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Astrophysicist Gets Magnets Stuck Up Nose While Inventing Coronavirus Device

An Australian astrophysicist has been admitted to hospital after getting four magnets stuck up his nose in an attempt to invent a device that stops people touching their faces during the coronavirus outbreak. The Guardian reports: Dr Daniel Reardon, a research fellow at a Melbourne university, was building a necklace that sounds an alarm on facial contact, when the mishap occurred on Thursday night. The 27 year-old astrophysicist, who studies pulsars and gravitational waves, said he was trying to liven up the boredom of self-isolation with the four powerful neodymium magnets. Reardon said he placed two magnets inside his nostrils, and two on the outside. When he removed the magnets from the outside of his nose, the two inside stuck together. Unfortunately, the researcher then attempted to use his remaining magnets to remove them. "As I was pulling downwards to try and remove the magnets, they clipped on to each other and I lost my grip. And those two magnets ended up in my left nostril while the other one was in my right. At this point I ran out of magnets." Before attending the hospital, Reardon attempted to use pliers to pull them out, but they became magnetized by the magnets inside his nose. At the hospital, a team of two doctors applied an anesthetic spray and manually removed the magnets from Reardon's nose. "Needless to say I am not going to play with the magnets any more," Reardon said.

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Posted on 1 April 2020 | 7:00 am

Campus Is Closed, So College Students Are Rebuilding Their Schools In Minecraft

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The day before University of Pennsylvania students were told that their college commencement would be held online, junior Andrew Guo thought of an alternative to holding the address over Zoom. Students could have a "Hey Day" and graduation inside Minecraft, just as a Japanese elementary school had organized days earlier. Quickly, "Penncraft" students began to recreate dormitories, food trucks, and local sculptures in-game. Makarios Chung, an early builder, measured buildings' dimensions and streets positions constantly to ensure their scale was as accurate as possible. The first day of building, students took an hour to decide the placement of one street. Their main goal was to have a completed campus, specifically Locust Street, for graduating seniors to walk down in-game now that COVID-19 ensured they wouldn't return to campus and complete this UPenn tradition. Students from Boston University to UCLA, from South Louisiana Community College to Northwestern University, have recently created or resurrected Minecraft servers and shared their creations on Discord chats, in Facebook meme groups, and on Reddit threads. The boom of college Minecraft servers has begun. These servers have the express purpose of bringing students together and building, oftentimes focused on recreating their college campuses. Searches for Minecraft server hosting have peaked to unprecedented levels in the last few weeks, and thousands of students are discussing college servers, most notably on the Facebook group "Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens." Smaller groups and clubs, like Bowdoin College's men's ultimate frisbee team or University of La Verne's debate team, have found ways to bond in survival mode servers after their practices and championships were canceled. Zoom isn't nearly enough, and it doesn't carry the ten years of memories that Gen Z has for Minecraft. "Come May there will be in-game graduations," writes Pearse Anderson. "Inspired by the aforementioned Japanese elementary school, Boston University seniors Rudy Raveendran and Warren Partridge created 'Quaranteen University.' This is a new server specifically made to host a Class of 2020 graduation for students from hundreds of different universities. 706 students from 278 institutions have signed up in the last week, and one mom has already emailed Raveendran asking how she can get an in-game seat to this massive ceremony on May 22nd."

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Posted on 1 April 2020 | 3:30 am

MIT Team Shares New $500 Emergency Ventilator Design With the Public

A group of MIT scientists has created an emergency ventilator, which is affordable, and easily made using regular hospital devices. Interesting Engineering reports: A team of volunteers, scientists, physicians, and computer scientists at MIT known as E-Vent put their heads together three weeks ago to revive a 10-year-old ventilator project. The end result is a ventilator design that's affordable and easily replicated. The total cost of the device for the different parts is between $400 to $500, and the team plans on sharing their design online on their website so that manufacturers and companies can recreate the lifesaving device for hospitals around the world. The device's main part already exists in most hospitals' inventory: Ambu resuscitation bags. Usually, these are manually operated by emergency technicians or medical professionals to keep the patient breathing until they are hooked up to a ventilator. The team at MIT has adapted the Ambu bags by attaching them to an automated mechanism that automatically pumps the bag with air in the same manner if a human were handling it. This method would alleviate the use of a person standing day and night by a patient's bedside -- something that's not currently possible in hospitals that are reaching over-capacity because of the rapidly spreading coronavirus -- and keep them breathing long enough to then be strapped to a proper ICU ventilator. There's currently no exact date for when the prototype info will be shared for all to use, but the team members have stated that they eventually want to secure the FDA approvals.

