A Controversial Autism Treatment Is About To Become a Very Big Business (vice.com) 141

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: At Duke University's Marcus Center for Cellular Cures, parents can enroll their children into a number of clinical trials that aim to study the effects of cells derived from umbilical cord blood on treating the effects of autism and brain injuries; adults can also participate in a trial testing whether cord blood can help them recover from ischemic strokes. And when parents can't get their children into any of these clinical trials, particularly for autism, they often opt for what's called the Expanded Access Program (EAP), in which they pay between $10,000 and $15,000 to get their kids a single infusion. All of the trials use products derived from human umbilical cord blood, which is a source of stem cells as well as other types of cells. The autism trials are using a type of immune cells called monocytes, according to Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, a well-respected Duke professor who's conducting clinical trials into whether cord blood can help with autism, and who has been researching stem cells since the early '90s. (On ClinicalTrials.gov, however, these trials are listed as using mesenchymal stromal cells, which are a completely different type of cord blood cell.)

Now, a for-profit company called Cryo-Cell International with ties to Duke researchers has indicated that it plans to open clinics promoting these treatments, under a licensing agreement with the renowned North Carolina university. In their investor presentation, Cryo-Cell said they plan to become "an autonomous, vertically integrated cellular therapy company that will treat patients." Duke and Cryo-Cell's rush to monetize a procedure before it's shown to have solid benefits has created concern, though, across the community of scientists, clinicians, and medical ethicists who study autism treatments. The hope is that these cord blood infusions can improve some autism symptoms, like socialization and language, or decrease the inflammation that some parents and clinicians think might exacerbate autism symptoms. Early study results, however, haven't been very promising.

A large randomized clinical trial, the results of which were released in May 2020, showed that a single infusion of cord blood was not, in the words of the researchers, "associated with improved socialization skills or reduced autism symptoms." This is why Duke's latest move comes as such a surprise: The university and Cryo-Cell have told investors that they're planning to open a series of "infusion centers." At these clinics, Cryo-Cell will use Duke's technology and methods to offer cord blood treatments for $15,000 per infusion. In an exuberant presentation for investors (PDF), Cryo-Cell said it estimates an annual revenue of $24 million per clinic; it hasn't disclosed how many clinics it plans to open. At least one will reportedly open in Durham, North Carolina. The move follows a June 2020 announcement that Cryo-Cell had entered into an exclusive patent-option agreement with Duke, allowing it to manufacture and sell products based on patents from Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg.

The Courts

GitHub Removes GTA Fan Projects re3 and reVC Following New Take-Two DMCA Notice (torrentfreak.com) 51

After Take-Two Interactive sent a legal letter to Github referencing a copyright infringement lawsuit against the people behind the popular re3 and reVC Grand Theft Auto fan projects, Github has now removed the repositories for a second time. Take-Two has also demanded the removal of many project forks and wants Github to take action under its repeat infringer policy. TorrentFreak reports: Just before the weekend, a new entry in Github's DMCA repository revealed the existence of a letter (PDF) sent to Github from Take-Two's legal team. Dated September 9, 2021 (a week after the copyright lawsuit was filed) it informs Github that legal action is underway and it has come to the company's attention that the contentious content (and numerous 'fork' repositories) continue to be made available on Github's website. "We request that Github take expeditious action to remove or disable access to the materials [in the attached exhibit], together with any other instances of the same materials available within the same primary 'GTAmodding/re3' fork network (e.g. in 'private' or newly-created repositories)," it reads.

In common with the first DMCA notice, Github has responded by taking the project's repositories down. Given that the defendants in the case already stand accused of previously sending 'bad faith' counter-notices, it seems unlikely that they will follow up with another set of similar responses that will soon be under the scrutiny of the court. Take-Two also follows up with a line that is becoming more and more popular in copyright infringement matters, one that references so-called 'repeat infringers.' "Furthermore, it is requested that Github take appropriate measures to prevent further infringement by the parties responsible, including pursuant to any 'repeat infringer' policies maintained by Github."

This means that if any of the contentious content is reposted to Github, Take-Two would like the code repository to implement its own 'repeat infringer' process. It states that "in appropriate circumstances and in its sole discretion, [Github will] disable and terminate the accounts of users who may infringe upon the copyrights or other intellectual property rights of GitHub or others." The letter also provides a laundry list of repository forks that, on the basis they are also infringing, should be removed. While Github appears to have complied in many cases, there are two notable exceptions. After being targeted by earlier DMCA takedowns, Github users 'td512' and 'erorcun' filed DMCA counter-notices to have their repositories restored. The former previously informed TorrentFreak that he believed Take-Two's infringement claims to be incorrect. At the time of writing, both repos are still online.


