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Thu, 21 Feb 2019
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Behavior-Based Authentication: Smartphones will monitor how workers walk, type and "Spend their free time"

Cell phone privacy
Forget Face ID: a collaboration between the Defense Department and a NY-based company called TWOSENSE.AI, has birthed an artificial intelligence algorithm that could be embedded in smartphones and will be able to identify the device owner by the way they talk, type, walk and even by how "they spend their free time".

TWOSENSE.AI is working with the Department of Defense to build a SaaS product that could eventually replace access cards currently used to verify the identities of DOD employees when logging onto the department's networks.

The AI constantly monitors the user's behavior, including how they carry the device, type on it and even walk. The system then automatically verifies the user's identity using these parameters, enabling them to work seamlessly on their secure network without having to login each time.

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Railway section of cross-border bridge linking Russia & China to be ready in March 2019

Amur River
© Sputnik / I. Nosov
Amur River
Construction of the final deck for the railroad bridge over the Amur River to the Chinese city of Tongjiang will be finished next month, according to the government of Russia's Jewish Autonomous Region.

It will be part of the long-awaited infrastructure, which is aimed at connecting Russia's Far East with China's northernmost Heilongjiang province.

The 2,209-meter-long Nizhneleninskoe (Jewish Autonomous Region) to Tongjiang (Heilongjiang province) bridge will become the first railway bridge between the two countries. China has already completed the construction of its part of the bridge.

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More than just bamboo: Scientists find that ancient pandas' diets were more varied than previously thought

giant panda

Scientists in China have found that ancient pandas may have been carnivores or omnivores before eventually developing a specialized diet of bamboo.
Ancient pandas may have feasted on more than just bamboo, according to researchers in China. The findings are published in the journal Current Biology. Giant pandas live only in the understory of specific mountains in southwestern China, where they subsist on bamboo alone.

Their distinctive teeth, skull and muscle characteristics are adaptations to their tough and fibrous diet, while their special pseudo-thumb helps them better grasp and hold bamboo stems, leaves and shoots. However, scientists led by Professor Wei Fuwen at the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have found that extinct and ancient panda species most likely had a more varied and complex diet.

"It has been widely accepted that giant pandas have exclusively fed on bamboo for the last two million years," said Wei. "But our results showed the opposite." While it is impossible to know exactly what extinct animals ate, researchers can get clues about ancient diets by analyzing the composition of stable isotopes-different forms of the same element that contain equal numbers of protons but different numbers of neutrons-in animal teeth, hair and bones, including fossil remains.

Wei's team thus analyzed bone collagen of modern pandas (1970s-2000s) and other mammals from the same mountains.



Rare Atira asteroid spotted orbiting the Sun

Venus transiting the Sun.
Venus transiting the Sun.
We've been gazing out at the Solar System for a very long time, and by now we know, more or less, where things go. Sun, planets, asteroid belt, more planets, then millions more asteroids (we're not really sure how many). Maybe another planet. OK, so it's a little tricky.

But a new discovery has hinted that maybe there could be more asteroids in the "Sun, planets" section. Perhaps even loads more.

It's called 2019 AQ3 - an asteroid whose tight elliptical orbit is nearly always closer to the Sun than Venus, and even dips closer than Mercury. It takes just 165 days to orbit the Sun - the shortest year ever seen in a Solar System asteroid. (A Venusian year is 225 days; a Mercurian year is 88.)

"We have found an extraordinary object whose orbit barely strays beyond Venus's orbit - that's a big deal," said astronomer Quanzhi Ye of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) at Caltech.

"There might be many more undiscovered asteroids out there like it."

Ye first spotted the object on 4 January 2019 in data from the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), an automated sky survey project run out of Caltech's Palomar Observatory. It wasn't long before its unusual nature became clear to other astronomers, and multiple telescopes were deployed to study it on January 6 and 7.

In addition, the archives of the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope at the Haleakalā Observatory in Hawai'i turned out to contain previously unnoticed evidence of the asteroid, dating back to 2015.


World's first dexterous and sentient hand prosthesis implanted

Hand prosthesis being tested
© Dr. Max Ortiz Catalan​​​​​​​​​​
First person with below-elbow amputation implanted with an osseo-neuromuscular prosthesis.
A female Swedish patient with hand amputation has become the first recipient of an osseo-neuromuscular implant to control a dexterous hand prosthesis. In a pioneering surgery, titanium implants were placed in the two forearm bones (radius and ulnar), from which electrodes to nerves and muscle were extended to extract signals to control a robotic hand and to provide tactile sensations. This makes it the first clinically viable, dexterous and sentient prosthetic hand usable in real life. The breakthrough is part of the European project DeTOP.

​The new implant technology was developed in Sweden by a team lead by Dr. Max Ortiz Catalan at Integrum AB - the company behind the first bone-anchored limb prosthesis using osseointegration - and Chalmers University of Technology. This first-of-its-kind surgery, led by Prof. Rickard Brånemark and Dr. Paolo Sassu, took place at Sahlgrenska University Hospital as part of a larger project funded by the European Commission under Horizon 2020 called DeTOP.

The DeTOP project is coordinated by Prof. Christian Cipriani at the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, and also includes Prensilia, the University of Gothenburg, Lund University, University of Essex, the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology, INAIL Prosthetic Center, Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, and the Instituto Ortopedico Rizzoli.

Implanted electrodes provide sensory and motoric control

Conventional prosthetic hands rely on electrodes placed over the skin to extract control signals from the underlying stump muscles. These superficial electrodes deliver limited and unreliable signals that only allow control of a couple of gross movements (opening and closing the hand). Richer and more reliable information can be obtained by implanting electrodes in all remaining muscle in the stump instead. Sixteen electrodes were implanted in this first patient in order to achieve more dexterous control of a novel prosthetic hand developed in Italy by the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna and Prensilia.

