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Transportation

Hyperloop Testing Starts Next Year 127

Posted by Soulskill
from the series-of-tubes dept.
neanderslob writes: In 2013, Elon Musk told us about a theoretical transportation system he'd been thinking about for a while. It was called "hyperloop," and it was a tube-based system capable of sending people and things at speeds of up to 800mph. Now, a company called Hyperloop Transportation Technologies plans to start construction on an actual hyperloop next year. The idea is to build it to serve Quay Valley (a proposed 75,000-resident solar power city in Kings County, California). The project will be paid for with $100 million the company expects to raise through a direct public offering in the third quarter of this year. The track itself will be a 5-mile loop and won't reach anywhere close to the 800mph Musk proposed in his white paper — but it's a start.
Science

Is That Dress White and Gold Or Blue and Black? 327

Posted by timothy
from the enoy-your-lovely-ochre-sky dept.
HughPickens.com writes Color scientists already have a word for it: Dressgate. Now the Washington Post reports that a puzzling thing happened on Thursday night consuming millions — perhaps tens of millions — across the planet and trending on Twitter ahead of even Jihadi John's identification. The problem was this: Roughly three-fourths of people swore that this dress was white and gold, according to BuzzFeed polling but everyone else said it's dress was blue. Others said the dress could actually change colors. So what's going on? According to the NYT our eyes are able to assign fixed colors to objects under widely different lighting conditions. This ability is called color constancy. But the photograph doesn't give many clues about the ambient light in the room. Is the background bright and the dress in shadow? Or is the whole room bright and all the colors are washed out? If you think the dress is in shadow, your brain may remove the blue cast and perceive the dress as being white and gold. If you think the dress is being washed out by bright light, your brain may perceive the dress as a darker blue and black.

According to Beau Lotto, the brain is doing something remarkable and that's why people are so fascinated by this dress. "It's entertaining two realities that are mutually exclusive. It's seeing one reality, but knowing there's another reality. So you're becoming an observer of yourself. You're having tremendous insight into what it is to be human. And that's the basis of imagination." As usual xkcd has the final word.
It would make the comments more informatively scannable if you include your perceived color pair in the title of any comments below.
Programming

Invented-Here Syndrome 149

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-of-this-has-happened-before-and-all-of-this-will-happen-again dept.
edA-qa writes: Are you afraid to write code? Does the thought linger in your brain that somewhere out there somebody has already done this? Do you find yourself trapped in an analysis cycle where nothing is getting done? Is your product mutating to accommodate third party components? If yes, then perhaps you are suffering from invented-here syndrome.

Most of use are aware of not-invented-here syndrome, but the opposite problem is perhaps equally troublesome. We can get stuck in the mindset that there must be a product, library, or code sample, that already does what we want. Instead of just writing the code we need a lot of effort is spent testing out modules and trying to accommodate our own code. At some point we need to just say, 'stop!', and write the code ourselves.
Medicine

Surgeon: First Human Head Transplant May Be Just Two Years Away 207

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."
Facebook

Facebook's Colonies 53

Posted by Soulskill
from the sun-always-sets-on-the-facebook-empire dept.
sarahnaomi writes: Facebook this week released a major report on global internet access, as part of the company's Internet.org campaign, which aims to bring cheap internet to new markets in partnership with seven mobile companies. Facebook says 1.39 billion people used its product in December 2014, and it's natural for the company to try to corral the other four-fifths of the planet. But aside from ideals and growth markets, the report highlights a tension inherent to the question of access: When Facebook sets sail to disconnected markets, what version of the internet will it bring? In its report, Facebook advocates for closing the digital divide as quickly as we can, which is a good thing. But when Facebook argues that, "as use of the internet continues to expand, it will exert a powerful effect on the global economy, particularly in the developing world," it's arguing that any increase in access is inherently good, which isn't necessarily the case.
Democrats

Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Pipeline Bill 430

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-argue-about-oil-some-more dept.
An anonymous reader writes: As expected, President Obama has vetoed a bill that would have given the green light for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. "By saying no to the legislation, Mr. Obama retains the authority to make a final judgment on the pipeline on his own timeline. The White House has said the president would decide whether to allow the pipeline when all of the environmental and regulatory reviews are complete. ... Since 2011, the proposed Keystone pipeline, which would deliver up to 800,000 barrels daily of heavy petroleum from the oil sands of Alberta to ports and refineries on the Gulf Coast, has emerged as a broader symbol of the partisan political clash over energy, climate change and the economy."
Education

