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Submission + - Fake Bomb Detector, Blamed for Hundreds of Deaths, Is Still in Use writes: Murtaza Hussain writes at The Intercept that although it remains in use at sensitive security areas throughout the world, the ADE 651 is a complete fraud and the ADE-651’s manufacturer sold it with the full knowledge that it was useless at detecting explosives. There are no batteries in the unit and it consists of a swivelling aerial mounted to a hinge on a hand-grip. The device contains nothing but the type of anti-theft tag used to prevent stealing in high street stores and critics have likened it to a glorified dowsing rod.

The story of how the ADE 651 came into use involves the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. At the height of the conflict, as the new Iraqi government battled a wave of deadly car bombings, it purchased more than 7,000 ADE 651 units worth tens of millions of dollars in a desperate effort to stop the attacks. Not only did the units not help, the device actually heightened the bloodshed by creating “a false sense of security” that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of Iraqi civilians. A BBC investigation led to a subsequent export ban on the devices.

The device is once again back in the news as it was reportedly used for security screening at hotels in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh where a Russian airliner that took off from that city’s airport was recently destroyed in a likely bombing attack by the militant Islamic State group. Speaking to The Independent about the hotel screening, the U.K. Foreign Office stated it would “continue to raise concerns” over the use of the ADE 651. James McCormick, the man responsible for the manufacture and sale of the ADE 651, received a 10-year prison sentence for his part in manufacture of the devices, sold to Iraq for $40,000 each. An employee of McCormick who later became a whistleblower said that after becoming concerned and questioning McCormick about the device, McCormick told him the ADE 651 “does exactly what it’s designed to. It makes money.”

Submission + - Texas narrowly rejects allowing academics to fact-check public school textbooks (

jriding writes: AUSTIN, Texas â" Top Texas education officials rejected Wednesday letting university experts fact-check textbooks approved for use in public-school classrooms statewide, instead reaffirming a vetting system that has helped spark years of ideological battles over how potentially thorny lessons in history and science are taught.

Submission + - Google Declares "Smart White Males With Glasses" Public Enemy No. 1

theodp writes: Let's play Jeopardy! A. Al Capone. John Dillinger. Pretty Boy Floyd. Baby Face Nelson. Smart white males with glasses. Q. Who is Public Enemy No. 1? In partnership with Gallup, Google has released a second report on its take of the state of U.S. K-12 CS education. Entitled Images of Computer Science: Perceptions Among Students, Parents and Educators in the U.S., a key finding of the report is that bespectacled White and Asian male Computer Scientists are apparently the new menace to society. "Students and parents perceive that there are few portrayals of women, Hispanic or Black computer scientists on TV or in movies," the report explains in it Key Findings. "These groups are much more likely to see White or Asian men engaged in computer science. They also often see computer scientists portrayed wearing glasses." In an accompanying post at the Google for Education blog, Google Head of R&D for K-12 Education Sepi Hejazi Moghadam gets more specific, declaring smart White males with glasses Public Enemy No. 1: "The results show that there’s high value and interest in CS among all demographics, and even more so for lower-income parents. But unfortunately perceptions of who CS is for and who is portrayed in CS are narrow-White, male, smart with glasses. Even though they value it, students often don't see themselves in it." By the way, for a company that's chock-full-o-Data-Scientists, the Google report's spin on AP CS testing results includes a nugget ("among the 49 states with at least one student taking the computer science exam, 12 had no Black students participating in 2014") that is likely to alarm but mislead readers who are not informed that overall AP CS participation is dismal regardless of race/ethnicity for these states.

Submission + - Seven Ways CEO Jeff Bezos Can Encourage Women to Join Amazon (

reifman writes: All of the former Amazon employees who spoke to the New York Times on the record placed their future careers at risk. The stories from some of the women brave enough to speak out were chilling and reflect evidence of misogyny within Amazon. Bezos had asked Amazon employees to immediately report any such behavior and suggested that there would be zero tolerance for it. Yet, shortly after, his spokesman Jay Carney publicly attacked those brave enough to speak to reporters, which only underscored their point. One commentator wrote that Carney's actual intent was to intimidate remaining employees from speaking up, an echo of the initial attacks on Bill Cosby's accusers. Here are seven ways Bezos can encourage women to join Amazon.

