Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
Back for a limited time - Get 15% off sitewide on Slashdot Deals with coupon code "BLACKFRIDAY" (some exclusions apply)". ×

Submission + - Russian troops traced to Ukrainian battlefields through social media

wienerschnizzel writes: Vice News released a report on how they were able to trace a member of the regular russian army from his base near the Ukriainian border towards the battlefields in the contested territory in eastern Ukraine and back to his home in Siberia using the pictures he uploaded on his social media profile.

The methodology used is based on a report by the Atlantic Council think tank released earlier this year, that asserts that information on the movement and operations of the regular russian troops can be easily gathered from publicly available sources (such as the social media).

The russian government still denies any involvement of russian troops in the fights in Ukraine.

Submission + - The Biosecurity Logic Behind Australia's Threat to Kill Johnny Depp's Dogs writes: Adam Taylor writes in the Washington Post that Australia's threat to kill Boo and Pistol, two dogs that belong to the American movie star Johnny Depp unless they leave the country by Saturday has made headlines around the world. But the logic behind the threat is typical for Australia, which has some of the strictest animal quarantine laws in the world. According to the Australian Department of Agriculture, dogs can be imported to Australia but are required to spend at least 10 days in quarantine in the country. There are also a whole variety of other restrictions on the dogs – they can only come from an approved country, they cannot be pregnant, and they must not be a banned breed. The dogs are then required to undergo a variety of tests and be fully vaccinated and microchipped. It's a time-consuming, expensive and complicated process that serves one purpose. Australia is one of a relatively small number of countries around the world that are considered rabies-free. "The reason you can walk through a park in Brisbane and not have in the back of your mind, 'What happens if a rabid dog comes out and bites me or bites my kid,' is because we've kept that disease out," says Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

Australia's geographical distance from much of the rest of the world and its relatively late contact with the West means that its biological ecosystem is unlike those of many other nations. To protect this, the country restricts what can be brought into the country. The impact of alien species on Australian wildlife was made clear early in the 20th century, when the cane toad, indigenous to Central and South America, was introduced to north Queensland in the hope of controlling the local cane beetle population. While the toads had little impact on the beetle population, they unexpectedly thrived in their new environment. Their effects on Australia's ecology include the depletion of native species that die eating cane toads; the poisoning of pets and humans; depletion of native fauna preyed on by cane toads; and reduced prey populations for native insectivores, such as skinks. The population of a few thousand cane toads introduced in 1935 is now in the millions, and are now considered pests that the Australian government is trying to eradicate.

Depp isn't the only American celebrity to run afoul of Australian biosecurity laws. In 2013, a Katy Perry album that featured flower seeds in its packaging triggered a biosecurity alert from Australia's Agriculture Department. "Most people are excited to think that there's an attachment between biosecurity and someone as popular as Katy Perry," said Vanessa Findlay, Australia's chief plant protection officer.


An anonymous reader writes: One does not simply look at an exoplanet. In order to learn more about these space rocks lurking many light years away, researchers have various indirect methods for deciphering their features. Astronomers can examine how the planetâ(TM)s host star wobbles in relation to the globe, to pinpoint the planet's position and mass. Or they can examine the dimming of the star as the planet passes in front, a method known as transit photometry that helps to determine the planetâ(TM)s radius.

Submission + - Astronomers detect starlight reflected off an extrasolar planet (

sciencehabit writes: For the first time, astronomers have detected visible starlight reflecting off a planet orbiting a distant star. The telescope used in the discovery was too small to tell scientists much new about the previously discovered planet. But astronomers say the new technique used promises to reveal much more when combined with better spectrographs and bigger telescopes now in the works. “The ultimate goal is to characterize a planet like Earth,” says team leader Jorge Martins of the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences in Porto, Portugal.

Submission + - The Machines Are Coming writes: Zeynep Tufekci writes in an op-ed at the NYT that machines can now process regular spoken language and not only recognize human faces, but also read their expressions. Machines can classify personality types, and have started being able to carry out conversations with appropriate emotional tenor. Machines are getting better than humans at figuring out who to hire, who’s in a mood to pay a little more for that sweater, and who needs a coupon to nudge them toward a sale. It turns out that most of what we think of as expertise, knowledge and intuition is being deconstructed and recreated as an algorithmic competency, fueled by big data. "Machines aren’t used because they perform some tasks that much better than humans, but because, in many cases, they do a “good enough” job while also being cheaper, more predictable and easier to control than quirky, pesky humans," writes Tufekci. "Technology in the workplace is as much about power and control as it is about productivity and efficiency."

