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Advertising

New Stegano Exploit Kit Hides Malvertising Code In Banner Pixels (bleepingcomputer.com) 202

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: For the past two months, a new exploit kit has been serving malicious code hidden in the pixels of banner ads via a malvertising campaign that has been active on several high profile websites. Discovered by security researchers from ESET, this new exploit kit is named Stegano, from the word steganography, which is a technique of hiding content inside other files. In this particular scenario, malvertising campaign operators hid malicious code inside PNG images used for banner ads. The crooks took a PNG image and altered the transparency value of several pixels. They then packed the modified image as an ad, for which they bought ad displays on several high-profile websites. Since a large number of advertising networks allow advertisers to deliver JavaScript code with their ads, the crooks also included JS code that would parse the image, extract the pixel transparency values, and using a mathematical formula, convert those values into a character. Since images have millions of pixels, crooks had all the space they needed to pack malicious code inside a PNG photo. When extracted, this malicious code would redirect the user to an intermediary ULR, called gate, where the host server would filter users. This server would only accept connections from Internet Explorer users. The reason is that the gate would exploit the CVE-2016-0162 vulnerability that allowed the crooks to determine if the connection came from a real user or a reverse analysis system employed by security researchers. Additionally, this IE exploit also allowed the gate server to detect the presence of antivirus software. In this case, the server would drop the connection just to avoid exposing its infrastructure and trigger a warning that would alert both the user and the security firm. If the gate server deemed the target valuable, then it would redirect the user to the final stage, which was the exploit kit itself, hosted on another URL. The Stegano exploit kit would use three Adobe Flash vulnerabilities (CVE-2015-8651, CVE-2016-1019 or CVE-2016-4117) to attack the user's PC, and forcibly download and launch into execution various strains of malware.
Republicans

Of 8 Tech Companies, Only Twitter Says It Would Refuse To Help Build Muslim Registry For Trump (theintercept.com) 588

On the campaign trail last year, President-elect Donald Trump said he would consider requiring Muslim-Americans to register with a government database. While he has back-stepped on a number of campaign promises after being elected president, Trump and his transition team have recently resurfaced the idea to create a national Muslim registry. In response, The Intercept contacted nine of the "most prominent" technology companies in the United States "to ask if they would sell their services to help create a national Muslim registry." Twitter was the only company that responded with "No." The Intercept reports: Even on a purely hypothetical basis, such a project would provide American technology companies an easy line to draw in the sand -- pushing back against any effort to track individuals purely (or essentially) on the basis of their religious beliefs doesn't take much in the way of courage or conviction, even by the thin standards of corporate America. We'd also be remiss in assuming no company would ever tie itself to such a nakedly evil undertaking: IBM famously helped Nazi Germany computerize the Holocaust. (IBM has downplayed its logistical role in the Holocaust, claiming in a 2001 statement that "most [relevant] documents were destroyed or lost during the war.") With all this in mind, we contacted nine different American firms in the business of technology, broadly defined, with the following question: "Would [name of company], if solicited by the Trump administration, sell any goods, services, information, or consulting of any kind to help facilitate the creation of a national Muslim registry, a project which has been floated tentatively by the president-elect's transition team?" After two weeks of calls and emails, only three companies provided an answer, and only one said it would not participate in such a project. A complete tally is below.

Facebook: No answer. Twitter: "No," and a link to this blog post, which states as company policy a prohibition against the use, by outside developers, of "Twitter data for surveillance purposes. Period." Microsoft: "We're not going to talk about hypotheticals at this point," and a link to a company blog post that states that "we're committed to promoting not just diversity among all the men and women who work here, but [...] inclusive culture" and that "it will remain important for those in government and the tech sector to continue to work together to strike a balance that protects privacy and public safety in what remains a dangerous time." Google: No answer. Apple: No answer. IBM: No answer. Booz Allen Hamilton: Declined to comment. SRA International: No answer.

