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Earth

Find Along Chilean Highway Suggests Ancient Mass Stranding of Whales 63

Posted by samzenpus
from the look-at-the-bones dept.
sciencehabit writes "In 2010, workers widening a remote stretch of highway near the northwestern coast of Chile uncovered a trove of fossils, including the skeletons of at least 30 large baleen whales. The fossils—which may be up to 9 million years old—are the first definitive examples of ancient mass strandings of whales, according to a new study. The work also fingers a possible culprit."
Open Source

Inside Chris Anderson's Open-Source Drone Factory 56

Posted by samzenpus
from the free-to-fly dept.
the_newsbeagle writes "The former editor of Wired is betting that the 21st century skies will be filled with drones, and not the military sort. His company, 3D Robotics, is building open-source UAVs for the civilian market, and expects its drones to catch on first in agriculture. As noted in an article about the company's grand ambitions: 'Farms are far from the city's madding crowds and so offer safe flying areas; also, the trend toward precision agriculture demands aerial monitoring of crops. Like traffic watching, it's a job tailor-made for a robot: dull, dirty, and dangerous.' Also, farmers apparently wouldn't need FAA approval for privately owned drones flying over their own property."
Google

Project Ara: Inside Google's Modular Smartphones 70

Posted by samzenpus
from the one-piece-at-a-time dept.
harrymcc writes "Google is releasing more details on Project Ara, its effort — originally spearheaded by Motorola — to reinvent the smartphone in a form made up of hot-swappable modules that consumers can configure as they choose, then upgrade later as new technologies emerge. Google is aiming to release about a year from now."
Bitcoin

Ask Slashdot: Do You Still Trust Bitcoin? 631

Posted by samzenpus
from the who-can-you-trust? dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "It hasn't been a great week for Bitcoin. Cruise the Web, and you'll find stories from people who lost thousands (even millions, in some cases) of paper value when the Mt.Gox exchange went offline for still-mysterious reasons. (Rumors have circulated for days about the shutdown, ranging from an epic heist of the Bitcoins under its stewardship, to financial improprieties leading the exchange to the edge of bankruptcy.) But as one Slashdotter pointed out in a previous posting, Mt.Gox isn't Bitcoin (and vice versa), and it's likely that other exchanges will take up the burden of helping manage the currency. Even so, all currencies depend on a certain amount of stability and trust in order to survive, and Bitcoin faces something of a confidence crisis in the wake of this event. So here's the question: do you still trust Bitcoin?"
Google

Google Ordered To Remove Anti-Islamic Film From YouTube 321

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-reasons-you-might-not-expect dept.
cold fjord writes "The Verge reports, 'Google and YouTube must scrub all copies of Innocence of Muslims, a low-budget anti-Islam film that drew international protest in 2012, at the behest of an actress who says she received death threats after being duped into a role. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a temporary takedown order on behalf of Cindy Lee Garcia, who filed a copyright claim against Google in an attempt to purge the video from the web. While actors usually give up the right to assert copyright protection when they agree to appear in a film, Garcia says that not only was she never an employee in any meaningful sense, the finished film bore virtually no relation to the one she agreed to appear in. In a majority opinion, Judge Alex Kozinski said she was likely in the right.' — Techdirt has extensive commentary on the ruling that's worth reading. It seems likely there will be an appeal, with the distinct possibility that Google and the MPAA will be on the same side."
NASA

