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Space

Are We Alone In the Universe? Not Likely, According To Math (cnet.com) 267

An anonymous reader writes: An equation, which calculates the probability of the evolution of other technological civilizations, has found that it's wildly unlikely we're the only time advanced society in the universe. Adam Frank from the University of Rochester and Woodruff Sullivan from the University of Washington base their new equation on the Drake equation, used for calculating the probability of extraterrestrial civilisation, written by astronomer and astrophysicist Frank Drake in 1961. The scientists also take into account Kepler, which suggests that one in five stars have planets in the habitable zone. Frank and Sullivan calculated that human civilisation is only unique if the odds of a civilisation developing on a habitable planet are less than one in 10 billion trillion. "One in 10 billion trillion is incredibly small. To me, this implies that other intelligent, technology producing species very likely have evolved before us," Frank said. Frank said: "Of course, we have no idea how likely it is that an intelligent technological species will evolve on a given habitable planet. But using our method we can tell exactly how low that probability would have to be for us to be the ONLY civilization the Universe has produced. We call that the pessimism line. If the actual probability is greater than the pessimism line, then a technological species and civilization has likely happened before."
Businesses

Volvo Engineer Calls Out Tesla For Dangerous 'Wannabe' Autopilot System (jalopnik.com) 219

An anonymous reader shares an article on Jalopnik: Tesla's semi-autonomous Autopilot system has been impressing everyone from consumers to journalists, and even other industry experts and executives. But now a Volvo engineer has called Tesla's system out, claiming it's a dangerous "wannabe" autonomous technology. Trent Victor, senior technical leader of crash avoidance for Volvo, had quite a few choice words to say about Tesla's Autopilot system in a recent interview with The Verge, claiming the electric automaker was touting what is essentially a rudimentary semi-autonomous technology as being far more capable than it actually is. Victor fears that Autopilot "gives you the impression that it's doing more than it is." He went on to call Tesla's system an "unsupervised wannabe."
Space

Neil deGrasse Tyson Says It's 'Very Likely' The Universe Is A Simulation (extremetech.com) 830

mspohr quotes a report from ExtremeTech: At the most recent Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, [scientists gathered to address the question for the year: Is the universe a computer simulation? At the debate, host and celebrity astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson argued that the probability is that we live in a computer simulation.] This is the crux of Tyson's point: if we take it as read that it is, in principle, possible to simulate a universe in some way, at some point in the future, then we have to assume that on an infinite timeline some species, somewhere, will simulate the universe. And if the universe will be perfectly, or near-perfectly, simulated at some point, then we have to examine the possibility that we live inside such a universe. And, on a truly infinite timeline, we might expect an almost infinite number of simulations to arise from an almost infinite number or civilizations -- and indeed, a sophisticated-enough simulation might be able to let its simulated denizens themselves run universal simulations, and at that point all bets are officially off."
Facebook

Facebook Hires Google 'Moonshot' Exec For R&D (usatoday.com) 49

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook on Wednesday said it has hired Regina Dugan to head a search-and-product-development group considered vital to Facebook's 10-year technology road map. In the past, Dugan helped shape such Google initiatives as Project Tango, Project Ara, and smart fabrics wired with electronics. Dugan will lead Building 8, a new group "focused on building new hardware products to advance our mission of connecting the world," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a comment posted on his Facebook profile today. Zuckerberg's 10-year vision for the company relies on major technological breakthroughs on three main fronts: artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and bringing Internet access to the 4 billion or so people who don't have it. "I'm excited to have Regina apply DARPA-style breakthrough development at the intersection of science and products to our mission," Zuckerberg said. "This method is characterized by aggressive, fixed timelines, extensive use of partnerships with universities, small and large businesses, and clear objectives for shipping products at scale."
Science

Brain Implant Can Automatically Adjust Dopamine Levels (ieee.org) 35

Reader Wave723 writes about an implantable chip that is able to detect and adjust dopamine levels in mice brains. Created by researchers at Case Western Reserve University, the chip, unlike other brain implants, traces the neurotransmitter instead of relying on electrical signals. Wave723 elaborates: This brain implant is a chip that can automatically sense dopamine levels through an electrode that measures the flow of the neurotransmitter through the brain and pH levels. An algorithm within the device calculates whether dopamine levels are within a predetermined range, and if not, the chip sends an electrical impulse to stimulate neurons to produce more. Someday, it might help patients with a variety of disorders including addiction, or Parkinson's disease though a lot more research is needed to be done on neurotransmitter levels in order to reach that point.
GNU is Not Unix

FLIF: Free Lossless Image Format 311

nickweller sends a link to an informational post about FLIF, the Free, Lossless Image Format. It claims to outperform PNG, lossless WebP, and other popular formats on any kind of image. "On photographs, PNG performs poorly while WebP, BPG and JPEG 2000 compress well (see plot on the left). On medical images, PNG and WebP perform relatively poorly while BPG and JPEG 2000 work well (see middle plot). On geographical maps, BPG and JPEG 2000 perform (extremely) poorly while while PNG and WebP work well (see plot on the right). In each of these three examples, FLIF performs well — even better than any of the others." FLIF uses progressive decoding to provide fully-formed lossy images from partial downloads in bandwidth-constrained situations. Best of all, FLIF is free software, released under the GNU GPLv3.
United States

The US and China Agree Not To Conduct Economic Espionage In Cyberspace 108

blottsie writes: The leaders of China and the United States agreed on Friday to take new steps to address cyberspying, vowing that neither country would conduct or knowingly support the theft of intellectual property. Senior law-enforcement and intelligence officials from both nations will evaluate how the two major powers respond to each other's requests for assistance fighting "malicious cyber activity," the White House said in a statement. The group will hold its first meeting before the end of the year, with subsequent meetings occurring twice per year.
Medicine

