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Submission + - Union of Concerned Scientists Pens open letter to President-Elect Trump

PvtVoid writes: The Union of Concerned Scientists has released an open letter to President-Elect Trump on science and public policy, outlining five items essential to sound science in the United States, stating that "... scientists should, without fear of reprisal or retaliation, have the freedom and responsibility to:

— conduct their work without political or private-sector interference.

— candidly communicate their findings to Congress, the public, and their scientific peers publish their work and participate meaningfully in the scientific community.

— disclose misrepresentation, censorship, and other abuses of science.

— ensure that scientific and technical information coming from the government is accurate."

The letter has been signed so far by more than 8,000 scientists.

Submission + - Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' BETA Ubuntu-based operating system now available for do (

BrianFagioli writes: Feeling fatigued by Windows 10 and its constant updates and privacy concerns? Can't afford one of those beautiful new MacBook Pro laptops? Don't forget, Linux-based desktop operating systems are just a free download away, folks!

If you do decide to jump on the open source bandwagon, a good place to start is Linux Mint. Both the Mate and Cinnamon desktop environments should prove familiar to Windows converts, and since it is based on Ubuntu, there is a ton of compatible packages. Today, the first beta of Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' becomes available for download.

Submission + - In Era Of Fake News, Should Scholars Be Trained to Fight Online Trolls? (

jyosim writes: There's plenty of fake news and conspiracy theories on Reddit—the kind of material that appears to be eroding political discourse. Yet one professor at the University of California at Davis plans to send her graduate students into the popular online forum this week to teach them to bring more-accurate scientific information to the public. With the election of Donald Trump, who has Tweeted that he does not accept the scientific consensus around climate change, and an apparent increase in the influence of fake news, she adds, there is even greater pressure on scientists “to reach out to new audiences and talk to people about why we need scientists in our life and why we need evidence” to back up policy decisions.
Now more than 1,300 scientists moderate the r/Science subreddit to block out climate deniers and others making arguments not backed by facts.

  “There are people who actually strategize on how to disrupt legitimate news that is contrary to their agenda,” says Nathan Allen, moderator for r/Science. “They do things like badger people that they disagree with.”

One tactic has come to be known as sea lioning. That’s when opponents of a scientist’s work pepper them with seemingly polite but insincere questions demanding evidence for every point they make, as a way to throw them off point or exhaust them. “It’s culturally censoring people,” he adds. “The amount of energy it takes to respond to each point is just overwhelming. A lot of scientists just aren’t up for the fight.”

Submission + - Matt Taibbi: 'Washington Post' 'Blacklist' Story Is Shameful and Disgusting (

MyFirstNameIsPaul writes: From the article:

Most high school papers wouldn't touch sources like these. But in November 2016, both the president-elect of the United States and the Washington Post are equally at ease with this sort of sourcing.

Even worse, the Post apparently never contacted any of the outlets on the "list" before they ran their story. Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism says she was never contacted. Chris Hedges of Truthdig, who was part of a group that won the Pulitzer Prize for The New York Times once upon a time, said the same. "We were named," he tells me. "I was not contacted."

Hedges says the Post piece was an "updated form of Red-Baiting."

"This attack signals an open war on the independent press," he says. "Those who do not spew the official line will be increasingly demonized in corporate echo chambers such as the Post or CNN as useful idiots or fifth columnists."

Submission + - New Netflix UI Forgets Where You Were In a Video Intentionally (

An anonymous reader writes: Netflix opts all customers into its UI beta-testing program by default (though you can opt out at any time). One iteration the company is experimenting with at the moment features a number of innovations, including a revised and more informative playback environment, a 10-second 'wind-back' feature similar to functionality in Amazon Prime — and an intentional inability to remember where you paused playback, with one operative explaining ‘[This] UI makes you go back to the start of the show so this way in case you missed any part of the movie/show you can watch it again with no troubles.’

Submission + - A physical model for (some of) Tabby's Star's light dips. 2

RockDoctor writes: A fresh paper on Arxiv describes a model proposed to explain at least some of the light dips in "Tabby's Star" (Kepler Input Catalogue KIC 8462852). When the irregular light received from this star was recognised in 2015, nobody could come up with a credible explanation for the irregularity of the star's light dips, or their depth. Further studies suggest sustained dimming over the photographic observation epoch, further deepening the puzzle. This new paper proposes a model of a jet of material which leaves the star's surface, then casts off a plume described as "smoke plume" which is swept around in the stars orbit. The opaque jet and the less-opaque "smoke plume" then intersect with the light travelling towards us to generate an asymmetric dip in the star's light curve, as observed in the past.

Which is an interesting model. The big peculiarity is that the "smoke plume" orientation with respect to the material jet implies that the outer parts of this star's envelope is rotating faster than the inner part where the jet originates. Which would raise almost as many questions as the original discovery.

Definitely, this is a very peculiar system.

(PDF here ; NB, the paper does not appear to have been submitted to a journal, or peer-reviewed.)

Comment Units as class metadata (Score 1) 497

+1. Units are metadata if they're not part of the object model/structure. The variable name should tell me what a thing is, not how it's configured. There's absolutely nothing about a variable name that guarantees any compile or runtime safeties to be sure that what you think you're dealing with is what you're dealing with.

I typically make my units (or "non-object-model" metadata when appropriate) a member of the class/struct/whatevs as an enum. As a bonus, in most modern languages your enum is a class that can be extended to have methods/functions so you can add support for type/unit conversion into the enum itself. The icing on the cake is that you can write fast, scalable, easily readable code by checking the units in a switch statement where you might otherwise be inclined to have a bunch of "if" statements that become messy as you must support additional units.

Comment Re:Buffers (Score 1) 497

I'll repeat it because it can't be overstated; the buffer size should have been #defined with a meaningful name. This is a symptom of a lack of self discipline rather than buffers being difficult to code. Whoever wrote that code, and then copied and pasted it rather than creating a new function that accepted parameters for the value(s) that varied, is guaranteed to be the kind of developer that leaves bugs in everything they touch. That code should have been painful for them to write without using a preprocessor #define and then again when copying and pasting code with hard-coded values. IMHO, they either enjoy the pain or don't have the ability to learn from the pain they cause themselves.

Submission + - Dogs remember more than expected (

tomhath writes: This story won't surprise most dog owners: They're watching you, and they remember what you've done.

A new study published in Current Biology shows that dogs, like humans, can recall prior events, even when those events weren’t particularly important or meaningful at the time. This suggests that dogs have “episodic memory,” which is the ability to mentally travel back in time and recall experiences and specific events, such as times, places, and associated emotions. Importantly, episodic memory is also a possible sign of self-awareness in dogs...

Importantly, the dogs had to remember events they had witnessed, but not performed before. This means they had to dig into the “recent history” file of their brains and pull out the required information—in other words, they had to rely on their episodic memory.

Submission + - SPAM: Satellite Abandoned In 1967 Mysteriously Comes Back Online

schwit1 writes: An American satellite abandoned in 1967 suddenly came back online and began transmitting again for the first time in 50 years.

Amateur astronomers first suspected that they’d found the satellite in 2013, but needed years to confirm that it was still occasionally transmitting. The satellite, dubbed LES1, was built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and launched into space in 1965.

A mistake in the satellite’s circuitry caused it to never leave its circular orbit, and it eventually stop transmitting in 1967. The satellite’s signal now fluctuates widely in strength, meaning that it’s likely only transmitting when its solar panels are in direct sunlight. Scientists expect that the satellite’s onboard batteries have disintegrated.

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