Technology

Alien life may already exist in our galaxy

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Saturn’s moon Enceladus, Jupiter’s moon Europa, Pluto and its moon Charon, as well as the dwarf planet Ceres are potential homes for extra-terrestrials, scientists at University of Texas at San Antonio and the Southwest Research Institute claim.

It’s all down to a process called radioalysis, which experts believe could breed life across the universe.

All that’s needed is a rocky core and water molecules – something scientists reckon our solar system has plenty of.

The study found that a the rocky cores of some planets and moons emit radiation which break up water molecules and in turn feed microbial life.

Scientists conducted an experiment to predict how the radiation would affect interior oceans on planets like Pluto and Saturn’s moon Europa.

Alexis Bouquet, lead author said: “The physical and chemical processes that follow radiolysis release molecular hydrogen, which is a molecule of astrobiological interest.”

The radiation comes from elements like uranium, potassium and thorium – all of which are found in a group of rocky meteorites called chrondites.

Pluto, as well as Saturn and Jupiter’s moons, is made up of chrondite.

That means any ocean water permeating the porous rock of the core could be affected by radiolysis, producing molecular hydrogen and reactive oxygen compounds – the building blocks for life.

NASA seems pretty convinced that Europa has a big ocean on it, and is planning to send a spaceship there to search for alien life.

Lifeforms which have formed through radiolysis can be found closer to home.

Bouquet said that they have been found in extreme environments on Earth.

These include a groundwater sample found nearly two miles deep in a South African gold mine and at hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.

Their existence suggests microbes could be found where rock and ocean meet in planets like Enceladus or Europa.

“We know that these radioactive elements exist within icy bodies, but this is the first systematic look at the solar system to estimate radiolysis.

“The results suggest that there are many potential targets for exploration out there, and that’s exciting,” added co-author Dr Danielle Wyrick, a principal scientist in Southwest Research Institute’s Space Science and Engineering Division.

Radiolysis could also help create food for these aliens.

“Radiolysis in an ocean world’s outer core could be fundamental in supporting life. Because mixtures of water and rock are everywhere in the outer solar system, this insight increases the odds of abundant habitable real estate out there,” Bouquet said.

It’s just the latest discovery to delight UFO hunters.

Conspiracy theorists tongues were wagging after a mysterious star which could be home to alien life began flashing again last week.

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Google plans to track credit card spending so it knows when you are buying things in shops – as well as online

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Google has revealed “intrusive” new plans to track what we are buying in shops.

It will use credit and debit card information to prove that its online adverts can get shoppers to the till.

Determining how many sales are generated by digital advert campaigns has long been the “holy grail” among industry insiders.

Google has previously used web browsing, search history and geographic locations to see if an ad has been successful.

But adding transactions in shops to the mix could help Google show clients that buying advertising is a good idea.

Virgin Holidays said it has already benefited from tracking sales both on and offline.

It found that those who buy in store after clicking on a search advert are “three times more profitable than an online conversation”, which means that people who buy instore – but previously saw or clicked on a Google advert – spend more than people who just click through an advert to buy online.

It’s easy to forget that Google is primarily a massive advertising company that makes billions from our eyeballs.

But the new powers to track our offline spending has caused a stir with privacy advocates.

They claim that customers haven’t got the faintest idea that their transactions are being tracked, and more must be done to alert them.

“What’s really fascinating to me is that as the companies become increasingly intrusive in terms of their data collection, they also become more secretive,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center told the Washington Post.

The search giant said it is in partnership with companies who track 70 percent of all credit and debit card transactions in the United States.

It can merge this information with the data it owns which shows who has seen or clicked on an advert in that location.

Google said it puts user privacy first.

“While we developed the concept for this product years ago, it required years of effort to develop a solution that could meet our stringent user privacy requirements,” it said in a statement.

“To accomplish this, we developed a new, custom encryption technology that ensures users’ data remains private, secure, and anonymous.”

The UK government gave Google a slap on the wrist after it emerged adverts – footed by the British taxpayer – were appearing on terrorist propaganda YouTube clips.

