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Journal Journal: 150,000 Mexicans March in Abduction Protest

With the rising wave of abductions, as seen earlier on Slashdot's Idle section (our offtopic humor/meme/viral video/pictures section), Mexicans have marched (Saturday video) down Mexico City's main street to bring attention to just how serious they consider this issue, and to call upon President Felipe Calderon to carry out promises to crack
User Journal

Journal Journal: The overrated tag has got to go 14

I have seen several of my posts knocked down as "overrated" lately, including some that were never moderated up. Some of this is partisan moderation - which is inevitable in a public forum. But other cases leave me wondering if I have pissed somebody off. Examples:
The Internet

Submission + - SPAM: Wikipedia has a Palin problem

destinyland writes: "Wikipedia was apparently surprised when Sarah Palin was picked as John McCain's running mate — because they didn't update the editing security on her Wikipedia page. This morning she was being idneitifed as "the hot governor of Alaska" — accompanied by a photograph of Hulk Hogan. And another user committed a major revision which they described as simply "Replaced content with 'tacos'.""
Link to Original Source
Republicans

Journal Journal: VP candidate Sarah Palin Wants to Teach Creationism

The Republican ticket is now complete, with John McCain picking Sarah Palin, the Republican Governor of Alaska as his running mate. And sure, she is hot (safe for work) but it would appear she is also a proponent of teaching creationism alongside Evolution in public schools. I don't mean to start a flame war here (ok maybe just a little) but seriously, how can anyone take a candidat
Desktops (Apple)

Submission + - Mac Cloner Psystar: Apple a 'Monopoly' (computerworld.com)

CWmike writes: "Mac clone maker Psystar, which has countered an Apple lawsuit with one of its own, said in court documents filed Thursday that Apple enjoys 'monopoly power' from the licensing link it's forged between its hardware and the Mac OS. It said that forcing Apple computer maker to undo an illegal tie between the Mac OS X operating system and its hardware would force it to drop prices. In the long counter-suit, Psystar claims: 'There is no technical reason that a third-party could not accumulate and assemble the hardware components in an Apple-Labeled Computer Hardware System such that said system would be capable of running the Mac OS.' Psystar also claims that Apple had embedded code in the Mac operating system that, when it recognizes non-Apple hardware, sends the system into a 'kernel panic,' which is 'self-induced by Apple's embedding of code to prevent operability on computer hardware systems that are not Apple-Labeled Computer Hardware Systems.'"
It's funny.  Laugh.

Journal Journal: Barack Obama Q&A with Sarah Palin 7

McCain and Biden have both been around a long time, and are known factors, and thus boring. So after watching too many speeches that were so vague that either side could have read them, I decided a Q&A between Obama and Palin could be very interesting.
Announcements

Submission + - Bob Barr wins Texas

Moderator writes: "In a stunning turn of events, it seems that American Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr has won the State of Texas. By law, the deadline for political parties to file their candidate selections is 70 days before the election date, which was August 26. Both major political parties failed to do so. In a press release, the Barr camp said "Unless the state of Texas violates its own election laws, Congressman Barr will be the only presidential candidate on the ballot...Texas law makes no exceptions for missing deadlines." While it's unlikely that the Republicans and Democrats won't find some kind of loophole to get their name on the ballot, as of today (the 29th) only Bob Barr is listed as an official general election candidate."
Space

Submission + - 13 things that don't make sense (13thingsthatdontmakesense.com)

prostoalex writes: "13 things that don't make sense by Michael Brooks is a fascinating look into the world of scientific discoveries, or lack thereof. Because, you see, there are quite a few commonplace things that we take for granted, but cannot quite explain from the scientific point of view. Sure, you'll say, it must be some extra-hard scientific stuff, a formula understandable only by an army of advanced PhDs who spend their lives figuring out these ultra-complicated tasks.

