Rihanna posts racy nudes; forced to remove from instagram

Sometimes, when a young starlet snaps some topless photos for a French adult magazine, she wants to share them with the world. Sometimes, the powers that be in charge of social media sites like Instagram decide to be buzzkills and ruin everyone’s good time. That’s exactly what happened to Rihanna, who was forced to remove (at the time) unreleased photos from a shoot from Lui magazine.

The “We Found Love” singer, apparently eager to share the topless photos with her fans, was asked to remove them April 20, lest Instagram suspend her account for a violation of their terms of service. Instead, she did the sensible thing – she complied, and shortly thereafter moved the images over to twitter.

Of course, it’s all moot at this point. The photos were officially released by Lui today, meaning everyone on the entire planet has by now seen them (probably several times).

This isn’t Rihanna’s first brush with nudity – she’s previously stripped down for shoots with GQ, Esquire and V magazines.


Legalizing medical marijuana doesn't increase use among adolescents

Researchers in a recent study have found that legalizing medical marijuana doesn’t necessarily lead to an increased used among teenagers.

Lead study investigator Esther Choo, M.D., an attending physician in the department of emergency medicine at Rhode Island Hospital, and colleagues analyzed data over two decades, and compared trends in self-reported marijuana use among teens between states with and without medical marijuana laws. They discovered no association between these laws and an increase in marijuana use.

After examining a sample of high school students representative of the nation, the researchers discovered that although approximately 21 percent of this population commonly use marijuana, there were no statistically significant differences in the use of cannabis before or after any laws were introduced to legalize it for medical purposes.

Whenever a state considers legalizing marijuana for medical use, concerns from the public about a possible increase in use among teens begin to mount. With the findings from this study, parents can breathe a sigh of relief.

“This adds to a growing body of literature published over the past three years that is remarkably consistent in demonstrating that state medical marijuana policies do not have a downstream effect on adolescent drug use, as we feared they might,” said Choo in a statement.

The researchers involved in the study are hopeful that these findings will offer some reassurance to parents, doctors and policymakers about legalizing marijuana for medical use.

Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. About a dozen other states are currently considering the legalization of marijuana in some form in the near future.

In November of 2013, Washington and Colorado became the first two states in the U.S. to legalize marijuana for recreational use, leading to millions of dollars already collected in tax revenue.

The study’s findings are published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.


Internet Explorer flaw allows hackers to gain control of your computer

Earlier this month, Microsoft cut off security updates and overall support for its XP operating system, opening the software up to hackers who would seek to exploit its vulnerabilities. Now, it appears that XP is not the only Microsoft system that is putting users at risk for hacker attacks and invasions.

Indeed, according to a recent report from the BBC, Microsoft has discovered a major security flaw in its Internet Explorer web browser. Over the weekend, the Seattle software giant warned users that certain incarnations of the Internet Explorer program – versions 6 through 11, to be exact – have a notable coding bug that allows hackers to take complete control of a user’s computer system. Microsoft says that only a few schemes to exploit the flaw have been exposed thus far, but that there could be more in the pipeline.

So how does it work? Essentially, hackers looking to exploit the Internet Explorer flaw would create a fake, “specially crafted website” and then try to get Internet Explorer users to visit that site. In order for the scheme to work, a user would have to willingly direct his or her browser to the suspicious page in question. Hackers would therefore send links via email, social media, or IM to try to encourage visits to the site. Once a user clicked one of those links, the hackers would be able to take over rights as a system user. In other words, if the user in question was only utilizing a guest account, hackers wouldn’t be able to do much with it. If the user was a system administrator, however, hackers would be able to usurp admin rights, take control of the entire system, and wreak havoc.

Since the Internet Explorer versions in question account for roughly half of the world’s internet browsers, Microsoft is working quickly to patch the flaw, which will hopefully mitigate most of the potential consequences of the bug. However, for users of Windows XP, the vulnerability could be a more serious problem, since Microsoft is no longer releasing updates for the system. XP users may just be able to download a patched version of Internet Explorer on their own, but the update will not be automatic, as it will for other Microsoft systems.


Simply being called 'fat' increases obesity risk in young girls

Being called “fat” can increase a young girl’s risk of becoming obese, according to new research.

The study’s senior author, A. Janet Tomiyama, assistant professor of psychology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science, and colleagues analyzed 1,166 white girls and 1,213 African-American girls in Northern California, Washington, DC, and Cincinnati. The height and weight of the girls were measured at the beginning of the study, as well as nine years later.

The data was used from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study.

About 58 percent of these girls were told they were too fat at the age of 10 years.

Those who were called fat were 1.66 times more likely to become obese by the age of 19, as compared to girls who were not called fat. The researchers also discovered that the likelihood of obesity in girls increases as the number of people calling them fat increases. People calling these girls fat can include anyone, such as a mother, father, sister, brother, friend, or a teacher.

