How To Make Messages Easy For an Alien Race To Understand ( 181

szczys writes: The screen on that new cellphone has amazing pixel density, color vibrance, and refresh rate. The high-end headphones you just picked up do an amazing job reproducing sound. These devices interface extremely well with humans but might not be very good modes of communication for an Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Sure, we haven't made contact with alien life yet. Even if they did pick up our broadcasts or space probes the relatively narrow-range of audio (narrow and low frequency), visual (slow refresh rate), and data transmission methods are likely to make no sense to non-human entities. The Voyager Golden Record took a fascinating approach to making some data available to new civilizations; it's interesting to think of other ways we might communicate with beings of fundamentally different biology.

Jimmy Wales and Former NSA Chief Ridicule Government Plans To Ban Encryption 175

Mickeycaskill writes: Jimmy Wales has said government leaders are "too late" to ban encryption which authorities say is thwarting attempts to protect the public from terrorism and other threats. The Wikipedia founder said any attempt would be "a moronic, very stupid thing to do" and predicted all major web traffic would be encrypted soon. Wikipedia itself has moved towards SSL encryption so all of its users' browsing habits cannot be spied on by intelligence agencies or governments. Indeed, he said the efforts by the likes of the NSA and GCHQ to spy on individuals have actually made it harder to implement mass-surveillance programs because of the public backlash against Edward Snowden's revelations and increased awareness of privacy. Wales also reiterated that his site would never co-operate with the Chinese government on the censorship of Wikipedia. "We've taken a strong stand that access to knowledge is a principle human right," he said. derekmead writes with news that Michael Hayden, the former head of the CIA and the NSA, thinks the US government should stop railing against encryption and should support strong crypto rather than asking for backdoors. The US is "better served by stronger encryption, rather than baking in weaker encryption," he said during a panel on Tuesday.

2015 Nobel Prize In Chemistry Awarded To 3 For DNA Repair 20

An anonymous reader writes: Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar have earned the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discoveries about how DNA is repaired at the cellular level (PDF), and how genetic information is protected. "Each day our DNA is damaged by UV radiation, free radicals and other carcinogenic substances, but even without such external attacks, a DNA molecule is inherently unstable. Thousands of spontaneous changes to a cell's genome occur on a daily basis. Furthermore, defects can also arise when DNA is copied during cell division, a process that occurs several million times every day in the human body."

Tomas Lindahl first published work in this field back in 1974, when he found a bacterial enzyme that culled damaged remains of cytosines from DNA. He methodically worked out how base excision repair works, and even managed to recreate the process in vitro in 1996. Aziz Sancar's contribution has to do with how DNA repairs damage from ultraviolet light. After struggling to find a lab interested in his work, he went on to show how a group of enzymes identify and excise UV damage. Paul Modrich's focus was on how natural processes corrected base pair mismatches in DNA. He spent a decade laboriously mapping out how each enzyme interacted with this process — an important thing to know, since defects in the repair system can cause cells to turn cancerous.

DARPA Jolts the Nervous System With Electricity, Lasers, Sound Waves, and Magnets 34

the_newsbeagle writes: DARPA is sinking some cash into the buzzy new research field of "electroceuticals," which involves stimulating nerves to control the activity of organs or bodily systems. The newest techniques have little in common with electroshock therapy, which sends a strong current broadly through the brain tissue; today's cutting-edge methods can target individual neurons, and turn them "on" and "off" with great precision. Under DARPA's new ElectRx program, seven research teams will explore different ways to modulate activity of the peripheral nervous system. Some will stimulate neurons directly with electricity, while others will take more roundabout routes involving light, acoustics, and magnetic fields.
The Internet

Scandal Erupts In Unregulated Online World of Fantasy Sports 174 writes: Joe Drape and Jacqueline Williams report at the NYT that a major scandal is erupting in the multibillion-dollar industry of fantasy sports, the online and unregulated business in which an estimated 57 million people participate where players assemble their fantasy teams with real athletes. Two major fantasy sports companies were forced to release statements defending their businesses' integrity after what amounted to allegations of insider trading — that employees were placing bets using information not generally available to the public. "It is absolutely akin to insider trading. It gives that person a distinct edge in a contest," says Daniel Wallach. "It could imperil this nascent industry unless real, immediate and meaningful safeguards are put in place."

In FanDuel's $5 million "NFL Sunday Million" contest this week, DraftKings employee Ethan Haskell placed second and won $350,000 with his lineup that had a mix of big-name players owned by a high number of users. Haskell had access to DraftKings ownership data meaning that he may have seen which NFL players had been selected by DraftKings users, and by how many users. In light of this scandal, DraftKings and FanDuel have, for now, banned their employees from playing on each other's sites. Many in the highly regulated casino industry insist daily fantasy sports leagues are gambling sites and shouldn't be treated any differently than traditional sports betting. This would mean a high amount of regulation. Industry analyst Chris Grove says this may be a watershed moment for a sector that may need the legislation it has resisted in order to prove its legitimacy. "You have information that is valuable and should be tightly restricted," says Grove. "There are people outside of the company that place value on that information. Is there any internal controls? Any audit process? The inability of the industry to produce a clear and compelling answer to these questions to anyone's satisfaction is why it needs to be regulated."

