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+ - This Is What Happens When A State Seriously Invests In Clean Energy-> 2 2

mspohr writes: "Solar farms are blooming across California’s deserts, wind turbines are climbing the Sierra, photovoltaic roofs are shimmering over suburbs, and Teslas are the Silicon Valley elite’s new ride. A clean energy rush is transforming the Golden State so quickly that nearly a quarter of its electricity now comes from renewable sources, and new facilities, especially solar, are coming online at a rapid rate. Last year, California became the first state to get more than 5 percent of its electricity from the sun."
This is a big turnaround:
"It’s difficult to remember that just 15 years earlier the state was experiencing an energy meltdown. Electricity prices skyrocketed, supply crashed and blackouts rolled, due mainly to a disastrous deregulation attempt and unscrupulous market manipulation. "

Link to Original Source

+ - Robocops Direct Traffic in the Congo->

mspohr writes: The Guardian describes robocops used in Kinshasa to direct traffic:
"The solar-powered aluminium robots are huge, towering over the jammed streets of Kinshasa, as cars and motorcyles jostle for road room, their horns blasting.
Each hand on the odd-looking machines — built to withstand the year-round hot climate — is fitted with green and red lights that regulate the flow of traffic in the sprawling city of nine million.
The robots are also equipped with rotating chests and surveillance cameras that record the flow of traffic and send real-time images to the police station."
These are second generation robots designed by a Congolese association of women engineers.
"Although the humanoids look more like giant toys than real policemen, motorists have given them a thumbs up.
“There are certain drivers who don’t respect the traffic police. But with the robot it will be different. We should respect the robot,” taxi driver Poro Zidane told AFP."

Link to Original Source

+ - Darwin Awards study says men are far more idiotic than women->

mspohr writes: In a study published in the British Medical Journal (http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g7094) and reported by CNet (and others): "Scientists analyze the past 10 years of silly, avoidable deaths and find that almost 90 percent of the "protagonists" in these scenarios were male." "According to “male idiot theory” (MIT) many of the differences in risk seeking behaviour, emergency department admissions, and mortality may be explained by the observation that men are idiots and idiots do stupid things." The BMJ Abstract: "Sex differences in risk seeking behaviour, emergency hospital admissions, and mortality are well documented. However, little is known about sex differences in idiotic risk taking behaviour. This paper reviews the data on winners of the Darwin Award over a 20 year period (1995-2014). Winners of the Darwin Award must eliminate themselves from the gene pool in such an idiotic manner that their action ensures one less idiot will survive. This paper reports a marked sex difference in Darwin Award winners: males are significantly more likely to receive the award than females (P0.0001). We discuss some of the reasons for this difference." Yes, please discuss...
Link to Original Source

+ - Is the Universe a Hologram?->

mspohr writes: An article in The Register explains an experiment at Fermilab:
"How can we tell from the inside of our Universe if it’s actually real or just a hologram? Boffins at Fermilab have set out to answer this thorny question with a new experiment in the National Accelerator Lab called the Holometer."
"Scientists reckon it’s possible that, just like the pixels that make up the 3D image on your TV, all the information about the Universe could actually be encoded in tiny packets in just two dimensions. These natural pixels would be ten trillion trillion times smaller than an atom – a unit known as the Planck length. Things get heavily quantum from this assumption on"
(Note: I always get confused when things get "heavily quantum".)
"The Fermilab’s Holometer will attempt to measure the quantum jitter of space itself using a pair of interferometers placed close together. Each instrument will send a one-kilowatt laser beam at a beam splitter and down two perpendicular 40m arms. The light will then be reflected back to the splitter when the two beams recombine, creating fluctuations in the brightness if these vibrations exist."
(Sounds good so far...)
“If we find a noise we can’t get rid of, we might be detecting something fundamental about nature – a noise that is intrinsic to space-time,” said Fermilab physicist Aaron Chou, lead scientist and project manager for the Holometer. “It’s an exciting moment for physics. A positive result will open a whole new avenue of questioning about how space works.”
(Yes... how does space work?)

