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  • Facebook Diagnosed With Another Programming Bug

    28. October 2011

    Facebook

    The globally recognized Facebook logo. (Photo: wikipedia.com)

    World famous social networking website, Facebook, is apparently making news again after a security expert had discovered a subtle programming error on their website code. This researcher, Nathan Power, who is works at the CDW consultancy firm apparently found out about a programming error on the website’s code which could allow a user to send a malicious code or a virus to another user, via its messaging option. This problem is a reminiscent of the May 2011 error which allowed all advertisers and app developers to access the personal information of the users, where no serious damage was caused in spite of all the fear it generated. However, Facebook as taken a long time to acknowledge this one as it has already been lingering around for a month.

    According to a blog post by Power, this flaw allowed the user an option which would be just send an ERROR message under normal circumstances, due to the company’s policy on account privacy. After suspecting something out of place, Power than decided to investigate on his own by analyzing the POST request code, that was circulating in the servers. After a testing the code, he realized that by he could manipulate the POST request simply by typing a small message near the filename variable, thus allowing him to send an executable message or an attachment with relative ease. To put it in simple terms, this hole in the code can allow a person to send a potentially malicious or virus laden file attachment to any user, thus increasing the risk of the circulation of a harmful virus that can potentially damage the entire server, thus putting the private information of millions at risk.

    In a surprising turn of events, the company officials merely brushed aside the error as a minor glitch. Ryan McGeehan, who is the head of the website’s security department, released a statement to the press valiantly claiming that such a glitch can only be misused if the perpetrator has some additional technical acumen that can allow him to bypass the website’s secondary security features. So, all we can do is hope that Facebook really does have the problem in control which means there is nothing to worry about.

    (rockefellernews/yk)

     

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    Communist Party Of China Pushing For Social Media Censorship

    26. October 2011

    Sina Weibo

    Sina Weibo. (Photo: bloggerinsight.com)

    A leading communist part in Beijing China is apparently pushing for a full out ruling that can result in a total ban on social media and its websites for long periods of time. According to the party’s spokesperson, the are taking this initiative in order to keep a check on the savvy internet users, who are becoming more and more proficient in spreading their opposition against the government via social media outlets like blogs and instant messaging. This news will not take anyone by surprise as the Chinese government is probably the most anti-internet government the world has seen, as evident by its censorship of popular internet sites like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, including a partial censorship on Google, where any topics regarding Dalai Lama, communism, abortion, religion etc are heavily scrutinized and blocked.

    Basically, if this initiative comes into fruition, the government will have a lot of control over what people blog about, thus allowing them to filter out anything they may view as derogatory. While this seems like an other abject attempt by the government to increase its stronghold over its citizens and suppress freedom of speech, from the party’s point of view, the fears are more or less legitimate.

    For example, a website that is the Chinese version of Twitter and Facebook known as Sina or weibo,com, is being used by millions of Chinese internet users for the purpose of voicing their opposition against the government as it was evident by the infamous Wenzhou train incident of July or the one where a girl was left to die after a roadside accident, where millions of people had raised a hue and cry against the system. The point being, these microblogging and social media sites are giving the common folk enough power to have substantial leverage over their government, which is one of the main reasons why Facebook or Youtube was banned in the first place. As for now, Sina and other Twitter like micro blogging sites are already installing filters, so that they can get rid of any ‘offensive’ content.

    Paradoxically, China has the largest number of internet users in the world, with an amount that has already crossed 450 million this year or in other words, that is more than the entire population of the US!. However, thanks to such censorship laws and unfair scrutiny, many investors often shy away from investing in their internet companies, which is why their internet industry is not as big as the US.

    (rockefellernews/yk)

     

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    Wikileaks May Shut Down Due To Financial Crunch

    24. October 2011

    Julian Assange during happier times

    Julian Assange during happier times. (Photo: businessinsider.com)

    Wikileaks Chief editor Julian Assange made a shocking announcement today insisting that its owner, the Sunshine press, is planning to cease all its operations and shut down the controversial website by the end of the year. Apparently, the whistleblowing website has been under a lot of financial strain lately and as Assange explains in this video, the website is barred from receiving donations from US based financial service companies like Paypal and the Western Union and Card companies like Visa and Mastercard, after the website had made the fateful choice of releasing 200,000+ confidential US cables to the public. While Wikileaks has crossed swords with these companies before, it is probably the first time it has actually succumbed and lost the battle.