Google Maps Can Now Show You the Most Fuel-Efficient Route (fastcompany.com) 56

Google has introduced a number of new "eco-friendly routing" tools to Google Maps, including the ability to view the route that's most fuel-efficient, and how much you can save on fuel with a slight detour. Here's a list of the new features rolling out for consumers, as reported by Fast Company: 1.) When you search for flights on Google, you'll see the CO2 emissions for each flight, with green badges for the lowest-footprint options. The tool also calculates emissions per seat; first-class seats have a larger footprint since they take up more of the plane.
2.) If you search for appliances like furnaces in the U.S., you'll now see suggestions in Google's Shopping tab for the most cost-effective and sustainable options.
3.) Google Finance now shows sustainability scores for companies, based on data from the nonprofit CDP, and the tool will soon also include a sustainability score for your whole portfolio.
4.) If you search for hotels, you'll see information about the sustainability of different hotels.
5.) In cities that offer bike navigation directions, a new "lite navigation" option will soon be available that lets cyclists easily see their progress, ETA updates, and elevation along the route without having to leave their screen on continuously.
6.) Information about bike and scooter share locations will expand to 300 cities around the world.
7.) Nest is offering a new service that will let you shift heating and cooling to the times that the grid is cleanest or the energy is least expensive. Another option will let consumers buy renewable energy credits for the energy they're using at home.
8.) In new pilots in Israel and Brazil, Google is testing the use of AI to optimize traffic lights. In early results, the intervention saves fuel use (and time, waiting at lights) by 10% to 20%.


Microsoft Shares Windows 11 TPM Check Bypass For Unsupported PCs (bleepingcomputer.com) 74

Microsoft has published a new support webpage where they provide an official method to bypass the TPM 2.0 and CPU checks (TPM 1.2 is still required) and have Windows 11 installed on unsupported systems. Bleeping Computer reports: [I]t looks like Microsoft couldn't ignore the fact that bypassing TPM checks is fairly simple, so to avoid having people breaking their systems by using non-standardized third-party scripts, they decided to just give users an official way to do it. Installing Windows 11 on unsupported hardware comes with some pitfalls that users must be aware of, and in some cases, agree to before the operating system will install. "Your device might malfunction due to these compatibility or other issues. Devices that do not meet these system requirement will no longer be guaranteed to receive updates, including but not limited to security updates," Microsoft explains in a new support bulletin. [Y]ou will still require a TPM 1.2 security processor, which many will not likely have. If you are missing a TPM 1.2 processor, you can bypass all TPM checks by using this script that deletes appraiser.dll during setup. To use the new AllowUpgradesWithUnsupportedTPMOrCPU bypass to install Windows 11 on devices, Microsoft instructs you to perform the following steps:

1. Please read all of these instructions before continuing. 2. Visit the Windows 11 software download page, select "Create tool now," and follow the installation instructions to create a bootable media or download an ISO. 3. On Windows, click 'Start', type 'Registry Editor' and click on the icon to launch the tool. 4. Navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\Setup\MoSetup Registry key and create a new "REG_DWORD" value named "AllowUpgradesWithUnsupportedTPMOrCPU" and set it to "1". Alternatively, you can download a premade Registry file that you can double-click on and merge it to create the above value for you. 5. Reboot your system

Having done all that, you may now upgrade to Windows 11 by double-clicking on the downloaded ISO file and running Setup.exe or by using the bootable Windows 11 media you created in Step 1. Microsoft states that standard installation options such as 'Full Upgrade', 'Keep Data Only', and 'Clean Install', will all be available as usual.


