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+ - Is a Climate Disaster Inevitable?

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Astrophysicist Adam Frank has an interesting article in the NYT postulating one answer to the Fermi paradox — that the human evolution into a globe-spanning industrial culture is forcing us through the narrow bottleneck of a sustainability crisis and that civilization inevitably leads to catastrophic planetary changes. According to Frank, our current sustainability crisis may be neither politically contingent nor unique, but a natural consequence of laws governing how planets and life of any kind, anywhere, must interact. Some excerpts:

The defining feature of a technological civilization is the capacity to intensively “harvest” energy. But the basic physics of energy, heat and work known as thermodynamics tell us that waste, or what we physicists call entropy, must be generated and dumped back into the environment in the process. Human civilization currently harvests around 100 billion megawatt hours of energy each year and dumps 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the planetary system, which is why the atmosphere is holding more heat and the oceans are acidifying.

All forms of intensive energy-harvesting will have feedbacks, even if some are more powerful than others. A study by scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Jena, Germany, found that extracting energy from wind power on a huge scale can cause its own global climate consequences. When it comes to building world-girdling civilizations, there are no planetary free lunches.

By studying these nearby planets, we’ve discovered general rules for both climate and climate change (PDF). These rules, based in physics and chemistry, must apply to any species, anywhere, taking up energy-harvesting and civilization-building in a big way. For example, any species climbing up the technological ladder by harvesting energy through combustion must alter the chemical makeup of its atmosphere to some degree. Combustion always produces chemical byproducts, and those byproducts can’t just disappear

"

+ - Virgin Galactic Dumps Scaled Composites for Spaceship Two

Submitted by PvtVoid
PvtVoid (1252388) writes "Virgin Galactic, following an aggressive schedule to build a replacement for the Spaceship Two which crashed in October, is doing so without partner Scaled Composites, according to the Los Angeles Times. Kevin Mickey, the president of Scaled Composites, confirmed this week that his company would no longer be involved in testing. He said Scaled would still work as a consultant to Virgin Galactic."

+ - Is there any reason still to have Flash or Silverlight installed?

Submitted by seebach
seebach (1229742) writes "I've just removed both Silverlight and Flash from my systems. And I've checked homepages like NY Times, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. None of them showed up faulty without flash. So I'm wondering has the days finally come that we can remove these security hole infected plugins and browse a pure HTML web. Or is there some crucial service that is still using plugins?"

+ - First Baby Galapogos Tortoises Sighted in 150 Years->

Submitted by retroworks
retroworks (652802) writes "The Guardian, Nature, and other periodicals cover a report by Dr. James Gibbs of the State University of New York (SUNY-ESF) on the recent Pinzon Island population survey of giant tortoises. The survey of Galapogos (which means "tortoise" in Spanish) turned up the first reported sightings of baby tortoises in 150 years. Gibbs attributes the hopeful signs to a 2012 program to exterminate or control invasive rats, which are blamed for the low fertility rates, along with a 1982 repatriation of fertile tortoises from zoos. However, it's also possible, according to the article, that the researchers are just looking harder. The rare sightings may simply correlate with more frequent population surveys.

http://www.galapagos.org/blog/..."

Link to Original Source

+ - Bill Gates Needs an Online Education History Lesson

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes ""We're not fond of Bill Gates," wrote Philip Greenspun in 1999, "but it still hurts to see Microsoft struggle with problems that IBM solved in the 1960s." And, after reading the 2015 Gates Annual Letter, one worries that BillG might be struggling with online education problems that PLATO and other computer assisted instruction systems solved in the '60s and '70s. One of the five breakthroughs Bill and Melinda foresee in the next 15 years is that Better Software Will Revolutionize Learning, but the accompanying narrative suggests that Bill still doesn't know much about TechEd history. "Think back 15 years," the Gates write, "to when online education was first gaining traction. It amounted to little more than pointing a camera at a university lecturer and hitting the 'record' button. Students couldn't take online quizzes or connect with each other. It wasn't interactive at all." Think again, Bill. Check out A 1980 Teenager's View on Social Media, Brian Dear's ode to his experience with PLATO. Or ask ex-Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie to share his experiences with PLATO in the '70s, a decade that saw PLATO teaching reading to young children and computer science to college students like your then 18-year-old self. And while cheap microcomputers eventually killed the expensive PLATO CDC mainframe star, there are some lessons today's MOOCs could learn from studying their PLATO History, like providing easy-to-learn-and-use authoring software to allow courseware to be built by classroom instructors (pdf), not just Gates Foundation and Google-funded engineers. Keep on keepin' on Bill, but make sure your MOOC Research includes some history lessons!"

+ - Finding a way to share cover songs->

Submitted by blogologue
blogologue (681423) writes "OK, so a little while ago I had problems with SoundCloud ( http://blogologue.com/blog_ent... ), they took down a simple remix I made and gave me a dire warning that they would "terminate" my account.

Now I've got got a notice from MixCloud that they've taken down a song, even though it's my understanding that they pay licensing fees to the original creators so even though I make my own cover variant song of their song and all the income for that song goes to MixCloud and the content creators, they still take it down.

I think it's natural that people interpret popular culture and make works with popular culture. Popular music is also where a lot of people start, so there must be many, many people out there who want to share whatever they're working on, if just for fun (but also for feedback, a chance at getting noticed, making it big and so on). For me this music thing is a hobby so I'm not giving much thought to making money off it and all that entails, and to me it seems just wrong that it isn't possible to participate in a cultural exchange without getting hammered down like this.

