Moon shrinking, quaking, study says
The Moon is slowly shrinking over time, which is causing wrinkles in its crust and moonquakes, according to photos captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Unlike Earth, the Moon doesn’t have tectonic plates. Instead, as the moon’s interior has cooled over the last several hundred million years, it has caused the surface to wrinkle as it shrinks, CNN reported.
Unlike the flexible skin of a grape when it shrinks into a raisin, the Moon’s brittle crust breaks. This creates stair-step cliffs called thrust faults as part of the crust is pushed up and over another close part of the crust.
There are now thousands of cliffs scattered across the Moon’s surface, averaging a few miles long and tens of yards high. The orbiter has taken photos of more than 3,500 of them since 2009. In 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt had to ascend one of these cliffs, the Lee-Lincoln fault scarp, by zig-zagging the lunar rover over it.
Today the Moon is 50 meters ‘skinnier’ because of this process. And as it shrinks, the Moon actively produces moonquakes along the faults. Researchers reanalyzed seismic data they had from the Moon to compare with the images gathered by the orbiter.
Data from the seismometers placed on the Moon during the Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16 missions revealed 28 moonquakes recorded between 1969 and 1977. Researchers compared the location of the epicenters for those quakes with the orbiter imagery of the faults. At least eight of the quakes occurred due to activity along the faults. This rules out the possibility of asteroid impacts or rumblings from the Moon’s interior.
This means that the Apollo seismometers recorded the Moon shrinking, the researchers said. The study of Apollo seismic data and analysis of more than 12,000 of the orbiter’s photos were published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience.
“It’s really remarkable to see how data from nearly 50 years ago and from the
[orbiter] mission has been combined to advance our understanding of the Moon while suggesting where future missions intent on studying the Moon’s interior processes should go,” said John Keller in a statement, study author and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
The researchers believe the quakes are still occurring on the Moon, which means that its actively changing.
“Our analysis gives the first evidence that these faults are still active and
likely producing moonquakes today as the Moon continues to gradually cool and shrink,” said Thomas Watters, senior scientist in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington.
“Some of these quakes can be fairly strong, around five on the Richter scale.”
Some of the quakes also happened during a point in the Moon’s orbit when it was farthest from Earth, indicating that the tidal stress of Earth’s gravity could have contributed to stress on the Moon’s crust.
“You don’t often get to see active tectonics anywhere but Earth, so it’s very exciting to think these faults may still be producing moonquakes,” said Nicholas Schmerr in a statement, study author and assistant professor of geology at the University of Maryland. Schmerr designed the algorithm that reanalyzed the Apollo data.
The researchers noted other evidence in the orbiter’s photos of landslides and boulders at the bottom of bright patches, signaling recent activity. Over time, the lunar surface darkens due to weathering and radiation, so bright spots are areas where recent activity has exposed areas on the lunar surface.
“For me, these findings emphasize that we need to go back to the Moon,” Schmerr said.
“We learned a lot from the Apollo missions, but they really only scratched the surface. With a larger network of modern seismometers, we could make huge strides in our understanding of the Moon’s geology. This provides some very promising low-hanging fruit for science on a future mission to the Moon.”
“Establishing a new network of seismometers on the lunar surface should be a priority for human exploration of the Moon, both to learn more about the Moon’s interior and to determine how much of a hazard moonquakes present,” said Renee Weber, study coauthor and planetary seismologist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, in a statement.
WhatsApp urges users to act after confirming cyber surveillance attack
Hackers were able to install spyware on WhatsApp by exploiting a major vulnerability in the app, the company confirmed.
The messaging service, which is owned by Facebook, said it believes ‘a select number of users’ were targeted by an ‘advanced cyber actor’, Sky News reported.
It is unclear how many devices were affected, but a WhatsApp spokesperson said a number in the dozens would not be inaccurate.
The company discovered the breach in early May and has informed a number of human rights organizations.
WhatsApp said it has since fixed the vulnerability and is urging people to upgrade to the latest version of the app.
It has not been confirmed who carried out the attack, but it was said to have hallmarks of a private company that works with governments to deliver spyware.
