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Digital Cockpits Will Become the Norm This Decade, Research Says

Thu, 2020-09-10 11:00
Future cars will, by and large, say goodbye to analog gauges as digital clusters and more screens become mainstream. CNET reports: Big screens at least 12 inches large, virtual assistants powered by artificial intelligence and both video and game streaming will all trickle down to hundreds of millions of cars by 2030, ABI Research believes. We don't want to know what this will do the average cost of a new vehicle. With the advanced technologies, cars will become even more like rolling computers, the researchers believe. A single ECU will, in the future, control everything from front and rear seat infotainment, advanced driver assist functions, the digital instrument cluster and more. ABI Research named a few companies, Nvidia, Qualcomm and others, that will likely shine as automakers tap them for powerful processors to handle so many tasks. And not only that, but they'll have reserves to ensure there's extra computing power for features rolled out via over-the-air software updates.

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First 3,200 Megapixel Images Taken By World's Largest Digital Camera

Thu, 2020-09-10 08:00
New submitter Crowchild Bob writes: The specific and intricate shape of the Romanesco plant is perfect as a testing ground for the new camera, which will be fitted into the Vera Rubin Observatory (VRO) in Chile. The 3,200 megapixel camera is set to uncover a huge amount of detail still unknown about astronomy, such as dark matter and dark energy. The plan for the VRO is to map out the sky by snapping pictures with the new digital camera every few nights for a decade. From moving and flashing phenomenon to billions of stars and galaxies, the camera will try and capture it all in precise detail. "We'll get very deep images of the whole sky. But almost more importantly, we'll get a time sequence," VRO director Steve Kahn told BBC. "We'll see which stars have changed in brightness, and anything that has moved through the sky like asteroids and comets," he continued. The camera is put together at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in the U.S. It's made up of a 25 inch (64 cm)-wide focal plane and 189 individual sensors. One of the biggest challenges of the assembly project was putting it all together given the required precision and complex electronics. The first images ever taken with the camera were released on Tuesday and provided record-breaking detail of the broccoli plant.

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Xbox All Access Seems Like One of the Best Deals In Gaming

Thu, 2020-09-10 04:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Today, Microsoft revealed prices for its next-gen consoles: $299 or $499 for an Xbox Series S or Xbox Series X, respectively, starting November 10. But Microsoft is also talking up a smartphone-style program that lets players get either system for no money upfront as part of a subscription plan called Xbox All Access. With Xbox All Access, you make a two-year commitment to pay $24.99/month (for the Xbox Series S) or $34.99/month (for the Xbox Series X). In exchange for that commitment, you get the relevant hardware upfront, to keep, as well as a two-year subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Game Pass Ultimate usually costs $14.99/month, so your All Access monthly payments end up a bit higher to make up for that "free" upfront hardware. But in addition to not having to spend hundreds of dollars in one lump sum, All Access subscribers can actually come out ahead at the end of two years. For the Xbox Series S: - With All Access: $0 upfront + $24.99/month * 24 months = $599.67 - Without All Access: $299 upfront + $14.99/month * 24 months = $658.76 - All Access savings: $59.09 For the Xbox Series X: - With All Access: $0 upfront + $34.99/month * 24 months = $839.76 - Without All Access: $499 upfront + $14.99 * 24 months = $858.76 - All Access savings: $19.00 So All Access subscribers save a lot of money upfront and a little money in the long run over players who buy their console and Game Pass separately. Not a bad deal, all things considered. Some things to note: you should be interested in Microsoft's Game Pass Ultimate subscription in the first place and know that it locks you in to that subscription for a full two years. It's also subject to a credit check and approval of a line of credit from Citizens One bank, which is partnering with Microsoft for the program.

