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Submission + - Why Won't The Nobels Recognize Dark Matter Maven Vera Rubin? ( 1

Flash Modin writes: Scientists now know that dark matter comprises some 84 percent of the universe’s material. Its invisible particles swarm and stream and slam through the whole cosmos. It affects how stars move within galaxies, how galaxies tug on each other, and how all that matter clumped together in the first place. It is to the cosmos like air is to humans: ubiquitous, necessary, unseen but felt. The discovery of this strange substance deserves a Nobel Prize. But, for Rubin, none has come, although she has long been a “people’s choice” and predicted winner. Rubin is now 87. She is too infirm for interviews. And because the Nobel can only be awarded to the living, time is running out for her.

There’s no way to prove why Rubin remains prize-less.

But a webpage showing images of past winners looks like a 50th-reunion publication from a boys’ prep school. No woman has received the Nobel Prize in physics since 1963, when Maria Goeppert Mayer shared it with Eugene Wigner and J. Hans Jensen for their work on atomic structure and theory. And the only woman other than Mayer ever to win was Marie Curie. With statistics like that, it’s hard to believe gender has nothing to do with the decision.

Some, like Chanda Prescod-Weinstein of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have called for no men to accept the prize until Rubin receives it. But given the human ego and nearly million-dollar prize amount, that’s likely to remain an Internet-only call to action.

Submission + - Scientists Use Quantum Teleportation to Send Encrypted Messages (

Flash Modin writes: Two teams of scientists have taken quantum teleportation from the lab into the real world. Researchers in Calgary, Canada, and Hefei, China, used existing fiber optics networks to transmit small units of information across cities via quantum entanglement — Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance.”

A few experiments in the lab had previously managed to send information using quantum entanglement. But translating their efforts to the real world, where any number of factors could confound the process is a much more difficult challenge. That’s exactly what these two teams of researchers have done. Their breakthrough, published in two separate papers today in Nature Photonics, promises to offer important advancements for communications and encryption technologies.

This isn’t teleportation in the “Star Trek” sense — the photons aren’t disappearing from one place and appearing in another. Instead, it’s the information that’s being teleported through quantum entanglement.

Submission + - Nearest Star Has Earth-sized Planet in its Habitable Zone (

Flash Modin writes: In a shocking find, astronomers Wednesday announced their discovery of an Earth-sized planet orbiting the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, just 4.2 light-years away. This warm world, cataloged as Proxima b, sits smack in the middle of its habitable zone — the sweetest of sweet spots — where liquid surface water could exist. But Proxima Centauri is not like our sun. It’s a cool, low-mass star known as a red dwarf. So the planet only qualifies as potentially habitable because it circles its sun in an orbit tighter than Mercury’s.

Submission + - An Earth-like planet around our nearest star? (

Flash Modin writes: A report in the German newspaper Der Spiegel says that astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) will soon announce an Earth-like exoplanet orbiting the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, in its habitable zone. "The still nameless planet is believed to be Earth-like and orbits at a distance to Proxima Centauri that could allow it to have liquid water on its surfaceâ"an important requirement for the emergence of life,â a source said. The starâ(TM)s proximity has made it an obvious target for many past exoplanet searches. All of them have come up short, which makes the most recent reports all the more remarkable.

Submission + - The Future of Ransomware is Self-Propagating Worms

Trailrunner7 writes: Ransomware has become one of the top threats to consumers over the course of the past few years, and it has begun to spread to enterprises as well of late. But as bad as this problem has become, researchers say that what we’re seeing right now may be just a ripple in the water compared to the tsunami that could be on the horizon.

Perhaps the biggest factor, though, in the move toward ransomware attacks on enterprises is the ability to infect multiple machines, destroy backups, and pull in a large payment all at once rather than relying on multiple smaller payments from individual victims. In order to get that large payment, though, the attacker needs to have the ability to get his ransomware on large numbers of machines in a target network, and that requires rapid infections and lateral movement inside the network.

Enter the self-propagating ransomware worm.

Researchers from Cisco’s Talos team did an in-depth analysis of the current state of ransomware attacks and looked at what the future may hold, too. They analyzed the recent attacks featuring the SamSam ransomware, which has some functions that allow it to spread on a network. It goes after network backups and looks for mapped drives.

“The ultimate goal for this stage of invasion is to locate and destroy networked backups before mass-distributing ransomware to as many systems on the network as they are able to access.. After finding the backup systems and destroying any local backups, or otherwise denying access to said backups, the adversary scans and enumerates as many Windows hosts as they can. After the hosts are enumerated, the attackers utilize a simple combination of a batch script, psexec, and their ransomware payload to spread the ransomware through the network in a semi-automated fashion,” a paper from Cisco Talos released this week says.

Submission + - Prepare for an Explosion of Gravitational Wave Detections (

Flash Modin writes: Over the next hour, several black holes will merge somewhere in the universe. That's the picture emerging from early gravitational wave detections made by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory. Scientists have used a second signal to calculate the rate they expect to detect black hole collisions. Over the coming year, science could add as many as 100 new gravitational wave detections.

