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Earth

Sun Not a Significant Driver of Climate Change 552

damn_registrars writes "Scientists from Edinburgh, Scotland have recently published a study based on 1,000 years of climate data. They have compared the effects of differing factors including volcanic activity, solar activity, and greenhouse gases to find which has the most profound effect on climate. They have concluded that the driving factor since 1900 has been greenhouse gases."
The Internet

Ask Slashdot: Why Do Mobile Versions of Websites Suck? 382

First time accepted submitter Kelbear writes "As user traffic over mobile devices grows in leaps and bounds, it's surprising to me as a layman that so many companies still have crippled and broken mobile pages in late 2013. There must be justifiable reasons for this, so: Fellow Slashdotters, can you please share the obstacles you've seen in your own companies that have delayed or defeated efforts to develop competent mobile sites? Are the issues in obtaining or maintaining compatibility driven by platform owners like Apple and Google?"
Security

F-Secure's Mikko Hypponen Cancels RSA Talk In Protest 248

An anonymous reader writes "In a letter to RSA executives, F-Secure's Mikko Hypponen says he is canceling his talk at the 2014 RSA Conference, due to the company's deal with the NSA, and how the agency has treated foreigners." From the letter: " I don’t really expect your multibillion dollar company or your multimillion dollar conference to suffer as a result of your deals with the NSA. In fact, I'm not expecting other conference speakers to cancel. Most of your speakers are american anyway — why would they care about surveillance that’s not targeted at them but at non-americans. Surveillance operations from the U.S. intelligence agencies are targeted at foreigners. However I’m a foreigner. And I’m withdrawing my support from your event."
Space

Smaller Than Earth-Sized Exomoon Discovered? 25

astroengine writes "Through the technique of microlensing, a candidate exomoon has been discovered in orbit around a free-floating planet about 1,600 light-years away toward the galactic bulge. The microlensing event, MOA-2011-BLG-262, was detected by the MOA-II telescope at Mt. John University Observatory (MJUO) in New Zealand and it appears to have a mass of approximately half that of Earth. The host planet is around 4 times the mass of Jupiter. Unfortunately there cannot be further studies of his particular exoplanet-exomoon pair (as microlensing events are transient and random), so the astronomers who made the discovery are remaining cautious and point out that although the exoplanet-exomoon model fits the data the best, there's a possibility that the lensing object may have been a more distant star with a massive exoplanet in tow. Microlensing surveys are, however, sensitive to low mass exoplanets orbiting massive free-floating planets, so this is a tantalizing first-detection. The study's pre-print publication has been uploaded to the arXiv."
News

Google Helps Celebrate 100 Years of Cr_sswo_ds 27

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Google recently helped celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first "word cross" puzzle (the name soon changed), which appeared in the New York World on Dec. 21, 1913. Credited to cruciverbalist Arthur Wynne they soon spread to other papers and by the 1920s, the decade of fads and fashions, crossword puzzles were up there with flagpole sitting, goldfish swallowing, raccoon coats, monkey gland implants, Charleston contests and ukuleles as the very embodiment of mad, reckless youth on its never-ending quest for novelty. When crossword puzzles were at the height of popularity, they spawned a cadre of haters — mostly self-styled intellectuals, who found them idiotic, exasperating, even alarming. The sight of a dozen commuters doing crossword puzzles on the morning train was as irritating to some cranky people, then, as the sight of a dozen teens absorbed in their iPhones might seem today. These days, crossword puzzles are the highly respectable pastime of brainy people. The New York Times runs crosswords that increase in difficulty throughout the week; its crosswords editor, Will Shortz, is a minor celebrity. Champions vie to out-cross each other in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Merl Reagle, who creates crosswords for the Washington Post, believes that while puzzles have changed over the years, their basic appeal remains the same. 'My theory is that it's because of their interlocking nature. Unlike a lot of other kinds of puzzles, every answer you get helps you get the next one.' Bernice Gordon, a 99-year-old crossword constructor who designs puzzles for The New York Times and other publications, says she owes her longevity in part to crosswords. 'I couldn't live without them,' says Gordon. 'It's my lifeblood. I don't sleep at night because I think, 'What rhymes with "ritz" and "sits" and "pits"?' I do my best work from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.'"
Crime

Alan Turing Pardoned 415

First time accepted submitter a.ferrier writes "Today's computing would be unthinkable without the contributions of the British mathematician Alan Turing, who laid down the foundations of computer science, broke Nazi codes that helped win World War II at the famous Bletchley Park, created a secure speech encryption system, made major contributions to logic and philosophy, and even invented the concept of Artificial Intelligence. But he was also an eccentric and troubled man who was persecuted (and prosecuted) for being gay, a tragedy that contributed to his suicide just short of the age of 42 when he died of cyanide poisoning, possibly from a half-eaten apple found by his side. He is hailed today as one of the great originators of our computing age. Today he received a royal pardon."
Christmas Cheer

