posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Variety (along with basically every even remotely media-related website on the entire Internet) is carrying the news this morning that Fox has officially announced the return of The X-Files to television. Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny will be once again grabbing their trench coats and Maglights as FBI agents Scully and Mulder, and series creator Chris Carter will be returning as show runner. When The X-Files aired in 1993, it started out in the so-called "death slot," at 9:00pm Eastern Time on Friday nights, so called because on Friday nights, everyone in the demographics that advertisers care about is out doing things rather than sitting at home watching TV. In spite of low initial viewing numbers, by its third season the show was Fox’s most-watched show in the coveted 18- to 49-year-old demographic (and it later peaked in the sixth season as Fox’s most-watched show, period). For a time in the late 1990s, The X-Files was everywhere—Mulder and Scully’s broody faces and will-they-won’t-they not-quite-romance became part of the entertainment fabric of the time, and the show’s influences still linger on powerfully in Hollywood (perhaps most notably, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan was a writer and producer on The X-Files, and he attributes Bryan Cranston’s performance in an X-Files guest role as the main reason he was cast as Walter White). The show came to an end in 2002 on a ratings down-note, mostly after Duchovny left the permanent cast list in seasons eight and nine, but it never went very far. A lopsided odd feature film in 2008 pulled in almost $69 million on a $30 million budget, proving that an audience was still out there and hungry for even a scrap of the continuing adventures of Mulder and Scully. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, the Dealmaster is back with a bunch of links that save you money. The top item this week is Dell's business-focused Latitude 15 3000. This Core i7-5500u-powered laptop comes with a 15.6-inch 1080p display, 8GB of RAM, an Nvidia 830M video card, a 500GB hard drive, and your choice of Windows 7 Pro or 8.1 Pro. The original price was $1,370, but we have it for $749.99. Featured Courtesy of Dell Inc. Dell Latitude 15 3000 Intel i7-5500u Laptop with 1080p, 8GB RAM, Nvidia 830m 2GB Video Card for $749.99 (list price $1,370 - use coupon code CM55W5?XQ63DVL). Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
After learning that I had undergone a transfusion of the blood—the blood that serves as currency, medicine, religious symbolism, and much more in Bloodborne’s gothic world—I left my basement hospital bed to explore the world above. I was, of course, killed. Repeatedly. Everything seemed to be in order. Whenever the Souls games (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and Dark Souls 2) are discussed, the focus usually falls on the series' punishing difficulty. Focusing on that one design element, though, obscures talk about the games’ incredible, interconnected worlds and the wonderful feeling of exploration they engender. That insignificant enemy that can kill you with three telegraphed sword strikes is just as important as the dozen-hour trek through the sewers to unlock a door in a forest valley half a world away. Make no mistake; Bloodborne is a Souls game in everything but name, sharing a development lineage in From Software and Director Hidetaka Miyazaki. From the controls to the way progress is lost upon death, the sound effects to the goofy ragdoll physics, anyone with a passing familiarity with the series will recognize Bloodborne as part of the same family. But Bloodborne marks a departure from the Souls name, even while keeping the series' characteristic punishing repeat deaths, massive bosses, and environmental storytelling. Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Apple, Google, Adobe, and Intel made headlines three weeks ago when they agreed to a combined $415 million settlement for thousands of Silicon Valley workers who claimed in a lawsuit that their wages were not as high as they should have been because of illegal non-compete agreements between the tech giants. Citing evidence from that litigation, Google shareholders filed suit Monday against Google's board of directors, claiming that the no-poaching "handshake" agreements alleged among the companies also depressed Google’s stock. The West Palm Beach Pension Fund claims that the anti-competitive practice burned shareholders because it made it harder for talented workers to change companies, according to the suit (PDF) filed in San Jose federal court. “Google has lost out on many of the best and brightest high-tech employees, thereby resulting in lost opportunities for innovation in a company that is wholly dependent on such innovation,” the suit said. It continued: Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
After losing the battle against net neutrality rules at the Federal Communications Commission, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has taken his fight to Congress. Today, Pai asked the House of Representatives to strip the FCC of funding it needs to enforce net neutrality rules. "Congress should forbid the Commission from using any appropriated funds to implement or enforce the plan the FCC just adopted to regulate the Internet," Pai said in prepared statements for an FCC budget hearing. "Not only is this plan bad policy; absent outside intervention, the Commission will expend substantial resources implementing and enforcing regulations that are wasteful, unnecessary, and affirmatively detrimental to the American public." Pai is one of two Republicans on the FCC. The three-member Democratic majority voted in favor of the net neutrality order. The decision reclassified broadband as a common carrier service and imposed net neutrality rules that prevent Internet service providers from blocking or throttling content or prioritizing content in exchange for payment. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