The Rescue Plan That Could Have Saved Space Shuttle Columbia 247

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-only dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In February, 2003, space shuttle Columbia was lost upon atmospheric re-entry. Afterward, NASA commissioned an exhaustive investigation to figure out what happened, and how it could be prevented in the future. However, they also figured out exactly what would have been required for a repair and rescue mission using Atlantis. Lee Hutchinson at Ars Technica went through the report and wrote a lengthy article explaining what such a mission would look like. In short: risky and terribly complex — but possible. 'In order to push Atlantis through processing in time, a number of standard checks would have to be abandoned. The expedited OPF processing would get Atlantis into the Vehicle Assembly Building in just six days, and the 24/7 prep work would then shave an additional day off the amount of time it takes to get Atlantis mated to its external tank and boosters. After only four days in the Vehicle Assembly Building, one of the two Crawler-Transporters would haul Atlantis out to Launch Complex 39, where it would stage on either Pad A or Pad B on Flight Day 15—January 30. ... Once on the pad, the final push to launch would begin. There would be no practice countdown for the astronauts chosen to fly the mission, nor would there be extra fuel leak tests. Prior to this launch, the shortest time a shuttle had spent on the launch pad was 14 days; the pad crews closing out Atlantis would have only 11 days to get it ready to fly.'"
Education

Will Peggy the Programmer Be the New Rosie the Riveter? 333

Posted by Soulskill
from the finding-more-talent dept.
theodp writes "The Mercury News' Mike Cassidy reports that women are missing out on lucrative careers in computer science. 'The dearth of women in computing,' writes Cassidy, 'has the potential to slow the U.S. economy, which needs more students in the pipeline to feed its need for more programmers. It harms women by excluding them from some of the best jobs in the country. And it damages U.S. companies, which studies show would benefit from more diverse teams.' The promise of better financial results, says Anita Borg Institute Director Denise Gammal, is making diversity a business imperative. It's 'the sort of imperative that cries out for a movement,' argues Cassidy, 'maybe this time one led not by Rosie the Riveter, but by Peggy the Programmer.' So, where will Peggy the Programmer come from? Well, Google is offering $100 to girls attending U.S. public high schools who complete a Codecademy JavaScript course. 'Currently only 12% of computer science graduates are women,' explains Codecademy, 'and great tech companies like Google want to see more smart girls like you enter this awesome profession!' Google joins tech giant-backed Code.org in incentivizing teachers to bring the next generation of girls to the CS table.

But Silicon Valley claims the talent crisis is now (although there are 19 billion reasons to question SV's hiring acumen). So, what about the women who are here now, asks Dr. AnnMaria De Mars. 'If you are overlooking the women who are here now,' De Mars writes, 'what does that tell the girls you are supposedly bringing up to be the next generation of women in tech that you can overlook 15 years from now? Why do we hear about 16-year-old interns far more than women like me? If it is true, as the New York Times says, that in 2001-2 28% of computer science degrees went to women compared to the 10% or so now — where are those women from 12 years ago? It seems to me that when people are looking at minorities or women to develop in their fields, they are much more interested in the hypothetical idea of that cute 11-year-old girl being a computer scientist someday than of that thirty-something competing with them for market share or jobs. If there are venture capitalists or conference organizers or others out there that are sincerely trying to promote women who code, not girls, I've never met any. That doesn't mean they don't exist, but it means that whoever they are seeking out, it isn't people like me.'"
Businesses

Visual Effects Artists Use MPAA's Own Words Against It 131

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-daily-schadenfreude dept.
beltsbear sends a story about the struggles of visual effects artists against the Motion Picture Association of America. The VFX industry in the U.S. has been slowly dying because movie studios increasingly outsource the work to save money. The visual effects industry protested and fought where they could, but had little success — until the MPAA filed a seemingly innocuous legal document to the International Trade Commission two weeks ago. In it, the MPAA argues that international trade of intellectual property is just like international trade of manufactured goods, and should be afforded the same protections. This would naturally apply to visual effects work, as well. Thus: "[E]mboldened by the MPAA’s filing, the visual effects workers are now in a position to use the big studios’ own arguments to compel the government to slap trade tariffs on those studios’ own productions in high-subsidy countries. Those arguments will be especially powerful because the MPAA made them to the very same governmental agencies that will process the visual-effects workers’ case. Additionally, the workers can now take matters into their own hands. ... If visual effects workers can show the Commerce Department and the U.S. International Trade Commission that an import is benefiting from foreign subsidies and therefore illegally undercutting a domestic industry, the federal government is obligated to automatically slap a punitive tax on that import. Such a tax would in practice erase the extra profit margins the studios are gleaning from the foreign subsidies, thereby leveling the competitive playing field for American workers and eliminating the purely economic incentive for the studios to engage in mass offshoring."
Games