Neutrino 'Flip' Discovery Earns Nobel For Japanese, Canadian Researchers 58

Dave Knott writes with news that the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to Takaaki Kajita (of the University of Tokyo in Japan) and Arthur McDonald (of Queens University in Canada), for discovering how neutrinos switch between different "flavours." As the linked BBC article explains: In 1998, Prof Kajita's team reported that neutrinos they had caught, bouncing out of collisions in the Earth's atmosphere, had switched identity: they were a different "flavour" from what those collisions must have released. Then in 2001, the group led by Prof McDonald announced that the neutrinos they were detecting in Ontario, which started out in the Sun, had also "flipped" from their expected identity. This discovery of the particle's wobbly identity had crucial implications. It explained why neutrino detections had not matched the predicted quantities — and it meant that the baffling particles must have a mass. This contradicted the Standard Model of particle physics and changed calculations about the nature of the Universe, including its eternal expansion.

4 Calif. Students Arrested For Alleged Mass-Killing Plot 448

The New York Times reports that four high school students in the small California town of Tuolumne, about 120 miles east of San Francisco, have been arrested, but not yet charged, for planning an attack on their school, Summerville High School. According to the Times, three of the four were overheard discussing this plot, and a fourth conspirator was later identified. Their goal, according to Toulumne sheriff James Mele, was "to shoot and kill as many people as possible at the campus"; they had not however been able yet to obtain the weapons they wanted to carry out the attack. From NBC News' version of the story: "Detectives located evidence verifying a plot to shoot staff and students at Summerville High School," Mele said. "The suspects' plan was very detailed in nature and included names of would-be victims, locations and the methods in which the plan was to be carried out."

Selected Provisions: TPP, CETA, and TiSA Trade Agreements 43

While proponents suggest that international trade agreements increase economic prosperity, writes reader Dangerous_Minds, it's often hard to find much detail about their details. Here's an exception: Freezenet is offering an update to known provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and the Trades in Services Agreement (TiSA). Among the findings are provisions permitting a three-strikes law and site blocking, multiple anti-circumvention laws, ISP liability, the search and seizure of personal devices to enforce copyright at the border, and an open door for ISP-level surveillance. Freezenet also offers a brief summary of what was found while admitting that provisions found in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as it relates to digital rights remains elusive for the time being.

10 Confirmed Dead In Shooting at Oregon's Umpqua Community College 1163

CNN and other sources report that an attacker, now in custody, shot and killed a reported ten people, and wounded another 20, at Oregon's Umpqua Community College, about three hours south of Portland, and described by CNN as "technically a gun-free zone." Students are being evacuated to a nearby fairgrounds, and local authorities advise anyone to avoid the area of the college. Wikipedia editors are also quickly compiling information about the attack. More news on the attack is still breaking; expect updates here.
The Internet

Video We Asked Doc Searls: Do Ad Blockers Cause Cancer? (Video) 116

A whimsical headline, but not much more of a shark-jumper than some of the talk we've heard lately from ad agencies, online publishers, and others who earn their living from online advertising. Doc Searls recently wrote a piece on his personal blog titled Beyond ad blocking — the biggest boycott in human history. Naturally, we wanted to ask Doc to expand a bit on what he's been writing about ad blocking and advertising in general. So we had a fine conversation about online advertising -- ending with a challenge to the advertising industry, which Doc says should be looking for ways to produce better, more effective, and less annoying ways to sell to us online.

Xiaomi Investigated For Using Superlatives In Advertising, Now Illegal In China 109

An anonymous reader writes: Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is under investigation for using superlative messaging on its website, according to a leaked document from the Beijing Ministry of Industry and Commerce. A new Chinese law states that adjectives used to promote products must not mislead consumers. The Xiaomi investigation [Chinese] follows claims made by rival Cong that the company used phrases such as 'the best' and 'the most advanced', in its online campaigns and therefore violated the country's advertising law. (The law against suprelatives doesn't seem to apply to communications by the government, about the government.)
The Almighty Buck

Video Why Kickstarter Became a Public Benefit Corporation (Video) 40

Meet Kickstarter co-founder and CEO Yancey Strickler. Timothy Lord asked Yancey about Kickstarter's recent move to become a Public Benefit Corporation, which is, according to Wikipedia, "a specific type of corporation that allows for public benefit to be a charter purpose in addition to the traditional corporate goal of maximizing profit for shareholders."

This corporate restructuring has no tax advantages, and creates a slight increase in paperwork, Yancey says. So why did they do it? Please view the video (or read the transcript, which has more info than the video) to find out.
Input Devices

ALS Patients Use a Brain Implant To Type 6 Words Per Minute 26

the_newsbeagle writes: With electrodes implanted in their neural tissue and a new brain-computer interface, two paralyzed people with ALS used their thoughts to control a computer cursor with unprecedented accuracy and speed. They showed off their skills by using a predictive text-entering program to type sentences, achieving a rate of 6 words per minute. While paralyzed people can type faster using other assistive technologies that are already on the market, like eye-gaze trackers and air-puff controllers, a brain implant could be the only option for paralyzed people who can't reliably control their eyes or mouth muscles.

