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Science

Static Electricity Defies Simple Explanation 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the mr.-wizard-lied-to-me dept.
sciencehabit writes: "If you've ever wiggled a balloon against your hair, you know that rubbing together two different materials can generate static electricity. But rubbing bits of the same material can create static, too. Now, researchers have shot down a decades-old idea of how that same-stuff static comes about (study). '[The researchers] mixed grains of insulating zirconium dioxide-silicate with diameters of 251 micrometers and 326 micrometers and dropped them through a horizontal electric field, which pushed positively charged particles one way and negatively charged particles the other. They tracked tens of thousands of particles—by dropping an $85,000 high-speed camera alongside them. Sure enough, the smaller ones tended to be charged negatively and the larger ones positively, each accumulating 2 million charges on average. Then the researchers probed whether those charges could come from electrons already trapped on the grains' surfaces. They gently heated fresh grains to liberate the trapped electrons and let them "relax" back into less energetic states. As an electron undergoes such a transition, it emits a photon. So by counting photons, the researchers could tally the trapped electrons. "It's pretty amazing to me that they count every electron on a particle," Shinbrot says. The tally showed that the beads start out with far too few trapped electrons to explain the static buildup, Jaeger says.'"
DRM

Free Software Foundation Condemns Mozilla's Move To Support DRM In Firefox 403

Posted by Soulskill
from the we're-shocked dept.
New submitter ptr_88 writes: "The Free Software Foundation has opposed Mozilla's move to support DRM in the Firefox browser, partnering with Adobe to do so. The FSF said, '[We're] deeply disappointed in Mozilla's announcement. The decision compromises important principles in order to alleviate misguided fears about loss of browser market share. It allies Mozilla with a company hostile to the free software movement and to Mozilla's own fundamental ideals. ... We recognize that Mozilla is doing this reluctantly, and we trust these words coming from Mozilla much more than we do when they come from Microsoft or Amazon. At the same time, nearly everyone who implements DRM says they are forced to do it, and this lack of accountability is how the practice sustains itself.'"
Encryption

30-Day Status Update On LibreSSL 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-the-hyperlinks-you-can-handle dept.
ConstantineM writes: "Bob Beck — OpenBSD, OpenSSH and LibreSSL developer and the director of Alberta-based non-profit OpenBSD Foundation — gave a talk earlier today at BSDCan 2014 in Ottawa, discussing and illustrating the OpenSSL problems that have led to the creation of a big fork of OpenSSL that is still API-compatible with the original, providing for a drop-in replacement, without the #ifdef spaghetti and without its own "OpenSSL C" dialect.

Bob is claiming that the Maryland-incorporated OpenSSL Foundation is nothing but a for-profit front for FIPS consulting gigs, and that nobody at OpenSSL is actually interested in maintaining OpenSSL, but merely adding more and more features, with the existing bugs rotting in bug-tracking for a staggering 4 years (CVE-2010-5298 has been independently re-discovered by the OpenBSD team after having been quietly reported in OpenSSL's RT some 4 years prior). Bob reports that the bug-tracking system abandoned by OpenSSL has actually been very useful to the OpenBSD developers at finding and fixing even more of OpenSSL bugs in downstream LibreSSL, which still remain unfixed in upstream OpenSSL. It is revealed that a lot of crude cleaning has already been completed, and the process is still ongoing, but some new ciphers already saw their addition to LibreSSL — RFC 5639 EC Brainpool, ChaCha20, Poly1305, FRP256v1, and some derivatives based on the above, like ChaCha20-Poly1305 AEAD EVP from Adam Langley's Chromium OpenSSL patchset.

To conclude, Bob warns against portable LibreSSL knockoffs, and asks the community for Funding Commitment. The Linux Foundation has not yet committed support, but discussions are ongoing. Funding can be directed to the OpenBSD Foundation."
Update: 05/18 14:28 GMT by S : Changed last paragraph to better reflect the Linux Foundation's involvement.
Data Storage

Tux3 File System Could Finally Make It Into the Mainline Linux Kernel 121

Posted by Soulskill
from the voted-onto-the-island dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Tux3 file-system that's been in development since 2008 as the public replacement to the patent-blocked Tux2 file-system is now under review for inclusion into the Linux kernel. Tux3 tries to act as a 'light, tight, modern file-system. We offer a fresh approach to some ancient problems,' according to its lead developer, Daniel Phillips. Tux3 strives for minimal resource consumption but lacks enterprise-grade reliability at this point. Tux3, at the end of the day, tries to be 'robust, fast, and simple' with the Linux FS reportedly being as fast as other well known file-systems. Details on the project are at Tux3.org."
Social Networks