Video Alek Komarnitsky's Huge Christmas Light Display Still Going Strong (Video) 29

Alek Komarnitsky isn't the only one obsessed with Christmas lights. He's quick to point out that the display he assembles and improves each year at his Colorado home (in a "never-ending cycle") isn't the most elaborate in the country by a long shot, even among householders. But most of those other displays, no matter how complex, don't have the feature that's made Alek's an internet draw for many years running: visitors to the site not only get to see a live web-cam view of the system, but can flip the lights on and off themselves, making it a globally accessible interactive system. It's all based on home-grown scripts running on Linux (Alek says it's about as elegant as "duct tape and wire"), running old-school X10 controllers, and — surprisingly to me — the lights are mostly still conventional incandescents, rather than LED. This year, I finally caught up with Alek before Christmas; watch the video below to see our conversation. And even though Alek neither solicits nor wants money from people who like his Christmas display for himself, he does it partly as a benefit for Celiac Disease Research, and anything you give to this worthy cause is appreciated. Update: 12/23 21:21 GMT by T : NOTE: tune in starting around 4 PM Mountain time, and you'll get to see the system lit up.
Privacy

Researchers Connect 91% of Numbers With Names In Metadata Probe 84

Trailrunner7 writes "One of the key tenets of the argument that the National Security Agency and some lawmakers have constructed to justify the agency's collection of phone metadata is that the information it's collecting, such as phone numbers and length of call, can't be tied to the callers' names. However, some quick investigation by some researchers at Stanford University who have been collecting information voluntarily from Android users found that they could correlate numbers to names with very little effort. The Stanford researchers recently started a program called Metaphone that gathers data from volunteers with Android phones. They collect data such as recent phone calls and text messages and social network information. The goal of the project, which is the work of the Stanford Security Lab, is to draw some lines connecting metadata and surveillance. As part of the project, the researchers decided to select a random set of 5,000 numbers from their data and see whether they could connect any of them to subscriber names using just freely available Web tools. The result: They found names for 27 percent of the numbers using just Google, Yelp, Facebook and Google Places. Using some other online tools, they connected 91 of 100 numbers with names."
Books

Book Review: Digital Archaeology: the Art and Science of Digital Forensics 14

benrothke writes "The book Digital Archaeology: The Art and Science of Digital Forensics starts as yet another text on the topic of digital forensics. But by the time you get to chapter 3, you can truly appreciate how much knowledge author Michael Graves imparts. Archaeology is defined as the study of human activity in the past, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes. The author uses archeology and its associated metaphors as a pervasive theme throughout the book. While most archeology projects require shovels and pickaxes; digital archeology requires an entirely different set of tools and technologies. The materials are not in the ground, rather on hard drives, SD cards, smartphones and other types of digital media." Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.
Businesses

Justine Sacco, Internet Justice, and the Dangers of a Righteous Mob 399

An anonymous reader writes "So what exactly was the injustice that everyone was fighting against here? There were no pro-Sacco factions, nobody thought her comment was funny, and it became clear early on that her employers were not going to put up with this. It was quite easy for groups to unite against her precisely because it was such an obviously idiotic comment to make. By the time Valleywag had posted her tweet, the damage to her career was already done; there wasn't any 'need' for further action by anyone. The answer is a bit darker – this wasn't really about fairness, it was about entertainment."
The Military

Mikhail Kalashnikov: Inventor of AK-47 Dies At 94 283

necro81 writes "Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, an arms designer for the Soviet Union, creator of the AK-47, passed away today at age 94. Kalashnikov was born a peasant and entered the Soviet Army as a conscript. However, the self-taught tinkerer had an aptitude that took him far. The AK-47, his best-known creation, was praised for its reliability and low cost; attributes that have made it the most successful firearm ever, seeing use in homeland defense, rebellion, terrorism, and untold massacres. The inventor was himself ambivalent about the uses his creation had seen, but was nevertheless proud of his contribution to his country, where he is praised as a hero."
Businesses

Percentage of Self-Employed IT Workers Increasing 138

dcblogs writes "The tech industry is seeing a shift toward a more independent, contingent IT workforce. About 18% of all IT workers today are self-employed, according to an analysis by Emergent Research, a firm focused on small businesses trends. This independent IT workforce is growing at the rate of about 7% per year, which is faster than the overall growth rate for independent workers generally, at 5.5%. A separate analysis by research firm Computer Economics finds a similar trend. This year, contract workers make up 15% of a typical large organization's IT staff at the median. This is up from a median of just 6% in 2011, said Longwell. The last time there was a similar increase in contract workers was in 1998, during the dot.com boom and the run-up to Y2K remediation efforts."
Social Networks