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Mastercard To Help Central Banks Test Their Own Digital Currencies

Thu, 2020-09-10 02:25
International payments provider Mastercard has launched a virtual testing environment to help central banks around the world test their Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), said an announcement today. From a report: "Today, Mastercard announced a proprietary virtual testing environment for central banks to evaluate CBDC use cases. The platform enables the simulation of issuance, distribution and exchange of CBDCs between banks, financial service providers and consumers," said the company. According to the announcement, the effort would allow banks to test whether CBDCs fit them and are feasible to be issued -- locally or regionally. "The virtual platform can be individually customized to the environment in which the central bank operates, allowing them to [...] simulate a CBDC issuance, distribution and exchange ecosystem with banks and consumers, including how a CBDC can interface with existing payment networks and infrastructures -- e.g., cards and real time payments," said the announcement.

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Hydrogen and Carbon Capture Tech Are Key To Net-Zero US Electricity, Study Says

Thu, 2020-09-10 01:02
The United States can generate affordable electricity without producing carbon dioxide emissions by 2035 by deploying hydrogen or carbon capture technology, according to a report released on Wednesday by a climate policy think tank. Reuters reports: The report by California-based Energy Innovatihere which researches ways to combat global warming, highlighted five scenarios for the United States to generate 100% clean energy in 15 years, without raising power costs. Three rely on the deployment of green hydrogen technology and two rely on capturing CO2 emissions from existing power plants. "These are real technologies that are not yet deployed at scale, but they are not a fantasy. We have 15 years to get there," said Sonia Aggarwal, one of the report's authors. The analysis builds on a report produced by Energy Innovation earlier this year with the University of California Berkeley that said power-sector emissions can be cut 90% by 2035 by deploying more solar, wind, and battery storage. A Reuters review of the plans of the country's top power producers showed many are relying on natural gas-fired power to supplement increased reliance on renewables. Aggarwal said its analysis shows no new gas power plants are needed.

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Former NSA Chief Keith Alexander Joins Amazon's Board of Directors

Thu, 2020-09-10 00:20
Gen. Keith Alexander is joining Amazon's board of directors, the company revealed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing today. The Verge reports: A former director of the National Security Agency and the first commander of the US Cyber Command, Alexander served as the public face of US data collection during the Edward Snowden leaks, but he retired from public service in 2013. Alexander is a controversial figure for many in the tech community because of his involvement in the widespread surveillance systems revealed by the Snowden leaks. Those systems included PRISM, a broad data collection program that compromised systems at Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook -- but not Amazon. Alexander was broadly critical of reporting on the Snowden leaks, even suggesting that reporters should be legally restrained from covering the documents. [...] Alexander's board spot will also give Amazon new expertise in defense contracting, an area of particular focus for the company in recent years.

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Is Virtual Burning Man the Internet's Ultimate Test?

Wed, 2020-09-09 23:40
An anonymous reader shares an opinion piece from The New York Times, written by Neil Shister, author of "Radical Ritual: How Burning Man Changed the World." Here's an excerpt: In perhaps the ultimate test of whether the internet can satisfyingly replicate the real world, Burning Man has gone online this year. The notion isn't as much of a mismatch as it might seem. Larry Harvey, who helped start Burning Man on a San Francisco beach in 1986 and was its guiding luminary until his death in 2018, saw himself as a social engineer. He envisioned a landscape of limitless possibility where people could, at least temporarily, liberate themselves from the numbing confines of commodified art, entertainment and even lifestyle. What has more limitless possibility -- in theory, anyway -- than the internet? Indeed, a community famous for innovation (some trace the origins of maker culture to Burning Man) and deeply endowed with tech wizardry (Elon Musk famously said Burning Man "is Silicon Valley") adapted to the pandemic by creating a virtual Burning Man known as the Multiverse. The weeklong assemblage of eight digital platforms, which anyone can view free, went live at 12:01 a.m. on the last Monday in August, the traditional time Black Rock City (the name of the makeshift town where Burning Man takes place) opens its gates with a burst of fireworks. The Multiverse maintains much of the energy, abundance and wonder of the real thing. One's cursor wanders among detailed renditions of Black Rock City that, for anyone who has been there, are eerily familiar: the layout of the camps, the signature structures and the cracked desert floor. Hover over an icon on the screen and the avatar of a Burner appears playing music he or she programmed. Digital art pieces installed by Burners surface when you click on planted flags. Visitors move through the Temple, an island of spiritual contemplation amid the playa's cacophony, by connecting glowing colored orbs into meditative patterns. You can attend workshops, which often include chat rooms for serendipitous encounters. But what's missing are adequate simulations of the vulnerability, discomfort and gratitude so central to Burning Man's existential qualities. Those fabled personal transformations typically arise from reappraisals of the self-image you brought to Black Rock City. You discover more creativity, self-reliance, flexibility, generosity -- even love -- than you thought you possessed. Or less. "You don't always get the Burn you want," a playa adage goes, "but you always get the Burn you need." Black Rock City continually serves up opportunities to examine one's internal guidance system. The Multiverse doesn't offer this kind of introspection. There's no app that replicates the dread of loneliness or the relief of forgiveness -- familiar emotions at Burning Man. Which isn't to say that won't happen someday. As artificial-reality techniques advance, as the psychodynamics of cyberspace become more sophisticated in integrating the brain with virtual technology, it may one day be possible to elicit feelings associated with the self-governance, communal trust, gifting and fun that make Burning Man such a singular experience.

