News

- EditorDavid
mRNA Companies are Now Testing Cancer-Fighting Vaccines

USA Today reports: Companies like Moderna and Pfizer's partner BioNTech, whose names are familiar from COVID-19 vaccines, are using mRNA to spur cancer patients' bodies to make vaccines that will — hopefully — prevent recurrences and treatments designed to fight off advanced tumors. If they prove effective, which won't be known for at least another year or two, they could be added to the arsenal of immune therapies designed to get the body to fight off its own tumors... Over the last decade, pharmaceutical companies around the world have been developing new ways to train the body's immune system to fight off tumors, particularly melanoma. They had learned how to remove a brake installed by tumors, unleashing the warriors of the immune system. Ten years ago, only about 5% of people with advanced melanoma survived for five years. Now, nearly half make it that long. Trials of mRNA cancer vaccines aim to boost that number even higher by adding soldiers to the fight... Once a tumor has been largely removed through surgery, a vaccine can help generate new immune soldiers known as T cells... A computer algorithm analyzes the mutations distinct to the cancer cells, looking for ones that trigger… [Read More...]

- EditorDavid
Intern's Email Goof at HBO Max Inspires Hundreds to Show Support on Twitter

CBS News reports: A mysterious and puzzling email with the subject line of "Integration Test Email #1" landed in the boxes of some HBO Max subscribers on Thursday. Just hours later, the company said that the message was intended to be an empty test email, and "yes, it was the intern." The unnamed intern quickly became the new star of HBO Max on social media, as hundreds of encouraging messages poured in to reassure the intern that mistakes happen, in all phases of careers... And instead of subscribers responding with angry messages about an inconvenience, they used the opportunity to tell their own stories of work snafus... One individual wrote about how they "once globally took down Spotify." It almost happened twice," they wrote. "...You managed to find something broken in the way integration tests are done. It's a good thing and will help improve things...." "When I was 25 I made a PDF assigning each employee to the Muppet they reminded me of the most," another wrote. "I meant to send it to my work friend, but I accidentally sent it to the entire company. My supervisor (Beaker) wanted to fire me, but the owners (Bert & Ernie) intervened."… [Read More...]

- EditorDavid
NASA Struggles to Fix Failure of Hubble Space Telescope's 1980s Computer

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into low-earth orbit in 1990 with an even older computer. Over the next 13 years it received upgrades and repairs from astronauts on five different visits from America's Space Shuttle. But now in 2021, "NASA continues to work on resolving an issue with the payload computer on the Hubble Space Telescope," reports SciTechDaily — though "The telescope itself and science instruments remain in good health." The operations team will be running tests and collecting more information on the system to further isolate the problem. The science instruments will remain in a safe mode state until the issue is resolved... The computer halted on Sunday, June 13. An attempt to restart the computer failed on Monday, June 14. Initial indications pointed to a degrading computer memory module as the source of the computer halt. When the operations team attempted to switch to a back-up memory module, however, the command to initiate the backup module failed to complete. Another attempt was conducted on both modules Thursday evening to obtain more diagnostic information while again trying to bring those memory modules online. However, those attempts were not successful. Read more of this story at Slashdot. [Read More...]

- EditorDavid
The US Navy's Plans for a Railgun Are Finally Dead

Anyone who's played Quake remembers the railgun weapon. The U.S. Navy spent $500 million trying to build a real one, according to Popular Mechanics, "using electricity and magnetism instead of gunpowder and chemical energy to accelerate a projectile down a pair of rails." But now they've apparently given up: The service is ending funding for the railgun without having sent a single weapon to sea, while pushing technology derived from the program into existing weapons. The weapon is a victim of a change in the Navy's direction toward faster, longer-range weapons that are capable of striking ships and land targets in a major war. The Navy's budget request includes no funding for the railgun in 2022, The Drive reports... Railguns are theoretically safer than conventional guns, since they reduce the amount of volatile powder a ship stores deep within its bowels in the ammunition magazine. The projectiles are also faster. But despite those advantages, there are reasons why the Navy is canning the railgun, which has been in development since 2005. For one, there are currently only three ships the Navy could conceivably fit the railgun to... The railgun concept itself is also out of step with the Navy's reorientation… [Read More...]

- EditorDavid
Chinese Startup Unitree Begins Selling a Headless Robot Dog for $2,700

Long-time Slashdot reader cusco shares an interesting report from IEEE Spectrum: In 2017, we first wrote about the Chinese startup Unitree Robotics, which had the goal of "making legged robots as popular and affordable as smartphones and drones." Relative to the cost of other quadrupedal robots (like Boston Dynamics' $74,000 Spot), Unitree's quadrupeds are very affordable, with their A1 costing under $10,000 when it became available in 2020. This hasn't quite reached the point of consumer electronics that Unitree is aiming for, but they've just gotten a lot closer: now available is the Unitree Go1, a totally decent looking small size quadruped that can be yours for an astonishingly low $2700. Speedy, good looking gait, robust, and a nifty combination of autonomous human-following and obstacle avoidance... There are three versions of the Go1: the $2700 base model Go1 Air, the $3500 Go1, and the $8500 Go1 Edu... The top of the line Edu model offers higher end computing, 2kg more payload (up to 5kg), as well as foot-force sensors, lidar, and a hardware extension interface and API access... Battery life is a big question — the video seems to suggest that the Go1 is capable of a three-kilometer, 20-minute jog,… [Read More...]

