There is a catch, however. The opening ceremonies will take place onFriday and will be carried in the normal high definition (HD) format on NBC, thus available on all providers that carry the broadcast network. Viewers who want the higher resolution 4K HDR will have to wait until Saturday to see the ceremonies in all their glory.Given the time difference between the United States and South Korea –14 hours to the East Coast — viewing of the games will be time-delayed anyway, to an extent. That said, most — if not all — of the 4K HDR content will be delayed until 24 hours after the “live” broadcast.In addition, because the broadcast production world hasn’t moved fullyto 4K HDR, not all this year’s Olympic events will be provided in the format. The content will be limited to the opening ceremonies, figure skating, short track (racing), ski jumpingand ice hockey, according to NBC. The closing ceremonies aren’t listed at the presenttime, but it is likely they will be in 4K HDR as well. At present, some TV productions already are being produced in 4K as away to future-proof content, but in the short term sports could bethe game changer that causes audiences to adopt the new TV technologyand even pay for the content.”Sporting content is amongst the most important broadcasters have tooffer, and consumers with new 4K UHD sets will often be looking forcontent like this to trial their new sets and gauge the quality oftheir purchase,” said Futuresource’s Tett.”Those who have not made the upgrade yet can try to be persuadedthrough retailer and vendor promotions, with the promise of aheightened viewing experience on a new TV,” he added.”Traditionally, major sporting events tend to bring forward saleswithin a year rather than cause the market to grow, meaning consumerswill choose to purchase a set earlier in the year to watch the eventrather than delaying their purchase to later months, as they may haveotherwise done,” Tett noted.The next big test could be for sports, and 4K HDR could advance this summerwhen the world’s most popular sporting event takes place in Russia.”With the FIFA World Cup approaching, this is another reason forramping up live capture of major sporting events in 4K, as it will givethe entire broadcast chain more experience with this,” said Futuresource’s Veale.The visuals may even get better.”We will see higher frame rates, which will benefit any sportingevent with an element of speed, such as the key events of the WinterOlympics,” said Veale. “While some sporting events are already beingbroadcast at 50 to 60 frames per second, when we move towards 120fps this willprovide a much smoother and clearer picture of fast-moving objects.” Time Delay Peter Suciu has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2012. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile phones, displays, streaming media, pay TV and autonomous vehicles. He has written and edited for numerous publications and websites, including Newsweek, Wired and FoxNews.com.Email Peter. The parade of Olympic athletes entering Pyeongchang, South Korea,could be quite colorful for a few reasons. Athletes fromNorth and South Korea will enter together for the first time in morethan a decade, and viewers at home will be able to see the ceremony — and evensome events — like never before.NBCUniversal has decided to make the XXIIIOlympic Winter games available to cableand satellite partners in 4K High Dynamic Range, or HDR.Dish, DirecTV and Comcast customers who have compatible TV sets andsubscriptions to the appropriate service, will be able to take in the 4KHDR coverage.This year’s games are not the first Olympics to be delivered in 4K — NBCdistributed the Rio Olympics in 2016 in 4K Ultra High Definition. However,this year’s winter games can boast the addition of the High Dynamic Range element, whichpromises even more stunning colors in addition to higher resolution.”For the first time, the Winter Olympics will be available in 4K HDR,marking an exciting milestone for both the TV industry and Olympicviewers,” said Dish Chief Technology Officer Vivek Khemka. “We’re pleased to work with NBCUniversal to give customers access tothis year’s inspiring Olympic performances in the clearest resolutionand richest color palette available, maximizing the potential of their4K HDR TVs.” This is the first true “ready for prime time” event to be delivered in4K HDR, so it’s uncertain whether it can deliver the viewingexperience that broadcasters and TV makers have been promising.”The Winter Olympics have a wide color gamut — white snow, black sky atnight, colorful team outfits,” noted Recon Analytics’ Entner.I”All of this looks much better as the TV and the transmission detailincreases, and the Winter Olympics are the best international event toshow that, probably even better than the World Cup this summer,” he added.Of course, the weather would need to agree for certain events that take place outside, such as ski jumping. That could have been a factor in thedecision not to include other outdoor events in the 4K HDR lineup, suchas downhill skiing and snowboarding. Even in ideal weather thoseevents may not show off the full potential of the new TV sets.”The Winter Olympics are notoriously hard to shoot, as a significantproportion of the screen is filled with a ‘white” image with limitedcontrast,” noted Tristan Veale, market analyst at Futuresource Consulting.”The extra dynamic range should provide a significantly improvedviewing experience for those with a compatible HDR TV, with fargreater definition between different shades of whites and graysdisplayed without impacting the image quality of the, often, brightlycolored competitors,” he told TechNewsWorld.Where the quality of the picture might really be seen is inside the arenas!”My guess is that it’s all about the figure skating, which should lookamazing in 4K,” said Espelien. “That’s what the audience mainly caresabout. It is like you’re right there in the arena.” NBC may be providing 4K UHD content, but it won’t actually beavailable to broadcast viewers who receive the network programmingover the air. Even current subscribers to Comcast, Dish and DirecTVmay need to do more than simply plug in and hook up a new set.Dish customers will need to have a Hopper 3 set-top box, while DirecTVsubscribers will need to have a Genie HD DVR (model HR54 or above) or4K Genie Mini set-top box. Certain subscription plans may be requiredas well.”The practical question is whether [the Olympics opportunity] causes people with4K TVs to configure their pay-TV devices to actually watch some 4K content for once,” noted Joel Espelien, senior analyst at The Diffusion Group.”DirecTV customers have to hook up a second set-top box companion device thatsits between the main satellite receiver and the 4K TV,” he told TechNewsWorld.”It’s not clear how many people have actually bothered to do this, given the relative scarcity of 4K content,” Espelien added. The athletes may not be the only ones aiming for gold at these OlympicGames. TV makers could hope to score as well by offering discounts on4K HDR sets.”Big sports events typically drive new TV sets,” said Roger Entner,principal analyst at Recon Analytics.”It’s very difficult to buy a new TV set that isn’t 4K/UHD these days,” he told TechNewsWorld.Sales of these sets already have been strong, with a boost from the recent Super Bowl.”4K UHD TVs have experienced significant growth in recent years, with more than 80 million thought to have shipped during 2017,” said David Tett, market analyst for consumer electronics at Futuresource Consulting.”The growth has been centered in North America, Western Europe andChina, but has been seen across all regions of the globe,” he told TechNewsWorld.”As price falls further and demand for larger screens continues toincrease across the world, shipments will continue to grow strongly,with double digit growth expected for many years to come and over 25percent of worldwide homes expected to own a 4K UHD set by the end of2021,” Tett added. Not Exactly Plug and Play Future of Sports Olympic Glory Gold for TV Makers
HP Sprocket PhotoPrinterApparently, this little printer has been a real hit with folks who like to take selfies and with those who like to stick pictures to things. It costs around US$130. The pictures cost about 50 cents each to print, and they have adhesive backs so you can stick them to things.You know, what I think is particularly funny is that Apple’s new iPhone ad has at its core printed stickers that folks stick on people. iPhones can’t do this, but the Sprocket can (albeit much smaller).Years ago, Apple tricked HP into not launching an MP3 player that scared Steve Jobs enough to get personally involved in the scam. It would be ironic if the next “iPod” were a printer from HP. For that reason, and because this thing is actually pretty cool, the HP Sprocket is my product of the week. A big difference is that Apple can focus on product, while Samsung has to restore its image, and that is a far harder thing to do.I’ll share some thoughts about this coming battle and close with the closest thing in market to an iPod-like device, although it doesn’t play music. It’s a printer called the “Sprocket.” Thanks to the burning phones and a tendency for some of Samsung’s washing machines to explode of late, folks aren’t trusting Samsung much. This has resulted in Samsung having to run an expensive campaign to recover its brand.Having worked on a similar project at IBM decades ago, I know this kind of problem is neither cheap nor quick to fix. It took IBM millions and five years to recover its brand. Samsung’s market is both more forgiving and more fickle, which suggests it could do it far faster, but I still think it will take at least two years of solid execution and millions in marketing.This may not be helped by the fact it currently is selling refurbished Galaxy Note 7s, which still are banned from airplanes. Given that the failure was caused by a design feature rather than a component problem, these phones still could catch fire.This seems like a continuation of the tactical thinking that got Samsung into this mess in the first place, and if one of these refurbished phones should catch fire, it could result in a huge advantage for Apple.It also suggests that the problem created cash liquidity issues that likely resulted in this incredibly risky decision.A lot of folks have speculated that if the new phone catches fire, then Samsung is screwed. However, the reality is that none of its phones can catch fire, because that will cause people to disbelieve the message of a new, more quality-focused Samsung.So, the phone it launched may be up to the challenge of restoring Samsung’s brand, but the company’s execution appears to be falling short in other respects. It still could fail due to the decision to resell the problematic Note 7s and the sheer time it will take to recover its image. Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has undergrad degrees in merchandising and manpower management, and an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester. Email Rob. The iPod’s method of success actually was defined well before the iPod launched and showcased by earlier successes, like the Sony Walkman, Flip and Polaroid Cameras. People will flock to products that easily do something they want done but that currently is too difficult to do.Back in the iPod time, thanks to the record labels, it was really hard to put music onto a truly portable player. The iPod fixed that. Even though it was wicked expensive at the time and took three versions to take off, it transformed the market once it did.The closest product to the iPod currently in market is, strangely, a printer. It is the HP Sprocket — a pocketable printer that does just one thing easily and well: It prints small pictures in color from your smartphone. You can give these pictures to friends or family, particularly those who don’t have smartphones, or you can stick them to things. Apple’s Problem Wrapping Up The new Samsung Galaxy S8 has launched, and its target of choice is the as yet unlaunched Apple iPhone 8 Anniversary Edition. These phones are critical for both companies. Apple survives largely off the iPhone today, and Samsung is trying to recover both from its burning phone problem and from its top executive being arrested on bribery charges.Neither firm can afford a big loss to the other, and Samsung just came out of the gate with one hell of an opening salvo. Samsung’s Problem With a healthy and well-executing Samsung, the new Galaxy Note S8 could have done scary things to Apple’s iPhone 8 sales, particularly because Apple simply can’t afford to match in its phone the kinds of advancements that Samsung has showcased.However, Samsung isn’t healthy, and its decision to resell the problematic Note 7 is a showcase of what has been a string of excessive risks. An Apple supporter could rig a refurbished Note 7 to catch fire in a critical location, and the risk that Samsung represents could be removed. That’s a hell of a temptation for a lot of Apple employees and partners, even if Apple management weren’t involved in such a move.Further, Apple just torpedoed Andy Rubin’s iPhone killer before it launched, suggesting Samsung should be thinking far more defensively. Apparently, Tim Cook did pick up at least one Steve Jobs skill — and if Samsung doesn’t watch out, this one will bite it in the butt.Unless Samsung suddenly gets a lot smarter, this round likely will go resoundingly to Apple, despite what otherwise is a very strong effort with its new S8 phone.Against Apple, it generally is the execution, not the product, that makes the critical difference, and Samsung remains overmatched. Apple’s iPhone both surprised and, for a time, drove the smartphone market. It helped wipe out Palm, forced BlackBerry to make massive changes, and knocked the once-dominant Nokia down to the third tier of mobile phone players.On the other hand, Apple’s attempts at diversification haven’t gone very well. The iPad is no longer the PC killer it once was thought to be, the iPod is all but gone, and the Apple Watch was a disappointing misfire. (Ironically, it is still the most successful single product in its class, suggesting an as-yet-unresolved class problem.)Apple no longer controls the smartphone market, though. Control now is shared — and firms using Google’s Android platform represent a significantly larger share. In this new Android-led world, Samsung has been the company to beat.Apple has had an amazing run recently, largely because Samsung’s halo phone, the Samsung Note 7, had a nasty tendency to catch fire. Samsung didn’t address that problem well at all, leading to the phone being banned from planes and ultimately recalled.That didn’t give Apple a sustainable advantage, though, because Samsung didn’t fail. That means the gains that Apple got likely will go away once Samsung re-enters the high-end segment and recovers its brand, which really is the bigger problem. It has made a start — recovering the phone is what it just did.The long-term problem for Apple is that Apple’s margins are industry-leading but Samsung’s aren’t. That means Samsung and others can put more into their phones and still charge less. That’s why the S8 is so scary. It is a technology showcase that Apple can’t match unless it cuts into margins, and Apple can’t do that without collapsing its valuation.In effect, Apple is between a rock and a hard place if Samsung can execute — but execution isn’t easy.
Oct 25 2018Osteoarthritis (OA) is a debilitating and painful condition affecting more than 2.2 million Australians at a cost to the health system of $2.1 billion annually. As Australia’s population ages and obesity rates climb, this figure is expected to grow to more than 3 million by 2030.Common treatment options to date have included opioid prescriptions for pain relief and knee surgery, yet there are significant limitations and dangers associated with these options, including drug dependency and misuse as well as complications and delayed recovery from surgery.As evidence grows to support physiotherapy and targeted exercise program interventions for OA management, the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is calling on the federal government to fund physiotherapy as a first line treatment option.APA National President Phil Calvert says the health system needs to offer better value by providing a range of treatment options which are proven to be effective. “Physiotherapists work with patients who suffer acute and chronic pain every day, so we know that early intervention physio treatment, targeted exercises and proper health education leads to beneficial outcomes for them. But to really address the issue of OA management on a national scale we need MBS reform, specifically a new service item descriptor that allows direct-to-physio referrals for patients with any type of arthritis. This should be the first line treatment, not opioids or surgery.”“Patients should – and increasingly want to be – active participants in their own health decisions, and while short term opioid prescriptions may be a part of the solution for OA management, they are definitely not the only solution. Numerous studies have shown that preventive physiotherapy treatment works, and it is also far less costly to the health system.Related StoriesRewiring of nerves gives movement to paralyzed arms and handsUGR scientists design new hydrogel that aids in cartilage regenerationNew type of treatment for osteoarthritis shows promise for use in humans“When compared to the longer-term issues associated with opioid use and addiction, and the enormous cost of knee surgeries which are not the silver bullet many patients hope they will be, it makes sense that the government funds a simpler, cheaper and more effective option. It is a win-win for patients and the health system to fund physiotherapy for OA management.”This funding is particularly critical for physiotherapy services in rural and remote Australia, where patients are often prescribed opioids because specialist health services are relatively scarce and difficult to access.The recently released RACGP guidelines for the management of knee and hip OA also support the use of non-drug treatments for pain relief, with a specific recommendation to GPs to engage a physio early in a patient’s treatment plan. The guidelines strongly recommend offering tailored exercises for all people with knee and hip OA to improve pain and function, regardless of their age, disease severity or pain levels. Exercise has also been found to be beneficial for other comorbidities that OA patients often present with such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.APA physiotherapist Dr Christian Barton, an OA researcher at LaTrobe University, says: Source: http://www.physiotherapy.asn.au/APAWCM/The_APA/news/2018/October/Funding_for_physiotherapy_led_exercise_programs_is_key_to_proper_OA_management.aspx One of the biggest problems we have to address is that many people are told to rest when they have pain, rather than stay active. As a result they often become quite sedentary, which can lead to depression, weight gain and an increased risk of other chronic diseases.Proper exercises, regular physical activity and good health education are essential for OA management, all of which can be delivered by exercise specialists like physios. The missing link is the funding to provide patients the opportunity to do this.”