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TikTok, US Discuss Ways To Avoid Sale

Wed, 2020-09-09 23:01
TikTok's Chinese parent, ByteDance, is discussing with the U.S. government possible arrangements that would allow the popular video-sharing app to avoid a full sale of its U.S. operations, WSJ reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter. From a report: Discussions around such an option, under way for months, have assumed increased urgency since the Chinese government took steps that make a sale more difficult, the people said. They take place against a fast-approaching deadline that President Trump imposed for TikTok to agree to a sale of its U.S. operations or else be shut down, and as geopolitical wrangling over the app intensifies. A number of options remain on the table, the situation is fluid and a sale is still a possibility, the people said. Even if there isn't a full sale, the outcome would likely involve some sort of restructuring of TikTok, one of the people said. The main concern for government officials involved in the talks has been the security of TikTok's data and keeping it out of reach of the Chinese government, said people familiar with the negotiations.

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Researchers Demonstrate In-Chip Watercooling

Wed, 2020-09-09 22:20
FallOutBoyTonto shares a report from Ars Technica: Part of the problem with liquid cooling solutions is that they're limited by having to get the heat out of the chip and into the water in the first place. That's led some researchers to consider running the liquid through the chip itself. Now, some researchers from Switzerland have designed the chip and cooling system as a single unit, with on-chip liquid channels placed next to the hottest parts of the chip. The results are an impressive boost in heat-limited performance. There have been a number of demonstrations of on-chip liquid cooling. These typically involve a system where a device with a set of liquid channels is fused onto a chip, and a system pumps fluid through it. This can get heat off the chip, and initial implementations have found that there's a bit of a trade-off: it takes more power to pump the water through these channels than you extract from the processor. That power isn't used at the site where heat is an issue, so it doesn't get in the way of the heat dissipation, but it does cut into the energy efficiency of the system. The new research builds upon these ideas to boost the efficiency of on-chip cooling systems. And the researchers involved demonstrate that it works using a power-converting chip that otherwise would see the performance reduced by the heat. The research has been published in the journal Nature.

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Walmart To Test Drone Delivery of Grocery, Household Items

Wed, 2020-09-09 22:00
Walmart said on Wednesday it would run a pilot project for delivery of grocery and household products through automated drones, along with end-to-end delivery firm Flytrex, as the U.S. retailer looks to beef up its delivery business. CNBC reports: Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart said the test would start on Wednesday in Fayetteville, North Carolina, with cloud-controlled drones picking up and dropping off select items. "We know that it will be some time before we see millions of packages delivered via drone. That still feels like a bit of science fiction," Tom Ward, senior vice-president, customer products, said in a statement.

