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Submission + - Mutation, not Natural Selection, which led to the rise of new species-> 1 1

Taco Cowboy writes: Blair Hedges, a biologist at Temple University in Philadelphia, has proposed a provocative alternative to the natural selection view of evolution

According to Mr. Hedges, Adaptation had little to do with it. It was simply a matter of chance and time

No matter what the life form — plant or animal, insect or mammal — it takes about 2 million years for a new species to form. Random genetic events, not natural selection, play the main role in speciation

This controversial proposal stems from efforts by Hedges and collaborators to build the world’s most comprehensive tree of life — a chart plotting the connections among 50,000 species of Earth’s vast menagerie. Their analysis suggests that speciation is essentially random

Evolutionary biologists find the research effort intriguing, particularly in its size and scope, but they are also somewhat skeptical of the provocative ideas that have emerged. “It’s a huge tour de force” said Arne Mooers, a biologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. “There are lots of interesting claims — the devil will be in the details”

To build the tree, Hedges, his Temple colleague Sudhir Kumar, and their collaborators compiled data from nearly 2,300 published studies, gleaning from each the time when two species diverged from a common ancestor. They used those data to construct a map of relationships among different species, known as a “timetree.” To form a branch, the researchers started with the two species within a closely related taxonomic group that have the most recent common ancestor. Then they added the next closest species, and so on

In a family tree for example, it is akin to starting with siblings, then adding in first cousins and second cousins

Bringing all those branches together results in a comprehensive timetree of life

It will take some time for scientists to sort through the technical details of the paper, which was published in April in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. And while some scientists have been complimentary, others immediately challenged the results, questioning both the accuracy of the tree and the conclusions that Hedges has drawn. “I am very skeptical about inferring patterns of speciation from such a broad overview of the tree of life,” said Chris Jiggins, a biologist at the University of Cambridge in England

“The classic view of evolution is that it happens in fits and starts,” said Michael Benton, a paleontologist at the University of Bristol in England

A change in the environment, such as a rise in temperatures after an ice age, might spark a burst of speciation as organisms adapt to their new surroundings. Alternatively, a single remarkable adaptation such as flight in the ancestors of birds or hair in mammals might trigger a massive expansion of animals with those characteristics

Hedges argues that while such bursts do occur, the vast majority of speciation is more prosaic and evenly timed

To start, two populations become separated, driven apart by geography or other factors. New species emerge every 2 million years, on average, in a metronomic rhythm tapped out by the random nature of genetic mutations. He likens the process to radioactive decay. It’s impossible to predict when an individual radioactive nucleus will decay, but a clump of many atoms will decay at a highly predictable rate known as the material’s half-life

Similarly, mutations strike the genome randomly, but over a long enough time the accumulation of mutations follows a pattern. “There is a kind of speciation clock ticking along” Hedges said

Link to Original Source

Submission + - Porn And Video Game Addiction Are Leading To 'Masculinity Crisis' 2 2

HughPickens.com writes: Doug Bolton reports at The Independent that a leading psychologist warns that young men are facing a crisis of masculinity due to excessive use of video games and pornography. Phillip Zimbardo says his study into the lives of 20,000 young men and their relationships with video games and pornography demonstrates that this relatively new phenomenon is affecting the minds of young men. "Our focus is on young men who play video games to excess, and do it in social isolation — they are alone in their room," says Zimbardo. "It begins to change brain function. It begins to change the reward centre of the brain, and produces a kind of excitement and addiction. What I'm saying is — boys' brains are becoming digitally rewired." Zimbardo gives the example of a gaming and pornography-addicted young man who says: "When I'm in class, I'll wish I was playing World of Warcraft. When I'm with a girl, I'll wish I was watching pornography, because I'll never get rejected." According to Zimbardo, the solution is to accept that the problem is serious — parents must become aware of the number of hours a child is spending alone in their room playing games and watching porn at the expense of other activities. Zimbardo also called for better sex education in schools — which should focus not only on biology and safety, but also on emotions, physical contact and romantic relationships.

