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Submission + - Climate Scientist Wins Defamation Suit Against National Post (huffingtonpost.ca)

Layzej writes: A leading Canadian climate scientist has been awarded $50,000 in a defamation suit against The National Post newspaper. Andrew Weaver sued the Post over four articles published between December 2009 and February 2010. The articles contain “grossly irresponsible falsehoods that have gone viral on the Internet,” and they “poison” the debate over climate change, Weaver asserted in a statement at the time the suit was filed.

The judge agreed, concluding “the defendants have been careless or indifferent to the accuracy of the facts. As evident from the testimony of the defendants, they were more interested in espousing a particular view than assessing the accuracy of the facts.”

This is the first of several law suits launched by climate scientists against journalists who have published alleged libels and falsehoods. Climate scientist Ben Santer suggests the following explanation for these types of defamations: "if you can’t attack the underlying science, you go after the scientist.”

Submission + - Why It's So Hard to Probe the Cat Mind (slate.com)

sciencehabit writes: The last fifteen years has seen an explosion in studies on canine cognition, with nearly a dozen laboratories around the world investigating the doggy mind. But what about cats? Almost no one studies them--and with good reason. According to this story in Slate, cats are "the world's most uncooperative research subject", with one scientist claiming they're harder to work with than fish. Still, some intriguing insights are emerging, including one telling study that explains the differences in personality between cats and dogs.

Submission + - Elite Violinists Fail to Distinguish Legendary Violins From Modern Fiddles (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: If you know only one thing about violins, it is probably this: A 300-year-old Stradivarius supposedly possesses mysterious tonal qualities unmatched by modern instruments. However, even elite violinists cannot tell a Stradivarius from a top-quality modern violin, a new double-blind study suggests. Like the sound of coughing during the delicate second movement of Beethoven's violin concerto, the finding seems sure to annoy some people, especially dealers who broker the million-dollar sales of rare old Italian fiddles. But it may come as a relief to the many violinists who cannot afford such prices.

Submission + - Exxon Mobile CEO Sues to Stop Fracking Near His Texas Ranch

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: Exxon Mobile's CEO Rex Tillerson's day job is to do all he can to protect and nurture the process of hydraulic fracturing—aka ‘fracking’—so that his company can continue to rake in billions via the production and sale of natural gas. “This type of dysfunctional regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth, and global competitiveness," said Tillerson in 2012 of attempts to increase oversight of drilling operations. But now Rick Unger reports at Forbes that Tillerson has joined a lawsuit seeking to shut down a fracking project near his Texas ranch. Why? Because the 160 foot water tower being built next to Tillerson’s house that will supply the water to the near-by fracking site, means the arrival of loud trucks, an ugly tower next door, and the general unpleasantness that will interfere with the quality of his life and the real estate value of his sizeable ranch. The water tower is being built by Cross Timbers Water Supply Corp., a nonprofit utility that has supplied water to the region for half a century. Cross Timbers says that it is required by state law to build enough capacity to serve growing demand. In 2011, Bartonville denied Cross Timbers a permit to build the water tower, saying the location was reserved for residences. The water company sued, arguing that it is exempt from municipal zoning because of its status as a public utility. In May 2012, a state district court judge agreed with Cross Timbers and compelled the town to issue a permit. The utility resumed construction as the town appealed the decision. Later that year, the Tillersons and their co-plaintiffs sued Cross Timbers, saying that the company had promised them it wouldn't build a tower near their properties. An Exxon spokesman said Tillerson declined to comment. The company “has no involvement in the legal matter” and its directors weren’t told of Mr. Tillerson’s participation, the spokesman said.

Submission + - Source Engine 2 images potentially leaked (playerattack.com)

UgLyPuNk writes: A handful of images claiming to show the Source Engine 2 have surfaced on the internet. Sure, it's showing off an older game — Left 4 Dead 2 — but these snaps are far, far shinier than any four-year old game has a right to.

Submission + - Neil DeGrasse Tyson Is Bringing Back Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" in 2014 (space.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The most excellent Neil deGrasse Tyson worked with Carl Sagan's widow and producer of the original Cosmos series Ann Druyan on a new version of the show that's going to begin airing in March. (The original Cosmos production team all worked on in, along with Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane.)

Submission + - Dell Joins Steam Machine Initiative With Alienware System (hothardware.com) 1

MojoKid writes: Plenty of OEMs have lifted the veil on their planned Steam Machine products but Dell really seems to want to brake free of the pack with their Alienware-designed small form factor machine that they unveiled at CES this week. It's surprisingly tiny, sleek and significantly smaller than the average game console, weighing only about 4 — 6 pounds fully configured. Dell had a prototype of the machine on hand that is mechanically exact, complete with IO ports and lighting accents. Dell also had a SteamOS driven system running, though and it was actually a modified Alienware system powering the action with Valve's innovative Steam Controller. In first person shooters like Metro Last Night, that Dell was demonstrating, the left circular pad can be setup for panning and aiming in traditional AWSD fashion, while the right pad can be used for forward and back movement with triggers setup for firing and aiming down site. You can, however, customize control bindings to your liking and share profiles and bindings with friends on the Steam network. What's notable about Dell's unveiling is that the Steam Machines initiative gained some critical mass with a major OEM like Dell behind the product offering, in addition to the handful of boutique PC builders that have announced products thus far.

