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Aug 8, 2020

30-year-old file format behind MacOS hack

Posted by in categories: cybercrime/malcode, privacy

A security expert revealed this week that an exploit commonly used against Windows users who own Microsoft Office can sneak into MacOS systems as well.

A former NSA security specialist who addressed the Black Hat security conference this week summarized his research into the new use for a very old exploit.

Patrick Wardle explained that the exploit capitalizes on the use of macros in Microsoft Office. Hackers have long used the approach to trick users into granting permission to activate the macros, which in turn surreptitiously launch .

Aug 8, 2020

Tiniest secrets of integrated circuits revealed with new imaging technique

Posted by in categories: computing, particle physics, quantum physics

The life-givers of integrated circuits and quantum devices in silicon are small structures made from patches of foreign atoms called dopants. The dopant structures provide charge carriers that flow through the components of the circuit, giving the components their ability to function. These days the dopant structures are only a few atoms across and so need to be made in precise locations within a circuit and have very well-defined electrical properties. At present manufacturers find it hard to tell in a non-destructive way whether they have made their devices according to these strict requirements. A new imaging paradigm promises to change all that.

The imaging mode called broadband electric force microscopy, developed by Dr. Georg Gramse at Keysight technologies & JKU uses a very sharp probe that sends into a silicon chip, to image and localize structures underneath the surface. Dr. Gramse says that because the microscope can use waves with many frequencies it can provide a wealth of previously inaccessible detail about the electrical environment around the dopant structures. The extra information is crucial to predicting how well the devices will ultimately perform.

The imaging approach was tested on two tiny dopant structures made with a templating process which is unique in achieving atomically sharp interfaces between differently doped regions. Dr. Tomas Skeren at IBM produced the world’s first electronic diode (a circuit component which passes current in only one direction) fabricated with this templating process, while Dr. Alex Kölker at UCL created a multilevel 3D with atomic scale precision.

Aug 8, 2020

Programmable synthetic materials

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, computing

Artificial molecules could one day form the information unit of a new type of computer or be the basis for programmable substances. The information would be encoded in the spatial arrangement of the individual atoms—similar to how the sequence of base pairs determines the information content of DNA, or sequences of zeros and ones form the memory of computers.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) have taken a step towards this vision. They showed that atom probe tomography can be used to read a complex spatial arrangement of ions in multivariate metal-organic frameworks.

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are crystalline porous networks of multi-metal nodes linked together by organic units to form a well-defined structure. To encode information using a sequence of metals, it is essential to be first able to read the metal arrangement. However, reading the arrangement was extremely challenging. Recently, the interest in characterizing metal sequences is growing because of the extensive information such multivariate structures would be able to offer.

Aug 8, 2020

4 Palliative Canadians approved for end of life psilocybin therapy through section 56(1) ; First legal medical exemptions for psilocybin in Canada since 1970’s

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, government, health, law

Four Canadians battling incurable cancer have been approved by the Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu, to use psilocybin therapy in the treatment of their end-of-life distress. These 4 patients mark the first publicly-known individuals to receive a legal exemption from the Canadian Drugs and Substances Act to access psychedelic therapy, and the first known patients to legally use psilocybin since the compound became illegal in Canada in 1974. The decision comes after over 100 days of waiting for a response.

I would like to personally thank the Hon. Minister Hajdu and the team at the Office of Controlled Substances for the approval of my section 56 exemption. This is the positive result that is possible when good people show genuine compassion. I’m so grateful that I can move forward with the next step of healing” says Thomas Hartle, one the section 56 applicants battling cancer, from Saskatoon Saskatchewan.

Laurie Brooks, another applicant from British Columbia facing end-of-life distress states: “I want to thank the Health Minister and Health Canada for approving my request for psilocybin use. The acknowledgement of the pain and anxiety that I have been suffering with means a lot to me, and I am feeling quite emotional today as a result. I hope this is just the beginning and that soon all Canadians will be able to access psilocybin, for therapeutic use, to help with the pain they are experiencing, without having to petition the government for months to gain permission. Thanks also to TheraPsil for helping the four of us in this fight. To Thomas Hartel and the other two patients – I think of you often and wish you only good things, especially good health!”