Zimbardo is famous for the 1971 Stanford prison experiment, in which 24 students were asked to play the roles of 'guards' and 'prisoners' in a mock prison at Stanford University. Intended to last for two weeks, the experiment was abandoned after six days, after the previously normal 'guards' became extremely sadistic and the 'prisoners' became submissive and depressed. The experiment is a classic study on the psychology of imprisonment and is a topic covered in most introductory psychology textbooks

Submission + - Scientists Find Alarming Deterioration In DNA of the Urban Poor

HughPickens.com writes: Nico Pitney reports that the urban poor in the United States are experiencing accelerated aging at the cellular level, and that chronic stress linked both to income level and racial-ethnic identity is driving this physiological deterioration. Researchers analyzed telomeres, tiny caps at the ends of DNA strands that protect cells from aging prematurely, of poor and lower middle-class black, white, and Mexican residents of Detroit and found that low-income residents of Detroit, regardless of race, have significantly shorter telomeres than the national average. "There are effects of living in high-poverty, racially segregated neighborhoods — the life experiences people have, the physical exposures, a whole range of things — that are just not good for your health," says Nobel laureate. Dr. Arline Geronimus, the lead author of the study, described as the most rigorous research of its kind examining how "structurally rooted social processes work through biological mechanisms to impact health." White Detroit residents who were lower-middle-class had the longest telomeres in the study. But the shortest telomeres belonged to poor whites. Black residents had about the same telomere lengths regardless of whether they were poor or lower-middle-class. And poor Mexicans actually had longer telomeres than Mexicans with higher incomes. Geronimus says these findings demonstrate the limitations of standard measures — like race, income and education level — typically used to examine health disparities. "We've relied on them too much to be the signifiers of everything that varies in the life experiences of difference racial or ethnic groups in different geographic locations and circumstances."

One co-author of this new study is Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn who helped to discover telomeres, an achievement that won her the Nobel Prize in physiology in 2009. Blackburn ticked off a list of studies in which people's experiences and perceptions directly correlated with their telomere lengths: whether people say they feel stressed or pessimistic; whether they feel racial discrimination towards others or feel discriminated against; whether they have experienced severely negative experiences in childhood, and so on. "These are all really adding up in this quantitative way," says Blackburn. "Once you get a quantitative relationship, then this is science, right?"

Submission + - AdBlock Plus Wins in German Court in Setback for Microsoft and Google

HughPickens.com writes: Andrew Patrizio reports at Network World that a German court has ruled that the practice of blocking advertising is legal, throwing a wrench into the plans of advertising and publishing giants like Microsoft and Google to stop AdBlock Plus, a simple add-on to Chrome and Firefox, that has about 144 million active users (PDF), up 69% in a year. German publishers Zeit Online and Handelsblatt brought the suit against Eyeo, the company that owns Adblock Plus saying Adblock Plus should not be allowed to block ads on their websites. Microsoft, Google, and some French publishers were reportedly considering a suit against AdBlock Plus as well, with the chief of a French publisher's association telling AFP that its members lose 20% to 40% of revenue due to AdBlock Plus, which has 144 million users worldwide. "The Hamburg court decision is an important one," says Ben Williams, a director of Eyeo, "because it sets a precedent that may help us avoid additional lawsuits and expenses defending what we feel is an obvious consumer right: giving people the ability to control their own screens by letting them block annoying ads and protect their privacy."