Portal 2 Beta Released For Linux 99

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-you're-thinking-with-betaportals dept.
jones_supa writes "Yesterday Portal 2, a Source-based game that has been missing a Linux version, got a public beta release. The Steam game product page doesn't yet say the game supports Linux. To access the beta for Linux, right-click the game in Steam, select Properties and go to the Betas tab. Valve hasn't published the Linux system requirements for Portal 2 yet, but WebUpd8 tested it using Intel HD 3000 graphics under Ubuntu and it worked pretty well."
Space

Kepler's Alien World Count Skyrockets 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-thing-we-launched-it-with-a-skyrocket dept.
astroengine writes "The number of known planets beyond the solar system took a giant leap thanks to a new technique that verifies candidate planets found by NASA's Kepler space telescope in batches rather than one-by-one. The new method adds 715 planets to Kepler's list of confirmed planets, which previously totaled 246, scientists said Wednesday. Combined with other telescopes' finds, the overall exoplanet headcount now reaches nearly 1,700. 'By moving ... to statistical studies in a "big data" fashion, Kepler has showcased the diversity and types of planets present in our galaxy,' said astronomer Sara Seager." In other exoplanet news, a recent study found that so-called 'super earths,' planets that are bigger than Earth but smaller than gas giants like Uranus and Neptune, are unlikely to be habitable to known forms of life. The higher mass traps significantly more hydrogen during the formation of the planetary system, which results in extremely high atmospheric pressure — high enough to be hostile to known life.
Crime

The Emerging RadioShack/Netflix Debacle 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-forgot-to-run-the-jerkbag-test-case dept.
New submitter DigitalParc writes "RadioShack recently launched a promotion for 6 months of free Netflix service with the purchase of a laptop, tablet, or phone. This ended up being a fantastic deal, until the shoddy redemption site they were using for the Netflix code redemption was exploited and many of the codes were stolen. 'Users on slickdeals, a deal-finding and sometimes deal-exploiting website, found that the URL of the redemption website could be changed upon trying to enter a code, resulting in a valid Netflix subscription code being generated. Within hours, many of Netflix codes that were allocated to this promotion were stolen and some were redeemed or put up for sale on eBay.'"
Biotech

Horseshoe Crabs Are Bled Alive To Create an Unparalleled Biomedical Technology 159

Posted by Soulskill
from the apparently-we're-a-race-of-vampires-to-horseshoe-crabs dept.
Lasrick writes "Alexis Madrigal at the Atlantic: 'The marvelous thing about horseshoe crab blood, though, isn't the color. It's a chemical found only in the amoebocytes of its blood cells that can detect mere traces of bacterial presence and trap them in inescapable clots.' Madrigal continues, 'To take advantage of this biological idiosyncrasy, pharmaceutical companies burst the cells that contain the chemical, called coagulogen. Then, they can use the coagulogen to detect contamination in any solution that might come into contact with blood. If there are dangerous bacterial endotoxins in the liquid—even at a concentration of one part per trillion—the horseshoe crab blood extract will go to work, turning the solution into what scientist Fred Bang, who co-discovered the substance, called a "gel." ... I don't know about you, but the idea that every single person in America who has ever had an injection has been protected because we harvest the blood of a forgettable sea creature with a hidden chemical superpower makes me feel a little bit crazy. This scenario is not even sci-fi, it's postmodern technology.'"
Privacy

