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Submission + - Is That Dress White and Gold or Blue and Black? writes: Color scientists already have a word for it: Dressgate. Now the Washington Post reports that a puzzling thing happened on Thursday night consuming millions — perhaps tens of millions — across the planet and trending on Twitter ahead of even Jihadi John’s identification. The problem was this: Roughly three-fourths of people swore that this dress was white and gold, according to BuzzFeed polling but everyone else said it's dress was blue. Others said the dress could actually change colors. So what's going on? According to the NYT our eyes are able to assign fixed colors to objects under widely different lighting conditions. This ability is called color constancy. But the photograph doesn’t give many clues about the ambient light in the room. Is the background bright and the dress in shadow? Or is the whole room bright and all the colors are washed out? If you think the dress is in shadow, your brain may remove the blue cast and perceive the dress as being white and gold. If you think the dress is being washed out by bright light, your brain may perceive the dress as a darker blue and black.

According to Beau Lotto, the brain is doing something remarkable and that's why people are so fascinated by this dress. “It’s entertaining two realities that are mutually exclusive. It’s seeing one reality, but knowing there’s another reality. So you’re becoming an observer of yourself. You’re having tremendous insight into what it is to be human. And that’s the basis of imagination.” As usual xkcd has the final word.

Submission + - House Passes Bill That Prevents Scientists From Advising EPA (

Roger Wilcox writes: While everyone’s attention was focused on the Senate and the Keystone XL decision on Tuesday, some pretty shocking stuff was quietly going on in the House of Representatives. The GOP-dominated House passed a bill that effectively prevents scientists who are peer-reviewed experts in their field from providing advice — directly or indirectly — to the EPA, while at the same time allowing industry representatives with financial interests in fossil fuels to have their say. Perversely, all this is being done in the name of “transparency.”

Submission + - The Peculiar Economics of Developing New Antibiotics writes: Every year at least two million people are infected with bacteria that can’t be wiped out with antibiotics but the number of F.D.A.-approved antibiotics has decreased steadily in the past two decades. Now.Ezekiel J. Emanuel writes at the NYT that the problem with the development of new antibiotics is profitability. “There’s no profit in it, and therefore the research has dried up, but meanwhile bacterial resistance has increased inexorably and there’s still a lot of inappropriate use of antibiotics out there," says Ken Harvey. Unlike drugs for cholesterol or high blood pressure, or insulin for diabetes, which are taken every day for life, antibiotics tend to be given for a short time so profits have to be made on brief usage. "Even though antibiotics are lifesaving, they do not command a premium price in the marketplace," says Emanuel. "As a society we seem willing to pay $100,000 or more for cancer drugs that cure no one and at best add weeks or a few months to life. We are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for knee surgery that, at best, improves function but is not lifesaving. So why won’t we pay $10,000 for a lifesaving antibiotic?"

Emanuel says that we need to use prize money as an incentive. "What if the United States government — maybe in cooperation with the European Union and Japan — offered a $2 billion prize to the first five companies or academic centers that develop and get regulatory approval for a new class of antibiotics?" Because it costs at least $1 billion to develop a new drug, the prize money could provide a 100 percent return — even before sales. "From the government perspective, such a prize would be highly efficient: no payment for research that fizzles. Researchers win only with an approved product. Even if they generated just one new antibiotic class per year, the $2-billion-per-year payment would be a reasonable investment for a problem that costs the health care system $20 billion per year." Unless payers and governments are willing to provide favorable pricing for such a drug, the big companies are going to focus their R&D investments in areas like cancer, depression, and heart disease where the return-on-investments are much higher.

Submission + - Argonne National Laboratory shuts down Online Ask a Scientist Program (

itamblyn writes: In a surprising decision, Argonne National Laboratory has decided to pull the plug on its long-standing NEWTON Ask A Scientist Program. NEWTON is (soon to be was) an on online repository of science questions submitted by school children from around the world. A volunteer group of scientists contributed grade-level appropriate answers to these questions.

For the past 25 years, a wide range of topics ranging have been covered, including the classic “why is the sky blue” to “is there way to break down the components of plastics completely into their original form”. Over the years, over 20,000 questions have been answered.

According to ANL, the website will be shut down permanently on 1 March. There is no plan to make the content available in an alternate form or to hand over stewardship to another organization.

When contacted about transferring the repository to another institution or moving to a donation model, the response from ANL was simply: "Thank you again for all your support for Newton. Unfortunately, moving Newton to another organization is not a possibility at this time. Thank you again for your energy and support.”

Given the current state of scientific literacy in the general public, it is difficult to understand how removing 20,000 scientific FAQ from the internet makes any sense. If you’re interested in starting a letter writing campaign, the Director of ANL, Peter Littlewood, can be reached at I’m sure he would love to hear from all of us.

Full disclosure: I am one of those scientific volunteers and I’ve already run wget on the site. It’s about 300 mb in total. I do not have the ability to host the material at scale (apparently NEWTON receives millions of hits / month).

Submission + - 25 Years in the Making - This is How Photoshop 1.0 Looks Today (

Iddo Genuth writes: In celebration of Photoshop’s 25 anniversary Adobe decided to publish an interesting an a bit nostalgic video which looks at the original Photoshop — version 1.0 announced back in 1990.

There are very few working computers these days that can run Photoshop 1.0 directly, however using an emulator you can more or less reproduce the software as it was a quarter of a century ago. There are many things that we take for granted in Photoshop that you could not do in the original version including using layers (these came only in version 3.0), use live preview or even something as basic as saving your image as JPEG (which was introduced around 1992), not to speak of Camera RAW which was introduced quite a few years later (as there were no commercial digital cameras anywhere). Of course there was also no real internet so the only way to get digital images was by scanning prints...