Submission + - New Privacy Concerns About U.S. Program That Can Track Snail Mail->

Lashdots writes: A lawyers’ group has called for greater oversight of a government program that gives state and federal law enforcement officials access to metadata from private communications for criminal investigations and national security purposes. But it's not digital: this warrantless surveillance is conducted on regular mail. "The mail cover has been in use, in some form, since the 1800s," Chief Postal Inspector Guy J. Cottrell told Congress in November. The program targets a range of criminal activity including fraud, pornography, and terrorism, but, he said, "today, the most common use of this tool is related to investigations to rid the mail of illegal drugs and illegal drug proceeds." Recent revelations that the U.S. Postal Service photographs the front and back of all mail sent through the U.S., ostensibly for sorting purposes, has, Fast Company reports, brought new scrutiny—and new legal responses—to this obscure program.
Link to Original Source

Submission + - Groupon refuses to pay security expert who found serious XSS site bugs->

Mark Wilson writes: Bounty programs benefit everyone. Companies like Microsoft get help from security experts, customers gain improved security, and those who discover and report vulnerabilities reap the rewards financially. Or at least that's how things are supposed to work.

Having reported a series of security problems to discount and deal site Groupon, security researcher Brute Logic from XSSposed.org was expecting a pay-out — but the site refuses to stump up the cash. In all, Brute Logic reported more than 30 security issues with Groupon's site, but the company cites its Responsible Disclosure policy as the reason for not handing over the cash.

Link to Original Source

Submission + - Ancient Hangover Cure Discovered in Greek Texts

An anonymous reader writes: Trying to ease a bad hangover? Wearing a necklace made from the leaves of a shrub called Alexandrian laurel would do the job, according to a newly translated Egyptian papyrus. The “drunken headache cure” appears in a 1,900-year-old text written in Greek and was discovered during the ongoing effort to translate more than half a million scraps of papyrus known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. Housed at Oxford University’s Sackler Library, the enormous collection of texts contains lost gospels, works by Sophocles and other Greek authors, public and personal records and medical treatises dating from the first century AD to the sixth century A.D.

Comment variable speed limit algorithms (Score 1) 400 400

The idea of using algorithms should be applied to the speed limit itself.

The concept of fixed limits is outdated given modern tech and borderline ludicrous on most roads.
An empty freeway that could safely permit speeds of 100 mph (in a modern vehicle,
with an experienced driver), whereas the exact same stretch of road might need a
limit of 25 mph on a snowy day or in a rainstorm (40), fog (20-50) etc.

Why not tie the "limit" to realistic parameters and then ding anyone breaking the variable speed ceiling displayed by the vehicle (or linked to the cruise control)?

I have often seen drivers on highways going at dangerous speeds in awful conditions,
but nonetheless technically "legal"; we need to drop this one speed fits all circumstances bs.

The other idiocy built into this study is blind and literal interpretation of law.
That may be convenient for the profit seeking highway robbers (you know what I mean),
but even in America that level of ass-hattery is fairly rare (but mindless legal stuff is happening much too often)

It's really disturbing to see the massive disconnect between this kind of academic study and any kind of reality.

Ok... academic faculty dweebs, here are some real world algorithms you should go figure out:

a. How to implement speed algorithms for safe but variable limits
b A study that shows the de-facto algorithm in use for cop pay and grade review cycles as related to ticketing stats (gotta be a function in there somewheres).
c. Develop for the FBI an algorithm that alerts the district attorney of "municipal highway robbery" scams, on the vast stretches of "permanent construction" zones, where no one ever really works but lots of tickets happen near monthly quota time...

Comment Gotta change some laws (Score 1) 331 331

In many locations politicians of dubious ethics and room temperature intelligence, have passed laws
to make it illegal and/or impossible to build a community wifi.

I realize there are some technicalities and costs to amortize, but really! so what?
Compared to expecting kids to hang out in fast food joints so they can do homework, or look for a job online,
how can communities really believe that some shared wifi is a bad thing?

It's mostly the "asleep at the wheel" voters fault, that's us folks...

These messed up laws should be reversed at the Federal and/or State level immediately and
funding provided to make community wifi and broadband happen.
Plus some serious people tasked and responsible to make sure it actually does and report progress frequently, this is already way overdue.