Can a Computer Identify Your Urban Tribe? 117

Zothecula writes "Whether it's fashion, a favorite football team, or a certain kind of music, humans seem to enjoy being considered part of a larger group, and often self-identify as such. With this in mind, students from the University of California, San Diego Jacobs school of Engineering are currently developing a computer algorithm that can deduce from an image whether you're a goth, surfer, hipster, or biker."
China

Chinese Bitcoin Exchange Accused of Faking Trade Data 75

An anonymous reader writes in with this story about some questionable numbers reported from bitcoin exchange OKCoin. "Top Chinese bitcoin exchange OKCoin has been accused of publishing fake trading data, artificially inflating the number of currency transactions it is handling. Once China's second-largest bitcoin exchange, OKCoin is claimed to have published unrealistically high trading volumes in the wake of the Chinese central bank imposing a ban on financial institutions handling the crypto-currency. The ban saw several exchanges halt all incoming deposits, but OKCoin's trading data failed to show the dip experienced by fellow exchanges."
Sci-Fi

Interview: Bruce Sterling Answers Your Questions 34

Last week you had a chance to ask "Chairman Bruce" about the state of sci-fi, dystopian futures, and the modern surveillance state. Below you'll find his answers to those questions, including who would win if he fought William Gibson and Neal Stephenson in a no-holds-barred battle.
Earth

MIT Study: Only 3.1% of USA Used Electronics "e-Waste" Were Exported 58

retroworks writes "The MIT Materials Systems Laboratory, EU's StEP, and the U.S. National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER) have released a study, Quantitative Characterization of Domestic and Transboundary Flows of Used Electronics, that analyses collection and export of obsolete electronics generated in the United States. It is the fifth study to debunk a widely reported statistic that '80 percent' of used electronics are dumped abroad. Last year, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) released studies of 279 sea containers, seized as 'e-waste' in African ports of Lagos and Accra, and found 91% of the goods were reused. According to the UN, most of the junk at Chinese and African dumps was generated in African cities (Lagos had 6.9M households with TV in 2007, World Bank). The UNEP study also bolsters African traders claims that used product purchased from nations with strong warranty laws outperform 'affordable' new product imported from Asia. Where did the 'original' widely reported statistic of 80% dumping (see /. slashdot dumping story) originate? Last May, in response to an editorial by Junkyard Planet author Adam Minter in Bloomberg, the source of dumping accusations (Basel Action Network) claimed 'never, ever' to have cited the statistic. The new studies have not slowed USA legislation aimed at banning trade of used electronics for repair, reuse and recycling overseas. This month, the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling (CAER.org) announced 13 republicans and 5 democrats had signed on to support the bill 2791 to criminalize exports of non-shredded displays, cell phones, and computers. Interpol announced a new 'Project Eden' targeting African geek importers in November 2013." In related news, First time accepted submitter Accordion Noir writes: "Virginia tech researchers and a team from the US, Canada, and Russia have released a study indicating that the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 may have had positive environmental results in fish. Reduced mercury releases from mining in areas effected by the economic disarray in Russia led fish to have lower levels of methyl mercury than those in rivers on the Norwegian border or in Canada, where mining continued."
Privacy

Member of President Obama's NSA Panel Recommends Increased Data Collection 349

cold fjord writes "National Journal reports, 'Michael Morell, the former acting director of the CIA and a member of President Obama's task force on surveillance, said ... that a controversial telephone data-collection program conducted by the National Security Agency should be expanded to include emails. He also said the program, far from being unnecessary, could prevent the next 9/11. Morell, seeking to correct any misperception that the presidential panel had called for a radical curtailment of NSA programs, said he is in favor of restarting a program that the NSA discontinued in 2011 that involved the collection of "meta-data" for internet communications. ... "I would argue actually that the email data is probably more valuable than the telephony data," ... Morell also said that while he agreed with the report's conclusion that the telephone data program, conducted under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, made "only a modest contribution to the nation's security" so far, it should be continued under the new safeguards recommended by the panel. "I would argue that what effectiveness we have seen to date is totally irrelevant to how effective it might be in the future," he said. "This program, 215, has the ability to stop the next 9/11 and if you added emails in there it would make it even more effective. Had it been in place in 2000 and 2001, I think that probably 9/11 would not have happened."' — More at Politico and National Review. Some members of Congress have a different view. Even Russian President Putin has weighed in with both a zing and a defense."
The Almighty Buck

