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Whatever name you call it—the hellbender, Allegheny alligator, snot otter, devil dog, or even lasagna lizard—the giant amphibian Cryptobranchus alleganiensis may be off-putting at first glance. Its rippled and mucus-y skin can make North America’s largest salamander a creepy sight to behold. 

“It has a face only your mother could love,” says Eric Chapman, director of aquatic science at Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. But the mother of all mothers, Mother Nature, does, in fact, love the hellbender. 

Although this creature might look like the spawn of satan, it is actually quite docile towards humans unless provoked. Plus, the aquatic animal does wonders for its environment as its presence signals water quality and mitigates crayfish populations from running amok. “They’re the canary in the coal mine for streams,” Chapman says, explaining that the rise or fall of Cryptobranchus populations is often an indication of the health of the overall environment. 

But not everyone appreciates the hellbender like Mother Nature does. According to Chapman, misinformation leading to the persecution of these slippery salamanders has been around for centuries. The nasty names originally spread by European colonizers only scratch the surface of what hellbenders have been through in the public eye. They’ve been said to bring bad luck when encountered, while other folklore paints hellbenders as poisonous beasts that decimate populations of large native fish, neither of which is true. 

[Related: Skydiving salamanders have mastered falling with style]

In reality, hellbenders are gentle giants, says Jeff Briggler, state herpetologist for Missouri. Although they may occasionally try to defend themselves when their homes or babies are encroached upon, they are generally harmless—unless you’re a crayfish or a snail. Hellbenders are typically around one to two feet in length, and “the bigger they are, the more gentle they seem to be,” Briggler says. 

Hellbenders spend a lot of time just hiding at home, which for them are under massive rocks in streams that can be as big as the hood of a car, Chapman says. Some hellbenders have been spotted under the same rock year after year, living out the majority of their impressively long lives (25 to 35 years in the wild) all under one rock. And hellbenders themselves are an ancient species. “They’ve been around in the fossil record for millions of years,” Briggler says. “Little has changed over time.”

On the occasions when hellbenders do have to leave their rocky abodes, these big homebodies are rarely seen swimming and instead usually plod along river bottoms with their stubby legs.  The amphibians are typically most active in the fall during mating season. Males come out to do a courtship display and mate with females who will go back under the rocks to lay their eggs. Male hellbenders also guard the nests for weeks without eating, Chapman says. Despite their sacrifice, they might not win the award for best dad of the animal kingdom award, given their tendency to eat their young if the babies don’t flee the nest early enough. 

But far scarier than their names or their debatably ugly mugs are real threats to hellbenders, such as habitat loss and disease. Ozark hellbenders, one of two hellbender subspecies, have faced significant declines in Missouri and Arkansas “In the ‘70s, we estimated there were around 45,000 hellbenders in Missouri. Today we estimate there are about 2,100,” Briggler says. Eastern hellbenders, the other subspecies which live as far north as New York and as far south as Georgia and Alabama, may be seeing population declines, but scientists don’t have as much information about these numbers as they do in Missouri, Briggler says. Still, the eastern hellbender is listed as threatened or endangered in several states, although it has not made it onto the federal endangered species list like the Ozark subspecies.

But even though they reside across 15 states, habitat destruction is suffocating these amphibians. Although they are born with gills and use lungs later in life, hellbenders primarily breathe through their blood-vessel-lined skin. They absorb oxygen through cold water and may occasionally use their lungs to get oxygen from the surface if their streams become too warm, Briggler says. But, as deforestation displaces soil and agriculture erodes land, increased sedimentation can occur in streams, literally choking out hellbenders. Additionally, the spread of amphibian chytrid fungus has been affecting Missouri hellbenders since the 1960s and causing death along the way, Briggler says.

Now, protections like CITES have helped curtail this trend, although scientists still urge people not to go looking for hellbenders in the wild, as moving their rocks should only be done by highly trained individuals who know how best to preserve the microhabitat underneath. With the help of breeding programs, scientists have been able to release 10,000 hellbenders back into rivers in Missouri. It will likely take decades to bring back hellbender numbers back to where they were before the 1960s, but states like Missouri are starting to see a small resurgence, says Briggler.

“Fifteen years ago, I would have said, ‘I don’t know if we can save this animal,’” he says. “I’m so much more hopeful with the program we have here today. We are buying this animal 30, 40 years while we work on addressing threats.”

