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Robotics

Volkswagen Factory Worker Killed By a Robot 319 319

m.alessandrini writes: A worker at a Volkswagen factory in Germany has died, after a robot grabbed him and crushed him against a metal plate. This is perhaps the first severe accident of this kind in a western factory, and is sparking debate about who is responsible for the accident, the man who was servicing the robot beyond its protection cage, or the robot's hardware/software developers who didn't put enough safety checks. Will this distinction be more and more important in the future, when robots will be more widespread?
Businesses

Restaurateur Loses Copyright Suit To BMI 389 389

Frosty P writes: BMI claims Amici III in Linden, New York didn't have a license when it played four tunes in its eatery one night last year, including the beloved "Bennie and the Jets" and "Brown Sugar," winning $24,000 earlier this year, and over $8,200 in attorney's fees. Giovanni Lavorato, who has been in business for 25 years, says the disc DJ brought into the eatery paid a fee to play tunes. "It's ridiculous for me to pay somebody also," he said. "This is not a nightclub. This is not a disco joint . . . How many times do they want to get paid for the stupid music?"
News

Actor Christopher Lee Has Died at 93 96 96

Christopher Lee (or Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee) has played his last on-screen villain. The actor and singer died Sunday at the age of 93, reports The Guardian, after a career in which he played very few positive role models, but an astounding number of antagonists in fantasy, Sci-Fi, and horror films; as a young man, Lee played a career-launching Dracula, as well as a James Bond villain, the perfectly unsettling Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man, and dozens of other characters (not all of them evil). Into his 80s, still in demand for the creepiness he was so good at projecting, Lee portrayed the fallen-from-grace wizard Saruman in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptations, and the evil Count Dooku in George Lucas's Star Wars follow-ons. He was also perhaps the only Knight Bachelor to have released an album of symphonic metal. Even at the time of his death, Lee was involved in film projects, so his legacy will always be immense but incomplete.
Earth

Why Our Brains Can't Process the Gravest Threats To Humanity 637 637

merbs writes: Our brains are unfathomably complex, powerful organs that grant us motor skills, logic, and abstract thought. Brains have bequeathed unto we humans just about every cognitive advantage, it seems, except for one little omission: the ability to adequately process the need for the whole species' long-term survival. They're miracle workers for the short-term survival of individuals, but the scientific evidence suggests that the human brain flails when it comes to navigating wide-lens, slowly-unfurling crises like climate change.
Science

Signs of Ancient Cells and Proteins Found In Dinosaur Fossils 51 51

sciencehabit writes: The cupboards of the Natural History Museum in London hold spectacular dinosaur fossils, from 15-centimeter, serrated Tyrannosaurus rex teeth to a 4-meter-long hadrosaur tail. Now, researchers are reporting another spectacular find, buried in eight nondescript fossils from the same collection: what appear to be ancient red blood cells and fibers of ancient protein. Using new methods to peer deep inside fossils, the study in this week's issue of Nature Communications backs up previous, controversial reports of such structures in dinosaur bones. It also suggests that soft tissue preservation may be more common than anyone had guessed.
IOS

WWDC 2015 Roundup 415 415

Here's an overview of the main announcements and new products unveiled at WWDC today.
  • The latest OS X will be named OS X El Capitan. Features include: Natural language searches and auto-arrange windows. You can make the cursor bigger by shaking the mouse and pin sites in Safari now. 1.4x faster than Yosemite. Available to developers today, public beta in July, out for free in the fall.
  • Metal, the graphics API is coming to Mac. "Metal combines the compute power of OpenCL and the graphics power of OpenGL in a high-performance API that does both." Up to 40% greater rendering efficiency.
  • iOS 9: New Siri UI. There’s an API for search. Siri and Spotlight are getting more integrated. Siri getting better at prediction with a far lower word error rate. You can make checklists, draw and sketch inside of Notes. Maps gets some love. New app called News "We think this offers the best mobile reading experience ever." Like Flipboard it pulls in news articles from your favorite sites. HomeKit now supports window shades, motion sensors, security systems, and remote access via iCloud. Public Beta for iOS 9.
  • Apple Pay: All four major credit card companies and over 1 million locations supporting Apple Pay as of next month. Apple Pay reader developed by Square, for peer-to-peer transactions. Apple Pay coming to the UK next month support in 250,000 locations including the London transportation system. Passbook is being renamed "Wallet."
  • iPad: Shortcuts for app-switching, split-screen multitasking and QuickType. Put two fingers down on the keyboard and it becomes a trackpad. Side by side apps. Picture in picture available on iPad Air and up, Mini 2 and up.
  • CarPlay: Now works wirelessly and supports apps by the automaker.
  • Swift 2,the latest version of Apple’s programing language . Swift will be open source.
  • The App Store: Over 100 billion app downloads, and $30 billion paid to developers.
  • Apple Watch: watchOS 2 with new watch faces. Developers can build their own "complications" (widgets with a terrible name that show updates and gauges on the watch face). A new feature called Time Travel lets you rotate the digital crown to zoom into the future and see what’s coming up. More new features: reply to email, bedside alarm clock, send scribbled messages in multiple colors. You can now play video on the watch. Developer beta of watchOS 2 available today, wide release in the fall for free.
  • Apple Music: “The next chapter in music. It will change the way you experience music forever,” says Cook. Live DJs broadcasting and hosting live radio streams you can listen to in 150 countries. Handpicked suggestions. 24/7 live global radio. Beats Connect lets unsigned artists connect with fans. Beats Music has all of iTunes’ music, to buy or stream. With curated recommendations. Launching June 30th in 100 countries with Android this fall, with Windows and Android versions. First three months free, $9.99 a month or $14.99 a month for family plan for up to six.
First Person Shooters (Games)