Submission + - Symbolic vs. Mnemonic Relational Operators: Is "GT" Greater Than ">"?

theodp writes: "Mnemonic operators," writes SAS's Rick Wicklin as he weighs the pros-and-cons of Symbolic Versus Mnemonic Logical Operators, "tend to appear in older languages like FORTRAN, whereas symbolic operators are common in more recent languages like C/C++, although some relatively recent scripting languages like Perl, PHP, and Windows PowerShell also support mnemonic operators. SAS software has supported both operators in the DATA step since the very earliest days, but the SAS/IML language, which is more mathematically oriented, supports only the symbolic operators. Functionally, the operators are equivalent, so which ones you use is largely a matter of personal preference. Since consistency and standards are essential when writing computer programming, which operators should you choose?"

Submission + - 8 of the 10 Security Flaws Used by Cyber-Criminals This Year Were Flash Bugs

An anonymous reader writes: Adobe Flash Player provided eight of the top 10 vulnerabilities used by exploit kits in 2015. Angler is currently the most popular exploit kit, regularly tied to malware including Cryptolocker. Vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Silverlight are also major targets. All of these are the conclusions of a Recorded Future report.

Submission + - UK gov't can demand backdoors, give prison sentences for disclosing them (

An anonymous reader writes: Buried in the 300 pages of the draft Investigatory Powers Bill (aka the Snooper's Charter), published on Wednesday, is something called a "technical capability notice" (Section 189). Despite its neutral-sounding name, this gives the UK's home secretary almost unlimited power to impose "an obligation on any relevant operators"—any obligation—subject to the requirement that "the Secretary of State considers it is reasonable to do so."

There is also the proviso that "it is (and remains) practicable for those relevant operators to comply with those requirements," which probably rules out breaking end-to-end encryption, but would still allow the home secretary to demand that companies add backdoors to their software and equipment.

That's bad enough, but George Danezis, an associate professor in security and privacy engineering at University College London, points out that the Snooper's Charter is actually much, much worse. The Investigatory Powers Bill would also make it a criminal offence, punishable with up to 12 months in prison and/or a fine, for anyone involved to reveal the existence of those backdoors, in any circumstances (Section 190(8).)

Submission + - Bitcoin Inventor Satoshi Nakamoto Nominated for Nobel Prize writes: Nobel Prizes are given for making important — preferably fundamental — breakthroughs in the realm of ideas and that just what Satoshi Nakamoto has done according to Bhagwan Chowdhry, a professor of finance at UCLA, who has nominated Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin, for a Nobel prize in economics. Chowdhry writes that Prize Committee for the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, popularly known as the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, has invited Chowdhry to nominate someone for the 2016 Prize and he started thinking about whose ideas are likely to have a disruptive influence in the twenty first century. "The invention of bitcoin — a digital currency — is nothing short of revolutionary," says Chowdhry. "It offers many advantages over both physical and paper currencies. It is secure, relying on almost unbreakable cryptographic code, can be divided into millions of smaller sub-units, and can be transferred securely and nearly instantaneously from one person to any other person in the world with access to internet bypassing governments, central banks and financial intermediaries." Satoshi Nakamoto's Bitcoin Protocol has also spawned exciting innovations in the FinTech space by showing how many financial contracts — not just currencies — can be digitized, securely verified and stored, and transferred instantaneously from one party to another.

There's only one problem. Who is Satoshi Nakamoto? Suppose that the Nobel Committee is convinced that Satoshi Nakamoto deserves the Prize. Now the problem it will face is how to contact him to announce that he has won the Prize. According to Chowdhry, Nakamoto can be informed by contacting him online just the same way people have communicated with him in the past and he has anonymously communicated with the computer science and cryptography community. If he accepts the award, he can verifiably communicate his acceptance. Finally, there is the issue of the Prize money. Nakamoto is already in possession of several hundred million U.S. dollars worth of bitcoins so the additional prize money may not mean much to him. "Only if he wants, the committee could also transfer the prize money to my bitcoin address, 165sAHBpLHujHbHx2zSjC898oXEz25Awtj," concludes Chowdhry. "Mr Nakamoto and I will settle later."

Submission + - Nonreligious children are more generous (

sciencehabit writes: Religious doctrines typically urge the faithful to treat others with compassion and to put the greater good before selfish interests. But when it comes to generosity, nonreligious kids seem to be more giving, according to a new study of 1170 children from around the world. Children from religious homes—particularly Muslims—also showed a greater inclination to judge someone’s misdeeds as wrong and punish the perpetrators. The study, the first large-scale analysis of its kind, suggests that religion and moral behavior don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand for children.

