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Last updated 27 Nov, 11:40 PM

BBC News - Home

Covid: Travel and mask rules tightened over Omicron variant - New measures to slow Omicron's spread in England before Christmas are unveiled by Boris Johnson.

Storm Arwen: Third person dies as gale-force winds hit UK - A third person dies after the storm and thousands of homes are left without power in Storm Arwen.

Head teacher killed in storm was 'giant in his prime' - Primary school head Francis Lagan died when a tree fell on his car during Storm Arwen.

Covid: South Africa 'punished' for detecting new Omicron variant - South Africa should be praised for discovering Omicron, not hit with travel bans, its officials say.

Radio 1 DJ Adele Roberts: 'I owe the NHS my life' - The 42-year-old presenter says she feels "amazing" as she returns to work following cancer surgery.

The Register

Chat among yourselves: New EU law may force the big IM platforms to open up - Send an iMessage to Facebook, and we'll talk The European Parliament's new Digital Markets Act, adopted as a draft law this week, could compel big platforms owned by large firms including Apple, Google, and Facebook to make their tech interoperable.…

Sweden asks EU to ban Bitcoin mining because while hydroelectric power is cheap, they need it for other stuff - Lighting and warming homes in winter, or ransoming encrypted files and buying drugs? Hmmm The directors general of Sweden's Financial Supervisory Authority and Environmental Protection Agency have called upon both the EU and Sweden's government to ban cryptocurrency mining.…

The rocky road to better Linux software installation: Containers, containers, containers - Let's be real: Everyone is trying to catch up with Apple Analysis Linux cross-platform packaging format Flatpak has come under the spotlight this week, with the "fundamental problems inherent in [its] design" criticised in a withering post by Canadian software dev Nicholas Fraser.…

EU needs more cybersecurity graduates, says ENISA infosec agency – pointing at growing list of master's degree courses - Skills gap needs filling somehow The EU needs more cybersecurity graduates to plug the political bloc's shortage of skilled infosec bods, according to a report from the ENISA online security agency.…

Nuclear fusion firm Pulsar fires up a UK-built hybrid rocket engine - A win in the rocketry world: 'Flames came out of the right end' UK nuclear fusion outfit Pulsar Fusion has fired up a chemical rocket engine running on a combination of nitrous oxide oxidiser, high-density polyethylene fuel and oxygen.…

New Scientist - News

NHS England to test Netflix-style subscriptions for antibiotics - Two drug firms will be paid up to £10 million a year for an antibiotic by NHS England, no matter how much or little of the medicines are used

Omicron: How dangerous is the new variant first found in South Africa? - There are many open questions about the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 that was first detected in South Africa. Here's what we know so far

Merging black holes may create bubbles that could swallow the universe - The area between a pair of large black holes on the verge of colliding could provide the conditions to create dangerous bubbles of "true vacuum"

Our global agreement on AI could reduce bias and surveillance - Nearly 200 countries have signed up to UNESCO's agreement on the ethics of artificial intelligence. This could help make the technology fairer for all, says Gabriela Ramos

Wild Wild Life newsletter: How you can 'do your bit' for wildlife - Greenwashing is rife and full of ineffectual suggestions for saving the planet. Here are four lifestyle changes that actually do make a difference for biodiversity