A Blank Wall Can Show How Many People Are in a Room and What They're Doing (scientificamerican.com) 23

Stare at a blank wall in any room, and you are unlikely to learn much more than the paint color. But a new technology can inconspicuously scan the same surface for shadows and reflections imperceptible to the human eye, then analyze them to determine details, including how many people are in the room -- and what they are doing. From a report: This could be used to spy on activity from around a corner, learn more from a partial view of a space or watch someone avoiding a camera's line of sight. As people move around a room, their bodies block a portion of any available light to create subtle and indistinct "soft shadows" on walls. Brightly colored clothing can cast a dim, reflected glow. But these faint signals are usually drowned out by ambient light from a main source. "If we could do something like subtracting this ambient term from whatever we are observing, then you would just be left with camera noise -- and signal," says Prafull Sharma, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sharma and other M.I.T. researchers isolated that ambient term by filming a wall in a room as its occupants moved around and averaging the frames over time.

This eliminated the shifting shadows cast by the humans, leaving only the light from the main source, plus shadows from furniture or other stationary objects. Then the researchers removed this term from the video in real time, revealing moving shadows on the wall. Next, Sharma's team recorded blank walls in several more rooms in which the researchers enacted various scenarios and activities. Groups of one or two people moved around outside the camera's view. Others crouched, jumped or waved their arms. Then the team fed the videos into a machine-learning model to teach it which soft shadow patterns indicated which behavior. The resulting system can automatically analyze footage of a blank wall in any room in real time, determining the number of people and their actions. The work was accepted as an oral presentation at the 2021 International Conference on Computer Vision in October. Although this system can function without calibration in any room, it performs poorly in dim lighting or in the presence of a flickering light source such as a television.


Apple Says Apps Must Offer a Way To Delete Your Account Starting In Early 2022 (engadget.com) 23

Apple says that as of January 31st, 2022, all applications will need to offer people a method of deleting their accounts. This applies to all iOS, iPadOS and macOS apps. Engadget reports: The company announced this requirement alongside other App Store guideline changes at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in June as part of a push to give users more control over their data. As The Verge notes, Apple is only requiring developers to let people "initiate deletion of their account from within the app," so apps might send you to a website or even a chat with an agent before you can actually close your account.

China PCR Purchases Spiked In Months Before First Known Covid Cases, Firm Says (bloomberg.com) 219

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The Chinese province that was the initial epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak made significant purchases of equipment used to test for infectious diseases months before Beijing notified international authorities of the emergence of a new coronavirus, according to research by a cybersecurity company. The province's purchase of polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, testing equipment, which allows scientists to amplify DNA samples to test for infectious disease or other genetic material, shot upward in 2019, with most of the increase coming in the second half of the year, the Australian-U.S. firm Internet 2.0 found. Hubei province is home to Wuhan, the large Chinese city where the first known cases of the virus emerged. The World Health Organization reported that its China Country Office was informed on Dec. 31, 2019, that cases of pneumonia from an unknown cause had been detected in the city.

Based on the research, Internet 2.0 concluded with "high confidence that the pandemic began much earlier than China informed the WHO about Covid-19," according to the report. The cybersecurity firm, which specializes in digital forensics and intelligence analysis, called for further investigation. But several medical experts said the Internet 2.0 report wasn't enough information to draw such conclusions. For one thing, PCR testing, which has been in broad use for several decades, has been been growing in popularity as it has become a standard method to test for pathogens, according to one of the experts. In addition, PCR equipment is widely used in laboratories to test for many other pathogens beside Covid-19, including in animals, and is commonly found in modern hospitals and labs. China was also dealing with an outbreak of African swine fever across the country in 2019.


Windows 11 Might Tank Ryzen CPU Performance, AMD Warns (pcworld.com) 54

AMD said Windows 11 can cut game performance on Ryzen CPUs by 10 to 15 percent, and the operating system may not utilize AMD's "preferred core" technology, but a fix is in the works. PCWorld reports: A support note on AMD's web site published this week said Windows 11 may increase L3 cache latency a whopping threefold, which can cause slowdowns in latency sensitive applications. Lighter duty, cache-sensitive games might see a 3 percent to 5 percent hit, and lighter-duty games as e-sports titles could see frame rates drop from 10 to 15 percent. AMD also said its "preferred core" feature, which tells the operating system which core in each CPU can hit the highest clock, also doesn't work right in Windows 11. Each CPU is tested to see which core will run the fastest at the factory and is marked so the OS will dispatch tasks to that "preferred core." Since Windows 11 doesn't seem to work with it right now, any performance bump from using the best core wouldn't happen. The company said the performance cost would be most noticeable in CPUs with more than 8 cores and with TDP ratings above 65 watts.