Supreme Court Ruling Relaxes Warrant Requirements For Home Searches 500

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the arrest-everyone-until-someone-consents dept.
cold fjord writes with news that the Supreme Court has expanded the ability of police officers to search a home without needing a warrant, quoting the LA Times: "Police officers may enter and search a home without a warrant as long as one occupant consents, even if another resident has previously objected, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday ... The 6-3 ruling ... gives authorities more leeway to search homes without obtaining a warrant, even when there is no emergency. The majority ... said police need not take the time to get a magistrate's approval before entering a home in such cases. But dissenters ... warned that the decision would erode protections against warrantless home searches." In this case, one person objected to the search and was arrested followed by the police returning and receiving the consent of the remaining occupant.
Power

Tesla Used A Third of All Electric-Car Batteries Last Year 236

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the elon-musk-hungers-for-power dept.
cartechboy writes "We've heard about Tesla building this new gigafactory to produce battery packs for its electric cars. Heck, the company's current bottleneck is its ability to get battery packs for its electric cars. In fact, last year Tesla used a bit more than one-third of the auto industry's electric-car batteries, and that was with only selling 22,477 cars last year. Tesla is expanding its model lineup as quickly as possible with the introduction of the Model X crossover next year and a compact sports sedan in 2017. With the rapid expansion of its vehicle line, Tesla is going to need a crazy amount of battery packs, and quickly. Thus, the Silicon Valley upstart is building the gigafactory to engineer and produce battery packs in much larger quantities. If Tesla can remove the battery production bottle neck it's currently facing, the only question left will be market acceptance of a mainstream electric car."
GNU is Not Unix

Interview: Ask Richard Stallman What You Will 480

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-ask dept.
Richard Stallman (RMS) founded the GNU Project in 1984, the Free Software Foundation in 1985, and remains one of the most important and outspoken advocates for software freedom. He now spends much of his time fighting excessive extension of copyright laws, digital restrictions management, and software patents. RMS has agreed to answer your questions about GNU/Linux, how GNU relates to Linux the kernel, free software, why he disagrees with the idea of open source, and other issues of public concern. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Medicine

Augmented Reality Treatment May Alleviate Phantom Limb Pain 30

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the perception-is-weird dept.
Zothecula writes with this excerpt from GizMag: "Studies have shown that a large percentage of amputees feel pain in their missing limbs. ... The ailment has so far proven difficult to treat, but a new study suggests therapy involving augmented reality and gaming could stimulate these unused areas of the brain (full journal article), resulting in a significant reduction in discomfort. ... In testing the treatment, the team used myolectric pattern recognition to predict phantom movements in the stump of a chronic PLP patient. By using the patterns as inputs in an augmented setting where a virtual arm was superimposed on the patient's real-life body, as well as controlling a car racing game, the team were able to gradually reduce the pain reported by the patient to zero." The study is an early one: there's only a single test subject, but one that had no success with any other form of treatment.
Bitcoin

Mt. Gox Shuts Down: Collapse Should Come As No Surprise 232

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the virtual-currency-actual-losses dept.
New submitter Dan541 writes in with word that Mt. Gox has halted all operations indefinitely. A statement from the CEO: "As there is a lot of speculation regarding MtGox and its future, I would like to use this opportunity to reassure everyone that I am still in Japan, and working very hard with the support of different parties to find a solution to our recent issues. ... In light of recent news reports and the potential repercussions on MtGox's operations and the market, a decision was taken to close all transactions for the time being in order to protect the site and our users. We will be closely monitoring the situation and will react accordingly." MrBingoBoingo writes that we should not be surprised Mt. Gox appears to have failed "The recent closure of the famous Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox has grabbed a lot of media attention lately, but people involved heavily in bitcoin have been raising alarms about business practices at Mt. Gox for quite some time now. With the Mt. Gox failure being Bitcoin's biggest since the collapse of the ponzi run by Trendon Shavers, also known as Pirateat40, it might be time to revisit the idea of counterparty risk in the world of irreversible cryptocurrency."
Internet Explorer

IE Vulnerability Exposing Banking Logins, Spreading Rapidly 93

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the apt-get-wrong-operating-system dept.
jfruh writes "A vulnerability in Internet Explorer 9 and 10 that allows attackers to target banking login info, first reported on February 13, is being exploited in the wild, and attacks are spreading rapidly. Sites compromised by the malware run the gamut from U.S. Veterans of Foreign Wars site, to a site frequented by French military contractors, to a Japanese dating site. Microsoft has released a 'fix-it tool' but not a regular patch."
Youtube