Hacker News

Multiplayer in Godot 4.0: Scene Replication (Part 1) - Comments

SQLite Release 3.37.0 - Comments

Zillow lost money because they weren't willing to lose money - Comments

Smoking a turkey with Prometheus, Home Assistant, and Grafana - Comments

Reality shifting: an emergent online daydreaming culture - Comments

Slashdot

Booster Shots Create a 23X Increase in Protective Antibody Levels, Study Suggests - The Los Angeles Times summarizes the results of a new medical study conducted by Northwestern University researchers on antibody levels protecting against Covid-19 in 974 people. "Those who were immunized against COVID-19 with two doses of an mRNA vaccine and received a booster shot about eight months later saw their levels of neutralizing antibodies skyrocket. "Among this group of 33 fully vaccinated and boosted people, the median level of these antibodies was 23 times higher one week after the booster shot than it had been just before the tune-up dose." What's more, their median post-booster antibody level was three times higher than was typical for another group of people whose antibodies were measured a few weeks after getting their second dose of vaccine, when they're close to their peak. And it was 53 times higher than that of a group of 76 unvaccinated people who had recovered from COVID-19 just two to six weeks earlier. Even compared to a group of 73 people who had weathered a bout with COVID-19 and went on to get two doses of an mRNA vaccine, the boosted group's median antibody level was 68% higher. Study leader Alexis Demonbreun, a cell biologist at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said the data demonstrate that no matter how well protected a vaccinated person may think she is, getting a booster shot is likely to increase her neutralizing antibodies — and with it, her immunity — considerably. And because scientists expect large antibody responses to create more durable immunity, the protection afforded by the booster should last longer than the initial two-shot regimen did... Among their other findings: After receiving two doses of vaccine, people who'd already had an asymptomatic infection were typically no better protected than vaccinated people who had never been infected. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Getting a Crypto Refund Can Be Very Expensive - Long-time Slashdot reader smooth wombat writes: Recently, Slashdot posted a story about a group trying to purchase one of the few copies of the U.S. Constitution in the public domain. The idea was to use pool donations by people via Ethereum to get the winning bid. Alas, Citadel CEO Ken Griffin outbid the group and took possession of the copy. Now the group, ConsitutionDAO, is in the process of refunding the donations, the BBC reports, and the people getting their money back are finding it can be quite expensive... The BBC writes: That is because the Ethereum network records its transactions on the blockchain, the same basic technology idea that powers other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. And like Bitcoin mining, it requires computational power to run. "Gas" is the fee paid to those who run the computer systems to facilitate transactions. And it changes price based on supply and demand. That means that at times, it can be much more expensive to make any kind of transaction, depending on how busy the Ethereum network is. And the network has recently seen high usage — and high gas prices. On its official Discord — the chat app which allows anyone to create rooms and discussion channels for enthusiasts on almost any topic — the group said it had 17,437 donors with a median donation of $206.26. High gas fees mean that "small" donations could be severely hit by the transaction charge. One user on the Discord said that in order to get $400 refunded, they would have to pay $168 in gas. Others complained of the fees being higher than the relatively small amount of their refund. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Will a 'Lithium Rush' From California's Salton Sea Fund Its Environmental Remediation? - There's a polluted 343-square-mile lake known as "the Salton Sea," about 150 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times calls it California's "largest and most troubled lake," after a recent visit with biogeochemist Timothy Lyons. But is it about to experience a change of fortune? "The big problem at the Salton Sea is intermingled with that organic brown layer on top — and to be honest, it's scary," said Lyons, 63. "It's loaded with pesticides and heavy metals — molybdenum, cadmium and selenium — that linger in greatest concentrations in deeper water... That should worry people, because the Salton Sea is shrinking and exposing more and more of this stuff to scouring winds that carry them far and wide," he added. "Our goals include mapping where these hazardous materials are located, and determining where they came from and what may become of them if trends continue." For Lyons' research team, filling blanks in existing data is an obsession, and it could have significant implications at a time when the air practically crackles with a volatile mix of environmental danger and economic opportunities promised by ongoing efforts to tap immense reserves of lithium, a key ingredient of rechargeable batteries.... Clouds of salty, alkaline toxic dust containing heavy metals, agricultural chemicals and powdery-fine particulates linked to asthma, respiratory diseases and cancer are rolling