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Posted on 1 April 2020 | 1:50 am

What Happens After the Lockdown?

BeerFartMoron writes: Recently there has been a proliferation of modeling work which has been used to make the point that if we can stay inside, practice extreme social distancing, and generally lock down nonessential parts of society for several months, then many deaths from COVID-19 can be prevented. But what happens after the lockdown? In an article studying the possible effects of heterogeneous measures, academics presented examples of epidemic trajectories for COVID-19 assuming no mitigations at all, or assuming extreme mitigations which are gradually lifted at 6 months, to resume normal levels at 1 year. "Unfortunately, extreme mitigation efforts which end (even gradually) reduce the number of deaths only by 1% or so; as the mitigation efforts let up, we still see a full-scale epidemic, since almost none of the population has developed immunity to the virus," writes Wesley Pegden, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. "There is a simple truth behind the problems with these modeling conclusions. The duration of containment efforts does not matter, if transmission rates return to normal when they end, and mortality rates have not improved. This is simply because as long as a large majority of the population remains uninfected, lifting containment measures will lead to an epidemic almost as large as would happen without having mitigations in place at all." "This is not to say that there are not good reasons to use mitigations as a delay tactic," Pegden adds. "For example, we may hope to use the months we buy with containment measures to improve hospital capacity, in the hopes of achieving a reduction in the mortality rate. We might even wish to use these months just to consider our options as a society and formulate a strategy." "But mitigations themselves are not saving lives in these scenarios; instead, it is what we do with the time that gives us an opportunity to improve the outcome of the epidemic."

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Posted on 1 April 2020 | 1:10 am

Marriott Discloses New Data Breach Impacting 5.2 Million Guests

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Marriott International said Tuesday that names, mailing addresses, loyalty account numbers and other personal information of an estimated 5.2 million guests may've been exposed in a data breach. This is the second major security incident to hit the hotel group in less than two years. Marriott said it spotted that an "unexpected amount" of guest information may've been accessed at the end of February using the login credentials of two employees at a franchise property. The hotel group said information exposed may include names, addresses, emails, phone numbers and birthdays as well as loyalty account details and information like room preferences. Marriott said the investigation is ongoing but that it doesn't believe credit card numbers, passport information or driver's license numbers were exposed. In 2018, Marriott announced that hackers compromised the reservation database for its Starwood division, exposing records of up to 383 million guests and more than 5 million passport numbers.

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Posted on 1 April 2020 | 12:30 am

Amazon Fires Worker Who Led Strike Over Virus

Chris Smalls, an Amazon fulfillment center employee, said the company fired him after he led a strike at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, over coronavirus safety conditions. "Taking action cost me my job," Smalls said Monday in a Bloomberg TV interview. "Because I tried to stand up for something that's right, the company decided to retaliate against me." Bloomberg reports: A group of workers at the Staten Island fulfillment center walked off the job Monday to demand Amazon close the facility for extended cleaning, the latest in a wave of virus-related protests. They say a number of their colleagues there were diagnosed with Covid-19. Organizers say more than 60 workers participated in the protest. In a statement Monday night, New York State Attorney General Letitia James called Smalls' firing "immoral and inhumane." James urged the National Labor Relations Board to investigate the incident and said her office "is considering all legal options" as well. Amazon confirmed it fired Smalls, saying he violated safety regulations, including failing to abide by a 14-day quarantine required after being exposed to an employee with a confirmed case of Covid-19. "Mr. Smalls received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines and putting the safety of others at risk," Amazon said in a statement. Smalls "was asked to remain home with pay for 14 days, which is a measure we're taking at sites around the world. Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came on site today, March 30, further putting the teams at risk." Smalls called the company's claim "ridiculous" and said he was being retaliated against for his activism. Federal law protects the right of employees to engage in collective action, including strikes, to protest working conditions.

