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Movies

Spock and the Legacy of Star Trek 214

Posted by samzenpus
from the memories-of-the-many dept.
StartsWithABang writes While the nerd/geek world mourns the death of Leonard Nimoy in its own way, it's important to remember the legacy that Star Trek — and that Spock and alien characters like him — left on our world. Unlike any other series, Star Trek used a futuristic, nearly utopian world to explore our own moral battles and failings, and yet somehow always managed to weave in an optimism about humanity and our future. This is something, the author argues, that is sorely missing from the new J.J. Abrams movies.
News

Leonard Nimoy Dies At 83 407

Posted by Soulskill
from the rest-in-peace dept.
Esther Schindler writes: According to the NY Times, Leonard Nimoy died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83 years old. He was, and always shall be, our friend. From the article: His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Mr. Nimoy announced last year that he had the disease, which he attributed to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week. His artistic pursuits — poetry, photography and music in addition to acting — ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Mr. Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: “Live long and prosper” (from the Vulcan “Dif-tor heh smusma”).
Medicine

Surgeon: First Human Head Transplant May Be Just Two Years Away 209

Posted by samzenpus
from the brand-new-chassis dept.
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Michelle Star writes at C/net that Surgeon Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy, believes he has developed a technique to remove the head from a non-functioning body and transplant it onto the healthy body. According to Canavero's paper published in Surgical Neurology International, first, both the transplant head and the donor body need to be cooled in order to slow cell death. Then, the neck of both would be cut and the major blood vessels linked with tubes. Finally, the spinal cords would be severed, with as clean a cut as possible. Joining the spinal cords, with the tightly packed nerves inside, is key. The plan involves flushing the area with polyethylene glycol, followed by several hours of injections of the same, a chemical that encourages the fat in cell membranes to mesh. The blood vessels, muscles and skin would then be sutured and the patient would be induced into a coma for several weeks to keep them from moving around; meanwhile, electrodes would stimulate the spine with electricity in an attempt to strengthen the new nerve connections.

Head transplants has been tried before. In 1970, Robert White led a team at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, US, that tried to transplant the head of one monkey on to the body of another. The surgeons stopped short of a full spinal cord transfer, so the monkey could not move its body. Despite Canavero's enthusiasm, many surgeons and neuroscientists believe massive technical hurdles push full body transplants into the distant future. The starkest problem is that no one knows how to reconnect spinal nerves and make them work again. "This is such an overwhelming project, the possibility of it happening is very unlikely," says Harry Goldsmith."
Security

OPSEC For Activists, Because Encryption Is No Guarantee 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the protect-yourself-before-somebody-wrecks-yourself dept.
Nicola Hahn writes: "In the wake of the Snowden revelations strong encryption has been promoted by organizations like The Intercept and Freedom of the Press Foundation as a solution for safeguarding privacy against the encroachment of Big Brother. Even President Obama acknowledges that "there's no scenario in which we don't want really strong encryption."

Yet the public record shows that over the years the NSA has honed its ability to steal encryption keys. Recent reports about the compromise of Gemalto's network and sophisticated firmware manipulation programs by the Office of Tailored Access Operations underscore this reality.

The inconvenient truth is that the current cyber self-defense formulas being presented are conspicuously incomplete. Security tools can and will fail. And when they do, what then? It's called Operational Security (OPSEC), a topic that hasn't received much coverage — but it should.
Education

Ask Slashdot: Terminally Ill - What Wisdom Should I Pass On To My Geek Daughter? 696

Posted by Soulskill
from the f*#&-cancer dept.
An anonymous reader writes: I am a scientist and educator who has been enjoying and learning from Slashdot since the late 90s. Now I come to you, my geek brothers and sisters, for help. I've been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which you will remember is what took Steve Jobs and Randy Pausch from us. My condition is incurable. Palliative chemotherapy may delay the inevitable, but a realistic assessment suggests that I have anywhere from two to six months of "quality" time left, and likely not more than a year in total.

I am slowly coming to terms with my imminent death, but what bothers me most is that I will be leaving my wife alone, and that my daughter will have to grow up without her father. She is in sixth grade, has an inquisitive and sharp mind, and is interested in science and music. She seems well on the path to becoming a "girl geek" like her mother, an outcome I'd welcome.