European Parliament Calls For a Ban On Facial Recognition (politico.eu) 28

The European Parliament today called for a ban on police use of facial recognition technology in public places, and on predictive policing, a controversial practice that involves using AI tools in hopes of profiling potential criminals before a crime is even committed. Politico reports: In a resolution adopted overwhelmingly in favor, MEPs also asked for a ban on private facial recognition databases, like the ones used by the controversial company Clearview AI. The Parliament also supports the European Commission's attempt in its AI bill to ban social scoring systems, such as the ones launched by China that rate citizens' trustworthiness based on their behavior.

The non-biding resolution sends a strong signal on how the Parliament is likely to vote in upcoming negotiations of the AI Act. The European Commission's proposal of the bill restricts the use of remote biometric identification -- including facial recognition technology -- in public places unless it is to fight "serious" crime, such as kidnappings and terrorism. The AI Act's lead negotiator, Brando Benifei and almost all of his co-negotiators from other political groups in the Parliament have called for a blanket ban on facial recognition. This is in stark contrast to policies implemented in some EU member countries, who are keen to use these technologies to bolster their security apparatuses.


Navy Facebook Account Hacked To Stream 'Age of Empires' (vice.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The U.S. Navy has lost control of the official Facebook page for its destroyer-class warship, the USS Kidd. Someone has hacked the page and, for the past two days, done nothing but stream Age of Empires. The first stream went on for four hours. As first reported by Task & Purpose, the USS Kidd lost control of its Facebook account at 10:26 p.m. on October 3. The destroyer class warship then streamed Age of Empires for four hours under the headline "Hahahahaha." It's since streamed Age of Empires five more times, each time for at least an hour. Whoever is playing sucks, because they never make it past the Stone Age. As of this writing, the six videos are still up and watchable. The Navy confirmed to Task & Purpose that it had been hacked, adding: "We are currently working with Facebook technical support to resolve the issue."

Earth Is Getting Dimmer (gizmodo.com) 40

Earth is losing some of its glow, a study published in Geophysical Research Letters last week shows. It appears climate change and a natural climate shift have essentially scuffed up our planet. From a report: The study takes a look at earthshine, or the light reflected from the planet that casts a faint light on the surface of the Moon. It's also known as the Da Vinci Glow, because Leonardo da Vinci was the first person to formally write about it. Research has advanced quite a bit since da Vinci's writing 500 years ago, and the new findings use two decades of earthshine data collected at Big Bear Solar Observatory using a special type of telescope to view the Moon. The best time to observe earthshine is when the Moon is waxing or waning. Look at the Moon then, and you may be able to make out a faint outline of the whole Moon in addition to the sliver brightly illuminated by the Sun. That ghostly outline is thanks to earthshine, caused by the sunlight reflecting off our planet.

The observatory is perfectly situated to measure earthshine for 40% of the planet, spanning the Pacific and parts of North America. Analyzing the data for roughly 800 nights between 1998 and 2017 showed a small but significant decline in earthshine. There were some year-to-year shifts, but the paper notes that those are "quite muted, with a long-term decline dominating the time series." The scientists used satellite data to gauge what drove the dimming. Land, ice, clouds, and open ocean all have different levels of reflectivity that contribute to earthshine. (The reflectivity of different surfaces is also referred to as albedo.) The findings point to the disappearance of clouds in the tropical Pacific as the culprit in dulling Earth's shine. "The albedo drop was such a surprise to us when we analyzed the last three years of data after 17 years of nearly flat albedo," said Philip Goode, a researcher at New Jersey Institute of Technology and the lead author of the report, in a statement.


US Presses Crypto Exchanges To Block Ransomware Profits (bloomberg.com) 28

The Justice Department is creating a new team to investigate and prevent hackers from using cryptocurrency exchanges to remain anonymous while extorting money from victims of their attacks, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said Wednesday. From a report: The main goal of the new enforcement team is to take down the infrastructure and "criminal supply chain" that allows hackers to carry out ransomware attacks in which victims' data is frozen until they pay a ransom, Monaco said. "Cryptocurrency exchanges want to be the banks of the future," Monaco told the Aspen Cyber Summit. "We need to make sure that folks can have confidence when they use these systems."