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Posted on 31 March 2020 | 11:50 pm

Honda Bucks Industry Trend By Removing Touchscreen Controls

Honda has done what no other car maker is doing, and returned to analogue controls for some functions on the new Honda Jazz. Autocar reports: While most manufacturers are moving to touchscreen controls, identifying smartphone use as their inspiration - most recently seen in Audi's latest A3 - Honda has decided to reintroduce heating and air conditioning controls via a dial rather than touchscreen, as in the previous-generation Jazz. Jazz project leader Takeki Tanaka explained: "The reason is quite simple -- we wanted to minimize driver disruption for operation, in particular, for the heater and air conditioning. We changed it from touchscreen to dial operation, as we received customer feedback that it was difficult to operate intuitively. You had to look at the screen to change the heater seating, therefore, we changed it so one can operate it without looking, giving more confidence while driving."

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Posted on 31 March 2020 | 11:20 pm

D-Wave Makes Its Quantum Computers Free To Anyone Working On Coronavirus Crisis

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: D-Wave today made its quantum computers available for free to researchers and developers working on responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. D-Wave partners and customers Cineca, Denso, Forschungszentrum Julich, Kyocera, MDR, Menten AI, NEC, OTI Lumionics, QAR Lab at LMU Munich, Sigma-i, Tohoku University, and Volkswagen are also offering to help. They will provide access to their engineering teams with expertise on how to use quantum computers, formulate problems, and develop solutions. Quantum computing leverages qubits to perform computations that would be much more difficult, or simply not feasible, for a classical computer. Based in Burnaby, Canada, D-Wave was the first company to sell commercial quantum computers, which are built to use quantum annealing. D-Wave says the move to make access free is a response to a cross-industry request from the Canadian government for solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Free and unlimited commercial contract-level access to D-Wave's quantum computers is available in 35 countries across North America, Europe, and Asia via Leap, the company's quantum cloud service. Just last month, D-Wave debuted Leap 2, which includes a hybrid solver service and solves problems of up to 10,000 variables.

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Posted on 31 March 2020 | 10:50 pm

FCC Mandates Robocall-fighting Tech Be in Use By End of June 2021

The Federal Communications Commission voted Tuesday to finalize rules requiring phone companies to use the Shaken/Stir protocol to automatically block calls to fight illegal robocalls. The new rules mandate the use of the technology by all voice providers by the end of June of 2021. From a report: The rules come after Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law the Traced Act last year. The law, which makes Shaken/Stir compliance mandatory for all voice service providers, directed the FCC to develop rules within 18 months. The FCC has said previously that eliminating the wasted time and the nuisance caused by illegal scam robocalls could save the US economy $3 billion annually.

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Posted on 31 March 2020 | 10:10 pm

Xerox Ends Its Hostile Takeover Bid For HP

Xeros is pulling the plug on its hostile bid to buy larger rival HP (Warning: paywalled; alternative source) after the coronavirus pandemic undermined the copier maker's ability to pull off the debt-laden merger. The Wall Street Journal reports: Xerox said Tuesday it is ending both its more than $30 billion tender offer and a proxy fight to replace the printer and PC maker's board. Xerox concluded it is no longer prudent to pursue the deal given the public health crisis and resulting market swoon. The move puts the kibosh on one of the biggest mergers in the works and underscores the blow that the coronavirus has dealt to the world of deal making. It marks the end of a five-month-long offensive by Xerox, kicked off when its offer became public in early November after the two companies had earlier explored a combination quietly but failed to come to an agreement. HP has repeatedly rebuffed its rival since then, rejecting Xerox's latest cash-and-stock offer of $24 a share and an earlier one as insufficient and too risky given the amount of debt involved. Xerox's move to buy a company more than three times its size was always going to be a challenge, but at the outset the company was in a stronger position than it is today. It had cash coming in from the sale of its joint venture with Fujifilm and its stock had been rising as it continued to cut costs.

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Posted on 31 March 2020 | 9:50 pm

Why Do Matter Particles Come in Threes? A Physics Titan Weighs In.

