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+ - Maps Suggest Marco Polo May Have "Discovered" America 1

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "For a guy who claimed to spend 17 years in China as a confidant of Kublai Khan, Marco Polo left a surprisingly skimpy paper trail. No Asian sources mention the footloose Italian. The only record of his 13th-century odyssey through the Far East is the hot air of his own Travels, which was actually an “as told to” penned by a writer of romances. But a set of 14 parchments, now collected and exhaustively studied for the first time, give us a raft of new stories about Polo’s journeys and something notably missing from his own account: maps. If genuine, the maps would show that Polo recorded the shape of the Alaskan coast—and the strait separating it from Asia—four centuries before Vitus Bering, the Danish explorer long considered the first European to do so. Perhaps more important, they suggest Polo was aware of the New World two centuries before Columbus."

+ - NASA asks Boeing, SpaceX to stop work on next-gen space taxi

Submitted by BarbaraHudson
BarbaraHudson (3785311) writes "Due to a challenge by Sierra Nevada, NASA has asked the winners for the next earth-to-orbit launch vehicles to halt work, at least temporarily.

After rewarding Boeing and SpaceX with the contracts to build the spacecrafts NASA is now asking the companies to stop their work on the project.

The move comes after aerospace company Sierra Nevada filed a protest of the decision after losing out on the bid.

Sierra Nevada was competing against Boeing and SpaceX for a share of the $6.8 billion CCP contracts. The contracts will cover all phases of development as well as testing and operational flights. Each contract will cover a minimum of two flights and a maximum of four, with each agency required to have one test flight with a NASA representative on board.

On Sept. 16, NASA announced who the winners were of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCAP) contracts. Sierra Nevada then filed a protest with the GAO on Sept. 26, and issued a statement saying the protest was asking for: “a further detailed review and evaluation of the submitted proposals and capabilities.”

According to NASA’s Public Affairs Office, this legal protest stops all work currently being done under these contracts. However, officials have not commented on whether-or-not the companies can continue working if they are using private funds.

Sierra Nevada's orbiter resembles a mini space shuttle. That alone (remember the problems with the tiles) should have been enough to disqualify them."

+ - Snowflake-shaped networks are easiest to mend->

Submitted by Z00L00K
Z00L00K (682162) writes "Networks shaped like delicate snowflakes are the ones that are easiest to fix when disaster strikes.

Power grids, the internet and other networks often mitigate the effects of damage using redundancy: they build in multiple routes between nodes so that if one path is knocked out by falling trees, flooding or some other disaster, another route can take over. But that approach can make them expensive to set up and maintain. The alternative is to repair networks with new links as needed, which brings the price down – although it can also mean the network is down while it happens.

As a result, engineers tend to favour redundancy for critical infrastructure like power networks, says Robert Farr of the London Institute for Mathematical Sciences.

So Farr and colleagues decided to investigate which network structures are the easiest to repair. Some repairs just restore broken links in their original position, but that may not always be possible. So the team looked at networks that require links in new locations to get up and running again. They simulated a variety of networks, linking nodes in a regular square or triangular pattern and looked at the average cost of repairing different breaks, assuming that expense increases with the length of a rebuilt link."

Link to Original Source

+ - Fortune.com: Blame Tech Diversity On Culture, not Pipeline->

Submitted by FrnkMit
FrnkMit (302934) writes "Challenging a previous Code.org story on tech diversity, a Forbes.com writer interviewed 716 women who left the technology field. Her conclusion: corporate culture, and the larger social structure, is the primary cause they shook the sand of the tech industry from their shoes, never looking back. Specific issues include a lack of maternity policies in small companies, low pay which barely covers day care, "jokes" from male coworkers, and always feeling like the "odd duck". In reality, there are probably many intertwined causes: peer pressure at the high-school and college level, female-unfriendly geek culture, low pay, a lack of accommodations for pregnant/nursing mothers, the myth of "having it all", stereotype threat, and repeated assertions that women aren't biologically suited to writing software and therefore there's no problem at all."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:This again... (Score 2) 227

"On average, girls are - for whatever reason - less interested in math, physics, chemistry. ... Likely, these preferences are based in biology ..."

