We mentioned recently the rebound in Arctic ice levels compared to those found at the end of last summer; now that the 2013 minimum has been reached, Forbes' Alex Knapp points out that 2013's figures still show the 6th lowest ice extent in recorded history. "This pattern is expected to continue as average global temperatures continue to rise, leading to further Arctic Ice melts. The volume of sea ice – that is, how thick the Arctic ice is, has also been steadily declining over the same period. And although the charts above only go back to the 80s, the loss of sea ice began several decades prior to that. In 2011, a paper published in Nature estimating Arctic ice extent for the past 1450 years shows a sharp decline in Arctic ice beginning in the mid-20th century."
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g01d4 writes "I volunteer at a used bookstore that supports the local library. One of my tasks is to sort book donations. For > 5-year-old computer books the choices typically are to save it for sale (fifty cents soft cover, one dollar hardback), pack it, e.g. for another library's bookstore, put it on the free cart, or toss it in the recycle bin. I occasionally dumpster dive the recycle bin to 'rescue' books that I don't think should be pulped. Recently I found a copy of PostgresSQL Essential Reference (2002) and Programming Perl (1996). Would you have left them to RIP? Obviously we have very limited space, 20 shelf feet (storage + sale) for STEM. What criteria would you use when sorting these types of books?"
The Washington Post is one of many sources to report the possibly disappointing news that NASA's Curiosity rover has failed to find any methane on Mars. "[NASA planetary scientist Michael] Mumma had high hopes for a positive result because he and his colleagues believe they have detected methane on Mars remotely, from telescopes on Earth that can discern the chemical nature of Mars’s atmosphere. A European orbiter around Mars also spotted methane. But the methane has proved ephemeral — now you see it, now you don’t. Mumma said he and his colleagues are reviewing their work to see if there is some error in the mix. Perhaps the methane simply disappears quickly on Mars, through some unknown chemical process. 'It’s possible that we don’t understand something that’s going on in the Martian atmosphere,' said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.'"
From an article at Discovery News: "A bustling airport would hardly seem the place to find a new species of reclusive animal, but a team of California biologists recently found a shy new species of legless lizard living at the end of a runway at Los Angeles International Airport. What’s more, the same team discovered three additional new species of these distinctive, snake-like lizards that are also living in some inhospitable-sounding places for wildlife: at a vacant lot in downtown Bakersfield, among oil derricks in the lower San Joaquin Valley and on the margins of the Mojave desert." Here's some more information in the form of a press release from Cal State Fullerton, home to James Parham, one of the discoverers.
littlekorea writes "The world's largest web-scale users of MySQL have committed to one further upgrade to the Oracle-controlled database — but Facebook and Twitter are also eyeing off more open options from MariaDB and cheaper options from the NoSQL community. Who will pay for MySQL enterprise licenses into the future?"
MojoKid writes "The Xbox One has both HDMI-in and HDMI-out capability. The point of HDMI-in is to allow you to hook up a cable box, with output then running from the Xbox One to your television. As it turns out, however, that's not the only thing the Xbox One can do. Since the HDMI-in port is a standard option, it can accept video input from a PS4 and also accept a video stream from a PC. According to Xbox senior director of product management, Albert Panello, "any application can be snapped to a game... this could be the live TV feed, so if you wanted to play Ryse and Killzone (a PS4 exclusive), you could snap that." Keep in mind, snapping a title to the Xbox One doesn't mean that you can actually keep using Xbox One controllers in the game. If you want to snap in a PS4 game, you still need PS4 controllers. If you want to hook a PC into the Xbox One's video output, you still need mouse and keyboard, though if the Xbox One's controllers are eventually PC compatible, then you might be able to use the same controller on both platforms without doing much more than flipping a switch."
hypnosec writes with word that the Chaos Computer Club claims to have "managed to break Apple's TouchID using everyday material and methods available on the web. Explaining their method on their website, the CCC hackers have claimed that all they did was photograph a fingerprint from a glass surface, ramped up the resolution of the photographed fingerprint, inverted and printed it using thick toner settings, smeared pink latex milk or white woodglue onto the pattern, lifted the latex sheet, moistened it a little and then placed it on the iPhone 5S's fingerprint sensor to unlock the phone." Update: 09/22 21:32 GMT by T :Reader mask.of.sanity adds a link to a video of the hack.
cold fjord points out a profile in Al-Monitor of Israel's cyber-defense group, formed to test the country's defenses to electronic warfare and information theft. Groups, really, since it's run blue-vs-red style, with constant scenario preparation and intrusion attempts. The two (anonymized) leaders of the Blue and Red teams talk about the mind-set and skills that it takes to be in their unit, which they point out is not the place for soda and pizza hijinks. Says "Capt. A": "We are constantly preparing for the next war or the next drill. And in between, we may have some fun dissecting the system and drawing conclusions together. The idea is to instruct the monitoring bodies, [and] to make them understand what they should look for and how to respond."