IBM

Erich Bloch, Who Helped Develop IBM Mainframe, Dies At 91 (google.com) 39

shadowknot writes: The New York Times is reporting (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source) that Erich Bloch who helped to develop the IBM Mainframe has died at the age of 91 as a result of complications from Alzheimer's disease. From the article: "In the 1950s, he developed the first ferrite-core memory storage units to be used in computers commercially and worked on the IBM 7030, known as Stretch, the first transistorized supercomputer. 'Asked what job each of us had, my answer was very simple and very direct,' Mr. Bloch said in 2002. 'Getting that sucker working.' Mr. Bloch's role was to oversee the development of Solid Logic Technology -- half-inch ceramic modules for the microelectronic circuitry that provided the System/360 with superior power, speed and memory, all of which would become fundamental to computing."
Space

Theory Challenging Einstein's View On Speed of Light Could Soon Be Tested (theguardian.com) 244

mspohr writes: The Guardian has a news article about a recently published journal entry proposing a way to test the theory that the speed of light was infinite at the birth of the universe: "The newborn universe may have glowed with light beams moving much faster than they do today, according to a theory that overturns Einstein's century-old claim that the speed of light is a constant. Joao Magueijo, of Imperial College London, and Niayesh Afshordi, of the University of Waterloo in Canada, propose that light tore along at infinite speed at the birth of the universe when the temperature of the cosmos was a staggering ten thousand trillion trillion celsius. Magueijo and Afshordi came up with their theory to explain why the cosmos looks much the same over vast distances. To be so uniform, light rays must have reached every corner of the cosmos, otherwise some regions would be cooler and more dense than others. But even moving at 1bn km/h, light was not traveling fast enough to spread so far and even out the universe's temperature differences." Cosmologists including Stephen Hawking have proposed a theory called inflation to overcome this conundrum. Inflation theorizes that the temperature of the cosmos evened out before it exploded to an enormous size. The report adds: "Magueijo and Afshordi's theory does away with inflation and replaces it with a variable speed of light. According to their calculations, the heat of universe in its first moments was so intense that light and other particles moved at infinite speed. Under these conditions, light reached the most distant pockets of the universe and made it look as uniform as we see it today. Scientists could soon find out whether light really did outpace gravity in the early universe. The theory predicts a clear pattern in the density variations of the early universe, a feature measured by what is called the 'spectral index.' Writing in the journal Physical Review, the scientists predict a very precise spectral index of 0.96478, which is close to the latest, though somewhat rough, measurement of 0.968."
Google

Google Successfully Uses Machine Learning To Detect Diabetic Retinopathy (betanews.com) 30

BrianFagioli writes from a report via BetaNews: Diabetic eye disease is caused by retinopathy. Affected diabetics can have small tears inside the eye, causing bleeding. Over time, they can lose vision, and ultimately, they can go blind. Luckily, Google has been trying to use machine learning to detect diabetic retinopathy. Guess what? The search giant has seen much success. Not only are the computers able to detect the disease at the same level as ophthalmologists, but Google is actually slightly better! "A few years ago, a Google research team began studying whether machine learning could be used to screen for diabetic retinopathy (DR). Today, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, we've published our results: a deep learning algorithm capable of interpreting signs of DR in retinal photographs, potentially helping doctors screen more patients, especially in underserved communities with limited resources," says Lily Peng, MD Ph.D., Product Manger at Google. She goes on to say "our algorithm performs on par with the ophthalmologists, achieving both high sensitivity and specificity. [...] For example, on the validation set described in Figure 2, the algorithm has a F-score of 0.95, which is slightly better than the median. F-score of the 8 ophthalmologists we consulted (measured at 0.91)."
Television

Ron Glass, Firefly's Shepherd Book, Has Died (hollywoodreporter.com) 67

Slashdot reader tiqui tells us that Emmy-nominated actor Ron Glass has died. The actor was 71 and the family has not released more details of his death, but Firefly/Serenity fans can follow this link to the Hollywood Reporter for more information.
Firefly creator Joss Whedon posted on Twitter that Glass "got there with grace, humor and enormous heart. He was, among so many other things, my Shepherd. Raise, appropriately, a glass. Rest, Ron." And Nathan Fillion, who played Captain Reynolds on Firefly, posted an appropriate quote on Instagram. ("Shepard, don't move." "Won't go far...")