    This news of a possible shutdown will inevitably make big corporations and government agencies breathe a long needed sigh of relief, however, as far as their fans and various online community groups are concerned, they are most likely to show their displeasure using cybercrime as a weapon, although nobody can say for sure. This website has definitely had a good run, where Assange was not only named one of the most influential people of 2010, but he also became somewhat of an international celebrity with an army of powerful people to watch his back. But now his glory days may finally lie behind him as he is also facing a string of personal lawsuits. Assange also admitted that this financial ‘blockade’ has caused the website to earn donations amounting to $9000 per month this year, as compared to a whopping $180k last year.

    Since this blockade has also cost the website to lose around 90 percent of its revenue and around $90 million in future donations, its only hope is to depend on their long time supporter, the Germany based Wau Holland foundation and peer to peer currency sharing website like Bitcoin, although their future still looks very bleak. I personally support the website as it does the intrepid task of exposing the corrupt political and bureaucratic system for who they are, so for all those of you who agree with me, do all you can to make sure they do not shut down.

    (rockefellernews/yk)

     

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    Scientists A Step Closer In Creating Flood Resistant Crops

    23. October 2011

    Cotton plant getting destroyed by floods

    Cotton plant destroyed by floods. (Photo: fxnonstop.com)

    When you here farmers complaining that the hardest part of farming is maintaining a crop, rather than just growing it, it is painful to see that they are absolutely right. Even the crops like rice or wheat, that are a basic necessity for humans, often meet climatic conditions that are too dry or too wet for them to handle. In recent times, the problem is even worse with floods and violent storms being a root cause for a global dip in the agricultural market, as farmers are losing crops faster than they can grow them and this has even caused a significant shortage in the global supply of food grains.

    For example, the recent Hurricane Irene that hit the US early this year, caused floods that damaged billions to several hundred million dollars worth of crops in the US alone. Now since we cannot control the weather, scientists have worked hard, for years, to create crops that are immune to the effects of flooding. Sounds like a pipedream right? well a team of researchers from the University of Nottingham and the University of Riverside California, have just made the first step to achieve this goal!

    For a better understanding on how plants can be resistant to deep floods, the researchers decided to study the ATP production mechanism of a flowery plant, known as the Arabidopsis, which is a close cousin of the mustard seed. The team observed that under normal oxygen levels, the plant would produce the ATP energy, as expected, for the production of their food. However, once the plant sensed a shortage of oxygen, it would take a dip down its stored energy to cause a huge breakdown of sugar molecules, thus producing ATP molecules in a more brutish way.

    Some key crop researchers from Nottingham university realized that these plants have another in built mechanism to survive low Oxygen conditions. A string of protein compounds, known as transcription factors, automatically become much more stable, if oxygen levels are not up to the mark, thus giving the plant the energy to sustain. Unfortunately, this mechanism does more harm than good as the protein is known to be notoriously unstable, which means that once the oxygen levels are back, it would put the plant in jeopardy again.

    However, thanks to a previous research conducted by UCR member Bailey-Serres in 2003, the researchers made use of the SUB1A, which is a type of protein, for the purpose of improving the protein defense mechanism of the Arabidopsis plant. Much to their delight, they found out that unlike the transcription factors, which can only be activated by low oxygen levels, these proteins can be easily activated by absorbing the ethylene gas from the nearby cells, which is produced almost instantaneously. As a plus point, since this protein was previously able to help rice crops withstand being submerged in monsoon floods, they are kind of a foolproof method for making the crops survive their watery grave.

    Now all the researchers have to do is combine all their protein defense mechanisms in a proportion that can make it completely resistant to heavy flooding. However, we are still a long way from producing a ‘super crop’ as floods are not the only problem for crops, but you can bet that they will find a solution for that as well.

    (rockefellernews/yk)

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    New Treatment Suggested For The Ear Glue Infection

    21. October 2011

    Chart describing ear glue infection

    Chart describing an ear glue infection. (Photo: ehealthmd.com)

    The ‘Glue ear’ is a condition where a blob of sticky yellow mass accumulates in the middle ear and the Eustachian tube, behind the eardrum. While it is not uncommon for an adult to get afflicted, it mostly occurs in children, between the age group of 1-5. The chief cause of this condition is the air pressure imbalance in the middle ear, that occurs due to a small malfunction of the Eustachian tube. This malfunction causes the air in the middle ear to pass on to the nearby cells, thus creating a vacuum that causes fluid from the nearby cells and to rush in to fill the gap.

