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Submission + - Geologists discover world's largest fossil forest

solitas writes: The St.Louis post-Dispatch says that geologists have discovered the remains of one of the world's oldest tropical rainforests, preserved in the ceiling of a coal mine 250 feet below the surface.

The four-square-mile fossil forest — the largest find ever — is just south of Danville in Vermilion County, Ill., in the 300-million-year-old Herrin coal bed, a 6-foot-thick strip mined by a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Peabody Coal.

No photos; but a graphic about how they believe it happened.

Submission + - SpaceX Launch Scrubbed

rylwin writes: The SpaceX launch scheduled to launch today @ 4pm (PST) was pushed back until 4:45 and then scrubbed with 1 minute left on the countdown. Details should appear on the updates section of the SpaceX site. According to audio heard on the live video feed, the launch will be re-attempted either tomorrow or the next day.

Submission + - MIT to put its entire curriculum online free

DanLake writes: "On Tuesday, school officials revealed plans to make available the university's entire 1,800-course curriculum by year's end. Currently, some 1.5 million online independent learners log on the MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) site every month and more than 120 universities around the world have inaugurated their own sites for independent learners. MIT has more than 1,500 course curriculums available online to date.

Carson said MIT's teachers collect what they have created for their courses and make it available over the Web. Many online learners purchase text books for the courses they are monitoring and a recent MIT-Amazon link showed that about 2,000 text books were ordered by independent learners, demonstrating just how serious the learners are.

"Video and audio files are very popular," said Carson. "There are 21 courses with full video available." Typically, independent learners view videos with streaming media players and replay them on PCs, MP3s, or iPods."

Submission + - Robotic Introspection: Self Modeling

holomorph writes: I came across an interesting story about self modeling robots. From the article:

Higher animals use some form of an "internal model" of themselves for planning complex actions and predicting their consequence, but it is not clear if and how these self-models are acquired or what form they take. Analogously, most practical robotic systems use internal mathematical models, but these are laboriously constructed by engineers. While simple yet robust behaviors can be achieved without a model at all, here we show how low-level sensation and actuation synergies can give rise to an internal predictive self-model, which in turn can be used to develop new behaviors.

Submission + - Bill Gates speaks out against immigration curbs

Jeian writes: None other than Bill Gates has spoken out against tighter immigration policies in the US. According to Gates, the US is losing skilled immigrants to other countries that are easier to immigrate to. Among his comments: "I personally witness the ill effects of these policies on an almost daily basis at Microsoft."

Submission + - Chris Hecker: "The Wii is a piece of shit!"

An anonymous reader writes: GDC 2007: "The Wii is a Piece of Sh*t!", One of Spore's developers rants about Nintendo's "two GameCubes stuck together with duct tape." During a session at GDC this morning titled 'Burning Mad — Game Publishers Rant,' time was taken about half way through to allow developers a chance to spew their own rants. One speaker, Chris Hecker, currently working on Spore at Maxis, took the opportunity to call out Nintendo for not taken games seriously. IGN has the details: http://wii.ign.com/articles/771/771051p1.html

