Nanotubes can turn water solid when it should be boiling

Nanotubes can turn water solid when it should be boiling

Scientists have long known that under the right conditions, small amounts of water can be coaxed into changing its boiling or freezing point. A pot of water takes less energy to boil on the top of Mount Everest, for instance, and liquid under pressure takes a little more heat to convert into steam. A group of researchers at MIT has recently taken this effect a step further — observing that water in nanotubes can actually freeze into a solid at temperatures well beyond its natural boiling point.

“If you confine a fluid to a nanocavity, you can actually distort its phase behavior,” explains MIT’s Michael Strano. In the research group’s naontube test environment, water solidified at temperatures north of 222 °F (105 °C). Researchers expected the liquid’s freezing and boiling tempratures to shift, but not by such a wide degree. “The effect is much greater than anyone had anticipated.” Stano said “All bets are off when you get really small.”

The group was used a technique called vibrational spectroscopy to confirm that the nanotube confined water shifted to a “stiff phase,” but researchers are hesitant to say the solid water is frozen. “It’s not necessarily ice,” Strano says, “but it’s an ice-like phase.” Terminology aside, the phenomenon could be used to create highly conductive “stable water wires.” Sounds futuristic. Ready to hear more? You can find the research group’s findings at the source link below.

https://www.engadget.com/2016/11/29/nanotubes-can-turn-water-solid-when-it-should-be-boiling/

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San Francisco Rail System Hacker Hacked — Krebs on Security

San Francisco Rail System Hacker Hacked — Krebs on Security

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) was hit with a ransomware attack on Friday, causing fare station terminals to carry the message, “You are Hacked. ALL Data Encrypted.” Turns out, the miscreant behind this extortion attempt got hacked himself this past weekend, revealing details about other victims as well as tantalizing clues about his identity and location.
On Friday, The San Francisco Examiner reported that riders of SFMTA’s Municipal Rail or “Muni” system were greeted with handmade “Out of Service” and “Metro Free” signs on station ticket machines. The computer terminals at all Muni locations carried the “hacked” message: “Contact for key (cryptom27@yandex.com),” the message read.

The hacker in control of that email account said he had compromised thousands of computers at the SFMTA, scrambling the files on those systems with strong encryption. The files encrypted by his ransomware, he said, could only be decrypted with a special digital key, and that key would cost 100 Bitcoins, or approximately USD $73,000.

On Monday, KrebsOnSecurity was contacted by a security researcher who said he hacked this very same cryptom27@yandex.com inbox after reading a news article about the SFMTA incident. The researcher, who has asked to remain anonymous, said he compromised the extortionist’s inbox by guessing the answer to his secret question, which then allowed him to reset the attacker’s email password. A screen shot of the user profile page for cryptom27@yandex.com shows that it was tied to a backup email address, cryptom2016@yandex.com, which also was protected by the same secret question and answer.

Copies of messages shared with this author from those inboxes indicate that on Friday evening, Nov. 25, the attacker sent a message to SFMTA infrastructure manager Sean Cunningham with the following demand (the entirety of which has been trimmed for space reasons), signed with the pseudonym “Andy Saolis.”

“if You are Responsible in MUNI-RAILWAY !

All Your Computer’s/Server’s in MUNI-RAILWAY Domain Encrypted By AES 2048Bit!

We have 2000 Decryption Key !

Send 100BTC to My Bitcoin Wallet , then We Send you Decryption key For Your All Server’s HDD!!”

One hundred Bitcoins may seem like a lot, but it’s apparently not far from a usual payday for this attacker. On Nov. 20, hacked emails show that he successfully extorted 63 bitcoins (~$45,000) from a U.S.-based manufacturing firm.

The attacker appears to be in the habit of switching Bitcoin wallets randomly every few days or weeks. “For security reasons” he explained to some victims who took several days to decide whether to pay the ransom they’d been demanded. A review of more than a dozen Bitcoin wallets this criminal has used since August indicates that he has successfully extorted at least $140,000 in Bitcoin from victim organizations.

That is almost certainly a conservative estimate of his overall earnings these past few months: My source said he was unable to hack another Yandex inbox used by this attacker between August and October 2016, “w889901665@yandex.com,” and that this email address is tied to many search results for tech help forum postings from people victimized by a strain of ransomware known as Mamba and HDD Cryptor.

