LightSail 2 unfurls solar sail and begins travelling through space

Smooth sailing

Planetary Society/Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License

By Leah Crane

An experimental spacecraft has set sail in space. LightSail 2, developed by space advocacy group The Planetary Society, has unfurled a solar sail and begun harnessing sunlight to propel itself through space.

The craft was launched on 25 June aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. Now, the small boxes that held its sails have opened. The mirrored sails are each just 4.5 micrometr

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Anonymised data isn’t nearly anonymous enough – here’s how we fix it

Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye

Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye thinks there’s a problem with how we anonymise data

Bryce Vickmark

By Donna Lu

To protect privacy, data collected about us is sometimes anonymised before being used, such as for scientific research or by advertising companies wanting to hone their algorithms. The process involves removing personally identifiable information – including direct identifiers like names or photographs, and combinations of indirect identifiers such as workplace, occupation, salary and age.

Data anonymisation is supposed to be irreversible, but it’s relatively easy to reverse engineer the process, as Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye at Imperial College London and colleagues have found. This is because the more pieces of data you have about someone the more likely it becomes they are the only person who fits the bill. However, all is not lost. New techniques will help the fight for privacy, as De Montjoye explains.

What have you found?


We developed a machine learning model to assess the likelihood of reidentifying the right person. We took datasets and we showed that i

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Hawaii declares state of emergency amid protests over huge telescope

Protesters at Mauna Kea

Protesters don’t want the world’s largest telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii

Photo by Caleb Jones/AP/Shutterstock (10337093g)

By Leah Crane

The planned construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii is continuing to face problems. Astronomers say that building an enormous telescope atop the dormant volcano Mauna Kea will revolutionise our view of the universe.

But many indigenous people in Hawaii say that the project is steamrolling their culture, literally and figuratively. With protests heightening, the governor of Hawaii has declared a state of emergency.

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is planned to be the largest and most powerful visible-light telescope ever, producing images more than 12 times sharper than those from the Hubble

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Thousands of pornography sites leak data to Google and Facebook

Someone looking at sexual images on a computer

scyther5/iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Adam Vaughan

More than 90 per cent of pornography sites leak data on people browsing them to third party companies, including Google and Facebook.

Elena Maris at Microsoft Research and her colleagues analysed 22,500 pornography sites around the world found that tracking of users was “endemic” and posed “wide-scale privacy and security risks”. Tracking by advertising companies and other firms is widespread on many websites, but the team warn that the addresses of pornography sites could reveal uniquely compromising information about a user’s sexual preferences to compani

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Does the drop in US drug deaths mean the opioid crisis is ending?


| Analysis

19 July 2019

Emergency treatment for overdoses may be improving

Emergency treatment for overdoses may be improving

Scott Olson/Getty Images

By Chelsea Whyte

For the first time since 1990, the number of annual drug overdose deaths in the US has declined. The 5 per cent fall reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is almost entirely due to a drop i

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