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+ - Tesla's about to announce a battery-swap pilot program, how it works leaked

Submitted by cartechboy
cartechboy (2660665) writes "Remember 18 months ago when Tesla promised it was going to launch battery-swap stations? Well, it's finally happening, sort of. It seems Tesla's about to announce a battery-swap pilot program that will launch next week. The swap site will be located across the street from a Tesla Supercharger site in Harris Ranch, California--184 miles south of San Francisco and about 200 miles north of Los Angeles. The pilot program will involve an unspecified number of Model S electric-car owners, who will be invited to take part in the test. For now, the battery-swap service will be offered by appointment only, at a cost of roughly a tank of gas in a premium sedan. Tesla's using words to describe this pilot program like "exploratory work" and "intended to test technology and assess demand" for a swapping service. While originally pitched that the battery swap would take less time than it would to take to refill the gas tank of a comparable luxury sedan, the company says now that "for this specific iteration" the swap process will take "approximately 3 minutes"--though it adds Tesla has "the ability to improve that time with future iterations." Is this test going to show that battery swapping is or isn't a realistic initiative?"

+ - How a 3D Printer Let a Dog Run for the First Time->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Ever since 3-D printing began to enter the mainstream, people have discussed the technology’s potential for building prosthetic arms and legs for human beings. But what about doing the same for dogs? In one of those videos that ends up circulated endlessly on the Internet, a dog named Derby, born with a congenital deformity that deprived him of front paws, is outfitted with a pair of 3-D-printed prosthetics. With those "legs" in place, the dog can run for the first time, at a pretty good clip. Both the prosthetics and the video were produced by 3D Systems, which builds 3-D printers, and it seems likely that other 3-D-printing companies will explore the possibility of printing off parts for pets. And while the idea of a cyborg pooch is heartwarming, it will be interesting to see how 3D printers will continue to advance the realm of human prosthetics, which have become increasingly sophisticated over the past decade."
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+ - Geoengineering Climate Cooling With Microbubbles

Submitted by Rambo Tribble
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Scientists from the University of Leeds have proposed that brighter ships' wakes, created by reducing their component bubbles' sizes, could increase their reflectivity and produce a cooling effect on the climate. The technology is touted as being available and simple, but side-effects might include such things as wetter conditions in some regions. Still, compared to many speculative geoengineering projects, "The one advantage about this technology — of trying to generate these tiny 'micro-bubbles' — is that the technology does already exist," according to Leeds' Prof Piers Forster."

+ - All the evidence the government will present in the Silk Road trial is online->

Submitted by apexcp
apexcp (931320) writes "In less than a month, one of the biggest trials of 2015 will begin in New York City. The full list of government evidence and defense objections found its way online recently, shedding light on both the prosecutor's courtroom strategy and the defense team's attempted rebuttals. Also important is what's not presented as evidence. There's not a single piece of forensic documentation about how the FBI originally found Silk Road servers, an act the defense as called "blatantly criminal.""
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+ - Anyone Can Now Launch Their Own Version Of The Pirate Bay

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Not satisfied with merely launching The Old Pirate Bay, torrent site isoHunt today debuted The Open Bay, which lets anyone deploy their own version of The Pirate Bay online. This is achieved via a new six-step wizard, which the group says requires you to be somewhat tech-savvy and have “minimal knowledge of how the Internet and websites work.” The Pirate Bay, the most popular file sharing website on the planet, went down last week following police raids on its data center in Sweden. As we’ve noted before, The Old Pirate Bay appears to be the best alternative at the moment, but since The Pirate Bay team doesn’t know if it’s coming back yet, there is still a huge hole left to be filled."

+ - Machine Intelligence Cracks Genetic Controls->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Most genetic research to date has focused on just 1 percent of the genome — the areas that code for proteins. But new research, published today in Science, provides an initial map for the sections of the genome that orchestrate this protein-building process. “It’s one thing to have the book — the big question is how you read the book,” said Brendan Frey, a computational biologist at the University of Toronto who led the new research.

Frey compares the genome to a recipe that a baker might use. All recipes include a list of ingredients — flour, eggs and butter, say — along with instructions for what to do with those ingredients. Inside a cell, the ingredients are the parts of the genome that code for proteins; surrounding them are the genome’s instructions for how to combine those ingredients.

Just as flour, eggs and butter can be transformed into hundreds of different baked goods, genetic components can be assembled into many different configurations. This process is called alternative splicing, and it’s how cells create such variety out of a single genetic code. Frey and his colleagues used a sophisticated form of machine learning to identify mutations in this instruction set and to predict what effects those mutations have."