Cold Case Team Says It Has Identified the Zodiac Killer (thehill.com) 45

A team of more than 40 specialists believes that they have identified the Zodiac Killer, an unnamed serial murderer who operated in the San Fransisco Bay area in the 1960s. From a report: The Case Breakers, a team consisting of former law enforcement investigators, journalists and military intelligence officers, said in a press release that they believe they have identified the Zodiac Killer as Gary Francis Poste, who died in 2018. The Zodiac Killer has been connected to five murders between 1968 and 1969. The killer notably taunted authorities through complex riddles and ciphers sent to media and police during the investigations. The Case Breakers say they identified Poste as the killer after uncovering forensic evidence and photos from Poste's darkroom. The team said a few images featured in the press release show scars on his forehead that similarly matches scars on a sketch of the Zodiac. Jen Bucholtz, a former Army counterintelligence agent who works on cold cases, said the team also found deciphered letters sent by the Zodiac that revealed Poste as the killer, according to Fox News. "So you've got to know Gary's full name in order to decipher these anagrams," she said. "I just don't think there's any other way anybody would have figured it out."

How Downdetector Has Become Go-To Site for Online Disruptions (bloomberg.com) 26

An anonymous reader shares a report: When Facebook's platforms went down early on Oct. 4, the online tracker Downdetector was among the first places users looked to find out what was happening. Downdetector, which uses crowdsourcing to track outages, recognized Facebook's problems were dramatically different than a typical outage. Its system automatically released a notification, including a tweet, informing the internet of the disruption. The outage was among the biggest ever declared by Downdetector, said Luke Deryckx, chief technology officer at closely held Ookla LLC, the Seattle-based company that owns it. "Downdetector is a vehicle for users to report their experience," he said, adding that the company crowdsources "users' relationship with the internet." "In this case, we'd received a clear and almost instantaneous signal that there was a Facebook-related outage."

The idea of Downdetector was born over drinks at a bar in Haarlem, a city in the Netherlands, in February 2012. Tom Sanders and Sander van de Graaf were both working at IDG Communications Inc., the media publisher of magazines including CIO and Computerworld. Van de Graaf was a developer, and Sanders was the editor in chief. Readers would often call the newsroom to report an online outage at a company or service provider, but the reporters would often get no response -- or have to wait hours -- when they called to ask about the disruption. "We thought, wouldn't there be ways to automate this so we didn't have to check with the press office and we could get the data directly ourselves?" Van de Graaf said.


Twitch Source Code and Business Data Leaked (therecord.media) 66

An unknown individual has leaked the source code and business data of video streaming platform Twitch via a torrent file posted on the 4chan discussion board earlier today. From a report: The leaker said they shared the data as a response to the recent "hate raids" --coordinated bot attacks posting hateful and abusive content in Twitch chats -- that have plagued the platform's top streamers over the summer. "Their community is [...] a disgusting toxic cesspool, so to foster more disruption and competition in the online video streaming space, we have completely pwned them, and in part one, are releasing the source code from almost 6,000 internal Git repositories," the leaker said earlier today. The leaker claims that the leak contains the "entirety of twitch.tv, with commit history going back to its early beginnings, mobile, desktop and video game console Twitch clients, various proprietary SDKs and internal AWS services used by Twitch, every other property that Twitch owns including IGDB and CurseForge, an unreleased Steam competitor from Amazon Game Studios, and Twitch SOC internal red teaming tools."

Twitch has confirmed the breach. In a tweet it said, "We can confirm a breach has taken place. Our teams are working with urgency to understand the extent of this. We will update the community as soon as additional information is available."

Historic Go-ahead for Malaria Vaccine To Protect African Children (bbc.com) 67

Children across much of Africa are to be vaccinated against malaria in a historic moment in the fight against the deadly disease. From a report: Malaria has been one of the biggest scourges on humanity for millennia and mostly kills babies and infants. Having a vaccine -- after more than a century of trying -- is among medicine's greatest achievements. The vaccine -- called RTS,S -- was proven effective six years ago. Now, after the success of pilot immunisation programmes in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, the World Health Organization says the vaccine should be rolled out across sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO said it was "a historic moment." "The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control." Using the vaccine on top of existing tools "could save tens of thousands of young lives each year," he said.
The Media

Russia Tells Its Space Reporters To Stop Reporting On the Space Program (arstechnica.com) 54

FallOutBoyTonto writes: It is safe to say that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not a fan of independent media. In the run-up to elections last month, Putin declared almost every independent media organization operating inside the country a "foreign agent" to stifle dissent and criticism. The intent seems to be to destroy independent media in Russia.