The actor's Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor came in 1982, for his role on the long-running TV series Barney Miller. Interestingly, one of Glass's co-stars on that show was Abe Vigoda, who also died earlier this year at age 94 -- a full 34 years after his death was mistakenly reported by People magazine.
The Media

Crowdsourced Volunteers Search For Solutions To Fake News (wired.co.uk) 270

Upworthy co-founder Eli Pariser is leading a group of online volunteers hunting for ways to respond to the spread of fake news. An anonymous reader quotes Wired UK: Inside a Google Doc, volunteers are gathering ideas and approaches to get a grip on the untruthful news stories. It is part analysis, part brainstorming, with those involved being encouraged to read widely around the topic before contributing. "This is a massive endeavour but well worth it," they say...

At present, the group is coming up with a list of potential solutions and approaches. Possible methods the group is looking at include: more human editors, fingerprinting viral stories then training algorithms on confirmed fakes, domain checking, the blockchain, a reliability algorithm, sentiment analysis, a Wikipedia for news sources, and more.

The article also suggests this effort may one day spawn fake news-fighting tech startups.
Hardware Hacking

Own An Open Source RISC-V Microcontroller (crowdsupply.com) 101

"Did you ever think it would be great if hardware was open to the transistor level, not just the chip level?" writes hamster_nz, pointing to a new Crowd Supply campaign for the OnChip Open-V microcontroller, "a completely free (as in freedom) and open source 32-bit microcontroller based on the RISC-V architecture." hamster_nz writes: With a completely open instruction-set architecture and no license fees for the CPU design, the RISC-V architecture is well positioned to take the crown as the 'go to' design for anybody needing a 32-bit in their silicon, and Open-V are crowd-sourcing their funding for an initial manufacturing run of 70,000 chips, offering options from a single chip to a seat in the design review process. This project is shaping up to be a milestone for the coming Open Source Silicon revolution, and they are literally offering a seat at the table. Even if you don't end up backing the project, it makes for very interesting reading.
Their crowdfunding page argues "If you love hacking on embedded controllers, breaking down closed-source barriers, having the freedom to learn how things work even down to the transistor level, or have dreamed of spinning your own silicon, then this campaign is for you."
Businesses

Yesterday Saw $3.3 Billion In Online Purchases (cmo.com) 66

Friday humanity set a new record for the most money ever spent online in a single day -- and the most ever purchased on mobile devices. An anonymous reader writes: Online sales reached $3.34 billion yesterday, up 11.3% from the same day last year, according to a new report from Adobe Digital Insights. And most of that traffic came from mobile devices. In fact, yesterday became "the first day to ever generate over a billion dollars in online sales from mobile devices," according to their report. Although 64% of online sales came from desktop computers, 55% of the traffic to shopping sites still came from mobile devices -- 45% from smartphones, and 10% from tablets. (Just three years ago, only 20% of Black Friday sales came from mobile devices.)

The top-grossing products appeared to be iPads and Macbooks, Microsoft's Xbox, and Samsung and LG TVs, while the top-grossing toys were electric scooters, drones, Nerf guns and LEGO sets. The products mostly likely to be "out of stock" yesterday included the new NES Classic and the Nintendo 3DS XL Solgaleo Lunala (black edition), the Playstation VR bundle (and the PS4 "Call of Duty: Black Ops" bundle), and the Xbox One S bundle for Madden NFL 17.

