iluvcapra writes: Ryan Britt at Tor.com makes a bit of analysis that I think we'd have some fun with, in agreement or otherwise:
Not once in any Star Wars movie does someone pick up a book or newspaper, magazine, literary journal, or chapbook handmade by an aspiring Jawa poet. [...]As early as the 1990s-era expanded Star Wars books and comic books, we’re introduced to ancient Jedi “texts” called holocrons, which are basically talking holographic video recordings. Just how long has the Star Wars universe been reliant on fancy technology to transfer information as opposed to the written word? Is it possible that a good number of people in Star Wars are completely illiterate?
An anonymous reader writes: Archaeologists have discovered a seventh century tomb of a Maya queen in Guatemala. The tomb belongs to the Maya Holy Snake Lord, Lady K'abel, one of the most powerful queens in her kingdom during the Classic Maya civilization. A team of archaeologists led by David Freidel, co-director of the expedition from the Washington University in St. Louis, found the tomb during an excavation of the royal Maya city of El Perú-Waka' in northwestern Petén, Guatemala, based on artifacts suggesting that a higher-ranked queen is buried there.
holy_calamity writes: A machine learning breakthrough from Google researchers that grabbed headlines this summer is now being put to work improving the company's products. The company revealed in June that it had built neural networks that run on 16,000 processors simultaneously, enough power that they could learn to recognize cats just by watching YouTube. Those neural nets have now made Google's speech recognition for US English 25 percent better, and are set to be used in other products, such as image search.
Penurious Penguin writes: On October 2, City Commissioners of Delray Beach finalized a policy which prohibits agencies from hiring employees who use tobacco products. Delray Beach isn't alone though; other Florida cities such as Hollywood and Hallandale Beach, require prospective employees to sign affidavits declaring themselves tobacco-free for 12 months prior to the date of application. Throughout the states, both
government and businesses are moving to ban tobacco-use beyond working hours. Many medical facilities, e.g. hospitals, have already, or intend to implement similar policy. In some more-aggressive environments referred to as nicotine-free, employee urine-samples can be taken and tested for any presence of nicotine, not excluding that from gum or patches. Employees testing positive can be terminated.
The primary rationale behind these policies has been frugality, citing greater insurance-costs for smokers, and the savings implied by eliminating them from the workforce. In some less aggressive situations, persistent smokers are imposed a "Tobacco User Surcharge" of $20 per paycheck and offered waived co-payments for smoking-cessation drugs.
Efforts to cut expenses and encourage better health seem perfectly normal. Policy prohibiting activities otherwise legal, but unbefitting a workplace environment also seem normal. However, employers or government defining employee's domestic lifestyles is a relatively new concept, especially when nothing illegal is involved. It would be difficult, if not impossible to argue that smoking is without consequences; but is breeching the boundaries of the household inconsequential?
Times do change, and adaptation is often a necessary burden. But have they changed so much that we'd now postpone the Manhattan project for 12 months because Oppenheimer had toked his pipe? Would we confine our vision to the Milky Way or snub the 1373 Cincinnati because Hubble smoked his? Would we shun relativity, or shelve the works of Tolkien because he and C. S. Lewis had done the same? If so, then where will it stop? Will we soon scan employees for signs of excessive sugar, trans-fats and cholesterol? Will we have authenticated and logged aerobics classes? I, for one, welcome answers from our new salubrious overlords.
alphadogg writes: While the Wi-Fi world is rightly abuzz over the rapidly approaching large-scale deployment of the new 802.11ac standard, experts at an Interop NY panel said this week that the 802.11ad standard is likely to be even more transformative. "802.11ac is an extension for pure mainstream Wi-Fi," said Sean Coffey, Realtek's director of standards and business development. "It's evolutionary.... You're not going to see dramatically new use cases." By contrast, 802.11ad adds 60GHz connectivity to the previously used 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, potentially providing multi-gigabit connection speeds and dramatically broadening the number of applications for which wireless can be used.
snydeq writes: "First, it was data caps on cellular, and now caps on wired broadband — welcome to the end of the rich Internet, writes Galen Gruman. 'People are still getting used to the notion that unlimited data plans are dead and gone for their smartphones. The option wasn't even offered for tablets. Now, we're beginning to see the eradication of the unlimited data plan in our broadband lines, such as cable and DSL connections. It's a dangerous trend that will threaten the budding Internet-based video business — whether from Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Windows Store, or Google Play — then jeopardize Internet services of all sorts. It's a complex issue, and though the villains are obvious — the telecom carriers and cable providers — the solutions are not. The result will be a metered Internet that discourages use of the services so valuable for work and play.'"
pigrabbitbear writes: "Francesco Portelos is a NYC teacher who, after having raised questions about budgeting at I.S. 49 Berta A. Dreyfus (a Staten Island school he’s been suspended from), is now taking viewers inside a rubber room he’s been stationed at. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, Steven Brill published a lengthy account of NYC’s teacher reassignment centers in The New Yorker a few years ago, but the term refers to offices used by teachers that have been put on administrative leave from the classroom for one reason or another."
cervesaebraciator writes: A new species of heterodontosaur, called Pegomastax, has been identified. Paul Sereno, a University of Chicago paleontologist, published a description of this species in a recent issue of ZooKeys. Although this diminutive (60 cm or less) species was herbivorous, it also possessed a set of sharp, stabbing canines in its parrot-shaped beak. Dr. Sereno holds that these canines where likely "for nipping and defending themselves, not for eating meat.” Perhaps the most imaginatively intriguing aspect of all, the body of the Pegomastix might have been covered in porcupine-like quills, making for perhaps the least attractive dinosaur of all time. You can almost hear Dieter Stark screaming 'Helvetes jävlar!'
derekmead writes: Billions worldwide still don't have access to proper sanitation, and those of that do still require a ton of water and electricity to keep waste flowing. A French company is offering one solution: Use turd-eating worms to compost waste right at the source.
