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Science

Submission + - Ask Slashdot. An online science course which makes full use of the Web?

blubadger writes: Having slept through chemistry at school, I'm looking to fill in the gaps in my science education by following a short online course or two. I've been searching for "Chemistry 101", "Basics of Physics", "Biology Primer", and so on. There's some high-quality stuff on offer – from Academic Earth, MIT and others – but it tends to take the form of videos of traditional university lectures. I was hoping to cut through the chit-chat and blackboards and get straight into the infographics and animations that will help me understand complex ideas. Flash and HTML5 Canvas seem wasted on videos of lectures. If the quality were high enough I would be willing to pay. Have Slashdotters seen anything that fits the bill?
Crime

Submission + - Chemists are Winning the War on Synthetic Drugs

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Brandon Keim reports that the war on drugs has a new front with chemists fabricating synthetic mimics of marijuana, dissociative drugs and stimulants, and so far lawmakers appear to be a losing the war as every time a new compound is banned, overseas chemists synthesize a new version tweaked just enough to evade the letter of the law in a giant game of chemical Whack-a-Mole. “Manufacturers turn these things around so quickly. One week you’ll have a product with compound X, the next week it’s compound Y,” says forensic toxicologist Kevin Shanks. “It’s fascinating how fast it can occur, and it’s fascinating to see the minute changes in chemical structure they’ll come up with. It’s similar, but it’s different." During the last several years, the market for legal highs has exploded in North America and Europe and while people raised on Reefer Madness-style exaggerations may be wary of claims that “legal high” drugs are dangerous, researchers say they’re far more potent than the originals. “The results are toxic and very dangerous, especially for vulnerable people — people with previous psychotic episodes — and the young,” says chemist Liana Fattore. Reports of psychotic episodes following synthetic drug use are common and have led to a variety of laws but so far the bans aren’t working as the drugs can be subtly tweaked so as to possess a different, legal molecular form while performing the same psychopharmaceutical role. One obvious alternative approach is to ban entire classes of similar compounds rather than focusing on individual forms., however this is easier said than done. “The problem with that is, what does ‘chemically similar’ really mean? Change the structure in a small way — move a molecule here, move something to the other side of the molecule — and while I might think it’s an analogue, another chemist might disagree," says Shanks. That’s the crux of the entire problem. The scientific community does not agree on what ‘analogue’ essentially means.”"

Comment Re:I have an ultra-simple idea to improve email (Score 1) 314

Thanks, nice point. But then NNTP is a protocol not a media type. My idea, which cannot possibly be original, would just add one very simple and useful feature to the Internet Message Format (defined as RFC5322). I suppose some software maker, Google for instance, could just push this unilaterally with a new custom header. For some reason it hasn't happened.

Comment I have an ultra-simple idea to improve email (Score 1) 314

Add two new headers, both random strings. One as ID for the message, the other the ID of the parent message. This would allow email clients to understand the relationships between messages – eliminating at a stroke (1) the ugly "Re: " in the subject, (2) the messy compounded quoting at the bottom of emails, and (3) the "possibly a reply to..." nonsense in certain email archiving software.

It's so obvious that I don't understand why it hasn't been done already. Perhaps I'm missing something.

Comment You're all doing it wrong (Score 1) 487

The solution to the password non-problem is obvious. I worked it out it years ago and never looked back.

1. Think of a hash which turns two letters into 6-letters-plus-2-numbers (use alphabet position for the numbers)
2. Use it to encode the first two letters of the site or app name

That's it. You get a different non-alphabet password for every site or app, and you'll never forget anything if you remember the hash. Why the hell are we having this debate? We should just get on with it and evangelize for this technique. It's easy and failproof. The only hard bit is learning the number-correspondence of letters, but even just using a favorite number instead the solution is somewhat secure.

Google

Submission + - Google was told about Snooping Code (latimes.com)

Stirling Newberry writes: "The Google engineer who wrote the payload snooping code on unprotected networks told his senior manager according to documents dumped Friday night by Google. The LA Times combed through the FCC report and found that while the engineer was taking the 5th, his colleagues at work stated they knew about the network snooping code.

Don't be ebil."