Since I will not be around for all of the big events in her life, I am going to create a set of video messages for her that she can watch at those important times or just when she's having a bad day. I would like to do this before my condition progresses to the point that I am visibly ill, so time is short.

In the videos I will make clear how much I treasure the time we've spent together and the wonderful qualities I see in her. What other suggestions do you have? What did you need to hear at the different stages of your life? What wisdom would have been most helpful to you? At what times did you especially need the advice of a parent? And especially for my geek sisters, how can I help her navigate the unique issues faced by girls and women in today's world?

Please note that I'm posting anonymously because I don't want this to be about me. I'd prefer that the focus be on my daughter and how I can best help her. Thank you so much for your help.
Medicine

Giant Asian Gerbils May Have Caused the Black Death 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the adorable-ways-to-die dept.
Dave Knott writes: Rats, long believed to be the scourge that brought the Black Death to 14th-century Europe, may not be the disease-bearing scoundrels we thought they were. Scientists have shifted blame for the medieval pandemic responsible for millions of deaths to a new furry menace: giant gerbils from Asia. University of Oslo researchers, working with Swiss government scientists, say a "pulse" of bubonic plague strains arrived sporadically from Asia. They posit the Yersinia pestis bacterium was likely carried over the Silk Road via fleas on the giant gerbils during intermittent warm spells. The fleas could have then transmitted the disease to humans. The Black Death is believed to have killed up to 200 million people in Europe. Though very rare today, cases of the plague still arise in Africa, Asia, the Americas and parts of the former Soviet Union, with the World Health Organization reporting 783 cases worldwide in 2013, including 126 deaths.
Medicine

Resistant Bacterial Infection Outbreak At California Hospital 132

Posted by timothy
from the lord-have-mrsa dept.
puddingebola writes From the article: "A potentially deadly "superbug" resistant to antibiotics has infected seven patients, including two who died, and more than 160 others were exposed at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center through contaminated medical instruments, the hospital revealed. The drug-resistant superbug known as CRE was likely transmitted to the Los Angeles patients by contaminated medical scopes during endoscopic procedures that took place between October 2014 and January 2015, a university statement said. " UCLA says the infections occurred via contaminated endoscopes that were sterilized according to the manufacturer's specifications. (Note: beware autoplaying video ad; adjust your volume accordingly.)
Medicine

Smoking Is Even Deadlier Than Previously Thought 365

Posted by timothy
from the and-that's-saying-something dept.
HughPickens.com writes Who still smokes?" as Denise Grady reports at the NYT that however bad you thought smoking was, it's even worse. A new study has found that in addition to the well-known hazards of lung cancer, artery disease, heart attacks, chronic lung disease and stroke, researchers found that smoking was linked to significantly increased risks of infection, kidney disease, intestinal disease caused by inadequate blood flow, and heart and lung ailments not previously attributed to tobacco. "The smoking epidemic is still ongoing, and there is a need to evaluate how smoking is hurting us as a society, to support clinicians and policy making in public health," says Brian D. Carter, an author of the study. "It's not a done story." Carter says he was inspired to dig deeper into the causes of death in smokers after taking an initial look at data from five large health surveys being conducted by other researchers. As expected, death rates were higher among the smokers but diseases known to be caused by tobacco accounted for only 83 percent of the excess deaths in people who smoked. "I thought, 'Wow, that's really low,' " Mr. Carter said. "We have this huge cohort. Let's get into the weeds, cast a wide net and see what is killing smokers that we don't already know." The researchers found that, compared with people who had never smoked, smokers were about twice as likely to die from infections, kidney disease, respiratory ailments not previously linked to tobacco, and hypertensive heart disease, in which high blood pressure leads to heart failure. "The Surgeon General's report claims 480,000 deaths directly caused by smoking, but we think that is really quite a bit off," concludes Carter adding that the figure may be closer to 540,000.
Science