“That means it’s not just that heavier girls are called too fat and are still heavy years later; being labeled as too fat is creating an additional likelihood of being obese,” said Tomiyama in a statement.

The phenomenon remained in effect even when factors such as race, income, and actual weight were removed from the analysis. Simply being called fat can lead to behaviors that are linked to an increased risk for obesity later in life.

Making girls feel badly about their weight can be demoralizing. When people feel bad about themselves, they often look to comfort food to help mask their stress.

The findings from the study are published online in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.


The mystery of Mount Baldy's man-eating sand dunes

Imagine strolling aimlessly through the sands of Indiana’s Mount Baldy in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, only to be sucked into the netherworld by an unexpected (and unexplained) sinkhole. That’s exactly what happened last summer to 6-year-old Nathan Woessner, and the holes continue to appear in the dunes. They also continue to defy explanation.

Woessner was trapped for about three hours beneath 11 feet of sediment, though he was recovered safely. For now, the park is closed until officials can find some answers.

“We don’t know exactly what’s going on out there,” Ken Mehne, law enforcement specialist for the park, told the Chicago Tribune. “We can’t let folks out onto the area until we know it’s safe.”

What’s perhaps even weirder is that the holes in the dunes seem to appear and disappear without warning or following any sort of pattern. The phenomenon has attracted several experts, including geologist Erin Argyilan, a professor of geosciences at Indiana University Northwest. She was working nearby when Woessner became trapped, and now feels compelled to find an explanation.

Some of the holes are so deep, researchers’ measuring devices are insufficient. So far, scientists have been able to rule out quicksand (both dry and wet) as a possible cause.

The leading hypothesis points to Mount Baldy’s past as the possible culprit. Mount Baldy’s topography has changed a lot in the last hundred years, when it was once used as a sand mine for glass mason jars. The dune changed rapidly in the late 20th century, trapping trees, brush and man-made objects beneath the sand. The researchers believe that time and a particularly wet spring in 2013 lead some of these objects to degrade and become unstable, making the mysterious voids possible.

“Scientists are now preparing for a more comprehensive investigation of the dune this summer. This study will include mapping of openings, depressions, and anomalous features, the use of multispectral Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) and coring to develop a better understanding of the overall internal architecture of the dune, and detailed GPR and coring of some of the anomalies identified in the EPA report,” officials said in a press release.


Google's driverless cars still on pace to become publicly available by 2017

Google’s self-driving cars are well on their way to mastering the complexity of city driving, the company announced Monday.

In its first update on the Google X driverless car project since August 2012, Google said test cars now can handle thousands of urban situations that would have stumped them a year or two ago.

“We’re growing more optimistic that we’re heading toward an achievable goal — a vehicle that operates fully without human intervention,” said project director Chris Urmson in a blog post.

From jaywalking pedestrians to cars lurching out of hidden driveways, cities present far more challenges to driverless cars than the open freeway, where the project’s focus had been aimed initially. But Urmson says his team is already building software models to overcome these challenges.

“A mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, with hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of the road in a small area,” said Urmson. “We’ve improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously—pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn.”

Google admits there are still lots of problems to solve, including understanding the gestures that drivers give one another to signal a lane merge or change, turning right on red and driving in rain or fog.

But with nearly 700,000 autonomous miles logged by the self-driving cars, the company is confident it will meet its goal of getting a car to the public by 2017.

“As it turns out, what looks chaotic and random on a city street to the human eye is actually fairly predictable to a computer,” said Urmson.


IBM launches new Cloud Marketplace for enterprises

With more and more businesses adopting cloud computing methods for their enterprise needs, it is not at all surprising that new companies are opting to enter the cloud service competition for the first time. In fact, just this weekend, IBM announced that it would be launching a Cloud Marketplace of its own, making itself the newest competitor in the growing cloud sector.

According to a report from ZDNet, IBM’s biggest goal with the new cloud marketplace is to encourage businesses to make the transition from physical services to cloud services in a seamless manner. The company has come to the conclusion that so-called “hybrid clouds” – combinations between on-site servers and virtual cloud systems – are where the bulk of the money in the cloud world is going to be found over the next few years. As a result, IBM has introduced a marketplace boasting a range of different services, all of which can be seamlessly integrated with existing company systems to create hybrid clouds.

So what services are going to be available on IBM’s brand-new Cloud Marketplace? In remarks made to announce the new project, IBM Senior Vice President Robert LeBlanc stated that the company wanted its Cloud Marketplace to include cloud solutions for purposes of “business, IT, and development across the enterprise.” That means that the IBM Cloud Marketplace will include services built for “big data, analytics, mobile, social, commerce, and integration,” making it a virtual one-stop shop for all of a business’s tech-centric needs.