Does anyone have suggestions on what I can do to share works that include other works without getting bothered?"

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+ - Doomsday Clock is now 3 minutes to midnight!-> 1

Submitted by Lasrick
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock two years later, using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet. The decision to move (or to leave in place) the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is made every year by the Bulletin's Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 17 Nobel laureates. The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world's vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and new technologies emerging in other domains. Today, the Clock was moved up 2 minutes; it is now 3 minutes to midnight. Here is the Board's statement on the move."
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+ - Blogger Who Revealed GOP Leader's KKK Ties Had Home Internet Lines Cut

Submitted by blottsie
blottsie (3618811) writes "Last month, Lamar White, Jr. set off a firestorm in Washington when a post on his personal blog revealed that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, was a featured speaker at a white nationalist conference put on by former Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. Then someone climbed in his back yard and severed his Internet cables."

+ - MIT's "Better Siri" Helps You Get There on Time->

Submitted by Zothecula
Zothecula (1870348) writes "Researchers at MIT are building a sophisticated algorithm to help with time-sensitive planning, estimating your chances of success and even suggesting alternate approaches that are more likely to succeed. The software, described by its creators as "a better Siri," could help plan projects on all scales, from long drives to air travel to multi-billion dollar NASA missions."
Link to Original Source

+ - Carnivorous pitcher plant "out-thinks" insects->

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 (797399) writes "A carnivorous pitcher plant is changing its behavior in response to natural weather fluctuations, allowing it to give up its prey in order to capture more.

The pitcher plant, which has liquid-filled leaves shaped like funnels, has the ability to allow some of its prey, such as ants, to escape by “switching off” its trap."

The first ant reports back to the other ants that it found a large batch of sweet nectar, causing a large contingent of ants to descend upon it. If the trap captures the first ant, it won’t be able to capture many more ants later."

Link to Original Source

+ - 300 Stanford professors call for full fossil fuel divestment->

Submitted by mdsolar
mdsolar (1045926) writes "Some 300 professors from Stanford University, California, have called for the school to fully divest from the fossil fuels industry, arguing that the magnitude of climate change calls for a thorough commitment, not a partial solution.

In May last year, the board of trustees at the prestigious university decided not to make any more direct investments in coal mining companies, stating that the energy source is polluting and no longer necessary given the clean alternatives now available. The school also said it would divest from the holdings it currently owns in such firms.

However, professors at the university are now calling for the school to get rid of all fossil fuel investments.

A letter from the professors, which has been published in the Guardian, notes that companies currently own fossil fuel holdings sufficient to produce 2,795 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide – five times the amount recommended if global warming is to remain with the 2C limit, past which scientists have warned that the effects of climate change will become more extreme and unpredictable."

Link to Original Source

+ - Revolutionary stretchable implant enables broken spinal cord to function again->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "A team from EPFL and NCCR Robotics lead by Profs Stéphanie Lacour, Grégoire Courtine and Silvestro Micera published an article in Science today describing their e-dura implant that could revolutionise how we think about and treat paralysis. Until now, implants placed beneath the dura mater of the spinal cord have caused significant tissue damage when used over long periods. Research shows that the new e-dura implant is viable for months at a time in animal subjects. The team is now moving on to clinical trials in human subjects and is developing their prototype to take to market."
Link to Original Source

+ - Researchers 'Solve' Limit Texas Hold'Em, Create Perfect Robotic Player

Submitted by Jason Koebler
Jason Koebler (3528235) writes "The best limit Texas Hold'Em poker player in the world is a robot. Given enough hands, it will never, ever lose, regardless of what its opponent does or which cards it is dealt.
Researchers at the University of Alberta essentially "brute forced" the game of limit poker, in which there are roughly 3 x 10^14 possible decisions. Cepheus runs through a massive table of all of these possible permutations of the game—the table itself is 11 terabytes of data—and decides what the best move is, regardless of opponent."

+ - John Yoo Thinks That Supreme Court Justices Are Superannuated->

Submitted by ZipK
ZipK (1051658) writes "In an Intelligence Squared debate this past October, John Yoo, best known for his authorship of the "Torture Memos," weighs in on the legality of the mass collection of U.S. phone records, and provides his view on the workings of the Constitution:

"But suppose you disagree with the Supreme Court, what should you do? Maybe I, as a policy matter, would draw the line between security and privacy somewhere else. We should decide it the way we decide most of the questions in our society: we have elections. This is not a question, as a democracy, that I think we should leave up to five — no offense to the retired people in the audience — superannuated, elderly people on the Supreme Court probably don't know how a cell phone or smart phone really works I'm sure have no Facebook or Twitter accounts to let you know about their latest opinions. And so if you really want to change the law here, and change what the government does, elect different people to Congress. Elect Rand Paul to President, have them put into affect the policies you want. That's how our constitution is designed to work."

Apparently Mr. Yoo does not believe the Supreme Court should be asked to review appellate decisions, and that the justices themselves are too old to understand a case that involves technology. For the record, Justice Breyer is on both Facebook and Twitter, though, as you'd expect of a U.S. Supreme Court justice, he doesn't use social media to communicate publicly about his cases."

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