Oldest Twin Remains Found In Siberia 41

Posted by samzenpus
from the first-pair dept.
astroengine writes A team of Canadian and Russian researchers investigating an early Neolithic cemetery in Siberia have identified the world's oldest set of human twins, buried with their young mother. The skeleton of the woman was exhumed in 1997 from a hunter-gatherer cemetery in south-eastern Siberia. Found with 15 marmot teeth — decorative accessories which were probably attached to clothing — the remains were photographed and labelled, but were not investigated by anthropologists. Now Angela Lieverse, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and colleagues Andrzej Weber from the University of Alberta, Canada, and Vladimir Bazaliiskii from Irkutsk University, Russia, have examined the skeleton and found remains of twin fetuses nestled between the pelvis and upper legs. The twins, about 36 to 40 weeks old, probably suffocated during their mother's troubled labor nearly 8,000 years ago. "This is not only one of the oldest archaeologically documented cases of death during childbirth, but also the earliest confirmed set of human twins in the world," Lieverse said.
Moon

Neil Armstrong's Widow Discovers Moon Camera In Bag 118

Posted by samzenpus
from the where-did-I-leave-that dept.
hypnosec writes Over 40 years after Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 trip, a hidden bag full of artifacts has been discovered by his widow Carol Armstrong. Carol found the bag after Neil's death shortly after he underwent heart surgery. The bag contained a total of 20 items including the priceless 16mm movie camera that recorded Apollo 11's descent to the surface of the moon, an optical alignment sight used by the crew for docking maneuvers, and a waist tether among other things. The bag and its contents are now on loan to the National Air and Space Museum for preservation, research and eventual public display.
Medicine

Canadian Supreme Court Rules Ban On Assisted Suicide Unconstitutional 231

Posted by timothy
from the ask-your-doctor-about-the-black-capsule dept.
BarbaraHudson writes with word that Canada's Supreme Court has issued a strong statement in defense of Canadians' right to choose assisted suicide: [A] judgment, which is unsigned to reflect the unanimous institutional weight of the court, says the current ban on assisted suicide infringes on all three of the life, liberty and security of person provisions in Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It does not limit physician-assisted death to those suffering a terminal illness. The court agreed with the trial judge "that a permissive regime with properly designed and administered safeguards was capable of protecting vulnerable people from abuse and error. While there are risks, to be sure, a carefully designed and managed system is capable of adequately addressing them." Parliament has one year to enact new legislation modifying the Criminal Code to conform to the judgment.
The Media

Does Showing a Horrific Video Serve a Legitimate Journalistic Purpose? 645

Posted by Soulskill
from the sensitive-topics dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Erik Wemple writes at the Washington Post that Fox News recently took the controversial step of posting a horrific 22-minute video online that shows Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh being burned to death. Fox warned internet users that the presentation features "extremely graphic video." "After careful consideration, we decided that giving readers of FoxNews.com the option to see for themselves the barbarity of ISIS outweighed legitimate concerns about the graphic nature of the video," said Fox executive John Moody. "Online users can choose to view or not view this disturbing content."

But Fox's decision drew condemnation from some terrorism experts. "[Fox News] are literally — literally — working for al-Qaida and ISIS's media arm," said Malcolm Nance. "They might as well start sending them royalty checks." YouTube removed a link to the video a few hours after it was posted, and a spokesperson for Facebook told the Guardian that if anyone posted the video to the social networking site it would be taken down. CNN explained that it wouldn't surface any of the disturbing images because they were gruesome and constituted propaganda that the network didn't want to distribute. "Does posting this video advance the aims of this terror group or hinder its progress by laying bare its depravity?" writes Wemple. "Islamic State leaders may indeed delight in the distribution of the video — which could be helpful in converting extremists to its cause — but they may be mis-calibrating its impact. If the terrorists expected to intimidate the world with their display of barbarity, they may be disappointed with the reaction of Jordan, which is vowing 'strong, earth-shaking and decisive' retaliation."
Medicine

