Japan scientists can 'read' dreams

 

Scientists in Japan said they had found a way to "read" people's dreams, using MRI scanners to unlock some of the secrets of the unconscious mind.

Researchers have managed what they said was "the world's first decoding" of night-time visions, the subject of centuries of speculation that have captivated humanity since ancient times.

In the study, published in the journal Science, scientists at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories, in Kyoto, western Japan, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to locate exactly which part of the brain was active during the first moments of sleep.

They then woke up the dreamer and asked him or her what images they had seen, a process that was repeated 200 times.

These answers were compared with the brain maps that had been produced by the MRI scanner.

Researchers were then able to predict what images the volunteers had seen with a 60 percent accuracy rate, rising to more than 70 percent with around 15 specific items including men, words and books, they said.

"We have concluded that we successfully decoded some kinds of dreams with a distinctively high success rate," said Yukiyasu Kamitani, a senior researcher at the laboratories and head of the study team.

"I believe it was a key step towards reading dreams more precisely," Kamitani told AFP.

 

AFP, photo by adam_erlebacher 

Spring arrives in Japan with first cherry blossoms PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 25 March 2014 13:55

 

 

Spring officially arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday when Japan's weather agency announced the start of the cherry blossom season.

Forecasters watching trees at the capital's central Yasukuni Shrine said the city's first blossoms had appeared there, marking the beginning of two weeks in which Tokyo's parks, temple grounds, schools and streets will explode in pinks and whites.

"Cherry blossom is a good gauge to let us know that spring is here," a Japan Meteorological Agency official said, adding that this year's first blossoms had appeared at the usual time.

Japanese culture prizes the perfect but delicate blossom, whose transience -- they only last a week -- is seen as a reminder of the fragility of life.

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 March 2014 13:58
 
'Heartbleed' bug puts encrypted data in danger PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 09 April 2014 13:08

 

Trust in the Internet took a major blow as alarm spread that software commonly used to encrypt and secure online transactions could wind up giving away the store.

Computer security specialists, website masters, and fans of online privacy were worriedly abuzz with word of a freshly-discovered flaw in online data-scrambling software that hackers can turn to their advantage.

A bug dubbed "Heartbleed" in OpenSSL encryption software lets attackers illicitly retrieve passwords and other bits of information from working memory on computer servers, according to cyber-defense specialists at Fox-IT.

"Expect everybody who runs an https web server to be scrambling today," the Tor Project said in a warning posted at its website.

"If you need strong anonymity or privacy on the Internet, you might want to stay away from the Internet entirely for the next few days while things settle," it said.

OpenSSL is used to protect passwords, credit card numbers and other data coursing through the Internet.

 

-Crown jewels at risk -

 

Information considered at risk includes source codes, passwords, and "keys" that could be used to impersonate websites or unlock encrypted data.

"These are the crown jewels, the encryption keys themselves," said a website devoted to details of the vulnerability.

"Leaked secret keys allows the attacker to decrypt any past and future traffic to the protected services and to impersonate the service at will."

The flaw in OpenSSL essentially allows a hacker to read the memory of a machine working the software, but no more than 64 kilobytes of data at a time, according to security specialists.

Nor can hackers control which bits of memory are tapped, leaving to chance what they get their hands on.

However, hackers could repeatedly grab packets of memory to ramp up the odds of stealing valuable data.

"There is no limit on the number of attacks that can be performed," Fox-IT said in a blog post that listed steps business IT handlers can take to thwart incursions.

Security researchers reported being able to dig out Yahoo password information by taking advantage of the bug. Yahoo released a statement Tuesday saying it had fixed the problem at its main online properties.

Fox-IT estimated that the vulnerability has existed for about two years, since the version of OpenSSL at issue was released.

OpenSSL is used by more than half of websites, but not all versions have the vulnerability, according to heartbleed.com.

The group behind open-source OpenSSL put out a security alert urging users to upgrade to an improved version of the software and gave credit for finding the bug to Neel Mehta of Google Security.

 

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 April 2014 13:13
 
Unease in Vatican over cardinal's 'luxury flat' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 20 April 2014 17:44

 

 

An Italian cardinal is moving into a 600-square-metre (6,500 square foot) Vatican apartment in apparent contradiction with Pope Francis's call for a "poor Church", Italian daily La Repubblica reported on Sunday.

Tarcisio Bertone is the Vatican's former Secretary of State, a role equivalent to prime minister, and the report said his luxury lodgings were stirring unease as Francis has pushed for clergymen to be more humble.

The flat also has a 100-square-metre roof terrace and is next to St Martha's Residence -- a Vatican hotel where Francis has taken up home, spurning the grander Apostolic Palace where popes usually live.

