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Movies

Top Five Theaters Won't Show "The Interview" Sony Cancels Release 393

Posted by samzenpus
from the nothing-to-see-here dept.
tobiasly writes The country's top five theater chains — Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas and Cineplex Entertainment — have decided not to play Sony's The Interview. This comes after the group which carried off a massive breach of its networks threatened to carry out "9/11-style attacks" on theaters that showed the film. Update: Sony has announced that it has cancelled the planned December 25 theatrical release.
News

In Breakthrough, US and Cuba To Resume Diplomatic Relations 339

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretending-we-like-each-other dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Peter Baker reports at the NYT that in a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, the United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century. In addition, the United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations, and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government. Although the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will remain in place for now, the administration signaled that it would welcome a move by Congress to ease or lift it should lawmakers choose to. "We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America's interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state," said the White House in a written statement. "The United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people."
Space

NASA Study Proposes Airships, Cloud Cities For Venus Exploration 182

Posted by Soulskill
from the billy-dee-williams-volunteers-to-lead dept.
An anonymous reader writes: IEEE Spectrum reports on a study out of NASA exploring the idea that manned missions to Venus are possible if astronauts deploy and live in airships once they arrive. Since the atmospheric pressure at the surface is 92 times that of Earth, and the surface temperate is over 450 degrees C, the probes we've sent to Venus haven't lasted long. The Venera 8 probe sent back data for only 50 minutes after landing. Soviet missions in 1985 were able to get much more data — 46 hours worth — by suspending their probes from balloons. The new study refines that concept: "At 50 kilometers above its surface, Venus offers one atmosphere of pressure and only slightly lower gravity than Earth. Mars, in comparison, has a "sea level" atmospheric pressure of less than a hundredth of Earth's, and gravity just over a third Earth normal. The temperature at 50 km on Venus is around 75 C, which is a mere 17 degrees hotter than the highest temperature recorded on Earth.

The defining feature of these missions is the vehicle that will be doing the atmospheric exploring: a helium-filled, solar-powered airship. The robotic version would be 31 meters long (about half the size of the Goodyear blimp), while the crewed version would be nearly 130 meters long, or twice the size of a Boeing 747. The top of the airship would be covered with more than 1,000 square meters of solar panels, with a gondola slung underneath for instruments and, in the crewed version, a small habitat and the ascent vehicle that the astronauts would use to return to Venus's orbit, and home."
Programming

New AP Course, "Computer Science Principles," Aims To Make CS More Accessible 191

Posted by Soulskill
from the broadening-the-base dept.
theodp writes: "CS Principles," explains the intro to a Microsoft Research talk on a new Computer Science Toolkit and Gaming Course, "is a new AP course being piloted across the country and by making it more accessible to students we can help increase diversity in computing." Towards this end, Microsoft has developed "a middle school computing toolkit, and a high school CS Principles & Games course." These two projects were "developed specifically for girls," explains Microsoft, and are part of the corporation's Big Dream Movement for girls, which is partnering with the UN, White House, NSF, EU Commission, and others. One of Microsoft's particular goals is to "reach every individual girl in her house." According to a document on its website, Microsoft Research's other plans for Bridging the Gender Gap in computing include a partnership with the University of Wisconsin "to create a girls-only computer science Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)."
Space

Spacecraft Spots Probable Waves On Titan's Seas 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the surf's-up dept.
sciencehabit writes: It's springtime on Titan, Saturn's giant and frigid moon, and the action on its hydrocarbon seas seems to be heating up. Near the moon's north pole, there is growing evidence for waves on three different seas, scientists reported at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Researchers are also coming up with the first estimates for the volume and composition of the seas. The bodies of water appear to be made mostly of methane, and not mostly ethane as previously thought. And they are deep: Ligeia Mare, the second biggest sea with an area larger than Lake Superior, could contain 55 times Earth's oil reserves.
Network

Single Group Dominates Second Round of Anti Net-Neutrality Comment Submissions 160