Copies of messages shared with this author answer many questions raised by news media coverage of this attack, such as whether the SFMTA was targeted. In short: No. Here’s why.

Messages sent to the attacker’s cryptom2016@yandex.com account show a financial relationship with at least two different hosting providers. The credentials needed to manage one of those servers were also included in the attacker’s inbox in plain text, and my source shared multiple files from that server.

KrebsOnSecurity sought assistance from several security experts in making sense of the data shared by my source. Alex Holden, chief information security officer at Hold Security Inc, said the attack server appears to have been used as a staging ground to compromise new systems, and was equipped with several open-source tools to help find and infect new victims.

“It appears our attacker has been using a number of tools which enabled the scanning of large portions of the Internet and several specific targets for vulnerabilities,” Holden said. “The most common vulnerability used ‘weblogic unserialize exploit’ and especially targeted Oracle Corp. server products, including Primavera project portfolio management software.”

According to a review of email messages from the Cryptom27 accounts shared by my source, the attacker routinely offered to help victims secure their systems from other hackers for a small number of extra Bitcoins. In one case, a victim that had just forked over a 20 Bitcoin ransom seemed all too eager to pay more for tips on how to plug the security holes that got him hacked. In return, the hacker pasted a link to a Web server, and urged the victim to install a critical security patch for the company’s Java applications.

“Read this and install patch before you connect your server to internet again,” the attacker wrote, linking to this advisory that Oracle issued for a security hole that it plugged in November 2015.

In many cases, the extortionist told victims their data would be gone forever if they didn’t pay the ransom in 48 hours or less. In other instances, he threatens to increase the ransom demand with each passing day.

WHO IS ALI REZA?

The server used to launch the Oracle vulnerability scans offers tantalizing clues about the geographic location of the attacker. That server kept detailed logs about the date, time and Internet address of each login. A review of the more than 300 Internet addresses used to administer the server revealed that it has been controlled almost exclusively from Internet addresses in Iran. Another hosting account tied to this attacker says his contact number is +78234512271, which maps back to a mobile phone provider based in Russia.

But other details from the attack server indicate that the Russian phone number may be a red herring. For example, the attack server’s logs includes the Web link or Internet address of each victimized server, listing the hacked credentials and short notations apparently made next to each victim by the attacker. Google Translate had difficulty guessing which language was used in the notations, but a fair amount of searching indicates the notes are transliterated Farsi or Persian, the primary language spoken in Iran and several other parts of the Middle East.

User account names on the attack server hold other clues, with names like “Alireza,” “Mokhi.” Alireza may pertain to Ali Reza, the seventh descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, or just to a very common name among Iranians, Arabs and Turks.

The targets successfully enumerated as vulnerable by the attacker’s scanning server include the username and password needed to remotely access the hacked servers, as well as the IP address (and in some cases domain name) of the victim organization. In many cases, victims appeared to use newly-registered email addresses to contact the extortionist, perhaps unaware that the intruder had already done enough reconnaissance on the victim organization to learn the identity of the company and the contact information for the victim’s IT department.

The list of victims from our extortionist shows that the SFMTA was something of an aberration. The vast majority of organizations victimized by this attacker were manufacturing and construction firms based in the United States, and most of those victims ended up paying the entire ransom demanded — generally one Bitcoin (currently USD $732) per encrypted server.

Emails from the attacker’s inbox indicate some victims managed to negotiate a lesser ransom. China Construction of America Inc., for example, paid 24 Bitcoins (~$17,500) on Sunday, Nov. 27 to decrypt some 60 servers infected with the same ransomware — after successfully haggling the attacker down from his original demand of 40 Bitcoins. Other construction firms apparently infected by ransomware attacks from this criminal include King of Prussia, Pa. based Irwin & Leighton; CDM Smith Inc. in Boston; Indianapolis-based Skillman; and the Rudolph Libbe Group, a construction consulting firm based in Walbridge, Ohio. It’s unclear whether any of these companies paid a ransom to regain access to their files.

PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR ORGANIZATION

The data leaked from this one actor shows how successful and lucrative ransomware attacks can be, and how often victims pay up. For its part, the SFMTA said it never considered paying the ransom.

“We have an information technology team in place that can restore our systems and that is what they are doing,” said SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose. “Existing backup systems allowed us to get most affected computers up and running this morning, and our information technology team anticipates having the remaining computers functional in the next two days.”

As the SFMTA’s experience illustrates, having proper and regular backups of your data can save you bundles. But unsecured backups can also be encrypted by ransomware, so it’s important to ensure that backups are not connected to the computers and networks they are backing up. Examples might include securing backups in the cloud or physically storing them offline. It should be noted, however, that some instances of ransomware can lock cloud-based backups when systems are configured to continuously back up in real-time.

That last tip is among dozens offered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has been warning businesses about the dangers of ransomware attacks for several years now. For more tips on how to avoid becoming the next ransomware victim, check out the FBI’s most recent advisory on ransomware.

Finally, as I hope this story shows, truthfully answering secret questions is a surefire way to get your online account hacked. Personally, I try to avoid using vital services that allow someone to reset my password if they can guess the answers to my secret questions. But in some cases — as with United Airlines’s atrocious new password system — answering secret questions is unavoidable. In cases where I’m allowed to type in the answer, I always choose a gibberish or completely unrelated answer that only I will know and that cannot be unearthed using social media or random guessing.

https://krebsonsecurity.com/2016/11/san-francisco-rail-system-hacker-hacked/

Test can show if the speed of light has changed

Test can show if the speed of light has changed

Modern science assumes that the speed of light has always been the same. Researchers have suggested that this seeming constant might have changed over time, however, and they now have a way to find out whether or not that’s true. Professors João Magueijo and Niayesh Afshordi have developed a prediction that should test for changes in light speed. They’ve given the fluctuations in density the early universe, detectable through cosmic background radiation, an exact spectral index number based on the theory that light was much faster in the first seconds following the Big Bang (0.96478, if you’re curious). If future measurements of the index line up with this number, they’ll support the notion that light speed has shifted.

It’s not as bold a prediction as you might think. Existing estimates have the spectral index at 0.968, which is just close enough that the scientists could be right if there’s wiggle room. The challenge, of course, is collecting data with high enough accuracy that you can make a definitive call. There’s no guarantee that this will happen any time soon.

If the variable light speed concept is ever proven right, though, it would change our understanding of how the universe expanded. Right now, the constant speed theory doesn’t give enough time for light to have traveled to where it is in the cosmos, evening out the universe’s energy. Super-fast light would fill in that gap and force scientists to rethink early existence. And if light has always traveled at the same speed, that both rules out the variability theory lends weight to an existing inflation concept where the universe briefly evened out before expanding rapidly. Either way, science wins.

https://www.engadget.com/2016/11/27/test-for-change-in-speed-of-light/

Palliative care really does boost quality of life – Futurity

Palliative care really does boost quality of life – Futurity

People living with serious illness who receive palliative care have better quality of life and fewer symptoms than those who don’t, a new study shows.

Published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study is the first meta-analysis of the effect of palliative care as it relates to patients’ quality of life, symptom burden, and survival. A meta-analysis is the statistical process of combining the results of multiple trials, which gives researchers an overall effect for intervention.

Palliative care is health care for people living with serious illness and focuses on providing patients with relief from their symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness, whatever the diagnosis. Palliative care can either refer to a specific service provided by physicians and nurses who have received specialized training in this type of care, or an overall approach to care for patients with serious illness, which would include palliative care when provided by a specialist or by a non-palliative care specialist (like an oncologist or a primary care physician). This study took a broad approach and looked at the philosophy of palliative care.

The researchers conducted a systematic review of 43 trials of palliative care interventions, including 12,731 adults with serious illness and 2,479 of their family caregivers. Researchers also performed a meta-analysis to investigate the overall association between palliative care and three outcomes often linked with palliative care—patients’ quality of life, symptom burden, and survival.

“Taken all together, this is a very compelling message,” says lead author Dio Kavalieratos, assistant professor of medicine in the section of palliative care and medical ethics in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Division of General Internal Medicine. “People’s quality of life and symptoms improved; their satisfaction with their health care improved—all during what is likely one of the most difficult periods of their lives.”

