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Scientists Create First Working Mind-Controlled Prosthetic

mind control arm

For the first time, robotic prostheses controlled via implanted neuromuscular interfaces have become a clinical reality. A novel osseointegrated (bone-anchored) implant system gives patients new opportunities in their daily life and professional activities.

In January 2013 a Swedish arm amputee was the first person in the world to receive a prosthesis with a direct connection to bone, nerves and muscles. An article about this achievement and its long-term stability is now published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.

“Going beyond the lab to allow the patient to face real-world challenges is the main contribution of this work,” says Max Ortiz Catalan, research scientist at Chalmers University of Technology and leading author of the publication.

“We have used osseointegration to create a long-term stable fusion between man and machine, where we have integrated them at different levels. The artificial arm is directly attached to the skeleton, thus providing mechanical stability. Then the human’s biological control system, that is nerves and muscles, is also interfaced to the machine’s control system via neuromuscular electrodes. This creates an intimate union between the body and the machine; between biology and mechatronics.”

The direct skeletal attachment is created by what is known as osseointegration, a technology in limb prostheses pioneered by associate professor Rickard Brånemark and his colleagues at Sahlgrenska University Hospital. Rickard Brånemark led the surgical implantation and collaborated closely with Max Ortiz Catalan and Professor Bo Håkansson at Chalmers University of Technology on this project.

The patient’s arm was amputated over ten years ago. Before the surgery, his prosthesis was controlled via electrodes placed over the skin. Robotic prostheses can be very advanced, but such a control system makes them unreliable and limits their functionality, and patients commonly reject them as a result.

Now, the patient has been given a control system that is directly connected to his own. He has a physically challenging job as a truck driver in northern Sweden, and since the surgery he has experienced that he can cope with all the situations he faces; everything from clamping his trailer load and operating machinery, to unpacking eggs and tying his children’s skates, regardless of the environmental conditions (read more about the benefits of the new technology below).

The patient is also one of the first in the world to take part in an effort to achieve long-term sensation via the prosthesis. Because the implant is a bidirectional interface, it can also be used to send signals in the opposite direction – from the prosthetic arm to the brain. This is the researchers’ next step, to clinically implement their findings on sensory feedback.

“Reliable communication between the prosthesis and the body has been the missing link for the clinical implementation of neural control and sensory feedback, and this is now in place,” says Max Ortiz Catalan. “So far we have shown that the patient has a long-term stable ability to perceive touch in different locations in the missing hand. Intuitive sensory feedback and control are crucial for interacting with the environment, for example to reliably hold an object despite disturbances or uncertainty. Today, no patient walks around with a prosthesis that provides such information, but we are working towards changing that in the very short term.”

The researchers plan to treat more patients with the novel technology later this year.

“We see this technology as an important step towards more natural control of artificial limbs,” says Max Ortiz Catalan. “It is the missing link for allowing sophisticated neural interfaces to control sophisticated prostheses. So far, this has only been possible in short experiments within controlled environments.”


Written by Johanna Wilde for Chalmers University of Technology

The study “An osseointegrated human-machine gateway for long-term sensory feedback and motor control of artificial limbs” is published by Science Translational Medicine on 8 October.

The post Scientists Create First Working Mind-Controlled Prosthetic appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

Your business can’t afford the cost of cyber crime

It’s not a surprise that cyber crime is costly for organizations. The cost of any lost productivity, combined with the fallout of any compromised data, the impact to the organization’s reputation, and the cost to clean up and recover from an attack all add up.

The 2014 Ponemon Cost of Cyber Crime study, sponsored by HP, is the fifth annual report on the costs associated with cyber crime. The findings this year show that cyber crime is becoming more costly each year, and that it is taking longer for organizations to recover from cyber attacks.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Ebola Fighters Enlist Texts in Bid to Curb Outbreak

Aid workers in Liberia tried out a new tool this week to contain the world's worst Ebola outbreak: the text message.

What your southwestern Connecticut zip code says about you

Esri has come out with a fun interactive map that helps us see who really lives in Connecticut.

Evolving landscapes

The Port of Rotterdam has recently upgraded its GIS system with the help of Esri GIS.

Access Real-Time Wildfire Information with the “Wildland Fire Map” App

"Wildland Fire Map" is the first FireWhat app to use ArcGIS mapping technology.

