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This Math Puzzle Is Worth $1 Million



The puzzle is 170 years old, first posed in 1850. It simply involves a chessboard and eight queen chess pieces. And it actually is a tactile version of an ancient theoretical problem (P vs NP). The original puzzle is simple: place eight queens on a standard chess board in such a way that no one piece can attack another piece.

This puzzle is actually pretty easy to solve if you use simple mathematical principles. In fact, there are several possible ways to place the queens on the chessboard to reach the solution; and none of these solutions is worth $1 million.

The one-million-dollar question is whether or not a human can design a computer program (an algorithm) to do this on a much larger scale. Just how large? Well, a chess board is 8×8 squares, and you must place 8 queens, if you recall. The prize-winning algorithm, though, will place 1,000 queens on a 1,000×1,000 square chess board.

You see, computers seem to be able to handle this problem as you slowly increase the variables but, apparently, 1,000 is the threshold.
University of St. Andrews professor, Ian Gent developed this idea after a friend challenged him to solve the puzzle on his own. This led to a discussion with colleagues—Dr. Peter Nightingale and Dr. Christopher Jefferson—which led to the prize offer.

Gent comments, “If you could write a computer program that could solve the problem really fast, you could adapt it to solve many of the most important problems that affect us all daily. This includes trivial challenges like working out the largest group of your Facebook friends who don’t know each other, or very important ones like cracking the codes that keep all our online transactions safe.”

Dr. Nightingale adds, “In practice, nobody has ever come close to writing a program that can solve the problem quickly. So what our research has shown is that – for all practical purposes – it can’t be done.”

Now, the big reason why this problem is so hard to solve—even for our best and brightest super computers—is that the variables are so massive it could still take years to figure them all. And the reason for this is because even our best computers use an algorithm called “backtracking” which looks at every possible solution and then backs away until reaching the final solution(s). Its kind of like narrowing down from a large pile.

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Ex-CIA Officer Charged Over Hacking Tools Leak



A former software engineer at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has been charged with sealing national defense information that was classified. Joshua Schulte was charged with various Espionage Act violations including leaking source code and hacking tools to Wikileaks. The top-secret files that Schulte leaked to Wikileaks were published by the website last year in March. 

According to prosecutors Schulte made modifications to a computer that was operated by the U.S. spy agency between March and June in 2016 with a view of preventing his activities of leaking from being discovered. By making the modifications to the computer he also consequently caused others to be denied access to the computer.

Betrayal of the country

“As alleged, Schulte utterly betrayed this nation and downright violated his victims. As an employee of the CIA, Schulte took an oath to protect this country, but he blatantly endangered it by the transmission of Classified Information,” said William F. Sweeney, Jr., the assistant New York Federal Bureau of Investigations field director, in a statement.

Schulte was identified as the figure behind the ‘Vault 7’ leak which was one of the biggest leaks in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency last month. According to existing and ex-intelligence officials the leak exposed spying techniques and secret cyber-weapons which could one day be used to serve the interests of enemies of the United States.

Bigger than Edward Snowden leak

It is understood in some quarters that the ‘Vault 7’ leak could have a bigger impact and do more damage to the intelligence efforts of the United States than the leak which was done by Edward Snowden, the former contractor of the National Security Agency. While Snowden disclosed extraordinary details with regards to the capabilities that the United States possesses pertaining to spying on phones and computers across the globe, the ‘Vault 7’ leak went further and demonstrated how the spying is carried out.

Schulte’s residence in New York was searched last year by federal authorities and handwritten notes, notebooks and personal computer equipment seized. At the time the evidence was insufficient to result in the indictment of Schulte though the prosecutor argued that investigations were ongoing.

According to one of the prosecutors at the time the investigation was also focusing on analyzing whether Tor, a technology which allows users of the internet to mask their location and identity, was utilized in leaking the classified information. From the seized personal computer equipment the prosecutors alleged that Schulte had been using Tor.

