HighwayHash: ‘We have devised a new way of mixing inputs with AVX2 multiply and permute instructions. The multiplications are 32×32 -> 64 bits and therefore infeasible to reverse. Permuting equalizes the distribution of the resulting bytes. The internal state occupies four 256-bit AVX2 registers. Due to limitations of the instruction set, the registers are partitioned into two 512-bit halves that remain independent until the reduce phase. The algorithm outputs 64 bit digests or up to 256 bits at no extra cost. In addition to high throughput, the algorithm is designed for low finalization cost. The result is more than twice as fast as SipTreeHash. We also provide an SSE4.1 version (80% as fast for large inputs and 95% as fast for short inputs), an implementation for VSX on POWER and a portable version (10% as fast). A third-party ARM implementation is referenced below. Statistical analyses and preliminary cryptanalysis are given in https://arxiv.org/abs/1612.06257.’ (via Tony Finch)
…a gene called Arc which is active in neurons, and plays a vital role in the brain. A mouse that’s born without Arc can’t learn or form new long-term memories. If it finds some cheese in a maze, it will have completely forgotten the right route the next day. “They can’t seem to respond or adapt to changes in their environment,” says Shepherd, who works at the University of Utah, and has been studying Arc for years. “Arc is really key to transducing the information from those experiences into changes in the brain.” Despite its importance, Arc has been a very difficult gene to study. Scientists often work out what unusual genes do by comparing them to familiar ones with similar features—but Arc is one-of-a-kind. Other mammals have their own versions of Arc, as do birds, reptiles, and amphibians. But in each animal, Arc seems utterly unique—there’s no other gene quite like it. And Shepherd learned why when his team isolated the proteins that are made by Arc, and looked at them under a powerful microscope. He saw that these Arc proteins assemble into hollow, spherical shells that look uncannily like viruses. “When we looked at them, we thought: What are these things?” says Shepherd. They reminded him of textbook pictures of HIV, and when he showed the images to HIV experts, they confirmed his suspicions. That, to put it bluntly, was a huge surprise. “Here was a brain gene that makes something that looks like a virus,” Shepherd says. That’s not a coincidence. The team showed that Arc descends from an ancient group of genes called gypsy retrotransposons, which exist in the genomes of various animals, but can behave like their own independent entities.* They can make new copies of themselves, and paste those duplicates elsewhere in their host genomes. At some point, some of these genes gained the ability to enclose themselves in a shell of proteins and leave their host cells entirely. That was the origin of retroviruses—the virus family that includes HIV.