Researchers also determined that palliative care was associated with improvements in advance care planning, patient and caregiver satisfaction with care, and lower health care utilization. There was mixed evidence of improvement with site of death, patient mood, health care expenditures, and caregiver quality of life, mood, or burden.

“Historically, palliative care has overwhelmingly focused on individuals with cancer, but anyone with a serious illness, be it cancer, heart failure, multiple sclerosis, or cystic fibrosis, deserves high-quality, individualized care that focuses on reducing their suffering and improving their quality of life,” Kavalieratos says.

“We need to find ways of integrating palliative care concepts in patients’ usual care experiences so it isn’t a luxury, but a standard part of health care for those living with serious illness.”

Over the past five years, much attention has been paid to the idea that palliative care improves patients’ survival, Kavalieratos adds. Although some individual studies had shown that, the association didn’t play out when multiple studies were pooled together in the meta-analysis.

“As a field, we need to develop new methods of studying how palliative care impacts people with serious illness and their caregivers,” Kavalieratos adds. “These methods should not burden patients and caregivers who participate in this research, but also need to be rigorous enough to capture what’s going on at this critical point in people’s lives.”

Funding came from several agencies, including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Institutes of Health; and the National Institute of Nursing Research.

http://www.futurity.org/palliative-care-1304832-2/

Open source has won, and Microsoft has surrendered | Computerworld

Open source has won, and Microsoft has surrendered | Computerworld

Many Linux fans greeted the news that Microsoft is joining the Linux Foundation with anxiety-fueled anger.

For example, spooling through Reddit and my Google+ comment feed, I found these sorts of reactions:

“This will destroy Linux.”

“Trump is elected president and now this…”

“Do people not realize that Microsoft has a strong economic incentive to see Linux fail? … That blows my f***ing mind that anything good can ever come out of this.”

“That’s the, ‘embrace’ part. Next is, ‘extend.’ [And, then extinguish]”

I asked Roy Schestowitz, editor of TechRights, what he thought about the deal. He told me:

I have covered Microsoft’s interference with FOSS [free and open-source software] for over a decade and carefully studied even pertinent antitrust documents. I know the company’s way of thinking when it comes to undermining their competition.
The pattern of embrace and extend (to extinguish) — all this while leveraging software patents to make Linux a Microsoft cash cow or compel OEMs to preinstall privacy-hostile Microsoft software/apps with proprietary formats (lockin) — never ended. What I see in the Linux Foundation right now is what I saw in Nokia 5 years ago and in Novell 10 years ago — the very thing that motivated me to start BoycottNovell, a site that has just turned 10 with nearly 22,000 blog posts. It is a saddening day because it’s a culmination, after years of Microsoft ‘micro’ payments to the Linux Foundation (e.g. event sponsorship in exchange for keynote positions), which will have Microsoft shoved down the throats of GNU/Linux proponents and give an illusion of peace when there is none, not just on the patent front but also other fronts (see what Microsoft’s partner Accenture is doing in Munich right now).

He does an excellent job of summing up why many Linux people are having fits about Microsoft joining the Linux Foundation. I’ve been covering Linux since the beginning, 25 years ago, and I can add to his list Microsoft’s sponsoring SCO’s Linux attacks. Let’s face it: Microsoft didn’t earn its nickname, “The Evil Empire” for nothing.

Microsoft was scared of Linux for years. And it did what any frightened animal does: It attacked and attacked and attacked.

But that was then. This is now.

Where I disagree with Schestowitz and company is I believe Microsoft has fundamentally changed. Sure, Microsoft is still collecting money for its bogus Android/Linux patents. That won’t stop. Microsoft is a public company, and it makes more money from Android than it ever did from its own Microsoft mobile operating systems. And, yes, Microsoft still wants you to buy Windows for your desktop.

But — and this is a big one — neither of those are going to grow revenue. Microsoft’s future is in servers, services and the cloud. And what do all those run on? Ding! Ding! Ding! Open source and Linux.