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Vivaldi Browser Adds a Pause Button For the Internet

Wed, 2020-09-09 21:40
It can be hard to tear yourself away from the never-ending stream of content provided by the internet, so Vivaldi decided to make taking a break easier by introducing a pause button. PCMag reports: Version 3.3 of the Vivaldi browser introduces a new feature called "Break Mode." Rather than having to close your browser, Break Mode allows you to effectively pause your access to the internet with a button press. Once installed, Vivaldi 3.3 displays a pause button on the status bar. When pressed, Break Mode is engaged, which "mutes and stops HTML5 audio and videos, hides all tabs, panels, and other content leaving the screen clean." It's also possible to trigger Break Mode with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + "." and to activate it via the browser's Quick Commands. The Vivaldi team sees it as a way of allowing you to "interact with the physical world" while at the same time not having to remember which tabs you had open or what you were viewing when you're ready to return. Pressing the pause button again resumes access just as you left it. Break Mode also acts as a very simple and quick way to hide what you were doing on the internet, which could come in very handy seeing as we're spending so much more time at home together. Other new features include more options for customizing themes as well as adding a new "Private" theme, highlighting base domains to help identify malicious web pages, easier cropping of URLs in the address bar making it easier to visit different parts of a website, and enhancements to the built-in tracker and ad blocker allowing whole pages to be easily blocked.

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Tesla Model Y Owners Find Cooling System Cobbled Together With Home Depot-Grade Fake Wood

Wed, 2020-09-09 21:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Drive: According to several owners of the all-new Model Y, Tesla has allegedly assembled their cars using what appears to be faux wood trim from a home improvement store. It all started with a forum post featuring a photo of a Model Y's frunk plastics removed. The original poster of the thread had reportedly spent more than ten hours disassembling their Model Y to correct poor panel fitment when they came across a large chunk of metal secured with green tape and a small strap. "Someone made a run to Home Depot to make Q2 numbers," jested the thread's original poster. Shortly after, a few other posters chimed in with photos of the same part, showing more wood grain and a few plain white mounts as well. That part you're looking at is the Model Y's Liquid Cooled Condenser (LCC). Its job is essentially that of a heat exchanger, passing refrigerant through a large block where it transfers the thermal properties of the cryogen with other parts of the cooling system. This is just one small sliver of Tesla's unique octavalve cooling system found in the Model Y that is responsible for conditioning the car's cabin, battery, and drive unit simultaneously. The trim appears to be providing some strain relief for the strap holding the LCC in place, perhaps to keep the tension from providing unnecessary stress on the condenser during vibration or flexing, or to prevent any sharp corners from severing the strap itself. However, it's worth noting that Tesla didn't always use what appears to be akin to in-home molding in this application. In fact, several videos on YouTube show vehicles fitted with a clear plastic part in place of the trim. Interestingly, Tesla's own parts catalog doesn't show the any such mounting solution found on the various Model Ys in the thread. It's not clear if the part simply isn't documented, or if it was a rapid fix that has remained in production for quite some time.

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Apple Design Teams Develop Special Face Masks for Employees

Wed, 2020-09-09 20:27
Apple has developed two types of masks that the company is beginning to distribute to corporate and retail employees to limit the spread of Covid-19. From a report: The masks -- called the Apple Face Mask and Apple ClearMask -- are the first developed in-house by the Cupertino, California-technology giant for its staff. The company previously created a different face shield for medical workers and distributed millions of other masks across the health-care sector. Apple told staff members that the masks were developed by the Engineering and Industrial Design teams, the same groups that work on devices such as the iPhone and iPad. The Apple Face Mask is made up of three layers to filter incoming and outgoing particles. It can be washed and reused as many as five times, the company told employees. In typical Apple style, the mask looks unique with large coverings on the top and bottom for the wearer's nose and chin. It also has adjustable strings to fit around a person's ears. Apple told staff that the masks were designed and manufactured completely by Apple. The company, which confirmed the news, said it conducted careful research and testing to find the right materials to filter the air properly while not disrupting the supply of medical personal protective equipment.