The Code.org article said none of this. In fact, it freely acknowledged social pressures that discourage women from entering or staying in tech. It's not unreasonable to suppose stories from women in tech discourage the next generation from even attempting to enter computer-related fields. It helps to read the freaking article.

As others have said, people -- mostly male upper-class Europeans -- have used biology to justify slavery, denying women/minorities the vote, giving harsher sentences to black or Eastern European defendants, and so on. (And I'm not even Godwinning.) Read Steven J. Gould's _The Mismeasure of Man_, then read Carol Tavris's _The Mismeasure of Woman_.

+ - Solar Could Lead In Power Production By 2050->

Submitted by Lucas123
Lucas123 (935744) writes "Solar power could be the leading source of electricity compared with other renewables and conventional sources of power, such as oil and coal, according to a pair of reports from International Energy Agency. PV panels could produce 16% of the world's electricity, while solar thermal electricity (STE) is on track to produce 11%. At the end of 2013, there had been 137GW of solar capacity deployed around the world. Each day, an additional 100MW of power is deployed. One reason solar is so promising are plummeting prices for photovoltaic cells and new technologies that promise greater solar panel efficiency. For example, MIT just published a report on a new a material that could be ideal for converting solar energy into heat by tuning the material's spectrum of absorption. Ohio State University just announced what it's referring to as the world's first solar battery, which integrates PV with storage at a microsopic level. "We've integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost," said iying Wu, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Correlation != causation, dammit (Score 1) 329

by FrnkMit (#47745365) Attached to: ACM Blames the PC For Driving Women Away From Computer Science

*People* are different, and like different things. Men and women, however, aren't that different (roles in reproduction excepted), so a statistically significant difference points to a social or psychological cause, not biology.

That said, the PC isn't itself the problem, as the TFA -- or maybe just the summary -- seems to imply. Looking at other professions with gender imbalances, though, one can posit a few underlying causes. a) Secretaries were once men who helped important people with important matters; once the typewriter came in, women seized on typing as a "respectable" way to support themselves and the modern secretarial pool was born. (See http://www.stuffmomnevertoldyou.com/podcasts/why-is-secretary-the-most-common-job-for-women-in-the-u-s/) b) Blechley Park and earlier research projects employed female "computers" before they developed electric ones because women worked hard and worked cheap. All the mathematical whizzes, however, were upper-class men; who would pay for a woman's education, when they would just get married and pop out kids? (See also Disney animators.)

Obviously somebody needs to do solid research, but one could hypothesize that the PC coincided with three trends: the growth of male-dominated "hacker" culture, the use of PCs by Serious Men for Serious Business, and the decline of mainframes (i.e. server rooms in which nobody knew or cared women worked). Without hard data, though, this is mere conjecture. Loads better than "women don't like computers", though.

Comment: Not a controversial question AT ALL ... (Score 2) 247

by FrnkMit (#46437519) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What's New In Legacy Languages?

Legacy properly describes a software system, not a language. Languages rise and fall in popularity. Sometimes a language has inherent limits, sometimes the implementation stinks, sometimes the syntax or paradigm no longer become fashionable. Sometimes languages and platforms disappear only to re-emerge years later. Back in the late 1990's NeXTSTEP/OPENSTEP was turning into a "legacy platform" ... yet today MacOSX and iOS rely on Objective-C and descendants of the NeXT APIs. Even if a language fades completely from the mainstream its ideas inspire new languages: Java borrowed from Objective-C and C++; Ruby borrowed from Perl, Smalltalk, and a little from Eiffel.

Stay in the industry long enough, you'll see everything come back.

Comment: Blame game (Score 1) 716

by FrnkMit (#46228413) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Should Developers Fix Bugs They Cause On Their Own Time?

Is this a valid analogy? In short, no. A bit longer answer: NOOOOOOO. For a full explanation, read on.