According to Tufekci technology is being used in many workplaces: to reduce the power of humans, and employers’ dependency on them, whether by replacing, displacing or surveilling them. Optimists insist that we’ve been here before, during the Industrial Revolution, when machinery replaced manual labor, and all we need is a little more education and better skills but Tufekci says that one historical example is no guarantee of future events. "Confronting the threat posed by machines, and the way in which the great data harvest has made them ever more able to compete with human workers, must be about our priorities," concludes Tufekci. "This problem is not us versus the machines, but between us, as humans, and how we value one another."

Submission + - The Last Time Oceans Got This Acidic This Fast, 96% of Marine Life Went Extinct

merbs writes: The biggest extinction event in planetary history was driven by the rapid acidification of our oceans, a new study concludes. So much carbon was released into the atmosphere, and the oceans absorbed so much of it so quickly, that marine life simply died off, from the bottom of the food chain up. That doesn’t bode well for the present, given the similarly disturbing rate that our seas are acidifying right now.

Submission + - Senate Draft of No Child Left Behind Act Draft Makes CS a 'Core' Subject

theodp writes: If at first you don't succeed, lobby, lobby again. That's a lesson to be learned from Microsoft and Google, who in 2010 launched advocacy coalition Computing in the Core, which aimed "to strengthen K-12 computer science education and ensure that computer science is one of the core academic subjects that prepares students for jobs in our digital society." In 2013, Computing in the Core "merged" with, a new nonprofit led by the next door neighbor of Microsoft's General Counsel and funded by wealthy tech execs and their companies. When 'taught President Obama to code' in a widely-publicized White House event last December, visitor records indicate that Google, Microsoft, and execs had a sitdown immediately afterwards with the head of the NSF, and a Microsoft lobbyist in attendance returned to the White House the next day with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and General Counsel Brad Smith (who also sits on's Board) in tow. Looks like all of that hard work may finally pay off. Education Week reports that computer science has been quietly added to the list of disciplines defined as 'core academic subjects' in the Senate draft of the rewritten No Child Left Behind Act, a status that opens the doors to a number of funding opportunities. After expressing concern that his teenage daughters hadn't taken to coding the way he’d like, President Obama added, "I think they got started a little bit late. Part of what you want to do is introduce this with the ABCs and the colors." So, don't be too surprised if your little ones are soon focusing on the four R's — reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic, and Rapunzel — in school!

Submission + - A Low Cost Satellite Groundstation Network using modified RTL-SDRs (

Habberhead writes: The RTL-SDR website is running an article about a group that is aiming to provide low cost radio receivers intended to monitor satellites, to students and any other interested communities in order to promote worldwide education in science, technology and engineering.

By donating the hardware to schools and educational groups, the ThumbNet Project is trying to increase global attention to STEM courses for students who might otherwise never hear about it.

Submission + - Jupiter destroyed 'super-Earths' in our early solar system (

sciencehabit writes: If Jupiter and Saturn hadn’t formed where they did—and at the sizes they did—as the disk of dust and gas around our sun coalesced, then our solar system would be a very different and possibly more hostile place, new research suggests. Computer models reveal that in the solar system’s first 3 million years or so, gravitational interactions with Jupiter, Saturn, and the gas in the protoplanetary disk would have driven super-Earth–sized planets closer to the sun and into increasingly elliptical orbits. In such paths, a cascade of collisions would have blasted any orbs present there into ever smaller bits, which in turn would have been slowed by the interplanetary equivalent of atmospheric drag and eventually plunged into the sun. As Jupiter retreated from its closest approach to the sun, it left behind the mostly rocky remnants that later coalesced into our solar system’s inner planets, including Earth.

Submission + - Elon Musk On Autonomous Cars: Could Human Drivers Eventually Be Outlawed? ( 1

MojoKid writes: One of the highlights of the opening keynote at the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference in San Jose (GTC), was NVIDIA CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang's special guest, Tesla CEO, Elon Musk and the "fireside chat" the two participated in. With NVIDIA's focus on deep learning and machine vision technologies for cars, much of the talk centered around autonomous vehicles and the notion that someday they may be so reliable, that they're actually safer on the road than cars operated by humans. Think about it. Is the idea of a vehicle that recognizes distance, velocity, weather conditions and real-time changes, faster than a human can, all that far-fetched? In the interview shot here, Musk even thinks we may get to a day when human drivers could be outlawed in favor of an all autonomous driving society.

