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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 81 declined, 21 accepted (102 total, 20.59% accepted)

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Submission + - ESA and Tim Peake to rent out room on ISS on AirBnB

RockDoctor writes: After their successful deployment of the inflatable broom cupboard on the International Space Station, the ESA and Tim Peake are planning to rent it out on AirBnB.

No comment on when the road there will be improved — it's unsurfaced (and un-foundationed) for the last 100+ km — but the parking for your vehicles could easily be described as "spacy". Driving up there — particularly in a convertible car — is literally breathtaking. You'll feel all the pressures lifting from you.

I'm writing like an advertising agent. I'd better commit sepukku with an IBM mechanical keyboard.

Submission + - Progress reports on Plan-28, the project to (re-)build the world's 1st computer. (

RockDoctor writes: Many readers will be aware of the continuing project to (re-)build a version of an antique computer which not even Slashdot's venerable 3-digit UID greybeards have worked with. Between 1822 and 1847, Charles Babbage worked on a number of designs for general-purpose programmable computing engines some parts of which were built during his lifetime and after. Since 2011 a group under the name of "" have been working towards building a full version of the machine known as the Analytical Engine. (The group's name refers to the series of Babbage's plans which they are working to — versions 1 to 27 obviously having problems.) This week, they have released some updates on progress on their blog. Significant progress includes working on the machine's "internal microcode" (in today's terminology ; remember, this is a machine of brass cogs and punched cards!) ; archive work to bring the Science Museum's material into a releasable form (the material is already sanned, but the metadata is causing eyestrain) ; "One of the difficulties in understanding the designs is the need to reverse engineer logical function from mechanical drawings of mechanisms — this without textual explanation of purpose or intention. The original hope was that the notations, expressed in Babbage’s symbolic descriptive language [discussed here before]."

Progress is slow, but real. Last year marked the bicentennial of Ada Lovelace, who wrote programs for the Analytical Engine and it's predecessor, the Difference Engine, and whose position as "the world's first programmer" is celebrated in the name of the programming language Ada.

Submission + - Braindead staff at BurgerKing tricked into smashing windows - twice!

RockDoctor writes:

[A prank caller] tricked workers at a Minnesota Burger King into smashing the windows of the restaurant to keep it from exploding.

Which is pretty fucking funny — though it might cost the restaurant chain 10-30k$ and if anyone gets fired, it should be the manager who was caught by the prank and instructed his staff to start smashing the windows.

But it seems that there was another similar case "in Shawnee, Oklahoma, on Thursday night" ; and there are reports of other cases. So, Burger King's upper management should have been raising the alarm to their store-level management already. Or, perhaps, they might hire people with at least a trace of general science background.

This sounds more fun than pulling the wings off flies — and ethically is more defensible. Where is the printed Yellow Pages ...?

Hang on! When did Burger King get promoted from "sludge purveyor" to "restaurant." And how many restaurants are sueing them for defamation and reputational harm?

Submission + - IOS devices have their own Y2K problem

RockDoctor writes: The Guardian is reporting that there is a bug in some versions of IOS handling of date and time : it can hang the machines.
If you set the date back to 1 Jan 1970 — the infamous Unix year zero — many versions will then hang, requiring at least shop repair, if not actually bricking the device.

Submission + - Richard Dawkins has (minor) stroke.

RockDoctor writes: Controvery-stirring biological scientist and anti-theist Professor Richard Dawkins is reported to have suffered a (minor) stroke on Saturday.

He is reported to be back at home already and recovering. However he has been forced to postpone a planned promotion tour to Australia and New Zealand in support of his recent autobiographical book "Brief Candle in the Dark"

I would like to say that we all send Professor Dawkins our heart-felt best wishes, but knowing the number of Christians on Slashdot, I am sure that the death threats, bile, fear and contempt will spew forth below, in the true spirit of Christian kindness. Other religions can at least curse his scientific contributions and atheist activism without such hypocrisy.

Submission + - White guys dieing earlier in America

RockDoctor writes: In a change not seen in other countries, white middle-aged Americans are suffering increased mortality rates. The accumulated death toll, of deaths in excess of death rates seen in other demographic groups, amounts to about 500,000 deaths since the mortality gap started to open in the late 1990s.

[Trigger warning : numbers ahead!] They showed that from 1978 to 1998, the mortality rate for US whites aged 45 to 54 fell by 2% a year, a figure very much in line with the celebrated improvements in health seen in the other countries.

But after 1998, the death rates of US whites began to buck the trend. While other countries saw their mortality rates continue to fall, they began to rise among middle-aged white non-Hispanic Americans by 0.5% a year. The effect was not confined to the 45- to 54-year-olds. In the 35- to 44-year-old bracket, the mortality rate stopped falling in 2000. For 55- to 59-year-olds, the fall slowed to 0.5% a year.

The rise in death rates among middle-aged white Americans means half a million more people have died in the US since 1998 than if the previous trend had continued. The death toll is comparable to the 650,000 Americans who lost their lives during the Aids epidemic from 1981 to the middle of this year, the researchers said.

Submission + - Scottish Universities use computer gaming to model drug-resistant TB

RockDoctor writes: The BBC report that medical researchers at one Scottish university have teamed up with computing students at another Scottish university to develop a game which will help to model the treatment of tuberculosis.