Take a good hard look at Microsoft’s last quarter. Azure’s revenue grew by 116% year over year. Microsoft’s profit margin from its cloud platform? A whopping 49%.

Guess what. Four out of 10 server instances running on Azure are Linux. Their numbers are increasing by leaps and bounds. The foundation may be Windows Server, but the building is Linux.

Wim Coekaerts, until recently corporate vice president of Microsoft Enterprise Open Source Group, recently told me, “Satya [Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO] is very customer-centric. If [our customers] run Linux, and they often do, we want to make them happy. We have to play in an open, heterogeneous world.” He added, “Microsoft actually uses a lot of Linux in-house. It’s no longer everything has to be run on Windows internally.” Microsoft is doing this, he said, because “we’re solving business problems and we’re very pragmatic.”

There you have the keys to why it’s different this time. I can cite dozens of examples of how Microsoft is supporting one open-source project or another. That’s the specific of the real Microsoft change.

Microsoft realizes that Linux and open-source software have won. It knows that its customers want it, and it wants to make them happy. It’s really that simple.

Embrace, extend and extinguish worked for Microsoft when it took over the Internet browser market. But the Web was just coming together and there were no standards. Linux, on the other hand, is long established. Open source, by its very nature, makes it easy to extend software but nigh on impossible to extinguish it.

No, Microsoft had two choices. It could try things the same old way — the way that many Linux fans are sure it’s still doing. Or it could change its ways and work with Linux and open-source software.

This isn’t Bill Gates’ or Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft. They were all about total market domination. This is Nadella’s Microsoft, and he wants to work with others. As Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation’s executive director, told me, “Microsoft has grown and matured in its use of and contributions to open-source technology. The company has become an enthusiastic supporter of Linux and of open source and a very active member of many important projects.”

Today, believe it or not, we’re no longer caught in a war between proprietary and open-source software. Open source has won, and Microsoft wants to be on the winning side.

http://www.computerworld.com/article/3144063/open-source-tools/open-source-has-won-and-microsoft-has-surrendered.html

Mystery of bleary-eyed astronauts may be cleared up with spinal fluid study | Ars Technica

Mystery of bleary-eyed astronauts may be cleared up with spinal fluid study | Ars Technica

When Scott Kelly returned from his one-year space mission last March, he admitted that he, like many of his colleagues, came back with vision troubles. In fact, nearly two-thirds of astronauts who have gone on long-duration space missions inexplicably returned with blurry vision, flattened eyeballs, and inflamed optic nerves—and now researchers have a new hypothesis as to why.

Despite years of research, the cause of the problems remains fuzzy. However, scientists have dubbed the astronauts’ condition “visual impairment intracranial pressure syndrome” or VIIP. The name is based on the leading theory that, in space, bodily fluids normally dragged down by gravity can freely flow into the head and increase the pressure on the brain and eyeballs. A researcher at Georgia Tech is even looking into a mechanical way to draw fluid back down to the legs to spare space-goers’ eyesight.

But a new study involving 16 astronauts suggests that the leading theory is a tad off-kilter; it’s not vascular fluids bubbling up to the head causing problems, but instead sloshing cerebrospinal fluid tipping toward the eyes, the new study suggests. Researchers from the University of Miami presented those findings Monday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.

To get to that conclusion, the researchers, led by Noam Alperin, a professor of radiology and biomedical engineering at Miami, used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) of astronauts’ brains and eyes before and after space flight. They imaged seven astronauts who went on long-duration missions and nine who went on short ones. Next, the researchers analyzed changes in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the clear fluid that, in part, cushions the brain from pressure changes during movements, such as when a person gets out of bed and stands up.

“On Earth, the CSF system is built to accommodate these pressure changes, but in space the system is confused by the lack of the posture-related pressure changes,” Alperin said in a press statement.

In their data, Alperin and colleagues found the signs of VIIP in the long-duration astronauts, but not in the short-duration ones. And, those symptoms were positively correlated with increased volumes of cerebrospinal fluid in the area of the eyes. The researchers noted no other differences in the brains and eyes.