Well, not quite. It turns out that life itself is quite a mystery from the scientific point of view.
  1. Life. In theory life in the universe appeared when electric currents went through the masses of hydrogen, ammonia, water and methane, therefore creating something animate out of a set of inanimate chemicals. In practice, for a few decades the scientists have been trying to achieve a similar effect on a smaller scale, but so far no one has been able to produce the Holy Grail — turning something lifeless into something that is actually live, such as a single-cell organism. The life itself, it seems, is a scientific anomaly that should not happen in this Universe according to the existing laws of chemistry.
  2. Death. You've heard it before: two things you cannot avoid in life are death and taxes. Well, this is a very human-centric view of things, as it turns out there's a variety of species (most of them vertebrates) that only get better with age. Some turtles, it seems, only get healthier and produce more children with age. Moreover, scientists are aware only of non-natural causes of their deaths — being run over by a truck or attacked by a bird. Are those turtles immortal, or are we observing just a small stage of their lifecycles (which could eclipse ours by generations)?
  3. Dark matter. It's not embarrassing for scientists to admit they don't know something. After all, there are plenty of little details that remain unknown in many branches of science. So not knowing what constitutes dark matter would be an acceptable excuse, if it weren't for the fact that dark matter comprises 96% of the Universe. We know that the Universe keeps expanding, but we cannot quite describe how and what happens to the space that used to be compacted previously. Dark matter is the giant elephant in the room in discussions related to astronomy or physics — we don't know what it is, we've never seen it, and only infer its existence, yet roughly speaking it's a major ingredient in the Universe we live in.
  4. Varying constants. Physical constants are warm and fuzzy. We don't know why they have the value they have, but we always substitute them into our equations and formulas, relying on decades of scientific research behind us, and the fact that they are, well, constants. However, there's a fairly determined group of scientists that is looking into certain scientific constants and finding that their values have changed as the Universe aged. Determined might be an understatement, as anyone willing to travel to Gabon and mess with uranium there is certainly dedicated. What they're finding is that the constants describing nuclear reactions were different two billion years ago compared to current constants.
  5. Newton's inverse square law. In 1994 scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory figured out they had a bug with Pioneer probes. Contrary to the Newton's inverse square law, the Pioneers were drifting off course. They hired Slava Turyshev out of Jet Propulsion Lab to investigate the small bug, which was most likely to blame on some contamination or error in Pioneer design. 14 years later the bug still stands unresolved. Together with NASA the scientists have gone through heaps of papers figuring out what could go wrong, and the answer is still up in the air. If unresolved, the Pioneer trajectory might become the first evidence that it's time to rethink Newton's inverse square law.
  6. Homeopathy. When it works, you hear all about it. Homeopathy is almost like religion, in the sense that it attracts either staunch believers, or extreme sceptics. The idea of diluting a certain ingredient with copious amounts of water doesn't sit well with the majority of chemists, who point out that such small proportions call for a chance of the entire solution being water. Nevertheless, in Brooks' book there's an attempt at the explanation of what might be causing homeopathic effect — changes in molecular structure of water depending on the chemicals that it's been in contact with, even if the chemicals have been filtered out. However, it's still an attempt at best, since the scientific experiments that do achieve positive results are generally not reproducible.
  7. Placebo effect. Perhaps related to the previous thing we don't understand, placebo effect has some interesting features. The patient knowing or suspecting that they might be receiving a placebo behaves differently than those without any knowledge. Are we comforted by the sight of people in white robes and our local pharmacist dealing out the regular dose of medication? Or does body start producing entirely different set of hormones with mind suspecting that the recovery process is near. Placebo, if figured out, might become a huge money saver with the current drug prices, and hence attracts scientific research. The only thing missing? A definitive conclusion on the placebo effect.
  8. Free will. A certain amount of human ideology rests on the idea of free will. So the idea of the body just reacting to some responses outside of the brain is uncomfortable. But picture this. You're in bed, it's time to get up, yet you want to spend a few more minutes in bed. Your conscious mind is sending the signals for the body to get vertical, and yet at some point, probably between the thoughts of pending shower and commute to work, you get up. The final decision done by something unconscious, something you don't really have control over. While your conscious mind can submit an application to this unknown organ and request something happening, the body movements and behavior are triggered by something that is still largely unknown for science.
  9. Cold fusion. It became one of the most ridiculous scientific ideas to get associated with, and no scientist would touch it nowadays with a 40-foot pole, since it brings the stigma. However, as some point out, peer pressure is pathway to missing out on some potential innovations in the field. What's currently reproducible is the effect of cold fusion on a plastic called CR39. Placed by a piece of depleted uranium, CR39 shows similar patterns of radiation as placed into a cold fusion experiment.
  10. Life on Mars. The Viking probes were declared to contain no evidence of life on Mars. The only person in the room who disagreed with the announcement was a bacteriological researcher, who came up with a clever idea of detecting life (fart reference coming soon). By adding radioactive isotopes to the nutrients fed into the foreign soil, the researchers would get any evidence of carbon-based life to produce gas (there it is), and by the virtue of having the food injected with isotopes, the Geiger counter would go ballistic, and hence you could validate existence of life in the soil, even if other tests came negative.
  11. WOW signal. One would argue that scientists at SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) have a pretty monotonous job. They're waiting for a signal on 1420 MHz frequency. Why 1420? That's the frequency of hydrogen, the most prevalent element in the Universe, so hopefully those extra-terrestrials will arrive at the same idea when sending the signal. So far no signal has arrived. Except on August 15th, 1977, when the signal came. It was very distinct, and caused Jerry Ehman to write "Wow!" on the margin of the printout. The signal never repeated, and the SETI folks have not heard anything similar since then.
  12. Mimivirus is an interesting virus that does not seem to affect humans, except for the unique cases, when it actually does. It's the virus that fight cancer cells among others, and hence draws a great deal of research attention.
  13. Sex. If you've read this far, here's a bonus entry. Yes, sex is one of those things that scientists do not quite understand (insert a proper nerd joke here). Looking at overall picture, the animal kingdom provides a great variety of alternative means of reproduction, that are much more efficient as far as number of offspring and the quality of gene preservation. A number of reptiles and fish are all-female or all-unisex species, copying themselves for the purposes of reproduction. Moreover, a number of species, like water fleas, can reproduce either sexually or asexually. You'd think that the species produced through asexual reproduction would be somehow inferior to the ones that appeared as a result of a sexual act, but there's no solid scientific data to prove that or the opposite. What remains enigmatic is that if asexual reproduction would provide you with 2x the population compared to sexual (and that leaves out the time and energy spent on finding a mate, taking her to dinners and consequent ring shopping), why didn't the entire animal world switch to asexual, as it's obviously a more efficient process.
"