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Ireland To Order Facebook To Stop Sending User Data To US

Wed, 2020-09-09 19:44
A European Union privacy regulator has sent Facebook a preliminary order to suspend data transfers to the U.S. about its EU users, WSJ reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter, an operational and legal challenge for the company that could set a precedent for other tech giants. From the report: The preliminary order, the people said, was sent by Ireland's Data Protection Commission to Facebook late last month, asking for the company's response. It is the first significant step EU regulators have taken to enforce a July ruling about data transfers from the bloc's top court. That ruling restricted how companies like Facebook can send personal information about Europeans to U.S. soil, because it found that Europeans have no effective way to challenge American government surveillance. To comply with Ireland's preliminary order, Facebook would likely have to re-engineer its service to silo off most data it collects from European users, or stop serving them entirely, at least temporarily. If it fails to comply with an order, Ireland's data commission has the power to fine Facebook up to 4% of its annual revenue, or $2.8 billion. Nick Clegg, Facebook's top policy and communications executive, confirmed that Ireland's privacy regulator has suggested, as part of an inquiry, that Facebook can no longer in practice conduct EU-U.S. data transfers using a widely used type of contract. "A lack of safe, secure and legal international data transfers would damage the economy and prevent the emergence of data-driven businesses from the EU, just as we seek a recovery from Covid-19," Mr. Clegg said.

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NSA and CIA Have Classified Evidence the Russians Had Placed Malware in the Election Registration Systems of at Least Two Florida Counties, Bob Woodward Reports

Wed, 2020-09-09 19:05
Legendary journalist Bob Woodward reports in his new book new details on Russia's election meddling, writing that the NSA and CIA have classified evidence the Russians had placed malware in the election registration systems of at least two Florida counties, St. Lucie and Washington. From a report: While there was no evidence the malware had been activated, Woodward writes, it was sophisticated and could erase voters in specific districts. The voting system vendor used by Florida was also used in states across the country.

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Epic Games Accounts Won't Be Able To Use Apple's Sign-in System as Soon as September 11th

Wed, 2020-09-09 18:28
Apple's "Sign In with Apple" login system will no longer work with Epic Games accounts as soon as September 11th, Epic said today. The new restriction is another casualty of Apple and Epic's ongoing spat. From a report: If you currently use "Sign In with Apple" for your Epic account, Epic says you'll need to update your account with new login credentials before September 11th to retain access. Epic has put together a guide on how to make that update if you need to do so. Epic also says that it may be able to recover your account manually after the "Sign in with Apple" option goes away, but you'll have to contact the studio directly. Apple requires developers to use its single sign-on system if they offer any other third-party options and want their apps in the App Store -- presumably a driving factor behind Epic offering the service as a sign-in factor in the first place.

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Dozens of Scientific Journals Have Vanished From the Internet, and No One Preserved Them

Wed, 2020-09-09 17:54
Eighty-four online-only, open-access (OA) journals in the sciences, and nearly 100 more in the social sciences and humanities, have disappeared from the internet over the past 2 decades as publishers stopped maintaining them, potentially depriving scholars of useful research findings, a study has found. From a report: An additional 900 journals published only online also may be at risk of vanishing because they are inactive, says a preprint posted on 3 September on the arXiv server. The number of OA journals tripled from 2009 to 2019, and on average the vanished titles operated for nearly 10 years before going dark, which "might imply that a large number ... is yet to vanish," the authors write. The study didn't identify examples of prominent journals or articles that were lost, nor collect data on the journals' impact factors and citation rates to the articles. About half of the journals were published by research institutions or scholarly societies; none of the societies are large players in the natural sciences. None of the now-dark journals was produced by a large commercial publisher.