Akamai sees record-setting spikes in size and volume of DDoS attacks

The size and volume of distributed denial-of-service attacks has exploded in the past year, with a 389 percent increase in average attack bandwidth between the third quarter of 2013 and the third quarter of 2014, according to an Internet security report from Akamai Technologies.

This should make companies consider using cloud-based security services, such as the DDoS filtering technology Akamai provides, said John Summers, vice president of the company's security business unit.

During the past quarter, Akamai defended against 17 DDoS attacks flooding targets with traffic greater than 100 Gbps, with the largest at 321 Gbps, the cloud services vendor said in its Q3 2014 State of the Internet report, released Thursday.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Abandoned subdomains pose security risk for businesses

Many companies set up subdomains for use with external services, but then forget to disable them when they stop using those services, creating a loophole for attackers to exploit.

Because many service providers don't properly validate the ownership of subdomains pointed at their servers, attackers can set up new accounts and abuse subdomains forgotten by companies by claiming them as their own.

Removing or updating DNS entries for subdomains that are no longer actively used sounds like something that should be common procedure, but according to researchers from Detectify, a Stockholm-based provider of website security scanning services, this type of oversight is actually quite widespread among companies.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Destroy your Volkswagen Touch Adapter for Bluetooth’s Sake


[Mansour]‘s Volkswagen Polo has a touch-screen adapter with voice recognition to control a bunch of the car’s features, but he wanted it gone.

Voice control of your car sounds like a great thing, right? Well, the touch adapter blocked other Bluetooth devices from connecting directly to the car, and prevented him from streaming music from his phone while he’s connecting it through the adapter. But if you simply throw the adapter away, the car won’t connect to any Bluetooth devices.

So what options are left? Other than a couple of expensive or complicated options, [Mansour] decided to open up the device and desolder the Bluetooth chip and antenna. Admittedly, it’s not the deepest hack in the world, but we’ve gotta give [Mansour] credit for taking the technology into his own hands.

Disabling unwanted functionality is not uncommon these days. Who hasn’t stuck tape over their laptop’s camera or kept an RFID card in a Faraday wallet? What other devices have you had to “break” in order to make them work for you?

Filed under: car hacks

Neanderthals and Humans First Mated 50,000 Years Ago, DNA From Siberian Bone Reveals

Svante Pääbo studies the bone belonging to the Ust'-Ishim man (Credit: Bence Viola, MPI EVA)

Svante Pääbo studies the bone belonging to the Ust’-Ishim man (Credit: Bence Viola, MPI EVA)

According to “Nature,” biologists have managed to derive DNA from the 45,000-year-old skeletal remains of the Ust’-Ishim man; Ultimately allowing them to establish a firm timetable for human and Neanderthal interbreeding. Originally, we suspected that this took place between 37,000 to 86,000 years ago. Now, that number has dwindled down to 50 thousand years.

Insight into Neanderthal and human sexual relations took a sharp turn for the better back in 2010, when scientists were able to decode the genome from Neanderthal DNA. Upon closer inspection, we learned that, not only was interbreeding successful in many instances, but that the evidence still lurks  in our own genome in the present day.

Tracing Our Roots:

Eurasian-dwelling Neanderthals — those that lived in Europe and Asia, their natural stomping grounds — started dying out tens of thousands of years back, with the creatures becoming extinct about 40,000 years ago (a full 10,000 years sooner than we originally thought). However, the close ancestors that would eventually evolve into modern-day humans did manage to survive (otherwise, we wouldn’t be talking about this right now), their fate cemented by the fact that they began breeding with Neanderthals, which, in turn, appears to coincide with their migration out of Africa. Even now, approximately 1.5 to 2.1 % of the DNA of any human from outside of Africa can be traced back to Neanderthals.

Artist rendering of a neanderthal compared to a modern human (via Softpedia)

Artist rendering of a neanderthal compared to a modern human (via Softpedia)

However, up until now, this information still didn’t tell us exactly when interbreeding became commonplace. It took an unlikely discovery made by an ivory collector, named Nikolai Peristov, for that. Back in 2008, Peristov discovered a femur (the shaft of a thighbone) in western Siberia, which has since been dated 45,000 years back. Yes, this small, anciently old bone found on accident helped answer a question that has been a source of contention ever since Darwin presented his once-controversial theory of evolution.

