Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for December 30, 2019

in rsslog •  7 months ago 

An op-ed argues that data creators should share in revenue from big-data; Machine learning aims to help with cancer treatment; Crocodiles gallop, but alligators don't; A newly announced Citrix vulnerability may effect 80,000 firms in 158 countries; and a Steem post with photos and descriptions of a brown & coffee colored variety of wasps in Táchira, Venezuela


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  1. Data Creators Should Share in the Profits From Big Data - This op-ed compares compensation schemes for natural resources, like oil, with the absence of compensation schemes with data and notes that we're good at compensating people for natural resources - which they had no part in creating, but we're horrible at compensating people for data - which is uniquely personal and creative. The essay suggests that 2020 should mark the beginning of a new effort to align incentives so that people are willing to opt-in to data use, and that when that becomes a reality the data will also be more valuable, because less scrubbing will be needed to separate the signal from the noise that arises when data is collected surreptitiously.

  2. New tool could help researchers design better cancer vaccines - A December 16 paper in Nature Biotechnology describes work by a team of researchers to use machine learning in a way that can help create a class of cancer treatments. The technique makes use of antigens, protein fragments on the outside of cells that can signal the internal presence of diseases like flu or cancer. If the body's immune system can identify the antigens that are associated with a form of cancer, then the patient's immune system can be harnessed to eradicate the illness. One of the senior authors, Nir Hacohen, says that the eventual goal is to be able to "to predict antigens on a personalized level with perfect accuracy". This is a difficult challenge because tumor antigens are constructed after interaction with an individual's human leukocyte antigen (HLA) which means that the external antigens vary from person to person. Present capabilities allow scientists to identify a so-called HLA type, but that level of granularity is not detailed enough to predict the precise antigens that will form outside of a tumor cell. Another author, Catherine Wu says that if they can take data from a patient and use it to predict antigens, that would facilitate inducement of a personalized immune response. Another team member on the effort is Steven Carr. The new contribution is that the team was able to input patients' HLA types and the antigens that were observed into a machine learning system, and the system was then able to create rules to predict the types of antigens that would correspond with the different HLA types. The new model, which is freely available for other researchers, predicted the antigens from 11 different tumor types with 75% accuracy. h/t Communications at the ACM

  3. Doing the Crocodile Trot - In a December 17 paper in Nature, John Hutchinson and colleagues report the results of their research into the biomechanics of crocodiles and alligators. The paper reports that at least 7 species of crocodiles are able to achieve a "true gallop" whereas alligators apparently cannot. This will offer little consolation to the person being chased by an alligator, however, since they are able to reach the same speed at a trot. The team was able to reach this conclusion by setting up cameras to record a bridge, and then encourage the reptilians to cross the bridge through the use of prods and other devices. The team found no obvious physiological differences to explain why crocodiles were observed galloping but alligators were not. They speculate that perhaps the conditions were not right to motivate galloping, perhaps there's some ancient evolutionary reason why alligators have lost the ability, or maybe crocodiles evolved the ability after their branch of the evolutionary tree split away from alligators.

  4. Patch now: Published Citrix applications leave networks of 'potentially 80,000' firms at risk from attackers - A critical vulnerability has been published in the Citrix Application Delivery Controller and Citrix Gateway products, which were formerly known as Netscaler ADC and Netscaler Gateway. The bug lets unauthenticated users execute arbitrary code on the devices. The firm published the advisory on December 17 and strongly urges customers to apply fixes. Security vendor, Positive Technologies reports that the flaw has been present in versions of the products as far back as 2014, and estimates that 80,000 companies in 158 countries may be effected. The mitigation steps that were published by Citrix block specific SSL and VPN requests, which suggests the possible location of the exploit. Affected versions of Citrix ADC and Unified Gateway include 10.5, 11.1, 12.0, 12.1 and 13.0, and the CVE ID is CVE-2019-19781.

  5. STEEM Brown wasp coffee/Vespula #28 - This post by @newton666 contains descriptions and a series of photos of brown and coffee colored wasps in the Venezuelan state of Táchira. According to the post, this species is distinct because it likes to pollinate the mature banana and because many of the females are sterile, with their egg-producing organs replaced by stingers. The post goes on to note that there are two types of wasps, social wasps and solitary wasps. In solitary wasps, all females are fertile, whereas a high portion of females are sterile in social wasps, and fertilization is often carried out by a group of males. The life span of the wasps in the photos is about 14-28 days for sterile females, 60 days for males, and up to a year for the fertile queens. Click through for more about the species and to view the original nature photography. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @newton666.)


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