    Even though glue ear is too harmless to be diagnosed as an ear infection, there are some extreme cases where the patient’s earring is deeply affected, sometimes permanently. However, a new research by a team of scientist from the Medical research council’s Mammalian genetics unit have realized that medications that are strong enough to inhibit cancer, can also eliminate something relatively mundane as glue ear, without causing any lethal side effects.

    This team of researchers, led by Dr Steve Brown, examined a root cause for this problem, which is famously known as hypoxia. Hypoxia is a condition where a particular body part, like a cell or a tissue for instance, fails to receive a substantial amount of oxygen. In this case, glue ear is mostly caused by a lack of oxygen supply to the middle ear. After running some test  on lab rats by trial and error, they realized that using some ready made drugs, like those that stimulate the secretion of Vascular endothelial growth factors( VEGF) in the middle ear, they can make sure that the flow of oxygen to that vicinity can be controlled, even if the blood flow is irregular, thus ridding the ear of the ‘glue’ problem. This remedy is different from the rest because for one, they are known to cause little to no side effects on the body since they are already tested and FDA approved. Secondly, it is certainly better than the current treatment methods that involve fitting ventilation tubes inside the middle ear, as it is less expensive and very versatile.

    It is a good sign that the medical world is started to take even the most mundane disease seriously, instead of merely dismissing them as harmless. Again, while the ear glue disease is not to be feared as much as other ear infections, they can cause a big impact on the academic and social life because a with a blocked ear, you cannot expect them to be very social and engaging. However, if the condition is not severe enough, making the child blow a special balloon with his nose, will automatically create a balance of air and oxygen in the Eustachian tube, which in turn cause it to drain out the glue, although it is still recommended that you go to physician.

    (rockefellernews/yk)

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    Microsoft’s Holodesk Allows Users To Directly Interact With Virtual Objects

    20. October 2011

    The Holodesk

    The Holodesk. (Photo: Microsoft.com)

    All of us, at some point in time, have always wondered what virtual objects, shown in video games, would actually feel like if we could touch them with our own hands. I am not talking in terms of virtual reality or even augmented reality, but in terms of actually touching a coin or a mushroom with your own hands, while playing a game of Super Mario Bros. Such a statement would normally only come true in the world of science fiction right? well not exactly, because thanks a new research project by the Device and sensor group at the  Microsoft Cambridge research center, we have already made a new step in the idea of directly interacting with virtual items. Enter the Holodesk

    This Holodesk basically consist of an Xbox Kinect camera and a pane of glass, all attached to a computer monitor and a couple of other optical illusion object like a beam splitter. As evident by the video, the man is placing his hands directly below the glass pane, which consists several virtual playing balls. If seen from the top of the glass, the synchronization between the image of his hands and the green playing balls happens in such a way that we get the impression or the illusion that his hands are actually ‘touching’ those balls.

    The mechanism behind it is not so hard to comprehend, if you have a strong understanding on how lights and optical illusions work. With the help of a powerful graphic algorithm, the motion of the person’s hands is captured by the kinect camera and then processed to synchronize with the virtual ball, all on the computer screen. For the next step, these optical devices like the beam splitters project this image on the glass pane, which is situated directly above the person’s hands.

    Before we you to get to exited, please keep in mind that this device is still a protoype and even when it is fully developed, it will first be available for lab and research use only. However, the amount of exciting advancements to the computer industry, that can be caused by this fully developed product, are too long to list. So I leave the guesswork up to you.

    (rockefellernews/yk)

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    Using A Mind Controlled Device For People With The Locked In Syndrome

    18. October 2011

    Brain with locked in syndrome

    Brain with locked in syndrome. (Photo: mirror.co.uk)

    Sometimes, an injury to the cerebrum, medulla or whole brain can be serious enough to cause permanent damage to it, which can make the patient suffer to possible sticky ends. The first one being the vegetative state where the patient damages his upper brain so badly that it stops working, thus making the person go in a coma. The second situation, is something known as the locked in syndrome, where the lower brain, rather than the upper brain, ceases to function, thus bringing all the muscles of the body at a hiatus. Such a state can be comparable to the comatose state where the person is totally unable to communicate with the outside world, however the person is not in a slumber and can still control his eyes. But sometimes, if the injury is grave enough, the person may even lose control over his eyes giving rise to the total locked in syndrome.

    While brain damage is cited as a number one cause, many other factors like medications, stroke or damage of the nervous system have also been implicated as culprits. So it is anyone’s guess that life as such a person would be worse than death as you can sense everything that is happening around you, but you have no say or part in it. Luckily, research groups and scientific institutes are working day and night to find a solution to their predicament, which is why the national science institute, which comprises of major research groups, are working on an experiment that allows people with the locked in syndrome to communicate with the help of an advanced mind controlled computer.