YouTube Ordered To Remove "Illegal" Copyright Blocking Notices 427

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the some-organizations-deserve-scorn dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with new developments in a two-year-old spat between YouTube and GEMA (a German music royalty collection foundation). After the courts ordered YouTube to implement tools to block videos that contained music GEMA licenses, it seems that telling users why content was blocked isn't making GEMA happy. From the article: "GEMA applied for an injunction to force YouTube to change the messages, claiming that they misrepresent the situation and damage GEMA’s reputation. YouTube alone is responsible for blocking the videos, claiming otherwise is simply false, GEMA argued. ... Yesterday the District Court of Munich agreed with the music group and issued an injunction to force YouTube to comply, stating that the notices 'denigrate' GEMA with a 'totally distorted representation of the legal dispute between the parties.' Changing the message to state that videos are not available due to a lack of a licensing agreement between YouTube and GEMA would be more appropriate, the Court said." The messages currently reads, "Unfortunately, this video is not available in Germany because it may contain music for which GEMA has not granted the respective music rights." Seems pretty neutral. Non-compliance with the order could result in fines of €250,000 per infraction.
Education

Do We Really Have a Shortage of STEM Workers? 491

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the only-if-you're-cheap dept.
New pweidema writes "Michael Teitelbaum, a senior research associate in the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School who has been writing a book on the subject of the current state of employment in science and technology fields, recently spoke at an Education Writers Association Conference about the 'STEM Worker Shortage: Does It Exist and Is Education to Blame?' The National Science Board's biennial book, Science and Engineering Indicators , consistently finds that the U.S. produces many more STEM graduates than the workforce can absorb. Meanwhile, employers say managers are struggling to find qualified workers in STEM fields. What explains these apparently contradictory trends? And as the shortage debate rages, what do we know about the pipeline of STEM-talented students from kindergarten to college, and what happens to them in the job market? An article LA Times summarizes his findings of his findings on the STEM hype: '...some of it comes from the country’s longtime cycle of waxing and waning interest in science; attention seems to focus on science every 10 to 15 years before slacking off. The only forces pushing the idea of STEM doom, he said, are those that have something to gain from it. Mostly those are STEM employers ... that want to pack the labor force with people to suppress wages ... Joining the chorus are universities that want more funding for science programs...'"
Transportation

Terrafugia Wants Their Flying Car To Be Autonomous 94

Posted by Soulskill
from the car-industry-meets-drone-industry dept.
Lucas123 writes "Terrafugia, a company that has been working on flying car prototypes for years, said it is now leaning toward an autonomous vehicle for safety reasons. Carl Dietrich, co-founder, CEO and CTO at Terrafugia, said at MIT last weekend that the company wants to build something that is statistically safer than driving a car. 'It needs to be faster than driving a car. It needs to be simpler to operate than a plane. It needs to be more convenient than driving a car today. It needs to be sustainable in the long run,' he said. The company's flyable car is designed with foldable wings and falls into the light sport aircraft category. It's expected to take off and land at small, local airports and to drive on virtually any road. Dietrich said the next-generation flying car is a four-seat, plug-in hybrid that doesn't require the operator to be a full-fledged pilot. A spokeswoman said today that the company is probably two years away from production."
Games