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Marc Levoy on the Balance of Camera Hardware, Software, and Artistic Expression

Wed, 2020-09-09 17:09
A major focus of any smartphone release is the camera. For a while, all eyes were on the camera's hardware -- megapixels, sensors, lenses, and so on. But since Google's Pixel was introduced, there's been a lot more interest in the camera's software and how it takes advantage of the computer it's attached to. Marc Levoy, former distinguished engineer at Google, led the team that developed computational photography technologies for the Pixel phones, including HDR+, Portrait Mode, and Night Sight, and he's responsible for a lot of that newfound focus on camera processing. An excerpt from the wide-ranging interview: Nilay Patel: When you look across the sweep of smartphone hardware, is there a particular device or style of device that you're most interested in expanding these techniques to? Is it the 96-megapixel sensors we see in some Chinese phones? Is it whatever Apple has in the next iPhone? Is there a place where you think there's yet more to be gotten? Marc Levoy: Because of the diminishing returns due to the laws of physics, I don't know that the basic sensors are that much of a draw. I don't know that going to 96 megapixels is a good idea. The signal-to-noise ratio will depend on the size of the sensor. It is more or less a question of how big a sensor can you stuff into the form factor of a mobile camera. Before, the iPhone smartphones were thicker. If we could go back to that, if that would be acceptable, then we could put larger sensors in there. Nokia experimented with that, wasn't commercially successful. Other than that, I think it's going to be hard to innovate a lot in that space. I think it will depend more on the accelerators, how much computation you can do during video or right after photographic capture. I think that's going to be a battleground. Nilay Patel:When you say 96 is a bad idea -- much like we had megahertz wars for a while, we did have a megapixel war for a minute. Then there was, I think, much more excitingly, an ISO war, where low-light photography and DSLRs got way better, and then soon, that came to smartphones. But we appear to be in some sort of megapixel count war again, especially on the Android side. When you say it's not a good idea, what makes it specifically not a good idea? Marc Levoy: As I said, the signal to noise ratio is basically a matter of the total sensor size. If you want to put 96 megapixels and you can't squeeze a larger sensor physically into the form factor of the phone, then you have to make the pixels smaller, and you end up close to the diffraction limit and those pixels end up worse. They are noisier. It's just not clear how much advantage you get. There might be a little bit more headroom there. Maybe you can do a better job of de-mosaicing -- meaning computing the red, green, blue in each pixel -- if you have more pixels, but there isn't going to be that much headroom there. Maybe the spec on the box attracts some consumers. But I think, eventually, like the megapixel war on SLRs, it will tone down, and people will realize that's not really an advantage.

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Academics Find Crypto Bugs in 306 Popular Android Apps, None Get Patched

Wed, 2020-09-09 16:42
A team of academics from Columbia University has developed a custom tool to dynamically analyze Android applications and see if they're using cryptographic code in an unsafe way. From a report: Named CRYLOGGER, the tool was used to test 1,780 Android applications, representing the most popular apps across 33 different Play Store categories, in September and October 2019. Researchers say the tool, which checked for 26 basic cryptography rules (mentioned in the source story), found bugs in 306 Android applications. Some apps broke one rule, while others broke multiple.

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AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine Study Put on Hold

Wed, 2020-09-09 15:43
phalse phace writes: A large, Phase 3 study testing a Covid-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford at dozens of sites across the U.S. has been put on hold due to a suspected serious adverse reaction in a participant in the United Kingdom. A spokesperson for AstraZeneca, a frontrunner in the race for a Covid-19 vaccine, said in a statement that the company's "standard review process triggered a pause to vaccination to allow review of safety data." In a follow-up statement, AstraZeneca said it initiated the study hold. The nature of the adverse reaction and when it happened were not immediately known, though the participant is expected to recover, according to an individual familiar with the matter. The spokesperson described the pause as "a routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it is investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials." The spokesperson also said that the company is "working to expedite the review of the single event to minimize any potential impact on the trial timeline." An individual familiar with the development said researchers had been told the hold was placed on the trial out of "an abundance of caution." A second individual familiar with the matter, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the finding is having an impact on other AstraZeneca vaccine trials underway -- as well as on the clinical trials being conducted by other vaccine manufacturers.

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