Archive for July, 2020

More quickly than anyone expected, NASA embraces reuse for human flights

July 31st, 2020

Weather permitting, SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft will splash down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday. Forecasters are closely watching conditions due to Hurricane Isaias but are hopeful the mission will find calm seas and light winds offshore from the Florida Panhandle.

Unlike the Apollo missions, which returned to Earth in the Pacific Ocean, NASA and SpaceX chose to target a splashdown near the Florida Peninsula. The main reason they did this is to get crews more quickly back to their homes, near Houston, after a spaceflight.

However, landing Dragon near Florida has another advantage for SpaceX. By splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico or nearshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean, a SpaceX recovery boat can transport the Crew Dragon vehicle back to the company's facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station within days. This has become all the more important after a recent announcement that NASA will allow SpaceX to begin reusing its Crew Dragon spacecraft early next year.

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Trump May Soon Order TikTok’s Sale, as Microsoft Circles

July 31st, 2020
The short-video app is wildly popular with teens, but officials fear it could be a conduit for data to China, or for Beijing’s propaganda.

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As COVID-19 rages around the globe, other infectious diseases shrink away

July 31st, 2020
Few people and no cars dot a street amidst highrises.

Enlarge / A masked pedestrian crosses an empty street at a usually busy intersection in the Central Business District on February 3, 2020, in Beijing, China. (credit: Getty | Keven Frayer)

Reports of influenza and a host of other infectious diseases have plummeted as the COVID-19 pandemic has driven people into lockdowns.

In many places, social distancing measures aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus may be smothering the spread of other infectious diseases at the same time. But, in other places, the pandemic may simply be masking disease spread, as people may avoid seeking care for more routine infections while health care systems stretched thin by the pandemic may struggle to conduct routine, surveillance, testing, and reporting.

Some of the resulting declines are dramatic. Countries across the Southern Hemisphere have reported much lower numbers of influenza than usual. Australia, for instance, began 2020 with a relatively high level of flu—reporting around 7,000 lab-confirmed cases in both January and February. But the outbreak crashed in March, with reports of only 229 cases in April, compared with nearly 19,000 in April 2019, as noted by the New Scientist.

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Posted in COVID-19, Infectious disease, influenza, lockdowns, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, social distancing | Comments (0)

For Big Tech, There’s No Winning This Round

July 31st, 2020
Accountability is coming—not just because Congress had an impressive hearing this week, but because the confluence of crises now demand action.

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Writeups for some challenges from H@ctivitycon CTF

July 31st, 2020
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FREE Hands-On Network Skill Building Project [How To Use Cisco Packet Tracer To Learn Networking Fundamentals]! Please share this great open-source skill / experience building project a friend created with beginner networking students or aspiring [or entry-level] Cybersec / Infosec folks.

July 31st, 2020
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3 Arrested for Massive Twitter Breach

July 31st, 2020
Three individuals aged 17, 19, and 22 have been charged for their alleged roles in the massive July 15 Twitter attack.

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17-Year-Old ‘Mastermind’, 2 Others Behind the Biggest Twitter Hack Arrested

July 31st, 2020
A 17-year-old teen and two other 19 and 22-year-old individuals have reportedly been arrested for being the alleged mastermind behind the recent Twitter hack that simultaneously targeted several high-profile accounts within minutes as part of a massive bitcoin scam. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Mason Sheppard, aka "Chaewon," 19, from the United Kingdom, Nima Fazeli, aka "Rolex,"

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Using pristine Southern Ocean air to estimate pre-industrial pollution

July 31st, 2020
This photo of Antarctic ice looks like an abstract black-and-white painting.

Enlarge / Long lines called "cloud streets" forming off the edge of Antarctic sea ice. (credit: NASA EO)

One of the lesser-known scientific complications that makes assessing human-caused climate change a hassle is that it isn’t all about greenhouse gases. Emissions of aerosols—tiny atmospheric particles from a variety of sources that scatter sunlight back to space, for example—have acted to offset a portion of the human-caused warming. And unlike long-lived greenhouse gases, aerosols wash out of the atmosphere quite quickly and leave no historical record. That makes reconstructing aerosol levels going back before the Industrial Revolution a challenge.

To improve and cross-check estimates of past aerosol levels, researchers have gotten creative. A new study led by Isabel McCoy at the University of Washington uses the fact that the skies around Antarctica are close to free from human-caused aerosol pollution to set a new pre-industrial baseline.

Aerosols have a cooling influence through both direct (scattering sunlight) and indirect (modifying clouds) effects. In this case, the researchers are looking at the latter by using satellite cloud data. Specifically, they calculate the number of cloud droplets per cubic centimeter based on measurements of droplet size and cloud thickness. Because aerosols can act as condensation nuclei around which droplets form, they tend to lead to higher levels of smaller droplets.

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Posted in aerosols, clouds, MODIS, science | Comments (0)

Neurologists warn of the danger of “stem cell tourism”

July 31st, 2020
Microscope image of fluorescent cells.

Enlarge / Skeletal stem cells are shown here in red. (credit: Noriaki Ono)

Stem cells hold the promise of helping us repair tissues damaged by disease or injury. But outside of bone marrow stem cells, the practice remains largely a promise, as we're just starting clinical trials to determine if we can use these cells effectively. But that hasn't stopped people from offering stem cell "treatments" with no basis in evidence. Many of the clinics that offer these services are based overseas, leading to what's been termed "stem cell tourism." But a number take advantage of ambiguities in Food and Drug Agency regulations to operate in the United States.

A new survey of doctors suggests that a surprising number of their patients are using these services—sometimes with severe consequences. And many doctors don't feel like they're prepared to deal with the fallout.

Widespread interest

The work focuses on neurologists, who specialize in treating diseases of the nervous system. These include diseases like Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis, for which there are few effective treatments—although stem cells have undergone some preliminary tests in the case of Parkinson's. Given the lack of established options, it wouldn't be surprising if these patients turned to therapies that haven't been established, like those involving stem cells.

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