Data Mining Shows How Down-Voting Leads To Vicious Circle of Negative Feedback 293

Posted by Soulskill
from the vicious-circles-are-the-best-circles dept.
KentuckyFC writes: "In behavioral psychology, the theory of operant conditioning is the notion that an individual's future behavior is determined by the punishments and rewards he or she has received in the past. It means that specific patterns of behavior can be induced by punishing unwanted actions while rewarding others. While the theory is more than 80 years old, it is hard at work in the 21st century in the form of up- and down-votes — or likes and dislikes — on social networks. But does this form of reward and punishment actually deter unwanted actions while encouraging good behavior? Now a new study of the way voting influences online behavior has revealed the answer. The conclusion: negative feedback leads to behavioral changes that are hugely detrimental to the community. Not only do authors of negatively-evaluated content contribute more but their future posts are of lower quality and are perceived by the community as such. What's more, these authors are more likely to evaluate fellow users negatively in future, creating a vicious circle of negative feedback. By contrast, positive feedback does not influence authors much at all. That's exactly the opposite of what operant conditioning theory predicts. The researchers have a better suggestion for social networks: 'Given that users who receive no feedback post less frequently, a potentially effective strategy could be to ignore undesired behavior and provide no feedback at all.' Would Slashdotters agree?"
Government

Congressmen Who Lobbied FCC Against Net Neutrality & Received Payoff 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the only-your-best-interests-at-heart dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Ars Technica published an article Friday highlighting the results from research conducted by a money-in-politics watchdog regarding the 28 congressmen who sent a combined total of three letters to the FCC protesting against re-classifying the internet as a public utility. These 28 members of the U.S. House of Representatives 'received, on average, $26,832 from the "cable & satellite TV production & distribution" sector over a two-year period ending in December. According to the data, that's 2.3 times more than the House average of $11,651.' That's average. Actual amounts that the 28 received over a two year period ranged from $109,250 (Greg Walden, R-OR) to $0 (Nick Rahall, D-WV). Look at the list yourselves, and find your representative to determine how much legitimacy can be attributed to their stated concerns for the public."
Canada

Meet Canada's Goosebuster Drone 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the playing-duck-duck-drone dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Tyler LeBlanc reports that Ottawa has a problem — a goose problem. Every summer the wandering waterfowl return to the beaches that line the Ottawa River leaving high concentrations of geese poop on beaches and in shallow water, which can lead to outbreaks of infection in human populations, particularly children. In the past, the city has tried a number of different methods of ridding their beaches of the geese, but this year, they are going high-tech. Steve Wambolt, the founder of Aerial Perspective, modified a drone with some flashing lights and speakers and took to the skies. 'I took existing land-based anti-pest technology and put it on a helicopter,' says Wambolt. 'When I tested it at the beach a few days later it worked remarkably well.' Using pre-recorded predatory calls (video) from hawks, eagles, owls, ravens and even wolves, Wambolt stalks the beaches of Petrie Island in an attempt to scare the loitering geese away from the area for good."
Crime

Robbery Suspect Tracked By GPS and Killed 450

Posted by Soulskill
from the modern-crime-fighting dept.
New submitter Lew Lorton notes a NY Times story about a thief in New York City who was tracked and located using a GPS device inside a decoy pill bottle he had stolen (along with other pill bottles) from a pharmacy. When police confronted the thief, he raised a gun to shoot at an officer, and was killed "The decoy bottles were introduced last year by the police commissioner at the time, Raymond W. Kelly, who announced that the department would begin to stock pharmacy shelves with decoy bottles of painkillers containing GPS devices. The initiative was in response to a sharp increase of armed and often deadly pharmacy robberies across the state, frequently by people addicted to painkillers. ... The bottles are designed to be weighted and to rattle when shaken, so a thief does not initially realize they do not contain pills. Each of the decoy bottles sits atop a special base, and when the bottle is lifted from the base, it begins to emit a tracking signal."
AI

Understanding an AI's Timescale 189

Posted by Soulskill
from the meatbags-are-slow,-electrons-are-fast dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It's a common trope in sci-fi that when AIs become complex enough to have some form of consciousness, humans will be able to communicate with them through speech. But the rate at which we transmit and analyze data is infinitesimal compared to how fast a computer can do it. Would they even want to bother? Jeff Atwood takes a look at how a computer's timescale breaks down, and relates it to human timeframes. It's interesting to note the huge variance in latency. If we consider one CPU cycle to take 1 second, then a sending a ping across the U.S. would take the equivalent of 4 years. A simple conversation could take the equivalent of thousands of years. Would any consciousness be able to deal with such a relative delay?"
News

