sciencehabit writes "Hoping that studying deep frying in different gravitational conditions will help them improve space food for future astronauts, scientists with the European Space Agency chopped potatoes into thin sticks and deep fried them in extra-virgin olive oil, one side at a time, in a spinning centrifuge that created conditions of up to nine times Earth's gravity, akin to that seen on Jupiter. Higher gravity levels significantly increased the heat transfer between the hot oil and the potato, shortening frying time and resulting in thick, crispy crusts, the team reports. In fact, the scientists may have discovered the ideal gravitational condition for creating crunchy fries: The crust reached its maximum thickness when the potato was fried at three times Earth's gravity; any further increase in gravity levels did not improve the fries' crispiness."
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An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from the USA Today tech column: "...But until a lone information-technology contractor named Edward Snowden leaked a trove of National Security Agency documents to the media this summer, we didn't know just how much we'd surrendered. Now that we do, our nation can have a healthy debate — out in the open, as a democracy should debate — about how good a bargain we got in that exchange. For facilitating that debate, at great risk to his own personal liberty, Snowden is this column's technology person of the year for 2013."
astroengine writes "On Sunday, at 5:17 p.m. GMT (12:17 p.m. EST), Europe's Mars Express orbiter successfully completed a daring low-pass of Mars' largest moon Phobos. In an effort to precisely measure the gravitational field of the moon, the 10 year-old mission was sent on a trajectory that took it only 45 kilometers (28 miles) from the dusty surface, the closest any spacecraft has ever come to the natural satellite."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Reuters reports that thirty-three percent of Americans reject the idea of evolution and believe that 'humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time' rather than evolving gradually through a process of natural selection, as described by Charles Darwin more than 150 years ago. Although this percentage remained steady since 2009, the last time Pew asked the question, there was a growing partisan gap on whether humans evolved. The poll showed 43 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats say humans have evolved over time, compared with 54 percent and 64 percent respectively four years ago. 'The gap is coming from the Republicans, where fewer are now saying that humans have evolved over time,' says Cary Funk. Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants topped the list of those rejecting evolution, with 64 percent of those polled saying they believe humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time."
dcblogs writes "U.S. government contracts often require bidders to have achieved some level of Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI). CMMI arose some 25 years ago via the backing of the Department of Defense and the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. It operated as a federally funded research and development center until a year ago, when CMMI's product responsibility was shifted to a private, profit-making LLC, the CMMI Institute. The Institute is now owned by Carnegie Mellon. Given that the CMMI Institute is now a self-supporting firm, any requirement that companies be certified by it — and spend the money needed to do so — raises a natural question. 'Why is the government mandating that you support a for-profit company?' said Henry Friedman, the CEO of IR Technologies, a company that develops logistics defense related software and uses CMMI. The value of a certification is subject to debate. To what extent does a CMMI certification determine a successful project outcome? CGI Federal, the lead contractor at Healthcare.gov, is a veritable black belt in software development. In 2012, it achieved the highest possible Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) level for development certification, only the 10th company in the U.S. to do so."
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Now, where do you find people willing to work in a fallout zone for minimum wage? According to a Reuters report, hidden within hundreds of contractors working on the cleanup effort are yakuza-controlled companies that pay headhunters to find homeless people willing to work inside the fallout zone. The sheer scale of the cleanup effort is staggering. While decontaminating the Fukushima plant itself will cost tens of billions and take years, there are also the surrounding areas in Fukushima prefecture, where cleanup costs are expected to top $30 billion. With Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), the owner of the Fukushima plant, essentially nationalized at this point, Reuters reports that there's some $35 billion in taxpayer funds on the table for contractors."
Bill Gates was the only person who had one, which he tried to show off as often as he could. In 2010, Apple debuted the iPad, and before long tablets were all over the place. So, on behalf of people we know -- and there are more than a few -- who either sneer at tablet computers or aren't sure they need one, we turned to David Needle, editor of TabTimes.com, for advice on what kind of tablet to buy -- assuming we need to buy one at all.
SpaceGhost writes "The Associated Press reports: 'The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the march of the unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies.' The sites will be in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia. They quote Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx saying, 'These test sites will give us valuable information about how best to ensure the safe introduction of this advanced technology into our nation's skies.' This is a first step to allowing commercial drone use."