off newly exposed playa, threatening the health of thousands of nearby residents. Delays and costs are mounting for many projects that were designed to be showcases of restoration and dust mitigation. Scientists say it's because the projects were developed without consideration for heat waves, severe droughts and water cutbacks due to climate change, or for the constantly evolving underlying geology at the hyper-saline landlocked lake at the southern end of the San Andreas Fault, where shifting tectonic plates bring molten material and hot geothermal brine closer to Earth's surface. Now, large corporations investing in proposals to suck lithium out of the brine produced by local geothermal operations have revived hopes of jobs and revenue from land leases, with lithium recovery projects potentially supporting internships, education programs and environmental restoration projects for years to come. The Times got an interesting quote from Frank Ruiz, a program director at the nonprofit environmental group Audubon California — a man who is also a member of the Lithium Valley Commission (lawmakers and community leaders trying to help guide decisions). "If done correctly, it will elevate the region by creating jobs, benefit the state and the nation by making geothermal energy more affordable, and lay the groundwork for negotiations aimed at ensuring that some of the royalties from lithium production and related land leases are used to support dust reduction and environmental restoration projects." Ruiz also says that one way or another, "The lithium rush at the Salton Sea cannot be stopped." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Physicists Start Detecting Signs of Neutrinos At Large Hadron Collider - "The international Forward Search Experiment team, led by physicists at the University of California, Irvine, has achieved the first-ever detection of neutrino candidates produced by the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN facility near Geneva, Switzerland," reports Phys.org. Long-time Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot shared their report: In a paper published Friday in the journal Physical Review D, the researchers describe how they observed six neutrino interactions during a pilot run of a compact emulsion detector installed at the LHC in 2018. "Prior to this project, no sign of neutrinos has ever been seen at a particle collider," said co-author Jonathan Feng, UCI Distinguished Professor of physics & astronomy and co-leader of the FASER Collaboration. "This significant breakthrough is a step toward developing a deeper understanding of these elusive particles and the role they play in the universe." He said the discovery made during the pilot gave his team two crucial pieces of information. "First, it verified that the position [480 meters] forward of the ATLAS interaction point at the LHC is the right location for detecting collider neutrinos," Feng said. "Second, our efforts demonstrated the effectiveness of using an emulsion detector to observe these kinds of neutrino interactions...." "Given the power of our new detector and its prime location at CERN, we expect to be able to record more than 10,000 neutrino interactions in the next run of the LHC, beginning in 2022," said co-author David Casper, FASER project co-leader and associate professor of physics & astronomy at UCI. "We will detect the highest-energy neutrinos that have ever been produced from a human-made source." The article also points out that in future experiments the researchers hope to explore dark matter — and how it interacts with normal atoms. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Top Vaccine Makers Already Preparing to Fight Omicron Coronavirus Variant - While the Omicron mutation might "impact" the effectiveness of our current vaccines, they're "super unlikely" to render them useless, according to Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University's School of Public Health. And USA Today reports that vaccine makers are already getting ready to fight the variant: Health experts have said it will likely be weeks before the world has good data about how omicron may reduce the effectiveness of current vaccines, but Moderna has already announced a three-point strategy to combat the new variant... Moderna's strategy involves three options for boosting COVID-19 vaccination, should omicron prove problematic for current vaccines. The three options, according to a Friday release from the company: A higher dose booster, shots currently being studied that are designed to "anticipate mutations such as those that have emerged in the Omicron variant" and an omicron-specific booster — which is already in the works. Andy Slavitt, who previously served as President Joe Biden's White House senior adviser for COVID response, said in a tweet that both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech have estimated a vaccine to combat a new variant could be developed in about 3 months, with some regulatory and logistical hurtles to follow. "If we start in early December, new vaccines could be available by summer in much of the world," Slavitt tweeted. Multiple media organizations on Friday reported Pfizer-BioNTech is studying the new variant and expects data within weeks. If warranted, a targeted vaccine could be developed within 6 weeks and ship within 100 days, the reports say. Johnson & Johnson is also testing its current vaccine against omicron, according to CNBC. Read more of this story at Slashdot.