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Science

The Ig Nobels Are Tonight 41

alphadogg writes "Harvard University's August Sanders Theater will play host tonight to a glittering collection of scientific luminaries, in a ceremony dedicated to recognizing some of the most important research of the year. And it will probably involve stuff like green hair, dead salmon brains, and monkey butts. Yes, it's time again for the annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, where the weirdest and least useful scientific discoveries of the year are paraded before the public in a festival of bizarre nerd pageantry." Slashdot programmer David Hand will be in the crowd, too, triggering a flood of justified envy. Update: 09/13 14:23 GMT by S : Here are the winners.

Submission + - Engineers aim to make cleaner-burning cookstoves for developing world (washington.edu)

vinces99 writes: About 3 billion people, or 42 percent of the world’s population, rely on burning materials such as wood, animal dung or coal in stoves for cooking and heating their homes. Often these stoves are crudely designed, and poor ventilation and damp wood can create a smoky, hazardous indoor environment day after day. A recent study in The Lancet estimates that 3.5 million people die each year as a result of indoor air pollution from open fires or rudimentary stoves in their homes. More than 900,000 people die from pneumonia alone, which has been linked to indoor air pollution. University of Washington engineers hope to make a dent in these numbers by designing a cookstove that meets a stringent set of emission and efficiency standards while still being affordable and attractive to families who cook over a flame each day. The team has received a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to design a better cookstove, which researchers say will use half as much fuel and cut emissions by 90 percent.

Submission + - Marissa Meyer says it would be treason to decline to cooperate with the NSA (businessinsider.com)

McGruber writes: During Wednesday's TechCrunch Disrupt conference, Marissa Meyer was asked what would happen if Yahoo simply declined to cooperate with the NSA. She replied "Releasing classified information is treason. It generally lands you incarcerated."

Meyer also revealed that the 2007 lawsuit against the Patriot Act had been filed by Yahoo: "I'm proud to be part of an organization that from the very beginning in 2007, with the NSA and FISA and PRISM, has been skeptical and has scrutinized those requests. In 2007 Yahoo filed a lawsuit against the new Patriot Act, parts of PRISM and FISA, we were the key plaintiff. A lot of people have wondered about that case and who it was. It was us ... we lost. The thing is, we lost and if you don't comply it's treason."

Encryption

IETF Floats Draft PRISM-Proof Security Considerations 75

hypnosec writes "PRISM-Proof Security Considerations, a draft proposal to make it harder for governments to implement and carry out surveillance activities like PRISM, has been floated by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The draft highlights security concerns as a result of government sponsored PRISM-like projects and the security controls that may be put into place to mitigate the risks of interception capabilities. Authored by Phillip Hallam-Baker of the Comodo Group the draft is however very sparse on details on how the Internet can be PRISM-proofed."

Submission + - Your Brain Waves Are A Password: How Your Next Car Will Check You're Not A Thief (thecarconnection.com)

cartechboy writes: And you thought stealing cars was hard today? You're facing locks, kill switches, LoJacks, OnStar, and more. But there's worse on the way: Engineers at Japan's Tottori University have developed a prototype theft-prevention system that uses brain waves to identify drivers. That's right: The system samples your brain waves, stores them--and actually shuts down the car if the driver's EEG signals don't match what's on file. It also busts drunk and sleepy drivers, because their brain waves differ from those when you're fully awake and totally sober. One non-Tron downside: If you want to drive, you have to wear a scary-looking set of sensors on your skull so the car can constantly reads your brainwaves. This is your brain on password.

Submission + - Verizon's diabolical plan to turn Internet into pay-per-view (infoworld.com)

GMGruman writes: Verizon is lobbying the Feds to allow it to choose what websites it lets us's access over "its" network, claiming of all things that being forced to carry all websites violates its freedom of expression, Bill Snyder reports. The FCC has opened the path to this argument by repeatedly failing to classify network operators as common carriers that would make them subject to Net neutrality principles. If Verizon wins, it's the end of the Internet as we know it, and we can expect only big websites willing to pay to be available from our browsers.

Submission + - Twitter seeking to go public (thenextweb.com)

awarrenfells writes: While Dell Inc. is announcing its desire to go private, Twitter seems to be heading in the opposite direction with its recent tweet that it seeks to go public.
Earth

First Gear Mechanism Discovered In Nature 136

GameboyRMH writes "A gear mechanism has been discovered [paywalled original paper here, for those with access] for the first time in nature in the nymph of the Issus, a small plant-hopping insect common in Europe. It uses the gears to synchronize the movement and power of its hind legs, forcing the legs to propel it in a straight line when jumping, which would otherwise be impossible for the insect if it had to control the timing and force of its leg muscles independently."
Communications

Ask Slashdot: Can We Still Trust FIPS? 138

First time accepted submitter someSnarkyBastard writes "It has already been widely reported that the NSA has subverted several major encryption standards but I have not seen any mention of how this affects the FIPS 140-2 standard. Can we still trust these cyphers? They have been cleared for use by the US Government for Top-Secret clearance documents; surely the government wouldn't backdoor itself right?...Right?"

