Archive for November, 2018

Why Amazon’s HQ2 Search Backfired

November 14th, 2018
Amazon’s year-long pursuit of new office space highlighted just how much billion-dollar companies can get from taxpayers.

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Levers of Human Deception: The Science and Methodology Behind Social Engineering (InfoRiskToday)

November 14th, 2018

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Another Meltdown, Spectre scare: Data-blabbing holes continue to haunt Intel, AMD, Arm (The Register)

November 14th, 2018

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Privilege Escalation in gVisor, Google’s Container Sandbox

November 14th, 2018
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Small-Time Cybercriminals Landing Steady Low Blows

November 14th, 2018
High-end crime groups are acquiring the sorts of sophisticated capabilities only nation-states once had, while low-tier criminals maintain a steady stream of malicious activity, from cryptomining to PoS malware.

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Sun’s closest solo star may have company

November 14th, 2018
Diagram showing the location of nearby stars.

Enlarge / The position of Barnard's star relative to the Earth and its other neighbors. (credit: IEEC/Science-Wave/Guillem Ramisa)

From the phenomenal success of the Kepler mission and a proliferation of ground-based telescopes, we now know that planets are common in our galaxy. But the methods we've used to detect most of them are biased toward finding large planets that orbit close to their host stars. The farther a planet is, the less its gravity pulls at the star and the less light it blocks out when it passes between that star and Earth. Meanwhile, the focus has shifted to nearby stars, as astronomers have started building a catalog of targets for the next generation of telescopes.

These issues provide an intriguing backdrop for today's announcement that one of the closest stars to Earth has a super-Earth companion. Barnard's star is a red dwarf that is only six light years from our Solar System; only the three stars of the Centauri system are closer. But the new planet orbits far enough from Barnard's star that it had been missed by earlier attempts. The detailed follow-up that spotted it also hints at the possibility of a separate, more distant planet, and both could help inform our models of planet formation.

A new look

Barnard's star has been observed extensively over the years, partly because it's so close, partly because it's a prototypic example of a red dwarf star. These observations have included exoplanet searches, but nothing about the system stood out. But unless you observe a star regularly, there's a chance you won't happen to be looking at critical points in the planet's orbit.

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US travel ban blocking students from presenting their research

November 14th, 2018
A poster grayed-out in protest at the recent Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego.

Enlarge / A poster grayed-out in protest at the recent Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego. (credit: Twitter user: @Doctor_PMS)

At an academic conference, the question “where are you from?” can have many meanings. “For anybody who’s in science, that’s a complicated question,” says paleontologist P. David Polly. “Where are we now, where did we get our degree, where did we grow up, where did we get the other degree?” For many people in science, the list of answers will span multiple countries.

Because of this international culture, science is feeling the effects of increasing restrictions on international travel. At last week’s Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meeting in San Diego, a research poster drew a lot of attention: the bulk of the poster was grayed out, covered instead by a message from the author explaining that, as a citizen of Iran, she had been unable to enter the US to take part in the conference. “Science should be about breaking barriers,” she wrote, “not creating new ones.”

Tightening barriers

Leili Mortazavi, an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia, ran into the same barrier. When her work was accepted for presentation at SfN, she started the visa application process, but when she arrived at her appointment, she was told she was “ineligible to apply” because of her Iranian citizenship. “I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a visa application or a background check,” she told Ars. But the current situation is one of “excluding everyone based on their place of birth and not caring if the reason for their traveling is legitimate or not.”

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Posted in international science, Policy, science, Science policy, travel ban | Comments (0)

A powerful NASA telescope looked for ‘Oumuamua and didn’t find it

November 14th, 2018
Image shows path of the object through our Solar System.

Enlarge / The object's unusual approach suggests it came from outside our Solar System. (credit: NASA/JPL)

Last week, some Harvard University scientists sparked widespread media attention about a possible alien origination for the mysterious interstellar object known as 'Oumuamua. At the end of a paper speculating about the object's observed movement, the authors presented "a more exotic scenario" suggesting that ‘Oumuamua may be "a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization."

As we reported at the time, this outlandish theory may have been catnip for online news editors, but there just wasn't much evidence to take it seriously. Now, thanks to some previously unpublished observations by NASA, we can further discount the idea.

The object now called 'Oumuamua made its closest approach to Earth in September 2017, and astronomers first spotted it in October of that year as it began moving away. In November, when NASA trained its Spitzer Space Telescope on where astronomers expected to find 'Oumuamua, it found nothing over the course of two months of observations in the infrared portion of the spectrum.

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Security Teams Struggle with Container Security Strategy

November 14th, 2018
Fewer than 30% of firms have more than a basic container security plan in place.

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Bitcoin plunges 12 percent, reaching lowest value in a year

November 14th, 2018
Many people doubt Craig Wright's claim to be Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto.

Many people doubt Craig Wright's claim to be Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto. (credit: BBC)

Bitcoin's price has fallen more than 12 percent over the last 24 hours to $5,400, the lowest price for the popular cryptocurrency in more than a year.

Bitcoin's plunge is part of a broader cryptocurrency sell-off. Ethereum has fallen more than 15 percent over the last 24 hours, while Bitcoin Cash is down 18 percent.

Cryptocurrency markets are jittery ahead of a high-stakes "hard fork" of Bitcoin Cash. Rival factions are pushing different, mutually incompatible versions of the spinoff cryptocurrency, and the two versions are scheduled to create separate, competing versions of the blockchain starting on Thursday. The schism could create confusion among users and damage the reputation of the cryptocurrency.

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