Submission + - Nvidia To Install Computers In Cars To Learn How To Drive (

jfruh writes: Nvidia has unveiled the Drive PX, a $10,000 computer that will be installed in cars and gather data about how to react to driving obstacles. "Driving is not about detecting, driving is a learned behavior," said Jen Hsun Huang, CEO of Nvidia. The data collected by Drive PXes will be shared, allowing cars to learn the right and wrong reactions to different situations, essentially figuring out what to do from experience rather than a rigid set of pre-defined situations.

Submission + - SXSW: Do Androids Dream of Being You? ( 1

Nerval's Lobster writes: In 2010, Dr. Martine Rothblatt (founder of United Theraputics and Sirius Radio) decided to build a robotic clone of her partner, named Bina. In theory, this so-called 'mindclone' (dubbed Bina48) can successfully mimic the flesh-and-blood Bina’s speech and decision-making, thanks to a dataset (called a 'mindfile') that contains all sorts of information about her mannerisms, beliefs, recollections, values, and experiences. But is software really capable of replicating a person’s mind? At South by Southwest this year, Rothblatt is defending the idea of a 'mindfile' and clones as a concept that not only works, but already has a "base" thanks to individuals' social networks, email, and the like. While people may have difficulty embracing something engineered to replicate their behavior, but Rothblatt suggested younger generations will embrace the robots: 'I think younger people will say ‘My mindclone is me, too.’' Is her idea unfeasible, or is she onto something? Video from Bloomberg suggests that Bina48 still has some kinks to work out before it can pass for human.

Submission + - Russia abandons super-rocket designed to compete with SLS

schwit1 writes: Russia has decided to abandon an expensive attempt to build an SLS-like super-rocket and will instead focus on incremental development of its smaller but less costly Angara rocket.

Facing significant budgetary pressures, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has indefinitely postponed its ambitious effort to develop a super-heavy rocket to rival NASA's next-generation Space Launch System, SLS. Instead, Russia will focus on radical upgrades of its brand-new but smaller Angara-5 rocket which had its inaugural flight in Dec. 2014, the agency's Scientific and Technical Council, NTS, decided on Thursday, Mar. 12.

For Russia's space industry, it appears that these budgetary pressures have been a blessing in disguise. Rather than waste billions on an inefficient rocket for which there is no commercial demand — as NASA is doing with SLS (under orders from a wasteful Congress) — they will instead work on further upgrades of Angara, much like SpaceX has done with its Falcon family of rockets. This will cost far less, is very efficient, and provides them a better chance to compete for commercial launches that can help pay for it all. And best of all, it offers them the least costly path to future interplanetary missions, which means they might actually be able to make those missions happen. To quote the article again:

By switching upper stages of the existing Angara from kerosene to the more potent hydrogen fuel, engineers might be able to boost the rocket's payload from current 25 tons to 35 tons for missions to the low Earth orbit. According to Roscosmos, Angara-A5V could be used for piloted missions to the vicinity of the Moon and to its surface.

In a sense, the race is now on between Angara-A5V and Falcon Heavy.

Wireless Networking

US Wireless Spectrum Auction Raises $44.9 Billion 91

An anonymous reader writes: The FCC's recent wireless spectrum auction closed on Thursday, and the agency has raked in far more money than anyone expected. Sales totaled $44.89 billion, demonstrating that demand for wireless spectrum is higher than ever. The winners have not yet been disclosed, but the FCC will soon make all bidding activity public. "The money will be used to fund FirstNet, the government agency tasked with creating the nation's first interoperable broadband network for first responders, to finance technological upgrades to our 911 emergency systems, and to contribute over $20 billion to deficit reduction. In addition, the auction brought 65 Megahertz of spectrum to market to fuel our nation's mobile broadband networks. The wireless industry estimates that for every 10 Megahertz of spectrum licensed for wireless broadband, 7,000 American jobs are created and U.S. gross domestic product increases by $1.7 billion."

Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.