Now, this campaign has been extended to coverage of space activities in Russia. The country already prohibits reporting on space activities containing classified information, but a new law extends to coverage of a variety of other space news. Essentially, any person in Russia who now reports on anything that might be even tangentially related to Russia's military activities or space activities will be labeled as a foreign agent.


Google To Invest $1 Billion in Africa Over Five Years (reuters.com) 39

Google plans to invest $1 billion in Africa over the next five years to ensure access to fast and cheaper internet and will back startups to support the continent's digital transformation, it said on Wednesday. From a report: The unit of U.S. tech company Alphabet made the announcement at a virtual event where it launched an Africa Investment Fund, through which it will invest $50 million in startups, providing them with access to its employees, network and technologies. Nitin Gajria, managing director for Google in Africa told Reuters in a virtual interview that the company would among others, target startups focusing on fintech, e-commerce and local language content. "We are looking at areas that may have some strategic overlap with Google and where Google could potentially add value in partnering with some of these startups," Gajria said. In collaboration with not-for-profit organisation Kiva, Google will also provide $10 million in low interest loans to help small businesses and entrepreneurs in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa so they can get through the economic hardship created by COVID-19.

Apple To Face EU Antitrust Charge Over NFC Chip (reuters.com) 63

Apple will be hit with an EU antitrust charge over its NFC chip technology -- Reuters reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter -- a move that puts it at risk of a possible hefty fine and could force it to open its mobile payment system to rivals. From a report: The iPhone maker has been in European Union antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager's crosshairs since June last year when she launched an investigation into Apple Pay. Preliminary concerns were Apple's NFC chip which enables tap-and-go payments on iPhones, its terms and conditions on how mobile payment service Apple Pay should be used in merchants' apps and websites, and the company's refusal to allow rivals access to the payment system. The European Commission has since narrowed its focus to just the NFC chip, which can only be accessed by Apple Pay, one of the sources said.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded To Scientists for Creating a Tool To Build Molecules (nytimes.com) 22

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded on Wednesday to Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan for their development of a new tool to build molecules, work that has spurred advances in pharmaceutical research and lessened the impact of chemistry on the environment. From a report: Their work, while unseen by consumers, is an essential part in many leading industries and is crucial for research. Chemists are among those tasked with constructing molecules that can form elastic and durable materials, store energy in batteries or inhibit the progression of diseases. But that work requires catalysts, which are substances that control and accelerate chemical reactions without becoming part of the final product. "For example, catalysts in cars transform toxic substances in exhaust fumes to harmless molecules," the Nobel committee said in a statement. "Our bodies also contain thousands of catalysts in the form of enzymes, which chisel out the molecules necessary for life." The problem was that there were just two types of catalysts available: metals and enzymes.

In 2000, Dr. List and Dr. MacMillan -- working independently of each other -- developed a new type of catalysis that reduced waste and allowed for novel ways to construct molecules. It is called asymmetric organocatalysis and builds upon small organic molecules. "This concept for catalysis is as simple as it is ingenious, and the fact is that many people have wondered why we didn't think of it earlier," said Johan Aqvist, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry. Virtually everyone on the planet has come across a product that has benefited from a chemist's expertise. The process of using catalysts to break down molecules or join them together is essential in industry and research.


D-Wave Announces New Hardware, Compiler, and Plans For Quantum Computing (arstechnica.com) 23

On Tuesday, D-Wave released its roadmap for upcoming processors and software for its quantum annealers. The company is also announcing that it's going to be developing its own gate-based hardware, which it will offer in parallel with the quantum annealer. Ars Technica's John Timmer talked with company CEO Alan Baratz to understand all the announcements. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from the report: The simplest part of the announcement to understand is what's happening with D-Wave's quantum-annealing processor. The current processor, called Advantage, has 5,000 qubits and 40,000 connections among them. These connections play a major role in the chip's performance as, if a direct connection between two qubits can't be established, others have to be used to act as a bridge, resulting in a lower effective qubit count. Starting this week, users of D-Wave's cloud service will have access to an updated version of Advantage. The qubit and connection stats will remain the same, but the device will be less influenced by noise in the system (in technical terms, its qubits will maintain their coherence longer). [...] Further out in the future is the follow-on system, Advantage 2, which is expected late next year or the year after. This will see another boost to the qubit count, going up to somewhere above 7,000. But the connectivity would go up considerably as well, with D-Wave targeting 20 connections per qubit.