I can't speak to how construction works, but I know how software development and developers work. Usually software breaks not because of a bad developer, but because of integration issues and subtle interactions which are hard to detect, and even harder to assign "blame" to without a lot of investigation. The investigation is generally the hardest part, so you'll have to charge time already spent.

Worse, your boss is proposing a "blame game" where every defect is somebody's fault, almost always somebody on the current development team. Far from encouraging better software, this will keep developers from entering their own bugs (or any bugs) into the bug tracking system, and encourage finger-pointing rather than collaboration. Meanwhile, your boss thinks he'll save money by making developers work for free "on their own time". In the worst case, the person who touched a piece of code is IT, whether it's a legitimate mistake or a weird edge case. What you'll get is a workplace full of egos, fiefdoms ("don't mess up MY code"), and destructive competition.

Censorship

Aussies Hit the Streets Over Gov't Internet Filters 224

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the thinking-of-the-children dept.
mask.of.sanity writes "Outraged aussies will hold simultaneous protests across Australia in opposition to the government's plans for mandatory ISP internet content filtering. The plan will introduce nation-wide filtered internet using blacklists operated by a government agency, away from public scrutiny. Politicians and ISPs will join protesters in the streets to voice their opposition to the government's plan, which has ploughed ahead, despite intense criticism that the technology will crippled internet speeds and infringe on free speech. Opponents said the most accurate filter chosen by the government will incorrectly block up to 10,000 Web pages out of 1 million."
The Internet

Bittorrent To Cause Internet Meltdown 872

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the packet-schmacket dept.
Gimble writes "Richard Bennett has an article at the Register claiming that a recent uTorrent decision to use UDP for file transfers to avoid ISP 'traffic management' restrictions will cause a meltdown of the internet reducing everybody's bandwidth to a quarter of their current value. Other folks have also expressed concern that this may not be the best thing for the internet."
Education

How Regulations Hamper Chemical Hobbyists 610

Posted by timothy
from the council-of-wise-men-strikes-again dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Chemical & Engineering News just ran this story that relates how government regulations create a terribly restrictive atmosphere for people who do chemistry as a hobby. (A related story was previously posted.)" The article gives some examples of why hamfisted regulations are harmful even to those who aren't doing the chemistry themselves: "Hobby chemists will tell you that home labs have been the source of some of chemistry's greatest contributions. Charles Goodyear figured out how to vulcanize rubber with the same stove that his wife used to bake the family's bread. Charles Martin Hall discovered the economical electrochemical process for refining aluminum from its ore in a woodshed laboratory near his family home. A plaque outside Sir William Henry Perkin's Cable Street residence in London notes that the chemist 'discovered the first aniline dyestuff, March 1856, while working in his home laboratory on this site and went on to found science-based industry.'"
The Internet

China Defines Internet Addiction 201

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the one-more-addiction-to-the-list dept.
narramissic writes "Three years after the first clinic dedicated to Internet addiction opened in Beijing, Chinese doctors have now officially defined it as an ailment. Those afflicted with this ailment spend six or more hours a day online and exhibit at least one of the following symptoms: difficulty sleeping or concentrating, yearning to be online, irritation, and mental or physical distress. Do you meet the criteria? You're in good company: About 10 percent of China's 253 million Internet users exhibit some form of addiction to the medium, and 70 percent of those people are young men, an official Xinhua News Agency report said."

Comment: Re:Better games? (Score 1) 243

by FrnkMit (#23146798) Attached to: D&D 4th Ed vs. Open Gaming
[I]Spirit of the Century[/I] technically uses the Open Gaming License, but it has no actual content from the d20 SRD. It just uses the text of the OGL for compatibility with FUDGE (which does the same), and in turn to make the core of the FATE system free for others to build upon.

See http://zork.net/~nick/loyhargil/fate3/fate3.html for the license (and the entire FATE 3/SotC SRD, as it currently exists).

The study of non-linear physics is like the study of non-elephant biology.

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