Lessons From The Ust’-Ishim Man:

What’s more is that it has revised history too. Before this, we believed that modern-day humans originated from Africa, migrated to Asia, before venturing south and following a coastal route. After which, they headed north, which “gave rise to mainland Asians.” Contrarily, the study’s author — Janet Kelso, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology — notes that the evidence of modern-day humans living in Siberia during this period of time  “indicates that early modern human migrations into Eurasia were not solely via a southern route as has been previously suggested.”

To expand:

Analysis of the carbon and nitrogen isotopes in his bones suggest the man ate so-called C3 plants that dominate cooler, wetter, cloudier regions — examples of which include garlic, eggplants, pears, beans and wheat — as well as animals that also dined on C3 plants. However, this analysis also revealed he may have eaten aquatic foods, probably freshwater fish, something seen in other humans from Europe of about the same time.

Genetic analysis of DNA from the bone revealed this man was equally closely related to present-day Asians and to early Europeans. "From this we conclude that the population to which the Ust'-Ishim individual belonged diverged from the ancestors of present-day Europeans and Asians before, or at around the same time as, these groups diverged from one another," Kelso said.

The scientists also found this man carried a similar level of Neanderthal ancestry as present-day Eurasians. Their research suggests Neanderthal genes flowed into the ancestors of this man 7,000 to 13,000 years before he lived.

These findings suggest modern humans and Neanderthals interbred approximately 50,000 to 60,000 years ago, "which is close to the time of the major expansion of modern humans out of Africa and the Middle East," Kelso said.

[via LiveScience]

Moving forward, hopefully we will be able to sequence even more genomes from much older remains. Kelso notes that they are also interested in determining “what functional implications the Neanderthal DNA in present-day people might have had in the adaptation of present-day humans to their new environments.”

The findings are set to be published in the Oct. 23 issue of  ‘Nature.’

The post Neanderthals and Humans First Mated 50,000 Years Ago, DNA From Siberian Bone Reveals appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

Chipmaker deliberately cripples user devices with driver update

Future Technology Devices International, FTDI, creator of a popular line of USB-to-Serial chips used by hardware hackers and embedded in a number of consumer devices the world over, is using a driver update to crush counterfeiters by rendering the fake chips useless once patched.

Earlier this month, hardware hackers started to report problems after an updating their FTDI drivers. The FT232 chip is used in wide range of test equipment, as well as consumer and scientific products. It's also used by hardware hackers in a number of projects based on Arduino.

When a device using the FT232 chip is plugged into Windows system, FTDI drivers are downloaded automatically via Windows Update. This is a convenience for most, but a little over two weeks ago, it became a frustrating problem for many.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

You are responsible for your own Internet privacy

Bill Clinton's run for presidency nearly derailed when rumors surfaced that he had smoked marijuana during his time in England. In an effort to control the damage, Clinton admitted that he indeed experimented with the illegal drug but "didn't inhale." Imagine how history might have changed if a video of a glassy-eyed Clinton with a joint between his lips had shown up on Youtube (which, of course, didn't exist at the time).

Flash forward two decades, there's no place to hide anymore, no privacy. Compromising photos and videos shared online, surveillance cameras catching stupid acts, regrettable blog posts written during rebellious, youthful days, asinine comments on Facebook and Twitter, all can be unearthed -- the Internet remembers everything -- and undermine a person's reputation.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Astronomy Photo of the Day (APotD): 10/23/14 — Tethys Hangs In The Balance

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Over the course of Cassini’s tenure in orbit around Saturn, it has beamed back numerous stunning images of the ringed planet. But perhaps the most stunning of which aren’t of Saturn herself, but of her rings and other small satellites.

In the most recent addition, we have this great image of Saturn’s rings and Tethys — one of its many strange and spectacular moons. Here, Tethys looks like it is hanging off the precipice to oblivion, just inches away from plummeting off the edge of Saturn’s rings. Obviously, looks can be deceiving, as this is just a trick of perspective. Tethys itself is more than 100,000 miles higher than the rings are.