    Dr Johnathan Brumberg and his assistants demonstrated the computer, which was actually a voice synthesizer combined with a EEG device and connected to an LCD screen. Dr Johnathan used his own handpicked volunteers who were patients of this disease and used several of them for this experiment. All he had to do was tape the EEG electrode to the forehead of the patient, thus all thoughts would emit brainwaves which could then be converted to electrical signals.

    The changes in frequency of the signals, with the thoughts of the volunteer, caused a cursor on the screen to move. For the purpose of understanding this a step further, the researchers constructed three circles on the screen, each of which emitted a unique sound when clicked. The first two were marked uw and aa respectively and the third was marked iy. So once the cursor moved to the uw circle, the researchers would register it as a left hand movement and the aa circle for a right hand movement. As for the iy circle, they would be classified as foot movements . On top of it all, this computer can also convert all electrical signals into audio signals, thus making the patients capable of speech. So in short, this device can be compared to the mind controlled wheel chair used by scientist Stephen Hawking.

    According to Dr Frank Guenther, who is an eminent scientist for the Boston state university, this device can not only help people with the locked in syndrome, but it is very useful for anyone who has problem in expressing himself in words, as his mind can literally speak out for him.

    (rockefellernews/yk)

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    Creating Location Centric Access To Personal Online Data

    17. October 2011

    Dr Jules white

    Dr. Jules White. (Photo: vt.edu)

    The issue of cyber security is a problem that is not only plaguing the common masses, but corporations and government agencies as well because all of them depend on the internet in one way or the other. Now that computer technologies like the internet are extremely advanced more people tend to store all of their personal and sensitive info online, which is why we have these various hacker groups that are hell bent on trying to gain access to all of that, as evident by their recent attempts on major corporations like Sony.

    Besides, causing hundreds of billions in damage per year, they also cause unwanted paranoia among the users, which makes them shy away even from well meaning and legitimate entities on the web. The worst part is that no matter what anti-crime strategy experts come up with, people always find a way around them. However, a new algorithm by the Virginia polytech institute may give the hackers a run for their skill and money.

    Basically, this algorithm is a software program that restricts access to specific data based on their locations. To put it in simple words, once it is installed on a mobile device like a smartphone, you can sensitive information will only be accessible from one specific location and completely inaccessible from anywhere else. For the sake of example, let us assume that you are a teen who loves to watch ‘stuff’ but do not want any of your parents or peers to find out about it, so by using this algorithm, you can make your smartphone access it only from a place you choose, so that none of your parents or pesky peers will be able to access that data from anywhere else, even if they are using your device without your knowledge. But more importantly, this can help various government agencies to save all important confidential information from getting into the wrong hands.

    Jules White, who was the lead researcher at this project, feels that this software is different from the traditional filtering software as it technically confines the important information to a physical place. However, there are still some bugs to be fixed as it is not yet available for any practical applications and as a matter of fact, this product has yet to enter its beta testing phase.

    While it is far from us to jynx up any good news, it will only be a matter of time before hackers find a way around this solutions as well, so the research and development process must be ongoing. However, on the bright side, this is a great breakthrough in the field of cloud computing.

    (rockefellernews/yk)

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    Using Ultrasonic Scans To Diagnose The Crohn’s Disease

    15. October 2011

    Crohn's disease

    Crohn's disease diagram. (Photo: d-symptoms.com)

    The Crohn’s disease is an often fatal disease of the intestine, which eventually escalates by infecting all other related organs like the mouth or the anus. This disease often occurs when the body’s immune system turns against the intestine, thus causing a great disruption in their functioning and mechanism. During the first days of infection, they tend to cause grave gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal pain, and if left untreated, they tend to affect the rest of the body, causing illnesses that range from bone fractures to destruction of the body’s immune system.

    While they have known to spread genetically, they affect more than 400,000+ people in North America alone. To make matters worse, the body tries to heal itself by fibrosis, which creates so much unwanted connective tissues, that they tend to do more harm than good. This in turn also puts the patients into a great risk by the current diagnoses methods. But according to a recent study by the university of Michigan, Ultrasonic elastic scan may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for doctors who want to diagnose the Crohn’s disease.

    The scientist who worked on this project claimed that while traditional MRI and CT scans are more effective than their ultrasonic counterparts, they are not really helpful in distinguishing the fibrosis tissue from the actual disease, which puts the patient at a higher risk of being wrongly diagnosed. However, since a connective fibrosis tissue is known to be more hard and lumpy compared to the tissue formed by the crohn’s disease, an ultrasonic sound wave from an ultrasonic elastic scan can help the doctors pick out this difference as using their high frequency levels.