Using Microfinance to Develop Coding Talent (Video) 22

Posted by Roblimo
from the by-their-bootstraps dept.
Here's a quote from the CodersTrust website: 'CodersTrust is the brainchild of Ferdinand Kjærulff. As a Captain of the Danish army he served as recovery officer in Iraq after the fall of Saddam. He pioneered a recovery project with the allied forces, bringing internet and e-learning to the citizens of the region in which he was stationed. The project was a massive success and inspired him to eventually create CodersTrust – supported by Danida – with a vision to democratize access to education via the internet on a global scale.' A lofty vision, indeed. But with help from the original microfinance company, Grameen Bank, and the Danish International Development Agency (Danida), it seems to be coming true. Note: If you click the "Read" button below this paragraph, the video interview will play automatically.
Biotech

Police Use DNA To Generate a Suspect's Face 100

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-the-generic-looking-ones-you've-gotta-watch dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The NY Times has a pair of articles about a technology now being used in police investigations: computer generation of a suspect's face from only their DNA. Law enforcement in South Carolina had no pictures or descriptions of a man who murdered a mother and her daughter, but they had some of his DNA. From this, a company named Parabon NanoLabs used a technique called DNA phenotyping to create a rough portrait of the suspect's facial features, which the police then shared with the public.

The accuracy of these portraits is still an area of hot debate — most of them look rather generic. The NY Times staff tested it with a couple of their employees, circulating the DNA-inspired portraits and seeing if people could guess who it was supposed to be. None of the ~50 employees were able to identify reporter John Markoff, and only about 10 were able to identify video journalist Catherine Spangler. But even though the accuracy for a person's entire face is low, techniques for specific attributes, like eye color, have improved greatly. Of course, the whole situation raises a slew of civil liberties questions: "What traits are off limits? Should the authorities be able to test whether a suspect has a medical condition or is prone to violence should such testing be possible?"
Google

Google Teams Up With 3 Wireless Carriers To Combat Apple Pay 186

Posted by samzenpus
from the working-together dept.
HughPickens.com writes AP reports that in an effort to undercut Apple's hit service Apple Pay, Google is teaming up with three wireless carriers by building its payment service into Android smartphones sold by AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA. Besides trying to make it more convenient to use Wallet, Google also is hoping to improve the nearly 4-year-old service. Toward that end, Google is buying some mobile payment technology and patents from Softcard, a 5-year-old venture owned by the wireless carriers. Financial terms weren't disclosed but Apple Pay's popularity probably helped forge the unlikely alliance between Google and the wireless carriers. Google traditionally has had a prickly relationship with the carriers, largely because it doesn't believe enough has been done to upgrade wireless networks and make them cheaper so more people can spend more time online.

The biggest challenge however is one that both Apple and Google face: Only a small fraction of the 10 million or so retail outlets in the U.S.–220,000 at last count–have checkout readers that can accept payments from either system. Both wallets use a radio technology called Near Field Communication to send payment, and it's expected to take years for most stores to be upgraded. What's at play? The big tech companies and carriers seem convinced that our phones will eventually replace our wallets. For carriers, that could make mobile wallet technology table stakes over the next few years as they compete for consumers.
Crime

Al-Shabaab Video Threat Means Heightened Security at Mall of America 241

Posted by timothy
from the worst-case-scenarios dept.
Reuters and other news outlets carry the news that the Minnesota's gigantic Mall of America is under heightened security after a video threat posted online by terrorist group Al-Shabaab. Also at CNN and CBS News. According to Reuters' version of the story: The U.S. homeland security chief said on Sunday he takes seriously a threat made by Somali-based Islamist militants against shopping malls, including the Mall of America in Minnesota, and urged people going there to be careful. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was reacting to a video released by al Shabaab appearing to call for attacks on Western shopping areas, specifically mentioning Mall of America, the West Edmonton Mall in Canada and London's Oxford Street. ... Mall officials issued a statement about the threat made by the group, saying they are monitoring events with the help of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. "Mall of America has implemented extra security precautions, some may be noticeable to guests, and others won’t be," the officials said.
Medicine

