilisation through overpopulation taxing the island’s natural resources.

And yet, for all that ingenuity and coordinated effort, most of the pukao are sadly no longer affixed to the moai heads.

Centuries of weather, erosion, and animal activity have seen the majority of these rock hats fall back to Earth, where they rest crumbled and damaged around the island surface – which is one of the reasons you rarely see this monumental headwear in photos of the iconic statues.

Something to think about next time your hat blows off on a windy day.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

‘Planet Nine’ Can’t Hide Much Longer, Scientists Say

Planet Nine’s days of lurking unseen in the dark depths of the outer solar system may be numbered.

The hypothetical giant planet, which is thought to be about 10 times more massive than Earth, will be discovered within 16 months or so, astronomer Mike Brown predicted.

I’m pretty sure, I think, that by the end of next winter — not this winter, next winter — I think that there’ll be enough people looking for it that … somebody’s actually going to track this down,” Brown said during a news conference at a joint meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) and the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Pasadena, California.

Brown said that eight to 10 groups are currently looking for the planet.

At the “next one of these [DPS-EPSC meetings], we’ll be talking about finding Planet Nine instead of just looking for it,” added Brown, who’s based at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena.

That would be a pretty quick path from hypothetical planet to confirmed world. The existence of Planet Nine was seriously proposed for the first time just in 2014, by astronomers Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., and the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, respectively.

Sheppard and Trujillo noted that the dwarf planet Sedna, the newfound object 2012 VP113 and several other bodies far beyond Pluto share certain odd orbital characteristics, a coincidence that would make sense if their paths through space had been shaped by an unseen, giant “perturber” in the region.

The researchers suggested that this putative planet is perhaps two to 15 times more massive than Earth and lies hundreds of astronomical units (AU) from the sun.

This interpretation was bolstered in January of this year by Brown and fellow Caltech astronomer Konstantin Batygin, who found evidence of a perturber’s influence in the orbits of a handful of additional distant objects.

This “Planet Nine,” as Batygin and Brown dubbed the putative world, likely contains about 10 Earth masses and orbits on a highly elliptical path whose aphelion is about 1,000 AU, the researchers said.

The evidence for Planet Nine’s existence has continued to grow over the past nine months, as several different research teams have determined that the orbits of other small, distant objects appear to have been sculpted as well.

This is well within reach of the giant telescopes,” he said.

The Subaru telescope, I think, on Mauna Kea, [in Hawaii] — the Japanese national telescope — is the prime instrument for doing the search. But there are a lot of other people who have clever ideas on how to find it, too, that are trying with their own telescopes.”

So which research team will ultimately find Planet Nine? Brown said he isn’t sure, and he stressed that getting credit for the historic discovery should be a secondary concern for astronomers.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Here’s Where Outer Space Actually Begins

Excluding a handful of astronauts, all of humanity lives on a little spinning marble hurtling through the almost uninterrupted void of cosmic emptiness, protected by the warm, comforting envelope of our atmosphere.

But where does that atmosphere end and the edge of space begin?

Scientists aren’t exactly sure. There’s even a debate over whether we should determine where Earth ceases and space begins — the UN and the US State Department believe we shouldn’t make anything official.

We do have some general boundaries though.

Above Earth’s surface, our atmosphere is divided into five layers, the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere.

Chances are, unless you’ve spent time as a fighter pilot, you’ve never gone beyond the troposphere. And all humans except for the 24 astronauts who have visited the moon have ever ventured beyond the thermosphere.

When you reach 50 miles of altitude, near the border between the mesosphere and the thermosphere, that’s where aerodynamic control surfaces stop working (you’ll need rockets to steer).

And for record-keeping and giving out astronaut wings, the Kármán Line, located around 62 miles (100 km) above the surface of the Earth, serves as a rough space border: this is where a craft begins to escape the grip of our planet’s gravity.

As you fly higher into the atmosphere, the air gets thinner, and this means a plane needs more speed for its wings to generate the lift needed to keep it aloft.

The Kármán Line is the point where the speed needed to maintain altitude is equal to escape velocity: the speed at which a craft ceases to follow the curvature of the Earth, and the craft begins to enter space.

NASA and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the organization for international aeronautical and astronautical record-keeping, recognize this line as the point where space begins — if you’ve gone above the Karman Line, your aeronautics become astronautics and you’re considered an astronaut.

But the atmosphere doesn’t stop there — it continues on, gradually thinning out for thousands of miles.

The final layer of the atmosphere, the enormous exosphere, continues until around 6,700 miles (10,000 km) above the surface of our planet (and some say even further). At that point, the moon is still hundreds of thousands of miles away.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

What To Expect From Apple’s WWDC 2018 Keynote — And What Not To


Apple’s WWDC hasn’t historically been a venue associated with a flurry of hardware releases, the 2017 one notwithstanding.

Given Apple’s recent focus on software technologies in health, augmented reality, and virtual reality, there is a decent likelihood that we’ll see very little in the way of new Iron.

Here’s a look at Apple’s current product lineup minus the iPhone and Apple Watch which will probably be updated in September, and what we’re expecting to see from each.