Aug 8, 2020

The Feds Want These Teams to Hack a Satellite—From Home

Posted by in category: cybercrime/malcode

Meet the hackers who, this weekend, will try to commandeer an actual orbiter as part of a Defcon contest hosted by the Air Force and the Defense Digital Service.

Aug 7, 2020

Millions of Americans Have Lost Jobs in the Pandemic — And Robots and AI Are Replacing Them Faster Than Ever

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, business, employment, government, health, internet, robotics/AI

Many organizations will likely look to technology as they face budget cuts and need to reduce staff. “I don’t see us going back to the staffing levels we were at prior to COVID,” says Brian Pokorny, the director of information technologies for Otsego County in New York State, who has cut 10% of his staff because of pandemic-related budget issues. “So we need to look at things like AI to streamline government services and make us more efficient.”


For 23 years, Larry Collins worked in a booth on the Carquinez Bridge in the San Francisco Bay Area, collecting tolls. The fare changed over time, from a few bucks to $6, but the basics of the job stayed the same: Collins would make change, answer questions, give directions and greet commuters. “Sometimes, you’re the first person that people see in the morning,” says Collins, “and that human interaction can spark a lot of conversation.”

But one day in mid-March, as confirmed cases of the coronavirus were skyrocketing, Collins’ supervisor called and told him not to come into work the next day. The tollbooths were closing to protect the health of drivers and of toll collectors. Going forward, drivers would pay bridge tolls automatically via FasTrak tags mounted on their windshields or would receive bills sent to the address linked to their license plate. Collins’ job was disappearing, as were the jobs of around 185 other toll collectors at bridges in Northern California, all to be replaced by technology.

Continue reading “Millions of Americans Have Lost Jobs in the Pandemic — And Robots and AI Are Replacing Them Faster Than Ever” »

Aug 7, 2020

Researchers tease out the unique chemical fingerprint of the most aggressive free radical in living things

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, engineering

Free radicals—atoms and molecules with unpaired electrons—can wreak havoc on the body. They are like jilted paramours, destined to wander about in search of another electron, leaving broken cells, proteins and DNA in their wakes.

Hydroxyl radicals are the most chemically aggressive of the free radicals, surviving for only trillionths of a second. They form when water, the most abundant molecule in cells, is hit with radiation, causing it to lose an electron. In previous research, a team led by Linda Young, a scientist at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, observed the ultrafast birth of these , a process with great significance in fields such as sunlight-induced biological damage, , , and space travel.

Now her team, including researchers from DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, has teased out a unique chemical fingerprint of the hydroxyl, which will help scientists track chemical reactions it instigates in complex biological environments. They published their results in Physical Review Letters in June.

Aug 7, 2020

Physicists watch quantum particles tunnel through solid barriers. Here’s what they found

Posted by in categories: particle physics, quantum physics

A team of physicists has devised a simple way to measure the duration of a bizarre phenomenon called quantum tunneling.

Aug 7, 2020

SpaceX and ULA win billions in Pentagon rocket contracts, beating out Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman

Posted by in categories: Elon Musk, military, space travel

The U.S. Air Force on Friday awarded rocket builders United Launch Alliance and SpaceX contracts worth billions to launch national security missions for five years starting in 2022.

The awards represent the second phase of the military’s National Security Space Launch program, which is organized by the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, California. Four companies — Elon Musk’s SpaceX, ULA, Northrop Grumman and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin — bid for the contracts, with the military set to spend about $1 billion per year on launches.

The NSSL awards represent nearly three dozen launches, scheduled between 2022 and 2026. ULA won 60% of the launches, and SpaceX won the remaining 40%.

Aug 7, 2020

Scientists discover this activity is the key to having a stronger memory

Posted by in categories: entertainment, neuroscience

Just like a nostalgic grandparent flipping through old photo albums, our brains constantly replay memories from past events in our lives as we sleep.

It may seem overly sentimental at first, but our minds aren’t just looking to reminisce and remember the good times. All of that brain activity while dreaming serves to strengthen and preserve existing memories, all while simultaneously finding some room for any new memories we may have made over the previous day.

Those are the main findings from a fascinating new study just released by the University of California, San Diego that investigated neural activity during sleep. The research team at UCSD says that no memory is set in stone within our minds; any memory can be lost, and sleep is when our minds rejuvenate old memories via replay and refine/make room for new memories.