An international group of digital rights organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in the US, has launched the "Manila Principles on Internet Liability," what it calls "a roadmap for the global community to protect online freedom of expression and innovation around the world." The principles concern Internet intermediaries—telecom companies, ISPs, search engines, social networks, etc.—that run key parts of the online world's infrastructure. As EFF's Senior Global Policy Analyst Jeremy Malcolm, one of the people behind the Manila Principles, explains: "These services are all routinely asked to take down content, and their policies for responding are often muddled, heavy-handed, or inconsistent. That results in censorship and the limiting of people’s rights." The Principles are designed to provide a framework of safeguards and best practice when responding to such requests to remove content. In an e-mail, Malcolm told Ars about the Principles' background and motivation. The original partners were the EFF, the Centre for Internet and Society in India, and free speech organization Article 19. Other groups were added to give a more global balance. Malcolm says: "The motivation for this work was that intermediaries have been drifting back into the view of regulators and private interests who want to restrict content online. Whereas a decade ago the idea of immunizing intermediaries from liability was well accepted, it is now being questioned again." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is generally known for its role in cleaning up after natural disasters. But part of its remit is to help states prepare for disasters that are likely to strike and take steps to reduce the likely damage. These state mitigation plans can receive federal funding through FEMA in the hopes that the agency will spend less when problems inevitably occur. Last week, FEMA released the review guide that will govern these plans this time next year. And the guide has made the news because it explicitly states that climate change has to be considered in these plans: "FEMA will evaluate how climate change considerations can be incorporated into grant investment strategies with specific focus on infrastructure and evaluation methodologies or tools such as benefit/cost analysis." This, of course, could be awkward for a number of states. Florida recently generated headlines after allegations that an unofficial state policy dictated that climate change not be mentioned. Texas had previously censored a report to remove references to sea level rise. And North Carolina legislators went back and forth on whether to allow any agency in the state to use a scientific analysis of sea level. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
The State of Tennessee is fighting for its right to enforce a law that prevents municipal broadband networks from providing Internet service to other cities and towns. Tennessee filed a lawsuit Friday against the Federal Communications Commission, which last month voted to preempt state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that prevent municipal broadband providers from expanding outside their territories. The FCC cited its authority granted in 1996 by Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, which requires the FCC to encourage the deployment of broadband to all Americans by using "measures that promote competition in the local telecommunications market, or other regulating methods that remove barriers to infrastructure investment." (Emphasis ours.) In Tennessee, the Electric Power Board (EPB) of Chattanooga offers Internet and video service to residents, but state law prevented it from expanding outside its electric service area to adjacent towns that have poor Internet service. Tennessee is one of about 20 states that impose some type of restriction on municipal broadband networks, helping protect private Internet service providers from competition. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Today, the US Energy Information Agency announced that California had passed a key milestone, becoming the first state to produce five percent of its annual electricity using utility-scale solar power. This number represents more than a doubling from the 2013 level, when 1.9 percent of the state's power came from utility-scale solar, and means that California produces more electricity from this approach than all of the remaining states combined. The growth in California was largely fueled by the opening of two 550MW capacity photovoltaic plants, along with two large solar-thermal plants. In total, the state added nearly two GigaWatts of capacity last year alone. The growth is driven in part by a renewable energy standard that will see the state generate 33 percent of its electricity from non-hydro renewables by 2020; it was at 22 percent in 2014. Other states with renewable standards—Nevada, Arizona, New Jersey, and North Carolina—rounded out the top five. Both Nevada and Arizona obtained 2.8 percent of their electricity from solar; all other states were at one percent or less. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
As John Timmer was recovering from his trip to Shanghai and Lee Hutchinson was wrapping up his big carbon-fiber adventure in Munich, I was sent to a somewhat less exotic locale—San Ramon, California. It's a town in the rolling green hills east of Oakland that was once home to pear orchards, walnut groves, and sheep—lots of sheep. These days, Bishop Ranch—a 1,770 acre chunk of real estate that dominates San Ramon—is home to 10 million square feet of office space, malls, and long-stay hotel space, plus a growing number of homes well out of my price range. I flew in from Baltimore and initially met up with our intrepid video crew, subsequently driving the wrong way down a one-way street with the headlights off as they tried to film me leaving the rental car lot from inside the car. But I eventually found my way to San Ramon in the dark and rain just in time to grab a late dinner near my hotel at a mythical establishment that was unlike anything I could find back in Baltimore. I ended up at In-N-Out Burger. