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GNU is Not Unix

Richard Stallman Interviewed By Bryan Lunduke (youtube.com) 102

Many Slashdot readers know Bryan Lunduke as the creator of the humorous "Linux Sucks" presentations at the annual Southern California Linux Exposition. He's now also a member of the OpenSUSE project board and an all-around open source guy. (In September, he released every one of his books, videos and comics under a Creative Commons license, while his Patreon page offers a tip jar and premiums for monthly patrons). But now he's also got a new "daily computing/nerd show" on YouTube, and last week -- using nothing but free software -- he interviewed the 64-year-old founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman. "We talk about everything from the W3C's stance on DRM to opinions on the movie Galaxy Quest," Lunduke explains in the show's notes.

Click through to read some of the highlights.
Earth

Scientists Consider 'Cloud Brightening' To Preserve Australia's Great Barrier Reef (technologyreview.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review: A group of Australian marine scientists believe that altering clouds might offer one of the best hopes for saving the Great Barrier Reef. For the last six months, researchers at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and the University of Sydney School of Geosciences have been meeting regularly to explore the possibility of making low-lying clouds off the northeastern coast of Australia more reflective in order to cool the waters surrounding the world's biggest coral reef system...

Last year, as El Nino events cranked up ocean temperatures, at least 20% of the reef died and more than 90% of it was damaged. The Australian researchers took a hard look at a number of potential ways to preserve the reefs. But at this point, making clouds more reflective looks like the most feasible way to protect an ecosystem that stretches across more than 130,000 square miles, says Daniel Harrison, a postdoctoral research associate with the Ocean Technology Group at the University of Sydney. Cloud brightening is the only thing we've identified that's scalable, sensible, and relatively environmentally benign," he says... Next month, he plans to start computer climate modeling to explore whether cloud brightening could make a big enough temperature difference to help.

They're collaborating with Silicon Valley's Marine Cloud Brightening Project, which has spent the last seven years "developing a nozzle that they believe can spray salt particles of just the right size and quantity to alter the clouds. They're attempting to raise several million dollars to build full-scale sprayers." The article describes them as "one of several research groups that have started to explore whether cloud brightening, generally discussed as a potential tool to alter the climate as a whole, could be applied in more targeted ways."

Comment Re:Gut flora and artificial sweeteners (Score 1) 5

This is probably the most recent, well-cited article on the topic. The authors looked at the effects of saccharin in mice, and were able to determine that there was a significant elevation in blood-glucose level for the mice that were fed saccharin instead of actual glucose over the course of nine weeks. This suggests a mechanism for previous findings that suggest artificial sweeteners cause insulin insensitivity, weight gain, type II diabetes, et cetera. The difference between the two diets went away when both groups were raised with antibiotics, strongly suggesting the underlying cause was gut microbiota. They also found evidence that the saccharin diet led to changes in gut microbiome composition:

In agreement with the experiments with antibiotics, next generation sequencing of the microbiome indicated that mice drinking saccharin had distinct compositions from controls. This distinct microbiome was characterized by enrichment of taxa belonging to the Bacteroides genus or the Clostridiales order, with under-representation of Lactobacilli and other members of the Clostridiales. Several of the bacterial taxa that changed following saccharin consumption were previously associated with type 2 diabetes in humans.

Keep in mind that everyone has different gut flora, so in general these impacts will vary from person to person, which is why the effect is inconsistent, as with obesity and type II diabetes in general. I can't say for certain that these results would directly transfer into humans, but since the bacteria are the same, it's unreasonable to assume they wouldn't. Less clear is whether this effect transfers to other sweeteners; the paper includes a table showing a number of studies pertaining to a diversity of chemicals, some of which found an effect, and some of which didn't.

Non-professionally, my advice would be to avoid artificial sweeteners, and ideally all liquid candy. Some people find that drinking normal, sugary soda produces a state of lethargy, and I'm pretty sure this is a result of the long-term exposure to sucralose. It's sort of a trap!

Social Networks

Startup Still Working On 'Immortal Avatars' That Will Live Forever (cnet.com) 82

Startup Eternime, founded by MIT fellow Marius Ursache, is still working on "immortal avatars" that, after your death, will continue interacting with your loves ones from beyond the grave. An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Give Eternime access to your social media profiles and the startup's algorithms will scrape your posts and interactions to build a profile... The algorithms will study your memories and mannerisms. They'll learn how to be "you"... Eternime was announced in 2014 after Ursache developed the idea during the MIT Entrepreneurship Development Program. He wasn't entirely sure if he should develop the project further and wanted to get a sense of public reaction.

In the first four days, 3,000 people signed up at Eterni.me, the company's website, for a private beta. Then, Urasche received an email from a man dying of terminal cancer. "Eternime, he wrote, was the last chance to leave something behind for friends and family," Urasche told me. "That was the moment I decided that this was something worth dedicating my life to"... Since 2014, the Eternime website has largely been silent, although it continues to take names of people who want to test the service. Ursache says the Eternime team has been refining the product over the last two years, testing features, figuring out what will work and what won't.

"The private beta test is ongoing," according to the article, "and Ursache says the feedback has been positive." But unfortunately, the service still isn't operational yet.

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