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Submission + - Why it is good to learn useless things in school (

An anonymous reader writes: If I had a penny for each time I heard or read someone’s complaint about “the useless things we had to learn in school,” I would have enough money to build my own school.

I will say this: I used to be the one doing the complaining. A lot of it.

Although today, richer with several years of experience, I’m complaining about something entirely different. That is, in many areas, I didn’t put in as much effort as I could have. I didn’t try to understand the material being taught to acquire that “useless” knowledge.

I now realize that, from a scientific perspective regarding memory and thinking, those “useless things” were not really useless!

Submission + - How Microsoft and BlackBerry's blindness cost them the smartphone market (

An anonymous reader writes: While it’s easy and perhaps simple to attribute BlackBerry’s demise and Microsoft’s string of failures in the mobile space to the fact that neither company came up with the idea for an iPhone-like device themselves, that explanation completely misses the point. After all, Apple’s success over the last 15 years clearly demonstrates that being the first entrant in a new product category does not, in and of itself, guarantee success.

The reality is that both BlackBerry and Microsoft were completely blind to what the iPhone was. Which is to say, BlackBerry and Microsoft’s mobile troubles didn’t arise because they didn’t invent the iPhone, but rather because they completely ignored the future staring them right back in the face the moment Steve Jobs unveiled the now iconic smartphone to the world back in 2007.

Submission + - Does Using an AOL Email Address Suggest You're a Tech Dinosaur? (

Nerval's Lobster writes: Despite years of layoffs and tumbling net worth, AOL seemed to get a new lease on life this week when Verizon bought it for $4.4 billion. But even if AOL's still alive, using an AOL email address has long been seen as a way of signaling that you're stuck in the 1990s. A recent analysis of Dice data found that a mere 1.8 percent of those registering for the site used an AOL address, versus 55 percent for Gmail. For the past several years, Websites from Gizmodo to Lifehacker have all declared that still using an AOL email address is counterproductive, to put it mildly. But is that actually true? Do the people in your life and work actually care whether you use AOL, Hotmail, Gmail, or a custom address, or is the idea of 'email bias' an overblown myth?

Submission + - Scientists Find Radioactive Aircraft Carrier Off California Coast writes: Aaron Kinney writes in the San Jose Mercury News that scientists have captured the first clear images of the USS Independence, a radioactivity-polluted World War II aircraft carrier that rests on the ocean floor 30 miles off the coast of Half Moon Bay. The Independence saw combat at Wake Island and other decisive battles against Japan in 1944 and 1945 and was later blasted with radiation in two South Pacific nuclear tests. Assigned as a target vessel for the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests, she was placed within one-half-mile of ground zero and was engulfed in a fireball and heavily damaged during the 1946 nuclear weapons tests at Bikini Atoll. The veteran ship did not sink, however (though her funnels and island were crumpled by the blast), and after taking part in another explosion on 25 July, the highly radioactive hull was later taken to Pearl Harbor and San Francisco for further tests and was finally scuttled off the coast of San Francisco, California, on 29 January 1951. "This ship is an evocative artifact of the dawn of the atomic age, when we began to learn the nature of the genie we'd uncorked from the bottle," says James Delgado. "It speaks to the 'Greatest Generation' — people's fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers who served on these ships, who flew off those decks and what they did to turn the tide in the Pacific war."

Delgado says he doesn't know how many drums of radioactive material are buried within the ship — perhaps a few hundred. But he is doubtful that they pose any health or environmental risk. The barrels were filled with concrete and sealed in the ship's engine and boiler rooms, which were protected by thick walls of steel. The carrier itself was clearly "hot" when it went down and and it was packed full of fresh fission products and other radiological waste at the time it sank. The Independence was scuttled in what is now the Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary, a haven for wildlife, from white sharks to elephant seals and whales. Despite its history as a dumping ground Richard Charter says the radioactive waste is a relic of a dark age before the enviornmental movement took hold. "It's just one of those things that humans rather stupidly did in the past that we can't retroactively fix."

Submission + - Final Moments Inside Cockpit Are Heard But Not Seen

jones_supa writes: There's no video footage from inside the cockpit of the Germanwings flight that left 150 people dead — nor is such footage recorded from any other commercial airline crash in recent years. Unlike many other vehicles operating with heightened safety concerns, airline cockpits don't come with video surveillance. The reason, in part, is that airline pilots and their unions have argued vigorously against what they see as an invasion of privacy that would not improve aviation safety. The long debate on whether airplane cockpits in the U.S. should be equipped with cameras dates back at least 15 years, when the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) first pushed regulators require video monitoring following what the agency called "several accidents involving a lack of information regarding crewmember actions and the flight deck environment". The latest NTSB recommendation for a cockpit image system came in January 2015. Should video streams captured inside the plane become a standard part of aviation safety measures?