Submission + - FBI And Join UK Against Forces Against Spread Of Dridex Banking Malware (

An anonymous reader writes: The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has issued a warning to UK online banking consumers to guard against the possibility of having been infected by the Dridex malware, which spreads via macros in infected Microsoft documents and is currently estimated to have cost £20mn to UK consumers. The NCA says that it is working with the FBI and several European authorities in a concerted campaign to take down the botnet behind the current crop of infections. Dridex is a derivative of the Cridex strain of banking malware, which itself stole many techniques from the GameOver Zeus malware package.

Submission + - Scottish Parliament asked to treat creationism as equal to science (

00_NOP writes: John Mason, a legislator from the governing Scottish National Party, has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament demanding that creationist theories be given credence in schools because scientists "cannot disprove" their validity. Mason made his move after it was revealed that the education authority (the equivalent of a school board in the US) in one of Scotland's biggest areas are to set down new rules for religious education in schools after reports of Christian fundamentalist influence over the teaching of science.

Submission + - Our Sinking World

Maddie Kahn writes: If you want to preserve a fish you've caught on Kulinus, a tiny island in the Tigak region of Papua New Guinea, your best bet is to smoke it. Ice, available from the store an hour and a half away if you’re lucky enough to own a boat with a motor, is a foreign concept here. But when Brooke Jarvis meet Ramis Thomas, an elder in the village, ice is on his mind. The night before, most of the island was swamped by high tides, with residents staying up most of the night to keep their belongings from floating away. Thomas says that Kulenus now has perhaps a quarter of the land area he remembers from childhood, and though his concept of natural ice is from a vaguely remembered movie scene (you’re thinking of Titanic, another man offers), he’s heard that melting ice far away is the reason his island is disappearing. He wants to know how much ice has yet to melt—if it’s all already gone, perhaps his people can stay here, holding onto the edge of a tenuous situation. I tell him there’s a lot more. “Then we will have to move,” he says. “I’m sorry about our island, but life is important.”

Submission + - Cosmologists Prove Negative Mass Can Exist In Our Universe

KentuckyFC writes: The idea of negative mass has fascinated scientists since it was first used in the 16th century to explain why metals gain weight when they are oxidised. Since then, theoretical physicists have shown how it could be used to create exotic objects such as wormholes and the Alcubierre warp drive. But cosmologists' attempts to include negative matter in any reasonable model of the cosmos have always run into trouble because negative mass violates the energy conditions required to make realistic universes with Einstein's theory of general relativity. Now a pair of cosmologists have round a way round this. By treating negative mass as a perfect fluid rather than a solid point-like object, they've shown that negative mass does not violate the energy conditions as had been thought and so must be allowed in our universe. That has important consequences. If positive and negative mass particles were created in the early universe, they would form a kind of plasma that absorbs gravitational waves. Having built a number of gravitational wave observatories that have to see a single gravitational wave, astronomers might soon need to explain the absence of observations. Negative mass would then come in extremely handy.

Submission + - Dispelling The Myths Behind DDoS Attacks

An anonymous reader writes: DDoS attacks are quickly becoming the preferred method for cyber attackers to wreak havoc on the internet. With a recent spate of attention grabbing headlines focused on the hacker's favorite tool, this article busts some myths about DDoS attacks.

Myth 1: DDoS attacks are merely a nuisance with no lasting damage — This is a dangerous assumption to make, just ask CodeSpaces; actually, you can't — a DDoS attack put it out of business. Yes, this is an extreme case, but you only have to look back a few weeks and see headlines involving major companies like Feedly and Evernote, who rely heavily on their web presences, get taken down by DDoS attacks. And not only were their customer experiences disrupted, but the hackers attacking the sites demanded a ransom, in some cases, to cease the attacks.

Submission + - Happy software developers solve problems better. (

HagraBiscuit writes: Researchers from the Faculty of Computer Science, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Bolzano, Italy, have quantified and analysed affective mood index against objective measures of problem-solving effectiveness for a group of software developers.
From report abstract:
"The results offer support for the claim that happy developers are indeed better problem solvers in terms of their analytical abilities. The following contributions are made by this study: (1) providing a better understanding of the impact of affective states on the creativity and analytical problem-solving capacities of developers, (2) introducing and validating psychological measurements, theories, and concepts of affective states, creativity, and analytical-problem-solving skills in empirical software engineering, and (3) raising the need for studying the human factors of software engineering by employing a multidisciplinary viewpoint."

Graziotin D, Wang X, Abrahamsson P. (2014) Happy software developers solve problems better: psychological measurements in empirical software engineering. PeerJ 2:e289

Quark! Quark! Beware the quantum duck!