The day after Black Friday is now being touted as "Small Business Saturday," a tradition started in 2010 when American Express partnered with the non-profit National Trust for Historic Preservation (and some civic-minded groups in Boston) to encourage people to shop in their local brick-and-mortar stores. American Express reported a $1.7 billion increase in sales on Small Business Saturday in 2015, "with 95 million customers reporting shopping small at local retailers, salons, restaurants and more."
Intel

Intel's 4004 Microprocessor Turns 45 (4004.com) 74

mcpublic writes: Tuesday marked the 45th anniversary of the 4004, Intel's first microprocessor chip, announced to the world in the November 15, 1971 issue of Electronic News . It seems that everyone (except Intel) loves to argue whether it was truly the "first microprocessor"... But what's indisputable is that the 4004 was the computer chip that started Intel's pivot from a tiny semiconductor memory company to the personal computing giant we know today. Federico Faggin, an Italian immigrant who invented the self-aligned, silicon gate MOS transistor and buried contacts technology, joined Intel in 1970. He needed both his inventions to squeeze the 4004's roughly 2,300 transistors into a single 3x4mm silicon die. He later went on to design the Intel 8080 and the Zilog Z80 with Masatoshi Shima, a Japanese engineer with a "steel trap mind," the once-unsung hero of the 4004 team [YouTube].
Long-time Slashdot reader darkharlequin also flags the " fascinating, if true" story of Wayne D. Pickette, who was hired by Intel in 1970, worked on the 4004 project, and according to ZDNet "claims that prior to that, during his job interview with Intel founder Bob Noyce, he showed the company a block diagram of a microprocessor he'd started to work on three years previously when he was 17."
The Military

Royal Navy Giving Up Anti-Ship Missiles, Will Rely On Cannons For Naval Combat (telegraph.co.uk) 432

cold fjord writes: It will soon be a bit more difficult for Britain's Royal Navy to rule the waves as it gives up anti-ship missiles as a result of budget cuts. That will force the Royal Navy to go "old school" and rely upon naval gunfire for ship-to-ship combat. Cannon fire as the primary means of ship-to-ship combat has been largely obsolete since the 1950s following the invention of guided missiles in World War 2. Prior to that, cannon fire had been the primary means of naval combat for hundreds of years. Although the Royal Navy ranged up to 16" guns on battleships, the largest gun currently in active service is a 4.5" gun. That will leave the Royal Navy unable to engage targets beyond approximately 17 miles / 27 km, whereas Harpoon missiles provide an 80 mile / 130 m range. The loss of anti-ship missile capability will begin in 2018 and may last for 10 years for warships, and 2 years for helicopters. The Sun quotes a naval insider who said: "It's like Nelson saying, 'don't worry, I don't need canons, we've got muskets.'" The loss of missile capability heaps more misfortune upon a naval force that recently has seen its available frontline combat force drop to an unprecedented 24 warships.
Sci-Fi

'Stranger In a Strange Land' Coming To TV (ew.com) 227

HughPickens.com writes: EW reports that Paramount TV and Universal Cable Productions are teaming up to develop Robert A. Heinlein's classic 'Stranger in a Strange Land' into a TV series on Syfy. The 1961 sci-fi book, set in the aftermath of a third world war, centers on Valentine Michael Smith, a human born on Mars and raised by Martians, who, as a young adult, has returned to Earth. The true driving forces of the novel are religion and sex, which Heinlein's publisher at the time wanted him to cut out. But as the author noted to his literary agent, if religion and sex were removed from the text, what remained would be the equivalent of a "nonalcoholic martini." "From my point of view, Stranger in a Strange Land isn't just a science fiction masterpiece [...] it also happens to be one of my favorite books ever!" says NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Chairman Bonnie Hammer. "The story is timeless and resonates more than ever in today's world. As a fan, I can't wait to see it come to life as a world-class television event." A previous attempt at adapting Heinlein's novel came in 1995, when Batman Returns' Dan Waters penned a script designed for Tom Hanks and Sean Connery.
Power

'Radioactive Boy Scout' Reportedly Passes Away At Age 39 (harpers.org) 182

A funeral notice quietly appeared on Tributes.com recently, announcing the death of David Charles Hahn. Though no cause of death was provided, when he was 17 Hahn "achieved some notoriety as a teenage Boy Scout with his attempt to build a nuclear reactor in his garden shed," remembers Slashdot reader braindrainbahrain: His "reactor" ended when the EPA declared his backyard as a Superfund cleanup site due to hazardous levels of radiation. His story was captured in a Harper's magazine article, and later the book "The Radioactive Boy Scout" by Ken Silverstein. It was also a Slashdot topic...
Hahn had used materials from household products like lithium batteries, smoke detectors, and old radium clocks, according to Wikipedia, which adds that shortly after Hahn's lab was dismantled, he became an Eagle Scout.
Microsoft