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The Human App Delivers Real

HUMAN Protocol has been launched on the Ethereum Mainnet. To complement this launch – which also involved the listing of HMT (the native token of HUMAN Protocol) on FTX and chúng tôi on the 10th of August – the HUMAN Protocol Foundation has now released the HUMAN App: the first opportunity for people to earn HMT directly for completing data-labeling tasks, and the first gateway into the HUMAN experience. 

HUMAN Protocol provides the end-to-end infrastructure – the tools, plugins, integrations, and APIs – to hire, manage, validate, and compensate individuals at scale. It is designed to support the creation of global job markets in which almost any human or machine can publish a job and any Worker with the requested skill set, knowledge, or background can complete the tasks associated with that job. 

While in theory, the Protocol may support any job, the current majority of HUMAN tasks – produced through hCaptcha – involve the labeling of images. These tasks are now available within the HUMAN App, with the successful completion of each rewarding HMT. Through this, the HUMAN App will support the production of diverse, relevant, and less biased datasets, and empower a new generation of AI and ML technologies. 

This announcement follows the record-breaking CoinList sale of HMT earlier this year. To learn more about HUMAN Protocol, read this introductory piece. 

The HUMAN App and HMT 

HUMAN Protocol is designed as a broadly applicable technology, with implications for many industries, including the gig economy – discussed in this piece – and those related to machine learning and artificial intelligence. HUMAN Protocol offers the platform for machines to empower humans by liberating their time and attention, and to increase access to global workforces – and, for those workforces, global opportunity. 

HUMAN Protocol is a proven technology. Now with the HUMAN App, HUMAN is delivering real-world utility to the HUMAN network and ecosystem. The HUMAN App is the first opportunity for the community to earn HMT for completing data-labeling tasks. On the Protocol, a job may be made up of thousands or millions of tasks. If a job is the production of a dataset, each task is the individually labeled image within that dataset. 

The HUMAN App is the virtual gateway to the HUMAN experience. While it begins with data-labeling tasks, reflecting the majority of the work currently processed through the Protocol, it is designed to be able to accommodate any type of work, and reward Workers in proportion to the value produced by that work. 

More than access to opportunity, HUMAN Protocol is designed to facilitate access to the value of opportunity, and of the contributions made by individuals every day. The HUMAN App will allow anyone to be rewarded for completing CAPTCHAs. By incentivizing workforces at a global

scale, HUMAN aims to further nurture its community, to provide a clear example of what is possible, and ensure that those labeling images are compensated for their contributions. 

How it works 

Individuals earn HMT for activities within the HUMAN App. This begins at registration – which earns 1 HMT – and continues for each job that is completed.

For example, 1 HMT is earned for every CAPTCHA solved (that is, each image labeled). Individuals must connect or create a KYC-verified crypto wallet to receive HMT and to verify their identity. 

Every image labeled contributes to a machine’s understanding of the world. While, for now, the CAPTCHAs presented are solvable by anyone, HUMAN Protocol is designed for images to become more specialized, and require more specific backgrounds and knowledge sets. 

To learn more about the HUMAN App, visit the website. For the latest updates on HUMAN Protocol, follow us on Twitter or join our Discord.

Alternatively, to enquire about integrations, usage, or to learn more about how HUMAN Protocol supports machine-learning technologies, get in contact with the HUMAN team.

Pc Sales Continue To Plunge, But The Drop Is Less Steep

The PC market moved into its sixth straight quarter of declining sales, analysts reported on Wednesday, although the dip was less pronounced than one firm expected.

Market research firm Gartner reported that third-quarter PC sales dipped by 8.6 percent to 80.3 million units for the July-to-September quarter. IDC, with its own report, said the drop was 7.6 percent to 81.6 million units; the firm had previously projected a worldwide decline of 9.5 percent.

Normally, the third quarter marks the beginning of the upswing for the PC market, as students and educators invest in new hardware during the so-called back-to-school buying season. But sales apparently failed to materialize, either an indication that students are turning more to tablets or simply were using notebooks that they had bought previously. On the other hand, emerging product categories and a greater assortment of Windows 8-based models pushed sales volumes slightly higher, IDC reported, as did the migration from Windows XP to Windows 7.

“Consumers’ shift from PCs to tablets for daily content consumption continued to decrease the installed base of PCs both in mature as well as in emerging markets,” Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. “A greater availability of inexpensive Android tablets attracted first-time consumers in emerging markets and as supplementary devices in mature markets.”