Link to Original Source

+ - Cobol Forever!->

mspohr writes: Interesting article in Computerworld about Cobol's die hard fans which include large companies with millions of lines in Cobol code which they keep up to date even though there is a dwindling supply of Cobol coders. One example is Blue Cross:
"The healthcare insurer processes nearly 10% of all healthcare claims in the U.S., and uses six top-of-the line IBM zEnterprise EC12 systems running millions of lines of optimized Cobol to process 19.4 billion online healthcare transactions annually. Its custom-built claims processing engine has been thoroughly modernized and kept up to date, says BCBS of SC vice president and chief technology officer Ravi Ravindra. "It was always in Cobol, and it always will be."
"Cobol was designed to handle transactional workloads, and for large-scale transaction processing it still can't be beat..."
"Some 23 of the world's top 25 retailers, 92 of the top 100 banks, and the 10 largest insurers all entrust core operations to Cobol programs running on IBM mainframes"
So... should we all start learning Cobol?

Link to Original Source

+ - Want to have a real impact on climate change? Then become a vegetarian.->

mspohr writes: A thought provoking article in today's Guardian makes the case that raising meat for human consumption is one of the most climate damaging human activities with studies showing that between 18% and 51% of climate change is due to human meat consumption.
"Raising animals to eat produces more greenhouse gasses (via methane and nitrous oxide) than all of the carbon dioxide excreted by automobiles, boats, planes and trains in the world combined. "
"Yes, quitting meat can reduce your carbon footprint significantly more than quitting driving."

Link to Original Source

+ - New tools help neuroscientists analyze 'big data'->

mspohr writes: "New technologies for monitoring brain activity are generating unprecedented quantities of information. That data may hold new insights into how the brain works — but only if researchers can interpret it. To help make sense of the data, neuroscientists can now harness the power of distributed computing with Thunder, a library of tools developed at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus.
"Freeman chose to build on a new platform called Spark. Developed at the University of California, Berkeley's AMPLab, Spark is rapidly becoming a favored tool for large-scale computing across industry, Freeman says. Spark's capabilities for data caching eliminates the bottleneck of loading a complete data set for all but the initial step, making it well-suited for interactive, exploratory analysis, and for complex algorithms requiring repeated operations on the same data. And Spark's elegant and versatile application programming interfaces (APIs) help simplify development. Thunder uses the Python API, which Freeman hopes will make it particularly easy for others to adopt, given Python's increasing use in neuroscience and data science.
Researchers can find everything they need to begin using the open source library of tools at http://freeman-lab.github.io/t...
To make Spark suitable for analyzing a broad range of neuroscience data — information about connectivity and activity collected from different organisms and with different techniques — Freeman first developed standardized representations of data that were amenable to distributed computing. He then worked to express typical neuroscience workflows into the computational language of Spark."

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+ - Earth in the midst of sixth mass extinction - the "anthropocene defaunation"->

mspohr writes: A special issue of Science magazine devoted to Vanishing Fauna publishes a series of articles about the man-caused extinction of species and the implications for ecosystems and the climate.
"During the Pleistocene epoch, only tens of thousands of years ago, our planet supported large, spectacular animals. Mammoths, terror birds, giant tortoises, and saber-toothed cats, as well as many less familiar species such as giant ground sloths (some of which reached 7 meters in height) and glyptodonts (which resembled car-sized armadillos), roamed freely. Since then, however, the number and diversity of animal species on Earth have consistently and steadily declined. Today we are left with a relatively depauperate fauna, and we continue to lose animal species to extinction rapidly. Although some debate persists, most of the evidence suggests that humans were responsible for extinction of this Pleistocene fauna, and we continue to drive animal extinctions today through the destruction of wild lands, consumption of animals as a resource or a luxury, and persecution of species we see as threats or competitors. "
Unfortunately, most of the detail is behind a paywall but the summary should be enough for Slashdot readers.

Link to Original Source

+ - California pays Wisconsin farmer to burn methane->

mspohr writes: Can bottom-up cap and trade work?
California has funded a $3.2 million system to burn methane from dairy cows in Wisconsin.
It's all part of California's "cap and trade" effort to reduce climate change.
"California’s program is the latest incarnation of an increasingly popular — and much debated — mechanism that has emerged as one of the primary weapons against global warming. From China to Norway, Kazakhstan to the Northeastern United States, governments are requiring industries to buy permits allowing them to emit set levels of greenhouse gases. Under these plans, the allowable levels of pollution are steadily reduced and the cost of permits rises, creating an economic incentive for companies to cut emissions."
“We might be witnessing the birth of a new system, without quite realizing it,” said Glen P. Peters, a climate researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo. “When you think of all these bottom-up initiatives around the world, maybe we are living through the transformation right now.”
"Experts who support cap and trade contend that a market mechanism can reach more deeply into the economy than any other approach, changing the behavior even of people and companies that might not necessarily care about global warming."