Current prosthetic hands have also limited sensory feedback. They do not provide tactile or kinesthetic sensation, so the user can only rely on vision while using the prosthesis. Users cannot tell how strongly an object is grasped, or even when contact has been made. By implanting electrodes in the nerves that used to be connected to the lost biological sensors of the hand, researchers can electrically stimulate these nerves in a similar manner as information conveyed by the biological hand. This results in the patient perceiving sensations originating in the new prosthetic hand, as it is equipped with sensors that drive the stimulation of the nerve to deliver such sensations.


Evidence for a new fundamental constant of the sun

The corona of the sun
© Dr. Richard Morton, Northumbria University, Newcastle
The corona of the sun – its utmost atmosphere.
New studies at Northumbria University, Newcastle, show that the sun's magnetic waves behave differently than previously thought.

Their results were reported in Nature Astronomy,

After examining the data collected over a 10-year period, Northumbria's team from the Department of Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering found that magnetic waves in the Sun's corona - the outermost layer of the atmosphere - react to sound waves escaping from the inside of the Sun.

These magnetic waves, known as Alfvenic waves, play a crucial role in transporting energy around the Sun and solar system. It was assumed that the waves were created on the solar surface, where boiling hydrogen reaches temperatures of 6,000 degrees and churns the sun's magnetic field.

However, the researchers have found evidence that the magnetic waves also react - or are excited - higher in the atmosphere by sound waves leaking out from the inside of the sun.

The team discovered that the sound waves leave a distinctive marker on the magnetic waves. The presence of this marker means that the sun's entire corona is shaking in a collective manner in response to the sound waves. This is causing it to vibrate over a very clear range of frequencies.


Two proteins shown to partially regrow mouse toes after amputation

laboratory mouse
© Pexels / Pixabay
Two proteins appear to be linked to regeneration

A pair of proteins could help regenerate amputated limbs. When applied to amputated toes, the proteins encouraged both bone and joint growth in mice.

Joints are structurally complex, so even for animals that can regrow their lost limbs, rarely can they regenerate their joints as well.

Ken Muneoka at Texas A&M University and his colleagues had previously regenerated bones in mice after they were amputated by treating the stump with a bone-growing protein, BMP2. But joint structures never formed.


Laughter may be the best medicine - if you're in the middle of brain surgery

electrode in brain
© From Bijanki et al, J. Clin. Invest. (2019); Courtesy of American Society for Clinical Investigation
Illustration showing how an electrode was inserted into the cingulum bundle.
Neuroscientists at Emory University School of Medicine have discovered a focal pathway in the brain that when electrically stimulated causes immediate laughter, followed by a sense of calm and happiness, even during awake brain surgery. The effects of stimulation were observed in an epilepsy patient undergoing diagnostic monitoring for seizure diagnosis. These effects were then harnessed to help her complete a separate awake brain surgery two days later.

The behavioral effects of direct electrical stimulation of the cingulum bundle, a white matter tract in the brain, were confirmed in two other epilepsy patients undergoing diagnostic monitoring. The findings are scheduled for publication in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Videos of the effects of cingulum bundle stimulation are available, with the patient's identity obscured.

Emory neurosurgeons see the technique as a "potentially transformative" way to calm some patients during awake brain surgery, even for people who are not especially anxious. For optimal protection of critical brain functions during surgery, patients may need to be awake and not sedated, so that doctors can talk with them, assess their language skills, and detect impairments that may arise from resection.

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'Earth's magnetic North Pole has shifted so much we've had to update GPS' - scientists scrambling to update models

© SteveAllenPhoto/iStock
Magnetic north is not where it used to be.

Since 2015, the place to which a compass points has been sprinting toward Siberia at a pace of more than 30 miles (48 kilometres) a year. And this week, after a delay caused by the month-long partial government shutdown in the United States, humans have finally caught up.

Scientists on Monday released an emergency update to the World Magnetic Model, which cellphone GPS systems and military navigators use to orient themselves.

It's a minor change for most of us - noticeable only to people who are attempting to navigate very precisely very close to the Arctic.

But the north magnetic pole's inexorable drift suggests that something strange - and potentially powerful - is taking place deep within Earth. Only by tracking it, said University of Leeds geophysicist Phil Livermore, can scientists hope to understand what's going on.

Comment: Perhaps another pole shift is not as slow in coming as the article would suggest?


What could go wrong? - NASA and ESA team to knock asteroid out of orbit to test Earth defense system

Asteroid Break up
© News Bangla
You know what? We're going to spare you the "Armageddon" reference that we had planned and just jump straight to the lede on this one.

NASA has teamed up with the European Space Agency (ESA) to in what many are calling the first planetary defense test: an attempt to alter the orbit of an asteroid. The much-beleaguered Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which we first reported on in 2015, involves a visit to a double asteroid system consisting of the relatively tiny asteroid Didymos and its even tinier moon, informally called "Didymoon." Rather than bringing a nice bottle of wine and an asteroid rover, however, DART will be attempting to crash an impactor spacecraft into Didymoon to knock the asteroid out of orbit, assuming, of course, that Elon Musk's Tesla doesn't get there first.

Once the space rocks are sent hurtling out of control to become some other planet's problem, ESA's part of the project, dubbed Hera, will follow-up with a visit to the Didymoon to survey the effects of the DART spacecraft's impact and assess the feasibility and efficacy of redirection.