Biggest galaxies in the universe were formed in cosmic oceans of cold gas

Using radio telescopes in Australia and the US, an international team of scientists has discovered that the biggest galaxies in the universe develop in cosmic clouds of cold gas. Until now scientists believed that these “supergalaxies” formed from smaller galaxies that grow closer and closer together until they merge, due to gravitational attraction.“In the local universe, we see galaxies merging and we expected to observe that the formation of supergalaxies took place in the same way, in the early (now distant) universe,” said first author Bjorn Emonts, researcher at Centro de Astrobiolog√≠a (CSIC-INTA) in Madrid.

To investigate this, telescopes were pointed towards an embryonic galaxy cluster 10 thousand million light years away, in whose interior the giant Spiderweb galaxy is forming, and the scientists discovered a cloud of very cold gas where the galaxies were merging.This enormous cloud, with some 100 thousand million times the mass of the Sun, is mainly composed of molecular hydrogen, the basic material from which the stars and the galaxies are formed.

Previous studies had discovered the mysterious appearance of thousands of millions of young stars throughout the Spiderweb, and for this reason it is now thought that this supergalaxy condensed directly from the cold gas cloud.Instead of observing the hydrogen directly, the researchers traced carbon monoxide, which is much easier to detect.“It is surprising how cold this gas is, at some 200 degrees below zero Celsius,” said the study’s second author Matthew Lehnert, a researcher at the Astrophysics Institute of Paris.

For the study, the researchers combined the interferometers VLA (Very Large Array) in New Mexico (US) and the ATCA (Australia Telescope Compact Array) in Australia.“Using sensitive observations of carbon monoxide, we show that the Spiderweb galaxy — a massive galaxy in a distant protocluster — is forming from a large reservoir of molecular gas,” said the study published in the journal Science.

Scientists use magnets to recover forgotten short term memories

With a technique that uses magnets to stimulate the brain, it is possible to bring back short-term “forgotten” memories stored in the brain, new research has found. The researchers conducted a series of experiments in which people were asked to remember two items representing different types of information — they used words, faces and directions of motion — because they would be tested on their memories.

When the researchers gave their participants a cue as to the type of question coming — a face, for example, instead of a word — the electrical activity and blood flow in the brain associated with the word memory disappeared. But if a second cue came letting the participant know they would now be asked about that word, the brain activity would jump back up to a level indicating it was the focus of attention.“People have always thought neurons would have to keep firing to hold something in memory. Most models of the brain assume that,” said Brad Postle, Professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US.

“But we’re watching people remember things almost perfectly without showing any of the activity that would come with a neuron firing. The fact that you’re able to bring it back at all in this example proves it’s not gone. It’s just that we can’t see evidence for its active retention in the brain,” Postle said. The researchers were also able to bring the seemingly abandoned items back to mind without cueing their participants.

Using a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to apply a focused electromagnetic field to a precise part of the brain involved in storing the word, they could trigger the sort of brain activity representative of focused attention. “We think that memory is there, but not active,” Postle said.“More than just showing us it’s there, the TMS can actually make that memory temporarily active again,” Postle pointed out.

The study — published in the journal Science — suggests a state of memory apart from the spotlight attention of active working memory and the deep storage of more significant things in long-term memory.The findings may have implications for treatment of mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, in which patients focus on hallucinations instead of reality, and depression, which seems strongly related to spending an unhealthy amount of time dwelling on negative things.

RSS economic wing SJM seeks probe into Chinese connection of mobile wallet Paytm

Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), the economic wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), on Friday demanded a probe into the alleged “China connection” of the country’s top mobile wallet provider Paytm. “There are reports that Paytm has connection with Chinese firm Alibaba. This is a matter of concern and needs to be probed,” Ashwani Mahajan, co-convener of the SJM, told IANS.

Ever since the demonetisation drive, millions of consumers and merchants across the country have been opting for mobile payments via Paytm. The company has added over five million new users since the demonetisation was implemented.

Mahajan said the SJM welcomes the government’s initiative towards creating a cashless society, but expressed concern about a few things. Giving reasons for his concern, Mahajan said, “We strongly suspect that Chinese firms may steal our banking data through such channels and may misuse it.”

