Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
What's the story with these ads on Slashdot? Check out our new blog post to find out. ×
Earth

Congressional Testimony: A Surprising Consensus On Climate 290

Lasrick writes: Many legislators regularly deny that there is a scientific consensus, or even broad scientific support, for government action to address climate change. Researchers recently assessed the content of congressional testimony related to either global warming or climate change from 1969 to 2007. For each piece of testimony, they recorded several characteristics about how the testimony discussed climate. For instance, noting whether the testimony indicated that global warming or climate change was happening and whether any climate change was attributable (in part) to anthropogenic sources. The results: Testimony to Congress—even under Republican reign—reflects the scientific consensus that humans are changing our planet's climate.
Earth

Earth Home To 3 Trillion Trees, Half As Many As When Human Civilization Arose 242

sciencehabit writes: Earth today supports more than 3 trillion trees—eight times as many as we thought a decade ago. But that number is rapidly shrinking, according to a global tree survey released today (abstract). We are losing 15 billion trees a year to toilet paper, timber, farmland expansion, and other human needs. So even though the total count is large, the decline is "a cause for concern," says Tom Spies, a forest ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service in Corvallis, Oregon, who was not involved with the work.
Programming

You Don't Have To Be Good At Math To Learn To Code 601

HughPickens.com writes: Olga Khazan writes in The Atlantic that learning to program involves a lot of Googling, logic, and trial-and-error—but almost nothing beyond fourth-grade arithmetic. Victoria Fine explains how she taught herself how to code despite hating math. Her secret? Lots and lots of Googling. "Like any good Google query, a successful answer depended on asking the right question. "How do I make a website red" was not nearly as successful a question as "CSS color values HEX red" combined with "CSS background color." I spent a lot of time learning to Google like a pro. I carefully learned the vocabulary of HTML so I knew what I was talking about when I asked the Internet for answers." According to Khazan while it's true that some types of code look a little like equations, you don't really have to solve them, just know where they go and what they do. "In most cases you can see that the hard maths (the physical and geometry) is either done by a computer or has been done by someone else. While the calculations do happen and are essential to the successful running of the program, the programmer does not need to know how they are done." Khazan says that in order to figure out what your program should say, you're going to need some basic logic skills and you'll need to be skilled at copying and pasting things from online repositories and tweaking them slightly. "But humanities majors, fresh off writing reams of term papers, are probably more talented at that than math majors are."
Earth

Citi Report: Slowing Global Warming Could Save Tens of Trillions of Dollars 248

Layzej writes with news carried by The Guardian about a report published by the Global Perspectives & Solutions division of Citibank (America's third-largest bank) examining the costs and benefits of a low-carbon future. The report examined two hypothetical futures: one "business as usual," and the other (the "Action" scenario) which includes an aggressive move to reduce energy use and carbon emission. From the article: "One of the most interesting findings in the report is that the investment costs for the two scenarios are almost identical. In fact, because of savings due to reduced fuel costs and increased energy efficiency, the Action scenario is actually a bit cheaper than the Inaction scenario. Coupled with the fact the total spend is similar under both action and inaction, yet the potential liabilities of inaction are enormous, it is hard to argue against a path of action." But there will be winners and losers, says the report: "The biggest loser stands to be the coal industry, where we estimate cumulative spend under our Action scenario could be $11.6 trillion less than in our Inaction scenario over the next quarter century, with renewables, wind and nuclear (as well as energy efficiency) the main beneficiaries."
Earth

Nearly Every Seabird May Be Eating Plastic By 2050 149

sciencehabit writes: According to a new study almost every ocean-foraging species of birds may be eating plastic by 2050. In the five large ocean areas known as "garbage patches," each square kilometer of surface water holds almost 600,000 pieces of debris. Sciencemag reports: "By 2050, about 99.8% of the species studied will have eaten plastic, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Consuming plastic can cause myriad problems, Wilcox says. For example, some types of plastics absorb and concentrate environmental pollutants, he notes. After ingestion, those chemicals can be released into the birds’ digestive tracts, along with chemicals in the plastics that keep them soft and pliable. But plastic bits aren’t always pliable enough to get through a gull’s gut. Most birds have trouble passing large bits of plastic, and they build up in the stomach, sometimes taking up so much room that the birds can’t consume enough food to stay healthy."
Windows

The Long Reach of Windows 95 343

jfruh writes: I'm a Mac guy — have been ever since the '80s. When Windows 95 was released 20 years ago, I was among those who sneered that "Windows 95 is Macintosh 87." But now, as I type these words on a shiny new iMac, I can admit that my UI — and indeed the computing landscape in general — owes a lot to Windows 95, the most influential operating system that ever got no respect. ITWorld reports: "... even though many techies tend to dismiss UI innovation as eye candy, the fact is that the changes made in Windows 95 were incredibly successful in making the the system more accessible to users -- so successful, in fact, that a surprising number of them have endured and even spread to other operating systems. We still live in the world Windows 95 made. When I asked people on Twitter their thoughts about what aspects of Windows 95 have persisted, I think Aaron Webb said it best: 'All of it? Put a 15 year old in front of 3.1 and they would be lost. In front of Windows 95 they would be able to do any task quickly.'"
Earth

3 Category 4 Hurricanes Develop In the Pacific At Once For the First Time 292

Kristine Lofgren writes: For the first time in recorded history, three Category 4 hurricanes were seen in the Pacific Ocean at the same time. Climatologists have been warning that climate change may produce more extreme weather situations, and this may be a peek at the future to come. Eric Blake, a specialist with the National Hurricane Center summed it up with a tweet: "Historic central/eastern Pacific outbreak- 3 major hurricanes at once for the first time on record!"
Censorship

