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Biotech

Checking Mammoth DNA Against Elephants Hints At How They Got Hairy 5 5

An anonymous reader writes: A new study on mammoth DNA comparing the hairy animals to their cousins, the Asian and African elephants, has isolated what genes separate it from its warm-weather cousins. The study found that genes controlling skin and hair development, fat metabolism, insulin signaling, and skull shape, differed from today's contemporary elephant species. "They have this weird hump on their back, which is thought to be something like a camel hump — sort of a fat deposit that stored water and energy for the cold, dark winters," says Vincent Lynch, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago.
Technology

Seahorse Tails Could Inspire New Generation of Robots 9 9

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers at Clemson University have studied the makeup of seahorse tails and rendered its mechanics using 3D-printing in an effort to provide flexibility to stiff robots. Unlike most creatures, seahorse's tail is made of square prisms. Michael Porter, assistant professor in mechanical engineering at Clemson University said, "Almost all animal tails have circular or oval cross-sections—but not the seahorse's. We wondered why. We found that the squared-shaped tails are better when both grasping and armor functions are needed."
The Military

Army Exoskeleton Prototype Helps Soldiers Learn To Shoot 43 43

An anonymous reader writes: Infantrymen live by their shooting skills, but becoming an expert marksman can take a long time. U.S. Army researchers are working on a way to improve these skills with the help of the MAXFAS, an arm exoskeleton that uses arm braces to correct involuntary arm shakes. Designed At the U.S. Army Research Laboratory by Dan Baechle, the MAXFAS has been shown to improve aim even after users have taken it off. "Soldiers need to be able to aim and shoot accurately and quickly in the chaos of the battlefield," Baechle said. "Training with MAXFAS could improve Soldiers' accuracy, and reduce current time and ammunition requirements in basic training."
NASA

Glitch Halts New Horizons Operations As It Nears Pluto 56 56

An anonymous reader writes: NASA says their New Horizons probe suffered a temporary communication breakdown on Saturday, 10 days before it's supposed to fly past Pluto. The mission team is working to restore normal communications. "Full recovery is expected to take from one to several days," NASA wrote in a status report on Saturday. "New Horizons will be temporarily unable to collect science data during that time."
ISS

Russian Progress Cargo Ship Docks With Space Station 31 31

An anonymous reader writes: An unmanned Russian cargo ship has successfully docked with the International Space Station. The successful launch, rendezvous and docking came after two resupply failures. A Progress launched in April spun out of control and a week ago, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disintegrated, destroying a supply ship loaded with supplies and equipment. "Crew reports, 'feels like Christmas in July,'" the International Space Station tweeted.
Cloud

How Apple Music Can Disrupt Users' iTunes Libraries 122 122

An anonymous reader writes: Early adopters of Apple Music are warning others they could get more than they bargained for if they intend to download tracks for offline listening. Since Apple Music is primarily a streaming service, this functionality necessitates turning on iCloud Music for syncing purposes. The way Apple syncs files is to scan your library for known music files, and if it finds one, the service gives your account access to Apple's canonical copy. Unfortunately, this wipes out any custom edits you made to the file's metadata. For those who have put a lot of time into customizing their library, this can do a lot of damage to their organizational system. Apple's efforts to simplify and streamline the process have once again left advanced users with a difficult decision to make.
Shark

Scientists Look For Patterns In North Carolina Shark Attacks 62 62

HughPickens.com writes: The Washington Post reports that there have been seven recent shark attacks in North Carolina. Scientists are looking for what might be luring the usually shy sharks so close to shore and among the swimmers they usually avoid. It's an unusual number of attacks for a state that recorded 25 attacks between 2005 and 2014. Even with the recent incidents, researchers emphasize that sharks are a very low-level threat to humans, compared with other forms of wildlife. Bees, for example, are much more dangerous. And swimming itself is hazardous even without sharks around.

George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida's Florida Museum of Natural History, speculates that several environmental factors could be pushing sharks to congregate in the Outer Banks. It is a warm year, and the water has a higher level of salinity because of a low-level drought in the area. Also, a common species of forage fish — menhaden — has been abundant this year and might have attracted more sharks to the area. Burgess also says some fishermen put bait in the water near piers, which could lure the predators closer to shore; two of the encounters took place within 100 yards of a pier. "That's a formula for shark attacks," Burgess says of these conditions, taken together. "Now, does that explain seven attacks in three weeks? No, it doesn't."
United Kingdom

Theresa May Named UK's Internet Villain of the Year 42 42

An anonymous reader writes with news that Theresa May, the UK's Secretary of State for the Home Department, has been named the UK internet industry's villain of the year. She won this dubious honor for pushing the UK's controversial "snooper's charter" legislation, which would require ISPs to retain massive amounts of data regarding their subscribers for no less than a year. May championed the legislation without consulting the internet industry.