Delving deeper, two of Saturn’s rings — the A-ring and the F-ring — are most prominent. The latter constitutes Saturn’s outermost ring, which has repeatedly taken a beating over the years, mysteriously changing forms. The former, which is the ring that primarily appears to overlap with Tethys, is also one of the densest rings. Both are separated by what is called the Roche Division — a gap of more than 1,900 miles.

From NASA’ s Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

Like a drop of dew hanging on a leaf, Tethys appears to be stuck to the A and F rings from this perspective.

Tethys (660 miles, or 1,062 kilometers across), like the ring particles, is composed primarily of ice. The gap in the A ring through which Tethys is visible is the Keeler gap, which is kept clear by the small moon Daphnis (not visible here).

This view looks toward the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Tethys. North on Tethys is up and rotated 43 degrees to the right. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 14, 2014. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) from Tethys and at a Sun-Tethys-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 22 degrees. Image scale is 7 miles (11 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

See a larger image here.

The post Astronomy Photo of the Day (APotD): 10/23/14 — Tethys Hangs In The Balance appeared first on From Quarks to Quasars.

Fail of the Week: Project Frosty Mug is Merely Chilly

beverage cooler failLike many of us, [C] enjoys an ice-cold, refreshing soda while coding. Driven by a strong desire to keep a soda ice-cold indefinitely without using ice, [C] started Project Frosty Mug.

[C]‘s stated goal is to keep a 20oz plastic bottle of soda at ~35F indefinitely while it sits in a room temperature environment. He started with a thermoelectric unit to cool an aluminium disc, like a cold coaster. Builds one and two made him realize that dealing with the generated heat was a big issue: it got so hot that it deformed the PLA frame. [C] also realized that bottom-only cooling wasn’t going to get the job done.

This project is now in its third build, which is pictured above. As you can see, it’s more koozie than coaster. That 3-D printed holster is lined with aluminium sheeting. Another flat piece covers the opening and attaches to the cooling element. A beefy CPU heat sink does its best, and a couple of U-brackets hold it all together.

[C]‘s tested it with a glass bottle of Diet Sun Drop chilled to 38F. After 30 minutes in an ambient temperature of ~70F, the soda measured 45F. [C] lamented having not used a control bottle for comparison and reports that the power supply became quite warm. [C] isn’t going to give up that easily. Do you have any ideas for the fourth build?

Editor’s Note: This is one of the last Fail of the Week tips we have stored up. If you want to see the series continue on a weekly basis, we need help finding more documented fails! Please look back through your projects and document the ones that didn’t go quite right. We also encourage you to send in links to other fails you’ve found. Just drop the links in our tips line. Thanks!

2013-09-05-Hackaday-Fail-tips-tileFail of the Week is a Hackaday column which runs every Thursday. Help keep the fun rolling by writing about your past failures and sending us a link to the story — or sending in links to fail write ups you find in your Internet travels.


Filed under: Hackaday Columns, repair hacks

The rescue mission for Bertha, the world’s largest tunnel-boring machine

Bertha tunnel boring machine

The world’s largest tunnel-boring machine has stalled deep beneath Seattle. There’s only one way to finish the project. Bertha must be saved

Microsoft misses Windows bug, hackers slip past patch

Microsoft patched one bug in Windows last week, but missed another that hackers continue to exploit, according to security researchers at McAfee.

On Tuesday, Microsoft confirmed that cyber criminals are targeting victims using tricked-out PowerPoint files that exploit a "zero-day" vulnerability, or a bug that has not been patched.

"Microsoft is aware of a vulnerability affecting all supported releases of Microsoft Windows, excluding Windows Server 2003," the company said in a security advisory yesterday. "At this time, we are aware of limited, targeted attacks that attempt to exploit the vulnerability through Microsoft PowerPoint."

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Apple to stop SSL 3.0 support for push notifications soon

Apple will stop support next week for an encryption protocol found to contain a severe vulnerability, the company said on Wednesday.

Support for SSL 3.0 will cease as of Oct. 29, it said.

"Providers using only SSL 3.0 will need to support TLS as soon as possible to ensure the Apple Push Notification service continues to perform as expected," according to a note to developers. "Providers that support both TLS and SSL 3.0 will not be affected and require no changes."