The users have to furnish their debit/credit card and bank account numbers while using apps like Paytm. “What is the percentage of foreign investment in Paytm? To what extent the firm’s management is controlled by foreign players? These are a few questions we should have answers of,” he added.

He said that no Indian company should be sharing data with foreign companies and the investment routes should be made very transparent. “We would take up the matter with the finance and commerce ministries,” Mahajan said.He also raised objection over Paytm using Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s picture in its advertisements.

Phillippine government asks Bangladesh to share findings of heist investigation

The Philippine government wants Bangladesh to share the findings of its investigation into how unknown hackers pulled off one of the world’s largest cyber bank heists, to help speed up recovery of the stolen funds.Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, who last week met with a Bangladesh delegation, said Manila “strongly recommended” Dhaka share the results of its investigation. He assured the visitors the government was doing it everything it could to find Bangladesh’s missing money.Cyber criminals tried to steal nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank in February and made off with $81 million via an account at the New York Federal Reserve. That money was transferred to four accounts with false names at one RCBC branch in Manila before vanishing.

“We are pursuing the lawsuits on your behalf as vigorously as we can,” Dominguez was quoted in a statement as telling the delegation.Bangladesh Bank has declined to disclose the findings of its own inquiry, saying it wanted to deny perpetrators knowledge of the investigation.Most of the money was laundered through Philippine casinos. About $15 million recovered from a gaming junket operator has been returned to Bangladesh, with a further $2.7 million frozen.Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who had earlier pledged the stolen money would be returned, cancelled a meeting with the Bangladesh team because of “pressing matters”.

Asked if the findings of the probe would be shared with the Philippines government, Bangladesh’s ambassador in Manila, John Gomes, said: “No one asked us anything yet.”But Philippine central bank deputy governor Nestor Espenilla said Manila had received an assurance from Bangladesh it would provide an “initial update” since the investigation was not yet finished.Bangladesh has said it wanted RCBC, or the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC), to compensate it for its losses, but RCBC refuses to pay and has said the Bangladesh central bank was “negligent”.

Bangladesh’s Law Minister Anisul Huq last week said RCBC should shoulder the burden for accepting stolen funds.RCBC was fined a record one billion pesos ($20 million) by the Philippine central bank for its failure to prevent the movement of the stolen Bangladesh money through its bank. Huq said paying that fine was tantamount to accepting culpability.An anti-money laundering body last month filed charges against five RCBC officials in connection with the theft.No arrests have been made despite investigations by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Interpol, Bangladesh police and authorities in the Philippines.

Demonetisation: security experts warn that ATMs are easy targets for hackers

At a time when serpentine queues continue to grow outside ATMs across the country following the demonetisation move, a top executive of Intel Security has warned that ATMs in India are susceptible to security breaches.Intel Security, with its McAfee product line, is the world’s largest dedicated security technology company.

In banks, a breach can happen at multiple levels — like at an ATM, data centre, network or through mobile banking. “The ATM today is an easy target for hackers to hit a network,” Anand Ramamoorthy, Managing Director, Intel Security, South Asia, told IANS in an interview.

ATM attacks have affected several countries in the recent past. A hacker group called Cobalt targeted ATMs across Europe last month and remotely attacked the machines using malicious software that manipulated the systems which led the machines to automatically dispense huge amounts of cash.
Banks in India will have to make efforts to ensure that ATMs are protected with multiple levels of authentication and industry-standard encryption, ensuring data security at all points of a transaction.

According to experts, banks need to work towards gradually enabling EMV chip and PIN-enabled card acceptance and processing at ATMs to enhance the safety and security of transactions.“It is time that magnetic-stripe cards issued by banks for ATM transactions are replaced at the earliest. While the affected banks are blocking debit cards to minimise the impact, the already ongoing replacement of mag-stripe cards with EMV chip cards will help the banks and consumers,” Atul Singh, Regional Director-Banking and Transport (India Subcontinent) at the digital security giant Gemalto, told IANS earlier.EMV — which stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa — is a global standard for credit cards that uses computer chips to authenticate (and secure) chip-card transactions.