Rajani Singh, an analyst with IDC, noted that the U.S. market was essentially flat at 0 percent growth, helped by Chromebooks and what the company called “ultraslim” devices.

“Whether constrained by a weak economy or being selective in their tech investments, buyers continue to evaluate options and delay PC replacements,” Loren Loverde, an analyst with IDC added. “Despite being a little ahead of forecast, and the work that’s being done on new designs and integration of features like touch, the third quarter results suggest that there’s still a high probability that we will see another decline in worldwide shipments in 2014.”

According to IDC, Lenovo led the pack of PC vendors for global sales during the third quarter.

Both Gartner and IDC said that Lenovo had again edged out rival Hewlett-Packard for a second straight quarter, with Lenovo showing a 2.8 percent increase in unit sales to 14.1 million units. HP and Dell also demonstrated 1.5 percent and 1.0 growth, respectively. But Acer’s sales plunged 22.6 percent, followed closely by Asus, with a  22.5 percent decline in shipments. However, both Acer and Asus have shifted their focus towards the tablet market, Gartner said.

Lenovo’s market share is 17.6 percent, followed closely by HP, at 17.1 percent, Gartner found. Dell, Acer, and Asus make up 11.6 percent, 8.3 percent, and 6.1 percent, respectively.

HP was the top PC vendor in the U.S. during the third quarter.

According to Gartner, HP was the top U.S. PC vendor, with a 26.9 percent market share. Dell (21.0 percent) and Apple (13.4 percent) followed, then Lenovo (10.5 percent) and Toshiba (7.0 percent). Apple was the only vendor among the top five to record a drop in shipments, down 2.3 percent.

IDC largely agreed with Gartner’s numbers (as shown in the above chart), although the firm said that Acer and Asus recorded a steeper drop in shipments.

Both IDC and Gartner typically release tablet sales as part of a separate report, which will provide more insight into how the overall market will fare.

So far, the promise of Windows 8.1 has failed to ignite the PC market, as has the new “Haswell”-based notebooks from Intel’s PC partners. Will the fourth quarter show some signs of life, as Microsoft has predicted? So far, the best news is that it looks less gloomy than predicted. And that isn’t saying much.

My Laptop Is Plugged In But Not Charging

There are various reasons why your laptop battery might not be charging even though it’s plugged in. A faulty power outlet, charger, or dying battery comes to mind first and foremost. However, there are other causes as well that might not be too obvious at a first glance.

So, without further ado, we’ll guide you through the process of diagnosing it. Please follow the article below to find the diagnosis for your problem and its respective fix if your laptop is not charging.

Faulty charger

Faulty power outlet

Damaged charging cables

Underpowered charger

Dying battery

Charger not authentic

Damaged or corrupted drivers

Third party applications limiting charging status

Motherboard problems

If your laptop is plugged in but not charging, there are plenty of fixes you can apply. The same fixes might not work for every user and can differ on the actual cause of your problem. However, below are all the verified fixes you can follow to get your laptop back to charging when plugged in.

Please check the connections of the cables. Your charger has two cables, one that connects from the socket to the charger, and the other that runs from the charger to your laptop. Thus you need to check the connection at the outlet, the charger, and the power plug at the laptop.

Check the connections at all three points and make sure they are securely connected. If all three connection points are properly secured, try using a different power outlet. 

If this solves the issue, then great! Otherwise, we need to keep looking. Please move on to the next fix on the list.

Your charger could be damaged or dying, its wattage might be rated lower than what is required by the laptop, or with some vendors, an inauthentic charger might be causing the problem.

Damaged or Dying Charger

Needless to say, a dead charger will not charge your battery at all. However, a dying or faulty charger might trick your laptop to think it’s charging the battery while not providing enough juice to actually charge it.

Charger Power Rating Much Lower That What Is Required

Similarly, if you are using a charger that is rated for less wattage than what your laptop requires, in that case also you will see that the laptop is plugged in but not charging. Check your charger to see if it is rated adequately. 

If you are using USB-C PowerDelivery to charge the laptop, make sure that the PowerDelivery requirement stated in your laptop’s specification matches the USB-C charger’s capacity.

Also, if there are multiple USB-C ports, make sure you are plugged into the one that is rated for PowerDelivery.

Inauthentic Charger

Finally, some vendors have a built-in feature to detect if the charger you are using is genuine. If they detect a third-party charger being used to charge the device, the laptop will not charge even though it matches the specifications. 

