The interesting part is that Patton Boggs, the law firm that sent the letter, has a strong presence at BIO and other science trade shows (I am a biologist) drumming up business from science centric companies.
gzipped_tar writes "According to Spiegel Online, 'A new computer game where players assume the roles of border guards and shoot people trying to escape from communist East Germany has unleashed a storm of controversy in Germany. The game's creator says he wanted to teach young people about history, but he has been accused of glorifying violence. ... The name of the multi-player FPS game, 1,378 (kilometers), was inspired by the length of the border between East and West Germany. ... [Players] choose between the roles of the border guards or would-be escapees: the escapee only has one goal — to get over the wall, but the border guard has more options, and can shoot or capture the escapee. He can also swap sides and try to clamber over the border defenses himself.' By choosing to play the border guard and kill the escapee, the player would win an in-game medal from the government of East Germany. But then the guard would time-travel forward to the year 2000, where he would have to stand trial. Jens Stober, 23, designed the game as a media art student at the University of Design, Media and Arts in Karlsruhe. He said that his intention was to teach young people about German history."
An anonymous reader writes "Caught in a disaster with harmful airborne particles? You'd better hope you're wearing the Emergency Bra. Simply unsnap the bright red bra, separate the cups, and slip it over your head — one cup for you, and one for your friend. Dr. Elena Bodnar won an Ig Nobel Award for the invention last year, an annual tribute to scientific research that on the surface seems goofy but is often surprisingly practical. And now Bodnar has brought the eBra to the public; purchase one online for just $29.95."
Students in one New Jersey school district will no longer be able to squeak by in class after the Morris County School Board approved dropping the D grade. Beginning in the fall students who don't get a C or higher will get an F on their report card. "I'm tired of kids coming to school and not learning and getting credit for it," said Superintendent Larrie Reynolds in a Daily Record report.
TravisTR points out some new research that aims to update and supplement the Fermi paradox — the idea that if intelligent life was as common as we expect, we should have detected it by now. The academic paper (PDF) from scientists at the National Technical University of Ukraine is based on the idea that civilizations can't expand forever on their own. The authors make the assumption that an isolated civilization will eventually die out or go dark through some other means, which leads to some interesting models of intergalactic colonization. "In certain circumstances, however, when civilizations are close enough together in time and space, they can come into contact and when this happens the cross-fertilization of ideas and cultures allows them both to flourish in a way that increases their combined lifespan. ... Bezsudnov and Snarskii say that for certain values of these parameters, the universe undergoes a phase change from one in which civilizations tend not to meet and spread into one in which the entire universe tends to become civilized as different groups meet and spread. Bezsudnov and Snarskii even derive an inequality that a universe must satisfy to become civilized. This, they say, is analogous to the famous Drake equation which attempts to quantify the number of other contactable civilizations in the universe right now."
A British website called crabrevenge.com will help you prove that there is literally nothing you can't find online by selling you pubic lice. A disclaimer on the site says the creators "do not endorse giving people lice," and the lice are for "novelty purposes only." The company also boasts about a facility "where we do all of our parasite husbandry and carefully considered selective breeding." Three different packages are available: "Green package - One colony that can lay as many as 30 eggs for about $20. Blue package - Three colonies to share with your friends or freeze a batch or two for about $35. Red package - A vial of 'shampoo-resistant F-strain crabs' which can take up to two weeks to kill for about $52."
CWmike writes "Microsoft silently patched three vulnerabilities last month, two of them affecting enterprise mission-critical Exchange mail servers, without calling out the bugs in the accompanying advisories, a security expert said on Thursday. Two of the three unannounced vulnerabilities, and the most serious of the trio, were packaged with MS10-024, an update to Exchange and Windows SMTP Service that Microsoft issued April 13 and tagged as 'important,' its second-highest threat ranking. Ivan Arce, CTO of Core Security Technologies, said Microsoft patched the bugs, but failed to disclose that it had done so — which could pose a problem. 'They're more important than the [two vulnerabilities] that Microsoft did disclose,' said Arce. 'That means [system] administrators may end up making the wrong decisions about applying the update. They need that information to assess the risk.'"
mr_sifter writes "UK games retailer GameStation revealed that it legally owns the souls of thousands of customers, thanks to a clause it secretly added to the online terms and conditions for its website. The 'Immortal Soul Clause' was added as part of an attempt to highlight how few customers read the terms and conditions of an online sale. GameStation claims that 88 percent of customers did not read the clause, which gives legal ownership of the customer's soul over to the UK-based games retailer. The remaining 12 percent of customers however did notice the clause and clicked the relevant opt-out box, netting themselves a £5 GBP gift voucher in the process."
An anonymous reader writes with some bad news from Italy, noting that new rules proposed there would "require people who upload videos onto the Internet to obtain authorization from the Communications Ministry similar to that required by television broadcasters, drastically reducing freedom to communicate over the Web." Understandably, some say such controls represent a conflict of interest for Silvio Berlusconi, "who exercises political control over the state broadcaster RAI in his role as prime minister and is also the owner of Italy's largest private broadcaster, Mediaset."
coondoggie writes to mention that the US Department of Energy is planning to set up a new "National Energy Sector Cyber Organization" in order to protect the national bulk power electric grid. For the low, low cost of $8.5 million they will help integrate smart grid technology with the electric grid, speed research, and establish new policy and protocols. "It is paramount that smart grid devices and interoperability standards include protections against cyber intrusions and have systems that are designed from the start (not patches added on) that prevent unauthorized persons from gaining entry through the millions of new access points created by the deployment of smart grid technologies, Hoffman stated."
Anita Kuno writes "I suggested Head First Rails to a friend before I even finished it. He was asking me questions that I didn't have time to answer, and I knew the book could explain better than I. My friend is impatient, and I was uncertain what his experience would be. At first he was frustrated, but I assured him the answers were in the book. The incremental style of Head First Rails includes some exercises that are designed to fail to reinforce the learning process. I was confident that his answer would be found in the pages and he trusted me enough to go back and continue the exercises. He later told me he is very happy with the book and grateful that I suggested it." Read on for the rest of Anita's review.
Parz writes with word that new information is emerging about the much-anticipated BioShock 2. Eurogamer has a detailed write-up about the game, saying that it raises curiosity and exhibits plot-depth in a manner similar to the first game. Gamespot has a video interview with some of the developers, in which they talk about some of the new environments and how they're able to do more with the story in a sequel by not having to explain the fundamental characteristics of the setting. In an interview with Gameplayer, Lead Level Architect Hogarth de la Plante said, "You'll see locations in BioShock 2 that are completely flooded interior structures that you can walk through out in the ocean." A gameplay trailer was recently released, and screenshots are available as well.