There’s a scandale playing out at a genetic research facility that caused a valuable lab sheep to end up as someone’s gigot d’agneau dinner. France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) has been breeding sheep that are genetically modified with a florescent jellyfish gene to aid heart researchers. Unfortunately, a lamb called “Ruby” ended up at the slaughterhouse and on someone’s assiette, possibly with a different, more minty jelly. Worse yet, it appears that the incident happened not by accident, but because of some kind of professional feud that escalated way out of control.
According to Le Parisien, animosity had built up over several months between an INRA employee and his boss. At some point, the empoyee called a slaughterhouse to pick up Ruby, saying that it was a regular non-modified sheep. He then allegedly told INRA officials that his boss tried to hush up the incident in an attempt to get him fired. Once INRA officials discovered the details, it issued an alert, saying “as a world-renowned institute, we can’t tolerate such behavior… (which) calls for a severe response.” It asked French police to investigate the incident, which could result in prison term for the perpetrators.
We’d be very curious to see the Yelp review.
If accusation is true, it’s hard to believe someone would allow such a valuable animal to be destroyed over a petty dispute. The sheep were modified to help researchers study therapies for heart attack victims, including transplant recipients. In any event, the sheep posed no risk for consumption, though we’d be very curious to see the Yelp review on the final dish.
Apparently, the secret to better, more eco-friendly rice plant is another type of grain: barley. A team of scientists has created genetically modified rice that borrows a single gene from barley and found that the altered organism can generate up to 43 percent more grains per plant. Plus, its methane emission is down to 0.3 percent, a lot lower than regular rice’s 10 percent emission observed during the scientists’ experiments. Methane, as you might know, is one of the most potent greenhouse gases and is the second most prevalent in the US after carbon dioxide.
It’s not 100 percent clear why the modified organism produces less greenhouse gas, but the scientists believe it could be because it stores more starch and sugar in its stems and grains than its roots. Regular rice has more starch and sugar in its roots, which tend to leak out and serve as food to microbes that turn them into methane. While this barley-rice organism sounds promising, the scientists still need to turn it into a variety farmers can easily cultivate, and that could take five to ten more years.
Antivirus and malware protection programs are great, but they have a fatal flaw: they can only protect your PC from threats they know about. It’s not a terrible problem, but it gives attackers a brief window of opportunity to harm your computer every time they tweak their code. If a PC hasn’t nabbed the latest update to its protection suite, it’s vulnerable — but it doesn’t have to be that way. Researchers are using deep learning algorithms that can spot new malicious code naturally, without database updates.
If an artificial neural network can be trained to recognize a face, why can’t it be trained to recognize potentially malicious code? Well, according to Israeli startup Deep Instinct, it can. The company is building a deep-learning antivirus suite that can (reportedly) spot new malware with 20% higher accuracy than today’s best protection software. The claims are unverified, but the company’s approach isn’t without support: researchers at both Microsoft and Invincea have published papers demonstrating the potential of deep learning malware detection systems. One experiment found 95% of new malware without updates. That’s encouraging.
Like most deep learning initiatives, self-learning malware detection software is still in the early stages — but if successful, it could be a game changer. Check out TechnologyReview at the source link below for the full story.
We previously told you about DevilRobber and what sort of unsavory things it can do to (and with) your Mac. (In case you don’t click over to read the article, here’s the scoop: it’s bad. Real bad.) Back in the day (November 1st), it was a Trojan horse and sent a little of your personal info off to some far flung servers.
But CNet is reporting the new version has mutated, and now it tries to grab your Terminal history and system logs. This new “improved” version can be picked up by downloading Pixelmator from someplace that is not the Mac App Store (currently the only place to legitimately get a copy). But the fun doesn’t end there! It also tries (but does not succeed at) making off with information stored in your 1Password data file. CNet’s story makes it sound like DevilRobber can actually do something with that file, but in reality that data is safe, as confirmed by Agile themselves. They have a nice writeup on their site about all of this and the steps you can take to make extra super sure your data is safe.
This is also another of those opportunities we here at TUAW occasionally take to remind you that malware is bad but real, and you DO need to protect yourself. Remember “Macs don’t get viruses” is just as accurate as “Macs don’t have any good games” (which is to say not accurate at all), and protection is ridiculously easy. Get yourself a nice antivirus utility and spend a little time with Little Snitch to make sure nothing suspicious is being sent from your machine, and that should help you avoid a lot of problems.