First time accepted submitter techfilz writes "The Mars One Project has selected 1058 second round candidates out of more than 200 000 applicants from over 140 countries. There are another two selection rounds to go before the lucky few get a one way trip to Mars. Starting in 2018, four astronauts will leave for Mars every two years to begin a human settlement partly funded by crowdsourcing and a reality TV show."
theodp writes "After making light of a bad situation — Safeway's closing of its Chicagoland Dominick's grocery store chain and termination of 6,000 workers — with a satirical SciFi YouTube clip, Dominick's employee Steve Yamamoto found himself suspended just one day before the grocery chain closed up shop for good. 'My store manager got a phone call that she had to suspend me,' Yamamoto told NBC Chicago. 'I was like, "Are you serious?" It's crazy as it is. I'm just dumbfounded.' Perhaps Safeway was concerned that viewers of Yamamoto's video might think that aliens, robots, and monsters did Dominick's in, although the Chicago Tribune suggests financial machinations as a more likely culprit: 'By pulling the plug on Chicago [Dominick's], Safeway could not only satisfy [hedge fund] Jana, but also generate a $400 million to $450 million tax benefit.'"
littlekorea writes "A series of servers produced by Dell, air-gapped Windows XP PCs and switches and routers produced by Cisco, Huawei and Juniper count among the huge list of computing devices compromised by the NSA, according to crypto-expert and digital freedom fighter Jacob Applebaum. Revealing a trove of new NSA documents at his 30c3 address (video), Applebaum spoke about why the NSA's program might lead to broader adoption of open source tools and gave a hot tip on how to know if your machines have been owned."
First time accepted submitter DeafScribe writes "Every year during the holidays, many people in the deaf community lament the annual family gathering ritual because it means they sit around bored while watching relatives jabber. This morning, I had the best one-on-one discussion with my mother in years courtesy of her iPhone and Siri; voice recognition is definitely improving. It would've been nice if conference-level speech-to-text had been available this evening for the family dinner. So how about it? Is group speech to text good enough now, and available at reasonable cost for a family dinner scenario?"
First time accepted submitter JeffOwl writes "BBC is reporting that thieves are infecting ATMs with malware using USB sticks. The malware creates a backdoor that can be accessed at the front panel. The thieves are damaging the ATM to access a USB port then patching it back up to avoid notice. This indicates that the crew is highly familiar with the ATMs in question. Once the ATM is infected, the thieves use a 12 digit code to bring up the alternate interface. The thieves, not wanting their crew to go rogue, have built a challenge-response access control into their software and must call another member who can generate the response for them."
An anonymous reader writes "Intel has ended out 2013 by publishing 5,000 pages of new GPU documentation about their latest generation 'Haswell' graphics hardware. The new documentation complements their longstanding open-source Linux graphics driver that has supported Haswell HD / Iris Graphics since last year. The new documentation covers the hardware registers and special information for 3D, video acceleration, performance counters, and GPGPU programming."
Zothecula writes "Shortly before Christmas, we heard about 35 year-old British adventurer Maria Leijerstam's planned attempt to ride to the South Pole on a recumbent fat-tired tricycle. On December 27th at 1am GMT, she achieved that goal, becoming the first person to ever successfully cycle from the edge of the Antarctic continent to the Pole."
An anonymous reader writes "The Huffington Post reports, 'Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency, said Sunday that he used to describe leaker Edward Snowden as a "defector," ... "I think there's an English word that describes selling American secrets to another government, and I do think it's treason," Hayden said ... Some members of Congress have also ... accused him of an act of treason. Hayden said his view of Snowden has grown harsher in recent weeks after reports that Snowden is seeking asylum in Germany and Brazil in exchange for assisting their investigations into NSA programs. Hayden said the NSA is "infinitely" weaker as a result of Snowden's leaks. "This is the most serious hemorrhaging of American secrets in the history of American espionage," he said. "What Snowden is revealing ... is the plumbing," he added later. "He's revealing how we acquire this information. It will take years, if not decades, for us to return to the position that we had prior to his disclosures."' — More in the Face the Nation video and transcript, including discussion of the recent legal decisions, and segments with whistleblower Thomas Drake, Snowden legal adviser Jesselyn Radack, and Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman who recently interviewed Snowden."
An anonymous reader writes in with this story about a hacker that took over a BBC server during the Christmas holiday. "A hacker secretly took over a computer server at the BBC, Britain's public broadcaster, and then launched a Christmas Day campaign to convince other cyber criminals to pay him for access to the system. While it is not known if the hacker found any buyers, the BBC's security team responded to the issue on Saturday and believes it has secured the site, according to a person familiar with the cleanup effort. A BBC spokesman declined to discuss the incident. 'We do not comment on security issues,' he said."
quax writes "Slashdot first reported on the Canadian start-up company that is attempting piston powered nuclear fusion back in 2009. This new blog post takes a look at where they are now, and gives some additional behind the scene info. For instance, a massive experimental rig for magnetized target fusion in the US is currently underutilized, because ITER's increasing costs absorb all the public fusion research funding. Because this Shiva Star device is located in an Air Force base, security restrictions prevent any meaningful cooperation with a non-U.S. companies. Even if U.S. researchers would love to rent this out to advance the science of magnetized target fusion, restrictions make this is a no go."