Posted by Soulskill
from the spamming-for-liberty dept.
New submitter aquadood writes: According to the Sunlight Foundation's analysis of recent comment submissions to the FCC regarding Net Neutrality, the majority (56.5%) were submitted by a single organization called American Commitment, which has "shadowy" ties to the Koch brothers' network. The blog article goes on to break down the comments in-depth, showing a roughly 60/40 split between those against net neutrality and those for it, respectively.
Mars

Curiosity Detects Mysterious Methane Spikes On Mars 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-still-hasn't-killed-any-cats dept.
astroengine writes: A gas strongly associated with life on Earth has been detected again in the Martian atmosphere, opening a new chapter in a decade-old mystery about the on-again, off-again appearance of methane on Mars. The latest discovery comes from NASA's Curiosity rover, which in addition to analyzing rocks and soil samples, is sniffing the air at its Gale Crater landing site. A year ago, scientists reported that Curiosity had come up empty-handed after an eight-month search for methane in the atmosphere, leaving earlier detections by ground-based telescopes and Mars-orbiting spacecraft an unexplained anomaly. "We thought we had closed the book on methane. It was disappointing to a lot of people that there wasn't significant methane on Mars, but that's where we were," Curiosity scientist Christopher Webster with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News.
The Almighty Buck

Small Bank In Kansas Creates the Bank Account of the Future 152

Posted by samzenpus
from the tomorrow's-deposits dept.
HughPickens.com writes Nathaniel Popper writes at the NYT that the Citizens Bank of Weir, Kansas, or CBW, has been taken apart and rebuilt, from its fiber optic cables up, so it can offer services not available at even the nation's largest bank. In the United States the primary option that consumers have to transfer money is still the ACH payment. Requests for ACH transfers are collected by banks and submitted in batches, once a day, and the banks receiving the transfers also process the payments once a day, leading to long waits. ACH technology was created in the 1970s and has not changed significantly since. The clunky system, which takes at least a day to deliver money, has become so deeply embedded in the banking industry that it has been hard to replace. CBW went to work on the problem by using the debit card networks that power ATM cash dispensers. Ramamurthi's team engineered a system so that a business could collect a customer's debit card number and use it to make an instant payment directly into the customer's account — or into the account of a customer of almost any other bank in the country. The key to CBW's system is real-time, payment transaction risk-scoring — software that can judge the risk involved in any transaction in real time by looking at 20 to 40 factors, including a customers' transaction history and I.P., address where the transaction originated. It was this system that Elizabeth McQuerry, the former Fed official, praised as the "biggest idea" at a recent bank conference. "Today's banks offer the equivalent of 300-year-old paper ledgers converted to an electronic form — a digital skin on an antiquated transaction process," says Suresh Ramamurthi. "We'll now be one of the first banks in the world to offer customers a reliable, compliant, safe and secure way to instantly send and receive money internationally."
Science

Study of Massive Preprint Archive Hints At the Geography of Plagiarism 53

Posted by timothy
from the as-ralph-waldo-emerson-once-said dept.
sciencehabit writes with this excerpt from Science Insider: New analyses of the hundreds of thousands of technical manuscripts submitted to arXiv, the repository of digital preprint articles, are offering some intriguing insights into the consequences — and geography — of scientific plagiarism. It appears that copying text from other papers is more common in some nations than others, but the outcome is generally the same for authors who copy extensively: Their papers don't get cited much. The system attempts to rule out certain kinds of innocent copying: "It's a fairly sophisticated machine learning logistic classifier," says arXiv founder Paul Ginsparg, a physicist at Cornell University. "It has special ways of detecting block quotes, italicized text, text in quotation marks, as well statements of mathematical theorems, to avoid false positives."
Displays

The Case For Flipping Your Monitor From Landscape to Portrait 563

Posted by timothy
from the makes-it-hard-to-type dept.
Molly McHugh writes The vast majority of computer-related tasks see no benefit from a screen that is longer than it is tall. Sure, video playback and gaming are some key exceptions, but if you watch Netflix on your TV instead of your computer monitor and you're not into PC gaming, that long, wide display is doing nothing but hampering your experience. Let's flip it. No, seriously. Let's flip it sideways.
Music

Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy: The Science of Misheard Song Lyrics 243