Submission + - Moxie Marlinspike: GPG Has Run Its Course (

An anonymous reader writes: Security researcher Moxie Marlinspike has an interesting post about the state of GPG-encrypted communications. After using GPG for much of its lifetime, he says he now dreads getting a GPG-encrypted email in his inbox. "Instead of developing opinionated software with a simple interface, GPG was written to be as powerful and flexible as possible. It’s up to the user whether the underlying cipher is SERPENT or IDEA or TwoFish. The GnuPG man page is over sixteen thousand words long; for comparison, the novel Fahrenheit 451 is only 40k words. Worse, it turns out that nobody else found all this stuff to be fascinating. Even though GPG has been around for almost 20 years, there are only ~50,000 keys in the “strong set,” and less than 4 million keys have ever been published to the SKS keyserver pool ever. By today’s standards, that’s a shockingly small user base for a month of activity, much less 20 years." Marlinspike concludes, "I think of GPG as a glorious experiment that has run its course. ... GPG isn't the thing that’s going to take us to ubiquitous end to end encryption, and if it were, it’d be kind of a shame to finally get there with 1990’s cryptography."

Submission + - U.S. offers highest-ever reward for Russian hacker (

mpicpp writes: The U.S. State Department and FBI on Tuesday announced a $3 million reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Russian national Evgeniy Bogachev, the highest bounty U.S. authorities have ever offered in a cyber case.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation also issued a "Wanted" poster for Bogachev, who is charged in the United States with running a computer attack network called GameOver Zeus that allegedly stole more than $100 million from online bank accounts.

Bogachev has been charged by federal authorities in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with conspiracy, computer hacking, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering in connection with his alleged role as administrator of GameOver Zeus.

He also faces federal bank fraud conspiracy charges in Omaha, Nebraska related to his alleged involvement in an earlier variant of Zeus malware known as "Jabber Zeus."

Submission + - Should a carebot bring an alcoholic a drink? It depends on who own the robot ( 1

An anonymous reader writes: In a care scenario, a robot may have been purchased by the patient, by the doctor or hospital (which sent it home with the patient to monitor their health), or by a concerned family member who wants to monitor their relative. The latest poll research by the Open Roboethics Initiative (ORi) looked at people’s attitudes about whether a care robot should prioritize its owner’s wishes over those of the patient.

Submission + - Some news organizations are lagging behind in the adoption of STARTTLS (

ageisp0lis writes: Freedom of the Press Foundation conducted a survey of major news organizations to see if they have implemented a common security protocol known as STARTTLS that can protect their e-mails from being intercepted as they travel across the Internet. They found that news organizations like the Associated Press, Le Monde, the LA Times, CBS News, Forbes, Baltimore Sun, and Der Spiegel are still not protecting journalists and their sources from certain types of mass surveillance, and are putting all of the people who communicate with them at risk of being spied on.

Submission + - now Barbie is Wi-Fi ( 1

turkeydance writes: Vid Toymaker Mattel has unveiled a high-tech Barbie that will listen to your child, record its words, send them over the internet for processing, and talk back to your kid. It will email you, as a parent, highlights of your youngster's conversations with the toy.

Submission + - Girls Rule, Boys Not So Much in NYC Plan for High School CS Education 1

theodp writes: While Washington State educators bucked the don't-worry-about-boys approach to high school CS education espoused by Microsoft, Google, and others, the New York City Dept. of Education appear to have no such qualms. According to posted program requirements, principals of NYC Schools seeking a share of the $5.4 million NSF grant for Bringing a Rigorous Computer Science Principles Course to the Largest School System in the United States must "implement a recruitment plan with a focus on enrolling female and underrepresented students into the course." According to a White House fact sheet, "the course will draw more students into the discipline by focusing on foundational computing skills and the creative aspects of computing." In an interview last week, President Obama said that he has encouraged his two daughters to learn to code, although they haven’t taken to it the way he’d like. "Part of the problem," the President added, "is that we are not helping schools and teachers teach it in an interesting way."

Submission + - Routing on (

An anonymous reader writes: Good news for OpenStreetMap: the main website now has A-to-B routing (directions) built in to the homepage! The OSM website offers directions which are powered by third-parties using OSM data, providing car, bike, and foot routing. OpenStreetMap has a saying: “what gets rendered, gets mapped” – meaning that often you don’t notice a bit of data that needs tweaking unless it actually shows up on the map image. It will make OpenStreetMap’s data better by creating a virtuous feedback loop.

Submission + - When Chess Players Blunder (

An anonymous reader writes: Joe Doliner has done a statistical analysis of mistakes in rated chess games. He used a chess engine called Crafty, which is capable of not only finding mistakes, but quantifying how bad they are. After crunching all the matches on in 2014, which amounted to almost 5 million moves, Crafry found only 67,175 blunders that were equivalent to a 2-pawn deficit or worse. With a pair of graphs, Doliner shows how mistakes decrease as player rating increases, as you'd expect. According to the trendline, gaining 600 rating points roughly halves the number of mistakes a player makes. He made the data and tools available in a public repository for others to dig into.

Comment Re:202,586 (Score 2) 233

A good friend of mine was in the interview process to become an astronaut, and, I have to be honest, I don't think that it hurt her career or her life in any way. She didn't end up an astronaut, but she met a bunch of interesting people, did cool things, and ultimately landed a job at a top university. I doubt she regrets it one bit. If that's what failure looks like, sign me up.

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egrep patterns are full regular expressions; it uses a fast deterministic algorithm that sometimes needs exponential space. -- unix manuals