Medicine

World's First Double Hand Transplant Involving a Child Declared a Success (ctvnews.ca) 31

randomErr shares a report from CTV News: The first child in the world to undergo a double hand transplant is now able to write, feed and dress himself, doctors said Tuesday, declaring the ground-breaking operation a success after 18 months. The report in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health provides the first official medical update on 10-year old Zion Harvey, who underwent surgery to replace both hands in July 2015. Harvey had his hands and feet amputated at the age of two, following a sepsis infection. He also had a kidney transplant. Harvey was already receiving drugs to suppress any immune reaction to his kidney, which was a key factor in his selection for the 10-plus hour hand transplant surgery.
Mars

SpaceX Pulls the Plug On Its Red Dragon Plans (arstechnica.com) 88

SpaceX has largely confirmed the rumors that the company is no longer planning to send an uncrewed version of its Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2020, or later. Ars Technica reports: The company had planned to use the propulsive landing capabilities on the Dragon 2 spacecraft -- originally developed for the commercial crew variant to land on Earth -- for Mars landings in 2018 or 2020. Previously, it had signed an agreement with NASA to use some of its expertise for such a mission and access its deep-space communications network. On Tuesday, however, during a House science subcommittee hearing concerning future NASA planetary science missions, Florida Representative Bill Posey asked what the agency was doing to support privately developed planetary science programs. Jim Green, who directs NASA's planetary science division, mentioned several plans about the Moon and asteroids, but he conspicuously did not mention Red Dragon. After this hearing, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor didn't return a response to questions from Ars about the future of Red Dragon. Then, during a speech Wednesday at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference, Musk confirmed that the company is no longer working to land Dragon propulsively for commercial crew.

"Yeah, that was a tough decision," Musk acknowledged Wednesday with a sigh. "The reason we decided not to pursue that heavily is that it would have taken a tremendous amount of effort to qualify that for safety for crew transport," Musk explained Wednesday. "There was a time when I thought the Dragon approach to landing on Mars, where you've got a base heat shield and side mounted thrusters, would be the right way to land on Mars. But now I'm pretty confident that is not the right way." Musk added that his company has come up with a "far better" approach to landing on Mars that will be incorporated into the next iteration of the company's proposed Mars transportation hardware.

AI

Dadbot: How a Son Made a Chatbot of His Dying Dad (www.cbc.ca) 83

theodp writes: In A Son's Race to Give His Dying Father Artificial Immortality (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source), James Vlahos recounts his efforts to turn the story of his father's life -- as told by his 80-year-old Dad in his final months after being diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer -- into what Vlahos calls "a Dadbot -- a chatbot that emulates not a children's toy but the very real man who is my father." Given the limits of tech at the time (2016) and his own inexperience as a programmer, Vlahos recognized that the bot would never be more than a shadow of his real dad, but hoped to get the bot to communicate in his father's distinctive manner and convey at least some sense of his personality. Of the first time he demoed the bot for his parents, Vlahos writes: "Emboldened, I bring up something that has preoccupied me for months. 'This is a leading question, but answer it honestly,' I say, fumbling for words. 'Does it give you any comfort, or perhaps none -- the idea that whenever it is that you shed this mortal coil, that there is something that can help tell your stories and knows your history?' My dad looks off. When he answers, he sounds wearier than he did moments before. 'I know all of this shit,' he says, dismissing the compendium of facts stored in the Dadbot with a little wave. But he does take comfort in knowing that the Dadbot will share them with others. 'My family, particularly. And the grandkids, who won't know any of this stuff.' He's got seven of them, including my sons, Jonah and Zeke, all of whom call him Papou, the Greek term for grandfather. 'So this is great,' my dad says. 'I very much appreciate it.'"
AI