The Financial Times has reported the spyware was developed by NSO Group, an Israeli cybersecurity and intelligence company.
The NSO Group rejected the paper’s allegation.
The technology would allow it take over the functions of mobile phone operating systems.
WhatsApp said it is ‘deeply concerned’ about the abuse of such capabilities, and has briefed a number of human rights organizations.
The vulnerability in the app allowed it to be infected with spyware with a missed in-app call function.
The company has provided information to US law enforcement to help them conduct an investigation.
A WhatsApp spokesperson said, “WhatsApp encourages people to upgrade to the latest version of our app, as well as keep their mobile operating system up to date, to protect against potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices.
“We are constantly working alongside industry partners to provide the latest security enhancements to help protect our users.”
Danna Ingleton, deputy director of Amnesty International Tech, tweeted, “Just to reiterate, this means ‘zero click’ targeting is actually happening. Now, more than ever, we need some accountability from this company and better Due Diligence processes in the industry.”’
AI now better at predicting mortality than human doctors
As scientists continue to toil away at creating machine learning algorithms that will one day enslave humanity save us all, artificial intelligence (AI) researchers have discovered that computers are outpacing human doctors in a number of important areas.
We’ve already seen the ability of AI to spot things like cancer, and a new study revealed that a digital brain may also be better at predicting overall mortality and specific conditions such as heart attack with greater accuracy than a trained individual, BGR News reported.
The research, which was presented at the International Conference on Nuclear
Cardiology and Cardiac CT, suggests that we may be fast approaching a day when artificial intelligence works hand-in-hand with medical professionals to anticipate life-threatening problems before they occur.
The researchers, led by Dr. Luis Eduardo Juarez-Orozco of the Turku PET Centre in Finland, trained a machine learning algorithm on a data set of nearly 1,000 patients. The data, which spanned six years for each patient,
included dozens of variables that the computer had to digest in order to draw correlations between instances of death and heart attack with data on various heart and blood flow readings.
“The algorithm progressively learns from the data and after numerous rounds of analyses, it figures out the high dimensional patterns that should be used to efficiently identify patients who have the event,” Juarez-Orozoc said in a statement.
“The result is a score of individual risk.”
As each variable was taken into account the predictive accuracy of the AI to
anticipate a heart-related event or a death increased dramatically. Once the system had crunched all of the available data it managed a predictive score of around 90 percent, which is significantly better than most doctors are able to score based on the typical amount of information they have on each patient.
“Doctors already collect a lot of information about patients — for example those with chest pain,” Juarez-Orozco said.
“We found that machine learning can integrate these data and accurately predict individual risk. This should allow us to personalize treatment and ultimately lead to better outcomes for patients.”
Amazon rolls out machines that pack orders, replace jobs
Amazon.com Inc. is rolling out machines to automate a job held by thousands of its workers: Boxing up customer orders.
The company started adding technology to a handful of warehouses in recent years that scans goods coming down a conveyor belt and envelops them seconds later in boxes custom-built for each item, two people who worked on the project told Reuters.
Amazon has considered installing two machines at dozens more warehouses, removing at least 24 roles at each one, these people said. These facilities typically employ more than 2,000 people.
That would amount to more than 1,300 cuts across 55 US fulfillment centers for standard-sized inventory. Amazon would expect to recover the costs in under two years, at $1 million per machine plus operational expenses, they said.
The plan, previously unreported, shows how Amazon is pushing to reduce labor and boost profits as automation of the most common warehouse task — picking up an item — is still beyond its reach. The changes are not finalized because vetting technology before a major deployment can take a long time.
Amazon is famous for its drive to automate as many parts of its business as possible, whether pricing goods or transporting items in its warehouses. But the company is in a precarious position as it considers replacing jobs that have won it subsidies and public goodwill.
“We are piloting this new technology with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times and adding efficiency across our network,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement.
“We expect the efficiency savings will be reinvested in new services for customers, where new jobs will continue to be created.”
Amazon last month downplayed its automation efforts to press visiting its Baltimore fulfillment center, saying a fully robotic future was far off. Its employee base has grown to become one of the largest in the US, as the company opened new warehouses and raised wages to attract staff in a tight labor market.
