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Programming

New AP Course, "Computer Science Principles," Aims To Make CS More Accessible 199

Posted by Soulskill
from the broadening-the-base dept.
theodp writes: "CS Principles," explains the intro to a Microsoft Research talk on a new Computer Science Toolkit and Gaming Course, "is a new AP course being piloted across the country and by making it more accessible to students we can help increase diversity in computing." Towards this end, Microsoft has developed "a middle school computing toolkit, and a high school CS Principles & Games course." These two projects were "developed specifically for girls," explains Microsoft, and are part of the corporation's Big Dream Movement for girls, which is partnering with the UN, White House, NSF, EU Commission, and others. One of Microsoft's particular goals is to "reach every individual girl in her house." According to a document on its website, Microsoft Research's other plans for Bridging the Gender Gap in computing include a partnership with the University of Wisconsin "to create a girls-only computer science Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)."
Science

A New Law For Superconductors 53

Posted by Soulskill
from the radar-enforced dept.
TaleSlinger sends word of a newly-discovered "mathematical relationship — between material thickness, temperature, and electrical resistance — that appears to hold in all superconductors." The work (abstract), led by Yachin Irvy, comes out of MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics. Researchers found that a particular superconductor (niobium nitride) didn't fit earlier models estimating the temperature at which it changes from normal conductivity to superconductivity. So the researchers conducted a series of experiments in which they held constant either thickness or “sheet resistance,” the material’s resistance per unit area, while varying the other parameter; they then measured the ensuing changes in critical temperature. A clear pattern emerged: Thickness times critical temperature equaled a constant — call it A — divided by sheet resistance raised to a particular power — call it B. ... The other niobium nitride papers Ivry consulted bore out his predictions, so he began to expand to other superconductors. Each new material he investigated required him to adjust the formula’s constants — A and B. But the general form of the equation held across results reported for roughly three dozen different superconductors.
Space

SpaceX To Attempt Falcon 9 Landing On Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-luck dept.
An anonymous reader writes: SpaceX has announced that at the conclusion of its next rocket flight, it will attempt a precision landing of its Falcon 9 first stage onto an autonomous ocean platform. They say the odds of success aren't great, but it's the beginning of their work to make this a reality. Quoting: "At 14 stories tall and traveling upwards of 1300 m/s (nearly 1 mi/s), stabilizing the Falcon 9 first stage for reentry is like trying to balance a rubber broomstick on your hand in the middle of a wind storm. To help stabilize the stage and to reduce its speed, SpaceX relights the engines for a series of three burns.

The first burn—the boostback burn—adjusts the impact point of the vehicle and is followed by the supersonic retro propulsion burn that, along with the drag of the atmosphere, slows the vehicle's speed from 1300 m/s to about 250 m/s. The final burn is the landing burn, during which the legs deploy and the vehicle's speed is further reduced to around 2 m/s. ... To complicate matters further, the landing site is limited in size and not entirely stationary. The autonomous spaceport drone ship is 300 by 100 feet, with wings that extend its width to 170 feet. While that may sound huge at first, to a Falcon 9 first stage coming from space, it seems very small. The legspan of the Falcon 9 first stage is about 70 feet and while the ship is equipped with powerful thrusters to help it stay in place, it is not actually anchored, so finding the bullseye becomes particularly tricky."
AI

Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates 601

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sorry-dave,-there's-a-hiring-freeze-right-now dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Claire Cain Miller notes at the NY Times that economists long argued that, just as buggy-makers gave way to car factories, technology used to create as many jobs as it destroyed. But now there is deep uncertainty about whether the pattern will continue, as two trends are interacting. First, artificial intelligence has become vastly more sophisticated in a short time, with machines now able to learn, not just follow programmed instructions, and to respond to human language and movement. At the same time, the American work force has gained skills at a slower rate than in the past — and at a slower rate than in many other countries. Self-driving vehicles are an example of the crosscurrents. Autonomous cars could put truck and taxi drivers out of work — or they could enable drivers to be more productive during the time they used to spend driving, which could earn them more money. But for the happier outcome to happen, the drivers would need the skills to do new types of jobs.