What a week it’s been for entertainment news on the internet! Netflix’s first theatrical release, Beasts of No Nation, is racking up views; the NFL’s first live-streamed game, which debuted on Yahoo!, was reasonably well-received; and we learned something new about our friend, the chameleon. And now for some numbers.
With Netflix’s first theater-ready film, Beasts of No Nation, content chief Ted Sarandos broke a long-standing company rule not to reveal viewing numbers. “It is worth sharing that this movie, in North America alone, has over 3 million views already,” he told Deadline. Netflix racked up those figures in two weekends, and the Cary Fukunaga directed film, starring Idris Elba, was the top Netflix movie in its first week of release. The service helped it along with a strong launch, though. “We focused on making the film available to all 69 million Netflix subscribers around the world, in more than 50 countries,” Sarandos said.
Beasts of No Nation has been marketed as a prestige film, so Netflix always intended a theatrical release to allow it to qualify for the Oscars. However, it was boycotted by four US cinema chains, angry the film was available online the same day it hit theaters. It did see a limited art house release in the US and UK, though, and received critical raves, scoring 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Sarandos added that it was Netflix’s number one film in countries “where these (types of) films typically never even open,” including Japan, Brazil and Mexico.
Wondering how well Yahoo’s grand experiment with a free NFL game stream fared? Quite well, actually… although your TV provider probably isn’t sweating bullets. The league has revealed that about 15.2 million unique visitors watched the Bills/Jaguars game on Yahoo, which stacks up well against conventional broadcasts (between 13.5 million to 17.6 million). However, the stream only managed an average of 2.36 million viewers per minute — that pales in comparison to the 10 million to 20 million plus that TV gets. In other words, many fans only watched some of the match before heading elsewhere.
It’s not clear what led to the mixed results, although there are at least a couple of factors at work. There were some reports of quality issues that may have turned people off. Also, Yahoo was competing with not just the game’s TV broadcast, but a high-profile Jets/Patriots game. If you were determined to catch both, something had to give. Whatever affected the viewership, it wasn’t enough to deter the NFL. The organization says it’s “thrilled” with this test, and it’s promising more streams in the future.
You probably know that a chameleon’s eyes move independently of one another. Thanks to video games, however, it’s clear that this oddball vision is more powerful than previously thought. Israeli researchers made chameleons play a simple game where they had to track and lash out at multiple digital flies, gauging their ability to focus on two objects at once. In the tests, the lizards easily followed one target in each eye — they only focused on one fly when they were ready to strike. The eyes even have distinctive movement patterns based on their active roles, so there’s no doubt as to what they’re doing.
The findings won’t just help understand chameleon biology, either. Scientists believe that the results could help robots coordinate images from multiple cameras, which should improve their spatial perception and reflexes. Frankly, the video game experiment is a bit embarrassing for humans. Imagine how much better life would be if you could always spot threats (or juicy meals) from the corner of your eye?
Computer graphics have come a long way, but there are still a few aspects that are pretty time consuming to get right. Realistic fabric movement that reacts to gravity and other forces is one of ‘em. The folks at Disney Research have found a way to make life-like cloth simulations by six to eight times in certain situations, though. Walt’s science department says that using a technique called multigrid, specifically, smoothed aggregation allowed it to make clothing worn by a main character or fabrics that make up the foreground of a scene at a much faster clip. There’s an awful lot of science and equations behind the concept (PDF), but the long and short of it is that this should allow for more realistic cloth simulations that stretch and act like fabric does in the real world and even aid in virtual try-on situations.
Baymax is the perfect healthcare companion, because he’s soft and doesn’t have any sharp edges that could hurt his patients. That’s why it’s no surprise that when Disney Research wanted to create a toy robot that’s safe to play with, the researchers ended up making something that looks like it was plucked right out of his body. A team from the laboratory 3D printed a couple of limb-like robotic parts with soft outer skin that conceals hard plastic components. That soft, rubbery exterior can keep both robot and owner safe, while the air-tight cavity inside can sense pressure. When connected to a robotic system that has pressure feedback control, the cylindrical limbs can handle even delicate objects like a block of tofu.
Of course, you can’t expect to take home an interactive mini-Baymax toy anytime soon. The team obviously still has a lot to do — such as design the rest of the robot — but this is definitely a start. You can read more about the project right here, or watch the squishy 3D-printed limbs in action below.