Education

Submission + - Anthropologist Says Hobbit Claim Was Cowboy'ed Up (scientificblogging.com)

TaeKwonDood writes: "The world (including Slashdot) was keenly interested when a study in March — http://www.plosone.org/ambra-doi-resolver/10.1371/journal.pone.0001780 — said there were dwarfs/hobbits/(insert your favorite charged word here) in Palau. It turns out that may have been hasty — and famewhoring desire to publish first is the culprit. "You just can't walk in and cowboy it, pull some stuff out and draw conclusions in the absence of understanding the bigger picture," says Greg Nelson of the University of Oregon, who's certain not to get a Christmas card from Lee Berger, the hobbit-finder, this year. If not, Nelson saying Berger was "stepping outside his own area of expertise" is sure to clinch it."
It's funny.  Laugh.

Journal Journal: Voter Fraud Crackdown in Washington

While some may consider defending the integrity of our democratic vote to be a racist act, that label hasn't discouraged one 67 year old grandmother from speaking out and making a difference. Jane Balogh, in the Federal Way, Washington area, single-handedly began a campaign of letter writing and phone calls to elected officials, in orde
The Matrix

Journal SPAM: The Matrix is a system, Neo. 1

"That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it."

Earth

Journal Journal: More Tax Credits for Alternative Vehicles

The IRS has announced the continuation of its very popular plan of tax exemptions for hybrid cars. Traditionally, poor people whom travel by walking, biking, or bus, have been unable to help the environment because they cannot afford a hybrid car with insurance, gas, and maintenance. But now, with help from the IRS, they will be able to subsidize those rich enough to afford hybrid cars. Tax breaks for the rich, and the poor c
Democrats

Submission + - Obama's COB allegedly forged

An anonymous reader writes: An interesting analysis has been released recently of Obama's COB in comparison to others from Hawaii during the appropriate time period. The article is very detailed and technical, including empirical evidence, and as such, while the claims do seem solid, not being an expert in matters of detecting forgeries, I cannot promise accuracy myself, although two other experts have come to the same conclusions. However, if news of this discovery spreads, other experts will evaluate the findings and determine whether the claim stands up to peer review. Now, if it is indeed a forgery, the motive is not clear, and I would not make any judgments myself on the matter. But, if the claims are verified as true, this certainly puts Obama in an uncomfortable position and gives him plenty of explaining to do before the November elections. In fact, for this reason and others, lawsuits are pending against Obama, concerning the legality of his candidacy.
The Internet

Submission + - The Mainstream Media Has Picked Your Candidates

SpicyBrownMustard writes: Above Top Secret has an interesting analysis that compares significant spikes in online news coverage to the advertising budgets of the major candidates: "The U.S. media (broadcast, print, and major online news) has evolved into a sophisticated system that shapes the nature of which topics are important in the culture at large. The system works so well, that it has successfully killed the chances of a political candidate with phenomenal cultural buzz, in favor of candidates who will apparently result in an election race with the highest potential for optimum ratings and revenue." As a lucky-strike-extra, the analysis shows how the media has successfully countered the cultural buzz of candidate phenom, Ron Paul.

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