Microsoft Survey Shows Negative Online Interactions Affect People In Real Life (computerworld.com) 60

"Preliminary results of a new Microsoft survey show nearly two-thirds of people surveyed had at least one negative online experience that had an impact on them in the real world, ranging from a loss of trust in others, increased stress or sleep deprivation," reports Computerworld. Microsoft's chief online safety officer writes: Both adults and teens said they became less trusting of others in the real world after a negative interaction online (adults: 31%, teens: 29%). Consequences to adults that outpaced those to teens included the older generation becoming less trusting of people online (42% of adults vs. 37% of youth), and a reluctance to participate in blogs and other online forums (23% of adults vs. 20% of teens)... The study, "Civility, Safety and Interaction Online -- 2016," polled youth ages 13-17 and adults ages 18-74 in 14 countries... Half reported being "extremely or very" worried about online risks generally, with the most common concerns being unwanted contact (43%) and various forms of harassment (39%).
Microsoft's blog post urges people to "Embrace digital civility and model healthy behaviors for young people both online and off" -- and also notes that today is World Kindness Day.
Movies

IMDb Sues California To Overturn Law Forcing Them To Remove Actors' Ages (theguardian.com) 68

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is suing California over a law forcing the website to remove the ages of actors on request, saying it is unconstitutional. California passed a law in September ruling that "a commercial online entertainment employment service provider" would be required to remove details of the age of any of its subscribers within five days, on the request of the subscriber. The law was intended to fight age discrimination in the film industry and had been campaigned for by actors' groups. The president of the union Sag-Aftra wrote in August that actors "face blatant age discrimination every day as websites routinely used for casting talent force birth dates and ages on casting decision-makers without their even realizing it." However, IMDb's suit (pdf) claims that the law "does not advance, much less achieve" the goal of reducing age discrimination, and that it violates both the first amendments and commerce clause of the U.S. constitution. IMDb also claims it separately violates federal law "because it imposes liability on IMDb based on factual content that is lawfully posted by its users." The website criticizes the state of California for passing the law, saying it has "chosen to chill free speech and undermine public access to factual information." IMDb says it is being unfairly targeted and that the law does not deal with the main cause of age discrimination. The case claims the law is both too broad -- as it includes all film professionals, rather than just those who could expect to be the target of age discrimination such as actors -- and too narrow, as it fails to impose the same restrictions on the "myriad other sources of the same information," such as Wikipedia, Google or specialist websites that list the birthdays of famous people. IMDb also says that subscribers to its paid professional service, IMDb Pro, have been able to edit or remove biographical details about themselves on the site since 2010.
Earth

Trump Picks Top Climate Skeptic To Lead EPA Transition (cbsnews.com) 1066

Billly Gates writes: Trump's transition team is steamrolling ahead to transition the government. Trump chose Myron Ebell to oversee environmental policies. Myron Ebell is chairman of the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group of climate change denialists and alarmists. Scientific American provides some background information about Ebell in a report from earlier this year: "In a biography submitted when he testified before Congress, he listed among his recognitions that he had been featured in a Greenpeace 'Field Guide to Climate Criminals,' dubbed a 'misleader' on global warming by Rolling Stone and was the subject of a motion to censure in the British House of Commons after Ebell criticized the United Kingdom's chief scientific adviser for his views on global warming. More recently, Ebell has called the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan for greenhouse gases illegal and said that Obama joining the Paris climate treaty 'is clearly an unconstitutional usurpation of the Senate's authority.' He told Vanity Fair in 2007, 'There has been a little bit of warming ... but it's been very modest and well within the range for natural variability, and whether it's caused by human beings or not, it's nothing to worry about.' Ebell's views appear to square with Trump's when it comes to EPA's agenda. Trump has called global warming 'bullshit' and he has said he would 'cancel' the Paris global warming accord and roll back President Obama's executive actions on climate change."
Earth