Your recourse in any of the above cases is to grab a new charger and see if it can charge your laptop properly.

Sometimes a glitch can cause your battery to not charge while plugged in. In such cases, you can try power cycling your laptop. Power cycling is useful to reset a hardware device from its unresponsive state and reinitialize its set of configurational parameters. If your laptop is not charging because a critical hardware component needed for the task has gone unresponsive, this can help resolve that issue.

To power cycle the laptop:

Shut down the laptop.

Unplug it from the wall.

Remove the battery from your laptop.

Press and hold the Power button for 30 seconds.

Put the battery back in.

Plug back the AC adapter.

Power on the device.

Source: Acer Support

Batteries can behave abnormally sometimes. Some devices will have a battery reset button built into the laptop so that you can reset the battery in such cases. Refer to your device’s user manual to see if your laptop has a battery reset button. 

If it does, then first perform a power cycle on your laptop. Thereafter, push, press, or insert a pin into the battery reset button (again, refer to the user manual for details on how to do this).

If your laptop has had a few miles on it, chances are your battery has degraded and can no longer keep a good amount of charge. This might also lead to issues with battery charging. You can check the battery health of your laptop, and if it has degraded substantially, it is recommended that you replace the existing battery with a new one.

Check for Full Charge Capacity vs Design Capacity. If the values under Full Charge Capacity are significantly less than those under Design Capacity, then perhaps you should replace the battery.

You can use the Windows Troubleshooter to check if there are any problems with the battery and power management that are causing issues.

To launch Troubleshooter in Windows 10:

To launch Troubleshooter in Windows 11:

Follow the on-screen instructions and apply any suggestions that the troubleshooter might suggest.

It might sound unconventional, but battery device drivers could be responsible for the battery not charging while plugged in. Windows uses Microsoft ACPI-Control Method Battery driver to communicate with the laptop’s battery.

If this driver is somehow damaged or corrupted, Windows will be sending wrong signals to the charging controller, which/ could cause it to stop charging the battery. In fact, many people who’ve had the battery not charging while plugged in had their problem fixed after updating this driver.

Upon restart, Windows will automatically install this driver again. If your problem was caused by driver issues, this should fix it.

Some third-party applications limit battery charging when the battery is charged to a certain percentage (usually around 50% of full charge) so as to conserve battery life. While this is certainly a good feature for your battery health, it can be inconvenient if you need full battery life when traveling, etc. 

Check if your laptop has such third-party applications installed. Turn the settings off, if there is one.

Some manufacturers have a feature to limit battery charging built into the hardware. You can access and control this feature from the BIOS. To see if your device is also not charging with a plugged-in charger, boot into the BIOS of your device and look at the available options. 

If you see something along the line of Battery Care Function Express Charge, etc, you need to change this setting. Please refer to your model’s user manual for detailed information.

Additionally, if you found such settings in the BIOS and have made necessary changes to it, it is possible that you need to update the BIOS.

The last fix we have for you is a faulty motherboard. Indeed, since the circuitry to charge the battery runs through the motherboard, failure of any of the components involved can result in the battery not charging. 

Thus, if you have tried all other fixes above and still the issue persists, there could be problems with a damaged charging circuit, a faulty battery sensor, etc. 

In such a case, you will need to get professional help. Please check with your device manufacturer or an authorized repair center for a solution to this problem.

Security Vulnerabilities On The Decline But Risk Assessment Is Often Flawed, Says Ibm

Based on data gathered over the first six months of 2014, security researchers from IBM X-Force predict that the number of publicly reported vulnerabilities will drop to under 8,000 this year, a first since 2011.

While the majority of flaws disclosed so far fall into the medium-risk category, the IBM researchers said that the widely used system to rate their severity often fails to reflect the real risk they pose to users.

“It is difficult to point to any one factor that has contributed to the decline in the number of vulnerability disclosures in 2014,” the X-Force researchers said. “However, it is interesting to note that the total number of vendors disclosing vulnerabilities has decreased year over year (1,602 vendors in 2013, compared to 926 vendors in 2014).”

Security experts have argued in the past that overall number of vulnerabilities is not as relevant for as their impact. However, despite attempts to standardize methods of assessing the severity of vulnerabilities, like the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), there are many cases where the true risk posed by certain flaws is not represented accurately.