Ecosphere Technologies has developed an outhouse that, rather than relying on chemicals like a port-a-john, relies on about a pound of red wiggler worms. A new installation in Quebec uses imported worms, placed inside of a mixture of dung and straw underneath to toilet, to devour feces delivered to them by a conveyor belt system. (When someone uses the toilet, pee filters through sand to wash away, while a pedal allows the user to transport their poo to the worm space.)
The whole system uses no water or electricity, and a series of passive vents allegedly keeps the toilet smelling great. The company claims it can be used 10,000 times without servicing, which is far better than what a port-a-potty can boast, although with a current price tag of $40k for the worm system, port-a-potties are still a lot cheaper.
crookedvulture writes: "SSD prices continue plummeting. In just the past quarter, street prices have fallen by double-digit percentages for most models, with some slashed by 30% or more. We've reached the point where the majority of drives cost less than a dollar per gigabyte, and that's without the special coupon codes and mail-in rebates usually attached to weekly deals. Lower-capacity drives seem more resistant to deep price cuts, making 120-256GB offerings the best values right now. It's nice to see a new class of devices go from prohibitively expensive to eminently affordable in such a relatively short amount of time."
pacopico writes: Much has been made about Facebook hitting 1 billion users. But Businessweek has the inside story detailing how the site actually copes with this many people and the software Facebook has invented that pushes the limits of computer science. The story quotes database guru Mike Stonebraker saying, "I think Facebook has the hardest information technology problem on the planet." To keep Facebooking moving fast, Mark Zuckerberg apparently institued a program called Boot Camp in which engineers spend six-weeks learning every bit of Facebook's code.
sfcrazy writes: Samsung has created a new Linux file system called F2FS. Jaegeuk Kim of Samsung writes on the Linux Kernel Mailing List: F2FS is a new file system carefully designed for the NAND flash memory-based storage devices. We chose a log structure file system approach, but we tried to adapt it to the new form of storage. Also we remedy some known issues of the very old log structured file system, such as snowball effect of wandering tree and high cleaning overhead.
Trailrunner7 writes: A slew of major American banks, some already stressed by a stream of DDoS attacks carried out over the past 10 days, may soon have to brace themselves for a large-scale coordinated attack bent on pulling off fraudulent wire transfers.
This is the first time a private cybercrime organization has recruited outsiders to participate in a financially motivated attack, said Mor Ahuvia, cybercrime communications specialist for RSA FraudAction. The attackers are promising their recruits a cut of the profits, and are requiring an initial investment in hardware and training in how to deploy the Gozi Prinimalka Trojan, Ahuvia added. Also, the gang will only share executable files with their partners, and will not give up the Trojan’s compilers, keeping the recruits dependent on the gang for updates
itwbennett writes: "On Thursday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski layed out plans to make 300MHz more spectrum available by 2015. Among the blocks that will be auctioned in the AWS (Advanced Wireless Services) band is a band between 1755MHz and 1780MHz, where a commercial user would share the spectrum with current government users."
Zothecula writes: Most people’s image of plants is actually upside down. For most of our photosynthetic friends, the majority of the plant is underground in the form of an intricate system of roots. The bit that sticks up is almost an afterthought. That’s a problem for scientists trying to study plants because growing them in media that allow you to see the roots, such as hydroponics, doesn't mimic real soil very well. Now, a team of researchers at the James Hutton Institute and the University of Abertay Dundee in Scotland has developed an artificial transparent soil that allows scientists to make detailed studies of root structures and subterranean soil ecology on a microscopic level.
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Ross Anderson writes that Freeman Dyson predicted in 1960 that every civilization in the Universe eventually runs out of energy on its home planet, a major hurdle in a civilization's evolution, and that all those who leap over it do so in precisely the same way: they build a massive collector of starlight, a shell of solar panels to surround their home star. Last month astronomers began a two-year search for Dyson Spheres, a search that will span the Milky Way, along with millions of other galaxies funded by a sizable grant from the Templeton Foundation, a philanthropic organization that funds research on the "big questions" that face humanity, questions relating to "human purpose and ultimate reality." Compared with SETI, a search for Dyson Spheres assumes that the larger the civilization, the more energy it uses and the more heat it reradiates so if Dyson Spheres exist, they promise to give off a very particular kind of heat signature, a signature that we should be able to see through our infrared telescopes. "A Dyson Sphere would appear very bright in the mid-infrared," says project leader Jason Wright. "Just like your body, which is invisible in the dark, but shines brightly in mid-infrared goggles." A civilization that built a Dyson Sphere would have to go to great lengths to avoid detection by building massive radiators that give off heat so cool that it would be undetectable, a solution that would involve building a sphere that was a hundred times larger than necessary. "If a civilization wants to hide, it's certainly possible to hide," says Wright, "but it requires massive amounts of deliberate engineering across an entire civilization.""
ananyo writes: "Japanese researchers have coaxed mouse stem cells into becoming viable eggs that produce healthy offspring. Last year, the same team successfully used mouse stem cells to make functional sperm (other groups have produced sperm cells in vitro). The researchers used a cocktail of growth factors to transform stem cells into egg precursors. When they added these egg precursor cells to embryonic ovary tissue that did not contain sex cells, the mixture spontaneously formed ovary-like structures, which they then grafted onto natural ovaries in female mice. After four weeks, the stem-cell-derived cells had matured into oocytes. The team removed the oocytes from the ovaries, fertilized them and transplanted the embryos into foster mothers. The offspring that were produced grew up to be fertile themselves."