Researchers Have Figured Out How To Fake News Video With AI (qz.com) 69

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: A team of computer scientists at the University of Washington have used artificial intelligence to render visually convincing videos of Barack Obama saying things he's said before, but in a totally new context. In a paper published this month, the researchers explained their methodology: Using a neural network trained on 17 hours of footage of the former U.S. president's weekly addresses, they were able to generate mouth shapes from arbitrary audio clips of Obama's voice. The shapes were then textured to photorealistic quality and overlaid onto Obama's face in a different "target" video. Finally, the researchers retimed the target video to move Obama's body naturally to the rhythm of the new audio track. In their paper, the researchers pointed to several practical applications of being able to generate high quality video from audio, including helping hearing-impaired people lip-read audio during a phone call or creating realistic digital characters in the film and gaming industries. But the more disturbing consequence of such a technology is its potential to proliferate video-based fake news. Though the researchers used only real audio for the study, they were able to skip and reorder Obama's sentences seamlessly and even use audio from an Obama impersonator to achieve near-perfect results. The rapid advancement of voice-synthesis software also provides easy, off-the-shelf solutions for compelling, falsified audio. You can view the demo here: "Synthesizing Obama: Learning Lib Sync from Audio"
Earth

New Research Shows Humans Could Outrun T. Rex 243

bongey writes: T-Rex would have a hard time even catching an average human running, much less Usain Bolt or Jeeps, without shattering their legs into pieces. New research based on simulations that include the load on the bones show that T-Rex would have a hard time running faster than 12 miles per hour (5.4 meters per second) without bones breaking. The new research correlates to speeds calculated from adolescence sized T-Rex dinosaur footprints in 2016, which showed walking speeds to be only 2-5mph, and estimated running speeds 11-18 mph. Gizmodo notes that while T. rex was unable to pursue its prey at high speeds, high speed is a relative term. "For reference, typical humans can sprint anywhere between eight to 15 miles per hour (elite athletes can exceed 20 mph). So to outrun a T. rex, many animals -- or fictional humans -- would still have to run like hell."
Medicine

The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates (propublica.org) 307

schwit1 shares a report from ProPublica: Hospitals and pharmacies are required to toss expired drugs, no matter how expensive or vital. Meanwhile the FDA has long known that many remain safe and potent for years longer. The box of prescription drugs had been forgotten in a back closet of a retail pharmacy for so long that some of the pills predated the 1969 moon landing. Most were 30 to 40 years past their expiration dates -- possibly toxic, probably worthless. But to Lee Cantrell, who helps run the California Poison Control System, the cache was an opportunity to answer an enduring question about the actual shelf life of drugs: Could these drugs from the bell-bottom era still be potent?

Gerona and Cantrell, a pharmacist and toxicologist, knew that the term "expiration date" was a misnomer. The dates on drug labels are simply the point up to which the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies guarantee their effectiveness, typically at two or three years. But the dates don't necessarily mean they're ineffective immediately after they "expire" -- just that there's no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable.

Tests on the decades-old drugs including antihistamines, pain relievers and stimulants. All the drugs tested were in their original sealed containers. The findings surprised both researchers: A dozen of the 14 compounds were still as potent as they were when they were manufactured, some at almost 100 percent of their labeled concentrations. Experts say the United States might be squandering a quarter of the money spent on health care. That's an estimated $765 billion a year.

Medicine

Long Working Days Can Cause Heart Problems, Study Says (theguardian.com) 75

According to a major new study, long days at the office can be bad for your heart. While the risk of stroke is increased from working too many hours in the office, it seems that working more than 55 hours a week means a 40% higher chance of developing an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), when compared to those with a better work-life balance. The Guardian reports: The research team, led by Professor Mika Kivimaki from the department of epidemiology at University College, London, analysed data on the working patterns of 85,494 mainly middle-aged men and women drawn from the UK, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Participants were put into groups according to their work pattern, with 35-40 hours a week regarded as the control group. No one had AF at the start of the study, published in the European Heart Journal. After 10 years of follow-up, an average of 12.4 per 1,000 people had developed AF, but among those working 55 hours or more, this figure was higher at 17.6 per 1,000 people. Those working the longest hours were more overweight, had higher blood pressure, smoked more and and consumed more alcohol. But the team's conclusions about longer working hours and AF still remained after taking these factors into account.
Medicine

Artificial Sweeteners Associated With Weight Gain, Heart Problems In Analysis of Data From 37 Studies (npr.org) 357

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: The theory behind artificial sweeteners is simple: If you use them instead of sugar, you get the joy of sweet-tasting beverages and foods without the downer of extra calories, potential weight gain and related health issues. In practice, it's not so simple, as a review of the scientific evidence on non-nutritive sweeteners published Monday shows. After looking at two types of scientific research, the authors conclude that there is no solid evidence that sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose help people manage their weight. And observational data suggest that the people who regularly consume these sweeteners are also more likely to develop future health problems, though those studies can't say those problems are caused by the sweeteners.