When the University of Chicago asked a panel of leading economists about automation, 76 percent agreed that it had not historically decreased employment. But when asked about the more recent past, they were less sanguine. About 33 percent said technology was a central reason that median wages had been stagnant over the past decade, 20 percent said it was not and 29 percent were unsure. Perhaps the most worrisome development is how poorly the job market is already functioning for many workers. More than 16 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960s; 30 percent of women in this age group are not working, up from 25 percent in the late 1990s. For those who are working, wage growth has been weak, while corporate profits have surged. "We're going to enter a world in which there's more wealth and less need to work," says Erik Brynjolfsson. "That should be good news. But if we just put it on autopilot, there's no guarantee this will work out."
Space

Spacecraft Spots Probable Waves On Titan's Seas 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the surf's-up dept.
sciencehabit writes: It's springtime on Titan, Saturn's giant and frigid moon, and the action on its hydrocarbon seas seems to be heating up. Near the moon's north pole, there is growing evidence for waves on three different seas, scientists reported at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Researchers are also coming up with the first estimates for the volume and composition of the seas. The bodies of water appear to be made mostly of methane, and not mostly ethane as previously thought. And they are deep: Ligeia Mare, the second biggest sea with an area larger than Lake Superior, could contain 55 times Earth's oil reserves.
Medicine

Researchers Accidentally Discover How To Turn Off Skin Aging Gene 168

Posted by Soulskill
from the vain-mice-everywhere-rejoice dept.
BarbaraHudson sends this excerpt from The Province: While exploring the effects of the protein-degrading enzyme Granzyme B on blood vessels during heart attacks, professor David Granville and other researchers at the University of British Columbia couldn't help noticing that mice engineered to lack the enzyme had beautiful skin at the end of the experiment, while normal mice showed signs of age. The discovery pushed Granville's research in an unexpected new direction.

The researchers built a mechanized rodent tanning salon and exposed mice engineered to lack the enzyme and normal mice to UV light three times a week for 20 weeks, enough to cause redness, but not to burn. At the end of the experiment, the engineered mice still had smooth, unblemished skin, while the normal mice were deeply wrinkled.

Granzyme B breaks down proteins and interferes with the organization and the integrity of collagen, dismantling the scaffolding — or extra-cellular matrix — that cells bind to. This causes structural weakness, leading to wrinkles. Sunlight appears to increase levels of the enzyme and accelerate its damaging effects.
Google

ODF Support In Google Drive 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the better-late-than-never dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Google's Chris DiBona told a London conference last week that ODF support was coming next year, but today the Google Drive team unexpectedly launched support for all three of the main variants — including long-absent Presentation files. You can now simply open ODT, ODS and ODP files in Drive with no fuss. It lacks support for comments and changes but at least it shows progress towards full support of the international document standard, something conspicuously missing for many years.
Network

Single Group Dominates Second Round of Anti Net-Neutrality Comment Submissions 169

Posted by Soulskill
from the spamming-for-liberty dept.
New submitter aquadood writes: According to the Sunlight Foundation's analysis of recent comment submissions to the FCC regarding Net Neutrality, the majority (56.5%) were submitted by a single organization called American Commitment, which has "shadowy" ties to the Koch brothers' network. The blog article goes on to break down the comments in-depth, showing a roughly 60/40 split between those against net neutrality and those for it, respectively.
The Internet

A Domain Registrar Is Starting a Fiber ISP To Compete With Comcast 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the rise-of-the-micronetworks dept.
Jason Koebler writes: Tucows Inc., an internet company that's been around since the early 90s — it's generally known for being in the shareware business and for registering and selling premium domain names — announced that it's becoming an internet service provider. Tucows will offer fiber internet to customers in Charlottesville, Virginia — which is served by Comcast and CenturyLink — in early 2015 and eventually wants to expand to other markets all over the country. "Everyone who has built a well-run gigabit network has had demand exceeding their expectations," Elliot Noss, Tucows' CEO said. "We think there's space in the market for businesses like us and smaller."
NASA

11 Trillion Gallons of Water Needed To End California Drought 312

Posted by Soulskill
from the everybody-send-2,000-gallons-of-water-to-california dept.
mrflash818 points out a new study which found that California can recover from its lengthy drought with a mere 11 trillion gallons of water. The volume this water would occupy (roughly 42 cubic kilometers) is half again as large as the biggest water reservoir in the U.S. A team of JPL scientists worked this out through the use of NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites. From the article: GRACE data reveal that, since 2011, the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins decreased in volume by four trillion gallons of water each year (15 cubic kilometers). That's more water than California's 38 million residents use each year for domestic and municipal purposes. About two-thirds of the loss is due to depletion of groundwater beneath California's Central Valley. ... New drought maps show groundwater levels across the U.S. Southwest are in the lowest two to 10 percent since 1949.
Biotech