NY Judge Rules Research Chimps Are Not 'Legal Persons' 172

sciencehabit writes: A state judge in New York has dealt the latest blow to an animal rights group's attempt to have chimpanzees declared 'legal persons.' In a decision handed down this morning, New York Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe ruled that two research chimps at Stony Brook University are not covered by a writ of habeas corpus, which typically allows human prisoners to challenge their detention. The Nonhuman Rights Project, which brought the lawsuit in an attempt to free the primates, has vowed to appeal. We posted news last year about an earlier case (mentioned in the article) brought by the same group, which also ended in defeat.
Businesses

You'll Totally Believe Why These Startups Failed 151

Nerval's Lobster writes: If you ever wanted a glimpse into what dooms startups, look no further than autopsy.io, a website that lists the reasons why many newborn tech firms imploded. The website offers entrepreneurs the ability to self-explain why their startup didn't quite make it; in a bid to separate real-life stories from entertaining fictions, the application form asks for a link to a blog post or medium article "that tells the story of the failure," along with the founder(s) Twitter handle and Crunchbase or Angel.co profile. Some of the reasons listed for failure are maddeningly opaque, such as UniSport's "for a number of reasons" or PlayCafe's "we didn't reach enough users." Others are bleakly hilarious; as the founders of Zillionears, self-billed as a "creative pre-sale platform for musicians," confessed: "People really didn't really LIKE anything about our product." If you're thinking of launching your own company, or you work for a wet-behind-the-ears startup, it's worth scanning the list to see if any of these potential crises are brewing in your setup.
Software

Why PowerPoint Should Be Banned 327

An anonymous reader writes: An editorial at the Washington Post argues that Microsoft PowerPoint is being relied upon by too many to do too much, and we should start working to get rid of it. "Its slides are oversimplified, and bullet points omit the complexities of nearly any issue. The slides are designed to skip the learning process, which — when it works — involves dialogue, eye-to-eye contact and discussions. Of course PowerPoint has merits — it can help businesses with their sales pitches or let teachers introduce technology into the classroom. But instead of being used as a means for a dynamic engagement, it has become a poor substitute for longer, well-thought-out briefings and technical reports. It has become a crutch."
Transportation

Amtrak Installing Cameras To Watch Train Engineers 294

An anonymous reader writes: In the aftermath of the derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago, the company has caved to demands that it install video cameras to monitor and record the actions of the engineers driving their trains. The National Transportation Safety Board has been recommending such cameras for the past five years. Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman says the cameras will improve train safety, though the engineers' union disagrees. In 2013, the union's president said, "Installation of cameras will provide the public nothing more than a false sense of security. More than a century of research establishes that monitoring workers actually reduces the ability to perform complex tasks, such as operating a train, because of the distractive effect."
Music

Stephen Hawking Has a Message For One Direction Fans 109

An anonymous reader points out that Stephen Hawking recently gave some advice for One Direction fans. What is the cosmological effect of singer Zayn Malik leaving the best-selling boy band One Direction and consequently disappointing millions of teenage girls around the world? The advice of British cosmologist Stephen Hawking to heartbroken fans is to follow theoretical physics, because Malik may well still be a member of the pop group in another universe. The physicist took a break from speaking about his work as one of the world's leading scientists to answer the question from one upset fan during a talk at Sydney Opera House at the weekend. 'Finally a question about something important,' Hawking, who appeared via hologram, said to loud laughs from the audience. 'My advice to any heartbroken young girl is to pay attention to the study of theoretical physics because, one day, there may well be proof of multiple universes. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that somewhere outside of our own universe lies another, different universe and, in that universe, Zayn is still in One Direction.'"
Crime

Gen. Petraeus To Be Sentenced To Two Years Probation and Fine 94

An anonymous reader writes: Petraeus, a now-retired U.S. Army General, has already agreed to plead guilty to a criminal misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. As part of the agreement with prosecutors filed in March, the government will not seek any prison time. Instead, Petraeus will agree to pay a $40,000 fine and receive two years of probation, according to court documents. The recommendations are not binding on the federal judge who will preside at the hearing Thursday afternoon in Charlotte.
Facebook

Facebook's "Hello" Tells You Who's Calling Before You Pick Up 78

Mark Wilson writes: When you receive a call you'll usually see the number of the caller, but this may not be helpful in identifying them before you decide whether to pick up. Facebook's answer to this problem is Hello. This new app comes from the Facebook Messenger team and aims to tell you more about the person getting in touch with you even if you don't have their number saved in your address book. Currently available for Android, the dialer app also allows for the blocking of calls from individuals.
Bug

'Bar Mitzvah Attack' Plagues SSL/TLS Encryption 23

ancientribe writes Once again, SSL/TLS encryption is getting dogged by outdated and weak options that make it less secure. This time, it's the weak keys in the older RC4 crypto algorithm, which can be abused such that an attacker can sniff credentials or other data in an SSL session, according to a researcher who revealed the hack today at Black Hat Asia in Singapore. A slice: Bar Mitzvah exploits the weak keys used by RC4 and allows an attacker to recover plain text from the encrypted information, potentially exposing account credentials, credit card data, or other sensitive information. And unlike previous SSL hacks, this one doesn't require an active man-in-the-middle session, just passive sniffing or eavesdropping on SSL/TLS-encrypted connections, [researcher Itsik] Mantin says. But MITM could be used as well, though, for hijacking a session, he says.

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