We have to choose between allowing our leaders to force us into either:
a third world style information access (no access)
or having a well educated and employed society.

Patriotism, basic community spirit, ethics, makes this seem like a no brainer to me.

IMHO, there can be no excuses, no apologistas, no rationalizations that justify continuing a monopoly at the expense of the USA's future generations.

The way I see it, this is also part of the rich corporations strategy to dumb down America, and we need to make an effort to buy/bribe the politicians into changing their "screw the people, if it helps me get re-elected" laws.

The Europeans have it defined correctly, internet access is now a basic right, a need.

Suggested action: Let your political critters know that voting for this kind of dumb stuff, is not acceptable, if they ever want your vote.

Programming

Submission + - The Struggles of Developing StarCraft->

An anonymous reader writes: Patrick Wyatt led production efforts for several of Blizzard Entertainment's early games, including Warcraft 1 and 2 and StarCraft. Wyatt has just published an in-depth look at the development of StarCraft, highlighting many of the problems the team encountered, and several of the hacks they came to regret later. Quoting: 'Given all the issues working against the team, you might think it was hard to identify a single large source of bugs, but based on my experiences the biggest problems in StarCraft related to the use of doubly-linked linked lists. Linked lists were used extensively in the engine to track units with shared behavior. With twice the number of units of its predecessor — StarCraft had a maximum of 1600, up from 800 in Warcraft 2 — it became essential to optimize the search for units of specific types by keeping them linked together in lists. ... All of these lists were doubly-linked to make it possible to add and remove elements from the list in constant time — O(1) — without the necessity to traverse the list looking for the element to remove — O(N). Unfortunately, each list was “hand-maintained” — there were no shared functions to link and unlink elements from these lists; programmers just manually inlined the link and unlink behavior anywhere it was required. And hand-rolled code is far more error-prone than simply using a routine that’s already been debugged. ... So the game would blow up all the time. All the time.'
Link to Original Source
Math

Submission + - The Mathematics of War

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Isaac Asimov's idea that the movements of masses of people can be predicted may not be quite so fictional after all as Markus Hammonds writes that researchers at the University of Edinburgh have constructed a statistical dynamic model that makes predictions on levels of violence in conflicts such as the recent war in Afghanistan. Their methodology is to analyze how a conflict unfolds by treating outbreaks of violence the way other researchers model the spread of infectious diseases modeling complex underlying processes in conflicts, such as diffusion, relocation, heterogeneous escalation, and volatility (PDF). The researchers first tested the performance of their methods on a WikiLeaks release which contained over 75,000 military logs by the USA military, describing events which occurred between the beginning of 2004 and the end of 2009 that provided a high temporal and spatial resolution description of the Afghan war in that period. "Remarkably, based entirely on written reports between 2004 and 2009, they were able to predict with impressive accuracy, what events would occur in 2010," writes Hammonds. "Even accounting for sudden changes, like the dramatic increase of US forces in Afghanistan in 2010, the predictions remained accurate. Evidently, events will continue unabated despite any large military offensives which may be taking place." In Baghlan province, for instance, the simulation predicted a 128 percent increase in armed opposition group activity from 2009 to 2010. The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting aid workers in dangerous parts of the world, reported that activity in Baghlan rose by 120 percent from 100 incidents in 2009 to 222 incidents in 2010. "This kind of work offers some hope in resolving serious conflicts as quickly as possible", concludes Hammonds. "Whatever your feelings on it, the ability to predict violence in conflict situations the same way meteorologists predict the weather has some potentially very useful possibilities.""