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PCs can be hacked via video subtitle files, researchers say

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Researchers at Check Point Security Labs have uncovered a nasty new hacking technique that takes advantage security deficiencies in several popular media players. The exploit uses phony subtitle files to breach a user’s defenses, at which point it’s possible togain complete control over the system.

Hackers can apparently create malicious subtitle files that run code when they’re loaded into a media player, according to the report published by Check Point. The company estimates that hundreds of millions of users running software like VLC, Kodi, Popcorn Time, and Stremio could be at risk.

Subtitle files are generally perceived as being harmless, and as such they’re rarelyvetted too stringently by media players or antivirus software. The situation is made worse by the fact that there’s little standardization, with over 25 different formats with different features and capabilities currently in use.

Check Point has also determined that subtitle repositories are being manipulated to help distribute the malicious files to users. Subtitles submitted by attackers are having are being boosted in the rankings, making it more likely that they’ll be downloaded by users, and selected by media players that can download such files automatically.

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Having discovered these vulnerabilities, Check Point disclosed the problem to thedevelopers responsible for the media players that were tested. Some had already taken steps to address the issues, while others are still looking into the situation. As of the time of writing, VLC and Stremio have been officially updated with a fix, while a fixed version of Popcorn Time is available here, and a fixed source code release of Kodi is available here. There are still concerns that other media players might also be affected.

The key here is that subtitle files are being exploited becausethey’re widely considered to be innocuous. As soon as users and developers drop their guard, malicious hackers see their window of opportunity and that’s why the work done by organizations like Check Point is so important.

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Robot police officer goes on duty in Dubai

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Robot officer with Dubai Police's Brigadier Al RazooqiImage copyrightDubai Media Office

Dubai Police have revealed their first robot officer, giving it the task of patrolling the city’s malls and tourist attractions.

People will be able to use it to report crimes, pay fines and get information by tapping a touchscreen on its chest.

Data collected by the robot will also be shared with the transport and traffic authorities.

The government said the aim was for 25% of the force to be robotic by 2030 but they would not replace humans.

“We are not going to replace our police officers with this tool,” said Brig Khalid Al Razooqi, director general of smart services at Dubai Police.

“But with the number of people in Dubai increasing, we want to relocate police officers so they work in the right areas and can concentrate on providing a safe city.

Multi-lingual robot

“Most people visit police stations or customer service, but with this tool we can reach the public 24/7.

“It can protect people from crime because it can broadcast what is happening right away to our command and control centre.”

The robot, a customised Reem model from Pal Robotics, was unveiled at the Gulf Information and Security Expo and Conference on Sunday.

At present it can communicate only in Arabic and English, but there are plans to add Russian, Chinese, French and Spanish to its repertoire.

A second Reem robot could join it on patrol next year depending on funding, the government in Dubai said.

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Microsoft announces Xbox Game Pass is launching June 1

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Microsoft will soon start turning its attention to the launch of Project Scorpio, but for now, the focus is on boosting Xbox One sales as much as possible.

With that in mind, a new subscription service announced in February, which promises unlimited access to over 100 games, will officially launch on June 1.

Xbox Game Pass is meant to get more of us playing games regularly on the Xbox One, so in addition to requiring an Xbox One, Game Pass will cost $9.99 per month. In return, you’ll gain access to over 100 games from the Xbox One and Xbox 360 game libraries.

Rather than being streamed, each game you opt to play through the service will be downloaded to your Xbox hard drive and can be deleted and re-downloaded as often as you like provided there’s an active subscription.

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Microsoft is also promising to add new games to the service every month. If you want to buy one of the Game Pass games to keep permanently, expect a healthy discount to be applied to the purchase price.

Until now, we only knew Xbox Game Pass was launching in the spring, but clearly that didn’t happen. A short video posted on Facebook starring Danny McBride (watch it above) confirms a June 1 rollout. The subscription service will sit alongside Xbox Live Gold, which itself costs $60 per year (for a limited time, buy a 12-month Xbox Live digital code and get a 3-month Xbox Live digital code for free).

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.