Three progressively heavier copies of each type of matter particle exist, and no one knows why. A new paper by Steven Weinberg takes a stab at explaining the pattern. From a report: Electrons and two types of quarks, dubbed "up" and "down," mix in various ways to produce every atom in existence. But puzzlingly, this family of matter particles -- the up quark, down quark and electron -- is not the only one. Physicists have discovered that they make up the first of three successive "generations" of particles, each heavier than the last. The second- and third-generation particles transform into their lighter counterparts too quickly to form exotic cats, but they otherwise behave identically. It's as if the laws of nature were composed in triplicate. "We don't know why," said Heather Logan, a particle physicist at Carleton University. In the 1970s, when physicists first worked out the Standard Model of particle physics -- the still-reigning set of equations describing the known elementary particles and their interactions -- they sought some deep principle that would explain why three generations of each type of matter particle exist. No one cracked the code, and the question was largely set aside. Now, though, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg, one of the architects of the Standard Model, has revived the old puzzle. Weinberg, who is 86 and a professor at the University of Texas, Austin, argued in a recent paper in the journal Physical Review D that an intriguing pattern in the particles' masses could lead the way forward. "Weinberg's paper is a bit of lightning in the dark," said Anthony Zee, a theoretical physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "All of a sudden a titan in the field is suddenly working again on these problems." "I'm very happy to see that he thinks it's important to revisit this problem," said Mu-Chun Chen, a physicist at the University of California, Irvine. Many theorists are ready to give up, she said, but "we should still be optimistic."

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Posted on 31 March 2020 | 9:30 pm

HPE, Intel and Linux Foundation Team Up For Open Source Software for 5G Core

HPE announced on Tuesday it's working with Intel and the Linux Foundation on a new open source software project to help automate the roll out of 5G across multiple sites. From a report: The new partnership, which will be under the Linux Foundation umbrella, is called the Open Distributed Infrastructure Management Framework. The partnership represents HPE's move into the 5G core network space as it branches out from its enterprise roots. Other partners for the open source project include AMI, Apstra, IBM's Red Hat, Tech Mahindra and World Wide Technology. HPE will also introduce an enterprise offering, the HPE Open Distributed Infrastructure Management Resource Aggregator.

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Posted on 31 March 2020 | 8:49 pm

Zoom is Leaking Peoples' Email Addresses and Photos To Strangers

Popular video-conferencing Zoom is leaking personal information of at least thousands of users, including their email address and photo, and giving strangers the ability to attempt to start a video call with them through Zoom. From a report: The issue lies in Zoom's "Company Directory" setting, which automatically adds other people to a user's lists of contacts if they signed up with an email address that shares the same domain. This can make it easier to find a specific colleague to call when the domain belongs to an individual company. But multiple Zoom users say they signed up with personal email addresses, and Zoom pooled them together with thousands of other people as if they all worked for the same company, exposing their personal information to one another.

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Posted on 31 March 2020 | 8:01 pm

C.D.C. Weighs Advising Everyone To Wear a Mask

Widespread use of nonmedical masks could reduce community transmission. But recommending their broad use could also cause a run on the kind of masks that health care workers desperately need. From a report: Should healthy people be wearing masks when they're outside to protect themselves and others? Both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have repeatedly said that ordinary citizens do not need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. And as health care workers around the world face shortages of N95 masks and protective gear, public health officials have warned people not to hoard masks. But those official guidelines may be shifting. On Monday during the coronavirus task force briefing, President Trump was asked whether Americans should wear nonmedical masks. "That's certainly something we could discuss," he said. "It could be something like that for a limited period of time." Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., confirmed in an interview with National Public Radio on Monday that the agency was reviewing its guidelines on who should wear masks. Citing new data that shows high rates of transmission from people who are infected but show no symptoms, he said the guidance on mask wearing was "being critically re-reviewed, to see if there's potential additional value for individuals that are infected or individuals that may be asymptomatically infected." The coronavirus is probably three times as infectious as the flu, Dr. Redfield said.

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Posted on 31 March 2020 | 7:30 pm

Linux Mint 20 is 64-bit Only, Based on Ubuntu 20.04, and Named 'Ulyana'

An anonymous reader shares a report: Today, we learn some new details about the upcoming Linux Mint 20. While most of the newly revealed information is positive, there is one thing that is sure to upset many Linux Mint users. First things first, Linux Mint 20 will be based on the upcoming Ubuntu 20.04. This shouldn't come as a surprise, as Mint only uses Long Term Support versions of Ubuntu, and 20.04 will be an LTS. We also now know the name of Linux Mint 20. The Mint team always uses female names, and this time they chose "Ulyana." This is apparently a Russian name meaning "youthful." So far, all of the news is positive, so what exactly will upset some users? The Linux Mint developers are finally dropping 32-bit support and will only produce 64-bit ISOs.

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Posted on 31 March 2020 | 6:50 pm