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Robotics

The Dominant Life Form In the Cosmos Is Probably Superintelligent Robots 388

Posted by Soulskill
from the quick-destroy-all-the-remaining-copies-of-Battlebots dept.
Jason Koebler writes: If and when we finally encounter aliens, they probably won't look like little green men, or spiny insectoids. It's likely they won't be biological creatures at all, but rather, advanced robots that outstrip our intelligence in every conceivable way. Susan Schneider, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, joins a handful of astronomers, including Seth Shostak, director of NASA's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, NASA Astrobiologist Paul Davies, and Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Stephen Dick in espousing the view that the dominant intelligence in the cosmos is probably artificial. In her paper "Alien Minds," written for a forthcoming NASA publication, Schneider describes why alien life forms are likely to be synthetic, and how such creatures might think.

Comment: The real geek gift guide (Score 1) 113

by Powercntrl (#48588307) Attached to: 2014 Geek Gift Guide

For most people, gift buying breaks down into three categories:

1. People you're willing to splurge for. Close family, offspring, significant other, etc. Since these are the people you interact with the most, not being clued in to what they wanted for a gift is an epic fail. No gift guide is going to help you here.

2. Good friends, extended family. These people are the reason gift cards were invented. Sure, some people may argue that it's not personal enough, but screw that. Everybody loves a free meal at a restaurant or a few free app downloads.

3. Cow-orkers, that guy you added on Facebook and can't remember why, your kid's teachers and anyone else you're giving gifts to as a matter of obligatory holiday procedure. These people get shit from the bargain bins at your local drug store (while you're there buying gift cards).

You could also always change your faith to one that doesn't celebrate holidays involving gift giving. That's probably cheaper, too.

Earth

Warmer Pacific Ocean Could Release Millions of Tons of Methane 329

Posted by Soulskill
from the sounds-like-a-real-gas dept.
vinces99 writes: Off the U.S. West Coast, methane gas is trapped in frozen layers below the seafloor. New research from the University of Washington shows that water at intermediate depths is warming enough to cause these carbon deposits to melt, releasing methane into the sediments and surrounding water. Researchers found that water off the coast of Washington is gradually warming at a depth of 500 meters (about a third of a mile down), the same depth where methane transforms from a solid to a gas. The research suggests that ocean warming could be triggering the release of a powerful greenhouse gas (abstract).

Scientists believe global warming will release methane from gas hydrates worldwide, but most of the focus has been on the Arctic. The new paper estimates that, from 1970 to 2013, some 4 million metric tons of methane has been released from hydrate decomposition off Washington's coast. That's an amount each year equal to the methane from natural gas released in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout off the coast of Louisiana, and 500 times the rate at which methane is naturally released from the seafloor.

Comment: Dad needs to get off his high horse (Score 1) 584

by Powercntrl (#48521157) Attached to: Programmer Father Asks: What Gets Little Girls Interested In Science?

When she grows up, she might be an artist, a counselor, or an HR professional. She almost certainly won't be a princess, though, so don't worry about that.

Or she might get knocked up in highschool and drop out. Kids don't always turn out the way you plan and being a good parent means encouraging your kids to succeed and still loving them even when they fall flat on their ass.

It's also a bit hypocritical when geeky/nerdy parents act all shocked and shaken when their offspring would rather go out and interact with other kids than stay at home and play with a chemistry set. Hint: it's just as bad being the stereotypical jock father who smashes in his son's door because the kid prefers reading over sports.

Programming

Programmer Father Asks: What Gets Little Girls Interested In Science? 584

Posted by samzenpus
from the what's-a-father-to-do? dept.
nbauman writes Programmer David Auerbach is dismayed that, at a critical developmental age, his 4-year-old daughter wants to be a princess, not a scientist or engineer, he writes in Slate. The larger society keeps forcing sexist stereotypes on her, in every book and toy store. From the article: "Getting more women into science and technology fields: Where’s the silver bullet? While I might get more hits by revealing the One Simple Trick to increase female participation in the sciences, the truth is there isn’t some key inflection point where young women’s involvement drops off. Instead, there is a series of small- to medium-sized discouraging factors that set in from a young age, ranging from unhelpful social conditioning to a lack of role models to unconscious bias to very conscious bias. Any and all of these can figure into why, for example, women tend to underrate their technical abilities relative to men. I know plenty of successful women in the sciences, but let’s not fool ourselves and say the playing field in the academic sciences or the tech world is even. My wife attributes her pursuit of programming to being a loner and pretty much ignoring wider society while growing up: 'Being left alone with a computer (with NO INTERNET TO TELL ME WHAT I COULDN’T DO) was the deciding factor,' she tells me."
Wikipedia