Posted by samzenpus
from the dirty-dean-and-the-dunder-cheese dept.
HughPickens.com writes Maria Konnikova writes in The New Yorker that mondegreens are funny but they also give us insight into the underlying nature of linguistic processing, how our minds make meaning out of sound, and how in fractions of seconds, we translate a boundless blur of sound into sense. One of the reasons we often mishear song lyrics is that there's a lot of noise to get through, and we usually can't see the musicians' faces. Other times, the misperceptions come from the nature of the speech itself, for example when someone speaks in an unfamiliar accent or when the usual structure of stresses and inflections changes, as it does in a poem or a song. Another common cause of mondegreens is the oronym: word strings in which the sounds can be logically divided multiple ways. One version that Steven Pinker describes goes like this: Eugene O'Neill won a Pullet Surprise. The string of phonetic sounds can be plausibly broken up in multiple ways—and if you're not familiar with the requisite proper noun, you may find yourself making an error.

Other times, the culprit is the perception of the sound itself: some letters and letter combinations sound remarkably alike, and we need further cues, whether visual or contextual, to help us out. In a phenomenon known as the McGurk effect, people can be made to hear one consonant when a similar one is being spoken. "There's a bathroom on the right" standing in for "there's a bad moon on the rise" is a succession of such similarities adding up to two equally coherent alternatives.

Finally along with knowledge, we're governed by familiarity: we are more likely to select a word or phrase that we're familiar with, a phenomenon known as Zipf's law. One of the reasons that "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" substituted for Jimi Hendrix's "Excuse me while I kiss the sky" remains one of the most widely reported mondegreens of all time can be explained in part by frequency. It's much more common to hear of people kissing guys than skies.
Science

How One Man Changed the Ecology of the Great Lakes With Salmon 118

Posted by samzenpus
from the and-the-gorillas-will-eat-the-snakes dept.
An anonymous reader writes During the sixties the Great Lakes were facing an ecological disaster due to invasive species and over fishing. Biologist Howard Tanner's solution to the problem was to bring in another non-native species, the Pacific salmon. Fishing boomed for many years but with the recent salmon crash in Lake Huron many wonder if the salmon were a band-aid on a ecological wound that's too big to fix. From the article: "Tanner's goal wasn't to just alter the species composition of the lakes; he wanted to change the public's relationship with the lakes themselves. Beyond pier fishing for perch and smallmouth bass, fishing in the lakes primarily had been the domain of relatively few commercial fishing crews using big boats and nets to harvest lake trout, perch, whitefish and chubs for restaurants and stores. But because these commercially fished native species had been so destroyed by overfishing and the lamprey and alewife infestations, Tanner inherited something of a blank slate — almost like a freshly filled reservoir in the West. He had little interest in trying to repaint the same old picture, but wanted instead to turn the waters over to large numbers of sportsmen who fished as much for thrill as fillet."
NASA

Pluto-Bound Spacecraft Ends Hibernation To Start Mission 77

Posted by samzenpus
from the time-to-get-up dept.
An anonymous reader writes NASA's New Horizons spacecraft awoke from hibernation on Saturday and sent a radio confirmation that it had successfully turned itself back on one and a half hours later. The spacecraft has been traveling for nine years across the solar system towards its destination, Pluto. From the article: "In 2006, with New Horizons already on its way, Pluto was stripped of its title as the ninth planet in the solar system and became a dwarf planet, of which more than 1,000 have since been discovered in the Kuiper Belt. With New Horizons approaching Pluto's doorstep, scientists are eager for their first close-up look at this unexplored domain."
Power

Why Elon Musk's Batteries Frighten Electric Companies 460

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-for-some-infrastructure-reliability-investments dept.
JoeyRox writes: The publicized goal of Tesla's "gigafactory" is to make electric cars more affordable. However, that benefit may soon be eclipsed by the gigafactory's impact on roof-top solar power storage costs, putting the business model of utilities in peril. "The mortal threat that ever cheaper on-site renewables pose" comes from systems that include storage, said physicist Amory Lovins. "That is an unregulated product you can buy at Home Depot that leaves the old business model with no place to hide."

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