Privacy

Submission + - Understanding Users' Private Data Without Violating Privacy 1

An anonymous reader writes: Today, the need for doing statistical analysis of user behavior drives many companies to gather lots of private user data and then analyze that data, often without the users’ awareness. Recently, the researchers from Max Planck Institute for Software Systems (MPI-SWS) and Cornell University proposed a practical approach for doing privacy-preserving statistical analysis without gathering user data. This approach can be naturally applied in a large range of application domains such as web analytics, smart metering, public health research, and smart city.
Android

Submission + - Amazon's Kindle Fire has 54% of Android tablet market. Samsung 15%. (neowin.net) 1

N!NJA writes: While Apple continues to overwhelmingly dominate the tablet space with its one-size-fits-all iPad (albeit with both a new and ‘old', cheaper version concurrently on sale), the multiplicity of Android tablets on the market from numerous manufacturers hasn't yet helped Google to capture a significant chunk of market share.

In an interesting twist, though, it's emerged that Google's Android market share isn't entirely its own, as figures from market analysts comScore (via PR Newswire) reveal that, as of February 2012, Amazon's Kindle Fire had grabbed an impressive 54.4% of Android tablet market share. Why is this significant? Well, the Kindle Fire doesn't use Android in the strictest sense. At its heart, the OS is based on Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but Amazon ripped out just about everything that it could.

Submission + - Squadron of lost WWII Spitfires to be exhumed in Burma (foxnews.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Like a treasure chest stuffed with priceless booty, as many as 20 World War II-era Spitfire planes are perfectly preserved, buried in crates beneath Burma — and after 67 years underground, they're set to be uncovered. The planes were shipped in standard fashion in 1945 from their manufacturer in England to the Far East country: waxed, wrapped in greased paper and tarred to protect against the elements. They were then buried in the crates they were shipped in, rather than let them fall into enemy hands, said David Cundall, an aviation enthusiast who has spent 15 years and about $200,000 in his efforts to reveal the lost planes.
Security

Submission + - Engineers Ponder Easier Fix To Internet Problem (itworld.com)

itwbennett writes: "The problem: Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) enables routers to communicate about the best path to other networks, but routers don't verify that the route 'announcements.' When routing problems erupt, 'it's very difficult to tell if this is fat fingering on a router or malicious,' said Joe Gersch, chief operating officer for Secure64, a company that makes Domain Name System (DNS) server software. In a well-known incident, Pakistan Telecom made an error with BGP after Pakistan's government ordered in 2008 that ISPs block YouTube, which ended up knocking Google's service offline. A solution exists, but it's complex, and deployment has been slow. Now experts have found an easier way."

Comment Cart before the horse (Score 4, Insightful) 531

Well, I see that I'm outvoted by incurable, irrational techno-utopians.

I too am optimistic, as it happens. But only cautiously so – not recklessly, like you people are. Given humanity's past, there is no reason to believe that we can't rise to the current environmental challenge. But we're taking our time seeing the problem, as evidenced by this frivolous chat about mining asteroids. Right now the world a half-century hence is looking a scary place, and even in the best-case scenario a lot of permanent damage is going to be done to the biosphere. If and when we solve this problem – mitigating the effects of consumption rather than finding resources for more of it – then we can perhaps start thinking about mining asteroids. Until that point, you are putting the cart before the horse.

I have a strange feeling you don't even know what I'm talking about, that we're not even on the same page here. That's sad, because I'm talking hard science, and the solutions will come largely from hard science too. They include energy tech, biotech and all kinds of innovation in farming, town-planning and architecture. They don't include mining asteroids.

Comment Re:It's even dumber than that. (Score 4, Insightful) 531

Why does the bulk of humanity always have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future?

Your "future" seems to be somewhere around 1970. Today's challenge is not how to find and use ever more resources, it is how to use and re-use the existing ones without making the planet unliveable. Given the current context of impending climatic and ecosystem breakdown, mining asteroids is nothing but an outrageous red herring.

I continue to be astounded by the number of "technologists" in this forum who appear stuck in an almost Soviet mindset of science, where the future is all mining and flying cars and space exploration. It's as if you haven't noticed the last 30 years of scientific advance and all the new constraints that humanity must now work within.

Comment Transparency (Score 1) 207

If "we were all completely open about everything we have done that directly affected at least one other human" (and that definition leaves few deeds uncounted) then there might indeed be little war. There would be fascism instead, because information is power.

Transparency begets freedom when applied to those in power. When applied to private citizens, it destroys freedom. This is the nuance that some transparency absolutists have yet to understand.

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