Is Uranus Losing Its Atmosphere?

Mars was once covered by oceans, but lost its atmosphere over time, according to Gina DiBraccio, a space physicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and project scientist for the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN mission.

Is the same thing happening to Uranus? The magnetic bubble surrounding the giant gas planet may be siphoning its atmosphere off into space, reports Digital Trends:
Uranus’s atmospheric loss is driven by its strange magnetic field, the axis of which points at an angle compared to the axis on which the planet spins. That means its magnetosphere wobbles as it moves, which makes it very difficult to model. “The structure, the way that it moves,” DiBraccio said, “Uranus is really on its own.”
Due to the wobbling of the magnetosphere, bits of the atmosphere are drained away in what are called plasmoids — bubbles of plasma which pinch off from the magnetic field as it is blown around by the Sun. Although these plasmoids have been seen on Earth and on some other planets, they had never been observed on Uranus before the recent analysis of old Voyager 2 data.
Interestingly, the theory comes from a new analysis of 30-year-old data gathered by the Voyager 2 space probe — long before it reached the edge of our solar system.

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Bay Area Group Pushes $1,000 Universal Basic Income For Everyone

“Gisele Huff is convinced universal basic income is finally having its moment,” reports the Bay Area newsgroup, describing the 84-year-old president of a nonprofit promoting universal basic incomes to honor their recently-deceased son, a Tesla software engineer:
While Huff’s organization is only a few years old, it has already made its mark in the Bay Area. Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors is considering a pilot program that would provide youth exiting foster care with a basic $1,000 monthly income. If approved later this year, the program would likely be the first of its kind in the nation…
Q: Different people have different ideas about what exactly UBI should look like. What’s yours?
A: It would be $1,000 a month and it runs like social security. It’s an automatic system. All you need is a bank account. So UBI is a direct payment to your bank account on a monthly basis. It has no requirements. When you’re 18 it starts and it goes on until you die.
Q: And everyone would get the same amount? Including the wealthiest households?
A: Yes. For the people who are wealthy, it will disappear because $1,000 doesn’t mean anything. But it will mean the world for the people who are so marginalized now, like foster kids or abused women who can’t leave a situation because they don’t have a dime to their name. It is a huge incentive for people to move on, to do things, take risks that they would not do before.
Q: Some critics of UBI say that it could incentivize people not to work, because no matter what they do they will get a monthly paycheck. What is your response?
A: If you have a job, you’re not going to stop working for $1,000 a month. What you’re going to do is you’re going to tell your boss: “No, I’m not doing this because it’s not acceptable and I have $1,000 dollars that I can use for the next two months until I find a better job.” So if you want that job done as a boss, you’re going to have to improve the conditions or the pay….”
Q: And your son was concerned about those same issues? How did he come to his perspective on UBI?
A: Gerald was the software engineer for the Model 3 Tesla. So he has been a techie all of his life and what really spurred him on to look into this in a deeper way was his fear of technological unemployment. The robots are coming. And the potential of that technology is what Gerald was aware of — it’s immense.

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Remote City Council Meeting Interrupted By Pornographic Videos

Friday’s first-ever remote meeting for the Los Angeles City Council had to shut down for 20 minutes because of pranksters posting “pornographic videos”.
The Los Angeles Daily News has the story:
Council President Nury Martinez called a recess about an hour into the meeting, which is centered around a Los Angeles-centric relief package for workers, renters and homeless people during the public health crisis. She said there were “inappropriate videos” being posted. Soon afterward, city officials’ voices could be heard discussing turning peoples’ video capabilities off on the channel.

The reporter posted on Twitter that the meeting faced other challenges. “Councilman Joe Buscaino just yelled at his kids to be quiet.” (“Maybe it’s past Joe’s bedtime,” joked an assistant news editor.) The meeting ran on for nearly 11 hours, and by the end just six people remained in Zoom’s meeting room.

“Seven people on the 15-member City Council voted to ban all evictions in Los Angeles, with 6 against. But that was not enough to pass the ban. They needed 8 votes.”