The review, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, looked at 37 studies. Seven of them were randomized trials, covering about 1,000 people, and the rest were observational studies that tracked the health and habits of almost 406,000 people over time.

Security

US To Create the Independent US Cyber Command, Split Off From NSA (pbs.org) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PBS: After months of delay, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to revamp the nation's military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations in hopes of intensifying America's ability to wage cyberwar against the Islamic State group and other foes, according to U.S. officials. Under the plans, U.S. Cyber Command would eventually be split off from the intelligence-focused National Security Agency. The goal, they said, is to give U.S. Cyber Command more autonomy, freeing it from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA, which is responsible for monitoring and collecting telephone, internet and other intelligence data from around the world -- a responsibility that can sometimes clash with military operations against enemy forces. Making cyber an independent military command will put the fight in digital space on the same footing as more traditional realms of battle on land, in the air, at sea and in space. The move reflects the escalating threat of cyberattacks and intrusions from other nation states, terrorist groups and hackers, and comes as the U.S. faces ever-widening fears about Russian hacking following Moscow's efforts to meddle in the 2016 American election.
Education

New Interactive Basic Electronics Textbook Launched Online (circuitlab.com) 37

Long-time Slashdot reader compumike writes: The group that first brought schematics and circuit simulation to the browser has now released the first few chapters of Ultimate Electronics: Practical Circuit Design and Analysis, an interactive online textbook for people learning electronics. The materials released today cover about half of a first semester undergraduate electronics course.
Australia

Crypto-Bashing Prime Minister Argues The Laws Of Mathematics Don't Apply In Australia (independent.co.uk) 323

An anonymous reader quotes the Independent:Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said the laws of mathematics come second to the law of the land in a row over privacy and encryption... When challenged by a technology journalist over whether it was possible to tackle the problem of criminals using encryption -- given that platform providers claim they are currently unable to break into the messages even if required to do so by law -- the Prime Minister raised eyebrows as he made his reply. "Well the laws of Australia prevail in Australia, I can assure you of that. The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia," he said... "The important thing is to recognise the challenge and call on the companies for assistance. I am sure they know morally they should... They have to face up to their responsibility."
Facebook has already issued a statement saying that they "appreciate the important work law enforcement does, and we understand the need to carry out investigations. That's why we already have a protocol in place to respond to any requests we can.

"At the same time, weakening encrypted systems for them would mean weakening it for everyone."
NASA

Scrap Dealer Finds Apollo-Era NASA Computers In Dead Engineer's Basement (arstechnica.com) 104

Long-time Slashdot reader Joe_NoOne quotes Ars Technica: A pair of Apollo-era NASA computers and hundreds of mysterious tape reels have been discovered in a deceased engineer's basement in Pittsburgh... Most of the tapes are unmarked, but the majority of the rest appear to be instrumentation reels for Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, NASA's fly-by missions to Jupiter and Saturn... At some point in the early 1970s, an IBM engineer working for NASA at the height of the Space Race took home the computers -- and the mysterious tape reels. A scrap dealer, invited to clean out the deceased's electronics-filled basement, discovered the computers. The devices were clearly labelled "NASA PROPERTY," so the dealer called NASA to report the find. "Please tell NASA these items were not stolen," the engineer's heir told the scrap dealer, according to the report. "They belonged to IBM Allegheny Center Pittsburgh, PA 15212. During the 1968-1972 timeframe, IBM was getting rid of the items so [redacted engineer] asked if he could have them and was told he could have them."
"NASA told the family of the deceased that it was not in the junk removal business," Ars Technica reports, adding "The two computers are so heavy that a crane was likely used to move the machines." A NASA archivist concluded there's no evidence the tapes contained anything of historic significance.
Biotech