    Ultrasonic scanning may not be a new concept, but they are taken so much for granted that they find very little real use in the medical industry of today, which is why people forget that they can actually used to detect the nature of of a tumorous tissue, without an expensive medical procedure. However, even if the scientists are able to successfully diagnose this disease, curing them takes a whole new level, but that is a different story.

    (rockefellernews/yk)

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    How Psychopaths Can Be Identified By Analyzing Their Speech

    15. October 2011

    Ted bundy: infamous psychopath

    Ted Bundy: Infamous Psychopath. (Photo: wikipedia.com)

    A psychopath is a person who shows absolutely zero empathy towards people in general and who shows no remorse in harming them in anyway. While in the movies, psychopaths like Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs or Patrick Bateman from American psycho are traditionally depicted as being charismatic albeit ruthless murderers who can smooth talk their victims, psychopaths in real life are much more complicated than their movie counterparts as for one, some of them are merely antisocial and not cold blooded murderers.

    As for those who indeed are killers, must of them are social outcasts who have been long isolated from humanity and lack any form of charisma. The point being, psycho-analyzing the mind of these people has been a herculean task for experts for years, with none of them coming up with answers that are satisfying enough. However, a study embarked by the university of Columbia and Cornell university shows that speech pattern analysis are one of the most effective but overlooked methods, for psycho-analyzing.

    For the purpose of this research, Dr Hancock from the university of Cornell and his colleagues, personally handpicked a team of 10 psychopathic criminals who have been awaited trails for gruesome crimes and 38-40 other non-psychopathic criminals. These researchers, then took each criminal separately and had a brief chat with them regarding their crimes.

    After the session, the researchers realized that the psychopaths were more likely to use vindicating pronouns like ‘because’ or ‘so that’ and had the astounding ability to recall every trivial detail of their crime with great accuracy, suggesting that psychopath were more likely to justify their crimes, due to their peculiar sense of entitlement towards the crime itself.If things did not get any weirder, the researchers probed further and saw that these people were much more likely to give pompous and non-fluent answers to their questions, again possibly suggesting their desperation to impress others.

    However, while this study does show that psychopathic murders have a distinct way of speaking than the rest of us, always remember that correlation does not result in causation, which means that judging someone by their way of talking is just plain wrong. Instead, this study paves way for new therapy methods to treat people from becoming into murderers.

    (rockefellernews/yk)

     

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    Man In Deep Trouble For Hacking E-Mail IDs Of Celebrities

    13. October 2011

    Scarlett Johansson

    Scarlett Johansson. (Photo: Guxed.com)

    What do celebrities like Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake have in common,? well for once, they all have been victims to a serial hacker and have had their private photos and privacy compromised as a result. This 30 something hacker, who goes by the name of Christopher Chaney has been accused by the L.A police department for illegally snooping around the email ids of these celebrities, in order to find juicy scopes for celebrity blogs or magazines and make money by selling the candid photos to them.

    However, after a year long success, Chaney was finally arrested on October 12th for, not only trespassing and violating their privacy but also for playing a key role in the Johannson naked photo scandal that took place a month ago. But according to the L.A police spokesperson, they are gathering enough evidence to put him away for a great deal of time.

    Chaney, who is the resident of Florida, explained his modus Operandi to the cops claiming that he would use a auto scripted software to scan the address books of these aforementioned celebrities, in order to find their e-mail address. Then using another software program, he would manipulate the e-mails by making them auto-forward all their incoming mail to his inbox, meaning that no matter how many times the celebrities tried to change their passwords, he could still keep a tab on them. However, he did not really go in much detail as to the type of software programs or methods he used for his hacking escapade, although the police and computer experts suspect the use of alias and fake ids.

    Even though Chaney allegedly apologized for his misdeeds claiming ludicrous reasons, the judge of L.A court is not going to let him go easy as he will need to serve a 120 year+ life sentence, if he is found guilty for all his indicted crimes. However, for the time being, he is released on a 10k dollar bond and is scheduled to re-appear before the court on Friday, with an additional condition that he is absolutely forbidden to use any device that has an internet access. This sentence may seem a bit to harsh, but celebrities do need their personal space. Besides, it is high time people start taking cybercrime as seriously as any other crime.

    (rockefellernews/yk)

     

     

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    Online Magazine Concept & Realisation Ortwin Oberhauser