An anonymous reader writes "Researchers have discovered four wooden water wells in the Greater Leipzig region, Germany, which are believed to be the oldest known timber constructions in the world. A team of experts led by Willy Tegel and Dr. Dietrich Hakelberg from the Institute of Forest Growth of the University of Freiburg, Germany, uncovered the wells built during the early Neolithic period between the years 5206 and 5098 B.C." The (quite short) paper itself, and some cool pictures of the artifacts, are freely available.
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SchrodingerZ writes "The Venus, Steve Jobs' custom-made mega yacht, (valued at 137.5 million dollars), has been impounded in Amsterdam. Philippe Starck, the boat's main designer, had The Venus impounded by debt collectors, after supposedly Starck and his company, Ubik, were paid only 6 million of the 9-million-euro commission. Roelant Klaassen, a lawyer for Ubik, released in a statement that 'These guys [Jobs and Starck] trusted each other, so there wasn't a very detailed contract.' 'The Venus is a floating ode to both Jobs and Starck's minimalist aesthetic. Made entirely out of aluminum, with 40-foot-long floor-to-ceiling windows lining the passenger compartment and seven 27-inch iMacs making up the command center.' The ship was unofficially unveiled in late October, a year after Jobs' death. It now sits dormant in the Port of Amsterdam, until the payment dispute is resolved."
dryriver writes "The BBC reports that cosmetic products using bee venom as an ingredient are a new 'hot seller' in the cosmetics market. Bee venom is said to have an effect on female skin similar to Botox injections, tightening the skin and making wrinkles and other signs of aging appear less pronounced than before. Unlike Botox, however, bee venom does not need to be injected, and can be absorbed through the skin naturally as an ingredient of cosmetic skin creme. Now comes the kicker: A special electrified device that causes bees to sting a synthetic membrane and release their venom can harvest about one gram of bee venom from 20 bee hives. That one gram of bee venom is worth a whopping 350 dollars. This makes bee venom almost seven times more valuable than gold, which, in comparison, is worth only about 53 dollars per gram."
An anonymous reader writes "Google on Friday announced that it is changing its stance for silently installing extensions in its browser. As of Chrome 25, external extension deployment options on Windows will be disabled by default and all extensions previously installed using them will be automatically disabled."
New submitter dgrobinson writes "NY Times reports that West Antarctica has warmed more over the last half century than was first thought. A paper released Sunday by the journal Nature Geoscience (abstract) found that the temperature at a research station in the middle of West Antarctica has warmed by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1958. That is roughly twice as much as scientists previously thought and three times the overall rate of global warming, making central West Antarctica one of the fastest-warming regions on earth."
An anonymous reader writes "A Metro version of VLC, the popular free and open-source media player, is coming to Windows 8. On Sunday, the VideoLAN organization reached its funding goal on Kickstarter for its Windows 8-specific app. There are also plans to port it afterwards to Windows Phone 8. The project has now been funded by over 2,500 backers, who have pledged more than the £40,000 ($65,000) goal."
An anonymous reader writes "Samsung announced a milestone on its development of 14nm manufacturing semiconductors, claiming that it offers major advantages to system-on-chip devices using in consumer electronic products (especially lower power). They recently taped out a Cortex-A7 processor with this technology, calling it a significant milestone for the fabless ecosystem."
The NSA was originally supposed to handle foreign intelligence, and leave the domestic spying to other agencies, but Presto Vivace writes with this bit from CNET: "'The National Security Agency's Perfect Citizen program hunts for vulnerabilities in 'large-scale' utilities, including power grid and gas pipeline controllers, new documents from EPIC show.' 'Perfect Citizen?' Who thinks up these names?" "The program is scheduled to continue through at least September 2014," says the article.
In a scathing rant posted to a GNU project mailing list, the maintainer of grep and sed announced that he was quitting the GNU project over technical and administrative disagreements. Chief among them: He believes RMS is detrimental to the project by slowing down technical innovation (the example used was RMS's distaste for C++, not exactly a strong point against RMS). Additionally, he noted that the FSF is not doing enough to help GNU "Projects such as gnash are bound to have constant funding problems despite being (and having been for years) in the FSF's list of high priority projects.". Finally: "Attaching the GNU label to one's program has absolutely no attractiveness anymore. People expect GNU to be as slow as an elephant, rather than as slick as a gazelle, and perhaps they are right. Projects such as LLVM achieve a great momentum by building on the slowness of GNU's decision processes, and companies such as Apple get praise even if they are only embracing these projects to avoid problems with GPLv3." The author is quick to note that he has no philosophical disagreements with GNU or the FSF.