November 14th Supermoon Will Be Biggest In 68 Years (nationalgeographic.com) 53

On Monday, November 14th, you may be able to see the biggest and closest supermoon Earth has seen since 1948. A "supermoon" is a full moon that "coincides with the lunar orb's closest approach to Earth, or perigee." National Geographic explains how you can experience one of the best lunar spectacles in decades: This month, the moon officially reaches perigee at 6:21 a.m. ET (11:23 UT) on November 14, when it will be just 221,524 miles from our planet, as measured from the center of both Earth and the moon. The moon reaches its full phase only two and a half hours later, at 8:52 a.m. ET (13:52 UT) on November 14. Earth hasn't been buzzed this close by a full moon since January 26, 1948, when our lunar companion was a mere 30 miles closer than this month's supermoon. Enjoy the sky show while it lasts, because the full moon won't get this close to us again until November 25, 2034. And the absolute closest full moon to Earth this century will occur on December 6, 2052, when our celestial neighbor will be just 221,472 miles away. Globally, the best time to catch this sky event is just after your local sunset on November 14, as the silvery orb rises in the east. For North Americans, the lunar disk will appear to be nearly equally full and impressive on the nights of November 13 and 14, so if you get clouded out on the first night, you'll have another chance to catch the epic sky show. The best view will be in the early morning close to dawn, as the moon sets in the west before the sun rises in the east. By the numbers, the November full moon will appear to be 7 percent larger than average and nearly 15 percent brighter.
Government

How President Trump Could Destroy Net Neutrality (vice.com) 235

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Donald Trump's presidential election victory could have dire consequences for U.S. internet freedom and openness, according to several tech policy experts and public interest advocates surveyed by Motherboard on Wednesday. The Republican billionaire will likely seek to roll back hard-won consumer protections safeguarding net neutrality, the principle that all internet content should be equally accessible, as well as a host of other policies designed to protect consumers, ensure internet freedom, and promote broadband access, these experts and advocates said. In the wake of Trump's election victory, FCC Chairman Wheeler is likely to step down before the billionaire reality TV star is inaugurated in January. Incoming presidents traditionally have the prerogative to select the leader of FCC, which has broad regulatory power over the nation's cable, phone and satellite companies. It's unclear whom Trump might nominate to lead the FCC, but Ajit Pai, the Kansas-born Republican FCC commissioner and former Verizon lawyer, is likely to be a contender. Trump has tapped Jeffrey Eisenach, a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, to lead his telecom policy transition team, according to Politico. Eisenach is a well-known figure in right-wing telecommunications policy circles, with a reputation as a "crusader against regulation." One immediate consequence of Trump's election is a dimmer outlook for ATT's proposed $85 billion buyout of entertainment giant Time Warner. Last month, Trump vowed to block the deal, warning that it would result in "too much concentration of power in the hands of too few." Trump's ignorance about tech and telecom policy was on full display throughout the election season. For example, Trump blithely compared net neutrality to the FCC's old Fairness Doctrine, a bizarre and ignorant assertion for which he was roundly mocked. The Fairness Doctrine, which was eliminated decades ago, required media outlets to afford a "reasonable opportunity" for the airing of opposing views on major issues. Net neutrality has nothing to do with the Fairness Doctrine, but rather ensures that consumers have open, unfettered access to the internet. Net neutrality can't be torpedoed overnight. The FCC rules prohibiting online fast lanes and discriminatory broadband practices are now U.S. policy, and they can't be dismantled at the whim of an authoritarian president. But a Trump-backed, Republican-led FCC could simply stop enforcing the net neutrality policy, rendering it essentially toothless. That could unleash the nation's largest cable and phone companies, including Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, to expand controversial practices like "zero-rating" that are designed to circumvent net neutrality.
Space