A Mismatch Between Wikimedia's Pledge Drive and Its Cash On Hand? 274

Posted by timothy
from the beyond-useful-but-not-beyond-reproach dept.
Andreas Kolbe writes The latest financial statements for the Wikimedia Foundation, the charity behind Wikipedia, show it has assets of $60 million, including $27 million in cash and cash equivalents, and $23 million in investments. Yet its aggressive banner ads suggest disaster may be imminent if people don't donate and imply that Wikipedia may be forced to run commercial advertising to survive. Jimmy Wales counters complaints by saying the Foundation are merely prudent in ensuring they always have a reserve equal to one year's spending, but the fact is that Wikimedia spending has increased by 1,000 percent in the course of a few years. And by a process of circular logic, as spending increases, so the reserve has to increase, meaning that donors are asked to donate millions more each year. Unlike the suggestion made by the fundraising banners, most of these budget increases have nothing to do with keeping Wikipedia online and ad-free, and nothing to do with generating and curating Wikipedia content, a task that is handled entirely by the unpaid volunteer base. The skyrocketing budget increases are instead the result of a massive expansion of paid software engineering staff at the Foundation – whose work in recent years has been heavily criticised by the unpaid volunteer base. The aggressive fundraising banners too are controversial within the Wikimedia community itself.

Comment: I was born too early (Score 1) 523

by Powercntrl (#48489319) Attached to: Finland Dumps Handwriting In Favor of Typing

I've hated cursive with a passion, ever since I was forced to learn it in public school. I could never manage legibility at anything remotely resembling a decent writing speed, so half the time I couldn't even decipher my own notes. I had absolutely no trouble picking up typing and at 12 years old, I could easily type faster than any of my classmates could write. The only problem was, this was still the dark ages and the school staff felt that allowing me to use a portable word processor would be an unfair advantage over other students and that I deserved bad grades due to my inferior handwriting ability.

We don't teach kids to chisel on stone tablets or write on slates, so I see absolutely no reason why cursive can't also be relegated to the past. Good riddance.

Education

Finland Dumps Handwriting In Favor of Typing 523

Posted by timothy
from the take-a-letter-maria dept.
mikejuk writes It seems incredible that in the 21st century schools are still teaching children to scratch marks on paper. Well in Finland they are taking a step in the direction of the future by giving up teaching handwriting. The Savon Sanomat newspaper reports that from autumn 2016 cursive handwriting will no longer be a compulsory part of the school curriculum. Instead the schools will teach keyboard skills and 'texting'. The idea of teaching proper keyboard skills to children is unquestionably a great idea, the idea of texting is a little more dubious and many will mourn the loss of a traditional skill like cursive writing. So what about a world where cursive writing is forgotten? What do you do when your computer is dead and you need to leave a note? The death of cursive script probably isn't the death of handwriting but the death of doing it quickly and with style. Some no doubt will want to master it just for the sake of it — like driving a stick shift. I know some U.S. schools have done the same; how proficient should kids be with cursive?
The Almighty Buck

The Downside to Low Gas Prices 554

Posted by timothy
from the speak-for-yourself-hummer-buyers dept.
HughPickens.com writes Pat Garofalo writes in an op-ed in US News & World Report that with the recent drop in oil prices, there's something policymakers can do that will offset at least some of the negative effects of the currently low prices, while also removing a constant thorn in the side of American transportation and infrastructure policy: Raise the gas tax. The current 18.4 cent per gallon gas tax has not been raised since 1993, making it about 11 cents per gallon today, in constant dollars. Plus, as fuel efficiency has gotten better and Americans have started driving less, the tax has naturally raised less revenue anyway. And that's a problem because the tax fills the Highway Trust Fund, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, broke so that in recent years Congress has had to patch it time and time again to fill the gap. According to the Tax Policy Center's Howard Gleckman, if Congress doesn't make a move, "it will fumble one of those rare opportunities when the economic and policy stars align almost perfectly." The increase can be phased in slowly, a few cents per month, perhaps, so that the price of gas doesn't jump overnight. When prices eventually do creep back up thanks to economic factors, hopefully the tax will hardly be noticed.