MacOS 10.14, iOS 12, tvOS 12, and watchOS 5 are coming

What says yes: Everything. Apple takes the opportunity it gets at WWDC to show developers, and the world, what’s coming in the next versions of the operating system. There is absolutely nothing suggesting otherwise this year.

It’s not clear how revelatory the new versions will be. Previous rumors suggested that these updates will be about refining the existing versions rolled out last year.

But, given that High Sierra was supposed to do that to Sierra, there’s some room for discussion.

Be careful about your old apps, though. At best, 32-bit apps will have “compromises” according to Apple, and at worst they may not run at all. It might be time to check which apps you rely on are, and aren’t 64-bit.

What says no: Nothing at all. It’s basically a guarantee that the revisions are going to be presented. Like we said, they’re likely to expand on Apple’s burgeoning ambitions in user’s health, and further expand Apple’s ARKit.

MacBook Pro

What says yes: After of over a following the 2015 MacBook Pro, Apple rolled out the 2016 MacBook Pro at the tail end of the year.

It refreshed the line in an uncharacteristic hardware bonanza at the 2017 WWDC, after less than a year in service. And, it’s been a year, so it might be time again.

The updates were relatively modest, with a slightly better CPU and GPU. It seems possible that Apple will do the same at the 2018 WWDC to hit the “back to school” period.

What says no: There isn’t a compelling engineering reason for Apple to do so today.

Instead, it could wait until later in the year or January 2019 for Intel’s chipset that will allow 32GB of LPDDR4 RAM —as the existing ones can’t have more than 16GB of RAM without switching to a more power-hungry chipset.

But then again, this chipset from Intel is two years late already. Apple may not want to wait.

iPad Pro

What says yes: A slew of filings from overseas regulatory agencies suggest that there are iOS devices imminent. Couple this with the last update to the product being a year ago, and the iPad Pro line seems ripe for a refresh.

Time marches on. The 2018 sixth generation iPad is very close to the 2017 iPad Pro lineup in speed, minus some hardware niceties. It might be time to open that lead with a new A11-based processor in the iPad Pro.

What says no: Generally, we’ve seen suggestions from the supply chain and rumors popping out beyond regulatory agency filings that a new model is coming.

This year, there’s been none of that, and a recent report seems to suggest the same.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Your Old Cell Phone Can Help Save The Rain Forest

illegal logging

Topher White spends a lot of time walking in and thinking about the forest, and how quickly we’re losing it. So much so that he’s gotten a black eye from being smacked by flying tree branches.

But that’s just a small example of what the engineer is willing to endure to stop global deforestation. Founder of the San Francisco-based nonprofit Rainforest Connection, White has developed a simple but ingenious strategy: using old cell phones to listen for the sound of destruction.

Forests are disappearing worldwide, and fast: Swaths half the size of England are lost each year. The Amazon has lost close to one-fifth of its rain forest cover in the last four decades.

“I didn’t know any of this stuff when I started,” says White, who began his journey in 2011, when he traveled to Indonesian Borneo to help dwindling gibbons.

“I just kind of thought it was about protecting the small areas and animals,” “But no, [deforestation is] actually one of the biggest contributors to climate change.”

Topher White

So he has developed a system in which he rigs a cell phone to stay charged by solar cells, attaches an extra microphone, and listens. From there, the device can detect the sounds of chainsaws nearly a mile away.

And believe it or not, cell phone reception often isn’t bad in the rain forest. When you’re up in the canopy, “you can actually pick up a signal from pretty far away,” says White.

It’s not just about listening for logging. The same technology that can pick out the buzz of a chainsaw can pick out the sounds of specific birds, which is why White sees the forest recordings as a potential science tool.He is urging biologists and ecologists to use his monitoring system anywhere, whether it’s a remote forest or a park in London.

He is urging biologists and ecologists to use his monitoring system anywhere, whether it’s a remote forest or a park in London.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Scientists Are Using This Technique To Catch A Whiskey Counterfeiter

Some connoisseurs have no qualms dropping hundreds (if not thousands) on a bottle of good whiskey (or whisky).

But expensive bottles are not always full of expensive liquor. The spirits inside may not have spent the right time in the right barrel in the right place to earn their labeled age or composition, or the name bourbon or Scotch.

Counterfeit whiskies may not fool experts, but most drinkers wouldn’t be able to taste the problem. Fortunately, researchers from Germany and the Netherlands have come up with a new way to weed out these weaselly whiskies.

The technique, published this week in the journal Chem, relies on fluorescent polymer dyes that react to different compounds in whiskies.

The polymers glow when exposed to fluorescent light, and the intensity depends on factors such as whether the Scotch is double or single malt, or whether the whiskey was distilled in Ireland or the United States.


“Each single polymer’s response to the whisky would not be very useful, but if you combine them, they form a really unique pattern,” said Uwe Bunz, a coauthor of the report, in a press release.

The team tested the method on 33 Irish, Scottish, and American whiskies, and each sample produced a distinctive combination of glowing polymers—a unique chemical fingerprint.

The technique can’t be used to identify an unknown spirit, but it can compare a sample to a known brand—perfect for catching counterfeiters.

The technique might someday be applied to other beverages or even in other scientific fields, but for now, it’s a helpful way to make sure a bottle of brown liquor is worth an outrageous price tag.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science