Brain Stimulation For Entertainment? 87

Posted by Soulskill
from the volunteer-your-neighbors-as-guinea-pigs dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Transcranial magnetic stimulation has been used for years to diagnose and treat neural disorders such as stroke, Alzheimer's, and depression. Soon the medical technique could be applied to virtual reality and entertainment. Neuroscientist Jeffrey Zacks writes, "it's quite likely that some kind of electromagnetic brain stimulation for entertainment will become practical in the not-too-distant future." Imagine an interactive movie where special effects are enhanced by zapping parts of the brain from outside to make the action more vivid. Before brain stimulation makes it to the masses, however, it has plenty of technical and safety hurdles to overcome.
Verizon

Verizon "End-to-End" Encrypted Calling Includes Law Enforcement Backdoor 160

Posted by Soulskill
from the part-and-parcel dept.
An anonymous reader sends this quote from TechDirt: As a string of whistle blowers like former AT&T employee Mark Klein have made clear abundantly clear, the line purportedly separating intelligence operations from the nation's incumbent phone companies was all-but obliterated long ago. As such, it's relatively amusing to see Verizon announce this week that the company is offering up a new encrypted wireless voice service named Voice Cypher. Voice Cypher, Verizon states, offers "end-to-end" encryption for voice calls on iOS, Android, or BlackBerry devices equipped with a special app made by Cellcrypt.

Verizon says it's initially pitching the $45 per phone service to government agencies and corporations, but would ultimately love to offer it to consumers as a line item on your bill. Of course by "end-to-end encryption," Verizon means that the new $45 per phone service includes an embedded NSA backdoor free of charge. Apparently, in Verizon-land, "end-to-end encryption" means something entirely different than it does in the real world.
Programming

Dr. Dobb's 38-Year Run Comes To an End 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the farewell-and-thanks dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Dr. Dobb's — long time icon of programming magazines — "sunsets" at the end of the year. Editor Andrew Binstock says despite growing traffic numbers, the decline in revenue from ads means there will be no new content posted after 2014 ends. (The site will stay up for at least a year, hopefully longer.) Younger people may not care, but for the hard core old guys, it marks the end of a world where broad knowledge of computers and being willing to create solutions instead of reuse them was valuable. Binstock might disagree; he said, "As our page views show, the need for an independent site with in-depth articles, code, algorithms, and reliable product reviews is still very much present. And I will dearly miss that content. I wish I could point you to another site that does similar work, but alas, I know of none."
Businesses

Attorney Yasir Billoo Explains NDA Law (Video) 33

Posted by Roblimo
from the sometimes-you-need-to-know-a-little-about-law-even-if-you-don't-want-to dept.
Yasir Billoo, an attorney with Golden & Grimes in Miami, Florida, is licensed to practice law in both Florida and California, and works heavily in the areas of business/commercial law, employment and labor, and civil appeals. Yasir also has a business-oriented blog titled Small Business Law.

In this Slashdot video interview hosted by Timothy Lord, Yasir gives what is essentially a primer on the law behind Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) and how they differ from Non-Competes. Sooner or later you're going to encounter -- or even write -- an NDA, and you'd better know the law behind what you're doing. Naturally, today's interview isn't specific legal advice about a particular situation. If you want that, you need to hire a lawyer to advise you. But Yasir (a long-time Slashdot reader. BTW) has shared enough knowledge in this interview that it will help you deal with many NDA situations on your own, and how to tell when you really should have a lawyer by your side. (Alternate Video Link )
Mars

Curiosity Detects Mysterious Methane Spikes On Mars 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-still-hasn't-killed-any-cats dept.
astroengine writes: A gas strongly associated with life on Earth has been detected again in the Martian atmosphere, opening a new chapter in a decade-old mystery about the on-again, off-again appearance of methane on Mars. The latest discovery comes from NASA's Curiosity rover, which in addition to analyzing rocks and soil samples, is sniffing the air at its Gale Crater landing site. A year ago, scientists reported that Curiosity had come up empty-handed after an eight-month search for methane in the atmosphere, leaving earlier detections by ground-based telescopes and Mars-orbiting spacecraft an unexplained anomaly. "We thought we had closed the book on methane. It was disappointing to a lot of people that there wasn't significant methane on Mars, but that's where we were," Curiosity scientist Christopher Webster with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News.

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