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Twitch, the Amazon-owned game video streaming service, has reset passwords for all its users after warning of a security breach that may have allowed hackers to access user names, passwords, and other personal information. According to a blog post Twitch published Monday evening, current passwords have been expired and users will be required to create a new one the next time they log in. Accounts have also been disconnected from Twitter and YouTube. As is standard practice, anyone who used the same password for multiple services should assume it's compromised and create a new and unique passcode for each property. Credit card data was not affected, the company said. Monday's advisory provided few details. E-mails sent to users said hackers may have gained unauthorized access to Twitch usernames and associated e-mail addresses, encrypted passwords, the last IP address users logged in from, and—for users who provided such information—first and last names, phone numbers, addresses, and dates of birth. According to a report from Venturebeat, a separate e-mail sent only to select users provided an intriguing additional detail. "While we store passwords in a cryptographically protected form, we believe it's possible that your password could have been captured in clear text by malicious code when you logged into our site on March 3rd," it said. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Last year Pixar announced that it would be releasing a "free" (that is, available without cost) version of Renderman, the in-house rendering engine that produces the visuals in all of Pixar’s animated films and many other Hollywood blockbusters. Though the actual release process ran into some delays, it has finally happened: Renderman is now free for non-commercial usage on Windows, OS X, and Linux. FOSS advocates will take note that the software is free-as-in-beer, not free-as-in-speech—that is, while Renderman can be downloaded and used non-commercially without paying anything, it has not been open-sourced (and we bring the distinction up because that’s what more than half the story’s discussion thread on Slashdot has focused on). To download Renderman, Pixar requires you to register for a forum account and provide a valid e-mail address. Once that’s done, you are given an installation package which in turn downloads the actual Renderman components appropriate for your operating system and 3D package. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Studying the varying genetic diversity of different population groups is one method for piecing together the migration history of our species. Many analyses find a bottleneck in non-African populations dating back to around 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. This coincides neatly with the current estimate of the first wave of anatomically modern humans out of Africa. When humans first migrated out of Africa, they created a genetic bottleneck. Because a minority of people migrated, they took a minority of total human genetic diversity with them to the new colonies in Europe and Oceania. What has not been noticed before, however, is a bottleneck of specifically male genetic diversity around 8,000 years ago. A recent paper in Genome Research suggests that, for every 17 female humans who reproduced at this time, only one male human managed to pass along his DNA. What's lacking is an obvious historic event that could have produced this pattern. The analysis was based on data from 456 people from Africa, Europe, Siberia, Oceania, the Andes, and various regions across Asia. The researchers analyzed Y chromosome DNA, the genetic material passed down the male line, which can be used to glean information about historical male populations. They compared it to analyses of mitochondrial DNA, which is the genetic material passed from every mother to all her offspring, used to reconstruct information on historical female populations. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
OAKLAND, Calif.—If you have driven in Oakland any time in the last few years, chances are good that the cops know where you’ve been, thanks to their 33 automated license plate readers (LPRs). Now Ars knows too. In response to a public records request, we obtained the entire LPR dataset of the Oakland Police Department (OPD), including more than 4.6 million reads of over 1.1 million unique plates between December 23, 2010 and May 31, 2014. The dataset is likely the largest ever publicly released in the United States—perhaps in the world. Read 59 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
In response to a recent lawsuit, the Anaheim Police Department (APD) in Southern California has released a short one-page letter attempting to explain how it seeks permission for and uses stingrays, the surveillance devices often used to track criminal suspects by locating their mobile phones. The letter was distributed to media and posted (PDF) on the APD's site last Friday. But after some online searching, Ars located a similarly publicly-available document posted on the website of the City Attorney of San Diego (PDF) that has near-identical language to the Anaheim letter. That document's format indicates that it was authored by a federal agency. Another version of this stingray letter was released in February 2015 by the Gwinnett County Police Department in Northern Georgia. When asked about the template, Lt. Eric Trapp, an APD spokesman, confirmed late Monday: "FBI material was consulted and considered. Some of that material was included in the content of the letter." Read 29 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