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Serena Williams takes on new challenge in Silicon Valley

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Serena WilliamsImage copyrightAFP
Image caption The role is a big change for the tennis champion who is engaged to a tech entrepreneur

Tennis star Serena Williams has joined the board at technology firm SurveyMonkey and pledged to tackle the lack of diversity in the industry.

Ms Williams, who is due to marry Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, said she is disappointed that high-paid tech jobs are filled by white and Asian men.

It is unclear how she plans to address the issue.

Tech firms based in Silicon Valley have been accused of failing to deal with sexism and a lack of diversity.

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian are expecting their first child in the autumn

“I feel like diversity is something I speak to,” Williams said. “Change is always happening, change is always building. What is important to me is to be at the forefront of the change and to make it easier for the next person that comes behind me.”

At online polling service SurveyMonkey only 27% of technology jobs are filled by women and just 14% of those on its payroll are African Americans.

According to a 2016 survey, 60% of women working in Silicon Valley experience unwanted sexual advances and there have been several high-profile lawsuits, including one brought by former Reddit chief executive Ellen Pao.

Uber also hit the headlines recently after a female engineer said misogyny was rife at the firm.

Anne-Marie Imafidon is one of the UK’s leading campaigners for getting more girls and women into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. She thinks the appointment is a good one.

“As a black woman, it is refreshing to see such a public figure take on this role. The celeb factor could be a good one and someone like her can change the social norm,” she said.

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Apple is testing next-gen 5G wireless tech for the iPhone

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No matter how many iPhones Apple sells in a given quarter, it never seems to be enough for some analysts and tech pundits. Even in instances where iPhone sales exceed expectations, the narrative that we’ve reached peak iPhone inevitably begins to take hold. The prospect for accelerated iPhone growth, however, is higher now than it’s been in quite some time. Not only is the iPhone 8 release looming on the horizon, but people seem to be forgetting that we’re about to jump head-first into a hyper-fast world of 5G connectivity, and Apple is already keen on getting in on the action.

On Tuesday afternoon, Apple applied for an experimental license from the FCC to test next-gen 5G wireless technologies, according to a recent report from Business Insider. Apple’s application reads in part:

Apple Inc. seeks to assess cellular link performance in direct path and multipath environments between base station transmitters and receivers using this spectrum

These assessments will provide engineering data relevant to the operation of devices on wireless carriers’ future 5G networks.

Apple indicates that it plans to test 5G technologies in two locations in controlled facilities, one in Cupertino and another in Milpitas, California. Apple also relays that it plans to use the 28 and 39 GHz bands via technology provided by Rohde & Schwarz, A.H. Systems, and Analog Devices.

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Apple’s application also notes that it “will conduct its experiments for a period not to exceed 12 months.” Consequently, it stands to reason that the 2019 iPhone 9 will be the first iPhone Apple bestows with 5G connectivity.

Incidentally, AT&T just a few months ago said that it will begin rolling out its own 5G network to a few lucky cities later this year. Of course, if there’s one thing we know about Apple, it will have no problem delaying the release of a 5G iPhone until overall 5G coverage becomes commonplace.

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Meet Stan, a robot that can pick up your car and park it for you

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Stan is a robot that makes the process of parking your car a whole lot easier. Because it does it for you.

Built by French firm Stanley Robotics, the clever wheel-based contraption takes your vehicle off youat the parking lot entrance before transportingit to an available space.

You can hold on to your car keys, too, because electric-powered Stan carefully lifts your vehicle a short distance off the ground before tootling off to set it down again in the appropriate spot.

A smartphone app lets you book ahead and also notify Stan of when you’ll be coming to collect your car, so when you returnyou’ll be able to drive off straight from the entrance.To maximize efficiency and ensure no one is ever kept waiting, multiple Stans could operate at a single parking lot.

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Stanley Robotics was founded in 2015 and recently received a multi-million-dollar cash injection to further refine its autonomous parking valet, though the system is already up and running at Charles de Gaulle airport inParis.

Indeed, airport parking is perfect for Stan, and can help to reduce stress for drivers not only when they’re rushing to catch a flight, but alsowhen they return from their trip and want to get home as quickly as possible.