Source:https://healthsciences.ku.dk/news/2018/11/ambitious-new-research-center-will-push-the-boundaries-of-skin-disease-research/ Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)Nov 19 2018The new LEO Foundation Skin Immunology Research Center at the University of Copenhagen will pave the way to a better understanding, prevention and treatment of skin diseases that plague a quarter of the world’s population. Based on a grant of more than EUR 50 million over 10 years, the center will bring together leading Danish and international researchers in skin immunology and skin diseases to provide new knowledge to enable better diagnoses and more effective treatments of a wide range of skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema.The LEO Foundation Skin Immunology Research Center will conduct top-level international research into the skin’s immune system and its diseases. The center will be headquartered on the 12th floor of the Maersk Tower at the University of Copenhagen, where researchers will be interacting closely with already existing top Danish and international research environments and hospitals.”It is a great privilege for Danish research that we shall soon be able to open the doors to our new center,” says Dean Ulla Wewer, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, UCPH: “Our strong research environment in Greater Copenhagen, one of the world’s leading research regions, give us a unique possibility to firmly establish Danish research into skin, skin disease and immunology on the world map. Skin disease is a significant day-to-day problem for many people which is why we wish to contribute our accumulated knowledge and efforts to these diseases.”New therapeutic and diagnostic methods form the basis for personalized medicinePut simply, the skin acts as our shield and as an extension of the immune system. The skin is the largest human organ and ensures our survival by protecting us against the bacteria, viruses and chemical substances that constantly attack our bodies. The LEO Foundation Skin Immunology Research Center will generate new knowledge of the skin and the development of diseases and their treatments. This can be used to strengthen the immune system’s fight against many of the more than 3,000 known skin diseases.”Sometimes the immune system fails and attacks our own organism. This can result in autoimmune disease. In order to improve our understanding of disease and create better forms of treatments it is absolutely critical that we learn more about the complex functions of the skin and its cellular and molecular composition. Now, we will be able to speed up our research at the new center and we hope that in time, it will prove highly significant for many people worldwide,” says Prof Niels Ødum, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, UCPH, who will be leading the center during the first period.Denmark as the international epicenter for skin disease researchRelated StoriesOlympus Europe and Cytosurge join hands to accelerate drug development, single cell researchAXT enhances cellular research product portfolio with solutions from StemBioSysAMSBIO offers new, best-in-class CAR-T cell range for research and immunotherapyThe center’s researchers will be working closely with leading international researchers at universities and hospitals to provide valuable, effective knowledge-sharing across this major field of research. They will join forces with clinical experts at hospitals and our excellent research teams at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. Interdisciplinary collaboration will also be making use of Big Data and advanced proteomics to identify and characterize the proteins in the skin. This will give us new insights into the mechanisms of skin disease and form the basis for developing new diagnostic approaches and possibly new medicines.The center will also be providing the best possible framework for education, training and talent development for students and will create generations of specialists in the field.Massive boost for a so-far under-appreciated area of diseaseCompared with other areas of research, skin disease research has traditionally taken a lower priority within the health sciences.”At any given time, one in four of us will suffer from a skin disease and at present we are unable to treat many of these diseases in an adequate way. This is why we want to raise the bar in dermatological research. The LEO Foundation supports the best international research in skin diseases and the new center will provide unique opportunities to a better understanding of the skin and its diseases”, says Jesper Mailind, CEO, LEO Foundation.According to the Danish Psoriasis Association, it is now time for research to get a significant boost since skin diseases have major consequences for individuals and society.’For a lot of people, visible skin disorder leads to stigmatization. People with skin disorders often suffer from extremely reduced quality of life. I am therefore happy that we are getting a center at the top international level focusing specifically on understanding skin disorders like psoriasis in depth and getting closer to developing precision medicine. And it will be located right here in our backyard – in Denmark. The establishment of the new research center is a huge step forward for the dream and hope of developing an actual cure for psoriasis, as seen within cancer research for example. We are very grateful for the new center’, says Lars Werner, Director of the Danish Psoriasis Association.Inauguration of the ‘LEO Foundation Skin Immunology Research Center’ The inauguration of the center will be celebrated on Monday, 25 February 2019 at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, in the presence of the Minister for Higher Education and Science, Tommy Ahlers.
Reviewed by Alina Shrourou, B.Sc. (Editor)Nov 19 2018Nightmares and insomnia often accompany posttraumatic stress disorder and increase suicide risk.A small study looking at whether the drug prazosin, best known for treating high blood pressure but also used to treat PTSD-related sleep problems, can reduce suicidal thoughts has yielded surprising results.They indicate it may actually worsen nightmares and insomnia and doesn’t reduce suicidal thinking, investigators report in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.”I think we have to view this as not the final word on this, but it raises questions,” says Dr. W. Vaughn McCall, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.McCall is currently seeking input from PTSD experts across the country but says a likely consensus could be that prazosin may help some, but may not be a good choice when suicide is an active concern.Two larger studies in active and retired military personnel yielded mixed results as well, the first in active duty military showed it helped with nightmares and sleep quality and a follow-up study just published this year on military veterans with chronic PTSD indicated it was no better than placebo.McCall’s pilot study is the first in which all participants had suicidal thoughts or actions.”It did not seem to do much for suicidal ideation and that was somewhat disappointing, but the thing what was mind-blowing was that is actually worsened nightmares,” says McCall. “Maybe it’s not for everybody.” He notes that with PTSD, a patient’s nightmares often focus on the trauma that produced their disorder.Two study participants required emergency inpatient psychiatric care, but there were no suicide attempts or deaths over the study course.”We need to reconcile how is it that we had 10 years of data saying prazosin is good for nightmares in PTSD, a big study this February indicating it has essentially no affect and now a smaller study showing it can worsen some aspects,” McCall says. “We need to know what it all means.”The latest study led by McCall looked at a total of 20 seriously psychiatrically ill patients, two with wartime PTSD with the remainder mostly civilian females who experienced sexual assault. All had active suicidal thoughts, some had previous suicide attempts and most were taking antidepressants and/or had them prescribed as part of evaluation for the study. For eight weeks, they took bedtime doses of the short half-life prazosin with the idea of helping avoid nightmares and, by association, suicidal thoughts. They were assessed weekly for relevant factors such as severity of suicidal thoughts, nightmares, insomnia, depression and PTSD.One reason for the unexpected findings of the study could be the severity of participants’ PTSD as indicated by the their suicidal thoughts, McCall says of his study. The once daily dose may also have been problematic in impacting suicidal thoughts, McCall notes.Related StoriesOxidative stress could play key role in the spreading of aberrant proteins in Parkinson’s diseaseTransobturator sling surgery shows promise for stress urinary incontinenceUnpleasant experiences could be countered with a good night’s REM sleepThere was no significant impact on blood pressure, likely because of the drug’s short half-life, and no suicide attempts or deaths.A result of PTSD can be too much noradrenaline, also known as norepinephrine, a stress hormone and neurotransmitter that is key to the body’s fight or flight