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+ - Schneier explains how to protect yourself from Sony-style attacks (you can't)->

Submitted by phantomfive
phantomfive (622387) writes "Bruce Schneier has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal discussing the Sony attack. He says, "Your reaction to the massive hacking of such a prominent company will depend on whether you’re fluent in information-technology security. If you’re not, you’re probably wondering how in the world this could happen. If you are, you’re aware that this could happen to any company.""
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+ - The Dominant Life Form in the Cosmos is Probably Superintelligent Robots

Submitted by Jason Koebler
Jason Koebler (3528235) 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."

+ - Day One Review: Elite Dangerous->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "I’ve spent the last few weeks with Elite: Dangerous (since Gamma 1.0 was released to us Kickstarters), and about four problem-free hours tonight, on launch day (and I’ll be coming back here periodically as time passes and the game grows). Probably about an hour of all of that time was spent just scrolling through the key bindings, and subsequently pressing keys on my keyboard that I rarely, if ever touch. Yes, after 30 years Elite is back, and it’s already eating my life."
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+ - Quantum physics just got less complicated->

Submitted by wabrandsma
wabrandsma (2551008) writes "From phys.org:
Here's a nice surprise: quantum physics is less complicated than we thought. An international team of researchers has proved that two peculiar features of the quantum world previously considered distinct are different manifestations of the same thing. The result is published 19 December in Nature Communications.
Patrick Coles, Jedrzej Kaniewski, and Stephanie Wehner made the breakthrough while at the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore. They found that 'wave-particle duality' is simply the quantum 'uncertainty principle' in disguise, reducing two mysteries to one."

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+ - NASA Satellite's 1st CO2 Maps of Earth Revealed->

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "This past summer, NASA launched its first satellite devoted to measuring atmospheric carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas that is driving global warming.

Today (Dec. 18), scientists with the space agency unveiled the first carbon maps obtained by the spacecraft, named the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2.

OCO-2 only started collecting its first scientifically useful information at the end of September, but the initial results "are quite amazing," said Annmarie Eldering, OCO-2 deputy project scientist, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

In a news briefing at the 47th annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, Eldering and her colleagues showed a map of the globe that uses about 600,000 data points taken by OCO-2 from Oct. 1 through Nov. 17. It shows hotspots of carbon dioxide over northern Australia, southern Africa and eastern Brazil.

These carbon spikes could be explained by agricultural fires and land clearing — practices that are widespread during spring in the Southern Hemisphere, OCO-2 scientists said.

The satellite has a grading spectrometer to measure carbon dioxide levels with a precision of about 1 part per million, or ppm. (Today's carbon concentration, 400 ppm, is the highest in at least 800,000 years. This number means there are 400 molecules of carbon dioxide in the air per every million air molecules. Before the Industrial Revolution, carbon concentration was thought to be about 280 ppm.)"

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+ - Skeptics would like media to stop calling science deniers "skeptics"->

Submitted by Layzej
Layzej (1976930) writes "Prominent scientists, science communicators, and skeptic activists, are calling on the news media to stop using the word “skeptic” when referring to those who refuse to accept the reality of climate change, and instead refer to them by what they really are: science deniers. “Not all individuals who call themselves climate change skeptics are deniers. But virtually all deniers have falsely branded themselves as skeptics. By perpetrating this misnomer, journalists have granted undeserved credibility to those who reject science and scientific inquiry.”"
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+ - Hackers' Shutdown of 'The Interview' Confirms Coding is a Superpower

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "The idea of programming as a superpower was touched upon by CS teacher Alfred Thompson back in 2010, but it became a rallying call of sorts for the Hour of Code after Dropbox CEO Drew Houston described coding as "the closest thing we have to a superpower" in a Code.org video that went viral. And if the kids who learned to code with the President last week were dubious about the power of coding, this week's decision by Sony to scrap the release of the satirical film 'The Interview' after a massive hack attack should put aside any doubts, especially after new revelations that Sony had reached out to the White House for help and screened the film for administration officials back in June. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that the Obama Administration is viewing the Sony attack as a 'serious national security matter' and is considering a range of possible options as a response, which could turn things into a contest of U.S. Superpower vs. Coding Superpower. In case it wasn't mentioned last week, remember to always use your coding superpower for good, kids!"