Fallout 4 Announced 229 229

An anonymous reader writes: After teasing gamers with a countdown timer yesterday, Bethesda has now announced Fallout 4 for PCs, the Xbox One, and the PS4. They've also released an official trailer (YouTube video). The game will be set in post-apocalyptic Boston, and the player character will apparently be accompanied on his adventures by a dog. The Guardian has a post cataloging the features they're hoping will be improved from previous games in the series: "The combat system in the last two Fallout games was not universally adored. It often felt you were shooting wildly and blindly, biding time before you could use the the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting (VAT) system, which allows players to focus in on specific parts of enemies with a percentage chance of hitting them. ... Well-written, hand-crafted quests are going to be vitally important. The Radiant Quest system used in Skyrim sounds brilliant on paper: infinite quests, randomly generated and a little different each time. But the reality was a lot of fetch quests in similar looking caves. Bethesda may be tempted to bring that system across to Fallout 4, but there's an argument for abandoning dynamic quests altogether and opting for a smaller range of authored challenges."
Mars

Martian Moons May Have Formed Like Earth's 50 50

sciencehabit writes: Astronomers have long believed that Mars snatched its two moons — Phobos and Deimos — from the asteroid belt. That would explain why the objects look like asteroids—dark, crater-pocked, and potato-shaped. But computer simulations by two independent teams of astronomers (abstract 1, abstract 2) indicated that Mars's moons formed much like ours did, after a giant space rock smashed into the planet and sprayed debris into orbit.
America Online

Closing This Summer: Verizon To Scoop Up AOL For $4.4 Billion 153 153

MojoKid writes with this excerpt from Hot Hardware: We learned this weekend that AOL's dial-up business still has over 2 million customers who pay on average just under $21 per month for service. Regardless of how strange that seems to those of us that salivate over the prospects of gigabit Internet, folks are still clinging to 56k modems are adding millions to AOL's bottom line. However, also recall that AOL has a massive digital advertising platform with a heavy focus on the mobile sector and also owns a wealth of popular web destinations including Engadget, TechCrunch, and The Huffington Post. With this in mind, it shouldn't be too surprising that Verizon has offered AOL a marriage proposal. Verizon is acquiring AOL for an estimated $50 per share, which brings the total value of the transaction to $4.4 billion. Here are stories from The New York Times, NBC News, and NPR on the proposed sale, which it's worth noting isn't yet final, and is subject to regulatory approval.
Earth

Ice Loss In West Antarctica Is Speeding Up 422 422

An anonymous reader writes: A new study just published on Antarctic ice loss by Christopher Harig and Frederik Simons of Princeton confirm West Antarctica is losing mass fast. The study used satellite measurements to determine the rate of mass loss. The lead author of the study told The Guardian: "It is very important that we continue long term monitoring of how mass changes in ice sheets. For West Antarctica in particular this is important because of how it is thought to be more unstable, where the feedbacks can cause more and more ice loss from the land over time. These strong regional accelerations that we see are very robustly measured and imply that Antarctica may become a major contributor to sea level rise in the near future. This increase in the mass loss rate, in ten years, accelerations like that show that things are beginning to change on human time scales."
Businesses

Technology and Ever-Falling Attention Spans 147 147

An anonymous reader writes: The BBC has an article about technology's effect on concentration in the workplace. They note research finding that the average information worker's attention span has dropped significantly in only a few years. "Back in 2004 we followed American information workers around with stopwatches and timed every action. They switched their attention every three minutes on average. In 2012, we found that the time spent on one computer screen before switching to another computer screen was one minute 15 seconds. By the summer of 2014 it was an average of 59.5 seconds." Many groups are now researching ways to keep people in states of focus and concentration. An app ecosystem is popping up to support that as well, from activity timing techniques to background noise that minimizes distractions. Recent studies are even showing that walking slowly on a treadmill while you work can have positive effects on focus and productivity. What tricks do you use to keep yourself on task?
Apple

Apple Watch Launches 174 174

An anonymous reader writes: The Apple Watch's release date has arrived: retailers around the world have quietly begun putting them on their shelves, and customers are beginning to receive their shipments. Reviews have been out for a while, including thoughtful ones from John Gruber and Nilay Patel. Apple has published a full user guide for the software, and iFixit has put up a full teardown to take a look at the hardware. They give it a repairability score of 5 out of 10, saying that the screen and battery are easily replaced, but not much else is. Though Apple designated the watch "water-resistant" rather than "waterproof", early tests show it's able to withstand a shower and a swim in the pool without failing. Ars has an article about the difficulty of making games for the Apple Watch, and Wired has a piece detailing its creation.
Space

Hubble Spots Star Explosion Astronomers Can't Explain 154 154

schwit1 writes: The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted the explosion of a star that does not fit into any theory for stellar evolution. "The exploding star, which was seen in the constellation Eridanus, faded over two weeks — much too rapidly to qualify as a supernova. The outburst was also about ten times fainter than most supernovae, explosions that destroy some or all of a star. But it was about 100 times brighter than an ordinary nova, which is a type of surface explosion that leaves a star intact. 'The combination of properties is puzzling,' says Mario Livio, an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. 'I thought about a number of possibilities, but each of them fails' to account for all characteristics of the outburst, he adds." We can put this discovery on the bottom of a very long list of similar discoveries by Hubble, which this week is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its launch.

"May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." -- George Carlin

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