Link to Original Source

+ - NSA "Knows the way you think"->

mspohr writes: “As you write a message, you know, an analyst at the NSA or any other service out there that’s using this kind of attack against people can actually see you write sentences and then backspace over your mistakes and then change the words and then kind of pause and — and — and think about what you wanted to say and then change it. And it’s this extraordinary intrusion not just into your communications, your finished messages but your actual drafting process, into the way you think.”

More information here:
http://www.nbcnews.com/feature...

Link to Original Source

+ - 3D Printed houses are a reality!->

mspohr writes: China’s Shanghai WinSun Decoration Design Engineering company has released new images and further details on its 3D printed houses. The ten houses were built entirely out of recycled materials, in less than 24 hours.
The monstrous 3D printer measures 32-meters long, by 10-meters wide, by 6.6-meters high and is fully capable of printing the 200 square meter houses, in Shanghai’s Qingpu district. It uses a mixture of construction and industrial waste to produce each house. The inexpensive materials used during the printing process and the lack of labor, means each house can be printed for under $5,000, an impressive achievement for a relatively new construction process.

Link to Original Source

+ - Bugs in SCADA software leaves 7,600 factories vulnerable-> 1 1

mspohr writes: The BBC reports:
The discovery of bugs in software used to run oil rigs, refineries and power plants has prompted a global push to patch the widely used control system. The bugs were found by security researchers and, if exploited, could give attackers remote access to control systems for the installations.
The US Department of Homeland Security said an attacker with "low skill" would be able to exploit the bugs. About 7,600 plants around the world are using the vulnerable software.
"We went from zero to total compromise," said Juan Vazquez, a researcher at security firm Rapid7 who, with colleague Julian Diaz, found several holes in Yokogawa's Centum CS 3000 software which was first released to run on Windows 98 to monitor and control machinery in many large industrial installations.
The researchers also explored other SCADA software: "We ended up finding over 1,000 bugs in 100 days,"

Link to Original Source

+ - Reporting from the Web's Underbelly-> 1 1

mspohr writes: The NY Times has an interesting article about Brian Krebs (Krebs on Security):
"In the last year, Eastern European cybercriminals have stolen Brian Krebs’s identity a half dozen times, brought down his website, included his name and some unpleasant epithets in their malware code, sent fecal matter and heroin to his doorstep, and called a SWAT team to his home just as his mother was arriving for dinner."
His reporting is definitely on the edge. "Mr. Krebs, 41, tries to write pieces that cannot be found elsewhere. His widely read cybersecurity blog, Krebs on Security, covers a particularly dark corner of the Internet: profit-seeking cybercriminals, many based in Eastern Europe, who make billions off pharmaceutical sales, malware, spam, frauds and heists like the recent ones that Mr. Krebs was first to uncover at Adobe, Target and Neiman Marcus."
The article concludes with this: "Mr. Joffe worries Mr. Krebs’s enemies could do far worse. “I don’t understand why he hasn’t moved to a new, undisclosed address,” he said. “But Brian needs a bodyguard.” (He does have a shotgun.)

Link to Original Source

+ - Want to remotely control a car? $20 in parts.->

mspohr writes: From the The Register:
"Spanish hackers have been showing off their latest car-hacking creation; a circuit board using untraceable, off-the-shelf parts worth $20 that can give wireless access to the car's controls while it's on the road.
The device, which will be shown off at next month's Black Hat Asia hacking conference, uses the Controller Area Network (CAN) ports car manufacturers build into their engines for computer-system checks. Once assembled, the smartphone-sized device can be plugged in under some vehicles, or inside the bonnet of other models, and give the hackers remote access to control systems.
"A car is a mini network," security researcher Alberto Garcia Illera told Forbes. "And right now there's no security implemented."

Link to Original Source

+ - Travel to Sochi for the Olympics, Get Hacked?-> 1 1

mspohr writes: If you're headed to Sochi for the Winter Olympics, it might be best to stay off the grid.
The State Department has already warned travelers that they should have no expectation of privacy while in Russia. And now, NBC's Richard Engel has demonstrated just how easy it is to get hacked while at the games.
Engel, NBC's chief foreign correspondent, teamed with Kyle Wilhoit, a threat researcher with TrendMicro, to test how quickly devices could be compromised while in Russia.
According to Engel's report, the smartphone was attacked almost instantly... The PCs were also breached almost instantaneously from someone who appeared to be in Russia.
(Wilhoit said he will publish a more technical blog post on Friday that details exactly how the devices were compromised.)

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