In the latest security lapse involving the Internet's widely used encryption system, Google said unauthorized digital certificates have been issued for several of its domains and warned misissued credentials may be impersonating other unnamed sites as well. The bogus transport layer security certificates are trusted by all major operating systems and browsers, although a fall-back mechanism known as public key pinning prevented the Chrome and Firefox browsers from accepting those that vouched for the authenticity of Google properties, Google security engineer Adam Langley wrote in a blog post published Monday. The certificates were issued by Egypt-based MCS Holdings, an intermediate certificate authority that operates under the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). The Chinese domain registrar and certificate authority, in turn, is included in root stores for virtually all OSes and browsers. The issuance of the unauthorized certificates represents a major breach of rules established by certificate authorities and browser makers. Under no conditions are CAs allowed to issue certificates for domains other than those legitimately held by the customer requesting the credential. In early 2012, critics blasted US-based CA Trustwave for doing much the same thing and Langley noted an example of a France-based CA that has also run afoul of the policy. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Fresh off his patent win against a company called AGIS, Life360 CEO Chris Hulls has published an op-ed advising other companies on how to respond to similar patent threats. His musings were published on TechCrunch in an article titled "I Beat a Patent Troll and You Can Too." Hulls' case got a fair bit of attention starting last year, when the lawsuit attached Hulls' letter to the plaintiffs' attorney as an exhibit. It was addressed "Dear Piece of Shit." The first of Hulls' three suggestions is to "go nuclear," by which he means, refuse to play by the rules. Trolls and their law firms "hate being called out," he writes. "They expect that you’ll listen to your lawyers, stay quiet, and pay them to go away. We refused to let AGIS Inc. and its lawyers, Mark Hannemann and Thomas Makin of Kenyon and Kenyon LLP, hide in the background. Throughout our battle, we frequently publicized their role in this case with various influencers and media and it really got to them." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
The Federal Communications Commission's new net neutrality rules haven't taken effect yet, but they're already facing lawsuits from Internet service providers. One such lawsuit was filed today by USTelecom, which is led by AT&T, Verizon, and others. Another lawsuit was filed by a small Internet service provider in Texas called Alamo Broadband. (The Washington Post flagged the lawsuits.) The net neutrality order, which reclassifies broadband providers as common carriers and imposes rules against blocking and discriminating against online content, "is arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion," USTelecom alleged in its petition to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The order "violates federal law, including, but not limited to, the Constitution, the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, and FCC regulations promulgated thereunder." The order also violates notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements, the petition said. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
SAN FRANCISCO—Today, court is not in session for the high-profile gender discrimination case between reddit CEO Ellen Pao and her former employer, Kleiner Perkins. But after four weeks of testimony, this week will bring the culmination of all the courtroom sniping—closing arguments start Tuesday followed by jury deliberation and, hopefully, a verdict. Pao is asking for $16 million in damages for lost wages. Late Friday night, the presiding judge ruled that Pao's attorneys can also seek punitive damages from Kleiner Perkins, writing “There is sufficient evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that Kleiner Perkins engaged in intentional gender discrimination by failing to promote Ms. Pao and terminating her employment and that Kleiner Perkins attempted to hide its illegal conduct by offering knowingly false and pretextual explanations for its decisions not to promote Ms. Pao and to terminate her employment.” Still, the last time court was in session, Kleiner Perkins was finally allowed to call its own witnesses. The company chose from its coterie of Kleiner senior partners to toe the party line and discredit some of Pao's arguments, trying to make one final memory for jurors. Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
In the wake of leaked February statements by Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, the social media platform has rolled out a number of tools to help users deal with abuse, threats, and other rule-breaking content. However, those  mostly consisted of improved reporting capabilities—meaning users may still see the nasty stuff; they could just tattle on it more efficiently. That changed on Monday when Twitter quietly unveiled its first major filter for the service. After seeing the filter pop up in a post by tech entrepreneur Anil Dash, Ars confirmed with a Twitter spokesperson that "quality filtering" has gone live for a select number of "verified" Twitter users, so long as those users enable the option in the notifications settings of Twitter's iOS app. The filter includes a brief explanation, saying that it "aims" to block any replies in the notifications tab "that contain threats, offensive or abusive language, duplicate content," or posts written by "suspicious accounts." The option does not further clarify what Twitter will characterize as "suspicious" or "offensive" content. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Last month, SpaceX launched its first deep space mission when the Falcon 9 rocket carried the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite into orbit. The mission resulted in some remarkable images being made public, but it also led some commentators to note a possible downside to the new era of privately-funded space exploration. Unlike the photos produced by every NASA mission, all SpaceX photos wouldn't be in the public domain. NASA photos are generally public domain by default, since works created by the US federal government or its employees can't be copyrighted. At the time, Mike Masnick at Techdirt wrote an open letter to Elon Musk, suggesting the best solution would be for SpaceX owner Elon Musk to simply put the images in the public domain. Musk has recognized the value of the public domain in other contexts, such as when he pledged not to enforce any of Tesla's patents on electric car technology. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