Conversely, "The MPs Tom Watson and David Davis were jointly named internet hero for their legal action against the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act. 'Surveillance has dominated both the hero and villain shortlists for number of years, and it was felt Davis and Watson were some of the best informed politicians on the subject,' the ISPA said."
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Snafu Causes Miners To Generate Invalid Blocks 142 142

An anonymous reader writes: A notice at bitcoin.org warns users of the cryptocurrency that many miners are currently generating invalid blocks. The cause seems to be out-of-date software, and software that assumed blocks were valid instead of checking them. They explain further "For several months, an increasing amount of mining hash rate has been signaling its intent to begin enforcing BIP66 strict DER signatures. As part of the BIP66 rules, once 950 of the last 1,000 blocks were version 3 (v3) blocks, all upgraded miners would reject version 2 (v2) blocks. Early morning UTC on 4 July 2015, the 950/1000 (95%) threshold was reached. Shortly thereafter, a small miner (part of the non-upgraded 5%) mined an invalid block--as was an expected occurrence. Unfortunately, it turned out that roughly half the network hash rate was mining without fully validating blocks (called SPV mining), and built new blocks on top of that invalid block. Note that the roughly 50% of the network that was SPV mining had explicitly indicated that they would enforce the BIP66 rules. By not doing so, several large miners have lost over $50,000 dollars worth of mining income so far."
Technology

Brain-Inspired 'Memcomputer' Constructed 52 52

New submitter DorkFest writes: "Inspired by the human brain, UC San Diego scientists have constructed a new kind of computer that stores information and processes it in the same place. This prototype 'memcomputer' solves a problem involving a large dataset more quickly than conventional computers, while using far less energy. ... Such memcomputers could equal or surpass the potential of quantum computers, they say, but because they don't rely on exotic quantum effects are far more easily constructed." The team, led by UC San Diego physicist Massimiliano Di Ventra published their results in the journal Science Advances.
DRM

Microsoft Edge, HTML5, and DRM 111 111

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft is building its new browser, Edge, with the intention of avoiding many of the flaws that plagued Internet Explorer over its long and tumultuous life. Part of this involves moving away from plug-ins, and Edge will not support ActiveX. Instead, they're focusing on interoperable media, and that means non-plug-in video players that meet HTML5 specs. Of course, not all video players want to disseminate their content for free, which means: DRM. Microsoft's Edge team has published a new post explaining how they'll be handling support for DRM and "premium media" in the new browser.

They say, "Windows 10 and Microsoft Edge support DASH, MSE, EME and CENC natively, and other major browsers ship implementations of MSE and CENC compliant EME. This support allows developers to build plug-in free web video apps that runs across a huge range of platforms and devices, with each MSE/EME implementation built on top of a different media pipeline and DRM provider. In the days when DRM systems used proprietary file formats and encryption methods, this variation in DRM providers by browser would have presented a significant issue. With the development and use of Common Encryption (CENC), the problem is substantially reduced because the files are compressed in standard formats and encrypted using global industry standards. The service provider issues the keys and licenses necessary to consume the content in a given browser, but the website code, content and encryption keys are common across all of them, regardless of which DRM is in use."
Security

Researcher Who Reported E-voting Vulnerability Targeted By Police Raid in Argentina 95 95

TrixX writes: Police have raided the home of an Argentinian security professional who discovered and reported several vulnerabilities in the electronic ballot system (Google translation of Spanish original) to be used next week for elections in the city of Buenos Aires. The vulnerabilities (exposed SSL keys and ways to forge ballots with multiple votes) had been reported to the manufacturer of the voting machines, the media, and the public about a week ago. There has been no arrest, but his computers and electronics devices have been impounded (Spanish original). Meanwhile, the information security community in Argentina is trying to get the media to report this notorious attempt to "kill the messenger." Another source (Spanish original).
Sci-Fi

Frank Herbert's Dune, 50 Years On 194 194

An anonymous reader writes: This October will be the 50th anniversary of Frank Herbert's massively popular and influential sci-fi novel Dune. The Guardian has written a piece examining its effects on the world at large, and how the book remains relevant even now. Quoting: 'Books read differently as the world reforms itself around them, and the Dune of 2015 has geopolitical echoes that it didn't in 1965, before the oil crisis and 9/11. ... As Paul's destiny becomes clear to him, he begins to have visions 'of fanatic legions following the green and black banner of the Atreides, pillaging and burning across the universe in the name of their prophet Muad'Dib.' If Paul accepts this future, he will be responsible for 'the jihad's bloody swords,' unleashing a nomad war machine that will up-end the corrupt and oppressive rule of the emperor Shaddam IV (good) but will kill untold billions (not so good) in the process. In 2015, the story of a white prophet leading a blue-eyed brown-skinned horde of jihadis against a ruler called Shaddam produces a weird funhouse mirror effect, as if someone has jumbled up recent history and stuck the pieces back together in a different order."
Build

When Nerds Do BBQ 109 109

Rick Zeman writes: On this 4th of July, the day when Americans flock to their grills and smokers, Wired has a fascinating article on a computerized smoker designed by Harvard engineering students. They say, "In prototype form, the smoker looks like a combination of a giant pepper mill, a tandoori oven, and V.I.N.CENT from The Black Hole. It weighs 300 pounds. It has a refueling chute built into the side of it. And it uses a proportional-integral-derivative controller, a Raspberry Pi, and fans to regulate its own temperature, automatically producing an ideal slow-and-low burn."

After cooking >200 lbs of brisket while fine-tuning the design, the students concluded, "Old-school pitmasters are like, 'I cook mine in a garbage can,' and there's a point of pride in that. A lot of the cutting edge is when you take an art form and drag it back onto scientific turf and turn it into an algorithm. I don't think we've diluted the artistic component with this."
The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: How Much Did Your Biggest Tech Mistake Cost? 326 326

NotQuiteReal writes: What is the most expensive piece of hardware you broke (I fried a $2500 disk drive once, back when 400MB was $2500) or what software bug did you let slip that caused damage? (No comment on the details — but about $20K cost to a client.) Did you lose your job over it? If you worked on the Mars probe that crashed, please try not to be the First Post, that would scare off too many people!