Biggest Dinosaur Yet Discovered 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the we're-gonna-need-a-bigger-boat dept.
An anonymous reader quote the BBC: "Fossilised bones of a dinosaur believed to be the largest creature ever to walk the Earth have been unearthed in Argentina, palaeontologists say. Based on its huge thigh bones, it was 40m (130ft) long and 20m (65ft) tall. Weighing in at 77 tonnes, it was as heavy as 14 African elephants, and seven tonnes heavier than the previous record holder, Argentinosaurus. Scientists believe it is a new species of titanosaur — an enormous herbivore dating from the Late Cretaceous period. A local farm worker first stumbled on the remains in the desert near La Flecha, about 250km (135 miles) west of Trelew, Patagonia."
Privacy

The Big Biz of Spying On Little Kids 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the tracked-from-the-womb dept.
theodp writes: "'The NSA,' writes POLITICO's Stephanie Simon in her eye-opening Data Mining Your Children, 'has nothing on the ed tech startup known as Knewton. The data analytics firm has peered into the brains of more than 4 million students across the country. By monitoring every mouse click, every keystroke, every split-second hesitation as children work through digital textbooks, Knewton is able to find out not just what individual kids know, but how they think. It can tell who has trouble focusing on science before lunch — and who will struggle with fractions next Thursday.' Simon adds, 'Even as Congress moves to rein in the National Security Agency, private-sector data mining has galloped forward — perhaps nowhere faster than in education. Both Republicans and Democrats have embraced the practice. And the Obama administration has encouraged it, even relaxing federal privacy law to allow school districts to share student data more widely.'"
Security

Emory University SCCM Server Accidentally Reformats All Computers Campus-wide 564

Posted by Soulskill
from the that-qualifies-as-a-bad-day dept.
acidradio writes: "Somehow the SCCM application and image deployment server at Emory University in Atlanta accidentally started to repartition, reformat then install a new image of Windows 7 onto all university-managed computers. By the time this was discovered the SCCM server had managed to repartition and reformat itself. This was likely an accident. But what if it weren't? Could this have shed light on a possibly huge vulnerability in large enterprise organizations that rely heavily on automated software deployment packages like SCCM?"
Government

Pentagon Document Lays Out Battle Plan Against Zombies 131

Posted by Soulskill
from the rule-#1:-cardio dept.
mpicpp sends this news from CNN: "Never fear the night of the living dead — the Pentagon has got you covered. From responses to natural disasters to a catastrophic attack on the homeland, the U.S. military has a plan of action ready to go if either incident occurs. It has also devised an elaborate plan should a zombie apocalypse befall the country, according to a Defense Department document obtained by CNN. In an unclassified document titled 'CONOP 8888,' officials from U.S. Strategic Command used the specter of a planet-wide attack by the walking dead as a training template for how to plan for real-life, large-scale operations, emergencies and catastrophes."
AI

US Navy Wants Smart Robots With Morals, Ethics 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sorry-dave,-the-value-of-your-life-is-a-string-and-i-was-expecting-an-integer dept.
coondoggie writes: "The U.S. Office of Naval Research this week offered a $7.5m grant to university researchers to develop robots with autonomous moral reasoning ability. While the idea of robots making their own ethical decisions smacks of SkyNet — the science-fiction artificial intelligence system featured prominently in the Terminator films — the Navy says that it envisions such systems having extensive use in first-response, search-and-rescue missions, or medical applications. One possible scenario: 'A robot medic responsible for helping wounded soldiers is ordered to transport urgently needed medication to a nearby field hospital. En route, it encounters a Marine with a fractured leg. Should the robot abort the mission to assist the injured? Will it? If the machine stops, a new set of questions arises. The robot assesses the soldier’s physical state and determines that unless it applies traction, internal bleeding in the soldier's thigh could prove fatal. However, applying traction will cause intense pain. Is the robot morally permitted to cause the soldier pain, even if it’s for the soldier’s well-being?'"
Communications

Apple To Face Lawsuit For iMessage Glitch 238

Posted by Soulskill
from the false-barriers dept.
An anonymous reader writes "We've all heard about iPhone users switching over to Android-powered phones and no longer being able to receive text messages from friends and family still using iPhones. Well, a woman with exactly this issue has filed a lawsuit against Apple, complaining that '[p]eople who replace their Apple devices with non-Apple wireless phones and tablets are "penalized and unable to obtain the full benefits of their wireless-service contracts."' To be specific, '[t]he suit is based on contractual interference and unfair competition laws.' She is seeking class action status and undetermined damages."

Long computations which yield zero are probably all for naught.

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