Techmeology writes "Just days after the UK Pirate Party was forced to kill its proxy service Pirate Parties in Argentina and Luxembourg have created their own proxies. In a statement, the Pirate Party in Argentina said: 'We wish the UK Pirate Party best of luck in their continued fight for free access to culture and knowledge. We have put up our own Pirate Bay proxy which is accessible from anywhere in the world, including the UK and other places where it has been censored.'"
theodp writes "Silly rabbit, parallel processing is not just for Big Data! Building on techniques outlined by Andy Baio back in 2008, Wired writer and 20% Doctrine evangelist Ryan Tate has released Ruby-based software called Typingpool to make audio transcriptions easier and cheaper. 'Typingpool chops your audio into small bits and routes them to the labor marketplace Mechanical Turk,' Tate explains to his reporter pals, 'where workers transcribe the bits in parallel. This produces transcripts much faster than any lone transcriber for as little one-eighth what you pay a transcription service. Better still, workers keep 91 percent of the money you spend.' Remember to Use the Force for Good, Tate adds."
An anonymous reader writes "Any Slashdot thread about drive failure is loaded with good advice about EOL — but what about the beginning? Do you normally test your new purchases as thoroughly as you test old, suspect drives? Has your testing followed the proverbial 'bathtub' curve of a lot of early failures, but with those that survive the first month surviving for years? And have you had any return problems with new failed drives, because you re-partitioned it, or 'ran Linux,' or used stress-test apps?"
SternisheFan writes with a snippet from Science Recorder: "Reporting in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, researchers at Brigham Young University say that the Hawaiian Islands are slowly dissolving. Eventually, Oahu's Koolau and Waianae mountains will dwindle to little more than a flat, low-lying island like Midway. While erosion is certainly a guilty party, researchers contend that the mountains of Oahu are, in fact, dissolving from within. Researchers spent several months collecting samples of groundwater and stream water to determine which source removed more mineral material. They also put to use surface water estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey to calculate the quantity of mass that vanished from the island each year. Researchers point out that Oahu is actually rising in elevation at a slow but steady rate due to plate tectonics. [BYU geologist Steve Nelson] and colleagues believe that Oahu will continue to grow for as long as 1.5 million years. Beyond that, the force of groundwater will eventually win and Oahu will begin its transformation to a flat, low-lying island like Midway." (If you have journal access, or don't mind forking over $40, you can read the original paper.)
Hugh Pickens writes "Matt Richtel and Jesse McKinley write in the NY Times that for generations of American children, Legos were the ultimate do-it-yourself plaything. Little plastic bricks, with scant instructions, just add imagination. But today's construction sets are often tied to billion-dollar franchises like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and invite users to follow detailed directions, not construct their own creations from whole brick. It's less open-ended, some parents and researchers say, and more like paint-by-numbers. 'When I was a kid, you got a big box of bricks and that was it,' says Tracy Bagatelle-Black. 'What stinks about Lego sets now is that they're not imaginative at all.' Lego loyalists are quick to defend the company. Josh Wedin, the managing editor of the Brothers Brick, a Lego blog, called complaints that they are less creative 'simply ridiculous,' adding that Legos always included some instructions, though he says he misses the alternative designs that used to be on the back of the box. But Clifford Nass, a sociology professor at Stanford University who studies how people relate to the physical world versus the virtual world, says some essential qualities were lost when Lego became more like other toys. 'The genius of Lego was, you had to do the work.' Learning about frustration, Nass says, 'is a hugely important thing.'" (And watch soon for a review of The Unofficial Lego Builder's Guide, a book intended to help Lego users escape the tyranny of block-by-number instructions.)
The Wall Street Journal says that Google is not quite content to be just a name printed on certain Android phones, and has set some of the cellphone engineers from Google-owned Motorola Mobility to work on a high-end project known internally as the 'X phone.' The rumored phone, says the article, "is due out sometime next year," and is meant as a technology flagship for Android phones, incorporating more innovative features than typical phones, such as advanced gesture recognition. Some of those features, like a flexible screen, have reportedly already been dropped from the design, though. If the X Phone materializes, a tablet is expected to follow.