cold fjord writes "The Independent reports, 'Being pulled into the world of a gripping novel can trigger actual, measurable changes in the brain that linger for at least five days after reading ... The new research, carried out at Emory University ... found that reading a good book may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory. The changes were registered in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, as well as the primary sensory motor region of the brain. Neurons of this region have been associated with tricking the mind into thinking it is doing something it is not, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition — for example, just thinking about running, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running. "The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist," said neuroscientist Professor Gregory Berns, lead author of the study. "We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else's shoes in a figurative sense. Now we're seeing that something may also be happening biologically."'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Reporter Luke O'Neil writes that 2013 was journalism's year of bungles: the New Jersey waitress who received a homophobic comment on the receipt from a party she had served; Samsung paying Apple $1 billion in nickels; former NSA chief Michael Hayden's assassination; #CutForBieber; Nelson Mandela's death pic; that eagle snatching a child off the ground on YouTube; Jimmy Kimmel's 'twerk fail' video; and Sarah Palin taking a job with Al-Jazeera America (an obviously satirical story that even suckered in The Washington Post). All these stories had one thing in common: They seemed too tidily packaged, too neat, 'too good to check,' as they used to say, to actually be true. 'Any number of reporters or editors at any of the hundreds of sites that posted these Platonic ideals of shareability could've told you that they smelled, but in the ongoing decimation of the publishing industry, fact-checking has been outsourced to the readers,' writes O'Neil. 'This is not a glitch in the system. It is the system. Readers are gullible, the media is feckless, garbage is circulated around, and everyone goes to bed happy and fed.' O'Neil says that the stories he's written this year that took the least amount of time and effort usually did the most traffic while his more in-depth, reported pieces didn't stand a chance against riffs on things predestined to go viral. That's the secret that Upworthy, BuzzFeed, MailOnline, Viral Nova, and their dozens of knockoffs have figured out: You don't need to write anymore—just write a good headline and point. 'As Big Viral gets bigger, traditional media organizations are scrambling to keep pace,' concludes O'Neil. 'We the media have betrayed your trust, and the general public has taken our self-sanctioned lowering of standards as tacit permission to lower their own.'"
theodp writes "Perhaps people are reading too much into Apple CEO Tim Cook's 'Big Plans' for 2014, but hopes are high that the New Year will bring a biggie-sized iPad. Over at Forbes, Anthony Wing Kosner asks, Will The Large Screen iPad Pro Be Apple's First In A Line Of Desktop Touch Devices?. 'Rumors of a large [12.9"] iPad are many and constant,' notes ComputerWorld's Mike Elgan, 'but they make sense only if the tablet is a desktop for schools.' Elgan adds, 'Lots of schools are buying iPads for kids to use. But iPads don't make a lot of sense for education. For starters, their screens are too small for the kinds of interactive textbooks and apps that Apple wants the education market to create. They're also too small for collaborative work. iPads run mobile browsers, rather than full browsers, so kids can't use the full range of HTML5 sites.' Saying that 'Microsoft has fumbled the [post-PC] transition badly,' Elgan argues that 'the battle for the future of education is likely to be between whatever Google turns the Chromebook into against whatever Apple turns the iPad into.'"
Lauren Weinstein writes with a slightly depressing end-of-year prediction. An excerpt: "This then may be the ultimate irony in this surveillance saga. Despite the current flood of protests, recriminations, and embarrassments — and even a bit of legal jeopardy — intelligence services around the world (including especially NSA) may come to find that Edward Snowden's actions, by pushing into the sunlight the programs whose very existence had long been dim, dark, or denied — may turn out over time to be the greatest boost to domestic surveillance since the invention of the transistor."
drmofe writes "Two parents in New Zealand have orchestrated the removal of a school's Wi-Fi system. They have expressed the concerns that Wi-Fi causes cancer and other health issues. The child of one of these parents died recently from brain cancer. This appears to be an emotional area and one where decisions appear to be being made without evidence. The NZ Ministry of Education provides guidelines for the safe use of Wi-Fi in schools and the school itself was operating within those guidelines."
New submitter UnderCoverPenguin writes "At MakeZine, David Lang talks about the some of the legal issues around a planned, amateur science 'expedition,' as well as some other amateur science projects. In the not too distant past, most science was amateur. Over the past 20 or so years, society has been making it harder for amateurs to do real science, despite the technical costs falling. With the recent upswing of the 'maker movement,' amateur science has seen an increase as well, but is running into an assortment of legal issues. (An exception is astronomy, where amateurs continue to play important roles. Of course, astronomy doesn't involve chemicals or other (currently) 'scary stuff.') Can amateur science make a come-back? Or are the legal obstacles too entrenched?"