Drug-Resistant Malaria May Pose Major Threat 71

Posted by timothy
from the not-just-crazy-dream-pills dept.
According to Newsweek, "A strain of drug-resistant malaria that was discovered last summer along the Thailand-Cambodia border has been been spreading throughout Southeast Asia, to Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar." Specifically, the samples are resistant to anti-malarial artemisinin. The study analyzed more than 900 blood samples from malaria patients at over 55 different sites in Myanmar. The results showed that the drug-resistant bug was widespread, and dangerously close to the Indian border in the country’s Sagaing region. "Our study shows that artemisinin resistance extends over more of southeast Asia than had previously been known, and is now present close to the border with India,” wrote the researchers in the study abstract.
Graphics

Smart Rendering For Virtual Reality 24

Posted by Soulskill
from the works-way-better-than-dumb-rendering dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Intel have been working on new methods for improving the rendering speed for modern wide-angle head-mounted displays like the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard. Their approach makes use of the fact that because of the relatively cheap and lightweight lenses the distortion astigmatism happens: only the center area can be perceived very sharp, while with increasing distance from it, the perception gets more and more blurred. So what happens if you don't spend the same amount of calculations and quality for all pixels? The blog entry gives hints to future rendering architectures and shows performance numbers.
The Courts

Federal Court: Theft of Medical Records Not an 'Imminent Danger' To Victim 149

Posted by Soulskill
from the physician-secure-thy-networks dept.
chicksdaddy writes: A federal court in Texas ruled last week that a massive data breach at a hospital in that state didn't put patients at imminent risk of identity theft, even when presented with evidence that suggested stolen patient information was being used in attempted fraud and identity theft schemes. According to a post over at Digital Guardian's blog Beverly Peters was one more than 400,000 patients of St. Joseph Hospital whose information was stolen by hackers in an attack that took place between December 16 and 18, 2013.

Peters alleged that her personal information had been exposed in the breach and then disseminated in the public domain, where it was being "misused by unauthorized and unknown third parties." Specifically: Peters reported that, subsequent to the breach at St. Josephs, her Discover credit card was used to make a fraudulent purchase and that hackers had tried to infiltrate her Amazon.com account — posing as her son. Also: telemarketers were using the stolen information. Peters claimed that, after the breach, she was besieged with calls and solicitations for medical products and services companies, with telemarketers asking to speak to her and with specific family members, whose contact information was part of the record stolen from St. Joseph's.

As a result, Peters argued that she faced an "imminent injury" due to "increased risk" of future identity theft and fraud because of the breach at St. Joseph, and wished to sue the hospital for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). But the court found otherwise, ruling that Peters lacked standing to bring the case in federal court under Article III of the Constitution.
Space

Theory of Information Could Resolve One of the Great Paradoxes of Cosmology 182

Posted by Soulskill
from the bits-of-energy dept.
KentuckyFC writes: When physicists attempt to calculate the energy density of the universe from first principles, the number they come up using quantum mechanics is 10^94 g/cm^3 . And yet the observed energy density is about 10^-27 g/cm^3. In other words, our best theory of reality misses the mark by 120 orders of magnitude. Now one researcher says the paradox can be resolved by considering the information content of the universe. Specifying the location of the 10^25 stars in the visible universe to an accuracy of 10 cubic kilometers requires some 10^93 bits. And using Landauer's principle to calculate the energy associated with all these bits gives an energy density of about 10^-30 g/cm^3. That's not a bad first principles result. But if the location has to be specified to the Planck length, then the energy density is about 117 orders of magnitude larger. In other words, the nature of information should lie at the heart of our best theory of reality, not quantum mechanics.
Communications

