UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News


Firefox browser pulled for vulnerability



MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Mozilla, based in California, says it pulled the latest version of its Firefox Web browser a day after its release because of a critical security vulnerability.



"Mozilla is aware of a security vulnerability in the current release version of Firefox (version 16). Firefox version 15 is unaffected," Michael Coates, Mozilla's director of security assurance, said Wednesday in a post on the company's security blog.



The bug was apparently overlooked by Mozilla while it was developing the new version, or may have inadvertently been introduced by the fixes for earlier problem incorporated in the version 16 upgrade that started reaching users early Tuesday, Computerworld reported.



The fixes were to patch 24 vulnerabilities in the earlier version.



Coates' posting that Firefox 15 did not contain the new vulnerability suggested it was either an entirely new and overlooked bug affecting only Firefox 16, or that it was introduced by the patching process, Computerworld said.



As a precaution, Mozilla said, it has pulled Firefox 16 from its primary download site until it prepares a fixed version 16.1.



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Distant planet may be mostly diamond



NEW HAVEN, Conn., Oct. 11 (UPI) -- A rocky planet twice Earth's size orbiting a nearby star in the Milky Way galaxy is partly made of diamond, U.S. astronomers say.



Scientists at Yale University said the planet, first observed in 2004, has been determined to consist mostly of carbon in the form of diamond and graphite.



"This is our first glimpse of a rocky world with a fundamentally different chemistry from Earth," lead researcher Nikku Madhusudhan, a postdoctoral researcher in physics and astronomy, said. "The surface of this planet is likely covered in graphite and diamond rather than water and granite."



The planet, with a radius twice as great and a mass eight times greater than that of Earth, is one of five planets orbiting a sun-like star, 55 Cancri, 40 light years from Earth but visible to the naked eye in the constellation of Cancer, a Yale release said Thursday.



At least a third of the planet's mass -- the equivalent of about three Earth masses -- could be diamond, astronomers estimate.



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Chimps said attacking humans in Africa



KINSHASHA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Habitat loss may be the cause of some violent attacks by chimpanzees on humans in the war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, scientists say.



At least one person, a child, has been killed in recent months in a chimpanzee attack just south of Virunga National Park in the area around the city of Goma, park officials said.



The park lies on the border between the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda.



A woman attempted to scare the chimp away to protect the child but the chimp reacted aggressively, said Alison Mollon of the Frankfurt Zoological Society in Germany, which works in partnership with the park.



"It generally seems that where people react aggressively, the result is aggressive behavior in return," she said.



Mistrust of chimpanzees has been heightened by local media reports suggesting as many as 10 people have been killed and 17 injured by chimps, NewScientist.com reported.



Efforts to improve the situation -- by educating locals in behaviors that will minimize the occurrence of violent confrontations, and by habituating chimps to humans -- are being made difficult by the armed conflict between M23 rebels and the DRC government, which began in April.



"Human-wildlife conflict is an extremely serious issue in Virunga, as it is across Africa and elsewhere," the park's chief warden Emmanuel de Merode said, citing an ongoing surge in human population in the area.



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LA prepares for space shuttle 'commute'



LOS ANGELES, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Planning for the space shuttle Endeavour's trip to its new home in Los Angeles included deploying 2,700 metal plates to protect road surfaces, officials said.



The space shuttle's trip from Los Angeles International Airport to the city's Exposition Park during the next few days will be conducted at 2 mph, but the massive size and weight of the shuttle has had to be taken into account, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.



Massive steel plates have been put down to protect streets and utilities, streetlights have been removed, and at several points along the route Endeavour will be just inches away from buildings, workers said.



The metal plates, each weighing as much as a small car, were laid in strategic areas.



"The sheer number of the plates was surprising," construction consultant Michael Volchok said. "We've tapped out everything in Southern California."



More than 200 streetlights have been removed, along with nearly 60 traffic signals, in preparation for the move set to begin Thursday just before midnight.



The shuttle will have to pivot at a number of points along its route, and police said they would close sidewalks to the public at some locations, the Times said.



"Don't think of the shuttle going nose-first down every street," Lt. Andy Neiman said. "That shuttle has the ability to zigzag and maneuver, and that's what you're going to see along that route. There may be places where the shuttle is going sideways at an angle."



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