response. Its increase ideally is a short-term reaction that constricts blood vessels so we can adeptly respond to some threat. Prazosin readily enters the central nervous system where it blocks the action of norepinephrine.”What trauma does in part is put your brain on edge so you are always ready for the next bad thing,” McCall says. “We use terms like hypervigilance, meaning you are always scanning the environment and PTSD patients often sit with their back to the wall so they can see the door. People who are over-diligent by day probably don’t sleep well at night,” he notes.The work of McCall and others has delineated a clear association between insomnia, nightmares and suicidal thoughts and behavior.McCall reconfirmed in 2013 in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine the link between insomnia and nightmares and how losing hope of ever getting another good night’s sleep itself is a risk factor for suicide.Earlier studies looking at prazosin’s ability to help when PTSD appears responsible include a 26-week trial in 271 military veterans with chronic PTSD who had frequent nightmares. The study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association failed to show any benefit of prazosin over placebo in reducing the frequency and intensity of trauma-related nightmares. New or worsening suicidal thoughts occurred in about 8 percent of participants taking prazosin versus 15 percent taking placebo. The study, led by Dr. Murray A. Raskind, vice chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington and director of the VA Northwest Network Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System, took place at 13 VA medical centers.Five years earlier, Raskind led another study of the drug in active duty soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with combat PTSD and nightmares. The drug, administered midmorning and at night for 15 weeks, showed it was actually effective compared with placebo in the 67 soldiers for combat nightmares, overall sleep quality, and generally reducing the impact of their PTSD.McCall’s study used the same dosing schedule as the previous larger studies but with only the nighttime dose. Six participants completed the entire course of the trial, and investigators suspected that the weekly visits required for the study may have been arduous for some.Currently the antidepressants sertraline and paroxetine are the only PTSD drug therapies that have Food and Drug Administration approval and neither are widely effective, McCall says.Source: https://jagwire.augusta.edu/archives/58935
Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)Jan 8 2019New study followed thousands of postmenopausal women from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to demonstrate effectiveness of hormone therapy in reducing prevalence of knee osteoarthritisThere is an ongoing debate regarding the relationship between knee osteoarthritis and hormone therapy (HT), with small-scale studies providing mixed results. A new large-scale study from Korea shows that women receiving HT had a significantly lower prevalence of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis compared with women who did not take hormones. Study results are published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).Related StoriesNew technology to harvest energy from the human kneeNew type of treatment for osteoarthritis shows promise for use in humansCommon traits keep many patients with knee cartilage issues from participating in clinical trialsOsteoarthritis is the most common musculoskeletal disorder in older persons and is the leading cause of pain and physical disability. Caused by degenerative changes in the joints, it affects more women than men, and its incidence is particularly elevated in menopause. Because estrogen has an anti-inflammatory effect at high concentrations, it has been hypothesized that hormone changes in women, especially decreasing estrogen levels, may lead to an increase in osteoarthritis after menopause.Because the knee is the most commonly affected joint, knee osteoarthritis has been the focus of a number of studies relative to the effectiveness of HT. The most common treatments for knee osteoarthritis include surgery or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, both of which are associated with risks such as surgical complications or gastrointestinal disorders.Several small studies have shown that HT not only reduces histologic changes in the cartilage involved in osteoarthritis, but it also reduces the chronic pain. To date, however, no large-scale studies have examined symptomatic knee osteoarthritis and HT. This latest study out of Korea is based on data from nearly 4,800 postmenopausal women. It concluded that the prevalence of knee osteoarthritis was significantly lower in participants using HT than those not taking hormones. The authors did note, however, that additional research is warranted to adjust for such other variables such as age and body mass index.Study results appear in the article “Knee osteoarthritis and menopausal hormone therapy in postmenopausal women: a nationwide cross-sectional study.””Past and current users of hormone therapy had a lower prevalence of knee joint osteoarthritis, suggesting that hormone therapy may be protective against knee osteoarthritis,” says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director. “This study suggests that estrogen taken at menopause may inhibit cartilage damage and reduce knee deterioration seen on x-rays.” Source:https://www.menopause.org/docs/default-source/press-release/knee-osteoarthritis-and-hormone-therapy-1-7-19.pdf
This effectively forms a hierarchy in which the sperm with highest motility are closest to the stricture.One experiment showed that a single sperm swimming at 84.2mm per second was able to make it through one of the strictures, while currents pushed the other sperm back, with the weakest swimmers pushed back the furthest.Allan Pacey, a professor of andrology at the University of Sheffield explained that the results “show that only the fastest, and therefore assumed best, sperm can pass through these narrowings against a fluid flow,” and that it makes “perfect biological sense and would help to explain how the female reproductive tract is able to make sure the best sperm reach the egg.” The shape of the path leads to an accumulation of the sperm such that the faster sperm stay closer to the stricture and to each other while the slowest sperm are swept back by the flow and spread further apart.”Alireza Abbaspourrad, Co-author By Lois Zoppi, BAFeb 14 2019Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)A new study has found that slow-swimming sperm are disadvantaged by narrow areas of the female reproductive tract, preventing them from reaching an egg.medistock | ShutterstockLess active sperm may never have the chance to reach an egg due to obstacles within narrow areas of the female reproductive tract known as strictures.Strictures include areas such as the opening from the uterus to the fallopian tubes. Weaker sperm swimming against the flow of fluid throughout the tract may not possess the strength to successfully overcome the stronger currents occurring at narrow passages, giving faster sperm a distinct advantage.After ejaculation, sperm must travel through the entire female reproductive tract before reaching an egg, overcoming a series of obstacles.The female reproductive tract includes the vagina, cervix, uterus and the fallopian tubes. The journey is all done upstream against fluid that flows at different speeds at different parts of the tract.The effect that narrow areas of the reproductive tract have on a sperm’s ability to successfully make it to an egg has not been previously studied, with earlier investigations focusing on the way that sperm stay close to the walls of the reproductive tract to effectively guide themselves towards an egg.Many studies have made use of long, straight swimming channels, which do not accurately reflect the conditions inside the female reproductive tract. As the fluid flows faster at strictures, the sperm must exert extra effort to pass it.Although mechanical engineer David Sinton was not involved in the study, he said that the devices used to study how sperm moved tested “both endurance and sprinting” and that he believes “both abilities are needed” inside the reproductive tract.For this study, a “microfluidic” device was used, along with computer simulations that accurately mimicked the varying widths of the reproductive tract.Using sperm from both men and bulls, it was observed that the stronger swimmers began to move in a butterfly-shaped path and successfully made it through, while weaker sperm were washed backward.Co-author of the study Alireza Abbaspourrad explains that “the overall effect of these strictures is to prevent slow sperm from making it through and to select for sperm with highest motility.”A biophysicist at Cornell University, Abbaspourrad added that the “most surprising part for us was the way sperm swim on this butterfly-shaped path.”Shedding light on the benefits of this swimming pattern, Abbaspourrad said: Source:Zafarani et al. 2019. Strictures of a microchannel impose fierce competition to select for highly motile sperm. Science Advances.
Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Mar 25 2019Endocrine-disrupting chemicals present in household dust promote the development of fat cells in a cell model and could contribute to increased growth in children relative to their age, according to research to be presented Monday, March 25 at ENDO 2019, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in New Orleans, La.”This is some of the first research investigating links between exposure to chemical mixtures present in the indoor environment and metabolic health of children living in those homes,” said lead researcher Christopher Kassotis, Ph.D., of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment in Durham, N.C.Previous research has shown that chemical exposures can promote accumulation of triglycerides–a type of fat found in the blood–and increased obesity in animal models. Many observational studies have found a link between exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals believed to contribute to obesity and increased weight in humans.Related StoriesOlympus Europe and Cytosurge join hands to accelerate drug development, single cell researchNANOLIVE‘s novel CX-A defines a new standard for live cell imaging in 96 well plates for continuous organelle monitoring in cell populationsNew shingles vaccine reduces outbreaks of painful rash among stem cell transplant patientsIn this study, Kassotis and colleagues investigated the effect of chemical mixtures isolated from house dust. They collected 194 house dust samples from households in central North Carolina. They then extracted the chemicals from the dust in the lab. These extracts were tested for their ability to promote fat cell development in a cell model.They found that very low concentrations of dust extracts were able to promote precursor fat cell proliferation and fat cell development. According to the EPA, children are estimated to consume between 60 and 100 milligrams of dust each day.”We found that two-thirds of dust extracts were able to promote fat cell development and half promote precursor fat cell proliferation at 100 micrograms, or approximately 1,000 times lower levels than what children consume on a daily basis,” Kassotis said.The researchers then measured more than 100 different chemicals in the dust and looked at the relationship between their concentrations and the extent of fat cell development. They found that approximately 70 of the chemicals had a significant positive relationship with the development of dust-induced fat cells, and approximately 40 were linked with precursor fat cell development. “This suggests that mixtures of chemicals occurring in the indoor environment might be driving these effects,” Kassotis said.The researchers found several chemicals were significantly elevated in the dust of homes of children who were overweight or obese. They are continuing to study these chemicals–some of which are found in common household products such as laundry detergents, household cleaners, paints and cosmetics–to determine which ones may be linked to obesity. Source:https://www.endocrine.org/
Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jun 13 2019The results of a randomized controlled trial presented today at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR 2019) demonstrate high levels of treatment success in approximately two thirds of patients despite tapered glucocorticoid (GC) discontinuation, while a small loss of disease control was observed at the total study population level. Results demonstrate, after 24 weeks, a small but significant difference in disease activity following GC tapering with a between arm difference of 0.6 DAS28-ESR units (95% confidence interval (CI):0.3-0.9; p<0.001). However, most patients in both arms achieved treatment success at the end of the study (77% of continued GC and 65% of GC taper, p=0.021). Flares were experienced in 26% of GC taper patients and 11% of those on continued GC, although only one patient in the study (continued GC group) discontinued blinded treatment due to insufficient flare control. Serious adverse events (no deaths) were reported for 5% of the continued GC group and 3% of the GC taper group. No patients had symptomatic adrenal insufficiency.Related StoriesRegular physical activity can be effective in reducing pain from arthritisScientists develop universal FACS-based approach to heterogenous cell sorting, propelling organoid researchOlympus Europe and Cytosurge join hands to accelerate drug development, single cell research"The risk to benefit profile of glucocorticoid therapy in rheumatoid arthritis is very controversial," said Professor John D. Isaacs, Chairperson of the Abstract Selection Committee, EULAR. "We welcome these data to inform our understanding in this area and ultimately the better management of patients suffering with this disease."Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the joints, causing pain and disability. It can also affect internal organs. The efficacy of GC therapy in these patients is well established. However, it is recommended that it should be gradually reduced and ultimately stopped, ideally within three to six months. This is due to many potential risks including osteoporosis, infections, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.The study included 259 patients with rheumatoid arthritis taking GC therapy (prednisone 5mg/day) as well tocilizumab with or without a conventional synthetic disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug (csDMARD) for 24 weeks or more. At randomization, they had to be in remission or have low disease activity (DAS28-ESR<3.2) for at least four weeks. They were randomized to continue the prednisone 5mg/day or undergo blinded tapering (from 4mg/day with a 1mg reduction every 4 weeks to 0mg/day at weeks 16-24) whilst receiving stable tocilizumab and csDMARD doses. Patients who had a flare were given open-label rescue prednisone at 5mg for two weeks and continued blinded treatment.Source:European League Against Rheumatism On the basis of our results, we believe that all patients achieving low disease activity or remission with tocilizumab should be offered glucocorticoid tapering," Professor Gerd R. Burmester, Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Charité - University Medicine Berlin, Germany
Reviewed by Alina Shrourou, B.Sc. (Editor)Jun 17 2019In Europe, 8% of the male population and 0.5% of the female population (that is, almost 22 million persons in the EU) present a congenital anomaly in their color vision, commonly known as color-blindness. To date, no effective treatment for color-blindness has been found, although genetic therapies have been successfully tested on mice and primates.Currently, there are various ‘active’ and ‘passive’ aids on the market that claim to improve color-defective vision among color-blind people, some of which are of dubious help. So-called ‘active’ aids modify the color of images by using image-processing algorithms to increase the contrast between colors that, otherwise, would be indistinguishable for the user. ‘Passive’ aids are based on color filters that can even be used as tinted glasses or contact lenses, even with their corresponding optometric compensation. Among the passive aids on the market, the glasses marketed by the US companies EnChroma and VINO are particularly noteworthy for their novelty and media profile.In 2018, researchers at the University of Granada (UGR) analyzed the performance of EnChroma’s glasses (model Cx-65), concluding that they do not improve the results of color-blind participants in a series of diagnostic tests. Nor did they enable the color-blind participants to enjoy color vision that resembled that of normal observers. The published conclusions of this research had major social repercussions.Subsequently, the UGR researchers turned to analyzing some of the viral videos made about the O2Amp ‘Oxy-Iso’ glasses. In these videos, color-blind users can be seen crying with joy when using the product for the first time. Having studied VINO’s advertising claims for such products, the UGR scientists decided to undertake a meticulous study of the effectiveness of these glasses. Their investigative work was driven by a strong conviction that scientists hold a moral contract with society that calls on them to identify and refute—on the basis of rigorous experiments—any erroneous information that companies disseminate. In this case, the information that these companies have targeted at color-blind people could generate false hopes, such as the suggestion that the product would enable users to see new colors or even to correct their color-blindness altogether.Although VINO Optics’ O2Amp ‘Oxy-Iso’ glasses were initially developed for medical professionals to improve the contrast of the veins under the skin, the inventors claim their technology helps color-blind people with red-green deficiency (known as deutans and protans). On its website, the company currently (June 2019) states: “Our Color Blindness technology corrects red-green color deficiency, based on a scientific understanding of what color vision is for.” It also claims their technology “does more than simply allow you to pass the Ishihara test,” which is one of the classic, and basic, tests for identifying whether a person is color-blind.Related StoriesComplement system shown to remove dead cells in retinitis pigmentosa, contradicting previous researchEye research charity funds development of ‘organ-on-a-chip’ to fight glaucomaFACS-based CRISPR screening shows how Chlamydia bacterium invades host cellsThe researchers followed a dual strategy to assess the efficiency of these glasses. First, they evaluated the vision of 52 color-blind people, with and without the VINO glasses by means of different tests typically used to assess color vision: the aforementioned Ishihara color test (recognition test) and the Farnsworth-Munsell (FM) 100 hue test (arrangement test). They also added a color-naming test based on the X-Rite color chart. The second strategy was to simulate the effect of the glasses, using the spectral transmittance of the VINO lenses, on observers who presented different degrees of simulated color-blindness. This enabled the team to assess the changes they produced in the appearance of colors, as perceived by different subjects. The researchers completed their study by comparing the results with those obtained by the EnChroma Cx-65 glasses.The low-level transmittance of the VINO O2Amp ‘Oxy-Iso’ glasses in the intermediate region of the spectrum produced a significant change in the appearance of the color, especially in the chroma attribute. This change allows some color-blind subjects, particularly deutans, to pass simple recognition tests, such as the Ishihara, but not the more comprehensive arrangement tests, such as the FM100. These results, together with those obtained by means of simulation using a novel “Daltonization” algorithm, showed that these glasses do not improve the color vision of color-blind subjects to the extent that they can see color as people with normal vision. However, they may facilitate some tasks requiring color discrimination. In fact, these glasses can particularly aid deutans in some tasks, such as helping them to distinguish some colors that can cause confusion (at the risk of confusing others that they previously perceived differently). In addition, the glasses can be useful in some specific applications (such as improving the contrast of veins under the skin), as is the case with other color filters used in activities such as hunting or shooting, or in low-vision contexts.In a paper recently published in the journal Optics Express(one of the most widely-respected publications in the optics field, with among the highest impact indices), the UGR researchers conclude: “Our results support the hypothesis that glasses with filters are unable to effectively resolve the problems related to color vision deficiency.”Despite the efforts of this research team, there remain numerous alternatives on the market that are based on the use of colored filters. These, too, use similar marketing strategies to promote their products, based on the idea of achieving normal color vision among color-blind subjects.The research group at the UGR’s Department of Optics (Faculty of Science) comprises doctors Miguel ángel Martínez Domingo, Luis Gómez Robledo, Eva Valero Benito, Rafael Huertas Roa, Javier Hernández Andrés and Enrique Hita Villaverde and student Silvia Ezpeleta Gascón. Source:University of GranadaJournal reference:Miguel, A. et al. (2019) Assessment of VINO filters for correcting red-green Color Vision Deficiency. Optics Express. doi.org/10.1364/OE.27.017954.