Thief Debuts To Mediocre Reviews 110

Posted by Soulskill
from the sneaky-sneaky dept.
The latest title in the stealth game series Thief launched in North America yesterday for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Windows. Reviews of the game are mixed. Rock, Paper, Shotgun's John Walker says that the story is poor, but "it matters very little, since it's only there as an excuse to link epic, intricate and hugely enjoyable levels together." He also laments the loss of a dedicated "Jump" button, noting that veterans of the series will miss it. "There are far too often obstacles that a toddler could easily scale, but Garrett won't even try, and his refusing to jump certain gaps in order to force a challenge is maddening." Polygon's review says navigating the game's open environments was fun, but "In the latter half of the game, when a glimpse of that openness was dangled in front of me once again, Thief snatched it away with murderous AI and controls that didn't feel up to the challenge." They add, "a new obsession with scripted story sequences and stealth action often leaves Thief feeling like the worst of both worlds." Giant Bomb's review is brutal, saying Thief is "a game that spends an inordinate amount of time making the player do uninteresting things while shoving the more fun stuff so far in the corner you'd be forgiven for missing most of it."
Education

Ask Slashdot: What Essays and Short Stories Should Be In a Course On Futurism? 293

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-have-no-mouth-and-i-must-scream dept.
Ellen Spertus writes "I'll be teaching an interdisciplinary college course on how technology is changing the world and how students can influence that change. In addition to teaching the students how to create apps, I'd like for us to read and discuss short stories and essays about how the future (next 40 years) might play out. For example, we'll read excerpts from David Brin's Transparent Society and Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near. I'm also considering excerpts of Cory Doctorow's Homeland and Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age. What other suggestions do Slashdotters have?"
Role Playing (Games)

Blizzard To Sell Level 90 WoW Characters For $60 253

Posted by Soulskill
from the kung-fu-panda-pledge-week dept.
An anonymous reader writes "After their online store accidentally spilled the beans last week, Blizzard has now confirmed plans to let players pay $60 to boost one of their World of Warcraft characters to level 90, the current cap. At Blizzcon a few months ago, the company unveiled the game's next expansion, Warlords of Draenor, currently in development. When it comes out, they're giving every player a free boost to 90 in order to get to the new content immediately. They say this was the impetus for making it a purchasable option. 'It's tremendously awkward to tell someone that you should buy two copies of the expansion just to get a second 90. That's odd. So we knew at that point we were going to have to offer it as a separate service.' Why $60? They don't want to 'devalue the accomplishment of leveling.' Lead encounter designer Ion Hazzikostas said, '[L]eveling is something that takes dozens if not over 100 hours in many cases and people have put serious time and effort into that, and we don't want to diminish that.'" On one hand, I can appreciate that people who just want to get to endgame content may find it more efficient to spend a few bucks than to put a hundred hours into leveling a new character. On the other hand, I can't help but laugh at the idea that Blizzard will probably get a ton of people paying them to not play their game.
Wireless Networking

Crowded US Airwaves Desperately In Search of Spectrum Breathing Room 105

Posted by Soulskill
from the running-out-of-ether dept.
alphadogg writes "Ahead of a major new spectrum auction scheduled for next year, America's four major wireless carriers are jockeying for position in the frequencies available to them, buying, selling and trading licenses to important parts of the nation's airwaves. Surging demand for mobile bandwidth, fueled by an increasingly saturated smartphone market and data-hungry apps, has showed no signs of slowing down. This, understandably, has the wireless industry scrambling to improve its infrastructure in a number of areas, including the amounts of raw spectrum available to the carriers. These shifts, however, are essentially just lateral moves – nothing to directly solve the problems posed by a crowded spectrum. What's really going to save the wireless world, some experts think, is a more comprehensive re-imagining of the way spectrum is used."
Space

Report: Space Elevators Are Feasible 374

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "It's the scourge of futurists everywhere: The space elevator can't seem to shake its image as something that's just ridiculous, laughed off as the stuff of sci-fi novels and overactive imaginations. But there are plenty of scientists who take the idea quite seriously, and they're trying to buck that perception. To that end, a diverse group of experts at the behest of the International Academy of Astronautics completed an impressively thorough study this month on whether building a space elevator is doable. Their resulting report, 'Space Elevators: An Assessment of the Technological Feasibility and the Way Forward,' found that, in a nutshell, such a contraption is both totally feasible and a really smart idea. And they laid out a 300-page roadmap detailing how to make it happen."

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