“Many in the industry, including security analysts, corporate incident response teams and enterprise software consumers, have become dissatisfied with scoring inconsistencies that often occur across different organizations,” the X-Force researchers said. “Sometimes the inconsistencies are the result of the subjectivity that can go into how an individual or organization scores vulnerabilities, but they can also result from some of the inherent flaws in the current CVSS standard and a lack of clear guidelines on how to objectively assess certain types of vulnerabilities.”

One prime example is the Heartbleed flaw disclosed in the OpenSSL library in early April that can be exploited by attackers to extract sensitive information from the memory of Web servers. The vulnerability received a CVSS base score of 5.0 out of 10, which puts it into the medium-risk category.

“With the number of products impacted, the time and attention IT teams spent patching systems and responding to customer inquiries, as well as the potential sensitivity of data exposed, the true impact of the Heartbleed vulnerability was greater than the CVSS base score would indicate,” the X-Force researchers said. “This also brings to question what other vulnerabilities fell into the medium-risk category (CVSS base score 4.0 to 6.9) that may have been disregarded by organizations, but that also had potential large-scale impacts similar to Heartbleed.”

Sixty-seven percent of vulnerabilities disclosed during the first half of 2014 fell into the medium-risk level based on their assigned CVSS scores, according to the IBM report. This is similar to numbers seen in the previous two years.

In 2013, Carsten Eiram, the chief research officer at Risk Based Security, and Brian Martin from the Open Security Foundation, two researchers experienced in maintaining vulnerability databases wrote an open letter detailing CVSS shortcomings to the Forum for Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST), the organization that maintains the standard.

“While CVSSv2 saw improvements over CVSSv1, the scheme is still not adequately supporting real life usage, as it suffers from being too theoretical in certain aspects,” Eiram and Martin wrote in their letter. “Specific vulnerability types and vectors are not properly supported while others are not properly described, leading to subjective and inconsistent scoring, which CVSS was designed to prevent.”

Mars’ Skies Are Clearing Up, But The Opportunity Rover Is Still Fast Asleep

For the past three months, Mars has been in the midst of a global dust storm, depriving the red planet almost entirely of sunlight. That’s been particularly challenging for the heavenly body’s resident robot, the solar-powered Opportunity rover, and his commanding engineers back here on Earth. But this week, the skies have become much clearer, with the Sun’s light finally reaching the planet’s surface. Unfortunately, it seems the skies are still not bright enough for the rover to wake.

Mars’ atmosphere is still more opaque than normal, a characteristic measured in a unit called tau. Opportunity experienced a tau of 10.8 over its current location during some of the worst days of the storm. That measure is down to about 2.5, but it is still too dark for the rover to reliably get the sunlight it needs to charge up. The tau on Mars is usually around 0.5

With the sun-powered rover starved of sunlight, NASA engineers put Opportunity into power-saving mode in early June. A few weeks after that, it missed a call from home, and as of yet, the rover still hasn’t woken up.

For fun—and to ease their anxieties—engineers here on Earth revived an old tradition of sending a wakeup song to Opportunity at the start of every day, with songs like ‘Wake me up before you go-go” and “Dust in the wind.”

Sadly, the rover has not yet responded. Opportunity needs the atmosphere above it to get to a tau of below 2 before it will have a chance to charge its batteries again. Having lost so much power, the rover is currently in survival mode; engineers think that it has experienced such a low-power fault that its gone into hibernation, shutting off everything except the mission clock. This sleep state has gone on for so long that if Opportunity does wake, it likely won’t know what time it is or how long it’s been asleep and will also wonder why it hasn’t heard from Earth in a long time so it will probably try to figure out new ways to communicate with engineers here.

Those engineers at NASA will continue listening for the rover’s signal every day, and three times a week will send a signal to telling it to beep if it registers the command. If Opportunity wakes, engineers will try to diagnose how bad the damage is. From here on Earth, engineers will run tests similar to the way a human doctor would go about diagnosing a patient: They’ll take the rover’s temperature, which will tell them if its warm enough to be woken up, run tests on the rovers’ batteries, and ask it to send back pictures of itself to see and assess any damage. There’s a chance that the batteries might have a harder time holding onto a charge given the long time without power, which might make science operations more difficult moving forward.

Opportunity is the longest-surviving rover on Mars. It landed in January of 2004 with a mission that was on the books for just 90 Martian days. It thrived for over 5,000 days before the dust came.

We’ll just have to see if it can hold on for a few more. In the meantime, NASA is collecting digital postcards for the rover (and its team back on Earth), if you’d like to send along your own words of encouragement.

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