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Submission + - Linking mass extinctions to the Sun's journey in the Milky Way (

schwit1 writes: In a paper published today on the Los Alamos astro-ph preprint service, astronomers propose that as many as eleven past extinction events can be linked to the Sun’s passage through the spiral arms of the Milky Way. (You can download the paper here [pdf].)

A correlation was found between the times at which the Sun crosses the spiral arms and six known mass extinction events. Furthermore, we identify five additional historical mass extinction events that might be explained by the motion of the Sun around our Galaxy. These five additional significant drops in marine genera that we find include significant reductions in diversity at 415, 322, 300, 145 and 33 Myr ago. Our simulations indicate that the Sun has spent ~60% of its time passing through our Galaxy’s various spiral arms.

Comment State of Affairs (Score 4, Interesting) 113

First off I'd like to suggest that anyone with even the smallest passing interest in this read these series of articles here: it is without a doubt the best resource ever published in terms of providing context on the situation. As someone with a personal interest in this (my wife and her family are Thai) I will say that the entire thing is a disgusting mess and has nothing to do with HRH King Bhumibol directly. The Lese Majeste laws are used by Bangkok elites to quell dissent. Pure and simple. If anything it degrades the monarchy more than anything since it turns the kings "face" into a symbol of oppression. This is veering the country into a dangerous direction since it is the monarchy who was perceived (perhaps wrongly) as a moderating force between the Bangkok elites and the more agrarian populace (who are mad to be middle class). The smallest shift from perceiving the monarchy as a force of moderation to one of oppression in the country is something that the country won't long tolerate. Even with national censorship, don't think for a second it will have a lasting effect - facts that range from the socially important (like the Queen's tacit support of yellow-shirt violence) to the sordid (like the prince's sexual escapades) still get talked about amongst friends. Young Thais are connected internationally and they are interested in this material no matter their political leanings. What complicates it further is the fact that the military's ranks are now filled with many red shirt supporters even though the top brass supports the elites using the king as a figurehead. There is not a lot that outsiders can do. You can boycott thailand as a tourist destination or write letters to the companies who manufacture there letting them know that you are not pleased that they financial support such a regime (which they do).

Red Flag Linux Forced On Chinese Internet Cafes 295

iamhigh writes "Reports are popping up that Chinese Internet Cafes are being required to switch to Red Flag Linux. Red Flag is China's biggest Linux distro and recently received headlines for their Olympic Edition release. The regulations, effective Nov. 5th, are aimed at combating piracy and require only that cafes install either a legal version of Windows or Red Flag. However, Radio Free Asia says that cafes are being forced to install Red Flag even if they have legal versions of Windows. Obviously questions about spying and surveillance have arisen, with no comment from the Chinese Government."

Copper Thieves Jeopardize US Infrastructure 578

coondoggie supplies an excerpt from Network World that might make you consider a lock for your pipes: "The FBI today ratcheted up the clamor to do something more substantive about the monumental growth of copper theft in the US. In a report issued today the FBI said the rising theft of the metal is threatening the critical infrastructure by targeting electrical substations, cellular towers, telephone land lines, railroads, water wells, construction sites, and vacant homes for lucrative profits. Copper thefts from these targets have increased since 2006; and they are currently disrupting the flow of electricity, telecommunications, transportation, water supply, heating, and security and emergency services, and present a risk to both public safety and national security." (A July, 2006 post on Ethan Zuckerman's blog gives an idea of how widespread cable theft has affected internet infrastructure, and basketmaking, in Africa.)

Apple Says Macs Are Safe, No Antivirus Needed 449

lobridge writes "Over the last two days multiple news feeds (and Slashdot) have been reporting that Apple has been quietly recommending antivirus software for their machines. It appears now that Apple has deleted an entry on their forums that suggested this and are saying that Mac computers are 'safe out of the box.'"

Battlestar Galactica Gets Spinoff Prequel Series 297

It was recently announced that sci-fi remake series Battlestar Galactica is getting a whole new spinoff prequel series called "Caprica." Signed on for twenty hours worth of finished product, including a two-hour pilot, the new series is to be set 50 years prior to Battlestar Galactica, and will focus on two rival families, the Graystones and the Adamas. "Enmeshed in the burgeoning technology of artificial intelligence and robotics that will eventually lead to the creation of the Cylons, the two houses go toe-to-toe blending action with corporate conspiracy and sexual politics. 'Caprica' will deliver all of the passion, intrigue, political backbiting and family conflict in television's first science fiction family saga."

Submission + - Anti-virus software as malware?

Dr Dave writes: "After a recent, Fortune 100 client of mine was experiencing 50%-90% of developer CPU cycles during builds spent on virus checking, I've become sensitive to how these checkers operate and consume resources. In the past few months I've asked for refunds on a few of these products — the most recent one that cannot execute out-of-the-box without an "update" before even doing an initial scan. Asking for support requires downloading an .exe "chat program" and, of course, the product wants to install lots of components to "monitor" your system health.

My question is "at what point does security 'solution' software become malware?" I've felt we passed this point long ago, so only even consider scanning my system when I've had to download some software. I realize the risks of an unprotected system — I've done and published security research for much of the federal government — but I'm planning to not upgrade to Vista unless the security services can be turned off.

I'd rather keep my CPU cycles and my piece of mind at the expense of allowing scripts, exe's and Active X controls to run on my PC."

Submission + - PCI SIG releases PCIe 2.0

symbolset writes: "According to The Register PCI SIG has released version 2.0 of the PCI Express base specification.
The new released doubles the signalling rate from 2.5Gbps to 5Gbps. The upshot: a x16 connector can transfer data at up to around 16GBps.
The PCI-SIG release is here. The electromechanical specification is also due to be released shortly:
The companion PCI Express Card Electromechanical 2.0 specification is currently at revision 0.9, having completed its 60-day member review. The PCI-SIG anticipates that this specification too will be released in the near future.

Submission + - Helpers instead of frameworks: date, don't marry

An anonymous reader writes: Frameworks like Rails are generally an all-or-nothing commitment. I find that frameworks are great when they handle what you want, but are a bear when you have requirements that must go outside of them. I've instead been shifting toward "helpers" instead of frameworks. Helpers are small utility functions or classes that you can use to simplify things, but that you can ignore if they get in the way. You marry frameworks, but can merely date helpers, keeping your options flexible. An example helper is a function to generate a drop-down list (HTML Select). It takes a pipe-delimited list of value-description pairs. I have another function that can generate such delimited lists from a database query for longer lists. I don't have to use either if they don't fit my needs; or I can rewrite them for a specific application. They are kept simple by trying not to make them overly generic. Over time my helper kit gets better and better. What are your experiences with such?
The Media

Submission + - Is America really that bad?

Fyz writes: Being an avid reader of Slashdot and other internet-based media while living in Europe, it is easy to get the impression that the US is not a very nice place. Everyday, a steady stream of insane lawsuits, insane convictions, insane laws, insane rules and insane pundits dominate the news I get from the media. I'm planning a longer stay in the US to do some postgraduate studies in physics, in part because my instincts tell me that it can't possibly be as bad as the impression the news gives me. Basically, I'm hoping to get a reality check. So my questions are these: Isn't the feeling "on the ground" very much different than portrayed in discussion on this site? And are the many stories of peoples rights being trampled on something you can relate to, or are they rare extremes?

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