A key to its goal of a leaner workforce is attrition, one of the sources said. Rather than lay off workers, the person said, the world’s largest online retailer will one day refrain from refilling packing roles. Those have high turnover because boxing multiple orders per minute over 10 hours is a taxing work. At the same time, employees that stay with the company can be trained to take up more technical roles.
The new machines, known as the CartonWrap from Italian firm CMC S.r.l., pack much faster than humans. They crank out 600 to 700 boxes per hour, or four to five times the rate of a human packer, the sources said. The machines require one person to load customer orders, another to stock cardboard and glue and a technician to fix jams on occasion.
CMC declined to comment.
Though Amazon has announced it intends to speed up shipping across its Prime loyalty program, this latest round of automation is not focused on speed.
“It’s truly about efficiency and savings,” one of the people said.
Including other machines known as the ‘SmartPac,’ which the company rolled out recently to mail items in patented envelopes, Amazon’s technology suite will be able to automate a majority of its human packers. Five rows of workers at a facility can turn into two, supplemented by two CMC machines and one SmartPac, the person said.
The company describes this as an effort to ‘repurpose’ workers, the person said.
It could not be learned where roles might disappear first and what incentives, if any, are tied to those specific jobs.
But the hiring deals that Amazon has with governments are often generous. For the 1,500 jobs Amazon announced last year in Alabama, for instance, the state promised the company $48.7 million over 10 years, its Department of Commerce said.
Amazon is not alone in testing CMC’s packing technology. JD.com Inc. and Shutterfly Inc. have used the machines as well, the companies said, as has Walmart Inc., according to a person familiar with its pilot.
Walmart started three-and-a-half years ago and has since installed the machines in several US locations, the person said. The company declined to comment.
Interest in boxing technology sheds light on how the ecommerce behemoths are approaching one of the major problems in the logistics industry today: Finding a robotic hand that can grasp diverse items without breaking them.
Amazon employs countless workers at each fulfillment center who do variations of this same task. Some stow inventory, while others pick customer orders and still others grab those orders, placing them in the right size box and taping them up.
Many venture-backed companies and university researchers are racing to automate this work. While advances in artificial intelligence are improving machines’ accuracy, there is still no guarantee that robotic hands can prevent a marmalade jar from slipping and breaking, or switch seamlessly from picking up an eraser to grabbing a vacuum cleaner.
Amazon has tested different vendors’ technology that it may one day use for picking, including from Soft Robotics, a Boston-area startup that drew inspiration from octopus tentacles to make grippers more versatile, one person familiar with Amazon’s experimentation said. Soft Robotics declined to comment on its work with Amazon but said it has handled a wide and ever-changing variety of products for multiple large retailers.
Believing that grasping technology is not ready for prime time, Amazon is automating around that problem when packing customer orders. Humans still place items on a conveyor, but machines then build boxes around them and take care of the sealing and labeling. This saves money not just by reducing labor but by reducing wasted packing materials as well.
These machines are not without flaws. CMC can only produce so many per year. They need a technician on site who can fix problems as they arise, a requirement Amazon would rather do without, the two sources said. The super-hot glue closing the boxes can pile up and halt a machine.
Still other types of automation, like the robotic grocery assembly system of Ocado Group PLC, are the focus of much industry interest.
But the boxing machines are already proving helpful to Amazon. The company has installed them in busy warehouses that are driving distance from Seattle, Frankfurt, Milan, Amsterdam, Manchester and elsewhere, the people said.
The machines have the potential to automate far more than 24 jobs per facility, one of the sources said. The company is also setting up nearly two dozen more US fulfillment centers for small and non-specialty inventory, according to logistics consultancy MWPVL International, which could be ripe for the machines.
This is just a harbinger of automation to come.
“A ‘lights out’ warehouse is ultimately the goal,” one of the people said.
A divided US Supreme Court on Monday gave the go-ahead to an
antitrust lawsuit accusing Apple Inc. of forcing consumers to overpay for iPhone software applications, Reuters reported.