Submission + - Peter Thiel's 3 critical decisions for startups (

Steve Patterson writes: Few people don’t know who Peter Thiel is. His Silicon Valley reputation as the first investor in Facebook echoes from the startup world to cocktail parties. He’s also known as the don of the PayPal mafia that includes Elon Musk and Reid Hoffman, who went on to found companies such as Tesla, Space X, and LinkedIn. .But most don’t know his unconventional views on starting a successful business.

Submission + - How about some Slashdot Transparancy?

s.petry writes: A couple of key features of Slashdot appear to be broken, and have been since at least last week when Slashdot went into "offline" mode for several hours. Dice needs to explain what is going on, plans to fix, etc... And "Yes" I checked the Blog area which was last updated in July you insensitive clods!.

Messaging is absolutely broken, I have received no email since the date mentioned above, which by the way we received no information on what exactly broke. A fine middle finger for all of us that have contributed to Slashdot. And yes, I have had named members respond to posts.

I have not seen very much activity in terms of moderation for myself, which is fine for the most part but it's at least unusual. This lead me to start looking at various threads and see how much is actually being moderated. Interestingly I did get a poke for Meta-moderation, which takes me back to November 17th posts...really..

3 moderated posts 2 funny 1 insightful.

0 moderated posts.

2 moderated posts 1 insightful 1 interesting.

0 moderated posts.

1 moderated post 1 insightful.

2 moderated posts 2 moderated insightful 5 posts moderated 3 informative, 2 insightful

No, this is not about me it's about concern for a community system that has been repeatedly messed with at the expense of the members. Even when members of the community have protested against the changes. Perhaps the moderation has a reasonable explanation, but with messaging being broken let me say I'm a skeptic (well normally I'm a skeptic anyway but you probably knew that...).

Submission + - Coding Bootcamps Now Mainstream, Presented as "College Alternative" (

ErichTheRed writes: Perhaps this is the sign that the Web 2.0 bubble is finally at its peak. CNN produced a piece on DevBootcamp, a 19-week intensive coding academy designed to turn out Web developers at a rapid pace. I remember Microsoft and Cisco certification bootcamps from the peak of the last tech bubble, and the flood of under-qualified "IT professionals" they produced. Now that developer bootcamps are in the mainsteam media, can the end of the bubble be far away?

Submission + - How bad does a CompSci book have to be? (

00_NOP writes: Computer Scientists are not novelists or journalists but surely that does not excuse them from being to write sentences that at least follow the basic grammatical rules. Nor does it mean that their publishers should get away with seliing extremely badly written works to what are often close-to-captive audiences in Universities and similar institutions. Yet that happens all the time. Recently I bought a Computer Science book — aimed at researchers and specialist engineers that retails for over £70 (approx $105) and yet was written in such poor English that a 10-year-old school child would be failed on work of that standard. It's probably the worst I have seen, but it's not the only one — how do they get away with it?

Submission + - Taking the census, with cellphones (

sciencehabit writes: If you want to figure out how many people live in a particular part of your country, you could spend years conducting home visits and mailing out questionnaires. But a new study describes a quicker way. Scientists have figured out how to map populations using cellphone records—an approach that doesn’t just reveal who lives where, but also where they go every day. The researchers also compared their results to population density data gathered through remote sensing technologies, a widely used method that relies on satellite imaging to gather detailed information on population settlement patterns and estimate population counts. They found that the two methods are comparable in accuracy when checked against actual survey-based census data, but estimates from mobile phone data can provide more timely information, down to the hours.

Submission + - Dump the Jerk, part II: Bennett Haselton (

An anonymous reader writes: Like Jon Katz before him, Bennett Haselton has been allowed to spam Slashdot's front page with long-winded opinion pieces. I, for one, am tired of them. Let's have another poll, just like the referendum on Jon Katz.