Submission + - 300,000 West Virginians Told Not To Drink Or Bathe After Chemical Leak 4

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: Reuters reports that up to 300,000 West Virginia residents have been told not to drink tap water after a chemical spill called its safety into question, and health officials said water in the affected area should only be used for flushing toilets and fighting fires. "We don't know that the water's not safe, but I can't say it is safe," says Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water Co, The spill of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, or Crude MCHM, a chemical used in the coal industry, occurred on Thursday on the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia's capital upriver from the plant run by West Virginia American Water. The chemical, which smells like licorice, can cause headaches, eye and skin irritation, and difficulty breathing from prolonged exposures at high concentrations, according to the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. Officials in West Virginia said they did not know how much of the chemical had leaked into the river or what its potential health impact might be. While there haven't been widespread sicknesses, the ordeal is already having a profound impact. Businesses — such as 15 McDonald's in the area, have shut down. Hospitals have had to take emergency measures to conserve water. And residents have been left scrambling, as evidenced by empty shelves and growing worries. The rush now is on to fully assess and address the problem, including the chemical leak that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin characterized as "unacceptable." It is unclear how long that might take. “We cannot provide a timeline at this point,” says McIntyre.

Submission + - Extreme Diets Can Quickly Alter Gut Bacteria (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: With all the talk lately about how the bacteria in the gut affect health and disease, it's beginning to seem like they might be in charge of our bodies. But we can have our say, by what we eat. For the first time in humans, researchers have shown that a radical change in diet can quickly shift the microbial makeup in the gut and also alter what those bacteria are doing. The study takes a first step toward pinpointing how these microbes, collectively called the gut microbiome, might be used to keep us healthy.

Submission + - Intel Linux Driver Now Nearly As Fast As Windows OpenGL Driver (phoronix.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Intel's open-source Linux graphics driver is now running neck-and-neck with the Windows 8.1 driver for OpenGL performance between the competing platforms when using the latest drivers for each platform. The NVIDIA driver has long been able to run at similar speeds between Windows and Linux given the common code-base, but the Intel Linux driver is completely separate from their Windows driver due to being open-source and complying with the Linux DRM and Mesa infrastructure. The Intel Linux driver is still trailing the Windows OpenGL driver in supporting OpenGL4.

Submission + - Evolution in Science Textbooks for Texas Schools (nytimes.com) 1

windwalker13th writes: Recently the New York Times ran an article highlighting the pull that a State Board in Texas holds over that state and rest of the Nation. Because of the unique way in which Texas picks school textbooks (purchasing large volumes of textbooks at once to be used for the next decade) publishers pander to this board to get their books approved. The board currently holds several members (6 of 28 who are known to reject evolution) who hold creationist views and actively work to ensure that the science textbooks do not use as strong language or must include "critical thinking" about possible alternate explanations for evolution. The 'Theory of Evolution' as currently set forth while a "theory" is more FACT/LAW (Like Newtown’s Three Laws of Motion). So while our exact understanding of humans origins, if we evolved from monkeys as most evidence indicate or, were created a little while ago on the geological time frame by an all knowing creator, or were a planet seeded by aliens is still somewhat up for debate evolution is not. What can we as a society do to ensure that K-12 schools are teaching our kids that the change in features of Galapagos finches is the result of natural selection driven by changing environmental conditions and the process of evolution?
China

Submission + - New source of rare earths? (bbc.co.uk)

gyaku_zuki writes: "As reported in the BBC, a Japanese survey team has discovered 'vast' quantities of rare earths in international waters in the pacific ocean.
The search for alternative sources of these expensive elements (used in common consumer electronics including mobile phones) was intensified recently after a territory dispute with China, who produces more than 90% of the world's rare earths, resulted in China blocking export to Japan."

Java

Submission + - Using Java for libre software

Emacs.Cmode writes: I am a graduate student at a US university. I work with a bio-informatics lab where we use Java for server-side programming as well as for the client using Java Webstart. After the Oracle's take-over of Sun and then the recent controversy with Google's use of Java, I am beginning to wonder whether academia can safely continue to use Java. I am confused whether OpenJDK and IcedTea are immune from the influence of Oracle. Are FOSS programmers in academia and elsewhere guaranteed freedom as in free-speech if they use OpenJDK or IcedTea?

In my experience, academia, at least in bioinformatics, has begun to depend on Java platform (along with many other open source tools like Perl). It will be disruptive to move the existing code base to a different platform/language. But if we need to do so, the earlier we know, the better it will be for us.
NASA

Submission + - Higher life under the Antarctic, NASA finds (physorg.com)

sandertje writes: Previously, only microbial life was expected to live in the deep Antarctic ice. Now, NASA has found a shrimp and a jellyfish tentacle under six-hundred feet of crushing ice. This opens up questions as to whether these 'higher forms of live' could also thrive on other planets with ice caps, such as the Martian poles or Jovian moon Europa.
Security

Submission + - How to Guarantee Malware Detection (itworld.com) 1

itwbennett writes: Dr. Markus Jakobsson, Principal Scientist at PARC, explains how it is possible to guarantee the detection of malware, including zero-day attacks and rootkits and even malware that infected a device before the detection program was installed. The solution comes down to this, says Jakobsson: 'Any program — good or bad — that wants to be active in RAM has no choice but to take up some space in RAM. At least one byte.'

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