Can AI Replace Hospital Radiologists? (cnn.com) 112

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Radiologists, who receive years of training and are some of the highest paid doctors, are among the first physicians who will have to adapt as artificial intelligence expands into health care... Today radiologists face a deluge of data as they serve patients. When Jim Brink, radiologist in chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, entered the field in the late 1980s, radiologists had to examine 20 to 50 images for CT and PET scans. Now, there can be as many as 1,000 images for one scan. The work can be tedious, making it prone to error. The added imagery also makes it harder for radiologists to use their time efficiently... The remarkable power of today's computers has raised the question of whether humans should even act as radiologists. Geoffrey Hinton, a legend in the field of artificial intelligence, went so far as to suggest that schools should stop training radiologists.
X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds and PET scans do improve patient care -- but they also drive up costs. And now one medical imaging startup can read a heart MRI in 15 seconds, a procedure which takes a human 45 minutes. Massachusetts General Hospital is already assembling data to train algorithms to spot 25 common scenarios. But Brinks predicts that ultimately AI will become more of a sophisticated diagnostic aid, flagging images that humans should examine more closely, while leaving radiologists with more time for interacting with patients and medical staff.
Google

Google's Life Sciences Unit Is Releasing 20 Million Bacteria-Infected Mosquitoes in Fresno (techcrunch.com) 114

Earlier this week, a white Mercedes Sprinter van began a delivery route along the streets of Fancher Creek, a residential neighborhood on the southeastern edge of Fresno, California. Its cargo? 100,000 live mosquitoes, all male, all incapable of producing offspring. As it crisscrossed Fancher Creek's 200 acres, it released its payload, piping out swarms of sterile Aedes aegypti into the air. It'll do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, from now until the end of December. From a report: Verily, the life science's arm of Google's parent company Alphabet, has hatched a plan to release about 20 million lab-made, bacteria-infected mosquitoes upon Fresno, California -- and that's a good thing! You see, the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito is prevalent in the area. Earlier this year, a woman contracted the first confirmed case of Zika in Fresno through sexual contact with a partner who had been traveling. Now there's the fear of the inevitable mosquito-meets-patient if we don't do something about it. Verily's plan, called the Debug Project, hopes to now wipe out this potential Zika-carrying mosquito population to prevent further infections.
Movies

Biologists Use Gene Editing To Store Movies In DNA (scientificamerican.com) 87

New submitter elmohound writes: A recent paper in Nature describes how gene editing was used to store a digital movie into a bacterial population. The choice of subject is a nice hommage to Muybridge's 1887 photos. From a report via Scientific American: "The technical achievement, reported on July 12 in Nature, is a step towards creating cellular recording systems that are capable of encoding a series of events, says Seth Shipman, a synthetic biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. To develop such a system, however, his team would need to establish a method for recording hundreds of events in a cell. Shipman and his colleagues, including Harvard geneticist George Church, harnessed the CRISPR-Cas immune system best known for enabling researchers to alter genomes with relative ease and accuracy. Shipman's team exploited the ability to capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses and store them in an organized array in the host genome. In nature, those snippets then target an enzyme to slice up the invader's DNA. The team designed its system so that these snippets corresponded to pixels in an image. The researchers encoded the shading of each pixel -- along with a barcode that indicated its position in the image -- into 33 DNA letters. Each frame of the movie consisted of 104 of these DNA fragments." You can view the movie here, which consists of five frames adapted from Muybridge's Human and Animal Locomotion series.
Medicine

Vaccines May Soon Be Mandatory For Children In France (theverge.com) 251

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Last week, the French Health Ministry announced plans to make 11 vaccines mandatory for young children by 2018. French law currently mandates three vaccines -- diphtheria, tetanus, and polio -- for children under the age of two. The government's proposal would expand that list to include eight other vaccines -- including those against Hepatitis B, whooping cough, and measles -- that were previously only recommended. The proposal, which is to be presented to lawmakers by the end of this year, comes amid an ongoing measles outbreak across Europe, which the World Health Organization (WHO) attributed to low immunization rates. Italy passed a similar decree in May, requiring children to receive 10 vaccines as a condition for school enrollment. Germany, while stopping short of a mandate, has moved to tighten its laws on child immunization. But some experts question whether a vaccination mandate will sway public opinion in France, where distrust in vaccines has risen alarmingly in recent years. In a survey published last year, 41 percent of respondents in France disagreed with the statement that vaccines are safe -- the highest rate of distrust among the 67 countries that were surveyed, and more than three times higher than the global average.
Canada