Submission + - Ebola does not require an "Ebola Czar," nor calling up the National Guard (

Lasrick writes: David Ropeik explores risk-perception psychology and Ebola in the US. 'But officials are up against the inherently emotional and instinctive nature of risk-perception psychology. Pioneering research on this subject by Paul Slovic, Baruch Fischhoff, and others, vast research on human cognition by Daniel Kahnemanand colleagues, and research on the brain’s fear response by neuroscientists Joseph LeDoux, Elizabeth Phelps, and others, all make abundantly clear that the perception of risk is not simply a matter of the facts, but more a matter of how those facts feel. (Melissa Finucane, Slovic, and others have called this the “affect heuristic.”)'

Submission + - Fighting the culture of 'Worse is Better' (

An anonymous reader writes: Developer Paul Chiusano thinks much of programming culture has been infected by a "worse is better" mindset, where trade-offs to preserve compatibility and interoperability cripple the functionality of vital languages and architectures. He says, [W]e do not merely calculate in earnest to what extent tradeoffs are necessary or desirable, keeping in mind our goals and values, there is a culture around making such compromises that actively discourages people from even considering more radical, principled approaches." Chiusano takes C++ as an example, explaining how Stroustrup's insistence that it retain full compatibility with C has led to decades of problems and hacks. He says this isn't necessarily the wrong approach, but the culture of software development prevents us from having a reasoned discussion about it. "Developing software is a form of investment management. When a company or an individual develops a new feature, inserts a hack, hires too quickly without sufficient onboarding or training, or works on better infrastructure for software development (including new languages, tools, and the like), these are investments or the taking on of debt. ... The outcome of everyone solving their own narrow short-term problems and never really revisiting the solutions is the sea of accidental complexity we now operate in, and which we all recognize is a problem."

Submission + - Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis in Science writes: Carolyn Johnson reports in the Boston Globe that in recent years, the position of postdoctoral researcher has become less a stepping stone and more of a holding tank as postdocs are caught up in an all-but-invisible crisis, mired in a underclass as federal funding for research has leveled off, leaving the supply of well-trained scientists outstripping demand. “It’s sunk in that it’s by no means guaranteed — for anyone, really — that an academic position is possible,” says Gary McDowell, a 29-year old biologist doing his second postdoc. “There’s this huge labor force here to do the bench work, the grunt work of science. But then there’s nowhere for them to go; this massive pool of postdocs that accumulates and keeps growing.” The problem is that any researcher running a lab today is training far more people than there will ever be labs to run. Often these supremely well-educated trainees are simply cheap laborers, not learning skills for the careers where they are more likely to find jobs. This wasn’t such an issue decades ago, but universities have expanded the number of PhD students they train from about 30,000 biomedical graduate students in 1979 to 56,800 in 2009, flooding the system with trainees and drawing out the training period.

Possible solutions span a wide gamut, from halving the number of postdocs over time, to creating a new tier of staff scientists that would be better paid but one thing people seem to agree on is that simply adding more money to the pot will not by itself solve the oversupply. Facing these stark statistics, postdocs are taking matters into their own hands recently organizing a Future of Research conference in Boston that they hoped would give voice to their frustrations and hopes and help shape change. “How can we, as the next generation, run the system?” said Kristin Krukenberg, 34, a lead organizer of the conference and a biologist in her sixth year as a postdoc at Harvard Medical School after six years in graduate school. “Some of the models we see don’t seem tenable in the long run."

Submission + - The Great Taxi Upheaval (

An anonymous reader writes: Uber, Lyft, and a variety of competitors are becoming ubiquitous. Their presence is jarring not because of how different they are from conventional taxis, but simply because they're different at all. Taxis really haven't changed much over the years. Watch a movie from the '90s and you can't help but chuckle at the giant, clunky mobile phones they use. But you can go all the way back to movies from '30s and scenes with taxis won't be unfamiliar. New York Magazine has a series of articles about the taxi revolution currently underway. "So far, Uber appears to be pinching traditional car services—Carmel, Dial 7, and the like—hardest. (They have apps, too, but Uber’s is the one you've heard of.) The big question is about the prices for medallions, because so much of the yellow-cab business depends on their future value. ... [I]t’s hard to see how those prices won't slip. Medallions, after all, are part of a top-down system formed to fight the abuses and dangers of the old crooked New York: rattletrap cars, overclocked meters, bribed inspectors. Its heavy regulation in turn empowered the taxi lobby and (somewhat) the drivers union. That system may be a pain to deal with, but in its defense, it provided predictability and security. The loosey-goosey libertarian alternative, conceived in the clean Northern California air, calls upon the market to provide checks and balances. A poorly served passenger can, instead of turning to a city agency for recourse, switch allegiances or sue."

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