This morning, as Senator Ted Cruz launched his bid to become president of the United States, some people who visited his site thought he might also want to become a Nigerian prince. At least, that's what his site's certificate said. It turns out that Cruz' campaign had registered to use CloudFlare as the content delivery network for its WordPress-based tedcruz.org site, anticipating a flood of traffic from would be supporters. But because the Cruz campaign hadn't yet uploaded a certificate to identify the site for secure visits, CloudFlare's systems automatically assigned the site one of its own certificates, CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince told Ars. "The Cruz campaign didn't do anything wrong," he said. "It was an automated process on CloudFlare's part." The certificate that the Cruz campaign's site got assigned to was also assigned to nigerian-prince.com. The Ted Cruz campaign site's new certificate. 2 more images in gallery CloudFlare assigns multiple sites to each of its own pool of SSL certificates, Prince said, "to limit consumption of IP addresses. By default we put more than one site on a certificate—if you don't upload your own certificate, then you share one." As soon as it was noticed that the Cruz campaign site shared a certificate with nigerian-prince.com—a site that displays only a joke about Nigerian "419" scams—CloudFlare and the Cruz campaign uploaded a new, private certificate, though tedcruz.org still appears on the certificate for nigerian-prince.com Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
A group of European lawmakers has called on the US government (PDF) to allow the whistleblower Edward Snowden to return to the US from Russia “without fear of criminal prosecution under conditions that would not allow him to raise the public interest defense.” A post on the Open Society Foundations blog explains that Snowden faces up to 30 years of imprisonment under the US Espionage Act of 1917, which does not allow a public interest defense to avoid or mitigate any penalties. The call comes in a resolution by the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Parliamentary Assembly is made up of 318 representatives from the national parliaments of the Council of Europe's members. This is significant, Open Society Foundations says, since it “marks the first time that any inter-governmental body has called on the United States not to prosecute Snowden unless he is afforded the opportunity to raise a public interest defense.” That request comes at the end of a general resolution entitled "Improving the Protection of Whistleblowers." The Legal Affairs Committee points out that "[d]isclosures of information related to national security are generally excluded from protection available to whistleblowers." The resolution seeks to remedy that, and it makes three calls to the Council of Europe's 47 member states: to enact whistleblower protection laws that also cover those working in national intelligence services, to grant asylum to whistleblowers threatened by retaliation in their home countries, and to draw up a binding legal instrument on whistleblower protection. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
A technique for editing genes while they reside in intact chromosomes has been a real breakthrough. Literally. In 2013, Science magazine named it the runner-up for breakthrough-of-the-year, and its developers won the 2015 Breakthrough Prize. The system being honored is called CRISPR/Cas9, and it evolved as a way for bacteria to destroy viruses using RNA that matched the virus' DNA sequence. But it's turned out to be remarkably flexible, and the technique can be retargeted to any gene simply by modifying the RNA. Researchers are still figuring out new uses for the system, which means there are papers coming out nearly every week, many of them difficult to distinguish. That may be precisely why the significance of a paper published last week wasn't immediately obvious. In it, the authors described a way of ensuring that if one copy of a gene was modified by CRISPR/Cas9, the second copy would be—useful, but not revolutionary. What may have been missed was that this process doesn't stop once those two copies are modified. Instead, it happens in the next generation as well, and then the generation after that. In fact, the modified genes could spread throughout an entire species in a chain reaction, a fact that has raised ethical and safety concerns about the work. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Users of Google Chrome for Mac are no longer vulnerable to strings of foreign-language characters that for more than six weeks triggered crashes each time the browser attempted to render them. The forbidden three-character string was reported in February on Google's official Chromium developer site. To prevent her Mac-based version of Chrome from crashing before the bug report could be posted, the author uploaded the enigmatic string here. Sure enough, when opened with most versions of Chrome for OS X, the characters caused the tab to crash and display the familiar "Aw, Snap!" error message. Late last week, reports of the denial-of-service string that must not be named emerged again. When viewed in TweetDeck and Apple's Safari browser, the string appeared as a series of rectangles that had no visible effect on the functioning of the applications. But when rendered in Chrome for Mac, the string immediately triggered the crash and error message. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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