Submission + - Hurricane Windspeed at Landfall Foretell Economic Losses ->

sciencehabit writes: A hurricane's final price tag depends on a lot of factors. But after taking population growth, property values in afflicted regions, and inflation into account, it’s possible to roughly estimate the economic losses for a particular storm based on a single aspect of the storm: the wind speed when the storm first makes landfall. For every 1 meter per second increase in a storm's wind speed at landfall, damage costs rise by about 5%. Using the new method, the estimated economic costs of Hurricane Isaac, whose peak winds measured about 130 kilometers per hour when it made landfall as a Category 1 storm in Louisiana last week (image taken 28 August), are about $1.2 billion.
Link to Original Source

Comment Per Aspera Ad Astra (Score 2) 365 365

NASA has done a great job, they got us all to this point.
Now, NASA's strategy and role needs to change, their funding must change, it's way overdue, they know it, we know it.

To their great credit, they are doing it, they are adapting and embracing the change; it's hard for them, an era is ending.

Space is big, the opportunities are literally infinite, but science budgets are always way too small, efficiency matters.

So we cut the well known tech and commercially viable elements loose from the taxpayers dollar.

Let whatever NASA morphs into, fund and guide the basic research and science, spend more on that, less on vehicles.
That's the stuff NASA does well, the right stuff, basic research, initial exploration, the stuff that shareholders and businessmen looking at next quarters results typically do poorly.

NASA exploration vehicles and science packages can buy rides on whatever commercial launchers they need, at the going rate.
We buy planes and ships, trains and trucks from commercial vendors, shipyards, and aviation companies, so whats different?

Clear out the cold war, legacy buck rogers, pointy spaceship with fins thinking, and move onto real space-drives, profitable commercialization and real sustainable colonization.

As for the shuttle.... well I am as jingoistic as the next fella, I admire their bravery just getting into the thing (i think i would be terrified, but i'd also go...)
However... continually launching the mass of 7 people crammed into a vehicle that has twice failed, killing the entire crew...

Empirically, it seems obvious that the efficient way to do successful science in space is, small fast vehicles, robotics and AI's; humans should only boldly go... when their is a proven and compelling reason to do so, and little expectation of them making it back alive if anything fails.
Spirit and Opportunity did more, for far less, for far longer... than any human crew could likely have done.

That's the kind of research I want my tax-money to fund. Efficient hard science.

So lets figure out how to mine and move asteroids, survive indefinitely in deep space, harvest the oort cloud, build CHON Food factories, go where the resources are available, easy pickings...

If we want to get off this unguided mud-ball, we must adapt to new strategies as necessary, however hard they may be.

http://youtu.be/zxsJeND_D-k

Comment What has been changed to prevent re-occurrance ? (Score 1) 449 449

I am not a pilot. I am a regular commercial airline passenger, a so called "frequent flyer", sometimes internationally; all of which often involves taking long night flights over ocean and into undisclosed/random weather.

I like the flying itself, but for the last few years I have avoided casual air travel for two reasons :
1. the airlines for their miserable attitude to passenger comfort and schedules
2. airport/security for their poor facilities, ludicrous security theater, cumulative irradiation and civil rights violations.

Reading this discussion, and writing simply as a passenger, I conclude that the equipment on planes and the capabilities of a regular airline crew are inadequate to prevent a modern airliner from simply flying into the ocean, given what seems to be a very common set of conditions. I appreciate that this is an interim report, fair enough, but are we simply hoping it does not happen again?

I now have a new reason to avoid flying - a credible, common, and yet apparently unmitigated risk:
3. A generic airliner (it's just another passenger vehicle to me), experiencing common high altitude flight conditions, with a nominal/average crew, may kill everyone on board, because the flight control protocols cause the crew to fly it into the ocean.

Is there any clear and credible statement by the airline industry as to what they are doing to prevent this from simply happening again? What have they changed so that more people wont die, the next time this set of circumstances occur ?

I am guessing many people will want to tell me I am wrong to be concerned; if so, that's a good thing, but please explain why, in simple terms a frequent flyer can rationally believe. IMHO, "The next crew won't do the same things..." seems a bit too optimistic and basically unprovable to me...
What has been changed to prevent this tragedy from re-occurring ?

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes

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