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Whatever Happened to Ashley Madison? Affairs in the Time of Coronavirus

An anonymous reader quotes VentureBeat:
Ashley Madison’s tagline has taken on a new ring amid the COVID-19 pandemic — “Life’s short. Have an affair.” And the “married dating” site, used to conduct clandestine affairs, has found itself in the midst of a boom. Despite the fact that it’s harder than ever to physically meet up with a fellow cheater, Ashley Madison is seeing a surge in users. Some are just looking to chat with someone other than a spouse, some are seeking emotional validation or the fantasy of pursuing a secret sex life…

The company became a household name in July 2015, when hackers stole data on 32 million cheating spouses. The leak of sensitive data led to spouses discovering that their significant others were cheating. Divorces, breakups, and suicides ensued. The hackers also exposed that Ashley Madison used bots posing as attractive young women to lure men into engaging more with the site. The company says it has since beefed up its security and rid itself of the bots. And now it’s more than double the size it was at the time of the hack, with over 65 million members last year. During 2019, the company added 15,500 new members a day. More recently, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been adding 17,000 new members a day.

Its chief strategy officer tells them that after their massive data breach “we were signing up more than 100,000 people a day… [W]e also saw revenues jump during that small time frame.” (And the site also acquired “a whole new security team…”)
Interestingly, he also says Facebook won’t allow them to buy ads, which seems especially anticompetitive since Facebook runs its own dating site. “They block us but let other dating platforms advertise… We have had multiple conversations with them, and no, it’s a fruitless conversation, unfortunately… This is part of the problem with Facebook, in general, in that they get to pick and choose which companies are going to advertise on the second-largest, if not the largest, digital advertising platform in the world. We question the validity of that.”

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Zoom Removes Code That Sends Data to Facebook

An anonymous reader quotes Motherboard:
On Friday video-conferencing software Zoom issued an update to its iOS app which stops it sending certain pieces of data to Facebook. The move comes after a Motherboard analysis of the app found it sent information such as when a user opened the app, their timezone, city, and device details to the social network giant.

When Motherboard analyzed the app, Zoom’s privacy policy did not make the data transfer to Facebook clear.
“Zoom takes its users’ privacy extremely seriously. We originally implemented the ‘Login with Facebook’ feature using the Facebook SDK in order to provide our users with another convenient way to access our platform. However, we were recently made aware that the Facebook SDK was collecting unnecessary device data,” Zoom told Motherboard in a statement on Friday….

“We sincerely apologize for this oversight, and remain firmly committed to the protection of our users’ data,” Zoom’s statement concluded.

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>4,000 Android apps silently access your installed software

Closeup photograph of hands holding an Android phone.

Enlarge (credit: Mike MacKenzie / Flickr)

More than 4,000 Google Play apps silently collect a list of all other installed apps in a data grab that allows developers and advertisers to build detailed profiles of users, a recently published research paper found.

The apps use an Android-provided programming interface that scans a phone for details about all other apps installed on the phone. The app details—which include names, dates they were first installed and most recently updated, and more than three-dozen other categories—are uploaded to remote servers without permission and no notification.

IAM what IAM

Android’s installed application methods, or IAMs, are application programming interfaces that allow apps to silently interact with other programs on a device. They use two methods to retrieve various kinds of information related to installed apps, neither of which is classified by Google as a sensitive API. The lack of such a designation allows the methods to be used in a way that’s invisible to users.

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Biz & IT – Ars Technica

Control Panel isn’t dead yet—but the System applet is looking nervous

We find Windows 10's Settings dialog difficult to love.

Enlarge / We find Windows 10’s Settings dialog difficult to love. (credit: Jim Salter)

You may have seen dark rumors around the Web that Microsoft is about to kill off the classic Control Panel. Rest assured, friend, we were as horrified as you are—but on more careful inspection, this seems not to be the case.

A new set of Feature IDs popped up in the latest build of Windows 10—HideSystemControlPanelSystemControlPanelFileExplorerRedirect, and SystemControlPanelHotkeyRedirect. This looks grim—but fortunately, developer Rafael Rivera discovered they really only apply to the System applet.