Submission + - Astronomers devise plan to hide Earth from hostile aliens (

Flash Modin writes: The Kepler space telescope has found thousands of exoplanets via characteristic dips in light as the planet passes in front of its star. Some paranoid astronomers, including Stephen Hawking, think aliens might use these same transits to spot Earth and then send an invading army. In a scientific paper that seems like it came into the world scribbled on a barroom napkin, Columbia University astronomers David Kipping and Alex Teachey propose that humanity could hide its presence from these hostile aliens — with lasers. To cloak ourselves, humanity could emit a continuous 30 megawatt laser for 10 hours, once a year, and block our transit signal. That would hide the dip in sunlight Earth makes as it passes in front of the Sun from an alien’s eye view.

Submission + - Even Einstein doubted his gravitational waves (

Flash Modin writes: In 1936, twenty years after Albert Einstein introduced the concept, the great physicist took another look at his math and came to a surprising conclusion. “Together with a young collaborator, I arrived at the interesting result that gravitational waves do not exist, though they had been assumed a certainty to the first approximation,” he wrote in a letter to friend Max Born. Interestingly, his research denouncing gravitational waves was rejected by Physical Review Letters, the journal that just published proof of their existence. The story shows that even when Einstein's wrong, it's because he was already right the first time.

Submission + - Astronomers may have found a super-Earth in our solar system (

Flash Modin writes: Two groups of astronomers quietly submitted papers this week claiming they've discovered a large planet on the far fringes of our solar system. The researchers posted their findings online Thursday to arXiv, an open access science research site, but they are still awaiting peer review. While examining the Alpha Centauri star system, the nearest to Earth, they noticed a fast-moving object crossing their field of view on the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. The object's speed and brightness allowed them to rule out another star as the culprit, and based on wavelength readings obtained from ALMA, they believe it could be a Trans-Neptunian Object (TNO) orbiting the sun somewhere between 10 billion and 2 trillion miles from our home star. For comparison, Pluto is less than 4 billion miles away from the sun. Although the finding is intriguing, the news has been met with a healthy dose of skepticism from the scientific community.

Submission + - Can The Martian give NASA's #JourneyToMars a Hollywood bump? (

Flash Modin writes: NASA has poured considerable time and resources into Ridley Scott's The Martian — perhaps more than any other movie in history — going so far as to time a Mars human landing site selection workshop to coincide with the film. Jim Green, NASA's head of planetary sciences, was one of the consultants, with other astronomers fact checking every aspect of the set and script. The rockets, modules, and space suits were built — and 3-D printed — with heavy guidance from NASA. The filmmakers even hired Rudi Schmidt, former project manager of the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, to test the experiments done in the movie, including turning water into rocket fuel — which works. And, on the eve of The Martian's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this weekend, some of those scientists believe that this obsessive adherence to science fact will be enough to make NASA's Journey to Mars real for Americans. The space agency needs a Hail Mary because, in truth, the real program is nowhere near ready for prime time.

Submission + - Britain shuts off 750,000 streetlights with no impact on crime or crashes (

Flash Modin writes: English cities are hard up for cash as the national government dolls out cuts. And in response, the country's councils — local governing bodies — have slashed costs by turning off an estimated 750,000 streetlights. Fans of the night sky and reduced energy usage are happy, but the move has also sparked a national debate. The Automobile Association claims six people have died as a direct result of dimming the lights. But a new study released Wednesday looked at 14 years of data from 63 local authorities across England and Wales and found that residents' chances of being attacked, robbed, or struck by a car were no worse on the darker streets.

Submission + - A 29-cent stamp pissed off scientists so much they tacked it to New Horizons (

Flash Modin writes: When Voyager finished its final flyby at Neptune in 1989, the U.S. government commissioned space artist Ron Miller for 10 stamp illustrations — one for each planet, as well as the Moon. For every world, the artist included an image of a spacecraft that visited it. But for the ninth planet, the text simply read, “Pluto: Not yet explored.” Those stamps upset some engineers when they were unveiled in a ceremony at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and some decided they had to do something about the “travesty.” Their work eventually merged with others to spawn the Pluto 350 project. New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern told Astronomy magazine he wanted to flaunt the juxtaposition as NASA reconnoitered the last unexplored planet. “It was my idea to send it. For many years, people had waved that stamp around as sort of a call to arms — as a motivating graphic — ‘Not yet explored,'” Stern said.

Submission + - Why didn't Voyager visit Pluto? (

Flash Modin writes: NASA built the twin Voyager spacecraft for a rare planetary alignment that put Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune within reach at once. Originally, Voyager 1 was programmed to see Pluto in 1986, but managers targeted Saturn's planet-like moon Titan instead. That choice made Pluto impossible by vaulting Voyager 1 from the orbital plane. Interestingly, Voyager 2, which couldn't reach Pluto, made the case for New Horizons by revealing Neptune's moon Triton as a kidnapped Pluto. “I’m very glad that they chose not to go to Pluto in 1986,” says New Horizons head Alan Stern. “We’ll do a better job at Pluto with modern instruments than they would have, and they did a much better job at Saturn...”

Submission + - QVC hosts debate whether the Moon is a planet or a star ( 1

Flash Modin writes: A couple QVC hosts demonstrate that while shopping at home might be easy, science is hard. During the show, a shirt that looks like the Earth seen from space sparks a heated debate about the nature of our celestial companion, the Moon. One host is certain it's a star. The other argues it must be a planet because, you know, things live on it.

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