Consumers are already starting to buy the sort of gas-guzzling vehicles, including Hummers, that had been going out of style as gas prices rose; that's bad for both the environment and consumers, because gas prices are inevitably going to increase again. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, taxes last year, even before the current drop in prices, made up 12 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline, down from 28 percent in 2000. And compared to other developed countries, US gas taxes are pretty much a joke. While we're at it, an even better idea, as a recent report from the Urban Institute makes clear, would be indexing the gas tax to inflation, so this problem doesn't consistently arise. "The status quo simply isn't sustainable, from an infrastructure or environmental perspective," concludes Garofalo. "So raise the gas tax now; someday down the line, it will look like a brilliant move."
Bitcoin

Entrepreneur Injects Bitcoin Wallets Into Hands 77

Posted by timothy
from the heirs-are-not-amused dept.
wiredmikey writes A Dutch entrepreneur has had two microchips containing Bitcoin injected into his hands to help him make contactless payments. The chips, enclosed in a 2mm by 12mm capsule of "biocompatible" glass, were injected using a special syringe and can communicate with devices such as Android smartphones or tablets via NFC. "What's stored on the microchips should be seen as a savings account rather than a current account," Martijn Wismeijer, co-founder of MrBitcoin said. "The payment device remains the smartphone, but you transfer funds from the chips." The chips are available on the Internet, sold with a syringe for $99, but Wismeijer suggested individuals should find a specialist to handle the injection to avoid infections.
Movies

MPAA Bans Google Glass In Theaters 357

Posted by Soulskill
from the preemptive-piracy-panic dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Motion Picture Association of America, along with the National Association of Theater Owners, have banned Google Glass and similar devices from being in movie theaters. They said, "As part of our continued efforts to ensure movies are not recorded in theaters, however, we maintain a zero-tolerance policy toward using any recording device while movies are being shown. As has been our long-standing policy, all phones must be silenced and other recording devices, including wearable devices, must be turned off and put away at show time. Individuals who fail or refuse to put the recording devices away may be asked to leave." This is a change from the MPAA's stance earlier this year that Glass was "no threat" in terms of copyright infringement. A spokesman said the ban is geared toward combating more sophisticated wearables in the future.
Youtube

YouTube Considering an Ad-Free, Subscription-Based Version 225

Posted by samzenpus
from the premium-pay dept.
Walking The Walk writes YouTube is looking at creating a paid-subscription model that would allow users to skip the ads on their videos. (A more condensed summary from CBC.) No firm date has been announced, and it sounds like tentative steps right now, but YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki did mention that ad-enabled music videos would still be offered.
Google

PETA Is Not Happy That Google Used a Camel To Get a Desert "StreetView" 367

Posted by samzenpus
from the the-camera-that-broke-the-camels-back dept.
First time accepted submitter flopwich writes Google used a camel-mounted camera to get a 'street view' of a stretch of desert in the United Arab Emirates. PETA's director Ingrid E. Newkirk is upset about it, saying they should have used jeeps. "These days, jeeps are in common use in the desert, as are light planes and even dune buggies, and satellite images could also easily have been taken instead," she said. "(Google) should leave camels out of its activites altogether."
Transportation

3D-Printed Car Takes Its First Test Drive 132

Posted by samzenpus
from the print-and-drive dept.
An anonymous reader points out this advancement in 3D printing. This week, at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago, Arizona-based automobile manufacturer Local Motors stole the show. Over the six day span of the IMTS, the company managed to 3D print and assemble an entire automobile, called the "Strati," live in front of spectators. Although the Strati is not the first ever car to be 3D printed, the advancements made by Local Motors with help from Cincinnati Inc, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, have produced a vehicle in days rather than months.

Comment: Re:So what exactly is the market here. (Score 1) 730

by Powercntrl (#47868223) Attached to: Apple Announces Smartwatch, Bigger iPhones, Mobile Payments

People keep mentioning the Nomad.

They're quoting CmdrTaco, who used those exact words to describe the original iPod upon it's announcement. Damn kids these days....

You have to remember, Apple eventually decided to release iPods with support for Windows. Will they release a "Watch" that works with Android? Probably not.

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