We knew already that participants find it hard to ignore cues that signal a large reward.”Dr Poppy Watson, Study Lead, UNSW But this experiment showed – for the first time – that ignoring these cues became harder as soon as participants had to perform a task while also holding other information in their memory.”We have a set of control resources that are guiding us and helping us suppress these unwanted signals of reward. But when those resources are taxed, these become more and more difficult to ignore.”Up until now, researchers didn’t know whether people’s general inability to ignore reward cues is just something we have no control over or whether we do use our executive control processes to constantly work against distractions. But now it’s become clear that the latter is the case – although unfortunately this resource is limited.Executive control is a term for all cognitive processes that allow us to pay attention, organize our life, focus, and regulate our emotions.”Now that we have evidence that executive control processes are playing an important role in suppressing attention towards unwanted signals of reward, we can begin to look at the possibility of strengthening executive control as a possible treatment avenue for situations like addiction,” says Dr Watson.In the experiment, participants looked at a screen that contained various shapes including a colorful circle. They were told they could earn money if they successfully located and looked at the diamond shape, but that if they looked at the colored circle – the distractor – they would not receive the money.They were also told that the presence of a blue circle meant they’d gain a higher amount of money (if they completed the diamond task) than the presence of an orange circle. The scientists then used eye tracking to measure where on the screen participants were looking.”To manipulate the ability of participants to control their attention resources, we asked them to do this task under conditions of both high memory load and low memory load,” Dr Watson says.In the high-memory load version of the experiment, participants were asked to memorize a sequence of numbers in addition to locating the diamond, meaning they had fewer attention resources available to focus on the diamond task.Related StoriesRecreational marijuana users tend to drink more alcohol, medicinal users drink lessSobering up: In an alcohol-soaked nation, more seek booze-free social spacesUTHealth researchers investigate how to reduce stress-driven alcohol use”Study participants found it really difficult to stop themselves from looking at cues that represented the level of reward – the colored circles – even though they were paid to try and ignore them,” Dr Watson says.”Crucially, the circles became harder to ignore when people were asked to also memorize numbers: under high memory load, participants looked at the colored circle associated with the high reward around 50% of the time, even though this was entirely counterproductive.”Limited resourcesThe findings demonstrate that people need full access to cognitive control processes to try and suppress unwanted signals of reward in the environment.”This is especially relevant for circumstances where people are trying to ignore cues and improve their behavior, e.g. consuming less alcohol or fast food,” says Dr Watson.”There’s this strong known link between where your attention is and what you eventually do, so if you find it hard to focus your attention away from reward cues, it’s even harder to act accordingly.StressThat also explains why people might find it harder to focus on dieting or beating an addiction if they are under a lot of stress.”Constant worrying or stress is the equivalent to the high-memory load scenario of our experiment, impacting on people’s ability to use their executive control resources in a way that’s helping them manage unwanted cues in the environment.”Dr Watson advises people to try and be strategic about exposure to cues.”If you are under a lot of cognitive pressure (stress, or tiredness) you should really try and avoid situations where you’ll be tempted by signals. You need to be in the right frame of mind to be in a situation where you can stop yourself from getting distracted and going down a path where you don’t want to go,” she says.TreatmentThe researchers now want to look at how executive control can be strengthened – and if that presents an opportunity for situations like drug rehab.”Our research suggests that if you strengthen executive control you should have better outcomes. Some studies have already demonstrated that training executive control can reduce the likelihood that you will eat chocolate or drink alcohol.”And in the clinic, training attentional focus away from pictures of alcohol towards soft drinks has been shown to reduce relapse in alcoholic patients,” Dr Watson says.”However, the exact mechanisms of how this works are still unclear and we need more research to figure out how exactly we can use executive control to our advantage.” Source:University of New South WalesJournal reference:Watson, P. et al. (2019) Capture and Control: Working Memory Modulates Attentional Capture by Reward-Related Stimuli. Psychological Science. doi.org/10.1177/0956797619855964 Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jul 9 2019Have you ever tried to stay away from fast food, but found hard-to-ignore signals that represent its availability – like neon lights and ads – are everywhere?If you’re stressed, tired or otherwise straining your brain power, you may find it harder to ignore cues in the environment that signal something rewarding.That’s what a UNSW Sydney experiment by a group of psychologists – published today in high-impact journal Psychological Science – has shown.
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Apple HomePod reviews: Amazing sound quality, not much else, iPhone users only * Pros: Most versatile option, works with thousands of products, affordable, hands-free calling, interchangeable shells* Cons: Speakers are not the best, Alexa can be glitchy periodically, not as customizable as the Google Home, uses Bing for searchWho should buy an Echo?Anyone! This lineup of smart speakers is intuitive enough to use that you don’t need to be tech-savvy to enjoy a large number of Alexa’s capabilities. It’s perfect for families with young kids as well as older adults. Amazon Prime members will benefit from making shopping lists and ordering right through Alexa. And if you have (or want) a smart home, the Echo lineup will serve you well when it comes to connecting with your devices.Find your perfect Amazon EchoGoogle HomePrice: $129.99The Google Home was released in November 2012, two years after the Echo. Not only did this give Google time to see how the Echo was received, but it let them spot areas where they could improve on Amazon’s design and features. With the Echo, you often have to use very specific commands to execute key tasks, but Google Assistant understands more conversational language. It even remembers your last question, allowing you to ask follow-up questions without completely restating them.What really sets the Google Home apart from the Echo is the ability to customize command phrases and responses, which requires a little more elbow grease to get set up but also opens up a lot of potential for things only the Google Home can do. You can also buy things online, and from a wider variety of retailers than Echo, which only uses Amazon (obviously).* Pros: Most intuitive smart assistant, customizable skills, interchangeable shells, affordable options, uses Google Search* Cons: Requires more hands-on setup for customization, not as many compatible apps and devices (yet) as the Echo, more expensiveWho should buy a Google Home?Anyone, but especially people who want more control over their smart speaker. Android users and people who own Chromebooks, Google phones, or Chromecasts would also be smart to choose this over the Echo or HomePod, as it will play nice with all of these devices. This is also a great speaker to pair with many smart home devices, but the options are not yet as robust as they are with the Echo.Bring a Google Home into your homeApple HomePodPrice: $349.99The first time I used the HomePod, which came out in February 2018, my very first thought was “this thing sounds incredible.” When you play a track in any genre, the result is rich, balanced sound. It also gets veryloud (without losing quality). Playing at a normal volume on one end of my apartment, I could hear my music perfectly from the other end, about 35-40 feet and a couple walls. Siri even warns you when you ask her to turn up to full volume, which is nice of her.But, that’s really all the HomePod brings to the table. In terms of smart voice assistants, the HomePod barely qualifies to be categorized with the Echo and Google Home. Siri leaves a lot to be desired and struggles to answer even basic questions, often claiming she doesn’t know how to do what you’ve asked.And despite its best feature being its sound quality, Apple, true to form, does not play well with other services. This means you can listen to iTunes all day long, but you can’t connect the speaker to other apps, such as Spotify and Pandora. The workaround is to Airplay them to the HomePod from your phone, tablet, or Mac computer. But when you do this, you can’t ask Siri to play a specific song or playlist unless it’s through iTunes, taking away some of the magic of having a hands-free speaker.