MN Legislature Introduces Amendment To Protect Electronic Communications 46

Posted by Soulskill
from the finally-moving-with-the-times dept.
Bob the Super Hamste writes: The Minnesota legislature has introduced an amendment to the State Constitution to enshrine the protections against unreasonable search and seizure to electronic communications and data. The amendment appears to have broad support in the State House, but leadership in the State Senate is lukewarm to it. In the Senate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Latz (DFL) had blocked the amendment, stating that he feels it is redundant. Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL) opposes the legislation because it is an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution. If it passed, Minnesota would become only the second state to enact such a change (Missouri did so last year with support from 75% of voters).
AI

Breakthrough In Face Recognition Software 142

Posted by Soulskill
from the anonymity-takes-another-hit dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Face recognition software underwent a revolution in 2001 with the creation of the Viola-Jones algorithm. Now, the field looks set to dramatically improve once again: computer scientists from Stanford and Yahoo Labs have published a new, simple approach that can find faces turned at an angle and those that are partially blocked by something else. The researchers "capitalize on the advances made in recent years on a type of machine learning known as a deep convolutional neural network. The idea is to train a many-layered neural network using a vast database of annotated examples, in this case pictures of faces from many angles. To that end, Farfade and co created a database of 200,000 images that included faces at various angles and orientations and a further 20 million images without faces. They then trained their neural net in batches of 128 images over 50,000 iterations. ... What's more, their algorithm is significantly better at spotting faces when upside down, something other approaches haven't perfected."
Businesses

Advice on How to Start an IT Business (Video) 91

Posted by Roblimo
from the if-you're-the-boss-and-you-don't-like-the-boss-you-have-a-big-problem dept.
Lee Drake owns a small IT service and sales company in Rochester, New York, called OS Cubed. He was a cubicle denizen many years ago, and didn't like it. So he started his own business, first with a partner and later as the sole owner. Rochester may be part of the infamous "rust belt," but Lee seems to be doing well, to the point where he's happy to pass on some tips about how to start and grow your own IT business. While Lee's company specializes in "Microsoft solutions," his advice applies to almost any IT business -- and almost any other kind of business, too.
Science

Game Theory Calls Cooperation Into Question 249

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-we-all-just-get-along dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from Quanta Magazine: The physicist Freeman Dyson and the computer scientist William Press, both highly accomplished in their fields, have found a new solution to a famous, decades-old game theory scenario called the prisoner's dilemma, in which players must decide whether to cheat or cooperate with a partner. The prisoner's dilemma has long been used to help explain how cooperation might endure in nature. After all, natural selection is ruled by the survival of the fittest, so one might expect that selfish strategies benefiting the individual would be most likely to persist. But careful study of the prisoner's dilemma revealed that organisms could act entirely in their own self-interest and still create a cooperative community.

Press and Dyson's new solution to the problem, however, threw that rosy perspective into question (abstract). It suggested the best strategies were selfish ones that led to extortion, not cooperation.

[Theoretical biologist Joshua] Plotkin found the duo's math remarkable in its elegance. But the outcome troubled him. Nature includes numerous examples of cooperative behavior. For example, vampire bats donate some of their blood meal to community members that fail to find prey. Some species of birds and social insects routinely help raise another's brood. Even bacteria can cooperate, sticking to each other so that some may survive poison. If extortion reigns, what drives these and other acts of selflessness?"
The Military

West Point and Marines Launch Open Cyber Conflict Journal 31

Posted by Soulskill
from the military-strategy-by-committee dept.
rumint writes: The Army Cyber Institute at West Point and the Marine Corps Cyberspace Command just launched an open journal studying cyber conflict — Cyber Defense Review. It focuses on strategy, operations, tactics, history, ethics, law and policy in the cyber domain. The Cyber Defense Review is positioning itself as the leading online and print journal for issues related to cyber conflict for military, industry, professional and academic scholars, practitioners and operators interested providing timely and important research to advance the body of knowledge in an inherently multi-disciplinary field.
Space

Five Glorious Years of Sun Images In a Four-Minute Video 49

Posted by Soulskill
from the dang,-sun dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In early 2010, NASA launched the Solar Dynamics Observatory. It carried a number of sensors dedicated to watching and measuring various aspects of the Sun. The SDO's team just celebrated its fifth anniversary by going through a half-decade worth of images, pulling out the most amazing ones, and stitching them into an amazing video (YouTube). It includes enormous flares, sunspots, the transit of Venus, and more.