Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for January 1, 2020 (New Year's Day Edition)

in rsslog •  7 months ago 

Flu vaccine injections can trigger immune response against cancer; Discussion of the relationship between technology and the next generation; Security researcher linked 17 million Twitter accounts and phone numbers; US set to raise costs for immigration and genealogy records; and a Steem essay describing five inventions that originated in Romania

Happy New Year to all readers!

Welcome to the twenties

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  1. Injecting the flu vaccine into a tumor gets the immune system to attack it - A December paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) reports on work that grew out of efforts to engineer viruses as a treatment for cancer. The idea was to modify viruses that cause cells to explode so that the virus would specifically target cancer cells. This work was complicated by the fact that the immune system would react to the presence of the virus and interfere with its operation. The presence of the virus also seemed to trigger the immune system to attack the cancer cells. As a result, researchers wondered whether a more common virus could trigger the same sort of immune response against a cancer virus. A key part of this capability seems to require overcoming the immune system's natural signaling that prevents it from attacking cells that are too similar to normal cells, thus switching an immune response from "cold", where it is dominated by shutdown signals to "hot", where it attacks the cancer cells. Building on this knowledge, researchers looked at the statistics of patients who had both lung cancer and an influenza diagnosis. Counter-intuitively, those patients had lower mortality rates than patients who had just lung cancer. The researchers than moved on to study mice who had cancerous cells injected into their lungs to cause tumor growth. They found that (in mice) not only does an active flu trigger an immune response against cancer, but so does a flu vaccine. The path to an actual treatment is made harder by the fact that the location of the vaccination seems to matter. Injecting a vaccine in either lung stimulated the immune response, but injecting it into muscle made the mouse's odds worse. Another limitation is that vaccines that also contain chemicals to enhance the immune system's memory do not seem to trigger an immune response in the same way. Finally, this sort of work in mice does not always translate to results in humans.

  2. Editor’s letter: How the next generation is using technology to mask, reveal, and form identity - The January/February issue of MIT Technology Review focuses on the relationship between today's youth and digital media. This article summarizes the coverage with links to the articles and suggests that a key facet of growing up with online media is the need to become part of a fragmented reality where each person has different online presences that interact with different groups of people and conform to differing norms. It suggests that the promise of digital education has not been realized, and comes with many pitfalls. The article alludes to several articles that have already been covered in this series, including Should colleges really be putting smart speakers in dorms? (covered in Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for December 28, 2019) and I asked my students to turn in their cell phones and write about living without them (covered in Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for December 27, 2019). In addition to those articles, it also includes links to articles about the need to protect children's digital rights, the phenomenon of childhood celebrity youtubers, and more.

  3. A Twitter app bug was used to match 17 million phone numbers to user accounts - Security researcher, Ibrahim Balic, was able to process randomized lists of telephone numbers against Twitter's "contacts upload feature" and get back lists of account names. The feature does not accept sequential lists of phone numbers, but by randomizing the order, Balic was able to match 17 million phone numbers and account names in seven countries during a two month period. The collection ended on December 20, when Twitter blocked the effort. Using this technique, he was able to identify phone numbers for a number of celebrities, including "a senior Israeli politician". The bug is part of an API that is normally used for account signups, but Balic was able to combine API calls in such a way as to permit bulk queries. A Twitter spokesman said the company is undertaking efforts to "ensure this bug cannot be exploited again." The ability to link names and phone numbers could be useful for attackers who want to compromise Two Factor Authentication (2FA) mechanisms that are in place for many financial and wallet applications. h/t CoinDesk

  4. Tracing Your Family's Roots May Soon Get A Lot More Expensive - The comment period ended on December 30 for changes proposed by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The agency wants fees to increase by as much as 500%, which would drive up costs to $240 for a single search and another $385 if a paper document is retrieved. Along with colleagues, Renée Carl has set up a website to describe the proposed changes. The agency oversees millions of records, including "alien registration files, files for certificates of naturalization and visa files". The agency says that the cost increase is necessary to keep up with expenses, but Carl says that our ancestors already paid handling fees when they submitted these documents, and they should now be available for free at the National Archives.h/t h/t RealClear Science

  5. STEEM Top 5 Famous Romanian Inventions That You Probably Didn't Know About - (i) Ejection seat; (ii) Insulin; (iii) Ink Pen; (iv) Jet engine; and (v) the Perpetuem machine. Click through for the fascinating history from @acesontop. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @acesontop.)

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