Too Much Exercise May Not Be Better Than a Sedentary Lifestyle 200

Posted by Soulskill
from the everything-in-moderation dept.
jones_supa writes: The importance of exercise has been arriving in spades for geek culture. However, when approaching extremes, a point is reached where vigorous jogging erodes some of the benefits light jogging has over a sedentary lifestyle. "Long-term excessive exercise may be associated with coronary artery calcification, diastolic dysfunction and large artery wall stiffening," wrote lead author Peter Schnohr of Copenhagen's Frederiksberg Hospital in a Danish study (abstract). Although previous research has found that physically active people have at least a 30% lower risk of death compared with inactive people, the ideal amount of exercise remains somewhat uncertain. In this study, strenuous joggers — people who ran faster than 11 km/h for more than 4 hours a week; or who ran faster than 11 km/h for more than 2.5 hours a week with a frequency of more than three times a week — had a mortality rate that is not statistically different from that of the sedentary group. Medical journalist Larry Husten notes that this study, while interesting, should not be taken as the final word on the subject.
Medicine

Regular Exercise Not Enough To Make Up For Sitting All Day 348

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-you-tell-me dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Toronto researchers have found the amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of disease and death, regardless of regular exercise. The paper, published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine (abstract), found that prolonged sedentary behavior was associated with a 15 to 20 per cent higher risk of death from any cause; a 15 to 20 per cent higher risk of heart disease, death from heart disease, cancer, death from cancer; and as much as a 90 per cent increased risk of developing diabetes, said Alter. And that was after adjusting for the effects of regular exercise. ... Engaging in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous daily exercise does not mean it's OK to then "sit on your rear" for the rest of the day.
Programming

Interviews: Alexander Stepanov and Daniel E. Rose Answer Your Questions 42

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
samzenpus (5) writes "Alexander Stepanov is an award winning programmer who designed the C++ Standard Template Library. Daniel E. Rose is a programmer, research scientist, and is the Chief Scientist for Search at A9.com. In addition to working together, the duo have recently written a new book titled, From Mathematics to Generic Programming. Earlier this month you had a chance to ask the pair about their book, their work, or programming in general. Below you'll find the answers to those questions."
United Kingdom

Winston Churchill's Scientists 77

Posted by timothy
from the they-never-never-never-gave-up dept.
HughPickens.com writes Nicola Davis writes at The Guardian that a new exhibition at London's Science Museum tiitled Churchill's Scientists aims to explore how a climate that mingled necessity with ambition spurred British scientists to forge ahead in fields as diverse as drug-discovery and operational research, paving the way for a further flurry of postwar progress in disciplines from neurology to radio astronomy. Churchill "was very unusual in that he was a politician from a grand Victorian family who was also interested in new technology and science," says Andrew Nahum. "That was quite remarkable at the time." An avid reader of Charles Darwin and HG Wells, Churchill also wrote science-inspired articles himself and fostered an environment where the brightest scientists could build ground-breaking machines, such as the Bernard Lovell telescope, and make world-changing discoveries, in molecular genetics, radio astronomy, nuclear power, nerve and brain function and robotics. "During the war the question was never, 'How much will it cost?' It was, 'Can we do it and how soon can we have it?' This left a heritage of extreme ambition and a lot of talented people who were keen to see what it could provide." (More, below.)
News

Belgian Raid Kills 2, Said To Avert "Major Terrorist Attacks" 257

Posted by timothy
from the knock-knock dept.
As reported by CNN, Reuters, and other outlets, a raid in the Belgian city of Verviers -- one of several counter-terrorism actions in the country today -- ended in the death of two men, and the capture of a third, who are said to have been planning imminent acts of violence akin to the ones earlier this month in France. From Reuters' coverage: Coming a week after Islamist gunmen killed 17 people in Paris, the incident heightened fears across Europe of young local Muslims returning radicalised from Syria. But prosecutors' spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt said the Belgian probe had been under way before the Jan. 7 attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. ... Describing events in the quiet provincial town just after dark, he said: "The suspects immediately and for several minutes opened fire with military weaponry and handguns on the special units of the federal police before they were neutralised." ... Earlier in the day, prosecutors said they had detained a man in southern Belgium whom they suspected of supplying weaponry to Amedy Coulibaly, killer of four people at a Paris Jewish grocery after the Charlie Hebdo attack. After the violence in Verviers, La Meuse newspaper quoted an unidentified police officer saying: "We've averted a Belgian Charlie Hebdo."
IBM