New Theory of Gravity Might Explain Dark Matter (phys.org) 164

vikingpower writes: Dutch prodigy and Amsterdam University Professor Erik Verlinde published a paper on arXiv yesterday, November 7, titled "Emergent Gravity and the Dark Universe." In the paper, Verlinde derives gravity from the so-called Holographic Principle, which -- simply put -- states that gravity emerges from the interplay between and entropy re-arrangement of sub-atomic "strings" that live in a negatively curved spacetime. At that level [...] spacetime and gravity are emergent from an underlying microscopic description in which they have no a priori meaning." Most importantly, Verlinde's paper has as a consequence that dark matter, nemesis of many an astronomer, is nothing more than an illusion. Verlinde, who was awarded the Dutch national Spinoza science prize in the recent past, already completed the tour de force of deriving Newtonian gravity from the same principles in a 2010 paper, also on arXiv. We are probably looking at Nobel-prize material here, as Verlinde is acknowledged by his peers to "go one better than Einstein's General Theory of Relativity." Slashdot reader turkeydance adds from a report via Forbes (Warning: source may be paywalled): As dark matter continues to vex astronomers, new solutions to the dark matter question are proposed. Most focus on pinning down the form of dark matter, while others propose modifying gravity to account for the effect. But a third proposal is simply to remove gravity from the equation. What if the effects of gravity aren't due to some fundamental force, but are rather an emergent effect due to other fundamental interactions? A new paper proposes just that, and if correct it could also explain the effects of dark matter.
Social Networks

Ask Slashdot: Should Web Browsers Have 'Fact Checking' Capability Built-In? 240

Reader dryriver writes: There is no shortage of internet websites these days that peddle "information", "knowledge", "analysis", "explanations" or even supposed "facts" that don't hold up to even the most basic scrutiny -- one quick trip over to Wikipedia, Snopes, an academic journal or another reasonably factual/unbiased source, and you realize that you've just been fed a triple dose of factually inaccurate horsecrap masquerading as "fact". Unfortunately, many millions of more naive internet users appear to frequent sites daily that very blatantly peddle "untruths", "pseudo-facts" or even "agitprop-like disinformation", the latter sometimes paid for by someone somewhere. No small number of these more gullible internet users then wind up believing just about everything they read or watch on these sites, and in some cases cause other gullible people in the offline world to believe in them too. Now here is an interesting idea: What if your internet browser -- whether Edge, Firefox, Chrome, Opera or other -- was able provide an "information accuracy rating" of some sort when you visit a certain URL. Perhaps something like "11,992 internet users give this website a factual accuracy rating of 3.7/10. This may mean that the website you are visiting is prone to presenting information that may not be factually accurate." You could also take this 2 steps further. You could have a small army of "certified fact checkers" -- people with scientific credentials, positions in academia or similar -- provide a rolling "expert rating" on the very worst of these websites, displayed as "warning scores" by the web browser. Or you could have a keyword analysis algorithm/AI/web crawler go through the webpage you are looking at, try to cross-reference the information presented to you against a selection of "more trusted sources" in the background, and warn you if information presented on a webpage as "fact" simply does not check out. Is this a good idea? Could it be made to work technically? Might a browser feature like this make the internet as a whole a "more factually accurate place" to get information from?That's a remarkable idea. It appears to me that many companies are working on it -- albeit not fast enough, many can say. Google, for instance, recently began adding "Fact check" to some stories in search results. I am not sure how every participating player in this game could implement this in their respective web browsers though. Then there is this fundamental issue: the ability to quickly check whether or not something is indeed accurate. There's too much noise out there, and many publications and blogs report on things (upcoming products, for instance) before things are official. How do you verify such stories? If the NYTimes says, for instance, Apple is not going to launch any iPhone next year, and every website cites NYTimes and republishes it, how do you fact check that? And at last, a lot of fake stories circulate on Facebook. You may think it's a problem. Obama may think it's a problem, but does Facebook see it as a problem? For all it care, those stories are still generating engagement on its site.

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