* Pros: Best for listening to music, great for Apple lovers, works with Home Kit-compatible devices* Cons: Most expensive, most limited services, Siri isn’t as smart as Alexa or Google Assistant, doesn’t work with Android or BluetoothWho should buy an Apple HomePod?Apple lovers! If you already own Apple products, and also love listening to music, the HomePod may be right for you. But, if you’re after a smart assistant that facilitates daily tasks via voice commands, this might not be your smart speaker soul mate. Smart home enthusiasts who use Home Kit would also likely find this a good investment, but actual capabilities of the HomePod to interact with other smart devices are not yet fully developed.Get your own Apple HomePod from Apple in Space Gray or WhitePrices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time. You’ve no doubt heard the buzz about smart speakers. Why else would you be reading this article? A few years ago, if you wanted a smart speaker with a hands-free digital assistant, there was only one option. The Amazon Echo was one-of-a-kind when it debuted in November 2014, and it launched into uncharted waters unsure if it would find a home with consumers. Explore further Citation: Amazon Echo vs Google Home vs Apple HomePod: Which is right for you? (2018, March 23) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-03-amazon-echo-google-home-apple.html ©2018 USA Today Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. But it was a smash hit, and was quickly followed up by the Google Home and a slew of third-party devices with Alexa or Google Assistant built in. Even Apple finally joined the party with the HomePod in early February.Now, if you want to buy a smart speaker, you’ve got to choose which is the right one for you and your home. The best option will depend a lot on how you plan to use your smart speaker, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, someone with a lot of smart devices may want the speaker that is compatible with the most smart gadgets. On the other hand, if you primarily want to listen to music hands-free or use your smart speaker as a virtual assistant, you may be better off with different options.I have used all of these devices both in the office and at my apartment to really understand the strengths and weaknesses of each. Believe me—not one of them is perfect (yet). So it really does make a difference which one you choose to bring in to your home.Amazon EchoPrice: $99.99The Amazon Echo was the first of its kind. And now it boasts the largest lineup of smart speaker options, including the only smart speakers with display screens. Having been on the market for nearly four years, the Echo lineup features a highly intelligent smart assistant: Alexa. Interacting with Alexa is pretty intuitive, as she understands most direct questions. Plus, if you’re a Prime member, you can ask Alexa to make purchases or simply add items to a dedicated shopping list for review later on.The Amazon Echo lineup—which consists of the Echo Dot ($49.99), the Echo ($99.99), the Echo Plus ($149.99), the Echo Spot ($129.99), and the Echo Show ($229.99)—can perform a host of basic functions. There are also hundreds of devices that work with Alexa, allowing you to use voice commands for smart lights, switches, robot vacuums, and other smart devices and services like Uber and Domino’s. And if you have the Spot or Show, you can even view live feeds from security cameras and video doorbells.Amazon also rolled out calling with Alexa last year. Not only can you call anyone with an Echo or the Alexa app, but you can call actual phone numbers as well, all for free. There is even a drop-in feature that allows you to automatically connect with approved devices to check in on loved ones. This is especially great for older adults to have in their homes. (Note: this feature does not currently support emergency calling, despite rumors that Alex can call 911 for you.)
A team of researchers from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in the Republic of Korea have taken a step toward the development of moving target defense techniques in software-defined networks. This is a demanding cybersecurity research topic, scientists said. Provided by The Army Research Laboratory With moving target defense, uncertainty is increased and confuses the adversary, who has to expend more resources, such as time and/or computational power, to discover vulnerabilities of a target system. Credit: U.S. Army Citation: Research takes proactive approach to defending computer systems (2018, September 7) retrieved 17 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-09-proactive-approach-defending.html Cybersecurity experts begin investigation on self-adapting computer network that defends itself against hackers The basic idea as it applies to IP addresses on computer networks is this: Change the IP address of the computer frequently enough so the attacker loses sight of where his victim is; however, this can be expensive, so the approach taken by the researchers in the collaboration here uses something known as software-defined networking.This lets computers keep their real IP addresses fixed, but masks them from the rest of the internet with virtual IP addresses that are frequently changing.Moore added that as the adage suggests, it is harder to hit a moving target.”MTD increases uncertainty and confuses the adversary, as time is no longer an advantage,” Moore said. “The adversary has to expend more resources, such as time and/or computational power, to discover vulnerabilities of a target system, but will experience more difficulty in exploiting any vulnerabilities found in the past since their location or accessibility is constantly changing.”According to Professor Hyuk Lim at GIST in the Republic of Korea, this proactive defense approach provides defense services before attackers get into a target system.”Taking actions proactively requires extra overhead to add another layer of defense strength,” Kim said. “Hence, deploying the proactive defense and security mechanisms is not for free, but brings a cost because the system needs to constantly change the attack surface such as IP addresses. This cost can be mitigated to some extent by leveraging the technology called ‘Software-Defined Networking’. The SDN technology provides highly efficient programmatic and dynamic management of the network policy by removing the network control from individual devices in a network to a centralized controller. The network configuration can be defined by the SDN controller, enabling more reliable and responsive network operations under variable conditions.”Nelson explained the reason why these SDN-based MTD techniques are critical to supporting the vision of the Army and warfighters.”The key technology of SDN-based MTD techniques, under development by the research team, is highly relevant to support the warfighters’ mission execution by proactively thwarting potential attacks, which can protect the defense system so that the warfighters can properly execute the mission in the presence of highly dynamic, hostile and innovative adversaries within contested tactical environments,” Nelson said.The UC team in New Zealand led the effort of developing the MTD technology called the Flexible Random Virtual IP Multiplexing, namely FRVM.”In FRVM, while the real IP address of a server-host remains unchanged but stays hidden, a virtual IP address of the server-host keeps being randomly and periodically changed where the IP mapping/remapping (i.e., called multiplexing/demultiplexing) is performed by an SDN controller,” said Dilli P. Sharma, a doctoral student in Prof. DongSeong Kim’s cybersecurity research group at UC, New Zealand. “This effectively forces the adversary to play the equivalent of an honest shell game. However, instead of guessing among three shells (IP addresses) to find a pea (a running network service), the adversary must guess among 65,536 shells, given address space2^16. This MTD protocol is novel because it provides high flexibility to have multiple, random, time-variant IP addresses in a host, which implies the adversary will require more time to discover an IP address of the target host.”In this research, the team formulated the architecture and communication protocols for the proposed IP (de)multiplexing-based MTD to be applied in SDN environments.The team also validated the effectiveness of the FRVM under various degrees of scanning attacks in terms of the attack success probability.The preliminary results evaluating the FRVM were presented at the 17th Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Conference on Trust, Security and Privacy in Computing and Communications, or TrustCom’18, held in New York in August.”Our next step is to study the trade-off in the FRVM between the dual conflicting goals of system security and performance, as proactive defense may introduce adverse effects when running MTD techniques while achieving enhanced security,” Kim said. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Explore further This collaboration grew out of efforts of ARL researchers Dr. Jin-Hee Cho (now at Virginia Tech in the Department of Computer Science), Dr. Terrence J. Moore and Dr. Frederica Nelson reaching out to researchers in Asia Pacific regions through the international collaborative program administrated by the U.S. Army International Technology Center-Pacific.Cyberattacks on computer systems are becoming more common. Any company with information on a computer system connected to the internet might become a victim from someone or some group who wants to steal or destroy the company’s data for their own use, or for ransom.This is possible because of the way the Internet is set up, researchers said. In order to access content on a website, a computer needs to know where to ask for the information. Websites have an address, what is known as an internet protocol, or IP, address; however, these are not just used for websites. Every computer connected to the internet has an IP address.Cyber attackers have time to discover the IP addresses of the computers they think might have valuable information and attack them using code that is more commonly known as computer viruses or worms.If the computer or system being attacked has a security system, such as a firewall or anti-virus software, it might be able to recognize some code as being bad and prevent itself from being infected.What cyber attackers do is slightly modify their bad code so it is not recognized until the computer’s security system is updated or patched.Essentially, the typical defensive response to these attacks is passive, the researchers said. The attackers have time to prepare, plan and execute their attacks, whereas the potential victims are left reacting only after an intruder breaks into a computer system.Recently, a new proactive type of defense is being considered to protect important information in computer systems. This approach is known as moving target defense, or MTD.”The concept of MTD has been introduced with the aim of increasing the adversary’s confusion or uncertainty by dynamically changing the attack surface, which consists of the reachable and exploitable vulnerabilities,” Cho said. “MTD can lead to making the adversary’s intelligence gained from previous monitoring no longer useful and accordingly results in poor attack decisions.”