Assange Says Harrods Assisting Metro Police in 'Round-the-Clock Vigil' 266

The Daily Mail reports that Julian Assange seems to have yet another foe (or at least friend of a foe) watching persistently while he stays put in the Ecuadorean embassy in London: Harrod's Department Store. The Metro Police, according to Assange, have developed a relationship with the store, and are using that relationship to facilitate their full-time observation of his roosting place in the embassy. When the founder of Wikileaks says, "We have obtained documents from Harrods [saying that] police have people stationed 24 hours a day in some of the opposing buildings Harrods controls," it seems likely that those documents actually exist.
Microsoft

A Courtroom Victory For Microsoft In Cellphone-Related Patent Suit 14

Mark Wilson writes: Microsoft has been cleared of patent infringement by the US International Trade Commission. The case dates back to 2007 when InterDigital Inc claimed Microsoft infringed its patents, and there were calls for a ban on the import of handsets. InterDigital Inc has been battling in court for eight years, initially trying to claim royalties on phones made by Nokia, now transferred to Microsoft. As well as blocking the call for an import ban, the ITC stated that Microsoft did not infringe patents relating to the way mobiles make calls. In short Microsoft is in the clear and InterDigital's rights have not been violated.
NASA

NASA Scientists Paint Stark Picture of Accelerating Sea Level Rise 382

A NASA panel yesterday announced widely reported finding that global sea levels have risen about three inches since 1992, and that these levels are expected to keep rising as much as several more feet over the next century -- on the upper end of model-based predictions that have been made so far. From the Sydney Morning Herald piece linked above: NASA says Greenland has lost an average of 303 gigatons [of ice] yearly for the past decade. Since it takes 360 gigatons to raise sea level by a millimetre, that would suggest Greenland has done this about eight times over just in the last 10 years or so. "People need to be prepared for sea level rise," said Joshua Willis, an oceanographer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. "It's not going to stop."
Earth

The Nations That Will Be Hardest Hit By Water Shortages By 2040 203

merbs writes: Water access is going to be one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century. As climate change dries out the already dry areas and makes the wet ones wetter, we're poised to see some radical civilizational shifts. For one, a number of densely populated areas will come under serious water stress—which analysts fear will lead to strife, thirst, and even violent conflict. With that in mind, the World Resource Institute has assembled a new report projecting which nations are most likely to be hardest hit by water stress in coming decades—nations like Bahrain, Israel, Palestine, and Spain lead the pack.
Earth

Countries Gaming Carbon Offsets May Have Dramatically Increased Emissions 157

schwit1 writes: Abuse of the carbon offset system may have caused emissions to increase by as much as 600 million tons. That's the finding of a new report from the Stockholm Environment Institute, which investigated carbon credits used to offset greenhouse gas emissions under a UN scheme. As one of the co-authors of the report put it, issuing these credits "was like printing money." From the article: "In some projects, chemicals known to warm the climate were created and then destroyed to claim cash. As a result of political horse trading at UN negotiations on climate change, countries like Russia and the Ukraine were allowed to create carbon credits from activities like curbing coal waste fires, or restricting gas emissions from petroleum production. Under the UN scheme, called Joint Implementation, they then were able to sell those credits to the European Union's carbon market. Companies bought the offsets rather than making their own more expensive, emissions cuts. But [the studey] says the vast majority of Russian and Ukrainian credits were in fact, "hot air" — no actual emissions were reduced.
Education

Wired: IBM's School Could Fix Education and Tech's Diversity Gap 176

theodp writes: Wired positively gushes over IBM's Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), saying it could fix education and tech's diversity gap. Backed by IBM, the P-TECH program aims to prepare mainly minority kids from low-income backgrounds for careers in technology, allowing them to earn a high school diploma and a free associate degree in six years or less. That P-TECH's six inaugural graduates completed the program in four years and were offered jobs with IBM, Wired reports, is "irrefutable proof that this solution might actually work" (others aren't as impressed, although the President is drinking the Kool-Aid). While the program has only actually graduated six students since it was announced in 2010, Wired notes that by fall, 40 schools across the country will be designed in P-TECH's image. IBM backs four of them, but they'll also be run by tech giants like Microsoft and SAP, major energy companies like ConEdison, along with hospital systems, manufacturing associations, and civil engineering trade groups. They go by different names and are geared toward different career paths, but they all follow the IBM playbook.
Wireless Networking

Massachusetts Boarding School Sued Over Wi-Fi Sickness 587

alphadogg writes: The parents of an anonymous student at the Fay School in Southborough, Mass., allege that the Wi-Fi at the institution is making their child sick, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court earlier this month (PDF). The child, identified only as "G" in court documents, is said to suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome. The radio waves emitted by the school's Wi-Fi routers cause G serious discomfort and physical harm, according to the suit. "After being continually denied access to the school in order to test their student's classroom, and having their request that all classrooms in which their child is present have the WiFi network replaced with a hard-wired Ethernet denied, the parents sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act."
The Internet

The Muddy Truth About Kickstarter 'Staff Picks' 50

szczys writes: Crowd Funding is the wild-wild west of business financing, and it's not just the people starting campaigns that are playing without many rules. One of Kickstarter's sort algorithm triggers is the "Staff Pick." Research indicates being featured by Kickstarter staff is a huge predictor for success. But there is no published benchmark for how these are chosen. Oddly, Kickstarter only discourages users from falsely labeling their campaign as a Staff Pick. To protect backers and ensure the crowdfunding ecosystem isn't sullied by scammers, Kickstarter needs to boost their transparency starting with this Staff Pick conundrum.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

Working...