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Bogus homeopathy data published in top journal sparks outcry, facepalms

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Enlarge / Seriously, it's enough to make researchers cry. (credit: Getty | Peter M Fisher)

Editors at a respected scientific journal are reconsidering their decision to publish a study, which claims that a homeopathic dilution of poison oak can reduce pain in rats, after online critics pointed out that the study is rife with bogus, sloppy, and low-quality data.

The study—titled “Ultra-diluted Toxicodendron pubescens attenuates pro-inflammatory cytokines and ROS-mediated neuropathic pain in rats”—was published September 10 in Scientific Reports, an open-access journal run by the Nature Publishing Group. Now, the online manuscript runs with an editor’s note at the bottom, stating:

Readers are alerted that the conclusions of this paper are subject to criticisms that are being considered by the editors. Appropriate editorial action will be taken once this matter is resolved.

The criticisms began mounting last month as independent scientists—rightly skeptical of homeopathy’s pseudoscientific principles—took a closer look at the paper.

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Manzabar
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Student's DoNotPay app expands to include pushbutton small claims lawsuits

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Joshua Browder launched DoNotPay when he started his computer science degree at Stanford; at first the app automated the process of fighting traffic tickets, then it expanded to helping homeless people claim benefits, then he automated suing Equifax for leaking all your financial data, then navigating the airlines' deliberately confusing process for getting refunds on plane tickets whose prices drop after you buy them.

The latest iteration of DoNotPay includes pushbutton lawsuits in small claims court: it uses IBM Watson to automatically format lawsuits claiming up to $25,000 in damages, based on a quick series of simple questions. The idea is to give equal justice to individuals who have been wronged by big corporations whose legal muscle makes them too intimidating to sue through regular channels. The app also creates a script for you to read aloud in court.

Browder -- now 21 -- accepts donations and has received $1.1m in seed funding; he's contemplating charging down the line for more customized legal advice and services. His Equifax-suing tool racked up multiple victories for victims of Equifax's negligence, even when Equifax sent corporate attorneys to fight the suits.

The app works by having a bot ask the user a few basic questions about their legal issue. The bot then uses the answers to classify the case into one of 15 different legal areas, such as breach of contract or negligence. After that, Do Not Pay draws up documents specific to that legal area, and fills in the specific details. Just print it out, mail it to the courthouse, and violá—you’re a plaintiff. And if you have to show up to court in person, Do Not Pay even creates a script for the plaintiff to read out loud in court.

New App Lets You 'Sue Anyone By Pressing a Button' [Caroline Haskins/Motherboard]

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Video: Fifty years ago today was the first Apollo mission to carry a crew to space

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On October 11, 1968, NASA launched the first Apollo crew into space. This mission, Apollo 7, opened the spaceways for the moon landing the following July. Apollo 7 had the following objectives: Demonstrate Command and Service Module (CSM) with crew performance; demonstrate mission support facilities' performance during a crewed mission and demonstrate Apollo rendezvous capability; demonstrate live TV broadcasts from space.

From NASA:

The Apollo 7 crew was commanded by Walter Schirra, with Command Module Pilot Donn Eisele, and Lunar Module Pilot Walter Cunningham. The mission consisted of an 11-day Earth-orbital test flight to test the Apollo command and service module. It was also the first time a crew flew on the Saturn IB rocket.

Although Apollo 7 was a complete technical success, it was born out of a tragedy. After the fatal fire that took the lives of the Apollo 1 crew—Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White—the Apollo 7 crew took over the mission.

Apollo 1 was supposed to be the first crewed Apollo mission. During a launch rehearsal test at Cape Kennedy, an electrical fire broke out in the cabin. Because the cabin atmosphere was pure oxygen, the fire spread incredibly quickly. The fire also created intense pressure inside the cabin, and because the hatch could only swing inward, the crew was stuck inside.

All further crewed missions had to wait until NASA could determine the sources of the mishap—technical and organizational—and ensure that nothing like it would happen again. In the 21 months between Apollo 1 and Apollo 7, the Apollo spacecraft and spacesuits were redesigned to more safely fly crews to space.

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Manzabar
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Vigilante server administrator is fixing insecure routers without permission

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A Russian hacker who calls himself "Alexey" is infiltrating insecure networks and adding security patches to Latvian-made MikroTik routers so they "can't be abused by cryptojackers, botnet herders, or other cyber-criminals," reports ZDNet. Alexey claims to have secured over 100,000 MikroTik routers so far. A security expert told ZDNet that over 420,000 MikroTik routers have been hijacked to mine cryptocurrency on the sly.

Alexey has not been trying to hide his actions and has boasted about his hobby on a Russian blogging platform. He says he accesses routers and makes changes to their settings to prevent further abuse.

"I added firewall rules that blocked access to the router from outside the local network," Alexey said. "In the comments, I wrote information about the vulnerability and left the address of the @router_os Telegram channel, where it was possible for them to ask questions."

But despite adjusting firewall settings for over 100,000 users, Alexey says that only 50 users reached out via Telegram. A few said "thanks," but most were outraged.

The vigilante server administrator says he's been only fixing routers that have not been patched by their owners against a MikroTik vulnerability that came to light in late April.

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chrisrosa
2 days ago
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Nice image reference @BoingBoing. I'll give you this one. #harrytuttle #ftw
San Francisco, CA

Gorgeous time-lapse video of Sunday night's SpaceX launch

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On Sunday evening, SpaceX launched a satellite on a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Visual Burrito created this beautiful time-lapse, 4K video of the spectacle in the sky.

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Manzabar
3 days ago
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How to cook and eat a gourmet meal in Antarctica

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Very quickly. Before it, and you, freeze.

On Cyprien Verseux's Twitter account, wonderful snapshots of fun with food on the bleak, frozen ice sheets of Antarctica.

“I had no idea that having lunch on the roof was not a good idea,” Lucien says, about the spaghetti shown here and in his hands in the top photo. Shot by Carmen Possnig, ©ESA, at Concordia Station Antarctica 2018.

Cyprien Verseux is an astrobiologist, and currently the head of Concordia station in Antarctica.

When he decides to have lunch outdoors, it's not like you or me having lunch outdoors.

Where he is, it's -94ºF / -70ºC.

Swiss raclette, spaghetti, nutella, you name it. He pulls it off.

Everything is possible with hunger, determination, and the right fuel.

Below, some of the fun photos from his adventures.

“Raclette at #ConcordiaStation. Credits: @ CPossnig and @ CyprienVerseux .“

“A balanced breakfast on the roof of Concordia Station.” Credits: Cyprien Verseux and Carmen Possnig, © ESA

“Nutellart, or: even the snack is not easy to take on the roof of # ConcordiaStation . Credits: @ CPossnig and @ CyprienVerseux . © # PNRA ( @ ItaliAntartide ) / # IPEV / @ esa”

“Attempted (failed) scrambled eggs at # ConcordiaStation . Credits: @ CPossnig and @ CyprienVerseux . © # PNRA ( @ ItaliAntartide ) / # IPEV / @ esa
# Antarctic # DC14“

“Aurora australe, observed with @marcobuttu, the astronomer of #DC14.” Photo by Marco Buttu, © PNRA / IPEV.

[via]

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