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Submission + - Humans, not climate change, wiped out Australian megafauna (phys.org)

schwit1 writes: New evidence involving the ancient poop of some of the huge and astonishing creatures that once roamed Australia indicates the primary cause of their extinction around 45,000 years ago was likely a result of humans, not climate change.

Led by Monash University in Victoria, Australia and the University of Colorado Boulder, the team used information from a sediment core drilled in the Indian Ocean off the coast of southwest Australia to help reconstruct past climate and ecosystems on the continent. The core contains chronological layers of material blown and washed into the ocean, including dust, pollen, ash and spores from a fungus called Sporormiella that thrived on the dung of plant-eating mammals, said CU Boulder Professor Gifford Miller.

Miller, who participated in the study led by Sander van der Kaars of Monash University, said the sediment core allowed scientists to look back in time, in this case more than 150,000 years, spanning Earth's last full glacial cycle. Fungal spores from plant-eating mammal dung were abundant in the sediment core layers from 150,000 years ago to about 45,000 years ago, when they went into a nosedive, said Miller, a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences.

"The abundance of these spores is good evidence for a lot of large mammals on the southwestern Australian landscape up until about 45,000 years ago," he said. "Then, in a window of time lasting just a few thousand years, the megafauna population collapsed."

Submission + - France to review food whitener additive, titanium dioxide, for health risks (reuters.com)

Eloking writes: The French government has ordered a review of the safety of titanium dioxide as a food additive after a scientific study released on Friday found health effects in animals that consumed the substance.

Titanium dioxide is widely used in industry as a whitener, notably for paint. It is an ingredient in some foods such as sweets and known as additive E171.

France's National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and partners in a study on oral exposure to titanium dioxide had shown for the first time that E171 crosses the intestine wall in animals to reach other parts of the body, INRA said.

Submission + - The 32-Bit Dog Ate 16 Million Kids' CS Homework

theodp writes: Tech backed-Code.org explains in a blog post that it encountered technical difficulties Friday that temporarily made the work of 16 million K-12 students who have used the nonprofit's Code Studio offering disappear. Code.org CTO Jeremy Stone gave the kids an impromptu lesson on the powers of two with his explanation of why The Cloud ate their homework: "This morning, at 9:19 am PST, coding progress by students stopped saving on Code Studio, and the issue briefly brought the Code Studio site down. We brought the site back up shortly thereafter but student progress was still not being saved, and instead students saw an outdated message about the Hour of Code from December. [...] The way we store student coding activity is in a table that until today had a 32-bit index. What this means is that the database table could only store 4 billion rows of coding activity information. We didn’t realize we were running up to the limit, and the table got full. We have now made a new student activity table that is storing progress by students. With the new table, we are switching to a 64-bit index which will hold up to 18 quintillion rows of information. On the plus side, this new table will be able to store student coding information for millions of years. On the down side, until we’ve moved everything over to the new table, some students’ code from before today may temporarily not appear, so please be patient with us as we fix it."

Submission + - GMail app update blocking non-GMail servers

ukoda writes: Given the GMail Android app is bundled with most Android phone and has offered support for email accounts with other service providers it has become a popular email client. However sometime in November last year Google updated their app to silently reject self-signed certificates. For users of servers with self-signed certificates their email stopped coming in. Refreshing the inbox appears to go normally with no problems reported. From this support thread it is apparent that server connections are being rejected with the warning "Certificate Not Valid" even when the "All Certificates" option is chosen. The explanation from Google is they are improving security but for some users that had a working secure connection they now have to either stay with GMail, and turn off encryption, or move to a new app such as K9 or BlueMail. The lack of meaningful responses from Google leave little hope of things improving anytime soon.

Submission + - AM Radio transmission of music from an unmodified laptop (github.com)

anfractuosus writes: I developed a simple program to enable the transmission of music from a .wav file
as RF AM emissions from an unmodified laptop, by making use of RF leakage from the computer, by
twiddling with data on the system bus. I made use of Pulse Density Modulation to emit the .wav file.

You can see the code at https://github.com/anfractuosi...

And a video of the audio received by a radio at https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

This is based on the awesome work at https://github.com/fulldecent/...

Submission + - NASA eyes $10 Quintillion asteroid (usatoday.com)

kugo2006 writes: NASA announced a plan to research 16 Psyche, an asteroid potentially as large as Mars and primarily composed of Iron and Nickel. The rock is unique in that it has an exposed core, likely a result of a series of collisions, according to Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Psyche's principal investigator. The mission's spacecraft would launch in 2023 and arrive in 2030.

Submission + - Obama's Parting Gift to Trump: Expanded Surveillance Powers (backchannel.com)

mirandakatz writes: In his final week in office, President Obama made several feel-good moves that played to his base. He transferred 10 Guantanamo detainees to Oman. He commuted the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning. He donated his children’s swing set to a D.C. shelter. And then he quietly expanded surveillance powers—effectively handing Donald Trump a much easier path toward a frighteningly strong surveillance state. At Backchannel, Ben Snyder examines the legacy of public discourse affecting policy when it comes to surveillance, calling on the media, the tech community, and the public at large to insist that mass, warrantless surveillance is a problem, and demand that it stop.