Not all of the services will be provided directly by IBM. On the contrary, the computer company has numerous partners, including Zillo, NewRelic, and many more, and those partners  will provide the bulk of the cloud options available through the marketplace.


Breast cancer survivors face second battle: Long-term unemployment

Almost a third of working women receiving breast cancer treatment wound up unemployed four years later.

According to a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, patients who were treated with chemotherapy were most affected.

Led by Dr. Reshma Jagsi of the University of Michigan Health System, the study analyzed 2,290 women who received a nonmetastatic breast cancer diagnosis between 2005 and 2007. They were asked to fill out a form answering questions about their paid employment, financial situations, and other factors influencing quality of life.

A follow-up questionnaire four years later was completed by 1,536 of the initial patients in the study, 1,026 of whom were under 65 years of age.

Of the breast cancer patients under 65 who took the four-year follow-up questionnaire, 746 (76 percent) of them were in paid employment before receiving their diagnosis.

The study found that 236 (30 percent) of these patients were no longer employed.

“Many doctors believe that even though patients may miss work during treatment, they will ‘bounce back’ in the longer term. The results of this study suggest otherwise. Loss of employment is a possible long-term negative consequence of chemotherapy that may not have been fully appreciated to date,” said Jagsi in a statement.

The findings from this study suggest that more effective strategies to identify patients that are less likely to benefit from chemotherapy treatment need to be identified.

Patients should fully understand the possible long-term consequences of receiving chemotherapy, including the effect it can have on future employment and financial consequences.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 225,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, though the majority of those at a working age survive into retirement.

The study’s findings are published in the journal Cancer.


AOL confirms email breach, urges users to change passwords

After admitting that the security breach it reported last week was larger than initially thought, AOL recommended that its millions of users immediately change their passwords and security questions.

“As a precautionary measure, we nevertheless strongly encourage our users and employees to reset their passwords used for any AOL service and, when doing so, also to change their security question and answer,” said the AOL security team in a statement.

AOL is currently working with forensic experts and federal authorities to investigate the breach. The company discovered the breach when it noticed a significant increase in the amount of spam appearing as “spoofed emails” from AOL Mail addresses.

“We have determined that there was unauthorized access to information regarding a significant number of user accounts,” said the company. “This information included AOL users’ email addresses, postal addresses, address book contact information, encrypted passwords and encrypted answers to security questions that we ask when a user resets his or her password, as well as certain employee information.”

The company thinks spammers have used this contact information to send spoofed emails appearing to come from roughly two percent of its email accounts.

But despite the extent and scope of the breach, there is no indication so far that the encryption of passwords or answers to security questions was broken. AOL is also stressing that they do not believe that users’ financial information, including debit and credit cards, was exposed.

“Our security team has put enhanced protective measures in place and we urge our users to take proactive steps to help ensure the security of their accounts,” said the company. “AOL is notifying potentially affected users and is committed to ensuring the protection of its users, employees and partners and addressing the situation as quickly and forcefully as we can.”


Behold the mighty mite, the fastest animal on Earth

It’s long been believed that Africa’s cheetah, the sleek, lithe cat seemingly tailor made for speed, was the fastest land animal on Earth. Technically, that’s still true – cheetahs can reach speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour, a top speed untouched in the animal kingdom. Look at speed from a different perspective (body lengths per second, for instance), though, and the cheetah loses hands-down to the humble mite, according to Samuel Rubin, a junior and physics major at Pitzer College.

At 60 miles per hour, the cheetah manages an impressive 116 body lengths per second. That pace is downright glacial when compared to the mite, though, which was observed covering 322 body lengths per second. To put that in perspective, to achieve the same rate of travel a human would need to run about 1300 miles per hour.

“It’s so cool to discover something that’s faster than anything else, and just to imagine, as a human, going that fast compared to your body length is really amazing,” said Rubin. “But beyond that, looking deeper into the physics of how they accomplish these speeds could help inspire revolutionary new designs for things like robots or biomimetic devices.”

According to Jonathan Wright, Ph.D., a professor of biology at Pomona College, stride frequency and speed relative to body size increase as animals get smaller, though there’s thought to be a physiological upper limit to how fast a limb can possibly move. The mite discovery has scientists rethinking that notion.

“We were looking at the overarching question of whether there is an upper limit to the relative speed or stride frequency that can be achieved,” said Wright. “When the values for mites are compared with data from other animals, they indicate that, if there is an upper limit, we haven’t found it yet.”

In filming the mites with high speed cameras, they noticed other peculiarities. For instance, mites are unusually adept at navigating surfaces well outside the lethal limit for most animals, observed traversing concrete measuring 140 degrees Fahrenheit.