FBI and DEA Under Review For Misuse of NSA Mass Surveillance Data 86

Patrick O'Neill writes: The FBI and DEA were among the agencies fed information from an NSA surveillance program described as "staggering" by one judge who helped strike the program down. Now the two agencies are under review by the Justice Department for the use of parallel construction as well as looking into the specifics and results of cases originating from NSA tips. (Here's some more on the practice of parallel construction in this context.)
United Kingdom

Tardis Wars: The BBC Strikes Back 72

New submitter Elixon writes: Czech trademark monitoring service IP Defender reported that The British Broadcasting Corporation applied for a figurative trademark on the "POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX" for wide range of goods and services like cinematographic and photographic films, printed publications, key chains, textile goods, toys, telecommunications and more. The Metropolitan Police was defeated by the BBC in the past while trying to monopolize the London police box; now it's the BBC's turn.
The Internet

Mark Zuckerberg Issues Call For Universal Internet Access 142

An anonymous reader writes: During the 70th annual U.N. General Assembly session, Zuckerberg discussed the "importance of connectivity in achieving the U.N.'s sustainable development goals. Connecting the world is one of the fundamental challenges of our generation. More than 4 billion people don't have a voice online." Zuckerberg said. Reuters reports: "The connectivity campaign calls on governments, businesses and innovators to bring the Internet to the some 4 billion people who now do not have access, organizers said. Signing on to the connectivity campaign were U2 star Bono, co-founder of One, a group that fights extreme poverty; actress Charlize Theron, founder of Africa Outreach Project; philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates; British entrepreneur Richard Branson; Huffington Post editor Arianna Huffington; Colombian singer Shakira, actor and activist George Takei and Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales."
The Military

Don't Worry, That Blimp Isn't Watching You Much 43

According to the Baltimore Sun, and despite claims by its maker Raytheon that the system is "performing well right now," the expensive tethered-blimp observatory called JLENS (for "Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System") seems to be mostly a boondoggle. The report focuses on the JLENS installation that was launched in Maryland last year. The Sun makes much of the flight taken by disaffected postal worker Douglas Hughes last April to the White House lawn, directly in the JLENS observation area -- the success of which (to be charitable) casts doubt on the effectiveness of the flying observatory system. Beyond its evidently low utility in doing its job, JLENS seems to be a brittle system, amplying its potential costs as well as its military vulnerability with grand, expensive failures as well as everyday difficulties: in 2010, "a civilian balloon broke loose from its mooring, destroying a grounded JLENS blimp that had cost about $182 million." The article lays out some political shenanigans, too: politicians in a wide range of states have supported the project, which has a nationwide footprint of contractors and possible deployment locations. From the article: Within the Pentagon, Marine Corps Gen. James E. "Hoss" Cartwright, then vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came to JLENS' defense, arguing that it held promise for enhancing the nation's air defenses. At Cartwright's urging, money was found in 2011 for a trial run of the technology in the skies above Washington. Cartwright retired the same year — and joined Raytheon's board of directors five months later. By the end of 2014, Raytheon had paid him more than $828,000 in cash and stock for serving as a director, Securities and Exchange Commission records show.

'RipSec' Goes To Hollywood: How the iCloud Celeb Hack Happened 28

mask.of.sanity writes: The chief hacker behind the infamous iCloud celebrity hacks has revealed in a documentary how the group dubbed RipSec shook Hollywood by plundering thousands of naked photos and financial data of Tinsel Town icons. The film maker gained access to RipSec using a photoshopped naked image of major TV star who offered access to her iCloud account. "I contacted some of the celebrities and she gave me access to her account," Doering says. "From there I baited them (the hackers)."
United States

EU May Forbid the Transfer of Personal Data To the US 202

An anonymous reader writes: As the Snowden revelations have shown, personal data stored in the United States of America is not protected from the US government, be it through warrantless eavesdropping or national security letters. In light of this, the general attorney for the Court of Justice of the European Union has just issued an opinion requiring the US to be removed from the list of "safe harbors", where the transfer of personal data of European citizens is permitted. If the court follows his opinion, the change will have deep impact in the operations of large transnational Internet companies, between a US government that wants to keep on spying, and European authorities that will punish them if they let it happen.

Pokemon Go: What Nintendo Needs To Learn From Ingress 61

An anonymous reader writes: Pokemon Go marks Nintendo's biggest move into mobile yet: the augmented reality mobile game makes use of your location as well as your phone's camera to let you interact with pocket monsters in the real world. It's an audacious idea — with an accompanying trailer — but as one writer points out it will have to nail a lot of different systems to build up an active community in the same that developer Niantic has done for its previous game, Ingress. The author looks at Ingress to see where Nintendo and Niantic may draw inspiration, pointing out that the game's portal modding system could prove a great mechanism for allowing Pokemon evolutions. Expect plenty more Pokemon amiibo to interact with the upcoming wristband, too.