Submission + - Colleges Turn Research Lens On Themselves With New Centers (edsurge.com)

jyosim writes: Colleges are good at research. But they've been terrible at using research to improve their own teaching and businesses.

That may be changing. Since the hype around free MOOCs emerged three years ago, a growing number of colleges have set up new R&D units on campus focused on continually improving their practices.

A meeting last week marked a key moment in what leaders hope will be a movement. They brainstormed ways to create tools to help more colleges set up similar centers.

But there was some anxiety over whether these elite colleges will stick with these efforts for the long haul. After all, companies often set up innovation efforts that they later abandon.

The practice is also so new that colleges don't quite know what to call it. "Academic innovation" is the usual, though others say "precision education" or "educational inventors" might be more fitting.

Submission + - Man doxxes laptop thief by taking control remotely and pilfering her Facebook (ibtimes.co.uk) 1

drunkdrone writes: A Canadian man took matters into his own hands after his laptop was stolen when he logged into it remotely and posted the thief's misdeeds online. Stu Gale, from Cochrane, Alberta, had his computer swiped after leaving it in an unlocked car and days later received a notification informing him that someone had logged onto the device.

The 51-year-old computer security expert tried to access his computer by beginning a remote connection, which allows someone to connect to and take control of a device from another location. To begin with the thief kept closing the pop-up window, but she eventually left the room, unwisely while still logged into her Facebook account.

Submission + - Atomic clocks on 9 of 72 European GPS satellites have failed (yahoo.com)

schwit1 writes: The atomic clocks on 9 of the 72 European Galileo GPS satellites, designed to compete with the American, Russian, and Chinese GPS satellites, have failed.

No satellite has been declared “out” as a result of the glitch. “However, we are not blind If this failure has some systematic reason we have to be careful” not to place more flawed clocks in space, [ESA director general Jan Woerner] said.

Each Galileo satellite has four ultra-accurate atomic timekeepers — two that use rubidium and two hydrogen maser. Three rubidium and six hydrogen maser clocks are not working, with one satellite sporting two failed timekeepers. Each orbiter needs just one working clock for the satnav to work — the rest are spares.

The question now, Woerner said, is “should we postpone the next launch until we find the root cause?”

That they are even considering further launches with so many failures of the same units seems absurd. They have a systemic problem, and should fix it before risking further launches.

Submission + - Neuroscience Does Not Compute (economist.com)

mspohr writes: The Economist has an interesting story about two neuroscientists/engineers who decided to test the methods of neuroscience using a 6502 processor. Their results are published in the PLOS Computational Biology journal.
Neuroscientists explore how the brain works by looking at damaged brains and monitoring inputs and outputs to try to infer intermediate processing. They did the same with the 6502 processor which was used in early Atari, Apple and Commodore computers.
What they discovered was that these methods were sorely lacking in that they often pointed in the wrong direction and missed important processing steps.

Submission + - Zuckerberg sues hundreds of Hawaiians to force property sales to him. (msn.com)

mmell writes: Apparently, owning 700 acres of land in Hawaii isn't enough — Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has filed suit to force owners of several small parcels of land to sell to the highest bidder. The reason? These property owners are completely surrounded by Zuckerberg's land holdings and therefore have lawful easement to cross his property in order to get to theirs.

Many of these land owners have held their land for generations, but seemingly Mr. Zuckerberg can not tolerate their presence so close to his private little slice of paradise. Landowners such as these came to own their land when their ancestors were "given" the land as Hawaiian natives.

If successful in his "quiet title" court action, Mr. Zuckerberg will finally have his slice of Hawaii's beaches and tropical lands without having to deal with the pesky presence of neighbors who were on his land before he owned it. Who knew that Hawaiians were just another kind of Native Americans?

Submission + - The Mind-Reading Gadget for Dogs that Got Funded, but Didn't Get Built (ieee.org)

the_newsbeagle writes: Crowdfunding campaigns that fail to deliver may be all too common, but some flameouts merit examination. Like this brain-scanning gadget for dogs, which promised to translate their barks into human language. It's not quite as goofy as it sounds: The campaigners planned to use standard EEG tech to record the dogs' brainwaves, and said they could correlate those electrical patterns with general states of mind like excitement, hunger, and curiosity.

The campaign got a ton of attention in the press and raised twice the money it aimed for. But then the No More Woof team seemed to vanish, leaving backers furious. This article explains what went wrong with the campaign, and what it says about the state of neurotech gadgets for consumers.

Submission + - Galileo satellites experiencing multiple clock failures (bbc.com)

elgatozorbas writes: According to a BBC article, the onboard atomic clocks that drive the satellite-navigation signals on Europe's Galileo network have been failing at an alarming rate.

Across the 18 satellites now in orbit, nine clocks have stopped operating. Three are traditional rubidium devices; six are the more precise hydrogen maser instruments that were designed to give Galileo superior performance to the American GPS network.

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