+ - NASA Provides Details of Unique Method for 3d Printing on Other Planets->

Submitted by ErnieKey
ErnieKey (3766427) writes "A major application of 3d printing that could revolutionize space travel, is that of ultimately using 3d printers to create structures on non-terrestrial bodies like the moon, other planets, and even asteroids. Researchers from NASA's Kennedy Space Center have been working to develop solutions to materials issues, and recently presented initial findings on the potential for using in-situ materials like basalt for 3D printing. Their innovative method is based on only using in-situ supplies, and not materials that need to be brought into space."
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+ - Book Review: Build your own website

Submitted by MassDosage
MassDosage (1967508) writes "At the the risk of exposing my age I remember building my first website using a rudimentary Unix text editor (Joe) and carefully handcrafting the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) while directly logged on to the web server it was being served from. Back then Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) weren’t even a glint in the eyes of their creators. A lot has changed and there’s now a world of fancy WYSIWYG web page editors to choose from as well as Content Management Systems that allow you to create websites without looking at the underlying code at all. While this is all very useful and allows less technical people to create websites I still feel that having at least some knowledge of how everything works under the hood is empowering — especially in situations where you want to go beyond the limits placed on you by a certain tool. This is where Build your own website (A comic guide to HTML, CSS and Wordpress) comes into the picture. Its aim is to enable people new to web development to learn the subject by teaching the fundamentals of HTML and CSS first and only then describing how to use a Content Management System (CMS) — in this case Wordpress. While Wordpress might not be everyone’s kettle of fish it’s a good choice as an example of a modern CMS that is easily accessible and very popular. The concepts presented are simple enough that it should be easy enough for a reader to apply them to a different CMS should they want to.

To be clear, this book is intended for people who have little to no experience building websites and it is appropriately written in a non-formal, fun and non-threatening manner. Each chapter has the same format where a topic is initially covered at a high level in the form of a cartoon that is really easy to grasp. This is then followed by a more in-depth repetition of the same content using more “traditional” text and diagrams. Most chapters then end with a summary of the key points which can be used as a simple reference. This layout means that if you’re a quick learner or are familiar with some of the concepts you can just read the comic section and then try implementing the material covered on your own. On the other hand if you want more information and depth you can read the text that follows.The material is presented in such a way that it should be easy for the reader to “learn by doing” as they copy or modify what the main character in the cartoon does (in this case building a website for her photography portfolio). All that’s needed to get started is a browser, a text editor and some knowledge of how to organise files on a file system. This coverage of raw HTML and CSS may sound off-putting to non-technical people but it’s presented in such a simple manner that pretty much anyone should be able to follow along. The benefit of this “back to the basics” approach is that one is not limited to using only a certain piece of software and instead the fundamentals can be applied to other tools later.

The book provides a good introduction to HTML and describes some useful tags that can be used to start creating a simple website. CSS are explained in a similar manner and the reader is shown how they can be used to easily change the look of a website. These two technologies are the bedrock on top of which pretty much all web development rests and thus understanding them is a prerequisite for anyone wanting to create their own websites. The book also does a good job of showing how a content management system like Wordpress builds on top of these foundations and how you can still get to the underlying HTML and CSS should you want to (as well as why this might be useful if you want to modify something that Wordpress does or doesn’t do). On the Wordpress front the basics are covered — from creating pages and page hierarchies to how these can be categorised and grouped. Unfortunately when going into more detail on this topic things lose a bit of coherence. Wordpress is obviously a big beast which has entire books devoted to it and cramming in a summary of it means having to leave out a lot. It seems as if the author might have had to trim these sections down and this has resulted in the text feeling a bit rushed and confusing which is in contrast with the rest of the book where the topics are covered in a slower and more detailed manner. Any book that describes using a piece of software like Wordpress to the level of explaining how to point and click one’s way through certain step risks becoming outdated as the software changes in future. For the most part this shouldn’t be too much of an issue as Wordpress isn’t covered in too much detail but it does mean that this book probably won’t be a reference you still use in five year’s time.

On the whole Build your own website succeeds in its goal of presenting a gentle learning curve and guiding people through what is needed to create a website from scratch. It is just technical enough that readers should be able to understand the fundamentals of what they are doing while being non-intimidating and introducing concepts at a relaxed and fun pace via the comic format. By the end of this book readers should have a solid grasp of the basics of website creation and be able to set up a simple site themselves, either by coding this up in HTML and CSS directly or by using Wordpress. For anything more advanced one would need to move on to other books or self-teaching but this book is a great starting point if you’re new to the subject.

Full disclosure: I was given a copy of this book free of charge by the publisher for review purposes. They placed no restrictions on what I could say and left me to be as critical as I wanted so the above review is my own honest opinion."

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