Why Snapchat and Its Ilk Face a Revenue Conundrum 104

Nerval's Lobster writes "Snapchat managed to attract a lot of buzz in 2013—perhaps more than any other app on the market—and it's easy to see why: in these paranoid times, with the NSA allegedly sniffing around the world's collective inbox, and lots of software on the market designed to snoop into people's lives, it's comforting to have an app that'll vaporize your messages within seconds of their opening. Snapchat's executives see the startup's future as so bright, in fact, that they reportedly turned down a $3 billion buyout from Facebook. But whether Snapchat eventually accepts a buyout offer, or tries to parlay its popularity into some sort of IPO, it faces a rather unique problem: how do you make money off a free app that near-instantly vaporizes all content? Snapchat could emulate enterprise-centric vaporizing-message firms such as Silent Circle and start charging for subscriptions, but that would probably kill the service; a multitude of free rivals would likely spring up, with the express purpose of stealing irate customers away. More likely, Snapchat will probably launch some sort of display ad system, similar to what Facebook and Twitter have now—but given how it doesn't store user information on its servers, it'll probably be hard to monetize its users as extensively as those social networks. With that in mind, Snapchat might be left with two options going forward—either expand its services in a radical new (and more profitable) direction, or sell to a Tech Big Fish for a whole lot of money."
Science

Researchers Use Electroconvulsive Therapy To Disrupt Recall of Nasty Events 96

ananyo writes "In the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, unhappy lovers undergo an experimental brain treatment to erase all memories of each other from their minds. No such fix exists for real-life couples, but researchers report in Nature Neuroscience that a targeted medical intervention helps to reduce specific negative memories in patients who are depressed. The technique, called electroconvulsive (ECT) or electroshock therapy, induces seizures by passing current into the brain through electrode pads placed on the scalp. Despite its sometimes negative reputation, ECT is an effective last-resort treatment for severe depression, and is used today in combination with anaesthesia and muscle relaxants. Marijn Kroes, a neuroscientist at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and his colleagues found that by strategically timing ECT bursts, they could target and disrupt patients' memory of a disturbing episode."
Communications

Apple Forges Agreement With China Mobile 79

Forbes is one of several news sources reporting that Apple and China Mobile have agreed on a plan that will bring the option of iPhones to tens of millions of customers of the Chinese carrier. A separate article contains something that may be at least as interesting as the deal itself, and that's some speculation on what sort of network China Mobile will be using for all those iDevices.
Displays

Rise of the Super-High-Res Notebook Display 333

MojoKid writes "Mobile device displays continue to evolve and along with the advancements in technology, resolution continues to scale higher, from Apple's Retina Display line to high resolution IPS and OLED display in various Android and Windows phone products. Notebooks are now also starting to follow the trend, driving very high resolution panels approaching 4K UltraHD even in 13-inch ultrabook form factors. Lenovo's Yoga 2 Pro, for example, is a three pound, .61-inch thick 13.3-inch ultrabook that sports a full QHD+ IPS display with a 3200X1800 native resolution. Samsung's ATIV 9 Plus also boast the same 3200X1800 13-inch panel, while other recent releases from ASUS and Toshiba are packing 2560X1440 displays as well. There's no question, machines like Lenovo's Yoga 2 Pro are really nice and offer a ton of screen real estate for the money but just how useful is a 3 or 4K display in a 13 to 15-inch design? Things can get pretty tight at these high resolutions and you'll end up turning screen magnification up in many cases so fonts are clear and things are legible. Granted, you can fit a lot more on your desktop but it raises the question, isn't 1080p enough?"
Businesses

RSA Flatly Denies That It Weakened Crypto For NSA Money 291

The Register reports that RSA isn't taking quietly the accusation reported by Reuters, based on documents released by Edward Snowden, that the company intentionally used weaker crypto at the request of the NSA, and accepted $10 million in exchange for doing so. RSA's defends the use of the Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator, stating categorically "that we have never entered into any contract or engaged in any project with the intention of weakening RSA's products, or introducing potential 'backdoors' into our products for anyone's use."
NASA

Spacesuit Problems Delay ISS Repair Spacewalk 70

Ars Technica reports that the next planned spacewalk in the continuing repairs of the International Space Station's ammonia pump has been delayed, because of problems with the spacesuit worn by astronaut Rick Mastracchio. From the article: "According to Deutsche Welle, the problem is with how the sublimator (a cooling unit) in Mastracchio's suit operated when entering ISS airlock. NASA said the question is whether water entered the sublimator at that time. 'During repressurization of the station's airlock following the spacewalk, a spacesuit configuration issue put the suit Mastracchio was wearing in question for the next excursion,' NASA said in a statement. Delaying the next steps of the valve replacement from Monday until Tuesday will give NASA time to address the issue. Mastracchio is scheduled to wear a backup suit and needs this time to have it resized."