Drug-resistant TB is an increasing problem around the world, but there are drugs in the pipeline to treat it. However both experience and medical common sense (based, as is everything in biology, on evolution) shows that to prevent the evolution of new resistances, drugs should be applied in combinations, and those combinations should be varied. With 10 drugs in the pipeline, that's potentially 90 combinations of two drugs and 720 combinations of three. That is to many to perform clinical trials on.

So, the medics and medical chemists at Saint Andrews turned to the nearby Abertay University (well-known for computing and gaming tuition, a mere 581 years after Saint Andrews was founded) to develop a game that models some of the human interactions involved in drug treatment, to try to understand better which combinations of treatments would be more effective at treating TB, and preventing the establishment of more drug resistant strains. As one of the sound designers says :

For the team's sound designer Mazen Magzoub, project Sanitarium has a special resonance. He's from Sudan.
"There isn't enough medication," he says.
"And even when there is enough medication the nature of living in Sudan does not allow the patient to continue (treatment) for the prescribed period.
"And that makes the tuberculosis bacteria tolerant towards that certain type of antibiotic.
"That's basically the challenge in the developing world."

The game is "Sanitarium."

Submission + - EU may become a single digital market of 500 million people.

RockDoctor writes: The Guardian is reporting that the EU is becoming increasingly vociferous in it's opposition to "geo-blocking" — the practice of making media services available in some areas but not in others.

“European consumers want to watch the pay-TV channel of their choice regardless of where they live or travel in the EU,”

That adds up to a block of nearly 500 million first-world media consumers. They don't necessarily all speak the same language, but English is probably the most commonly understood single language. And the important thing for American media companies to remember is that they're not American in thought, taste or outlook.

Submission + - Crowdfunded satellite deploys solar sail.

RockDoctor writes: The LightSail experiment on the Planetary Society's ExplorePlanets mission has deployed, marking a substantial step forward on the progress of this space propulsion system.

Despite problems with software glitches, the motor for deploying the sail started operating very early on Monday (European time), and as of early morning on Monday reports were coming in that the orbit has perceptibly changed, suggesting the sail was causing noticeable drag on the satellite (as expected).

American newspapers are catching onto the event.

Submission + - Uber driver accused of rape in India

RockDoctor writes: BBC News are reporting that a 26-year old Indian woman is alleging rape against a driver for the embattled Uber transport-managing company.

In a post on the Uber blog, one "Saad Ahmed" implicitly admits that the driver was a Uber driver, the the lift was arranged through Uber's service, and that the full range of Uber's safety mechanisms had been applied to his employment, and by implication, that Uber accepts some culpability for putting this (alleged) rapist into contact with his (alleged) victim. (The police have reported that medical evidence is that a rape took place, though who performed the rape remains an allegation.)

Going on previous Uber performance, can we expect the driver to be working again tonight, and the spokesman making such inconvenient admissions to be unemployed? That would sound about the level of PR skill of Uber's senior management — as currently constituted. They've managed to turn me from a potential supporter to someone who will be voting against Uber being allowed into my city or country.

Submission + - Danish researchers develop oxygen absorbtion/release chemical

RockDoctor writes: Contrary to recent stories such as a "tankless SCUBA system" which depended on Unobtanium to filter oxygen from sea water, a team at University of Southern Denmark have been developing a range of materials that can reversibly bind onto oxygen, and then release it under different conditions. While still a distance from full implementation as a system, this is the sort of chemical that would work for breathing systems.

Very sensibly, they talk of initial uses in fault-tolerant circumstances such as providing enhanced oxygenated air from portable systems rather than going straight to highly critical (if attention-grabbing) products.

The compounds in use are a whole family of cobalt-organic compounds with some inorganic components. By varying the inorganic components they can change absorption and desorption rates by factors of around a thousand, suggesting ways that the necessary charge and discharge cycle could be achieved.

Submission + - Life insurance restrictions for Space Tourists

RockDoctor writes: Reuters are reporting that there are changes afoot in the terms of life insurance contracts which will require additional premiums for "space tourists". While not likely to be a disabling issue for the industry — the statistics for astronauts dying in flight are not that bad — it is an issue that people considering such a jaunt will need to address. Obviously this has been brought to the fore by the unfortunate crash of the Virgin Galactic craft under test.

Submission + - Car thieves and insurers vote on keyless car security

RockDoctor writes: The BBC are reporting that Britain's car thieves, rapidly followed by Britain's car insurance companies, have been expressing their opinions on the security of keyless car entry and/or control systems. The thieves are happy to steal them (often using equipment intended for dealer maintenance of the vehicles) and in consequence the insurance companies are refusing to insure such vehicles (or to accept new policies on such vehicles) unless they are parked overnight in underground (or otherwise secured) car parks.

So, I guess I won't be considering buying one of those for another generation. If ever.

Submission + - Micro$loth to sack 18,000 workers

RockDoctor writes: The Grauniad is reporting that Micro$loth are planning to sack 18,000 people in the near future. I'm sure that'll make them feel better. The sacked people, of course ; it'll be devastating to the managers who hand out the redundancy notices.

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