Former Astronaut Julie Payette To Be Canada's Next Governor General (www.cbc.ca) 109

MightyMartian shares a report from CBC.ca: Former astronaut Julie Payette will be the Queen's new representative in Canada, CBC News has confirmed. The 53-year-old Montrealer, who speaks six languages, will be named the 29th governor general, a position that comes with a $290,660 annual salary and an official residence at Rideau Hall. Payette, who is also an accomplished athlete, pianist and choral singer, will succeed outgoing Gov. Gen. David Johnston. A computer engineer with a commercial pilot license, Payette was picked from among 5,330 applicants in 1992 to be one of four new astronauts with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). She participated in two space flights to the International Space Station and served as the CSA's chief astronaut between 2000 and 2007.

MightyMartian adds: "I defy anyone else to find a head of state who is an astronaut!"

Medicine

'Living Drug' That Fights Cancer By Harnessing The Immune System Clears Key Hurdle (npr.org) 73

An anonymous reader shares an NPR report: A new kind of cancer treatment that uses genetically engineered cells from a patient's immune system to attack their cancer easily cleared a crucial hurdle Wednesday. A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee unanimously recommended that the agency approve this "living drug" approach for children and young adults who are fighting a common form of leukemia. The agency doesn't have to follow the committee's recommendation but usually does. The treatment takes cells from a patient's body, modifies the genes, and then reinfuses those modified cells back into the person who has cancer. If the agency approves, it would mark the first time the FDA has approved anything considered to be a "gene therapy product." The treatment is part of one of the most important developments in cancer research in decades -- finding ways to harness the body's own immune system to fight cancer. And while it has generated much hope, there are some concerns about its safety over the long term -- and its cost.
NASA

NASA Finally Admits It Doesn't Have the Funding To Land Humans on Mars (arstechnica.com) 247

For years, NASA has been chalking out and expanding its plans to go to Mars. The agency's Journey to Mars project aims to land humans on the red planet during the 2030s. For years, the agency has been reassuring us that it will be able to make do all those audacious projects within the budget it gets. Until now, that is. From a report: Now, finally, the agency appears to have bended toward reality. During a propulsion meeting of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics on Wednesday, NASA's chief of human spaceflight acknowledged that the agency doesn't really have the funding it needs to reach Mars with the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. These vehicles have cost too much to build, and too much to fly, and therefore NASA hasn't been able to begin designing vehicles to land on Mars or ascend from the surface. "I can't put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is the other piece is, at the budget levels we described, this roughly 2 percent increase, we don't have the surface systems available for Mars," said NASA's William H. Gerstenmaier, responding to a question about when NASA will send humans to the surface of Mars. "And that entry, descent and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars." This seems like a fairly common sense statement, but it's something that NASA officials have largely glossed over -- at least in public -- during the agency's promotion of a Journey to Mars.
NASA

NASA Releases Juno's First Stunning Close-Ups of Jupiter's Giant Storm (theverge.com) 55

NASA's Juno spacecraft has sent back the first photos from its close flyby over Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot. These images offer the closest ever view of the massive storm. The Verge reports: Juno has been orbiting Jupiter for a little over a year on a mission to study the planet's interior, atmosphere, and magnetosphere. Its elliptical orbit around the planet takes the probe close to the surface for a few hours every 53 days. These are called perijove passes -- and on July 10th, Juno completed its seventh. A little after its closest approach, Juno's camera, JunoCam, snapped a few shots of the storm from about 5,000 miles above. Typically, a team of NASA scientists chooses which images a spacecraft collects on its path around a planet. But with Juno, NASA's opened up the process to the public: space fans can weigh in on the photos JunoCam shoots by ranking their favorite points of interest. After the photos are taken, NASA releases the raw images for the public to process. People can crop them, assemble them into collages, and change or enhance the colors. The results are mesmerizing. You can view even more photos here.

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