Submission + - Client SSD Annual Failure Rates Around 1.5%, HDDs about 5% (computerworld.com)

Lucas123 writes: On the news that Linus Trovalds's SSD went belly up while he was coding the 3.12 kernel, Computerworld took a closer look at SSDs and their failure rates. While Torvalds didn't specify the SSD manufacturer in his blog, he did write in a 2008 blog that he'd purchased an 80GB Intel SSD — likely the X25, which has become something of an industry standard for SSD reliability. While they may have no mechanical parts, making them preferable for mobile use, there are many factors that go into an SSD being reliable. For example, a NAND die, the SSD controller, capacitors, or other passive components can — and do — slowly wear out or fail entirely. As an investigation into SSD reliability performed by Tom's Hardware noted: "We know that SSDs still fail.... All it takes is 10 minutes of flipping through customer reviews on Newegg's listings." Yet, according to IHS, client SSD annual failure rates under warranty tend to be around 1.5%, while HDDs are near 5%. So an SSDs not only outperforms, but on average outlast spinning disk.

Submission + - What Do the Latest NSA Leaks Mean for Bitcoin? (vice.com) 1

Daniel_Stuckey writes: Last week, we learned that the National Security Agency has led an aggressive effort to “break widely used Internet encryption technologies.” The Office of the Director of National Intelligence claims it “would not be doing its job” if it didn't try to counter the encryption used by terrorists and cyber-criminals. There is speculation that many protocols or crypto implementations have been compromised, deliberately weakened, or have had backdoors inserted. In doing so, the NSA has made the Internet less safe for us all, perhaps including those that wish to take advantage of Bitcoin's privacy benefits.

Bitcoin is an open source cryptocurrency; a peer-to-peer (decentralized) electronic cash system. It's also the most powerful distributed computing project in the world. Those two factors have already brought it under government scrutiny.

Submission + - The Ig Nobels are tonight (networkworld.com)

alphadogg writes: Harvard University's August Sanders Theater will play host tonight to a glittering collection of scientific luminaries, in a ceremony dedicated to recognizing some of the most important research of the year. And it will probably involve stuff like green hair, dead salmon brains, and monkey butts. Yes, it's time again for the annual Ig Nobel Prize http://www.improbable.com/ig/ ceremony, where the weirdest and least useful scientific discoveries of the year are paraded before the public in a festival of bizarre nerd pageantry.

Submission + - Cisco Can't Shield Customers From Patent Suits, Court Rules (networkworld.com)

netbuzz writes: A federal appeals court in California has upheld a lower court ruling that Cisco lacks the necessary standing to seek dismissal of patent infringement lawsuits against some of its biggest customers – wireless network providers and enterprises – being brought by TR Labs, a Canadian research consortium. The appeals court agreed with TR Labs’ that its patent infringement claims are rightfully against the users of telecommunications equipment – be it made by Cisco, Juniper, Ciena or others – and not the manufacturers. “In fact, all of the claims and all of the patents are directed at a communications network, not the particular switching nodes that are manufactured by Cisco and the other companies that are subject of our claims,” an attorney for TR Labs told the court. The court made no judgment relative to the patents themselves or the infringement claims.
Government

Former DHS Official Blames Privacy Advocates For TSA's Aggressive Procedures 325

colinneagle writes with an interesting excerpt from Senate testimony offered yesterday, on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, from Stewart Baker. Baker formerly served as DHS Assistant Secretary and NSA General Counsel, and gave his opinion on the source of the real problems within the TSA, opining: "Unlike border officials, though, TSA ended up taking more time to inspect everyone, treating all travelers as potential terrorists, and subjecting many to whole-body imaging and enhanced pat-downs. We can't blame TSA for this wrong turn, though. Privacy lobbies persuaded Congress that TSA couldn't be trusted with data about the travelers it was screening. With no information about travelers, TSA had no choice but to treat them all alike, sending us down a long blind alley that has inconvenienced billions."

Submission + - Study Shows Professors With Tenure Are Worse Teachers

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: We all know the stereotype about tenured college professors: great researchers, lazy teachers. Now Jordan Weissmann writes in the Atlantic that a new study confirms the conventional knowlege that faculty who aren't on the tenure-track appear to do a better job at teaching freshmen undergraduates in their introductory courses than their tenured/tenure-track peers. “Our results provide evidence that the rise of full-time designated teachers at U.S. colleges and universities may be less of a cause for alarm than some people think, and indeed, may actually be educationally beneficial." Using the transcripts of Northwestern freshmen from 2001 through 2008, the research team focused on two factors: inspiration and preparation. The team began by asking if taking a class from a tenure or tenure-track professor in their first term later made students more likely to pursue additional courses in that field. That's the inspiration part. Next the researchers wanted to know if students who took their first course in a field from a tenure or tenure-track professor got better grades when they pursued more advanced coursework. That's the preparation part. Controlling for certain student characteristics, freshmen were actually about 7 percentage points more likely to take a second course in a given field if their first class was taught by an adjunct or non-tenure professor and they also tended to get higher grades in those future courses. The pattern held "for all subjects, regardless of grading standards or the qualifications of the students the subjects attracted" from English to Engineering. The defining trend among college faculties during the past 20 years or so (40, if you really want to stretch back) has been the rise of the adjuncts. "That said, there is something appealingly intuitive in these results," concludes Weissmann. "Professionals who are paid entirely to teach, in fact, make for better teachers. Makes sense, right?"

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