00_NOP writes "The political battle over Scotland's independence ballot — to take place in September this year — has now moved on to how the BBC project the UK on their national weather forecast. The BBC use a projection based on the view of Britain from geostationary weather satellites and so there is naturally some foreshortening at the northern end of Britain (Scotland, in other words). But nationalist campaigners say this means Scottish viewers are constantly being shown a distorted image of their country which makes it look smaller and hence (in their view) less able to support independence. In response others have suggested that the nationalists are truly "flat earthers"."Link to Original Source
00_NOP writes "The idea of a plague breakout in an advanced economy feels like something relegated to the world of shlock movies or bad science fiction, but new evidence from the sequencing of the Yersinia pestis bacterium that killed victims of the sixth century "Plague of Justinian" (which is widely seen to have led to the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West) shows that it is of a different strain to that which caused the plagues of the 14th and 19th century — suggesting that a novel form of plague could break out and cause mass deaths."Link to Original Source
00_NOP writes "Imagine if a novel that celebrated creationism won the Pulitzer? A scandal surely...meanwhile in the UK our top literary prize (open to Commonwealth and Irish authors writing in English) has gone to a book that celebrates astrology and which is written by an author who offers up psycobabble defences of astrology's truth. Seems to me that British distain for US arguments about anti-science is misplaced and we ought to focus a bit more on the way anti-science is promoted over here."Link to Original Source
00_NOP writes "Researchers from the New School for Social Research in New York have demonstrated that if you read quality literary fiction you become a better person, in the sense that you are more likely to emphasise with others. Presumably we can all think of books that have changed the way we feel about the world — so this is, in a sense, a scientific confirmation of something fairly intuitive."Link to Original Source
00_NOP writes "A (NSFW — lots of swearing) Australian website contrasting the views of the two main parties in Saturday's Australian website has become an overnight (quite literally) sensation and also earned its creator some anonymous threats and a call from a lawyer claiming to be working for the leader of the opposition."
00_NOP writes "Amazon seem to devolve so little power and authority to their customer service staff that they are left to make recommendations to customers that both hurt Amazon's business — by piling up additional costs — and leave customers (this one at least) just as unhappy as before. In my case they stated that the only way I could get an international order correctly charged to my gift card, as opposed to my credit card, was to refuse delivery, have the goods returned and then place a new order. Surely an IT company can have better systems than this?"Link to Original Source
00_NOP writes "Encryption schemes are probably not quite as secure as has been previously thought — not because of the NSA but because source word behaviour does not follow the previously assumed patterns and so entropy in the coded message is not as high as expected, report researchers at the National University of Ireland and MIT.
That lack of entropy gets reflected in the encoded message as patterns of code and so makes it easier to find brute force cracks of the encrypted message.
The threat to real world encrypted messages is probably quite low — but it would not be the first time that a small chink in the armour is revealed to be a massive gash after a bit more work!"Link to Original Source
00_NOP writes ""Universal Credit" — the plan to consolidate all Britain's welfare payments into one — is the world's biggest "agile" software development project but it is now close to collapse the British government admitted yesterday. The failure, if and when it comes, could cost billions and have dire social consequences."Link to Original Source
00_NOP writes "Probably not, but a couple of pieces of new research suggest that it might help both avoid conflict (or at least predict its spread) and aid stock market investment strategies."Link to Original Source
00_NOP writes "The British government today outlined its legislative programme for the year ahead. Gone was a plan for a "snoopers' charter" that would have mandated all internet communications being logged for the benefit of law enforcers and in was a plan to match connections to IP addresses in some (unspecified) way. Surely the only way to do this is via IPv6 and noone is mad enough to enforce a transition to IPv6 by law, are they?!"Link to Original Source
00_NOP writes "One of Britain's biggest selling newspapers, the Mail on Sunday, today launches into what it calls the "sinister" idea that refrigerators should be fitted with technology — such as that promoted by Dynamic Demand — which would automatically switch devices off for a few seconds if the UK's unified National Grid showed signs of severe overloading (such as those seen commercial breaks in big TV events when tea-loving Brits rush to switch their kettles on). The claim that this is "Big Brother" technology surely does not stand up to examination, but the Mail On Sunday and its sister Daily Mail already have an unenviable reputation as highly effective anti-science publications."
00_NOP writes "If you know anything about quantum mechanics you'll almost certainly have heard of "Schrödinger’s cat" but will also regard it as little more than a thought experiment to demonstrate the strage ways in which quantum uncertainty shapes physics and measurement. But at the heart of quantum theory is the claim that all objects, of unlimited size, can demonstrate the "superimposition" the experiment describes (in this case the cat is both alive and prowling about and dead at the same time) and physicists have indeed been able to superimpose ever larger objects. Now two German physicists, Klaus Hornberger and Stefan Nimmrichter of the University of Duisberg-Essen, have proposed a logarthmic index for the scale of successful superimposition experiments. We've advanced by about six or seven orders of magnitude since the first superimposition experiments, but would have to get through another 45 OMs to have an undead cat, it seems. Could happen though?"Link to Original Source
00_NOP writes "The British domestic security service, MI5, has successfully contributed to the conviction of three would-be terrorists by recovering portions of documents the three had thought were unsaved. The three discussed possible terrorist targets by typing into a laptop but did not save the document. Yet MI5 were able to recover substantial portions of the document which was used as evidence. But why didn't MI5 use a Unicode capable hex editor?"Link to Original Source
00_NOP writes "The scientific results are in and a paper published by the US National Academy of Sciences reports it is true that women really do prefer men with larger penises. There are a couple of compensations for those with penises on the smaller size: that tallness is around as attractive as a large penis and if you are neither tall nor have a large penis then getting ripped — or having broad shoulders and slim hips naturally — also helps.
I just hope this doesn't give the spammers more energy!"Link to Original Source
00_NOP writes "All new scientific theories (and all new software) should be patented in the United States argues David Edwards, a retired associate professor of mathematics, writing in the current edition of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society. Edwards cites General Relativity as the sort of theory that could have been patented in the past."Link to Original Source