“We have seen a big focus on ATM attacks in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, including India. ATMs in underdeveloped countries are particularly vulnerable as those countries still have old ATM software and are running Windows XP. This makes them the perfect target for an easier score,” US-based cyber security company FireEye said recently.In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently urged people to “embrace e-banking, mobile banking and more such technology”, but Ramamoorthy warned that as mobile banking becomes popular, it will involve greater risks.

“You have to become aware as you become more digitised,” noted Ramamoorthy, adding that mobile has become more of a financial gateway and its implications are huge for the country.Earlier this year, following a malware-related security breach, the State Bank of India (SBI), HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and YES Bank blocked millions of debit cards that were compromised in one of the biggest data breaches in the financial sector.

“To protect ATMs from cyber attacks in the future, Intel Security has deployed an ‘Embedded App’ control which not only protects ATMs at the site but also the network which it is connected to,” Ramamoorthy said, adding that the app is set for an update in 2017.

BMW to test autonomous vehicles in Munich in an effort to create the “coolest” ride hailing service


BMW will test autonomous vehicles in Munich next year as it seeks to keep up with ride-hailing firms like Uber, which have spent billions on pay-per-use personal transport. The German carmaker will have about 40 vehicles with self-driving functions in Munich’s inner city and then expand the project to other cities, BMW executives said on Friday. “There is a trained test driver behind the wheel of every car,” Klaus Buettner, BMW’s Vice President in charge of Autonomous Driving said.

Uber’s rapid growth has prompted BMW to consider how autonomous vehicles may help them accelerate their own push into pay-per-use transport. Software and technology companies like Lyft, Juno and Uber have shaken up the traditional auto industry business model of selling cars by offering customers an alternative to vehicle ownership through smartphone-based ride-hailing services.

Now traditional car companies are expanding their own ride-hailing schemes, while investing in self-driving technology. “Ride hailing is nothing more than manual autonomous driving,” Tony Douglas, Head of Strategy for BMW’s mobility services said. “Once you dispense with the driver you have a license to print money.”

BMW has already made significant progress expanding into the market for car sharing by introducing pay-by-the-minute services like ReachNow in Seattle, Douglas said. “We had 14,000 people sign up in 4 days, in a market already served by Zipcar, Uber, Lyft and Car2go,” Douglas said. “Someone else spent the money to educate the market and then we came in with a cool product. We will not be the largest, but we can be the coolest,” Douglas said.

MW plans to use not just its expertise making premium vehicles, but also its ability to manufacture, own and manage fleets of premium vehicles. “Uber and Lyft do not operate their own fleets of cars. Owning the fleet means you can make offers that Lyft and others are unable to provide. For example providing car sharing for a specific community only,” BMW’s Chief Executive Harald Krueger said.

EU asks US tech giants to respond faster to tackle online hate speech

U.S. tech giants including Facebook, Twitter, Google’s YouTube and Microsoft will have to act faster to tackle online hate speech or face laws forcing them to do so, the European Commission said on Sunday. The European Union (EU) executive’s warning comes six months after the companies signed up to a voluntary code of conduct to take action in Europe within 24 hours, following rising concerns triggered by the refugee crisis and terror attacks.

This included removing or disabling access to the content if necessary, better cooperation with civil society organizations and the promotion of “counter-narratives” to hate speech. The code of conduct is largely a continuation of efforts that the companies already take to counter hate speech on their websites, such as developing tools for people to report hateful content and training staff to handle such requests.

However, a report commissioned by EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova showed that compliance with the code is far from satisfactory, the commission said. “In practice the companies take longer and do not yet achieve this goal. They only reviewed 40 percent of the recorded cases in less than 24 hours,” a Commission official said. “After 48 hours the figure is more than 80 percent. This shows that the target can realistically be achieved, but this will need much stronger efforts by the IT companies.”

The Commission said it may enact laws to force swifter action. “If Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft want to convince me and the ministers that the non-legislative approach can work, they will have to act quickly and make a strong effort in the coming months,” Jourova told the Financial Times. Her spokesman confirmed the comments.

Jourova’s report showed an uneven pace across the 28-country bloc, with the removal rate of racist posts in Germany and France above 50 percent, but just 11 percent in Austria and 4 percent in Italy. EU justice ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss the report on Thursday. They are also expected to ask the companies to clarify issues including taking down “terrorist propaganda” and helping provide evidence to convict foreign fighters.