Settings vs Control

For about eight years now, Microsoft has been trying to pry everyone loose from the Control Panel and guide them gently to the newer Settings applet instead. They’ve encountered strong resistance in doing so, particularly from systems administrators and support technicians. For one thing, the newer Settings applet is a single-instance interface—you can’t have Settings open for, say, printers and the network at once. Pick one.

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Biz & IT – Ars Technica

Broadband speeds fall in dozens of big US cities during pandemic

A US map with lines and dots representing broadband access.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | imaginima)

Home-Internet download speeds have fallen during the COVID-19 pandemic in dozens of the biggest US cities as millions of Americans stay home due to school and business closures. However, typical download speeds remain high enough to support normal broadband-usage patterns, with the vast majority of cities still above the Federal Communications Commission’s 25Mbps standard.

In 88 of the 200 most populous US cities, Internet users “experienced some degree of network degradation over the past week compared to the 10 weeks prior,” BroadbandNow said in a report released Wednesday. Of those, 27 cities suffered speed reductions of at least 20 percent.

New York City speeds fell by 24 percent, with median download speeds down to 51.93Mbps—still enough for bandwidth-intensive services like streaming video. While New York City has been hit hard by the spread of the novel coronavirus, the city’s broadband experience isn’t replicated everywhere. Seattle, where the virus is also rampant, hasn’t suffered a drop in download speeds, though Seattle’s speeds were already below New York City’s. Seattle’s most recent median-download speed was 27.1Mbps, while Seattle’s median results ranged from 20.8Mbps to 29.1Mbps in the previous 10 weeks.

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Biz & IT – Ars Technica

Astronomers Have Finally Found the Edge of the Milky Way

Iwastheone quotes Science News:
Astronomers have long known that the brightest part of the Milky Way, the pancake-shaped disk of stars that houses the sun, is some 120,000 light-years across. Beyond this stellar disk is a disk of gas. A vast halo of dark matter, presumably full of invisible particles, engulfs both disks and stretches far beyond them. But because the dark halo emits no light, its diameter is hard to measure. Now, Alis Deason, an astrophysicist at Durham University in England, and her colleagues have used nearby galaxies to locate the Milky Way’s edge…

To find the Milky Way’s edge, Deason’s team conducted computer simulations of how giant galaxies like the Milky Way form. In particular, the scientists sought cases where two giant galaxies arose side by side, like the Milky Way and Andromeda, our nearest giant neighbor, because each galaxy’s gravity tugs on the other. The simulations showed that just beyond the edge of a giant galaxy’s dark halo, the velocities of small nearby galaxies drop sharply. Using existing telescope observations, Deason and her colleagues found a similar plunge in the speeds of small galaxies near the Milky Way. This occurred at a distance of about 950,000 light-years from the Milky Way’s center, marking the galaxy’s edge, the scientists say.

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US Officials Use Mobile Ad Location Data to Study How COVID-19 Spreads

An anonymous reader quotes the Wall Street Journal:
Government officials across the U.S. are using location data from millions of cellphones in a bid to better understand the movements of Americans during the coronavirus pandemic and how they may be affecting the spread of the disease…

The data comes from the mobile advertising industry rather than cellphone carriers. The aim is to create a portal for federal, state and local officials that contains geolocation data in what could be as many as 500 cities across the U.S., one of the people said, to help plan the epidemic response… It shows which retail establishments, parks and other public spaces are still drawing crowds that could risk accelerating the transmission of the virus, according to people familiar with the matter… The data can also reveal general levels of compliance with stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders, according to experts inside and outside government, and help measure the pandemic’s economic impact by revealing the drop-off in retail customers at stores, decreases in automobile miles driven and other economic metrics.

The CDC has started to get analyses based on location data through through an ad hoc coalition of tech companies and data providers — all working in conjunction with the White House and others in government, people said.

The CDC and the White House didn’t respond to requests for comment.

It’s the cellphone carriers turning over pandemic-fighting data in Germany, Austria, Spain, Belgium, the U.K., according to the article, while Israel mapped infections using its intelligence agencies’ antiterrorism phone-tracking. But so far in the U.S., “the data being used has largely been drawn from the advertising industry.
“The mobile marketing industry has billions of geographic data points on hundreds of millions of U.S. cell mobile devices…”

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Source: Slashdot