Apart from taking away the hassle of trying to find somewhere to park, another of thesystem’s notable advantages is that it can save huge amounts of space by double-parking vehicles because it knows exactly when the owner is going to return.

Check out the video above to see how Stan could utterly transform existing airport parking lots, using the available space much more efficiently while offering a quick and easy service for arriving and departing drivers. We just hope airports don’t use Stan as an excuse to start charging the same as they do for regularvalet parking.

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Blind boy thanks Nintendo for making a video game just for him

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Despite having the unfortunate handicap of being blind, a fifth-grader in Japan sent a letter to Nintendo thanking them for making the video game series “Rhythm Heaven,” allowing him to play video games.

Hibiki Sakai, who as a baby received surgery to remove his eyes from cancer retinoblastoma, wrote a letter to the Japanese video game giant, saying the series let him practice his musical skills.

“I cannot see with my eyes, but I have always wanted to play games, just like everybody else,” he wrote in the letter, first seen by Buzzfeed. “There were hardly any games I could play. The only game I could actually play was ‘Rhythm Heaven.’ I was able to enjoy only this game with others, and no one could beat me in this game.”

NINTENDO MAY LAUNCH SUPER NINTENDO MINI FOR CHRISTMAS, REPORTS SAY

Sakai asked the maker of Mario to produce an updated version of the game so that blind children could enjoy it as much as he has.

“I strongly hope you keep making ‘Rhythm Heaven’ going forward,” he wrote. “I can handle it, even if you made it a little bit harder!! I am sure that there are many visually impaired kids besides me who want to but cannot play games. That is why I hope you develop games that people with physical disabilities can enjoy with other people. I will continue to support Nintendo.”

In a touching manner, Nintendo responded, saying they were “extremely happy” to hear Sakai enjoyed the “Rhythem Heaven” series.

全盲の長男が唯一楽しめる#リズム天国

シリーズを全てパーフェクトでクリアした長男が#任天堂

さんへ手紙を書いた所、返信の手紙が‼️たった1人の為に誠実に対応でまさに神対応です✨

任天堂さん、全シリーズ音楽監修のつんくさん是非とも新作をお待ちしてます🙇#nintendopic.twitter.com/LPOLfboJIT

— けんたろー (@kentarock1020) May 17, 2017

“Hibiki, your letter will be shared with our game developing team,” Nintendo wrote in the letter. “We will keep doing our best to create games that everyone can have fun with. We hope you will keep supporting us.”

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Which SD Memory Card Do You Need for Your Digital Camera?

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Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website.

If you bought a digital camera in the past decade, chances are it stores its images on an SD—short for Secure Digital—memory card. At first glance, these postage-stamp-sized devices don’t appear to have changed much over the years. But cameras have changed a lot, and SD cards are now faster and can hold more data than those from just a few years ago.

“Video has been the driving force in the demand for more capacity on memory cards,” says Brian Pridgeon, director of consumer marketing at Western Digital, parent company of SanDisk, which makes many different types of memory cards.

A decade ago, for example, an 8GB memory card would have cost about $100. Today, you can buy a 128GB card—with 16 times the capacity—for about the same price. Or buy a 32GB card that’s four times the size for as little as $10.

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Video-Driven Innovation

Memory cards have been changing in others ways, due partly to shifting standards, particularly in terms of video capture. Before you buy a new memory card you’ll need to consider how much video you’ll be shooting, and in what format—HD or memory-intensive 4K.

The first step is to figure out what card format your camera or smartphone accepts, which can usually be found in the owner’s manual or on the manufacturer’s website.

There are three SD formats: SDXC, SDHC, and SD. If you shoot video, you’ll most likely need an SDXC card, which is the newest type and has a maximum capacity of 2TB—which is huge.

SDHC cards have a capacity ranging between 2GB and 32GB—bigger is better if you’re shooting video. SD is the oldest format and has a maximum capacity of just 2GB, so it’s primarily used for still photos.

Some devices, such as smartphones and tablets, use smaller Micro SD cards for storage. These tiny cards usually come with an adapter that allow them to be used in devices that take full-sized SD cards. The same specs apply to these cards as to their larger brethren.