Though the sample size is small and the study has not been peer-reviewed, Alperin said it points to the CSF playing a role in astronaut’s vision problems that warrants further study. Getting to the bottom of the vision problems is critical to protect crew members during lengthy space travel, he added.

http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/11/sloshing-spinal-fluid-may-explain-astronauts-blurry-vision/

Behold, your next billion dollar market: The humble Ethernet cable • The Register

Behold, your next billion dollar market: The humble Ethernet cable • The Register

Global spending on Ethernet cables will soon cross the $1bn threshold, say analysts.

A forecast report from Allied Market Research projects that by 2022, businesses will be shelling out more than a billion dollars annually on copper and fiber cables to transmit data and power.

The figures include the spend on fiber and copper cables used in connecting both LANs and data center nodes.

This despite the ongoing march toward high-bandwidth wireless networks and the use of mobile devices for computing tasks previously the sole domain of PCs.

Why, then, is wired Ethernet cable spending set to increase at a 14.3 per cent rate? Allied says that a combination of the growth of data centers, the rise in the number of IoT connections, and the introduction of power over Ethernet (PoE) systems all mean that companies will be spending more on cables.

Much of the growth is slated to take place in China, where the rapid expansion in the nation’s tech sector and investment in data centers will drive the need for optical networking cables in particular. The entire Asia-Pacific market is expected to account for around 35 per cent of the world’s cable spending.

Europe was also tabbed as a strong market, particularly in the industrial sector where growing connectivity of appliances means larger networks and the need for cables. In traditional network settings such as offices, the introduction of PoE technologies will also help drive a healthy appetite for networking cables.

As a result, over the next six years the analyst house predicts that spending will go up, and will top at over $22bn in 2022. However, ultimately Allied notes that the traditional shortcomings of wired networks – cost and the physical limitations of running cable – will continue to hold the market back.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/11/29/ethernet_billion_dollar_industry/

The Best Secret Weapon Against Landmines and Tuberculosis Is a Rat | Atlas Obscura

The Best Secret Weapon Against Landmines and Tuberculosis Is a Rat | Atlas Obscura

Tanzania is a beautiful but complicated country. Beneath its parks and lakes lurk tens of thousands of active landmines. And like much of Africa, Tanzania is also struggling with a tuberculosis crisis; there were 60,000 new cases of TB last year.

Each of these problems alone is difficult. But what if there were a solution to both—something that could detect not only unexploded landmines but also new tuberculosis cases, and help stop both before they cause further damage?

Well, this magic device exists. And it’s a rat.

The amazing HeroRATs, a corps of specially trained mine- and TB-sniffing rats, were created by a Dutch NGO called the Anti-Personnel Landmines Removal Product, or APOPO. It was founded in 2000 by Bart Weetjens, a Belgian engineer, who was searching for a more affordable way to help Africans clear landmines. He knew that rats—specifically, African giant pouched rats—are intelligent, social creatures with a keen sense of smell, and reasoned that they could be trained to detect buried landmines, small arms, and leftover unexploded ordnance.

The first HeroRats went to work in Tanzania in 2003. By 2004, APOPO had a brigade of HeroRATs dedicated to diagnosing TB. Today, there are 111 HeroRATs deployed in Tanzania, with a further 23 in Angola and 16 in Mozambique.

Common in sub-Saharan Africa, African giant pouched rats are one of the world’s largest rodents: they measure almost three feet in length and weigh about four pounds. They live up to eight years and are resistant to tropical diseases. And as Weetjens intuited, they’re smart and trainable enough to be an amazing resource. Rats face plenty of human prejudice—they’re seen as disease-carrying vermin in the West and crop-destroying varmints in Africa—but APOPO’s trained rats are truly heroic.

Thanks to HeroRAT teams, 270 square miles of Mozambique farmland are once again available to farmers dislocated since the 1980s. HeroRATS exposed 13,826 mines, 29,031 small arms and ammunitions, and 39,601 leftover unexploded munitions. Removing landmines not only saves lives but also and restores land for farming, development, and safe travel, including delivery of emergency aid.

The rats are many times more efficient at this job than humans. In 30 minutes a rat can do what it takes a human a day to do—if a human could do it at all. Metal detectors not only fail to discern between metal rubbish and active ordinance, but also have difficulty finding landmines now made predominantly out of plastic.