Google researchers revealed last week they found a flaw in SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) version 3.0, which was released more than 15 years ago. SSL has been replaced by TLS (Transport Layer Security), but the old versions are still used by some servers across the Internet and are supported by web browsers.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Operation Pawn Storm is targeting military, government and media agencies

Trend Micro discovered a cyber-espionage operation dubbed  Operation Pawn Storm, which is targeting military, government and media entities worldwide.

A new cyber espionage operation targeting military, government and media agencies on a global scale has been discovered by security experts at Trend Micro. Also in this case it seems that the threat actors behind the operation, dubbed Operation Pawn Storm, have been active since at least 2007 and are still running several attacks worldwide.

“Pawn Storm is an active economic and political cyber-espionage operation targeting a wide range of entities, mostly those related to the military, governments, and media. Specific targets include:

  • Military agencies, embassies, and defense contractors in the US and its allies
  • Opposition politicians and dissidents of the Russian government
  • International media
  • The national security department of a US ally

states Trend Micro in a blog post.

In June 2014 the hackers compromised government websites in Poland and last month they injected a malware in the website for Power Exchange in Poland.  The attackers run different attack scenarios ranging from classis spear-phishing to watering hole attacks, in both cases to serve the SEDNIT malware. 

“The cyber criminals behind Operation Pawn Storm are using several different attack scenarios: spear-phishing emails with malicious Microsoft Office documents lead to SEDNIT/Sofacy malware, very selective exploits injected into legitimate websites that will also lead to SEDNIT/Sofacy malware, and phishing emails that redirect victims to fake Outlook Web Access login pages,” states Trend Micro in a blog post.

The experts consider the attacks as surgery operations, in some cases spear-phishing emails targeted a restricted number of individuals. The attackers also adopted as attack vector a collection of malicious iframes pointing to very selective exploits, the technique was used for the attack against the Polish government websites.

SEDNIT Operation Pawn Storm

The post explains that in an attack on  billion-dollar multinational firm the group behind the Operation Pawn Storm reached via email just three employees.

“The e-mail addresses of the recipients are not advertised anywhere online,” he noted. “The company in question was involved in an important legal dispute, so this shows a clear economic espionage motive of the attackers.”

The malware analysts believe that the bad actors behind the Operation Pawn Storm have great cyber capabilities and their operation are financially motivated. The experts consider very interesting the malware they designed to compromise targets and remain persistent in their network to syphon sensitive data.

“Our investigation into Pawn Storm has shown that the attackers have done their homework,” said Jim Gogolinski, Senior Threats Researcher at Trend Micro. “Their choices of targets and the use of SEDNIT malware indicate the attackers are very experienced; SEDNIT has been designed to penetrate their targets’ defenses and remain persistent in order to capture as much information as they can.”

The hackers also adopted a very effective technique for their phishing campaigns, to avoid raising suspicions in fact, they used well-known events and conferences such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Indonesia 2013 and the Middle East Homeland Security Summit 2014 as bait.

Trend Micro has disclosed the details of its investigation in research in a paper titled “Operation Pawn Storm.”

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Operation Pawn Storm, cyber espionage)

The post Operation Pawn Storm is targeting military, government and media agencies appeared first on Security Affairs.

Jeep Renegade: a new chapter

Jeep Renegade

An impressive array of tech features – including 9-speed automatic transmission – marks the arrival of Jeep’s entry into the compact SUV category

Turning the DEFCON Badge Into a Bitcoin Miner


The DEFCON badge this year was an impressive piece of hardware, complete with mind-bending puzzles, cap sense buttons, LEDs, and of course a Parallax Propeller. [mike] thought a chip as cool as the Propeller should be put to better use than just sitting around until next year so he turned it into a Bitcoin miner, netting him an astonishing 40 hashes per second.

Mining Bitcoins on hardware that doesn’t have much processing power to begin with (at least compared to the FPGAs and ASIC miners commonly used) meant [mike] would have to find some interesting ways to compute the SHA256 hashes that mining requires. He turned to RetroMiner, the Bitcoin miner made for an original Nintendo. Like the NES miner, [mike] is offloading the communication with the Bitcoin network to a host computer, but all of the actual math is handled by a single core on the Propeller.

Saving one core for communication with the host computer, a DEFCON badge could conceivably manage 280 hashes/second, meaning the processing power of all the badges made for DEFCON is about equal to a seven-year-old graphics card.

Filed under: Microcontrollers