La Repubblica said that Bertone's flat would be about 10 times bigger than the apartment where Francis is living and that he was planning to move in before the summer after extensive building work.

It said the house combined an apartment of up to 400 square metres formerly inhabited by the head of the gendarmerie under John Paul II and the roughly 200-square metre flat where a Vatican monsignor lived.

Bertone's stint as Secretary of State under Benedict XVI was highly divisive in the Vatican administration and top clerics had asked the then pope to dismiss him.

He was accused by critics of being too authoritarian and too connected with sleazy Italian politics.

 

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 April 2014 17:48
 
Spurs halt Fulham charge, Chelsea eye summit PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 20 April 2014 17:56

 

 

Fulham squandered an opportunity to escape the Premier League relegation zone on Saturday after going down 3-1 at London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Felix Magath's improving side had won their two previous games and they reacted impressively after falling behind to a close-range Paulinho strike in the 35th minute, with Steve Sidwell equalising almost immediately.

However, second-half goals from Harry Kane and Younes Kaboul secured victory for Tim Sherwood's Spurs, with Sidwell seeing a late penalty saved by Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Defeat left Fulham two points from safety, ahead of a home game with Hull City next weekend.

"If we had got any points here, it would have been an extra point for us," said Fulham manager Magath.

"We have to win our home games and I think we can manage it."

Sixth-place Spurs closed to within four points of the Champions League places, although they have played a game more than both fourth-place Arsenal and fifth-place Everton.

With leaders Liverpool not in action until Sunday, when they visit Norwich, Chelsea can provisionally take over at the top of the table if they win at home to bottom club Sunderland in Saturday's late game.

Fulham slipped one place to 19th after Cardiff City moved above them on goal difference by drawing 1-1 at home to Stoke City.

Marko Arnautovic gave Stoke the lead from the penalty spot in first-half injury time after Kim Bo-kyung was contentiously adjudged to have tripped Peter Odemwingie.

 

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 April 2014 18:00
 
Researchers use Twitter to predict crime PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 20 April 2014 18:18

 

 

Hidden in the Twittersphere are nuggets of information that could prove useful to crime fighters -- even before a crime has been committed.

Researchers at the University of Virginia demonstrated tweets could predict certain kinds of crimes if the correct analysis is applied.

A research paper published in the scientific journal Decision Support Systems last month said the analysis of geo-tagged tweets can be useful in predicting 19 to 25 kinds of crimes, especially for offenses such as stalking, thefts and certain kinds of assault.

The results are surprising, especially when one considers that people rarely tweet about crimes directly, said lead researcher Matthew Gerber of the university's Predictive Technology Lab.

Gerber said even tweets that have no direct link to crimes may contain information about activities often associated with them.

"What people are tweeting about are their routine activities," Gerber told AFP. "Those routine activities take them into environments where crime is likely to happen.

"So if I tweet about getting drunk tonight, and a lot of people are talking about getting drunk, we know there are certain crimes associated with those things that produce crimes. It's indirect."

For the study, Gerber and his colleagues analyzed tweets from the city of Chicago tagged to certain neighborhoods -- measured by individual square kilometers -- and the city's crime database.

They then looked forward and were able to make useful predictions about areas where certain crimes were likely to occur -- something which could be helpful in deployment of police resources.

"This approach allows the analyst to rapidly visualize and identify areas with historically high crime concentrations," said the study.

"Future crimes often occur in the vicinity of past crimes, making hot-spot maps a valuable crime prediction tool."

In recent years, the idea of "predictive policing" has gained momentum, with police departments relying on "big data" analytics from companies such as IBM.

This research comes on the heels of other studies showing how tweets can be analyzed to predict elections, disease outbreaks and other important events.

 

- 'I send our algorithms' -

 

Gerber said Twitter data can be relatively easy to use because tweets are publicly available, and many of them are tagged with location information.

In addition, researchers, themselves, do not need to go into the high-crime areas to study the information.

Instead, "I send our algorithms to these locations and see what people are talking about," Gerber said.

"The computer algorithm learns the pattern and produces a prediction."

 

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 April 2014 18:25
 
UN document warning of grave climate future completed PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 02 April 2014 18:59

 

 

Leading scientists and officials completed a fresh climate report Sunday expected to lay bare the grim impact of climate change, with warnings that global food shortages could spark violence in vulnerable areas.

Part of a massive overview by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) set for release on Monday, the report is likely to shape international policy on climate for years to come, and will announce that the impact of global warming is already being felt.

Some 500 scientists and government officials have been gathered since Tuesday in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, to hammer out its wording.

It will serve as the second of three volumes into climate change's causes, consequences and possible solutions by the expert panel.