The Mainframe Is Dead! Long Live the Mainframe! 164

Posted by samzenpus
from the brand-new-stuff dept.
HughPickens.com writes The death of the mainframe has been predicted many times over the years but it has prevailed because it has been overhauled time and again. Now Steve Lohr reports that IBM has just released the z13, a new mainframe engineered to cope with the huge volume of data and transactions generated by people using smartphones and tablets. "This is a mainframe for the mobile digital economy," says Tom Rosamilia. "It's a computer for the bow wave of mobile transactions coming our way." IBM claims the z13 mainframe is the first system able to process 2.5 billion transactions a day and has a host of technical improvements over its predecessor, including three times the memory, faster processing and greater data-handling capability. IBM spent $1 billion to develop the z13, and that research generated 500 new patents, including some for encryption intended to improve the security of mobile computing. Much of the new technology is designed for real-time analysis in business. For example, the mainframe system can allow automated fraud prevention while a purchase is being made on a smartphone. Another example would be providing shoppers with personalized offers while they are in a store, by tracking their locations and tapping data on their preferences, mainly from their previous buying patterns at that retailer.

IBM brings out a new mainframe about every three years, and the success of this one is critical to the company's business. Mainframes alone account for only about 3 percent of IBM's sales. But when mainframe-related software, services and storage are included, the business as a whole contributes 25 percent of IBM's revenue and 35 percent of its operating profit. Ronald J. Peri, chief executive of Radixx International was an early advocate in the 1980s of moving off mainframes and onto networks of personal computers. Today Peri is shifting the back-end computing engine in the Radixx data center from a cluster of industry-standard servers to a new IBM mainframe and estimates the total cost of ownership including hardware, software and labor will be 50 percent less with a mainframe. "We kind of rediscovered the mainframe," says Peri.
Cellphones

Ars: Samsung Gear VR Is Today's Best Virtual Reality 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the jury-still-out-on-today's-best-actual-reality dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Samsung took a distinctly different tack from Oculus VR in developing virtual reality tech. Whereas Oculus has a dedicated device, Samsung simply has a high-tech piece of headgear that you strap a Galaxy Note 4 phone into. A review popped up at Ars Technica after a month using the device, and they say it works surprisingly well. Quoting: "Though the weight of the two units is comparable, the Gear VR benefits from a strap system that distributes that weight on the upper forehead and the back of the skull rather than through an elastic death grip around the eye area."

They still say a purchase is hard to justify, simply because the content selection is lacking. But as that improves, the price tag will become worth it. "Simple, minimally interactive virtual reality experiences like The Deep, BluVR, and Titans of Space have become go-to apps when passing the Gear VR around a party for friends to check out. It's incredible just sitting in place and following along with your gaze as sea life or entire planets fly by in sharp, well-rendered, 360-degree glory."
Medicine

Silicon Valley's Quest To Extend Life 'Well Beyond 120' 273

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The Guardian has an interesting article on the current quest sweeping Silicon Valley to disrupt death, and the $1 million prize challenging scientists to push human lifespan past its apparent maximum of about 120 years. Hedge Fund Manager Joon Yun's Palo Alto Longevity Prize, which 15 scientific teams have so far entered, will be awarded in the first instance for restoring vitality and extending lifespan in mice by 50%.

"Billionaires and companies are bullish about what they can achieve. In September 2013 Google announced the creation of Calico, short for the California Life Company. Its mission is to reverse engineer the biology that controls lifespan and "devise interventions that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives." ... In April 2014 it recruited Cynthia Kenyon, a scientist acclaimed for work that included genetically engineering roundworms to live up to six times longer than normal, and who has spoken of dreaming of applying her discoveries to people.

Why might tech zillionaires choose to fund life extension research? Three reasons reckons Patrick McCray, a historian of modern technology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. First, if you had that much money wouldn't you want to live longer to enjoy it? Then there is money to be made in them there hills. But last, and what he thinks is the heart of the matter, is ideology. If your business and social world is oriented around the premise of "disruptive technologies", what could be more disruptive than slowing down or "defeating" aging?