HeroRATs are also a better demining solution than dogs, who have long been the go-to animal for mine detection. Rats have a working life span equivalent to that of dogs, and work similar hours—from about 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., before it gets too hot—and in almost every other way the rats are superior.

For one, it costs much less to train, feed and house a rat, as well as send it into foreign countries. It costs about $40,000 to train a dog to locate landmines, but only about $4,000 to train a HeroRAT. Dogs bond with their trainers, who have to accompany them on their missions. Rats do not, so trainers do not have to accompany HeroRATS into the field.

Both human and dogs are at risk of being killed while working, but HeroRATs are not because they don’t weigh enough to trip the mines—no HeroRATs have been killed sniffing for mines so far, whereas human demining workers are killed at a rate of about one for every 5,000 mines removed. In addition to Tanzania, HeroRATs have removed mines in Mozambique, Angola, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos.

And these heroic rats don’t stop there. They’re also more efficient than humans in examining samples of human sputum (coughed-up phlegm) for evidence of TB. A human technician can examine 100 sputum samples in a day; a HeroRAT can examine 100 sputum samples in 20 minutes. Tuberculosis is a serious problem in African countries—about 1,500 Africans die of TB every day—and in Mozambique, Tanzania’s neighbor, it’s officially a national emergency.

The TB-detecting HeroRATs have increased TB detection rates in Tanzania and Mozambique by 45 percent—which means dramatically fewer new cases of TB, as one untreated TB patient can infect a dozen people in a year, says Weetjens. APOPO has 50 trained TB-detecting HeroRats and a dedicated TB detection facility in Mozambique, where patients can get test results in 24 hours.

Training a HeroRat takes nine months. At four weeks, baby rats are taken from their mothers to socialize with human beings and to begin their training, associating the scent of TNT or TB with a food reward. When they hover over the appropriate scent, their trainer presses a clicker and gives the baby rat a treat of ground banana and food pellets. HeroRATS love banana.

After the rats learn to associate the scent of TNT with an edible reward, the next step in training shifts to targets buried in a big dirt-filled box, which also includes non-target items like empty cans. The HeroRATs learn to scratch over the scent of TNT under the dirt. For TB-diagnosing HeroRATs, the next step is a long box with a perforated metal floor and glass wall. Under each of the 10 perforations, there is a TB sputum sample. The HeroRats learn to pause for five seconds over a positive TB samples for a food reward.

Training for landmine removal requires a complicated series of steps. Demining HeroRATS advance from a big box of dirt to a practice outdoor field with deactivated landmines and decoys partially uncovered. After they successfully identify these, they move to another training field with slightly buried targets and decoys. Then on to another field with targets and decoys buried even deeper in the ground and another field where they are buried yet deeper again. After all this training, the demining HeroRATS must meet the extremely difficult International Mine Action Standards—8,600 square meters in 2 days with 100 percent accuracy and only two false positives.

HeroRATS are true heroes for saving land and lives, but they’re not resting on their laurels. Because of their acute sense of smell, Weetjens foresees their use in customs to sniff out contraband. The U.S. is currently using HeroRATS to combat illegal wildlife trafficking. In medicine, they could be used to detect common cancers and degenerative neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In disasters, HeroRATs could be used to find victims buried under rubble.

And one of those life-saving rats could be yours. At APOPO’s site, you can adopt a HeroRAT, name it, and follow your rat’s progress—or just send these hard-working heroes a banana.

http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-best-secret-weapon-against-landmines-and-tuberculosis-is-a-rat

Overwhelmed? Scream Into This Sculpture – Core77

Overwhelmed? Scream Into This Sculpture – Core77

Art is often credited as an emotional outlet for the maker and a channel for better understanding emotions in the viewer. But sometimes the feelings involved are too big or complicated or irrational to be fully released. For those times when uncertainty, fear, rage, or helplessness are too much to be relieved by a painting or piece of music, Babak Golkar has you covered. Golkar’s sculptural series Scream Pots invite the viewer to release difficult emotions in a literal, yet benign and creative way. By screaming.

The sculptures are hand thrown terra cotta, made in two parts, shaped to receive and neutralize the sounds made by a screaming viewer. One end cradles the face while a tiny hole at the end releases air. The bells and curves of the pieces augment and dampen and change the sound, from primal and negative to something new.