D-Wave provides a set of developer tools it calls Ocean. In previous iterations, Ocean has allowed people to step back from directly controlling the hardware; instead, if a problem could be expressed as a quadratic unconstrained binary optimization (QUBO), Ocean could produce the commands needed to handle all the hardware configuration and run the problem on the optimizer. D-Wave referred to this as a hybrid problem solver, since Ocean would use classical computing to optimize the QUBO prior to execution. The only problem is that not everyone who might be interested in trying D-Wave hardware knows how to express their problem as a QUBO. So, the new version of Ocean will allow an additional layer of abstraction by allowing problems to be sent to the system in the format typically used by people who tend to solve these sorts of problems. "You will now be able to specify problems in the language that data scientists and data analysts understand," Baratz promised.

The biggest part of today's announcement, however, may be that D-Wave intends to also build gate-based hardware. Baratz explained that he thinks that optimization is likely to remain a valid approach, pointing to a draft publication that shows that structuring some optimization problems for gate-based hardware may be so computationally expensive that it would offset any gains the quantum hardware could provide. But it's also clear that gate-based hardware can solve an array of problems that a quantum annealer can't. He also argued that D-Wave has solved a number of problems that are currently limiting advances in gate-based hardware that uses electronic qubits called transmons. These include the amount and size of the hardware that's needed to send control signals to the qubits and the ability to pack qubits in densely enough so that they're easy to connect but not close enough that they start to interfere with each other. One of the problems D-Wave faces, however, is that the qubits it uses for its annealer aren't useful for gate-based systems. While they're based on the same bit of hardware (the Josephson junction), the annealer's qubits can only be set as up or down. A gate-based qubit needs to allow manipulations in three dimensions. So, the company is going to try building flux qubits, which also rely on Josephson junctions but use them in a different way. So, at least some of the company's engineering expertise should still apply.


Instagram Ditches the IGTV Brand, Combines Everything But Reels Into An 'Instagram Video' Format (techcrunch.com) 9

On Tuesday, Instagram announced that it will now combine IGTV's long-form video and Instagram Feed videos into a new format called simply "Instagram Video." TechCrunch reports: These videos, both longer and shorter, will be found on users' profiles in a new "Video" tab. Meanwhile, when people encounter videos on Instagram, they'll be able to tap anywhere on the video to enter into a fullscreen viewing mode. After watching, they can then choose to keep scrolling to discover more video content from creators or tap the back button to exit. None of these changes will impact what Instagram is doing with Reels, though. The company's short-form video platform and TikTok rival will continue to remain separate, we're told. They won't be mixed into this feed of videos, if users choose to scroll.

The IGTV app, however, isn't going away. Instagram tells us it will now be rebranded as "Instagram Video" and will host the "Instagram Video" formatted content, along with Instagram Live videos. But it will not host Reels videos. With today's update, users will still be able to upload their non-Reels videos in the same way as before -- by clicking on the plus sign (+) in the top-right corner of the Instagram home page and selecting "Post." Videos can be up to 60 minutes in length. Instagram is also adding new features like trimming, filters, and people and location tagging as part of the updated upload experience. [...] Instagram's goal with these changes will be a more streamlined video experience. Instagram says the changes are rolling out globally starting today across both iOS and Android.

PlayStation (Games)

Sony Planning To Make PS3, Vita Stores Nearly Unusable (kotaku.com) 67

As spotted by Kotaku, Sony has decided to discontinue credit card and PayPal payment options for both the PS3 and the PS Vita on October 27th, 2021, making it frustratingly difficult to use these stores. From the report: To actually buy video games on your video game device, you will need to go to a secondary location and purchase a physical gift card, which you can then use to purchase video games. Alternatively you can use the awkward wallet system to add funds via Sony's website, or by adding funds on your PS4 or PS5, and then spending them on the PS3 or Vita. Either way, this is extremely silly. Sony's complete lack of interest in games preservation, and for keeping games accessible to the people who bought the systems they run on, is deeply infuriating. The games industry has a short memory, made shorter by a constant focus on developing tech, and even shorter again by publishers with no interest in keeping their systems running. I've written before about the importance of libraries in game preservation, and I will take Sony's fuckery as an opportunity to get on my soapbox again. [...]

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