Though you can buy SD cards in the drugstore or even a supermarket, you’re likely to get a better value and selection if you shop at a camera shop or an electronics store. If you’re not sure which card you need, you might bring your device with you when you shop.

If you’re shopping online, beware of counterfeits. Some consumers have been fooled into what seemed like a great deal on a fast 32GB card only to find out that it was a re-labeled 8GB card that just didn’t work. If you’re ordering from Amazon, protect yourself by making sure the product is shipping directly from the manufacturer rather than from a potentially sketchy third-party vendor.

Full to Capacity

To find out how a pro shooter uses memory cards, I asked Michael Rubenstein, an editorial and advertising photographer based in New York. He suggests that consumers should first focus on capacity: “For most people, a 32GB or 64GB memory card should be just fine,” he says. A midsized card should be able to capture hundreds, even thousands of photos, and scores of video clips.

However, if you shoot with an SLR or mirrorless camera and you want to shoot RAW files, which can yield the best quality images but are larger in size than JPEGs, you’ll either need to buy a larger card or several smaller ones and be ready to swap them as they fill up.

If you shoot video, you can run up against real-world storage limits that could affect your shooting. For example, you can capture 80 minutes of HD video on a 32GB card, but that same card can hold roughly a quarter of that—about 20 minutes—if you shoot 4K (or ultra HD resolution) video.

The Need for Speed

Because some of today’s most sophisticated still cameras, like the Sony a9, can fire off up to 20 frames per second, manufacturers have increased the speed of newer memory cards. “The higher the megabytes per second (MB/s), the faster the card will be,” Pridgeon says.

Card speed is made up of two components: write speed and read speed. Write speed determines how quickly the card can capture and transfer an image or video file from the camera to the card. High write speeds can be helpful if you have an advanced camera that can fire off many frames at one time.

“A lot of SLRs and mirrorless models now can shoot in burst mode, which means when you hold the shutter down, it’ll capture as many images as possible,” Pridgeon says. He explains that all of those frames are first temporarily stored in the camera’s internal memory, known as a buffer. The camera then writes the data from those photos on to the memory card. But a camera that’s shooting in burst mode needs to transfer this data very quickly and efficiently, which is why having a fast card is important. “The card needs a fast write speed in order to keep that buffer from jamming up,” he says.

Read speed is the second component of card speed. “This spec, which is also measured in megabytes per second, refers to how quickly you can offload the content off your card on to your computer or other device,” Pridgeon says. The fastest memory cards have maximum write speeds up to 260 MB/s and read speeds up to 300 MB/s.

You won’t always see both figures listed, and sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart. Check the product website for both speeds before you make your purchase.

The Right Specs for Great Video

If you’re shooting video, you also need to consider a card’s sustained speed. But the problem is that there are three different specs that more or less mean the same thing. “This is confusing,” Pridgeon says. “But if you’re shooting HD video, you need at least 6 MB/s.” If you shoot with a slower card, your video quality will be compromised, if it records at all.

Despite the hard-to-decipher specs, here’s what consumers need to know to shoot either HD or 4K video:

  • If you’re shooting HD-resolution video, your memory card should be at least a Class 10, U1, or V10—all of these have a minimum sustained speed of 10 MB/s.
  • If you’re shooting 4K-resolution video, your memory card should be at least U3 or V30. Both of these have a minimum sustained speed of 30 MB/s.

Check the Card’s Warranty

If you’re looking to buy a new memory card for your older digital camera, check the device’s documentation to see what type of memory card it accepts. Although newer SD cards are backward compatible, they may be limited by the camera’s capabilities.

That means you might not be able to access all of the storage capacity on the card. For example, if you insert a 128GB SDXC-type memory card into an older camera, it may allow you to use only 32GB of storage.

Last, check your card’s warranty. For a pro shooter like Rubenstein, this is essential. “Most decent memory card manufacturers guarantee their cards for a long time. Some for life,” he says. “If they break, send them back, and they will send you new ones. I do it all the time.”

However, if your cards do break, in most cases you’ll be unable to recover the data from them. That’s why it’s important to back up your images frequently, even if you have a big SD card in your camera.

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