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JUMP Bicycle-Sharing Startup Acquired By Uber Technologies 



Uber has announced that it has reached a deal to acquire JUMP Bikes, an electric bicycle service. This allows the ride-hailing firm to offers passengers in the United States an alternative to cars while consolidating the highly crowded bike-sharing sector. According to a spokesperson for the ride-hailing service around 100 employees of JUMP will join Uber. Terms of the agreement including the financial details were however not disclosed.

JUMP is headquartered in New York and offers a service where rides can rent bikes which are electric-powered through an online platform. The bicycles are dockless and therefore there is no specific place that they have to be returned to as riders can leave them at any convenient public bike rack. The position of the bikes is tracked through GPS and this eliminates the infrastructure cost which other bike-sharing firms incur. Uber already has a partnership with JUMP in the city of San Francisco and will now roll out the service across the globe.

Mobility services

“We’re committed to bringing together multiple modes of transportation within the Uber app – so that you can choose the fastest or most affordable way to get where you’re going, whether that’s in an Uber, on a bike, on the subway, or more,” said the chief executive officer of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi.

Originally known as Social Bicycles JUMP was founded in 2010 and during its eight years of existence has sold bikes as well as operated its own fleet. Since it was started JUMP has raised from investors approximately $11 million.

For some time the bike-sharing craze was mostly an Asian phenomenon but has since caught on in the United States. Chinese bike-sharing startups such as Ofo and Mobike recently entered the U.S. market and are now taking on services that are sponsored by the likes of Ford Motor and Citigroup. The bike-sharing startups have recently become a target of acquisitions with Mobike for instance being acquired by Meituan Dianping, a Chinese internet company.

Regulatory limits

According industry experts more consolidation is to be expected in the U.S. especially since regulatory limits are being introduced on the number of bicycles that a bike-sharing company can be allowed to have in a particular city. There are also challenges with popularizing the services especially since Americans are not as accustomed to driving as they are to pedaling.

It is estimated that the bicycle-sharing market is growing annually at a rate of 20%. By 2020 this market is expected to be worth between 3.6 billion euros and 5.3 billion euros.

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Stop Feeding Your Pets Raw Food, Experts Warn



It has become very popular, today, for pet owner to feed their dogs and cats raw meat.  While this might sound good in theory—all natural versus processed—however, studies now show that this could be dangerous not only to health of your furry family member, but to every member of the family as well.

Dutch scientists are saying that a raw meat-based diet significantly increases risk fro infection from all kinds of traumatic bugs—like salmonella and E. coli and listeria—as well as parasites like toxoplasma.

Paul Overgaauw—of the Division of Veterinary Public Health at Utrecht University—explains, “We see that more and more people are feeding [pets] this kind of product and we know that meat is infected with bacteria and parasites.”  He adds, “While pets are directly exposed to food-borne pathogens when they ingest food, there are several ways in which pet owners and other household members can also encounter such pathogens.”

He goes on to say, “This can be through direct contact with the food; through contact with a contaminated pet, such as sharing the same bed and allowing licking of the face and hands; through contact with household surfaces; or by ingesting cross-contaminated human food.”

Published in the journal Vet Record, the study looked at 35 commercially available frozen raw meat-based diets from eight different brands, specifically analyzing for zoonotic bacteria and parasites.

Sure enough, they were able to find E. coli O157 isolated from eight different products, as well as listeria species isolated from 15 products and salmonella species isolated in seven products. Furthermore, they found that at least four products contained a parasite known as Sarcocystis cruzi as well as another four products which contained Sarcocystis tenella.  Both of these can result in nausea, stomach ache, and diarrhea. Two products, the scientists say, had Toxoplasma gondii, which is what leads to a common infection known as toxoplasmosis.

Overgaauw advises that the dry and/or semi-moist and canned pet food is rarely contaminated with these pathogens. And this is important because if your pet gets sick with one of these infections it certainly increases risk for infection among the rest of your family members.

He notes, “Cats and dogs that eat raw meat diets are also more likely to become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria than animals on conventional diets, which could pose a serious risk to both animal health and public health.”

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