The work comes six months after the first volume in the long-awaited Fifth Assessment Report declared scientists were more certain than ever that humans caused global warming.

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 April 2014 19:04
 
Anglo American 'mulls sale of S.African platinum mines' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Monday, 14 April 2014 14:01

 

 

Anglo American's chief executive has hinted that the mining titan is looking to offload its strike-hit South African platinum mines to concentrate on open-cast extraction.

The London-listed firm's operations in South Africa's platinum belt north of Johannesburg have been idle for close to three months, forcing the firm to dig into reserves and hitting its bottom line.

About 80,000 miners are on strike and have vowed not to return to the shafts until their minimum monthly wage is doubled to 12,500 rand, around $1,200.

Anglo American says that demand, if met, would wreck its platinum subsidiary.

"The Rustenburg resource is no longer what it used to be," Mark Cutifani told newspaper Business Day in an interview published on Monday.

"I don't think that's where our best skills set sits."

"That's why I've been quite vocal saying we should consider taking a back step from Rustenburg."

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 14 April 2014 14:11
 
Pistorius faces 'final day' of grilling PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 16 April 2014 10:30

 

 

South African prosecutor Gerrie Nel indicated on Tuesday that he would wrap up his searing cross-examination of Oscar Pistorius, who has now spent more than a week in the witness box.

Nel has spent five emotion-filled days dragging Pistorius over the coals, accusing him of lying, tailoring evidence and crying to avoid tough questions.

"We will today finalize the cross-examination of the accused," Nel told the court while asking for a two week postponement.

The cross-examination resumed Tuesday with Nel accusing the sprinter of a cover-up, claiming he knowingly killed the 29-year-old model.

Nel picked at inconsistencies between Pistorius's evidence in court and his lengthy bail application about the noises he heard as he shot.

"There's no indication that you thought they (perceived intruders) were opening the door in your bail application," said Nel.

"You are thinking of a version constantly and not dealing with the question," Nel claimed.

"It's getting more and more improbable and you're tailoring more and more as we go on."

Pistorius tearfully denied the allegation several times.

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 10:34
 
'Heartbleed' fix may slow Web performance PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 10:34

 

 

The heartache from the Heartbleed Internet flaw is not over, and some experts say the fix may lead to online disruption and confusion.

The good news is that most sites deemed vulnerable have patched their systems or are in the process of doing so.

The bad news is that Web browsers may be overloaded by the overhaul of security certificates, leading to error messages and impacting Web performance, said Johannes Ullrich of the SANS Internet Storm Center.

"A good percentage of the websites are patched," Ullrich told AFP.

The patches enable the Web operators to obtain new security certificates that demonstrate they can be trusted by Web browsers.

But Ullrich noted that for each patch, Web browsers must update their list of "untrusted" certificates or "keys" that would be rejected.

"For the fix, the website needs to obtain a new private key and the old key has to be revoked," he said. "Browsers will not trust the old keys."

Browsers may usually update dozens of keys on a daily basis, but because of Heartbleed, that may rise to tens of thousands.

If the verification process takes too long, Ullrich said, the browser may simply declare the site invalid or show an error message.

"People will see errors," he said. "They will see an invalid certificate. They can either accept the certificate or consider it invalid."

The big danger is that Internet users may become so confused or frustrated that they ignore the warnings or reconfigure their browsers to no longer perform the security check.

"If people turn off those lists, then a hacker could get in," Ullrich said.

With thousands of websites seeking new security credentials, "some certificate authorities and website administrators have been making careless mistakes," online security firm Netcraft noted.

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 10:40
 
Federer in Dubai to show revival is real PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 24 February 2014 11:15

 

Roger Federer's performance in reaching the semi-final of the Australian Open last month is the first step in a mini-revival of tennis' great legend. This week could see the second.

That is the scenario Federer intends pursuing when he returns to the ATP Tour and tries to win back the title at his adopted second home at the Dubai Open.

Victories over Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Melbourne will be followed by a chance to challenge Novak Djokovic, the top-seeded titleholder, here.

Although the formidable Serb is seeking a record fifth Dubai title, Federer has a better record against Djokovic than against Rafael Nadal, the man who halted him last month, and he feels encouraged by his performances in the first Grand Slam of the year.

 

"I think it has been a very good start to the season for me overall, " Federer said.

 

"I have played some really good tennis. I still feel my best tennis is ahead of me right now.

"So I'm looking forward to the coming months, and how they're going to play out, and hopefully by April I feel like I'm going to be a hundred percent again."

Federer believes his moderate 2013 results were caused partly by fitness problems, triggered by a persistently troublesome back, and that he is in significantly better shape this year.

 

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 24 February 2014 11:25
 
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