We developed the Algebraic Gradient-based Solver (AGS), a novel solver for approximate marginal MAP inference. The algorithm builds an approximate algebraic computation graph capturing marginals of state and reward variables under independence assumptions. It then uses automatic differentiation and gradient-based search to optimize action choice. Our analysis shows that the value computed by AGS computation graph is identical to the solution of Belief Propagation (BP) when conditioned on actions. This provides an explicit connection between heuristic planning algorithms and approximate inference.More specifically, we revisit the connection between stochastic planning and probabilistic inference. We propose for the first time to use an efficient heuristic algorithm which was designed originally for solving planning problems to tackle a central inference task for probabilistic graphical models, namely the marginal maximum a posteriori probability (MMAP) task.Probabilistic graphical models such as Bayesian networks or Markov networks provide a very powerful framework for reasoning about conditional dependency structures over many variables. For such models, the MMAP inference query is a particularly difficult yet important task, corresponding to finding the most probable configuration (or maximizing the probability) over a subset of variables, called MAP variables, after marginalizing (or summing over) the remainder of the model. There is a deep connection between planning and inference, and over the last decade, multiple researchers have introduced explicit reductions showing how stochastic planning can be solved using probabilistic inference with applications in robotics, scheduling, and environmental problems. However, heuristic methods and search are still the best-performing approaches for planning in large combinatorial state and action spaces. My co-authors and I take a new approach in our paper, “From Stochastic Planning to Marginal MAP” (authors: Hao Cui, Radu Marinescu, Roni Khardon), at the 2018 Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) by showing how ideas from planning can be used for inference. Provided by IBM Inference of Bayesian networks made fast and easy using an extended depth-first search algorithm This story is republished courtesy of IBM Research. Read the original story here. Stochastic planning frameworks such as Markov decision processes are widely used to model and solve planning tasks under conditions of uncertainty. Finite horizon planning can be captured using a dynamic Bayesian network (DBN) where state and action variables at each time step are represented explicitly and the conditional probability distributions of variables are given by the transition probabilities. In off-line planning, the task is to compute a policy that optimizes the long-term reward. In contrast, in on-line planning we are given a fixed limited time t per step and cannot compute a policy in advance. Instead, given the current state, the algorithm must decide on the next action within time t. Then the action is performed, a transition and reward are observed and the algorithm is presented with the next state. This process repeats and the long-term performance of the algorithm is evaluated. Figure 1. A simple Bayesian network for a system diagnosis task. Credit: IBM Explore further Figure 2. A dynamic Bayesian network (DBN) for stochastic planning. Credit: IBM For illustration, consider Figure 2, which shows the DBN corresponding to a hypothetical planning problem, where the orange nodes represent the action variables, the blue nodes denote the state variables, and the green node denotes the cumulative reward that must be maximized. Therefore, computing the optimal policy of the planning problem is equivalent to solving a MMAP query over the DBN, where we maximize over the action variables and marginalize out the state variables.Our experimental evaluation of difficult MMAP problem instances shows conclusively that the AGS scheme improves over the anytime performance of state-of-the-art algorithms on MMAP problems with hard summation sub-problems, sometimes by up to one order of magnitude. We believe that these connections between planning and inference can be further explored to yield improvements in both fields. Citation: A novel solver for approximate marginal map inference (2018, November 30) retrieved 17 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-11-solver-approximate-marginal-inference.html MMAP inference arises in many situations, especially in diagnosis and planning tasks, in which the most natural specification of the model contains many variables whose values we do not care about predicting, but which create interdependence among the variables of interest. For example, in a model-based diagnosis task, given observations, we seek to optimize over a subset of diagnosis variables representing potentially failing components in a system.For illustration, consider the Bayesian network shown in Figure 1, which depicts a simple diagnosis problem for a computing system. The model captures direct causal dependencies between six random variables used to describe this problem. Specifically, a System Crash may be caused by a Hardware Failure, an OS Failure, or the presence of Malware in the system. Similarly, a Power Failure could be common cause for Hardware and OS Failure, and Stormy Weather may cause the Power Failure. A possible MMAP query would be to compute the most likely configuration of Hardware and OS Failures, given that we observe Stormy Weather, regardless of the state of the other variables (Malware, System Crash, or Power Failure). More information: From Stochastic Planning to Marginal MAP: homes.sice.indiana.edu/rkhardo … 018-sogbofa-mmap.pdf This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
Press Trust of India New DelhiJuly 16, 2019UPDATED: July 16, 2019 20:58 IST (PTI File)Taking serious note of a physical altercation inside an Air India aircraft, watchdog DGCA on Tuesday suspended the authorisation of a crew member for six months, according to a senior official.On June 17, cabin crew member Rajat Verman was involved in an heated argument and physical altercation with a pilot when the plane was to depart from Bengaluru to Kolkata.The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has already suspended the flying licence of Milind M, who was involved in the incident.The official told PTI that the authorisation held by Verman has been suspended for six months from the date of the incident.Investigation found that the two personnel were involved in a heated argument and thereafter physical altercation when the aircraft was on the ground and preparing for departure.An Air India spokesperson did not offer any comment.More than 20 pilots of various airlines have been temporarily taken off duty on the orders of the DGCA so far in July, an official said on Monday.ALSO READ | With Pakistan airspace open, operation cost for US bound flights likely to decline by Rs 20 lakh: Air IndiaALSO WATCH | Pakistan reopens its airspace for civilian trafficFor the latest World Cup news, live scores and fixtures for World Cup 2019, log on to indiatoday.in/sports. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for World Cup news, scores and updates.Get real-time alerts and all the news on your phone with the all-new India Today app. Download from Post your comment Do You Like This Story? Awesome! Now share the story Too bad. Tell us what you didn’t like in the comments Posted byAnupriya Thakur Tags :Follow Air India DGCA suspends Air India cabin member for physical altercation inside planeTaking serious note of a physical altercation inside an Air India aircraft, watchdog DGCA on Tuesday suspended the authorisation of a crew member for six months, according to a senior official.advertisement Next
The Supreme Court on Friday decided to hear a fresh plea challenging the constitutional validity of the 1993 central law by which 67.703 acre land, including the disputed premises of Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid at Ayodhya, was acquired. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan tagged the matter with the main petition in which a constitution bench is dealing with the main title dispute.“List the matter before the bench already seized with the issue,” the bench also comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna said. February 15, 2019 SHARE SHARE SHARE EMAIL Published on COMMENTS COMMENT Ayodhya