Submission + - Supreme Court on ATT and M$

Anonymous Coward writes: "If you read the transcript from today's session, you can see that some (or all) of the Justices are suspicious of software patents. Item: Souter compares what MS did to sending a blueprint overseas- which apparently is not infringement: JUSTICE SOUTER (to ATT): You are saying, I think, in essence if you send a blueprint — this is like a blueprint. It tells, it tells a machine which may be in Europe how to put the object code on other disks or on hard drives. The machine in Europe is following instructions just the way an artisan would follow a blueprint. Item: Kennedy accidentally describes (as non-infringing behaviour) the relationship between source code, a compiler and object code! This is really fascinating: JUSTICE KENNEDY: But suppose, suppose you had a machine that makes another machine, and if you ship that machine to Europe — and there's a patent for the machine that makes it. If you ship it to Europe and it starts making another machine, the statute is not violated; and isn't that just what's happening here? and Waxman falls all over himself to assert that that is NOT the case.... MR. WAXMAN: No, no, no. This is not a machine tool. The thing that was violated, the machine readable object code, is precisely what is installed on the computer and precisely what is moved from one part of the computer to another in different forms as the computer operates and it continually instructs. This is dynamic. It's not... and Justice Breyer interrupts him: JUSTICE BREYER: How would you, how would you — go back for a second, please, because, if you're finished with that, because I don't see how to decide for you without at the same time permitting a person to walk over to the Patent Office, to read that application and the description, which after all at least can be a very highly detailed set of instructions of how to make a machine, getting on the phone, explaining that just like the blueprint which it is just like to somebody in Europe. They then make it. And that on your reading would violate the statute. It can't be right that that would and you don't even think it would. From this exchange it seems like sending source code to foreign country, which is then compiled down to object code, would have been OK. Object code is what runs- source code is just information to a machine how to make another machine, like a blueprint, at very detailed, as Breyer puts it, blueprint, but still a blueprint. In the transcript, which is alternatively funny, (because owing to the ridiculous nature of software patents , the lawyers are all but invoking perfect Platonic Ideas to distinguish between object code and software in the abstract) then heartening you can see that the Justices have deep reservations about whether software should or can be patented. Item: JUSTICE SCALIA: That, that code is not patentable, you've said. MR. WAXMAN: The code is not patentable. The expression is copyrightable. AT&T has not sought to get a patent on the code. AT&T has a patent on a system that can be practiced, among other ways, through the use of software. JUSTICE BREYER: "We're operating under the assumption that software is patentable...but we've never held that in this court, ever, What should we do here?", This is a fascinating case for a variety of reasons. 1) if MS loses, the follow-on implications for software development in the US are profound. Specifically, MS would no longer be able to export code overseas written here without incurring the wrath of patents filed in the US. 2) if MS loses, the following situation obtains: A foreign (to the US) student studies cutting edge algorithms in class. Some of those happen to be patented by someone else, like RSA. This is just what graduate students have to do to be any good. The student then leaves the US and seeks employment with a US firm overseas. Can she get a job? Absolutely not. Anything she writes will have been "stolen fruit" in the eyes of the law. Her employer could be subject to charges of infringement over anything she writes. Why Because SHE HERSELF was the means of transmission back to her country. No doubt that is exactly where this goes. Item: Justice Breyer asks ATT if "transmission purely of information" could be prosecuted as a violation. "I would be quite frightened of deciding for you and discovering vast numbers of inventions that can be thought of in the way you describe this one," he said. Breyer used the example of someone reading the text of a patent claim over the phone to someone in foreign country who later decided to make the same product, a reading of the law he said "can't be right,". Of course all this nonsense stems from trying to extend patents into what should be COPYRIGHTED and trade secreted. That's where the problem lies."

Submission + - Pre-Installed Linux tops Dell customer requests

dhart writes: "Within only a few days of opening a new customer feedback website, Dell has discovered the feature most requested (by a wide margin!) as an option on all new Dell PCs: Pre-installed Linux. I believe they'll have a harder time now with the tired old mantra "there's no customer demand for Linux"."

Submission + - US trains new ELITE Swedish anti-piracy policeunit

soulxtc writes: Never one to let its interests anywhere in the world go unprotected, the FBI and the MPAA have teamed up with the Swedish govt to create an elite corps of Swedish anti-piracy police. In an effort to help stamp out pesky Swedish pirates, FBI agent Andrew Myers and the MPAA have given a group of six Swedish police officers extensive training on how to effectively combat piracy and catch people who engage in illegal downloading from the internet.

Submission + - Is Delphi the next Database dev platform.. again?

santakrooz writes: Delphi's always been known as a solid database application development platform, it just had it's 12th birthday on Valentines day, and now the Delphi guys are coming up with a completely new database architecture. The interesting thing is that it's backward compatible, insanely extensible, single sourced between .NET and Wintel native code, and... and written completely in Delphi. Ok I know Delphi's written in Delphi and there are "wow" apps out there written in Delphi like Skype that Delphi guys always like to mention, there was a loosely supported Linux version, so my question is, what can't you do in Delphi? Or a better question is... what have Slashdot readers written in Delphi?

Submission + - Creating power from wasted heat

Roland Piquepaille writes: "Today, about 90 percent of the world's electricity is created through an indirect and inefficient conversion of heat. It is estimated that two thirds of the heat used by thermoelectric converters are wasted and released. But now, researchers from the University of California at Berkeley have found a new way to convert this wasted heat into electricity by trapping organic molecules between metal nanoparticles. So far, this method of creating electricity creation is in its very early stage, but if it can scale up to mass production, it may lead to a new and inexpensive source of energy. Read more for many additional references about this research work."
Data Storage

Submission + - Nenest Web Application Framework

Tony Y. writes: "Nenest (http://www.nenest.com) is a web platform which enables anyone to create online software support databases. Users use Nenest Form Builder to create online forms, then use those form to collect, organize and store data. Those data can be secure for internal employees or members accessing only; or published to public by using social networking tools, including RSS feeds, Digg, del.icio.us and Sphere."

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