- EditorDavid
Twitter Accused of 'Deliberately' Defying Indian Government's New Social Media Rules

Twitter has "deliberately" defied and failed to comply with India's new social media rules, according to the country's technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Reuters reports that the rules, which became effective in late May, make social media companies "more accountable to legal requests for swift removal of posts and sharing details on the originators of messages. The rules also require big social media companies to set up grievance redressal mechanisms and appoint new executives to coordinate with law enforcement." A senior government official told Reuters that Twitter may no longer be eligible to seek liability exemptions as an intermediary or the host of user content in India due to its failure to comply with new IT rules. "There are numerous queries arising as to whether Twitter is entitled to safe harbour provision," Prasad tweeted. "However, the simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines that came into effect from the 26th of May." Twitter, Prasad added, had chosen the "path of deliberate defiance when it comes to the Intermediary Guidelines." Twitter did not respond to a request for comment though it said on Monday it was keeping India's technology ministry apprised of… [Read More...]

- EditorDavid
Firefox Begins Testing Sponsors on Some Users' Default Home Page/New Tab Pages

Earlier this year a new support page appeared at support.Mozilla.org describing sponsored shortcuts (or sponsored tiles), "an experimental feature currently being tested by a small percentage of Firefox users in a limited number of markets." Mozilla works with advertising partners to place sponsored tiles on the Firefox default home page (or New Tab page) that would be useful to Firefox users. Mozilla is paid when users click on sponsored tiles.... [W]e only work with advertising partners that meet our privacy standards for Firefox. When you click on a sponsored tile, Firefox sends anonymized technical data to our partner through a Mozilla-owned proxy service. The code for this proxy service is available on GitHub for interested technical audiences. This data does not include any personally identifying information and is only shared when you click on a Sponsored shortcut.... You can disable a specific Sponsored tile... You can also disable Sponsored shortcuts altogether. Describing the as-yet-experimental feature, Engadget wrote a story headlined "Don't freak out: Firefox is testing advertisements in new tabs." These are just the tests, still mainly aimed at fresh installs of the Firefox web browser and always to beta users, before the rollout of sponsored tiles. It does sound… [Read More...]

- EditorDavid
Chinese Astronauts Reach New Space Station For Three-Month Mission

For the next three months, three Chinese astronauts will live on a cylinder-shaped module measuring 16.6 metres by 4.2 metres (54 feet by 13.7 feet) while carrying out further construction work for China's orbiting space station. It's the first time in five years China has sent humans into space, reports NBC News. : Shenzhou-12, or "Divine Vessel," is one of 11 planned missions to complete construction of China's 70-ton Tiangong or Harmony of the Heavens space station that is set to be up and running by next year... China has long been frozen out of the International Space Station, or ISS, a project launched 20 years ago that has served as the ultimate expression of post-Cold War reconciliation between Russia and the United States. American concerns over the Chinese space program's secrecy and connections to its military were largely responsible for that. But the aging ISS that hosted astronauts from the U.S., Russia and a number of other countries is set to be decommissioned after 2024. As broader U.S.-Russia relations deteriorate, Moscow has hinted that it may withdraw from ISS cooperation in 2025, meaning China could be the only country with a functioning space station. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency,… [Read More...]

- EditorDavid
California Defies Expectations of Doom, Promises Massive Tax Rebate

As California approaches the biggest state tax rebate in U.S. history, Bloomberg News co-founder Matthew A. Winkler questions its reputation as a state doomed by over-regulation and high taxes. In fact, California "has no peers among developed economies for expanding GDP, creating jobs, raising household income, manufacturing growth, investment in innovation, producing clean energy and unprecedented wealth through its stocks and bonds." By adding 1.3 million people to its non-farm payrolls since April last year — equal to the entire workforce of Nevada — California easily surpassed also-rans Texas and New York. At the same time, California household income increased $164 billion, almost as much as Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania combined, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. No wonder California's operating budget surplus, fueled by its surging economy and capital gains taxes, swelled to a record $75 billion... While pundits have long insisted California policies are bad for business, reality belies them. In a sign of investor demand, the weight of California companies in the benchmark S&P 500 Index increased 3 percentage points since a year ago, the most among all states, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Faith in California credit was similarly superlative, with the weight of corporate… [Read More...]

- EditorDavid
Some Texans Surprised Their Smart Thermostats Are Being Raised Remotely

Slashdot reader quonset writes: With the heat wave gripping Texas, and in an effort to prevent another collapse of the power grid as happened in February during cold weather, Texas is, for the third day in a row, asking residents to conserve electricity. Some people in the Houston area have come home to find the temperatures in their homes are still warm (in the high 70s to low 80s) despite their air conditioning running all day! A local Texas reporter tells the tale: The family's smart thermostat was installed a few years ago as part of a new home security package. Many smart thermostats can be enrolled in a program called "Smart Savers Texas." It's operated by a company called EnergyHub. The agreement states that in exchange for an entry into sweepstakes, electric customers allow them to control their thermostats during periods of high energy demand. EnergyHub's list of its clients include TXU Energy, CenterPoint and ERCOT. They spoke to one Texas resident who obviously wasn't even aware of what he'd agreed to when the smart thermostat was installed. As soon as he found out, he immediately unenrolled from the program, complaining "If somebody else can manipulate this, I'm not… [Read More...]