Reuters has a quick report that "[a] software glitch will delay Orbital Sciences' trial cargo ship from reaching the International Space Station until Tuesday, officials said on Sunday. The company's Cygnus capsule, which blasted off Wednesday from Virginia for a test flight, had been scheduled to reach the station on Sunday. ... Orbital Sciences said it had found the cause of the data discrepancy and was developing a software fix. ... The next opportunity for the capsule to rendezvous and dock with the station will be on Tuesday." The WSJ has a more detailed article, and notes "The mission is a challenge for Orbital, which has invested more than five years and about $500 million of its own funds to develop a commercial-cargo capability. But it also presents a dramatic test of NASA's plans to outsource to industry all U.S. resupply missions to the space station. The agency has paid Orbital about $285 million to spur development of the Cygnus and Antares rocket system."
theodp writes "Before there was Pong, there was Ping-Pong. Table tennis began in 19th-century Victorian England as a parlor game for the upper-middle class, with cigar box lids used as paddles. Today, as BusinessInsider half-joked, federal law requires all tech startups to have a functional ping pong table. Photographer Alec Soth discusses his love of the game in a NY Times interview and shares some vintage photos of the sport from his new limited-edition book Ping Pong. So, why do people — especially lots of computer programmers — get obsessed with Ping-Pong? Table tennis is 'a way to do a physical sport that has actual athletic qualities but is kind of contained,' explains Soth. 'There's a real mental element to it. It's not chess, but your brain is engaged. It's a break from neuroses.'" As workplace stress relief games go, a ping-pong table is also a lot easier to carry than an air hockey set-up or a bowling alley.
SustainableJeroen writes "On October 6th, the 2013 World Solar Challenge will start. This year, 43 teams (more than ever before) from 24 countries around the world will compete in this biannual 3000 km road event, which runs from Darwin to Adelaide. In both 2009 and 2011, Tokai University (Japan), Nuon Solar Team (the Netherlands) and University of Michigan Solar Car Team (USA) finished in first, second and third position, respectively. Who will win this year? We'll know for sure on October 13th, the end of the event. Team details (photos, car specifications, links to websites) can be found here."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Michael Harper reports that researchers at the Bielefeld University in Germany are working to develop a robotic bartender, and their most difficult challenge so far is to identify the body language that is most commonly used by customers and interpreted as someone wanting to buy a drink. A bartending robot has to be able to distinguish between customers intending to order, chatting with friends or just passing by [abstract] — and do so in a very noisy environment. The researchers examined the behavior of customers in nightclubs to see which behaviors were most successful at indicating to the barman the customer was ready to be served. 'Effectively, the customers identify themselves as ordering and non-ordering people through their behavior,' says Dr Sebastian Loth, lead author of the study. The researchers analyzed 105 attempts to order drinks at nightclubs in Bielefeld and Herford in Germany and Edinburgh in Scotland and assessed the behavior of customers 35 seconds before they were served. They found the most successful tactic, which occurred in 95% of orders, was standing squarely towards the bar with head facing forward. Looking at money saw just seven per cent of customers being served within the 35 second time frame. The findings are used to produce an update to the robotic bartender's programming to allow it to ask customers if they would like a drink when they display the right body language. What the research team has learned is being programmed into a robotic bartender called James, or Joint Action in Multimodal Embodied Systems. The researchers have been working on James since early 2011 and hope to have the project completed in January 2014."
wbr1 writes "A new page has appeared over at Steam with this slightly cryptic text, a countdown, and an image of a console controller. 'Last year, we shipped a software feature called Big Picture, a user-interface tailored for televisions and gamepads. This year we've been working on even more ways to connect the dots for customers who want Steam in the living-room. Soon, we'll be adding you to our design process, so that you can help us shape the future of Steam.' It appears Gabe Newell wants to throw his hat in the console ring now with the Xbox One and PS4 about to be released. The countdown to the announcement is targeted at Monday."
USA Today reports: "BlackBerry on Saturday hit pause on the rollout of iPhone and Android apps for its popular BlackBerry Messenger mobile social messaging service after an unreleased version of the Android app was posted online. That version saw 1.1 million active users in the first 8 hours, the company said, but the unofficial version "caused issues," which the company continued to address throughout the day. The company did not specify what the issues were."