As Golkar explains in the artist’s statement:

In this installation I was interested in screaming as a release but also a gesture or a form of contestation. We tend to let go in private, not in public, and that letting go has to do with exposing our vulnerability, which here is reflected, not only by the action of participants through engaging with the works and screaming into the vessels, but also through the use of terra cotta as a fragile medium.

The series was opened to the public in the installation Time To Let Go, which debuted at the Vancouver Art Gallery Offsite in 2014. The purgative pieces have also shown in areas as far flung as Tehran, Iran, where the need for socially appropriate release takes on a slightly different cast.

http://www.core77.com/posts/58306/Overwhelmed-Scream-Into-This-Sculpture

Honest Museum Audio Tour – The New Yorker

Honest Museum Audio Tour – The New Yorker

Here it is, the “Mona Lisa.” You woke up early for this. You waited in line for almost an hour. You’re now surrounded by seventy people, all trying to catch a glimpse of it. One of them just elbowed you while taking a photograph of it. It’s behind a lot of glass. It’s not very big. What I’m trying to say is: it’s O.K. to feel disappointed.

This powerful self-portrait is from Picasso’s Blue Period—so named because the paint he used was mostly blue. You spent eight dollars on this audio guide.

As the nineteenth century progressed, Impressionists such as Monet and Pissarro continued to divide public opinion—some people thought that the painters should be applying their paint to the canvas differently, while others maintained that the painters were doing the right thing with the paint.

Now we come to the antique-furniture room. Note this intricately carved chair, which was made in 1573. The first person to have sat in it is long dead. Now no one is allowed to sit in it.

As you gaze at this haunting Rodin sculpture, note the contrast between the figure’s blank stare and the tormented curl of his lips. Wait, don’t note that. Forget I said anything. Moving on.

This sculpture, you’ll notice, is a tube sticking out of an orange cardboard box. You’re wondering, Is there something I’m missing? No, there is not. This is a bad sculpture.

Look at this guy. Strolling through the museum without an audio guide—not even a map. Probably thinks he already knows everything. Well, his loss. Remember those neat tidbits about Gauguin’s personal life I told you in the last room? No way this guy knows them. Oh, God, now he’s stroking his chin and nodding thoughtfully at a Rembrandt. Christ. Let’s keep moving. We don’t need him.

This frenetic painting by Jackson Pollock is typical of his drip style, which features gestural splatters of paint across the canvas, and I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this type of painting is easy, and that you could do it. It’s not, and you couldn’t.

Paul Cézanne completed this landscape in 1879, and you can touch it right now if you want to. Quick! No one’s looking.

This oil painting, like the eight preceding it, is of a table with fruit on it. There wasn’t a lot to paint back then.

Titled “The Persistence of Memory,” this 1931 Surrealist work, renowned for its iconic melting clocks, was painted, by Salvador Dali, in response to a worldwide shortage of dorm-room poster art.

By this point, you might have noticed that the history of Western painting went something like this: First, it didn’t matter whether the people looked realistic. Then it mattered. Then it stopped mattering again. This one is from 1910, when it was no longer mattering so much.

“The Starry Night,” Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 masterpiece, captures a small village beneath a luminous sky. But the painting’s enduring mystery lies in the dark, flame-shaped form in the left foreground. What was van Gogh attempting to convey with these elusive brushstrokes? What might this menacing presence in an otherwise tranquil landscape suggest? For years, there seemed to be no answer. Then we checked Wikipedia. It’s a cypress tree.

As you can see, this room is a bunch of rugs hanging on a wall, so we can skip it.

Your feet must be sore; you’ve been here for two hours. Your young child is screaming. Why did you think a six-year-old would enjoy an art museum? Did you really believe that you were doing him a favor by bringing him here? You’re actively ruining everyone else’s time. And then there’s your other kid, who is bored and resents your very existence. She didn’t even want to come on this vacation, you know. One day soon, she will declare that she hates you, and mean it. This painting is by Courbet.

The gift shop dates back to 1983, but it was made bigger in 1997.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/12/05/honest-museum-audio-tour